The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft–and a chance to win a great book

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ABOUT THE FAR END OF HAPPY:

The Far End of Happy is a powerful new novel based on author Kathryn Craft’s personal experience with a stand-off involving her husband.  Here Craft delivers “real, raw emotion” (Library Journal) exploring a marriage unraveled by mental illness; and one man’s spiral towards a violent conclusion that tests the courage, love, and hope of the three women he leaves behind.

When the emotionally troubled Jeff engages police in a deadly stand-off, his wife, mother-in-law, and mother struggle to understand why the man they love has turned his back on the life they have given him, the one they all believe is still worth living.

“Framing the novel within a 12-hour period keeps the pages turning (Library Journal).” Narrating from the alternating perspectives of three women, whose lives will be forever altered by Jeff Farnham, gives an intimate look at the steps a woman will take to get the help her husband so urgently needs while desperately trying to keep her children safe.

The Far End of HappyThe Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m going to write this review beginning with a confession. When I began reading this book I had not read that it was based on a true life event. Would it have changed the way I felt about it? Perhaps.

Since I did not know until after I read this that it was based on experiences from the author, I am going to write the review as I would have if I had not learned that information, with one minor exception–I now know how the author managed to make the feelings of pain and uncertainty so real in this story, and I applaud her for putting into words what only time and reflection will allow us to examine.

Now on to the review.

This is a powerful, painful, shocking, realistic and at times difficult to keep reading piece of literature. The author really knows how to express the pain that suicide and mental health issues, especially depression, inflict on the family members around the victim.

The thoughtful prose and highly quotable phrases in this novel are not few and far between. This is a book that will make you wonder how lucky you are to be you in this moment, make you think about the people you know ho have not been so lucky and make you realise that your problems may be small in comparison.

This isn’t a book that I would recommend to everyone. Although I do not see this as a selfish attempt from the author, but more part of a healing process for herself and her family, I also think that it is a highly personal sort of story. It is intense and as stated above, emotionally difficult.

It was a hell of a book, for the better or worse.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

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Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberol

Doctor DeathDoctor Death by Lene Kaaberbøl
From the New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Boy in the Suitcase, a gripping historical thriller and poignant coming-of-age story set in nineteenth-century France.

Madeleine Karno is an ambitious young woman eager to shatter the confines of her provincial French town. Driven and strong headed, Madeleine is set apart by her unusual occupation: assisting her father, Dr. Albert Karno, in his job as a forensic doctor.

The year is 1894, and a young girl is found dead on the snowy streets of Varbourg. Dr. Karno is called in to determine the cause of her death, but before he can examine the body, the girl’s family forbids the autopsy from taking place. The only anomaly he manages to find is in the form of a mite in her nostril. Shortly after, several other dead bodies are discovered throughout the city, and Madeleine, her father, and the city commissioner must use the new science of forensic evidence to solve the mysterious cases before they all become the next victims of a deadly disease – or of a heinous murderer.–Goodreads

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. The author has given us once more a strong main character that is both intelligent and willing to get her hands dirty to get to the root of a mystery.

In the realm of early forensic science there have been quite a few recent novels, but most of them I felt were either using science too advanced for their time or not advanced enough. This book seemed to strike the right balance and also told an exciting story in the process.

The author did a good job of making her main character emotional enough that we feel her pain, and yet kept her sensible enough that she did not come off as silly and a damsel in distress.

Overall, I thought this was a great book with lots of mysteries to solve and characters that I could easily care for.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost (Waverley Family #2)First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves…

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.–from Goodreads

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are a fan of Sarah Addison Allen or new to her work, this book is certainly a pleasure. Encompassing all the qualities of family, magic and love that her books represent, this latest novel reminded me why I love her work so.

I truly enjoyed this novel. Bay is an amazingly realistic character with a big heart and an unlimited supply of reasons for readers to adore her. In previous novels this author has managed to wow and amaze me with her ability to write from the heart and create moments and characters so viable and tender that you feel as if you know them first hand. She has done so again with First Frost, and I was again sorry to see this book end.

The relationships in this novel are born of strong family ties, and gave me, as the reader, a sense of belonging with this family throughout their discoveries, trials and tribulations. Sisterhood, marriage and mother/daughter ties are strong in this book and it made me smile, cry a little and look forward to the next book in the Waverly series.

I strongly recommend this book if you enjoy characters that are full of life and novels that make you feel a part of things. There is no match for this author’s ability to invite her readers into her world and feel welcomed.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine AwayMy Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
It was the summer everything changed.…

My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson—free spirit, track star, and belle of the block—experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a book to read on the way through Baton Rouge! Incidentally I was reading this book on the way to NOLA, so it was very appropriate.

I honestly can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this novel. It starts out raising the curiosity of the reader and keeps that pace and momentum going until the very end.

This book deals with a very serious issue, rape, but also with what it is like to come of age in a typical American neighbourhood. The trials and tribulations of an adolescent boy’s life are laid out plainly and truthfully on these pages, but in such a way that even a person never having been in the same situation can understand and appreciate.

The descriptions that M.O. Walsh uses in his writing are more than adequate, they transform a page full of words into a hot Louisiana night, where you can smell the air and see the happenings of the neighbours.

I was impressed with the way he chose to end this book as well. Since the story was built mostly around one important event, I half expected it to end the way most authors would have chosen to take it. This was different. Well thought out and unexpected, the climax of this story did the rest of the book justice.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Tasteful, exciting, fresh writing from an author I hope to see much more from.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Finding Hope by Stacy Finz

Finding Hope (Nugget, #2)Finding Hope by Stacy Finz

The small mountain town of Nugget, California, is way off the beaten path. But somehow it helps the lost and lonely find a new beginning in life—and in love…

One solitary day at a time is the only way cookbook writer Emily Mathews can restart her life—and cope with consuming loss. Still, the former city girl is finding all kinds of odd inspiration and advice from Nugget’s proudly eccentric residents on everything from new recipes to opening her heart again. Especially when it comes to her rugged rancher landlord …

His no-drama new tenant is the first break Clay McCreedy has had in a long time. He’s got his hands full enough dealing with his wife’s scandalous death and his sons’ unresolved grief. Clay can’t help but be drawn to Emily’s quiet understanding and strength. When their fragile trust turns into passionate healing, he longs for much more. And when both their pasts come calling, he’s determined not to walk away…

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For being a contemporary romance, and me having read so many of them in the last year, I was pleasantly surprised that this author managed to make this book stand out from the crowd. Stacy Finz has created a warm and realistic environment for her characters to thrive in, and has a way of making them so lovable that they creep into the recesses of your heart and stay there.

I was particularly interested in the setting for this story as I only live a few miles from many of the areas the author described in the book. Her descriptions were, for the most part, accurate and made me feel a deeper appreciation for this story, knowing first hand of the places she spoke of.

The love story is complex enough to be interesting and keep you reading and doesn’t fall into the usual cliches to much. I liked that the author allowed us to see sides of the main characters that they did not show one another until a good way into the story.

Secondary characters in this story also have interesting lives and help to balance out the main love story.

This was a great afternoon read for a cold day. I recommend it to those who like love stories with a bit more depth. This book is part of a series, but can be read alone and still make perfect sense.

I liked it!

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley.

The Child’s Past Life by Cai Jun

Child's Past Life, TheChild’s Past Life, The by Cai Jun

On a rainy June night in 1995, an unknown assailant stabs to death Shen Ming, a self-made and much-envied high school teacher. This death in the school’s haunted Demon Girl Zone is the last in a chain of events that already claimed two other victims. But the police are unable to prove any connection between the murders, and the deeper they dig, the fewer answers they find. In order to avenge his own death, Shen Ming inhabits the body of the eerily precocious boy Si Wang, whose life’s quest is to solve the mystery of Shen Ming’s murder—even if it means that others will die.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Without doubt, this book has one of the most complex plots I have ever seen in a fiction novel. In the beginning, I struggled a bit to figure out where the author was going with this story, but soon found myself enthralled and unable to put this book down. When I wasn’t actively reading it, I was thinking about it.

The concept of this story is simple, a child remembering a life that he never lived in his current form, but the plot takes multiple unexpected twists and leaves the reader hungering for answers by the time they reach the halfway mark.

This author has a way with character creation and made me feel as if these characters were people I knew and cared for. The outsider-like feel of the main character when he is reborn as a different child made me long to help him figure things out and kept me involved in the story.

I think this may be my favourite book of the year. For anyone who likes novels that keep you guessing, make you feel strongly about the ending and like solving mysteries, this is a book you should definitely read.

Excellent and worth all five stars.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Christmas Ranch by RaeAnne Thayne

The Christmas Ranch (Cowboys of Cold Creek, #13)The Christmas Ranch by RaeAnne Thayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It isn’t very often that I leave a five star review for a contemporary romance, let alone a holiday themed contemporary romance, but in this case I really felt this book deserved nothing less.

One thing I have said in the past and feel compelled to say again, is that you should never start a RaeAnne Thayne book before bed if you actually intend to get any sleep. She did it to me again (toothpicks holding the eyes open as I write this review.)

I liked this story because although some of it followed the usual romance formula, girl meets boy and there is some drama preventing them from being together–this book didn’t go exactly as I expected. Neither Hope nor Rafe responded to the big events in the book as I would have imagined and both characters remained mature throughout the story, which made me respect them.

I liked the Christmas theme in this case and didn’t feel that it overwhelmed the story. The characters seemed to fall into a natural rhythm and the story seemed to roll out without being forced. Plus I want a reindeer named Sparkle.

This is a charming story that involves a whole family, neighbours and good friends rather than just the two main characters. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes a good holiday romance. Magic.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Alistair Grim’s Odditorium

Alistair Grim's Odditorium (Odditorium, #1)Alistair Grim’s Odditorium by Gregory Funaro

This cinematic, action-packed middle grade fantasy adventure set in Victorian London brims with fresh magic and has the cozy feeling of a classic.

Grubb, age twelve (or thereabouts), has never known anything beyond his miserable existence as a chimney sweep, paid only in insults and abuse by his cruel master.

All of that changes the day he stows away in the coach belonging to a mysterious guest at the inn that he is tasked with cleaning. Grubb emerges from Alistair Grim’s trunk and into the wondrous world of the Odditorium. Fueled by a glowing blue energy that Grubb can only begin to understand, the Odditorium is home to countless enchanted objects and an eccentric crew that embraces Grubb as one of their own.

There’s no time for Grubb to settle into his new role as apprentice to the strange, secretive Mr. Grim. When the Odditorium comes under attack, Grubb is whisked off on a perilous adventure. Only he can prevent the Odditorium’s magic from falling into evil hands-and his new family from suffering a terrible fate.

Grubb knows he’s no hero. He’s just a chimney sweep. But armed with only his courage and wits, Grubb will confront the life-or-death battle he alone is destined to fight.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book, and my kids thought it was fantastic–which makes me love it even more. If you can get an eight and nine year old to pay attention to anything for more than half a second then you know the author must be doing something right.

This book speaks to the imagination of kids (and adults, or at least this one.) The humour is appropriate for middle grade and lower kids and as a parent, I was impressed with the writing, as it didn’t seem to be stunted or less intellectual than a book intended for adults. I like it when my kids can read something that challenges them and teaches them a wider range of vocabulary, and you get that with this book.

The story is full of adventure and doesn’t stop until the last page is read. The main character is unique and quirky, and just as exciting as you want a good, unlikely hero to be.

If you have kids that are reluctant readers, this would be a good book to help them get interested in reading.

Five stars well deserved.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

View all my reviews

The 12 Screams of Christmas ( Goosebumps)

The 12 Screams of Christmas (Goosebumps Most Wanted Special Edition, #2)The 12 Screams of Christmas by R.L. Stine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s Goosebumps! For Christmas? Okay, so that seemed kind of weird at first, being that Christmas is a time of cheer and good tidings, but I thought this worked pretty well. It seemed to me that this book was a might more grown up than previous goosebumps titles I’ve read. The characters had a bit more depth and the story was a little scarier than I recall the other books being.

Still, this had the original Goosebumps flair, with laugh out loud moments and goofy characters to fill in the tense spots. I think kids of all ages will enjoy this book just as they have done with the rest of the series before it.

The frights in this story were original, and I liked that the main character had other drama in her life besides seeing ghosts. I’m sire kids could relate to the issues she brings up.

I love these books, and this series will never cease to please, in my opinion.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Treasure on Lilac Lane by Donna Alward

Treasure on Lilac Lane (Jewell Cove, #2)Treasure on Lilac Lane by Donna Alward

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the beginning, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the previous in the series, but that changed soon enough. Within a few chapters I was happily settled back into Jewell Cove and loving this story.

Once again, Donna Alward reminded me why she has become one of my very favourite authors. Her characters are heartfelt and her story is captivating, bringing together everything you want in a romance as well as a small town atmosphere that allows you to feel close to the characters. She handles tough subject matter such as death and addiction with grace.

In this story some of the characters from the previous book take centre stage, whereas before they were supporting cast. I love the way this author connects her characters through more than just family relationships and friendships. Through the use of common places, the local diner, the jobs the characters do and the course life takes them in, they develop bonds with one another and with the reader.

I am looking forward to seeing what she does next. Recommended for those who like depth in their stories and want to feel like they are part of something special.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.