Book Review: “Father’s Day” by Simon Van Booy

Apr 26, 2016 by

Book Review: "Father's Day" by Simon Van BooyHarvey’s parents die in a tragic car accident when she is six years old.  Suddenly orphaned, the social worker finds the only living relative Harvey has left – her uncle Jason.  Jason has been long estranged from his family due mainly to his criminal record, and wasn’t even aware than his younger brother had a child… much less that his brother was gone now too.   The social worker sees something in Jason though, and helps him find his way to taking care of Harvey.  Fast forward twenty years, and Jason is visiting Harvey in Paris, where she lives and works now.  Harvey has put together a Father’s Day present for Jason during his visit, and plans to unveil the secret she thinks he’s been hiding from her.

I hadn’t read Van Booy before now, but I see why so many people love him so much.  This book was beautiful and careful with emotions and wonderful.  It took me a chapter or two to become completely enraptured with this story.

Harvey and Jason have much to offer and teach each other, but it’s far more than that.  There is a lot of love here, and it mostly starts with the opportunity for second chances.  The relationships that come out of these second chances are amazing.  Some take some time and effort, but what doesn’t?  I loved how the narrative moved so seamlessly between past and present.  It worked so well, and I especially liked how each perspective or memory was offered to the reader.  Its truly beautiful.

I strongly recommend this to readers of literary fiction and those who enjoy redemption stories.

*****
Father’s Day

by Simon Van Booy
Harper, 2016
304 pages
Source:  TLC Book Tours
*****

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Book Review: “Pushing the Limits” by Katie McGarry

Nov 26, 2013 by

Book Review: "Pushing the Limits" by Katie McGarryAt one time, it seemed like Echo had everything.  She was pretty, smart, had amazing artistic talent and was dating the basketball star.  But then something happened, and Echo just isn’t the same – she’s considered to be more of a freak than anything.  And now she has terrible scars up and down her arms that she hides from everyone, and has no memory of how they got there.

Noah had everything going for him too – until a house fire made him and his two younger brothers orphans.  The foster care system has split Noah from his brothers and he wants to do everything he can to get them back and in his custody after he graduates.  But the system, and life just gets him down and he tunes out to partying, drugs, and one night stands.

Echo and Noah are thrust together courtesy of their high school counselor…  and they help each other in more ways than they ever could have hoped.

So, my book bully friend has been telling me about this book for such a long time…  and I finally got the chance to read it.  I use the term “read’ loosely here – it is more like I devoured it!  I just couldn’t put it down!  Echo and Noah really took me by surprise…  I didn’t realize just how involved I was getting in their story until something really intense happened to Echo, and I found myself holding my breath.  And there were tears.  Smiles and laughter too – plenty of that as well.  It is really just emotional all over, and I loved it.  I really did.

Echo and Noah have had such different experiences, and tell their stories in alternating point of view narration.  Their individual histories help them really understand each other on such a deep level – a true connection.  But there is so much that can get in their way!  They also each have their own set of loyal and trustworthy friends, and their counselor is awesome.  These people become crucial to their overcoming their individual obstacles, and the way that it all plays out is incredible.  This was really much better than I expected, and I am so glad I read it!  I will absolutely read on in the series, as the next two books follows the story of different characters introduced here.

*****
Pushing the Limits
by Katie McGarry
Harlequin Teen, 2012
391 pages
Series:  Pushing the Limits #1
Source:  Purchased New
*****
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Book Review & Giveaway: “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce

Jul 26, 2012 by

He didn’t mean to do it.  He certainly didn’t plan it.  I mean, he didn’t even have his mobile phone on him.  He didn’t say good bye to his wife, Maureen.  But Harold did it anyway.  You see, that morning he had received a letter out of the blue from a woman he used to work with.  Queenie Hennessy had written him to say good bye, explaining that she is dying of cancer and living in a hospice.  Harold is moved by his sudden memories of a kindness Queenie provided him twenty years earlier, and writes her a letter in response.  He isn’t really happy with how he has written his letter; he is having trouble saying all the things that he needs to say to her, but he feels as though he must post the letter right away.  The first post box he walks to has already been collected, so he walks to the next one.  And then the next one after that.  By the afternoon, he has resolved to walk the entire length of England to see Queenie…  and he has sent message that she must live until he gets there.  He has faith that his walk will save Queenie.  But she’s not the only one who could use some saving…

I really liked Harold.  He is recently retired, though not really sure what to do with himself all day.  He and his wife have a truly strained relationship…. and there is just so many times a week that you can mow the lawn.  His walk becomes so much more meaningful, and it is a wonderful experience to travel along with him.    He is forced to remember terrible memories of his childhood, of the harder parts of his marriage and fatherhood but also of the happier times throughout his life.  He questions everything, and becomes quite philosophical about the meaning of his life and the legacy he will eventually leave behind.  He encounters some unique individuals along his journey, and even some followers.  There has been much sadness in Harold’s life, and you really feel his despair and depression…. and makes you feel like his biggest cheerleader when the journey becomes harder.

Maureen is also in incredible character.  She is hard, cold, and has certainly endured her share of heartache. But being left behind by Harold, being alone like this is nothing she ever anticipated and I really liked watching her transformation in response to this new situation.  Harold walks to save Queenie in a very literal sense…  but the end result is so much more.  It is meditative, emotional, surprising, humorous and a wonderful experience to read.  Rachel Joyce deserves all the wonderful buzz she’s getting for this impressive debut!

Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for review.  Good News!  They are also providing a copy for one of my US readers as well!!  Please complete this FORM to enter.  Please enter only once; duplicate entries will be deleted.  US mailing address only (no PO Boxes please).   Giveaway ends at midnight EST on July 29th, 2012.

*****
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce
Random House, 2012
336 pages
Source:  TLC Book Tours
*****
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Book Review: “The Red House” by Mark Haddon

Jun 26, 2012 by

Book Review: "The Red House" by Mark HaddonNot long after their mother’s funeral, Richard invites his sister Angela and her family to vacation with him and his family in the English countryside.   This doesn’t seem terribly interesting at first, but you must take into consideration that Richard and Angela have barely spoken nor seen each other in fifteen years.  Angela’s children don’t know their Uncle Richard, his second wife Louisa or his step-daughter.  This may make for an awkward holiday in and of itself… but the close quarters in the wide open space of the countryside exposes the insecurities and personal demons that each person is battling.

My first experience with Mark Haddon was with his well-known novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.  I instantly loved that book and its main character, and expected the same here.  That didn’t quite happen.  It took me much longer to get into this one, and now that I’m finished – I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it.  Haddon adopts a very unusual voice, a very simple narration that disguises the complex themes he is discussing here.  It takes some getting used to; one character may hold the focus for a paragraph or two, and then the focus shifts without warning.  There were times that I wasn’t sure who was speaking (or thinking) for an entire page, and then I’d have to go back and read it again once I’d figured it out.  Then there would be passages from a book a character was reading or lyrics from a song one was listening to… just to keep you on your toes.   It took me far longer than I’d like to admit before I could clearly distinguish between characters within a few sentences.  It doesn’t help that there are eight characters either.

Once I was able to get past that though, this is really one very thorough examination of a dysfunctional family.  Each person is dealing with their own problems, unable to fully communicate with their family members.  We are then more accurately looking at a family of individuals.  The weeks’ vacation then is much more for each of them, and becomes more of a week of either self-discovery or of discovering each other as the case may be.  The reader really gets to know the character as the character is realizing him or herself.  The manner in which this happens, and the issues at hand, would make this book a hit with book clubs and discussion groups.  I’m not saying that this is a book that everyone will love, but that it has plenty to talk about (you know, when you’re not worried about divulging spoilers!).

*****

The Red House

by Mark Haddon

Knopf Doubleday, 2012

272 pages

Source: Publisher for honest review

*****

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“Domestic Violets” by Matthew Norman

Aug 26, 2011 by

"Domestic Violets" by Matthew NormanTom Violet seems to have a lot going on in his life right now.  Or maybe it is just all the little things are coming to a head, all at the very same time.  He loves his wife, and really wants to make love to her, maybe even make another baby….  but his body just isn’t cooperating.  He hates his middle-management job at a company known by initials, even though no one knows what it is the company actually does.  He wants to be a writer, but is afraid of following in his celebrated award-winning author father’s footsteps.  The truth of it is, he just expected more of himself by this point in his life, and he’s just not sure where that places him now.

Let me just get this out there from the start, so there is no question.  I loved this book.  I love Tom Violet.  He is so funnily snarky that I was constantly laughing out loud, or snarfing whatever liquid I was drinking through my nose.  Hey, it happens.  There are parts of this book that echo Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You, coincidentally enough – another book I enjoyed immensely.  It isn’t the same though…. and while there is the snarky bitterness throughout the text, there isn’t the underlying anger.  If a gun were placed to my head and I were forced to choose between them, I would pick Domestic Violets.  


Tom is a great character, even beyond the humor which I so obviously love.  He is so perfectly real – I know I worked with a guy or two like him when I used to spend my days in Cubeville.  I really liked the characterizations of the secondary players as well – Greg in particular.  Yeah, I used to work with that guy too.  You’ll see what I’m talking about.  The father was an interesting dynamic though…  I was never exactly sure how to feel about him.  I liked him, but I wasn’t sure that I should.  I’m not used to liking womanizers.  I’ll make an exception in his case.  But just in case I’m not fully clear here – you need to read this book.  This is definitely a book that will appeal to just about everyone I can think of.  Thank me later.

*****
Domestic Violets                                 
by Matthew Norman
Harper Perennial, 2011
352 pages
Source:  NetGalley for review

Also available at The Book Depository.

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“A Single Man” by Christopher Isherwood

Jun 26, 2011 by

This book is something special.  I had waited for so long to read this, that I started to worry that I was putting too much pressure on it to live up to my elevated expectations – that worry was unnecessary.

A Single Man chronicles a day in the life of George – a professor at the local State College, far from his native England, and deeply grieving the recent and sudden loss of his long-time partner Jim.  Doubling the tragedy here, is that it is the early 1960s, when being gay was something to be hidden from, well, everyone except perhaps your closest and dearest friends.  George is so overwhelmingly disconnected from his neighbors, his peers at work, his students….  that he is becoming disconnected from himself.  This particular day finds George attempting to reconnect with his friends and neighbors, and make new connections with his students…..

George’s isolation in his grief, in his life is heartbreaking.  Although I cannot say what it is like to be gay in America now, and certainly not in the 1960s…  I’d have to imagine that this is a fairly accurate portrayal.  I loved watching George evolve….  for such a slim book, this evolution feels slow and dramatic and just lovely to behold.

As I said, this had been on my list to read for awhile now…. and I am so glad I finally got to it.  I am also going to include this in the Book to Movies Challenge, so expect a movie review in a few days or so.  I am really looking forward to how they deal with George’s character.  A lot of what I like in the book was internal to George, and I am curious to see how that is translated to film.

*****
A Single Man                                 
by Christopher Isherwood
Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2001 (orig, pub 1964)
186 pages
Source:  Library

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