Man Booker International Prize Shortlist: ‘A Horse Walks Into A Bar’

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#1 of my ‘Endeavors of the Man Booker International Prize’ series.

Publication Date: February 21st, 2017

This review does not contain spoilers.

Let me just say, that this is not my typical type of read. I primarily chose to read this due to the fact that it was short listed for the Man Booker International Prize, and as I stated in my previous post, I would like to read a good chunk, if not all of the short list.

The entirety of this novel takes place at a comedy club in Retanya, Israel, and focuses on Dovaleh Greenstein, the comedian who is in his 50’s and past his prime. From the moment he gets on stage for his standup routine, the audience senses that what they will be listening to is not what they paid for. Dovaleh throws out some jokes, and singles out members of the audience to poke fun of, but as time goes on, you are essentially watching a man have a breakdown on stage. The author is really good at making it seem as if you are actually there watching this breakdown unfold.

Before the show, Dov gets in contact with a District Court Justice who used to be a childhood friend and invited him to come out to his show. We are unsure of the reasoning behind this throughout the entire book; however, Dov simply asks that he watches him and tells him what he sees in the end. Throughout this standup performance, Dov starts revealing painful memories from his past which is what causes his downfall on stage. Without revealing the stories that he shares due to spoilers, you learn that one by one audience members start getting angry and disappear. It is almost as if you are watching some tragic event occur, and you want to look away, but can’t.

I thought this book was very cleverly told and extremely unique. I haven’t heard of many novels all taking place in one point of time, especially during a standup performance so I really did like that aspect. There are a few discussions about Israeli politics and their military that I was unfamiliar with; however, it is not too hard to follow along. You have to remember that this book was written by an Israelian author where what seems distant to some of us, is very real for him. David Grossman’s own son Uri was killed in 2006 in the war between Israel and Hizbollah, so I had to question if some of this story was memoir-‘esque’ to some of his own personal experiences. All in all, I think this book is worth a read.

I rated this 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads..

-Carissa

Endeavors in the Manbooker International Prize Shortlist

I have decided to dip my toes into the Man Booker International Prize shortlist this year. I have been following the Man Booker prizes for the past few years now, and have always been intrigued by many of the titles that end up longlisted or shortlisted. I have not decided whether or not to read the entire shortlist,  but there are at least 3 titles that I am interested in checking out before the winner is announced on June 13th this year. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Man Booker Prize launched in 1969 and is an annual literary award for fiction for novels that get published in the UK during the year of the award. The Man Booker International Prize; however, is a new annual prize launched in 2016 that awards the prize for fiction that has been translated to English and published in the UK. The winner of this particular prize receives $50,000 and is guaranteed international recognition and a huge increase in sales.

Even though this is a UK based award, the Man Booker and Man Booker International prize is something I have followed for quite awhile now. I think it will be fun to make my own judgements on the books as well as make my predictions on who I think should win. So here goes….

What will I be reading?

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*Currently Reading.*

‘A Horse walks into a Bar’ by David Grossman

Translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen

Goodreads Synopsis: In a little dive in a small Israeli city, Dov Greenstein, a comedian a bit past his prime, is doing a night of stand-up. In the audience is a district court justice, Avishai Lazar, whom Dov knew as a boy, along with a few others who remember Dov as an awkward, scrawny kid who walked on his hands to confound the neighborhood bullies.

Gradually, as it teeters between hilarity and hysteria, Dov’s patter becomes a kind of memoir, taking us back into the terrors of his childhood: we meet his beautiful flower of a mother, a Holocaust survivor in need of constant monitoring, and his punishing father, a striver who had little understanding of his creative son. Finally, recalling his week at a military camp for youth–where Lazar witnessed what would become the central event of Dov’s childhood–Dov describes the indescribable while Lazar wrestles with his own part in the comedian’s story of loss and survival.

Continuing his investigations into how people confront life’s capricious battering, and how art may blossom from it, Grossman delivers a stunning performance in this memorable one-night engagement (jokes in questionable taste included).

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‘Fever Dream’ by Samantha Schweblin

Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell

Goodreads Synopsis: A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.

Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.

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‘Judas’ by Amos Oz

Translated from Hebrew by Raquel García Lozano

Goodreads Synopsis: Winner of the International Literature Prize, the new novel by Amos Oz is his first full-length work since the bestselling A Tale of Love and Darkness.Jerusalem, 1959. Shmuel Ash, a biblical scholar, is adrift in his young life when he finds work as a caregiver for a brilliant but cantankerous old man named Gershom Wald. There is, however, a third, mysterious presence in his new home. Atalia Abravanel, the daughter of a deceased Zionist leader, a beautiful woman in her forties, entrances young Shmuel even as she keeps him at a distance. Piece by piece, the old Jerusalem stone house, haunted by tragic history and now home to the three misfits and their intricate relationship, reveals its secrets. At once an exquisite love story and coming-of-age novel, an allegory for the state of Israel and for the biblical tale from which it draws its title, Judas is Amos Oz’s most powerful novel in decades.

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and the 3 other short listed novels and possible reads (if I can fit them in)

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‘Compass’ by Mathias Enard

Translated from French by Charlotte Mandell

Goodreads Synopsis: As night falls over Vienna, Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, takes to his sickbed with an unspecified illness and spends a restless night drifting between dreams and memories, revisiting the important chapters of his life: his ongoing fascination with the Middle East and his numerous travels to Istanbul, Aleppo, Damascus, and Tehran, as well as the various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers who populate this vast dreamscape. At the center of these memories is his elusive love, Sarah, a fiercely intelligent French scholar caught in the intricate tension between Europe and the Middle East.

With exhilarating prose and sweeping erudition, Mathias Énard pulls astonishing elements from disparate sources—nineteenth-century composers and esoteric orientalists, Balzac and Agatha Christie—and binds them together in a most magical way.

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‘The Unseen’ by Roy Jacobsen

Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw

Goodreads Synopsis:

Nobody can leave an island. An island is a cosmos in a nutshell, where the stars slumber in the grass beneath the snow. But occasionally someone tries . . .

Ingrid Barrøy is born on an island that bears her name – a holdfast for a single family, their livestock, their crops, their hopes and dreams.

Her father dreams of building a quay that will connect them to the mainland, but closer ties to the wider world come at a price. Her mother has her own dreams – more children, a smaller island, a different life – and there is one question Ingrid must never ask her.

Island life is hard, a living scratched from the dirt or trawled from the sea, so when Ingrid comes of age, she is sent to the mainland to work for one of the wealthy families on the coast.

But Norway too is waking up to a wider world, a modern world that is capricious and can be cruel. Tragedy strikes, and Ingrid must fight to protect the home she thought she had left behind.

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‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ by Dorthe Nors

Translated from Dutch by Misha Hoekstra

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sonja’s over forty, and she’s trying to move in the right direction. She’s learning to drive. She’s joined a meditation group. And she’s attempting to reconnect with her sister.

But Sonja would rather eat cake than meditate.

Her driving instructor won’t let her change gear.

And her sister won’t return her calls.

Sonja’s mind keeps wandering back to the dramatic landscapes of her childhood – the singing whooper swans, the endless sky, and getting lost barefoot in the rye fields – but how can she return to a place that she no longer recognizes? And how can she escape the alienating streets of Copenhagen?

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is a poignant, sharp-witted tale of one woman’s journey in search of herself when there’s no one to ask for directions.

-Carissa

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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Publication Date: March 20th, 2012

This Review does not contain spoilers.

I loved this book, but it may be because I am a massive fan of hiking. I had hiked in Arkansas, and Alaska before, but I never really fell in love with hiking until I moved to Hawaii. After reading this book; however, I want to go and hike everywhere and everything. This novel is about Cheryl’s personal account of hiking 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 94 days. There are two time frames she discusses throughout this book, one being before she decided to take this journey, and the second being while she is out on the trail. We learn about Cheryl’s broken family, personal struggles, addictions, and why she decided to set out for the PCT, and we also read about her physical and emotional struggles while hiking. As you read this story, you will learn the changes that she goes through and self realization of the type of person she was before she went on this journey. I have read many reviews where people say that Cheryl is a terrible human being because of the things she did before she hiked the PCT, but I don’t think people are understanding that hiking the PCT is what made her become who she is today, which is a better person. I have also read complaints that she seemed to be bragging about herself a lot throughout the novel. Honestly though, if I were to accomplish something like she did, I would probably be bragging just as much if not more. Long day hikes are challenging enough, I can not even imagine what 94 days and 1,100 miles would be like. If you like outdoorsy, true life adventure tales, I would definitely check this one out.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank

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Publication Date: June 3rd, 2014.

This review does not contain spoilers.

This story is told from the perspective of 3 different family members living in Charleston, South Carolina; Maisy, Liz, and Ashley. First off, I was not sure what to expect when I chose this title. I went into this completely blind, and had never read anything from the author before, but the cover is what caught my eye, even though they say you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover.

At the very beginning of this book, we are introduced to Maisy, who could be described as the eccentric grandmother to Ashley and mother to Liz. She is a window and currently in a relationship with her personal driver Skipper. Secondly, we are introduced to Liz, who is married to Clayton and has two children Ashley and IV (a nickname). Ashley is an aspiring artist working in a gallery, and trying to make ends meat. She is constantly being harassed by her parents to go find a ‘real’ job and make something out of herself. She is a dreamer and fantasizes about being the next Jackie Kennedy and marrying a state senator. Without giving too many details away, we learn about all 3 women and their individual struggles. We find out their dysfunctional secrets and how they go about mending these relationships, and how family is extremely important no matter what the case. Abuse, adultery, and lies are the most stand out themes in this novel. This is not a very action packed novel, but I do not think that would have been necessary for this story. I thought all the characters were very well developed, and I enjoyed reading from Ashley’s perspective the best. Overall, I thought this book was enjoyable to read, but it was nothing to be blown away about.

I gave this book 3 out of 3 stars on Goodreads. 

-Carissa

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

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Publication Date: February 10th, 2015

This review does not contain ‘spoilers’.

It has been a few weeks since my last update, but that is because I have been so overwhelmed with school work, that I have not been able to read as much as I would have liked to. I am getting close to finals week, so the stress level that I am experiencing is very high. I also have not stuck to my original March TBR plans, because this book was not something that I had planned to read during the month, but here we are anyways.

I have never read any Anne Tyler before, so I was unsure of what to expect when I got this from Overdrive on my Kindle. I had seen this book being mentioned on Youtube and Goodreads quite a bit last year so I figured I would give it a go. This is a multi-generational story about the Whitshank family and starts off introducing us to Abby and Red Whitshank (Red, who is the son of Junior Whitshank). Now if you go into this story expecting much of a plot, you will be disappointed, as there is not much that goes on throughout this entire novel. This is very much a character study, and tale about all the different family members who come to live in the house that Red’s father built as the generations pass. We learn about Abby and Red’s 4 children, and the struggles that they have dealt with amongst their family, and we also get an in depth background story about Red’s father Junior, and how he met his wife Linnie. I enjoyed the sections about Junior and Linnie, and how they came to build the house that is notoriously known as the Whitshank house the best in the entire book. You really get to know the characters as if they were real people living and dealing with real experiences,  and I almost felt sad when the story ended even though it took me forever to read. I would say this book was a little bit too slow for me. I have no problem reading slow, multi-generational books that are not plot driven; however, once I set this book down, it was so hard for me to want to pick it back up again. The ending also left me with a lot of unanswered questions, and just kind of ended out of nowhere. I guess I just wanted more from the story after I dedicated so much of my time to it. I am still interested in checking out some more of Anne Tyler’s work, because she is definitely a very talented writer.

All in all, I gave this book 3 out of 3 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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Publication Date: September 10th, 2013

This review does not contain ‘spoilers’.

Well, as much as I wanted to love this book and have heard so many good things about it, I ended up being a little bit disappointed by it. This is the fictional betrayal of the true story regarding Agnes Magnusdottir who was the last woman to be executed in Iceland during the 1800’s. Agnes was accused of brutally murdering Natan Ketilson and Petur Jonsson in March of 1828, and little is known as to what occurred the night of the murder or what actually happened. I commend Hannah Kent for being able to create a full story out of what little facts are known from the time, I couldn’t imagine that being an easy process. I can also see why people would really love this book. This story is extremely well written and you really get to feel the emotions of all the characters she writes about. I especially enjoyed reading from the members of the family Agnes stays with up until her execution.

The way that Iceland is written about in this book was also done exceptionally well. I have always been fascinated by Iceland, and in between periods that I would read this, I was also watching youtube videos all about Iceland. Needless to say that Iceland would be an amazing place to visit and extremely beautiful.

As to why I was somewhat disappointed? I just wanted more to the story. Nothing really happened. Agnes is sent to live with this family up until her execution date and nothing else really occurs after she arrives. Agnes goes into her back story and tells the truth about what happened the night of the murder to some of the family members, but I also became confused about some parts of her backstory as well. Unfortunately, I also thought some of the information that was given did little to nothing to add to the story. It took me forever to read this book just because I found it so slow going that I never wanted to pick it back up again once I had sat it down. I normally don’t have any problems with books that don’t have much plot, but maybe this book was just so overhyped for me that in the end I was disappointed.

I gave this book a 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads

-Carissa

Shelter by Jung Yun

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Publication Date: March 15th, 2016

This review does not contain ‘spoilers’.

First off, I was not sure what to expect when I picked up Shelter, but I had read nothing but good things about this which gave me the push that was needed to finally pick it up. I would describe this debut as a dark, twisted, family drama, that deals with many heartbreaking topics. It all starts when Kyung and his wife Gillian meet with a realtor at their home to discuss putting their house on the market. While the realtor is walking through the home, taking pictures, and discussing their options, she looks out the window and sees a woman running toward the house naked, and in distress. When Kyung looks outside to see what is going on, he soon discovers that the woman running toward them is his own mother. From this point forward, without giving too much away, we find out the tragedy that takes place in his parents home that led his mother running for help. We learn the secrets of Kyung’s past that continue to haunt him, and get a look at the pain that runs through the family that is already broken.

If you pick this book up expecting a fast paced thriller with a lot of twists and turns, you might find yourself disappointed; however, I found it extremely hard to lose interest in what I was reading, and did not want it to end. While this book is very easy to read, the author forces you to slow down and take in every line so as not to miss any important details. Jung Yun is obviously very talented at being able to get the reader to feel the same emotions as the characters facing hardships in her book. She shows the reader that stories like these are real life, and not every ending is done with all problems being solved, and tied into a nice beautiful bow. Sometimes there is no resolve, pain and suffering are life long consequences cause by the actions of someone who is supposed to show none other than love and care. I can’t wait to see what books she comes out with next.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

 

March17 To Be Read

Good Morning everyone, it is rainy and nasty here in Honolulu today, and I wish I could sit at home all day and do nothing but read; however, college responsibilities are calling and I will be getting soaked out there enduring this weather. Anyhow, look out for upcoming reviews for all of these books soon. In February I managed to finish 5 books total, so I am hoping to get to all of the following in March.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Publication Date: September 10th, 2013

Goodreads synopsis:

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

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Shelter by Jung Yun

Publication Date: March 15th, 2016

Goodreads Synopsis:

Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family’s future.

A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?

As Shelter veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Shelter is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one’s family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.

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See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Publication Date: August 1st, 2017

NetGalley ARC

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

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The Troop by Nick Cutter

Publication Date: February 25th, 2014

Goodreads Synopsis:

Once a year, scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a three-day camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story and a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—stumbles upon their campsite, Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. An inexplicable horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival that will pit the troop against the elements, the infected…and one another.

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Final Girls by Riley Sager

Publication Date: July 11th, 2017

NetGalley ARC

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

-Carissa

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

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Published: April 9th, 2013

This review does not contain spoilers.

First off, all I have to say is, wow! That was one of the best books I have read in a long time.  Meg Wolitzer is obviously extremely talented as a writer, and I can’t believe I never got to this sooner. This book has only been sitting on my shelf for the past couple of years! Though it did take me almost the entire month of February to read, I think it is one of those stories that require you to slow down when you read it, unlike other books where you can read straight through as fast as can be. This is very much a character driven book rather than a plot driven book though, so if you are someone who likes an obvious plot including problems, climax, and a solution, this might not be the book for you. It starts off with a group of teenagers in New York who meet at ‘Spirit in the Woods’, a summer camp for aspiring artists. They come together and form a group, calling themselves ‘The Interestings’, and from there, the story takes off following each of the members of the group from when they were teenagers all the way until they are in their mid 50’s. Obviously, a lot of things occur within the story since it covers such an expansive time frame, but there is no particular moment that defines the entire book. The story deals with friendships, love, loss, and everything else that is real in a lifetime. I can see why many people who prefer a plot heavy story would think that this might be a bit dull; however, I truly think a story that really shows the ins and outs of each character, and their life is what truly makes a novel great. When I look back on all the books that I have read in the past, my true favorites would be the ones that are more focused on the characters lives as a whole, and the ones that aren’t, end up being forgotten as I read more and more. I can’t say much else with out giving a lot away, so you will just have to read it and find out for yourself! Enjoy.

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

The House by Simon Lelic

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Official publish date: August, 17th 2017

This review does not contain spoilers.

I am not sure what I was expecting when I chose this title from Net Galley, but I am glad I did. I was in the mood for something creepy or suspenseful, and the cover is what drew me to this title right away. This book is written from two different perspectives, Jack and Sydney. At the beginning of the book we are brought to a snippet of a scene where it seems like something has happened that has caused the police to be watching their house; however, at this time no explanation is given because the author then brings us back to the beginning of Jack and Sydney’s story. They start off by deciding to house hunt in London and look for what they would like to be their ‘forever home.’ After finding what seems like could be their perfect place, they begin to move in only to find out that strange things are occurring in this house. Did the old owner of the home decide to up and move quickly because there was something eerie going on, is he guilty about something, or is Jack and Sydney’s past coming back to haunt them?

I really did enjoy this book, and it definitely left you guessing the entire time. I enjoyed reading from both Jack and Sydney’s perspectives, and I thought that reading from the perspectives as if it were written in a journal was a unique idea that I haven’t really seen done before. The author is obviously very talented at being able to create such an intricate detailed story with mind bending twists and turns; however, at times I almost felt there were too many plot twists. I started to get confused once I reached the halfway mark in the book, the story ended up going in a completely different direction than what I thought would happen, and then further on it turned about 3 more times. I really do enjoy a good book that messes with your mind, but if it is overdone, it could start to get confusing. I also thought some of the things that happened in this book were a little far fetched and unbelievable at times, but overall I did enjoy it.

I rated this 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, but if I could, I would give it a solid 3.5.

-Carissa