[Book Talk] Things To Do When It’s Raining by Marisa Stapley

Book Details:

Format: eARC & Paperback
Source: Publisher & Purchased (& Won!)
Read: March 2018

Synopsis:

Two families, three generations and a lie that almost destroys them. Is their love strong enough to heal old wounds?

Mae Summers and Gabe Broadbent grew up together in the idyllic Summers’ Inn, perched at the edge of the St. Lawrence River. Mae was orphaned at the age of six and Gabe needed protection from his alcoholic father, so both were raised under one roof by Mae’s grandparents, Lilly and George. Their childhood friendship quickly developed into a first love–a love that was suddenly broken by Gabe’s unexpected departure. Mae grew up, got over her heartbreak and started a life for herself in New York City. After more than a decade, Mae and Gabe find themselves pulled back to Alexandria Bay. Hoping to find solace within the Summers’ Inn, Mae instead finds her grandparents in the midst of decline with their past unraveling around her. A lifetime of secrets stands in the way of this unconventional family’s happiness. Will they be able to reclaim the past and come together, or will they remain separate islands?

From the bestselling author of Mating for Life comes a powerful story about guilt, forgiveness and the truth about families: that we can choose them, just as we choose to love.

My Thoughts

Thank you to Harlequin and Graydon House Books for sending me an eARC of this book for review! I also purchased a copy AND then won a signed copy in a contest, so I guess I’m set!

This was my first Marissa Stapley book and I thought it was very good! It wasn’t quite what I was expecting – I think what I wanted was something a bit lighter, something with a bit more resolution, and something that would stick with me a bit more.

The first thing I will say is that I loved how this book was laid out – the different parts with the raindrops on the pages were so beautiful, and I loved the inclusion of Virginia’s ideas of things to do at the inn when it rains. I also really loved the setting – I will always enjoy books that take place at inns or by water. I read this book in the winter, but it would be a great book to read in the middle of summer by a lake.

I enjoyed the characters in the beginning but started to feel frustrated by them. This story is a perfect example of something that would be resolved if people would just talk to one another. Actually, when I finished reading, I couldn’t help but think of lyrics from a song by The National that go “you said we’ll only die of lonely secrets” because that seemed to be how everything was going – no one really talked to each other, so nothing was really resolved.

I’m fairly certain that most people will love this book, but it just wasn’t a book for me. I had a hard time really connecting with any of the characters, mainly because they drove me nuts for most of the book. Not only that, but everyone had their own story and with no one talking to one another, it just made for a very frustrating read.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I won a signed copy of this book, but I also received a signed copy of Stapley’s debut book, Mating For Life. This book might not have been what I was expecting and probably not my favourite of the genre, but I still enjoyed Stapley’s writing and plan to read her debut book soon.

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[Book Talk] The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Book Details:

Format: Hardback (& eARC)
Source: Bought & Publisher
Read: March 2018

Synopsis:

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

My Thoughts

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an eARC for review – I ended up buying the hardback, too, since it’s Kristin Hannah and I can never wait to read her books!

I actually did put off reading this for a bit when I had the review copy and I don’t know why – I saw so many people speaking very highly of this book and so I went back and looked at the synopsis and when I read that it took place in Alaska, one of my favourite places, and that it was a family’s test of survival I had to dive in right away. I adore reading books about homesteading, so reading one that takes place in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the last frontier, was exactly what I wanted.

What I wasn’t expecting was how majorly addicting this book would be! I’ve always loved Kristin Hannah’s writing but I feel like this was one of her most enthralling and anxiety-inducing books ever. I sat and read this story in large chunks but couldn’t read it right before I went to sleep because I couldn’t put it down! I didn’t realize that this was a story about a man changed, after returning from the Vietnam war, and the reader was to witness his complete deterioration into madness in “the great alone” – and taking his family down with him.

Man, oh, man … this book had my stomach in knots for the majority of the reading. There were parts that were so intense that I burst into tears and could physically feel my body shaking. Getting to the end of this book was like a test of keeping it together as a reader – I felt a huge weight lifted once I finished and felt like that bookish cliche, like I was letting out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. What I expected was a story about a family trying to make it in Alaska, maybe in over their heads, but I didn’t expect such an intense story that I literally had to put aside in order to read something else, just so I could sleep.

But while this story is intense in its family drama, it is also a gorgeous book about Alaska. I loved hearing about the landscapes, the vast amounts of untouched land, the beauty of this wild state that takes no prisoners, a place where you better be prepared to stay in because if you’re not, you could literally die. I visited Alaska about 10 years ago for my honeymoon and it was amazing to revisit the beauty of it, the mystery of it, and feel its pull. Kristin Hannah does such a great job of not only showing us the beauty, but also the dangers of such a place. This book shows not only how wild Alaska could be, but also the wildness within man.

And lastly, the characters! I adored Large Marge, Tom Walker, Leni, Matthew. I felt so frustrated by Cora, and by Ernst. Kristin Hannah wrote some great characters in this story and it was hard not to feel immense love for some and immense hate for others. Even Alaska is a character in itself. There are some really beautiful relationships, especially between women, and Kristin Hannah presents us with a community that would do anything to protect their own.

Honestly, I thought that Kristin Hannah hit it out of the park with The Nightingale but this book was absolutely amazing. The Great Alone is a book that you will not want to put down – trust me – and one that will leave you shaking afterwards. It’s intense, beautiful, dark, gripping, heartbreaking, and completely, completely addicting. Kristin Hannah’s writing is getting better and better and I can’t wait to see what she presents to us next.

[Book Talk] An American Marriage by Tarayi Jones

Book Details:

Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Read: February 2018

Synopsis:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

My Thoughts

Thank you to Algonquin Books and Ambur at Thomas Allen & Sons for sending me an early copy of this book! This is a hard book to write about because the majority of readers have absolutely loved this book. This is the first book I’ve read by Tayari Jones and while I did enjoy reading it, it wasn’t quite as spectacular as I had wanted it to be.

The story starts out with Roy and Celestial who have just been married and shortly into their marriage, something happens and Roy is sent to prison. I really enjoyed the beginning of this story, the life that Roy and Celestial had made for themselves. The story is then told through letters sent back and forth between Roy and Celestial, which was nice, too. The writing is quite simple, which made it easy to read, and a quick read at that, but I didn’t feel overly invested in either Roy or Celestial.

There is a lot of drama in this book and it’s very drawn out towards the end (which, I found, made the story drag a lot). I did like the ultimate ending of the book, but I felt like there was just too much drama and not enough explanation. I really wanted to get inside of the characters more and understand what they were going through, but their selfishness and lack of thinking through big decisions drove me nuts. I also really, really didn’t like Roy, especially towards the end. He started acting in a way that I just couldn’t get behind. I think, ultimately, what kept me invested in the story was my curiousity over how Celestial’s story would end.

All in all, though, lots of people really enjoyed this book, so take my opinion with a grain of salt and try it out yourself. I do think that Jones did a good job of telling the reader a story of a marriage in distress, as well as racial injustice that takes place. There were also some really beautiful lines about marriage and love, which I enjoyed. I still gave this book three stars as it was a good read, but just not great for me.