Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley

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This is a very sweet book.

This is about Ted, his dog Lily and her octopus. I figured out what the octopus was in the first few pages, but I will try not to ruin that for you.

Ted is a bit of a loner and Lily is his main social companion throughout the book. They even have specific days that they do different things. For example, Thursdays are reserved for discussing boys they think are cute and on Fridays they play Monopoly. Lily does talk to Ted in a halting way and there are magical realistic components to this book aside from that.

…I think of how dogs are witnesses. How they are present for our most private moments, how they are there when we think of ourselves as alone. They witness our quarrels, our tears, our struggles, our fears, and all our secret behaviors that we have to hide from our fellow humans. They witness without judgment.”

Read this book if you are a dog lover, someone who appreciates a bit of heartbreak mixed in with periods that make you laugh out loud, a bit of magical realism, read if you love seeing damaged characters grow. I would also say that this book had a bit of a feel similar to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

“Dogs are always good and full of selfless love. They are undiluted vessels of joy who never, ever deserve anything bad that happens to them. Especially you. Since the day I met you, you have done nothing but make my life better in every possible way.”

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

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This is a very rich book. I loved it. The author brings forth two very differing stories from two very different characters whose stories converge: Soli, a Mexican immigrant immigrating to the U.S., and Kavya, an Indian-American affluent woman who aches for a child of her own.

We get the privilege to live and breathe both perspectives and often our hearts break with each character. This is a story about what motherhood means to different women who have vastly different circumstances.

She began to really look at children for the first time. Babies. Her chest ached at the sight of them. Her hands grew restless, like a smoker’s. She wanted to press one to the best of her heart, feel the sweet, warm weight of a baby in her arms.”

What I really enjoyed about this book was that I intimately got to know Soli and Kavya. I feel as though I was sitting in a chair next to them in their homes, that I was there for the heartbreaking times and the blissful times. They became old friends to me throughout the story.

I recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates the nuances and strength of a mother-child bond, diverse perspectives and issues of immigration.

***The only reason I gave it 4.5 stars rather than 5 was because there was a sub-plot of Kavya’s husband Rishi’s workplace and projects that I found pretty boring. ***

Having a child was like turning inside out and exposing to the world the soft pul0 of her heart. If something happened to Ignacio- if illness took him or an accident, she would never recover. “

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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This book actually helped me appreciate the winter, so you KNOW this has to be an excellent book.

In Alaska, circa 1920s, Jack and Mabel move to Alaska to start a homestead in the middle of the wilderness. The couple has struggled with infertility and are still haunted by the baby they lost years ago. One day they make a girl out of snow and the next day they see the snow girl is missing and they see flashes of a girl running around their homestead and in the woods.

“It was beautiful, Mabel knew, but it was a beauty that ripped you open and scoured you clean so that you were left helpless and exposed, if you lived at all.”

This book is so beautifully written. You can really feel the bitter cold, see the breathtaking landscape and feel the difficulties of getting by in a stark and minimally populated space.

Jack and Mabel get to know Faina, the mysterious girl over time and she becomes a regular fixture in their household. Mabel lives and dies by Faina’s appearances and you can’t help but ache along with her.

Mabel was no longer sure of the child’s age. She seemed both newly born and as old as the mountains, her eyes animated with unspoken thoughts, her face impassive. Here with the child in the trees, all things seemed possible and true.”

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves lyrical prose, stories about trying to live off of the land, fairy tales for adults, fans of magical realism.

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan

🌟🌟 DNF

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing, Netgalley and Camille Pagan for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This did not impact my opinion or review in any way.

Oh, boy.

So, I don’t think I like Chick Lit. I know that’s not a fair thing to say, and I hate the phrasing of the genre, as it’s misleading and demeaning in a lot of ways. Most of the books I read and love are written and targeted toward women but have more literary depth, symbolism and style to them. But I felt this book fell into Chick Lit terrority, in the way that it subscribed to many stereotypes of women and pandered to those stereotypes.

Maggie Harris is a nervous woman, but has felt most secure in her marriage to her husband, Adam. That’s until he leaves her for (what she thinks is) another woman. She is left empty and lost and spends much of her time wondering how she could win him back.

Then she still goes on a trip to Rome, solo even though it was originally planned to be an anniversary trip for her and her husband. Immediately, she is brought to life by an Italian man flirting with her.

That’s the point where I decided to not finish this book. I can abide with a woman finding herself after a separation by discovering who she is as an individual after spending much of her life catering to others. But I can’t deal with a woman desperate for male attention as a means for revitalization. I am accustomed to books with strong, badass female protagonists and this one fell profoundly short in that regard.

So, as you see at the top, I gave it 2/5 stars and I did not finish it. I’ve found that I have so many books I am looking so forward to reading and life is too short to spend reading a book you don’t like.

Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart

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I received an ARC from Netgalley and Atria Books in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.

Quinn receives a cryptic text message from her estranged sister: “I have something for you”. Nora certainly does, as she drops a 6 year old girl into Quinn’s lap to take care of for an undetermined length of time.

This story covers a four day span of time and cuts between several character’s perspectives. The beginning and last quarter of the book are deeply engrossing, with a bit of slower pacing in the middle.

The characters are not all entirely likeable, but they do become much more developed throughout the novel.

Read this book if you enjoy domestic dramas, character studies of mother-child relationships, both conventional and unconventional. I did guess one of the twists fairly early on, but still found the ending of the book satisfying.

This book was published just a few days ago (November 21st, 2017) and is now available for purchase.

The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson

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I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley and Greyson Media Associates in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my opinion of the book in any way. Thank you for the advanced reading copy.

Faith and her sister Kim head to their parent’s cabin to celebrate Faith’ s 13th birthday. It should have been a fun weekend. However, this day ends with four people murdered and Faith as the sole survivor. Fast forward to 10 years later, as Faith is released from a psychiatric hospital, nearing on the 10 year anniversary of the murders. Faith sees the man she believes committed the murders everywhere. Is her perspective to be trusted, as she binge drinks often and is an unreliable witness?

This book had me in parts. In the first few chapters, I was paging through quickly, hooked. Even though the main character is Faith, I found her unlikeable and not redeeming in any way. The main thing that bothered me about this book was just how unbelievable so much of it was. Greyson does give you twists aplenty, but they seemed rushed and somewhat unbelievable. Some twists I did predict and some caught me by surprise. I give an extra half star for some clever twists; I just felt like there were too many of them to actually be believable. I also took some issue with the whole “crazy woman, unreliable narrator” trope that’s been making the rounds in this genre.

When You Disappeared by John Marrs

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I received an ARC from Netgalley of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my opinion in any way.

Whew.

This is a difficult book to review because there were so many ups and downs of this book. One of the main characters, Simon is extremely unlikable and does not redeem himself at any point in the book. However, the twists in the book were unexpected, bringing my rating up from a 2 to a 3 star review.

We meet Simon and Catherine, a married couple with three children who have been married for 10 years. Seemingly, they appear to have good lives together. However, one day Simon disappears without a trace.

Did he leave on his own volition? Was he kidnapped? Was he murdered? For twenty five years, we (and Catherine) have no idea. The book is laid out in such a way that it cuts between various years in the past juxtaposed with the present day.

My issues were mainly with Simon. I often wanted to dive into the book and shake him for all his transgressions. I won’t reveal anything more than that, but he is highly unlikable.

The author does a good job of making the reader feel sympathetic towards Catherine throughout the duration of the book. Also, there are several twists/reveals at the end that were fairly surprising, which was welcome.

Overall, a 3 star review. Also, a warning that there are many difficult topics addressed in this book: rape, suicide, and multiple murders.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

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I received an ARC from Netgalley, Doubleday Books and Chris Bohjalian in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my opinion in any way.

This book is very suspenseful, a real page-turner.

Cassie, a flight attendant, wakes up after a blacked out drunken night lying next to a one night stand gone wrong: he’s dead, lying in bed next to her. What would you do when you wake up next to a dead man?

Cassie isn’t your average person: she is a flight attendant, a (mostly) functional alcoholic and of course, an unreliable narrator. She remembers meeting a woman Miranda during her mostly blacked out evening, but has difficulty finding her. What does Miranda know? How is she involved? Does she know Cassie woke up next to a killed man?

Throughout the book, the perspective shifts between Elena (Miranda) and Cassie building to a tense and well crafted climax.

Recommended if you enjoy suspense and murder mysteries.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

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I had high hopes for this one due to the outpour of gushing praise for this book via bookstagram. However, this one was just not for me.

The gist of the story is that an American named Barry Bleecker and a French woman named Sophie Ducel get stranded on a desert island when their plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean in the vicinity of Tahiti and they are the sole survivors.

The majority if the book takes place on the island, where Sophie and Barry scrounge for food and struggle for survival for years.

I won’t elaborate anything else that happens, except that in the beginning to middle of the book, the two appear to hate each other: making fun of each other because of their nationalities (i.e. “You’re so French because this and that., Americans are so…”) and generally are miserable. Then they eventually fall in love.

Blah. This story was already barely believable that two people survive a plane crash and survive on a deserted island for years. And then two people who vehemently hate each other fall in love? Nah, sorry. I don’t buy into it.

I give it 3 stars because at times, the writing was beautiful. Also, I found the ending to be satisfying for the story. I just didn’t really buy into it. I’ll leave you with a passage I found beautiful:

“Even though I’ve never been to the places you’ve told me about, I love them because they’re part of you. I can close my eyes and see them. Cleveland in the summer is beautiful– deep, dark, sad, and green. The farm in the south of Illinois is all gold–golden sunlight, golden corn.”

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

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I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley, Random House UK, Cornerstone publishing in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my opinion or review in any way.

Wow.

I didn’t hear anything about this book and didn’t know it existed until I saw it on Netgalley. What a wonderful surprise of a gem!

Lydia is a bookseller in a bookstore in Denver called “Bright Ideas Bookstore”. She has many beloved ‘Book Frogs’ who are a motley crew of characters who spend a lot of time in the bookstore.

One day, her life changes when Joey, one of her Book Frogs is found hanging from a noose in the bookstore and is dead on arrival. Even more peculiar is that he bequeaths all of his belonging to her.

“β€œJoey loved it here,” he said. β€œLoved it. This place gave him something sacred. Gave his mind some quiet. This was his Thanksgiving table. His couch-cushion fort. He could get lost in here like nowhere else on earth.”

A lot happens after this, including demons from Lydia’s past coming back to haunt her. Rather than spoiling all this, I will let you read the book and find out for yourself.

There are many things I loved about this book, but here are some that come to me immediately: I really felt that I was a patron of the bookstore. I got a great sense of the bookstore, so much that I could imagine what it smelled like and what the atmosphere would be like. Also this: familial bonds become a strong theme in the book. There are some really poignant and heartbreaking moments. There’s also some comic relief.

This is what a book should be: an escape, but also touches you deeply in a disarming way.

An enthusiastic 5 stars. Read this book, you won’t be sorry.