Book Review: Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Marrow Island was a slow read for me because I was not up to my usual pace; not because it isn’t good. It is actually a captivating, eerie read that is a slow build-up with an unsettling ending. Apparently there is a lot of comparison to Station Eleven, but I personally don’t feel that at all.

Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island after fleeing the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father, and ravaging the island’s environment. It’s set in post-disaster Washington state as Lucie returns to the island that is slowly rebuilding to reconnect with her childhood friend, Kate, who lives within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony that is located on part of the island—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” As an environmental journalist, Lucie’s experience tells her that there is more to the Colony than their charismatic leader is letting her know, and Lucie sets out on uncovering the secrets even if it endangers more than their mission.

Alexis M. Smith’s prose is lyrical, vivid, and haunting. When it comes to nature, as well as human instinct and emotion, there is such a raw and jarring quality to her writing that brings you in. This is a novel that can easily be read within a day or two, but I wanted to take my time to appreciate this beautifully crafted novel.

Synopsis

Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island; along with her mother, she fled the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father and ravaging the island’s environment. Now, Lucie’s childhood friend Kate is living within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” There have been remarkable changes to the land at the colony’s homestead. Lucie’s experience as a journalist tells her there’s more to the Colony—and their charismatic leader– than they want her to know, and that the astonishing success of their environmental remediation has come at great cost to the Colonists themselves. As she uncovers their secrets and methods, will Lucie endanger more than their mission? What price will she pay for the truth?

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Telling was one of those books that pulled me in at the very beginning, even though I seen the ending coming. Set on an island near Seattle, Lana is trying to come to terms with the brutal murder of her step-brother, Ben, who was killed by an unknown man with a red painted face. The only witness to the crime is found dead, and Lana is the one who pulls the body out of the water. Lana and her group of friends are the likely suspects to the police, knowing that Maggie is Ben’s ex-girlfriend, and hated by Lana. The further they dig for the truth and to prove their innocence, more people connected to Lana are killed. Soon Lana starts piecing together the stories Ben used to tell her as a child to the way the people are being killed.

Is Lana committing the crimes and blacking out? Is she being framed for the murders? Is Ben’s ghost seeking revenge?

Those answers I did not know. I typically do not read YA, especially YA mystery/thriller, but The Telling is exceptional. While it is a contemporary mystery, it is about bravery, discovering one’s self, and come the end, being honest with who you are. Despite knowing who the killer was early on, that did not lessen the enjoyment I got from reading this book. It is twisted, dark, and crazy. If you are expecting a horror novel, this is not it – it is a YA mystery that dips into thriller closer to the ending. The world-building and character development is natural and rich with progression throughout the story, and you can tell it was well thought out and crafted. It is a book that will be hard to put down, and in between reading you will be talking about it to anyone willing to listen.

Synopsis

Lana used to know what was real.

That was before when her life was small and quiet.
Her golden step-brother, Ben, was alive, she could only dream about bonfiring with the populars, their wooded island home was idyllic, she could tell the truth from lies, and Ben’s childhood stories were firmly in her imagination.

Then came after.

After has Lana boldly kissing her crush, jumping into the water from too high up, and living with nerve and mischief. But after also has horrors, deaths that only make sense in fairy tales, and terrors from a past Lana thought long forgotten: Love, blood, and murder.

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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

Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch has gotten so much hype, and it certainly deserves it. This book is so (positively) overwhelming, thought-provoking, and made me feel so small the further along. It is such an engaging thriller with sci-fi elements that I truly enjoyed, and the science and multiverse discussion spoken throughout is complex, yet easily understood for all readers. The concept of parallel universes in this book is unnerving, but so compelling that I was looking forward to reading more about it from Jason’s point of view.

No matter how much you thought you possibly had figured out, another mind-boggling twist came along. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. When I finished, I had to take some time to process my own thoughts because it was an action-packed story that tugged at the heartstrings. The ending was open to interpretation, but it was a solid closing. From start to finish, this book was an adrenaline rush equally mind-blowing and terrifying.

Synopsis

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Hardcover, 342 pages
Published July 26th 2016 by Crown

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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.

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