Blog Tour – The Girl Who Stayed

The Girl Who Stayed

Title: The Girl Who Stayed

Author: Tanya Anne Crosby

2016 – Fiction

Source: TLC Book Tours

The Story: After years of running from responsibility and her past, Zoe Rutherford returns to the island where she grew up in order to take care of the family’s home, which has fallen into disrepair due to years of neglect. From the moment she steps foot onto the island, she is beset by memories of her sister, who went missing as a child and was never found. She also must come to terms with the realities of her family and the culture in which she grew up, exploring how that has shaped her as an adult. Dealing with these family skeletons only adds anxiety, as Zoe also faces a grumpy neighbor, an abusive ex, an attentive man who happens to be the police chief’s son, and the fact that women are going missing and a murderer may be running loose on the island.

Review: For me, the book started off really slowly. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is actual truth or if it is due to the current reading slump in which I find myself. It’s been a couple of weeks now with no end in sight. Regardless, I read the book in fits and starts, a chapter here, ten pages there. As I read, the story started to slowly draw me in.

I love novels that are set on the coast – they just feel so atmospheric and set such a believable scene. So the backdrop of the low country, the small details of living by the ocean, the small town behaviors and habits, these things really provide a great setting for a story which is ultimately about facing the past, realizing that it has an impact on who you grow up to be, and learning to love yourself.

I had a couple of issues with transitions – sometimes it wasn’t quite clear to me when the story transitioned from present to past. Nothing that can’t be cleared up with further reading, of course, but it did leave me confused a couple of times.

Overall, Zoe’s story felt really authentic. She often makes the point that she wouldn’t have believed that she could end up a victim of domestic abuse, which could really hit home with other women who have found themselves in situations that they can’t quite understand. For Zoe, when it rains, it storms, but it didn’t really feel overdone or too much. It just read like real life. Even in the midst of a slump, this book was a quick read that I enjoyed.

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Blog Tour – Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)

Title: Maisie Dobbs

Author: Jacqueline Winspear

2003 – Fiction – Mystery/Historical Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Source: TLC Book Tours

The Story: Years after World War I, Maisie Dobbs opens her door to clients who need answers in their lives. Her first client is a husband afraid that his wife is having an affair. But what Maisie finds is much deeper – a young woman grieving the loss of her first love. A suspicious home for wounded veterans known simply as “The Retreat”. And always, the memories of war lurking in the background.

The Opening Line: Even if she hadn’t been the last person to walk through the turnstile at Warren Street tube station, Jack Barker would have noticed the tall, slender woman in the navy blue, thigh-length jacket with a matching pleated skirt short enough to reveal a well-turned ankle.

Review: Sadly, this is one of those books that I stumbled upon years ago, banished to my ever-growing, looming TBR (to-be-read) list, and pretty much forgot about. I’m happy to report that now my TBR list is one book shorter and that this truly worthy book no longer languishes unread.

I love mysteries, and the historical fiction genre is one that continues to grow on me. Turns out, the two pair quite well, especially in the hands of an author like Winspear, who deftly weaves a narrative that leaves no loose ends or plot holes to infuriate the reader. Every last nugget of information felt well-earned, and I came to care about Maisie on such a deep emotional level. With each new added bit to Maisie’s story, I felt my heart twist in sympathy or leap with joy.

With, what, something like 12 books (?) in the series now, I was prepared to read this novel and be done. I mean, 10+ books is a  big commitment. But after finishing Maisie Dobbs, I think I’ll keep reading, keep getting to know these characters and be a part of their lives. This book is a masterpiece, something to read and treasure and think about long after you’ve finished.

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Blog Tour – How to Be Alive

How to Be Alive: A Guide To The Kind of Happiness That Helps The World

Title: How to Be Alive

Author: Colin Beavan

2016 – Nonfiction – Self Help/Each Other Help/Reference Guide

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: TLC Book Tours

The Story: It all started when Colin Beavan conducted a year-long radical experiment during which he tried to reduce his carbon footprint and his physical impact on the world. After the year was up, he retained many of his new habits and began speaking out about how the rest of us could do the same, how even one person making small decisions can change not only his or her own life, but that of someone else…and the world. How to Be Alive seeks to make each of us a little more aware and mindful of the life choices we are making and where we might need to switch things up to be happier, more productive, and more meaningful.

Review: Okay, I’m gonna be brutally honest here, because what kind of ethical book blogger would I be if I didn’t? Getting through How to Be Alive was tough for me. Here’s why. Lately I’ve been feeling very much defeated in life. Things at home have been rough since before the holidays, changes at work are throwing me off, and I’m entering into some new seasons in my life that are bringing uncertainty and fear. I constantly feel a mixture of stress, anxiety, meaninglessness, depression, and sadness. I’ve been questioning my life choices and wondering what my purpose is. So yeah, reading this book about how to be alive and live a meaningful life was a little tough, although extremely timely.

A lot of the book focuses on general questions for how to begin and conduct a lifequest. Peppered with personal stories backed up by science, Beavan sets out to show readers how becoming more mindful and aware and making small life changes for the better can lead to increased happiness, self-worth, and more, while also making the world a better place. He argues that even small steps, like starting a community garden or reaching out to a neighbor, can be the starting point toward a more meaningful life. Addressing topics ranging from the importance of community to what we should eat, Beavan believes that all of us, working together, can change our lives, and the world, for the better.

Many of his ideas and tips are small and easy to implement. For example, invite friends on a shopping trip to the local farmers’ market.  Buy fresh, local ingredients for a meal, return home, and cook a fantastic meal to enjoy with those friends. Or reach out to a neighbor in need. Recycle. Ride a bike just a little more and use the car just a little less. Disconnect from screens for a day. Spend time with those important to us. Stand up against injustice by writing to our representative in government.

In my personal life, I’ve noticed that when I’m living more intentionally and less on autopilot, I’m happier and probably a lot more fun to be around. I’ve been learning that life is more about the experiences and the people, less about the stuff I own or how much money I make. For me, some of the best moments in life are when my friends and I play basketball in the park, try out a new local restaurant, do yoga with a friend from college, or spend a weekend away seeing a favorite indie artist’s show on her first tour. And while, yes, these are small things, by making intentional decisions, surrounding myself with positive people, and making small lifestyle changes, my happiness grows. And with it, my sphere of influence and my ability to impact the world. So if you are looking for meaning or purpose, start here. Make a few small, healthy changes. Make new friends. Pick up a fulfilling hobby. We only get one life. How do you want to spend it?

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