BOOK REVIEW | A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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5/5 stars

From the publisher:
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

My thoughts:
“Stories are wild creatures…When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”

This little book had me crying my eyes out; I absolutely loved it. I’ll do my best to sum this up without any spoilers. Conor’s life is spiraling downhill: his father has moved away and started another family, his mother is ill, and he has nowhere to turn for relief from his misery. One night, a monster visits. Over time, the monster tells Conor three tales that blur the lines between right and wrong, and good and evil. The fourth tale will be Conor’s, and what a tale it is.

A brilliant idea from Siobhan Dowd turned into a beautiful work by Patrick Ness.

BOOK REVIEW | Hot Milk by Deborah Levy | 2016 Man Booker Long List

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3.5/5 stars

From the publisher:
Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant–their very last chance–in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.

But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia’s mother’s illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sofia’s role as detective–tracking her mother’s symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain–deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.

“Hot Milk” is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world.

My thoughts:
This book is certainly not going to be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. Levy has crafted a delicate story with a rich cultural landscape – it’s easy to get lost in this one. Sofia is both easy to admire and easy to dislike; ultimately, I am rooting for her happiness. As a fellow anthropologist, I can relate to her struggle to find her space in the world, as well as her affinity for analyzing those around her.

Oh, and the unruly curly hair, I can relate to that too.

This would make a great last minute summer read, or a winter read when you feel the need to get away.

BOOK REVIEW | Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

4/5 stars

*I received a digital advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

From the publisher:
Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

My thoughts:
This book had me in tears more than once, it’s a truly beautiful piece of work. Shelby is flawed, tragic, hopeful, and I absolutely loved her. Her affinity for animals and what she does for them is the perfect insight into who she could have been before the tragedy, and who I hope she will become.

This was my first Alice Hoffman, and definitely won’t be my last. Thank you again to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley!

Publication date: November 1, 2016
Pre-order on Amazon

BOOK REVIEW | The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls  Emma Cline

3/5 stars

From the publisher:
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

My thoughts:
The Girls was a quick and enjoyable read, but I didn’t love it. I really wanted to dig into more of the actual cult dynamic! That said, the book is called “The Girls”, and that’s more or less what you get – a book about girls and the way they relate to one another during important formative years. I don’t need any redeeming qualities in a character to like them, but Evie sort of fell flat for me too. This is a strong debut and I look forward to seeing what Cline comes up with next.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW | The Son by Jo Nesbø

The Son by Jo Nesbo

5/5 stars

From the publisher:
Sonny Lofthus has been in prison for almost half his life: serving time for crimes he didn’t commit. In exchange, he gets an uninterrupted supply of heroin—and a stream of fellow prisoners seeking out his Buddha-like absolution. Years earlier Sonny’s father, a corrupt cop, took his own life rather than face exposure. Now Sonny is the center of a vortex of corruption: prison staff, police, lawyers, a desperate priest—all of them focused on keeping him stoned and jailed. When Sonny discovers a shocking truth about his father’s suicide, he makes a brilliant escape and begins hunting down the people responsible for his and his father’s demise. But he’s also being hunted, and by enemies too many to count. Two questions remain: who will get to him first, and what will he do when he’s cornered?

My thoughts:
THIS BOOK! If you like crime fiction and police procedurals, you must read this book. Intricate storytelling and a total thrill ride – Nordic Noir at it’s best. I absolutely love Sonny and would love to see this character again. The last few lines are crazy and make me wonder if a sequel is in the works. I can’t wait to read more Nesbø and dig into the Harry Hole series!

 

BOOK REVIEW | My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout | 2016 Man Booker Long List

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.jpeg

2/5 stars

From the publisher:
Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

My thoughts:
I generally love books about the human condition, and have no problem at all with stories that are slow to build and are subtle in their intent. That said, something was missing for me with this one. It was so close to being a book I really loved! I wanted to see Lucy and her mother go just a little bit deeper, I was waiting for that breakthrough. There were some lovely moments, but it missed the mark for me. Strout definitely has amazing insights and I will probably pick up some of her other works soon.

BOOK REVIEW | Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh | 2016 Man Booker Long List

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

3/5 stars

From the publisher:
The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

My thoughts:
Eileen, you strange little bird. This is the sort of book that makes you feel itchy while reading it, it’s just so vile. This is a quick and entertaining read, with a disturbing conclusion. I liked it, and will likely look for other books my Moshfegh in the future – no doubt her voice is unique!