Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Sauma

IMG_4924“… I feel as if I’m flicking through a filing cabinet, reading files written in a language I once knew, but am out of practice in. The language of being young, of knowing nothing. I’m setting these memories out as though they came to me simply. This happened, then this and then this. But that’s not how it is. That’s not how it was.”

Flesh and Bone and Water is the story of André, a man who grew up in Brazil living a life of wealth and privilege as the son of a successful plastic surgeon. The tragic death of his mother leads to a shift in his life and as a restless teenager he daydreams of a life outside of Brazil. Decades later he is living in London with his wife and children, when out of the blue he starts to receive letters from a person from his past, which both startles and takes him back to that critical time in his life; the loss of his mother and the events that led to his departure from Rio. The novel travels back and forth from London to Brazil, revealing a story that André had repressed.

‘Isn’t it funny?… You yearn for things that you didn’t even like at the time.’

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This is a well-written and well-paced debut novel. The story flows smoothly from André’s present in London to his recollections of his life in Brazil after his mother’s death. For a relatively short novel it manages to deal with a lot of topics, primarily those of class, race, and privilege, and it does it well. The author also perfectly encapsulates the restlessness and carelessness of youth, along with that sad nostalgia felt in the present when revisiting the past. As mentioned, the pace of the novel is really well done and I breezed through the story as the truth behind André’s departure comes to light, which is ultimately quite shocking. Flesh and Bone and Water is a strong debut novel and I look forward to seeing more from this author.

When Light is Like Water by Molly McCloskey

BLOG‘It was like enlightenment, it was like being in the truth, which is a funny thing to say about deceit.’

When Light is Like Water is a woman’s reflection on her past self, the decisions she made, and the search for home. As a young woman, Alice left the United States to travel and explore the world, which led her to settle in the West of Ireland. A mix of reasons contributed to that decision, these being a growing relationship with a man named Eddie, as well as a lack of direction for where she saw herself going. She gets married and settles into the married life, which she struggles to adjust to, leading her to embark on an affair. Years later, Alice finds herself back in Ireland, going down memory lane and recounting her life and choices.

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What are we searching for in life? Is it love, a sense of belonging, connection, or maybe even an understanding of ourselves? What lies behind the choices we make? Alice’s look back on her decisions and her time in Ireland examines these questions and provides an interesting retrospective. The character of Alice is a divisive one. At times I liked her and understood her, while other times I was quite frustrated by her and her seeming detachment and dispassion. But these moments themselves in a way fascinated me, giving a sense of realness to the novel and in turn making Alice’s behaviour and decisions more understandable.

The novel is beautifully written and succeeded in making me think about what was being put forward and the way in which the story is told. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy contemplative novels with the focus on character rather than action driven plots.

*Book provided by publisher for an unbiased review.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

IMG_4920‘Do you understand what I’m telling you? When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give things, you take things. If you learn one thing from me, it should probably be that.’

In The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, a movie legend decides to tell her story to a relatively unknown reporter that she herself chose. What unfolds is a fascinating story of an incredible life, full of high highs and crushing lows, incredible success and painful loss. We learn about Evelyn’s successful career and the seven husbands along the way, while also uncovering a possible connection between the movie star and the reporter chosen for the interview. The result is a gripping tale of ambition and lessons learned along the way, combined with a touch of mystery as the reason for Evelyn’s choice of reporter is revealed.

“It would take me years to figure out that life doesn’t get easier simply because it gets more glamorous. But you couldn’t have told me that when I was fourteen.”

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Taylor Jenkins Reid is truly a talented writer, and that talent is evident in this newest release. While it is a departure from her previous novels, it still has all the components that make her books such compelling and addictive reads. The main one being the brilliant depth and complexity of character that comes across so effortlessly, pulling you into the story and allowing you to experience the range of emotions throughout. Evelyn is an incredibly compelling character and it is difficult to not get completely swept away in her story and way of narrating. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a spellbinding novel that leaves a lasting impression.

‘Oh, I know the world prefers a woman who doesn’t know her power, but I’m sick of all that.’

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

BLOG“The deeds of men, as footprints in the desert.
Nothing under the circling moons is fated to last.
Even the sun goes down.”

A fantasy novel that sets the stage for an epic journey, The Lions of Al-Rassan is the story of a land with a violent past and the individuals whose paths and destiny intersect during a vital time. Al-Rassan is home to three very different cultures and faiths, which has led to years of turmoil and accounted for the violence and brutality of endless battles. Three notable individuals of different faiths find themselves thrown together by circumstance, and their choices have life altering consequences for themselves and the very future of Al-Rassan.

“It’s one thing to make war for your country, your family, even in pursuit of glory. It’s another to believe that the people you fight are embodiments of evil and must be destroyed for that. I want this peninsula back. I want Esperana great again, but I will not pretend that if we smash Al-Rassan and all it has built we are doing the will of any god I know.”

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From the compelling characters to the beautiful writing, I was completely taken with this novel. It is a wonderful fantasy that looks at divided loyalties, the clash between religion and politics, and the price of war. These themes are tackled in a smart and thought-provoking way that really elevates the story. The true heart of this novel are the characters that you can’t help but fall in love with, and who will stay with me for a long time to come. It does take a little time to fall into the rhythm of the story in terms of learning all the characters and where they fit in the overall layout of this conflict, however this did not take away from the enjoyment. The Lions of Al-Rassan is a novel full of humour, wit, tragedy, and a lot of heart. Truly a fantasy worthy of your time.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

IMG_4769“There are monsters in the sea.”

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk feels most at home in the online world, specifically in the fandom of the popular webcomic she created, Monstrous Sea. The story is massively popular and has gained a following of millions; people that eagerly await the weekly publishing of new pages and chapters in the saga. When a new student at school turns out to be a Monstrous Sea fan, it leads to friendship that slowly takes Eliza more into the outside world and challenges her in new ways. But when her identity as the webcomic creator is revealed, her reality is turned upside down and affects her in a deep way.

“There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt.
The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster, though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.”

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Eliza and Her Monsters is a wonderfully compelling novel that charms while dealing with some important issues. Many moments made me smile and Eliza is an endearing protagonist who is very relatable, from her relationships with those around her to her escape into the online world. Her struggle with anxiety is portrayed in a realistic and easy to understand way, particularly when it comes to the pressures of creating and the expectations that come with online success. Eliza and Her Monsters had me eagerly turning the pages, which included screenshots and graphics from Eliza’s Monstrous Sea. A thoughtful and highly enjoyable novel.

God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo

IMG_4766“When I was twelve, a fortune teller told me that my one true love would die young and leave me all alone.
Everyone said she was a fraud, that she was just making it up.
I’d really like to know why the hell a person would make up a thing like that.”

These words mark the beginning of Beatrice’s story, one that is as heartfelt as it is heartbreaking. God-Shaped Hole takes us through the relationship between Beatrice and Jacob, two people whose meeting marks the start of a life-changing relationship. They are both broken and insecure in their own ways, having experienced hurt that has affected them as individuals. Their connection is undeniable and together they bond over their love of music, their dislike of Los Angeles, and the desire to start a new life elsewhere. In each other they find a sense of belonging and home, while battling their own insecurities.

“We’re all searching for something to fill up what I like to call that big, God-shaped hole in our souls. Some people use alcohol, or sex, or their children, or food, or money, or music, or heroin. A lot of people even use the concept of God itself. I could go on and on. I used to know a girl who used shoes. She had over two-hundred pairs. But it’s all the same thing, really. People, for some stupid reason, think they can escape their sorrows.”

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This is a wonderfully written novel that definitely makes an impression. From the intriguing first paragraph, I was completely immersed in the story, which is told from Beatrice’s perspective. The characters are flawed and compelling, but mostly they just feel real. Both struggle with issues from their past as well as the feeling that they don’t exactly belong, which the author relates so incredibly well.

“I always felt like that myself, that I didn’t marry into the landscape of the human world like others did, that I was on the outside looking in. I imagine it’s much easier not to take things so seriously, to just blend, but I’d long ago given up trying to live in vain and I knew I had to suffer for it.”

Throughout the novel we experience the relationship between Beatrice and Jacob, most of which is intense, emotional, and raw. What stands out the most for me, is the author’s writing style that brought to life these characters and made it such a compelling and engrossing story.  

“I like to say I don’t believe in mystics. I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe in destiny or kismet. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in anything. But I believe in the possibility of everything.”

The Little French Bistro by Nina George

BLOG‘Learn to love what you do, whatever it is, and you won’t have any problems. You’ll suffer, but then you’ll feel, and when you feel, you’re alive. You need troubles to be alive.’

Marianne has been in a terribly unhappy marriage for over forty years. During a trip to Paris, she decides she has had enough, which leads to a terrifying event on the Seine. Soon after, the discovery of a lovely town in the Brittany region calls to her and she sets out on an unexpected journey. Upon her arrival she is charmed by her surroundings, meets a cast of interesting characters and slowly finds a life that she never knew.

This is a new release from the author of The Little Paris Bookshop, which once again takes us to beautiful regions of France, this time to lovely Brittany. It is a book about finding your happiness and how it is never too late to change your destiny and set off on a new path. The setting and the descriptions of towns and places is quite appealing, but I struggled to connect to the characters, particularly Marianne who comes across as one-dimensional and lacking real depth. There are a few subplots and without compelling characters it does feel like a bit much. In this case, I was just not the right reader for this novel. It is a book that will appeal to many readers, and if you enjoyed The Little Paris Bookshop, this story may work for you as well.

*ARC provided by NetGalley. Publication date: June 13, 2017.