Still Mine by Amy Stuart

IMG_1639“Sometimes I dream of my escape.  In my sleep I conjure a way out, another life waiting for me beyond this one.”

Still Mine follows the story of Clare who is on the run from her former life. She ends up in Blackmore, a dreary town where a woman named Shayna has disappeared and Clare is attempting to find the answers.  Although there are parallels to Clare and Shayna’s stories, Clare’s motives and connection to the case are unclear.  As she slowly uncovers the truth behind Shayna’s disappearance, the mystery of Clare’s own past and current situation is slowly revealed.

With a mystery within a mystery type layout, there is an intrigue to Still Mine that is the perfect setup for a thriller.  The author does an excellent job of portraying the eerie feel of a dying town and the resignation of those within it.  There are so many questions surrounding Clare, her motivations, and her relationship with a mysterious man named Malcolm who appears to be the one sending her directives.  I was very much interested in Clare’s story and wanting to understand her actions, which on many occasions are highly questionable.  For me, the mystery of Shayna’s disappearance was very secondary and I was not as drawn into that aspect of the book as I would have liked.  There is a lot of lead-up and allusion to secrets and lies that surround the town and the question of what the various characters are hiding.  However, I found the lead-ups did not really lead anywhere and that the story was fairly straightforward with a predictable outcome.  So while it does provide a good mystery, for me it lacked the suspense (and thrill) of a thriller. There is the potential for a follow-up novel and I am curious as to what direction the story will possibly go.

Exploring Poetry

IMG_1127“my heart woke me crying last night
how can i help i begged
my heart said
write the book” – rupi kaur

I’m fairly new to reading poetry, but it is a genre that I am quickly starting to love.  I feel books and stories we read are the most powerful when they connect with us in a very deep and personal way.  That wonderful feeling you get when someone’s words so perfectly capture a feeling, a thought, or an experience that you yourself have never fully been able to verbalize or express.  I find that poetry especially has the power to do this, to inspire, to motivate, and above all to make us feel.  There are two books of poetry I read recently and thought I would share my thoughts and experience. Continue reading “Exploring Poetry”

300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson

IMG_1579“We cannot go back to what we once were, she thought, none of us can.”

300 Days of Sun takes us to Faro, Portugal.  Joanna is in Faro in order to get away from a failing relationship and career troubles, when she meets Nathan, a young man looking for information on a kidnapping that happened over twenty years ago.  Nathan looks to Joanna for assistance due to her background in journalism, and she sets out on a search that leads her to a novel that may hold the answers.  Split into parts, three sections of the overall story are passages from The Alliance, a novel that turns out to be more fact than fiction. 

Intriguing and enjoyable, 300 Days of Sun is an excellent summer read.  There are numerous elements to the story; romance, mystery, historical events, espionage, along with a thriller aspect that make it quite a page-turner.  The author does a wonderful job of integrating all of these themes together and each works very well.  I found the passages from The Alliance (the book within the book), and the sections with Joanna’s account to both be interesting and captivating, although I did prefer when the story switched to Joanna’s perspective.  I feel this was just due to preference on my part as I don’t tend to read a lot of historical fiction.  There is an understatement and subtlety to the romance in the novel that is absolutely lovely, and it was all handled beautifully.  And the ending… perfection.  300 Days of Sun is a great beach read that offers the ultimate in escapism.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

IMG_1556“Second chances are good, and they taste like coconut cake.”

Set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake tells the story of a chef and a food critic whose chance encounter leads them to explore everything Milwaukee has to offer.  Lou has dreamed of owning her own restaurant for many years and the dream finally became reality when she opened up Luella’s.  Al is a Brit who has found himself in Milwaukee, working as a food critic under a pseudonym and counting down the time to getting out of the city and on to bigger things.  A chance encounter brings these two together, leading to an exploration of Milwaukee’s  food, activities, and events, as Lou attempts to show Al that there is a lot to love about his new city.  What neither of them realize, just yet, is that Al is the very food critic responsible for a scathing review that sent Lou’s professional life into a major tailspin.

The lovely cover and fun title was enough to make me want to read this book. When I was in the mood for a light, fun read I thought it would be the perfect book to pick up and it definitely delivered on that.  It’s a sweet story about two people who you might not think would be a good match, but somehow the pairing makes sense.  There is lots of food talk (a lot) so be warned that it will make you hungry, and make you want to visit Milwaukee.  The author really gives us a great tour of the city and an overview of different events, places, and of course food that it has to offer (I don’t know what a butter burger is but I feel like it’s something I need to experience).  The romance itself is cute in a “I just met you and I’m falling for you” type of way, with the general progression of their relationship not feeling very realistic and kind of silly.  It’s a nice, sweet story that is a great option if you’re looking for a light, summer read.

You by Caroline Kepnes

IMG_1467“If we were teenagers, I could kiss you. But I’m on a platform behind a counter wearing a name tag and we’re too old to be young.”

When Joe Goldberg first sets eyes on Guinevere Beck he knows they are supposed to be together.  Their first encounter at his bookstore marks the beginning of their relationship, whether Beck (the name Guinevere being far too pretentious) knows it or not.  Through searching the name on her credit card, Joe starts to learn everything there is to know about Beck, slowly easing himself into her life, taking control, and removing anything that gets in his way.

Told from the perspective of a charismatic psychopath (aka Joe), You takes us on a journey through his twisted mind.  The author does an incredible job with this, to the point where I understood Joe’s feelings, frustrations, and ultimately actions.  The supporting characters are not likable whatsoever, including Beck, which works in making the reader be somewhat sympathetic to Joe and his delusions.  I did find however, that the story did drag  in several places and feel that it would have been much stronger as a whole if it had been shorter.  With Beck being an unlikable character, the story depends on Joe’s voice to engage the reader, and while Joe’s voice is interesting and at times amusing it was not compelling enough to engage me throughout the entire length of the novel.  Having said that, it is a good book that is absolutely worth reading.  The writing is excellent and seeing the world through Joe’s eyes is an experience.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

BLOGEligible, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, takes the Bennet family and the beloved supporting cast of characters to the modern world of 2013 Cincinnati.

“This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.”

As always, Mrs. Bennet is eager to marry off her daughters, especially Jane who is nearing forty.  One very eligible bachelor is Chip Bingley, who recently appeared on the reality dating show Eligible, and is introduced to Jane at a fourth of July barbecue.  Jane and Chip hit it off immediately, while Elizabeth’s encounter with Mr. Darcy proves to be not quite as pleasant.

I am a big fan of retellings and experiencing old favourites in a new and different way, which is why I was very much looking forward to reading Eligible.  As soon as I started the first chapter I couldn’t help but smile, and found it to be sharp, funny, and thoroughly enjoyable.  However, at the halfway point it took a turn and the second half of the novel felt like a sharp contrast to the fun and wit of the first half.  The main issue for me was the approach to the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, which did nothing but reflect the sometimes crass nature of modern dating.  The entertaining banter between the two characters that marked the beginning of the novel was replaced by dialogue and interactions that had the feel of a bad romance novel.

Another issue with the second part of the novel is that too much is thrown together and presented in a way that came off as incredibly ridiculous, and not in a fun way.  Eligible started off very strong, but for me it lost its way and by the end the negatives well outweighed the positives.  Unfortunately, it was just not my cup of tea.

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  Publication date: April 19, 2016.

The Piano Maker by Kurt Palka

IMG_1469“… at first whenever the image came to her it created terror and the fear of more loss, but after some time it brought only gratitude for what had been and was now hers in memory forever.”

It is winter time in the 1930’s when Helene Giroux arrives in the small Canadian town of St. Homais.  She discovers a Molnar piano in the church, the kind her family manufactured many years ago during better times, before the war.  Her impressive piano playing and musical talents quickly integrate her into the town, however an incident from her past comes to impact her present. Through flashbacks the story of Helene’s life is slowly revealed; her upbringing, her marriage, the devastation of war, the events that led up to a tragic moment in time and the truth behind it.

The Piano Maker is an intriguing story told in a clean, straightforward way that is absolutely lovely and page-turning.  It starts with Helene’s arrival in St. Homais, which for me was a slow start, however as the story flashes back in time I became immersed in her life as a portrait of a strong woman emerged. The book is only 275 pages but manages to present so many themes and aspects, all of which come together beautifully.  There is the story of Helene’s upbringing where we learn about her family, her dedication to music, and her views on love and relationships.  Then there is the story of her life during and after the war, where the author effectively portrays the difficulties, the challenges, and the overall devastation of war.  Throughout all of this there is a mystery aspect as we slowly discover what tragic event occurred in the past that led to Helene’s current circumstances.  It is all quite engrossing and Helene is at the heart of it all with a stoic, level-headed nature that is very appealing.  The Piano Maker is truly a fascinating, wonderfully written little story with a strong protagonist.