Book Review: The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

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★ ★ ★

I went into this expecting a captivating thriller about a child who goes missing one day at a local festival, and the story as it unfolds through both the daughter and mother’s perspectives. It is well-written, and the prose throughout is poetic, but it was a novel that left me unsatisfied by the ending. It was a book that I kept putting down, and took me quite a while to get through due to the pacing, and the mother’s point-of-view became difficult to read. I wouldn’t consider this an intense thriller, but it is a powerful story between mother and daughter with believable emotions when in a situation like Beth and Carmel. It was realistically portrayed with characters that give you an insight into having hope and faith through it all. I gave this 3 stars because I did enjoy it, but it wasn’t as much of a thriller like I had expected.

Synopsis

Newly single mom Beth has one constant, gnawing worry: that her dreamy eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander off, will one day go missing.

And then one day, it happens: On a Saturday morning thick with fog, Beth takes Carmel to a local outdoor festival, they get separated in the crowd, and Carmel is gone.

Shattered, Beth sets herself on the grim and lonely mission to find her daughter, keeping on relentlessly even as the authorities tell her that Carmel may be gone for good.

Carmel, meanwhile, is on a strange and harrowing journey of her own—to a totally unexpected place that requires her to live by her wits, while trying desperately to keep in her head, at all times, a vision of her mother…

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 16th 2016 by Melville House

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I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

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Book Review: Each Vagabond by Name by Margo Orlando Littell

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★

You know those novels that bring you into their world, and when the story is finished, you feel like a piece of you is behind in that world? That is what this novel did to me. I don’t typically give books five stars because it has to be a book that makes an everlasting impact; one that I will be talking about for years to come–this book is one. It is one of those that you begin reading, and you do not leave that world until you are finished in the wee hours of the morning. This book has left me in such a haze while I continue to think about the setting, characters, and story in itself.

Each Vagabond by Name is exquisite, simply put. Margo Orlando Littell has crafted such a stunning debut novel about isolation, loneliness, survival, and coping. There is self discovery within the story, and finding your way through dark times. It’s a slow pace through the build up, but it is so beautifully written with emotion, grit, and honesty that you get lost in the world and become a part of the story in your mind. I thought the characters and world-building were complex, and constructed in such a brilliant, realistic way. I highly recommend reading it, and I am looking forward to the author’s future work.

Synopsis

For residents of Shelk, a sleepy Pennsylvania town lying along a vein of the Appalachian Mountains, life has always been a series of unchallenged routines and circulating gossip. But when a group of teenage runaways settles in the hills and begins to invade their homes and lives, lines become drawn between those residents seeking to insulate themselves from the outside world and those reaching for more.

Caught in the middle of this clash is Zaccariah Ramsy, a bar owner whose quiet life is threatened by his newfound loyalty to JT, a streetwise runaway who begins to visit his bar, and the re-emergence of the tragic story of his former love, Stella Vale, whose daughter was abducted as an infant fifteen years prior. As tensions between the townspeople and the newcomers rise, Ramsy must decide which side he will choose.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 1st 2016 by University of New Orleans Press

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Unboxing: Muse Monthly

Muse Monthly is the subscription box for books and tea. Each month you will receive a brand new novel and full box or tin of tea delivered to your doorstep. The books and tea are curated by them and paired together to create a unique reading experience, and there is nothing better than a hot cup of tea and good story. The novels are contemporary adult fiction with a focus on literary fiction from debut writers, along with a diverse range of novels written by women, people of color, and those in the LGBTQA+ community. When it comes to teas, they support local and small businesses in the US and Canada.

Past boxes have included the September collection with The Gentleman by Forrest Leo and Masala Chai tea; the August collection with The Muse by Jessie Burton and Flower Crown tea; and the July collection that brought you Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Kenyan Black with Mango tea. There is a shop that offers books and tea from previous collections, along with some bookish goodies

When it comes to subscribing, you will choose a plan, whether it is month-to-month, or prepaid for 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months. It automatically renews on the 20th of each month, and costs $29.50 plus shipping. One thing I appreciate and like with this subscription is you will know the upcoming month’s book selection prior to purchasing, so if you do not want it or already have it, you can skip that month easily in your account settings.

Muse Monthly offers a comfortable, warm experience with reading. Each box arrives in a white box with white wrapping paper and the logo. October’s collection was curated by author Margaret Atwood, including her newest novel, Hag-Seed, a signed bookplate, and English breakfast tea from teapigs. It was full of surprises, and felt like a personal gift arrived on my doorstep from a long-time friend. Also inside the box, a bookmark with a quote by the author, a coupon for teapigs, a Tempest themed Novelly Yours candle, and an Obvious State print.

The creator, Christina, carefully crafts such beautiful boxes each month that bring a whole new atmosphere to your reading experience. I’ve tried numerous subscriptions in the past, but this is one that brings quality collections of my two favorites to my door each month. I will be continuing this subscription, and I can’t wait to see what is to come in the upcoming months. Below you can find the link to Muse Monthly’s website to subscribe, along with their social media pages.

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Book Review: Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

tumblr_o37tqary161rcwv6eo1_4001★ ★ ★ ★

I started reading this a few months ago, and put it down because I wanted to read it in October because it is the perfect setting for horror. The story switches back and forth between the past and present while alternating between two characters, Ruth and Cora. I am typically not fond of dual narratives, but I actually enjoyed reading the two different timelines that move toward the same fate.

The prose in this is beautifully done, and Samantha Hunt has a poetic way with words that makes the story flow so smoothly. It’s a strange, haunting story that kept me captivated throughout all 322 pages. There is a lot going on in this story that is complex, but interesting with cults, con artists, ghosts, and mediums–that is only a bit of it! It was a slow pace, but as the pieces began to come together, it was all the more intriguing. It wasn’t just a sense of mystery, but overwhelming with the unknown because as a reader, we knew as much as Cora did along the way. Mr. Splitfoot was one of my top most anticipated reads of the year, and it lived up to that. It is a novel that I recommend whether it comes October or any time of the year, for that matter.

Synopsis

Ruth and Nat are orphans, packed into a house full of abandoned children run by a religious fanatic. To entertain their siblings, they channel the dead. Decades later, Ruth’s niece, Cora, finds herself accidentally pregnant. After years of absence, Aunt Ruth appears, mute and full of intention. She is on a mysterious mission, leading Cora on an odyssey across the entire state of New York on foot. Where is Ruth taking them? Where has she been? And who — or what — has she hidden in the woods at the end of the road?

Hardcover, 322 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Trees by Ali Shaw

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★ ★ ★

This was a unique concept with an intriguing premise. The cover is stunning, with a wolf made out of leaves. I thought that was cool and fitting into the story-line, and have to say it is one of the best covers I’ve seen this year. It is a different view about a post-apocalyptic world, and as someone who enjoys novels of the genre, I couldn’t wait to read what was in store with The Trees. The beginning is strong with vivid world-building, and an introduction to the characters to get an idea on who they are when it first begins. Within the first 100 pages or so, I was lost and overwhelming in the world that was becoming consumed by trees. Can you imagine an end to the world coming not from a plague of some-sort or global disaster… but by trees breaking through the ground everywhere, destroying anything in their path?

That is a eerie and frightening thought, and Shaw’s writing places you in the story as it all unfolds. It was interesting as the characters attempted to cope with what was going on in the world and come together to find their path through the destruction and chaos. To have a character who is a mother with an odd and different view on what was going on, that was unexpected. Adrien wasn’t an easy character to find relatable, and he certainly wasn’t always one that I rooted for, but I thought it was interesting to read this story with the contrast of characters and still being realistic-you never know how a person is going to react in such a bizarre and otherworldly situation.

Come just over half of the book, the pace and story-telling began to shift, and it was just difficult to get through it because it felt clunky, and as if the author didn’t know where to take the story and characters from there into the end At times it couldn’t keep me engaged so it took me a while to read through the entire book. While that was the only downfall, I did really enjoy this suspenseful, haunting novel.

Synopsis

The Trees. They arrived in the night: wrenching through the ground, thundering up into the air, and turning Adrien’s suburban street into a shadowy forest. Shocked by the sight but determined to get some answers, he ventures out, passing destroyed buildings, felled power lines, and broken bodies still wrapped in tattered bed linens hanging from branches.

It is soon apparent that no help is coming and that these trees, which seem the work of centuries rather than hours, span far beyond the town. As far, perhaps, as the coast, where across the sea in Ireland, Adrien’s wife is away on a business trip and there is no way of knowing whether she is alive or dead.

When Adrien meets Hannah, a woman who, unlike him, believes that the coming of the trees may signal renewal rather than destruction and Seb, her technology-obsessed son, they persuade him to join them. Together, they pack up what remains of the lives they once had and set out on a quest to find Hannah’s forester brother and Adrien’s wife–and to discover just how deep the forest goes.

Their journey through the trees will take them into unimaginable territory: to a place of terrible beauty and violence, of deadly enemies and unexpected allies, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness–and also the power–inside themselves.

Hardcover, 496 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Bloomsbury USA

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I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Gentleman by Forrest Leo

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Gentleman is Forrest Leo’s debut novel, about a husband who conjures the Devil, and accidentally sells his wife, which results in planning a rescue mission to Hell. A variety of personas come along for the quest, and a whole lot of over-the-top encounters happen along the way that will have you laughing out loud. I have been talking about this novel to anyone willing to listen, and I think I will for a while even now that I finished reading it.

There was so much about this novel that I enjoyed, especially the writing style–it was one of those stories that captured me from the first page and brought me along on the ridiculous adventure that took place. The novel itself is beautiful with the dust-jacket’s vivid colors, the hardcover is red with a gold spine, and the author’s initials are engraved into the cover. Throughout the book, there are illustrations and footnotes that I really enjoyed while reading because it brought another experience to the reader. While it is a short read, I took my time to cherish how exquisite the novel is as a whole. It was hysterical and delightful.

I would not mind seeing this as a play, or possibly a movie, as long as it sticks to the story-line because there wasn’t an aspect in this that I didn’t find entertaining. It is a charming, enjoyable story that is full of madness and humor that is crafted so brilliantly. Between the story and the characters, it was a memorable read that I will continue to come back to, and recommend to anyone looking for a fun and lighthearted novel. It is an absurd, action-packed, and witty read, and I cannot wait to read more of Leo’s novels in the future.

Synopsis

When Lionel Savage, a popular poet in Victorian London, learns from his butler that they’re broke, he marries the beautiful Vivien Lancaster for her money, only to find that his muse has abandoned him.

Distraught and contemplating suicide, Savage accidentally conjures the Devil — the polite “Gentleman” of the title — who appears at one of the society parties Savage abhors. The two hit it off: the Devil talks about his home, where he employs Dante as a gardener; Savage lends him a volume of Tennyson. But when the party’s over and Vivien has disappeared, the poet concludes in horror that he must have inadvertently sold his wife to the dark lord.

Newly in love with Vivien, Savage plans a rescue mission to Hell that includes Simmons, the butler; Tompkins, the bookseller; Ashley Lancaster, swashbuckling Buddhist; Will Kensington, inventor of a flying machine; and Savage’s spirited kid sister, Lizzie, freshly booted from boarding school for a “dalliance.” Throughout, his cousin’s quibbling footnotes to the text push the story into comedy nirvana.

Hardcover, 287 pages
Published August 16th 2016 by Penguin Pres

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own