Fiction · Julia P · Short Stories

Awayland | by Ramona Ausubel

Awayland

Awayland: Stories by Ramona Ausubel
(Riverhead Books, 2018, 224 pages)

I loved this collection of short stories and am definitely an Ausubel fan. I don’t even know how best to attempt to summarize them other than that I *so* enjoyed reading this book.

Some blurbs from Amazon:

“Excellent and peculiar… Ausubel’s imagination…wants to offer consolation for how ghastly things can get, a type of healing that only reading can provide. All 11 of these stories are deeply involving.” –New York Times Book Review

“Funny, endearing short stories…Each tale looks to the future in its own particular, touching way.” –Harper’s Bazaar

An inventive story collection that spans the globe as it explores love, childhood, and parenthood with an electric mix of humor and emotion.

I’ll certainly be reading more of her work 🙂

4/5 stars

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Fiction · Julia P · Suspense

Siracusa | by Delia Ephron

Siracusa

Siracusa by Delia Ephron
(Blue Rider Press, 2016, 304 pages)

First of all, yes, Delia Ephron is Nora Ephron’s sister. Secondly, this book sells itself as something of a mystery and while it is, in a sense, I was a bit disappointed because I feel like it gave away most of the mystery pretty early on. Told from the perspective of four different people (the partners in two sets of couples) we see the story unfold through four lenses that are biased in their own unique ways. It’s clear that not all the relationships survive but we don’t fully understand why until the end…

For more context, here is the Goodreads summary:

New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities, past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none will see coming.

3/5 stars

Fiction · Julia P · Relationships

Goodbye, Vitamin | by Rachel Khong

Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
(Henry Holt and Co., 2017, 208 pages)

Goodbye, Vitamin was a quick read that added a light-hearted touch to a serious topic. Our protagonist, Ruth, has returned home after a break-up. While she’s at home her mother makes it clear that she would appreciate Ruth sticking around to help care for her father. Ruth’s dad has been dealing with memory loss and it has gotten to the point where he’s no longer able to work as a history professor. Ruth isn’t exactly eager to take on the role of caretaker but when she sees the reality of the situation she can’t pretend to turn her back on it.

Told over the course of a year we see how Ruth navigates her new family dynamic. This is a well-written book that won’t take you long to knock out.

3.5/5 stars

Fiction · Julia P · Mystery

The Monsters of Templeton | by Lauren Groff

The Monsters of Templeton

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
(Hachette Books, 2008, 384 pages)

I was initially turned on to Lauren Groff thanks to Fates and Furies. After reading it I remember making a note that I wanted to read her debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, but the book summary didn’t really sound like “me.” There’s a lake monster (seriously, that was enough to give me a moment’s hesitation) and then a journey through the history of a small New England town. Even though I hesitated to grab this, I’m so glad I finally decided to give it a go because I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I was reading I found myself comparing Groff’s writing style to John Irving, which is high praise (especially coming from me who would essentially follow Irving anywhere #literarycrush).

The novel is told from the perspective of Willie Cooper who has returned home after an affair with her archaeology professor. While she tries to lay low at home her mother reveals to her that the story of Willie’s conception she’d been raised to believe was true (scandalous though it was) was a lie. Now she has to unravel her family history to try and uncover her real father. She appreciates this challenge and is surprised to find how much she discovers about her family tree and the history of the town.

If you’re looking for a unique story with fantastical elements interspersed in the history of a small town The Monsters of Templeton won’t let you down. Also, if you’re just a fan of Groff and/or good fiction, this is a book for you.

4/5 stars

Fiction · Historical Fiction · Julia P

The Fortunes | by Peter Ho Davies

The Fortunes

The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 288 pages)

This book jumped up on my to-read list after I was going through potential titles for our campus book club. The Fortunes is told from the perspective of four different characters at four different points in American history. Through their eyes we see the reality of the Chinese American experience in this country. The book begins shortly after the Gold Rush when Chinese immigrants were recruited to build railroads and ends in the present-day with a couple in China in the process of adopting a child.

The Fortunes was an engrossing read that inspired me to want to learn more about the issues and people that were portrayed in the book. I definitely recommend it to those who are fans of literary fiction, historical fiction, multi-generational novels, the immigrant experience, American history… you get the picture 🙂

4/5 stars

Comics · Fantasy · Fiction · Graphic Novel · Julia P · Page-Turner · Quick Read! · Science Fiction

Saga, Vol. 8 | by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Vol. 8 (Saga, #8)

Saga, Vol. 8 by Brian K. Vaughan; art by Fiona Staples
(Image Comics, 2017, 146 pages)

The saga continues… ha! But seriously, I’m ready for volume 9 and I wish I didn’t have to wait until October for its publication.

The family drama continues as Hazel and her parents try to survive in the midst of a chaotic universe. The social commentary in Vaughan’s work combined with Staples’s amazing artwork  make this a series not to be missed. I’d definitely recommend Saga if you haven’t already picked it up. Sure, there are parts that are graphic, but there’s so much packed into each volume!

4/5 stars

Fiction · Sue S

The Forgotten Road | by Richard Paul Evans

The Forgotten Road

The Forgotten Road by Richard Paul Evans
(Simon Schuster, 2018, 272 pages)

The Forgotten Road is the second book in the Broken Road Series by Richard Paul Evans.

Below is the Goodreads description:

Chicago celebrity and successful pitchman Charles James is supposed to be dead. Everyone believes he was killed in a fiery plane crash. But thanks to a remarkable twist of fate, he’s very much alive and ready for a second chance at life—and love. Narrowly escaping death has brought Charles some clarity: the money, the fame, the fast cars—none of it was making him happy. The last time he was happy—truly happy—was when he was married to his ex-wife Monica, before their connection was destroyed by his ambition and greed.

Charles decides to embark on an epic quest: He will walk the entire length of Route 66, from Chicago to California, where he hopes to convince Monica to give him another shot. Along the way, Charles is immersed in the deep and rich history of one of America’s most iconic highways. But the greater journey he finds is the one he takes in his heart as he meets people along the road who will change his perspective on the world. But will his transformation be enough to earn redemption?

I found this second book in the series to be very similar to The Walk Series which was also written by Richard Paul Evans. I honestly was a little bored reading the first half of The Forgotten Road with all the little known facts about Route 66 in each town that Charles James walked. The story did get more interesting after Charles began meeting people on his journey on Route 66 to California. I didn’t realize that Route 66 starts in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica, California. Now I am looking forward to reading the third book which doesn’t yet have a release date.

3.5/5 stars