I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.The Life of the World to Come by Dan Cluchey
Published by St. Martin's Press on June 28, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Coming of Age, Literary
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Leo Brice is dead, in a sense (not the traditional one). When the neurotic law student meets his cosmic match in Fiona Haeberle, an impulsive spirit and burgeoning soap star, all seems well—the two fall fast in love, and spend three years navigating their twenties in wide-eyed wonder. But once the fantastical woman who had defined his future bolts to pursue a fantasy life of her own, Leo is forced to come to terms with a reality that more closely resembles an epilogue than the story he’d hoped it might be. Now a junior death row advocate, Leo immerses himself in the esoteric world of his condemned client, a born-again Georgia inmate named Michael Tiegs. As both men become consumed by the question of an afterlife—and as Leo becomes increasingly confused by his own future and past—Tiegs’ fate hangs in the balance. Leaning on his friends and grappling with his memories, Leo must try to save a client who may not want to be saved after all, even as he struggles to confront the prospect of his own mortality.
At once obsessively readable, philosophically probing, and verbally acrobatic, The Life of the World to Come announces Dan Cluchey as a fresh new voice in fiction.
The Life of the World to Come by Dan Cluchey surprised me. It was not at all what I expected in the best of ways. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into other than a sad young lawyer who works death row cases breaks up with his girlfriend. Sounds great right? All super depressing and probably a bit pretentious and whiny, is what I figured I was going to read. But, no! Leo (our MC) was very nuanced and had a very intriguing way of looking at the world. Yes, this was not the most upbeat of tales, but it was a read that I savored and enjoyed.
Cluchey crafted a tale that wove the path of Leo on a similar trajectory as his client on death row. There were some surprising parallels between the two men, and it was a fantastic way for the author to go. There were so many small moments that were very powerful, and rippled throughout the entire story. Now this was not a light beach read, and it delved into some pretty rough territories, but it succeeded in its mission. There were a few moments that I wanted to shake Leo and tell him to grow the f up and just get over it, but that was a minor issue for me.
I was pleased with The Life of the World to Come and Dan Cluchey wrote one hell of a début. This is my kind of beach read.
Favorite lines – You live your whole life as though it were an ongoing story, but when someone leaves, here is what happens: you wake up the next morning, and all of a sudden you are an epilogue.
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Surprise Me by Deena Goldstone
Published by Nan A. Talese on June 21, 2016
Genres: Women's Fiction, Coming of Age
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A bittersweet debut novel, Surprise Me is an unconventional love story about two writers who see more in each other than they see in themselves, and how that faith transforms them.
The fragile dream of becoming a writer takes hold of Isabelle Rothman during her senior year of college. Feeling brave, she begins a one-on-one tutorial with a once highly praised novelist, Daniel Jablonski, who is known on campus as eccentric, difficult, and disengaged. Despite his reputation, Isabelle loves his early novels and hopes Daniel can teach her the secrets of his luminous prose. But their first meeting is a disaster. He never read the chapters she submitted and will not apologize for being unprepared. He has lived up to his reputation, and she feels dismissed, humiliated, and furious.
But slowly, over the semester, they gingerly form a bond that begins to anchor both of them. And over the next twenty years, as they live very separate lives—she in Northern California and he finally settled in a tiny New Hampshire town—they reach out to each other through e-mails, phone calls, and visits. Their continual connection helps Isabelle find the courage to take greater risks and push Daniel to work through layers of self-loathing and regret that have kept his career from flourishing. They are the single constant in each other’s life and the most profound influence.
Daniel and Isabelle recognize they are among the blessed few who meet at the exact moment they need each other the most, and that their lives are transformed by this connection. In a final collaboration, the boundaries of teacher and student give way to a work that heals something in each of them. They truly see each other as extraordinary—as people do when they love—and that belief makes all the difference.
Surprise Me by Deena Goldstone is a début that had all the feels. Isabelle is a college student who feels her words. Compelled to write, she begins working with noted novelist Daniel. It has been twenty years since Daniel’s last hit and suffering from agoraphobia, he can barely handle the few students he has. But he sees something in Isabelle that he is drawn to and he takes her under his wing. From that beginning they weave into and out of each others lives for the next twenty years.
Surprise Me is the tale of two people who end up deeply loving each other, but not in love with each other. Their very divergent paths cross every few years and through letters and email they stay connected. They slowly become each others solace and in each other they find the best parts of themselves. There were a few scenes that felt added for bulk, but for the most part this was a highly engaging read.
Deena Goldstone wrote a compelling tale about how a person can be separated by great distance from you, but still be an intrinsic part of your life. I loved the interactions between Isabelle and Danielle and how each helped the other to grow. This was a book that made me cry, laugh and smile. There were no shocking moments, no explosions or murders, just slow friendship and personal discovery and I loved it.
Favorite lines – Suddenly life was quieter. Peace crept in and took up residence inside her, a tiny corner of stillness, and she was grateful. What she didn’t realize until it was too late was that there was a price to pay for all this tranquillity.
I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Change Places with Me by Lois Metzger
Published by Balzer + Bray on June 14, 2016
Genres: Depression & Mental Illness, Emotions & Feelings
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Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.
But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.
Change Places With Me by Lois Metzger was one I was not certain how I felt about it right away. The story opens with a teen girl who is very positive. She believes that everyone is her friend and that she wants nothing more that to be happy and live in the moment. However, she can’t shake a nagging feeling that something is off. That inside she is someone else and that maybe everything is not as it seems.
This is a hard book not to spoil in a review but I will say that it was a very interesting take on depression and the lengths someone will take to “fix” it. Set in the not so distant future, Rose our MC, is an average teen but there is an odd edge to her. As the story progresses you slowly learn the many facets of her and understand her motivations.
Set in three sections, each revolving around a teen girl, Change Places With Me was a very different read. There were a few times that I was puzzled by the girls and how they related to each other, but when it became clear, everything clicked into place. Lois Metzger crafted a very different kind of read and I enjoyed it. The future aspect gave it just enough of a twist and I think it really worked. Now I will admit that this is a bit of a confusing read, but if you just stick with it, you will be happily surprised.
Favorite lines – This is what you should do, she told herself. Grab things, exist at the centre of your life, not the edge.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2016 New Release Challenge
- Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge
- The Goodreads Challenge