2015 Book #64 – Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith

519pmdEt49L

Title: Whiskey & Charlie
Author: Annabel Smith
Date finished: 6/27/15
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Pages in book: 317
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

A captivating debut novel of brothers who have drifted apart and the accident that will determine their future, by an unforgettable new voice in fiction.
Whiskey and Charlie might have come from the same family, but they’d tell you two completely different stories about growing up. Whiskey is everything Charlie is not – bold, daring, carefree – and Charlie blames his twin brother for always stealing the limelight, always getting everything, always pushing Charlie back. By the time the twins reach adulthood, they are barely even speaking to each other.
When they were just boys, the secret language they whispered back and forth over their crackly walkie-talkies connected them, in a way. The two-way alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta) became their code, their lifeline. But as the brothers grew up, they grew apart.
When Charlie hears that Whiskey has been in a terrible accident and has slipped into a coma, Charlie can’t make sense of it. Who is he without Whiskey? As days and weeks slip by and the chances of Whiskey recovering grow ever more slim, Charlie is forced to consider that he may never get to say all the things he wants to say. A compelling and unforgettable novel about rivalry and redemption, Whiskey & Charlie is perfect for anyone whose family has ever been less than picture-perfect.

My rating: 3.75 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 set during Christmas” check box since most of the story happens in the space between Thanksgiving and just after New Years. Charlie was close with his brother Whiskey when they were younger but now as adults they barely speak to each other. When Whiskey is involved in a freak accident though and ends up badly injured and in a coma, Charlie wants nothing more than to have more time to make amends with his brother. What follows is a combination of Charlie’s memories from his childhood with Whiskey, stories from Whiskey and Charlie interacting as adults leading up to before Whiskey’s accident, and the agonizing progress of Whiskey’s path to recovery.
One of the things I really liked about this book was the use of the NATO phonetic alphabet and its part in how the story was told. Charlie and Whiskey were given walkie-talkies as children and one of their neighbors taught them the NATO phonetic alphabet. That’s actually why Whiskey is called as such and is not called William by anyone but his mother, even though that is his real name. Anyways, each chapter represented one letter in the NATO phonetic alphabet and the story in that chapter was always somehow connected to the word representing that letter in the alphabet. The Bravo chapter was about their pet dog whose name was Bravo, the India chapter was about a job that Charlie and Whiskey worked on together in India, and so forth. I thought that was an interesting and different way to tell the story. That being said, telling the story in this way caused there to be a bit of jumping around between time frames to tie to whatever letter that chapter was for. The flow of the story wasn’t always easy for me to follow. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book but I did notice the issues I was having.
Overall I thought this was a great story. Grief and guilt and forgiveness are major themes in this book and we take an in-depth look at Charlie’s insecurities with the many people in his life. Charlie’s character was a bit frustrating for me because he really did act like he was better than a lot of people in the story, like his feelings were always more important than someone else’s. Other than that though I think this was a good book.
The bottom line: While the subject matter can feel a bit heavy at times, I thought that this was a very true depiction of a family traveling through stages of grief. I would recommend this book.

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

2015 Book #57 – The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

51fVwOnUurL

Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M. L. Stedman
Date finished: 6/14/15
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Pages in book: 343
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

My rating: 4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I read this book for the Terryville Library’s Fiction Lover’s Book Discussion group. I have been thinking about joining the group for awhile but even though it is only one night a month, I always find it hard trying to add one more thing into my schedule. I realized a couple months ago though that I have such a passion for reading and that I get such joy out of discussing good books with other people that I really should be making this group more of a priority. I had planned to start going with the May meeting (the book was one of the Liane Moriarty books and she’s been on my to read list for awhile) but we were on vacation when they were meeting in May so I decided to wait for the June meeting. And when I saw what the book for the June meeting was, I was excited since this book is on my to read list as well. And thank goodness I was able to finish the book since the meeting is tomorrow! (I’m writing this on Sunday 6/14 and waiting to post it until after the meeting tomorrow so I don’t give away my thoughts!)
I was hooked on this story from the very beginning. And though it was a tiny bit slow to start up in the beginning, the last half of the book just flew by for me, I couldn’t put it down. I could barely convince myself to look away from the pages long enough to eat my dinner. The characters of the story will completely draw you in and you’ll feel as if you’re there living on Janus with the Sherbournes and you’ll be a witness to everything that happens through the story. The emotions that are woven into the story will take your breath away. When you’ve raised a baby its whole life, even if that baby isn’t biologically yours, is it right to have that baby taken away? What is really right and wrong in a situation like that? What is fair? The contents of this book and the questions it brings up in the reader’s mind are just so thought provoking. What would you do if you were in this exact situation? Though for much of the book I was mad at Isabella for some of the choices she made, once she fell in love with that baby, I can’t say that I can know whether I would have done anything differently.
For those of you who would like to have your own book discussion with this book, here is a site with some reading discussion questions you can use.

The bottom line: I loved this book so so much. It was amazingly touching and moving and just so great. Everyone should read this as soon as possible, be ready though it’s going to tug hard at your heart strings.

Favorite quotes:

“He struggles to make sense of it- all this love, so bent out of shape, refracted, like light through the lens.”

“You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”

“I’ve learned the hard way that to have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past”

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