The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

41573546The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

Expected publication: April 9th 2019 by Simon & Schuster

352 Pages

Goodreads Summary: When a young woman leaves her family—and the civilized world—to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel.

At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins an intentional community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can’t untangle. Berie—now renamed Harmony—renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear.

Thrilling and profound, The Ash Family explores what we will sacrifice in the search for happiness, and the beautiful and grotesque power of the human spirit as it seeks its ultimate place of belonging.

Review: Okay, let’s try this again. Long story short, I had a nice, long review ready for this and WordPress deleted it.

I must admit that during the first 25% of this book, I contemplated putting it down and DNFing it. I normally find these types of scenarios fascinating but for some reason I just did not click with this main character, Berie. I felt like she was overly naïve and a bit stupid if I’m being perfectly honest. Who in their right mind would go off with a random guy they met at a bus stop to join his off-the-grid commune in the mountains?! Especially considering the way this guy is described. He sounds super dirty, and a bit slimy. At one point, it was described in detail that his pants are basically water proof because they are never washed and are incredibly grimy. And his feet smell like vinegar. Yeah… no thanks. And yet, Berie seems to idolize him and almost falls in love with him at first sight.

When Berie arrives on the farm, she is told not to talk about the past… the “fake world” as they call it. Everyone has left their “fake world” name behind and have been given a new name by the man who created this family, Dice. Everyone works for the good of the family. Berie, now called Harmony, is put in charge of taking care of the sheep. She tries to gain the trust of both Bay and Dice so she can go on one of their protests. So many crazy things happen that make you really wonder why anybody agreed to live there. Everyone shares everything. Clothes, beds, partners, etc. No couples. No children. No leaving unless given a task or permission.

I was bit underwhelmed by the ending. Shit hits the fan but then it seems to end just as quickly as it began. I felt like the ending could have been drawn out a little more but I don’t want to say how because that would give it away. Overall, I’m kind of in the middle on this book. I didn’t not like it, but I also didn’t really like it. If you are interested in cults and commune type scenarios you might be interested in reading this book.

3 Stars

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rayne & Delilah’s Midnight Matinee by Jeff Zentner

40645629Rayne & Delilah’s Midnight Matinee by Jeff Zentner

Published February 26th 2019 by Crown Books for Young Readers

400 Pages

Goodreads Summary: A contemporary novel about two best friends who must make tough decisions about their futures–and the TV show they host–in their senior year of high school.

Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six.

But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.

Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.

As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous…and momentous.

Review: It should come as no surprise to my followers that I love Jeff Zentner’s two previous novels. So I was so excited to read his 2019 release. Josie and Delia aka Rayne and Delilah had such a great bond. I loved their friendship and humor so much. Their relationship reminded me a lot of me and my best friend so I felt really connected to both of them. I love that they are doing something so unique together with the horror hosting. I was so heartbroken for Delia and the situation with her dad. Nobody deserves their parent to abandon them like that. One thing I really love about Jeff Zenter’s books are that, unlike most YA books, the parents of the main characters are involved in the story and not just vague background characters. Delia’s mom was such a unique character and a great mom in her own way. I also fell in love with Arliss and his grumpy nature. I laughed (a lot) and I cried. So many times while I was reading I was either laughing out loud (or trying not to when I was on my lunch break at work), or I was trying not to cry. Jeff Zenter’s books are the best at making me feel all of the emotions. I HIGHLY recommend this book. So good.

5 Stars

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

34927828The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

440 Pages

Published February 6th 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

Goodreads Summary: Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they 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 Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. 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. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

Review: This is the first time in a long time that I have actually felt like I’ve wanted to post a book review. I can’t even remember the last book I reviewed on this blog. I got this book last year from the Book of the Month Club but like most of the other books I got from that, it sat on my shelf unread.

For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with Alaska and living life in the bush. Do I think I could live that way myself, HA probably not. I would miss certain things about the modern world too much. When I finally started reading this I wasn’t quite sure where it was going to go. I hadn’t read the summary for awhile so I mostly forgot what it was about, except that it was Alaska. It didn’t take me long to feel a kinship with the main character, Leni Allbright. She was so relatable and everything that happened to her really solidified my attachment to her.

I struggled so hard with the moments of abuse in this book. Not just because it was hard to read but because I wanted to reach through the pages and throttle Leni’s horrible father. I also found myself getting angry at her mother because it was clear to see she was never going to do anything to free herself and Leni. Don’t get me wrong, I know it isn’t her mother’s fault and that abusive relationships are hard to break free from, but that’s just how I felt in the moment. I don’t want to say too much more about it because… spoilers… so if you want to know how that whole situation goes down, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

I absolutely loved the secondary characters that Leni encountered in their new home. Especially Matthew Walker and Large Marge. They were so good to Leni and helped her in any possible way that they could.

My heart broke so many times for Leni throughout this book. She did not deserve all of the terrible things that happened to her, and neither did her mother. There were moments where I was so worried, I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat. This book was so well written, I felt like I was there in Kaneq. I had never read a Kristin Hannah book before but this book was so good I will definitely be on the lookout for more!

5 Stars

DNF Review: The Sky Is Yours

35483928The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

Published January 23rd 2018 by Hogarth

464 Pages

Goodreads Summary: In the burned-out, futuristic city of Empire Island, three young people navigate a crumbling metropolis constantly under threat from a pair of dragons that circle the skies. When violence strikes, reality star Duncan Humphrey Ripple V, the spoiled scion of the metropolis’ last dynasty; Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg, his tempestuous, death-obsessed betrothed; and Abby, a feral beauty he discovered tossed out with the trash; are forced to flee everything they’ve ever known. As they wander toward the scalded heart of the city, they face fire, conspiracy, mayhem, unholy drugs, dragon-worshippers, and the monsters lurking inside themselves. In this bombshell of a novel, Chandler Klang Smith has imagined an unimaginable world: scathingly clever and gorgeously strange, The Sky Is Yours is at once faraway and disturbingly familiar, its singular chaos grounded in the universal realities of love, family, and the deeply human desire to survive at all costs.

Review: I give up. I was really intrigued by the synopsis and cover of this book but from almost the moment I began reading this book, I was at a loss. I don’t think I have ever disliked a book so much so early on while reading. I hate the characters, the world doesn’t make any sense nor anything in it. I set it to the side for a few days hoping to come back to it a few days later just in case but every time I thought about picking it up again, I felt nothing but dread. DNF for me on this one.

I received a review copy through Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

7824322Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel Books

344 Pages

Goodreads Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Review:  Wow… I just finished this book and immediately felt moved to write a review.  Something I haven’t felt in a very long time.  It was such a powerful read. I’ve read numerous World War II books and Holocaust books but I’ve never read anything about Stalin’s reign of terror over the Baltic people. I can’t even possibly imagine what it must have been like to have been ripped from your home and transported to Siberia. They were forced to live off of bread rations and whatever they could scavenge from the Soviets trash. They had live tightly packed into huts built of sticks and mud while their fellow prisoners were suffering from everything from dysentery to scurvy. I’m going to have to remember that the next time I complain about Minnesota’s cold winters and realize just how much worse things could be. I think this book will really open up people to learn more about what the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonians went through during this tragic time.

The main character, Lina, was a little off putting to me at first because she seemed overly naive and selfish. However, she gradually grew on me as she learned from her fellow people just what it was to survive and help each other out. I was totally pulling for her and Andrius to have some sort of happy ending. They both suffered so much throughout the course of the novel.

One thing I thought that was really interesting was that Lina’s cousin and best friend, Joana, was also from Lithuania but her family escaped to Germany. I had already read the authors latest book, Salt to the Sea, and remembered that one of the main characters in that book is named Joana and she was from Lithuania…. I’m thinking they must be the same person. I really like that Sepetys decided to tie these two books together like that.

I think it’s also really important that readers of this book read the author’s note. One of my favorite quotes was actually from this section.
“They chose hope over hate and showed the world that even through the darkest night, there is light.”

I don’t want to say I enjoyed this book for obvious reasons, but I will say that it really spoke to me taught me some valuable things. I think this is a really important book that people of any age should read.

5 Stars