The Fated Path by Greg Albright

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Publication Date: January 31st, 2017

This review does not contain spoilers.

This is a historical fiction tale that is told from three different perspectives, and takes place in California and Mexico when the hunt for gold became an epidemic in the area. We meet our first character, Joshua Miner , and the novel starts us off in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We soon learn that Joshua’s sister Ruth had been abducted right in front of him when they were children, and this all happened in the very same foothills that Joshua is traveling on when he decides that he must start his journey to find out what happened to his sister twenty years ago, and if she might still be alive. Not only do we get to see the journey Joshua takes to find his sister, and the characters we meet along the way, but this story also takes us far back in time to the late 1700’s, where we see little glimpses of how the gold in the region started to become highly sought after.

As for my thoughts, I really enjoyed the overall story I got from this. I really liked two of the three perspectives we got to read from, which were both Joshua and Ruth’s perspectives. I did however, think the 3rd perspective, which was from a couple different characters from the 1700’s wasn’t a big necessity, and didn’t really add anything to the story. When reading these sections, I kept wondering how most of it had anything to do with the plot of the story with Joshua and Ruth; however, you do end up seeing that some of the things you read about eventually tie in with the story of the main characters near the end.

I liked how this was an outdoor adventure tale that took me all over California and Mexico on foot, and on horse. The description of the location really made me feel like I was there experiencing everything that was going on for myself. I did run into several minor typos that I wish I could have edited out, but if you are looking for a story that is adventurous and unique, you might really enjoy this. I thought it was a solid, well thought out book that is worth a read!

I rated this 3.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

Starburst, (Women of the Grey Book 1) by Carol James Marshall

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This review does not contain spoilers

First off, I wanted to say thank you to the author who reached out to me for this.

Lisa may look like a normal person, but we soon find out she is not of this world. She is from a world known as ‘the Grey’, and is on a mission to become one of the ‘Mothers’, or ‘Women of the Grey.’ The women are known to be a breed of superior female species, not human, and all look identical to one another. When Lisa is sent to Feline Street, a small miserable neighborhood located in California, she has been given a task to gather four different individuals, knowns as her ‘marks’ to await the endpoint. Lisa has not been told why she is to find these particular people, nor what the endpoint means, but this mission needs to be completed in order for her to be accepted into the Women of the Grey. The endpoint might mean death for her marks, but Lisa does not want to find out what happens to the girls of the Grey who are unable to complete their mission. Craig, Maggie, Iggy, and Rafael are all those identified as Lisa’s marks, and Lisa soon realizes that she needs to build relationships with these people in order to gain their trust to gather them all together for what is to come at the endpoint. She soon finds out that this is no easy task. Lisa does not know how to act like a proper human, except for what she has seen on TV, and her marks show no little to no interest in her from the start.

As for my thoughts, let me just say that I am someone who never reads from this type of genre. I normally reach for realistic type fiction, but I thought I should give something different a try. I also like to try and show support for self published indie authors, because they definitely need more love. I thought this story was very unique, and obviously nothing like I have read before. I liked that this book was written in multiple perspectives, ranging from the main character Lisa, to all of her marks, and even some of the mothers in the Grey. I enjoyed reading from Lisa and Craig’s perspectives the best. I will say that I never quite understood why all of her marks were such depressed and unhappy people, and there were some things that happened in this book that I didn’t find absolutely necessary to be added, but I was able to overlook this in order to find out what happened. I also had so many questions in my head as I read this; however, I had to keep in mind that this is the first book in a series so there are more answers to find out.

I am unable to compare this story to the likes of anything like it, being that I am not the target audience, but I do think if you are into books that have dark, ski-fi, fantasy elements, this could be for you!

All in all, I would give this 3.5 out of 5 stars.

-Carissa

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

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Publication Date: March 7th, 2017

This review does not contain spoilers.

‘All Grown Up’ seems to have been written as if it is a memoir. The narrator, Andrea who is in her 40’s single, childless, and living in New York City discusses the expectation for women to marry at a certain age, have kids, and settle down. Throughout this book, Andrea takes the reader back in time from her childhood, teens, and young adulthood. We see the struggles that she has encountered in her past relationships with different men, as well as her own dysfunctional family. Her mother, and her friends pressure her to find someone to spend life with, but Andrea is pretty sure that she never wants to marry. She is a failed artist, who has ended up in a dead end job she hates, her father was a heavy drug user, and her brother and his wife have a child that has been terminally ill since the day she was born. Life just isn’t anything like she had hoped for. We see Andrea pick up the pieces that is her disappointing life, and whether she can come to terms with  it.

I picked this book for my March ‘Book of the Month Club’ pick, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from this; however, I really enjoyed this book. Had it not been for college finals, I probably could have read this within a couple days. The flow of the writing is easy and fast paced, not to mention the book is just short of 200 pages. I was always happy to pick the book up again once I put it down, and really enjoyed reading about Andrea’s life. I would definitely be interested to see what else Jami Attenberg comes out with in the future.

I rated this 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

Man Booker International Prize Shortlist: Fever Dream

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

Publication Date: January 10th, 2017

This review does not contain spoilers.

Just short of 200 pages, this is a beautifully written little novel that also leaves the reader uncomfortable and a little creeped out the entire time they read it. It all starts with Amanda, who is in bed at the hospital, and who seems to be having a conversation with a little boy named David who is not a family member and who she doesn’t really know. From this scene, the author then takes us back in time, where we eventually find out the details of what happened to Amanda, and why she is in the hospital. We also learn about who David is and why he is in there speaking with Amanda. I do not want to say anymore about the plot of this story, because it is so short, and I think the best way to read this is to go in a little blind.

The way the author describes the surroundings in this book makes it seem very dark and depressing, and even though during Amanda’s backstory, she is supposed to be on a vacation, this is definitely not a relaxing or comfortable book. Like the title states, you get the sense that you are experiencing some sort of terrible feverish dream while reading this. Originally written in Spanish by Samantha Schweblin, the translator does a really good job making it seem as if English was the original language this novel was written in.

I will say that you should not go into this expecting your typical past paced thriller with a lot of twists and turns, and where everything gets resolved, because that is not what this is. This is definitely something that requires you to read at a slower pace, and really pay attention.

Overall, I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

-Carissa

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?

horsewalks

*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.

97.Dorthe Nors-Mirror, Shoulder, Signal

‘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