The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah



source: purchased
title: The Great Alone
author: Kristin Hannah
genre: fiction
published: 2018
pages: 448
first line: That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops.
rated: 4 out of 5 stars

blurb:

Alaska, 1974. Ernt Allbright came home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes the impulsive decision to move his wife and daughter north where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Cora will do anything for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown. Thirteen-year-old Leni, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, has little choice but to go along, daring to hope this new land promises her family a better future.

In a wild, remote corner of Alaska, the Allbrights find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the newcomers’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own.

my thoughts:

I have to start my review off by mentioning I’m slightly obsessing over author Kristin Hannah’s books now after this one and I plan on reading more. After reading The Four Winds last year I quickly ordered The Great Alone. It has taken me several months to get to this one but I was up past midnight this weekend reading I was so hooked. At the center of the story is 13 year old Leni Allbright and her parents Ernt and Cora. Ernt is a Vietnam POW. This family of three is dysfunctional to begin with and Ernt is an alcoholic and abusive towards his wife and he now suffers from PTSD. When his late war buddy leaves him a house in remote Alaska, Ernt packs the family up to live off the grid. Why on Earth the wife Cora would agree to move to the middle of nowhere with little planning and next to nothing but the clothes on their backs with an abusive alcoholic husband who also sufferers from PTSD is beyond me but off they go. Ernt promises that the Alaskan setting will help him be better. This almost reminded me of The Shining.

Once in Alaska, the Allbright’s meet the locals and settle into life off the grid and harsh climate living. As the years pass and Leni gets into her teen years she falls in love with a local boy. She sees her parents differently as a young adult and wonders if her mother can ever have the strength to leave her abusive marriage.

Now, as I said, I was hooked late into the night reading this one. Kristin Hannah has a way of drawing you in with her writing. However, as much as I enjoyed this book I also had a few qualms with it. Firstly Ernt. His character seemed underdeveloped. Why was he physically abusive to his wife? It’s hinted at that this was going on before he left to Vietnam so why? We know nothing about his background. Secondly, Cora. Why was she so weak? I wanted to scream at her while reading. She seemed to have a twisted lovesick teenage relationship with Ernt. Often times they couldn’t keep their hands off each other and didn’t care who was around. Cora’s parents are in the story but again there is nothing explaining why she clings to an abusive husband.

The first 200 pages or so were riveting, I loved reading about the Alaskan landscape and was curious to see where the story would go once the Allbright’s settled into their cabin in the middle of nowhere. I find that this author is great with writing the settings in her stories and The Great Alone was no different. Then the story started to drag a little but I saw that the author was setting things up for the latter half of the book which picked right back up again. I liked Leni’s character alot. This was a coming of age story for her. I liked seeing her realize how toxic her parents are and that that she decided to take a different path. This is also a story about mothers and daughters and the bonds between women. The book took many twists and turns and I was stunned, I teared up, I was on the edge of my seat while reading. This would make a great mini-series.

So while I had a few issues with the story I was still up late into the night reading even though I had to be up early for work the next morning. I’ve already ordered The Nightingale because this author has a way of pulling at my emotions with her stories. What grabbed my attention most about this book was Leni and the bond she had with her mother.

“In the naivete of her youth, her parents had seemed like towering presences, omnipotent and all-knowing. But they weren’t that; they were just two broken people.” -p.249, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

“Such a thin veil separated the past from the present; they existed simultaneously in the human heart”. – p. 433 The Great Alone

About the author:
Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week.-quoted from Amazon

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Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Some of these links are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission.

Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan Hyde



source: review copy via Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley
title: Seven Perfect Things
author: Catherine Ryan Hyde / Twitter
genre: fiction
pages: 320
published: May 2021
first line: When Elliot opened the door, the woman on his welcome mat stuck him as bizarrely young.
rated: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Blurb:
A heart-stirring novel about the joy that comes from finding love in unexpected places by the New York Times and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author.

Thirteen-year-old Abby Hubble lives in an unhappy home in the Sierra Nevada foothills where her father makes life miserable for her and her mother, Mary. One day Abby witnesses a man dump a litter of puppies into the nearby river. Diving in to rescue all seven, she knows she won’t be able to bring them home. Afraid for their fate at the pound, she takes them to an abandoned cabin, where all she can offer is a promise that she’ll be back the next day.

To grieving widower Elliot Colvin, life has lost meaning. Looking for solace, he retreats to the hunting cabin he last visited years ago, before his wife’s illness. What he discovers is not at all what he expected: seven puppies and one determined girl with an indomitable heart.

As Abby and Elliot’s friendship deepens, Abby imagines how much better her life—and the puppies’ lives—would be if her mother were married to Elliot instead of her father.

Seven Perfect Things is a story about joy, where to find it, how to know it when you see it, and the courage it takes to hang on to it once you have it.


My thoughts:
I have yet to read a book by Catherine Ryan Hyde that I didn’t enjoy. This author has a way of writing wonderful stories about everyday people who do everyday things to help each other out. She writes about everyday heroes so well.

Seven Perfect Things revolves around 13 year old Abby, her mother Mary, newly widowed Elliot and 7 puppies. Abby finds herself responsible for a litter of 7 puppies and in trying to take care of them she’s also learning life lessons about responsibility and trust. The puppies need her, and she needs them.

Abby’s mother Mary married young and has lived in an unhappy marriage to her verbally abusive and controlling husband since then. Dependent on her husband financially she continues to say with him.

Elliot’s wife recently passed away and he goes to his vacation cabin in the woods for peace and quiet before he returns to work in the city. At the cabin is when he meets Abby and the puppies by a twist of fate. As the story flows, Mary, Abby and Elliot form a bond. The puppies bring theses three together.

Like I said, I really enjoyed Seven Perfect Things. I sped right through it. I found myself invested in these characters and the puppies tugged at my heartstrings of course. Abby was written really well and I rooted for her from the start. She finds these puppies who need help and she does everything she can to care for them. I felt bad for Mary who was always on edge worried about her husband’s moods. She has an awakening and finally realizes how her life revolves around her husband and that staying in an unhappy marriage for the sake of her daughter is doing more harm that good. Elliot is grieving the recent loss of his wife and in meeting Abby and Mary he finds a new purpose in helping them out.

The ending was nice as well and nothing felt rushed. These three seemed like real people with real daily struggles to overcome. I recommend Seven Perfect Things if you’re looking for an engaging read with realistic and relatable characters.

“Though she couldn’t quite put it into words, she resented having been thrust into a world where such perfect little beings could be treated as worthless. She knew she had been living in that world all along, but she resented having been forced awake. Forced to recognize it. But the puppies themselves…they were perfect.”Seven Perfect Things, 21% Kindle



About the Author:
Catherine Ryan Hyde is the New York Times and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of forty books (and counting). An avid traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer, she shares her astrophotography with readers on her website.

Her novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association (ALA) for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than twenty-three languages in over thirty countries. Both Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow list, and Jumpstart the World was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. Where We Belong won two Rainbow Awards in 2013, and The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award in 2015. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other journals; in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories and California Shorts; and in the bestselling anthology Dog Is My Copilot. Her stories have been honored by the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and have been nominated for Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in the annual Best American Short Stories anthology.

She is founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation and still serves on its board of directors. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton.

For more information, please visit the author at www.catherineryanhyde.com. – quoted from Amazon



Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. My copy of Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan Hyde came via Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah



source: purchased
title: The Four Winds
author: Kristin Hannah
genre: historical fiction
pages: 464
published: February 2, 2021
first line: Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love.
rated: 5 out of 5 stars

Blurb:
The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it―the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.-quoted from Amazon

My thoughts:
The Four Winds was my first foray into author Kristin Hannah’s work and it won’t be my last. I picked this one up after seeing a few book bloggers rave about it.

This book was my vacation read last week and I was transported as I read. I could not put it down, reading as many as 200 pages in one day which is alot for me since I usually tap out at maybe 100 pages a day.

Without giving too much away, the story takes place during the 1930’s Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. The book centers around Elsa Wolcott who by age 25 has been written off by her family as an old maid. She is born in Texas to a well off family since her father owns a tractor business. Elsa loves to read and wants to have fun and be a flapper and become a writer one day. Everything changes for her and she becomes a mom and suffers through the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. With themes of family, motherhood, the bonds women form, poverty and American life during the 1920’s and 30’s this was an epic story that utterly drew me in. I could not turn the pages fast enough.

The author writes about the Dust Bowl and the storms so vividly I could easily imagine it. Of course while reading I had to google the Dust Bowl to familiarize myself with the details and I was shocked at what I learned and what so many people suffered at that time. The images of these dust storms look like something out of a nightmare. The dust from the Plains region even reached up as far as Washington DC and New York City at one point. The author paints such a vivid picture of what people went through at that time and of the poverty people suffered that it both shocks you and pulls at your heartstrings as you read.

Kristin Hannah’s descriptive writing style and the way she shaped these characters had me enthralled. I felt for them and I wanted them to be alright. The relationships within the story are what grab ahold of you as you read. Elsa is a good mother trying to survive it all and take care of her children. The people she meets who are going through similar struggles become like family to her. This is a story about strong women and about surviving against all odds and pushing forward no matter what.

The Four Winds is definitely one of my top reads for 2021 and I highly recommend it if you are looking to get swept away into a well written historical family saga. Have a box of tissues handy.
As per the photo below, my reading view last week was perfect. I’m so glad I chose The Four Winds as my vacation book. Have you read this one?



“Books had always been her solace; novels gave her the space to be bold, brave, beautiful, if only in her own imagination.”– p14, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

“Heartache had been a part of her life so long it had become as familiar as the color of her hair or the slight curve in her spine. Sometimes it was the lens through which she viewed her world and sometimes it was the blindfold she wore so she didn’t see.”- p.117, The Four Winds

“Love is what remains when everything else is gone.” -p.425, The Four Winds

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About the author:
Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week.-quoted from Amazon


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Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of The Four Winds. Some of these links are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. The book photo here is my own.

Bird’s Eye View by T.K. Ray

source: free copy via Pump Up Your Book Promotion for review.
title: Bird’s Eye View
author: TK Ray
genre: fiction/novella/family drama
pages: 103
published: July 15th 2020
first line: Cancer.

About:
A Bird’s Eye View is a twisted tale of deception with acts of love overshadowed by the pains of a troubled teen. As traces of laughter and love are left amongst the whispers of chilling prayers, this once tight knit family faces a rollercoaster of emotions and a call to heal. This blindsided attack leaves the family devastated and takes this family on a journey none of them could prepare for.

My thoughts:
Bird’s Eye View by T.K. Ray is a story revolving around a family and the pain they go through and the ties that bind them. As the story starts off Cara narrates. She is a widow and mother of three daughters who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her life has not been easy she and her deceased husband used drugs and she’s gotten clean and tried to pick up the pieces after his death. She has twin daughters aged 18 and a younger daughter about to go into high school when she starts making arrangements. She decided to leave her youngest Carli to her niece Mirabel. As the chapters flows the other women in the story narrate in turn. Carli lives with her cousin Mirabel and spends most weekends with her sisters.

As the book flows and each character tells their story, there is sadness and heartache but also hope and strength. As a teenager Carli starts to rebel and I wondered how it would turn out for her. She drops a bombshell towards the middle of the book that was quite the plot twist. This bombshell causes a ripple effect that threatens to tear the entire family apart.
Some of the chapters end with the women saying a prayer as Mirabel especially is religious. I will mention a trigger warning for domestic violence and gun violence during a scene.
With author TK Ray’s writing style, I felt like I was being told a story by a friend as I read, if that makes sense. The writing flows smoothly as you get each character’s POV.

This is a story about family and how tough times make you stronger. One of the main themes here is that family is the most important thing. I enjoyed reading Bird’s Eye View by T.K. Ray and I recommend it if you enjoy stories revolving around family dramas and persevering.

“Crazy how that works. You pray against these moments-that they never come, that they don’t penetrate as deep as the last but of pain did-but when it comes, it’s there and then it’s gone. You’re forced to formulate new prayers, new peace, and a new life after the trauma.”-p.24,Bird’s Eye View by T.K. Ray

“The family I knew us to be, we always pull together in struggle. We were the strongest women I knew. Strength was becoming our thing.”-p.60,Bird’s Eye View by T.K. Ray



About the author:
“Write what hurts and watch it heal.” That is the mantra that has empowered the imagination and willpower to tell her story for upcoming Author, TK Ray. Using colorful language and descriptive tone, Tk provides a safe space to unpack a beautiful and twisted tale based on a true story of real family dynamics.

TK Ray was born in San Diego, California to a fifteen-year-old mother and fourteen-year-old father in the late eighties. Born to two young teens, TK found herself tainted by the statistics of becoming a teen mother herself. She found solace in the world of literature as her own private journals became her voice when shyness took over. She began to understand the world in more intuitive way and birthed that intuition into an imagination that has fueled much of her writing. Much of her writing is personal however as the years have gone by, have included poetry, music, obituaries, blog posts and now literature.

TK is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner and practicing Massage Therapist in southern California. She fuses her knowledge in holistic health with that of her knowledge of her bachelor’s degree in health science to better serve her community in wellness and education. – quoted from Amazon


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Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I received a free copy of Bird’s Eye View via Pump Up Your Book Promotion in exchange for my thoughts.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

source: purchased
title: A Head Full of Ghosts
author: Paul Tremblay
published: May 2016
genre: horror
pages: 285
first line: This must be so difficult for you, Meredith.
rated: 5 out of 5 stars

Blurb:
A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror, reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

My thoughts:
I purchased A Head Full of Ghosts because I wanted to dive into something scary. This was my first time reading Paul Tremblay and the premise looked good. Plus, this is what Stephen King said about this book: “A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare”. If that’s not a horror recommendation I don’t know what is.

The book centers around twenty-something Merry Barrett as she tells a writer named Rachel the story of what happened to her family when she was just eight years old. Rachel is going to write a book on the Barretts. When Merry was eight her fourteen year old sister Marjorie started exhibiting symptoms of demonic possession. The Barrett family was having financial difficulties at the time because the dad John Barrett lost his job. When Marjorie begins acting strange it puts a strain on the entire family. She was talking in bizarre and weird voices, cursing and having erratic outbursts.

After treatments from the doctor didn’t work, the family obtained help from the Catholic church. After observing Marjorie, Father Wanderly got permission to perform an exorcism. On top of all this, the Barrett’s got a tv documentary deal so there was a film crew living in their home for a few weeks filming the family daily. The Barrett’s agreed to the documentary which aired weekly and made them somewhat infamous because they needed the money. The exorcism is aired on tv.

I enjoyed how the author pulled me in here, Merry tells a terrifying story and I was on the edge of my seat while reading. She’s an endearing character and you want her to be okay but she is an unreliable narrator so you never truly know what happened.
I wondered where Paul Tremblay would go with the story because halfway through I started thinking this book could easily start to resemble a retelling of The Exorcist which is of my favorite horror novels. I was not disappointed. This one does throw nods to The Exorcist but manages to remain original.

The book culminates into a nice cringeworthy twist at the end that left me speechless. The twist is what seals the deal. I also enjoyed how the book plays with you a little as you read, you never really know what is truly going on. I wondered whether Marjorie was really possessed or mentally ill or maybe both. I feared for Merry and her interactions with her older sister in that state were scary but also sad. Merry idolized her older sister like most little sisters do. I also really enjoyed the whole reality tv twist to the story due to the documentary about the family being filmed.

A Head Full of Ghosts was fantastic horror and I recommend it to fans of the genre. This one is not for the faint of heart some of the scenes are shocking. Ugh, the basement scenes. I wanted to hide under the covers.


“In a way, my personal history not being my own, being literally and figuratively haunted by outside forces, is almost as horrible as what actually happened. Almost.”- A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

I sneak into your room when you are asleep, Merry-monkey. I’ve been doing it for weeks now, since the end of summer. You’re so pretty when you’re asleep. Last night, I pinched your nose shut until you opened your little mouth and gasped.”- A Head Full of Ghosts



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Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
. Some of the links in the post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission.