Book Review: The Familiar Dark

The Familiar DarkThe Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the reality about her daughter’s death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother’s trailer for a final lesson.
Review:
This is a hard and gritty thriller about a woman trying to find out who killed her daughter.
However, this book was not for me. I was curious enough to finish reading and appreciate that the book was interestingly told with some good writing — it is hard to put into words why I didn’t like the book.
There are a lot of cliches and a lot of darkness. I didn’t bond with the main character at all and got annoyed at times. Others love this book so this may simply be a case of nothing is for everyone.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Share this:

Book Review: Fishing! A Novel

Fishing! A NovelFishing!: A Novel by Sarah Stonich

A hilarious saga of fishing, family, and three generations of tough, independent women—the first in a trilogy 

Having fled the testosterone-soaked world of professional sport fishing, thirty-something RayAnne Dahl is navigating a new job as a consultant for the first all-women talk show about fishing on public television (or, as one viewer’s husband puts it, “Oprah in a boat”). After the host bails, RayAnne lands in front of the camera and out of her depth at the helm of the show. Is she up for the challenge? Meanwhile, her family proves as high-maintenance as her fixer-upper house and her clingy rescue dog. Her dad, star of the one-season Big Rick’s Bass Bonanza, is on his sixth wife and falling off the wagon and into RayAnne’s career path; her mother, a new-age aging coach for the menopausal rich, provides endless unwanted advice; and her beloved grandmother Dot—whose advice RayAnne needs—is far away and far from well.

But as RayAnne says, “I’m a woman, I fish. Deal with it.” And just when things seem to be coming together—the show is an unlikely hit; she receives the admiration of a handsome sponsor (out of bounds as he is, but definitely in the wings); ungainly house and dog are finally in hand—RayAnne’s world suddenly threatens to capsize, and she’s faced with a gut-wrenching situation and a heartbreaking decision.

First published in 2015 under a pseudonym, this first installment in a trilogy filled with hilarity and heartbreak unspools with the gentle wit and irresistible charm that readers of Sarah Stonich have come to expect. Fishing! eases us into unsuspected depths as it approaches the essential question . . . when should life be steered by the heart, not the rules? 

Review:
I really enjoyed this quirky book about RayAnne, a professional sport fisher who reluctantly becomes a talk show host on her fishing boat.
RayAnne’s character was fun for being so oblivious to her own talent and empathy, all the while trying to figure out her life and family relationships. There were many bittersweet moments, along with some off beat humour.
My favourite parts of the book were the interviews on the boat for the TV show. I loved these interesting women and the idea of such a different kind of talk show, one with real women doing interesting things rather than celebrities.
This was an engaging, light, interesting book that I quite enjoyed.
Thank you to Netgalley and The University of Minnesota Press for the review copy.
Share this:

Book Review: Wildland

Wildland with Stubborn BottleWildland by Rebecca Hodge

For fans of Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve comes an exhilarating debut novel of one woman’s courage in the face of catastrophe.

She’ll do anything to save them.
But what will she do to save herself?

When Kat Jamison retreats to the Blue Ridge Mountains, she’s counting on peace and solitude to help her make a difficult decision. Her breast cancer has returned, but after the death of her husband, her will to fight is dampened. Now she has a choice to make: face yet another round of chemotherapy or surrender gracefully.

Self-reflection quickly proves impossible as her getaway is complicated by a pair of abandoned dogs and two friendly children staying nearby, Lily and Nirav. In no time at all, Kat’s quiet seclusion is invaded by the happy confusion of children and pets.

But when lightning ignites a deadly wildfire, Kat’s cabin is cut off from the rest of the camp, separating Lily and Nirav from their parents. Left with no choice, Kat, the children, and the dogs must flee on foot through the drought-stricken forest, away from the ravenous flames. As a frantic rescue mission is launched below the fire line, Kat drives the party deeper into the mountains, determined to save four innocent lives. But when the moment comes to save her own, Kat will have to decide just how hard she’s willing to fight to survive–and what’s worth living for.

A heart-pounding novel of bravery, sacrifice, and self-discovery, Wildland will keep you on the edge of your seat to the very last page.

Review:
I absolutely loved this book. It had me feeling all of the emotions and, yes, I was even reaching for the tissues.
The beginning is on the slow side, but wait a couple of chapters — I couldn’t put it down.
Kat is a wonderful character, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer who goes to the mountains to think about what to do. She meets 2 different dads with their kids. While the kids have a sleepover, a forest fire starts and Kat must get the kids and the 2 dogs in her care to safety. The peril, her decisions, her will to keep everyone safe, the time crunch, and the trust they all must place in each other make for a compelling read.
Having lived close to forest fires, I found the book harrowing and could feel myself there. Hodge wrote the emotion in the book amazingly well. I also loved that Kat was smart and made well thought out decisions. The book explored survival in a dramatic way!
The supporting characters, the dads, kids, and dogs, were also really well portrayed and each added something necessary to the book.
I highly recommend this book. In fact, I own a book box subscription called Callisto Crate and included this book for February and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
If you are interested in this author, I was able to do a Facebook Live interview with her, which you can find by clicking here. I found it fascinating how she wrote this book.
Thanks to Netgalley and Crooked Lane for the review copy.
Share this:

Book Review: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael

The Love Story of Missy CarmichaelThe Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey

For readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove, a life-affirming, deeply moving “coming-of-old” story, a celebration of how ordinary days are made extraordinary through friendship, family, and the power of forgiving yourself–at any age.

Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Woman meets dog…

The world has changed around Missy Carmichael. At seventy-nine, she’s estranged from her daughter, her son and only grandson live across the world in Australia, and her great love is gone. Missy spends her days with a sip of sherry, scrubbing the kitchen in her big empty house and reliving her past–though it’s her mistakes, and secrets, that she allows to shine brightest. The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give. Filled with wry laughter and deep insights into the stories we tell ourselves, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael shows us it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. It’s never too late to love.

Review:
This is a sweet and easy to read book. Missy is a 79 year old woman who is set in her ways, lives for her grandson who lives abroad, and is obviously very lonely.
This is the story of her making friends, finding what she likes, developing community, and becoming alive again.
The book was really well told and I really felt for Missy. It is easy to see how one thing can lead to another and then you’re in a situation you don’t even know how to get out of it. I love books where people see that someone needs help and they find ways to be there.
And there’s a great dog!
This is a heartwarming novel and it’s nice to see a younger protagonist and one that interacts with people of different ages and backgrounds. Really well done!
Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for the review copy.
Share this: