Monday, 30 March 2020

Mini Review: THE SURPRISING POWER OF A GOOD DUMPLING by Wai Chim

Author: Wai Chim
Read: March 2020


I got this gorgeous copy of THE SURPRISING POWER OF A GOOD DUMPLING in the #authorsforfireys auction back in January (how long ago this seems now!). Author Wai Chim had generously donated hand painted copies to raise money for victims of the terrible bushfires in NSW and Victoria. .

With a title like this, I was hoping for a feel good book that would take me on a journey. Who doesn't love a good dumpling? And I was right: the story is fresh and warm and life affirming, whilst still tackling important issues like mental health and culture. Anna, the main protagonist, is a sixteen year old girl from a Chinese immigrant family who is trying to look after her siblings and hold her family together as her mother stays in bed most days, afflicted by an undiagnosed mental illness.

I loved Anna, who is warm and caring whilst trying to navigate her way in the world like any other teenager. Her voice was fresh and authentic and easy to relate to, even though I don’t often read YA. I really appreciate books that can balance a feel good vibe with an important message, and this one did just that. The book got me out of a terrible reading slump and I am so happy I read it!

Book Review: THE HOUSE GUEST by Mark Edwards

Author: Mark Edwards
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Read: March 2020
Expected publication: 3 June 2020
My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ1/2



“There is usually a simple explanation for everything.” (except in Mark Edwards’ books there isn’t)


Book Description:


When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers—let alone invite them into your home—but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…



What attracted me to this book:


I have long since come to appreciate Mark Edwards’ books as good entertainment – he comes up with the best premises where (in his own words) “scary things happen to ordinary people”. Last time, the houseguests refused to leave. This time, the houseguest poses a different threat altogether!


My musings:


THE HOUSE GUEST delivered on its promise of being a fast, entertaining read that had me frantically turn the pages wanting to find out how this latest disaster would end. It is fortuitous that we are in quarantine at the moment, because after reading Edwards’ last two books, I would be too scared to have any houseguests anyway!

Here, our two hapless main protagonists are Brits Ruth and Adam, who are house-sitting in Manhattan for a couple they met on a cruise. One night, a young woman turns up on the doorstep, claiming to be a friend of the owners. Being trusty and openhearted people, they let her in. Do you hear the alarm bells ringing yet?


Yes, from here on in the two Brits are marching towards their own doom. The how and when you will have to find out yourself. In typical Mark Edwards’ style, the premise is all the more terrifying because the couple are so relatable, so ordinary, so much like you and I. Could this happen to us? Perhaps some parts of the book were just a bit farfetched, but then again, maybe not. Living in my rural Australian bubble, I don’t profess to know how things are done in NYC. In any case, THE HOUSE GUEST made for another fun read. It’s the type of book you want to pick up when you don’t feel like anything too deep but want a type of bookish Netflix binge that will sweep you away in a tidal wave of entertainment (and terror). I’m not giving anything else away!


Summary:



In summary, I recommend you pick up THE HOUSE GUEST when in the mood for a fast, entertaining read with ordinary, everyday characters who stumble headlong into misadventure in the fashion Mark Edwards is famous for. There are plenty of elements to this thriller that will satisfy lovers of the genre who are looking for a bit of intrigue, a few bad guys, some fast paced action and a rising body count. I really enjoyed it and it provided a welcome distraction.


Thank you to Netgalley and Amazon Publishing UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Book Review: THE MISSING ONE by Lucy Atkins


Author: Lucy Atkins
Publisher: Quercus Books
Read: March 2020
My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ1/2


Book Description:


The loss of her mother has left Kali McKenzie with too many unanswered questions. But while clearing out Elena’s art studio, she finds a drawer packed with postcards, each bearing an identical one-line message a Canadian gallery owner called Susannah Gillespie: thinking of you. Who is this woman and what does she know about Elena’s hidden past?

Desperate to find out, Kali travels with her toddler, Finn, to Susannah’s isolated home on a remote British Columbian island, a place of killer whales and storms. But as bad weather closes in, Kali quickly realises she has made a big mistake. The handsome and enigmatic Susannah refuses to talk about the past, and as Kali struggles to piece together what happened back in the 1970s, Susannah’s behaviour grows more and more erratic. Most worrying of all, Susannah is becoming increasingly preoccupied with little Finn . . .

A tense, thrilling novel about a family divided by secrets, and the lengths a mother will go to protect her child.

What attracted me to this book:


I absolutely adored Lucy Atkins’ latest book MAGPIE LANE, so it was a no-brainer that I wanted to devour more of her writing. With a premise of family secrets and an atmospheric coastal Canadian setting, this one sounded very much up my alley!

My musings:


I am happy to say that THE MISSING ONE was a winner for me from beginning to end. I immediately connected to the main character Kali, a young mum whose own mother Elena has just died of breast cancer. Kali and her mother had a distant, trouble relationship, so when Kali clears out some of Elena’s things and comes across some mysterious postcards and letters from a woman she has never heard of, she realises how little she knows about Elena’s life before marriage and children. Kali’s father is no help, so Kali travels to Canada to track down one of her mother’s old friends in the hope of getting an answer to some of her questions.

This all rang so true for me! My mother died as a child, so I could relate to Kali’s frustration of not ever knowing her mother as a person, her hopes, her dreams, her history. I also related to Kali’s travels with a small toddler, and some of the scenes made me laugh and cringe in turn. Her misadventures, her fears, her anxieties – it read like my own story in parts. I too have relied on the kindness of strangers to take me in when I missed public transport and found myself stranded in a foreign country with a toddler. I was LIVING this story!

Even thought the middle of book was a bit slow in parts and perhaps bogged down with detail, the last 1/3 of the story really picked up pace and was quite nerve-wrecking. Suzanne, the woman Kali is staying with in British Columbia, was such a mysterious, fascinating and disturbed character that I literally had to hold my breath as the full extent of past secrets unfolded.


Apart from the mystery, the armchair travel component of this story was exquisite. I now simply HAVE TO go to Vancouver Island to see the rugged coastline and perhaps also the orcas, about which I learned so much by reading this story. As far as armchair travel goes, it doesn’t get much better than this, so if you are a fan of wild and remote settings this should definitely be on your list.

Summary:



In summary, THE MISSING ONE ticked all the right boxes for me. With a main character who seemed to share so much emotional baggage with me and an atmospheric setting, the heart-pounding finale to the mystery capped off an all-around good story. I want to read more from this author!



Book Review: THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS by Ursula Hegi

Author: Ursula Hegi
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Read: January 2020
Expected publication: 9 June 2020
My Rating:๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ1/2


Book Description:


In the summer of 1878, the Ludwig Zirkus has come to the island Nordstrand in Germany. Big-bellied girls rush from St. Margaret's Home for Pregnant Girls, thrilled to see the parade and the show, followed by the Sisters who care for them. The Old Women and Men, competing to be crowned as the island’s Oldest Person, watch, thinking they have seen it all. But after the show, a Hundred-Year Wave roars from the Nordsee and claims three young children. Three mothers are on the beach when it happens: Lotte, whose children are lost; Sabine, a Zirkus seamstress with her grown daughter; and Tilli, still just a child herself, who will give birth later that day at St. Margaret’s. And all three will end up helping each other more than they ever could have anticipated.

As full of joy and beauty as it is of pain, and told with the luminous power that has made Ursula Hegi a beloved bestselling author for decades, The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls is a shattering portrait of marriage and motherhood, and of the ways in which women hold each other up in the face of heartbreak. 

What attracted me to this book:


I’m often curious to see why certain books attract me, and there were several reasons why I couldn’t pass up a chance to read this one: a) the Nordsee setting in the mid 1800s, which promised an interesting background to an unusual story; b) Comparison of the book to WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, which I loved (even though I am always wary of comparisons to popular books); c) it had a circus in it! d) I wanted something character driven, quirky and unusual, and this one certainly fit the bill.


My musings:


I am happy to say that Hegi’s book with the unusual title THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS lived up to all my expectations. Set in the mid 1800s, it centres around the stories of four different women who are loosely connected by the setting and the terrible accident that happens right at the beginning of the book: the tragic drowning of three children when a freak wave rips them out of their mother’s arms. Whilst this event forms the a big part of the story, it is only one thread among many others, musing about pregnancy, motherhood, female friendship, marriage, loss, grief and womanhood in general in Germany in the mid 1800s. Hegi’s writing is lyrical and descriptive and vividly painted the characters and the setting for me right from the start.


What I love most about historical fiction – apart from learning about different eras in history – is trying to put myself in the character’s position and reflect on how I would act, how different my life would be. Being a woman in the 1800s was no picnic: childbirth was hazardous for mother and child, and many infants didn’t survive long, claimed by illnesses and complications that are easily treated today. And if you were unlucky enough to be young and pregnant outside of marriage, an even grimmer fate would await you: death at the hands of some backyard abortionist or escape to homes for unwed mothers, where the child would be taken from you straight after birth. And yet womanhood held some of the same joys, hopes and dreams as we experience today.


Summary:



THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS was a slow, reflective read that gently took me on its journey. I won’t be a good fit for readers who want action, or a definite progression of the journey towards a finale, or even a central plot, because this story isn’t like that. Instead, it flowed gently, like a gurgling brook, not reaching any destination. I was in the mood for such a story and appreciated the emotions the story awakened in me whilst reading, and the reflections it prompted. I can see that it will not appeal to everyone, but if you like that kind of story that rolls out in dreamlike pictures and landscapes, then I would urge you to give it a go.


Thank you to Edelweiss and Flatiron Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

BLOG TOUR: Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist: VIRTUOSO by Yelena Moskovich #SUDTP20


Title: VIRTUOSO 
Author: Yelena Moskovich
Publisher: Serpent's Tail



"You gotta keep speaking, and if it don't sound right in one language, just learn another."


I’m very excited to be one of the 66 bloggers taking part in a blog tour introducing and celebrating books that have been longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize.


About the Prize:


I admit that I hadn’t heard of this literary prize before. For those of you who are like me, let me give you some quick info. Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize aims to encourage raw creative talent worldwide and is open to authors aged 39 or under. Read more about the prize here

This year, international and under-represented voices dominate the longlist and explore pressing social and world themes across identify, culture and power. Twelve novels have been longlisted for the prize. Link to all longlisted books here

The shortlist will be announced on the 7th April, followed by a British Library Event, London on the 13th May and Winner’s Ceremony held in Swansea on International Dylan Thomas Day, 14th May.


About the Author:


Yelena Moskovich was born in the former USSR and emigrated to Wisconsin with her family as Jewish refugees in 1991. She studied theatre at Emerson College, Boston, and in France at the Lecoq School of Physical Theatre and Universitรฉ Paris 8. Her plays and performances have been produced in the US, Canada, France, and Sweden. Her first novel The Natashas was published by Serpent's Tail in 2016. She has also written for New Statesman, Paris Review and 3:AM Magazine, and in French for Mixt(e) Magazine, won the 2017 Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize in 2017 and was a curator for the 2018 Los Angeles Queer Biennial. She lives in Paris. 


What attracted me to this book:


The debate over the book American Dirt which ensued on social media has made me more aware of the importance of reading widely and choosing to read underrepresented and authentic voices. So I was very excited to receive a copy of Virtuoso by Yelena Moskovich with the invitation to take part in this blog tour.



About the book:



For the first ten years of her life, Jana was a simple Czech girl, a watercolour. Her days were a clock run by the Czechoslovakian State Security, snapping hidden photos in their plainclothes. Much fervent artwork was created: Man Subverting Republic (Black and White), Woman Distributing (Tryptic). Man and Woman Organizing (Reprint).

Jana was a watercolour, until the raven-haired girl Zorka came. Jana, now an interpreter in Paris, hasn't seen Zorka in a decade.

Aimรฉe is in Paris too, happily married and trying to get into her hotel room. On the other side of the door is her wife Dominique, face down on the hotel linen, one hand drooping off the side of the bed, fingers curled in, wedding ring white gold like an eye frozen mid-wink.

A body now, no longer a person.

As Aimรฉe and Jana's stories slowly circle through time and place, they lead inexorably together...


My musings:



Virtuoso initially tells about three women: Jana, a simple Czech girl growing up in Prague, whose life is changed by the friendship with the impulsive Zorka; and Aimee, a Parisian whose wife has just been found dead in a hotel room. The women’s stories are interwoven in a way that skips back and forth in time, snapshots that roll out like a surreal fever dream, flashing images full of colour and feeling. Soon it became apparent to me that there was no central story, as each and every character takes the stage for a few pages, then bows gracefully and lets the next one take her place. Chatroom scenes between two women, Amy and Domenika, who meet online and fall in love, pepper the other narrative and provide yet another thread that flashes in between the pages.

Virtuoso is unusual and unique, like nothing I have ever read before. It’s not an easy book to review, with moving images in my mind rather than the type of logical and chronological narrative I am used to. It left, however, some vivid pictures behind that prompted reflection, and affected me more on an emotional than a rational level. I was so intrigued by the character of Zorka, who is so different from any mainstream character I have ever me in a book. Her mother’s words “Zorka, my love, please don’t be weird” almost broke my heart.

I should give a trigger warning, because there is some explicit sexual content that won’t be for everyone.


In summary, Virtuoso was an unusual read for me that has settled in the dark murky waters of my psyche and is still stirring there. At times I was not sure what to make of it, but felt compelled to read on, as if under a spell. It’s the type of book you need to pick up for yourself to see if it’s a good fit for you, and it would be interesting to compare notes. Surreal, honest and utterly original are the words that come to mind.


Saturday, 14 March 2020

Book Review: UNFOLLOW ME by Charlotte Duckworth

Title: UNFOLLOW ME
Author: Charlotte Duckworth
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Read: March 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ1/2


“I’ve never met any of them – don’t even know what they look like – but they know more about this than anyone in my real life.”


Book Description:


You Can't Stop Watching Her.

Violet Young is a hugely popular journalist-turned-mummy-vlogger, with three young children, a successful husband and a million subscribers on YouTube who tune in daily to watch her everyday life unfold.

Until the day she's no longer there.

But one day she disappears from the online world - her entire social media presence deleted overnight, with no explanation. Has she simply decided that baring her life to all online is no longer a good idea, or has something more sinister happened to her?

But do you really know who Violet is?


Told from the perspectives of her most avid fans, obsessed with finding out the truth, their search quickly reveals a web of lies, betrayal, and shocking consequences...

What attracted me to this book:


Social media is a topic that is becoming more popular in crime fiction, and without physical boundaries it lends itself to some very intriguing stories. I often wonder about the potential consequences of sharing our lives so freely with random strangers, so the premise of this book instantly drew me.


My musings:


Violet Young is a “mummy blogger”, a YouTube sensation whose honest (or not so honest) account of her post partum depression and the trials of motherhood have earned her thousands of followers on social media. One day she has vanished into thin air, her Instagram account has been deleted and all her former blog posts have gone. Her followers are devastated and worried – what has happened to Violet? And: how dare she do this to them?

From here, the story unfolds through three different POVs: Lily and Yvonne, who are devoted Violet fans, and Henry, who is Violet’s husband and a bit of a social media star himself. It soon becomes obvious that they are all hiding something, which for the women may be the root of their obsession with Violet, and for Henry something more sinister altogether.

Even as someone who has an Instagram account and a book blog, I found Lily’s and Yvonne’s addiction to Violet’s social media accounts fascinating in a horrified kind of way. Both women’s grief and outrage over finding Violet gone were something to behold, and were definitely on the boundary of being a mental health issue.

Even though I was drawn very quickly into the story, and found the whole premise fascinating, I didn’t end up liking the book as much as I thought I would. The story slowed significantly in the second half, and after the initial build up of intrigue I found the ending a bit lacklustre and unoriginal. I also quickly tired of Lily and Yvonne, who became more and more unlikeable and strange as the story progressed.


I did, however, like the theme of addiction to social media accounts portraying the “perfect family”, even where reality is very different. This would make for some great bookclub discussions, especially relating to the ethical minefield of using your children to become a social media “influencer”. Do your kids have a right to privacy? Will this exposure of their personal lives have lasting consequences for them in later life? I would have liked to talk about these issues with my friends.


Summary:



In summary, UNFOLLOW ME had some interesting concepts and good material for discussion in a book group, even though I was ultimately a bit disappointed in the book’s conclusion. Young mums may find that they better relate to the themes of motherhood, IVF, post partum depression and the ethical issues surrounding your children’s featuring on social media. I think that this book would appeal more to a younger crowd and that my experience was partly related to the generational gap. All in all a quick entertaining read and an interesting modern day topic. 



Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Book Review: THE CHESTNUT MAN by Sรธren Sveistrup

Author: Sรธren Sveistrup
Publisher: Harper
Read: February 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ


Book Description:


A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen.

His calling card is a “chestnut man”—a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts—which he leaves at each bloody crime scene.

Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery—a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted?

To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues.

Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over.

And no one is safe.

What attracted me to this book:


I am always in the market for a Nordic Noir read, and THE CHESTNUT MAN certainly promised the best the genre has to offer: gruesome murders, a dark atmospheric setting and detectives on the hunt for a ruthless killer. After reading THE KILLING, I knew that this would be another intelligent, contemporary and multi-layered story, and you won’t find any plot holes here. I was not disappointed!


My musings:


If you have read THE KILLING, then you will know that Sรธren Sveistrup writes intelligent, multi-layered and well plotted thrillers that contain scenes that will haunt your worst nightmares! THE CHESTNUT MAN follows this pattern exactly, right from its horrific opening chapter, and I still shiver at the thought of some of the imagery the book conjured up for me. I’m just glad that I read this as a group read, because believe me, you will need to have a debrief regularly, especially when reading this before bed!

The book involves a series of horrific murders on women that all have several things in common: they are mothers, their hands have been amputated, and a chestnut man has been found on the scene.

Some of the characters of THE CHESTNUT MAN reminded me of the author’s previous book: here we have Thulin, a young clever detective who is raising her daughter as a single mother and encountering all the problems Sarah Lund was up against working long hours on solving murder cases. Her reluctant partner on the case is Hess, a troubled soul who has been temporarily suspended from Europol and banished to Copenhagen on a kind of sabbatical. Hess is antisocial, secretive and a loner, but he is also clever and able to think outside the box. I liked both main characters immensely, and they had a good dynamic going that kept the story interesting.

Sveistrup is a screenwriter, and his writing style is quite unique, which will work for some readers and not so well for others. For me, the book always had a certain movie like quality, intent on showing us scenes rather than allowing an emotional connection to any of the characters. In a police procedural, especially one as dark and brutal as this one, this worked well, even though it may have taken out some of the emotional involvement felt with other crime books. Short, crisp chapters from various POVs moved the story along at a decent pace, and their cliffhanger endings made it hard to put down. Which was just as well, as it’s a hefty book of over 500 pages! As with THE KILLING, we also get a political thread here, although I was happy to see it wasn’t as dominant as in the author’s previous book. Be aware that there are A LOT of characters, who are often referred to by their surnames only (which is a bit alien for us Australians) – I was forever mixing people up and having to flick back and forth to remind myself who is who.

Our group had multiple theories as to who was the killer, and only one person managed to guess correctly, whether fluke or not. Comparing notes was a great part of the enjoyment here, and also allowed us to air some of our emotions concerning the darker elements of the story. If your triggers include descriptions of domestic violence, child abuse and torture, then you may want to steer clear. I am no  shrinking violet, but some of the descriptions made my stomach somersault.


I used to make chestnut man as a child, but thanks to this book will never quite look at a chestnut the same way again. With a constant undercurrent of menace and danger, and an atmospheric setting, these innocent little figurines took on a whole sinister role of their own.

Summary:



In summary, THE CHESTNUT MAN is a gruesome, multi-layered and well plotted Nordic Noir thriller that will appeal to fans of the genre who don’t mind some gruesome scenes that will haunt the nightmares of the fainter- at-heart. With an atmospheric Nordic setting and contemporary themes, it makes a worthy addition to your mystery shelf.


Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Book Review: LONG BRIGHT RIVER by Liz Moore

Author: Liz Moore
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Read: February 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ



"I could picture the drug as the Piper [of Hamelin]. I picture the trance it casts: I can see this trance quite clearly every day that I work, everyone walked around, charmed, enthralled, beguiled. I imagine the town of Hamelin after the story ends. [...] I can hear it: the terrible silence of the town."


Book Description:


Mickey Fitzpatrick has been patrolling the 24th District for years. She knows most of the working women by name. She knows what desperation looks like and what people will do when they need a fix. She’s become used to finding overdose victims: their numbers are growing every year. But every time she sees someone sprawled out, slumped over, cold to the touch, she has to pray it’s not her sister, Kacey.

When the bodies of murdered sex workers start turning up on the Ave, the Chief of Police is keen to bury the news. They’re not the kind of victims that generate a whole lot of press anyway. But Mickey is obsessed, dangerously so, with finding the perpetrator - before Kacey becomes the next victim.


What attracted me to this book:


I hemmed and hawed a lot whether I should pick up this book or not. I see the consequences of addiction and the long lasting effects on both the victims as well as their families at work, and it’s not pretty. Reading is an escape for me, and I wasn’t sure whether a hard hitting book about drugs would be for me. I even started reading it last month and put it aside again. But now that I have sat down and read it, I am so glad that I did!


My musings:


Kensington, Philadelphia, is about as far removed from my reality as it gets, but with an author as talented as Liz Moore that was no hindrance at all. It wasn’t long until she had transported me into the dark alleys of the city, where people die from drug overdoses on a daily basis, where women sell their bodies for money for their next fix and where babies are born already in withdrawal. It’s a scary world, but handled with such compassion and care that the great human tragedy of the opioid crisis was brought very close to my heart without any political agenda or judgment of the people involved.

Mickey is a policewoman who is very familiar with the terrible cost of the opioid crisis on human lives. Having grown up in Kensington, the daily confrontation with the effects of drug addiction are an everyday occurrence to her. But Micky has an Achilles heel – her own sister Kacey is one of the victims of the drug, and she has been missing for weeks. Every time Mickey finds the body of yet another woman on the streets, she is expecting it to be Kacey, and it emotionally breaks her.

I felt so sad for Mickey. Having lost her mother to a drug overdose when the girls were only small, Mickey and Kacey were sent to live with their grandmother, who didn’t bother to hide her resentment of having to look after two young children. I never quite understood why she was so horrible to those two little girls – she professed to be heartbroken over losing her daughter, and yet she seems to hate her granddaughters! Whilst Mickey is determined to make something of her life, her sister falls into the same trap as their mother did and becomes an addict. I can never fully understand what it would be like to grow up with such tragedy, and in such a scary and tragic neighbourhood. Here every family seems to have lost a child, a parent or a sibling to addiction, but the author portrays her characters so vividly that I found I could easily relate to their plight.


Part police procedural, part family drama, the story soon pulled me in with all its complexities and the mystery surrounding Kacey’s disappearance. Whilst I would not primarily call it a mystery, there are a lot of elements that define that genre, and a twist I did not see coming. I loved the way the author portrayed the relationship between the sisters, which ultimately drove the story for me.


Summary:



LONG BRIGHT RIVER was a powerful, hard-hitting and gut-wrenching story that was handled with such insight, sensitivity and compassion for the victims and families affected that it was impossible not to be touched deeply by it. It’s not a happy read, and sometimes it felt like a heavy weight on my heart to pick it back up and keep reading, and yet I could not put it down. If you are finding it off to a bit of a slow start, stick with it, because it was worth it!


Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.



Book Review: DEAR EDWARD by Ann Napolitano


Title: DEAR EDWARD
Author: Ann Napolitano
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
Read: February 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ1/2


Book Description:


One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

Edward's story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery--one that will lead him to the answers of some of life's most profound questions: When you've lost everything, how do find yourself? How do you discover your purpose? What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again. 

What attracted me to this book:


I always feel hopelessly drawn to stories of survival and overcoming tragedy, even though I know I may be an emotional wreck afterwards. DEAR EDWARD is based on the true story of a young boy who was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed his entire family. How could you ever move on from such tragedy? I needed to find out ....


My musings:


If you are afraid that a book about such a horrific event would be depressing, then rest assured that DEAR EDWARD was anything but. Napolitano may have chosen a rather scary theme, but she handled it with such sensitivity and insight that I felt uplifted rather than mired in sadness and regret. I enjoyed the clever use of the dual timeline here that slowly explored both the time leading up to the crash as well as Edward’s journey towards healing afterwards. Whilst Edward is out main protagonist, we also get to hear from the different POVs of various passengers on the doomed plane, who Edward briefly encountered on his journey. This element gave the story additional depth for me, as I put myself in the shoes of travellers who are about to die in a fiery crash. For someone who is not a particularly relaxed flier, this book may not have been the perfect choice, but I am hoping that in a few months’ time, when it is my turn to board a plane, the memory will have faded sufficiently enough that an onboard G & T will be enough to soothe my anxiety.


There were a lot of moving moments in the book, from Edward’s grief over the loss of his brother and best friend, to the small snippets of the other passengers’ lives, who are al headed into a future that will not play out as planned. For people with flying phobias, rest assured that the actual crash is described in ways that will not give you nightmares into infinity, but handled with the same sensitivity as the rest of the story. Another highlight for me was Edward’s friendship with Shay, who ultimately turns out to be his salvation.


Summary:


DEAR EDWARD is a story about tragedy, survival and grief, but it is also one of hope, love, and starting over. I made it almost to the end before having a good sob! Whether you cry or not, it’s impossible not to be touched by a young person who has lost so much and yet manages to rise from tragedy – it truly pays homage to the human survival instinct. Everyone who has ever lost a loved one will relate to some of Edward’s emotions as he tries to come to terms with the tragedy, and it really resonated with me.


Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Books UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.