Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Review: Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

Title: Finding Violet Park
Author: Jenny Valentine

About the book (from Goodreads):  Narrated by the most compelling voice since Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, this is a quirky and original voyage of self-discovery triggered by a lost urn of ashes. The mini cab office was up a cobbled mews with little flat houses either side. That's where I first met Violet Park, what was left of her. There was a healing centre next door, a pretty smart name for a place with a battered brown door and no proper door handle and stuck-on wooden numbers in the shape of clowns. The 3 of number 13 was a w stuck on sideways and I thought it was kind of sad and I liked it at the same time. Sixteen-year-old Lucas Swain becomes intrigued by the urn of ashes left in a cab office. Convinced that its occupant -- Violet Park -- is communicating with him, he contrives to gain possession of the urn, little realising that his quest will take him on a voyage of self-discovery and identity, forcing him to finally confront what happened to his absent (and possibly dead) father!

My Thoughts: I requested this book through our library's ILL program.  Usually I request a book because I owe a review on Net Galley and no longer have access to the ecopy, or it is on some Best of the Best list, etc - but for the life of me, I do not know why I requested this book!  Despite that, it was a quick read. 

 Lucas discovers this urn with ashes in it at a cab office and feels drawn to it.  Thinking about the urn later, he feels that Violet (the woman in it) is trying to communicate with him.  He concocts a story with his grandma to get possession of the urn.  Once they have it, he starts to run into people and places that Violet has been more often than can be coincidental.  

I should tell you that Lucas' father, Pete, disappeared 5 years earlier when he was 11.  He has pretty much put his father on a pedestal and thinks he could come back at any day.  He often wears some of his father's old clothing as well.  Through all of the information that he finds out about Violet Park, he also discovers that his father knew her and had actually interviewed her.

Lucas may have been right when he thought that Violet was trying to communicate with him.  Through her, he learns some truths about himself and his parents, and that people are not perfect, even if you want them to be. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Review: The Free by Willy Vlautin (read in 2016)

Title: The Free
Author: Willy Vlautin

About the book(from the cover): In his heartbreaking yet hopeful fourth novel, award-winning author Willy Flautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for illuminating the disquiet of modern American life, captured in the experiences of three memorable characters looking for meaning in distressing times.

Severely wounded in the Iraq war, Leroy Kervin has lived in a group home for eight years. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, he finds his existence has become unbearable.  An act of desperation helps him disappear deep into his mind, into a world of romance and science fiction, danger and adventure where he is whole once again.

Freddie McCall, the night man at Leroy's group home, works two jobs yet still can't make ends meet.  He's lost his wife and kids, and the house is next.  Medical bills have buried him in debt, a situation that propels him to consider a lucrative -- and dangerous -- proposition.

Pauline Hawkins, a nurse, cares for the sick and wounded, including Leroy.  She also looks after her mentally ill elderly father.  Yet she remains emotionally removed, until she meets a young runaway who touches something deep and unexpected inside her.

In crystalline prose, both beautiful and devastating, this "major realist talent" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) considers the issues transforming ordinary people's lives -- the cost of health care, the lack of economic opportunity, the devastating scars of war -- creating an extraordinary contemporary portrait that is also a testament to the resiliency of the human heart.

My Thoughts: Let's start by saying this isn't the type of book that I would normally pick up - and yet I still found it haunting and hard to get out of my head.  It is written very realistically, and even though all 3 characters lead bleak, heartbreaking lives - underneath it is a ribbon of hope that keeps them all going.  I started to really relate to them and wanted to reach out and help them in some way - forgetting that they weren't real people but characters in a story.  That made me think twice about the people that I see everyday and know nothing about.  How many of them have been victims of circumstance and are struggling - feeling alone, not knowing how they are going to get through another day.

I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Willy Vlautin. (This book was read in June of 2016).


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