Faithful by Alice Hoffman

imageFrom the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

At the start of the book Shelby is a shell of a girl.  She doesn’t talk, she doesn’t eat, she self harms, shaves her head and just wants to hide from the world.  She can’t seem to live because of what happened to her best friend Helene.While Helene becomes a thing of worship, a living ghost that draws people towards her, Shelby is shunned and talked about. She was uninjured physically, mentally she is destroyed.  Guilt is sinking her into a black hole that she can’t or won’t get out of.

Shelby lashes out and hurts those around her because she feels that she is a nothing and doesn’t deserve anything.  She hooks up with Ben.  Ben likes Shelby and eventually they get together.  As he falls in love with her she hurts him at every turn feeling unworthy of love and things don’t go well for them.

Since the accident she has been receiving postcards in the mail with things like ‘ See something’, Save something’ written on them.  they come at odd intervals and they are the only thing that seems to keep her going.  As the story progresses life changes for Shelby but can she forgiver herself for what happened to Helene?  She rescues a rag tag group of dogs and is roped into a single mothers family of twin boys and a daughter who is hell bent on making her mothers life hell.  Shelby bucks what is going on around her but how long will it be before she gives in and learns to be loved?

At the start of this Shelby is a bitch, a heartless individual you don’t  feel much for but a mixture of pity and spite.  As time goes on she blossoms like a flower after a long hard winter, and what a joy it is to watch unfold!

I have never read anything by Ms. Hoffman and I feel that I found a real gem of a book!  The way she writes the characters and how they slowly unfold and grow and sink into your skin. It was a fast read for me, once I started I just wanted to keep going.   A coming of age book with characters who are broken, beaten down by life but never give up. A must read!

ARC received by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4.5 stars

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Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters

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This book weaves between two timelines of a family. Roberta works in a bookstore, she finds bits of paper, old letters and photos in old books brought in for sale and keep them. When her father brings in a suitcase filled with her grandmothers books, her grandmother being 109 and placed into a home, she finds an old letter that is a bit of a mystery as it was written by her grandfather who was thought to have been dead before the letter was written.

In the mid 30’s Dorothy marries a man who her mothers disapproves of. She suffers a series of miscarriages and her husband isn’t happy as he is being ridiculed in the village. She is desperately unhappy and longs to be a mother. WW2 breaks out and Albert, Dorothy’s husband, joins the army. A series of events introduces her to Jan Pietrykowski, a Polish Squadron Leader quite a few years younger than her. Dorothy is alone and longs for love and the advances of Jan are a balm to her aching soul.

Back in today’s timeline Roberta is happy in her work but not in her life. She hasn’t been very successful when it comes to relationships and longs to be loved. She suffers a series of tragedies and realizes that what she wants is love but it seems to elude her. She tries to figure out what secrets are behind the letter to her grandmother, but as her gran is suffering from dementia, answers are hard to get.

The weaving of the stories lines is wonderful. You really feel for these women and what they endure, especially Dorothy. She and Roberta long for something that for a long time eludes them both.

I also loved that Roberta’s parts in the book start with a letter or a photo that she finds in an old book. What I didn’t like was the desperation to be defined as a mother or as a lover. While both of these women are strong in their own ways their need, and in the case of Dorothy scheming, to achieve their dreams is a bit manic. Roberta’s story seems get pushed aside in favor of Dorothy’s and I would have like to have heard more of hers. There are many secrets in this book and loss as well.

3/5 stars

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The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

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Penny Swallow wakes to find herself in a hospital with no idea of why or how she got there.   All she ever wanted to do is dance and now that chance has been taken away from her. The main part of this book isn’t did she jump or was she pushed, the book is about recovery and discovery.

This book is about relationships. The ones we try to forget, the ones we push away and those who don’t let us go no matter what. Penny, forced through her injuries, lives with her mother and is forced to deal with their strained relationship and dreams, which were lost on both sides. As much as Penny strains and pushes to get back into dance her damaged body forces her into other things.

There is a deep pain in here, one that makes you ache for Penny and the lost of her control. Her anger and hurt get pushed aside and allow her to change and to grow in ways she didn’t expect. She learns to find a life outside of dance and in one last twist, she has one last dance, one that is heartrending.

This is a beautiful, haunting book. The feelings that the writer captured in Penny’s head of dance were powerful, the writing flowed as she made Penny dance. You could almost feel it yourself. The style of writing was deep, lyrical and layered. It went into not only dance, but eating disorders, physical recovery and what people think of us.

There is just so much I want to say about this book but am lost for words. It touched me in many ways and I was in a flood of tears by the end of it, and I don’t cry easily at the ending of a book.  This is a book that will stay with me for a long time and is one of the best books I have read this year. If I could I would give it more than 5 stars it was that incredible.

5/5 stars

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Colorless Tsuruku Tazki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

19288239Tsuruku, Ao, Aka, Shiro and Kuro were friends in high school. They were very close, and were in harmony with each other, like the fingers on your hand. They all had colourful names except Tsuruku. Something happened and Tsuruku was kicked out of the group not knowing why or what happened. The wound was so deep he wanted to die. He came through transformed, not only physically but mentally as well. He never let anyone get close to him. People blinked in and out of his life and left him behind without a backward glance or a goodbye. He feels colorless in a world full of color and he feels like he is becoming transparent. His life is stagnant and dull.

His girlfriend Sara knows that what happened to him 16 years ago still weighs on his mind and suggests that he get to the root of what happened so he can unblock himself and finally move forward in his life.

This is a simple story. I wont say that there is mysticism here when there isn’t, symbolism where there isn’t any and no deep meanings because I would be lying. At the heart of this book is a man who was deeply wounded by four friends and never knew why. Tsuruku is alone but not lonely he goes about his daily routine and while he wants someone in his life he isn’t capable of doing it. I can’t go too much into things as it would give a lot away and that wouldn’t be fair.

This is a different book for Murakami. There aren’t any fantasy elements, no falling down the rabbit hole here, just a simple story. It is very well written and lyrical as is usual for him. It’s like a grownup version of Norwegian Wood. It kept me reading, to find out why Tsuruku was so completely cut adrift by the friends he was so close too. There are a lot of loose ends, as typical for Murakami’s books, more loose ends than I care for but it is what it is. I did enjoy this book, I loved the simplicity of it, the journey of discovery and the fact that we don’t really know what we mean to others and how we impact on each other.

This is more like a journey than it is a pilgrimage. He finds the answers he was looking for and also finds that he was the most loved of the group. To them he was the most colourful of all.

4/5 stars

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Book Review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

18693716 Jess is essentially a single mother of her daughter Tanzie, 8, and stepson Nicky, a teenager, and the whole family is extremely own on their luck. Jess can barely make ends meet working two jobs, Nicky is plagued by constant bullies and Tanzie is a genius at Math but is different and picked on as well. The quirky family is just trying to get by when Jess tries to take advantage of a huge opportunity for Tanzie that could open up doors for her future.

Ed Nichols is the complete opposite and has a huge fortune from his software company. However, he made a large mistake and may be in trouble for inside trading. He can’t go into the office, see his work friends and he is too embarrassed to see his family.

Even just re-reading the above I’m amazed that the author was able to make this story come together in a way that made sense. But not only did it make sense this book was so touching and funny yet raw that it made me cry a few times. This isn’t really a romance per se as much as a contemporary fiction but there were parts that struck a chord with me and I think it would with most readers as well.

All of their lives become intertwined in a completely crazy, mishap kind of way that doesn’t seem crazy or mishap at all. Instead, it reads as a glimpse into a portion of their lives that happen to be pretty awful at the moment.

What I found so great about this book was the humor. The humor is kind of dark at times since everyone is pretty down on their luck but Tanzie and Nicky in particular were hilarious. Tanzie looks on the bright side at every opportunity even though she has a pretty crappy life right now. Their dog provides the greatest comic relief for me but I’m kind of partial to animals in books.

The author’s writing is really wonderful in the characters she creates leave an impact. I’ve read a few books by her now and while the books are vastly different in their plot, tone and characters, the characters are very memorable and stick with you. I can’t wait to read more from her.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

5 Stars

~Melinda

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The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

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Matt was two years old when he first held Elle. They grew up together, sat out under the night sky and looked up at the stars when Elle said she wanted to be up there with them. But Elle also watched her mother slowly die of cancer and suffer needlessly; she swore she never wanted to be kept alive by machines or to suffer a slow death no matter what.

Matt became a neurosurgeon and Elle became an astronaut and lived her dream of going to the stars. They wanted to start a family but Elle suffered from an autoimmune condition that prevented her from carrying a baby to term and suffered a few miscarriages. A tragic accident leaves Elle brain dead and on life support, something she didn’t want, leaving a grieving Matt to disconnect her when he finds out she is pregnant.

What happens next is a legal battle which pits Matt, who wants to keep Elle on life support to bring the baby to term knowing that she would do anything to have a baby, against his mother Linnie a midwife, who knows of Elle’s desire to not be kept alive under such circumstances. It puts family member against family member and starts a long legal debate as to what Elle would want knowing she is pregnant.

This is a heartbreaking book but told with delicacy that the subject deserves. It is a case of what would you do for your loved one and family. This book brought out many emotions in me as my grandfather was found on the floor after suffering a massive heart attack, which with help from the EMT’s, left him alive but brain dead. My grandmother believed that he would come out of it, but the rest of us knew better. It took 6 long and painful weeks before she decided to let him go and be at peace. It is a hard subject to write about and do it with dignity as well. It is about love, hope, faith and trust.

This is a remarkable first book that was very well researched regarding the laws surrounding pregnant women who are brain dead, which vary from state to state. I cried in parts. It’s a thought provoking book that is also, in it’s own way, life affirming. I highly recommend this book

5/5 stars

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The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

15995144This book takes place at the decline of the Cetlic Tiger in Ireland. Pokey Burke is an unscrupulous builder who is at the center of this particular story. The story happens in a village on the outskirts of Limerick. Pokey, who hasn’t paid taxes or stamps for his employees, shuts up shop leaving housing estates unfinished and a trail of woe behind him.

The book is told by 20 odd people with a chapter each going into detail how they were screwed over in some way shape or form by Pokey, from employees who can’t collect the dole because he didn’t pay their stamps to people left behind in dealing with the fallout, mainly his father. I liked how the book was laid out, the individual stories and how each person dealt with their own misery. The take on rural village life is spot on in how people gossip and act, the language used as well as the typical Irish mentality of looking out for number one when the need suits.

There is a lot of swearing in this book, also the dreaded “C” word is used less than a handful of times, but it is used quite a bit in Ireland, so consider yourself warned. I think that some of the vernacular might be hard to follow for most people.

I think that this is an amazing first book and very well written. It brought me back to when I lived there. I look forward to reading his other book.

ARC copy provided by Netgalley

5/5 stars

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