This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Ebook

Dates Read: 9/17/19-9/26/19

I will be completely upfront in that I totally didn’t see that ending coming! The book is reminiscent of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, with a complete surprise wrap-up of the story.

Set in 1932, Odysseus (Odie) O’Banion is an orphan stuck at the Lincoln Indian Training School in Minnesota. This school is intended to be a boarding school for Native American children in an effort to “kill the Indian, save the man”. Odie, along with his brother, Albert, are forced into this school because they were orphaned after the death of their father. There they meet a Sioux boy named Mose, who had his tongue removed when he was a boy, leaving him mute.

The school is extremely cruel in their punishments. One of the punishments forced the boy to stay in the “Quiet Room”, where they are physically abused (and possibly sexually as well), left to sleep on a bale of hay, with the only companion being a rat. Odie became well acquainted with this room because he would not fit the mold expected of him. The other punishment was being forced to work in the fields for the local farmers. That hard work tore up their hands and left the boys exhausted, sometimes also making them miss dinner.

While working in the fields, Mose, Alfred, and Odie meet the Frost family, and specifically little Emmy Frost. When a tornado comes through Minnesota, the Frost family farm is destroyed, leading to the death of all the family members except for little Emmy. The owner of the Lincoln School, Thelma Brickman (aka the Black Witch), adopts Emmy following these events, which concerns Odie and company for her safety.

After a trip to the Quiet Room leads to murder, Odie must leave the school. His brother and Mose decide to go with him, but they refuse to leave without Emmy. They kidnap her and run away with the money and papers in the Brickman safe. They decide to take a canoe down the Gilead River, which feeds into the Mississippi, in order to get to their aunt’s house in St. Louis, MO.

The journey leads to a path of self-discovery, love, family, and faith. Each part of the book is a new interaction which ultimately affects how Odie and the rest of the vagabonds interpret the world around them.

As for my opinions, I was slightly disappointed by the ending. I was incredibly surprised, which might be what was expected, but I kept thinking back to whether we were even given clues, and we really weren’t. It seemed like a huge surprise that come out of nowhere. I would rather we get some stepping stones to the ending rather than just throwing us in there.

I definitely would not have picked this book to read for myself. However, there were sections of this book that kept my interest, but there were also other parts of this book that I just completely lost focus. I ultimately would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars, but I could be persuaded to give it a little more.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

How I Read It: Print

Dates Read: 9/16/19-9/21/19

Set in the 1880s, this book follows the story of Annabelle Archer, a young suffragist and scholar at Oxford University. In order to go, she must send money home to her cousin, which leaves her often hungry and weak. When she gets invited to the Duke of Montgomery’s house by his brother, Annabelle and Montgomery (aka Sebastian), have an argument about the suffrage movement that forces her out of the house and into the freezing cold. She gets a fever, and is forced to stay at his house until she is better. During that time, their relationship progresses, and it is becoming harder and harder for them to stay away from each other. But names mean everything, and as he came from a noble household and she did not, it would be inappropriate for their relationship to continue. In a battle for what we want vs what society says is right, this story is the fun (sometimes in vulgar in detail) account of how a girl falls in love with a boy and vice versa.

Unlike the other books I have read so far this month, this book was extremely easy to stay interested in. The language is semi-accurate to the era, but it is not difficult to keep up with in the story. There are some phrases that do not seem accurate to the era, but I am not 100% positive. There is some history within the book, and that history is explained in an author note at the end of the novel. I am assuming that the key players in the novel were completely fictitious and that she is explaining the real history in comparison to the novel. This is obviously a feminist book, and there are many points that are listed throughout the book that are still viable for the feminist movement of today. I ultimately would give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

How I Read It: Print

Dates Read: 9/8/19-9/15/19

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was not expecting this. I am currently listening to a book that is so similar, and did the story better, so I never wanted to pick this book up. This book isn’t bad, but it did not knock my socks off the way other picks have.

Jess is a movie set producer, a single mother to her daughter Mia, and is also now the caretaker for her mother. She never got to go to college for English, which was always her life goal, and so she pushes her daughter to achieve the things she was never able to do.

Lily is a marketing professional for a major firm, mother to her daughter Phoebe, and wife to Daniel. Soon after the book begins, Daniel has to go to New York for work and Lily’s job is on the fritz. At this point, she is just trying to keep busy and keep moving.

Aubrey has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She is trying to understand why her two daughters, Lily and Jess, could not resolve her differences to the point where they are no longer part of each other’s lives. She is trying to experience her bucket list by enlisting the trust of her granddaughters, including singing in a choir and taking a drawing class. When she pushes her two daughters together, they all have to experience the power of secrets, and they can only hope that they will come out on top.

There were some parts of the story that felt very unnecessary to add in unless they were fleshed out, and they never were. I wish she took the time to elaborate on the relationships at the ending of this story, even just for a wrap up. The overall story was nice because you saw all 3 characters as they interpreted the situations, but I just did not find this story as entertaining as I found others. Because of that, I would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

How I Read It: Print

Dates Read: 9/4/19-9/8/19

At 14 years old, Adrienne was woken by her mother, Malabar, as she said “Ben Souther kissed me”. After than, Adrienne found herself in the middle of Malabar’s and Ben’s wild romance. Over the years, Adrienne became a confidant, often creating spaces so that the two lovers can be alone. She had to lie to everyone, including her stepfather, Charles, and Ben’s wife, Lily. They had a deal, when Charles and Lily, who were in bad health, died, then Ben and Malabar would be together. When Charles died, Malabar began to expect Ben to leave Lily, or at least give her more time together, but that wasn’t how it worked out.

Adrienne met Ben’s son, Jack, and began a relationship with him. They eventually married, though at a price. Since Adrienne did not tell Jack about the affair, news broke a few weeks before the wedding. This put a huge rift between Lily and Adrienne, and especially Lily and Malabar. Ben chose to stay with Lily instead of going to be with Malabar. After the wedding, Adrienne became incredibly depressed, and she released that she was giving up all of her dreams in being with Jack. She moved back to the east coast where she reset her life.

When Lily passed away, Ben immediately went back to Malabar. They quickly married less than 3 months after Lily’s death. Adrienne addresses her relationship with her mother and how the affair has affected each step of her life, including her future.

Here’s the thing, I have never been in this situation. I don’t know what I would do if I was placed in this situation. I think all of us would say that we wouldn’t have made the choices Adrienne did, but how can you be sure? Adrienne looked at this situation very openly and with scrutiny. It is dark at times, including talks about depression and self harm, so trigger warning on that. But overall, I would give this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 8/23/19-8/27/19

This one never seemed to hold my interest so I don’t have much to say about it, but here’s my thoughts:

Set in 1920s Mexico, Casiopea is stuck being the servant for her grandfather. She dreams of running away and thinking that maybe he owns gold coins in his trunk, she sneaks a peek. She reaches in and something gets stuck in her hand. Before she knew it, Hun-Kamé, the god of death, appears before her, and part of his bone is inside of her hand. When his brother, Vacub-Kamé, put him in the trunk, he had taken bits of his body, so he has to take Casiopea with him in order to find the pieces. If he doesn’t find them in time, Casiopea dies. Her cousin, Martín is forced into being Vacub-Kamé’s champion, and they find themselves in a competition to find the missing parts of Han-Kamé before the other.

There was a lot going on through this one, and it was hard for me to focus (this is also because I am in a transition period in my life, so my mind is a little off). I was never completely into this book, though I can see the appeal. The writing style, the original idea, and the overall aesthetic of the book are completely attractive, but I just never fell into it. I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

How I Read: Audiobook/ Ebook

Dates Read: 8/17/19-8/20/19

I have been sitting here for the past few hours crying my eyes out. A quick trigger warning, this book talks about grief, sexual assault, and racism/ misogyny. It is an extremely heavy book, but so good.

Hannah, Avery, and Dani are from different places in the country, with different backgrounds. But when they find themselves in the 2004 class of West Point and on the women’s basketball team. As their lives continue to diverge, their connection gives them the strength to continue and prosper at West Point. When injury forces Dani out of the army, she finds herself moving to London in order to work for a marketing company. Avery finds herself working in Special Forces at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with a boyfriend. And Hannah finds herself married to another Army soldier as she sets off for Afghanistan. When tragedy strikes, Hannah, Avery, and Dani reconnect, and they learn that nobody’s life is as perfect as it may seem.

This book is really slow to get into. The prologue was super attention-grabbing, but once you got past that section, it took me a long time to get into it. This book is incredibly raw. You see exactly what the girls are thinking throughout the tough moments of their early 20s. Sometimes that can be tedious, other times it can be heart-wrenching. It comes with the territory.

There is conversation about God/Christianity throughout the book. This book is set between 2000-2006, so of course 9/11 was a topic of discussion (P.S. totally didn’t plan for this post to be close to the day, it just happened). There are a lot of sermons throughout the book, which as a Christian, I enjoyed because it gave me another way to look at my faith, but it might not be great for everybody. Read at your own discretion.

While I had a very rough reaction while reading it, I wouldn’t say this book is my favorite. I do appreciate books that delve into grief because it gives me a chance to say, this is how I feel. While I think this book did a very good job of discussing that, I wasn’t super impressed by the rest of the book. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t great. I would give it a score of 3.75 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Print

Dates Read: 8/15/19-8/16/19

TRIGGER WARNING, the overall story has an element of rape/sexual assault. Read at your own discretion.

Why hello Internet! This one was a surprise for me! I wasn’t planning on reading this book, but because I needed something to listen to at work that I also had with me to read when I didn’t finish (blogger problems, am I right?), so this was the book I picked! Obviously this book is a Book of the Month club choice, because what else have I been reading lately, but it also is just a good book. I read How to Walk Away about 2 weeks before I started this blog, and I was super excited to read another book by Center, and man, I was not disappointed.

Cassie is a firefighter first, girl second. She wins the Austin Fire Department valor award, and instead of the mayor, Heath Thompson hands her the award. The same Heath Thompson who hurt her when she was 16. So she does what any person would do. She beats his face in with her award. She is given an ultimatum, apologize to Thompson and become lieutenant, or she’s fired. Hoping for door number 3, Cassie asks if she can be transferred to a firehouse in Massachusetts so she can take care of her estranged and very sick mother.

Her first day is the first day of a rookie, who happens to be complete eye candy. And they find themselves pushed together at every moment. When the rookie has an anniversary dinner that he promised a date for, he asks Cassie to go with him. And then they kiss, and the rest is history. Soon, Cassie begins to receive threatening notes to quit the firehouse. Cassie, being the strong, powerful woman she is, ignored it. But soon things begin to go out of control, and how long can she handle all of the things life has thrown at her? And more importantly, how is she going to handle the rookie?

Obviously Center did her research for this book. She has a tendency in her writing to go really deep into her information in order to give the most complete experience. Her books tend to be quick reads, and really enjoyable. They are often heavy which has more to do with subject matter and less to do with the arc of the story. But this particular book has a lot of dark elements that are disjointed by the young and pure love story.

I also love this book because it takes a story arc that we are all familiar with and tells it in a completely different way than any other story I have read. She finds ways to make each of her story so similar that people will want to pick it up and read, while being so uniquely itself that you will never forget it. Plus there are a million life lessons behind it. I cannot recommend this book enough. I would give it 5 out of 5 stars. Go read it.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!