Posted in book reviews

Their Houses by Meredith Sue Willis – BOOK REVIEW

willis_des_cov_print_final_r01.inddTitle: Their Houses
Author: Meredith Sue Willis
Publication Date & Publisher: August 2018, WVU Press
Genre(s): General (Adult) Fiction
Length: 243 pages
ISBN: 13:978-1-946684-34-9
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from WVU Press):

As children, two sisters make homes for their toys out of matchboxes and shoeboxes, trying to create safe places after the loss of their mother to psychosis.
Grace, now a schoolteacher married to a doctor, appears to have a conventional life but has a breakdown during an undesired move from her beloved cottage to another house. Dinah has married a self-ordained preacher with a troubled past and tries to keep her children safely separate from the world. Meanwhile, a childhood friend is linked to a militia’s abortive attempt to blow up the FBI’s fingerprint records facility in West Virginia, and later builds an isolated survivalist compound in the mountains.
These three adults, closely bonded in childhood, are reunited on this acreage once owned by a white supremacist group, where they discover in various ways that there is no final protection, no matter how hard they strive to find it or make it.

My review: 

Their Houses has one of the best openings I think I’ve read all year. By the end of the first page, I already had so many questions that needed answered I knew I’d be finishing it quickly!
The novel follows six different characters, but it really revolves around the main three – Richie and two sisters, Dinah and Grace. As children, Dinah and Grace’s father moved them into Richie’s parents’ carriage house in West Virginia, after the girls’ mother was put in a mental hospital for trying to kill them. We’re taken back and forth between the present and the past to discover how they all ended up where they are now – somehow all back in West Virginia together.
But it’s not coincidence that they scattered only to be reconnected…
Richie grew up with rich parents and  became a rich, power hungry man. Picked on as a child, he feels the need to exert his power and control over everyone around him – whether they work for him or not. He sees himself as a sort of puppet master, masterminding not only his own life, but guiding others into positions that benefit him.
Dinah became pregnant with her daughter, Aleda, when she was still young. She’s now married to Raymond, a preacher seeking his new flock. Dinah fears Aleda will make all the same mistakes she did as a young girl and so she keeps her on a tight leash, not even allowing her to learn about her biological father.
Grace and her husband, David, are back in West Virginia because David wanted to practice medicine somewhere where he was truly needed. Grace should be the happiest of the three, but she’s suffering from depression and the constant paranoid fear that she’s actually just as psychotic as their mother was.
David and Raymond don’t see eye to eye on anything, and David’s need to prove Raymond’s faith is nothing more than childish belief in fairy tales, just about pushes him over the edge into the same level of crazy he fears his wife has crossed over to.
Personally, I think Dinah and Raymond said it best when it comes to the mental health of the characters in this novel:

“Maybe everyone is crazy if you scratch down half an inch. Me, Richie, Aleda. Everyone but you.”
He laughed. “Because I was crazy all the way through for a long time.”

There really isn’t a single “sane” character in the whole book and I love the way it kind of forces you to wrestle with your own version of sanity/acceptable behavior.
Their Houses is a thought provoking novel examining what it means to each of us to feel safe, and what we’re willing to do in order to get there. I definitely recommend picking up a copy!

I received a copy of this book from WVU Press. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of Their Houses? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!
Buy Their Houses from Amazon.
Buy Their Houses from Book Depository.

 
 
 

Posted in book reviews

Edge of the Known Bus Line by James R. Gapinski – BOOK REVIEW

Edge of the Known Bus Line by James R. Gapinski – BOOK REVIEWEdge of the Known Bus Line by James R. Gapinski
Published by Etchings Press on April 25, 2018
ISBN: 0998897604
Pages: 136
Goodreads
four-stars
Synopsis

A woman's daily commute takes an abrupt turn when she's dropped off in a grotesque shantytown in Edge of the Known Bus Line. The townsfolk live in huts and tents scavenged from broken trinkets. They eat dead rats and human flesh. They've developed cult-like religions about miracle bus routes that will someday set them free. The narrator searches for a way out of this surreal hellscape while dredging up a few nightmares of her own.

40081069Title: Edge of the Known Bus Line
Author: James R. Gapinski
Publication Date & Publisher: May 2018, Etchings Press
Genre(s): General (Adult) Fiction
Length: 134 pages
ISBN: 13:978-0-9988976-0-8
My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

A woman’s daily commute takes an abrupt turn when she’s dropped off in a grotesque shantytown in Edge of the Known Bus Line. The townsfolk live in huts and tents scavenged from broken trinkets. They eat dead rats and human flesh. They’ve developed cult-like religions about miracle bus routes that will someday set them free. The narrator searches for a way out of this surreal hellscape while dredging up a few nightmares of her own.

My review: 

Wow… Just. WOW!
Edge of the Known Bus Line is a novella about a woman who’s been going through her days just kind of floating through life. She rides the same bus to work everyday with the same people, but she doesn’t know any of their names. (Well, I guess that isn’t entirely true…she gives them her own made up names, but I’m not sure that really counts.)
One morning she goes to get on the bus and the marquee reads “Out of Service.” Since it’s the same bus with the same passengers as every other morning, she thinks it’s obvious the marquee is some funny mistake. SPOILER ALERT: She’s wrong.
She ends up in a super twisted place, but she’s kinda twisted herself. Anyone else who got off of that bus would have freaked out but she seems almost unfazed!
Edge of the Known Bus Line is one of those reads that sticks with you long after you’re finished reading. And when you’re done, all you can think is “What the heck did I just read?”
I don’t mean that in a bad way. I really enjoyed the book, but…
It’s disturbing.
There’s cannibalism, murder, cults…it’s crazy. And gruesome. And a little scary. And somehow funny at the same time…
I’ve never laughed so much at a book filled with so much darkness.
This is definitely NOT a family-friendly read, but I recommend it to anyone who enjoys getting the creepy crawlies with their laughs!

I received a copy of this book from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of Edge of the Known Bus Line? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

 
 
 

four-stars
Posted in WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday -August 22, 2018

img_1384-0Hello everyone! I’ve missed the last couple of weeks, but I’m finally posting my second WWW Wednesday in August!
WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.
Don’t know what WWW Wendesday is or how to participate??? All you need to do is answer the following three questions and link back to Taking on a World of Words, or you can put your answers in the comments on her blog! (You can also leave your link in my comments to be sure I don’t miss your post!)

The three WWW questions are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

38336382
I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich at first, but by the end of the first chapter, I was hooked!
 
 
 
 
 
 
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I’ve been reading Born to Wander by Michelle Van Loon with my husband. It’s really interesting and has led to some great discussions!
 
 
 
 
 

I recently finished:

I may have missed the last couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t carve out some reading time…
38769727
 
I absolutely loved Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky and I’ll be sharing my review soon!
 
 
 
 
 
40081069
Edge of the Known Bus Line by James R. Gapinski was a super quick read that gave me chills!
 
 
 
 
 
80176
For some crazy reason, I decided to start reading classics that I either never got around to or just discovered…Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson was not a good one to start with! I was pretty disappointed and upset that it was recommended to me.
 
 
 
 
willis_des_cov_print_final_r01.indd
Their Houses by Meredith Sue Willis is another book I recently finished that I fell in love with. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I got to the end and can’t wait to share the review with you all!
 
 

What I’ll be reading next:

the_sun_king_by_allison_lee_palmer_200 
 
What’s your WWW? Any thoughts on the books above?  Leave a comment or send me a message through the Contact Me page.
Want to support my laziness??? Feel free to leave a link to your own WWW Wednesday post in case I miss it over on Taking on a World of Words. (The link list is long over there guys, and I’ve got a lot of books to read…)

Posted in book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Irrationalist: The Tragic Murder of René Descartes by Andrew Pessin

the_irrationalist_coverTitle & Author: The Irrationalist: The Tragic Murder of René Descartes, Andrew Pessin
Publication Date & Publisher: May 15, 2017, Open Books
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, General (Adult) Fiction, Murder Mystery
Length: 504 pages
ISBN: 13: 978-0998427447
My Rating: 5.0/5.0!!!!

My review: 

(Yeah, I’m changing it up and putting the review first. I’m crazy like that!)

giphyIt’s no secret that I love books! Let’s face it… I blog about books to support my book addiction.  So I’m rarely surprised to read a blurb, love the idea, read a story and love the book.
What is rare??? Finding a book that I love so much that I can find NOTHING negative to say about it! But that actually happened with The Irrationalist…
Andrew Pessin’s The Irrationalist: The Tragic Murder of René Descartes is a wonderful blending of historical fiction, murder mystery, and humor to create a story that is almost impossible to put down!
The story begins with a sad voyage by Adrien Baillet to Sweden.  Baillet is a reluctant priest being sent away from the only home he can remember to represent his institution to the “most powerful government in Europe.” This might not sound remarkable, but immediately I was like, “huh?”
Baillet isn’t who you’d pick to represent you or your organization in anything! Especially not in important matters… Baillet’s own description is this:

He was in his early thirties – he didn’t know exactly how old – and had lived nearly his whole life first under the care of, and now taking care of, Rector Charlet. The good man had tried to make something of him, without much success. Baillet failed to do much academically, unable to distinguish himself in any subject at the college except swordsmanship, and even there his distinction was merely being the only boy to serve as live target dummy for the fencing classes.

Jesuit’s were expected to be smart, imposing, able to defend themselves and defeat their enemies when necessary (by brain or brawn didn’t matter). This is what everyone Baillet came in contact with expected of him, and they were all sorely disappointed! His mantra seemed to be “Perhaps if I had applied myself…”
When he arrives in Sweden, he is tasked with investigating the mysterious death of René Descartes. The official report needed to be that he had died of natural causes in order to stop the rumors spreading that Descartes had been murdered.
But Baillet’s job isn’t easy… EVERYONE is a suspect. EVERYONE has a motive. It’s like the list of possible suspects never ends!!
Was it the paranoid librarian, Freinsheimus? Or Descartes’ valet, Schluter? What about Doctor Wullens, Père Viogué or Former Predekant Voetius? His own brother, Pierre? The Chancellor himself, Zolindius? Someone else??? Bramer, perhaps?
I was still trying to piece it all together and figure out who did it and why at the very end… which has a twist that had me ready to re-read the entire book right that moment! Then I felt like a fool for not figuring it out myself!
As Baillet is constantly reminded by those he’s investigating… “Trust no one.” I should’ve listened. The answers were all there!
You might expect a book about a murder in the 1600’s to be all seriousness, but The Irrationalist is comical in both it’s dry and not-so-dry humor. Baillet bumbles his way through much of the investigation and his suspects pretty much do the investigating for him. He learns a lot though and comes out a different person at the end.
While the book is titled The Tragic Murder of René Descartes, it’s also about the tragic life and transformation of Adrien Baillet.
I definitely recommend picking this up if you enjoy historical fiction and/or murder mysteries!
 

Description (from Goodreads):

An historical murder mystery based on real events.
Who would want to murder the world’s most famous philosopher?
Turns out: nearly everyone.
In 1649, Descartes was invited by the Queen of Sweden to become her Court Philosopher. Though he was the world’s leading philosopher, his life had by this point fallen apart. He was 53, penniless, living in exile in Amsterdam, alone. With much trepidation but not much choice, he arrived in Stockholm in mid-October.
Shortly thereafter he was dead.
Pneumonia, they said. But who could believe that? There were just too many persons of interest who wanted to see Descartes dead, and for too many reasons. That so many of these persons were in Stockholm—thanks to the Gala the Queen was throwing to celebrate the end of the terrible Thirty Years’ War—made the official story all the less plausible. Death by poisoning was the unofficial word on the cobblestone.
Enter Adrien Baillet. A likeable misfit with a mysterious backstory, he arrives just as the French Ambassador desperately needs an impartial Frenchman to prove that Descartes died of natural causes—lest the “murder” in Lutheran Sweden of France’s great Catholic philosopher trigger colicky French boy-King Louis XIV to reignite that awful War. Baillet hesitatingly agrees to investigate Descartes’s death, knowing that if—or when—he screws up, he could be personally responsible for the War’s Thirty-First Year.
But solving the mystery of Descartes’s death (Baillet soon learns) requires first solving the mystery of Descartes’s life, with all its dangerous secrets … None of it is easy, as nearly everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted. Nor does it help that he must do it all under the menacing gaze of Carolus Zolindius, the terrifying Swedish Chancellor with the strangely intimidating limp.
But Baillet somehow perseveres, surprising everyone as he figures it all out—all the way to the explosive end.

 
What do you think of The Irrationalist? Have you read it or are you planning on reading it in the future? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

Thank you to Open Books for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Click Here to Purchase The Irrationalist from Book Depository.
Click Here to Purchase The Irrationalist from Amazon.
 
 

Posted in book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Beneath the Same Heaven by Anne Marie Ruff

37795839-_sy180_Title & Author: Beneath the Same Heaven, Anne Marie Ruff
Publication Date & Publisher: March 2018, Open Books
Genre(s): General (Adult) Fiction, Literary Fiction
Length: 410 pages
My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

A story of love and terrorism.
Beneath the Same Heaven is a love story of an American woman and a Pakistani-born Muslim man, who seem to have bridged the divide between Western and Islamic world views. But when the husband’s father is killed by a US drone attack near the Afghan border, their cross-cultural family descends into conflicting ideas of loyalty, justice, identity, revenge, and terrorism. With candor, beauty, and unusual insight, their story reveals both how decent people can justify horrific acts, and the emotional power required to heal.

My review:

If you’ve read my WWW Wednesday from July 18, then you know that this book turned out to be so good that it just about broke me emotionally. It reads as a mystery combined with a love story combined with intense family drama.
The main character, Kathryn, is an American woman who marries Rashid, a Pakistani-born Muslim man.  Their love story is raw and believable in a way that draws you in without you noticing how attached you’re becoming to the characters.
Beneath the Same Heaven is broken up into Four Parts: The Book of Before, The Book of Kathryn, The Book of Rashid, and The Book of After.  When I first began reading it, I didn’t think I was going to like it. BUUUUTTTT…
I now believe Beneath the Same Heaven should be required reading! 
By the end of Part Two, I was so deeply committed and emotionally involved in the story of Kathryn and Rashid, that I had to take a break and walk away. This has never happened to me before! But mine and Kathryn’s hearts had been broken… our world was upside down… nothing had turned out the way it was supposed to, even though it seemed that things would be okay in the end… But things weren’t right!
I found myself talking about Kathryn as if she were a real person whose life was intertwined with my own. The problem (other than being that attached to a fictional character) was that there was no way for me to talk to her and give her my advice or comfort her at all! And her situation felt so real that I had broken right along with her…
My poor husband had to suffer the wrath of my intense emotional breakdown over what Rashid had put Kathryn and their children through. It felt as if he had just put me through it as well… I felt bad for abandoning her in her time of need, but my family needed me to take a break and come back to reality before proceeding with the rest of story.
And WHAT a rest of the story it was…
Anne Marie Ruff actually managed to make me root for the terrorist!!!
Still, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the beginning… to the point that I almost DNF’d the book! (Insanely glad I didn’t!!!) The problem was what seemed to me to be near gratuitous sex scenes between Kathryn and Rashid. I understand that the author was trying to show their deep desire & connection to each other, but it came across as forced and overly detailed at times. If it hadn’t been for this, Beneath the Same Heaven would easily be a full 5.0 instead of the 4.5 rating I gave it.
I definitely recommend picking up this book and devouring it as soon as possible!
What do you think? Have you read Beneath the Same Heaven? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Thank you to Open Books for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Click Here to Purchase Beneath the Same Heaven from Book Depository.
 
 

Posted in WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday -August 1, 2018

img_1384-0Welcome to August 2018 everyone!!!
I was going to add a list of my current reads to my July Wrap-Up yesterday, but since today (then tomorrow) is Wednesday, I skipped it.
WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  I’ve been doing it for a couple of months now (I think) and it’s a lot of fun sharing what I’m currently reading, but I’m also really enjoying visiting the other participant blogs to find more great books to add to my TBR pile!!! (Which is probably not a great thing…my TBR could kill if it fell on someone.)
Don’t know what WWW Wendesday is or how to participate??? All you need to do is answer the following three questions and link back to Taking on a World of Words, or you can put your answers in the comments on her blog!

The three WWW questions are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
 
 

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

38769727
I’ll be finishing this book today and I cannot wait to write the review and share how awesome Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky is!!! The main character is smart, cute, a fellow blogger, and she’s into paleontology… how could it not be great, right???
 
the_irrationalist_cover
I just started Andrew Pessin’s The Irrationalist. The summary of this book hooked me before I even started reading, so I’m reserving any real judgment until I’m farther in. So far though… I’m enjoying it!!
 

I recently finished:

Yeah, so this is awkward…

Nothing!!!

A book blogger who’s not reading enough to finish ONE. SINGLE. BOOK. this past week???
Yeah, that totally happened. Moving on…
 

What I’ll be reading next:

the_sun_king_by_allison_lee_palmer_200 
 
What’s your WWW? Any thoughts on the books above? (Or just wanna laugh at me for my slow reading???) Leave a comment or send me a message through the Contact Me page.
Want to support my laziness??? Feel free to leave a link to your own WWW Wednesday post in case I miss it over on Taking on a World of Words. (The link list is long over there guys, and I’ve got a lot of books to read…)