A retired CIA agent is dealing with being home with his family after many bouts of worThis, and other reviews can be found on my blog Just a Lil' Lost
A retired CIA agent is dealing with being home with his family after many bouts of working abroad in secrecy. He must figure out how to raise his son Noah with Down Syndrome after his wife is suddenly gone and the idea that he might die before his son spurs him into action, making sure Noah will be taken care of. Coupled with the fact that he's trying to lay low with the large sum of money he had siphoned into his own offshore bank account during one of his CIA missions, his paranoia and his need to provide for his family are battling for his attention.
The premise is an interesting one, and that's what made me give it 2 stars rather than just 1. The idea of looking at what home life would be like for someone who's entire professional career was to be covert seemed really interesting to me.
I unfortunately could not get into this book. Full disclosure, I was sent this book by the author quite a while ago and had picked it up numerous times to try and read it, each time losing interest a few pages in. I'm actually not sure if I was sent a finished e-copy or an ARC with the number of spelling & grammatical errors, and repetitive narrative in some spots - as if the author had forgotten he had already said that a few pages earlier. Another point that completely turned me off of the book was the main character & his wife pushing for people to treat their son with respect, and getting the same opportunities that everyone is allowed but then referring to him as "mentally retarded". At first, I thought this might have been from the advanced copy, and hadn't been edited but it's right there in the synopsis as well. I'm sorry, I refuse to accept that a loving father & husband would refer to his son as "retarded" and any intention to show his humanity by looking out for him was overshadowed by that.
I wasn't quite following what was going on for most of the book and it wasn't until about 3/4 in that stuff really happened and caught my interest. I found the storytelling disjointed, and the main character to be not very likable at all. There was so much emphasis on him & his wife's love-making and his inadequacies that I was waiting for something significant to develop from that.
Unfortunately, A Spy at Home wasn't for me even though I did find the CIA/siphoned money plot point substantially more interesting than his day-to-day routines. ...more
Hazel has moved to New York City to work on her thesis when she finds out that she's pThis, and other reviews can be found on my blog Just a Lil' Lost
Hazel has moved to New York City to work on her thesis when she finds out that she's pregnant with a married man's baby. The affair with her professor/thesis advisor is made more dire when a string of bizarre attacks start happening worldwide. The strange disease seems to be affecting women with blonde hair and turns them into vicious killers. Hazel must struggle to find her way home to Toronto and wrestle with the dilemma of whether to tell the father about her pregnancy.
After having just finished reading James Patterson's Zoo where animals go crazy and attack everyone, I don't know if I was prepared to read a book where blonde women go crazy and attack everyone. Even from the book jacket premise, I wasn't sure what to expect withThe Blondes and Schultz's novel proved to be a mix of heartfelt emotion, traumatic experiences and edge-of-your-seat paranoia. I hadn't realized when I started it that the novel was set in New York City and Toronto, which was a pleasant surprise.
Told in the voice of Hazel speaking to her unborn child, the narrative jumps frequently between the present, recent past and even further past. This was a nice way to break up the story and keep the pace going & discovery of facts timed right but I found it a bit jarring at times, to figure out what point Hazel's life this particular moment was at and how it related to everything else in that moment. I also felt that what Hazel was saying didn't always seem particularly appropriate to be telling her child, unborn or not. Perhaps Hazel doesn't find it bizarre telling her baby about the details of her and the father's relations but I found it a bit disturbing and inappropriate.
While I felt the ending left things a bit unresolved, I enjoyed the overall journey of getting there. Schultz establishes some great characters with very real and believable personalities given the scenarios and circumstances they find themselves in. I also loved that Hazel's thesis and major was on aesthetics, and the idea of aesthetics become such a big factor in the story - the paranoia, judgement and treatment of those with a certain look about them....more
Anna is raising her precocious 8 year old daughter on her own, livingThis, and other reviews can be found on Just a Lil Lost
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ (3.5/5 stars)
Anna is raising her precocious 8 year old daughter on her own, living a carefree life when it suddenly gets turned upside down. While at a neighbour’s party, she becomes bewitched with the neighbour’s 20-something year old son. Full of snark and sarcasm, he intimidates her and arouses her at the same time. Caught between her duty as a mother and her want to reclaim her youth, Anna finds herself in an obsessive love affair that threatens to spiral out of control.
The Boy reminded me of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Sarah Tucker’s The Younger Man in that the narrative explored the idea of an older woman with a younger male. This type of story would certainly tread a fine line between intriguing and uncomfortable, but Santoro does a great job at exploring this idea. She doesn’t go into lurid details as this book is not categorized as erotica, but delves more deeply into Anna’s life and mindset at wanting to pursue something so forbidden.
The dynamic between Anna and her young daughter is also an interesting one, and speaks volumes as to her character. The 8 year old is comfortable being mouthy and ordering her mother around, even cooking at times and while Anna is having this affair with the boy, it was an interesting juxtaposition to have the roles seemingly reversed. In a way, the boy forced Anna to take a look at her family life and reevaluate it.
I was initially surprised, yet found I liked the stance that Santoro took, that their affair would not be a secret. Often times, these types of stories with such taboo relationships are told as secret love affairs but the way this story unfolded, it worked really well with the fallout of people knowing about the two of them. At under 200 pages, The Boy is a quick read that successfully manages to give the readers a full picture of Anna and her situation. It is a compelling story about love, family and the consequences of the decisions we make in life....more
Anna, a 30-year-old school teacher, is tired of her stagnating reThis, and other reviews can be found on my blog Just a Lil Lost
Ratings: 4.5 / 5 stars
Anna, a 30-year-old school teacher, is tired of her stagnating relationship and takes on a summer job tutoring T.J., a teenager whose cancer is in remission. T.J.’s family is already at their summer home and he is to fly in days later with Anna when their plane crashes and they struggle to survive on a deserted island. When signs of rescue are non-existent, Anna and T.J. cope with their new island life, attempting to keep their sanity and stay nourished & hydrated. When the days, weeks and months continue to pass, the pair become less teacher and student, when they start seeing each other in a different light.
I absolutely adored this book. Once I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. On the Island has a simple premise but an extremely compelling story. Initially, it was the title and how appropriate it was to my blog name that caught my interest but as soon as I started reading, I was immediately pulled into the narrative. This book could be like what would have happened on Lost if only two of them had survived! Told in alternating point of views, the reader is given both sides of the survival tale as the days go by.
My only main issue with T.J.’s POV was his excessive use of her name. I can’t imagine that if they’re the only two people on the island that he would have used her name as frequently as he did during his chapters. Almost every other sentence out of his mouth began or ended with “Anna”. Honestly, if I was stuck on a deserted island with someone who used my name that often, I’d want to change my name!
Setting that aside, Garvis-Graves lays out a beautiful tale of survival, companionship and the love that can come out of that. She tackles the subject of an older woman with a younger man with a tasteful finesse, and yet not pretending that the taboo isn’t there either. Throughout the entire book, I kept wondering if/when T.J.’s cancer would come back, what would happen if/when they were rescued and so many other variables that were so well established that either outcome could have happened at any moment. On the Island is a must-read for those who love a book with adventure, romance and the will they/won’t they type of chemistry between the characters!...more
Shannon is abandoned as a newborn by her mother, who leaves her on the steps of the YMCA. SheThis, and other reviews can be found at Just a Lil' Lost
Shannon is abandoned as a newborn by her mother, who leaves her on the steps of the YMCA. She might not have survived if a man didn't see her mother drop her off and alert someone to the presence of a baby on the doorstep. Thus begins Shannon's childhood, living with different foster families and struggling to understand why her mother would give her away. She's inquisitive, she's mischievous and she's rebellious, often pushing away anyone that gets too close while reaching outwards to find out where she had come from.
Two stories told in one voice, makes Y a unique voice to read. Shannon narrates both her own life story as well as her birth mother, Yula's. It's interesting to hear her speak of her mother and father in a time before she was born and, similar to The Lovely Bones, the overseeing narrator almost gives it an eerier vibe. I doubt that the intention was to make it creepy but it did leave me with a kind of disoriented feeling, hearing Shannon refer to her father as such or by his first name. At times, I forgot that it was Shannon's voice and not her mother's telling her own story; that "father" meant Shannon's father and not Yula's (because that would certainly have made it a whole different kind of story!)
Y is a heartbreaking and heartwarming tale at the same time. I found myself rooting for Shannon through each of her foster homes and the circumstances she found herself in. Whether it was the living situation or her own foibles, each time there's a stumble you just want to reach out to the poor girl and help her back up on her feet. Celona writes in Shannon's voice with such confusion and wonder, often allowing the reader to feel like they are seeing the world through the child's eyes.
The title is so loaded with meaning, and its significance is infused throughout the core of Celona's writing. Whether it means the Y where Shannon was left, or the Y in her mother's name or even just the question "why?", the simple one-letter name for this book holds so much importance to the essence of this story. It reflects on the saying "home is where the heart is", and reexamines the definition of what constitutes a family. Reminiscent of Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals, this book is a powerful debut by a talented author....more
Harold Fry, a meek, retired man with a not-so-loving wife recThis, and other reviews can be found on my blog Just a Lil Lost
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4.5/5 stars)
Harold Fry, a meek, retired man with a not-so-loving wife receives a letter from an old friend one day telling him that she is dying. He writes up a response and heads out to the corner mailbox to send it off. Upon reaching the mailbox moments later, he realizes that this is not a sufficient response for a dear friend so he keeps walking to the next corner, and then the following one after that. Before he knows it, Harold has embarked on a journey to walk across the country to his friend, in the hopes – and faith – that his walk will keep her alive if she waits for him to get there. The cast of characters he meets along the way leaves a mark with Harold as he continues walking along, pushing through even when it gets tough.
A simple task with a simple premise makes for a moving and profound story. The journey that Harold goes on is not only a literal one but also a mental and metaphorical one. He comes to discover, and rediscover much of what he felt he had lost with his loveless marriage. While Harold is walking from the South of England to the North, his wife finds that her hardened shell is softening as she realizes how much she misses the husband that she has antagonized for so many years of their marriage.
There were many poignant moments where Harold meets others with their own sets of woes and worries, and finds strength and motivation from them to keep going. Each with their own problems but also an inspirational spirit about them, many showing their kindness towards an older man on a bizarre trek. I also enjoyed the role that the media played in this story. It’s an interesting statement at how the media influence can affect individuals.
For most of the book, I imagined it to be set in an earlier time and if it were not for the mentions of mobile phones and tweeting, this could be a story that withstands the test of time. I don’t necessarily think that it detracts from the story at all, but it might seem dated years down the road when technology and social media trends have moved on.
Frieda never felt like she was normal and it’s because of this that she happens to staThis, and other reviews can be found on my blog Just a Lil' Lost
Frieda never felt like she was normal and it’s because of this that she happens to stay home from work one day when all hell breaks loose. She manages to avoid a mass outbreak that causes the population to take on zombie-like qualities. She lives with her cat in a state of worry and caution, holed up in her home. She survives day-to-day until something happens that forces her out of her safe shelter. Having been alone for so long, she isn’t sure what to make of it when she encounters another out in the demolished city she once knew.
McNeil brings a fresh voice with this zombie apocalypse-type story. She has written a character that is refreshing and different from others I have read. Frieda is strong but vulnerable, self-conscious but self-assured. I really enjoyed the dynamic that was built up between her and her cat as they live in hiding and was actually a bit disappointed at the introduction of a male character. I felt that behind all of Frieda’s neuroses and inhibitions, she was strong and independent. So when a potential love interest shows up, I was apprehensive as to how that would change her. I really didn’t want the feel of this story to spin into a possible love story.
Personally, I am not a fan of the cover. It doesn’t feel final, or reflective of the good story that’s within the pages. That being said, Waiting for Daybreak is a different take to a zombie survival tale with an independent female main character. In spite of her self-proclaimed shortcomings, she somehow rises among the destruction to live on. Overall, a unique new voice to the zombie genre, and looking forward to McNeil’s subsequent work!...more