[REVIEW] My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent @4thEstateBooks

Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way: you have either heard of this book, seen its cover or seen Stephen King recommending it on Twitter. There’s no doubt that My Absolute Darling is the debut everyone has heard about. This book has wonderful writing and heart-pounding action in it.

Front of UK proof copy [Limited edition]

‘If Turtle hadn’t known, she could’ve told that Martin had the gun just from the way he wore his flannel,  just from the way he took his seat, but neither Principal Green nor Anna thinks of it; they do not even know such things are possible, and Turtle wonders if there are things that she is blind to that other people can see, and what those things might be.’

Told in the narrative style which isn’t solely focused on our main character but on her experiences we meet Julia ‘Turtle’ Alveston a fourteen year old girl who lives with her manipulative, gun-loving father Martin in a secluded house away from the gaze of other people. Turtle isn’t a regular kid because being raised by Martin makes her something else – something special. She has a passion for guns just like her father and views on women among other things. She can shoot a gun and has the ability to tell the difference between types of guns but when it comes to things like school and socializing she struggles. Her father is a very bad man who abuses her both psychologically and physically. One day she wanders off to the woods to get her mind off things and has an encounter with two boys that will put her in danger and in constant fear of her father. Will she find the courage to escape her father or will she always be his absolute darling?

Back of UK proof copy [Limited Edition]

‘She nods at this, but still she doesn’t get it, knows what it has done to her, the grief of it, the way it ate into her bones, but there had been no fear, and she does not understand-fear of what?-and looks at him and knows, really knows, how little she understands him.’

Spine of UK proof copy [Limited Edition]

This is an exceptionally well-written debut novel worth every praise. The story itself is very interesting and it immediately grabs your attention which is always a good thing. The characters are well developed especially our main character and her thoughts. The character of Martin Alveston is honestly one of the most heinous characters I’ve read in fiction because of his actions and even though he’s very intelligent there’s not a single good thing about him that can be said.  I did have a few issues with the book because I thought that certain events in it could’ve been better developed and I know that the author meant for us to feel empathetic towards Turtle but somehow I didn’t feel that way. Don’t jump to conclusions yet what I mean is that her thought process is twisted (credit goes to her father) and because of that I sometimes found her hard to understand and that’s where my perspective of her as a character changed  but towards the end I felt scared for her. My issues aside I still enjoyed reading this book and was amazed as the story progressed. It’s very important to say that the way a child is raised definitely determines whether he/she will live a normal and healthy life and I love how this book makes you want to discuss it with someone and analyze it.

Inside of UK proof copy [Limited Edition]

If you’ve seen the comparisons to A Little Life then I don’t know what to say because it’s nothing like A Little Life and both books are very different – they only share a theme which is abuse. My Absolute Darling is something completely different and hard to read at times but still very rewarding and thought-provoking.

I would very much like to thank the publisher (4thEstate) for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: *

*it’s hard to rate this book because it’s between a 4 and 4.5 stars for me.

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Gabriel Tallent was born in New Mexico and raised on the Mendocino coast by two mothers. He received his B.A. from Willamette University in 2010, and after graduation spent two seasons leading youth trail crews in the backcountry of the Pacific Northwest. Tallent lives in Salt Lake City.

Find him on: GoodReads and Instagram

[REVIEW] The Reminders by Val Emmich @picadorbooks

‘I suppose it’s no use. We can be close by and watching like hawks, and those we love can still slip away.’

One of the hardest things [to some the hardest thing] in life is losing someone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a neighbour, a friend or a family member what matters is that we deeply cared for this person – we might have shared something personal with them or enjoyed their company – and then one day all of that vanishes and we are left alone with only our memories. The Reminders is a book about loss, grief, memories, music and above all love.

UK proof copy of ‘The Reminders’

Joan is a ten-year-old girl with a super rare condition called HSAM or highly superior autobiographical memory which makes her remember everything she does. She remembers everything from the age of three and up – she can tell what day of the week it was if you as her a question like: ‘What day of the week was January 28th 2012?’ and she’ll give you an answer that it was a Saturday (I had to go to my calendar for this btw) and exactly what she was doing that day. She loves music, song-writing and adores John Lennon and The Beatles and she inherited that love from her father hence the name Joan Lennon. Her dad has a studio where he records things and she often finds herself there listening to her father produce music. Gavin is grief-stricken because of the loss of his boyfriend Sydney and he decides to visit his old friends (Joan’s parents) in order to get his mind off of things. He meets Joan and since Joan has met Sydney (he was her mother’s friend) a couple of times she decides to make a deal with Gavin – him to help her with a song for a contest and her to tell him her memories of Gavin.

Back of the proof copy

I am so grateful to the publisher for sending me this book because it’s something special. From the lovely writing to the story it tells in such a heart-warming way that it makes you want to read on and don’t stop until you’re finished. It also has an excellent cover! Told from two different POVs and with short chapters the book makes you fly through it. I especially liked the way the relationship between Gavin and Sydney was crafted because even with a few sentences you can feel the love between them.  What made this book special were the memories of Joan which she shared with Gavin and made him feel closer to Sydney. We can never truly remember something the way it actually is because our memories change over time, they take different shapes, we see the important things but never the full details so the idea that a little girl who has HSAM can offer some peace of mind with her memories is something that I’m sure everyone would appreciate. This is also a story about a girl who is learning the world through music and song-writing and of course her family.

I have to take half a star off because there was a part which felt rushed and I didn’t like the way it was thought-out but that’s it. I enjoyed reading it and despite being 320 pages it’s a quick read.

Spine of the proof copy

The Reminders is definitely a must read for people who would like to experience life through the eyes of someone with highly superior autobiographical memory, for those who love music and stories which stay with you long after you finish them.

I would like to thank the publisher (Picador) for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 

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Dubbed a “Renaissance Man” by the New York Post, Val Emmich is a writer, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. He’s had recurring roles on Vinyl and Ugly Betty, as well as a memorable guest role as Tina Fey’s coffee-boy fling, Jamie, on 30 Rock. Emmich lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his wife and their two children. The Reminders is his first novel.

Find him on: Website, Facebook, Twitter and GoodReads.

[REVIEW+Q&A] Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed #GatherBook @littlebrown

Let me begin this review by saying that ever since I saw the cover and read the synopsis of this book back in January I have been obsessed with it. This is just one of those books you want to own and read and look at the pretty cover for days. Sadly my physical ARC of this book never arrived but I got it in e-form. Usually when I’m excited about a book I get disappointed in some way but this one was so great and amazing that I couldn’t put it down!

The story alternates between four different points of views we have Vanessa, Amanda, Janey and Caitlin. They live on a secluded island where everything is not what it seems – men and women, boys and girls have their lives set out for them. Their purpose is to marry, have children, raise children and when the children are all grown up and parents no longer of use they get removed from society. The island and its inhabitants follow certain written rules: much like we have a Bible or other religious texts they have one too called Our Book where there are rules and restrictions which have to be respected called Shalt-Not’s. The society is created by ten ancestors who are to be worshiped and praised for creating this world where the lives of the inhabitants are blessed and safer from the rest of the world (if there is a rest of the world). The ancestors have set ten Wanderers (men chosen by the ancestors) to take care of the society and help better it by overlooking the positions and roles everyone has on the island. Here comes the exciting part [that is if you’re not already hooked by my description of the book]: In the summer children are let go to live wild and care-free while the adults are indoors. They call this period Summer of Fruition where children fight for food and sleep in the grass and rarely return home for the whole time. To slightly older girls this is the last summer before they become a woman who has to get married and bare a child and serve her purpose for the sake of their glorified community. But not everyone wants to be a woman yet and the horrifying sighting by one girl lights a shimmering fire in the hearts of others.

What can I say except that this was an utterly and completely captivating book from the writing to the author’s imagination. The story itself is brilliantly thought of and very well executed –  there were a few things that come with every debut which weren’t exactly to my taste  – but overall it was unlike anything I have ever read. The themes in this book are dark and that makes the book not suited for every kind of reader but for those who love dark things this will be a perfect read.

To anyone reading this review I URGE you to head over to your local bookshop/online bookshop and purchase yourself a copy of this one! I know I will! ALSO: The US cover is 100x better than the UK one OK! The most amazing cover I’ve seen in a while and it’s definitely worth owning and showcasing.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher (Little Brown US) for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 

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Jennie Melamed is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in working with traumatized children. During her doctoral work at the University of Washington, she investigated anthropological, biological, and cultural aspects of child abuse. Melamed lives in Seattle with her husband and three Shiba Inus.

Find her on:  WebsiteFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads

Click continue reading to read my interview with the author. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Approaching fifty can be very stressful (and I’m sure it definitely is) especially if you’re not married, don’t have children or are not accomplished in any way. Andrew Sean Greer introduces us to a new character and shows us the struggle and the comedy in nearing fifty and trying to come to terms with getting older and getting the most out of life.

What is so special about Arthur Less? He’s approaching the big five-oh, he’s a writer and he’s single but what lies beneath all of that is a man of many fears. Out of the blue an invitation to his ex-boyfriends wedding appears and makes Arthur Less question everything he’s ever known about himself. What does our hero Arthur Less decide to do? Why yes, accept every literary event invitation he has been putting off and go on a trip across the world, of course! Arthur Less will visit Paris, Berlin, go to Morocco, he’ll go to a writer’s retreat in Southern India and at last to a desert island in the Arabian Sea. On these trips Arthur will meet many people and go through many challenges and all of them will make him realize and question things about himself in a new way.

Being a twenty-year-old adolescent I cannot tell you if this book dealt with the aging theme in a spot on way but I can guess that it paints a pretty good picture of what it’s like to be a fifty-year-old gay man whose identity is coming to question because he’s getting older. Greer makes our main character very introspective which is exactly what gives Less a voice and makes him a real character. Our narrator in this novel is unknown but about halfway through the book you begin to get a feel of who the narrator might be which I personally enjoyed finding out. Arthur Less is such a great character who throughout the book I couldn’t stop following and caring for – which is proof that Greer is skilled at writing a complex character.

‘Not that I saw all that then, when he blushed and his eyes went down. I knew nothing of anxiety or other pointless human suffering. I only knew I had said the wrong thing.’

I have to note that this novel might not be for everyone because I have seen a few DNFs of this book based on it being too ‘slow’ and not too comical like the blurb says. My experience with it was very different even though I didn’t like the narration in the beginning of it after about 25% I got used to it and read on. I have to agree that it isn’t a ‘laugh-out -loud’ book but it has its moments!

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher (Little Brown US) for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Some of you know the book ‘A Little Life‘ by Hanya Yanagihara and that it has its Instagram account so the person (Leonor) who started it with Hanya has made one for ‘Less‘ by Andrew Sean Greer so make sure to follow their account for lots of amazing photographs.

‘Less’ – Instagram 

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Andrew Sean Greer (born 1970) is an American novelist and short story writer.

He is the bestselling author of The Story of a Marriage, which The New York Times has called an “inspired, lyrical novel,” and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named one of the best books of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and received a California Book Award.

The child of two scientists, Greer studied writing with Robert Coover and Edmund White at Brown University, where he was the commencement speaker at his own graduation, where his unrehearsed remarks, critiquing Brown’s admissions policies, caused a semi-riot….more.

Find him on: Website, Facebook, Twitter and GoodReads.

[REVIEW] The Children by Ann Leary

This novel reads like those family dramas you’ve surely seen at least once on the TV and it has everything from a lovely house where everyone gets together to celebrate holidays to sibling rivalry and the arrival of an outsider which shakes it all up – oh and of course, inheritance.

Our narrator is Charlotte Maynard a late-twenty-something year old who happens to be agoraphobic. She lives in the Lake house previously owned by her late step-father Whit Whitman with her mother Joan and her sister Sally who occasionally comes there to stay for a while. Being agoraphobic she rarely leaves her house or goes anywhere but she fills her social exclusion by having a ‘mommie’ blog and posting about her fictional family as well as writing Listicles for some websites. She lives a peaceful and secluded life but when the arrival of her brother Spin and the news about his engagement to the beautiful Laurel come up – everything takes a different turn. This is where all the drama begins and you can see why I wrote the beginning of this review the way I wrote it. From Charlotte’s on-and-off relationship with Everett (he was taken in as a caretaker of sorts by Whit and lives in a house near theirs) to Laurel’s mysterious interest in the family home and their property the drama is set and ready to begin.

I liked the setting of the book because it’s a nice escape – we go to the Lakeside Cottage and look at a family and observe their life filled with different happenings. The character of Charlotte is very likable and she felt somewhat real because of her agoraphobia and other issues. I loved the stories of Whit and how we got to see who he was when he was alive – how he taught the girls to play banjo, as well as some survival skills. Charlotte’s sister Sally was a very interesting character but I hate how the author wrote her bipolar tendencies and how her family treated her. I don’t feel like this book represented mental illness very well which is an important thing to do. You could guess by getting deeper into the book that the author slowly reveals Sally’s bipolar tendencies and you come to a conclusion that she’s bipolar but what I don’t get is that close to the end of the novel there’s talk of her being bipolar as if it was something we already didn’t know. Sadly, I felt that the ending was pretty much rushed and predictable because of the happenings in the book. This book could’ve been more polished and the story could’ve been better developed particularly the confusing and rushed ending.

This was a fun escape into a story filled with family drama and secrets which I’m sure everyone enjoys and loves to read.

I would like to thank the publisher (Corvus Books) for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 

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Photo credit: Cathrine White

Ann Leary is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, The Good House , as well as the novel, Outtakes From a Marriage , and the memoir, An Innocent, A Broad. Her work has been translated into 18 languages and she has written for the New York Times, Ploughshares, National Public Radio, Redbook, Real Simple among other publications.
The Good House is currently in development for a feature film produced by Tribeca Productions and FilmNation.
Her new novel, The Children, will be published in May of 2016.

Find her on: Website,  Twitter,  Facebook and GoodReads.