BOOK REVIEW: Wraith by Mark Wheaton

Title: Wraith

Author: Mark Wheaton

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 49 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Thriller, Gothic, Mystery

Read Start Date: October 30, 2022

Read Finish Date: November 3, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: After witnessing the death of her mother at a young age, Cecily LeClercq grows up hiding herself away in the remote Carolina wetlands. When a stranger arrives from Paris saying a distant, elderly relative is desperate to see her before she dies, Cecily travels to an old chateau deep in the French woods. There she learns of an ancient curse that has consumed generations of her ancestors, personified by a vicious, ghostly wraith who emerges from the forest when the death of a LeClercq is near…

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The book opens with the death of Cecily’s mother under strange circumstances. Although everyone has always tried to tell Cecily that her mother drowned in the severely bad hurricane, Cecily cannot escape the memory of the ghostly figure a.k.a the wraith, whom Cecily believes was responsible.

When we next see Cecily, she is an adult and works as a botanist (?) in Charleston, South Carolina. A man from France (Rene) approaches her and informs her that the great-grandmother Cecily had never known about, wants to see her urgently. By the time they reach France, however, she is already dead, and seemingly she has taken the information she wanted to tell Cecily with her to her grave.

Cecily stays on in France for a little while longer, learning about the alleged LeClercq curse i.e., that when the wraith comes for you, you have 2 options: kill yourself or the wraith will take the lives of those around you instead. Now that Cecily has seen the wraith, can she unravel the curse before the wraith takes vengeance on Cecily and those she cares about?

While I generally liked the story, I found it to be a little slow going at times, leading to a conclusion that was somewhat unsatisfactory. Even though billed as “horror”, I didn’t find it scary. I didn’t really feel any edge of my seat tension either, to be honest. I thought it was more of a mystery / thriller with a ticking clock (i.e., Cecily only had a certain amount of time to solve the mystery before the wraith got her).

That being said, the story line is interesting and the book was well written. Coming in at a rating of 3.57 on Goodreads at the time of this review seems about right. Some people are more enthusiastic than others and it seems to be split down the middle in terms of those who liked it and those who didn’t.

SPOILER ALERT: By the end of the book we find out that a LeClercq hundreds of years ago was a giant monster who basically stole land and killed a bunch of people. The wraith is the tormented spirit of one of those murdered people. Since the LeClercqs have benefited from this theft and murder, the wraith comes to ruin the lives of the descendants and/or kill them. Cecily ends up solving the mystery and puts everything to rights — but at the end of the book, the wraith is still following her around.

Why was the spirit not satisfied? This was just annoying to say the least. I think that I would have given the book 4 stars had it not been for the ending. Because honestly, if the curse wasn’t lifted by solving the mystery and putting things right — then what was the point of the book?

Reviews Published
Professional Reader
10 Book Reviews

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

Title: This Time Tomorrow

Author: Emma Straub

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 31 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Time Travel, Contemporary, Magical Realism

Read Start Date: October 1, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 4, 2022 

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: With her celebrated humor, insight, and heart, beloved New York Times bestseller Emma Straub offers her own twist on traditional time travel tropes, and a different kind of love story.

On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. But it isn’t just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 40-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?

My Review: I liked this book, but I wouldn’t say I loved it. After a few too many drinks on the eve of Alice’s 40th birthday, she finds herself passing out in the guardhouse of her childhood home. The next morning she wakes up on her sixteenth birthday, in her sixteen year old body, but with her forty year old mind. She has the chance to do it all over again — the infamous night when she didn’t hook up with the “one that got away.” What strikes Alice about her sixteen year old self, is her forty year old father, who is, in the present day, dying. He seems so young, so full of life, and she finds herself just wanting to be close to him. To spend time with him.

Nevertheless, Alice goes to the party, sleeps with the one that got away, and wakes up on her 40th birthday to find that she is now married (to the one who (previously) got away) with children. What I didn’t like about this reiteration of Alice is that she almost despises her children. She has no memory of the past 24 years of her “new” life, which I find strange — wouldn’t she have remembered both time lines? Since she has no memories of her children, she feels no connection with them. She doesn’t feel like their mother, and so, she doesn’t want to be their mother. She doesn’t want the life with the husband she must love, right? Did Alice at 39 and 364 days love her family and then when she wakes up at 40 she is a different person (because she doesn’t remember her new past)? This just doesn’t square with me.

Anyway, Alice goes back in time again and does it all over again and again trying on new lives like new jackets. Each time she doesn’t remember how she got there — she is perpetually the original Alice in a new life she doesn’t remember living. Then she compares her old life with the aspects of the new life and makes a determination about which life is better — I don’t think this is a fair comparison. She has no memories, no emotions, etc. of her new timeline. How can she really judge which is best?

While it was nice that she got to spend time with her father again and again in the past, I was ultimately dissatisfied with the ending. I won’t go into too much detail, but it felt like the book was about a futile journey. Since the father didn’t remember each timeline, the only one developing a longer, lasting relationship was Alice. And what happened from the age of 16 to 40 in the timeline she chose last? All of the new memories she would have had with her father, anything she started to build on the do-over night of her 16th birthday, was just nonexistent in her mind.

As of the writing of this post, This Time Tomorrow has a 3.83 rating on Goodreads, which seems to mean that it has mixed reviews. So I guess on this one, I’m not that far off the mark with my assessment. Nevertheless, I think that if you like time traveling stories with themes of father-daughter relationships, then this book is for you.

BOOK REVIEW: Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne

Title: Hell Spring

Author: Isaac Throne

Book Length: 374 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror

Read Start Date: July 31, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 30, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.

An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.

Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?

Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?

My Review: I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The description of the book was so great that I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I just finished writing my first novel, so I know how much work and effort goes into something like this, but Hellspring just wasn’t resonating with me enough to say that I loved it. I did like it though!

The first chapter was a little strange to say the least and was almost a complete turn off for me. I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it to be a little disgusting.

In short, we find ourselves in a cavern of sorts where hell hound type creatures live and dine on the souls of the damned. In the center of the cavern is a giant engorged penis (yes, that’s right) that is leaking ejaculate and is ready to blow its load (yes, you read that correctly). We get multiple sentences / images revolving around the penis and ejaculate. For example: “The gigantic head flattened on top as it engorged with the juice it would eventually spill over the arena and all within it.” And “A geyser of milky yellowish goo suspended inside a sticky transparent gel spewed high into the orange sky above the arena. It separated in mid-air and rained down globs upon all within.” I can’t think of a more appropriate time for the barf emoji.

At the end of the first chapter, a hell hound escapes the ejaculate into the “real world”, where she takes on the form of Marilyn Monroe. The year is 1955, and the biggest storm of the century is about to erupt. Marilyn is hungry and she needs to feed. But where can she find the sin riddled souls she is used to eating?

Beginning in Chapter 2 we start learning about the characters who eventually end up in Beard’s General Store (they are trapped there by the flood with Marilyn). Once we are in the general store, we do not leave for the rest of the book — all of the main aspects of the book take place there while the flood waters are rising outside. Many of the characters have committed recent “sins” for which they feel guilty, which gives Marilyn exactly what she needs.

The book is descriptive and well written, especially the scenes of the horrible acts committed by Marilyn. As the reader I somehow felt trapped along with the characters in the General Store and just wanted out. What it lacked however was the tension — the characters didn’t feel this either. After a character was devoured by Marilyn, the memories of that person were erased from the mind of the remaining people. Therefore, the characters never felt the rising tension of “will I be next” because none of them knew what was going on.

This book is extremely character driven, and usually for books like that to catch my attention, the characters have to be great — they have to be people you can really root for and whose story you are invested in. What I liked about the character development was that Isaac Thorne spent time on each person and really fleshed out the characters. Unfortunately, I just didn’t find any of the characters in Hell Spring to be all that particularly interesting — I didn’t love them enough to really be invested in their fate — would they make it out alive? Would they be eaten by the Marilyn hell creature?

The above being said, other people really loved this book. In her blog Mullen Crafts, it is stated: “Time is taken to really detail each event that occurs, drawing out the horror to the maximum. Yet for all its horror, for all the loss, for all the lies, shame, evil and deceit, the struggle in the fight between good and evil, the story ends on an unexpected note. I have not read anything by Issac Thorne before, but this piece of excellent writing will definitely send me looking for more. An excellent horror read which will leave you questioning your human decency and how you would measure up!”

I also really like what Kay Hanifen has to say about the themes of the book and Peter’s character progression. “Fundamentally, Hell Spring is about shame and the fear of being judged. All these characters harbor guilt within them for things that they don’t necessarily need to feel guilty about, particularly guilt related to sex. 

Though there are several main characters, the story is more Peter’s than anyone else’s, and I loved the way he grew and changed throughout the story, going from someone broken by self-loathing to an evangelical believer in a false prophet to a hero at the end. Though the trajectory of his arc places him as both the hero and a villain at points, his shift between these roles does not feel forced because it all ties together and culminates in a way that fits the character. He more than earns his ending.”

I gave this book 3 stars, however Hell Spring has an overall rating on Goodreads as of the writing of this post of 3.81, with 53% being in the 4 star range and 18% being in the 5 star range. It seems therefore that my assessment of the story falls a little below the average and maybe then I am an exception rather than the norm and/or maybe I haven’t given the book its due credit. You should read it and judge for yourself :).

Reviews Published
Professional Reader
10 Book Reviews

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Author: Kim Michele Richardson

Audiobook Length: 9 hours and 26 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: September 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry.

The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.

My Review: Kindred Spirits summarizes it pretty well in her blog: “Cussie Mary is never more satisfied than when she is able to carry a new bit of reading material to a beloved patron, whether it be a young, aspiring forester or an elderly, near-blind seamstress. She loves her mission as “Book Woman”, working as a Pack Horse Librarian here in Kentucky, and does not wish for any other role in what others might perceive as a lonely life. Pa, though, has a different idea. He seems hell-bent on finding her a husband, and continues to light the courting candle, much to her dismay. What ensues opens up her very narrow world to unimaginable possibilities, both dangerous and hopeful.”

Cussy “Bluet” Carter has blue skin, which makes her an outcast in the rural community of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She is ostracized by most of the community (except her book patrons) for fear that her disease is catching. This makes it difficult for her father to find her a husband, and he eventually chooses an unsavory character, who dies shortly after their wedding. Suspecting foul play, his relative harasses Cussy Mary through out the book, which lends some of the only high tension to the story.

When I first started reading this book, I thought that this was an alternate reality where blue was a code for African American. It wasn’t until I researched the blue people of Kentucky, that I realized that there was an actual family of people with blue skin — well, in actuality it wasn’t blue skin but rather a genetic blood disorder which turned the blood a brown color which in turn gave the skin a blue hue. With the administration of medicine, the blood went back to its normal color, and so did the skin.

It took me 10 days to get through as many hours, which is not common for me. While interesting, I thought this book was really slow, and not much really happened. I rented this audiobook from the library as it was under the heading “popular global”. I had never heard of it before and didn’t check the synopsis before reading. This can be a hit or miss approach — The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek a bit more miss than hit, but still worth the read if you have the time.

In researching what other bloggers felt about this book, I came across a really great blog post from Leaving LanguishLand that I would suggest you check out. I included the link in the name of the blog.

BOOK REVIEW: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Title: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Book Length: 316 pages

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Crime

Read Start Date: September 30, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 18, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:  A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose – selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate – and not everyone will survive.

My Review: As of writing this post, this book has a 3.76 rating on Goodreads, which isn’t stellar for a mainstream, popular book. 37% gave the book 4 stars, while 27% gave the book 3 stars. I read this book about a year ago as an audiobook, and I remember liking it more than I did when I read it in paperback. I had given it 4 star last year, but after rereading the book, I’m switching to 3 stars. Maybe thinking it was better was due to my delirium of being a new mom and never sleeping. Anyway, I liked the story of Eliza and Nella more than Caroline. In fact, Caroline’s story really annoyed me to the point where I was rolling my eyes frequently.

I think the issue is that I just didn’t like Caroline as a character. I didn’t relate to her one bit. Caroline began the application process to attend graduate school at the University of Cambridge, as was her dream. Her then boyfriend, James, had been “adamantly against the idea” because he had plans to propose to her. The second he did “Cambridge could have fallen of the map, for all I cared–Cambridge and advanced degrees and every novel ever written by Charles Dickens. From the moment I wrapped my arms around James’ neck at the end of that pier and whispered yes, my identity as an aspiring historian rusted away, replaced with my identity as his soon-to-be-wife.” Then she takes a stable, secure job at her parent’s farm, while James steadily rises the corporate accounting ladder.

Because I guess America doesn’t offer masters degrees in history?

Regardless, even if the University she wanted to attend was in Australia, I’m still wondering, why the hell couldn’t she have gone and done her masters and still been a wife? Especially since kids were far off in the distance. “Though I’d wanted kids early in our marriage, James didn’t want to deal with the stress of long hours and a young family. And so just as he had climbed the corporate ladder every day for a decade, so too did I put that little pink pill on the tip of my tongue and think to myself, Someday.” I mean, 10 years is a long time to wait for “someday”. So Caroline puts her academic, career, AND family dreams on hold for a decade? Ummm, no thank you. There would have definitely been a Me shaped hole in the wall long before it got to the 10 year mark.

Also, from everything the book tells us of James, he doesn’t seem like he would be spending all that much time with the kids anyway…so not sure why they couldn’t have had kids early on in the marriage, since Caroline would have been the primary care giver (and since she wasn’t going back to school).

But okay, whatever, they waited 10 years. And now that they are trying for a baby, Caroline finds out he’s cheating, because, wait for it, he’s bored with his predictable, stable, and secure life. Eye roll. And then he tries to gaslight Caroline into believing that it was all HER fault! I can’t even with this guy. He’s such a piece of garbage (there are other supporting examples in the book of this) that I can’t believe Caroline didn’t notice the stench until she caught him cheating.

In all honesty, I’m not ever sure the Caroline story was really required because we learned everything that Caroline did from the Nella and Eliza storyline’s anyway.

Nella and Eliza on the other hand have stories that are much more interesting and include thrill, murder, intrigue, etc. Nella’s mother was an apothecary who dispensed remedies for women. When Nella’s mother died, Nella became romantically involved with a man. “In the weeks to follow, we fell terribly, wonderfully in love. My sea of grief grew shallower; I could breath again, and I could envision the future–a future with Frederick. I couldn’t have known that mere months after falling in love with him, I would dispense a fatal dose of rat poison to kill him. The first betrayal. The first victim. The beginning of a stained legacy.”

While I found Nella and Eliza’s story to be more interesting (I am also a big lover of the horror and true crime genres) Nella is, for all intents and purposes, a serial killer, and therefore while seemingly sympathetic, when you look deeper into her character, she is also a little dark. I mean, she’s literally been the reason why countless people are dead. And she doesn’t seem to care — or rather — she is glad that they are dead because they deserved it for being adulterous or lecherous or whatever else they did to affront the women in their lives. So in short, none of the characters are particularly relatable. I can understand wanting to harm someone who has betrayed you, but actually doing the harm is a whole different ball game.

I know that I’ve rambled a bit in this review, and I hope that I’ve made sense. Would I recommend this book? Yes…but there are other ones which I would pick up first.

BOOK REVIEW: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

54737068Title: Local Woman Missing

Author: Mary Kubica

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 40 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime, Contemporary

Read Start Date: August 30, 2022 

Read Finish Date: September 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, 11 years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find….

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times best-selling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

My Review: I really struggled between giving this book 3 or 4 stars, but landed on 3 stars. This book is essentially about two women and a 6 year old girl who goes missing in the same town 11 years ago. The story is told by 3 separate POVs, some in the present and some 11 years in the past.

Essentially, the plot of the book is as follows: One woman (Shelby) is found dead, buried in a shallow grave — her husband is sent to prison for her murder. The other woman, Meredith, is found dead in a motel — death by apparent suicide — her 6 year old daughter is missing, and has been for the last 11 years. Meredith left a note saying that her daughter was “safe” and not to bother looking. The daughter, Delilah, is found in the opening scene of the book (after she escapes her captors), but her brother Leo soon suspects that the girl calling herself Delilah is not actually his sister.

I read some Goodreads reviews that said that they didn’t like the way the sentences were written. They were really short — however, this did not come across in the audiobook, so perhaps audiobook in this instance should be the preferred medium. For me, this was an easy listen and one that could be done while doing chores etc.

I liked the suspense of finding out what really happened — this was building through out the entire book. I was entertained and generally liked the book until I got to the end. I was disappointed as to how it all turned out. There was a lot of potential for this to be better than it was — the ending just was not plausible and there seems to be a lot of convenient police incompetence, which would not normally happen. I feel like so many things went wrong just for the sake of the story.

If you want to read this book, please do not read on.

SPOILER ALERT:

I need to give away key elements of the plot to fully state my feelings on why I gave this book 3 instead of 4 stars.

We are told that Leo and his dad always believed that Meredith killed herself after giving away Delilah to some unknown person. Say what now? Does that make sense to anyone? But ok. So they believe this hogwash, which means that they basically have believed the whole 11 years that Delilah is safe and happy living with some kind family.

Did the police really believe that Meredith would go to a motel, kill herself, but before doing that “hide” her daughter somewhere? Essentially give the child away to someone else?  Why would she do that? Meredith was happy in her career, her marriage, her life. The dad was a good guy, husband and father. It just really makes no freaking sense whatsoever. And who would she stash the daughter with? Wouldn’t there be a list of trusted friends?

If there was an Amber Alert out for the girl, how would no one recognize her? How would she be living a good life elsewhere without coming into contact with someone, anyone? A 6 year old girl is old enough to know who her parents are — she is old enough to tell someone. How anyone could have thought she was anything but kidnapped and hidden is ludicrous. And if she was kidnapped, then of course Meredith was murdered. Duh. Also, can’t pathologists figure out it wasn’t suicide by the angle of the wounds? Like, if Meredith was stabbed in the stomach, the angle of the wound would be different than if she stabbed herself in the stomach. Right? Sigh.

Then there is the issue of the girl being found. So Delilah escapes, and the cops take a DNA sample. Turns out, it is not the right girl, but the family keeps on thinking it is Delilah because one detective with a crush of the dad tells him that the DNA results are positive so that he won’t be sad anymore. Uh, what? No one else at the police department checked the file? Was this detective actively lying to everyone? Did she honestly think no one would find out?

By this point in the book, we have almost reached the culmination of the storyline 11 years in the past.

We find out that Shelby was a victim of a hit and run accident (Bea (Kate’s partner) was driving drunk with Meredith in the passenger seat). To hide the crime, Bea and Meredith bury the body in a shallow grave, and then Meredith comes back later to cover her with a blanket. There are so many problems with this. The police eventually arrest Shelby’s husband for the murder (I guess based upon the theory he beat her up or something), but like, hello, how is this even possible? She was HIT BY A CAR! Did the pathologist miss this fact? How did the police think the husband had killed her? And what about the blanket? Couldn’t they tell with forensics that the blanket was placed later — didn’t they look at video surveillance at shops to see who had purchased the blanket? Are the police in this town just crazy incompetent?

I mean these crimes did not take place in 1940 — DNA existed. I watch enough true crime to know that there is ALWAYS DNA left at the scene of the crime. I mean, come on. Was NO DNA testing done on Shelby’s body? And if not, why not? Did Shelby’s husband have an incompetent lawyer also?

The ending is probably the most farfetched, but I won’t spoil that for you. I could go on, but I won’t. I think you get the idea.

As I said above, I would recommend this book as a beach read or something you can listen to while multitasking. As long as you don’t think too much about the plot holes, it’s actually rather enjoyable.

BOOK REVIEW: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

186190Title: Forrest Gump

Author: Winston Groom

Book Length: 239

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Classics

Read Start Date: August 10, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 22, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Meet Forrest Gump, the lovable, herculean, and surprisingly savvy hero of this remarkable comic odyssey. After accidentally becoming the star of University of Alabama’s football team, Forrest goes on to become a Vietnam War hero, a world-class Ping-Pong player, a villainous wrestler, and a business tycoon — as he wonders with childlike wisdom at the insanity all around him. In between misadventures, he manages to compare battle scars with Lyndon Johnson, discover the truth about Richard Nixon, and survive the ups and downs of remaining true to his only love, Jenny, on an extraordinary journey through three decades of the American cultural landscape. Forrest Gump has one heck of a story to tell — and you’ve got to read it to believe it…

My Review: Normally I would never say that the movie adaptation is better than the book, but in this case it is true. The movie is fantastic, but the book is only so so. First and foremost, the terms used in the book are no longer politically correct. That being said, back in 1986 when the book was first published was it “okay” to call a mentally challenged person an “idiot”? Not sure. Was it “okay” to call the Vietnamese people “gooks”? Not sure. I get that Forrest, being mentally challenged and from the South might have used these terms and that is his character, etc, but some books just do not age well and are out of place in the day and age.

SPOILER ALERT:

Secondly, the plot had much to be desired. In the movie the plot is more succinct, whereas in the book it goes all over the place. Forrest gets into a lot of hijinks, and seems to get along fine in each of his endeavors until someone finds out he is an “idiot” and then he has to move on. For example, he can play football really well, so he is recruited to play college ball — but then he fails out academically (except for math classes, at which he seems to excel).

Everything is different between the movie and the book and what made the movie iconic, really isn’t in the book at all. Forrest never goes on a run across the country. Forrest doesn’t sit on a bench and tell his life story to a stranger. Forrest’s mother never said “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” In fact, the only reference to a box of chocolates in the book is this line: “Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates.” Forrest and Jenny have a longer romantic relationship in the book, but Jenny doesn’t get AIDS, she doesn’t marry Forrest, she doesn’t die. They end up splitting up and Jenny goes off and marries someone else.

Also, what I found weird about the book is that there is another character, an Orangutan named Sue who plays a big part in the second half of the book. What’s weird about it is that no one questions that a Orangutan is around, going everywhere with Forrest. Forrest meets Sue on a mission to space … then they spend years together in the jungle when the space ship crash lands on an island. When Forrest is rescued, Sue decides to stay, but then is later captured and brought to Hollywood, where Forrest meets up with Sue again when Forrest is hired to play a role in a movie. Sue goes back to Alabama with Forrest. There is just so much that seems implausible honestly.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. It was definitely an interesting read, but I think I will skip the next two books in the series.

BOOK REVIEW: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

54985743Title: People We Meet on Vacation

Author: Emily Henry

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 46 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, 

Read Start Date: July 9, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 16, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

My Review: I read this book 2 times, the first time just after giving birth to my baby, and then again (for the purposes of reviewing it) about a year later. The first time I read the book, I gave it 3 stars, and honestly the year has not changed my opinion about it.

FYI: there are several spoilers in the review. SPOILER ALERT

Poppy is a travel blogger who lives in New York and works for a magazine where she writes about her trips. She enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and in general a flexible lifestyle. Her best friend Alex is the opposite. He is a teacher, lives in the small Ohio town where they both grew up, and wants a family.

The problem? They have been secretly in love with each other for 12 years. Each year they take a “summer trip” and each year they flirt with the line between friendship and romantic involvement. During the 12 years, they’ve both had relationships with other people, but it never seems to work out. At the beginning of the book we find out that one summer after a mysterious event which the reader is not privy to, their friendship explodes, sending them into a 2 year speaking hiatus.

One day Poppy sends Alex a message that just says “hey” and this reignites their friendship. They decide to go on one of their famous summer trips, after which Poppy will attend the wedding of Alex’s brother with Alex. Everything goes wrong, from broken AC in the Airbnb to flat tires on the ride share car. But it’s okay, because it all leads up to the “happy” ending we all know is coming.

The book goes back and forth between the past and the present and through the years we see the sexual tension mount until finally it culminates in one steamy scene on the balcony of their too hot Airbnb. This is all fine, but I found myself getting annoyed at the back and forth between the characters. The dialogue was a little annoying at times — like they were always snarking at each other. I read one review which said rightly that the “banter between the two main characters…tried to be witty but just came across like nails on a chalkboard.”

The storyline just seemed to drag. Like why 12 years? This is sooooo long. Each vacation the tension is the same, the storyline basically repeats just in different locations.

We wait for the reason why Poppy and Alex stopped speaking for the ENTIRE book and then the reason was SOOOO LAME! They made out and then just didn’t text each other afterward. What? Seriously? That’s it? They didn’t even SLEEP together??? There was nothing else? They were both single, “in love” for 10 years at that point, and making out made them STOP TALKING??? because they were too afraid of their emotions? I mean please. If they are THIS bad at communicating then their relationship is doomed big time.

And then when they finally get together, it should be all roses but it’s not because Poppy still wants her carefree life and Alex still wants his eventual family. Then there is also some weird thing where Alex’s mom died in childbirth and he’s afraid that the same thing will happen to Poppy and he couldn’t live without her…I don’t know this was strange to say the least. So they don’t talk again for a small amount of time until Poppy comes to the realization that she is willing to give up “everything” for Alex, snore. Why does it always seem to be the woman who has to compromise her career and desires for the man, family, etc? Sigh.

Anyway, I guess I want off the rails there for a little bit. Sorry! The above is just to say that while the book was entertaining, it definitely wasn’t fantastic. While I did enjoy it, I also was annoyed by several aspects. I find it strange that this book is on the NY times best seller’s list and was a Goodreads Choice winner in 2021, but has a rating on Goodreads of only 3.98 (as of the date of this review).

I think that if you go into this book without super high expectations and are just looking to be entertained (maybe while on vacation…ha!) this book would be a fast and easy read for you. It doesn’t require too much thought and can be read during a week at the beach.

Speaking of beach reading, you can also check out my review of Emily Henry’s other book, Beach Read, here.

BOOK REVIEW: One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

58438583Title: One Italian Summer

Author: Rebecca Serle

Audiobook Length: 6 hours and 21 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Magical Realism

Read Start Date: July 1, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 3, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue .

My Review: “If your mother is the love of your life, what does that make your husband?”

The above quote is pretty much the reason why Katy is such an unrelatable character. After Katy’s mother dies, Katy is left heartbroken, so much so, that she contemplates leaving her loving, devoted, supportive husband. I was a little turned off by Katy’s treatment of her husband. She is so mean to him — he seems like a very sympathetic character and she just comes off as a total jerk. I don’t understand why the death of her mother would make her question whether she loved her husband AT ALL…there didn’t seem to be any issues in the marriage. It was just weird.

I mean look, I’ve been there. My brother died and I started to question why I bothered to stay married, but that was because I had a bad marriage and my thinking was, you can be snatched from this world at a moments notice, why spend any day unhappy? So I understand the concept that the author is trying to get at, but the execution just fell flat.

At only 30% through the book, I was already annoyed at the author’s repetitiveness. We get it, Katy loved her mother. It’s literally like the ONLY thing Katy talks about. Maybe this is “true to life”, but a book editor once told me in a critique of the book I am currently writing — works of fiction are NOT real life. Maybe it would really happen that way in real life, but this is not real life, this is FICTION! Katy’s one emotion gets REALLY boring and honestly it takes away from the storyline.

SPOILER ALERT:

Okay, so after Katy tells her husband she might want a divorce, she goes on the Italian vacation that she and her mother already had booked before her mother’s death. While in Italy she RUNS INTO HER MOTHER (not a look alike, but her actual mother)…………………….seriously? So what, Katy time traveled back to when her mother was 30 years old? But how does that work? Does the Mom not realize there are things such as cell phones now…does Katy not have access to these electronics? Is this woman just a figment of her imagination? I’m so confused and not in a good way. By the end of the book we realize that Katy has stepped back 30 years into the past, but sorry, how does she not notice this? The hair, the clothing styles…there is nothing similar between 1992 and 2022!!

And conveniently Katy leaves her cell phone in the safe for the ENTIRE VACATION, so she doesn’t notice that it isn’t working because cell towers / phone etc haven’t been invented yet.

After having finished the book, I did not like it anymore than I had at 30%. The whole time traveling thing just doesn’t make sense. Katy clearly screws with the timeline, but this is not addressed in the book. I guess the author meant it not to be sci-fi or whatever, and instead meant for Katy to have this vacation with her mother and discover things about her mother and herself, etc…but come on. As a sci-fi reader, there was just too much wrong with this premise for me to enjoy it.

Also, Katy seems to just be annoyed that her mother was, I don’t know, a PERSON? Katy expected that her mother’s “true love” would also be Katy and that her mother was as obsessed with Katy as Katy was with her mother — but it seems more like Katy just has an unhealthy attachment and her mother is normal. And of course Katy cheats on her husband — but does it count since technically her husband was a baby at the time (she did it 30 years in the past?). Sigh.

Other than the above, the book was entertaining at least, and the writing wasn’t bad. It just could have been so much better. So, I can in good conscious give it 3 stars.

BOOK REVIEW: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Title: Sea of Tranquility

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Book Length: 5 hours and 47 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: June 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 19, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:

A novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

My Review: I’m honestly not sure how to feel about this one. I checked it out from the library because it was written by the same author as Station Eleven (see my review here), which I liked. However, there are a lot of moving pieces in the story and at times it gets a little confusing. There are several smaller stories, which are part of the larger over arching story…but what this means essentially, is that the smaller stories don’t really get too much attention, while at the same time getting too much, if that makes sense.

So for example, the first part of the book is about the character Edwin from the early 1900’s. We get to learn a lot about his character, but in the grand scheme of things, Edwin himself, as a character isn’t all that important. Do we really need to know that Edwin is the son of an Earl who was exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party? Not really. What is important, is his role in the over arching story, i.e., that while in exile he happened to glimpse an anomaly in the time continuum. On the other hand, maybe we do need the background so that we know what Edwin was doing in the woods that fateful day. In this case, however, I would have liked to have more of the story behind the lesser characters themselves.

The book is short, less than 6 hours of listening time. Perhaps it could have benefitted from being longer.

Additionally, like Station Eleven, this book touches on the theme of pandemics. The character Olive Llewellyn is stuck in a lockdown for 100+ days — however, this storyline takes place in the 2100’s, so it’s not COVID-19. There is also mention of various other plagues e.g. Ebola 10 (a made up plague) and a passing reference to COVID-19. I didn’t feel exhausted by this like some other books that have COVID-19 as their central theme.

On the other hand, despite the above, the concept behind the book is intriguing. Time travel, the affect on the time line by such travel, etc. I just wish there had been more of this and less of the other things.

I only gave the book 3 stars, but that’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who absolutely loved the book and gave it 5 stars, for example Theresa Smith Writes.

All in all, I’d have to say it was an entertaining read that is definitely worth it if you have the time.