Reviews

The Great Alone // Kristin Hannah

The Great AloneAfter unexpectedly inheriting a homestead in remote Alaska, Ernt Allbright moves his family to the Kaneq wilderness. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time as a POW in Vietnam, he looks at his new life as the answer to his problems. And in the beginning, it is, but his demons begin to catch up to him during the long winter nights in a hostile landscape.

The Great Alone is not his story, it’s the story of his resilient daughter Leni and the life she’s able to carve out in the wake of the Allbright family wreckage. Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous ‘70s – think Vietnam, Patty Hearst, and gas shortages – Kristin Hannah has written a riveting novel of survival and brutality. That’s not to say it’s perfect, the novel can be melodramatic and a few plot points are rushed, but in the end, I still loved it. Memorable characters and an unforgettable setting make this bittersweet novel a winter standout.

Now, how do I get to Alaska?

(The Washington Post ran a review of this novel that had the stellar line “At one point, he even starts building a giant wall on the border of his property like some racist loon.” I received a review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.)

Reviews

The King of Bones and Ashes // J. D. Horn

King of Bones and AshesAlice Marin, 21 and newly released from the institution for clinically unstable witches, returns to post-Katrina New Orleans to attend her grandfather Celestin’s funeral. Although magic seems to be waning, Alice is more powerful than ever. Perhaps it’s her connection to the malevolent entity Babau Jean, or perhaps it’s related to the Marin family secrets. Either way, Alice delves into the mysteries surrounding her family, including the loss of her mother, brother, and her father’s abandonment of her. What she starts to unravel is beyond her wildest imaginings.

The King of Bones and Ashes by J. D. Horn has everything I could want in a story – evocative setting, strong female characters**, complex family drama, and witchcraft – but the novel was a hindered by uneven pacing. It’s the first in the series, and though I struggled in a few parts, I’ll look for the second book*. If you like southern gothic mysteries with a hint of the supernatural, this book is for you.

*cliffhangers are a personal pet peeve of mine, but it is effective, in this case.
**If you enjoy names, this book has a fantastic list of characters names.
***I received a review copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews

Grist Mill Road // Christopher J. Yates

Grsit Mill RoadI remember the gunshots made a wet sort of sound, phssh phssh phssh, and each time he hit her she screamed. Do the math and the whole things probably went on for as long as ten minutes. I just stood there and watched.

Yates’ novel opens with that visceral passage, leaving little mystery as to what happened to Hannah. She was shot 49 times by her friend Matthew, while his friend Patch watched. This happened in August of 1982. In 2008, Hannah and Patch are married and living in New York City, seemingly happy. A chance encounter with Matthew sends all of their lives into a tailspin.

What they knew, how they felt, and what really happened is slowly unveiled in this literary thriller. Alternating between the past and the present, Christopher J. Yates masterfully weaves the tension, mania, and despair of the main characters together, creating a true page turner (even if I really did miss quotation marks). No one is fully innocent, but not one is fully guilty either. Grist Mill Road* reveals how anger, passion, history, and love bind us in the most unexpected ways.

*I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

 

Lists

2017 Fiction Favorites

My Absolute DarlingIt’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again, but it is… Best books of 2017. This was decidedly not my year for maintaining this site. I blame the baby, a big (new) job transition, and more sports practices than I can count. However, I did read a lot this year. A lot of it was backlist fiction, but I did manage a fair amount of new releases. I haven’t stayed as involved in the book blogging universe as I would’ve like (I miss you guys!), so I’m unaware of what’s been well-received, but I do know what I’ve enjoyed. As opposed to a traditional top ten list, I’m going to qualify each entry.

Hardest to Read: My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. Part coming of age novel, part survival story, this novel oozes with tension and dread, leading up to a catastrophic ending.

Favorite Dystopian Fiction: Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed. Eerie, bleak, and full of dread, Jennie Melamed’s debut novel is excellent. Her beautiful prose balances the grim existence of the characters, and the multiple narrators works to flesh out life on the island.

Grittiest, Most Artfully Barbaric: The Savage by Frank Bill. A no holds barred look into post-apocalyptic America.

Biggest Surprise from a Favorite Author: The Hearts of Men by Nikolas Butler. A bit of a departure from the wonderful Shotgun Lovesongs, but great nonetheless.

Most Overlooked Short Story Collection: The Saints of Rattlesnake Mountain by Don Waters. An ode to the American West, Waters short stories are complex and full of heart.

Most Like The Handmaid’s Tale: Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich. It’s certainly a novel that stands on its own, but it did remind of Margaret Atwood’s classic.

Favorite Short Story Collection: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. It received a lot of well-deserved hype. A solid short story collection.

As Good as Expected: The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash. An excellent historical fiction novel that is still very relevant to today’s political climate.

It’s been long enough since I’ve done this to discover PicMonkey is no longer free. What do you use to create a collage? And more importantly, what was your favorite book this year?

Reviews

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

BeastsLong time, no post!

After many, many, many technical difficulties, I am back up and running for the time being. I got so frustrated with my hosting and domain issues that I actually created another site (just a regular wordpress.com site), but I couldn’t access the back up of my current site and I didn’t want to start over from scratch. Decisions, decisions.

Regardless of my website woes, I do have a book recommendation for you.

Although I hesitate to use the word quirky, the story of Weylyn Grey is just that. Filled with quirk, charm, and a healthy dose of magical realism, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance* is a perfectly strange, heartwarming debut novel by Ruth Emmie Lang. Orphaned, raised by wolves, and possessing the unusual habit of influencing the weather – when he least expects it – Weylyn is not your average man. The novel is told through the eyes of those that meet him, whether they love him or think he’s odd. The novel is a warm, weird story that simply made me happy, and I’ll be recommending it to those need of something just a little different.

(If you can resist “raised by wolves” in the description of a novel, you’re a stronger than I’ll ever be.)

*With thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

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