Time Travel with Melanie Gideon’s Valley of the Moon | A Book Review

valley-of-the-moon-book

Author ★★
Story ★★★★
Writing ★★
Cover ★★★PROS
Entertaining
Great narrative
Powerful charactersCONS

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Language: English
Genres:
Literary Fiction
Historical Fiction
Time Travel
Women’s Fiction
ISBN-10:0345539281
Published: July 26,2016
Publisher: Ballatine Books

As a NetGalley member, I often receive their newsletter informing me of the books that will soon be available/are available for request. When I saw the Valley of the Moon in one of these newsletters, I was not much impressed by its cover – it was a bit too messy in my opinion. However, its title – it was filled with mystery and with a promise of an interesting journey just waiting to be taken in between its pages.

And so I requested to read it in exchange for my honest opinion.

And I am glad I did.

Valley of the Moon is Melanie Gideon’s third book and second novel. It is also my very first introduction to Melanie as an author. Valley of the Moon is told from the perspective of two main characters – Lux and Joseph. I am not sure why, but I am a sucker for books told from different point of views. Maybe because they make you feel omnipresent and in a way god-like; always aware of the truth that either character ignores. Seeing how the novel was structured, reinforced my desire to dive into it.

Lux is a single mom struggling to make her way when she discovers an idyllic community in the Sonoma Valley. It seems like a place from another time—until she realizes it actually is. Lux must keep one foot in her world, raising her son as well as she can with the odds stacked against her, but every day she is more strongly drawn in by the sweet simplicity of life in Greengage, and by the irresistible connection she feels with a man born decades before her. Soon she finds herself torn between her ties to the modern world—her adored son—and the first place she has ever felt truly at home.

The narrative takes us back and forth between the early 1900s and the 1980s. Joseph – trapped in 1908, and Lux mainly living in 1980 and finding her way back to 1908. As the story unveils, we learn from both characters their troubled pasts with their fathers, the lack of love they felt growing up, and the desire to build a future together, despite the unlikely circumstances. Both characters are relatable, and it is easy to root for them and become attached. Although Lux at first appears to be a mess – working at a restaurant and barely making ends meets for her and her son Benno, I loved discovering that she was more than her crappy job, and more than the poor life choices she had made up until her visit to Greengage. It is easy to feel empathetic toward her as she tries to better her life and her son’s while trying to maintain the relationship she is building with the people of Greengage, and Joseph in particular. Despite what appeared as her shortcomings, Lux proves to be a person of her word, and a fighter. She is someone one would love to have as a friend or a parent. It is also interesting to see that the all composed, well behaved Joseph is just a human like the rest of us, one that feels guilt, that tries to do and be better, and one who is always ready to lend a hand, and his ear.

Valley of the Moon is a beautiful story of love, hope, redemption and possibilities. It sucks you in the moment you open its pages, keeping you on your toes throughout the novel. It is packed with powerful (read emotional) paragraphs, offering a somewhat unexpected twist to the story that really took me by surprise. I couldn’t help myself from worrying for Lux, Benno, and Joseph, nor could I stop the tears from rolling down. Melanie Gideon created a masterpiece, a novel so powerful that you are left feeling all kinds of emotions at the same time: sad, happy, hopeful, and so much more. Valley of the Moon is a real page turner, and a book I think anyone into time travel, women’s fiction and touchy-feely narrative, will really enjoy this book. I am already looking forward to reading more from Melanie and maybe even see Valley of the Moon being someday adapted onto the big screen (wishful thinking?).

I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Book Review |Victoria Crossing by Michael Wallace

Author

Story    ★★★

Writing ★★

Cover   ★★

Humor

 

PROS

Entertaining

Well written

Endearing

Feminist

CONS

 

 

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Language: English

Genres:

Literary Fiction

Historical Fiction

Women’s Fiction

          

ISBN-10: 1503934136

Published: May 17,2016

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

 

This was a well-written book, with a plot that sucks you in as soon as you open the first pages. The novel is set in 1851 after the Potato Famine that struck Ireland, forcing Maeve and Victoria to flee to New York in order to survive. It is on the same ship that the two young women bond, and due to circumstances (Maeve’s brother fails to meet her at the port of arrival, and Victoria gets her money stolen by a crook), they decide to join forces to improve their circumstances.

Throughout the book, we get a glimpse at the danger the young women face in the industrial Manhattan, with crooks luring around. We also understand that there is a past unknown of Maeve regarding hers and Victoria friendship. When Maeve’s brother finally comes into the picture, and the chips start to fall where they belong, Maeve’s and Victoria’s friendship is tested.

I loved that Mr. Wallace has led us in connecting with each character, understanding where everyone came from. This is not just a tale of friendship and loyalty, but also a tale of love. It is also a tale of being an immigrant. Being one myself, I could particularly relate to the hardships one faces trying to make a home away from home. More importantly, I loved that the story praises the strength of women and their loyalty, instead of tearing them down as most novels tend to do with pity women jealousies. Although not political in itself, Victoria Crossing is a great reminder of the power women hold, as well as a reminder of  what one can do when surrounded by great friends.

Victoria Crossing was full of excitement, intrigue, and suspense from the beginning until the end. And what an end it was! I could hardly believe how the story turned out, expecting a very typical High Victorian period novel ending only to be pleasantly surprised.  All in all, Michael Wallace is a great storyteller and I leave it to you to find out.

Thank you to Michael Wallace, Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for giving me a free e-ARC of this book to read and the opportunity to give my honest review.

Book Review | Not Working by Lisa Owens

Book Review| Not Working by Lisa OwensDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Author

Story    ★★★

Writing ★★

Cover  

Humor ★★★★

 

PROS

Funny

Entertaining

 

CONS

No real resolution

 

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Language: English

Genres:

Humor & Satire

Literary Fiction

Contemporary Fiction

Women’s Fiction

          

ISBN-10: 0812988817

Published: May 3, 2016

Publisher: The Dial Press

DISCLAIMER

Not Working, debut novel of Lisa Owens, was kindly provided to me for an honest review by NetGalley and its publisher The Dial Press. Read the full disclaimer here.

Twenty-something Londoner Claire has just resigned from her job without a plan–and although she is pleased, her family and friends can’t seem to understand. Before too long, she manages to push away both her safe, steady, brain-surgeon boyfriend and her difficult but loving mother.
Quirky, questioning Claire hilariously navigates and comments on the emotions and minutiae of day-to-day life as only someone without the distractions of a regular routine can.

 

I was in need of an easy read and was happy to receive an Advance Reader Copy of Not Working. The description promised a funny, laugh-out-laud novel, and I was ready for it.

The novel starts of in an unusual format – a conversation with a passing stranger, which threw me off a bit, but a few pages into the novel, I found my pace. Lisa Owen’s writing style is very catchy, and easy to read. Claire’s voice is so genuine, that I couldn’t help myself from relating to her, feeling compassionate for some of her everyday struggles, as she tries to find herself, and her raison d’être. After all, we’ve all been there at some point of our lives: asking ourselves what is our life purpose, and what type of job should we be doing.  Claire takes on to find it out with humor, and from the second page onto the last, I couldn’t help but smile at her (mis)happenings. Not Working is very Ernest in its genre, filled with fun, and real moments. How often did I find myself nodding, agreeing with Claire, because that is exactly what I would usually do, or how I would usually handle one situation? I think this novel will appeal to many, as everyone can relate to some degree to the protagonist.

Despite the great time I had reading the book, I was a bit left hanging at the end, with Claire still in search of herself, and her future still uncertain. I wish Lisa Owens would have brought some resolution to the story, offered some wisdom even, or left a hint as to what the character could look forward to. Instead we are left with just having to imagine what can come next, hoping that someday, just like in real life, Claire might finally find herself. Maybe, all along, that was the whole point of the story? To point out that just like in real life, Claire’s future was yet to be decided?

Overall, I truly enjoyed Not Working. If you are looking for something quick to pass the time, for something to make you laugh at times and make you smile, don’t hesitate to give this novel a chance. As for me, I am already looking forward to Lisa Owens’ next novel.

Book Review |The Longest Night by Andria Williams

Book Review: The Longest Night by Andria WilliamsDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Please refer to the Disclaimer page for more information.

 

Author

Story    ★★

Writing

Cover  

Mystery

 

PROS

Captivating

Filled with tension

Well contructed scenes and characters

CONS

Tedious read

Long to climax

 

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Language: English

Genres:

Women’s Fiction

Historical Fiction

Literary Fiction

Contemporary Women

Fiction

          

ISBN-10: 0812997743

Published: January 12, 2016

Publisher: Random House

DISCLAIMER

The Longest Night, debut novel of Andria Williams, was kindly provided for an honest review by NetGalley and its publisher Random House. Read the full disclaimer here.

In 1959, Nat Collier moves with her husband, Paul, and their two young daughters to Idaho Falls, a remote military town. An Army Specialist, Paul is stationed there to help oversee one of the country’s first nuclear reactors—an assignment that seems full of opportunity.

Then, on his rounds, Paul discovers that the reactor is compromised, placing his family and the entire community in danger. Worse, his superiors set out to cover up the problem rather than fix it. Paul can’t bring himself to tell Nat the truth, but his lies only widen a growing gulf between them.

Lonely and restless, Nat is having trouble adjusting to their new life. She struggles to fit into her role as a housewife and longs for a real friend. When she meets a rancher, Esrom, she finds herself drawn to him, comforted by his kindness and company. But as rumors spread, the secrets between Nat and Paul build and threaten to reach a breaking point.

 

Andria Williams’ debut novel is charged with tension from the very first page until the last. The Longest Night, mainly set in Idaho Falls in 1960s, tells the story from the point of view of both Nat and Paul as they navigate through their married life. Paul is in the military, and his current assignment is to work at the site of a nuclear reactor. Nat, originally from San Diego and a free spirit at heart, has to readjust to a new life in the small town, all the while not quite fitting into the expected military wife role. In the background we also dive into other character’s lives, such as the Sergeant Richards and his wife Jeannine, Esrom among other third type characters. The tension comes from everywhere, and Williams does a fantastic job at holding it all together without giving in, and letting the reader guess the end. The eminent explosion of the reactor Paul is sent to work on is constantly looming over the character’s lives, making the reader wonder if there will be a good end to all of this. Throughout the novel, there is a strong sense of time and place, which gives a real dimension to the story.

However, so much tension can also be exhausting. The novel is not always easy to read, with passages that stretch for long periods. In fact, the novel doesn’t really start to pick up until about 60% into the book. For those  used to get to the climax of the story much sooner, this novel can prove to be challenging to read. The characters always seem to linger in certain situations, leaving the reader wondering whether or not some action will soon come along. I for one thought numerous times that the novel should have been renamed to “The Longest Story”, as it never seemed to want to end. Only my determination to get to the bottom of this story helped me get through the long beginning. That, and the fact that one has no clue as to the direction of the book, makes it quite a challenging read. However, the moment Paul is sent away from his family the story picks up pace, with more tension but also with more thrill filled in each page. The pages then just rolled under my fingers, my eyes hungry for more.

Ultimately, The Longest Night is a powerful debut novel, beautifully written and constantly moving forward – even if with some urgency. Even though I still think the beginning was too long, I must admit it was necessary to get the reader to the climax of the story, and to shape the whole “aha!” moment, when all is revealed, and the tensions are broken. Andria Williams crafted a well laid out novel, which doesn’t waste time on unnecessary scenes or unnecessary words. If one can bear long narratives, this is a novel to give a chance to. I promise, it will stir something within you.

07. Ghost of Girlfriend’s Past.

There she was, sitting on the other side of the vitrine, carelessly leaning into her companion, touching his hand with one of hers, while teasing her long dark locks with the other. She seemed engrossed into the conversation, blushing at times, her lips slowly stretching into a smile, while her mouth opened and closed to words that would remain a secret to the onlookers, and more importantly to Jane.

As Jane stood outside of the small coffee shop, looking in, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It had been a long time since they last spoke, but at this moment, everything seemed just like before. Sarah didn’t look much different from six years ago. Her hair was still long, stubbornly curling around her always glowing complexion. Her green eyes were focused, like two moons ready to engulf the darkness. How many times had Jane wiped away their rivers? How many times had she trusted their innocent reflections? As she stood there, slowly letting past memories flood over her, Jane suddenly found herself gasping for more air. Was it just her, or was the air stuffier? Forcing herself to step back from the glass surface, she strode away, putting some distance between her past and what seemed to be her imminent present.

Three blocks later, Jane finally slowed down her pace, matching the ongoing traffic on the sidewalk. She had ran away as if she had seen the devil in person. How was it possible that one person – who had meant so much to her at one point in her life, how could she stir up so many contradicting feelings within her? Jane was puzzled, and even more so, frustrated. Her day had started so well! Now, the sight of an old friend rained on her parade. But why? she asked herself,reaching a familiar place – the local grocery store. As she perused down the produce isle, Jane thought about relationships, and more specifically about bad breakups. They left you empty handed, exhausted and heart broken. There was no immediate cure to pain, nothing that didn’t require time and many hours of counseling. It wasn’t just about past boyfriends, even female friendships hélas! – were not immune to this condition.

Jane was a big proponent of the “everything happens for a reason” ideology. She used it to justify all of her heartbreaks, be they professional or more personal. She thought the Universe was trying to teach her something, that if only she took her time to listen, then maybe she would be rewarded with better opportunities. After all, didn’t they say “when one door closes, another opens”? When she had closed her door (literally) on Sarah six years ago, she was convinced that it was what needed to happen. In her mind, there was nothing left to put back together. No glue in the whole wide world could fix their broken friendship. Jane had had enough of perpetually being trapped inside Sarah’s never-ending drama. She was mentally exhausted of always picking up the pieces, just as she was tired of always being the one to collect all the blame. As painful as it had been to detach herself from the one person she had thought she’d be linked to indefinitely, it was a decision she had had to make. So why was she doubting herself at this moment, when so much time had passed? Seeing Sarah had sown new seeds of doubts.

Of course, Jane knew deep inside, that she had made the right decision for her at that time. As hard as it had been to separate herself from Sarah, she needed to distance herself from the young woman. Sarah always acted with her own interest in mind, not really worrying whether or not she was walking over people. There was always this sense of entitlement about her. That, and also this impulsiveness about everything. One moment they would be sitting quietly in the library, studying for their upcoming exam, and a moment later, they were driving to the next state to crash a party that a friend of Sarah’s was throwing. Sometimes even, Sarah would drag Jane to her blind dates, before ditching her for her beau-du-jour. She never seemed to worry about Jane, never seemed to care whether or not she was putting her through uncomfortable situations. Did she even care? Jane would often ask herself. Sure, Jane too could have protested, thrown her own fits, refuse to tag along, but she hadn’t reached her threshold. She could cope with an occasional incident, she could be the better friend, the plane Jane, the one who made sure they never left their homes without having fully charged phones, or be the one who would ensure they both had a safe way to get back home. There was never a dull moment, it was always a go-go rhythm, and Jane frankly didn’t know how to press on pause. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Maybe it was the good times that brought her these moments of doubts? Or was it the way she had put stop to their friendship? Jane knew it was mostly the later.

She did miss Sarah at times, especially when a song they both used to like came on the radio, or when someone passed her by, trailing behind the same smell as did her long lost friend. Hélas, too much blood had spilled between them during the last year of their friendship. Too many ugly words were voiced, fingers were pointed, objects were thrown. They had tried their best to patch things up, pretend they were not diverging from one another, refusing to accept that one bad year could undue many good ones. Yet, eventually, there was no more fighting left in Jane. She had given her all to this friendship, and she had to go. So after one last big fight, where Sarah called her names, Jane had had it. She threw Sarah out of her apartment, and before slamming the door on her friend, told her to go fuck herself.

The end of their friendship ironically coincided with the end of their undergraduate degree. Eventually they both moved away, started new lives somewhere, and Jane never thought she’d see Sarah ever again. The world was really a small place to live in, wasn’t it? As she walked back home from the grocery store, Jane stopped. She turned and retraced her steps back to the coffee shop, wondering if she would still find Sarah there. She believed the Universe was testing her resolve to put the past behind, and maybe even give her another chance to do things the right way; to politely part ways? This idea brought her some comfort. But was that even possible, at this stage? She didn’t want Sarah back into her life, of that she was certain, but she also didn’t want to go through life dragging their painful separation, replaying it over and over as a movie of poor taste.

Back in front of the coffee shop vitrine, Jane took a deep breath in. She peaked through the glass, only to find the seat where Sarah had been sitting moments ago vacated. A wave of relief and sadness washed over her. Relief to not have to confront her past, sadness for not getting a chance to do so. Stepping back from the glass surface for the second time that day, Jane turned away, colliding into a pedestrian. When she looked up, ready to serve her apologies, Sarah stood in her way.

 

Total Word Count: 1,257

Book Review|Those Girls by Lauren Saft

Book Review of Those Girls by Lauren Saft

Originally when I saw this book, I judged it by its cover. The beautiful blue jacket over the girl’s shoulders, and this “mean girl” title. I knew this book would be about frenemies, à la Gossip Girls, but I had no idea how far this concept would be taken…

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Please refer to the Disclaimer page for more information.

 

Author

Story   

Writing

Cover  

Mystery

PROS

Captivating

Easy read

CONS

Use of sexual content,

drug and alcohol use,

and/or violence

Strong language

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Language: English

Genre: 

Young & Adult

Fiction

Teen Fiction

          

ISBN-10:0316403660

Published: June 9, 2015

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

DISCLAIMER

Those Girls, debut novel of Lauren Saft, was kindly provided for an honest review by NetGalley and its publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Read the full disclaimer here.

Lauren Saft’s debut novel, Those Girls is a story of three teenage girlfriends, Alex, Mollie and Veronica. They are are those girls: “they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good?

Those Girls is told from the point of view of each character, which I will admit is not always an easy thing to do, without stripping off their nature. I think Lauren Saft did a good job in keeping each character’s profile throughout the novel. I am not going to say that I loved the characters – no, they were all mean brats, who called each other names, lied, back stabbed one another, while still calling each other friends. Nonetheless, despite their vulgarity, as seen through the way they refer to one another, Lauren Saft did not bend and turn these girls into lovable characters by the end of the book. I found this refreshing, and it wasn’t so much of a sappy book as most Y&A books tend to be (considering their targeted audience).

However, classifying this book as a Young Adult novel was pushing it a bit. I think the book needs to be reclassified as New Adult. The reason being because of all the swearing and sex talks that are found within each page. Not to mention the use of drugs and alcohol. I don’t think this is a book appropriate for teenagers, and in no way does it set an example for young girls. That said, not being offended by these profanities, I was able to move through the book pretty quickly.

I found the book to be captivating, not because I thought it was the most entertaining and beautiful read, but because I was intrigued by these frenemies; I wanted to know whether or not their friendship would survive and whether or not they would have a moment of awakening.

Each character stirred different feelings in me, going from approval to strong dislike. If I liked that Alex did not care to be seen with the popular and most attractive guys of the school when compared to her best-friends, I also disliked how she lied and hurt those she cared about. If Veronica was despicable in her role of a sex-hoarder, she also appeared fragile and really in search of love. She always wanted to fit in, to be accepted for whom she was and to be seen as someone with more substance instead of the Barbie look her friends attributed her. Among the three however, I found Mollie to be the most despicable of them three. Despite that I also saw her as being scared to not count, to be in the shadows of Alex and Veronica. Despite some humanity in their actions, I found no real connection to the characters. When the story came to its end I was sad to see that neither character had grown and learned from this short time in their friendship life. I wish Lauren Saft had taken her time to explore each character in a more personal level. What made Alex, Mollie and Veronica be so mean? What had shaped them and their unhealthy behavior? It would have been nice to do without all the slut-shaming as well.

Is this book for everyone? Definitely not. It will not appeal to those looking for a Gossip Girl like novel, nor to those who get easily offended by strong language and graphic content. I think in order to enjoy the book for what it is is to take some distance from trying to compare it to any previous work that exist in this same genre. But it does make for an easy and quick read – if one is looking for something in that department. Lauren Saft has a clearly a lot more to learn in the department of storytelling, but her writing style is just as refreshing.

Book Review| The Therapist by Lori Lesko

Book Review: The Therapist by Lori Lesko

Author  

Story     

Writing 

Cover    

Mystery ★

 

PROS

Good structure of the book

Easy to read

Easy to follow

Multiple (unexpected) plot twists!

CONS

Too short

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LoriLesko.com

Language: English

Genre: Fiction,

           Thriller,

           Psychological thriller,

          Mystery

ISBN-10: 1508994951

ISBN-13: 978-1508994954

Published: April 15, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

DISCLAIMER

All opinions generated in this review are purely my own. No compensation was received for this review.

I have been exchanging tweets with Lori Lesko long before I purchased her latest book. There were many reasons for me to acquire the book: I had witnessed Lori’s perseverance as a writer, which has also been stimulating me with my own writing, and I was very intrigued once the synopsis (and cover!) was revealed to the public. I knew then that I wanted to read this book, and since it would be supporting and encouraging the writer, it didn’t take much of convincing.

“Lindsey CarMichael was a gifted child with an IQ of 190. Her father had high hopes that she would follow in his footsteps and practice law. Instead, Lindsey decided to pursue psychology as a career and her father relented, with one caveat: Lindsey was to be the very best. And she was. But the combined stress of recovering from a past trauma and the frustration of being stuck in an unhappy relationship has left Lindsey overwhelmed and anxious. She definitely needs a vacation, but her boss isn’t willing to let her go. Exhausted, Lindsey’s life begins to unravel quickly. If she’s not careful, she’ll be the one in need of therapy.”

Not having read Lori’s previous work, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that this was her first attempt at writing a thriller/mystery type of novel. When I picked up the book, I could hardly put it down. The storyline was great, the characters were all very captivating. Lori has a gift with words, as they seemed to flow naturally, and I never felt prompted to criticize the writing style. For a debut novel in this genre, I found The Therapist quite surprising. Every time I thought I had the plot figured out, there was a twist in the storyline, which kept my interest going.

Although this was a great read, I felt a little bit unsatisfied by its brevity. I think the characters and their troubles could have been dived into deeper, with a couple more chapters exploring Lindsay’s ghosts of the past, as well as the devious plan of her patient and the outcome(s). Maybe even get more insights of the devious personality of each supporting characters? I think it would have contributed more to the psychological part of the novel.

However, despite finding the novel a bit too short, I think Lori Lesko did a wonderful job at providing the readers with an engaging book full of twists. I am really looking forward to reading more of her work!

Side Note: This review was first published on my personal blog.