Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton – Book Review

Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton
Published by Harper Paperbacks, an imprint of Harper Collins

When Martin’s brother Leon disappears without a trace, Martin is forced to leave his, admittedly not very happy or successful, life in New York to return to his family’s home in North Carolina. Having the family – obviously excepting Leon – back together again forces the Owenby family members to confront both their past and present secrets.

It is difficult to do justice to “Under the Mercy Trees” in a synopsis, as it is very much a discovery of who the characters are in the present, and what past events have shaped them. Newton draws her characters in a way that makes them immediately compelling. Martin, who is sure that he cannot live as a gay man in a mountain town of North Carolina, Ivy, who sees the ghosts that surround any family and any place, the rest of their friends and family, all of them are fascinating, even when they are being petty or unlikable.

Although I wouldn’t classify this as a mystery, precisely, I was engrossed the entire time reading this by the question of what happened to Leon, as well as the lesser mysteries of what exactly happened in the lives of the families all those years ago.

A fabulous read and a haunting debut, I think that “Under the Mercy Trees” has a fairly wide appeal, and it is a book I definitely recommend.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

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.

The Gendarme by Mark Mustian – Book Review

The Gendarme by Mark Mustian
Published by Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of Penguin

The first thing that caught my attention about “The Gendarme” was the arresting cover. I found it very reminiscent of the National Geographic cover of the Afghan girl, if a slightly less intense gaze. When I read the jacket copy and saw that it was about Turkey and the Armenians in WWI, I was totally sold.

And, although, it was not at all what I expected, “The Gendarme” did not disappoint.

Emmet Cohn was born Ahmet Khan in Turkey at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately, he does not remember much of anything before he woke up in a British hospital during World War I with severe head trauma. He made it to the United States due to the determination of his American nurse, whom he married. After a long life in which he considered himself American first and foremost, Emmet, 92 and recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, has become dreaming again of Turkey. Specifically, he is dreaming of being a gendarme – which is odd, because he is positive he was a Turkish solider, not a gendarme – who is taking a group of Armenians to Syria and is beguiled by an Armenian girl with two different colored eyes, Araxie.

I really enjoyed “The Gendarme,” the way it worked through memory, sins of the past, aging, sickness, duty, and repentance. The two storylines were worked together masterfully, particularly considering there was not always a visual cue of transition. One thing bled into another with ease and occasionally when the transition was overly quick, it was wonderfully evocative of exactly what Emmet must have been going through with his tumor and increasingly frequent lapses between waking and dreams. I adored the uncertainty – shared by Emmett himself – of whether or not we could trust him as a narrator, or whether him tumor and previous head trauma left him unreliable. There were times I felt that I shouldn’t buy the blossoming relationship between Emmett and Araxie, with all of the hardships between them, but Mustian wrote them so compellingly that I had a difficult time not believing their relationship, unlikely as it may have seemed.

In “The Gendarme,” Mustian blends history and the human spirit beautifully. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

This review was done with a book received from BEA.
* 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.

American Music by Jane Mendelsohn – Book Review

American Music by Jane Mendelsohn
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

Milo is a severely wounded war vet. Honor is a physical therapist coming to the rehabilitation hospital working with Milo, massaging his back – and only his back, because he refuses to lay on his back. Except something odd is happening whenever Honor touches Milo. Somehow, memories of the past are welling out of Milo’s body when Honor works on him. Not memories of his past, but of seemingly unconnected people, primarily from the last 100 years.

Mendelsohn’s writing is absolutely gorgeous and completely lyrical. That being said, it took me quite awhile to get into the book. Although beautiful, the way the writing is crafted – particularly the lack of quotation marks and, occasionally, other punctuation – served to separate me from the characters and kept me from getting a good feel for them for a good 100 pages. Flashing back to the past didn’t help that, although it did provide the interest in the novel.

I loved the way the stories ended up coming together, for awhile there I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. I must say, I am still slightly unsure how the harem of the Ottoman Empire really connected to the other stories. It just didn’t seem to come together in quite the same way, although I have my suspicions of what we are meant to take from it, but all of the other stories connected to one another in just one way, and this didn’t quite fit the mold.

If you’re a fan of gorgeous writing, don’t hesitate to pick up “American Music.” If you tend to need a good measure of plot and character, stick with “American Music.” You may not be sure about it at the beginning, but the story will grow on you, and it is worth it by the end. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book borrowed from the library
* 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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My Name is Memory by Anne Brashares – Book Review

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

Lucy feels a strange connection to the mysterious Daniel, a young man who joined her high school class for their senior year. Daniel completely ignores her, though, no matter what she does. Until the end of the school year, when Lucy and Daniel find themselves alone together in a classroom, where he starts talking about remembering something and calling Lucy Sophia.

Although it seems that he has been ignoring her, Daniel thinks about almost nothing besides Lucy. Not only does he think about her, he remembers her. He remembers the first time he saw her, thousands of years ago, and every time they’ve come in contact in the years and lives since then. Daniel is one of the rare people who actually remembers what has come before from life to life. Not only that, but he has the ability to recognize other souls from body to body, which is how he knows the soul which is now Lucy throughout the millennia.

“My Name is Memory” is the first in a new trilogy from Ann Brashares. I have to say, I’ve been having a lot of trouble with the first book in trilogies lately. ¬†This one followed much the same pattern. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very good book. Daniel and Lucy are both complex and compelling characters, and the plot is very inventive and kept me interested. It is just that the first half of the book is a bit of a slow start. This really isn’t surprising, since it is setting up three books worth of plot.¬†Towards the end of the book, though, the pace really picks up. By the end of the book, I couldn’t wait until the next book in the series comes out. I will be reading the rest of this trilogy, without question; I cannot wait to see where Brashares takes Daniel and Lucy’s story.

Recommended, but be warned that it starts off a bit slow – it is worth it, though!

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from Lydia at Penguin.
* 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.