Monday, August 21, 2017

Marlena

30199414Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena’s orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts—first drink, first cigarette, first kiss—while Marlena’s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.
*May Contain Spoilers*

Life as a teenager is nearly always rough. A time of self-exploration, a time of mistakes, and sometimes the beginning of something that stays with us forever. Marlena, by Julie Buntin, explores these themes, coupled with addiction, alcoholism, and the haunting nature of memory. As Cat recounts a year of her life with imperfect hindsight, readers are taken down a horrifying, blunt, and, at times, crude memory lane where the end result is always the same: Marlena is dead.

The aspect of Cat's character that struck me as the most important in regard to the story is her unreliable nature. After her parents' divorce and her move to rural Silver Lake, Cat met Marlena and started drinking at the age of fifteen. She openly admits repeatedly throughout the novel that her memory isn't perfect, it's scarred and blurred with drugs and alcohol. At one point, she even admits to omitting things, casting Marlena in an ethereal, angelic light, even though she was a bad influence as well as a suffering young woman. One paragraph hit me in particular, blatantly telling me that Cat as a narrator is not to be trusted: 
The truth is both a vast wilderness and the tiniest space you can imagine. It's between me and her, what I saw and what she saw and how I see it now and how she has no now. Divide it further---between what I mean and what I say, who I am and who I appear to be, who she said she was and acted like she was and also, of course, who she really was... Imagine all these perspectives like circles in a Venn diagram, a tiny period in the middle... Maybe that is the truth. But my version of the story is all we f*cking get (Buntin 231). 
With this admission, readers see Cat as not only unreliable but self-deprecating. Cat doesn't trust herself, therefore she doesn't inspire much trust from her readers. And yet, we believe her. The story is so intoxicating and absorbing that we ignore her misgivings. We ignore her warnings and try to see the truth behind the inconsistency of her memory. Cat plays to the reader so that we both understand her and Marlena. We see the struggle Cat has with her parent's divorce and how she loses interest in success and all she can think about is escape. I even think we recognize that as a feeling we've experienced. And in this, Marlena becomes a myth-like figure, a warning, an inspiration. Chaotically beautiful in her own destruction. All of this culminates in a pulling, a luring, in of the reader. Fed by the storyline and the prematurely revealed ending that Marlena is dead.

Through these recognizable, understandable, and emotional characteristics of Cat, readers are immediately drawn to her. She's a struggling adult who suffered physically and emotionally as a teenager, though much of it was self-inflicted. However, there are no feelings of blame elicited from the book. I didn't blame Cat's parents, Marlena, or Cat herself, which I found very interesting. Well, maybe I blamed Cat's dad a little bit... but still. The writing style of Buntin leaves room for reader interpretation and I love when a book does that.

The real hook for me in regard to the plot is that Cat has no idea what really happened with Marlena's death. The storyline follows Cat's family moving to Silver Lake, Cat meeting Marlena, the next door neighbor, and then falling down this rabbit hole of destruction that led to Marlena's death. The whole book seems to revolve around a promise Cat made to never forget Marlena and that has haunted her for the past fifteen plus years. Readers truly see how much Marlena's friendship and death affected Cat so that Marlena's memory became her albatross. Marlena is truly a book that haunts, a book that forces a change of perspective, a jaunt down memory lane that scars and blurs the surrounding landscape and especially a book that questions the reliability of memory. I would recommend Marlena to readers who enjoy unsolved mysteries, the exploration of friendship and relationships and those who don't inch away from danger and dirty secrets.

Rating: 3.5/5 Cups

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What's Next, Wednesday (68)


  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.

35966043


I'm looking forward to...

Molten Dusk by Karissa Laurel! This is the third book in the Norse Chronicles series and I've been waiting so so patiently for this installment. I cannot wait to see what happens between Solina, the reincarnation of the sun goddess, Thorin, and the wolf trying to kill them. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Unexpected Daughter

34119199Three people’s lives intersect in a tumultuous yet redeeming way that none of them could have ever predicted. Jenny is a young professional from the South with an upbringing she wants to forget. She meets Roshan, an Indian immigrant who has moved to the United States with his mother, Esha, to escape family ghosts. With strong cultural tradition, Esha has devoted her entire life to her only child, both for his own good and for her personal protection from a painful past. Roshan understands his role as his mother’s refuge, and from an early age, he commits himself to caring for her. But when Jenny and Roshan embark on a forbidden, intercultural relationship, all three get tangled into an inseparable web—betrayal, violence, and shame—leaving them forced to make choices about love and family they never wanted to make while finding peace where they never expected to look.

*Contain Spoilers*

Cultures clash in this story of love, trust, pain, and loss. Sheryl  Parbhoo writes a realistic portrayal of an American girl and an Indian boy falling in love and dealing with adultery, cultural expectations, and alcoholism in her novel The Unexpected Daughter

It's my belief that it takes a powerful writer to introduce a character that's easy to hate and then slowly change the mind of the reader throughout the story. Parbhoo does just that in this book as the characters introduced are fundamentally flawed and then given the chance to change for the better. Jenny, Roshan, and Esha are the three main character and the chapters shift between their points of view as the story unfolds. 

Jenny is a young woman who came from a very poor family, with an alcoholic father and a drug addicted mother. She struggles to trust anyone and believes that she is the only one she can depend on. Her goal of becoming a dentist solidifies her identity as a woman who can take care of herself. Yet, her feelings for Roshan are constant. 

Roshan is an Indian man who dreamed of being an artist. Yet, with a dead father who was an abusive alcoholic, his dreams were forced to change, in order to fit in with what his culture expected of him. Therefore, he also became a dentist and had an arranged marriage, even though he was in love with Jenny. Roshan's character was the one that I did not like for most of the book. And by 'most of the book' I mean up until the last couple pages. It wasn't his rebellious attitude that I didn't like, but his treatment of Jenny, the wishy-washy treatment of his mother, the fact that he knew he had a problem with alcohol but ignored it (even kept it a secret), and how he blamed everything on his culture. 

Though Parbhoo does an excellent job in relaying what Indian men are expected to do with their lives, it didn't make Roshan any easier to like. The further I got in the book, the more I hated him. I especially disliked how he cheated on his first wife. I understand that he wasn't happy, but then why did he marry her? It was an arranged marriage, but if it was going to end up badly anyway, then why go through it? I know hindsight is 20/20 and it's easy for me to judge a book character, but I just couldn't get over it. It made it really hard for me to like Roshan as he always created problems for himself but barely worked toward any solutions. However, in the last chapter, it seemed that the rehab facility Roshan attended really did help him. Yet, I felt more connected with Jenny, as she simply agreed to move forward and see what happened instead of condemning Roshan to his past mistakes. 

Esha is Roshan's mother and as mothers play a large role in Indian cultures, she played a big role in Roshan's life. At first, I didn't like her, but I also didn't understand her. Throughout the book, Esha's true self is revealed and she becomes more than just a judgemental woman who forces her opinions onto others. The influence of the culture is really explored through Esha and it's through her character that there is also a lot of growth in the book. She comes to understand that Jenny is a good person who loves her son, has her own demons, and is scared of being a single mom. Through the story, I found Esha and Jenny's relationship to be the most intriguing, as Jenny becomes Esha's unexpected daughter and Jenny learns how to be a mother from her unexpected daughter. 

The storyline is quite complicated, but it basically follows Jenny and Roshan's relationship from college graduation until after the birth of their child. Along the way, a lot of issues and topics are covered including arranged marriage, cultural differences and influence, the importance of family, religion, motherhood, fatherhood, alcoholism, drug addiction, and much much more. Parbhoo packs a lot of detail into her story which really brings it to life. I think readers who enjoy learning about other cultures and giving second chances will like this book, even if the characters are a little harder to connect with. 

Rating: 3/5 Cups

Teaser Tuesday (277)


Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.


30199414

Marlena (p. 6-7)
    - Julie Buntin

Some of the details are facts, but very few---where she was found, what she wore and carried. She was last seen alive at 5:12pm, according to Jimmy, my older brother.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

This Isn't My Life - Cover Reveal & Giveaway

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for This Isn't My Life by Dominique Laura! 
The book will be available August 29th and pre-order is open for only 0.99$! 


Synopsis:
Most nights, when I close my eyes, my dreams are filled with memories from my past life, the one I lived before this. I remember who I was and the people in that life, and I don't want any part of this one. Everly Hope Davis isn't who I want to be, but she's who I am. In the beginning I fought against her and everything in her world, but it's impossible to hate something when you're living it every day, when the people involved make it a life worth living. I'm trying to make the best of it now, but deep down I know this life isn't mine.

Cover designer: Liv's Lovely Designs
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dominiquelaurawrites
Twitter: @DomLauraWrites
Instagram: DominiqueLauraWrites
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/author/dominiquelaura
Goodreads: goodreads.com/dominiquelaurawrites


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What's Next, Wednesday (67)


  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.

30199414

I'm looking forward to...

Marlena by Julie Buntin! I finally got my copy of this book in the mail, so it's up next on my reading list. Can't wait to tackle it. Intrigued to read about that the year that Cat and Marlena share, and how Cat is affected years later by Marlena's death. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (276)


Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.


34119199

The Unexpected Daughter (Kindle 5%)
    - Sheryl Parbhoo

In perfect English, eyes still fixed on Jenny, Esha said, "Roshan, you need to take out the trash."
Jenny's jaw dropped but she held Esha's eyes fixed on her own while all feeling drained from her face.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Weave a Murderous Web

29444730No good deed goes unpunished. When Jane Larson—a hot-shot litigator for a large firm in New York City—helps out a friend, she is sucked into the unfamiliar world of divorce and child support.

Jane's discovery of the deadbeat dad’s hidden assets soon unravels a web of lies, drugs, and murder that keeps getting more dangerous.

Soon, Jane is involved in a high stakes race to recover a missing suitcase of cash and catch the murderer before she becomes the next victim.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Murder victims, a long list of suspects, enough motives to go around... Welcome to the delicate legal world of NYC. Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks share the next case of Jane Larson in their fast-paced thriller, Weave a Murderous Web

Jane Larson is a hard-hitting lawyer who does not back down. She's persistent, intelligent, and knows which questions to ask. Readers will enjoy her ability to stand up for herself and remain relatively calm in the face of danger. Her kind heart is revealed when she takes a case, basically pro-bono, to help out the daughter of Gail (a woman who only cares about herself) and Larry (a drug dealing lawyer who had his license revoked) at the request of her friend, Francine. Jane's only motivation is to make sure that Courtney gets the money she needs to live, after her father is murdered. I think readers will relate to Jane's passion to help, like her tough personality (a required trait in NYC law firms), and understand why she can't let this case go, even if it puts her life in danger. 

The plot of the novel revolves around the divorce case of Gail and Larry. Though Larry claims that he is completely broke, Gail believes that he's hiding money and she's prepared to do whatever it takes to stake her claim to that money. This is where Jane Larson comes in, but the case is not that simple. Especially when Larry is murdered. Jane is forced into a race to find the money, and a little digging connects a lot of people to Larry's side-job as a drug dealer. This creates a chaotic web of suspects and motives that will give readers a little mystery to solve along with Jane. The most entertaining part of the book is that any of the suspects could have done this and it creates a feeling that Jane cannot trust anyone. This brings readers closer to Jane as she slowly focuses in on the villain. It's always intriguing and entertaining to try to discover the murderer before the main character, and the authors give readers a few clues that could help them. And of course, the pressure built into the story makes the book even more thrilling because readers will undoubtedly want Jane to make it out alive. I would highly recommend this book for those readers of mystery and crime thrillers. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Henry and the Hidden Treasure

35232835Henry and the Hidden Treasure is an imaginative adventure a young child has in defending his pocket money against his little sister. Henry constructs elaborate defensive measures that he is sure will stand up to the clever ambitions of Lucy. Little does he know, Lucy has a few tricks of her own.

With a focus on introducing children to the use of ordinal numbers, Henry and the Hidden Treasure also draws out some important qualities of being a kid – such as creativity, the value of listening to parental advice, and of course, being nice to your sister.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Today is the release day of BCR Fegan's newest children's book, Henry and the Hidden Treasure. With pop-up text blocks on the kindle edition and adorable, imaginative illustrations, this book will be a treat for any young listener. 

Henry, the main character, has a treasure chest full of, what I assume to be, his allowance and he doesn't trust his little sister not to try to steal it, because she's obviously a super ninja. This fun set up makes the book interesting to little ones from the very start as Henry tries to discover how best to guard his treasure. 

While the story is creative and entertaining, with mentions of superheroes and monsters, I liked the lessons hidden within. They may be the true treasure of the book. The steps that Henry takes in the story are all numbered, giving order and introducing or reinforcing the number system to young listeners and readers. The story also introduces the idea that siblings may not all be secret ninjas who want to steal your treasure, but are instead caring younger people who want to spend time with you. This may help older siblings understand and better adapt to the introduction of a baby sister or brother. 

The amount of words on each page are very few, only a sentence or two. This puts the book in a beginning reader category. Though the little ones may need help with a few words, the vocabulary is basic enough for children to understand the story and sound out the words to read it themselves. Paired with the illustrations, I think a lot of young readers, especially boys and girls who are into superheroes, monsters, and secret treasures, will really enjoy this book! Plus, I think it's a good length for those beginning readers who tend to have shorter attention spans. 

Rating: 3.5/5 Cups

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hopatcong Vision Quest

32491115Two drownings occur in Lake Hopatcong within days of each other, with similar circumstances. Diane is certain the deaths of her mother and of Ryan's wife were not accidents, despite the results of the official investigation. What she doesn't suspect is that the trail to the justice she seeks runs through a past life she and her friends shared hundreds of years earlier. With the help of a hypnotist, Diane, Ryan, and Martha look into their hidden memories. They learn that they lived in a Native American village on the shores of the waters that later became the lake they love.

Oota Dabun, Diane's counterpart in her past life, always dreamed of having a vision quest, a rite normally reserved for the young men of her village. This Lenape woman reaches for her dream in an unusual and compassionate fashion which teaches Diane a great deal about the capacity of the soul they share. Diane discovers relationships as well as repeating events, both of which provide clues that might lead to the justice she's after. Along the way she learns about life, love and the strength of the human soul.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Steve Lindahl unites the past and present in his novel, Hopatcong Vision Quest, through a handful of souls that pass through life, and time, together. Through reincarnation, the same souls find themselves together again in a new life, but the questions they have will only be answered by looking back. 

Ryan, Diane, Martha, and Maya are the main characters of the present tense section of the novel. Ryan's wife and Diane's mother both died within two days of each other. Though the police ruled the drownings an accident, Diane doesn't agree with that conclusion. Diane is a woman in her late twenties/early thirties who enjoys sailing and being around the lake near her home. Readers will connect with her through her tragedy, as this gets the story moving, but also through her investigative attitude and openness to new things and information. 

Ryan is a caring man who fears for his daughter, Maya, after his wife's death. He's also open minded, curious, intelligent, and strategic. Though he doesn't think his wife was murdered at first, he begins to see Diane's argument and arranges for them to be helped by a regression expert/hypnotist. I think readers will really enjoy Ryan's treatment and understanding of his daughter. Through that relationship, and his new one with Diane, readers will see his protective nature, which seems to be the core of his being. 

Martha was Diane's mother's best friend in life and has become Diane's closest friend after Lori's death. Martha is a woman proud of her Native American heritage and connects everyone together. She's a bit more cautious, but still open minded and outdoorsy. Maya is the daughter of Ryan and his late wife, and she's a key piece to the puzzle that the others find themselves in. Maya is a curious young girl with an interest in nature. Readers will connect with her through sympathy, empathy, and worry about her, just as Ryan does, as the story unfolds. 

The most interesting part of this book is the fact that each of these people, and others in the novel, have a previous life as one of the Lenape Native Americans. With the help of Glen, the hypnotist, each of the main characters travels back into the lives of their previous selves, learning, exploring, and discovering things that apply to the present situation. And though I was a bit nervous about this jumping back and forth through time at first, Lindahl does a great job in keeping everything situated and laid out in such a way that the reader has no trouble distinguishing who is experiencing the regression and how it involves each of the main characters. It's definitely a new way to solve a murder that was fresh, creative, and interesting! What I loved about it was that the past was just as intriguing as the present, with murder, trust issues, boundaries being crossed, and relationships forming. 

The novel as a whole revolves around the murder of Beth and Lori. When Diane enlists Ryan and Martha's help to find out the truth, this whole connective web begins forming between the past and the present. And as the past is known to repeat itself, the group of main characters search for clues in the past that can unravel the mystery in the present. It sounds complicated, and it is, but with Lindahl's writing style it's easy to understand and take in as a reader. I think readers who enjoy mystery novels and new ideas will like this book, though it does call for an open mind. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups

What's Next, Wednesday (66)


  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.

29444730

I'm looking forward to... 

Weave a Murderous Web by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks. This book promises to be a thrilling mystery and crime novel. Lawyer, Jane, soon finds herself not just helping out a friend, but trying to track down a murderer before she becomes his next victim. I'm really looking forward to a fast-paced mystery novel that will hook me from the first page, so hopefully this is it. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (275)


Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.


32491115

Hopatcong Vision Quest (Kindle 89%)
    - Steve Lindahl

"We seem to have a case of what I call circularity, meaning the same event has happened to those two souls in other incarnations." 
"You mean they've been murdered over and over?"