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 Wonder by Emma Donoghue

BLOG“She’s not exactly ill. Your only duty will be to watch her.”

Lib Wright is a nurse who worked alongside Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War. Her distinction as a Nightingale Nurse is what leads to her being hired for a two week assignment in a small Irish village. She does not know the details of the case and is in for a shock when she arrives at her destination. Upon her arrival she learns that her sole duty for the two week period is to watch over an eleven-year-old girl who will not eat, and has not eaten anything in four months, according to her parents. Many believe this claim to be a hoax, while many others look to the girl as a miracle. Over the two weeks, Lib is determined to discover the truth as the days pass by and the girl’s condition deteriorates.

The Wonder is a novel with a very intriguing premise. The mysterious circumstances regarding eleven-year-old Anna’s condition is what carries this story forward, and the author creates an eerie, Gothic atmosphere that is quite captivating. I did find the overall pacing of the novel to be slow… very slow. This made getting through the story a bit of a challenge and I found my attention wearing away from the words on the page. It is a unique and interesting premise, however I do wish the story itself had captured my attention as much as the initial description. Ultimately, The Wonder did fall a bit short for me.

*E-copy provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

IMG_4589“Difficult questions, simple answers. What is a community?

It is the sum total of our choices.”

This new novel from Fredrik Backman may be his best yet. Beartown is a thought-provoking and emotional story of a small town that is on the verge of disappearing, with businesses closing, jobs dwindling, and trees slowly taking the place of abandoned structures. But the one thing Beartown does have, is the love of hockey. For the first time in many years, their junior hockey team has a shot at the title, and this possibility may be the opportunity Beartown needs to get itself back on the map and prosper. Their hopes and dreams rest on the shoulders of a team of young boys, which includes two rising superstars. When a shocking event and violent act leave a young girl traumatized, the small town is in chaos, leaving no resident unaffected.

“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.”

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Beartown is an incredibly well crafted novel that drew me in from the first page and completely captivated my attention throughout. What first caught my eye with this novel was that it centred around hockey, which I am a fan of and the description on the book really spoke to me. Everything surrounding the hockey aspect was portrayed brilliantly, but there is so much more to this novel. Ultimately it is not a book about hockey, but rather a story of a small community, of hope and courage, and the choices we make. Through writing that is thoroughly engaging, the author brings to life each character, each emotion, and the town itself. Quite simply, Beartown does what great books do; it makes you feel.

Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester

IMG_4275“So many people say that everything happens for a reason. I’ve always felt that things happen because the things before them happen, that’s all.”

Lillian is a single woman in her sixties, who is looking back on her life. She was born in the Midwest in the 1930’s, and then went on to live in Europe in the fifties and sixties, before making New York her home in the latter part of 1960 and the seventies. Each place holds memories of old loves, various disappointments, and ultimately lessons learned. In Lillian on Life, Lillian introduces the reader to those individuals that have played a significant part in her life in some way, and relates her thoughts on what was and what the future might be.

“I don’t want that horrible, exhausting confusion of moving away form the old but being unclear about the new. I want to see a design, and I want to know, because in my experience the new has been an extremely mixed bag.”

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This is a quick and simple read, broken down into concise chapters, each addressing a different time, place, experience, and topic. A few chapter titles include: On the Food of Love, On Big Decisions, On Getting out of Bed, On Behaving Abroad and in General, and On Leaving in Order to Stay. Lillian is a woman who has not travelled the traditional path for women, especially of the time period she belonged to, therefore it is interesting to read her views on different topics and how they may contradict societal expectations. The novel has no particular storyline, but is rather a collection of Lillian’s memories as told by her, and reads as someone simply telling their life story by recalling various moments. It is a nice read, although there wasn’t anything in particular that really stuck with me. However, if you enjoy a non-linear story and philosophizing about life and love, Lillian on Life is a good option.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

img_3774“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

The circus held only at night is a unique and amazing experience that enchants all who attend. However, very few know that it is also the venue for a duel between two young magicians who have been studying and preparing for the challenge from the time they were children. The two fall in love without realizing that only one can be left standing. As time passes and the challenge continues without a victor, the lives of those associated with the circus become affected as well with dark consequences.

“Life takes us to unexpected places sometimes. The future is never set in stone, remember that.”

This is a book I have been meaning to read for quite some time, and I am so glad that I finally did. It is a wonderfully creative and engrossing novel that captured my attention from the beginning. It skips around different years and select characters as the story unfolds, and while initially it took a little time to learn the various characters and get familiar with the flow, I found each section to be compelling all on it’s own. Unfortunately I did not connect to the characters as much as I would have liked, and I was not a fan of the way the romance between the two magicians was handled. As a result the ending and the way the story concluded felt quite rushed and somewhat unsatisfactory, but that is likely just a preference on my part. Overall I was really impressed with the intricacy of the story as there is something undeniably magical and compelling about it. An intriguing concept and an engaging read.

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

img_3187“If a televised hug could affect an election, weren’t we all just really screwed?”

A gorgeous cover and a wonderful read. The Hopefuls is told from the perspective of Beth Kelly who moves to Washington, DC with her husband where he accepted a job with President Obama’s Inauguration Committee. She struggles to adjust to her new life and to secure work, while her husband, Matt follows his political ambitions. When they meet Jimmy Dillon who also works at the White House, they become inseparable friends with him and his wife, Ash. What unfolds is a recounting of that period in their lives and everything that came along with it.

“Trying to make new friends was like dating – meeting so many new people and feeling them out, trying to find common interests and topics of conversation. It was harder than I thought it would be.”

The Hopefuls provides a really great take on a lot of relatable issues: adjusting to a new city, making new friendships, job struggles, and how all of those things affect a relationship. It also provides a look into a life in politics and the competitive culture that comes along with it. I found this novel to be thoughtfully written as it slowly takes the reader through a distinct period of time, while very effectively conveying not only the atmosphere and emotion of that period, but also the depth of an individual experience. Overall an enjoyable read that gives an interesting look into DC politics and life.