Tag Archives: contemporary fiction

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

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Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of PiLily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Lily and the Octopus is the next one. 

Warning: Possible spoilers ahead.

Several years ago when I finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain, I swore to myself that was the last book I would read about a dog dying. That book destroyed me, and my dog loving heart could not handle another dead dog book.

And then Lily and the Octopus appeared on Libby and I felt compelled to at least give it a shot. I hadn’t heard a lot about it but it definitely sounded like something I would enjoy, even if it did break my heart.

The first thing I noticed is that Lily and the Octopus didn’t read like a novel. It read like a memoir and I immediately connected with Ted and Lily. I could almost see Lily and a few times I looked down from my phone (where I read this), and was actually shocked to find no dog by my side.

I did start fading a bit on Ted and Lily’s adventure, that I felt could have been dealt with better but I think a lot of it was bad flashbacks of lectures of symbolism from my lit classes in college (and hence the reason my degree was psych and not literature).

I loved this book. Lily stole my heart for sure, and I could not feel more excited for Ted at the end.

Rating: four stars

“To focus, I think of how dogs are witnesses. How they are present for our most private moments, how they are there when we think of ourselves as alone. They witness our quarrels, our tears, our struggles, our fears, and all of our secret behaviors that we have to hide from our fellow humans. They witness without judgment.”

― Steven Rowley, Lily and the Octopus

If You Must Know by Jamie Beck

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Sisters Amanda Foster and Erin Turner have little in common except the childhood bedroom they once shared and the certainty each feels that her way of life is best. Amanda follows the rules—at the school where she works; in her community; and as a picture-perfect daughter, wife, and mother-to-be. Erin follows her heart—in love and otherwise—living a bohemian lifestyle on a shoestring budget and honoring her late father’s memory with a passion for music and her fledgling bath-products business.

The sisters are content leading separate but happy lives in their hometown of Potomac Point until everything is upended by lies that force them to confront unsettling truths about their family, themselves, and each other. For sisters as different as these two, building trust doesn’t come easily—especially with one secret still between them—but it may be the only way to save their family.

I read the Kindle edition of this.

I initially really enjoyed this story. I liked that the plot took me for a loop, I went from making assumptions about Amanda and Erin and finding out that although I wasn’t too far off from them, I was far enough off the mark to make the story interesting.

Erin by far was my favorite character. She was her own person and she did things on her terms, and didn’t much mind not knowing what was ahead. Amanda grew on me. I liked seeing her evolution throughout the book, from being dependent on her husband and her family to at the end realizing that she was okay with deviating away from the life she expected. The one character I did not like was the mother. I just couldn’t stand her, even though I did try to understand that she was grieving.

I initially gave this a four star rating, but writing this review made me realize that it was probably only a three star read. I finished reading it fairly recently but already I am struggling forming an opinion on the book and remembering key elements to the story.

Rating: three stars

“There ought to be a warning anytime you wake up on a day that will forever change your life.”

― Jamie Beck, If You Must Know

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

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In this utterly charming debut — one woman sets out to complete her old list of childhood goals, and finds that her lifelong dreams lead her down a path she never expects.

1. Go to Paris
2. Perform live, on a super big stage
3. Have a baby, maybe two
4. Fall in love 

Brett Bohlinger has forgotten all about the list of life goals she’d written as a naïve teenager. In fact, at thirty-four, Brett seems to have it all—a plum job at her family’s multimillion-dollar company and a spacious loft with her irresistibly handsome boyfriend. But when her beloved mother, Elizabeth, dies, Brett’s world is turned upside down. Rather than simply naming her daughter the new CEO of Bohlinger Cosmetics, Elizabeth’s will comes with one big stipulation: Brett must fulfill the list of childhood dreams she made so long ago.

Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision. Some of her old hopes seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other dreams (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. For each goal attempted, her mother has left behind a bittersweet letter, offering words of wisdom, warmth, and—just when Brett needs it—tough love.

As Brett struggles to complete her abandoned life list, one thing becomes clear: Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.

I read the Kindle edition of this book.

When I finished reading this book I gave this a four star but after two weeks, I’m thinking of bumping this down to a three star. It was an okay book but not very memorable. There are lots of stories involving life lists of some kind and while I enjoyed this story there wasn’t a lot that made this stand out from all the other books.

Still it was a nice story. I liked that the life list was a little different from most but it kind of seemed a bit off…I didn’t quite buy the concept and it was a little too neat. There were too many connections that just didn’t make a lot of sense. I also didn’t think that the characters were developed enough…Brett was okay but everyone else was a bit too shallow for my taste.

Rating: three stars

“Love is the one thing on which you should never compromise”

― Lori Nelson Spielman, The Life List

The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann

Back to work tomorrow, but today I managed to finally get almost all of the dishes washed finally. Tomorrow I’m going to focus on cleaning up my bedroom and getting laundry put away.

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In this evocative debut novel, Katrin Schumann weaves a riveting story of past and present—and how love can lead us astray.At twenty-four, Katie Gregory feels like life is looking up: she’s snagged a great job in New York City and is falling for a captivating artist—and memories of her traumatic past are finally fading. Katie’s life fell apart almost a decade earlier, during an idyllic summer at her family’s cabin on Eagle Lake when her best friend accused her father of sexual assault. Throughout his trial and imprisonment, Katie insisted on his innocence, dodging reporters and clinging to memories of the man she adores.
Now he’s getting out. Yet when Katie returns to the shuttered lakeside cabin, details of that fateful night resurface: the chill of the lake, the heat of first love, the terrible sting of jealousy. And as old memories collide with new realities, they call into question everything she thinks she knows about family, friends, and, ultimately, herself. Now, Katie’s choices will be put to the test with life-altering consequences.

I read the Kindle edition of this.

This was an intense book. Although the summary was clear about the plot, and I thought I knew what to expect the truth was-I found this hard to read. The story was kind of slow moving and so I think it just added to the build up on whether Katie’s father was actually guilty or not.

The unknown was what made this an intriguing read. Not knowing what actually happened on the night in question made me question what my expectations on the characters were. Each character was flawed in such a way that there was no telling if they were to be trusted, especially as the only way they are presented is through the eyes of Katie who thinks she knows where her loyalties lie.

Rating: three stars

“It turns out that no one believes her anyway, and that lack of belief in her festers, infects her through and through—because, in her heart, she wants to be an honest person, and she thought she was. But she is not fully honest with anyone, not even with herself. It turns out she cannot give voice to uncertainty; this is not allowed. She does not need to be told this to know it is true. So she becomes quiet; she continues her journey inward, a journey she will be on for years, alone, unable to share with anyone, not her family, not her friends, not her lover.”

― Katrin Schumann, The Forgotten Hours

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

It is the first hot day of the season. It was still winter a few weeks ago (like, Mother’s Day weekend) and now it’s full on summer. Needless to say, today was kind of a wash.

Ellen O’Farrell is a professional hypnotherapist who works out of the eccentric beachfront home she inherited from her grandparents. It’s a nice life, except for her tumultuous relationship history. She’s stoic about it, but at this point, Ellen wouldn’t mind a lasting one. When she meets Patrick, she’s optimistic. He’s attractive, single, employed, and best of all, he seems to like her back.

Then comes that dreaded moment: He thinks they should have a talk. Braced for the worst, Ellen is pleasantly surprised. It turns out that Patrick’s ex-girlfriend is stalking him. Ellen thinks, Actually, that’s kind of interesting. She’s dating someone worth stalking. She’s intrigued by the woman’s motives. In fact, she’d even love to meet her.

Ellen doesn’t know it, but she already has.

I read the paperback edition of this, courtesy of Black Tree Books from Oneonta, NY.

I have read almost all of Liane Moriarty’s novels, (The Last Anniversary was a DNF), and she’s one of my go to authors. I’ve read enough of her books that whenever I come across a new title, I can safely assume that I am going to enjoy it. This title was no different. I was a bit hesitant as I had images of this being full of woo but it was very much down to earth and actually made me reconsider hypnosis just a tiny bit.

I liked Ellen but I really loved reading the chapters in the POV of Saskia, the stalker. Of all the characters in this book-she was the one I felt I understood the most. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I truly felt that she was more deserving of sympathy then anyone else.

Not the best Moriarty book, but not the worst either. I found it easier to follow then some of her other books that switch POV a lot, and I actually felt as though the romance aspect of this was a lot more realistic then most books.

Rating: Four stars

“Perhaps all grown-ups were just children carefully putting on their grown-up disguises each day and then acting accordingly.”

― Liane Moriarty, The Hypnotist’s Love Story