Book Review: General Fiction

Book Review: The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse

Posted on

I was randomly searching on NetGalley one day when I saw The Coordinates of Loss show up in my feed for recommended books. I’m a big fan of Amanda Prowse, but she has so many previous novels that I hadn’t been paying attention to new releases. Since it was on NetGalley, and the publisher had auto-approved me, I downloaded the book and put it in my queue. I wanted an author I could count on this week and began the read assured it would be the perfect choice. It delivered and I’m very happy with Prowse’s latest story.

loss

Rachel Croft and her husband James are sleeping on their boat in the Caribbean when they discover one morning that their young son, Oscar, isn’t in his bed. They search and search, but he’s gone. No one saw any boats nearby and there’s no sign of any struggle or injury. He had fallen overboard and likely drowned. With no body, how does a family move on? There’s always the question of “what happened” and “could he be somewhere else” and this is what haunts the young couple. Another story about CeCe, their housekeeper, parallels the Croft family pain. CeCe lost a child years ago, too. Through a series of letters, CeCe tries to help Rachel get through the pain. The story chronicles a few years in everyone’s life ultimately culminating in what happens to the family years later after all the pain and struggle seems to come to a head between Rachel and James over who’s at fault.

Prowse is killer when it comes to packing gut-punching emotion. At many points in the story, a rip current tore through me wondering how I’d handle such a situation. While it was powerful and painful, I didn’t feel the normal devastation I’ve previously felt when reading a Prowse novel in the past. It’s not to say say the book isn’t great, as it really is. I devoured it in two days, but parts were less emotional and more matter of fact, and the occasional sense of repetition. At times, Rachel seemed too spoiled and independent, pulling away from James. I got angry with her for not turning to her husband, but then again, it’s a phenomenal author who can make readers angry at good characters for some of their decisions. So truth be told, it’s actually a good thing the way it’s written.

All in all, it’s a prime example of why Prowse’s books always impact me. I will finish them all, but I’m glad to know even her most current ones are still strong contenders for favorite stories each year. A solid 4 stars with a beautiful balance and tone.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Advertisements

Book Review: A Smidge of Crazy by Barbara Venkataraman

Posted on Updated on

I’m a fan of Barbara Venkataraman‘s writing style, stories and characters. She’s written several humorous essays and the Jamie Quinn mystery series. In her latest release, another fun essay, A Smidge of Crazy, a short-n-quick read, Venkataraman gets a little personal covering some hysterical memoirs and happenings thus far in her life. Perhaps some are true, perhaps some are just ways to entertain us. Either case, they make you laugh from start to finish. From the thought of buying Depends undergarments to how many different people could possibly be related in her family, she brings a great wit and head shake to each story in the collection. Some are just a few paragraphs, others are two to three pages, but each has an insight that will make you go “oh, I’ve said/done/thought THAT before.” Maybe we’re not all that different in the end, right? Great mini-release to get me through until her next Jamie Quinn book… thank you!

smidge

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Will You Remember Me? by Amanda Prowse

Posted on

4.5 stars for making me cry through the last few chapters of Will You Remember Me? by my new Queen, Amanda Prowse— and it was even sweeter knowing this was a signed copy that my friend Claire secured for me. I make no pretense here: I waffle back and forth between Amanda Prowse and Kate Morton as my favorite contemporary fiction female storyteller but it always comes down to who makes me tear up the most… Wow, this was quite a story and I can’t wait to devour another one of her books next month.
21570571

Although part of a series, it can definitely be read standalone as the series seems to jump around from character to character. I didn’t read the first book, Poppy Day, which focuses on the same lead but I have a feeling it’s okay to go out of order. Poppy is 32, married to the love of her life, has two wonderful children and a great sense of happiness for the future — until she finds a small lump in her breast, and nothing is ever the same again. Prowse takes us thru the journey as Poppy begins to realize everything she will lose. From telling her husband to searching for her unknown father, finding a new family member and saying goodbye to people for the final time… this tale will have you holding your breath, tearing up, and gritting your teeth with anger and disappointment. Things don’t always work out. Sometimes they do but on a different level. What fine balance in this beautiful and heartwarming piece of brilliance.

My only minor hesitancy in giving a full 5 stars is that there were a few moments where I wanted more details about her relationships with her mother, doctor, and son. There was a lot to cover in the book, and it was the right page count but it was a tad short on some details and a bit full on others that didn’t add 100% value. All very, very minor and just a personal taste for me. I definitely recommend this book especially with the sea of stories out there probably full of similar tones and styles. What’s different for me in a novel by Prowse is the genuine understanding of what the person is suffering from. It’s not just words strung together to make a reader sad and empathize. It’s as if you’re sitting there with the same pains and wishing only for a way to make it better for both you and the one suffering in the book. That’s an author I respect and plan to read her full canon as quickly as I can!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Mackenzie’s Distraction by Angie Dokos

Posted on Updated on

Reading new genres has become part of my routine to find fantastic new authors, understand different writing styles, and explore great stories and content. I found all three with the latest book I read, Mackenzie’s Distraction, written by Angie Dokos in 2016. The book is considered new adult contemporary fiction, but it’s stocked full of romance, emotions, attitude, and possibilities. I bought the book a few weeks before a recent vacation and read it poolside on the Amalfi Coast while in Italy. What a perfect combination of beauty in a book just like the many splendors of my surroundings.

mackenzei
Mackenzie’s been hurt in the past and steers clear of relationships especially when the man seems too good to be real or true. But in this case, before she even meets him, her life is traumatized when her mother is a car accident and struggles to survive. Though Mackenzie has friends and other family to help her handle the huge blow, it’s not quite as simple as all that. Her mother’s hospitalization leads Mackenzie to learn a few deep-rooted family secrets, meet friends from a parent’s former life, and discover things about herself she never knew existed. That’s when the potential man of her dreams walks into her life, but is she too crushed and shocked to accept it? Let’s not forget the sudden onset of several available and potentially great catches who are very interested in getting to know her. Who will she choose, if any? Now that’s where the plot of this book takes off… weaving readers on a very emotional and manic ride with the unfortunately impacted young woman just looking to heal.

I’m normally a plot, then character guy. In this book, though the plot is important, it’s less about what the secrets and actions are and more about how Mackenzie deals with all the repercussions. It was a great change of pace for me as you had to settle in, listen, and understand why Mackenzie reacted the way she did in each instance. I didn’t always agree, and I sometimes got angry with her for what seemed like an unnecessary or spoiled adolescent attitude; however, I also haven’t suffered through the craziness that hits her in the span of a few days. In that sense, she certainly tries to find a balance, and readers can easily connect with her on the journey. I vividly recall thinking, if she didn’t accept Trevor’s love and attention, I’d certainly volunteer to stand in. (I won’t tell you if she does or doesn’t, but it’s complex!) He was practically perfect in every way, what exactly was stopping her? Well… that’s where psychology and personality truly come into play and drive her responses. It takes a truly analytical, sensitive, and courageous mind to deliver this kind of story. Kudos to Dokos.

Writing style and caliber were strong. Characters were vivid and relatable. Actions and dialog were balanced well, even if at times I was feeling a little frustrated with some of the things people did or said. But that’s the beauty of a good book: sometimes it takes the writer to challenge the reader to engage outside their normal comfort zone, and readers should keep an open mind to fully understand the vision of the author. Then you see why it works… and you have a thrilling escape in someone else’s complicated life. Being a teenager or even in your early 20’s is ridiculously tough in a modern world. Dealing with siblings who have different attitudes, step families with bigger concerns and questions, friends who just want you to be happy but get in your face all too often… wanting to open your heart to love but not knowing how any more… trusting someone who is virtually a stranger despite spending days with him in the first week… people are often secretive and misleading, so I understand Mackenzie’s concerns. But from one particular scene, the girl can take care of herself! Awesome scene, Ms. Dokos. 😊

I really enjoyed the book and will definitely look for more from the author this year, as she has another book published and is hopefully working on a few more already! She’s got a new fan and I’m confident many more as they take a chance on reading her work. I recommend giving it a chance for all readers, but most definitely if you enjoy balanced romance and emotions, journeys, analytical decision-making and learning how to let go and accept change.

I am also a big fan of Angie’s blog. She covers so much beyond just books on her blog, and it’s a welcome distraction every week to see what’s going on in her life. A wonderful writer, blogger and person to know… stop by for yourself!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Posted on

Why This Book

I run a monthly poll on the ThisIsMyTruthNow blog via my Book Bucket List. Followers get to choose from a list of the twelve books I own and want to read in the near future. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman was selected as the book I should read in March 2018. I added it to the list because I really enjoyed his novel, Beartown, and thought this was the next logical step. A good friend of mine was interested in reading the novel, too, so we made this a buddy read. I’m so excited to discuss the book as if it’s our own book club.

ove.jpg

Approach & Style

I was going to order the book online, but I found it sitting on the shelf in my apartment building’s library room; how lucky am i? The paperback is 337 pages long and broken into ~40 chapters (not  numbered). Each has a title which explains what might happen in the chapter, and they mostly alternate between what is happening today in Ove’s life in comparison to something connected that occurred in the past. It took me 4 hours to read over a three-day weekend getaway to New Hampshire, but I forced myself to stop at 110 pages each day so it would last longer. It could easily be read in one sitting as it’s that good! The novel’s perspective is focused on Ove, and it is told in third-person omniscient POV. It was published in 2014 but as a Swedish novel, then brilliantly translated into English.

Plot, Characters & Setting

Ove is a 59-year old man who is cantankerous, ornery, difficult, mean and everything else that comes along with the type of men you’d see in the movie “Grumpy Old Men.” It opens with a bit about an iPad that is basically someone we all know (or are — I see my own future in a good 20+ years). But he of course has a heart somewhere, and we spend the entirety of the book seeing little pieces of it as we watch his journey to try to complete a final goal. We meet several of his neighbors and former friends, a few citizens of his community, and some strangers who all have an impact on Ove’s life, but are also touched by the time they spend with Ove.

It’s difficult to summarize more about the book without giving away big pieces of the plot, but it is a story that will make you cry and laugh at the same time on several occasions. Imagine a man you would not want to meet in person slowly tugging at your heart strings because you see and understand all he’s been through that’s turned him into the person we read about today. When you learn what his actual goal is, you’ll be shocked and struggle to accept that you want to support him in it. And when the things he’s always wanted but could never quite have suddenly start appearing in his life, you’ll know you can’t help but love the grumpy old man.

Key Thoughts

Fredrik Backman is hands-down one of my favorite character-building authors. Ove has so many levels to him you will lose count trying to guess what he might do in any given situation. His first reaction will almost always annoy you. His second will irritate you beyond belief… could he really have lost all humanity? But by the third or fourth time he encounters a situation, you see the tides turning. That’s where Backman excels. No matter how harsh he makes someone, the character teeters on the edge until they fall sweepingly into your arms as someone you now love and root for.

Despite reading the reviews and guessing enough of the high-level plot from the descriptions, I was not prepared for all the emotions in this book. The story captures different aspects of life and tries to make sense of them in reverse order. We aren’t reading Ove’s past in any logical format or order. It’s bits and pieces, re-told at appropriate points in his current life. In the opening scenes, he’s yelling at an iPad sales clerk… and we think he’s just an irate older man who can’t ‘get with the times.’ But when you learn everything that led up to it, you’ll find so many new connections. The order of the chapters is brilliant. You know people dislike one another, but not why. You find out way after you think you will, and it makes total sense. An author who can keep that going for 300+ pages is phenomenal.

I kept thinking ‘What if Ove meets the main character from The Five People You Meet in Heaven?’ Would they get along? They’re basically the same person, but completely different. From the plot to the story, the dialogue to the narrative, this book will capture your attention, enthrall your senses, tease you, torture you, and in the end, make you wish there were more. I can’t recommend it enough! You’ll even laugh out loud so often, people will look at you quite funny.

Summary

I am so thrilled with my second Fredrik Backman book that I plan to read all of his remaining works this summer. I have a copy of Beartown 2 which I will read next month, but then it will be My Grandmother Asked me To Tell You She’s Sorry and Britt-Marie was here. There are others, but those are up next on the spring and summer reading lists. I don’t think I could be disappointed as I am addicted to his writing style and storytelling abilities. He’s definitely in my top 10 favorite authors thus far in my reading lifetime.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Posted on

Why This Book

After reading Rebecca several years ago, I placed My Cousin Rachel, another of Daphne du Maurier‘s famed novels, on my To Be Read (TBR) shelf. Earlier this year, a Goodreads buddy, Michael, and I were chatting about various books when we decided to do a buddy read together, selecting this wonderful Gothic edition. We were both interested to see if it lived up to the hype and how it compared to the author’s other words. We agreed on early March and got to it this week. I’ve only started doing buddy reads in the last few months, but they are quite fun… I recommend them.

 

cousin.jpg

Approach & Style

I purchased the Kindle Reader version from Amazon to read on my iPad. It contains ~350 pages and took me four days to read. The novel is written in first person point of view and told from the perspective of Philip Ashley, a 24-year-old English man set in a somewhat unknown time, but likely the early/mid twentieth century given some of the details in the background setting. The language is intense and full of amazing imagery and astounding descriptions.

Plot, Characters & Setting

The novel centers around the Ashley family. Philip’s parents die when he is less than a year old, but his cousin Ambrose raises him in their England home. At some point years later, Ambrose unexpectedly marries a widow named Rachel who is half-Italian and grew up in Tuscany. It’s an odd pairing, as she has a bit of a reputation for husband-hunting and spending lots of money. After ~2 years, Ambrose mysteriously dies and Rachel disappears. Philip is distraught, but searches for her in Italy. Rachel eventually shows up in England looking to meet her pseudo-stepson, and that’s when the story really begins to get interesting. There’s an air of darkness concerning Ambrose’s death–was Rachel involved? She has a suitor of sorts who follows her from Tuscany–yet both claim there is nothing but friendship. Philip intends to crucify his cousin Rachel after reading a few letters from his late cousin, Ambrose; however, things take a surprising turn when more secrets are revealed and there’s a bit of romance developing in the background. Add in a few traditional English families, an inheritance upon Philip’s 25th birthday, and a possible proposal to/from a neighboring family… and you’ve got quite a Gothic story unleashing it’s power on you.

Key Thoughts

  1. du Maurier truly engages the reader with lyrical and ethereal descriptions of everything going on in the story. You will feel like you are sitting at a table in the house watching everything occur around you. The super-fine details are what challenge your intellect to decide what is real and what is not.
  2. As a plot, it’s classic — did she or didn’t she kill him? But here’s the interesting part… that question hardly ever comes up in the book. It’s not a mystery in terms of researching the past to see if murder actually happened. It’s entirely psychological in the relationship between Philip and Rachel… where you listen to the words or what isn’t said, think about whether you trust either of them… and in the end, you just wish you could have spoken to Ambrose yourself to get the answer.
  3. I went back and forth multiple times deciding whether I liked Rachel and Philip as characters and as human beings. Humanity and kindness are huge themes in this novel. Attitude and disinterest are also keen to make themselves present within the relationships. Sometimes I wanted to throttle both, other times, the tenderness was admirable. The last few chapters truly push the envelope in terms of engaging more doubt before there is a final reveal.
  4. While reading the first ~75 pages, I was also editing my novel. I had on my ‘writer glasses’ and couldn’t stop analyzing the word choice in du Maurier’s initial chapters. It was disconnected and hard to attach myself, too. I also found a few words that were repeated a couple of times on the same page (a pet peeve for me in my own writing) and after the third or fourth, I slapped myself and realized it wasn’t important. 99 amazing words on every page and 1 every so often that didn’t work. That’s way too high of a percentage to ever get stuck! Stick with it past that initial 15% mark and you’re in for quite an intellectually stimulating ride.
  5. If you love Italy or the quintessential proper English culture and decor, you will enjoy this novel. The only thing that bugged me from time to time was not really knowing enough about Philip prior to meeting Rachel, so I could form a strong enough opinion on who he was as a person, i.e. before he became mesmerized by his cousin Rachel.
  6. My favorite part of the whole book… Philip ALWAYS refers to her as ‘My cousin Rachel’ until a certain event changes their lives… then she simply becomes ‘Rachel.’ The meaning of the novel is hidden in that ever-so-small alteration in their relationship and future.

Summary

du Maurier is quite skilled at creating scenery, characters, and undetermined truth. We really never know who to believe, even in the end. But it works. Whereas Rebecca was a stronger plot, I think My Cousin Rachel pushes the envelope more in terms of who should we believe. Either case, I really enjoyed the read, especially discussing it with Michael, who is an author you might want to take a look at (new book coming out in April ’18).  I plan to review the author’s bibliography this summer to see if there’s another potential novel of hers I’d like to read. Overall, I’d give this 4+ stars as I really enjoyed it, but there was some repetition and missing pieces so I couldn’t quite knock it up to a 5-star rating.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Posted on

Why This Book 
I enjoyed the first two books in the ‘Me Before You’ series, then I won the third one, Still Me, by Jojo Moyes, in a Goodreads Giveaway. I was quite excited and nervous, as I adored the first book but thought the second was just decent/good. I am very glad to say this third one is much closer to the first!

ill me.jpg

Approach & Style 
I read an advance copy of this ~378 page paperback novel in about 5 hours during a two day period. It goes very quickly as the story is quite intriguing — the writing feels effortlessly natural. It’s broken into ~35 chapters, which makes each about ten pages long. The book is told in first person POV with the perspective focused on Louisa. A few chapters have letters, emails or news articles to help push the story forward. It’s the third in a series and well-worth the read to spend with the brilliance of the characters and the backdrop.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Louisa moves to Park Avenue in NYC to help her friend Nathan who looks after an upper class family. She’ll be a ‘friend’ or ‘assistant’ to Agnes, the younger second-wife of Mr. Gopnik who was mentioned in the second book. There are various other staff in the Gopnik household and apartment building who Louisa interacts with, as well as some new friends she makes in NYC. Lou goes home for Christmas to visit her parents and sister, as well as continues to date Sam, the paramedic, from prior books. The story is about her acclimation to a different kind of life than she had in England, as well as the process to help her figure out who she wants to be. Despite all that’s happened to her, she still has more to learn… I love that about this story! There’s romance, mystery, secrets, friendships, touristy fun, and decisions to make.

Key Thoughts 
Jojo Moyes is a phenomenal storyteller. I adore her characters, settings and scenes. I may be partial as I know a lot of the places in the book since it takes place in NYC; however, even when Lou is just wandering around with no real plot, it’s brilliant writing. The setting is always described in the perfect amount of detail with just enough for my imagination to fill in the blanks.

The characters are very real and familiar. I’ve seen them before in reality and other books, but there’s something special about their dialogue and how they relate to one another in this book. I whipped so fast through Still Me, as I just couldn’t put it down…. you think ‘I’ll just spend 30 minutes before bed,’ then find yourself 200 pages in and ready for more!

Lou’s journey is a combination of the first two books. It takes the reality from the second book with the emotions from the first book, then smashes them together in a final wrapper on discovering what makes Lou ‘still me.’

I can’t say enough good things about this book… I won’t spoil the ending, but that may be the only thing that I was a little ‘eh’ on, in terms of how she ends up relationship-wise. In this book, she struggles with long-distance Sam, meets someone new, and has to figure out what’s right for her. Part of me saw a different ending, but this one still worked. Ultimately, I love Lou… she might be one of my favorite literary characters.

Summary 
I will definitely pick up another Moyes book… after the three in this series, I know she’s an author I will enjoy for many years. I’m grateful to the friend who introduced me to this series. 🙂

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.