The Road by Cormac McCarthy

6288A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.


The Road starts in a post-apocalyptic world that explains very little if any of what the apocalyptic event was. Father and son are traveling through burned America. The land is full of ash and devoid of life, so to avoid the harsh winter, father and son set out to the coast. They have minimal possessions except for a revolver to protect them from “the bad guys”–the cannibals. Father and son endure several episodes of starvation and struggles trying to survive until they reach the coast.

The Road is a small book I read in a couple of hours. It’s a relatively simple book with a minimal plot. I was astounded to find out it had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007. Even more surprising to me was the amount of five and four-star reviews this book received on Goodreads.

One thing I love about literary fiction is its ability to free-flow and not follow grammatical rules to dictate its pursuit of more poetic prose. Unfortunately, I didn’t think this book was particularly poetic. McCarthy took a lot of freedom in his writing. Sometimes it worked, but for the majority of the book, it didn’t. I was annoyed at his lack of parentheses and lack of dialogue attribute, which made understanding who was saying what difficult at times. As far as dialogue goes the ones in this book were the simplest I’ve read in a long time.

Can I ask you something?

Yes. Of course.

Are we going to die?

Sometime. Not now.

And we’re still going south.

Yes.

So we’ll be warm.

Yes.

Okay.

Okay what?

Nothing. Just okay.

Go to sleep.

Okay.

The fact that The Road offers no answers whatsoever did not bother me at all. One redeeming quality of this novel was the bond between father and son. In a world where nothing is left, all they had were their love for each other.

You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.

I’m ready to forget this novel–wait! I already did.


Format: Kindle, 324 pages.
Published: March 20th, 2007 by Vintage (first published September 26th, 2006)
ASIN: B000OI0G1Q
Source: Library loan
Rating: 2 stars
Genre: Literary Fiction, Sci-Fi

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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As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

10803076As I Lay Dying starts with the family’s matriarch, Addie Bundren dying and looking out the window as her son Cash builds her coffin. The Bundren family live on a rural farm in Mississippi in the 1920s. After Addie dies, the family sets out on a journey to Jefferson, the place Addie wanted to be buried.  The trip is a difficult one because it is both long and the Bundrens are poverty-stricken. Anse is the husband determined to take his wife’s body to Jefferson, but when in reality plans on getting himself a new set of teeth. Dewey Dell is the daughter who has an agenda of her own. She wants to go to Jefferson because she is pregnant and intends to have an abortion. Cash is the carpenter of the family who built his mother’s coffin and plans on going to Jefferson to buy a record player. Jewel is the illegitimate son born out of wedlock when Addie and the town’s preacher had a fling. Vardaman is the youngest of the sons. Traumatized after his mother’s death, he decides she is just like the fish he had previously caught and killed and constantly repeats “My mother is a fish.” Darl is considered the feebleminded of the family. Darl is also very intuitive and suspects that the rest of the family has ulterior motives to go to Jefferson.

When the family arrives in Jefferson after surviving a series of incidents which include Cash’s leg becoming gangrenous, Dewey Dell trying to have an abortion but ending up having sex with a guy pretending to be a doctor, and Darl being declared insane and placed in an asylum. Anse goes into a house to borrow some shovels to bury Addie’s body and starts to flirt with the lady of the house. The novel ends with Cash losing a leg, Dewey Dell not getting an abortion, Anse taking the money the family had saved to buy himself a new set of teeth, and making the lady of the house the new Mrs. Bundren.

The structure of the novel consists of narrations from each member of the family. While they are on the journey to Jefferson, they relate to what happened in the past as each narrator has a reason for making the trip. Faulkner again uses a stream-of-consciousness style in his narrative that I really struggled to understand at times.

“Bananas are gone, eaten. Gone. When it runs on the track shines again. I said God made me. I did not said to God to made me in the country. If he can make the train, why can’t He make them all in the town because flour and sugar and coffee.”

“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you…I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or am not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know whether he is or not.” 

To say that reading Faulkner is intense is an understatement. Although I managed to read and enjoy, some years ago, the massive stream of consciousness that is The Sound and The Fury,  reading As I Lay Dying was a much harder experience for me. Let me just say that I considered quitting the book in several different parts. The quote by Joe in the book You by Caroline Kepnes came to my mind many times while I read this novel.

“…Faulkner you’ll never finish, never start; Faulkner that will harden and calcify…”

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


Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Published: January 30th, 1991 by Vintage (first published 1930)
ISBN: 067973225X
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Literary fiction, Classics

The Lost Letter From Morocco by Adrienne Chinn

 

42972180This is the story of Addy who lives in London and has breast cancer. During a break from her chemotherapy treatment, she comes across a lost letter in which her late father reveals that he had fallen in love with a Moroccan woman. Together with the letter she also finds pictures of her father and the Moroccan woman in which it appears the woman might have been pregnant.

Determined to find answers to this mystery, she decides to travel to Morocco to follow in her father’s footsteps and hopefully meet her half-sibling. In Morocco, she meets a Berber who starts out as her tour guide but soon develops into something else.

The Lost Letter From Morocco is the typical example of a novel that has all the elements to be a great read. Exotic place, the possibility of romance, a character battling severe illness, you get the idea. However, it failed to deliver it. I struggled with the end which I thought did not do service to the rest of the novel. It was not the type of book I expected to be.

I’d like to thank Avon Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: ARC
Published: March 7th, 2019
ASIN: B07H54D1GT
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Avon Books, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction

 

The Outsider by Stephen King

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When a hideous crime happens to 11-year-old Frank Peterson in the fictitious town of Flint City, police immediately suspects the town’s little league coach Terry Maitland. Maitland is an upstanding citizen of Flint City, and his public arrest causes a significant amount of commotion. On the surface, it seems like a straight forward case and detective Ralph Anderson is confident of his arrest and Maitland’s guilt. But when Maitland comes up with an irrefutable alibi, detective Anderson will have to expand his investigation and face horrifying answers.

I initially struggled with starting The Outsider. I don’t particularly gravitate toward books with themes of sexual violence and rape, especially regarding children. But I couldn’t pass on the opportunity of reading one of Stephen King’s latest books. I love Stephen King’s seemingly easy way he tells his stories, his dark creativity, his wild imagination, and vivid scenes. The Outsider at times reads like an episode of Law and Order, but being Stephen King, you know that is not going to last very long, and pretty soon an element of the supernatural will rear its ugly head.

Although The Outsider is a hefty 560 pages novel, the amount of suspense and horror keeps you well engaged for a good ¾ of the book. The topic of the book, although dark, does not dwell too much on sexual abuse as it does in the investigation process. I didn’t feel the end was necessarily rushed; quite the opposite–he could have shaved off a few pages as it felt like it dragged a bit.

Overall The Outsider does not disappoint one bit, and if anything it solidifies my admiration for an author I’ve been reading for nearly 25 years, and which continues to be in my humble opinion the master of horror. I highly recommend this book to both fans of this genre as well as fans of well-written fiction.


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The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

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When Scottie’s Italian teacher–a teenager with secrets of his own–disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate, and love to a new kind of complicated truth. Half glamorous fun, half an examination of America’s role in the world, and filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, prosecco, charming spies and horse racing, The Italian Party is a smart pleasure.

Review

How would you feel if you were newlywed in the 1950s and having to move to a foreign country, more specifically, Italy? That is how the Italian Party begins. You don’t know much about Michael and Scottie at first, but you get a sense that they are both not quite who they make themselves to be. Michael is a first-generation Italian-American, who moves to his family’s homeland on the pretense that he works for Ford. Scottie is the cute all-American blonde who has a secret of her own. On the surface, they look like the perfect couple, but when Scottie’s Italian teacher goes missing we embark on a series of events that take place in the 50s, in the middle of the Cold War, and the fight against communism.

This book was not quite what I was expecting. Just like Lynch’s characters in this book, the novel gives you an erroneous idea that this is another beautiful love story set against a beautiful backdrop of romantic Italy in the 1950s. As you get more and more involved in the book, you realize that nothing about this book is what it seems to be on the surface.

I really enjoyed being transported to this beautiful, and rather, innocent time. I loved all the descriptions of Italy, the Italian way of life, and all the wonderful food. This was a great read and a little history refresher for me. I highly recommend it.


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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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The Circle Game by Tanya Nichols

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Bernadette “Bernie” Sheridan, has the Carlos Luna case in the bag. She’s smart, confident, and fueled by personal tragedy. She knows all too well what’s at stake for the five-year-old, Mexican-American boy, who lost his parents to a negligent driver. After all, her own mother and father—her adopted parents—died tragically when she was only thirteen, and she’s been struggling with the emotional loss ever since. Now, nearing forty and jaded as ever, she’s adamant about saving Carlos from a fate similar to her own, even if only by winning him a healthy monetary settlement. 

Review

Bernie is a successful, yet idealistic attorney who takes on the Carlos Luna case. Carlos is a little five-year-old boy whose parents were killed by a reckless driver. This case is very close to Bernie’s heart since she also lost her adoptive parents when she was just thirteen years old, and because of the struggles she went through as a child, Bernie is determined to win Carlos a fair settlement for his loss.

Bernie’s only family is her beloved grandmother Noni. And although Bernie has always longed to know more about her biological parents, grandma Noni has never encouraged Bernie to seek out her biological mother. Now, thirty-seven years later Bernie’s biological mother Julie threatens to re-enter her life and everything she thought she knew about herself is about to change.

The narrative is told from two viewpoints. One is Bernie’s account of the present day and the other is Julie’s account of decades ago. The Circle Game is a beautiful novel with well-developed characters and a heartwarming plot about the power of forgiveness.

I would like to thank Alternative Book Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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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Review: Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

When her father falls into a coma, Indian American photographer Sonya reluctantly returns to the family she’d fled years before. Since she left home, Sonya has lived on the run, free of any ties, while her soft-spoken sister, Trisha, has created a perfect suburban life, and her ambitious sister, Marin, has built her own successful career. But as these women come together, their various methods of coping with a terrifying history can no longer hold their memories at bay. Buried secrets rise to the surface as their father—the victim of humiliating racism and perpetrator of horrible violence—remains unconscious. As his condition worsens, the daughters and their mother wrestle with private hopes for his survival or death, as well as their own demons and buried secrets.Told with forceful honesty, Trail of Broken Wings reveals the burden of shame and secrets, the toxicity of cruelty and aggression, and the exquisite, liberating power of speaking and owning truth.

Review

Trail of Broken Wings is a beautifully written novel about a horrible topic–domestic abuse. I personally don’t gravitate towards books that deal with abuse, domestic or sexual. However, Trail of Broken Wings was recommended to me by a dear friend and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. The book tells the story of an Indian family living in America. The chapters alternate between the accounts of the three sisters and the mother. Marin, the oldest daughter and the overachiever of the family, Trisha is the middle child and the beloved one, and Sonya the youngest of the sisters. Each one of them recounts their lives, their memories, their abuse under the hands of their father, and how they have come to cope with it. I loved Badani’s writing. She makes it almost easy to read about domestic abuse because her prose is so beautiful.

“Heroes are not born or created. They become so in the passing moments of life. When something or someone demands you be more than you have been, when you must put aside your own needs and what is best for you to fight for another, no matter the cost. The past, the day-to-day living becomes irrelevant. All that matters is that instant when the ticking of the clock is louder than an ocean’s wave hitting the rocks, when time does not stand still, but slows, every second longer than the last one. This is when the decision becomes the only thing you can hear and see. When the choice falls out of your hand and fate intervenes. When your life is no longer yours but conjoined with another’s, each dependent upon the other to survive and thrive.”

The book has some description of violence but it is not too graphic. My only complaint about this novel was the ending. It felt rushed and unrealistic. Overall, it is a beautifully written book.


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