REVIEW: AMERICAN RADICAL By Tamer Elnoury with Kevin Maurer

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Published Oct 23, 2017 by Dutton Books 

It’s no secret that federal agencies are waging a broad, global war against terror. But for the first time in this memoir, an active Muslim American federal agent reveals his experience infiltrating and bringing down a terror cell in North America.

Due to his ongoing work for the FBI, Elnoury writes under a pseudonym. An Arabic-speaking Muslim American, a patriot, a hero: To many Americans, it will be a revelation that he and his team even exist, let alone the vital and dangerous work they do keeping all Americans safe

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This is one of those books that happened to catch my eye when I was recently Christmas shopping for my dad who only reads nonfiction. It has two of my favorite buzzwords in it…Undercover and FBI….so I couldn’t resist reading it when it arrived. I’m so glad I did because I loved it! Not only is it the most fascinating book I’ve read in a long time, it’s also a very uniquely written memoir in that it reads like a page turning novel. In fact, as I mentioned in my Monday post, it very much reads like an episode of Homeland. There were times I had to remind myself the difference is that this story is actually true which in my opinion made it all the more terrifying.

As stated in the blurb, Tamer is a pseudonym for an undercover counterterrorism agent in the FBI. I thought he did a fantastic job sharing as many details as he could about the world of an undercover agent, how they train, how they live their “legends,” and the extreme emotional/psychological stress it takes on their psyches. Especially when dealing with the warped and twisted minds of the radical Islamic terrorists he worked to bring down in this story. I appreciated how well he explained who these terrorists were, where they came from and how they came to believe what they do. I hung on every word as he described conversations in which the terrorists laid out detailed plans to kill as many Americans as possible…it was scary to read and I don’t think most of us understand what is happening in our own country on a daily basis.

The first person narrative structure of the story worked brilliantly in that I felt like I was a fly on the wall watching each scene unfold. The pace was steady although I will say I thought it dragged a little in the middle but the last third made up for it and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out how it was all going to unfold. I love the way the authors created such a suspenseful storyline while also providing behind the scenes details of the operations. I’ve been recommending this book all week to people, especially to my friends who love Homeland so if you enjoy page turners that are timely, current, and so relevant to our world right now I encourage you to give this a try!

 

 

 

IT’S MONDAY WHAT ARE YOU READING?

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The holiday season is in full swing and while I still can’t believe it’s not summer…it seemed like just yesterday it was August…I’ve decided to get a jump on my shopping and as of now I’m almost done:) I actually went to the mall on Black Friday which I NEVER do and now I realize why…I’ve never seen so many people and such long lines there before!! In the end, I really only got amazing deals at 2 stores (Macy’s & Joseph A Banks in case you’re wondering) so I’m not sure it was worth the crowds. However, I stayed up super late last night shopping for cyber Monday, that’s why this post is so late, and the deals were incredible! Now I know why so many sizes are already sold out on Monday…deals started last night and things were selling out while I still had them in my cart. It was crazy but I stayed up and got SO many deals! What has all this meant for my reading lately? Well, I haven’t done too much but I’m planning on getting back on track this week

 

RECENTLY READ….

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Although I hate this cover, I have a reading friend who’s been suggesting this book to me for SO long and I don’t know why I resisted reading it because it was great! It was an addicting read that I flew through in a couple days…look for a mini review soon.

TRIED BUT COULDN’T GET INTO….

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It pains me to say that one of my most anticipated reads of 2018, The Hush, was a DNF for me after 70 pages. I absolutely loved The Last Child but this wasn’t similar in tone or plot and I found myself bored.  I’ve loved several of John Hart’s books and always thought his writing was outstanding but in this one I felt the language was too flowery at times and for me it felt bogged down in descriptive setting details. Also, there’s a supernatural element to this story that I wasn’t expecting and it didn’t work for me at all. Well, I tried to jump onto the Louise Penny train and I gave it until 40% but ultimately I realized I didn’t care about the murder mystery and the pace was way too slow for me so…DNF. I know people love her books and I wanted to as well and I really really loved the setting of Three Pines but in the end that wasn’t enough to hold my attention

CURRENTLY READING…

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I had ordered this book for my dad for Christmas but what caught my eye initially when I saw it on Amazon’s new release list were 2 of my favorite buzzwords…undercover & FBI! When it came on Saturday I decided I had to read it first and I’m loving it so far. Tamer is a pseudonym and he’s currently still an agent which makes his story all the more timely. The writing is excellent and with every story he tells I feel like I’m watching an episode of Homeland, it’s very similar in tone and plot so if you like that show I think you’ll LOVE this book. You won’t believe what’s going on right under our noses in the world of undercover counterterrorism….it’s fascinating yet terrifying to say the least!

UP NEXT….

This is always a toss up for me so it could be

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Have a great reading week everyone! 

 

 

 

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as 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 over a year 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 books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d like to link back to me that’d be great as I really try my best to include everyone who’s participating week by week at the bottom of my post so all my readers can enjoy all the awesome Throwback picks!

My Pick This week is….

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Published Oct 2015 by Atria 

From America’s favorite football player turned morning talk show host—a man who makes just about everything look easy—a mélange of stories and motivational advice to inspire the reader to turn up the heat and go from good to great in pursuit of their personal ambitions.

Michael Strahan spent his childhood on a military base in Europe, where community meant everything, and life, though idyllic, was different. For one, when people referenced football they meant soccer. So when Michael’s father suggested he work toward a college scholarship by playing football in Texas, where tens of thousands of people show up for a weekend game, the odds were long. Yet he did, indeed, land a scholarship and from there a draft into the NFL where he scaled the league’s heights, broke records, and helped his team win the Super Bowl as a result of which he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. How? Inspiring and chock full of advice that will help the reader make significant strides toward pursuing his or her dream, Wake Up Happy is a book no one, young or old, male or female will want to miss.

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I felt like this was the perfect book to highlight this week because who doesn’t need a little happy in their life? I for one have had quite a bit going on lately so I thought why not profile one of my favorite non-fiction pick me up books. This book was surprisingly good and I say that because I initially hesitated as I really don’t have much interest in football but I really do think there’s something about Michael Strahan that makes me feel good whether I’m watching him on Good Morning America (and previously Kelly & Michael) or on the red carpet. I wondered if he’s truly as positive as he comes across. Turns out, he is. I listened to this on Audible and he narrates this book which was perfect as I felt like he was was having a conversation with me. I found myself walking extra when I listened because I was truly interested in hearing about his life. He had an interesting childhood growing up on a military base and his journey to being a top level athlete was not all that easy. I especially enjoyed hearing about his life in Europe and college in the US. Strahan had a fairly easy to follow plan for ways to wake up happy and while there wasn’t any new earth shattering ideas in it, I found myself agreeing with his principles and applying some to my own life. If you’d enjoy a little pick me up, especially if you have access to this on audio, I think you should give this try!

HAPPY READING!

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Cathy at Between the Lines

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Lynne at Fictionophile

Nicki atThe Secret Library Site

Mischenko at Read Rant Rock and Roll

Annie at The Misstery

 

REVIEW: THE BRIGHT HOUR By Nina Riggs

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Published June 6th by Simon & Schuster

An exquisite memoir about how to live—and love—every day with “death in the room,” from poet Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the tradition of When Breath Becomes Air.


“We are breathless, but we love the days. They are promises. They are the only way to walk from one night to the other.”

Nina Riggs was just thirty-seven years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer—one small spot. Within a year, the mother of two sons, ages seven and nine, and married sixteen years to her best friend, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

How does one live each day, “unattached to outcome”? How does one approach the moments, big and small, with both love and honesty?

Exploring motherhood, marriage, friendship, and memory, even as she wrestles with the legacy of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nina Riggs’s breathtaking memoir continues the urgent conversation that Paul Kalanithi began in his gorgeous When Breath Becomes Air. She asks, what makes a meaningful life when one has limited time?

Brilliantly written, disarmingly funny, and deeply moving, The Bright Hour is about how to love all the days, even the bad ones, and it’s about the way literature, especially Emerson, and Nina’s other muse, Montaigne, can be a balm and a form of prayer. It’s a book about looking death squarely in the face and saying “this is what will be.”

Especially poignant in these uncertain times, The Bright Hour urges us to live well and not lose sight of what makes us human: love, art, music, words. 

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I love everything about this very long blurb; I think it tells you all you need to know in terms of what this book is about. And Nina’s writing absolutely delivered on sharing with us her very poignant, thought provoking, often laugh out loud funny answers to every single question listed in that blurb. Now that you’ve read the blurb and know what this phenomenal book is about, let me attempt to share with you why I loved it so much. I only hope I can do it justice.

When I pick up a memoir, which arguably isn’t often, it’s usually always something true crime. Last year I decided to branch out and read When Breath Becomes Air which was a truly remarkable story and challenged me to think about mortality for maybe the first time. So, The Bright Hour is being likened to When Breath Becomes Air which is possibly good and bad. Good because so many people LOVED WBBA (it made my top 10 reads of 2016 list) but bad because no one should for one second think…’Oh I’ve read one book about death and dying, I don’t want or need to read this one….’ This book is completely unique and I have to say struck me on a level that WBBA didn’t. I’m not sure if it’s because Nina was a mom of 2 boys who was dealing with life, marriage, dogs, female friendships, etc and I’m also at a similar point in my life, although my boys are older, but I just immediately connected with her voice and writing. From page one I felt like we were sitting having a glass of wine and she was telling me her story. Here’s just a sample of her down to earth yet gorgeous writing from page one…

   “Dying isn’t the end of the world’, my mother liked to joke after she was diagnosed as terminal…I never really understood what she meant, until the day I suddenly did….There are so many things that are worse than death: old grudges, a lack of self-awareness, severe constipation, no sense of humor, the grimace on your husband’s face as he empties your surgical drain into the measuring cup…”

Nina not only had her own diagnosis to come to terms with but she also had her mother’s. I really, really liked her mom! I laughed about some of their book club discussions and then cried when they questioned whether there’s book clubs in heaven…man, I really hope so! For me, this was the ultimate page turner that I never expected to be a page turner because once I started reading I didn’t stop until the last page was turned. And then I spent the next hour crying. And going back in my kindle and trying to find passages I may have forgot to highlight. So yes, tissues will be needed but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. I was sad in the end, yes, but I was also changed and inspired. When I pick up a book I do so in the HOPE I will in some way be moved and Nina Riggs achieved this with The Bright Hour, a heartfelt book about family, love, the power of words, living and dying.  This is absolutely going on my 5 star reads bookshelf at home and I can guarantee you it will be one of my top 5 reads of 2017.

Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster for my copy via Netgalley. I’m so happy to provide an honest review 

BUY HERE

 

         

REVIEW: THE FACT OF A BODY By Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

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Published May 16, 2017 By Flatiron Books

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.

But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.

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I’ve read several true crime books in the last couple years and they all seem to have one thing in common for me…they’ve brought me to tears and infiltrated my thoughts in such a way that I couldn’t stop thinking about the people in the stories. This true crime/memoir has been no different. I like to read while on the elliptical and there was a point in my reading where I just had to take a break from this story and switch to a different one. The author’s writing was beautiful and lyrical in a way that I was so fully engaged with the story that when the brutal details of little Jeremy’s murder and then the author’s own heartbreaking story came front and center, it really hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting…hence the needed break.

Once composed, I dived back in because while at times brutal to read, this story is also fascinating, haunting, and illuminating. The author doesn’t just haphazardly toss out details of Jeremy’s murder and Ricky Langley’s life and then switch to her own story. Rather, she weaves the narrative by alternating timelines involving Rickey’s past and her own. While at times the shift between the two was abrupt and sometimes felt that it occurred mid-thought, overall this narrative technique worked very well to tell two separate stories. Let me back up for a minute and tell you what I mean by illuminating and fascinating. I found the author’s discussion of the law in terms of the intricacies of what it means to seek truth and justice, the breakdown of the system (Ricky Langley had 3 trials!), and the inherent problems associated with having shades of gray in a legal system that’s set up to be black and white. In addition, the author examines the very real breakdown of the family and criminal justice system in such a brilliant, “what if” way that, days later, I’m still thinking about…what if Ricky had a different type of childhood...what if that person at the hospital would’ve believed Ricky when he walked in and said he needed help…what if we had harsher sentences for sex offenders like Ricky…what if the author’s own childhood was different…what if her childhood wasn’t shrouded in secrets…what if children’s voices were better heard in their own family as well as our justice system?? Of course, we’ll never know the answers to these “what ifs” and that’s what’s so haunting.

This isn’t an easy read by any means and I would guess some readers may not be able to read about the graphic details of murder and abuse. BUT, this is an important story and one that I’m sure many may see themselves in and will benefit from Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s honesty.

Many thanks to Flatiron Books for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review

WAITING ON WEDNESDAY

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where each Wednesday you get to highlight a book that your really looking forward to. This week I’ve chosen a book that just came on my radar yesterday when my friend Annie at The Misstery told me about it. I literally CAN’T WAIT to read this book! It has mystery, murder, the criminal justice system and it’s a true story…a must read if ever I’ve heard one! See what you think and let me know your thoughts…

 

My Pick is:

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To Be Published May 16th by Flatiron Books

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.

But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.

An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe―and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine

Doesn’t this sound SO good?? This book is at the very tip top of my TBR…thanks Annie for bringing it to my attention:)

THROWBACK THURSDAY: MY MOST MEMORABLE TEARJERKERS PART II

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year 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 books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it

Last week I decided to change things up and have a Throwback topic that features some of the most memorable books that have made me cry over the years. It’s not often that I come across a book that moves me to tears (or sobs) so when I do those tend to stay with me. I think it takes something special on the part of an author to be able to evoke such strong emotions in a reader.

I’ve listed my picks this week in order, starting with light tears shed and increasing to a book that left me completely sobbing…ugly crying to the max in other words! Here we go..

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Published January 2016 by Random House

My Rating 5/5 Stars  sob rating 😢😢

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air, which features a Foreword by Dr. Abraham Verghese and an Epilogue by Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a young neurosurgeon at Stanford, guiding patients toward a deeper understanding of death and illness, and finally into a patient and a new father to a baby girl, confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

If you haven’t yet read this profoundly moving memoir, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy soon! This might be the best written memoir I’ve ever read. Paul Kalanithi clearly had a future as an author which is what he planned on doing in the second half of his life after he was done being a surgeon. Sadly, we’ll never get a chance to read any more books by him but this one is a treasure.

 

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Published February 2008 by St.Martin’s Press

My Rating 5/5 Stars  Sob rating 😢😢😢

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable. For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals.

You guys…this book!! I read this almost 6 years ago and I still remember the story as well as the fact I had to put it down when my kids were around so they wouldn’t ask why mom was crying so much over a book:)  I just loved this story about a friendship that spanned decades.

 

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Published March 2006 By Knopf Books for Young Readers

My Rating: 5/5 Stars  Sob Rating: 😢😢😢😢

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. 

Do I really need to say anything about this book…over 1,000,000 ratings and almost 90,000 reviews on Goodreads with a 4.36 ratings average…that’s just amazing! This book probably gets the award for the book I most resisted reading for YEARS! Friends recommended, reviews were excellent and still I didn’t want to read it. Finally , two years ago when my son was in 8th grade he was assigned this book to read for English and I decided to read it as well so we could discuss it together (I’ll do anything if my kids will read!). Needless to say, I loved it so much that I’d say it’s one of my top 5 reads ever.

 

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Published June 2016 by Simon & Schuster

My Rating: 5/5 Stars   Sob Rating:😢😢😢😢

This is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.

 

 

This book is witty, original, sarcastic in places and laugh out funny in others. I’m a current dog owner and I totally got Ted’s devotion and attachment to Lily. That’s all I’ll say about the story but by the end of the book I was crying so much my dog came from another room and sat by me, which honestly made me cry more. I wish this book was getting more love I thought it was fantastic!

LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST…The book that caused me to hide in the bathroom to finish it because I was literally sobbing so much…for over an hour…and then had a book hangover lasting about 6 weeks….is

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Published March 2015 By Doubleday

My Rating 5/5 Stars  Sob Rating 😢😢😢😢😢

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever. 

This book is also in my top 5 reads ever and one that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s a haunting story about trauma, friendship and love and by far one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It will seep into your soul and you will be changed after reading this book, I guarantee it. This book isn’t going to be for everyone as it has some of the most disturbing subject matter I’ve read and there were many times the darkness became too much and I had to put it down for a few hours and then come back to it. To say this is powerful writing and storytelling doesn’t seem to do it justice but that’s how I feel about this novel. All the sobs and ugly crying for this one!

Have you read any of these or like to? Have your own tearjerker recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Happy Reading!

 

If you’d like to check out another Throwback Thursday recommendation , check out The Book Whisperer Rebecca’s site here