Book Review | Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik

shelter in place coverA man in the Pacific Northwest falls in love with a woman. Over the years, they live in a hotel in Cannon Beach, OR, a rental house in White Pine, WA, an apartment in Seattle and a house they build in the country. Joey works in bars and deals with bipolar disorder, which he suspects his mother also has. Tess works with Joey and becomes passionate about taking a stand against violence directed at women. Sometimes Joey and Tess spend a few years apart, but they are together when he receives word that his mother has beaten a man to death with a hammer. Before too long, Tess and Joey have joined his father, in moving to the prison town where Mom is serving her sentence. Shelter in Place is a beautiful story of love and family.

I chose this book after having enjoyed Maksik’s previous novel, A Marker to Measure the Drift, and I found it even better. The characters are very realistic and the writing style is beautiful. Though the story is not told in a completely linear manner, I found the narrative choices enhancing and easily understandable. Maksik renders a touching story of love and life. Certainly one of my favorite reads this year. This novel would appeal to fans of epic love stories, those with bipolar disorder, or those hoping to better understand bipolar loved ones. Short chapters make the book fairly quick to read. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Shelter in Place, may be interested in Oola by Brittany Newell (2017).

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Book Review | The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

leaf reader cover.jpgProtagonist Marnie is not one of high school’s popular kids, but her hobby of tea leaf reading gets her involved with the in crowd after one of their own goes missing. Matt is attractive and popular, but something seems slightly off about him. As he searches for answers about his best friend’s disappearance, it’s unclear to Marnie whether he knows more than he’s letting on or has an ulterior motive. When Marnie begins having recurring dreams that involve her tea leaf readings and seeing images outside of the tea cups, she realizes she may be the only hope of solving the town’s mystery.

Definitely a YA book, The Leaf Reader was an enjoyable read. The writing is simple and straight-forward, with an easy to follow plot. The cast of characters is manageable, though somewhat flat. The mystery in this book is intriguing and certainly unpredictable. It’s a plot-driven, fast paced, quick and engaging read. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance uncopyedited edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The Leaf Reader, you may be interested in The Clairvoyants by Karen Brown (2017).

Book Review | The Infinite by Nicholas Mainieri

infinite mainieriIn New Orleans, a few years after Hurricane Katrina, high schoolers Jonah and Luz are in love. Each with a troubled past, having dealt with parental deaths and other difficult events, Luz and Jonah continue to struggle when they become pregnant and Luz’s father demands she return to Mexico. Jonah decides he must follow her across the border, but all bets are off when Luz doesn’t show up at her Grandma’s on time.

The Infinite is Mainieri’s first novel. It maintains a casual tone, using colloquialisms and interjecting Spanish. The text is clear, with the storyline being mostly easy to follow. Chapters are very short, making the book easy to pick up and put down. The characters are developed enough, and descriptions allow the reader to envision settings described. While violence occurs, it is not overly graphic or drawn out. This novel would work well for somewhat hesitant high school or college age readers, or others with short attention spans. Mainieri has crafted a very digestible read that keeps up a decent pace throughout. Check it out from a library near you!

I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The Infinite, you may be interested in Mexico by Josh Barkan (2017). 

Book Reviw | The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie Jr.

one eyed man cover.jpegPublished last month, Currie’s newest novel, The One-Eyed Man, introduces 39 year old protagonist K. After the death of his wife, K’s life rapidly changes course. In attempts to find truth in language, he fully engages strangers in belabored conversations that set them on edge, ready to react with physical violence to K’s words. Consequently, K is offered his own reality TV show by a hopeful producer. With a sassy redhead in tow, K’s show blows up and he steps on loads of toes, rendering enemies in multiple spheres.

After really enjoying Currie’s previous novel, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, I was excited for this book’s release. I read this book entirely of my own volition with no review requests. I found the first half thoroughly enjoyable! I was often laughing out loud, or reacting facially to Currie’s words. Specifically, I appreciated how the narrative focused on people’s use of language and their speech inaccuracies and the focus on philosophical issues. However, as the story continued and refocused on a more active plot, I found myself losing interest. I wish the book had ended halfway through the story. This said, I highly praise the writing style and tone used here, and would try another Currie book in the future. Positively can be compared to, and enjoyed by fans of, Tom Robbins or Kurt Vonnegut. See what you think, check it out from a library near you.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The One-Eyed Man, you’ll likely enjoy Lexicon by Max Barry (2013). 

Book Review | The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky

umansky.jpegUmansky has crafted an intriguing novel in The Fortunate OnesChapters alternate between present day and World War II times to tell the interconnected story of a Jewish girl escaped from Austria and the New York lawyer who befriends her while going through a sort of mid-life crisis. The bond between the two women is forged over a Soutine painting that has been stolen from each of them, and holds a significant sentimental attachment for both.

“This was a really good book,” I found myself saying after finishing. Though the disagreeable protagonists are not particularly likable, their stories are fascinating. Umansky’s rich details paint their own picture. It’s clear that a good deal of thought and research went into the writing. The book kept my interest throughout, though I often would have preferred shorter chapters. This novel could be considered historical, women’s, literary, and art fiction and would appeal to readers of any of those genres. Check it out from a library near you, keeping in mind that it is a new release. I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Mexico : stories by Josh Barkan

mexico stories josh barkan.jpgMexico is a collection of twelve short stories by Josh Barkan. The book’s characters come from various backgrounds and the stories are not connected other than that they all take place in Mexico. Protagonists include US expats and Mexicans, ranging in age from children to older adults. Themes dealt with include religion, interpersonal relations, gang violence, power struggle, cancer and corruption, among others. While some characters are coming of age, others are changing their ways after a life’s work.

This book is well-written and started out strong, but petered out a little as it continued. That said, each story is thought provoking and works well on its own. The themes and perspectives offered were interesting, but something to pull the reader in and keep his attention was lacking. Because of the format, some characters were not as well developed and harder to relate to. Barkan has incorporated violence tastefully into these stories, which range in length and make the book easy to pick up or put down. This book would appeal to those interested in experiencing a slice of life in another culture from various points of view. Released in January 2017, you should be able to check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Film Review | Demolition starring Jake Gyllenhaal

indexOpening with a sudden car crash in which his wife loses her life, Demolition follows protagonist Davis (Gyllenhaal) as he transforms from a traditional member of society into a more free thinking version of himself. His father-in-law and boss (Cooper) asks him to take time away from his financial industry job after several out of character incidents at the office. Davis develops a correspondence with a customer service worker (Watts) and eventually meets up with her. The film follows as their relationship develops.
I found this film to be constantly engaging and fresh. The perspective explored seemed to be a theme that people are often unwilling to talk about or recognize: not everyone views success or happiness in the same light and fitting in is not always the most important thing. The acting and dialogue were realistic despite some destruction scenes that may have been a bit much. I’d recommend this film to those content bucking the mainstream, fans of Gyllenhaal and those looking for a good movie without too much drama. Check it out from a library near you!