Book Review: Traveling With Ghosts: A Memoir by Shannon Fowler

Traveling With Ghosts: A Memoir by Shannon Leone Fowler

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Published: February 21st 2016 by Simon and Schuster

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From grief to reckoning to reflection to solace, a marine biologist shares the solo journey she took—through war-ravaged Eastern Europe, Israel, and beyond—to find peace after her fiancé suffered a fatal attack by a box jellyfish in Thailand.

In the summer of 2002, Shannon Leone Fowler, a twenty-eight-year-old marine biologist, was backpacking with her fiancé and love of her life, Sean. Sean was a tall, blue-eyed, warmhearted Australian, and he and Shannon planned to return to Australia after their excursion to Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand. Their plans, however, were devastatingly derailed when a box jellyfish—the most venomous animal in the world—wrapped around Sean’s leg, stinging and killing him in a matter of minutes as Shannon helplessly watched. Rejecting the Thai authorities attempt to label Sean’s death a “drunk drowning,” Shannon ferried his body home to his stunned family—a family to which she suddenly no longer belonged.

Shattered and untethered, Shannon’s life paused indefinitely so that she could travel around the world to find healing. Travel had forged her relationship with Sean, and she hoped it could also aid in processing his death. Though Sean wasn’t with Shannon, he was everywhere she went—among the places she visited were Oświęcim, Poland (the site of Auschwitz); war-torn Israel; shelled-out Bosnia; poverty-stricken Romania; and finally to Barcelona, where she first met Sean years before. Ultimately, Shannon had to confront the ocean after her life’s first great love took her second great love away.

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild meets Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk in this beautiful, profoundly moving memorial to those we have lost on our journeys and the unexpected ways their presence echoes in all places—and voyages—big and small.

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A very tragic and heart-wrenching memoir.

I received a review copy from Simon and Schuster, and boy am I ever glad I had the opportunity to read this memoir. I firmly believe that things gravitate towards you just as they are meant to. This gorgeous book found me right when I needed it. I needed to witness the strength humans are capable of in times of distress and misery.

The collection spans a journey through years, and navigating through grief. We each handle the blows life give us differently, it was extremely interesting to see our beloved Shannon pour her soul out into the world and share her story with those she meets along the way.

Her writing style is simplistic, but beautiful and effective at the same time. When she speaks of her beloved and her loss, it reads like poetry and tugs at your heartstrings.
After the horrific death of Sean from a Box Jellyfish sting, other similar deaths were documented. Inserting the stories of other deaths made this experience that much more powerful and showed the strength of Shannon — others may have chose to focus solely on their loss, she chose to research and bring awareness.

The memoir comes full circle, in a certain way, showcasing that their is life after those we love the most — the ones we feel that we should have died alongside them. Early on we learn how much Shannon adores the ocean, her life revolves around it! Her fear of entering the water after Sean’s death is crippling. When she finally finds the courage to enter again, it is as though the heavens opened up and smiled down on her, assuring all is okay and those we love are always with us.

A wonderful book. An exploration across the world and a grand life lesson.
Cheers. I would recommend this to anyone…It is powerful in so many ways.
Thank you, Simon and Schuster for the review copy.

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Book Review: Love Saves The Day by Gwen Cooper

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Love Saves The Day by Gwen Cooper

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From the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Homer’s Odyssey comes a tender, joyful, utterly unforgettable novel, primarily told through the eyes of the most observant member of any human family: the cat.

Humans best understand the truth of things if they come at it indirectly. Like how sometimes the best way to catch a mouse that’s right in front of you is to back up before you pounce.

So notes Prudence, the irresistible brown tabby at the center of Gwen Cooper’s tender, joyful, utterly unforgettable novel, which is mostly told through the eyes of this curious (and occasionally cranky) feline.

When five-week-old Prudence meets a woman named Sarah in a deserted construction site on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, she knows she’s found the human she was meant to adopt. For three years their lives are filled with laughter, tuna, catnaps, music, and the unchanging routines Prudence craves. Then one day Sarah doesn’t come home. From Prudence’s perch on the windowsill she sees Laura, the daughter who hardly ever comes to visit Sarah, arrive with her new husband. They’re carrying boxes. Before they even get to the front door, Prudence realizes that her life has changed forever.

Suddenly Prudence finds herself living in a strange apartment with humans she barely knows. It could take years to train them in the feline courtesies and customs (for example, a cat should always be fed before the humans, and at the same exact time every day) that Sarah understood so well. Prudence clings to the hope that Sarah will come back for her while Laura, a rising young corporate attorney, tries to push away memories of her mother and the tumultuous childhood spent in her mother’s dusty downtown record store. But the secret joys, past hurts, and life-changing moments that make every mother-daughter relationship special will come to the surface. With Prudence’s help Laura will learn that the past, like a mother’s love, never dies.

Poignant, insightful, and laugh-out-loud funny in the ways only a cat can be, Love Saves the Day is a story of hope, healing, and how the love of an animal can make all of us better humans. It’s the story of a mother and daughter divided by the turmoil of bohemian New York, and the opinionated, irrepressible feline who will become the bridge between them. It’s a novel for anyone who’s ever lost a loved one, wondered what their cat was really thinking, or fallen asleep with a purring feline nestled in their arms. Prudence, a cat like no other, is sure to steal your heart.

review

Gwen Cooper is the kind of author that makes you swoon. Her craft is so beautiful, you just want to hunt her down to say ‘thank you for being a writer’.

Homers Odyssey and Love Saves the Day rank in the top ten books I have read in my life.

No, this book isn’t just for cat crazed people. The storyline digs much deeper than just the basic worlds of our feline friends. Cooper explores humanity and all the basic human emotions. This book offers lessons on how to grieve, how to overcome obstacles, how to love—and most importantly, how to live.

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This book is rich with a beautiful and complex story. The life of Prudence the cat, and the life music creates serve as a backbone to a complicated, lovely and tragic story.

The words on the pages linger in your mind long after the last page has been read. Love does save the day, and this book is a great reminder to appreciate the live, and the loves we have/had.

Also, Lilies and cats? Bad mix.

If you have yet to read the masterpiece, Homer’s Odyssey –READ IT, RIGHT MEOW! 000940686

 

 

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Book Review: Girl in Snow by Danya Kufafka

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Published: August 1st 2017 by Simon & Schuster

Synopsis

Who Are You When No One Is Watching?

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka.

ReviewGirl In Snow had such an intriguing premise – I finished this book in one sitting. The world Kukafka crafted is so dark and eerie. Monsters exist amongst the mundane. Perhaps that is one of the underlying messages – fear does exist, it isn’t in monsters in the closet, sometimes it’s monster within the people we love.

Chapters are relatively short and alternate perspective from the 3 main characters: Cameron, Jade and Russ. The language and writing are absolutely beautiful. So much background and description are revealed in the narration and prose. Jade tells 2 sides of every conversation — what she wishes she said (through a play she is writing) and what she actually said. The characters are well-rounded and deeply flawed. So many FANTASTIC noir tropes pepper this storyline.

The story feels authentic. Real. The different levels of relationships between the characters and their world keeps the readers interest piqued.

Fantastic read. Has a nordic noir feel to it, similar to the great Jo Nesbo and Lars Kepler.

Thank you, Simon & Schuster Canada for the review copy.

The creaking of a playground carousel in the night wind is the only sound that settles in the darkness. It cradles the lifeless body of fifteen year old Lucinda Hayes. Tiny snowflakes drift and cling to the strands of her long blonde hair. Making no sound…..much like Lucinda herself.

 

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Book Review: The Firelight Girls by Kaya McLaren

must readsThe Firelight Girls by Kaya McLaren

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 Published: October 14th 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin

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The summers you spend at summer camp are indelibly etched on your heart. But what happens when the camp you love is about to close? Can you ever really say goodbye to the place that made you who you are?  These are the questions that plagues Ethel, the seventy-year-old former camp director who is nursing a broken heart after losing the love of her life as she now faces the impending closure of the camp on Lake Wenatchee that she called home. It’s also a question that inspires change in forty-year-old Shannon, who spent the summers of her youth as a vibrant, capable camp counselor and is now directionless after watching her career implode. And there’s Laura, who has lost all intimacy with her husband and doesn’t know if she can save what seems to be gone forever.  Finally, Ruby, who betrayed Ethel years ago and hasn’t spoken to her since, hopes this will be her chance to make amends. When the four women learn that a homeless teen has been hiding at camp, they realize camp is something much more immediate for all: survival.

 And so the three generations of women search for a way to save the place that saved them all, finding in the process a way back to themselves and each other in The Firelight Girls, Kaya McLaren’s novel of love and loss, heartbreak and healing.

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This is a beautiful story about friendship, love, grief & the beauty of life. It teaches the lesson that life is to be lived, and you are never too old, or too young, to be the person you want to be.

Firelight Girls is a one-of-a-kind dare I say—once in a lifetime sort of book. The characters are so vivid they jump off the pages and right into your heart. Each is fierce in their own signature way. Being together is what brings out their true strength.

It is a great coming of age story that links three generations of women together. These women hold eachothers histories, and hold the power to influence their futures.

There is so much power in the act of forgiveness. Forgiving oneself for the past, and forgiving others. It is such a grand lesson that needs to be experienced to be understood. This group of women learns that lesson together.

A inquisitive exploration and reminder of the power of friendship, unification and the female spirit.

This is a book to buy for your BFF!

Thank you, Raincoast Books for the review copy.

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Book Review: Before I Wake by C.L Taylor

Before I Wake by C.L Taylor 18565283

Published: June 1st 2014 by Sourcebooks Landmark1600108_10152164384975908_207743490_nA mother risks everything to uncover the truth behind her daughter’s botched suicide attempt

To the outside world, Susan Jackson has it all-a loving family, successful husband, and beautiful home-but when Charlotte, her teenage daughter, steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma, she is forced to question all of it.

Desperate to find out what caused Charlotte’s suicide attempt, she discovers a horrifying entry in her diary: “keeping this secret is killing me.” As Sue spins in desperate circles, she finds herself immersed in a dark world she didn’t know existed-and the closer she comes to the truth, the more dangerous things become.

Can she wake up from the nightmares that haunt her and save her daughter, or will Charlotte’s secret destroy them both?

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Ooooh, what a tricky story! You know those mystery novels where you can figure out the ending halfway through and be correct?

This is not one of them.

Charlotte was such a mysterious character. Initially I envisioned her as so innocent and so sweet, until her mother, Susan digs deeper into her life and some truths are revealed. There is simply no way to review this book without it being filled with spoilers. So, instead I will praise what I enjoyed about the story and what made it work so well.

I’ve read two other books with the same title, Before I Wake—and this one, put the other two to shame. The writing style of C.L Taylor was absolutely flawless. A true storyteller. The novel both engaged and compelled the reader to want to know more, MORE, MORE! That’s a great mystery. One that is thrilling and makes you emotionally connect to the story.

Susan is a mother that will seemingly stop at nothing to make sure Charlotte is okay…. Even when it is going a bit extreme, (reading her diary) * cringe *

I finished this in one night, and as soon as I finished the last page I found myself still pondering the story. How did I not suspect the ending sooner? It almost makes me want to do a re-read just to see if there are any hints that I missed.

Great mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed every page. 🙂

Thank you, NetGalley for the digital review copy.

 

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Book Review: The Damned by Andrew Pyper

BookReviewsThe Damned by Andrew Pyper

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Published: February 10th 2015

synopsis

From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist, called “smart, thrilling, utterly unnerving” by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, comes a spine-tingling supernatural thriller about a survivor of a near-death experience haunted by his beautiful, vindictive twin sister.

He’ll have to go to hell and back…

Danny Orchard wrote a bestselling memoir about his near-death experience in a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister, Ashleigh, but despite the resulting fame and fortune he’s never been able to enjoy his second chance at life. Ash won’t let him.

In life, Danny’s charming and magnetic twin had been a budding psychopath who privately terrorized her family—and death hasn’t changed her wicked ways. Ash has haunted Danny for twenty years and now, just when he’s met the love of his life and has a chance at real happiness, she wants more than ever to punish him for being alive—so she sets her sights on Danny’s new wife and stepson.

Danny knows what Ash really wants is him, and he’s prepared to sacrifice himself in order to save the ones he loves. The question is: will he make it back this time?

Review

Andrew Pyper sure can deliver chills to his readers.

After reading The Demonologist last year, I instantly read all of preceding books. As soon as I saw his name on a cover, I knew the book is going to be flawless. There are not many authors I can say that about.

The Damned was a deeply disturbing story. The darkness of this story envelops the reader and you simply cannot put the book down until you finish.

Danny is the perfect protagonist to appeal to reader’s emotions. He is deeply flawed and has had a literal hell of a life. We identify with him because we all are in the pursuit of our own happiness and sense of calm in life. With him, happiness is impossible. He is bound to something much bigger than choosing right or wrong to control his happiness. The small, fleeting moments of happiness are so important in his dreary life.

Ash is a character with absolutely no redeeming qualities. It is easy for the reader to detest her, and consistently root for Danny to banish her for good. I can’t elaborate more on Ash without spoiling the story (which I refuse to do.) This is one you must read for yourself!

Pyper has beautiful prose. It is stunning, horrifying and enthralling. The bond between the characters is unique to state the very least, and the story has an authentic voice.

This book has a sinister charm that horror readers will swoon for. One of the best horror stories I have ever read. Absolutely flawless storytelling. This one is sure to deliver nightmares!

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Book Review: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

must reads

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters

Published: September 2014

synopsis

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies, but this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams? If you’re Detective Versado’s geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe–and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.

If Lauren Beukes’s internationally bestselling The Shining Girls was a time-jumping thrill ride through the past, her Broken Monsters is a genre-redefining thriller about broken cities, broken dreams, and broken people trying to put themselves back together again.

review

Similar to Beuke’s first novel,  The Shining Girls, this story also follows multiple characters: young girls, a journalist, a police officer and a serial killer. Broken Monsters is set in the urban environment of Detroit and the world Beukes creates is so vivid at times it is hard to remember that it is in fact, fiction.

As a homicide detective, Gabriella Versado has witnessed the unthinkable. The darkest thoughts of humanity turned into horrific actions. Policing in inner city Detroit is every officers nightmare, every shift resembles heading to the front lines of battle.

A victim of a gruesome homicide is found, and officers and the community are stunned. A young boy is fused together with the body of a deer. Making this find one of the most grotesque and disturbing of Versado’s career. The crime has the workings of a satanic ritual, a cult—the possibilities are endless but the answers are nowhere to be found. 

While Mama Versado is working the crime, her daughter Layla is stirring up trouble and trying to take the law into her own hands. Alongside her bestfriend, the teen girls engage in flirtations with online predators. Layla believes she can contribute to the takedown of these online monsters. Layla is a strong-spirited young woman and as a reader you can’t help but love her. She has great intentions, but her actions aren’t well thought out, resulting in being trapped in a very dangerous situation.

Whenever there is a gruesome crime, there are the leeches that try to break into their five-minutes of fame by ‘helping’ solve the case. Disgraced journalist Jonno, acts as though he is part of the investigation team, trying to solve the crime to bring light and honour back to his name.

The most interesting perspective of all: the mind of the killer, Thomas Keen. Often authors don’t do a grand reveal until the end, however in Broken Monsters, the readers were invited into his mind from very early on. Keen has a disturbing image, one where he sees himself as helping society and repairing the broken by creating outrageous and disturbing art. 

This novel is unlike any other I have read. The constant shift in perspective kept my interests piqued. It was gruesome and horrific at times, but it needed to be in order for the story to be so effective. 

A must read for horror and thriller fans alike. 

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