Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen

IMG_2371“A beautiful dress holds a little bit of magic in it.”

Consisting of a series of little stories with a specific little black dress as the connecting thread, Nine Women, One Dress is a lovely book to get lost in over the summer months. While I originally thought the novel would be nine separate stories about nine different women, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was told through many different points of view. There are of course the interesting female characters, which included a salesgirl at Bloomingdales, an executive assistant in love with her boss, a private detective, and a young up and coming model. Also included are the perspectives of the men, such as the famous Hollywood actor, the salesman at Bloomingdales, the boss of the executive assistant, and also the creator of the famous “it” dress, among many others.

Each little story is interesting and engaging as it skips from one character to the next, slowly leading the reader to the conclusion of each narrative. The layout and presentation of the book as a whole is very well done, creating a lovely little collection that is funny, sweet, and heartwarming. I particularly enjoyed the use of the little black dress as a connecting thread, and viewing the dress from the perspective of the creator, the fashion industry, and of course the woman who wears it. Each character is compelling in their own way and each narrative offers something amusing. The style of storytelling is very comparable to the movie Love Actually, so if you are a fan of that then this is a book for you. A charming, delightful summer read. 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

IMG_2376“No one tells you it’s all about to change, to be taken away. There’s no proximity alert, no indication that you’re standing on the precipice. And maybe that’s what makes tragedy so tragic. Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you’re least expecting. No time to flinch or brace.”

Jason Dessen is abducted from the life he knows. After an attack, he wakes up to a world that is not his own, where the facts of this newfound reality are very different from what he had come to know. He is not married to the woman he once called his wife, his son was never born, and instead of a job as a college professor he is instead a celebrated physicist. It is the life he had sometimes wondered about, the one in which he had made a different choice, where career had come before family. Jason struggles to come to terms with this new reality, while trying to figure out what is happening and how he can possibly find his way back home.

Dark Matter is an intriguing science-fiction thriller that explores some interesting concepts, any of which I mention would be hovering around spoiler territory so I will proceed with caution. The story is suspenseful from the start as we are introduced to Jason, his family, and his life, along with his thoughts and feelings on the road not taken. It is very action based and at times has the feel of an action movie screenplay. While it certainly provides a thrilling ride, the constant action does take over the novel to the point where the characters, apart from Jason, feel very one-dimensional. There is an obvious message the author is trying to convey and by the end of the novel it comes across as rather heavy-handed. However, if you are looking for an action-packed thriller based around interesting scientific theory, Dark Matter is a great option.

*ARC provided by NetGalley. Publication date: July 26, 2016.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

IMG_2331I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always.

Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”

And here’s what I’m thinking: I don’t want to be here.

With a vague and minimal description, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is mysterious and intriguing from the get-go.  It is told from the perspective of an unnamed woman who is taking a road trip with her boyfriend, Jake, to visit his parents’ farm.  The woman is unsure of her new relationship and is thinking of ending things.  However, the trip doesn’t go as she thought it would and things take a strange turn during an unexpected detour.

The first part of the novel is largely conversation between the girlfriend and Jake, on the philosophy of life, relationships, and loneliness.  There is an eerie feel from the beginning, however it is during the second part of the novel where the thriller element really comes to fruition, with the uncertainty of what is happening and how it will all unfold.  The story is very well written, and the author does a great job of creating an atmosphere that is creepy and just plain unsettling.  It is a book that will most likely leave you with that “what did I just read?” feeling, and it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For me however, it worked.  It kept me guessing, changing my theory about what was happening, and best of all it had me eagerly turning the page. This is one of those novels where the more I think about it and really sit with it, the more I like it and appreciate the author’s intention and execution of the story as a whole.  At 224 pages I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a pretty quick read, and one I feel is definitely worth a try.

Author Interview: Tiffany McDaniel

IMG_2360This week I was lucky to have the opportunity to read and review the soon to be released The Summer That Melted Everything, which I absolutely adored. The author, Tiffany McDaniel was kind enough to answer some questions regarding her first published release and her work.  Enjoy the Q & A!

The Summer That Melted Everything will be available July 26, 2016.

1. Congratulations on your debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything. Can you give a quick summary of the story for those who are not yet familiar with it?
First off, thank you for the congratulations. I appreciate that. The story is about eighty-four year old Fielding Bliss looking back on the summer of 1984 when he was thirteen-years-old. It was the summer his father had invited the devil to their town. The one come to answer the invitation is a thirteen-year- old boy dressed in overalls and asking for ice cream. The boy arrives with the start of a hell-hot heat wave. This is the story of what melted that summer in that heat. It’s the story of how everything can change during the course of one moment too long in the sun.

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“AND SO WE BURN” Original watercolor by TIFFANY MCDANIEL

2. What inspired you to write this story?
I always say I’m inspired by the characters themselves. To me, my characters feel like real people. That in their ghost-like presence they hover around me as I type. Telling me their story. I’m inspired by them to write the best beginning, middle, and end of a story I can. I owe that to the characters. I owe that to the readers.

3. There are some unique names in the book, with the town of Breathed and Autopsy Bliss being the standouts for me. What influenced the names you chose?
I was told my maternal grandfather was born in Breathitt County in Kentucky. The first novel I ever wrote was inspired by my mother’s life growing up in southern Ohio, so to honor my grandfather I had used Breathitt in that first novel, changing the spelling to Breathed so as not to be confused with the Kentucky region. Breathed ended up being a character itself, and as of date the town has made an appearance in all of my novels. As far as the other names like Autopsy—because my characters feel so real to me, I feel like these are their names long before I type them on the page. One day I had seen the word Autopsy and it stuck in my head. I think this was in essence a hint from Autopsy himself about his true name. At first, I didn’t yet know how important a meaning the name would come to represent throughout the course of the novel. But once I looked up the definition of what the word means and its origins, it became clear that Autopsy’s name would become a major theme. Continue reading “Author Interview: Tiffany McDaniel”

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

BLOG“The heat came with the devil.  It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat was not.  It should’ve been expected, though. Heat is, after all, the devil’s name, and when’s the last time you left home without yours?”

Fielding Bliss recounts the summer of 1984, the summer of a scorching heatwave and the year the devil came to the town of Breathed, Ohio.  It is Fielding’s father, Autopsy Bliss who puts forth the invitation in a newspaper for the devil to visit.

“If the devil was going to come, I expected to see the myth of him.  A demon with an asphalt shine.  He’d be fury.  A chill.  A bad cough. Cujo at the car window, a ticket at the Creepshow booth, a leap into the depth of night.”

The response is unexpected and comes in the form of a 13-year-old boy who appears out of nowhere, calling himself Sal (“from the beginning of Satan and the first step into Lucifer. Sa-L.”) and claiming to be the devil.  The boy is taken in by Fielding’s family, however as people discover just who Sal claims to be and disastrous occurrences start to take place, the tensions among the townspeople rise along with the heat.  The events of the summer of 1984 are ones that will have a longstanding impact on the town of Breathed and young Fielding Bliss.

“A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the beast, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower’s turn to own the name.”

The Summer That Melted Everything is a captivating novel with a brilliantly carried out premise and concept.  Through writing that is beautiful, poetic, and haunting, the author presents a story full of depth, nuance and unforgettable characters.  It is moving, heartbreaking, and incredibly compelling while tackling many important issues, such as racism, homophobia, and abuse.  Throughout, I found myself marking and re-reading numerous passages and sentences as each emotion and state of being is portrayed in a truly awe-inspiring way.  It is a novel that makes you feel and makes you pause, and one that will stick with me for some time to come.

*ARC provided by author through NetGalley for an unbiased review.  Publication date: July 26, 2016.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

IMG_2292“He was experiencing emotions he didn’t know existed. He had begun to discover people and animals that excited him. He wasn’t ready to rot away in his armchair, mourning his wife and waiting for his children to call, and filling his days with plant-watering and TV.”

At age sixty-nine, Arthur Pepper has a set routine in life, one that consists of getting up at the same time everyday, wearing a specific set of clothing, spending time in his garden, and watering his plant, Frederica.  Things change when on the one-year anniversary of his wife Miriam’s death, he discovers a charm bracelet in her belongings, which he had never seen before.  His curiosity leads him on a journey to discover the story behind each charm on the bracelet, and in turn learn about Miriam’s life before they met.

“Arthur thought about how it was possible for memories to shift and change with time. To be forgotten and resumed, to be enhanced or darkened as the mind and mood commanded. He had conjured up emotions, of how Miriam had felt about the people who gave the charms to her. He didn’t know. He couldn’t know. But he did know that she had loved him . . . “

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a wonderfully charming story with an equally charming and endearing protagonist.  It encompasses many different themes, including family relationships, the courage to embark on something new, the discomfort/challenge of travel and new situations, as well as the question of how well do you ever truly know someone.  Following Arthur on his journey is an absolute delight, as he uncovers unknown details of his wife’s past along with discoveries about himself and his desires for his life.  He meets an array of interesting characters, each with an engaging story of their own.  A truly sweet and heartwarming read.

The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson

BLOG“What is the price of a cherished memory?  How much would you pay for a beautiful summer day?  How will our carefree idealist, who is content with so little and has no chance of paying it back, find a way out of this mess?”

Jonas Karlsson is back with another interesting story that follows a similar structure to his debut novel The Room.  Endearing and charming in its delivery, The Invoice tells the tale of a man who leads a seemingly unremarkable and predictable life.  He works part time at a video store, has a few friends, one noteworthy relationship that ended years ago and a routine that he enjoys and finds comfort in.  When he receives an invoice from a bureaucratic agency in which he is billed an absurd amount, he figures it is a ridiculous and rather funny mistake.  However, he soon learns that he is not the only one as people all over Sweden are being billed based on assessed happiness.  Considering the basic facts of his life, how can his bill be such a large amount?

The Invoice is a lovely tale with some sweet and thought-provoking moments, that brings up the question of what signifies happiness and what it is worth.  As with the author’s previous novel, the writing style is beautiful in its simplicity and straight-forward nature, delivering a story that examines life in some form while giving the reader something to think about.  The unnamed protagonist is endearing in many ways and following his experiences and reactions is at times quite amusing.  I very much enjoy Jonas Karlsson’s way of writing and would recommend his work to those looking for a simple, easy, and interesting read.

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  Publication date: July 12, 2016.