Review: Blame by Jeff Abbott

30842435* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Blame

Author: Jeff Abbott

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 9781455558438

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The crash that killed him
Two years ago, Jane Norton crashed her car on a lonely road, killing her friend David and leaving her with amnesia. At first, everyone was sympathetic. Then they found Jane’s note: I wish we were dead together.

A girl to blame
From that day the town turned against her. But even now Jane is filled with questions: Why were they on that road? Why was she with David? Did she really want to die?

The secrets she should forget
Most of all, she must find out who has just written her an anonymous message: I know what really happened. I know what you don’t remember…

Never have I enjoyed a thriller so much as I enjoyed Abbott’s Blame. It has a surprisingly engaging plot and some completely unseen twists. I couldn’t put it down. It’s not often that I get too into the thriller genre, but I’m glad I made an exception for this one. As a result of an accident, the protagonist, Jane, cannot remember the 3 years leading up to the crash that killed her childhood friend David. She is left a pariah, considered a murderer and an addict to nearly everyone in the town. Many in the town assume that because of her amnesia and the terrible accident that Jane is out of control. In this town, everyone has secrets, some far more terrible than others.

Not a single character is trustworthy, not even Jane. Abbott writes with with fingers pointed in all directions. Everyone can be a suspect here. Because our narrator is so profoundly unreliable due to her lack of knowledge–which even she acknowledges!–we cannot trust a thing that anyone tells her. The only things we know to be true are the small written facts we’re given along the way: a hand written note, a photograph, etc. Even Jane notes that anyone could tell her anything and she’d have to accept it as truth, because she knows no different. She is unreliable, but she is also incredibly vulnerable. Both Jane, and the reader, look to each character with mistrust and suspicion. It builds the intensity of the story and creates a frantic desperation to find out the truth…before it’s too late. Many innocent lives are at stake. The question of “why?” hangs over this tragedy, lurking in everyone’s actions and motivations. They all want the same thing, but there are things that someone is trying to keep hidden.

I’m just completely in awe of how much I liked this book. I can’t compare it to other thrillers, because it’s very unfamiliar territory for me. I can say that there were many characters that I did not sympathize with, and felt anger towards. But there are many redeeming characters who are open to forgiveness and willing to drop everything to help find the truth. Abbott has built a very interesting community in this tragedy stricken town.

While this book may not warm me up to this genre as a whole, as a stand alone book, I really appreciated Blame. I’m glad I took a shot to try something new, because it definitely paid off.


Review: The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

32920292*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The History of Bees

Author: Maja Lunde

Publisher: Touchstone

Publication Date: August 22, 2017

ISBN: 9781501161377

Synopsis from Goodreads:
England, 1852. William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive one that will give both him and his children honour and fame. United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation. China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident, she sets out on a gruelling journey to find out what happened to him. 

This English translation of Maja Lunde’s Bienes Historie is an excellent observation of the intricate relationship between humanity and the tiny little honey bee. Lunde positions the story from three perspectives: the mid-Nineteenth Century with the development of the beehive, the early Twenty-First Century where the world is encountering Colony Collapse Disorder for the first time, and the late Twenty-First Century where humanity has barely survived the extinction of bees. The stories provide  a look at the effect that bees have on human life–their life sustaining abilities–at all stages of human history from pre-Industrial Revolution to the future.

I loved reading this book. And it’s got a fantastic cover to boot! I found it to be heart-breaking and gut-wrenching, but also full of hope as the novel draws to a close. It’s full of life-and-death moments, mystery, excitement, new invention, change, and so much more. Lunde doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities that the absence of bees has on life of Earth. The story has been compared to Station Eleven by Emily St.John Mandel (another one of my favourites) and I can see why. Lunde confronts the end of life as we know it and the collapse of the human race. She doesn’t show us exactly how it comes to be, but leaves the downfall to our imaginations, which I really enjoyed. The story is not about the collapse, but about it’s effect on the survival of humanity.

The story moves quickly from moment to moment at a good pace, keeping the reader engaged and wanting more. I finished this book just a few days, so excited to find out how it would end and what the characters would encounter. I found the characters to be incredibly real and very relatable. They are all honest in their triumphs and failures, bringing this story to life. I related to Tao in 2098 the most, connecting her in a raw and visceral way. Her pain is the greatest, I found, and her emotion is strong and tangible. Her story was the most moving to me, but I like the others as well!

I hope you’ll give this story a try. It’s worth the read.

Review: How to Fall in Love with Anyone

32620333*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: How to Fall in Love with Anyone

Author: Mandy Len Catron

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: July 2017

ISBN: 9781501137440

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a series of candid, vulnerable, and wise essays that takes a closer look at what it means to love someone, be loved, and how we present our love to the world, Catron deconstructs her own personal canon of love stories. She delves all the way back to 1944, when her grandparents first met in a coal mining town in Appalachia, to her own dating life as a professor in Vancouver, drawing insights from her fascinating research into the universal psychology, biology, history, and literature of love. She uses biologists’ research into dopamine triggers to ask whether the need to love is an innate human drive. She uses literary theory to show why we prefer certain kinds of love stories. She urges us to question the unwritten scripts we follow in relationships and looks into where those scripts come from in the first place. And she tells the story of how she decided to test a psychology experiment that she’d read about—where the goal was to create intimacy between strangers using a list of thirty-six questions—and ended up in the surreal situation of having millions of people following her brand-new relationship.

This book was incredibly engaging and fascinating. I love reading about love and relationships, and what other people think and experience. Catron discusses love through a series of her personal anecdotes and her reflection on the relationships of her parents and grandparents. Catron is witty and hilarious as she recounts various stories of her past, but she’s also insightful as she explores how people date and marry differently then the did even one or two generations ago. I couldn’t stop turning the pages, staying up well past an acceptable hour to sleep in order to finish reading.

Many of you might know Catron from her New York Times Article, “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.” This book expands on the ideas that she presents in this article, applying them to the different stages of love in her life, through the ups and downs of different relationships. Not only does she explore her experiences with me, she discusses in depth her time alone when she learned invaluable lessons about herself. In this period of time she is able to ruminate on how her young and young adult dating life was driven not by her own confidence, but by her lack thereof and her feelings that as a woman she was defined in terms of how men appreciated her. In her time of being single, she gains the confidence to find out what it is she’s looking for love and to know that her self worth lies in being who she is and being true to herself.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s one that I’ll gladly keep in the permanent collection and read again, and recommend to other readers. If you enjoy learning about others and how we define love, this book will certainly appeal to you.

Review: The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney

32621113*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Blood Miracles

Author: Lisa McInerney

Publisher: John Murray, a Hachette UK Company

Publication Date: April 6, 2017

ISBN: 9781444798890

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Like all twenty-year-olds, Ryan Cusack is trying to get his head around who he is. This is not a good time for his boss to exploit his dual heritage by opening a new black market route from Italy to Ireland. It is certainly not a good time for his adored girlfriend to decide he’s irreparably corrupted. And he really wishes he hadn’t accidentally caught the eye of an ornery grandmother who fancies herself his saviour. There may be a way clear of the chaos in the business proposals of music promoter Colm and in the attention of the charming, impulsive Natalie. But now that his boss’s ambitions have rattled the city, Ryan is about to find out what he’s made of, and it might be that chaos is in his blood.

From what I’ve seen online, I should have first read McInerney’s Glorious Heresies before reading The Blood Miracles. Many writers seem to be of the opinion that GH is necessary in order to understand the backstory and references throughout this new novel. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, but I disagree with this statement. Without having read GH, I found The Blood Miracles to be a full, easily understood, suspenseful narrative. If there were any blanks, McInerney does an excellent job of filling them in, because I certainly do not feel as though I’ve missed out on anything by not reading her previous novel. Often with sequels, one cannot pick up the second or subsequent books to read on their own, but The Blood Miracles does stand on it’s own two feet. I found it to be incredibly engaging, moving, and well-rounded, with enough backstory that I walked away feeling satisfied that I knew the characters, where they came from, and where they were headed. I think I’m even more inclined now to pick up Glorious Heresies to see how it compares.

I love, love, loved that this book is written with Cork slang. It sucks you right into the story. You can hear the characters in a fully immersive, visceral experience. It brings Ryan to life in a very real way. Ryan is barely a redeemable character. In fact, I hated him in the beginning. And then I began to love him for evoking such conflict in me. He became a character that I loved to hate, yet I was rooting for him all the same. I do not generally read or enjoy stories as hard as this one, so I was very skeptical and a bit resistant to reading it at first. But there’s something about Ryan–a something that the women in this novel also experience–that just draws you in. Through him, I was able to let the story grip me and really take me on a dark adventure.

I now cannot wait to get started on Glorious Heresies. I think I’ll really enjoy it, based on the reviews I’ve seen and the recommendations I’ve received. I hope those who loved GH will keep an open mind about this new novel. From what I understand, this book takes a very different turn and many people seem wary of this change. But I think The Blood Miracles has a lot to offer. I know I, surprisingly, really liked it, and I hope you will too!

Review: Beyond the Wild River

30753746*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Beyond the Wild River

Author: Sarah Maine

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 9781501126956

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners—so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled. Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father. Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed…to stunning consequences.

It’s not often that I pick up a historical novel, so I did feel a little out of my element reading Beyond the Wild River, however I will say that I was actually quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It’s a story of a young woman, Evelyn, who is coming to understand her world as she grows up, and doesn’t always like what she sees there. She wants to be a part of something bigger, to make a change, but as a young woman in the late-Nineteenth Century, she faces a lot of restrictions. Along side her growing up, her father is amassing his wealth and building his reputation and is building relationships with men who are expressing their interest in this his daughter. This novel entwines business deals with romance, adventure with ambition, betrayal with intrigue.

What really stuck with me was the second half of the novel. In my opinion, the book gets off to a slow start. I attribute this to my lack of familiarity with reading historical fiction. It’s always a shift and takes some time to get used to. As the novel develops, however, Maine reveals many intricacies about her characters and the plot. Her characters have hidden stories and many secrets. A covered up murder shows that there is more to the story than what meets the eye. People are not who we the reader, nor the characters in the book, expect. There are many twists and turns as the story progresses. I really got sucked into the book as it went along and as the story turns into more of an adventure and found myself eager to keep reading as I neared the end.

Overall, I thought that Beyond the Wild River is a very interesting tale with some unexpected twists. Evelyn is a compelling character who really comes into her own as the story progresses. This book is as much a coming-of-age story for her as it is a suspenseful tale of murder, deceit, and fortune. In the peak of the action, it’s full of heart-stopping moments. I think any lover of turn-of-the-century historical fiction will really like this particular read.

Review: Himself by Jess Kidd

33023729*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Himself

Author: Jess Kidd

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 9781501166099

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Blending strange kindnesses, casual violence and buried secrets: an unforgettable debut from a dark new voice in Irish fiction. When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies. His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village – living or dead – will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony’s certainty that more than one of them has answers. Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secrets.

Himself is a darkly humorous novel, a murder mystery in a small Irish town filled with wacky characters, restless ghosts, and secrets of a lost childhood. In this debut novel, Kidd builds a fantastical town of mystery and darkness. Everyone knows everyone’s business and characters jump at the chance to involve themselves in the lives of others, whether out of a genuine caring desire or out of a nosey need to meddle in order keep the town’s sense of homeostasis–that is, to keep it’s secrets hidden.

Mahony is an outside who can see the town’s ghosts and who is on the hunt to find out what happened to the mother he never knew. His adventure leads him to the ever humorous and incredibly prying Mrs. Cauley. They two make an unlikely pair. They are brought together by a shared ability to see the dead and a desire to see the town’s mystery solved. Mahoney is this irresistible bad boy type who’s got all the ladies in town wrapped around his finger with his good looks and Dublin charm. Mrs. Crawley has asserted herself as the town’s playwright. With her crazy wig which she only sometimes wears, and her need-to-know attitude, she’s positioned herself as the towns eccentric busybody. Although this story is a murder mystery, and there are many dark things afoot in this little town, these two provide comic relief, filling this tale with humour.

Kidd creates many well developed characters in the town, while some others are left undeveloped, but serve a small purpose to the overall story. Each character, however far along in the development stage, is unique and useful to the story as a whole. There are some more wiley characters that I would have liked to see fleshed out a bit more. Characters like Tadhg, Jack Brophy, Thomas Sweeney, and Annie Farelly, all play important rolls in the story and are essential to the plot, but we don’t get to know them quite in the same way that we get to know Mahony and Mrs. Cauley. I would have like to see more of them and their backstories to understand their actions and motives throughout.

As a whole, this book was very easy to read, the characters were likeable and relatable, the story was funny and intriguing, and the mystery was not easy to solve until the end. It’s a great whodunit kind of story and is overall, a very entertaining read.