Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance: Chronicles #1) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

259836Life-long friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales with strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chanced encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman who bears a magical crystal staff draws the companions deeper into the shadow forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.


I absolutely loved it! I was told about this series by a good friend and honestly, I had no idea I was going to enjoy it as much as I did. I love D&D but even that didn’t convince me straight away. I went in knowing this book was written in 1984 and half expecting it to give off a Masters of The Universe nostalgic vibe. I found myself completely absorbed by this fast paced, jam-packed adventure. And yes, it is a bit cliche? Is it a tad cheesy and outdated? Is it full of overdone tropes? Absolutely! But it was also written 37 years ago, way before several fantasy books I love that have certainly also been inspired by this book. I’m so looking forward to continuing with this trilogy and oh, so happy for the recommendation.

 

Format: Mass Market Paperback, 444 pages
Published:Published February 1st 2000 by Wizards of the Coast (First published November 12th 1984)
ISBN:0786915749 
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Paul TremblayThe lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.
To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight.


A Head Full Of Ghosts had been on my TBR for about five years since I read and reviewed Paul Tremblay’s book Disappearance at Devil’s Rockso I was glad to see it displayed at my local library as suggested reading for Halloween.

I have to say that it took me a moment to recollect my thoughts before writing this review. I went into this book completely cold. I never read any reviews on it or even a complete synopsis of the book. I highly advise you to read this book with as little information as possible, which makes writing a review about it even more difficult. 

Head Full Of Ghosts is a book divided into three parts and told from the POV of Merry, the Barretts’ eight-year-old daughter, and her interpretation of the events.

The first part of the book starts fifteen years early by giving us a glance at the Barretts, a fairly normal Massachusetts family composed of dad John, mom Sarah, and the two daughters, Marjorie, fourteen, and Merry, eight. Since the book is told from Merry’s perspective, we get to see the close relationship the two sisters shared with each other. Tremblay overlaps the story by introducing present-day scenes of Merry, now twenty-three, being interviewed by an author who’s writing a book about the events that happened with the family, in particular with Marjorie who started to display signs of acute schizophrenia. As the family’s life starts to crumble apart and Marjorie’s mental illness progresses, John decides to seek the help of a local priest who is convinced that Marjorie’s problems are not mental health issues at all but rather the product of demonic possession and that they should perform an exorcism. 

Without going too much into the plot, it suffices to say that the Barretts not only agree with the exorcism but also allow for the process to be televised in a reality tv show called The Possession. 

So, let me stop right here to tell you that what made this story worthwhile for me was not the concept of exorcism–and that alone might turn off some readers. 

Don’t get me wrong, this book is sheer horror. Not that in-your-face sort of horror, but more like building up tension and suspense. I actually found this book a mixture of terrifying and sad at the same time. 

What I absolutely loved about this book was how Tremblay handled a delicate subject such as mental illness and the pitfalls of today’s society, the internet, misogyny, and the role of religion in the treatment of mental health.

Although this book was written six years ago, Tremblay’s social criticism on this topic is still relevant, especially on a day like today in honor of World Mental Health Day.

 

Format: Hardcover, 286 pages
Published: Published June 2nd 2015 by William Morrow
ISBN: 0062363239 
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fiction, horror

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

death-jane-lawrencePractical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town.Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to.


The Death of Jane Lawrence is a gothic/horror novel very much in the style of The Haunting of Hill House, Crimson Peak, and Rebecca. I have to admit that although I loved those stories, I was not very impressed with the beginning of this novel. Jane Shoringfield is this logical accountant who reaches a point in her life where  she sees the need for marriage. Not necessarily for the romantic aspect of it, but for convenience. She sets her sight on recluse, albeit good-looking, Dr. Augustine Lawrence. After convincing him that the marriage would be beneficial to both of them, they get married with the condition that she is never to set foot in Lindrige Hall, Lawrence’s family manor.

Needless to say, after a series of “unfortunate events” Jane finds herself at the entrance of Lindrige Hall, and instead of finding her dashing, and sharp new husband, she finds a weak and paranoid man who believes Jane is nothing more than an apparition and hallucination. 

From that point, we embark on the more gothic portion of the novel and the mysteries that surround Augustine and his manor. At about 50% of the book, the story takes a turn, and elements of the supernatural and the metaphysical come into play. 

I have to admit that I came into this story knowing this was primarily a horror/gothic/ghost story. What I initially thought set this story apart was the use of logic and the paranormal together. So when you take this novel for what it is, it’s certainly an interesting read, especially during the Halloween season.

The reason I couldn’t give it more than 3-stars was the fact that at times I felt Starling was trying too hard. This novel felt as if it wanted to be so many things at once and in the end, failed miserably. In terms of character development, there was none. All the characters were pretty 2-dimensional, but the novel is pretty gory with strong elements of the macabre which suits the genre.

Possible triggers include descriptions of miscarriage/infant death which may be a sensitive topic for some readers.

The Death Of Jane Lawrence is scheduled to be published on October 5, 2021. I want to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 
 

Format: Kindle edition, 352 pages
Published: October 5th 2021 by St. Martin’s Press
ASIN: B08R2JKC2V
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Horror/Gothic

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

stayYejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does–but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.


In Stay With Me, Adébáyọ̀ introduces us to Yejide and Akin, a Nigerian couple who have been trying to have a baby for many years.

In their culture, it is expected that married couples have children, and when that is not possible, the men are expected to take another wife to produce an heir and carry on the bloodline. When Akin takes on a second wife, it initiates a series of tragic events.

Adébáyọ̀’s prose is both lyrical and fluid. The story is told in alternating POVs, which allows you to get to know the well-developed characters.

Stay With Me is a poignant novel that may leave you with very mixed feelings.

 
 
 
 
 

Format: Kindle edition, 288 pages
Published: August 1st 2017 by Knopf  (first published March 2nd, 2017)
ASIN:B01MTJQK9M
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fiction

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.

Website | Twitter |Facebook|Amazon

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

36124936

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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