Book Review: The Ash Family

From the Publisher:

When a young woman leaves her family—and the civilized world—to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel.

At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins an intentional community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can’t untangle. Berie—now renamed Harmony—renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear.

Thrilling and profound, The Ash Family explores what we will sacrifice in the search for happiness, and the beautiful and grotesque power of the human spirit as it seeks its ultimate place of belonging.

My Thoughts:

The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover – then I read the description and knew I was all in. I have a thing for reading books that are set in communes, and I was super excited to start this one.

Idealistically, a commune sounds like a beautiful thing, one that appeals to my crunchy granola type nature. Off-grid living, living off the land, baking your own bread every day, enjoying the fruits of your labors all sounds so back to the basics, pure, wholesome. Except sometimes ideas can get twisted up and ugly, sometimes they can take a wrong turn. Berie meets Bay at the bus stop after a spur of the moment decision to not get on the plane that will take her to college. She is unsure of where she wants to go or what to do, and suddenly, an answer appears. Bay tells her that there is a rule about going to the farm – you either stay three days or you stay forever. When Berie’s three days are up, she doesn’t leave.

Berie is a person adrift, wanting to stay at the farm and be part of something bigger, part of the wilderness, part of this family hidden away in the hills, yet has a hard time letting go of her “fake” life, as the community refers to the rest of the world. Their life on the farm is real, all else is fake. Dice is their leader, their “father”, and has a magnetic personality that compels those around him to want to please him, to follow his wishes, no questions asked. He is doing penance for the crimes against the earth that he committed in his “fake” life, before he started the farm. A man committed to the “real” world he has created, yet has a fondness for soap scented with artificial pine while living among actual pine trees. He has rules and doctrines that the family must live by, with some pretty steep punishments. There are no possessions, everything belongs to everyone, there are no couples, no children are allowed. No pharmaceutical medicines, if you get sick or injured it is all folklore remedies. No talking about your life before, and heaven forbid the rest of the family think you are shirking your duties. It is a hard life, but they are doing what they feel they need to do. And the family’s desire to protect the planet is extreme – they are not just a band of happy hippies, they are eco-terrorists, cooking up more than jam on the farm. They make bombs, and bullets, and not only are they not afraid to use them, they are looking for the opportunity.

Berie does her best to fit in, but while she is 99% brainwashed, she still isn’t completely sold. She realizes she is an empty vessel, waiting for someone to fill her up with what she needs to do and be, and she feels that her place is on the farm, tending the sheep. Even before the farm, she seemed to live her life by what her boyfriend wanted, how he saw her through his lens. I found her a bit unlikable – her decisions didn’t only affect her, and she makes some pretty bad ones. Also, her mother is this huge shadowy figure, whom we never actually meet. Berie portrays her as some sort of villainous figure, yet her memories don’t seem to support this. Again, what is the truth?

This book was amazing – it kept me guessing, and totally off balance. I didn’t know truth from a lie, a friend from a foe, or what was really happening behind the scenes. I wanted to keep reading and reading, I wanted to know what the heck was the real story, in this story of fake and real.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the advance copy! 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review and Giveaway: The Best of Us by Robyn Carr

Goodreads Summary:

Dr. Leigh Culver loves practicing medicine in Timberlake, Colorado. It is a much-needed change of pace from her stressful life in Chicago. The only drawback is she misses her aunt Helen, the woman who raised her. But it’s time that Leigh has her independence, and she hopes the beauty of the Colorado wilderness will entice her aunt to visit often.

Helen Culver is an independent woman who lovingly raised her sister’s orphaned child. Now, with Leigh grown, it’s time for her to live life for herself. The retired teacher has become a successful mystery writer who loves to travel and intends to never experience winter again.

When Helen visits Leigh, she is surprised to find her niece still needs her, especially when it comes to sorting out her love life. But the biggest surprise comes when Leigh takes Helen out to Sullivan’s Crossing and Helen finds herself falling for the place and one special person. Helen and Leigh will each have to decide if they can open themselves up to love neither expected to find and seize the opportunity to live their best lives.

My Thoughts:

I always love when my reading takes me to the world of Sullivan’s Crossing, in Timberlake, Colorado. There is just something so real about these characters, and I have enjoyed reading about their challenges and triumphs in the previous novels. This installment was no different, I finished it in one day, a record for me these days!

Leigh Culver has settled into the community of Timberlake comfortably, healing their hurts in her clinic, sharing stories and hellos in the pubs and restaurants, slowly making friends and inroads into this friendly community. Her life seems to be just how she wants it, with the exception of missing her beloved aunt, who raised her. When a white-faced Rob Shandon, owner of the town pub, comes in one evening with his injured son, little does she know that her world is about to change in a big way. After stitching up Rob’s son’s hand, she finds she has a new patient, Rob himself, who almost faints at the sight of the blood. Leigh capably calms him down by massaging his head, something she does for patients who need some help slowing down, and boom – fireworks for Rob, immediately. Their quick friendship turns into a relationship even quicker. Spring has definitely sprung in Colorado, and love is in the air for everyone.

With spring in full bloom, Leigh’s aunt Helen comes for a visit. Helen is a popular mystery writer, and spends her time visiting different friends spread out through the U.S., avoiding midwestern winters like the plague. Helen is planning on spending much of her time with Leigh, but finds herself drawn to the front porch and kitchen table and eventually bedroom, of someone special herself.

But like Shakespeare said, the course of true love never did run smooth, as many of the couples in this book go through their share of hurdles. From Finn’s story with his girlfriend Maia, to Leigh and Rob, to Helen and her new love, all must find their way and their path to that true happiness.

I loved Leigh’s story with Rob, although, I do have to say I have to give it to Rob in this book. Leigh was a little difficult at times, and a little selfish, and I felt Rob’s character remained strong and steadfast and loyal, qualities that are also reflected in his son Finn. I loved the Shandon family, I have to say, in this book.

All in all, this was a great read from start to finish, and one to shake off those winter blues!

Giveaway! For a chance to win a brand new hardcover The Best of Us, just leave a comment below! I’ll do a drawing next Wednesday, Jan. 16th. Open to U.S. residents only, sorry!

Thank you to Little Bird Publicity for the chance to read and review this book! I was given a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Snowlicious

snowlicious I received a free review copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Summary:

A fun, flirty friends-to-lovers holiday romance. ❄️
Snow’s falling, carolers are singing, and holiday lights are twinkling. It’s the most wonderful time of the year to get out of the friend zone…

At least that’s what Mike is hoping. But his best friend, Thea, is seriously lacking in holiday spirit. In fact, she’s hot-and-bothered in the wrong way when her ex steals her entry in the Festival of Trees competition. Now, she needs to find the Best Tree Ever so she can win the competition before her florist shop loses business.

The catch? Thea’s using this opportunity to exert her independence and stand up for herself, but Mike can’t pass up the chance to play Secret Santa and lend her a helping hand.

Such an expression of holiday giving couldn’t possibly backfire, right?

My Thoughts: 

This short and sweet little book was a great holiday read. Fast and fun,  an easy way to slide into your holiday reading slowly.

Mike and Thea have been friends since childhood – yet they have begun wanting more than just friendship from each other, and while Mike is ready to cross that line of friendship into something more, he is not sure that Thea is. But the magic of Christmas time makes everyone hopeful and brave with the promise of the season, and Mike is willing to go the extra mile to show Thea that will do anything for her. Including giving her the opportunity to decorate his firm’s Christmas tree in the annual competition, after her own tree is snatched away from her by her ex.

I really loved these two characters, and they had some serious chemistry. I enjoyed how fun loving and realistic these two felt – sometimes you read characters that seem like people you could bump into on the street, and Thea and Mike felt that way to me. This book was a great escapism and the snowy imagery was perfect.

All in all, a fun little read! I want to find the other books in this series now!

 

Book Review: Snowfall on Lighthouse Lane

snowfall on lighthouse lane

Goodreads Summary:

Lose yourself in the magic, charm and romance of Christmas in the Pacific Northwest as imagined in JoAnn Ross’s heartwarming Honeymoon Harbor series. 

Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, Jolene Harper is forever indebted to the mother who encouraged her to fly—all the way to sunny LA and a world away from Honeymoon Harbor. Although Jolene vowed never to look back, returning home isn’t even a question when her mom faces a cancer scare. Which means running into Aiden Mannion all over town, the first boy she ever loved—and lost—and whom she can barely look in the eye.

Aiden’s black-sheep reputation may have diminished when he joined the marines, but everything he’s endured since has left him haunted. Back in Honeymoon Harbor to heal, he’s talked into the interim role of police chief, and the irony isn’t lost on the locals, least of all Aiden. But seeing Jolene after all these years is the unexpected breath of fresh air he’s been missing. He’s never forgotten her through all his tours, but he’s not sure anymore that he’s the man she deserves.

Despite the secret they left between them all those years ago, snow is starting to fall on their picturesque little town, making anything seem possible…maybe even a second chance at first love.

My Thoughts:

This book was the perfect start to a holiday reading season line up. It’s not a Christmas book, although, Christmas movies of the Hallmark sort are talked about! It was a fun, easy read about starting over and reconnecting with the “one that got away”.

I thought Aiden’s character was great – a real hero, the epitome of what a sheriff of a small town should act like.  Returning to Honeymoon Harbor from a stint in the military and then as a cop in LA, he finds that being a sheriff of the town he grew up in suits him. He cares about his community, the people he serves, and despite the fact that he used to be a big city detective, he takes his new position very seriously. He is a family man, cares about animals, and is just a good guy. His past haunts him however, both in his professional life and the memory of the rebellious boy that he used to be, and he has some demons to work through and figure out. Jolene is a bit too blithe for me, or lacking something. I had a hard time connecting with her character – she didn’t seem to care much about some major things that happened to her at the beginning of the book, and it was kind of weird. She, like Aiden, is returning to Honeymoon Harbor after a long time living away, to be with her mother during a health scare. She is on the brink of beginning a new chapter in her career life as well, and is able to use her time back home to gather what she needs and really think about her options.

The two find that their connection is just as strong as ever, and can’t be denied. Both have ties to their past still lingering, and must deal with these issues as well.

Honestly, that is my only complaint about this book. I felt that there were way too many threads and plot lines going on – I think it really watered the book down a bit. Had there been fewer, Ross would have been able to really flesh out the ideas that were left. As it was, I felt some of the issues were a bit throw away, and when they would pop up I would be like, “oh yeah, I totally forgot about that”.

Otherwise, this book is a good solid read to put you in the holiday spirit without going overboard before the holidays, if you are waiting until after Thanksgiving to dive headfirst into the winter holidays. It is not a Christmas romance, but they do celebrate Thanksgiving!

 

Thanks for Little Bird Publicity for the chance to read and review this fun holiday read! I received a complimentary review copy from Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Some short and quick book reviews!

Hey all! I just wanted to share some short and quick thoughts on a few of the books I read this month!

ghostland

First up, Ghostland. This book was not quite what I expected, but I still liked it. It was definitely as it says in the title, more about the history than the ghost story. I found some of Dickey’s insights very interesting, especially concerning the country’s turbulent history with race, and how he feels that even impacts ghost stories. It was definitely an interesting read, although it did feel a bit long.

city of ghosts

City of Ghosts: This middle grade book was a delight to read! It was appropriately scary for the age level, and the book itself was pretty cool, even for me. I loved the whole premise, and definitely the location. I really liked that Schwab was able to work the definitions of the British/Scottish slang or language into the story without it being obtrusive. What a great idea for kids who read this book who may not be familiar with certain terms. (adults too!) Definitely a book I would have purchased for our library collection when I was working at the library. ( I used to work/run an elementary school library)

spellbook

Spellbook of the Lost and Found : I loved this book. It was a quiet book, a slow burner of a book, that works on you bit by bit. It’s not splashy. And it was so good! There were some twists and turns that I never expected, and I wanted to just keep reading to find out what the heck was going on! I thought the premise was unique as well. Overall, I really liked this read.

I didn’t get as much reading done as I wanted to this month, but life throws curve balls sometimes doesn’t it. Lol. And tomorrow is Halloween already! My favorite holiday of the year! It looks like we will be homebound, as kiddo is just getting over a fierce cold as is my husband, but I also love handing out candy. They are predicting rain though, so..it might be a pretty slow trick or treat night. Good thing I bought candy that I like….

Book Review: The Impossible Girl

 
the impossible girl I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Summary:

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable.

Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public.

Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize.

Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.

My Thoughts:

Most people have a secret or two hidden away inside. Some big, some small, some inconsequential, others life changing. Cora Lee’s secret, tucked away, has been beating steadily away since the moment she was born, giving her life yet also threatening it.

Cora was born on the wrong side of the blanket, illegitimate – and with two hearts, a secret she must safeguard always. For this is the time of resurrectionists, when even the dead are not even safe from harm. Cadavers are in demand for scientific and medical studies, and those with “oddities” and differences can fetch a top price. Cora makes her living grave robbing, choosing to steal the bodies of the rich and well to do, feeling the poor suffer enough in life. This occupation though dangerous in itself, actually helps keep Cora safe. For the girl with two hearts is legend, The Impossible Girl, whose corpse would fetch a fortune.

I absolutely loved this book. The underworld of grave robbing, the flash language, the evolution of medicine and science, particularly for women (Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell even makes an appearance in the book!), the idea of anatomical anomalies put on display for entertainment – there was so much to read in this book, if that makes sense. So much content that set your mind imagining. I also enjoyed Kang’s drawing on the themes of duality. Cora’s hearts, her job that keeps her safe yet puts her in danger, upper class vs. lower class, as well as a few other things that I will leave unsaid, as not to give anything away.

I have read and loved Kang’s A Beautiful Poison and The November Girl, but I believe The Impossible Girl is her best to date that I have read. It was an interesting, thought provoking read, and it was a perfect start to my October.

Book Club and Crooked House

crooked house September book club was all me. I had chosen Agatha Christie’s Crooked House because it seemed like a perfect introduction to fall reading. I have only read a few Christie books, but every single one I have enjoyed – I really need to read more, but at the same time I don’t want to binge read them all at once. I want to take my time and read them here and there, to be enjoyed instead of just devoured. Plus I did that once with Joyce Carol Oates, and man I was so depressed!! Lol. Granted, Christie is not like Oates but too much of a good thing sometimes..

Anyway, back to book club. I had had a little minor happening and had gone to the ER the night before book club, and unfortunately did not get out of the hospital until 3 am. So I was not feeling super energetic later that day. However, with the help of my awesome husband, who had also had an extraordinarily long week, we managed to get the house together and food made. It was a very simple meal this time, but good. Spaghetti with freshly grated Parmesan, crusty bread and rolls, and a pie. And wine, of course.

Everyone started to arrive around 7 pm, and the evening was rainy and gray. I loaded my friends up with carbs and wine, and we had the sleepiest, coziest little book club in a while. It was the perfect atmosphere to catch up with each other, talk about the book, talk about whatever. We all felt as sleepy as my cats, who were taking advantage of so many laps. It was a pleasant evening, if not a particularly high energy one. Just a nice and gentle evening. We must have all needed a real break!

The book grabbed me from the first. Who was this crazy family, all intensity and quirks and savagery? Who could have done it? I had my suspicions, and I went back and forth on it as I read. It was a short read, but a good one. Perfect for a fall evening, if you are looking for something cozy and mysterious.

I had spotted that Crooked House had been made into a movie, and was available on Prime, and so this weekend my husband and I watched it. I was disappointed that they had changed so much about it, and I couldn’t see why they changed the things they did. Despite this, I did enjoy the movie anyway. The cast was amazing – Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Julian Sands to name a few, and they all delivered on their roles.  It wasn’t my favorite movie version of an Agatha Christie novel that I have ever seen – that goes to the newest version of Murder on the Orient Express. But it was fairly well done for what it was.

I am planning on reading another Christie book soon – I just need to figure out which one! Anyone have a favorite, or a suggestion? I’d love to hear!