2016 Book #14 – Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon

412ZKAIR+wLTitle: Try Not To Breathe
Author: Holly Seddon
Date finished: 2/24/16
Genre: Fiction, thriller/suspense
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Pages in book: 368
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Some secrets never die. They’re just locked away.
Alex Dale is lost. Destructive habits have cost her a marriage and a journalism career. All she has left is her routine: a morning run until her body aches, then a few hours of forgettable work before the past grabs hold and drags her down. Every day is treading water, every night is drowning. Until Alex discovers Amy Stevenson. Amy Stevenson, who was just another girl from a nearby town until the day she was found unconscious after a merciless assault. Amy Stevenson, who has been in a coma for fifteen years, forgotten by the world. Amy Stevenson, who, unbeknownst to her doctors, remains locked inside her body, conscious but paralyzed, reliving the past.
Soon Alex’s routine includes visiting hours at the hospital, then interviews with the original suspects in the attack. But what starts as a reporter’s story becomes a personal obsession. How do you solve a crime when the only witness lived but cannot tell the tale? Unable to tear herself away from her attempt to uncover the unspeakable truth, Alex realizes she’s not just chasing a story—she’s seeking salvation.
Shifting from present to past and back again, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer until its heart-stopping conclusion. The result is an utterly immersive, unforgettable debut.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book will count towards my “Holiday 2015 Bookish Bingo” reading challenge, marking off the “2016 Debut” square, since this was Seddon’s debut novel and it was released in 2016. This book is kind of jointly about Amy Stevenson and Alex Dale. Alex is a freelance journalist and professional alcoholic. Seems to me she only works about 2 hours every day, she goes for a run after she wakes up and then she has to be home by noon to lock herself away and turn off all her phones and electronics so that drunk Alex doesn’t get barely sober Alex into any trouble.
Lately she has been writing medical columns, which is how she ended up coming upon Amy Stevenson in the Bramble Ward at the hospital. Amy was abducted at fifteen and beaten almost to death and she was basically left in a vegetative state. Recent research by Dr. Haynes though, suggests that about half the “vegetables” of the world are actually fully conscious people who simply can not move, maybe due to paralysis or something else. This is the case with Amy, she has thoughts and memories and can hear what people are saying to her but she can’t figure out why she can’t talk back. Alex starts to investigate what happened to Amy that put her in this hospital, the case has been left unsolved for fifteen years. Along the way she interviews many people who knew Amy when she was fifteen and Alex can feel herself getting closer and closer to the truth.
Overall I really really liked this book. It kept me on the edge of my seat pretty much through the whole book, and I honestly just did not want to put it down. I couldn’t wait to figure out who the bad guy was and what had happened to Amy and what was Alex’s story. Alex is a severely flawed character but she is also deeply lovable not just in spite of but because of her vulnerabilities. There were a couple characters in the story that I wasn’t thrilled with overall but they each had their part to play and the plot overall was honestly just great. I thought it was well paced and interesting at all times and was just such a great debut novel, I can’t wait to see what else this author has in store!

The bottom line: Oh my gosh what a great book. Riveting, I didn’t want to put it down!! Alex was such a flawed main character but I loved her and I loved learning Amy’s story.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #42 – Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Date finished: 5/5/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: June 26, 2014
Pages in book: 292
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

My rating: 4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book that made you cry” check box because, well, it made me cry. I found this book to be quite moving. The story alternates between the views and memories of all 5 people in the Lee family, transitioning without causing too much confusion which was appreciated. We find out right from the first line of the book that “Lydia is dead,” Lydia being the older of the 2 daughters. As we delve deeper and deeper into the psyche of each member of the family before and after her death, including Lydia for the before, we come to our own conclusions about what may have happened to poor Lydia. Each member of the family has their own idea of what happened, but none of them ever find out what actually happened. And what actually happened is one of the biggest tragedies in the book, I think. Through the book we learn the reason why Lydia’s mom (Marilyn) is so hard on her and pushes her to do so well in school. Even more than that, we learn the reason why Lydia stomachs it. Every member of this family has a complicated and slightly twisted relationship with one another. Their fears drive them to do reckless and ultimately destructive things that cause the relationships within the family to crack long before Lydia’s death. The extreme sense of loss resulting from Lydia’s death causes the family structure to crumble.
There are a lot of relevant issues discussed in this novel, most importantly is that of ethnicity and how different someone can feel even if their just as American as the person standing next to them just because of their ethnicity. James (the dad) is Chinese and Marilyn is white. And actually, their marriage was apparently illegal during the time period at which the book was set (they would’ve been married in the mid to late 50’s I think). James has never felt like he fit it through his entire life. He knows how heart-wrenching it is to have no friends, just because your face looks a little different. The weird stares, the whispers, the giggles. The one thing he wants for his children is for them to fit in and be normal. Unfortunately he becomes a professor in a small college town in Ohio, where they are the only Oriental family.
And poor Hannah! (Who I will call Hanna Banana because she just desperately needs a nick name) She is forgotten about by her parents for most of the book, relegated to the lonely attic, removed from the rest of her family. All she wants is love and to feel like she’s a part of her family but no one ever pays attention to her. It was just heart breaking.
So obviously I liked this book. I thought it really dealt well with a large variety of issues: ethnicity, family pressures, death, loss, love, and life itself. It was moving and thoughful and I really enjoyed it.

The bottom line: I would recommend this book, it was full of tension and discussed some relevant issues

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #30 – Find Me by Laura van den Berg

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Title: Find Me
Author: Laura van den Berg
Date finished: 4/11/15
Genre: Not quite sure. Fiction. Apocalyptic. Psychological. This one’s hard to label.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Pages in book: 270
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

After two acclaimed story collections, Laura van den Berg brings us Find Me, her highly anticipated debut novel–a gripping, imaginative, darkly funny tale of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world.
Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients–including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.
As winter descends, the hospital’s fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of a scale of 5
My review: This book will count for the challenge I am participating in for April, the #ReadingMyLibrary reading challenge. I saw this book at the Terryville Library and I had seen it in one of the recent Book Page publications I think so I thought I would try it. This book was interesting from the start, with a description of an epidemic that has swept the nation, wiping out much of the population in its path. Silver blisters begin appearing on a person’s skin and then their memory starts to go, to the point where they forget what a job or a house or a hand is. Their mind gets eaten away until the person can no longer function and they end up dying. This disease is spread through any kind of human contact, but mysteriously certain people who come into contact with it don’t succumb to the sickness. Joy is one of these lucky few. She came into contact early on in the epidemic but never came down with any symptoms.
Its because of this that she ends up at the Hospital, where Dr. Bek is studying various individuals to try and discover a cure to the sickness. Due to a strange series of events, Joy ends up escaping from the hospital to try and find her mother who abandoned her when she was only a month old. Joy is only about 20 years old by the time she leaves the Hospital but she’s already seen a lot of tragedy and hardship in life.
A lot of weird $h!t happens in this book. The story line was so extremely interesting and the idea behind the book was really thought provoking. After the epidemic ends many survivors end up killing themselves, some out of anger that they survived when their families didn’t and some because they just can’t manage to live in the America that’s developed as a result of the epidemic. The after effects seem to come in waves, the tragedy creating a ripple effect throughout the nation. Other weird stuff happens too. I don’t want to give away too much of the book so I can’t describe all the weird stuff that happens. This book was really interesting, but I have to be honest its not my usual kind of book. It was dark and heavy and weird and thought-provoking and interesting and weird all rolled into one big ball of interesting weird.

The bottom line: Very very interesting, a little dark though. Not exactly my style but I would recommend it.

Link to author website
Link to Amazon

2015 Book #27 – The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch

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Title: The Vintner’s Daughter
Author: Kristen Harnisch
Date finished: 4/5/15
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: August 15, 2014
Pages in book: 355
Stand alone or series: Rumored to be the first of a future series on winemaking through the centuries

Blurb from the cover:

Loire Valley, 1895. When seventeen-year-old Sara Thibault’s father is killed in a mudslide, her mother sells their vineyard to a rival family whose eldest son marries Sara’s sister, Lydia. But a violent tragedy compels Sara and her sister to flee to New York, forcing Sara to put aside her dream to follow in her father’s footsteps as a master winemaker. Meanwhile, Philippe Lemieux has arrived in California with the ambition of owning the largest vineyard in Napa by 1900. When he receives word of his brother’s death in France, he resolves to bring the killer to justice. Sara has travelled to California in hopes of making her own way in the winemaking world. When she encounters Philippe in a Napa vineyard, they are instantly drawn to one another, but Sara knows he is the one man who could return her family’s vineyard to her, or send her straight to the guillotine. This riveting tale of betrayal, retribution, love, and redemption, Kristen Harnisch’s debut novel immerses readers in the rich vineyard culture of both the Old and New Worlds, the burgeoning cities of late nineteenth-century America and a spirited heroine’s fight to determine her destiny.

My rating: 4.75 stars out of a scale of 5
My review: This book will count for the challenge I am participating in for April, the #ReadingMyLibrary reading challenge. I saw this book at the Bristol Library and thought it might be interesting. I have found over the past few years that I have a fascination with wine, I have taken a number classes to learn more about the different kinds of grapes and the winemaking process. So I picked this book up due to it  being about wine. It turned out to be just fantastic. It was very well-paced, I can honestly day I wasn’t bored once. It had everything you could like in a novel; murder, love, family, death, new birth. This book is rumored to be the first in a series about winemaking throughout the last century, and I honestly just can not wait for this author to publish her next novel. This book was so good, I was hooked on the story pretty much from the beginning and I couldn’t let go. The characters came alive for me and I would get so engrossed in the story that I would have trouble dragging my mind back to reality. The descriptions of the rolling hillsides of Napa as well as the description of the Saint Martin vineyard in France (Loire Valley) was just beautiful. Very good novel.

The bottom line:  LOVED this book! Love love love, can’t wait for her to publish her next one. I can not say enough good things about this book.

Link to author website
Link to Amazon

2015 Book #19 – The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

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Title: The Bookseller
Author: Cynthia Swanson
Date finished: 3/8/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone, her first novel actually!

Blurb from the cover:

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .
Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.
Then the dreams begin.
Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.
Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?
As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

My rating: 4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will count towards my “Bookish Bingo” reading challenge, marking off the “2015 Debut” square. I had seen this book being promoted in many different places but I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it. It’s a hit or miss many times with debut authors, some take a few novels to really hit their stride and others hit it out of the park right away. I have to say this book just floored me. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I haven’t felt so deeply and cried so much while reading a book since I read A Walk To Remember (back in high school I think) and yet the emotions in this book stemmed from a completely different place, the one I connected to most being love and loss of family.
This book was just fascinating. Katharyn and Kitty alternate between the two worlds in which they live, both lives feel so real and yet they are so completely different (they even exist at different points in time) that they can not possibly be connected. At first Kitty is sure that the life Katharyn leads is the dream, but as time goes on she has more and more trouble deciding what is real. She is losing memory of blocks of time, sometimes days, in both worlds. I don’t want to give away the end of the book but both Katharyn and Kitty end up forging one person in the end, reminding each what the other had lost and who they want to want to be as a person overall.
There were some slower parts in the beginning of the book that I found myself struggling through but the last 100 pages of the book I was riveted, you couldn’t tear me away from the story. There were so many emotions in this book; guilt, fear, loss, despair, love, compassion. The amount of feelings that you as the reader obtain from this book is just overwhelming. This was a great book and I can’t wait to see more from this author in the future.

The bottom line:  EVERYONE READ THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY. SO MANY FEELINGS. (P.S. make sure you have a box of tissues handy)

Link to author website
Link to Amazon