ARC Book Reviews: The Celebrants, 5 Star Weekend, Five First Chances & The Second Ending

The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

Goodreads blurb: A decades-old pact offers a group of college friends the chance to throw each other “living funerals,” in the next poignant and humorous novel by the bestselling author of The Guncle. The night after one of their own is tragically taken away from them, a group of seven college friends form a pact: a promise to reunite every few years to throw each other “living funerals,” constant reminders that life is worth living, if not for them then for their late friend. Now, twenty-eight years into the hard-worn lines of adulthood, their “funerals” only remind them of all the opportunities they missed. But when one member of the old gang receives an unexpected diagnosis, the pact takes on new meaning, and each friend is forced to confront old secrets, and weigh their now-middle-age lives against the idealistic dreams of their youth. A deeply honest tribute to selfhood and the people who keep us going, The Celebrants, coupled with Steven Rowley’s signature humor and heart, is a moving tale about the false invincibility of youth, and all the beautiful ways in which friendship can transcend our deepest losses.

This is an ARC review thanks to a gift from the publisherThe book comes out May 16th.

my take: 4.75 out of 5. I loved this book. It is Poignant, smart and a moving real exploration fo friendship throughout the years. I loved the concept of this pact. I also texted my college WhatsApp chat and told them they all had to read this as soon as it came out. That’s how much it moved me and how much I want to do a celebrant pact. But also what this pact shows is that a lot of people do no lean on the people in their lives, do not ask for help, do not say i love you, thank you or how much we appreciate people until its too late. Until a braking point has been reach. This book can also be a good reminder that you do not need to be at your wits end to call someone up. Lets not wait until someone is there to say a nice word or tell people how much they mean to you. this line in the book says it all “Tell a love one the positive impact they’ve had in your like so that they are never left to guess. You’ll be glad you did”

Side Note: i so did enjoy all of Jordan’s Musical Theater references

The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand

Goodreads blurb: Hollis Shaw’s life seems picture-perfect. She’s the creator of the popular food blog Hungry with Hollis and is married to Matthew, a dreamy heart surgeon. But after she and Matthew get into a heated argument one snowy morning, he leaves for the airport and is killed in a car accident. The cracks in Hollis’s perfect life—her strained marriage and her complicated relationship with her daughter, Caroline—grow deeper. So when Hollis hears about something called a “Five-Star Weekend”—one woman organizes a trip for her best friend from each phase of her life: her teenage years, her twenties, her thirties, and midlife—she decides to host her own Five-Star Weekend on Nantucket. But the weekend doesn’t turn out to be a joyful Hallmark movie. The husband of Hollis’s childhood friend Tatum arranges for Hollis’s first love, Jack Finigan, to spend time with them, stirring up old feelings. Meanwhile, Tatum is forced to play nice with abrasive and elitist Dru-Ann, Hollis’s best friend from UNC Chapel Hill. Dru-Ann’s career as a prominent Chicago sports agent is on the line after her comments about a client’s mental health issues are misconstrued online. Brooke, Hollis’s friend from their thirties, has just discovered that her husband is having an inappropriate relationship with a woman at work. Again! And then there’s Gigi, a stranger to everyone (including Hollis) who reached out to Hollis through her blog. Gigi embodies an unusual grace and, as it hap- pens, has many secrets. The Five-Star Weekend is a surprising and captivating story about friendship, love, and self-discovery set on Nantucket. It will be a weekend like no other.

This is an ARC review thanks to a gift from the publisherThe book comes out June 13th.

my take: 4.25 out of 5. This is a fabulous Beach read. Makes you think about relationships what makes us stay together and apart from friend and what is truly valuable in the key moments. I had myself little 5 star weekend a couple of years ago (without even knowing it existed) and it was fabulous. Why I only discovered Elin Hilderbrand last year I do not know but know I kind of want to read some of her back catalogue in a pool in the summer and also visit Nantucket. She is fabulous at describing space and location, I’ve never been to Nantucket but feel like I could get around and check out all the cool places.

My favorite quote from the book is Dru-Ann quoting why she likes to shop alone – I felt seen.

Five First Chances by Sarah Jost

Goodreads blurb: What would you do if you had one more chance for the life of your dreams? Lou feels like she is stuck on the wrong path: alone, in a city far from home, watching other people be happy. When the man she’s in love with announces his engagement to someone else, Lou is consumed by ‘what ifs’.That’s when she finds herself slipping back in time to a night two years ago, where one small decision changed everything… Suddenly, Lou has a chance to fix her mistakes. But as her choices lead her down roads she never could have imagined, she finds herself stuck in a time loop of her own making. And with each slip, Lou notices her life intersecting with one person again and again. A friend of a friend who once lived on the periphery, who is slowly becoming the one person who makes her feel like she might finally be on the right track.

Lou is about to realize that our greatest love stories aren’t always the ones we expected, but are the ones we choose to fight for. For anyone who has ever felt stuck on the wrong path comes a stunning, time-bending love story that challenges what it means to get things “right,” the kind of book that will pull at your heartstrings and make you realize that if you just open yourself up to the possibilities, our world is full of inspiring people poised to change everything…and you might just be one of them.

This is an ARC review thanks to a gift from the publisherThe book comes out April18th.

My take: 3 out of 5. This is a groundhog day type of story, but instead of relieving the same day, or like The Christmas Wish, relieving the same weekend, here they relieve the same 2 years which is interesting but also kind of mindboggling. I disliked the female main character immensely- I was getting so annoyed by her and all her reactions and was thinking way before her fifth chance that I kind of did not want her to get more chances which is not what you want in a loop book- you should be rooting for them to figure it out.

The logistics of the time loop where a bit weird. Sometimes she knew clearly she was going back sometimes she didn’t it was a bit confusing and could have been flushed out better. The ending was my favorite part. It was both beautiful and brutal, a multiple Kleenex situation.

Side note, my favorite line of the book was then they said ” my heart thumps in my chest a kukong, kukong a la Patrick Swayze”. As a total Dirty Dancing fan, I loved how perfect and accurate that description is – i was completely taken to that scene.

The Second Ending by Michelle Hoffman

Goodreads blurb: A former prodigy who refuses to believe her best years are behind her and a young virtuoso searching for his passion both get an unlikely shot at their dreams in this sparkling debut about second chances, unexpected joys, and the miraculous power of music. Prudence Childs was once the most famous kindergartner on the planet. After teaching herself to play piano at age three, she performed at the White House, appeared on talk shows, and inspired a generation of children to take up lessons. But as adolescence closed in, Prudence began to see that she was just another exploited child star, pushed into fame by her cruel grandmother. Prudence ran away—from both performing and her greedy handler—as soon as she was old enough to vote. Flat broke and alone, she took a job writing commercial jingles, which earned her a fortune, but left her creatively adrift. Now forty-eight, with her daughters away at school, Prudence is determined to reconnect with the artist she once was and agrees to compete on a wildly popular dueling pianos TV show. Unfortunately, her new spotlight captures the attention of her terrible ex-husband, Bobby, who uses the opportunity to blackmail her over a secret she thought she’d buried in the past. If she doesn’t win, she won’t just be a musical failure; she’ll also be bankrupted and exposed in front of millions. Her on-air rival, virtuoso Alexei Petrov, a stunning young Internet sensation with a massive audience and a dreamy Russian accent, has problems of his own. His overbearing parents’ domineering ways made him a technically flawless pianist but left him without friends, hobbies, or any kind of life outside his music. As they prepare to face off on stage, the retired prodigy and the exhausted wunderkind realize that the competition is their chance to prove—to their terrible exes, tyrannical family members, and most importantly, themselves—that it’s never too late to write a new ending.

This is an ARC review thanks to a gift from the publisherThe book comes out June 13th.

my take: 3.5 out of 5. As a music lover I truly enjoyed how musical the book was, it was clearly written by a music lover. Also once has to root for a redeeming act, a second act at middle age. However there were too many stories. There were too many characters and it just got convoluted, where it could have been much cleaner. really could have lost either the ex husband or the jilted Condo board president. The story would have worked with just one of them and it would have been cleaner. In general cool concept just convoluted execution that detracted from the main act.

I feel this book should have an accompanying spotify playlist. Like whilst reading it I played Claire de Lune so I would actually get in the feel and remember the melody.

I really enjoyed two quotes that were in the book. One where they reference what Hemingway said about bullfighters, that nobody ever lives all the way up except bullfighters. And the other one was the opening quote from Stravinsky: ” The trouble with musical appreciation in general is that people ar taught too much respect for music. They should be taught to love it instead”.

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