[741]: I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

A story of new beginnings, friendships, and unbelievable loss that triumphantly celebrates human’s ability to cope and start over again.


I Have Lost My Way
by Gayle Forman

I have not had any success with Ms. Forman’s recent releases lately. But I wasn’t ready to write her off yet. Admittedly, I was filled with dread upon seeing this book. For one, we all know Ms. Forman’s modus operandi. She either leaves her readers in tears, lost in the tumultuous emotions of her characters; or – she leaves them a frustrated mess of, ‘what the hell just happened?’. 

Thankfully, I was left in neither state. Only mildly frustrated by the ending. In a true Gayle Forman fashion, she left me hanging on to the very last word and punctuation. Inertly dissatisfied with the ending. She has that ability to procure a connection between her readers and her characters, you see. You end up wanting to know what happens to them after the story ends. Especially since she’s so adept at writing vague, fade to black endings.

This is the story of three people from different walks of life; unconnected, and dealing with their own personal upheavals. First, we have Freya. A pop singer sensation on the verge of greater success but have recently lost the ability to sing. While she’s trying to figure out what will become of her once the world figures out she can no longer sing, Nathaniel was just getting off the bus to New York. A city that’s a jungle and so much more different than the quiet and solitude of the place he used to call home. Then there’s Harun who’s about to embark on a journey to find himself a wife in his homeland of Pakistan.

They are three people who are lost in their own ways, and who will help each other find their respective directions in life.

I enjoyed this book even if their stories are heart-rending in their own ways. Nathaniel, most especially, is one that broke my heart over and over again. He used to be a normal teen; floundering through high school but somewhat happy despite the strangeness of his upbringing. He had a strong relationship with his father who was suffering from a mental illness and bouts of depression. When his parents split up, he chose to stay with this dad and soon had become estranged from his mother. But then his grandmother died, then lost one eye. He lost the only thing that brought him joy in school (baseball). He since then stopped going because he had to take care of his dad. On a good day, his father will be coherent and well adjusted to the remoteness of the way they lived. On a bad day, he was sporadic. Nathaniel looked after him until he no longer could. I felt for this boy. He lost his way when he lost his father.

While it would be easy to dismiss Freya’s problems, it isn’t in a way. She’s lost her way since her father moved back to Ethiopia. Singing was her way of staying connected to him. But when she inexplicably lost her voice, her life was once again, on the verge of another upheaval. She has a difficult relationship with her mother, as well her sister. But she revels in her popularity in the social media. Losing her voice meant losing her adoring fans.

Harun is gay. But how does a staunch Muslim boy who believes in prayers and respecting the doctrine go on pretending that his heart does not belong to another man?

Gayle Forman perfectly knitted all three stories in a neat package. A common thread amongst the three is the question of how to proceed in life after going through cataclysmic awakenings. The characters were bestowed with distinct voices, and their friendship is at times, awkward but made all the more poignant by the way each was desperate to hold on to the other.

Books from the Backlog [1]: Jasper Dent Series


I have a basement full of books collecting dust. Since I’ve been meaning to do a clean up of sorts, I decided to participate in Books from the Backlog feature hosted by Carole’s Random Life. Maybe this will be a way for me to remember at one point in time, I bought these books because I thought they were interesting.

My first post is the Jasper Dent series by Barry Lyga. I read and reviewed I Hunt Killers back in 2012.

Must-read, well written, genuine. I don’t seek out suspense/thriller in the YA genre and it’s primarily because it’s really not my cup of tea. I Hunt Killers was not a surprise hit on my shelves and it’s because I’ve wanted it so badly I could almost taste it. Readers should have caution that this book, though sometimes a bit humorous, may still be too gory for your taste. I, however, revelled in it. I can’t wait to read the next one.

I thought for sure I’d enjoy the next two books, but alas, I never got to find out. These two books are still fermenting on my shelves but trust, they are not forgotten.

 

Waiting on Wednesday [16]: May Edition


As always, May is a great month for new releases. Not so much for my wallet, however. Here are a few of the books I want to feature for this post. Let me know which of these books are on your wishlist as well.

Only Human
by Sylvain Neuvel


Release Date: May 1st

I love this series. The first two books ended so painfully like a good series should. I requested a copy from Penguin Random House but it hasn’t arrived. I’m guessing I didn’t get it. Sigh.

 

 

A Court of Frost and Starlight
by Sarah J. Mass


Release Date: May 1st, 2018

I really hated how A Court of Mist and Fury ended. So of course, I’m dying to read this book. I picked up a copy just this past weekend, and I’m trying hard to resist taking a peek at the end. Teehee.

 

 

I Was Born For This
by Alice Oseman

 


Release Date: May 3rd, 2018

I just finished reading Ms. Oseman’s Radio Silence. I’m floored with her writing chops, y’all. I also like that this book speaks to my former life as a fandom follower.

 

 

Level Up
by Annabeth Albert


Release Date: May 17th, 2018

I am a huge fan of Ms. Albert. Also of M/M romance – and she does them well! Her main characters always have chemistry in spades, so I’m looking forward to this one about a physicist and a photographer.

 

 

Aftermath
by Kelley Armstrong


Release Date: May 22nd

Another book that I’ve requested that I didn’t get. Sigh. Anyway, Kelley Armstong is one of my favourite Canadian authors so I’m always excited when she’s got a new one out. Especially if it’s a YA book. She’s an expert in suspense!

 

LIFEL1K3
by Jay Kristoff


Release Date: May 29

Everyone but my neighbour’s cat seems to be reading this on Instagram – lucky! I know I will be lining up for this one unless some wish-granter will put me out of my misery and send me an ARC. Lol.

 

 

All the Little Lights
by Jamie McGuire


Release Date: May 29th, 2018

I was just wondering the other day what she’s been up to. Then I stumbled upon this book while scoping out Net Galley. I requested it but I never got a response back. Such is my life. Sigh.

 

So these are the books I’m looking to covet this month. Have you read them? And what are you waiting for this month?

[740]: Emergency Contact by Mary HK Choi

At times funny, emotional & poignant story of friendship, love and piecing yourself after the death of a toxic relationship.


Emergency Contact
by Mary HK Choi

Emergency contact was surprisingly heavy. At least, from Sam’s perspective, that is. He’s practically homeless if not for his generous employer who lets him room in a place no bigger than a closet. His life hasn’t been a walk in the park since day one. His mom went through men and had long since become an alcoholic who could care less if Sam survives childhood. The only saving grace he ever got from his mom’s doomed relationships was the friendship of his step-niece.

But life is not through with him yet. His on again and off again relationship was on its last breath – however desperate he might be to hold on. His ex-walks back into his life with news that she might be pregnant. And so it goes. He was drowning.

Penny Lee, on the other hand, wants to escape for a different reason altogether. Her life is a doldrum circle of school, having a relationship with a boy who knows nothing about her, and living with a mom who has the entire world in the palm of her hands. She’s a good mom, by anybody’s standards. She just doesn’t know how to be a mother to Penny.

Penny & Sam would start a texting friendship that begins when Penny saves Sam. And at the end of the book, Sam will save Penny back.

This book did not lack for bouts of aggravation. I had to be patient and generous. And while my heart went out for Sam, I also wanted to knock his head on the wall for not recognizing how desperate – and not in a good way – he was being.

And then there’s Penny. I really don’t understand why she was mad at her mom. Celeste tried her best to be the best mom for Penny but I felt like she never gave her mother a chance. The lack of communication on Penny’s part frustrated me. Celeste couldn’t possibly know what Penny wanted if she doesn’t speak up. And ignoring her mom’s calls and text messages just made it worst. It felt like she was dead set on widening the gap.

But after everything is said in done, this book eventually won my heart. I love the maturity they both went through and recognizing the part they played in the ennui of their respective relationships. Overall, you have to wade through all the rough parts till you get to the good parts of Emergency Contact. Just be patient, and you’ll discover a good, unflinching story about relationships and how easy it was to lose oneself to another if we’re not careful.

My Month in Books: April


Hey, everyone!

My first recap in forever! Lol. I know I’ve said this before but I’m so glad I’m back reading and blogging again. The whole time I was concentrating on fitness and health, there was always this part of me that was missing. I knew what it was but I just couldn’t find the time. I am slowly learning how to use my time wisely and have gone back to listening to audiobooks.

I was 12 books in the hole with my Goodreads Reading Challenge at the beginning of April. I’ve long since made up for this deficit and is now only about 5 books behind – all thanks to the 19 books I read this past month. It’s such an unbelievable feeling to finally gain some strides with blogging and reading!

5 Stars

Review

I absolutely loved Obsidio. I’m so sad it’s over but it was one of the few Sci-Fi series that I was able to follow. I’m not typically a fan of space odysseys just because I found that I can’t easily conjure what’s happening as I read but The Illuminae Files series is quite different. Not simplistic by any means, but it was just written in such a way that my brain found easy to digest.

These are all my 4 stars reads for April.

The only drawback to trying to read as many books as I can is that I’m incapable of writing the reviews as I finished the books. Also, because I’m trying to diversify content on my blog, I’m not able to post them consecutively. So it might be awhile until you see me posts reviews on these books.  Sadly, it’s the beginning of the wedding season for my family so our weekends are pretty much booked solid. I’m going to have to make use of my weeknights to get writing and blog-hopping.

The Rest of What I’ve Read this Month.

Bonfire review | The Thief was frustrating. I hated the beginning and was only mildly pacified with the ending. (Review to come). | Hooking Up was so unremarkable, I can barely recall what it was about now.

That’s it for my recap. I’m looking forward to everything that’s about to happen in May. I hope you’ll have a great month as well. Happy reading!

Shelf Envy [29]: Santa Montefiore

 


My mouth literally fell open when I saw this gloriousness in my mailbox.

I have Ms. Santifiore today to talk about what she’s been reading nowadays. It looks like she’s fast at work with the fourth Deverill novel! The work of a writer never stops. But seriously, though. Your bookshelves are to die for. Sigh.

I’m researching my new novel at the moment, which is the fourth in the Deverill series, based in Ireland and London in 1992.   So, Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy, which is about the wealthy American girls who came over to do the London Season and catch aristocratic Englishmen. It’s a really fun book, with wonderful anecdotes. As well as research, it’s a really entertaining read; The Diary of Lady Carbery – this is a fascinating diary giving insight into the daily life of an Anglo Irishwoman who lived in Castle Freke in West Cork.

I’m also reading for pleasure: Joe Dispenza’s Becoming Supernatural, this is a really amazing book. Joe Dispenza is a brain scientist who teaches you how to manifest the life you want and to heal your body with your mind. For people who enjoy books by Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle like I do, Joe Dispenza is one of the best. I went to a workshop of his last week here in London and I am so inspired. Meditation is the key – with a new puppy in the house, it’s difficult to find the time to do it, but I know that, if I do, I can take control of my life. I highly recommend this book!

Thank you so much for stopping by. Love, love your bookshelves! And your book. 🙂

[739]: Bachelor Girl by Kim Van Alkemade

A captivating page-turner that successfully combines baseball history, romance & friendships while ambitiously highlighting social issues of the times.


Bachelor Girl
Kim Van Alkemade

This was such a bountiful surprise.

Before there were doping scandals in professional baseball, there was Babe Ruth. He was the beacon of excess in the sport. His personality was so big – too big for any baseball field in America. He was a womanizer, a gambler, and was even rumoured to have died of a sexually transmitted disease. He liked to party and had a bit of a diva personality. When Boston Red Sox wouldn’t meet his demands, they sold him to the Yankees. This was where the legend was born, regardless of the titles he’d helped the Sox win.

Colonel Jacob Ruppert was the owner of the Yankees. A shrewed business man who has the nose for his opponent’s weaknesses. He made the Yankees a brand that’s synanymous to American baseball – even to this day. When he died, he left the majority of his fortune, and ownership of the team to one Helen Winthrope.  Bachelor Girl imagines her story that brings out to light all the whys of Colonel Ruppert’s intentions.

As I was saying, this was a bountiful surprise. I knew next to nothing about the Yankees as I’m barely a baseball fan. (I do follow the Blue Jays, but not as fanatic as say, the San Diego Charges). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it over and over again. When the book you just read made you dive into the oblivion that is internet research, you know the author did an outstanding job. And that is exactly what I did after reading Bachelor Girl. I sought out all what I can gather about Colonel Ruppert. And while I probably didn’t do such an extensive job as the author, I thought it was pretty interesting to find so many parallels to the real thing vs. Bachelor Girl.

Helen Wintrophe had so many stories to tell. She’s a dichotomy sometimes. A feminist when it comes to her rights and abilities but at the same time, she fell prey way too easily to other men. Which made her as close to being real, in my opinion. This is the Jazz Age – in New York City. And while New York was progressive with some stance, there were still social issues that the state lagged on. I love how Ms. Van Alkemade tackled them in a way that was quite possibly appropriate for the era. Like a relationship between Helen and her friend, who was an African American wouldn’t come to anything just because. But Helen still fought for him and remained her friend right to the end, even after he married somebody else.

Gay rights, social cast differences, abortion, gender inequality, and prohibition were also tactfully explored.

Overall, Bachelor Girl was both informative and entertaining. It’s about secrets and what they’ll do to keep them if only to prevent hurting the people they love. I vacillated between frustration and anxiety while waiting for the truth to be revealed. And while I didn’t get the resolution that I selfishly wanted, it was the way Helen’s story needed to be told.

[738]: Songs of Love And War by Santa Montefiore

A sprawling saga of love and family spanning generations of people connected by friendships and their entanglements.


Songs of Love and War
by Santa Montefiore

Admittedly, this book was intimidating at first glance. At 528 pages, I didn’t think I was going to finish reading this in time to write a review for my blog tour stop. To my surprise, Songs of Love and War was readable enough that I barely notice time passing by. It was that captivating.

As a child, Kitty Deverill grew up barely interacting with her parents. Her fiery red hair and her “plain face” didn’t encourage the kind of love from her mother. Her father, on the other hand, was too busy having an affair to notice the bold and brave little miss. Despite the lack of paternal affections, her childhood didn’t lack for love. Her grandparents gave her more than enough. She also had the friendships of Birdie – the cook’s daughter, and Jack, the son of the town’s veterinarian.

Growing up in the Castle Deverill also was hardly a tedious living. Having inherited her grandmother’s ability to communicate with the dead, she’s entertained by the ghosts of the Deverill men who were cursed to haunt the castle. All in all, she managed to grow up a well-adjusted, opinionated, and intelligent woman.

But a war was brewing between Anglo-Irish and the Irish. And since her family was English who owned a castle in an Irish land, things were turbulent. Kitty will find herself sympathizing with the Irish and forming an alliance with a person she least expects.

Meanwhile, Birdie has suffered one heartbreak after another. From the death of her father and unfathomable losses, she was left with no choice but to leave Ireland and find her fortunes in America. There, she would once again be a servant; forever regretting the choices she made and thinking about the family she left behind.

In truth, this book is hard to break down. It simply is impossible. The only thing you should anticipate is how easily their stories will captivate you. The Ireland she described will make you pine for a country as much as the Irish pined for the loss during the invasion of England and their fight to take it back. There are plenty of romances here, but also some difficult scenes of rape. Both of which are not connected, to be clear. On the flipside of those romances are heartbreaks as well. Kitty was not spared from this; not Jack, and especially not Birdie.

And if that’s not epic enough, there is also a supernatural aspect here. The castle itself felt like a living, breathing character in the background. The curse of the Deverill men being trapped in the castle forever was not the focal point, but certainly an interesting and integral part of the story.

[737]: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

A dark, suspenseful dive into small town shady cover-ups starring a complex and flawed character.


Bonfire
by Krysten Ritter

It took me a while to realize that the author of this novel is none other than the Jessica Jones. But it sure didn’t take long for this book to get its hooks on me, no matter how frustrated I was with the heroine.

Historically speaking, I’ve always had a difficult relationship with deeply flawed characters. Complex though as they may be, I found myself wanting to reach into the book and shake the living daylights out of them. But perhaps that feeling is clear evidence of the efficacy of one’s writing. Their ability to incite such an emotion conflates with the feeling of confusion or a battle within yourself to either root for the character or hate them altogether.

Such was my dilemma with Abby Williams.

Growing up in the town of Barrens, Indiana hasn’t been all that easy for Abby. She wasn’t so much as the paraiah, but more like the kid that everyone ignored. Her history with the town and its people was forgettable, humiliating, and hurtful. So when her next case as an environmental lawyer takes her back to her hometown, she was filled with trepidation and somewhat morbid curiousity. Especially since the case was against the very life force that kept the town going.

There, Abby will be reintroduced to her past – all the good and bad. The bullies that made her life miserable; her father with whom she’d had a strained relationship over the years. The boy who kissed her in the woods and made her promised not to tell. But most of all, she was forced to confront the one thing that ate at her after all these years: the disappearance of her former friend and enemy.

Reminiscent of Erin Brockovich, Abby Williams peeled the layers of secrets to get to the bottom of the swamp. Pay offs, teen prostitution/pornography ring, blackmail, and murder, were just some of the dark secrets the small town had been harboring. Optimal Plastics has been the only source of income for most of the residents of Barrens. People were hesitant to talk, but most could no longer ignore the unexplained illnesses, birth defects, and severe rashes that plagued the town.  In a way, Abby was the perfect character to unearth the truth. She has a built in connection with the town, as well an underlying need for revenge. Though that connection sometimes got her in trouble. It blinded her to the truth at times and made her transparent to her enemies. But she was strong minded and determined to make those who were responsible pay.

Krysten Ritter succeeded in writing a suspenseful novel. It was fast-paced and full of sinister vibes. Other than the obvious culprit (Optimal Plastics), she did very well in hiding all the town’s secrets and specific perpetrators. I’ve had my doubts with celebrities publishing fiction but I must admit, this was an outstanding debut.

Genevieve Graham on the Inevitability of Writing About Nazis.


I’m sensing a theme with my questions. I can’t help it. I’ve always been curious about a book’s conception and giving it the story its life. So my questions with the authors that stop by my blog are always about the process involved. Today’s Timeless Tour stop is pretty much the same. I have Ms. Genevieve Graham, whose work, Come From Away just came out this past Tuesday. You can read my review of her book here.

What kind of research is involved in writing your stories?

Approximately fifty per cent of the time it takes for me to write a book (eight to ten months) is spent on research, so where is all that time being spent? Well, once I’ve chosen my topic, my first stop is always the library. Those folks know what I’m going to write about before anyone else does. Fortunately, they’re very understanding when I forget to renew … I take out non-fiction books, some fiction books—though in general I don’t read many of those because I don’t want to risk being influenced, and even some books written for children. I’m not very good, to be perfectly honest, with straight non-fiction. Just like when I was in high school, dry facts tend to put me to sleep. But I glean all I can from them, then I move on to the internet. The most wonderful things about the internet are a) the plethora of sites you can find on specific items/events/time periods/people b) the wonderful, dedicated contacts you can make online, and c) the Rabbit Hole. Of course the downsides of the internet are a) conflicting information and b) too many distractions. All that means is that I have to dig deeper to confirm the truth … and I need to shut down facebook.

In addition to the initial research I’ve done up front, my fact-finding continues throughout the creation of the book. My characters lead me along the story, then they stop short and point out a historical fact that requires my attention. For example, if someone needs to sail somewhere, what kind of ship was it on? Where were the ports of departure and arrival? How many people were on that ship? What did they eat? Where did they sleep? Those details may sound minute, but they are actually what bring a story alive. Anyone can look up dates and names and places, but “the devil’s in the details”, as they say.

You seem to have a love for the Canadian East Coast and particularly set in that period. Do you think you would be inspired to take your stories elsewhere?

The first three books I wrote were set in 1745 and took place in Scotland and the colonies. That was because my initial inspiration to write happened after I read the Outlander series over and over again, and I was fascinated by that time period. Then my family and I moved from Calgary to Nova Scotia in 2008, and everywhere I looked I came into contact with history. I wanted to learn about it, and when I write my books my characters will experience this history first hand, with me by their side.“Tides of Honour” happened because I didn’t know anything about the Halifax Explosion until I moved here, and digging into the Explosion automatically led to learning about WW1. “Promises to Keep” came along after my husband and I visited the Grand Pré Historical Site and in my head, the incredible story of the Acadian Expulsion was crying out to be told. “Come From Away” actually began because so many of my readers asked (and I was wondering, too) what happened to the Baker family after “Tides of Honour”. I realized the children from the first book would have grown up and become a part of the next world war. I needed to know how Danny would react, considering his own deep, painful memories of war, but the story (as usual) took on a life of its own and the spotlight went to the younger generation instead.

Would I be inspired to take my stories elsewhere? Definitely! I already am. My plan is to write Canadian Historical Fiction about all regions in Canada. The next book will be set in the West with the early Mounties and the Klondike Gold Rush, then I have at least one story set in Ontario (already in the works). As recently as yesterday I saw a news article that may inspire yet another Ontario book. I’m always open to suggestions!

Lately, there’s been a backlash on authors writing a romance novel that features a Nazi soldier. Was this a factor in making your character an ex-Nazi?

I actually had no idea there was a backlash. Why? I have a couple of issues on that, now that you ask. First off, I don’t consider my books to be “romance”. Yes they are love stories, but they are within the Historical Fiction framework (you’ll notice I don’t write sex – I’ve tried, but it always seems so cheesy when I’m reading it after!). And since they are Historical Fiction, it is imperative that I stick to the truths of history. Otherwise, why not just call it fiction? And well, Nazis were a part of history that simply cannot – and should not – be forgotten. So no, that wasn’t why Rudi ended up an “ex-Nazi”. Rudi was who he was because of his upbringing, then he adjusted due to the situation that landed him in Nova Scotia. Would he have been an ex-Nazi if he hadn’t ended up here? Who knows. We know he was uncomfortable with some of the things he’d seen, heard, and done, but he was raised to be loyal to the military. It would have taken something extreme to make him question everything.

ADDENDUM: “Backlash” may be the wrong word to use. But it’s come to my attention a novel featuring a Nazi romantic hero usually gets the quirk of a brow at the least. I have read Come From Away and agree that Rudi was the way he was because of how he was raised. I sent this question before I had a full grasp of Rudi’s character. I would’ve omitted this question & Ms. Graham’s answer but I feel it would be remiss of me.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Genevieve!