All That’s Bright and Gone: A Novel by Eliza Nellums
Fans of Jodi Picoult and Fredrik Backman will fall for this tenderhearted debut mystery following a young girl on a quest to save her family.
I know my brother is dead. But sometimes Mama gets confused.
Six-year-old Aoife knows better than to talk to people no one else can see, like her best friend Teddy who her mother says is invisible. He’s not, but Mama says it’s rude anyways. So when Mama starts talking to Aoife’s older brother Theo, Aoife is surprised. And when she stops the car in the middle of an intersection, crying and screaming, Aoife gets a bad feeling–because even if they don’t talk about it, everyone knows Theo died a long time ago. He was murdered.
Eventually, Aoife is taken home by her Uncle Donny who says he’ll stay with her until Mama comes home from the hospital, but Aoife doesn’t buy it. The only way to bring Mama home is to find out what really happened to Theo. Even with Teddy by her side, there’s a lot about the grown-up world that Aoife doesn’t understand, but if Aoife doesn’t help her family, who will?
Between Aoife’s vivid imagination and her steadfast goal, All That’s Bright and Gone illuminates the unshakable bond between mothers and daughters in an increasingly unstable world.
This was an interesting book. Told from 6 year old Aoife’s point of view, we learn about her mother’s mental illness, the struggles of her family, and the loss of her brother. Aoife isn’t exactly an unreliable narrator, but definitely one with limited understanding, which makes the story all that more interesting.
Because the story is told from a child’s point of view, the narrative is honest, innocent, and can often make interesting leaps. Aoife knows that her brother is dead, does not question her mother’s strange behaviour, and has an imaginary friend.
Nellums does a great job of getting into the head of a six year old. The writing feels authentic and not at all condescending. I found myself drawn into this girl’s world, trying to solve the mystery with her. As an adult reader we can see how Aoife is interpreting or misinterpreting some of the adult behaviour and this definetly adds to the tension and suspense of the book. We, like Aoife, just want to find out what really happened to her brother.
Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the review copy.
Three Ways to Disappear by Katy Yocom
Leaving behind a nomadic and dangerous career as a journalist, Sarah DeVaughan returns to India, the country of her childhood and a place of unspeakable family tragedy, to help preserve the endangered Bengal tigers. Meanwhile, at home in Kentucky, her sister, Quinn–also deeply scarred by the past and herself a keeper of secrets–tries to support her sister, even as she fears that India will be Sarah’s undoing.
As Sarah faces challenges in her new job–made complicated by complex local politics and a forbidden love–Quinn copes with their mother’s refusal to talk about the past, her son’s life-threatening illness, and her own increasingly troubled marriage. When Sarah asks Quinn to join her in India, Quinn realizes that the only way to overcome the past is to return to it, and it is in this place of stunning natural beauty and hidden danger that the sisters can finally understand the ways in which their family has disappeared–from their shared history, from one another–and recognize that they may need to risk everything to find themselves again.
With dramatic urgency, a powerful sense of place, and a beautifully rendered cast of characters revealing a deep understanding of human nature in all its flawed glory, Katy Yocom has created an unforgettable novel about saving all that is precious, from endangered species to the indelible bonds among family.
I loved this book. It was really well written and kept me reading, curious about what the characters would do next.
The story goes back and forth between 2 sisters, Sarah, an international journalist who settles down in India to work at a tiger sanctuary, and Quinn, a mother of twins who has lives in Kentucky. They grew up as children in India until Sarah’s twin died and their mother moved them back to the US.
The relationship between the sisters and then their mother was great and I love how much it evolved, especially as they came to terms with the unfortunate death of their brother so many years ago. I enjoyed the explorations of different ways that people disappear from one anther and how they use this to cope with or hide from their pain.
Then there were the tigers, the masters of camouflage. They were integral characters to the book as well and I loved the descriptions of them and their interesting personalities. In fact, so many of the scenes in India were wonderful and richly described. Along with the tigers were the small villages affected by the tiger sanctuary — there are so many layers to things and this book reminds us of this. Yes, it is good to save the tigers, but in so doing, there can be adverse effects for others nearby if the situation isn’t dealt with properly. This book highlighted how we are all interconnected, even down to purses being made by women in a village in India and how that changes things for the person selling them in the US.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and watching the characters develop, learn, and grow. I loved the descriptions, and even the politics. These are certainly issues we need to be dealing with on a global level, but shows how small, individual steps can make a difference and how women supporting women and change a community.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.
I really enjoyed this book. Nina is a fun, quirky character, full of flaws and anxiety, but also a passion for books and trivia. It’s a fun book for bookish people to read because it is full of book and pop culture references.
Nina grew up with no family around, raised by her nanny. She loves her structured life, it feels full to her and she’s organized herself to minimize her anxiety. One day, everything gets turned upside down when a lawyer comes into the bookstore and tells her that her (absent) father has died and that she has a whole herd of family. She also realizes that she’s falling for a man on the opposing pub trivia team and the bookstore where she is working is threatening to close.
Nina doesn’t react well to all of these changes to her carefully structured and well thought out life. It was interesting to watch her reactions and thoughts and see her develop and grow. At one point she has a serious panic attack and I thought this was dealt with really well.
Overall, this is a fun, light read. Nina is a quirky character and I was totally invested in her, wanting her to figure out a way to resolve her inner conflicts. I loved the pop culture references, the descriptions of her bookshelves, and how she grows as a person. This is a great book for book lovers looking for a summer read.
Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for a review copy of this book.