This was a solid writing week. I wrote four book reviews.
This was also a sad week: Cian, my adult cat that I’d had for 15-16 years, passed away Friday. Losing Salem (my other elderly cat) less than four months ago and now Cian has been tough. The two kittens I rescued, Poe and Puck, cannot replace my boys. Though they’re trying. As I write this, Poe is perched on my shoulder, and Puck wants in my lap.
Cassidy Morgan’s life has always followed a carefully laid track: top education, fulfilling career, and marriage to the love of her life, Owen. The next logical step was starting a family. But when a late-term miscarriage threatens to derail everything she’s worked so hard for, she finds herself questioning her identity, particularly what it means to be a mother. Unable to move past her guilt and shame, she realizes there’s more to fix than a broken heart. Grief illuminates the weaknesses in her marriage and forces her to deal with her tumultuous relationship with her own mother.
Cassidy hopes her work as a veterinarian specializing in equine reproduction will distract her from the pain but instead finds that one of the cases she’s working on shines a spotlight on the memory of her unborn son. For once in her life, Cassidy is left untethered and wondering why she wanted to become a mother in the first place.
Then the unexpected happens when Cassidy becomes pregnant again. But the joy over her baby is tempered by her fear of another loss as well as her increasingly troubled marriage. Now, she must decide whether to let her pain hold her back or trust that there’s still something to live for.
I have to confess, I almost stopped reading this about 25% of the way through. Cassidy and her mother were some of the most selfish and oblivious people I’ve encountered, and they (especially the mother) were extremely off-putting to read. This family has issues. So much passive-aggressiveness in every interaction.
Cassidy’s loss and what she went through were well-done, although her hatefulness to people made her hard to sympathize with at times. Grief and loss are explored on the page, as well as healing, although Cassidy did not “deal with her tumultuous relationship” with her mother as the blurb says. There was very little of that.
Kalyn Fogarty is a professional horseback rider and an author. What We Carry is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Alcove Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Single father Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He enjoys his job removing padlocks fastened to the famous “love lock” bridges of Upchester city. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his disciplined veneer, Mitchell grieves the loss of her mother, Anita.
One fateful day, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him as “The Hero on the Bridge.” He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year. However, the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.
Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places…
This seems like a simple story, but there’s a lot going on here. The pacing is slow and steady, which just works for this story. There’s a bit of mystery with the missing woman and her story, sadness and grief over Mitchell’s lost love, and also hope for the future. Not every story needs a fast pace to keep a reader engrossed. Sometimes, savoring a novel like this one is just as enthralling.
Phaedra Patrick studied art and marketing, and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. An award-winning short story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son. The Secrets of Love Story Bridge is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)
As if being 16 weren’t bad enough, Krista is still dealing with the death of her mother. Her father has moved his new girlfriend in and wants Krista to start acting normal again and find something to do. Her best friend is going to Maine for the summer. And Krista feels like she has no one to talk to about her pain.
So, she spends her time in a tent on top of the house, shoplifting, and watching a mysterious house. She’s not ready to act normal again. Then she meets Jake, who works at the store she shoplifts, and her dad tells her that her grandfather, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, is coming to visit. Krista starts to feel better, but if she never deals with the past, will she ever feel normal again?
The House at 758 took me by surprise. First, I feel like Krista is my spirit animal. Living in a tent on top of the house because you don’t want to be around people? Sign me up for that! Krista is hurting desperately, but she doesn’t want to ask for help. She’d rather brood and act like everything is okay, because shouldn’t people know what she’s going through? Dealing with dark emotions like grief, anger, and guilt isn’t easy, and Krista fights against it for a long time, until she starts to realize that there is more than one side to every story. This was an engrossing read that drew me into Krista’s head and kept me rooting for her to make a breakthrough and start to see light again.
Kathryn Berla is the author of Dream Me, Twelves Hours in Paradise, Going Places, and The Kitty Committee. The House at 758 is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Natalie DeAngelo is grieving the loss of her two sons in a school shooting. Even after a year, she still finds herself the focus of far too much attention, and lives with her memories and her despair. Then she hears about a sanctuary for elephants in Thailand, and decides on a change of scenery for a year to help with her healing.
As soon as she arrives, Natalie is caught between the animosity of a fellow vet and the rampages of an injured elephant named Sophie. Everyone else sees the elephant as a danger, but Natalie knows she’s just hurt and scared. Natalie puts all her effort into healing Sophie’s body and mind—and hopes that she just might do some healing herself.
The Mourning Parade is a fascinating book focused on enigmatic animals. The setting is rich with detail, and so vivid you can almost smell the steamy climate. The elephants are just as much characters in the novel as Natalie is, and the bond between Natalie and Sophie is incredible. I loved this book. It was emotional, but healing and inspirational, too. Highly recommended!
Dawn Reno Langley loves to write novels, essays, poetry…she just loves to write. The Mourning Parade is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Griff and Dylan—Thomas, like the poet—are almost back from vacation with their parents when the unthinkable happens: a horrible car wreck kills their parents and injures Griff. Now the two boys are alone in the world and struggling with grief and tragedy. Dylan is just worried about Griff, who’s not dealing well with their reality, and Dylan must make sure his brother gets through this in one piece.
When an aunt and uncle they’ve never met offer them a home in Wales, the boys end up in a world they’re not used to, still reeling from the loss of their parents. Griff bravely starts to adjust to their new reality, but he’s not the only who needs to be brave: Dylan has to face up to something if he’s ever going to embrace his own reality.
So. This book. This book. It’s sad, I’m not going to lie. I expected that, but I did not expect the wrenching sadness of both boys, and Griff’s horrible grief. The brothers are so different, and yet the same, and the memories threaded throughout the book—the nearest faraway places—are poignant and make the reader aware how great the boys’ parents were. The writing is strong and evocative, pulling the reader right into every single emotional moment. This is well-worth reading.
Ariel Levy grew up watching her mother come alive for a man besides her husband, and then watching that relationship stall out after her parents’ marriage ended. It was only after the end of these two relationships that her mother—eventually—found herself. Ariel decides she will love whomever she wants—and proceeds to do that, disregarding the fact that the other woman is already in a relationship when they meet.
A few years later, Ariel is pregnant, married, and secure in her own life when she heads to Mongolia to cover a story. When she returns, she is none of those things. Reeling from her loss, she discovers her partner’s alcoholism, which is too much for her to deal with. So, Ariel must decide—once again—what she wants, so she can go after it.
The writing in The Rules Do Not Apply is solid and evocative, but the author seems to be keenly analytical of other people’s flaws…and not her own. She went through a horrifying experience, one no woman should ever have to experience, and dealing with that grief is the most honest part of this book. The rest of the novel seems more about blame and veiled criticism of others, along with some scathingly accurate cultural analysis.
When Marceline was fifteen, she and her father were arrested by the government. He told her that he would not come back. They were sent to concentration camps, he to Auschwitz, and she to Birkenau. The three kilometers separating them might as well have been a million. Occasional glimpses of her father kept her going, but the note he managed to get to her kept her hope alive even in her horrendous, terrifying surroundings. She made it out of the camp alive and came home. Her father did not come back.
But You Did Not Come Back is a novella-length letter that Marceline wrote to her father, the man she never knew as an adult. Her experiences in the concentration camp colored the rest of her life, and through it all, her father’s memory lived on, her grief over him shadowing every day. Eventually, Marceline found her calling as an activist for refuges and as a documentary filmmaker.
Her heart-wrenching tale is filled with emotion and sorrow, grief and determination, in this memoir of one of the darkest times in history.
(Galley provided by Grove Atlantic via NetGalley.)