An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen: Book Review

An Anonymous Girl  by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Published: January 8, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
384 Pages
Affiliate LinkBuy on Amazon 

From Publisher: When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding.  Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

My Thoughts: I’ll admit, every now and then I really let myself get swayed by all the hype surrounding a book as was the case with this one. It’s everywhere.  Going against my instincts and the fact that I don’t really enjoy psychological thrillers, I decided to give this a try. The verdict: I’m glad I read it so I don’t have to wonder if I’m missing out BUT my instincts were correct – this wasn’t the book for me.

The blurb tells you all you need to know about how Jessica gets involved with Dr Lydia Shields. From the get go, I wasn’t really into the psychological study aspect. I found it strange and unbelievable. I have no problem suspending my disbelief, but for me, this entire plot was just TOO unbelievable. Maybe it’s because I have a background in psychology but the Dr’s in this book were so far out of the realm of realistic, I just couldn’t be on board with most of the plot.

As for Jessica, I would say she was the most developed character but I would’ve liked more character development with everyone overall. Around the 50% mark I started to enjoy the cat & mouse that developed when Jessica finally started to take matters into her own hands and stopped being so passive when it came to Dr Shields and another character. The story is told through alternating perspectives of Jessica and Dr Shields; however, Dr Shields speaks in the second person for her sections – as if she’s talking directly to Jessica – I wasn’t crazy about this technique.   This very much boiled down to a story of  manipulations, lies upon lies, and who’s really the dangerous one. For me, I found it to be too drawn out (I skimmed here and there) and ultimately predictable.  However, the very reasons this wasn’t for me are the reasons so many are loving this (especially if you love psychological thrillers), so I highly encourage you to head to Goodreads and check out some of the many 5 star reviews for an alternate opinion.

Thanks To St Martin’s Press via Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review

 

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”

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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

 

 

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger: book review

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger
Published July 3, 2018 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons
341 Pages
Affiliate Link : Buy From Amazon

From PublisherOn an early morning in November, a couple boards a private plane bound for Geneva, flying into a storm. Soon after, it simply drops off the radar. Among the disappeared is Matthew Lerner, a banking insider at Swiss United, a powerful offshore bank. His young widow, Annabel, is left grappling with the secrets he left behind. Ambitious society journalist Marina Tourneau is engaged to Grant Ellis whose father is set to run for President of the US. While looking into Swiss United, Marina uncovers information that implicates some of the most powerful men in the financial world, including some who are too close to home…

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I’ll admit, when I first came across this title I assumed it was another domestic psychological “wife” thriller (although one with a great cover). The Banker’s Wife , however, was not at all what I expected. I knew from the opening scene in the London airport that this financial thriller was not only going to keep me on my toes, but it had such an international flair and hint of conspiracy and secrets to come that I couldn’t wait to find out more. 

We first meet Marina, an investigative journalist for Press magazine, whose fiancé’s father is close to securing the bid for the next US Presidential election. Although she’s been contemplating quitting the further immersed she gets in the upper echelon of New York society, she’s enticed by her editor to help gather secret evidence from a source in Paris. What follows propels Marina into an investigation of a top Swiss Bank, Swiss United, which may or may not have close US ties. From there we get to be flies on the wall, immersed in the secrets and scandals that cross the globe.

The story alternates perspectives between Marina and Annabel, whose husband Matthew is missing after his plane goes down in the Swiss Alps. Matthew is a banking executive with Swiss United (can you start to see the threads?) and it’s not long before Annabel is questioning not only what happened to her husband’s plane but also if she really knew her husband. 

I was equally invested in both these smart, sophisticated, take control women and the way Alger structured the novel, with lightening paced chapters that combined phenomenal dialogue with increasing tension, was just brilliant. Seriously, I felt like I was watching a movie while reading this book, if that makes sense? It is one of the most cinematic, globe trotting novels I’ve ever read, taking us to Switzerland, Paris, London, and New York.  I could picture each place and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out how all the little threads were connected…or not. Some advice though, this is a close reading type of story where details can be missed, especially in the second half where a few more characters were introduced. I had to really pay attention so as to not feel confused. I highly recommend this intelligent, tightly plotted thriller if you’re looking for something original and fast paced. 

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

 

 

2 Page Turning Books to Read Before Summer Ends

Aren’t page turning books the best in the summer for an afternoon at the pool, beach or, if you’re like me, the patio?  I read both of these in about a day and they both led to late night reading & loss of sleep which for me is the hallmark of a page turner. That sounds like a new category list for the blog…books that cause a loss of sleep…hmmm

The Wife  By Alafair Burke
Published January 23, 2018 By Harper
340 Pages
Affiliate Link Buy From Amazon

Short Summary: A celebrity husband’s scandal, a wife’s secrets, a disappearance all intersect to test loyalty and make us wonder what EXACTLY is going on.

My Thoughts: I have no idea why I waited until now to read this book, big mistake on my part. I loved the intricate web Burke created with this plot so much, even more so because she fooled me in the end. I love that! This book starts with a bang and ends with a “gasp” and includes many subtle twists and turns in between.  How tempting is this first sentence?

In an instant, I became the woman they assumed I’d been all along: the wife who lied to protect her husband. 

Of course I can’t even give you a smidge of a hint about the ending but know this…it’s perfection. What I love about Burke’s writing is her ability to weave an intricate plot that caused me to guess, question everything, guess again, and then realize I wasn’t going to figure this out any time soon, hence the late night of reading. The story is layered and very clever, yet also incorporates timely subject matter which made it feel “ripped from the headlines.” I don’t want to give a single plot detail away so I’ll just say pick this up if you’re looking for a QUALITY psychological thriller that lives up to the thriller title. And if you love this (I think you will), try Burke’s book All Day and a Night , a Throwback Thursdaypick from long ago.

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Jane Doe By Victoria Helen Stone
Published August 1, 2018 By Lake Union
258 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy From Amazon 

Short Summary: Plain Jane is blending in nicely at her new job at an insurance agency but there is much more to Jane than meets the eye. No one suspects she’s leading a double life with a single purpose of revenge

My Thoughts: Oh my you guys, Jane kind of left me speechless and I mean that in the BEST possible way! She’s a little cray-cray but I’d certainly love to be friends with her. She’s a very self aware sociopath, making no apologies for herself and in no way wishes to change. She’s returned to the US after living in Malaysia with a single focus and agenda – revenge. This page turner is told entirely from Jane’s perspective and believe me that’s the best way to tell it.

The dress is soft and flowery, like all of my recent purchases. It could be demure, but I’ve unbuttoned one too many buttons. He’s a breast man, our Steven. Mine aren’t large, but I’ve pushed them up to make them look more C than B. He likes the result. If he ever sees me naked, he’ll be disappointed, but it will only work in my favor.

Along with the fact that I just really loved Jane’s wit, her ingenuity, and her single minded determination to succeed with her plan, I also loved that there was no unreliable narrator and no flashbacks. This is a straightforward, no gimmicks story and that was so welcome! I literally couldn’t put this book down and stayed up super late to finish. My best advice would be to just pick this up -don’t read the synopsis- and prepare to be thoroughly entertained. If you’ve already read and enjoyed You (My Review) by Carolyn Kepnes, I think you’ll definitely love this….and wouldn’t Joe & Jane make the BEST literary couple??

Have you read either of these? What page turning books have YOU read lately?

 

Bookreview: Ghosted By Rosie Walsh

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Published July 24, 2018 by Pamela Dorman Books 

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

Book Quote – “I wondered how it was that you could spend weeks, months – years, even – just chugging on, nothing really changing, and then, in the space of a few hours, the script of your life could be completely rewritten.”

 

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I feel very conflicted about this review! I was dying to read this book, not only because I feel like everyone has been ghosted at some point in their lives, but I was also really intrigued about why he ghosted her. If they were in love as we’re pretty much told right from the start that they are, did he (Eddie) get killed? Was he kidnapped? Was he really a criminal? Did he have a secret family somewhere and got cold feet? Or was she (Sarah) reading the whole thing wrong and perhaps a little off? So many questions and I was completely on board with finding out the answers.

For all the above questions, I was initially very pulled into the beginning of the story but it wasn’t long before I realized the structure wasn’t quite what I expected. We’re basically told in shorter vignettes…Day 1, Day 2…etc (interspersed with present day & letters to someone?) about how Eddie and Sarah met and the development of their insta-love. I have to say, I’m ok with insta-love BUT I need to feel invested and connected with the characters and I just didn’t with these two. For me, the short time we spend with them in each section felt forced, I didn’t believe in their connection let alone the fact they were supposed to be in love so quickly; therefore, I had a very hard time with Sarah’s complete obsession and basic meltdown when he never called.

But here’s the weird thing….I read this straight through, staying up super late to find out what happened. So on the one hand it’s compulsively readable; on the other, I also did quite a bit of skimming…of the abundance of scenery details as well as the side characters’ stories because I just really wanted to know WHAT HAPPENED TO EDDIE!! I won’t say more about whether I was satisfied with the outcome as I’m still figuring out what I think about a few of the twists the author surprised me with. Rosie Walsh is definitely a talented author who can weave interesting surprises in her story.

If your interest is piqued, I highly encourage you to not read a bunch of reviews or even any more of the blurb, just jump right in and see for yourself what you think….and then come back here or send me a message on Twitter or Instagram and let’s discuss!!

 

 

REVIEW: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR By Sally Hepworth

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Publication March 6, 2018 By St. Martin’s Press

The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.

Isabelle Heatherington doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.

But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread – and they’ll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.

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Desperate Housewives meets Big Little Lies in this page turning domestic suspense drama! This is my first time reading Sally Hepworth but it definitely won’t be my last as I enjoyed every last page of this book. I have to say, I wonder if I enjoyed it so much because she tapped into the underlying thoughts I have as I take long nighttime walks in my neighborhood….what’s really going on inside all these houses? I can’t be the only one out there who waves at my neighbors, says hi here and there, gets together on each other’s patios in the summer but occasionally wonders how well I really know them.

Sally Hepworth has done a magnificent job of deconstructing the idiosyncrasies of suburban living and families, especially the lives of mothers with young children. Although my kids are older, I can remember those days so clearly and the way she weaved those details in with the secrets and drama of each family was perfection. The story revolves around the lives of four women – Essie, Ange, Fran, and Isabelle- and boy are they keeping secrets…big ones, little ones, and bombshells!

I had no idea what was happening and at one point I realized I needed to stop trying to figure it all out and just enjoy the drama. This book was so well paced that I felt like I flew through the pages, staying up late into the night to find out how it would all unfold. No spoilers here but I will say there were surprises galore!! Were a couple of them a little predictable, yes, but the others were superb…I love it when I can say I didn’t see that coming…or that. This would make a perfect book club book as well as a fantastic must read for your summer TBRs…if you can wait that long to read it that is:)

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley for my copy

BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: KILLED By Thomas Enger, Translated By Kari Dickson

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Killed by Thomas Enger, published by the wonderful Orenda books and available Feb 28, 2018. 

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Henning Juul sits in a boat on a dark lake. A man with a gun sits opposite him. At the man’s feet is a body that will be soon be dumped into the water. Henning knows that the same fate awaits him. And he knows that it’s his own fault. Who started the fire that killed Henning’s young son? How is his sister, Trine, involved? Most importantly, who can be trusted? Packed with tension and unexpected twists, Killed is the long-waited finale of the internationally renowned series featuring conflicted, disillusioned but always dogged crime reporter Henning Juul, and one of the most chilling, dark and moving crime thrillers you may ever read.

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Killed is the fifth and final installment in Thomas Enger’s Henning Juul series and one I’ve been highly anticipating since the jaw dropping conclusion to last year’s Cursed . This series is some of the best Nordic Noir I’ve read and Henning Juul is one of my favorite protagonists. I first met Henning in the second book , Pierced, when he was still recovering from the aftereffects of being burned in a fire at his apartment – one in which his young son Jonas tragically died.

Killed continues with Henning’s long search to uncover and make pay those responsible for setting the fire and he’s ever so close to getting those answers. After years of using and honing his investigative journalist skills, Henning has managed to piece together most of the puzzle but time is running out because those he seeks also want to get to Henning and silence him once and for all. As you can guess, Killed is a skillful game of cat and mouse which kept me in suspense while shocking me with twists, surprises, and yes deaths of people I didn’t see coming! Thomas Enger really held nothing back in this story and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Of course, I won’t give anything away in regards to plot and the ending but I will say that while the author does a wonderful job of bringing new readers up to speed with the finer details of the story, I still highly recommend starting at the beginning of the series with either Burned or Pierced and continue in order to fully immerse yourself in the backstory as well as getting to know Henning. I did miss reading book 3 (Scarred) and I have a feeling that’s why I was a little confused about a particular aspect in Killed. That being said, if you like Nordic Noir and you haven’t yet tried this series, by all means give it a try, I think you’ll be happy you did.

Granite Noir Fest 2017

 

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about

the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

For more information about KILLED or to book an interview with Thomas Enger, please contact Karen Sullivan: Karen@orendabooks.co.uk, 07702 628 230 or Sophie Goodfellow: SophieG@fmcm.co.uk, 07719 007146.

Don’t forget to stop by and check out other reviews on the tour!

Killed Blog Tour Poster

REVIEW: THE GREAT ALONE By Kristin Hannah

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Published Feb 6, 2018 By St. Martin’s Press

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival. Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown. In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

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 I finished this book last week and while I typically try to write my reviews right away, I struggled with my feelings about this one so I’ve put it off for a week and I’m glad I did. If I would’ve wrote it immediately I might have focused too much on my feelings about the ending; however, with a little time and perspective I think I have a clearer understanding of why I feel so torn about parts of this book.

Enough vagueness, let me be more specific. The blurb, which I heavily edited from Goodreads (this is really all you need to know), gives you the bare bones of the story. What Hannah so brilliantly manages to do is to take that set up and place the reader right there in the Alaskan setting with the Allbright family. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was mesmerized by the Alaskan setting and the way the author was able to place me there….I literally couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I felt the cold, I saw the beauty. I’m not sure that’s ever happened to me before, where a setting has so completely captured my attention and made me feel the suspense and drama of the surroundings that are at once beautiful yet deadly.

Then we have the Allbright family and really I don’t know where to start with them. The level of dysfunction and domestic violence prevalent in their family dynamics was heartbreaking, yet infuriating, because as a reader it’s very hard to read about the details of the abuse that Ernt (a former POW) inflicted on Cora and then having a child, Leni, be witness to it and becoming the caretaker of her mom while trying desperately to not rock the boat with her dad…her life was truly “walking on egg shells” on a daily basis.  Add to that Leni’s struggles with her new life in the harsh Alaskan setting and here was a character I was rooting for and as a result I could. not. put. this. book. down! Was the domestic abuse over the top as many reviewers have discussed? In my opinion, no. Yes, it was very difficult to read but as someone who worked in social work, foster care to be exact, the domestic abuse cycle and trauma to Leni and Cora was (unfortunately) realistic to me.

In terms of another major aspect of this novel that I loved were the supporting characters. Hannah has crafted a small group of townspeople who inhabit the little Alaskan village and my absolute favorite was Large Marge. Seriously, I would’ve taken so many more chapters about Large Marge verses some of the extended storyline chapters toward the end. Hannah’s ability to craft secondary characters with intricate subplots is just superb.

This, however, brings me to my critique which honestly I feel torn writing about because overall I was captivated by this story.  In fact, I read the first 70% of this like a madwoman and then literally there was a shift, slight but there, in which the narrative began to feel bogged down with descriptive details in what felt like a much slower pace. Add to this some questionable character motivations and actions, one which felt like a glaring misstep that was put in to force the plot and you have my reasons for feeling so conflicted. I do question whether my expectations were too high, am I being too picky? Perhaps. I just read (and loved) The Nightingale in November so it was fresh in my memory, but unquestionably this is a completely different book, wonderful in it’s own right which needs and deserves no comparison to any other.

REVIEW: BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE By Ruth Emmie Lang

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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.

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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 IMMORTALISTS By Chloe Benjamin

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Publication date: Jan. 9, 2018 By G.P. Putnam’s Sons

If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

Their prophecies will inform their next five decades…..

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I absolutely love the premise of this novel and that first sentence is what made me request the title on Edelweiss. I’ve been fascinated by psychics for years and go yearly to a big psychic fair in our city where I usually chat with 2 or 3 different psychics. I’ve went for the past several years and I always sit down with the same psychics every year but I’ve never asked about death or dying. It’s actually never been a question I’ve been tempted to ask. However, for this story, I couldn’t wait to find out how knowing their death dates would shape each sibling.

We immediately start the journey of the four siblings (Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya) in the late 1960s with Klara and Simon’s stories. Simon is the youngest and only 16 when his life takes a drastic change. He and Klara have moved to San Francisco where their lives take very different paths. Simon came across as quite a lost soul and out of the 4 he was my least favorite character. (Side note: Varya was my favorite) One of the huge positives for me about this book was the author’s ability to bring each and every character to life. They were SO vivid and each was so well developed even though many were only briefly in the story. The authenticity of the characters and the flow of the narrative kept me reading through the first 35% when I wasn’t sure if this would get above a 3 star rating for me. Long story short…it did! I think my struggle with the beginning was not connecting with Simon’s character all that much.

I was so invested and immersed in the remainder of the story that I flew through it in one sitting. I had to find out if the psychic’s predictions were true and if so how would these characters I had come to like and care for die? I will be honest and say I found a particular resolution with Daniel way too convenient and not in alignment with what I felt I knew about his character. A minor issue. Overall, I thought this was a wonderful story about fate, living life to the fullest, and living it authentically. I never highlight in my kindle but there were many sentences toward the end that stopped me in my tracks and I knew I wanted to remember those thoughts. To me, that’s a sign of excellent writing. I really enjoyed this story and I can’t wait for Chloe Benjamin’s next novel.

Many thanks G.P. Putnam’s Sons via Edelweiss for my copy