The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells: Book Review

The End of Loneliness  by Benedict Wells
Published: Jan 29 by Penguin Books
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy on Amazon

 

From Publisher: A kaleidoscopic family saga told through the fractured lives of the three Moreau siblings alongside a faltering, recovering love story, The End of Loneliness is a stunning meditation on the power of our memories, of what can be lost and what can never be let go.

My Thoughts: I love family sagas so I had high hopes for this character driven exploration of fate, life, and love but by the halfway point I fizzled out on the story. This is the story of Jules, Marty and Liz, 3 siblings who weather their first tragedy when their parents are killed when they’re all still under 16 (Not a spoiler, this is in book jacket description). They’re sent to a boarding school and I must say, the author did a fantastic job of portraying the depth of sadness that all 3 experienced because, as we learned from the beginning of the story, they were close with their parents and had a happy family life. Jules is the narrator and while I liked him, it did create a situation where I didn’t feel like I got to know or understand the story from Liz and Marty’s perspectives which I would’ve liked. Especially Liz as she really struggled after their parents were killed.

I appreciated the author’s ability to wax philosophical on fate, chance and how one’s life course can be completely altered by both. However, by the halfway mark I wanted more from the story. Not a whole lot was happening outside of us getting life updates on each as the years go by. We know Jules has been in a motorcycle accident and I did wonder what contributed to that situation but I found myself skimming for the second half of the book. I liked the ending but overall, I just wanted more…more drama, conflict, tension…something. But the writing is great and if you like slower, philosophical, character explorations this would be for you.

Thanks to Penguin Books for my copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review 

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker: Book Review

 

The Dreamers  by Karen Thompson Walker
Published Jan 15, 2019 by Random House
320 Pages
Affiliate linkBuy on Amazon 

From Publisher: In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

My Thoughts: In an effort to read a little more widely and outside of my mystery/thriller/romance genres, I decided to give this book a try based on the many positive reviews from blogging friends and on Goodreads. I’ve enjoyed science fiction in the past (Dark Matter) but I’m more unsure about dystopian stories. Overall, I liked this one for reasons I wasn’t anticipating when I began.

The premise of the story was fascinating and pulled me in right away. What was this mysterious phenomenon where people were falling into a deep sleep and not waking? How is it spreading? How can it be prevented if at all? So many questions are examined through the lens of wonderful storytelling. The author doesn’t use any gimmicks with this story; rather, she tells it in such a way that I was drawn into not only the characters but the writing itself. There are many characters and the chapters  alternate between several over the span of the book. I had no trouble keeping the characters straight and of course had my favorites…Sara and Libby and Nathanial are at the top of my list.

Along with excellent characterization, I really enjoyed the entire aspect of dreams which came as a surprise to me. The author delves into the intricacies of dreaming, and ties it into the story in ways that hint to an almost alternate reality for many of the characters. It really made me think about those dreams that FEEL SO REAL and how when we’re in the midst of those dreams they ARE real to us. It’s fascinating to me and I thoroughly enjoyed how the author weaved this concept into the story.

There were a few things, however, that didn’t work for me. With so many characters, I became less invested in a few of them and found myself rushing to get back to those I really cared about. Also, somewhere around the 60% mark I found myself getting impatient with the story and wanting things to happen, to move faster. I may have even done a little skimming. As for the ending, I found it a little anti-climatic as others have mentioned but I felt that the author did give us as many answers as  possible for the story. I wasn’t blown away by how it ended but I was satisfied.

Have you read this or want to? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments 

Thanks to Random House via Netgalley for my copy

 

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne: Book Review

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Publication: November 13, 2018 by Hogarth Press
384 Pages
Buy on Amazon    

From Publisher: A seductive Highsmithian psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of fame

My Thoughts: Bottom line: I really wanted to like this book much more than I actually did. I’ll start by saying that I don’t have to like main characters in order to love a story. Nor do they have to be mentally sane. In fact, I loved You by Caroline Kepnes and I’m not sure there could be a bigger psychopath than Joe. So I knew going in that Maurice was going to be an unlikeable, manipulative character and I was fine with that. Really, I suspected that might even make the story more enjoyable.

Like many others, I loved The Heart’s Invisible Furies last year, it was actually my top book of 2017 so I definitely had high hopes for this one, although I did remain open to the idea that this was a completely different story. And, if anyone has the writing ability to shift gears and write a totally different type of story it’s John Boyne. That being said, the writing quality in A Ladder to the Sky was excellent. Boyne has such an ear for dialogue and every character was so well drawn. Most were flawed which I loved and I even thought Maurice was very multidimensional…I didn’t like him at all but he had many layers which I appreciated.

The novel is structured in an interesting way in that the sections alternate between Maurice and those he manipulates. Actually manipulates may be too nice of a word for what he does to some of them…I’m thinking of you Edith! This technique provided fresh perspectives and insights, moving the story along at a faster pace. Maurice’s main goal was literary fame and success at any cost which kept me reading to find out how many lives he’d ruin along the way and whether he’d ever get his comeuppance? You’ll have to read to find out but for me, getting that answer didn’t prove as surprising as I thought it would be. I expected much more and was left feeling underwhelmed. Despite this, I still love John Boyne’s writing and will be waiting on his next book!

Thanks to Hogarth Press for my copy 

 

Us by David Nicholls: Throwback Thursday Book of the Week

Throwback Thursday is a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published months or years ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them.  I like that these older backlist books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere!

MY PICK THIS WEEK IS: 

Us  by David Nicholls
Publication: October 28, 2014 by Harper
400 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy On Amazon
 

From PublisherUs is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger.

My Thoughts:
The short of it…I loved this book!  Douglas Petersen, a 54-year-old biochemist, is awoken in the middle of the night by his wife of 24 years, Connie, a 52-year-old former artist turned art gallery employee. Douglas assumes Connie is worried about burglars again and sets off to check  the house. But it’s not burglars she’s concerned about — it’s their marriage. Connie believes their marriage has “run its course” and tells Douglas (who’s madly in love with his wife) she wants a divorce after their son, Albie, leaves for college in October. And just like that, the story is off and running.

Douglas convinces his wife not to cancel their Grand Tour of Europe with their son (one last family vacation before college) in the hopes that he’ll be able to make his wife fall back in love with him.  The narrative flows with 180 short chapters that have catchy titles like “On Practical Ethics in the Breakfast Buffet System” (this one is hysterical). The chapters alternate between the present-day Grand Tour and flashbacks of Douglas and Connie’s early days. Can you say opposites attract? Douglas is a type A, by-the-book type of guy. Connie has always been a free spirit who feels she has lost herself over the years.  As a result, she seems to have a case of “I love you; I’m just not IN love with you anymore.”

I enjoyed getting to know all the characters in this story but it’s Douglas I was rooting for. Through his triumphs and missteps with his wife and son throughout the Grand Tour, you will laugh and sometimes cringe, but you will always be entertained. Nicholls cleverly puts him through some tricky situations that beg the question: Is Douglas going to bend or break?

This ended up being a one-sit read for me. Once you get to know these characters, you’ll have to learn how it all turns out for them. Will it ultimately be a story of the inevitable failure of an opposites-attract marriage to go the distance? Or will it be a tale of – that which doesn’t kill us (i.e. marriage, children, family vacations) makes us stronger and keeps us together? You’ll have to read Us  to find out.

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: A Must Read Summer Debut

Where The Crawdads Sing  by Delia Owens
Published August 14, 2018 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons
384 Pages
Buy From Amazon

From the Publisher: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, aka the “Marsh Girl”

*******

My Overall ThoughtsWhere the Crawdads Sing is a book you’ve probably been seeing everywhere lately whether it’s been blowing up your Instagram feed, hitting some of the late summer must read lists and recently making People Magazine’s Best Book Of the Week pick! If you’ve wondered if it’s possibly as good as everyone is making it out to be I’m here to give my two cents worth and say yes it is, so run, don’t walk, to buy or borrow it now.

What Initially Drew Me In
I was intrigued by the fact that the storyline involved a possible murder, an isolated “marsh girl” and the two men who get wrapped up in her world. Could this also be a love story? (hint: yes!) Funny thing was, when I really got into the story which alternates between 1969 and the 1950s, I almost forgot about the murder mystery part as I was so invested in Kya’s story.

Atmospheric Writing
Owen’s writing created a feeling of actually being in the marsh which truly became its own character . I felt the suspense of wondering how this little girl, abandoned by her entire family, was going to survive on her own. The townspeople saw her as “white trash” and, not surprisingly, did little to help her. There was, however, bright spots amongst the cruelty, one of them being a local man named Jumpin who was my favorite character after Kya. Speaking of Kya, if you’re at all worried that she’s a “weird” character who doesn’t want to connect with others, don’t be as her desire for companionship and to be cared about by others came through so clearly.

“The lonely became larger than she could hold. She wished for someone’s voice, presence, touch, but wished more to protect her heart.”

And possibly my favorite passage in the book…

“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”

This is debut writing! Amazing!

A Flawless Second Half
I loved how Owens clearly combined her love of nature writing with her exploration of a little girl coming-of-age within the natural world. As for the mystery, I found it to be perfectly paced. The author hands us bits and pieces slowly, allowing this storyline to eventually merge with the past one and then really pick up speed. I found the last third of the book especially riveting as I couldn’t wait to find out if my theories were correct. They weren’t which I loved. As for the ending, I can honestly say I didn’t see one part coming and it left me a little stunned. 

You’ll be seeing this one on my top 10 reads of the year list, it’s just that good. I can’t wait for Delia Owen’s next book, I hope she writes fast! 

Thanks to G. P. Putnam’s Sons via Netgalley for my copy

 

 

REVIEW: BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE By Ruth Emmie Lang

33574161

Published Nov. 2017 By St. Martin’s Press

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. In this warm debut novel, Ruth Emmie Lang teaches us about adventure and love in a beautifully written story full of nature and wonder.

******

As many of you know, I’ve had a run of 2018 reads that haven’t worked for me lately and I’ve been dying for something to come along and sweep me away, compel me to stay up late and create that excited feeling of ‘I can’t wait to get home and read.’ I’m happy to say Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance has been that book! I don’t even know where I came across this book…Goodreads perhaps…but there was something about the synopsis that drew me in because really…this isn’t my typical type of read but it’s EXACTLY what I needed right now. Don’t you love it when just the right book comes along?

So what’s it about you might be asking and here’s the thing…I’m not going to tell you too much about the plot because this is a story best experienced by knowing as little as you possibly can before starting. Just trust that you’re going to experience a magical, original, charming story of love, friendship, and fate. This is ultimately the story of one man, Weylyn Grey, who we first encounter at his birth before quickly moving ahead several years to his childhood when he’s an orphan living in the woods with wolves. I was immediately captivated with Weylyn, so much so that I didn’t quite care where the story went, I just hoped he made it out of each situation with his essence still intact. I haven’t felt this invested in a character since Cyril Avery from The Heart’s Invisible Furies (my top pick of 2017)! In fact, this book reminded me of Heart’s in the way it was structured as well as how it made me feel. Similar to how Heart’s was set up, I loved that, through the years,  we got to meet many different characters who in some way were connected to Weylyn; some who resurfaced later in the story and others who became friends we never saw again.

I want to gush a little here about the fact that I thought the writing in this story was just beautiful! From the language, to the flow, to the dialogue…to me it was all brilliant. One of my favorite passages was made by Weylyn toward the end and made me literally smile while on the elliptical….

“I’ve been called magic, but I wouldn’t use that term exactly. I like to think of myself as always being in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time. Very rarely am I simply in an acceptable place at a generally convenient time.” 

By the middle of the book I had decided I was immediately seeking out Ruth Emmie Lang’s backlist and reading whatever she’s wrote only to discover this is a debut! Incredible is all I can say, and please write as fast as possible Ruth Emmie Lang because I’ll be first in line for your next book. Can you tell I loved this one? One final thought…yes, there’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief required in this story and if you aren’t in the mood for magic, communication with animals, and strange weather phenomena then maybe this won’t be for you but if you’re willing to take a chance on a wonderful, charming story you just might be rewarded with your next favorite read. I’m calling this one now for myself…this will have a place in my top 10 reads of 2018!

 

REVIEW: THE CHILD FINDER By Rene Denfeld

32223884

Published Sept 5th by Harper

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

******

Just when I think there’s no possible way to tell a missing child story in an original, creative way…in my opinion, the market is kind of saturated with this concept… along comes this luminously written book by Rene Denfeld and just like that I’m a believer again. I don’t typically toss out words like luminous when talking about a mystery, in fact, I don’t think I’ve used that adjective to describe any book I’ve read this year but that word absolutely describes how I felt about this story and Denfeld’s writing. There’s something magical at work here and I’m hardly likely to do this book justice with this review.

From the opening page I was drawn into the world of Naomi, a dedicated, bordering on obsessed child finder, who’s come back to her home state of Oregon to search for Madison, a little girl who’s been missing for three years. Madison and her parents had drove to the mountains to cut down a Christmas tree and in the blink of an eye a blizzard was upon them and Madison had vanished. Naomi is the last resort for Madison’s parents as she has been for so many others and she combines her skills as an investigator with her own life experience of knowing what it feels like to be found. You see, Naomi has a past very similar to those of the children she tries to find, only her memories of the early years of her life are very limited.

The plot flows and evolves brilliantly with the use of alternating POVs of Naomi and “The Snow Child” as well as thankfully short ones from Mr. B…you’ll have to read to find out who he is! It’s very hard for me to put into concise words everything I loved about this story and the writing. The way Denfeld paints a picture with words… of the forest and snow,  the fascinating use of imagination to survive, the intense feelings of hope and despair, the longing to belong and experience love when pain and fear have been so prominent…it all weaved together to create images that were seared in my mind. She created an almost dreamlike quality with her writing that enabled me to get through what I will say were some tough aspects of this story as far as abuse, neglect, and child trauma goes. At no time, however, was any aspect “in your face” or gratuitous;  rather, it was an element of the story that couldn’t be avoided.

All this being said, this is a wonderful and unique part mystery, part thriller, character driven novel that I couldn’t put down. I loved how the author handled the ending and I have to say, my fingers are tightly crossed that we haven’t seen the last of Naomi! In the meantime, I’ll be grabbing a copy of Denfeld’s first book, Enchanted, as fast as I can.

MINI-REVIEWS: CASTLE OF WATER By Dane Huckelbridge & LIE TO ME By J.T Ellison

29939086

Published April 4, 2017 By Thomas Dunne Books

Two very different people, one very small island. When their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another’s strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home.

Told in mesmerizing prose, with charm and rhythm entirely its own, Castle of Water is more than just a reimagining of the classic castaway story. It is a stirring reflection on love’s restorative potential, as well as a poignant reminder that home—be it a flat in Paris, a New York apartment, or a desolate atoll a world away—is where the heart is.

******

I don’t know what it is about this book but I finished it almost 2 weeks ago and I’m still thinking about it. First, that cover is just gorgeous isn’t it? And I love the title which is so reminiscent of the story. I want to keep this review very simple because I went into this story knowing only that it was a unique castaway story and for me that made for perfect reading. What’s most important to know is this…there’s a plane crash, two survivors, and a tiny island in the middle of nowhere because the pilot flew off course. The survivors are opposites in every sense and yet they must find a way to come together to not only survive physically but emotionally as well.

It’s not often that I re-read sentences because the words seem to have been put together to create a magic spell on the reader but I did many, many times while reading Dane Huckelbridge’s captivating prose. It was storytelling at it’s finest and I literally couldn’t put this book down. There’s a little bit of everything in this story: drama, heartbreak, suspense, action, humor, sadness, and so much love and resilience. Oh…and there’s a twist that left me stunned!  Seriously, I know my jaw dropped. I love it when an author manages to surprise me like that. If you’re looking for something different I highly recommend giving this a try….just make sure to have tissues handy.

***

 

33258453

Published Sept 5th By Mira 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. The couple seems made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

******

I love it when I prove myself wrong because when I read the blurb about this book I assumed I wouldn’t like it because my track record with psychological thrillers has been dismal this year. But when a very trusted reading friend emailed me to say I HAD to read this, my ears perked up and just like that I was tempted. I have to say, from the very first page I was hooked! Ellison began the story with just the right level of creepiness by using an obviously disturbed narrator to start the story and of course I was consumed with finding out who it was and how he/she figured into the picture perfect marriage of Sutton and Ethan…or was it actually one of them? The puzzle had begun and I was on board to solve it.

As questions swirled and we are given slivers of information and detail into the marriage of Ethan and Sutton, I found myself completely and totally entertained by the level of intrigue and shadiness the author was creating. We first hear from Ethan and there were times I thought ‘Oh I like him, I trust what he’s saying about his wife ‘ and then on the next page I would think ‘No, he’s lying.’ J. T. Ellison was messing with my head and I was loving it! About halfway through we get to hear from Sutton and then things really get twisted. What I loved was that this isn’t just your typical he said/she said, this is also a puzzle of the best jigsaw kind and I was addicted to sifting through the tiny pieces the author scattered until I could establish my theory surrounding the who, what and why regarding the crimes in this story. An extra treat for me were the scenes set in Paris…the bars, the streets, the people…I could see it all thanks to the vivid prose of the author. So,  thank you  J. T. Ellison for showing me there are still psychological thrillers out there that can leave me so thoroughly entertained!

Many thanks to Mira books via Netgalley for my copy