A Few Thoughts on Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Published by Penguin LCC US on 2015
Pages: 390
Format: Hardcover
Source: West Florida Public Library
"From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, an exhilarating novel about marriage, creativity, art, and perception. Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation. Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years. At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart"--

When a book is described as one of the best books of the year, there’s not a whole lot I can really say that might persuade others to read it. So, instead of writing a standard review, I would like to share a couple of my favorite moments, which will involve minor spoilers.


I loved the character complexity of both Mathilde and Lotto, but I found myself admiring Lotto in the same way a host of minor characters did. I relate it to his unfailing ability to find beauty in others, from his long list of lovers to his wife to the operatic composer with whom he was determined to collaborate.

My absolute favorite moment in this book was during the artist’s retreat, when Lotto had a pity party of epic proportions. He and Leo had been working vociferously on their opera. Suddenly Leo takes leave to compose the music, thus abandoning Lotto to languish alone (and after he has extended his time away from Mathilde and missed Thanksgiving to boot). It went on for a couple of pages, but this concisely sums it up:

“He would starve here. On the shelf he had one apple kept back from a lunch, a box of skinny-person granola bars that Mathilde had packed, one last ramen cup. He would bleed to death from his cheek. The tailbone fracture would go septic inside him. No electricity and he’d burned up all his firewood in his gluttonous frenzy last night: he would freeze. No coffee either, caffeine withdrawal the real tragedy here.”

Groff exquisitely demonstrated Lotto’s proclivity for dramatic flair during this scene. Poor Lotto, cold, alone, cut off from everyone he loved. Poor, poor Lotto. I laughed out loud reading this.

Near the end, Groff beautifully describes the difficulty Lotto experiences when faced with a dissenter. Despite overwhelming praise and adoration, Lotto allows one person’s negative opinion to dash his confidence. This struck me quite forcefully. In that moment, I recognized myself in Lotto, that streak of perfectionism that sometimes allows a small blemish to mar my achievements (particularly my written work during my master’s degree). Seeing it before me as a narrative allowed me an opportunity to reflect and I intend to use this newfound insight the next time I start to “Lotto out” over a thesis draft. And I doubt I’m the only one out there who can relate to this.

So, to sum up, it’s a book that made me laugh, made me think, and made me stay up half the night to finish it. Read it!

Can She Do it? Tournament of Books 2016


This is my first foray into the rabble and ruckus that is Tournament of Books. I’ve heard it’s loads of fun, so I’m going to do my best to read all of the books on the short list. I’m going into each book with an open mind, and I’m not going to be afraid of setting books aside if I’m just not feeling it. I’m also trying to (finally) finish up my thesis paper this month, too, so I am going to have a busy February. Here’s where I am so far

      • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz – awaiting hold from library
      • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – currently reading
      • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
      • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy- saved in my TOB16 library list
      • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – read, review pending (because I’m slow…)
      • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf- checked out from library
      • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil
      • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
      • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – listened
      • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen- checked out from library
      • The Whites by Richard Price- checked out from library
      • Oreo by Fran Ross
      • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard– read
      • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak- currently reading
      • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- awaiting hold from library

Play-In Round

      • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving- saved in my TOB16 library list
      • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler- checked out from library

I’m trying to do as much of this as I can by utilizing the library. I’m also using this time to demo some different audio and e-book subscription services (basically, do it for free 🙂 ). I plan to at least provide mini-reviews of each book, so make sure to check back as we get closer to the tournament start date!

Alright, readers, who’s with me? Are you ready for TOB 16?!

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Published by Sourcebooks on January 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Humorous
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
The International Bestseller #1 Indie Next Great Reads January 2016 #2 LibraryReads January 2016 Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy's funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor -- not much else to do in a small town that's almost beyond repair. They just never imagined that she'd start a bookstore. Or that books could bring them together and change everything.There's a book for every person ... and a person for every book.

Imagine you’ve travelled thousands of miles to meet your pen pal… and arrive to find she’s just passed away. That’s what happened to Sara, yet instead of running home straight away, she turned what seemed to be a dreadful experience into rather an adventure.

Central to the story is the opening of Sara’s bookshop in the little Iowa farm town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. Her shop is exactly the kind of dream bookstore I’d love to run. I love the tenacity and perseverance she shows in proving that there is a book out there for everyone (a point on which she and I heartily agree)!

In opening the shop, Sara discovers a newfound sense of belonging that she’d yet to find on her past endeavors, and this seems to produce a ripple effect in the town–the people of Broken Wheel appeared to be developing their own senses: of self, purpose, conscience, etc.

There was a strong presence of Jane Austen throughout the story; her books are mentioned several times, and Sara even finds herself relating to Pride and Prejudice at one point. I would go further to say that the author styled some of her characters after those from Austen’s own work, most notably Tom, who seemed to have a taciturn disposition not unlike Mr. Darcy, and perhaps there was a little bit of Emma Woodhouse in the pesky councilwoman, Jen.

Although the reader never gets to directly meet Amy, her letters to Sara are interspersed throughout the story. Through these letters we discover a charming person who loves books as much as she loves her hometown, and it’s easy to understand what propelled Sara towards her American adventure. The letters also introduce us to characters in the same way Sara was, so that we are on equal footing with her when she starts meeting Amy’s friends and family. This was one of my favorite parts of book book. And it makes me miss pen pals.


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend can be best described as a sweet story, one that begs you to plop into a comfy chair with a mug of cocoa (or in a beach chair, if the weather is warmer). It was also full of references to other books, often prompting me to add books to my TBR list.

Wrong Time, Wrong Place: Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Wrong Time, Wrong Place: Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill CleggDid You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg
on 09/01/2015
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: West Florida Public Library
On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.

Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.

Lately, I’ve been having tremendous luck finding library books that are on my TBR list: The Shore, Dietland, Fates and Furies, A Little Life, etc… And, although I already had a little pile on my nightstand, I decided to also grab Did You Ever Have A Family off the new fiction shelf. I remembered seeing several other bloggers reading and writing about it recently and thought I would see what it’s all about. I read the dust jacket and thought it sounded a little more solemn than my usual read, but I thought I’d give it a try.

I was about 75 pages into it when I realized that now was not a good time for me to be reading this book.

These last two months have probably been the most difficult of my adult life. My husband and I are both without work, and both having difficulty securing new jobs. Fortunately, with some lifestyle changes and a little savings, we’re managing, but we are both experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety.

With my current circumstances being quite stressful and often depressing, I found it difficult to enjoy this book. It’s not that I identified with the characters or their tragic losses, but reading such a sad story worked to bring my mood down even further. I kept reading, hoping for some uplifting turn of events. And while I did like the interconnectedness amongst the characters, and how it came together in a circular fashion in the end, I closed the book feeling much the same. It was just so very sad. And so was I.

Beyond my own feelings, there was also something about the way Clegg writes that didn’t jive with me. The way some parts were written in present tense was weird and it made it difficult for me to follow. But what bothered me most was Clegg’s propensity for writing never-ending sentences. For example,

“There’s safety in numbers, Lydia’s mother would say as she blew clouds of smoke through the kitchen from behind the Formica table where she sat each night with her schnapps, like a general at her battle station making speeches to the troops.”

Yet I wonder: would this have bothered me if I wasn’t having such a strong reaction to the story?

Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder how differently I might have perceived this book if I’d read it at a different time, when my personal life was a little less chaotic. Would I rave about it like my fellow bloggers? Should I read it again down the road to see if my mind changes? I just don’t know.  And that’s why I won’t give this book a rating. It’s like when a couple splits up, and the one doing the splitting says, “it’s not you, it’s me.”

Sorry, Did You Every Have A Family, the problem was with me, not you.

Magical Mondays: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Magical Mondays: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen ChoSorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Published by ACE CHARTER on September 1st 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Literary, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite... The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession… At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Being an unabashed Anglophile and proud Potterhead, I thought this book would be right up my (Diagon) alley. The author took quite an interesting approach to magical England, a kind of 18th century Harry Potter meets Parliament. Not surprisingly, I found certain parts of Sorcerer to the Crown quite enjoyable, but it had some pitfalls that kept me from falling in love with it.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this book was the way it was written–it was delightfully British. I think this particular sentence exemplifies it perfectly:

“Despite these brave prophylactics against disappointment, Prunella was inclined to be crestfallen when she drew out of the valise a sheaf of old papers–newspapers and torn receipts, of no account.”

(Translation in American: “She was sad because there was nothing in the bag.“)

The vocabulary was also quite dazzling, but became tedious the further along I read (seriously, my Kindle dictionary was no match for some of these words). Initially, it felt as if the author was just trying to show off her mad thesaurus skillz, but upon further reflection, I appreciated her use of archaic terms that truly enhanced the historical feel of the book.

I also enjoyed how the author created a world parallel to 18th century England, with all its white, patriarchal privilege, and then chose to create main characters who defy those cultural norms. Zacharias, the freed slave, held the highest magical position in the land. He faced overt discrimination from the magical society despite his true claim as Sorcerer Royal (as well as being a gifted thaumaturge), with his adversaries looking for any way to unseat him. There was also a restriction on women using magic, which made the feminist in me bristle. Although I generally disliked Prunella’s character, I enjoyed her complete dismissal of these rules, rising to heights previously unattainable to low born, mixed race women.

So, yea, this book totally matches what I usually enjoying reading. But there were a couple of things about it I couldn’t overlook. First of all, it was slooooow at times. I almost gave up on this book around the 1/3 mark. But what I truly struggled with was supporting the story’s heroin. Despite my earlier remarks about her, Prunella was reckless and rash, and something about her character rubbed me the wrong way. I also felt that she took advantage of Zacharias, whose temperament reminded of Jane Bennett and who was completely naive when it came to women.

The verdict: good, but not great. It looks like this might become a series, and I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll read the next book.

Plato for Plumbers by Francis Gideon

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Plato for Plumbers by Francis GideonPlato for Plumbers by Francis Gideon
Published by Less Than Three Press on 9/7/2015
Genres: LGBTQIA, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
The week before an important philosophy conference, Kenneth is struggling to finish both the last chapter of his book and the paper he's writing for the event. His efforts are thwarted by a leaky faucet—and his life as a whole is turned upside down by the plumber who shows up to fix it.

One of the items on Book Riot’s Reader Harder Challenge 2015 is to read a book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ. So, I thought a good place to start was the LGBTQIA section on NetGalley. I hadn’t read anything from this genre before, so I was looking forward to what might be out there. And what I found was a short story titled, Plato for Plumbers by Francis Gideon.

I found this short story very entertaining. It was easy for me to identify with the main character, Ken, with his life in academia, and with his self-consciousness in failing to do “real people” things, like fixing a leaky faucet. The story was fun, if not a little predictable. But I think that’s the way romance stories work, right? After some will-they-won’t-they, Ken gets the guy, and everything works out in the end with a neat little bow?

After I finished, I checked out some reviews posted on Goodreads. Some readers posted complaints about a lack of sexual content. Although I was surprised that there wasn’t more sexual content, I can’t say that I’m disappointed in the lack thereof. I don’t think providing the explicit details of the characters having sex would have fit with the overall flow of the book. Again, I’m not very familiar with this area of fiction, but wouldn’t that be erotica and not romance? For a short story, I think the author nailed the appropriate level of detail.

Overall, I enjoyed this. It was a super quick read, the characters were relatable and, of course, they lived happily ever after. This is definitely not my usual cup of tea, and I can’t say I’ve been won over to the romance genre, but it was fun, and if you’re into romance and/or LGBTQ+ lit, you might want to give this short story a try!

The best part about reading this story was a little bit of self discovery and reflection. When I initially read the description on Netgalley, I realized I had stereotyped all LGBTQIA romance novels to be between two female characters. It was one of those automatic beliefs you don’t even realize you have until some stimulus makes you consciously think about it. I’m glad to have stumbled upon this very book to be that stimulus so I can work on eliminating such an erroneous belief.

Bad News Bee: Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes
Published by Penguin Canada on February 16th 2016
Genres: Fiction, General, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
A twisted young medical student kidnaps the girl of his dreams and embarks on a road trip across Brazil in the English-language debut of one of Brazil's most celebrated young crime writersTeo Avelar is a loner. He lives with his paraplegic mother and her dog in Rio de Janeiro, he doesn't have many friends, and the only time he feels honest human emotion is in the presence of his medical school cadaver--that is, until he meets Clarice. She's almost his exact opposite: exotic, spontaneous, unafraid to speak her mind. She's working on a screenplay called Perfect Days about three friends who go on a road trip across Brazil in search of romance. Teo begins to stalk her, first following to her university, then to her home, and when she ultimately rejects him, Teo kidnaps her, and they embark upon their very own twisted odyssey across Brazil, tracing the same route outlined in her screenplay. Through it all, Teo is certain that time is all he needs to prove to Clarice that they are made for each other, that time is all he needs to make her fall in love with him. But as the journey progresses, he keeps digging himself deeper, stopping at nothing to ensure that no one gets in the way of their life together. Both tense and lurid, and brimming with suspense from the very first page, Perfect Days is a psychological thriller in the vein of The Talented Mr. Ripley--a chilling journey in the passenger seat with a psychopath and the English-language debut of one of Brazil's most deliciously dark young writers.From the Hardcover edition.

This is the first time I’ve disliked a book so much in a loooooooong time. About a quarter of the way through it, I actually began to wonder if I would even finish. The writing itself was fine, but I was unable to find a connection to any of the characters, and I found the story simultaneously ridiculous and predicable.

I think the author was trying to present the main character, Teo, with overt psychopathology designed to give the readers the creeps. However, his behavior and cognitions were all over the map and didn’t fit any single diagnosis; there were components of paranoid schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, and a little bit of the autism spectrum. This resulted in a poorly constructed character who lacked the quintessential charm of a psychopath, and the flawed portrayal of his mental illness failed to draw any sympathy for me. The author succeeded in creating a very creepy character without any nuance, and, for me, it was just a little too much.

After finishing, I was struck by a thought about what makes psychological thrillers, well, thrilling. With stories like this one, there needs to be some degree of reality; that what makes it terrifying is that it could actually happen. There problem with Perfect Days is that it’s too fantastical to even be possible, and that bothered me.

Overall, definitely not a favorite of mine. I hate to be the Bad News Bee, but I don’t recommend this title.

SN: Normally, I wouldn’t comment on formatting of an e-ARC. I expect errors and funky formatting because I know what I’m reading isn’t the final, polished product. Having said that, the lack of some basic editing made this already difficult read more difficult. Most notably, there were editorial notes about the translation that hadn’t been removed, which were confusing and incredibly frustrating.

Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Our Dried Voices by Greg HickeyOur Dried Voices by Greg Hickey
Published by Scribe Publishing Company on November 4th 2014
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 234
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity. Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence. With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony.

With the recent buzz about “Earth’s cousin,” you’d think I’d found inspiration in science facts for my next choice of science fiction. I wish I was that cool, to be honest. But I’m not. I chose this book because of one word: Pearl.


So, yea, I was excited because the colonized planet in the book shares a name with one of my sweet pups. #crazydoglady? But I digress… Our Dried Voices was an OK read. It was hard to describe my thoughts without spoilers, so here goes.

This book fits in my current sci-fi/space travel mood, and I was intrigued by what all could possibly go wrong in this utopian, new world colony. The storyline was interesting, keeping my attention until the last page. The book opens with a chronology of the next 200 years, outlining fantastic medical and technological achievements. Then, BLAM, the story picks up on Pearl, with an established colony of humans that have evolved into bald, brown, simple creatures. I was really interested in finding out how that happened, and was pleased with how the author explained it, weaving some thought-provoking social commentary; each colonist follows the person in front, and when the system breaks down, they just shut down. I worry sometimes about people today falling into this same routine of “follow the leader” and then can’t figure out what to do on their own. Definitely some good stuff going on in this book…

…but then there were a few things that really left me wanting.

The author presented the colonists, even Samuel, as simplistic thinkers with limited vocabulary. As such, when describing new experiences from a colonist’s point of view, I expect the author to utilize similar thinking patterns and terminology available to them. Yet the author chose to use words that felt beyond their scope. For example,

“The paper–the first sample he had ever encountered of such a material–was tough and fibrous, similar to papyrus, but not as crisp.”

Based on Samuel’s presentation, even if he demonstrated higher levels of thinking than the others, I wouldn’t expect him to examine this new material and think, hey, it’s like papyrus. Where did that come from?! It’s like the author didn’t have faith that his readers could figure it out without being so explicit. I also felt like there were several plot holes that left me with questions. While the author ultimately explained how humans devolved into the state of the colonists, I still feel like there was something missing to achieve such bovine lifestyles. It’s hard for me to further elaborate on this point without spoilers, though…

Overall, I give this book three stars. It was fun, but not without some flaws. If you’ve read it, I would love to hear what you think!


The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen PhillipsThe Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
Published by Henry Holt and Company on August 11th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Thrillers
Pages: 192
Format: eARC
A young wife's new job pits her against the unfeeling machinations of the universe in this dazzling first novel Ursula K. Le Guin hails as "funny, sad, scary, beautiful. I love it."In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. After a long period of joblessness, she's not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings-the office's scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine's work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond. Both chilling and poignant, The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a novel of rare restraint and imagination. With it, Helen Phillips enters the company of Murakami, Bender, and Atwood as she twists the world we know and shows it back to us full of meaning and wonder-luminous and new.

This was a quick, fun little read. I think I find a certain appeal to quick reads like this for a couple of reasons: (1) the many sci-fi/fantasy book series of which I am a fan; and (2) exposure to clinical writing. So, let me first explain…

I love a good series. And, from beginning to end, it is usually quite the experience. With unlimited pages, the author has the ability (and often the predilection) to create a story that is bursting with detail. It’s a lot to soak in and hold on to, especially when there are large gaps between books! This book was the antithesis of such a series,  but didn’t fail to deliver! It has a great, suspenseful story that gave me enough detail to full capture the world in which Josephine lived and worked. In that sense I was reminded of how to  write clinically, and that keeping things concise and relevant were of paramount importance. The author could have easily padded the pages with descriptive flourishes, but she didn’t, and I don’t miss it here. It’s like a literary smoothie, it goes down quick without all that superfluous chewing and yet I get all the happy, little nutrients!

Yet one of my favorite things about this book was the way in which the author wrote what was going on in Josephine’s head. I love the inner dialog Josephine had with herself, often playing with the words as anagrams and rhymes. And one of the best moments was her description of fear:

“They frightened her, the people of the world. She was scared to look up, scared to observe the smiles and frowns on their faces. They were the spies of the Person with Bad Breath. The spoons were, too, and the saltshaker, the napkin dispenser, the strand of hair; all of them keeping tabs on her, the thief. Again, she shut her eyes.”

She really nailed the almost irrationality of thought one might experience when in the grips of terror; moments where even those who are usually level-headed fail to find fault in the idea of clandestine cutlery.

Another thing that really grabbed me was how the author beautifully captured the inescapable sense of drudgery of menial jobs and obligation to working somewhere you don’t want to be or that doesn’t value you with an appropriate wage. It brought me back to the first years of my marriage. Although we hadn’t fled the “hinterland” for urban splendor, my husband and I were in a similar situation: living in a shoddy apartment, working for peanuts, having monthly debates on which bills we could pay late. It was tough and trying at times, and I feel that was also reflected in the dynamics of Joseph and Josephine’s relationship throughout the course of the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short, single-sitting read. It was suspenseful with a lot of magical realism, and kept me engaged until the very end. If that sounds like a good time to you, I think you’ll like it as well!

Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson

Of Things Gone Astray by Janina MatthewsonOf Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson
Published by HarperCollins UK on August 28th 2014
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 288
Mrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to discover the front of her house had vanished overnight ... On a seemingly normal morning in London, a group of people all lose something dear to them, something dear but peculiar: the front of their house, their piano keys, their sense of direction, their place of work. Meanwhile, Jake, a young boy whose father brings him to London following his mother’s sudden death in an earthquake, finds himself strangely attracted to other people’s lost things. But little does he realise that his most valuable possession is slipping away from him. Of Things Gone Astray is a magical fable about modern life and values. Perfect for fans of Andrew Kaufman and Cecelia Ahern.

I scored a pile of books a couple of weeks back at a swap, and, because I’m not good at decisions, I pondered on which book I’d start next. I grabbed for this book because it was physically closest to me. It also happened that this was the day after the news broke about Charleston. As I read over the back cover, I was struck by a line quoted from Andrew Kaufmann’s review: “This book reveals the world as it really is: fantastic.” It just felt like this book was what I needed that day.

There was such a beautiful cast of characters in this book. With the exception of Cassie, I totally fell in love with these characters. I could relate somewhat to Delia since I’ve a terrible sense of direction (although mine has been a lifelong affliction). Marcus appealed to the musician in me, and his characters often contained brilliant little nuggets of prose.

“She’d bought him a few CDs of his favourite composers, but he didn’t listen to them all that often. It was too much like always hearing strangers talking and never getting to say anything himself.”

I rather enjoyed following Robert as he literally lost his job, and the ways in which he tried to handle it. I found Jake’s chapters often heartbreaking as he dealt with the loss of his mother and also slowing losing his father. But there was something about his chapters that reminded me of Christopher from A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which is one my favorite books. Chapters featuring Mrs. Featherby were my favorite. I found myself laughing to myself during her chapters more so than any others. It may have been the absurdity of her missing wall or her diligence in maintaining her steadfast routines now that her fortress has been penetrated.

“The years she’d spent crafting a reputation for being reclusive seemed entirely wasted. One simply cannot be a believable recluse when one is cursed with a transparent wall.”

As for Cassie, she reminded me too much of Bella Swan from Twilight. I was bewildered by how Cassie’s preoccupation with her absentee lover outweighed any concerns about her leafy metamorphosis. In my head I was screaming at her to snap out of it so perhaps she’d become herself once again.

My proclivity for quoting in this review reflects my absolute favorite thing about this book: the author’s writing style. When I read a particularly choice phrase, my reaction was similar to the way I react when I taste something spectacular – I pause, close my eyes briefly, and savor it before moving along. For example…

“‘My dear,’ he said, ‘no matter how old we get, we somehow can never convince ourselves that whatever trial we’re in the middle of is only temporary. No matter how many trails we’ve had in the past, and no matter how well we remember that they eventually were there no longer, we’re sure that this one, this one right now, is a permanent state of affairs. But it’s not. By nature humans are temporary beings.'”

… had me like…

It’s been a while since I’ve read a traditional book. The thing about reading this way versus on my usual Kindle is I actually felt the book ending in my hands. Within the first few pages I found myself having a lovefest with this book, and I as the characters began to interact and change, I couldn’t wait to see what would ultimately happen to them all. But, as the book began to feel thinner toward the back cover, I started to worry: would  I run out of pages before the story reached its natural conclusion? At 10 pages from the end I was terrified it wouldn’t wrap up in time. It was a photo finish, but it did. I loved how Jake and Anthony came together at the end with Delia and Cassie – that was beautiful. The end of Marcus’ story was also beautiful, but made my heart hurt. Mrs. Featherby’s ending made me sad, mainly because she left so abruptly (she was my favorite after all!). But mainly I loved that although the characters were connected, but not so much that everyone was having tea together by the end. This was such a beautiful read. Andrew Kaufman was right; the world is fantastic.