HIMSELF: A NOVEL by Jess Kidd


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


Having been abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as an infant, lovable car thief and Dublin charmer Mahony assumed all his life that his mother had simply given him up. But when he receives an anonymous note suggesting that foul play may have led to his mother’s disappearance, he sees only one option: to return to the rural Irish village where he was born and find out what really happened twenty-six years ago.

From the moment he sets foot in Mulderrig, Mahony’s presence turns the village upside down. His uncannily familiar face and outsider ways cause a stir among the locals, who receive him with a mixture of excitement (the women), curiosity (the men), and suspicion (the pious).

Determined to uncover the truth about what happened to his mother, Mahony solicits the help of brash anarchist and retired theater actress Mrs. Cauley. This improbable duo concocts an ingenious plan to get the town talking about the day Mahony’s mother disappeared and are aided and abetted by a cast of eccentric characters, both living and dead.

Himself is a simmering mixture—a blend of the natural everyday and the supernatural, folklore and mystery, and a healthy dose of quintessentially Irish humor. The result is a darkly comic crime story in the tradition of a classic Irish trickster tale, complete with a twisting and turning plot, a small-town rife with secrets, and an infectious love of language and storytelling that is a hallmark of the finest Irish writers.


HIMSELF is one of the most unusual mysteries I’ve read; the experience was like getting pulled into a vivid 20th century Irish folk tale. Set in the small village of Mulderrig, this wild story alternates between the 1970s and 1940s/50s. Mahony grew up in a Dublin orphanage, with very few clues about his beginning. When he finally gets a lead, 26-year old Mahony travels back to Mulderrig determined to find out what became of this mother, stirring up all kind of chaos in the process. The book is full of quirky, funny, tragic characters, both living and dead. Mahony can communicate with the dead, sometimes they’re helpful, other times not so much. Loved that Mahony was referred to as “a [County] Mayo Heathcliff.” I enjoyed the blending of magical realism into the twisted mystery. The lyrical language and dark humor were also a delight. Impressive debut!

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

I SEE YOU by Clare Mackintosh

iseeyou
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


The author of the New York Times bestseller I Let You Go propels readers into a dark and claustrophobic thriller, in which a normal, everyday woman becomes trapped in the confines of her normal, everyday world…

Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her…

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com.

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose… A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target.

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…


Clare Mackintosh’s debut novel I LET YOU GO was one of my favorite books last year, so I was excited to read her follow up. I SEE YOU is an intriguing blend of psychological thriller and police procedural told from different POVs in alternating chapters.

The story grabbed my attention right away. When Zoe sees her photo advertising a mysterious website, she is understandably concerned. Her concern turns to panic when she realizes other women whose photos have appeared in the same ad have become victims of terrible crimes. Who is behind this awful site, and is she the next victim?

I flew through this book quickly. The chapters alternated between Zoe, Kelly (a cop investigating the case), and a mysterious third person. The author did a great job of building suspense by ending chapters with mini cliff hangers. I had to cheat several times and peek ahead.

The premise of this book was an interesting and unsettling concept, especially in the social media age, though maybe not entirely plausible. While I was quite surprised to learn who was behind the website, I was a bit let down at the reasoning behind it. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book, and it kept me guessing about who the baddie was until the end.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

FAITHFUL by Alice Hoffman (Audiobook)

faithful
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion — from dark suffering to true happiness — a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls — including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.


FAITHFUL is a sad yet hopeful coming of age story about a young woman dealing with grief and survivor’s guilt. After a tragic car accident, Shelby Richmond is able to walk away, but her best friend isn’t so lucky. Was there someone watching over her that night? Shelby is a troubled soul stuck in limbo when mysterious postcards start to arrive. The sender is anonymous and the messages are quite simple, but it’s just enough to nudge her forward, even a tiny bit.

I love Alice Hoffman’s prose, and the writing in this book is as beautiful as her others. Shelby’s character was difficult and not always easy to like, but deep down I knew she was good, partly due to her passion for rescuing misfit dogs! This is a story of healing, definitely pulled at my heartstrings. I had to grab the tissues a few times. FAITHFUL had a different “feel” to it than Hoffman’s other books I’ve read, though I still enjoyed it.


Audiobook • 8 hrs, 27 mins • Amber Tamblyn, Narrator

Amber Tamblyn narrated the audiobook, and this is the first time I’ve listened to a book read by her. I think she did fine with Shelby’s voice. Overall, nothing too emotional, which fit with Shelby’s apathetic disposition. If you prefer narrations with lots of inflection and drama, this wouldn’t be a good fit.


Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.