Category Archives: Literary Fiction

Review: The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (February 25, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1250038944
  • Source: Publisher

Being a headmaster is in Arthur Winthrop’s genes. Like his father before him, he serves as the headmaster of Lancaster School, an elite private school in Vermont.  Lancaster School is his life; he grew up there, went to school there, and now serves as the setting for where his life will spiral out of control.  Arthur’s story, to the reader, begins after he is taken into custody for walking around naked in Central Park.

As he retells his story to the police, Arthur’s confusion and mental anguish are apparent. He tells of the weight being a headmaster places on him, the toll it has taken on him emotionally, his obsession with a young student, and how all of this has taken a toll on his marriage.  Arthur’s madness and obvious struggle to maintain some semblance of his life is quite apparent.  The intensity of this mental anguish is made clearly apparent in the second half of the book, in a segment certain to shock and induce jaw-dropping in the most astute of readers.

At it’s very core, however, The Headmaster’s Wife is a novel full of surprises, a novel completely unlike what this reader expected. In the beginning, it reads like a thriller, a mystery of sorts. Ultimately, however, it is a beautifully written exploration of love, of family, and how the loss of someone so dear to you can send your entire world, your very being, into a downward, out of control, spiral.

This is a novel that will capture your attention from the beginning. As I read, I was a bit wary of the path this author was taking. “Oh, it’s going to be one of THOSE books.” And then…when IT was revealed….I was in a stunned silence. Typically, I can predict when something big, a sudden revelation is about to take place. Certainly not in this case!  Instead, this shift in plot had me obsessed with reading more, devouring this book to the very end. I read it in a matter of hours, a challenging feat as of late.  Without giving much away, I will warn readers to be wary, all is not as it seems!

For the reasons listed above, this novel will, without a doubt, top my list of favorites of 2014. It will leave you speechless, stunned by how expertly this author has captured tragedy and the loss.  Greene knows loss, it serves as his inspiration for writing this novel. To learn more, please check out the video embedded below.

 

Bottom line, The Headmaster’s Wife  is an absolutely brilliant and touching piece of writing. I am now and forever in awe of this author’s talent, my heart aching for the pain he endured. Rather than becoming a victim to his pain, he used it to produce a truly remarkable, unforgettable novel. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (February 11, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0804139024
  • Source: Publisher

Mark Watney is one of several astronauts making up the crew of the Ares 3 mission to Mars. Just days into their mission, the Acidalia region is hit by a dust storm. Believed to be killed during the storm, Mark is left…alone…on Mars.  He has the food rations that would have lasted the crew two months but it’s going to take much longer for NASA to realize he is still alive…and to come up with a means of rescuing him.  Watney uses his ingenuity to come up with means to survive until help arrives (including growing quite the impressive harvest of potatoes). Will all this ingenuity be enough for Watney to survive the harsh and unforgiving Mars terrain, repeatedly hammered with obstacles to test his survival (and his sanity)?

The Martian is a truly tremendous novel, one of the best I have read in some time. It reads like a nonfiction narrative of a survival story, for Weir’s knowledge of the subject matter is quite vast and impressive. While there is a great deal of technical and scientific jargon, rather than bogging the reader down I think it added a level of believability that will allow readers to grasp the severity and intensity of Watney’s survival.  Personally, I found myself devouring the novel, hungry to learn what next great feat Watney overcame.

The character Weir builds in Watney is outstanding. Though it’s obvious he is terrified about his fate, he keeps a level head on him, using quite a bit of sarcastic humor that lightened up an already dark and devastating storyline.  Watney’s human spirit was tremendous. One can’t help but root for him and pray for his safe return to Earth. I found myself forgetting that he is a fictional character, assuming that I can look up his name online or turn on the news to hear about his death-defying saga. At the end, I did find myself missing him quite a bit. I plan on checking out the audio book soon, desperate to reunite with this character.

You don’t have to be a fan of science fiction to appreciate this novel.  It’s a truly intense analysis of human character and survival, dozens of unknowns on such an unknown planet. This is a novel people will be raving about, I guarantee. Months after reading it, I countinue to rave about it (including it as  my monthly recommendation for Bloggers Recommend).  Highly, highly recommended.

Review: What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell

9780062237842

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (January 7, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0062237845
  • Source: Publisher

Olivia Reed didn’t have the most stable of childhoods. Her older sisters, twins, were stillborns who died a year before Olivia was born and are forever memorialized by her mother, Myla, a bipolar psychic. One of Olivia’s many tasks around their home is to clean the nursery, a morbid constant reminder of loss Myla cannot forget. Myla refuses to admit the girls are gone, going as far as preparing bowls of food to feed them. And then there is Olivia, a girl of fifteen just coming to terms with her own identity, forgotten by her own mother. Myla would have manic sessions and then disappear for weeks, forcing Olivia to fend for herself.  This abandonment led to rebellion and at fifteen, the summer of 1987, Olivia left her home of Ocean Vista.

Fast forward twenty years and Olivia has returned to Ocean Visita, this time with her two children, her teen daughter Carrie  and a nine-year-old son, Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Olivia is running from the life she had in Texas, desperate for some solace after her divorce. However, instead of a quiet and calm reunion, she is forced into panic and terror when Daniel son goes missing.

Alternating between past and present, What I Had Before I Had You is a hauntingly poignant examination of bipolar disorder and how it affects not only the individual diagnosed with it, but how it is passed on and forever alters those around them. Myla believed the disorder granted her the gift of her psychic visions and never received treatment for the disease. Olivia learned to handle her symptoms, desperately trying to balance this “gift” passed down to her by her mother with the demands of being a mother.

What moved me the most about this novel is its impact. Not only is Oliva on a desperate search for her missing son, she is also seeking some answers to her own identity, aching to come to terms with who she really is. A powerfully moving novel, What I Had Before I Had You is a heart-wrenching, intensely thought-provoking experience. Days after finishing this novel, I’m still processing the intensity of its message.  Highly, highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour!

Review: Adé: A Love Story by Rebecca Walker

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Little A / New Harvest (October 29, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 054414922X
  • Source: Publisher

A nineteen-year-old college student and her friend, Miriam,  embark on a trip to Africa. The unnamed narrator’s life is forever altered upon arriving in Egypt, feeling as though she is finally home. With almond-shaped eyes and dark skin, she’s never really felt as though she’s belonged.  Then, upon arrival at an island off the coast of Kenya, she meets Adé.  An attractive Swahili Muslim, the life Adé leads is completely unlike anything the narrator has ever known. It is Adé who gives her the Arabic name, Farida.

Farida and Adé fall in love and Farida encourages her free-spirited friend, Miriam to continue her travels.  When Farida and Adé decide to marry, Farida is thrust into a life rigid with Swahili wedding customs.  It is required that Adé travel home with her to request her parents’ permission to marry. It is then that the young couple are forced to face the political war and a difficult life raging around them. Devoid of worldly possessions and even the most basic medical care, Farida contracts cerebral malaria and meningitis, demanding that she make a choice between her love of Adé and her own health and safety.

The cultures Farida is introduced to in her journeys alter her tremendously. A privileged Yale student, this is the first glimpse of a world unlike her own.  The adversity that she and Adé were forced to face was heartbreaking.  They overcame the cultural challenges only to be forced to surrender to a condition that only modern medicine can occur. The romantic in me wants to believe that love can conquer everything but alas, that is not always the case.

That’s not to say this is a dark and depressing read. Instead, it was incredibly rewarding and uplifting, watching Farida experience her rebirth and growth that would have never happened without Adé. He gave her a new life, a new outlook on her future and place in this world.  The love that Farida shares with Adé is far beyond what we think of traditional and, perhaps due to this, is on a completely different parallel than the love that many of us face. They share a once in a lifetime sort of love, a beauty set in an area riddled with war and destruction. While this novel is short, it packs a punch that will linger, living readers breathless. It is a novel unlike any I have ever witnessed, a true gift. Highly, highly recommended.

Rebecca Walker is the author of the best-selling memoirs Black, White and Jewish and Baby Love, and editor of the anthology Black Cool. She is also the editor of the anthologies To Be Real, What Makes a Man, and One Big Happy Family. Her writing has appeared in Bookforum,  Newsweek, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Washington Post, Vibe, and Interview, among many other publications, and she blogs regularly for The Root. For more information, please visit www.rebeccawalker.com and follow her on Twitter: @rebeccawalker.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Be sure to check out the other stops in this tour.

Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (August 27, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0778315339
  • Source: Publisher

In 1966, Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s son died at his eighth birthday party. Now in their seventies, their lives have resumed without him, filled with loss and regret.  Then the dead begin to return, not as zombie-like version of their previous selves but exactly as they were when their lives were brought to an end. Harold and Lucille discussed what would happen if Jacob returned, both convinced that it was impossible for them to accept him as their son if he did return.  And then it happened: a knock at the door changing their lives forever. A government man standing alongside their son, just as he was when he died.

Despite what she stated previously, Lucille welcomed him back with open arms. Harold was more reserved, unsure how to treat this little boy who, on the surface, looked just like his little boy whose body he recovered from the river. Harold isn’t the only one unsure of how to deal with “the Returned.” An entire government agency, the International Bureau of the Returned, was charged with dealing with this unusual phenomenon, including reuniting the Returned with their loved ones and asking the fateful question: “Do you want to keep them?”  So many people were returning that the Bureau soon faced funding issues, spending it faster than they could accumulate it.

The social reaction to the Returned made the decision for them: concentration like camp facilities were created to house these individuals.  One such camp is created in the Hargrave’s small town of Arcadia, causing an influx of Returned.  The town shifts from a quite respite to a military-like front filled with armed soldiers. In addition to dealing with the rapid influx of residents it is difficult to ignore the questions left dangling: how and why did these individuals return? Has the world come to an end? Why are only some individuals returning, but not all?

The setting, our nation’s “Bible Belt” adds an interesting spin to this novel. A region that so passionately embraces and celebrates religion is forced to deal with a situation like no other. Their reaction seemed to be quite polarized: either they embraced the Returned, welcoming them back into their lives or shunned them like some sort of beast sent by the Devil. Their religion is tested at a time in which they are at their most vulnerable.  The worst aspects of human nature come to the surface as the world as  a whole is forced to come to terms with this miraculous event.

This debut novel was one of many books I mentioned during the Fall Preview event hosted by my favorite independent bookstore, One More Page Books & More.  I mentioned it not only because it is a stunning debut, but of the reaction it evokes from readers. You’ll be left questioning your own response if you were in the Hargrave’s shoes. Would you be able to accept your loved one back?

My only issue with this novel is that we never learned how or why these individuals have returned.  It is my fear that so many people will tear through the pages, hoping to receive some glorious revelation as to the cause of the return and in doing so miss out on some pretty outstanding writing.  Mott himself explains that the inspiration from this book came from a dream he had a few years ago in which his mother, who passed away in the summer of 2001, returned from the dead and was waiting for him when he returned home from work.  They had the opportunity to catch up on all things that she missed in the time she’d been gone.  Upon waking from his dream Mott was left wondering what his reaction would be if that really happened.  Understanding that the impetus for this novel came from somewhere so close to the author’s heart moved me, wanting me to contemplate these very questions myself.

So, while the cause of the return is never revealed, I think this was an intentional move on the part of the author. He doesn’t want readers to get caught up in the mechanics of what happened, instead focusing on the characters and their reactions, questioning our own responses should we ever find ourselves in this situation.  So, I implore readers not to get so wrapped up in the how and why it happened but focus on the characters and their response to this life-altering experience. Highly, highly recommended.

It’s no surprise to me that ABC has picked up the pilot of a television series based on The Returned, renamed Resurrection for its television review. Check out the trailer:

The book trailer is pretty outstanding as well:

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the other stops along the way!

Also, if you are a fan of audiobooks, I do encourage you to check out these free prequels to The Returned.

Review: The Exiles by Allison Lynn

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little A / New Harvest (July 2, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 054410210X
  • Source: Publisher

After realizing their Manhattan lifestyle was far more than they could afford, Nate Bedecker, Emily Latham, and their ten-month-old son Trevor, leave the city and head to Newport, Rhode Island.  Nate was “the only pauper on Wall Street” and Emily worked in advertising. The quiet, relaxed, and more affordable way of life in Newport was just what they needed.

Unfortunately, within hours of their arrival, their Jeep containing all of their valuables was stolen. Forced to cancel all their credit cards, the only money they had was the small amount of cash in their wallets. Despite having the keys to an empty house they now owned, the couple opts to retreat to a hotel and treat their first few days living as tourists.  The recent lost of their vehicle and all their prized possessions is just one of the many things tormenting this young, unmarried couple.

Nate never had what one would refer to as a healthy relationship with his father. The two hadn’t spoken in years, yet the one thing that connects the two is a genetic condition that plagued Nate’s grandfather, one that was likely passed on to his father and Nate himself as well. The disease, which Nate recalls his mother calling “hunting sons” (Huntington’s). Nate almost obsessively monitors his own health and fitness, certain that any changes are an indication of the disease. Still, he shares none of this with Emily.

Emily is host to her own secrets. An act of theft before they left Manhattan torments her; repercussions for her actions may shatter whatever dreams she and Nate had for building a new life in Newport. Like Nate, she keeps her fears and anxiety hidden, the secrets the two keep from one another adding additional stress to an already tumultuous new beginning.

Meanwhile, Nate’s father embarks on his own journey, attempting to return to his family’s old home in Newport to tie up loose ends before the disease takes him as its next victim.

The Exiles is a novel that focuses on many complex issues including honesty, family, trust and more. Emily and Nate aren’t appealing characters because of the lies they keep from one another. Still, readers can’t help feel compassion for these genuine and flawed characters, forced to deal with a reality that fate has dealt them. Lynn’s raw and emotional prose captivates readers, tethering them to this couple as they embark on a journey that is both physical and emotional. While aspects of the story are quite bleak and depressing, a current of positive and hopeful vibes flows beneath the surface, showing that even in the darkest of situations a bit of light shines through.  Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of The Exiles to to give away. To enter, please fill out the form below.  The winner will be notified on Friday, July 26th.  Open to US & Canadian residents only.

Thank to you TLC Book tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Be certain to check out the other stops in this tour and increase your chances of winning a copy of the book!

 

 

Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

  • Hardcover: 272 Pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (July 2, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062280546
  • Source: Publisher

Celeste Price is a middle-school teacher in Tampa, FL.  She chose this career so she could have what she desired most right at her fingertips: young boys in their early teens. Starting in her own teen years, Celeste realized that she had a sexual desire that was more intense than most others. She married a police officer who came from money so she could afford to keep her body looking young by using expensive beauty products and undergoing a number of skin treatments.  She had no attraction to her husband; their sex life was nearly nonexistent. His shift at work prevented them from spending much time together.  When he was home, she drugged him so he would fall asleep, preventing any sort of intimate contact.

As the school year begins, Celeste begins hunting for her prey.  She needs someone that is sort of a loner, too modest to share their indiscretions with anyone, one who has parents that won’t pick up on what is transpiring.  This year, her victim is 14 year-old Jack Patrick, an attractive and modest student in her English class.  It takes some time for her to transform their relationship into more than it is, more than it should be.  When it begins, however, the intensity of their tryst is off the charts. Don’t let Celeste force you to believe she is in this for a romantic relationship for that is far from her intent.  She is in it for the sex, manipulating those around her in a terrifyingly psychopathic manner.  She takes numerous risks, always with an excuse planned in her mind should they ever get caught. Yet what she didn’t take into consideration is how Jack felt about her and what he would do to protect their relationship.

Tampa is by far one of the hardest books I have ever reviewed. The whole premise of this book is vile to me, a mother of a teen boy. The author does not hold back with the explicitness of Jack and Celeste’s sexual exploits. Doing so would diminish Celeste’s obvious sickness. One might ask why I opted to continue to read this book after learning the presence.  Frankly, because the writing is brilliant.  Nutting builds such an elaborate and atypical female protagonist. In most cases, when we read of such sexual behavior the main character is a male.  Not necessarily in the same circumstance as this novel, but when we do read about it, we don’t attribute any feelings of disgust or shock to that character.  What Nutting has done is put a female protagonist in this role, giving readers a unique female perspective on sexual addiction.

It is impossible to review this title without talking about the book’s cover as well. It is dark and simple, covered in a black velvet that at first feels lush, making you want to touch and stroke the book. As you read, however, that soft fabric begins to feel quite vile and disgusting. Much like Celeste’s character (a woman that is incredibly beautiful on the surface, a woman any man would desire), the reader’s opinion quickly shifts as more is revealed.  It is certainly the most interesting (and successful!) bit of book marketing I have ever experienced.

This is not a book that I can recommend to just anyone. It does require a strong stomach and an ability to look beyond the story on the surface to get through to the message the author is trying to relay.  I tend to think I have a pretty strong stomach. I’m a fan of horror movies and books and in most cases, I can stomach anything.  This novel, however, was my true nemesis, one of the biggest challenges I have ever accomplished. It took me several breaks, putting the book completely out of my line of sight for several days, before I was able to pick it up again. Therefore, this (I hesitate to say positive) review comes with a big bright warning label with flashing lights: While this is a book that everyone will be talking about, if you don’t think you can stomach it, do not attempt it. This is a book that lingers with you, you will be unable to unsee (or unread) what transpires within its pages.  However, if you are able to separate the incredibly explicit actions in this book from the true intent of this story, I promise you will see through the dark and the vile and will appreciate this novel for its brilliance.

Review: The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (June 11, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062112244
  • Source: Publisher

In Simon Van Booy’s most recent masterpiece, he explores how characters that are seemingly unrelated are tied together, responsible for one another’s fate.The one thing that ties each of these individuals together is a seemingly insignificant act of kindness, an act that might have immediate meaning but instead developing in intensity as time passes. Like the phenomenon known as the butterfly effect, the actions of these characters have resounding effects and repercussions. Based on actual stories, this novel spans quite a bit of time, from New York in 1939 to World War II France, fast forwarding seven decades later to England and Los Angeles in 2010.

The characters are what truly bring this novel together into one truly brilliant piece of art. Hugo is a former German soldier, forever disfigured by war. Decades later, he continues to atone for his crimes. Martin works in a retirement home, Hugo is the most recent resident. Amelia is in her twenties, blind, searching for love as she works to create programs that benefit the blind at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. John survived after his B-52 plane crashed over France, eventually joining the French resistance. Initially, this large magnitude of characters may appear confusing but the joy is in discovering how the lives of each of these individuals are intertwined.

Van Booy’s true skill is the magnitude in his brevity. In just a few short words, he can provide more meaning than what another author may provide in pages of detail. Each sentence is clearly well plotted out, each and every word has a purpose and meaning.  The revelation of each of the characters involvement in each other’s fate isn’t readily revealed; Van Booy provides his readers with a treat in devouring his eloquent prose as they pull away the veil of illusion that separates them.

I honestly do not think any other writer could have accomplished what Van Booy has done in The Illusion of Separateness. The premise is not necessarily a new or unique one, but Van Booy’s execution of these interconnecting story is what makes this novel so profound. In just a few short words, he evokes an overwhelming amount of emotion, bonding reader to character instantaneously. We forgive the characters for any crimes or ill-actions in their past, instantly developing a feeling of sympathy and adoration for what they have endured and for the gift they have given to one another.

The Illusion of Separateness, like all of Van Booy’s work I have read, has quite a profound effect on my life. Despite the fact that we all may have times in which we feel insignificant, each of us have some sort of impact on the world, be it big or small. It is up to us to decide just how large our footprint on the world will be. It is this sort of thinking and contemplation that truly outstanding writing evokes from me. Thank you, Simon Van Booy, for reminding me to strive farther and reach higher.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour.

Review: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (June 25, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062213784
  • Source: Publisher

When Greta’s twin brother passes away and a long-term relationship ends, Greta Wella is inconsolable, in a severe state of depression. Her doctor suggests a treatment involving electroshock therapy. The result is beyond what Greta could have imagined. After each treatment she awakens in another time, sent back to 1918, 1941, and the present.  In each of these times, her “alter ego” has a life vastly different than her own.  One is a devoted mother, the other a carefree adulteress. Yet in each of these lives, key characters missing in her “current” life are still present, including her deceased brother Felix and her beloved former lover.

Although these individuals, integral to her happiness in her present life, exist as part of her life they are a far cry from the individuals she knows them to be. Her brother, Felix, has not admitted his homosexuality, going as far to marry a young woman and have children than to confess his true identity. Nathan, her long-time lover who had an affair in her “present” life is her husband in one of the alternate times…but is she as devoted to him as she should be?

As Greta’s therapy continues, so do her jumps in time. As her therapy draws to an end, however, Greta can’t help but wonder which of these realities is the life she is meant to lead. Greta attempts herself to alter each of her lives but with incredibly powerful consequences.

Obviously, one must dispel quite a bit of disbelief in reading this novel. Greer doesn’t focus on how Greta is able to travel through time, instead focusing on the journey Greta takes in examining each of her alternate lives.  While I don’t feel I necessarily bonded a great deal with Greta as a whole, I largely feel that this was in part due to the fact that she was actually three distinct and different characters instead of just one. The fact that Greer was able to do such a monumental job in developing Greta’s characters, creating them with such vast differences yet still exhibiting the same core or essence of an individual,  is clear evidence to his talent as a writer.

At the core, this novel examines relationships: with family members, lovers, and one’s self. At the onset of her therapy, Greta’s doctor’s promised the treatment would return her to who she was. The journey she takes to get there, however, is more powerful and life-altering than she could have ever imagined. If you are looking for a novel with a truly unique premise, this is the title for you. Highly recommended.

Review: A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (May 30, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 039916216X
  • Source: Publisher

It’s Memorial Day weekend in 1938. Following family tradition, Lily Dane has left her life in New York and returned with her family to the oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island. Her plans for a peaceful, relaxing summer are changed when the Greenwalds return to Seaview. A painful past full of heartbreaking events comes rushing back to Lily.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald once played a big role in Lily’s life. Budgie was Lily’s best friend; they grew up together sharing many fond memories of Seaview. Nick was once Lily’s fiance, their relationship destroyed seven years ago. Nick and Budgie have recently married, an event that raised quite a few eyebrows and stirred up the gossip in Seaview.

Budgie has returned to Seaview in the hopes of reconstructing her family’s old house…and her relationship with Lily as well. Always one to be the center of the social scene, Budgie takes it upon herself to try to set Lily up with Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton, a “friend” of hers from their college days. Despite this, Lily’s love for Nick cannot be diminished and despite Budgie’s attempts to push her on Graham, Lily can’t stop thinking about Nick. The two are forced to revisit the events that pushed them apart, facing the emotional devastation that ended their relationship. Both are bound by intense emotional obligations, yet when the true circumstances are revealed, both see one another in a completely new light. A a horrific hurricane looms, Lily and Nick must face and overcome their own emotional storms, changing their lives forever.

The setting of this novel plays quite the integral role in this story. A calm, serene beach in the path of a looming hurricane. It’s not hard to draw the connection between what is happening in the setting to that of Nick and Lily’s relationship. This setting is also what will draw readers to embrace this novel. Who can resist a warm beach in the summer, warm sand under your toes?

While I’m typically turned off by love stories in general, the feeling I had after reading Williams’ previous title, Overseas, allowed me to take a chance and dive into this novel.  As I suspected, I was quickly wrapped up, nearly obsessed, with Nick and Lily’s love. Perhaps because it is a love that is true and classic, one that has succeeded in standing the test of time. Using chapters with alternating time periods, Williams so eloquently builds up each of the characters, detailing their transformation and emotional evolution over the past several years.

The characters are extremely rich in this novel. Williams is quite successful at balancing Budgie’s outrageous and obnoxious behavior with the serenity, calm and innocence found in Lily.  How the two could have been friends for so long is beyond me! And the love triangle/square!? Wowser. It was quite intense, I found myself furiously turning the pages to find out what was going to happen.  And the passion? Well, you’ll see for yourself.

My only complaint would be the ending.  I’m ecstatic about what transpired but thought it was an easy means to get to the desired ending. That said, the rich beauty and beautiful writing throughout the novel, the truly dynamic and captivating storyline, really won me over in the end.  If you are looking for a beautiful, rich novel to take you away this summer, this is the title for you. Highly, highly recommended.