The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton has been sitting on my bookshelf for almost 18 months and now I wish that I’d picked it up sooner. This unexpected story is compelling, unsettling, and hopeful at once.

Yasmin, brilliant and slightly cross, and her deaf 10-year-old daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska to meet their husband/father, Matt. Once they’ve landed at the airport, they learn that the small village where Matt was staying suffered a terrible fire. When police tell them that no one could have survived, Yasmin and Ruby refuse to listen and instead set out on a wild and wicked journey to find him.

What they find at the end of their journey is shocking, but what they learn along the way is just as compelling, if not more so. We learn that Yasmin desperately wants Ruby to speak with her mouth while Ruby wants to speak with her hands. It’s touching as the pair begins to understand each other.

“It wasn’t that Yasmin wanted Ruby to speak so much as she wanted her to be heard.”

The story shifted between Yasmin and Ruby’s perspectives and I loved this aspect of the book. Both points of view were true to character and provided really contrasting views of the same situations.

I enjoyed The Quality of Silence very much and hope that you’ll pick it up as well!

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

I’m happy to report that I’ve read another one of Beatriz Williams’ books (this time, The Wicked City) and have been completely captivated by the story. She has an extraordinary way of bringing characters to life, especially through their dialogue and quick-witted thoughts. I’m reminded yet again of why she’s one of my favorite authors!

The Wicked City shares the stories of two women, both living in New York City, during very different time periods. Meet Gin Kelly, a firecracker of a girl living in New York City during the 1920’s. She came to the city to escape her despicable stepfather, but before too long she gets caught up in his bootlegging business and is pulled back to her small hometown. Along the way, she comes across Anson, the stoic, noble, quiet do-gooder who might just be the only man that can throw her for a loop.

Shift forward to 1998 and we meet Ella, a woman also living in New York City, who just learned that her beloved husband is a rather dirty fellow. As she tries to recover from this shock, she finds herself in Gin’s old stomping grounds and although 70 years have passed, she can almost sense her presence. I appreciate that Williams brought a bit of the magic from the 1920’s to the 1990’s.

My only criticism is that the plot left a couple loose ends and some of Ella’s story line was a bit unrealistic, but it was fun. I still really enjoyed the book and definitely recommend it!

“She wanted the radiant, satisfied skin her mother had. The adoring gaze that followed her mother around the house.”

Falling by Jane Green

Emma has never felt at home with her family in England so when she had the chance to move to New York City for her finance career, she took it. 5 years later, she’s sick of her stress-filled life and decided to quit her job and move to a coastal town in Connecticut. Throughout Falling by Jane Green, Emma attempts to get in touch with who she is and what she wants.

It turns out that her handsome landlord and his cute young son may be the answer to what she’d been looking for, but hadn’t been expecting. At its core, this book explores what it means to be a family.

While the book had a fun and playful tone (the writing style was light and straightforward), it was also unexpectedly sad and I didn’t see that coming. Some aspects of Falling were a little cheesy, but the emotions shared were real.

I enjoyed the New England setting and the playful tone of the book. On the other hand, the main character, Emma, tended to dramatize situations and those sections of the book dragged. Overall, Falling isn’t a book I plan to read for a second time.

American War by Omar El Akkad

In the year 2074, a civil war rips apart the United States of America. The North has prohibited the use of fossil fuels in the country to help preserve the environment and the South disagrees. American War by Omar El Akkad is thought provoking and horrifying at once in the way that it examines a second civil war and two deeply passionate and opposing sides.

At the center of this story is Sarat Chestnut, who was born in Louisiana. As the war builds, Sarat and her family are displaced and move to Camp Patience with other refugees. The tragedies she faced hardened her and drove her to make a tremendous impact in the war. While she’s the hero for one side, she’s another person’s villain. It interesting to think that one person could play both roles simultaneously.

American War explores themes of loyalty, revenge, pride, and what right and wrong means in capacity of war. This is a really well written book and I would like to read it again.

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

A river runs through the town of Beckford and within that river, there’s The Drowning Pool. The pool lives up to its bleak name when a mother and a teenage girl are both found dead within the water’s depths one summer. There’s a large cliff above that leads to the question: Did they jump? Paula Hawkins’ latest release, Into The Water, shares the story of the women who’ve been lost to The Drowning Pool.

When Nel Abbott died, her daughter is left alone in a large creaking house with an estranged aunt who she’s never met. It turns out that Beckford, like many small towns, is filled with underlying connections and affairs. Throughout the book it seemed like half the town was looking for answers as to how these women died while the other half was keeping secrets.

My feelings about Into The Water are mixed. On the one hand, I was fascinated (and horrified) by the idea of The Drowning Pool and the myths that it’s a place where “troublemakers” are “taken care of.” The writing was infectious and I didn’t want to put the book down (similarly to Hawkins’ previous book, The Girl on the Train). On the other hand, the book is told from at least 10 different perspectives and all of the switching back and forth between characters took away from the depth of the story. I was lucky enough to attend an author event with Paula Hawkins a couple weeks ago and these alternating perspectives was an aspect of the book that she experimented with while writing.

Overall, I recommend reading Into The Water, but I also recommend having a pen and paper handy in order to jot down quick notes of each of the characters mentioned.

Standout quotes: 

“Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.”  

“It must take a strange sense of entitlement, I would have thought, to take someone else’s tragedy like that and write it as though it belonged to you.”

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

When it rains, it pours and in Sunshine Mackenzie’s case, it’s pouring cats and dogs. Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave shares the story of Sunshine Mackenzie, a celebrity chef with a huge social media following. She’s living the perfect life…until she isn’t. A mysterious hacker begins to leak Sunshine’s devastatingly personal secrets out for the world to see. Just like that, everything she had built begins to fall.

When it seems like things can’t get any worse, Sunshine returns to her hometown and the doorstep of her estranged sister, Rain. Yes, you read that correctly, the sister’s names are Sunshine and Rain. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it’s not exactly smooth sailing from there for Sunshine.

While there were portions of the story that I thought were cheesy (starting with the sister’s names), I was really interested in the way Laura Dave examined the idea of living a “curated” life. During a time when social media rules all and sucks up so much of our time, we’re seeing people not only share, but share content intended to make their lives look a certain way. Is it possible to share authentically? If anything, Hello, Sunshine is a conversation starter. 

I enjoyed Hello, Sunshine – it’s a quick read that’s great for long summer days!

Standout Quote:

“‘Did it ever occur to you that if you weren’t living in fear of other people’s opinions of you, no one would have the power to take anything away?'”

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

Sometimes you read a book that feels completely separate from and relevant to your life at once. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti is that novel for me. This father-daughter story stars the gun-toting Samuel Hawley and his daughter, steel-toe boot-wearing Loo. Despite their rough exteriors, the duo charmed me.

Loo and her father have been on their own for as long as she can remember, her mother gone before she could walk. Moving from motel to motel, they have never stayed in one place for long. One day though, Sam decides that Loo deserves a “normal” childhood and takes her to Olympus, Massachusetts, the town where Loo’s mother grew up. As Loo gets older, she learns more about her father’s dark past (a life on the run) and she’s not sure how to reconcile this information with the father she knows and loves.

Throughout the book, there are twelve chapters that describe the stories behind each of Sam’s bullet wounds. Sam is a character who has done bad (illegal) things, but does that make him a bad person? The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley made me stop and think.

I really enjoyed the book and definitely recommend it!

 

 

Standout quotes: 

“’But the past is like a shadow, always trying to catch up.’” 

“…Never quite understanding the reasons but feeling the cause must be some personal defect, some missing part of herself that the others recognized…” 

“Changing where you were could change how much you mattered.”

“Hawley took her face into his hands and kissed her forehead, her eyes and then her lips, slow and grateful and brimming with the hundreds of ways he wanted to touch her.”

“My God, Loo thought, these men do it to all of us.”