Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens



TitleWhere the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens - check out her website!
Genre: Historical Fiction; Mystery

Summary (from Goodreads):
"For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps."

My thoughts:

What a surprisingly great read! Surprising to me, because I don't usually enjoy anything to do with historical fiction. I don't know if it's because it was more the "recent past" (1960s) or it just didn't feel like a historical setting, but i was wrapped up in this beautiful and sad story right from the beginning.

I instantly had an emotional connection when first reading about Kya and her tragic childhood - in my opinion, extremely sad and unimaginable circumstances for a little girl. This is such an integral part of the story to both capture the reader and initiate the sympathetic connection to the main character.

I did find the bulk of the book a bit slow moving (why it is only 4 coffees for me), but as I have said before, I am using to very fast-paced, intense suspense books, so this is no surprise. On this note, I have read a lot of reviews saying that there was too much nature-writing, excessive descriptions of the marsh and the creatures. I wholeheartedly disagree with that notion - that marsh and those creatures were Kya's whole world. To understand her, you have to understand the surroundings that she inhabited, and the animals that became her true family. Otherwise, her isolation and bond with nature would not have the impact it needed to.

The ending was a total shocker to me - for 2 reasons. And here comes the SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read or finished the book, proceed with caution...

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Review: The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib


TitleThe Girls at 17 Swann Street
Author: Yara Zgheib - Check out her blog here!
Genre: Psychological Fiction; Contemporary Fiction; Mental Health

**Thank you to Yara Zgheib, St. Martin's Press, and BookishFirst for providing a print ARC in exchange for my honest review**

Summary (from Goodreads):

"The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists' list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears - imperfection, failure, loneliness - she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere 88 pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day. 

Yara Zgheib's poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting, intimate journey of a young woman's struggle to reclaim her life. Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street."

My thoughts:

Let me start by saying that mental health issues are of enormous interest to me - I have a BS in Psychology and an MSEd in Counseling. In addition, myself and numerous family members and friends suffer from different forms of mental health issues (anxiety & panic disorder for me). The stigma surrounding mental illness is something I strive to address, and work to dismantle, at every opportunity I get. So this book was something that spoke to me before I even opened it. 

This book follows Anna, a girl from Paris who moved to the US with her husband, and suffered from a scary and nearly fatal case of anorexia. Eating disorders are one of those conditions consistently seen as a weakness, not a debilitating disorder that consumes everything about a person's life. 

The way the book is written - almost in a conversational and "versed" style (short paragraphs peppered with intrusive thoughts and lines of speech from the characters) emphasized the scattered, panicked, and anxious thoughts of a mentally ill person. Truth: eating disorders and anxiety go hand-in-hand, so I think this was an incredible way to show this to the reader, particular the reader who isn't aware of this fact. 

Anna's struggle is heartbreaking, frustrating, and almost hopeless throughout. You feel for her and want to slap her silly all at the same time. She has this amazing husband, Matthias, who never abandons her, and you see her pushing him away in parts. I actually rolled my eyes at her on more than one occasion while reading!

While reading this, you work with Anna through the struggle to eat, the inability to and immense fear of gaining weight, the constant worry of "refeeding syndrome" (which I had no idea existed until this book), the relationships she builds in treatment, and a few tragic incidents with other patients, which shall remain untold in this review 😉

So after all this gushing, why was this not a 5-star for me? I'm probably nitpicking here, but I thought there were a few shallow plot points that needed to be built up. Anna, despite a pretty normal upbringing, has a few tragedies in her past that are hinted at as contributing factors to her disorder. However, they were merely glazed over, and I think some serious elaboration was needed for these. Maybe it's me always needing to have all the answers, but I needed to know more about her past. Outside of that, super quick and moving read that I really enjoyed!

Thank you again to Yara Zgheib, St. Martin's Press, and BookishFirst for providing me a copy of this great novel in exchange for my 100% honest thoughts!

☕️☕️☕️☕️ = It was great!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Review: The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald



TitleThe Night Olivia Fell
Author: Christina McDonald
Genre: Thriller

Summary (from Goodreads):

"A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.

In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.

When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?"

My Thoughts:

How was this a DEBUT?! This book was so great, I would never have imagined it was a debut. Kudos, Christina! Beautiful writing, controversial and sensitive subject matter, surprising twists - all the things I love in thrillers!

I have read several reviews that said the killer was obvious from the beginning - I'll be honest, I went back and forth between thinking it was two different people for most of the book, neither of which ended up being the culprit. So I have to say, I was genuinely surprised!

The way the story was told - alternating between the present-day tale from Abi (mom)'s perspective, and the recent past told by Olivia - really kept the story moving and made for a very engaging read.

Mainly, I love this story structure - aka getting blasted in the face with the bad, then learning what led up to that point bit by bit, then seeing everything progress through to the conclusion. I really tend to jive with that layout. And this was no exception!

On a final note: as a mom to an almost 2-year-old, this really tugged at my mommy-of-a-daughter heartstrings, but in such a great way. This is what I look for in a great book - the ability to truly move me and make me FEEL FEELINGS. Loved, loved, LOVED it!

☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️ = It was PHENOMENAL! Highly recommended!