Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Title: The Light Between Oceans
Series: Standalone
Author: M.L. Stedman
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 07/31/2012
Publisher: Scribner
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Mystery

DESCRIPTION

"After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel."

MY THOUGHTS (Short and Sweet)

The Light Between Oceans is a gripping story filled with fallible yet decent characters. Even though I felt driven to continue reading I was filled with a sense of dread—knowing there were going to be repercussions for the decisions that were made. Not knowing how high a price Tom, especially, was going to pay for wanting happiness for his grieving wife, Isabel. Ultimately, I am pleased I was able to finish (within one day) and quite relieved by the post script style ending. I'm quite impressed by this debut novel and look forward to reading more of M.L. Stedman's work.

HIGHLIGHTS

"Like the wheat fields where more grain is sown than can ripen. God seemed to sprinkle extra children about, and harvest them according to some indecipherable, divine calendar." ~ author's voice

~*~

"The wind never finishes. Sometimes it disappears, but only to gather momentum from somewhere else, returning to fling itself at the island, to make a point which is lost on Tom. Existence here is on a scale of giants. Time is in the millions of years; rocks which from a distance look like dice cast against the shore are boulders hundreds of feet wide, licked round by millennia, tumbled onto their sides so that layers become vertical stripes." 
~ author's voice

~*~

“You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering the bad things.” ~ Tom Sherbourne

~*~

“There are still more days to travel in this life. And he knows that the man who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way. Scars are just another kind of memory....Soon enough the days will close over their lives, the grass will grow over their graves, until their story is just an unvisited headstone.”  ~ author's voice


Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Series: Standalone
Author: John Green
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 01/10/2012
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

DESCRIPTION


"Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind."

MY THOUGHTS

More. The Fault in Our Stars is so much more than can be properly described. More than can accurately be reviewed. It touches so many emotions so beautifully that I found myself laughing uncontrollably while Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac discussed (jestingly) Having Cancer. Only to sob uncontrollably when the loss was unmeasurable. The intelligence,  strength, humor, empathy, and love that was demonstrated by Hazel, Augustus, and their families took my breath away. This is a superb work of fiction that deserves admiration, awards, and to be read again and again.

HIGHLIGHTS

“Look, let me just say it: He was hot. A nonhot boy stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot boy . . . well.” ~ Hazel Grace Lancaster

~*~

“And I wondered if hurdlers ever thought, you know, 'This would go faster if we just got rid of the hurdles.” ~ Augustus Waters

~*~

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ~ Hazel Grace Lancaster

~*~

“You realize that trying to keep your distance from me will not lessen my affection for you. All efforts to save me from you will fail.”  ~ Augustus Waters

~*~

“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”  ~ Augustus Waters



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl
Series: Standalone
Author: Gillian Flynn
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 06/05/2012
Publisher: Crown
Genre(s): Contemporary Mystery, Suspense

DESCRIPTION

"Marriage can be a real killer.

One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

   On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around."

MY THOUGHTS
 
I cannot deny my appreciation for this brilliantly crafted tale. The alternating perspectives—Nick's in the present and Amy's ascending chronological diary entries—kept me fully engrossed. I can't recall being this equally discomposed by the main characters in any previously read novel. Amy and Nick may have outwardly appeared to be fairly regular people, but reading their respective psychotic and narcissistic thoughts was very discomforting! I thought the author's use of parenthetically descriptive phrases and insertion of quizzes into Amy's diary entries was ingenious. I'm a reader who seeks out books with promising endings. Even though I felt hopelessness and bitterness were the prevailing emotions in Gone Girl, and the ending was quite unsettling, I shall not regret my discovery of this very gifted author.

HIGHLIGHTS

"I often don't say things out loud, even when I should. I contain and compartmentalize to a disturbing degree: In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you'd never guess from looking at me." ~ Nick Dunne
 
~*~

"There's someething disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold." ~ Nick Dunne
 
~*~

“Can you imagine, finally showing your true self to your spouse, your soul mate, and having him not like you? So that's how the hating first began. I've thought about this a lot, and that's where it started, I think.”  ~ Amy Elliott Dunne
 
~*~

“Because you can't be as in love as we were and not have it invade your bone marrow. Our kind of love can go into remission, but it's always waiting to return. Like the world's sweetest cancer.”  ~ Amy Elliott Dunne

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: Spider Web by Earlene Fowler

Title: Spider Web
Series: Benni Harper Mystery #15
Author: Earlene Fowler
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 05/03/2011
Publisher: Berkley
Genre(s): Contemporary Mystery

DESCRIPTION

"Folk art museum curator, rancher and sometime sleuth Benni Harper is back in an unforgettable new mystery, organizing a Memory Festival. But a sniper threatens to make it a day to remember in the worst way… Benni and the ladies of her Coffin Star Quilt Guild are excited to display their Graveyard Quilt at the first ever San Celina, California, Memory Festival. The fair promises to be a moving event celebrating memories through quilts, crafts, scrapbooks, photographs, written word, oral histories, and tributes to loved ones.

But when a local cop is wounded by a mysterious sharp shooter with a vendetta against the police, Benni fears for her loved ones—especially her police chief husband, Gabe. Soon Benni is drawn into the search for the sniper, determined to make her hometown safe again…before their peaceful street fair becomes a shooter’s deadly target range."

MY THOUGHTS
 
I'm having mixed emotions regarding this fifteenth Benni Harper Mystery. I very much enjoyed it and feel it may be tied with Mariner's Compass as my favorite of the series. So, that explains my delight. Now, here is the reason for my angst. I fear this may be the final book in the series. Earlene Fowler did a Facebook Status update on August 4, where she stated she might not be publishing for awhile (after The Road to Cardinal Valley is released in December). That along with Spider Web's comprehensive epilogue leads me to believe I've just closed the book on a seventeen year long friendship. If this is indeed the end I must say it was beautifully finished.

There are two distinct mysteries—one to do with a sniper and the other to do with a new woman in town. Benni is in the thick of things and curious, as usual. I particularly enjoyed the preparations and interviews for a book that Benni is helping Isaac with, and for the theme of the Memory Festival. Benni is all about history: recording and preserving it and respecting traditions. As usual, she is busy with her job, friends, family, and involved in a mystery. Gabe is having violent stress induced nightmares (triggered by the sniper attacks) that leads him to protect Benni by sleeping apart from her. They deal with it the best they can, and ultimately Gabe seeks the help of a psychiatrist Benni had recently met. Although that female stranger has a connection to someone important to Benni it is not in the way she imagines. There is significant changes ahead for Benni and her family at the close of this story, but nothing will ever change the true nature of these colorful and respectable characters. How I've enjoyed my time with them!