The Mermaid Collector by Erika Marks – Book Review

The Mermaid Collector by Erika Marks
Published by NAL Trade, an imprint of Penguin

Every summer, Cradle Harbor, Maine holds their beloved Mermaid Festival to commemorate the anniversary of the tragic Mermaid Mutiny, when some of the town’s men – including the lighthouse keeper – waded out into the sea in search of the mermaids they had once seen. For Tess, this year’s Mermaid Festival is particularly meaningful, as her sculpture has been commissioned by the town that once shunned her mother. Her plan of proving to Cradle Harbor her and her mother’s worth is derailed when Tom Grace comes to town after inheriting the lighthouse keeper’s house. Tom is hoping that Cradle Harbor will allow him and his younger brother Dean to start fresh, that removing Dean from his familiar environment will allow him to finally get the help he needs. Both Tess and Tom, though, have different and deeper needs than they realize, emotional holes in each of their lives that, just maybe, can be filled by each other.

The Mermaid Collector is an altogether enjoyable story. Tess is often prickly, but also easy to empathize with, and your heart cannot help but go out to Tom, who sees his own actions at the root of his brother’s problems and so is determined to fix them. Their romance is perhaps a bit too quick – they seem to cleave together almost instantly – but it is realistically rocky, particularly considering how little they know about one another. The part of this book that is really special, however, is the historical plot line.

Lydia Sprague is not a fan of the water, but the man she loves is a sailor-turned-lighthouse keeper. At least until he disappears when on a brief sailing expedition with the three other men on board the boat. It is from their story that the Mermaid Festival stems, and their story is teased and woven beautifully throughout Tess and Tom’s story. I could have easily read an entire novel solely about Lydia and her life, but her story was even more effect interspersed with Tess’s.

The Mermaid Collector is as lovely as the coastal Maine landscape it evokes. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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GirlChild by Tupelo Hassman – Audiobook Review

Girl Child by Tupelo Hassman, narrated by Tupelo Hassman
Published in audio by Tantor Audio; published in print by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Uniforms, disposing of outgrown; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle: that is, the Calle de las Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.

Rory’s been told that she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the county and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social workers’ reports, half-recalled memories, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world even as she searches for the way out of it.

Thoughts on the story:

Hassman’s debut is both beautiful and tragic. Rory is an extremely endearing character, she is both old and young for her age, which is not terribly surprising, given everything she’s been through. GirlChild doesn’t have a traditional structure, Rory doesn’t tell her story in a strictly linear fashion, and it is often interspersed with the lessons she has learned from the Girl Scout Handbook. This structure works very well for the story, however, Hassman weaves the strands together beautifully, and these diversions may actually keep Rory’s life from seeming too brutally horrid, as they might if she told parts of it straight through.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Honestly, I wasn’t completely sure about Hassman’s narration initially. Her voice is reminiscent of Sarah Vowell’s, not exactly a typical narrator. There were three things that worked in Hassman’s favor, however. First, her voice and delivery fit her character very well, naive and too grown-up at the same time. Second, Hassman is highly connected with the characters and story she created and narrates with feeling and empathy. Third, although her voice is not that of a typical narrator, Hassman gives an incredibly professional performance, only the relative squeakiness of her voice tells the listener that she is likely not a professional narrator. Overall Hassman makes a great narrator for GirlChild.

For more on the audio production, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

There are many points when GirlChild verges on devastating, but it is always worthwhile, whether in print or audio.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski – Mini Review

Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Lucy Blooms’s life is falling apart, but at least it isn’t cluttered. She recently lost her job, and her teenage son’s drug addiction cost her both her boyfriend and the house she had to sell to fund his rehab, and now her son won’t even speak with her. To make things worse, Lucy is now bunking with her best friend’s preschooler. Really, the only bright spot in her life comes from her new potential job. As the author of a not-so-bestselling book on organizing called Things are Not People, the one thing she feels that she might be qualified to do is organize. Unfortunately, her new client isn’t so much a packrat as a hoarder, and a very difficult one at that.

Objects of My Affection is a very engaging book that is easy to keep reading. Although Lucy can be frustrating at times, she is generally a character who is very easy to relate to, and the story that Smolinski has crafted keeps the pages turning.

For more information, see my piece on Objects of My Affection for SheKnows.com.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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