Tag Archives: Fiction

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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Review – The Winter People

The Winter People

Title: The Winter People

Author: Jennifer McMahon

2014 – Fiction – Suspense/Horror/Historical Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Won audio book in Books on Tape giveaway

The Story: When Ruthie’s mother disappears in the middle of the night, Ruthie searches the house for clues to the disappearance. In her mother’s room, she finds a boarded up closet and a loose floorboard concealing two wallets, a handgun, and the diary of Sara Harrison Shea. Everyone in the town knows all about Sara Harrison Shea, how she lost her daughter to a horrific accident, how Sara was later murdered and skinned. And how Sara supposedly brought her daughter back from the dead. As Ruthie becomes engrossed in the diary, she begins to make horrifying connections between the town’s lurid past and her mother’s disappearance.

The Review: I won this audio book back in May, but I specifically saved it for this time of year – the season when days are shorter, nights are colder, and the wind whistling through colorful, falling leaves provides an eerie backdrop to any novel. I love reading spooky stuff in October – if you believe the folklore and legends passed down over centuries, it’s this time of year when the veil between worlds becomes a little thinner. There is magic in the air and I can almost believe that what I’m reading is true.

It didn’t take much for me to get sucked into this story. It begins with a disappearance and a local legend, and only gets spookier from there. This was especially good on audio, as the story surrounded me and pulled me in. I remember heading to game night one evening, listening on the way over and getting to a really suspenseful section. On the way home, however, night had fallen and the story twisted in a way that I never saw coming. I just couldn’t listen anymore, and had to switch my radio over to a nice, cheerful music station. That was the whole timbre of this novel. If not outright scary, the suspense never let up.

The dual narrative between Ruthie’s story in the present and Sara’s story in the past are interwoven beautifully. The reader gets tantalizing chunks of story that are presented as a carrot on a stick, always leading forward with no chance but to helplessly continue to fall under the novel’s spell. With several different perspectives and characters to follow, there was never a shortage of information. I just lacked the ability to put it all together, which to me is a mark of a well-written suspense novel.

By the end I was anxious and terrified, eager for a resolution that made things all better. I’m obviously not going to tell you what happened, but I will say that it wasn’t a nice, neat, happy ending where everything was all sunshine and daisies. And just like I look at showers differently now because of that one scene from Psycho, I will never see an innocent closet the same way again.

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Review and Fellowship of the Worms Discussion – A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being

Title: A Tale for the Time Being

Author: Ruth Ozeki

2013 – Fiction – Contemporary Fiction/Magical Realism

Rating: 5/5

Source: Library

The Story: A Hello Kitty lunchbox inside a plastic freezer bag washes up on the shores of Canada. Ruth is drawn to the lunchbox, so she takes it home, where she and her husband Oliver open it up. Inside, they find an antique watch, packets of letters, and a diary. Through the contents of this lunchbox, Ruth and Oliver are drawn into the story of Nao, a Japanese schoolgirl with a suicidal dad and a Zen Buddhist great-grandmother.

The Opening Line: Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being.

Thoughts: Gonna keep this real brief, due to answering the Fellowship questions below. I loved this novel. It was quirky and fun, heartfelt, touching, sad, profound, and educational all at once. I learned about Japanese culture in bits and pieces, and realized I wanted things in my life that I never existed (go look up a kotatsu and tell me you don’t want one). I was drawn into every single story and invested in every single character. With footnotes and dashes of three different cultures (Japan, America, Canada), this novel made me work for it, but I loved every single minute. A phenomenal novel all around, and one that I would highly recommend.

Fellowship of the Worms Questions

One of the things that struck me about this novel was how quickly Ruth became attached to Nao through her writing. Have you ever found yourself becoming attached to someone you don’t actually know through their writing?

Definitely. I think that’s one of the reasons we read – to find a kinship with the author, someone we can relate to, who shares our experiences. Ultimately, I think we all want to be known and accepted for who we are. Just recently, I read Felicia Day’s new book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), and felt an instant shock of recognition as she described her upbringing and life experiences. It’s heartening to relate to someone, real or fictional.

How much did you love Old Jiko? Do any of you have an impossibly wise older relative who has shaped who you became?

I love Old Jiko so much and wish there could have been even more of her. Unfortunately, I don’t have that sort of relative, so I’ll continue to take my life advice from fictional characters.

Did any of y’all break down when reading about the bullying Nao went through at school?

Those parts were the worst. I know there are plenty of apathetic teachers, and I realize that school administrators aren’t usually great at curbing bullying, but to this degree? The teacher should have been let go, the administrators questioned, and an official investigation opened. What kind of creep just lets that sort of thing happen?

I feel like we can’t actually discuss this novel without addressing the elephant in the room, suicide. Despite Haruki #1’s kamikaze mission, Haruki #2’s failed suicide attempts, and Nao’s suicidal thoughts, the overall tone remains hopeful. How do you think Ozeki pulled that off?

I think the bleakness of each of those things was ultimately balanced by what Ozeki did write about hope. I have no idea how she pulled it off. I am glad that the “everything gets better” message did shine through, and that Ozeki wrote a story about hope and the kind of impact we can have on each other.

Nao’s narrative finding Ruth is pretty much the ultimate message-in-a-bottle scenario. Have you ever fantasized about leaving your story for an unknown reader to discover? What would you tell them?

I haven’t in a message in a bottle sort of way. But I do always think about how I journal – I try to be conscientious of the fact that someone could read that journal someday. If that happens, I want to be comprehensive, but not whiny. I want to be smart and intelligent and leave something worth reading. Not just daily, mundane things, but a record for the history books.

As always, this has been super fun and I can’t wait for our next book!

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