3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Literary Fiction

ARC Review | When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

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When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

Published: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Pages: 356

Genres: literary fiction

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: heartbreakingly beautiful novels, stories that honor the older generations

Foodie Vibes: liquor that reminds you of certain loved ones

 

Synopsis:

A tale of a single night. The story of a lifetime.

If you had to pick five people to sum up your life, who would they be? If you were to raise a glass to each of them, what would you say? And what would you learn about yourself, when all is said and done?

This is the story of Maurice Hannigan, who, over the course of a Saturday night in June, orders five different drinks at the Rainford House Hotel. With each he toasts a person vital to him: his doomed older brother, his troubled sister-in-law, his daughter of fifteen minutes, his son far off in America, and his late, lamented wife. And through these people, the ones who left him behind, he tells the story of his own life, with all its regrets and feuds, loves and triumphs.

Beautifully written, powerfully felt, When All Is Said promises to be the next great Irish novel.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Thomas Dunne Books and Anne Griffin for an ARC copy. As always, an honest review from me. 

My rating is actually 3.5/5 stars but since there aren’t half stars I always round up. 

When All Is Said is a heartbreakingly beautiful and poignant piece of literary fiction. The main character, ____________, is near the end of his life. When we find him, he’s in a bar ordering very specific drinks one evening. One drink for each important person that he would like to toast.

Each chapter is about one important person over his lifetime. The chapters about his late wife and sister in law are especially touching. The writing is elegant without being overly pretentious or stuffy. I think this book is a wonderful way to tell the stories of a person’s life.

However it made for some very long chapters. Over 50 pages for most to be exact. I hate stopping in the middle of chapter, which I was forced to do. It’s not realistic to finish up the few pages left in the chapter when you have 35 pages left. Also, while some of the people’s stories were captivating, others didn’t hold my attention at all. Very hit or miss. 

All in all, When All Is Said is beautiful, sad, and relatable. A wonderful way to honor the older adults in society. Often their feelings and wishes are overlooked with others telling them what they must do. The author tells a story of a man honoring his own life and making decisions for himself. The book will stay with me for a long time. 

 

Have you read this book yet? What did you think?

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · Domestic Fiction · fiction · mental health · Uncategorized

Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely

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Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely

Published: September 2, 2016

Publisher: Upperhand Press, LLC

Pages: 425

Genres: fiction, domestic fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: Lifetime Movies, over the top parents, Law & Order SVU, books about family dynamics

Foodie Vibes: carrot juice and French fries ~ oh, the contradictions of being a teenager

 

Synopsis: 

A story about the timeless struggle between mothers and their teen daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist. This heart-wrenching, harrowing debut novel for fans of Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty) and Reconstructing Amelia (Kimberly McCreight) will make you question what’s needed to keep your children from harm.

Phoebe’s mother, Isabel, is precariously balancing her career and her family. Hard-working and caring, worried but supportive, all Isabel wants, in a world of bullies and temptations, is to keep her daughter Phoebe safe. With her busy schedule, though, she fails to recognize another mother’s mounting fury and the danger Phoebe faces by flirting with a mysterious boy on Facebook. A cyber-bullying episode aimed at Phoebe pushes her to the edge with horrific consequences. In her search for justice, Isabel, a DC lawyer, sets out to find the culprit behind this cruel incident.

Saving Phoebe Murrow, set amidst the complicated web of adolescent relationships, tells a story of miscommunication and malice, drugs and Facebook, prejudice and revenge.

 

Review: 

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me.

Trigger warning: many fairly graphic mentions of self harm and suicide. Please do not read this book if you’re not in a mentally healthy place, especially if you’re sensitive to these topics in particular.

That being said I enjoyed the whirlwind of drama and incredibly serious topics. It reminds me of a mix between a Lifetime movie and episode of Law and Order SVU. Kind of a perfect combo. We get an in depth look at the challenges and drama of teenage girls lives from the perspective of them and their parents. 

I really liked reading about Phoebe and her mother. I wish the story focused more on them. I disliked the amount of focus put on Phoebe’s dad and Sandy, the mother of Phoebe’s classmate/friend. The difference between the parenting styles was both horrifying and interesting. 

I so disliked the character of Sandy. She was so psychologically unbalanced and awful. She meant well, for her daughter, so at least she has that going for her. The focus was on her too much, when I felt it should have been more on Phoebe. Also the trope of parents providing teens with alcohol and getting in legal trouble has been done a lot before. But it’s still something that people could be reminded of. 

All in all, Saving Phoebe Murrow is highly entertaining, drama filled, and a warning for parents and teens alike.

 

If you could turn a TV show into a book, which show would you choose? 

5 Star Books · Book Reviews · memoir

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

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Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Published: February 20, 2018

Publisher: Random House

Pages: 352 

Genres: memoir

Rating: 5 stars

Recommend to fans of: memoirs about strong women, surviving difficult childhoods, family dynamics

Read with food: home canned peaches ~ commonly made in Tara’s family and even taken with to her journey to college

 

Synopsis:

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected.

She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist.

As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home.

EDUCATED is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has, from her singular experience, crafted a universal coming-of-age story, one that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers – the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

Review:

A head’s up from the beginning, trigger warning for abuse and gaslighting.

We are all educated. Many people through formal education in public and private primary schools and then universities across the country. Some are homeschooled, in which the quality of education depends on the quality of the teacher. All of us are educated by our life experiences. Our day to day experiences, shaped by the people who surround us or we choose to surround ourselves with. When we are children our education is largely dictated by our schools, extracurricular activities, various adults in our lives, our friends, but above all else our parents. When our parents don’t believe in sending their children to schools of any kind, choosing to very poorly and infrequently educate the children, you get stories like Tara’s.

Tara was lucky in that she was smart, shown the way to self educate from other family members, and while discouraged, was not denied access to higher education. Her life was anything but easy or typical. She grew up in the mountains with a mentally unstable and abusive father, passive mothers, and siblings. Her childhood was filled with abuse of various sorts and so much emotional manipulation that it took her years to sort it out.

I was absolutely engaged in this book the entire time. Even attempting to read it while I had a migraine, which was probably the last thing I should have been doing. Tara is an inspiration.

There are so many life lessons one can take away from the book. Ignore the toxic people in your life. Get out. Don’t let them dictate what you will or won’t do. Also, it’s okay to ask for and accept help. It means you’re strong. We can’t do it all on our own, and we shouldn’t have to. You don’t need to cover up the abuse that other people did. Share what you feel comfortable, but don’t let the people silence your truth.

Wow! I’ve had a lot to say about Educated. The story is so powerful. I highly suggest that you all read it.

 

Random Question of the Post: 

What’s the best moment so far this weekend?

Book Reviews

Pitch Dark by A.M. Wilson and Alex Grayson

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Pitch Dark by A.M. Wilson and Alex Grayson

Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on September 15, 2017

Pages: 430 

Genres: mystery, thriller, suspense, crime fiction

Rating: 3 stars

Recommend to fans of: intense twisted books with satisfying endings, passionate characters, trauma intensive stories

Read with food: Alcohol and nachos 

A shot of whatever alcohol you have lying around to get through the tough traumatic sections (Some cold water if you’re under 21 or don’t drink alcohol) Be safe people!

Football game nachos: quick, cheap, and not that nutritious but it gets some food in your system; much in the keeping of the character of Niko

 

Synopsis:

One girl disappeared. After fifteen years, her cold lifeless body was found on the damp forest floor. Not an inch of her was unmarked by the horrors she endured. Alone, malnourished, abused in horrific ways; this was how she died.

One girl was found walking the streets, covered in dirt and scars. She had no memory of who she was, where she came from, or what happened to her. Even though the marks on her body attested to years of heinous abuse, her strength shone through at every turn.

Revenge and justice were sworn.

Years of searching brought up nothing but dead ends. Detective Niko James was too late to save his childhood friend, but he vows not to let down another.

The clock is ticking and the trail is pitch dark.

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. As always, an honest review.

First and foremost, a big trigger warning for torture and sexual assault in graphic detail. It’s definitely intense, and I almost stopped reading the book because of it. That being said, about 10% of the book or maybe less is torture and assault. Also, the authors put a trigger warning at the beginning which I much appreciated.

Niko has spent his entire life caring for people, especially those close to him and in need. As a child, Niko’s friend and neighbor Aislin has a very difficult upbringing. He does his best to be a great friend and protector, even though he’s only 14 years old. Aislin is kidnapped. Niko is devastated and angry. He grows up to be a cop, but never stops searching for Aislin, his North Star.

I had a lot of mixed feelings about Pitch Dark. Overall, I would say that I enjoyed the storylines. The drama, the suspense, and how everything turns out. Works well in the book. It’s the details where I have some issues. Of course there’s the graphic descriptions of the assault. It makes the book what it is, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. At least not to that intensity. Also, the character of Niko is very over the top at times. Obviously he had gone through terrible things, but he acts as if he’s the only one who can solve the case, protect the victims, etc. I appreciate the sentiment and passion, but it gets to be a bit much at times. Also, some of the descriptions are a bit odd and left me asking “do people really talk like this?”

The story overall works well and I’m glad that I read Pitch Dark. I liked the revelations towards the end. The character of Aislin was a welcome breath of fresh air and encouraging strength. I ended up enjoying Pitch Dark, despite my mixed feelings throughout.