Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn — 254 pgs

Camille Preaker hides her damaged soul and ravaged body well. As she works diligently as a journalist at a failing newspaper, she hides more than she tells. When two young girls from Camille’s hometown are brutally murdered, her boss and mentor sends her back home—back where it all began. For Camille, home doesn’t mean good times and friendly faces; it means facing demons that she thought she put to rest years ago. Her mother, an aging beauty, has a heart like a faucet: one minute warm and expressive, the next cold and bitter. Camille also has a sister that was born five years before she left town and who doesn’t know of her troubled past. But this sister and mother are more than what they appear to be, and the sickness that almost devoured Camille runs rampant and unchecked in them. They are all broken dolls, living a life that looks perfect on the outside but that hides malevolent secrets. As Camille investigates the two strangely similar deaths, she unwittingly begins circling the drain, wondering just where she went wrong. Something is not right in that town, and in a place that she once called home, she will have to face the last of her demons as they rip through the community, plunging it headlong into destruction. The secretive residents of Wind Gap are full of more darkness than light, and they may be harboring a brutal killer in their midst. In this tale of unmitigated wickedness, Gillian Flynn once again takes her readers for a hell of a ride and leaves them holding the tatters of a community that has seen violence like no other.

After reading Gone Girl, I knew that I was going to read all of Gillian Flynn’s backlist. I was so happy that my book club decided to pick this novel for its December meeting. I needed no cajoling to go out and get this book, and in fact I yelped in delight when I found out it was picked. I may have been a bit hasty with that yelp, because this had to be one of the most twisted and strange books that I have ever read. When I reached the middle, I had to put the book down between chapters because it was so raw and powerful. Sad, strange, gripping: these are just the beginning of the adjectives that could apply to this book. It was feral and wild and dark in ways that I never expected.

Camille is a head-down worker bee, always on the lookout for a good story that will elevate her career and get a jump on the other reporters. Though she works alone and has few friends, she does have a mentor who wants to see her succeed. But even the idea of sending her to Wind Gap seems crazily illogical to Camille, for reasons that are as yet undiscovered. Camille is a recovered cutter, and words blaze across her hidden skin like wildfire in the night. Very few people know this about her, and she is excellent at hiding it, but her words begin to itch and come alive as soon as she hits Wind Gap. While she is a former cutter, she still hangs on to a thread of that vice, making her delicate and malleable to nefarious forces beyond her control.

The interplay between mother and daughter is fraught with tension and a confusing mesh of instability. Adora Preaker is a woman who is flawed beyond comprehension. There is a deep absence of love between mother and daughter that Camille has never understood, and as she creeps closer and closer to finding the girls’ killer, she also learns that her relationship with her mother is like a cancer, eating away all that is clean and whole in her. Adora clearly has favorites, and Camille is certainly not one of them. I was surprised that Flynn took her characters to the precipice and let them drop. Not one ounce of gruesomeness was spared, be it of the carnal, mental or physical variety. This book treads on the thin line of insanity, tipping over drunkenly into Camille’s horrific past.

The most interesting character in this tale was Camille’s younger sister, Amma. She is force of nature, and not in a good way. The leader of a pack of vicious high school blondes who terrorize the school and the residents of Wind Gap, Amma is uncannily coercive and flamboyantly proud of it. She rules not only in the word of adolescents but is equally feared by the adults. While Camille is on the hunt for the murderer, Amma is happily striking horror into the hearts of those less glamorous and fortunate than she. But being the daughter of the wealthiest scion of the small town, Amma goes unchecked, power dancing wildly from her delicate fingers like a slashing rain in the night. She is every girl you ever feared all rolled into one, but there is fear in her as well as around her.

This is not a book for the weak of stomach. Its debauchery is flagrant and vividly powerful. It’s a story that I can’t forget, and a tale that gave me the sweats while I was reading it. Gillian Flynn is a master at forging a story that had me on tenterhooks from the very first line, and her haunting denouement brought chills to my skin. For the brave and the intrigued, this book is a masterpiece of malevolence brought to you by an author who can craft a story that seeps into your brain like a vile worm. Highly disturbing, but recommended.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bent Road by Lori Roy — 368 pgs

When African-American boys begin calling on his teenage daughter, Elaine, after the race riots in Detroit, Arthur Scott decides to take action and move his family back to the small city in Kansas that he left many years ago. His wife, Celia, and son, Daniel, are not happy about the move, but the youngest child, Evie, is rather excited by this proposed new life. After arriving in Kansas, Arthur is reunited with his sister Ruth, who is married to the enigmatic Ray. But the Scott family is plagued by secrets, the first being the death of Arthur and Ruth’s sister Eve. No one wants to talk about the night they found her bleeding to death in the shed, and though Celia struggles to gather information, she is closed off at every avenue. Along with that horrible secret, there seems to be something going on between Ruth and Ray that Ruth would rather not share with anyone. When push comes to shove and the family must eventually deal with that calamity, life for the Scotts is forever changed. Adding to the secretiveness of the Scott clan is the fact that a young girl has gone missing in the town, and while efforts are being made to find her, suspicion rears it’s ugly head to strike many unlikely people. Soon the town begins to suspect that Eve’s earlier murder and the missing girl are tied together in some way, and unraveling the past and the present just might tear the Scotts apart. Written with gothic energy and dark resonance, Bent Road is a triumphant debut from promising author Lori Roy, and explores the difficult ties that family holds on each one of us.

This was a book that kept me guessing. Though I was constantly trying to work the puzzle pieces of the narrative into something that made a full picture, Roy kept pulling out new and strange revelations that swept me off my feet, and the landscape of the story kept morphing and changing. I really didn’t expect to be engrossed with all of these revelations, but like a master, Roy continued to reveal more and more of her characters and their motivations in sharp bursts and revealing asides. One of the things I most loved about this book was that it was so evocative and atmospheric. From the attitudes of the townsfolk to the images of chicken and dumplings cooking away on the stove, Roy evokes a clear picture of life in late 60s Kansas. It was interesting to me because I hadn’t read much about that time and place before, but after having finished the book, I felt as if I had been there, watching the action take place in all its surroundings of darkness and light.

The writing in this book was also pretty amazing. Roy seems to be expert at creating the scene with her words, and even the cadence and flow of the writing shifts from viewpoint to viewpoint, which was not only effective but also felt highly skilled. Roy also manages to create her characters in wonderful definition and each one of them had believable interactions, behaviors and motives. From Celia’s passive-aggressive actions towards her mother-in-law to the unsure and changing reflections of Daniel, all these characters had the flavor of real people caught in the confines of some very difficult and dangerous situations. I liked that Roy never revealed in one fell swoop what she could deliver in little bites throughout the narrative. As more and more is revealed about the Scott family and their past, age old grievances and shocking secrets begin to come out of the woodwork, and the developing picture is startling, to say the least. In addition, Roy has a gift for dialogue as well. In her book, the characters speak with crispness and curtness, making everything that comes out of their mouths more meaningful and strangely more cutting. Roy doesn’t waste time with verbal dalliance, preferring to be direct and straightforward with her characters’ dialogue.

The only problem I had with this story was that despite its bits of brilliance, the plot felt flat at times, and there was very little hope to what was eventually a story of brokenness and sadness. Roy does a great job with scene setting and character, but I would have loved the tale a lot more if it had flashed just a little happiness amid the mire of ungainly sadness. When I got the chance to hear Roy speak about her book, she was very forthcoming about the the way this story was written and how she created her characters. And she convinced me that instead of this being a gothic novel, it was more down home south. Our book club had the pleasure of speaking to her, and though there were some technical difficulties, Lori was able to answer all of our questions and share her impressions on our reflections with us.

This is a book that I enjoyed but didn’t totally lose myself in due to the sadness and heaviness of the plot. While there were things about it that I didn’t care for, I do think that Roy displays an excellent grasp of character and a finesse with her plotting that you don’t often see. I think that if I had read this book at another time, I might have walked away with a different opinion. Roy sure has the method of atmosphere down pat, and I was excited to hear that she is working on a new novel that is due out soon.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Field to Feast: A Moveable Blog Tour — Side Dishes

This year at SIBA, I had the great fortune to meet and speak with Pam Brandon, Katie Farmlad and Heather McPherson, the authors of Field to Feast. Sandy, Heather, Jill and I decided to run a week’s worth of foodie posts on this book because it’s an incredible look into the foods that Florida produces, processes and prepares. This is not your average cookbook. Each recipe is brought to you by a farm, chef or restaurant that resides in Florida. If you follow the tour in order, you’ll have a complete meal by the end of the week. Sandy started us off with the drinks and appetizers, which were mouth-watering and easy to create, then we hopped over to Heather’s blog for our main course. I’m up next with two side dishes that are both very different but wonderful to both the palate and the wallet.

First up, I chose to make the Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Parmesan, courtesy of Full Earth Farm located in Quincy, Florida. This recipe is very easy to make and the finished product looks and tastes incredible!

Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Parmesan
Serves 4
  • 1 large or 2 small heads of broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • ½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1) Preheat oven to 425, and Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside

2) separate broccoli crown and stalk. Cut crown into bite sized florets. Peel stalk with a vegetable peeler and cut into ½ inch thick strips.

3) Toss florets and stalk strips with oil in a large bowl. Add salt and toss to coat. Pour broccoli onto prepared baking sheet

4) Roast 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until broccoli is tender and dark brown in places.

5) Transfer roasted brocoli into a large bowl. Add pepper, lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Toss to combine. Transfer broccoli into a serving bowl and top with shaved Parmesan.

It’s really a very easy recipe, and the shaved Parmesan can be substituted for grated, which is what we did. I had a friend over helping me cook these dishes and she couldn’t keep her hands out of the broccoli bowl! I had to threaten that she would be last to be served if she couldn’t stop nibbling these!! The result was a crispy and tangy masterpiece that was softened by the cheese, and it was a hit with us.

The second recipe was for Hua Moa Tostones, brought to us by Chef Michael Schwartz from Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, based out of my hometown of Miami. These tostones were a little more effort to prepare but they were delectable, and not many were left, as my sous chef once again got a little overeager and snapped them up!

Hua Moa Tostones
Makes 12 to 16 Tostones
  • Unripe (green) hua moa plantains, peeled and sliced into 1 ½ inch rounds
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Coarse salt to taste
1) To peel plantains, make one shallow slit lengthwise, just through the skin. Place split plantains in boiling water for about 1 minute, or until skin turns brown. Remove and place in an ice bath; peel and discard skin. Slice peeled plantain into 1 ½ inch rounds.

2) Heat 4 inches of oil to 350 in an electric fryer or deep pot. If you don’t have a deep fry thermometer, a good way to test if the oil is hot enough is to stick the end of a wooden spoon or chopstick in it. If bubbles crce around the end, oil is ready.

3) Fry plantain rounds all together about 1 ½ minutes, or just until they start to turn golden.Remove from the fryer with a slotted spoon and transfer to an aluminium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rounds  sit 5 minutes. Leve oil at temperature on stovetop.

4) Place one round at a time, cut side up on center of a lightly oiled wooden wooden cutting board. Using both hands on each side, take another small oiled board or flat surface and press down evenly, flattening plantain round to a ½ inch  thick disc. Carefully lift top board. The plantain disc will now be about 4 inches in diameter. To remove, carefully slide a chef’s knife under disc and transfer to a plate. Repeat, placing sheets of parchment paper between layers of plantains

5) Fry discs, this time in batches of 3 or 4 without crowding, 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. With tongs, transfer plantains to paper towels to drain. Season generously with salt and serve immediately.

These were seriously delicious and had all the flavor of the plantain with the  perfect amount of salt and crunch. I ate these like chips, and we made many more than the recipe actually called for. I also changed one of the steps and smashed my plantains  after their first frying between two pieces of wax paper and a rolling pin. So seriously yummy.

If you’re looking for a cookbook that really delves into the tastes of Florida and you want to see some of the lovely little farms and restaurants that make Florida such a popular destination and a cool place to live, you seriously need to check out this book. Not all of the recipes have pictures to go along with them, but this is a cookbook that  shines beautifully with Florida’s native foods and the people who love them. An excellent foray into Florida cooking. Recommended.

Hop on over to Jill’s blog on Friday where our tour will end with a mightily magnificent dessert!

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith — 528 pgs

This is the classic story of Francie Nolan and her impoverished family. Growing up in turn of the century Brooklyn, Francie struggles greatly to live a normal life amid the abject poverty surrounding her. Her mother, Katie, a house-cleaner, never seems to have much time to devote to her, and Francie suspects that her mother feels a greater affection for her kid brother Neely than herself. Her father, Johnny, is the apple of her eye, but repeatedly lets the family down due to his chronic drinking and troubles keeping himself employed. As Francie relates the dramas of her days, both great and small, she comes to observe the prejudices and inequities all around her. She greatly details all the colorful characters who make cameo appearances in her life, such as her Aunt Sissy, a "bad girl" who is, nevertheless, uncommonly kind and generous. Scraping by on whatever they can eek out of life, Francie's family is no stranger to hardship and adversity. As the young girl turns into a woman, she gains an uncommon understanding of life and her place in the world. For Francie has big dreams and plans and won't let her poor station in life prevent her from accomplishing her goals. Through the foibles and tears of her childhood, Franice emerges battered yet triumphant in this marvelously engineered tale of hardship and acceptance.

I was really excited to finally read this book. Up until this point, I had heard a lot about it and that it was a staple of modern literature, and was delighted to get the chance to delve into it. What I found surprised me, for although this was a story of triumph, it was bitterly sad and overwhelming at times, and I struggled with many emotions as I read my way through.

Francie is a typical girl living in a bleak world. Though she does her best to have a bright outlook on life, she struggles with her situation and the restrictions it places on her. She is a stellar student, but because she is poor, she gets very short shrift from her teachers and is constantly having to make do with less of an education than other, more affluent girls of her age. She is a solitary child who is constantly bullied and harassed by others her age, and it’s really only her brother who provides most of her companionship. Francie goes through life feeling the anxieties of a poor girl and wonders whether or not she will turn out like all the other people she sees living in the tenements and struggling along day to day. She collects junk from the gutters with the other children in her neighborhood, hoping to sell it to the junk man for a few pennies to buy a frivolity, a sad indulgence that she comes to depend on.

I was really surprised to see just how little money the family survived on. Between her mother's work and the occasional odd job that her father picked up, Francie's family seemed to have to do more scrimping than the other families in her neighborhood, and most times they left the table hungry. Smith takes the time to give the details about the family’s finances, recording just how much money Katie brings in each week and how much even tiny expenditures are costing them. In one part of the book, Francie relates all the meals that her mother makes for them with week old, stale bread. There is a bread loaf (much like a meatloaf, made with ketchup, bread and egg) and fried bread, and bread pudding, along with plain slices of bread with butter. Meat is a rarity in their household, and they’re much more likely to get a bone picked almost clean for a pot of soup than an actual piece of meat. I marveled at the ingenuity of the family's use of the bread, but it also made me sad and disheartened. The children were often described as hollow-eyed and gangly, no doubt because of the food restrictions they were made to endure.

The relationship between young Francie and her father was sad as well. Johnny never wanted a family (a fact that he never hides from Francie) and he’s slowly drinking himself into an early grave. Though Francie loves her father with all of her heart, she can never be truly proud of him because she too often sees him stumbling home after a night of drinking, and the work that he cannot seem to get has to be done by her forever suffering mother. Katie puts up with Johnny's selfish and slovenly behavior with a no nonsense attitude, but the hard work and worry wear her down to a coarse nub over time. As Francie observes, her mother's gay attitude dissolves away into one of bitter supplication and acceptance. I was a little mad that Katie was forever forgiving Johnny his excesses. I felt that she should have put her foot down many times, but I also understand that at the time, a woman's life and prospects were far different than they are today. It was just very wearying to read about at times. No matter what the family tried to do to improve their lot, some unseen hand kept coming down to crush their dreams.

Though I admired Katie at times for her persistence, I found it maddening that she harbored favoritism in her heart for her youngest son. She tried valiantly to keep this revelation from Francie, but the girl was very bright and it was easy for her to see it anyway. Often while I was reading, I wept internally for Francie, for I felt that she was unloved and always put upon. She didn't dwell on it, but it was plain to her as the nose on her face that she was not the favored child, and that no matter how she tried to love her mother, she would never gain that position. She was hit with prejudice from all sides in her life, and it was horrible to see that it extended itself towards her, even in her own household. Though she tried, she was never able to be a carefree little girl because the pressures of life were weighing her down. It was eye-opening to see the way in which the poor struggled in this story. They were constantly maligned by the more affluent and even took it upon themselves to form little groups of prejudice and hatred. They were scorned by others and by themselves, and theirs was a society plagued by bullying, rumors and contempt. In one section of the book, Francie is castigated by her teacher for writing true stories about her life. The teacher tells Francie her stories are filled with ugliness and makes her promise only to write about beautiful things, things that Francie knows nothing about. Her teacher makes her feel despondent and alienated, much like the other more fortunate people in her life do. With a broken spirit, Francie complies with her teacher's wishes, only to begin fabricating stories of deceit and grandeur.

As I was reading, I came to see that this period of time was simpler, yet more difficult. The people that lived during these times seemed almost innocent but were faced with such extreme hardship and prejudice that it would be wrong to assume that their lives were less complicated than ours are today. There was a sense of community in the book that doesn't seem to exist today, but there was a niggling sense of failure that permeated the lives of the characters as well. Many of the situations in this book were heartrending and sad, and there seemed only to be brief joy in the characters’ striving. It seemed like a very hard time in which to live, let alone thrive. Though I did enjoy this book, it was not what I had been expecting at all. It was a very finely crafted and engaging story and had a wonderful narrator in Francie, but it was also bleak and at times very dark. I was glad to see Francie finally get out of the cycle of poverty that ate up everyone around her, and since reading the book, have often let my mind journey into speculation about her future. I think that readers who haven’t experienced this piece of Americana would get a lot out of this book, and though it gave me a heavy heart, I do recommend it. I would love to hear the opinions of others who have read this book because I'd be interested to hear other reactions to it. This is not a book to be missed, but be aware that it is at times emotionally heavy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel — Audiobook Review

Recorded by Macmillan Audio
Narrated by Simon Vance
Length: 14 hours 45 minutes

In this second installment of the life of Thomas Cromwell, Mantel sharpens her focus to tell the tale of the fall of Anne Boleyn. It seems that King Henry is not happy with Anne after her failure to deliver him a robust and healthy son, and that the ginger-haired Elizabeth is not fit to take her place in the line of succession. When we last left Cromwell in Wolf Hall, he had done the impossible and secured the marriage of Anne and Henry to the discomfiture of half the nation and the Papal court. Now it’s up to Cromwell to catch Anne’s heel and bring her down, a task that he both disdains and relishes with equal fervor. With the aim of an expert marksman, Cromwell finds that many have been in the queen’s private chambers, and seeks them out one by one to turn on each other like dogs in a fight. But the queen won’t go quietly, and as she is slowly being thrust out of the life she wiggled her way into, she finds that Cromwell, the man who once served her so well, is now her most dire enemy—a man who will do her serious harm for the pleasure of the king. But the king isn’t lonely, no, not at all. He has his eye on a Howard. Katherine to be exact, and her puritanical lifestyle has captured his heart, and he aims to have all obstacles removed in his quest to make her the next Queen of England. Interspersed in this tale of deceit and malevolence, Mantel shines an even brighter light on Thomas Cromwell and seeks to understand the character of a man who can can and will turn on you like a cur but who can also remain the staunchest ally one could have. This is a tale that history has told a thousand times over, but with Mantel’s sharp eyes and even sharper wit, we get the entire tale of Anne’s fall from grace as seen through the eyes of the king’s most trusted man, Thomas Cromwell.

I was very excited to listen to this book after I had finished Wolf Hall, and though I knew that the narrator would be different, I quite enjoyed Simon Vance’s smooth and languorous voice bringing me the thoughts of Cromwell himself. Vance displays a great emotional range, but is never cruel in the guise of Cromwell, and completely avoids making him out to be a smarmy and flattering letch. I enjoyed his rendition of this tale so much that I had wonderings about hearing the first book read in his voice as well. While in Wolf Hall Cromwell seemed cutting and snide at times, here he seemed saddened and wizened by the years and how they reflected upon himself and his household.

This was a story that moved with speed and grace from a slow moving and leisurely pace to a free fall from thousands of feet. Anne was not, in fact, aware of her predicament, and attempted again and again to use her influence to gain advantage from the king. But the king turned a deaf ear and a blind eye towards her, seeing her as a great seducer of men and a woman who laughed among her male courtiers at his attempts at lovemaking. As Anne chortles away, she moves closer and closer to the gallows that Henry has standing erect for her and her lovers. What struck me most deeply was the way in which the queen was so eloquently ignorant of what was to befall her. She had to have known that the king was displeased, but her attempts at jocularity fell flat on top of her, and Cromwell assisted that maneuver brilliantly.

Cromwell in this tale plays the errant servant to Anne and the powerful envoy of the king. The woman he once placed so highly is now in the throes of the pit, and I can’t exactly say that he was sorry about it. Cromwell had never seen the jewel in Anne that the king had, only the conniving and cunning woman who strove to push Elizabeth to her grave and disinherit Mary. He never felt warmness towards her and never liked the fact that he was, as she more than once exclaimed, “her man”. It turns out Cromwell was not, in fact, her man, but the king’s, and as Anne begins to realize that, her graceful arc becomes a thing spinning out of control. She is morbid and moody, but this time her morbidity rests upon her own fate.

What Mantel has done in this book exceeds what I had expected. A side of Cromwell, the visionary, is exposed, and it’s at once beautiful and terrifying to look at. He’s not above torture and also not above grieving over it. He lacks no panache, yet struggles to make others see that he, too, is a man with power. And this power must be played out to whomever he is sent to serve next. He is full of rage but also full of compassion for those who suffer wrongfully, and even when Anne is at her lowest, he finds himself just as astonished yet slightly less moved than the English as a whole are over the death of the queen. His part in this matter is huge, but little credit goes to him, which is just how he wants things to be.

I loved this book for Mantel’s smooth writing, and for Vance’s expert delivery. I found ways to enliven my day by driving around pointlessly and listening to this in the car, or while doing the daily drudgery of housekeeping. It was tame and sincere while still managing to be salacious and divisive, and I’m so glad that I got the chance to hear this second act of the story. Hilary Mantel, I urge you to finish this tale for me. Tell me what happens next to my old buddy Cromwell. I’m all ears. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos — 384 pgs

Pen Calloway has just received an email that will change her life. Six years have passed since her two closest friends decided that it would be best for the threesome to split apart and lead separate lives. Now Pen is alone, living with a young daughter, the product of an affair that went south. When Pen opens her inbox and finds an urgent message from her old friend Cat, she quickly decides that she must attend her ten-year high school reunion and meet Cat there. What Pen discovers when she arrives is that Will, the last piece of that triangular friendship, also got an email from Cat. But things are not what they seem, and when Will and Pen begin an earnest search for the woman who sent the email, they must team up with a man whom they both have negative feelings for while also realizing that there are some unresolved feelings between each other as well. The journey they take is both physical, mental and metaphorical, and along the way, each of them will come to see how life can rip people apart but can also glue them back together again. As Pen and Will discover, some things cannot be changed but others cannot be stopped. In this novel of searching and discovery, de los Santos takes her readers on a journey through the narrow passages of the heart—the place where things fall apart, and fall back together again.

This was my first time reading a book by de los Santos. Though I’ve heard many rave over her talents as an author, including Sandy and Heather, I’ve not gotten the chance to read any of her work before now. Most reviewers have decided that this is not her strongest book, and my sentiments on it lead me to believe that if de los Santos can write better than this, she must indeed be amazing. I’m looking forward to exploring more of her work in the future.

De los Santos has a great grasp of character. Though it took me awhile to warm up to Pen and Will, and though I thought Cat was extremely selfish, I eventually felt a lot of attachment to the first two. They had an easy relationship fit, kind of like putting on your most comfortable jeans. They had a huge psychic bond, and though this bothered others in the novel, it made me realize that they were made for each other. Of course, it wasn’t that easy because of their history, but overall, I felt that these were two people who really *got* one another. There were levels of dysfunction surrounding them, but what remained pure were their intentions towards each other and Cat.

Cat was the wildcard in this situation. She never really felt fleshed out to me, and despite the fact that Will and Pen loved her so much, she seemed both manipulative and a little cold. I know that I wouldn’t have gone to the ends of the earth to track her down, that’s for sure, and I just didn’t buy into the fact that Pen and Will had been so connected to her. She seemed like a grown-up child, complete with tantrums and very vicious behavior towards her husband—who I frankly thought was too good for her, though he was sort of a schlub. I found her to be a bit repulsive, and wondered why so many people cared so deeply for her when she seemed to care for no one at all but herself.

This is a book that centers around relationships: the kinds we hope and dream of, and the kinds that we overlook. De los Santos has a clear grasp of the myriad of relationships that people can have with each other and the struggles they will go through to maintain those relationships. Like children, Pen and Will avoided the obvious, and this set them up for a lot of strife and a few heart-wrenching moments. In the end, what is lost has been found, but there are no easy answers for the elusive Cat. This didn’t really bother me because she felt like an extemporaneous character and really brought out negative feelings from me.

If you’re in search of a story of journeys taken and difficult paths that are overcome, this is a book you will want to read. Though all the characters aren’t as loveable as one would hope, I think de los Santos gives her readers a lot of warmth and emotion in the characters that she chooses to focus on in this book. As I said before, I’ll be reading more from this author. Her gentle story had a lot of bite, and it reached me in a way that not many books do. Recommended.

Author Photo About the Author

Marisa de los Santos is a New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning poet with a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing. She lives in Delaware with her husband, David Teague, and their son and daughter.


TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, October 2nd:Reflections of a Bookaholic
Wednesday, October 3rd:Reading Lark
Thursday, October 4th:girilichef
Friday, October 5th:The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Monday, October 8th:A Reader of Fictions
Tuesday, October 9th:A Patchwork of Books
Wednesday, October 10th:No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, October 11th:The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Friday, October 12th:Book Spark
Monday, October 15th:Books and Movies
Tuesday, October 16th:Kritters Ramblings
Thursday, October 18th:Between the Covers
Monday, October 22nd:Silver & Grace
Wednesday, October 24th:Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, October 25th:My Bookshelf
Friday, October 26th:Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Monday, October 29th:Lit and Life
Tuesday, October 30th:The Book Bag
Monday, November 5th:Raging Bibliomania
TBD:Book Journey

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.
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