Emily, Gone by Bette Lee Crosby

42774228When a music festival rolls through the sleepy town of Hesterville, Georgia, the Dixon family’s lives are forever changed. On the final night, a storm muffles the sound of the blaring music, and Rachel tucks her baby into bed before falling into a deep sleep. So deep, she doesn’t hear the kitchen door opening. When she and her husband wake up in the morning, the crib is empty. Emily is gone. Vicki Robart is one of the thousands at the festival, but she’s not feeling the music. She’s feeling the emptiness over the loss of her own baby several months before. When she leaves the festival and is faced with an opportunity to fill that void, she is driven to an act of desperation that will forever bind the lives of three women. When the truth of what actually happened that fateful night is finally exposed, shattering the lives they’ve built, will they be able to pick up the pieces to put their families back together again?


The book starts forty-seven years ago in the small, fictional town of Hesterville, GA, where a music festival akin to Woodstock is about to take place at Harold Baker’s farm. The townspeople, apprehensive about the festival and the type of audience it will attract, try to prevent the festival from happening to no avail.

The Dixons live close to the farm where the festival is taking place. Rachel, George and poor baby Emily have endured several nights of loud music and very little sleep. On the last day of the festival, when the music seemed to be dying out, Rachel tucked in baby Emily in her crib and went to bed exhausted. Unbeknownst to Rachel and George, their paths were about to cross with hippies Vicki and boyfriend Russ Murphy who were driving back from the festival stoned and starved.

Vicki asks Murph to stop to get her something to eat, but when he fails to find a place that’s open late at night, Vicki convinces him to pull over by a house where she can trespass and get something to eat. Although Murphy is initially not on board with the idea, he agrees to it as long as Vicki can go in and out of the house without raising anyone’s attention. When Vicki enters the Dixon family’s home, she finds a lot more than food, and a crime of opportunity presents itself in a way that will change the course of the Dixon’s and Vicki’s life forever.

I loved this book. As much as I hated Vicki, I could also understand her pain and where she was coming from as a woman and a mother. Things are never as simple as they seem and this book will have you question your preconceived notions on this topic.

This book is a page-turner that had me crying. The theme of this book is every parent’s worst nightmare, and Crosby did a fantastic job of telling such a compelling story with love and compassion. A heart-wrenching, beautiful story about forgiveness and ultimately love.

Emily, Gone is scheduled to be published on April 30th, 2019. I want to thank the author for providing me a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.


Format: Paperback, 398 pages
Published: expected to be published April 30th, 2019 by Lake Union Publishing
ISBN:1542044928
Source: ARC provided by the Author
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

About The Author

Bette Lee Crosby

Bette Lee Crosby is the USA Today bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Twelfth Child and the Wyattsville series. She has been the recipient of the Reader’s Favorite Gold Medal, Reviewer’s Choice Award, FPA President’s Book Award, and International Book Award, among many others. Her 2016 novel, Baby Girl, was named Best Chick Lit of the Year by the Huffington Post. She laughingly admits to being a night owl and a workaholic, claiming that her guilty pleasure is late-night chats with fans and friends on Facebook and Goodreads. The Summer of New Beginnings, published by Lake Union, Took First Place in the Royal Palm Literary Award for Women’s Fiction and was a runner-up for book of the year. The sequel, A Year of Extraordinary Moments, is now available.

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The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

2495567Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.


The book starts with the protagonist, Kvothe, living a low-profile life as an innkeeper at the Waystone Inn and going by the name of Kote in the fictional world of Temerant. Kote runs the inn together with his assistant Bast. When Kote saves a traveling scribe known as Chronicler from being attacked by spider-like creatures called scrael, the Chronicler immediately recognizes Kote as the renowned Kvothe—an unequaled sword fighter and magician. The Chronicler asks permission to record Kvothe’s story. After pondering about it, Kvothe agrees to tell his story to the Chronicler but warns him that it will take three days to tell his story. The Name Of The Wind corresponds to day one of Kvothe’s story in the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy.

It’s hard to believe that a book of this magnitude was Patrick Rothfuss’s first novel. Granted it took him several years to write it while he was pursuing his B.A. in English. The Name Of The Wind is not only an incredibly creative fantasy book, a coming-of-age like nothing I had read so far, but it is also a very well-written book. I loved the narrative, the poems, and songs in the story. Rothfuss’s use of a story-within-a-story format is what sets this book apart. To imagine an entire six-hundred-and-sixty-page book being day one in Kvothe’s story is mind-blowing, but it works because Rothfuss is so creative and descriptive with every scene in the book. I felt like I knew Kvothe on a personal level. You follow him from his early beginnings with his family—a troupe of traveling performers, through meeting his first teacher—Abenthy (Ben) to his years in the University. I’m not going to deny that as much as I loved Kvothe as a character, at times, I was annoyed by how good he was at everything. Even with this small flaw, Rothfuss still manages to make Kvothe a likable character who endures many challenges. Kvothe’s life is far from easy. He loses his family at the hands of evil mystical beings, the Chandrians, at a very early age, and his early life is plagued with violence and hunger.

When I first decided to read this novel, I remember being extremely skeptical. The Name Of The Wind is probably one of the best-rated fantasy books on Goodreads, right along legends such as Tolkien’s LOTR The Fellowship Of The Ring, with a rating of four and a half stars and more than five hundred thousand ratings. I have to admit after finishing book one in this trilogy that the hype is real and very well-deserved.

I’m definitely reading book two, The Wise Man’s Fear, and together with the fandom, I will anxiously await the release of the third book.

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” 


Format: Hardcover, 662 pages
Published: April 2007 by Penguin Group DAW (first published March 27th, 2007)
ISBN: 075640407X
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

 

30753630 When Dr. Louis Creed takes a new job and moves his family to the idyllic and rural town of Ludlow, Maine, this new beginning seems too good to be true. Yet despite Ludlow’s tranquility, there’s an undercurrent of danger that exists here. Those trucks on the road outside the Creed’s beautiful old home travel by just a little too quickly, for one thing, …as is evidenced by the makeshift pet cemetery out back in the nearby woods. Then there are the warnings to Louis both real and from the depths of his nightmares that he should not venture beyond the borders of this little graveyard. A blood-chilling truth is hidden there—one more terrifying than death itself, and hideously more powerful. An ominous fate befalls anyone who dares tamper with this forbidden place, as Louis is about to discover for himself.


There is a reason why Stephen King ranks Pet Sematary as one of the scariest books he’s ever written. The idea for the book came from his experience living in rural Maine. A worst-case scenario meets what if when his young son is almost hit by a truck on a busy street across from his house.

Louis Creed and his family, wife Rachael and children Ellie and Gage, move from Chicago to their new home in Maine. Life seems perfect with Louis’s new job as a college physician, a beautiful New England home with a large backyard that abuts a sacred Native American land, a Pet Sematary, and friendly neighbors–Jud and Norma. When Louis witnesses the tragic death of Victor Pascow, he is later haunted by Pascow’s ghost who visits him at night and shows him the barrier at the Pet Semetary that must not be crossed.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but needless to say that this Pet Semetary has more than meets the eye and when the family cat, Church, is run over by a truck and dies, Louis will consider the unthinkable just to make his family happy.

I first read Pet Sematary when I was in my early teens. I remember being horrified by it. I remember watching the first Pet Sematary movie made in the early 90s and not being able to sleep at night. Re-reading it again in 2019 has been a completely different experience, but not any less horrifying. If anything, it scared me a lot more now that I have children and cats!

The book is structured in three parts all from Louis’s point of view. The climax comes closer to the end of the book, but as always, Stephen King is a master at building suspense. He spares no one of his descriptions full of horror and the macabre. The plot of this book is every parent’s nightmare, and the magic of this story is that King is so good at making all these characters so relatable. I recall reading parts of this book that seemed completely insane and thinking, “I can see why he’s doing it.”

Although there is a new Pet Sematary movie coming out this month. I feel less than thrilled about seeing it. The movie trailer showed that a central element in the plot is completely changed for this movie version.

Pet Sematary, the book, will still go down as one of the best pieces of horror fiction ever written, and it still ranks in my top five all-time best horror books.

“Sometimes dead is better”


Format: Mass Market Paperback, 560 pages
Published: January 31st, 2017 by Pocket Books (first published November 14th, 1983)
ISBN: 1501156705
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Horror

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

 

25622780Wide Sargasso Sea is Jean Rhys’ account of Antoinette (Bertha) Mason (aka Cosway). Fans of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre will recognize her as Rochester’s insane wife from the West Indies he kept locked in an attic. Bronte never indeed developed the character of Antoinette, leaving readers to wonder what kind of life Antoinette had and had she always been mad? In 1966, Jean Rhys finally completed Wide Sargasso Sea after working on it for nearly twenty-seven years.

The novel is structured in three parts with Antoinette and Rochester’s alternating point of view. The first and second part takes place in the West Indies, and the third part is only Antoinette’s point of view while living in England.

The story starts with Antoinette’s description of her childhood and the difficulties her family faced living in Jamaica in the 1830s shortly after the end of slavery when racial tensions were at its highest. As a white Creole child, Antoinette lives with her mother and sick brother in poverty until her mother re-marries wealthy Mr. Mason.

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Racial problems are also one of the major themes of this novel. When racial tensions erupt during Antoinette’s childhood, black workers burn down her house, Coulibri, a plantation house and symbol of oppression. After the fire that culminates in the death of her sick brother, Antoinette’s mother goes mad, and Mr. Mason places Antoinette in a convent until the age of eighteen when she leaves to marry Rochester.

“They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.”

Isolation is another strong theme in this novel, be social isolation, geographical isolation, as well as the isolation Antoinette suffers throughout the story. First, the abandonment and lack of love from her mother, the betrayal of her friend Tia, and ultimately the isolation she feels from Rochester. The entire novel has a very oppressive and claustrophobic feel to it.

The second part of the novel revolves around Antoinette and Rochester’s marriage. A marriage which is sour from the beginning. Rhys makes a point to demonstrate the couple’s incompatibility and inability to understand each other. Rochester’s failure to be flexible and to adapt to his new surroundings and new way of life, and Antoinette lack of communication skills.

“I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers, and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty, and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.”

In the third and final part of the book, Rochester and Antoinette move back to England after the death of Rochester’s father and older brother. The story changes again to Antoinette’s point of view. The move to England and the isolation from everything she’s ever held dear, including Rochester, drives her to insanity, and the novel ends with the house fire.

I really loved this book. I think because I also felt a need to know more about Antoinette and Rochester’s story. I loved the way she depicted the Caribbean with such rich and sensual imagery. This is indeed a masterpiece where Rhys was able to beautifully merge her story to a very known novel and do it all with immense style and sensibility.

“She’ll not dress up and smile at herself in that damnable looking-glass […] I’ll take her in my arms, my lunatic. She’s mad but mine, mine. What will I care for gods or devils or for Fate itself. If she smiles or weeps or both. For me.”

This novel is part of my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge


Format: Paperback, 171 pages
Published: January 25th, 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published October 1966)
ISBN: 0393352560
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Postmodern Literature

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

 

41806986Shortly after the birth of her twins, Lauren is recovering in the hospital when she hears a woman singing an eerie song. Concerned that the woman will wake up her twins, Laura approaches her and asks her to stop singing. The woman, dressed in ragged and dirty clothes seems to be singing to her own baby twins. When Lauren approaches her, the woman presents Lauren with an offer–her dirty and filthy creatures, for Lauren’s own sweet, perfect babies. When Lauren refuses, the crazed woman attempts to steal the babies away. Fearing for her life and for the lives of her twins, Lauren hides in the bathroom and calls the police. When the police arrive, there are no signs of an intruder in the hospital. Nurses and doctors deny the presence of an intruder and everyone turns to Lauren questioning her sanity. Could she be having some sort of post-natal psychosis?

If you have ever had children and by that I mean if you have ever birthed children, you are well aware of how exhausting the process is. If you ever had twins, then you also know the amount of work and lack of sleep that comes with them. Golding is superb in describing these initial days right after bringing a baby home. You can relate to the desperation that the new parents, Lauren and Patrick, are feeling. Lack of sleep and the constant demands of two newborn babies can drive anyone a bit nuts. Golding has a beautiful way of describing a scene that puts the reader in the middle of the action, and at times it’s hard to discern if Lauren is just one over-exhausted new mother, or if indeed some evil force is trying to take her babies away. Little Darlings is the debut novel of Melanie Golding. This is a suspenseful, addictive, and intelligent drama that mixes well the themes of myth, parenthood, pain, guilt, and psychosis. The ending is brilliant and by far one of the best novels I have read this year.

Little Darlings is scheduled to be published on April 30, 2019.

I would like to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me with an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: ARC
Published: Expected publication: April 30th, 2019 by Crooked Lane Books
ISBN: 1683319974
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Thriller

 

Sherlock Homes: The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

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When Sir Charles Baskerville is found suspiciously dead, his friend, Dr. James Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes to look into the death. While the cause of death is determined to be a heart attack, Mortimer suspects foul play and fears that Sir Charles’s nephew and sole heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, may be in danger next. At the center of the investigation is the curse of the Baskervilles, which dates back to the time of the English Civil War. Supposedly the family’s ancestor, Hugo Baskerville, sold his soul to the devil, and the family has been haunted by a large spectral hound ever since. Because Sir Charles was found with a look of horror on his face when he died, appeared to be running away from something, and large paw prints had been found near his body, there is reason to believe that the “Hound” may have returned. The details of the case spark the interest of Sherlock and he agrees to take up the case. “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” is the third of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and is widely regarded as one of his best. This edition is printed on premium acid-free paper.

Review

This is by far my favorite book by Sherlock Holmes and a true tour de force. I absolutely love the gothic and eerie feeling of this book. The narrative is based on Watson’s letters and diary, and through Watson’s eye we witness the implied threat of the moor, the foggy and gloomy weather, and the spectral hound.

Doyle creates this gothic and supernatural atmosphere that seems to give explanation for all the terrifying things that are happening on the moors. And it is this very atmosphere of doom that makes this such a suspenseful book.

It is hard to believe that Doyle got tired of writing this wonderful character. This book is a classic. Hard to imagine a world with Agatha Christie or her beloved detective, Hercules Poirot, without the contribution that Doyle and Sherlock Holmes made to this genre.

This book is on my list in The Classics Club Challenge.

 


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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Review

I just realized this book was first published in 2011. Oh, how I wish I had known about this book back then! Luckily, it’s never too late to find a gem–and this book is truly a gem! Even if you have never heard the expression Achilles’ heel, or known that you have a tendon named after the guy, or maybe you are not into Greek mythology, or never heard or read the Iliad, you can still enjoy this book.

That’s the magic that Madeline Miller brought to these pages. She has made a classic story accessible to everyone, young and old. Her prose is lyrical, poetic, and beautiful–but never in a snobbish way.

The plot revolves around the Trojan War, and we learn about Achilles from Patroclus’ eyes. That, my friend, makes all the difference in this book.

Patroclus is Achilles’ closest friend and because of his love for Achilles, we see a more humane version of the Greek hero.

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

This book has left me crying and wishing for more. I highly recommend this delightful book about love and friendship.

“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.” 


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Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders. Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember.

Review

Alias Grace is a work of fiction based on a historical event. Grace Marks was a notorious figure in the 1800’s who was sent to prison for twenty-eight years for the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his mistress Nancy Montgomery. Atwood recreates Grace’s years of incarceration. The story is told in first -person, with Grace narrating her thoughts as well as the story she tells Dr. Simon Jordan, her psychologist in prison.

Grace is really the powerhouse in this story. Her telling of the events is what makes her human, sympathetic and believable. She is not really a warm and fuzzy character. She is very complex and unpredictable. This novel touches on many important themes. Atwood told this story from the point of view of a woman in the twenty-first century. Many of the themes explored in this novel are familiar to Atwood’s fans because the author has explored these themes in other novels. Feminism, abandonment, abortion, child abuse,  mental health, human worth, suffering, trauma, and sexuality.

“If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.”

The important point about this novel is that Atwood is not so interested in figuring out this mystery as she is in just telling the story and what it meant to be a woman in the mid-nineteenth century.

I’m yet to read a Margaret Atwood’s book that I don’t like. Alias Grace is a masterpiece and a must on any bookshelf.

“Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run mad, as if mad is a different direction, like west; as if mad is a different house you could step into, or a separate country entirely. But when you go mad you don’t go any other place, you stay where you are. And somebody else comes in.”

This novel is part of my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge


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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Remains of the Day is a profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world postwar England. At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive, during which he looks back over his career to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving “a great gentleman.” But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington’s “greatness” and graver doubts about his own faith in the man he served.

Review 

Such a beautifully written novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve never got to watch the movie version of this title and I’m glad I haven’t. I read this book with no pre-conceived expectations and I believe that has made a big difference in the way I experienced this novel.

This is a story about Stevens, a British butler who after years of service at Darlington Hall is offered his first vacation. He sets out to explore the English countryside and meet Miss Kenton, who had worked with him in the heyday of the Darlington Hall.

“A ‘great’ butler can only be, surely, one who can point to his years of service and say that he has applied his talents to serving a great gentleman — and through the latter, to serving humanity.”

Duty and dedication are at the heart of this novel and although in today’s day and age it’s hard to conceive the role of such a dedicated butler. This is a very bittersweet recollection of a life full of sacrifices and missed opportunities. I have to say I ended this novel feeling pretty sad. My heart ached for this man who spent his entire life in pursuit of service to this house and this employer and in doing that he lost his opportunity for true love.

“I do not think I responded Immediately, for it took me a moment or two to fully digest these words of Miss Kenton…their implications were such as to provoke a certain degree of sorrow within me. Indeed — why should I not admit it? — at that moment, my heart was breaking.”

This novel is part of my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge


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The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”

But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

Review

I absolutely loved this book. I have been reading Louise Penny for quite some time and one of the things that really impress me about her books is the richness of her characters. I love that all the characters have so many layers. This book reminded me a little of Umberto Eco’s The Name of The Rose. Probably because it’s set in a monastery. Unlike Eco’s long and drawn out novel, Penny’s novel is full of twists that keep you guessing until the end. Don’t let the theme of a monastery full of monks and Gregorian chants scare you away from this novel. This is a very well-plotted mystery! I highly recommend it.