The Missing Years #LexieElliott

MY FATHER IS….

Missing…  Ailsa Calder’s father is missing and has been for several years. Rumor floating among the little village where he lived is that he ran off with jewels that he stole from his employer. Perhaps he ran away to start a new life or fell to his death into the sea or was murdered and hidden and the jewels stolen. Ailsa has come up with many theories throughout her lifetime but now she has to find out the truth. Her mother is dead and she has inherited one half of a manse. The other half is owned by her missing father. She cannot do anything with it until she either finds her father or proves he is dead.

52681134_642264552856741_4538588784605790208_nI really enjoyed reading Lexie Elliott’s first novel, The French Girl, last year but I will tell you now that The Missing Years eclipses her first and has landed its way onto my favorite’s list! The Missing Years crosses genres from suspense, mystery, a touch of romance to a fair amount of magical realism and she marries these together seamlessly. It has an essence of a ghost story while keeping the reader firmly planted in the here and now and much of what one suspects as supernatural turns out to be ominously too close to reality for comfort.

While both The French Girl and The Missing Years comprise a large ensemble cast of characters, with this one Elliott does a better job of fleshing out her characters so that they are more manageable to distinguish from one another and also easier to relate to, feel compassion for and, ultimately invest in their story. As someone with roots in Scotland, I found the history that was included particularly intriguing and learned more about my own past than I was expecting. Trust me, the history is subtle, never boring for a moment.

The Missing Years is an eclectic, atmospheric and suspenseful tale that I highly recommend. While some readers have questioned the addition of magical realism in this book, I found that it was absolutely marvelous and hope this is a continued direction for Elliott’s future work.

I am very grateful to Elisha @berkleypub and #elliott_lexie for my advanced copy #TheMissingYears.

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More Than Bones @CraigDSinger

More Than Bones will take you on a roller coaster ride that you won’t soon forget! It was not at all what I was expecting but far exceeded all of preconceived silly ideas! A tale of self-exploration with a steep learning curve, it is a perfect read to start your new year!

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Dr. Emily Norton has relocated to Baltimore to begin her residency program at a Catholic hospital in order to be closer to her fiancé. She has rented a room – the attic space – in a gorgeous older home owned by a rather odd, effusive gentleman also named Norton – his first name, not last – and immediately is charmed by the elderly next door neighbor, Frank, who insists on gifting her a large, rather chunky, but quite expensive amulet that is hanging around his cat’s neck. It’s all rather strange, I know, but told in a such an amazing manner that you get wrapped up in the story from the very first line. Trust me! The amulet comes with a warning never to take it off – ever! Of course, Emily’s only faith is in science and facts and she promptly hangs the necklace on her skeleton – a gift from her new landlord. She has lived her life having religion crammed down her throat and the only thing she believes in is the here and now – thank you very much. Aaaahhh, but soon Emily finds herself without a fiancé, friendless, in the middle of a city-wide scandal, jobless and the “bad luck” is increasing by the day. Finally, she puts the amulet on and, voila, her luck begins to change. Or does it?

While on the surface this appears to be a story of magical realism, a story about a magic amulet that has brought good fortune to its owners throughout history, it is more the tale of a person being the master of their own fate, of coming to terms with their own beliefs, either with or without religion, either with or without science, and what consequences those beliefs might lead to in our lives. It the coming of age story of a young woman who has been raised without a mother by a somewhat tyrannical father who has to find her own way as an adult. It a story of which I am quite familiar and many of the questions that Emily was asking herself were ones I have grappled with over my own lifetime.

The characters in More Than Bones are hilarious, quirky, humorous, hateful, vibrant and I loved them all – even Norton’s mother! Singer does an amazing job creating people that I feel like I have known my entire life. In fact, I think I have known someone just like them. There are so many areas covered from science to religion, suicide to health care, the LGBTQ community to breast cancer and yet each one of these topics is handled with a deft hand. I was raised on southern literature with eccentric characters from Flannery O’Connor and Fannie Flagg to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. More Than Bones reminded me of all of the good qualities of that genre – the humorous, somewhat over-the-top characters mixed with hell-fire and brimstone religion pulling against the modern world of science and religion – all combined to make a thoroughly marvelous, enjoyable, thoughtful book, one that I highly recommend!

Thank you to #Netgalley, #TwinRabbitBooks and #CraigDavidSinger for allowing me to read this amazing book!

 

How To Stop Time

TBR Thursdays

I don’t know about you, but my To-Be-Read list is getting out of control! I am setting aside one day a week to read and review a book that has been sitting on that shelf. Recently I cleared out half of the list by removing books that I knew I never would read. If I had downloaded it but didn’t start it, started it but never finished, or simply had changed my tastes – it got removed. This helped me a lot in my desire to actually read what was left on the list. It no longer seemed like such a daunting chore and reading never should be a chore.

“Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don’t expect, I feel civilisation has become a little safer.”   ― Matt Haig, How to Stop Time

First up:

iuI absolutely adore Matt Haig and his quirky view of the world. His writing is eclectic, to say the least, but also fun and, in a intriguing way, very philosophical.

How To Stop Time is the rather peculiar story of Tom Hazard who, through a genetic anomaly, ages at a snail’s pace. He now is 400 years old but appears to be a rather youngish man in his 40s. He is immune to disease and so has avoided all of the nasty issues like the bubonic plague, rather lucky for him. Tom now finds himself in the present, teaching history (of course) in London. One would assume that since most people never have enough to time to do things we want to do once we find them, (sorry – I had a Jim Croce/Time in a Bottle Moment that clearly shows my age) that having all of this time would be marvelous! Not so! All of the people Tom has come to know and love have died. He has had to stay on the run, one step ahead of witch hunters, the church, scientists, who do not understand him or want to understand him more – and not in a good way. For Tom, the saddest part of all is losing the one you love – which is why there is a rule: Never Fall In Love. Hello Tom!? Yeah…. you know where that goes, right?

The book is written in past and present time, back and forth from Tom’s present to memories of his past. I found the past chapters my favorite. It was like a time-travel book but without the magic of time-travel! Most importantly this is a book on reflection, civilization and a philosophical look at where we are today.

“A problem with living in the twenty-first century….. we are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly travelled if we have only been to ten other countries. To feel old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photo shopped and filtered.”

Yes, Tom, I agree. First world problems are utterly ridiculous and overblown. I agreed with a lot in this book and I loved Haig’s out-of-the-box method of causing us to think about these issues. How to Stop Time is not without its problems, but overall, it is a book that I highly recommend.

My thanks to Matt Haig, Viking Books and #Edelweiss for this copy to review. Obviously, I am FAR behind with my review, sadly, but catching up once more!