Love Anthony – Lisa Genova

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“From the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice and Left Neglected, comes a heartfelt novel about an accidental friendship that gives a grieving mother a priceless gift: the ability to understand the thoughts of her eight-year-old autistic son and make sense of his brief life.

Two women, each cast adrift by unforseen events in their lives, meet by accident on a Nantucket beach and are drawn into a friendship.
Olivia is a young mother whose eight-year-old severely autistic son has recently died. Her marriage badly frayed by years of stress, she comes to the island in a trial separation to try and make sense of the tragedy of her Anthony’s short life.
Beth, a stay-at-home mother of three, is also recently separated after discovering her husband’s long-term infidelity. In an attempt to recapture a sense of her pre-married life, she rekindles her passion for writing, determined to find her own voice again. But surprisingly, as she does so, Beth also find herself channeling the voice of an unknown boy, exuberant in his perceptions of the world around him if autistic in his expression—a voice she can share with Olivia—(is it Anthony?)—that brings comfort and meaning to them both.”

This book is the third novel written by Lisa Genova. I absolutely adored Still Alice and Left Neglected, and this one didn’t disappoint either. Although slightly different from the others (less medical, more about the characters) it was still a great read!

The story is a tough one, following grief and loss and betrayal. Olivias journey starts off with a loving husband and an adorable son. Their son, Anthony, is not like other boys his age. He seems to be stuck in toddlerhood, while other kids are growing fast and verbal. After a few tests, they find out that Anthony is autistic, an unexpected curveball that throws life off balance.

In contrast to this, Beth has the perfect family. A husband of many years and three gorgeous daughters. But nothing can be perfect right? Beth soon finds out that her husband has been cheating on her with a co-worker.. a beautiful and young co-worker. Horrified, she kicks him out and has to rediscover herself through this new chapter in her life.

Beth and Olivia soon meet up and their stories mix beautifully together. They share each others love and loss and grief through Anthony’s moving story, bonding the women in a supernatural way.

If you’re a fan of a good story about overcoming obstacles, finding ones true self, and believing in the power of family and friends.. then this is a perfect book to pick up!

Rating: 3.75/5

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Flavia de Luce Series by Alan Bradley

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from Goodreads: “New York Times bestselling author Alan Bradley has enchanted readers worldwide with one of the most award-winning mystery series ever. Featuring the irresistible, incorrigible eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, whom the Chicago Sun-Times called “a delightful, intrepid, acid-tongued new heroine,” the family de Luce lives on the once glorious, now crumbling estate of Buckshaw, in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey, where murder happens more than it should and the brilliant amateur detective (and dedicated poison enthusiast) spends equal time dodging her older sisters and solving the most ghastly of crimes.”

Let me start this off with one important sentence “if you haven’t read Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, you need to get on that!!”

Now that that has been said, lets get down to the nitty gritty. Alan Bradley is a wonderful writer. Simple as that. I started this series not too long after hearing major praise about it from best sellers lists and other reviewers. I’m glad I picked it up. The series follows an 11-year-old girl named Flavia De Luce who manages to find herself in serious situations involving dead bodies. Flavia is so appealing to the reader that she keeps you hooked from book to book. Her quirky personality, her investigative curiosity and innocence makes for an addictive funny story; a story I believe everyone will love! Each book follows the loveable protagonist and the mysteries surrounding the dead bodies she discovers. Even after being told by the detective to stay way from the murders so they can do their jobs, thick headed Flavia feels it necessary to solve the crimes herself, with the help of her great uncles old laboratory. Murder mystery, scientific equations and a stubborn child make for awkward situations that keep the reader entranced.

I have just recently finished the third book in the series (there are five books total, so far! The fifth just came out last month). And I was not disappointed! Normally, quite a few series get redundant with every new book, feeling repetitive and boring to the reader. This one didn’t! Alan Bradley is a master at keeping the story fresh! I cannot wait to purchase the next two books so I can get completely caught up with this series. In the meantime, I just want to strongly urge you to pick up the first book in this series and give it a try! You won’t be disappointed!!!

The Virgin Cure – Ami McKay

From Goodreads: “The much-anticipated follow-up to the phenomenon that is The Birth HouseThe Virgin Cure secures Ami McKay’s place as one of our most beguiling storytellers.

“I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart.” So begins The Virgin Cure, a novel set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. As a young child, Moth’s father smiled, tipped his hat and walked away from her forever. The summer she turned twelve, her mother sold her as a servant to a wealthy woman, with no intention of ever seeing her again.

These betrayals lead Moth to the wild, murky world of the Bowery, filled with house-thieves, pickpockets, beggars, sideshow freaks and prostitutes, where eventually she meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as “The Infant School.” Miss Everett caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions who are “willing and clean,” and the most desirable of them all are young virgins like Moth.

Through the friendship of Dr. Sadie, a female physician, Moth learns to question and observe the world around her, where her new friends are falling prey to the myth of the “virgin cure”–that deflowering a “fresh maid” can heal the incurable and tainted. She knows the law will not protect her, that polite society ignores her, and still she dreams of answering to no one but herself. There’s a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street.”

I’m going in to this review as an Ami McKay virgin. I still have not gotten around to reading The Birth House before picking this book up. However, after reading The Virgin Cure, The Birth House is now at the top of my TBR pile!

Ami McKay writes a captivating story about tough times in the slums for a 12-year-old girl in 1871. Not having many options in life, Moth must take care of herself with any means possible. The means? Becoming a servant to a horribly abusive woman, and then escaping to a life much too old for her. The story follows Moth from her days in the slums, to her term in a brothel and her friendships along the way.

The story is shown through the eyes of a naive young girl struggling in the world. Every paragraph in this book had me wanting more. Ami is a talented writer, and her story of Moth is a touching tribute to the old world and life in the slums.

I don’t really know how else to describe this book. One of a kind? An instant classic? Too many adjectives, so little time!

Give this book a go, it will be worth it!

Rating – 4.5/5

Pulp – Charles Bukowski

From Goodreads: “Opening with the exotic Lady Death entering the gumshoe-writer’s seedy office in pursuit of a writer named Celine, this novel demonstrates Bukowski’s own brand of humour and realism, opening up a landscape of seamy Los Angeles.”

Pulp was a satiric noir detective novel following Nick Belane, a seedy no-good unprofessional professional. Belane first encounters Lady Death who hires him to find a writer by the name of Celine. After her visit, a slew of other work opportunities show up, most importantly – The Red Sparrow. Belanes terrible workmanship make this an interesting ride of filth, humor and downright foulness. However, all is in good fun as we journey across town with Belane while he stalks Celine and tries to track down the mysterious Red Sparrow, along with watching another clients wife who is presumed cheating.

Charles Bukowski dedicated this novel to bad writing, but this book was quite the contrary. It is nothing like the classics, the writing in simple and the format is odd. It does however fall true with its title, Pulp. Unique, quirky, and sometimes disgusting; these are just a few adjectives to describe this book.

I really enjoyed this book. I was reminded so much of Chuck Palahniuks’ work. Perhaps this is the original Chuck? The one who inspired the likes of Choke, Haunted, and other Palahniuk novels? Either way, I’ve found a new Author to add to the favorites list.

Rating – 4.5/5

 

Left Neglected – Lisa Genova

From Goodreads: “Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In so doing, she also learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most.

In this powerful and poignant New York Times bestseller, Lisa Genova explores what can happen when we are forced to change our perception of everything around us. Left Neglected is an unforgettable story about finding abundance in the most difficult of circumstances, learning to pay attention to the details, and nourishing what truly matters.”

This is the second novel written by Lisa Genova, and it is just as captivating as her first. Still Alice took us on a ride through the world of Alzheimer’s. It was a touching story told from the eyes of the patient, struggling to deal with the disease. Left Neglected follows the same suit, however, we’re launched into the world of a neglectful brain. Sarah Nickerson does not have a left side, or left awareness. Physically, everything is good. She has two hands, both legs, both eyes, but her brain believes only in the Right. She only sees one side of the room, one side of her plate, one side of her body, yet everything appears normal to her. How do you recover from something you do not comprehend? It’s tough, and we learn through Sarah’s struggles just how hard this can be.

Left Neglected was a real page turner. Lacking knowledge in the inner workings of the brain, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to follow along. Lisa Genova made it simple with explanations and a likable character. Following a workaholic mother and wife, is all too relatable for a lot of people. I couldn’t put this book down. The story was so entrancing, I kept picturing myself in the same situation and in doing so felt a kinship to Sarah. What would I do in her situation? Would I be as strong? Would my family stick by me in this tough time? A sign of a good writer and great story is when the reader transports herself into the novel; and I did just that!

If you’re looking for a mind bending book about a topic rarely heard about, this ones for you. Genova has sparked a new interest for myself; the world of the brain. I cannot wait to see what she writes about next!

Rating – 4/5

The History of Love – Nicole Krauss

From Goodreads: “Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive, drawing attention to himself at the milk counter of Starbucks. But life wasn’t always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And although he doesn’t know it, that book also survived: it crossed oceans and generations, and changed lives.” Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that book. She has her hands full keeping track of her little brother Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah) and taking copious notes in her book, How to Survive in the Wild Volume Three. But when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.”

 

I found this book somewhat hard to understand at the beginning. The jumping back and forth of character narratives was confusing at times. However, overall I enjoyed this book. Leo Gursky was by far my favorite character in this novel. He was a bitter crusty old man who had such a quirky personality that I couldn’t put his sections down. I was entranced by his life observations, his opinions, him. On the latter, I found Alma slightly annoying and hard to relate to. And Bird, although he was quite interesting and completely odd and outshone his sister, I didn’t see the relevance between him and this story. This wasn’t at all what I was expecting. From the title, I gathered it would be more of a love story than a mystery but it ended up being a perfect meld of the two genres.

 

Rating – 3.5/5

Sarah’s Key – Tatiana de Rosnay

From Chapters Indigo:”Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family”s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France”s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl”s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d”Hiv”, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.”

Sarah’s Key is a heartbreaking story centered around a difficult time in history. Sarah and her family are arrested during the Vel’ D’Hiv’ roundup in Paris. All were taken except for her little brother whom she hid in a cupboard in their apartment. Thinking that they’d only be gone for a little while, Sarah locked him in and left with the key. Among the story of Sarah, we also follow journalist Julia Jarmond who is writing an article on the Vel’ D’Hiv’s 60th Anniversary. Through research, she comes across Sarah and her family, and interest ensues. The novel jumps back and forth between Sarah and Julia, giving a nice balance between the two stories before coming together by the end of the book. I surprisingly knew very little on the Vel’ D’Hiv’ so this story was an eye-opening experience. Tatiana de Rosnay’s writing was captivating. I couldn’t put this book down. It evoked so many emotions; sadness, frustration and hope .. just to name a few, I felt like I was riding a rollercoaster. The characters were so realistic and moving. This is one of my favorite books from 2011. Quite a few months after reading this book and putting it back on my shelf, I still think about it a lot.

Rating – 4/5

Similar Readings – I have Suite Francaise waiting patiently on my shelf to be read. It has a similar premises to this novel and has received numerous great reviews. Has anyone read it? Thoughts and opinions on it?

Movie Adaption – Sarah’s Key will be hitting theatres soon. I’m hoping to see it when it comes out. I’d love to see how they’ve adapted it for the big screen. Are you interested in seeing it?

Room – Emma Donoghue

From Goodreads: “To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.”

This ended up being a surprising favorite of mine this year. I was originally turned off of this book by the subject matter and the fact that it is written in the point of view of a 5 year old. However, I decided to give it a go anyways and I’m so glad I did. I could not put it down! At times the POV could be difficult to follow. Trying to make sense of what Jack is talking about could sometimes be a nuisance. However, having him tell the story made it easier to get through such a topic. I loved the way things worked out for them, but at times I felt major frustration towards Jack. I kept forgetting that he was just a child, who grew up in a terrible environment, and knew no better. The worst part is that this kind of stuff actually happens. Emma Donoghue gave a powerful voice to true victims through the story of Jack and the Room.

Rating 5/5