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review 2018-03-23 21:15
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive -- from tragedy comes poetry
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive - Tom Malmquist,Henning Koch

The first page opens in an ER trauma room where Tom's pregnant partner Karin's clothes are being cut off and her vital stats are being called out. Anyone who's ever been in one of those rooms will instantly feel the claustrophobia, confusion and terror.

The crisis never ends. It gathers new crises to attach to itself, and in the midst of it all is a young man desperately trying to keep himself together and put one foot in front of the other. Karin had a rare and aggressive form of leukemia. Beneath a breathing mask, she tells Tom she wants to call the baby Livia, and her health (which was great days earlier) deteriorates rapidly. Very soon they induce a coma, transfer hospitals in order to get cutting-edge care, deliver her baby and perform multiple interventions to no avail. Soon she is gone and Tom is left alone with Livia. Tom, who has been living a rather charmed life becomes a widower and the single father of a premature infant in the span of days.

Tom Malmquist went through this exact same thing, and as such, it's very hard to read this as fiction and impossible to be dispassionate about the book. It's a fictionalized autobiography. I have no idea which parts are which beyond the broad strokes. There is nothing maudlin, some absurdity (ie, the baby has to bring a legal suit against Tom to become his daughter because Tom and Karin weren't married. They lived together for a decade. He'd had a DNA test, but the baby is not automatically his, despite the fact that he is the one caring for her. I would say "only in America" but apparently not.) We go from the main story to flashbacks of when Karin was alive. It feels real - that at these moments, Tom the character is remembering Karin, so the flashbacks of her work well. There are others of his father, who is also dying when the book opens, and the main timeline is straightforward but there are many branches on this tree, all culminating in the sketch of a life from childhood to present. 

The final chapter is gorgeous and brims with love. It's set apart from the acute stages of the rest of the book and moves quickly through Livia's early years to her first days of staying alone at school. Tom has learned how to parent and while he says he feels like a bad parent, it's clear he is not. It's a compelling and tear-inducing final chapter full of poetry and hope.

Malmquist is a poet for real. Prose is a newer endeavor., and this story had to be prose. The book is in translation, and the translation feels very clunky at times. I can feel the poetry trying to break free, but it fails to do so, especially in dialogue. The writing doesn't always employ typical dialogue signifiers like breaks or quotation marks. This works extremely well when Tom is stressed and too much information is coming at him. But in the midst of something that could've worked well comes what may be an overly-literal translation. So everything is conveyed, but not always in the best of ways. When dialogue isn't being overly literal, the translation doesn't get in the way, but this is yet another book I would love to read in its original language. 

No matter the translation, this is a universal story that works despite moments of clunky dialogue. Well worth keeping an eye out for anything else to come from Tom Malmquist.

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review 2018-03-23 20:21
The Forgotten Ones

Danger, wonder, secrets, family, and forgiveness. This book is a MUST HAVE.

Elle has done a good job of managing life. Her mother is certifiable, and the mood swings can take a toll on her. However, life has a way of taking a detour, and Elle is fixing to stumble on a huge secret - one that her mother has kept buried for years. 

When Anna Marie was growing up, she had a rather dysfunctional childhood. Her father was a long haul trucker and her mother - well her mother lived in a world all her own. Gertie lost many of her children, and they were all buried in the backyard. David would weave stories for his little daughter, weaving a fantasy world that will stay with Anna Marie for the remainder of her life. As much as she loathed her parents, she used that same fantasy world with her daughter Elle. 

Brennley, Elle's best friend and roommate is also a fellow nurse. Together they weather the storm of losing patients and battling the emotions that come with it. Brenn and Elle balance each other out. While Brenn knows the background of Elle's mother, their past is as much of a secret to her. One of her patients, a man dying of cancer, becomes more than just a patient. Brennley is becoming more and more attached to the lonely older man. But as they become closer - a bit of Elle's past is opened. Brennley calls her, reading a letter that David has written. She believes that Elle is the granddaughter of the man in the hospital bed. Elle does not think so, her grandparents are dead - it is what she has always been led to believe. But secrets have way of reaching the surface and this one is about to put her entire family on a roller coaster that is going to take many twists and turns. Buckle your seat belt, and get ready for a story that will literally knock your socks off!

A missing child, an imaginary friend, and the secrets of the past have come back to haunt Elle. As she listens to the stories that David tells her from his hospital bed, she believes that they are made up - at least at first. As her mother becomes more and more unhinged, Elle begins to wonder what really happened, and who Bella really was. 
By continuing to delve into her mothers past, she begins to push against the history that she has been told, and comes to not only love her grandfather, but wonder what her own future is going to hold. But before her world entirely gets turned upside down, there is one major secret that her grandfather has been hiding - and it could entirely destroy her mother.

OH MY GOODNESS. When you sit down to read this book - do not start it late at night! Book hangover material! The twists and turns that Steena Holmes weaves will keep you guessing, and wondering. As the story progresses, you begin to really feel sorry for David. Choosing between a wife or a daughter is not a decision any person should have to make, but when you are hiding an even darker secret - life becomes a torment. Elle is determined to find the truth, but her mother is becoming more and more unhinged. 

This book is one that will make you laugh, it will make you angry. It will leave you horrified and mystified. Ya'll this book has it all! There are no disappointments, no letdowns, just page turning electricity.


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review 2018-03-22 18:45
MYSTERY WALK by Robert McCammon, narrated by Nick Sullivan
Mystery Walk - Robert McCammon,Nick Sullivan


MYSTERY WALK is a story involving the epic battle between good and evil and Robert McCammon does these types of stories better than almost anyone.


I won't get into the plot much, as this book was written back in the 80's and hundreds of other reviews already do that. I will say that this is my fourth time reading this book, (I actually listened to it, courtesy of the narrator Nick Sullivan), and this time it affected me even more than it did previously. I'm not sure why that is-perhaps as I've grown older I see more truth and depth in this tale?


It could also be the fact that the narrator brought these characters alive for me. I easily pictured the small town of Hawthorn and both its hateful and sweet residents. I vividly pictured the tent revivals of J.J. Falconer and the bogus claims of healing from his son Wayne. (I had to try hard NOT to picture Wayne's first bout with healing, you'll see what I mean if you read this.) Mr. Sullivan's voicing worked really well for me here and for this reason I've bumped my rating of 4 and 4.5 stars from my previous reads to all five.


MYSTERY WALK is full of hope but at the same time does not shy away from the difficulties in life we all face. The wonderful prose of Robert McCammon is only improved by Nick Sullivan's narration. If you're in need of a little hope in your life during these difficult times, then I highly recommend giving MYSTERY WALK a listen. If you do, give Billy Creekmore a hug from me and tell him that Char said "Hi".


You can get your copy here: Mystery Walk


*I received a free copy of this audiobook from the narrator, in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2018-03-21 00:00
Chasing Dreams (Harper Family, Book 1)
Chasing Dreams (Harper Family, Book 1) - Nancy Stopper Nancy Stopper speaks to the dreamers of the world. Chasing Dreams is a voice of hope in a world that can often feel hopeless. Tanner and Isabella are the perfect example of how one person can make a difference. She's lost her way. Injury has sidelined Isabella's promising career as a ballet dancer. He's lost his faith. One broken heart is one too many. Tanner wants to be happy and he wants his daughter to be happy, yet despite his penchant for encourages others to never lose heart in navigating the maze of life, love is not in the cards for him. Or is it? Using realistic circumstances, Chasing Dreams inspires and teaches. At the heart of Isabella and Tanner's story is the circle of life. It seldom turns out the way we want it to, but somehow despite the twists, we end up in the right place.
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review 2018-03-20 20:39
Unsettling, entrancing tale of escaping the traps we're born to
Along the Indigo - Elsie Chapman

Disclaimer: Reviewing pre-publication proof via NetGalley


I loved this. Vivid, strong character writing and a fully fleshed-out sense of place from the first page made this an engaging story, and the dark fantasy/paranormal elements, while light, tinted the story with a deliciously creepy atmosphere.


Marsden is saving up to skip town with her 8-year-old little sister before one or both of them get roped into joining Nina's girls like their mom. Their dad died (or killed himself) when she was her sister's age, and their mom started working the not-so-secret nightshift in the boarding house they live in/brothel.


Being pressured toward sex work isn't the only source of Marsden's misery. She's half Chinese in a white, rural American town. Her mother's job - and her likely future - are an open secret, and the predatory, bullying behaviour of her peers and neighbours has her self-isolating to survive. And she can't hear the voices of the dead - despite regularly visiting the covert behind the boardinghouse to strip the bodies of the dead for cash. It's the last remaining piece of family property, a sort of suicide forest, tainted by the murder spree of a mad ancestor.


So there's a lot going on here. The visible minority/POC/mixed ancestry thing is handled well and comes up in Mars & her sister's experience, as well as another boy in town's story. The absent/abusive parent thing is troubling but very well handled, as is the dysfunctional community. And the suicides. There's heaps upon heaps of messed up in this book, but the author doesn't bury you in it. It's an engaging read, atmospheric and challenging without feeling hopeless. It reminds me of Brenna Yovanoff's books, and Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed In Blood just a touch. I think it's set in eastern Oregon or Washington maybe, or one of the prairie/desert states further east of there, but it has more in common with Southern Gothic paranormals. Creepy, foreign and familiar at the same time, unsettling and entrancing. Will circle back to this author's earlier works and follow her future books with great interest. Highly recommended read.

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