Review: A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey

34950025*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: A Long Way from Home

Author: Peter Carey

Publication Date: October 30, 2017

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group

ISBN: 9780525520177

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in south eastern Australia. Together they enter the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the ancient continent, over roads no car will ever quite survive. With them is their lanky fair-haired navigator, Willie Bachhuber, a quiz show champion and failed school teacher who calls the turns and creeks crossings on a map that will remove them, without warning, from the white Australia they all know so well. This is a thrilling high speed story that starts in one way, and then takes you some place else. It is often funny, more so as the world gets stranger, and always a page-turner even as you learn a history these characters never knew themselves.


What I liked about this book was the topic, the characters, and the overall idea. What I didn’t like about this book is that it just plain couldn’t hold my attention. I was bored. That may be harsh, but it’s really true. As much as I wanted to like this book, I really just couldn’t. This is the second book of Peter Carey’s that I read and I think it’s time for me to call it quits. Many people really appreciate and love his writing, but whether it’s a difference of interests or a different sense of humour, I just haven’t been able to get into his books. Where I think Carey’s strength is, is in his characterization–Irene Bobs is a firecracker of a woman and Willie Bachhuber is as interesting as he is complicated–that is to say, very interesting. But sadly, the story was very dry for me. I couldn’t visualize what was happening and really get immersed in the story. I had high hopes for this book and they were dashed. I have nothing really bad to say about this book. I think a great many readers will enjoy it. It wasn’t to my taste.


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Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

32223884Title: The Child Finder

Author: Rene Denfeld

Publisher: Harper

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

ISBN: 9780062659071

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too. As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?


What a wonderfully moving and emotional story about pain, loss, fear, as well as hope, recovery, and strength. Denfeld’s The Child Finder is about a dedicated and persistent woman, Naomi, who works as a private investigator specializing in finding missing children. Noami is a woman with a mystery past. She knows she showed up in a field one day in her childhood and was taken in by her foster mom, but prior to that, her life is a blank slate. Her dreams hint at something terrifying, but what that thing is, Naomi doesn’t know. When she returns to Oregon to work on a new missing child case, Naomi is confronted by her past as well as by the possibility that perhaps not all cases are solvable.

We also get to see into the life of the Snow Girl who lives a devastating life in captivity. She spends years in his home facing unimaginable horror, but as such a young child, she knows no differently. She learns to love her captor and they communicate in silence, forming an unnatural bond in an incredibly unnatural situation. The Snow Child grows and becomes conflicted with her life. She understands that something is off with her situation, but she has learned how to achieve relative safety in her current environment and the world beyond is foreign and unknown.

Denfeld’s writing is breathtaking. The stories she weaves in this book are both devastating and beautiful. Her plot is so intense, you feel as though her world has come alive in front of you. Even when she writes about the most unspeakable things, her writing is artful in its description so that her story breaks your heart. She does not dwell on things to terrible to name. She leads you in and out of the horrors of this story so that hope is found in between the words. Her writing is always hinting at recovery and restoration of good. This is a story of true love and deep pain and is absolutely alive in these emotions.

Denfled has earned a solid place on my roster of favourite writers. She’s an artist with a pen and each of her books is gorgeously written. She addresses tough topics and difficult situations with an empathetic mind, opening the pages of her novels to explorations of both sides of a troubling situation. I would encourage you to read her books and open your mind to reading something that isn’t flowery and isn’t easy, but is entirely beautiful in a very different way, to discover the emotional worlds that she creates.


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Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

26032825*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Cruel Prince

Author: Holly Black

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

ISBN: 9780316310277

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences. In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.


This book takes me back to so many of the books that shaped my young reading life. It’s been years since I’ve read a Fantasy novel that’s captivated me in such a way. I love the beautiful and cruel world of the faeries and Black doesn’t disappoint.

The Cruel Prince takes the reader into a world that operates under a completely foreign set of rules, fraught with murder, betrayal, kidnapping, slavery, lies, deception, and more. Black weaves a plot thick with intense and heart-stopping moments. She does not shy away from the awful and the cruel, but presents them in such a way so as to expose the startling nature of the world of Faerie. It is not a place that is governed by traditional human laws. It is a place, wild, free, and untameable.

Jude is a feisty character who defies all expectation. She is full of rage and confusion, coming of age in a world that views her as an entirely different species. As a human, she is not natural to this place and nearly everything about it is set up to kill her. Having been raise here, she no longer belongs to the human world either. One sister is part Faerie and another does what she can to accept her fate and find some semblance of belonging by shunning the human realm. Jude seeks to find her place without losing herself. At the cusp of becoming an adult, Jude asserts her independence and finally begins to make decisions for herself, altering the course of her fate forever.

The Cruel Prince is the first in a series of books and is a fierce start with tons of promise. I can’t wait to see where this story goes and how Jude develops. Very excited to read more!

 

Review: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

34389773*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Uncommon Type

Author: Tom Hanks

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

ISBN: 978110194615

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game–and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life.


As someone who doesn’t often read short story collections, I was pleasantly surprised by Hanks’ Uncommon Type. I don’t often go for fiction written by celebrities. They are usually highly publicized and are not always known for their strong prose. Hanks’ writing is strong and imaginative, which stands counter to everything I expected. I will admit, I was drawn in by the cover, but I was apprehensive at first about how this book would pan out. Without a doubt, I thoroughly enjoyed every single one of his stories. His writing is nostalgic and often reminisces back to a time passed. It’s a tribute to the analogue, especially the typewriter, which tugs at my heartstrings being a lover of typewriters, record players, the printed word, and so on. His stories have a touch of whimsy and are sometimes fantastical, but they and their characters also often portray reality and are relatable. Hanks’ writing is inviting and warm.

The stories aren’t too in depth, and could sometimes have been developed further. For this reason. I gave it 4 stars on good reads. But I think that the essentials are all there. The characters are endearing, the plots are charming and sometimes sad as well. Tom writes about the human experience. He confronts the past and the present, demonstrating the difference across time, but also the sameness of the human experience.

Overall, this book is well written and worth the read. For one who doesn’t love short story collections, I really enjoyed this book. I would definitely read more fiction from Hanks if he ever chooses to write more.

Review: Strange Fire by Tommy Wallach

25984653*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Strange Fire

Author: Tommy Wallach

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

ISBN: 9781481468381

Synopsis from Goodreads:
They said that the first generation of man was brought low by its appetites: for knowledge, for wealth, for power. They said mankind’s voracity was so great, the Lord sent his own Daughter to bring fire and devastation to the world. The survivors were few, but over the course of centuries, they banded together to form a new civilization—the Descendancy—founded on the belief that the mistakes of the past must never be repeated.
Brothers Clive and Clover Hamill, the sons of a well-respected Descendant minister, have spent their lives spreading that gospel. But when their traveling ministry discovers a community intent on rediscovering the blasphemous technologies of the past, a chain of events will be set in motion that will pit city against city…and brother against brother. Along with Gemma Poplin, Clive’s childhood sweetheart, and Paz Dedios, a revolutionary who dreams of overthrowing the Descendancy, Clive and Clover will each play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of this holy war, and the fate of humanity itself.

—–

In Wallach’s Strange Fire, humanity has been wiped out and the society that remains has been divided in into those of the Descendancy who follow the Church of Father, Daughter, and Holy Gravity, those in the city of Sophia who seek to understand the ways and technology of the society that came before them, and the Wesah warrior women. These societies all run counter to one another, but their limited population makes it impossible for one group to gain the upper hand over the others in this new world, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. Those of the Descendancy shun the “anathema” — the technology that those in Sophia possess and are developing. The Church believes in only the Father and the Daughter and spreading the Holy message to all. Those in Sophia thing the Descendancy to be primitive and embrace learning and development. Lastly, the Wesah run a matriarchal society that operates on strength and often violence to survive. Each group keeps it’s own lands and borders and seeks to expand its following.

First off, I loved this cover. I think it really encapsulates the theme of this story–the contrast between the technology that is only just beginning to be rediscovered and the stark shunning of all advancement by a society that more closely resembles what we’d recognize as 18th or 19th Century civilization. The story is really neat, envisioning a post-disaster world where surviving peoples have reverted to extremes in order to re-establish societies and traditions. We only get a small glimpse into this world as our characters only have a small perspective and do not have the ability to go beyond the boundaries of their small world.

I did find the book to be pretty slow moving as a whole. I almost walked away from it a few times. I can’t say what the final version looks like, but my advanced copy was printed in a terrible difficult font to read. I found myself getting a little squinty–which is not something I’ve ever noticed while reading, and I didn’t particularly enjoy that part of the experience with this book.

In terms of plot, there’s not a ton of action, and even the action that does occur is short lived and has little build up. This book is first in a series though, so perhaps Wallach’s intention was to focus on world-building and to build more action into the next book. But for as interesting as this plot sounded, it was a little sleepy. I didn’t find any of the characters to be too interesting. Paz piqued my interest as her whole character is based on deception and she’s a strangely detached, manipulative, and unemotional character. The remaining characters, however, fell a bit flat for me. I was most intrigued by the premise of this book, but I can’t say I’m motivated to continue reading.

From the research I’ve done on Goodreads, it seems like people, as a whole, are enjoying this book. Wallach fans are super excited and eager to read it. I think it’s worth a shot. I didn’t love it, but I think that many others do. I’d encourage you to try it and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear some differing opinions! 🙂

Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

26160470Title: Kafka on the Shore

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage

Publication Date: First published in 2002

ISBN: 9781400079278

 

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.  


What an excellent book from legendary author, Murakami. I am slow to the punch with this one, but the more I read from Murakami, the more I have to read. And I’m never disappointed. Kafka on the Shore reads like a dream, but it touches ones emotions in a very real way. This is a story of coming of age, full of murder, loss, self-discovery, lust, the supernatural, the absurd. The author is a master at creating mind-bending worlds that run parallel to our own, so realistic, yet so in touch with the otherworldly.

The main characters, Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata, are opposites in terms of age, intelligence, and life experience, but their lives, unbeknownst to them, are intertwined. They’re realistic and almost alive. While Nakata struggles with even the simplest of tasks, he views the world and the people around him with unflinching honesty, observing life as he sees it, quite literally. Kafka is young and is embarking on a journey to truly find himself. Incredibly smart despite his desire to leave high school life behind, Kafka’s observations and musing are astute and studied. Both characters are on the hunt to discover that which is unknown. Their travels take them on adventures that they could have never predicted.

Murakami’s writing is excellent and his world, despite it’s absurd twists and turns, is accessible and not to difficult to understand. I think that many readers would relate to and connect with this particular novel. The characters are complex and truly lovely and there are so many surprises that it’s impossible to know how this book with turn out. Murakami is a true artist with the pen.

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.