REVIEW: I LIKED MY LIFE By Abby Fabiaschi

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From Goodreads

Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch…until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How can they possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

 

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I actually like the blurb above, it says just enough but not too much in terms of plot. I have to say, this book almost got returned to the library unread  (it’s a week late…oops) if it wasn’t for some passionate reviews from other bloggers on Goodreads, especially Deanna’s from  Deesradreadsandreviews. Of course, I now know I would’ve seriously kicked myself had I returned this unread because it ended up ticking all of my favorite boxes for what I look for in an unputdownable read.

The story begins with Maddy , who from the Afterlife, is on the lookout for a replacement wife for her husband and fill in mother for her teenage daughter after her sudden death by suicide. What we quickly discover is Maddy seems remarkably decisive, rational, and witty yet is also heartbroken to have to watch her family suffer because of her actions. How could someone who so desperately tries to communicate with her husband and daughter have chosen to leave them by killing herself? These questions and so many, many others haunt Maddy’s husband Brady and her 17 year old daughter Eve. Through their painful and strained grief, both Eve and Brady are forced to learn how to navigate each other and life without Maddy, the glue that held their family together.

Now I don’t want you to think this is a “downer” of a book because it’s actually the complete opposite. This is an ultimately uplifting story of forgiveness…of oneself and others…of vulnerability…of finding light amongst the darkness…and of love…finding it as well as losing it. The narration is brilliantly told with alternating chapters between Maddy, Eve and Brady which enable us to get to know each character so well I began to think of them as real. Seriously, I wanted to give all three of them a swift kick at different points because sometimes the pain they caused each other was palpable to me! Yes, tissues were needed. Then, there were other times the humor and sarcasm was so touching and funny I laughed out loud. The way this was all achieved was the compelling, engaging writing style of the author. The best way I can describe how the writing felt to me is …effortless. It flowed with such a quiet intensity that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and by the time I reached the halfway mark, I finally looked up to see it was 1:00am!   I love when that happens and I LOVED this book. Will Eve and Brady come to terms with and get the answers they so desperately seek about Maddy’s death? You’re going to have to read to find out and I’m pretty confident you’ll be happy you did…this is one of the best debut novels I’ve read in the past year!

5/5 Stars 

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 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

My Pick this week is:

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Published June 2010 by Ballantine Books

My rating: 5/5 Stars

The circumstances of Molly Marx’s death may be suspicious, but she hasn’t lost her joie de vivre. Newly arrived in the hereafter, aka the Duration, Molly, thirty-five years old, is delighted to discover that she can still keep tabs on those she left behind: Annabel, her beloved four-year-old daughter; Lucy, her combustible twin sister; Kitty, her piece-of-work mother-in-law; Brie, her beautiful and steadfast best friend; and, of course, her husband, Barry, a plastic surgeon with more than a professional interest in many of his female patients. As a bonus, Molly quickly realizes that the afterlife comes with a finely tuned bullshit detector.

As Molly looks on, her loved ones try to discern whether her death was an accident, suicide, or murder. She was last seen alive leaving for a bike ride through New York City’s Riverside Park; her body was found lying on the bank of the Hudson River. Did a stranger lure Molly to danger? Did she plan to meet someone she thought she could trust? Could she have ended her own life for mysterious reasons, or did she simply lose control of her bike? As the police question her circle of intimates, Molly relives the years and days that led up to her sudden end: her marriage, troubled yet tender; her charmed work life as a magazine decorating editor; and the irresistible colleague to whom she was drawn.

More than anything, Molly finds herself watching over Annabel–and realizing how motherhood helped to bring out her very best self. As the investigation into her death proceeds, Molly will relive her most precious moments–and take responsibility for the choices in her life.

Exploring the bonds of fidelity, family, and friendship, and narrated by a memorable and endearing character, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx is a hilarious, deeply moving, and thought-provoking novel that is part mystery, part love story, and all heart. 

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This book was recommended to me by a good reading friend 2 years ago and as soon as she mentioned the title my mind kind of went ‘meh’ as my initial thought was it’s a weird title  and then my mind quickly thinks ‘I don’t know if I want to read that.’ I really find it so interesting how I can so quickly disregard books because of the cover or title. When will I learn? I’m so glad I listened to my friend and picked this one up because it ended up being one of my favorite reads of 2015. Now, I know a lot of you might jump over to Goodreads, see the ratings for this, and promptly disregard it but I urge you to give it a try if you like your love story/drama with a side of mystery and humor.  I definitely do. I loved that Molly narrated the story,  she was witty yet wistful as she no longer had the life she (at one time) loved. A life that included her daughter whom she very much loved. What made this so original for me was the fact that Molly gets to find out how she ended up dead right along with us. There are times she laughs at her situation as did I and times she cries…as did I…sitting poolside if I remember correctly. Not the best time for crying! If you’re looking for a book that has a little bit of mystery, humor, and heartbreak all rolled up in a one sit read, give this a try.

Happy Reading!

Have you read this one or think you’d like to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments

For another TBT recommendation, check out Rebecca The Book Whisperer’s blog.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: MY MOST MEMORABLE TEARJERKERS…PART I

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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

This 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.

My crying picks for this week: 

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Published 2005 by Hatchette Books

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Holly couldn’t live without her husband Gerry, until the day she had to. They were the kind of young couple who could finish each other’s sentences. When Gerry succumbs to a terminal illness and dies, 30-year-old Holly is set adrift, unable to pick up the pieces. But with the help of a series of letters her husband left her before he died and a little nudging from an eccentric assortment of family and friends, she learns to laugh, overcome her fears, and discover a world she never knew existed.

The kind of enchanting novel with cross-generational appeal that comes along once in a great while, PS, I Love You is a captivating love letter to the world!

**I just loved Holly and her love story…and this is one case where I thought the movie was just as good as the book**

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Published 2012 by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living. 

**Funny, witty, charming, and heartbreaking…if you haven’t met Lou you’re missing out on such a well-written character**

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Published 2009 by Hodder & Stoughton

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another.
Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

Twenty years, two people, one day. 

**Oh this book…what a phenomenal love story and with a twist I never saw coming that literally shocked me and made me a little mad at the author…I recovered and have since forgiven David Nicholls:)**

 

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Published 2008 by Harper Collins

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life…as only a dog could tell it. 

**You don’t have to be a dog lover to appreciate the message that sweet Enzo has to share. Of course, if you are a dog lover and/or owner as I am, you’ll most likely put this book at the top of your favorites pile!**

Well that’s a good start to some of my most memorable tearjerkers, stop back next Thurs for Part II, including the book that led to my biggest sob-fest EVER! 

What books have reduced you to tears? Please share in my comments! I’m always looking for more tearjerkers to add to my TBR:)

REVIEW: THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE By Louise Beech

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A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself. On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all. Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love 

 

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I really didn’t know much about this book before opening it as I missed reading quite a lot of reviews during the Blog Tour since I had just started blogging and was still discovering all the great blogs to follow. I have to say the cover and title really drew me to this book and it has been on the top of my TBR for the past few weeks.

The story begins with a brief introduction from ‘The Book ‘followed by Bernadette, who coincidently can’t find said book. The Book is not only missing, but it’s also a main character in the novel which, along with Bernadette, play a significant part in a little boy’s life. I was immediately drawn to Bernadette’s character. I liked her within reading just the first few pages and that has to be because of Louise Beech’s fantastic writing.

Conor is a foster child living with foster mom Anne and to say he’s had a hard life is an understatement. This is where the book really hit home and touched me in a major way because many years ago I used to work as a foster care social worker with many kids on my caseload exactly like Conor. I just felt a connection to the whole story  but to Conor especially as Louise Beech so eloquently showed his resilience, desire to belong, and his ability to trust and love even though he had been let down by so many people in his life. Her writing struck a cord with me as it was elegant yet heartfelt. There wasn’t any complicated back and forth shifts in time or unreliable narrators (which I’ve grown very tired of);  this was a story that held drama, some mystery, suspense at the right times, and so much depth of emotions of caring people trying to make the best of their situations and hoping against hope there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ve waited several days to write this review as I just wasn’t sure how to put into words how special and powerful I felt this book was. Conor’s story could be and has been so many children’s stories (sadly) and it just brought back so many memories for me. When a book can do that, I attribute that to a wonderful story and outstanding writing as is the case with this novel. I enjoyed reading this so much. The one (minor) critique I have is that the clinical assessment parts sprinkled throughout somewhat disrupted the pace for me. However, this could be because I already knew this information from doing the job. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be first in line for Louise Beech’s next book!

5/5 Stars

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review.

STANDALONE SUNDAY: A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara

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Standalone Sunday is a feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you can feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend! There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! Be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

MY PICK

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5 STARS

GOODREADS BLURB

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 was my last official read of 2015. I started it the day after Christmas and was consumed by it for the next 4 days straight! This isn’t a book that would typically cross my radar but after listening to a podcast talk it up,  having a trusted book friend highly recommend it and it was short-listed for the Manbooker, I had to give it a try. That being said, this book may not be for everyone. There are some extremely hard to read about issues in this book…child abuse, self-harm. And the first 200 pages will have you questioning whether anything actually happens in this book. Don’t get me wrong, I kept reading because I liked getting to know these friends but I wanted something to happen! Rest assured, about that point in the book things will take a dark turn and you (most likely) will not put this book down until you know how it all will turn out for these friends. For me, this was ultimately a story about the healing power of friendship and love but also one of resilience and letting go. Have your tissues ready and, if you’re like me, be prepared for a super book hangover after reading this one.

 

 

REVIEW: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

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Goodreads Blurb
The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details.

We can tell you that 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.

Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Lily and the Octopus is one of those books that the less you know before reading it the better so my review may seem a little vague. That being said,  I picked this book as my first book to review for a couple of reasons. One, I read it about a month ago AND I still think about this book! I know it’s being compared to The Art of Racing in the Rain which in some ways it’s similar but it really deserves to stand on its own because not only will this book cause some tears (or in my case many) but it’s FUNNY! The banter between Ted and Lily is so endearing and witty…yes Lily talks..and for those of us with dogs (mine’s a lab) we know what it’s like to carry on conversations with our dogs…right? It’s not just me I hope:) In terms of Ted himself, we find out pretty quickly that he’s a lonely guy trying to cope after a  breakup with his partner so he’s seeing a (bad) therapist named Jenny. His thoughts about and interactions with Jenny were some of the best written, most sarcastic, wittiest parts of the book. Again, you will laugh!

Ok, the other reason I chose this book is I feel it’s a VERY big word-of-mouth book and I want to try to get the word out that I think everyone–not just dog lovers–would enjoy this book. It literally showed up on my porch after my fellow book loving friend called me to ask if I had read it which I hadn’t because I had never heard of it! She dropped it off that day, I read a few pages, and promptly neglected everything else and by 1:00am I was drying my eyes and wishing I hadn’t read it so fast.  All this isn’t to say I had no issues with the book. There is a section involving an octopus hunt that is filled with magical realism that I have to say just didn’t work for me. In my opinion, that all could’ve been left out and the story would’ve been just as good. But that’s a minor issue. If you enjoy original books with endearing characters that stay with you, you’ll love this.

5/5 stars