[749]: The Widow’s Watcher by Eliza Maxwell

A stunning portrayal of grief and loss, of friendships and family; The Widow’s Watcher is a gem full of hope that life exists even after an irreparable loss.


The Widow’s Watcher
by Eliza Maxwell

Jenna Shaw has no reasons left to live. It is how she found herself in a small town somewhere in Minnesota to end her life.  Fortunately for her, Lars Jorgensen simply would not let her accomplish what she’d set out to do. There’d been too many people that had gone from his life. Jenna Shaw is not going to be one of them even if she was a stranger. So when she set out to end her life in this frozen town, she was not at all prepared for what awaited her.

Escaping the heartache of losing her family in one fell swoop was what she’s after – a quick way to end the burden of guilt of having survived. In this Minnesota town is an unresolved mystery involving the disappearance Jorgensen’s children. It has haunted Lars all through his life and had broken his heart.  Hardened by time and the guilt, Lars saw through and even sympathized with Jenna. After all, the guilt of having survived such tragedies was what he had in common with Jenna.

Thrusts into the heart of my mystery, she finds a new purpose by trying to avoid her own loss.  But what if she finds more loss and grief than a way to heal?

I wanted to be immersed in a story full of mysteries but I never expected to find it here. There are heartbreaking stories left and right. From the tragic death of Jenna’s entire family, to Lars’ missing children, my heart was on a vise grip the whole time.  There is also a question of Lars’ wife whose story is equally, if not more so, heartbreaking.

But this book is beautiful, too. It was in the way everybody found solace in the most unexpected way. It was in the redemption of a nearly forfeited life. I mean Lars did not give up even after losing his children and the mental illness that had plagued his wife all her life. He remained staunch in his belief that his children were alive and that his wife will remember what had happened that night.

All I wanted was someone to find happiness no matter how there was very little to be had.

This is a very character-driven novel. Jenna and Lars grew up – so to speak – as the novel progressed. Friendships were formed, however reluctantly at first.  Jenna and Lars found purpose in each other, and solace when they both didn’t even want it.

Waiting on Wednesday [17]: October Releases


So many great reads on my list this month! I honestly don’t know how my wallet I can cope. My book buying budget has gone down considerably over the years as I have a kidlet who’s about to go to college. (When did that happen?!). So yeah, my book buying adventures hasn’t been the same. Nevertheless, I persist. Lol.

So here are the books that I so want to read, but I’d probably be relegated to drooling.

 

The Ragged Edge of Night
by Olivia Hawker


Publishing Date: Oct 1st.

Historical Fiction in the vein of All The Lights We Cannot See? Take my money! I’m actually reading one right now set in World War II during Germany’s occupation of Poland. Much like all the other books I’ve read in this period, it’s heartbreaking and scary if you think about the resurgence of White Supremacists all over the world. Looking forward to reading this.

 

Saga, Volume 9
by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples


Publication Date: Oct 2nd

Admittedly, I’m a publication behind. So after I pick up a copy of this widely-loved graphic novel, I’m going to read them both at my leisure. I heard the artists are going to take a hiatus – boo – so I’m sort of glad I haven’t read #8 yet.

 

 

Consumed
by JR Ward


Publication Date: Oct 2nd

I actually read this already but I think it warrants a re-read. I was sent an ARC of this book in the summer and didn’t waste a minute and got to reading right away. It’s different, but in some ways still a quintessential JR Ward novel. I dug it.

 

 

 

What If It’s Us
by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera


Publication Date: Oct 9th

I’ve been sallivating for this novel for a while now and was so jealous of everyone posting their ARCs on Instagram. Too bad I have to wait another week to procure myself a copy. Sigh. Looking forward to what kind of fresh UST hell this book has in store for me. Because it certainly looks like it’s going to be stingy.

 

The Library Book
by Susan Orlean


Publication Date: Oct 16th

I will always gravitate towards books about libraries and, well, books. I’m programmed that way. I also love reading about bibliophile and how books help shape the way they become as a person. I’m looking forward to reading this one for that very reason.

Keeping this list short, loves. There are a few books out this month but we can’t always get what we want, and I for one, can’t afford to buy them all. Lol.

What’s on your list today? Leave me a link!

[748]: Home After Dark by David Small

A coming of age novel that’s hauntingly real and furiously fierce. David Small’s graphic novel packs an emotional punch as 13-year-old Russell Pruitt navigates a cruel world in the mercy of strangers.

Home After Dark
by David Small

Set in 1950s, Home After Dark is the story of a teen boy who will go through the most tumultuous changes and challenges of adolescence. Soon after his mother left them for another man, his father upended their lives for the greener pastures of California. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out. Russell’s father soon left him on his own, living in the mercy of a Chinese couple that generously took him in.

In California, he would meet the people that will eventually shape his life and dictate the course for which he would take.

His first friend was a boy who lived with his grandma. He was kind to him, accepted him when other kids shun him. He was also generous.  But his friendship came with a price. One that Russell couldn’t quite grasp at such a young age. Needless to say, the friendship didn’t last.

Russell then finds himself in the company of three boys who were, for the most part, good company. But there’s always going to be bad seeds.  They bullied a boy who was a loner. One of the boys planted evidence that would eventually lead to him committing suicide.

Life in California wasn’t how it’s cracked up to be. His relationship with his father went from bad to worse. His drinking accelerated, leading to his being let go at his job. In the end, he too abandoned Russell.  The friends that he thought were genuine turned out to be false. And the one friend that he thought wanted something from him that he couldn’t give because he doesn’t understand killed himself. He stole from the only people who were willing to take him in when he was all alone in the world. Life for him wasn’t only hard, it was confusing, and sometimes, unforgiving.

Home After Dark is a graphic novel so the effect can be limited at times. I find myself staring at the series of drawings as I try to decipher the extent of emotional impact the author is trying to convey. But still, I found this book to be easy to read, with a protagonist that’s equally easy to empathize. It’s a coming of age novel and boy, did Russell go through so much.  It’s also a dark novel but somehow, someway, it wasn’t nearly as hopeless. David Smalls captured the despairing side of adolescence, but italso offered hope. Hope that he will eventually grow out of it – get pass it. It only depends on how he would take the life lessons each day gave him.

Hello, October!


Hello!

I know, I know. I’ve gone and flounced on ya again. I’ve run out of excuses – not that I’m looking for any. I’m just…life, yanno?

Yesterday, I was thinking…You know, October sounds like the perfect month to get back on the horse again, so I figured, why not?

Let’s start off with how I’ve fared with my stacks of books, shall we? I’m happy to announce that I’ve met and surpassed my Goodreads goal for the year. I started off with 100 books, but I’m well on my way to reaching 150 before the year is out. All thanks to a recent discovery: the library audiobooks. I went ham on all the physical books that I had in my possession and borrowed their audio counterparts. I haven’t put a dent on my stacks, but I sure have made some progress.

I even managed to read and reread some favourites. I borrowed the entire Charley Davidson compilation; read and re-read The Love Quotient, started some series that I’ve always wanted to read (The Mercy Thompson series was a dud, btw. I flounced on the books), and finally, finally read the first book to the Harry Potter series (it was a’ight). Overall, the reading has been great even if my blogging and reviewing books has been dismal.

However, I wrote a few reviews even though I was on hiatus.

As far as September went, and based on the pic above, you would think it had been a great month. But I only read 11 as opposed to my usual average of 15-20 books. The ratings are as follows:

  1. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – 1 star out of 5.
  2. The Royal We by Heather Cocks – 3 stars out of 5
  3. Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse – 2 stars out f 5
  4. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton – 5/5
  5. Home After Dark by David Small – 4 stars out of 5
  6. Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young – 4 stars out of 5
  7. Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks – 4 stars out of 5
  8. Ripper by Isabel Allende – 5 stars out of 5
  9. Inferno by Dan Brown – 4 stars out of 5
  10. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx – 4 stars out of 5
  11. Boomerang by Noelle August – 3 stars out of 5

My favourite read of the month was Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe. It was so incredibly real, full of heart and kindness but not in the most obvious way. I absolutely loved it.

My least favourite read was Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I just didn’t gel with the characters. If you’re familiar with John’s work, you should already know that his characters are way too intelligent to function most times. /sarcasm. They’re perfectly flawed, and inscrutibly hard to pin down. I had a hard time empathizing with Aza’s mental quirks/disorders. It got to a certain point where I found her annoying – which is unfortunate, because it makes me sound like a heartless bitch who can’t sympathize with someone who has her numerous mental issues. I’m probably not going to write a detailed review because I would most certainly end up ranting.

So, I apologize for the word vom. I wanted to keep this short but I had so much to talk about. I hope I’ll be on my best behaviour and keep this thing going, but you never know, yanno?

Thanks again for everything. For hanging in here with me.

Looking forward to visiting you guys!

 

 

[747]: Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

A fascinating study of an eclectic group of people held together by a quirky matriarch, magic, and her predecessor.


Matchmaking for Beginners
by Maddie Dawson

Everything about this book screams, Rom-Com; from its Tiffany-blue jacket with a couple drawn animatedly on the front, to the quirky synopsis about a divine connection between two unsuspecting, quirkily similar women. Truthfully, it was what drew me to this book. It started out great. Unfortunately, the more I got to know the heroine, the less I was inclined to continue. But I persisted because there’s nothing I love more than reading about an eclectic commune of people tentatively finding their footing in their own ways.

Luckily for you, dear readers, Blix might endear you (as she had, me). As well, the group of humans living in a brownstone building that Blix haplessly saved from the clutches of eternal discontent. There was Lola, a geriatric who was too afraid to start over but have learned through Blix’s manipulations urgings that life starts only when you realized you only have one to live. There was Jessica and Sammy, a mother and son tandem. Then, there’s the recluse who lives in the basement – a former artist disfigured from a fire accident.  This eclectic group acted as a balm from everything else that made this novel frustrating.

There are also characters here that might drive you to drink. The good for nothing, two-week husband who has no balls and no brains; his entire snooty-nosed clan who has more greed that can fit in their pretentious mansion; and worst yet, Marnie McGraw, who was a train wreck and a basket full of bad decisions rolled into one. Unfortunate, considering she shares the top billing in this novel. Marnie was perfectly imperfect. But I can’t, for the life of me, reconcile myself to actually like this girl. Even if she redeemed herself in the end, the damage was done. [spoiler]You can’t make a man marry you. You also can’t hurt another man twice in his lifetime. Cheating is never acceptable. It’s an unforgivable sin in my book. [End of spoiler]. So yeah, Marnie tried my patience.

Never fear, this book has its moments as well. When Marnie is not being her self-absorbed, woe-is-me, self, she was unintentionally funny. She truly cared for the well-being of the people in her building and was truly sentimental on forging ahead with Blix’s unfinished businesses. And if you’re into magic and things of that nature, this book also has an air of mystical quality reminiscent of Practical Magic minus the darkness and only loads funnier.

WHERE TO BUY: Indigo | Amazon Canada | Amazon.com


About Maddie Dawson:
Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of five previous novels: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.

G   I   V   E   A   W   A   Y

The winner will receive 1 copy of Matchmaking for Beginners (HC) by Maddie Dawson!
Giveaway Details:
– Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter)
– Giveaway ends on July 13th at 11:59 pm EST
– Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email & will have 48 hours to claim their prize

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[746]: Saving my Assassin by Virginia Prodan

A gripping memoir of a woman’s staunch faith and unwavering quest to defend those prosecuted by Ceausescu’s brutal regime.


Saving my Assassin
by Virginia Prodan

The author grew up at a time when Romania was in the grips of a dictator named, Nicolae Ceaucescu. However, you need not to widen the scope of the kind of childhood she grew up in to know that she survived far more atrocities. Just witness the difficult homelife she endured in the hands of her ‘mother’, her siblings, and her sometimes indifferent, sometimes caring father. To this day, weeks after finishing this book, I still couldn’t comprehend the awful dynamics of her relationship with her mother. 

It was implied that she might’ve been an illegitimate child of her favourite aunt but I honestly can’t recall whether or not it was determined. In any case, I did not understand the kind of hold her mother had over her aunt. I did wonder, though if having an illegitimate child back then was a criminal act.

The title is very misleading. Perhaps it’s the romantic in me that had me believing that this book would be, in fact, about a love affair that started when an assassin was hired to kill off Virginia. The truth of the matter is, the assassin was introduced as a prologue and we don’t see him again until the end. The entirety of the novel was about Virginia’s childhood, adulthoood and how she came to be the defender of the faithful being prosecuted unjustly at the time of Nicolae Ceausescu’s tyrannical rule.

Virginia didn’t start off as a devout Christian. The evolution of her faith began when, little by little, her eyes were opened to the atrocities of what living in Romania was like. Especially when her people were being punished for their religious beliefs. As a child, she was incessantly curious. She hungered for truth which often got her in trouble. You’re supposed to be quiet if you’re a child. You’re not supposed to ask questions. Her naturally curious disposition had led her to nights of going to bed without meals and added chores as a child. As an adult, it’s what made her the crusader for the truth and justice.

It is odd to feel like someone’s life is a story full of plot holes, but that’s how I felt about Virginia’s book life. I wish I’d known for sure why she was thus hated by her mother, or if her aunt was in fact, her real mother. The assassin’s life also played very little significance to the book other than the beginning and what role she played in his life (which we didn’t witness, by the way).

I went into this book with the assumption that it was going to be a romance. I came out knowing the strength and courage of a woman who feared nothing, and one who only cared about truth, justice, and defending the unjustly aggrieved.

 

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 213


The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan | The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner | The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo | The Familiar by Mark Z. Danielewski | White Fur by Jardine Libaire

Heyyyy.

Ugh. Work kicked my ass last week! I did not have a moment to spare and by the time I get home, all I wanted to do is to park my carcass in bed and get under the covers! I’m hoping things will be different this week. Weather is cooperating at least. We’ve been having sunshine and pretty sultry temperatures. Not great for my hair but I’ve been taking advantage and getting my steps in.

READ LAST WEEK

I loved Louise Bay’s books except for The Ruthless Gentleman. I didn’t see any ruthlessness from the character, to be frank. Heart Berries was an astounding novel. So fierce, fearless and powerful.

And with that, my Goodreads reading challenge deficit is now a surplus! I’m one book ahead of my goals which makes me so happy! I didn’t think I’ll get here but here we are.

Unfortunately, my reading plans didn’t pan out so well in the last couple of weeks so I don’t know what I’m going to read next. I’m still working on finishing the couple of books on my TBR (Blood Fury by JR Ward and The Break by Katherena Vermette). I just added another book to my reading queue as well – All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire. I should just give in and download the audiobooks for the first two as I’m getting tired of seeing them on my pile.

Anywho, let me know how your week has been, peeps.

Happy reading.

xoxo

[745]: Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

Georgeous prose, honest and candid. Heart Berries takes the reader on a chaotic journey through an Indigenous woman’s life wracked with obsessive love, maternal love, and mental illness.


Heart Berries
by Terese Marie Mailhot

This book is so profound in ways that I could not begin to translate into words. It’s a tiny book but the destruction that I’m left with is so complete. I don’t know what to do with all of it.

I’m terrified to admit that I found such a tender kinship with the author. I’ve felt it all. The obsessive love, the maternal love that sometimes, I thought I might just be going insane. The difference between us is the consciousness – our state of minds. She knows there’s something wrong with her mind. She takes medicines for it and even have been confined in a mental hospital for rehabitilation. While I, can’t sometimes grasp whether it’s the love I was feeling that was making me insane or am I already there?

In any case, this book had me gasping for breath sometimes. It’s so empathically real that the emotions she conveyed felt visceral. She’s so desperate for a man who may or may not love her but her feelings for him was a gushing faucet that can’t be turned off. Though she tried to – to no avail. She kept coming back to the scene of the crime knowing that the killer is still there and she’d be bludgeoned yet again. But she unabashedly embraced it all.

She writes about her relationship with her mother – who I found was as devoted as they come but yet difficult at times. The scars from being a victim of the residential school integration remains fresh in many native peoples to this day. Poverty, addiction, and broken families seem to be the lasting effect. Terese married young, bore her children young. Lost one child in a custody battle and desperately hung on to the other child despite all odds. To read her try to be a good mother to the one she lost during her supervised visits was heartbreaking. She tries her best as many mothers do.

Mailhot writes from the heart, and sometimes from her broken mind. The result is a heart-rending, fierce memoir that leaves a lasting effect long after you’ve reached the end.

 

 

Books from the Backlog [3]: For Darkness Shows The Stars

*Books from the Backlog is a regular feature over at Carole’s Random Life in Books.

This week, I’m featuring a book that came out in 2012. I knew I wanted to read it because it was marketed as a YA SciFi version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion – which is my absolute Jane Austen favourite. Captain Wentworth is infinitely hotter than Darcy, in my opinion. I have no idea why I never read this book but I’m so glad I saw it while scouring my basement bookshelves.

From Goodreads:

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Starsis a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Have you read this?

 

[744]: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

A sparsely told tale of murder in the eyes of three dissimilar narrators.


Girl in Snow
by Danya Kukafka

Girl in Snow tells a detailed story of a murdered teen who didn’t lack for friends and enemies. Though the author didn’t necessarily focus on solving the case, per se. It was more an account of her life through the eyes of three unrelated narrators.

Unfortunately, I was wholly removed from the story. The writing lacked a certain quality that evokes empathy or enthusiasm to see through the ending. I’ve never read something like this before, where the main character is dead and the story backhandedly revolves around her but because the narrator isn’t her, it really wasn’t.

There are three narrators that are directly and indirectly related to Lucinda Hayes: there’s Cameron Whitely who had this obsession about her. He’d been caught stalking her a number of times and yet the author wouldn’t be so lazy as to pin the murder unto him. There’s the token girl who hated her very existence simply because they were friends before but since Lucinda belonged in the popular crowd, their friendship suffered until they could no longer stand each other’s presence. And then there’s the investigator solving the case. His only relation to Lucinda’s case was through Cameron. Officer Russ used to be Cameron’s father’s partner in the force until his involvement in a case led to his ruin.

In truth, I had a hard time unpacking this book. There were threads in the story that I struggle to unravel, leading to my disinterest in the story. The characters left me cold, and the writing, beautiful though as they may be, was just unattainably circuitous. The author offered a few red herrings, for sure. But because of the narrators’ respective stories, I got easily distracted and eventually lost interest.