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Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Published January 21, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Grace Vincent for drawing my attention to this book and inviting me to read a complimentary copy from Corsair Publishers in exchange for an honest review. Where The Crawdads Sing is one of those books where you read the synopsis and instantly know that you have to be a part of whatever this novel is offering. However, I still wasn’t prepared for such a lyrically gorgeous and beautifully descriptive love song to nature, to harsh and difficult living environments and to outsiders living on the cusps of communities which is what this novel provided in abundance. I’ve mentioned in reviews relatively recently that I love being transported to new places in fiction/nonfiction and the author has done exactly that with Crawdads. Throughout the narrative, I felt an expert blend of the wild and unkempt (both in nature and within our characters) and careful, considered plot development that made me constantly want to keep turning the pages.

Delia Owens, author of debut novel, Where The Crawdads Sing.

When I read that this was the author’s debut novel, I couldn’t help but be blown away. Her background as a wildlife scientist stands her in extremely good stead for the creatures she describes and they certainly flew off the pages for me as a reader due to her vivid and colourful way with words. As a bit of an animal nut myself, I very much appreciated the nods to nature in all its glory but the author clearly proves that she can write her human characters just as well, if not better. We hear the heart-breaking story of Kya, a vulnerable young woman who is left to fend for herself on the marsh land with very primitive accommodation after her family start to disappear one by one. Locally, she is known as Marsh Girl and very much mocked and looked down upon, to the point where she only attends one day of school in her life after being teased mercilessly.

However, Kya is far from stupid and as the story continues and she learns to interact, connect and trust certain individuals we discover a new side to her character – an intelligent, knowledgeable and caring woman whose daily experiences surviving on the marsh mean that there isn’t much she doesn’t comprehend about the creatures she shares her life with. Sadly, her eagerness and child-like naivety to find a replacement family and perhaps someone to love again becomes her cross to bear and having always been on the periphery of the town, Kya becomes a figure of fun and potential target for other, unscrupulous individuals.

The Roanoke Marshes of North Carolina, similar to where our female protagonist Kya may have spent all her time searching for food and observing the wildlife.

Image from: http://www.ncwetlands.org/scene-marsh-channel-roanoke-marshes-game-land-ncwetlands-kg-3-2/

This is such a stunning piece of work that perfectly encompasses the raw beauty of nature and the innocence of childhood and really made me stop to think and appreciate my own surroundings compared to material things that I might own. The author is obviously fond of nature and this really comes across throughout the narrative where the environment was described in such minute detail that I could picture myself there completely. Delia Owens doesn’t shy away from tough subject matters, especially regarding Kya’s family and at times, my heart broke for what she had to suffer and then soared when she became such an independent, strong young woman despite her hardships, bitter disappointments and unconventional start to life.

Kya is one of those fantastic characters that go on a real “journey” through the novel. We see her as a scared young girl, a determined, gullible young adolescent and then when she learns to read and unleashes her talent for painting, the world *almost* becomes her oyster. I really felt for Kya throughout this story – mainly because if she had been born in a different place to perhaps a different family, her life could have been a lot different. She is treated horrendously by members of her family and occasional other individuals she comes across as she grows up and at times, it all began to feel a bit hopeless for her ever getting a happy ending, purely because of prejudices she faced due to her impoverished upbringing. I found myself really rooting for her throughout Crawdads, desperately hoping she’d come out the other side but one of the things I most adored about this novel? NOTHING is ever guaranteed, expected or black or white. Delia Owens is fantastic at providing both the realistic and the surprise elements for the reader and I was really excited to find out at the end of this novel that I still had questions.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Savages: The Wedding – Sabri Louatah (Les Sauvages #1)

Published May 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A Saturday in May. Paris.

It’s the eve of the French presidential elections – ‘The Election of the Century’ say the newspaper headlines – and Chaouch, the nation’s first Arab candidate, has victory in his sights. It has been a long campaign, and with his wife Esther and daughter Jasmine by his side, he spends the remaining hours with close advisors in a hotel in Nimes. Much of the dinner table chatter revolves around Jasmine’s boyfriend; Fouad Nerrouche, a well-known actor with the same Algerian origins as her father, who has just publicly endorsed Chaouch’s candidacy. However shallow it may seem, it’s difficult to ignore the influence of celebrity support in this complex and unpredictable race . . .

The same day. Saint-Etienne.

The Nerrouche family is frantically preparing for a grand wedding, and Fouad himself is there to help out. But younger cousin Krim – who has recently lost his job – is becoming increasingly agitated, and no one knows why. As the day goes on, it becomes clear that the cousin’s problems go far deeper than unemployment. Krim has been stealing from a local gang leader and after being discovered, found himself indebted to his powerful cousin, Nazir – Fouad’s brother. Nazir is a very shady figure, and is heavily involved in a dark underworld of crime. Together, their plans will cause Fouad’s two very different worlds to meet in a way no one would have dared to imagine. Within a few hours, the threads start to unravel, and the collision between the destiny of a family and the hopes of a country becomes inevitable.

With the pacing of a thriller, Louatah melds the tense atmosphere of a family saga with the gripping suspense of a political drama into one breathtaking read.

What did I think?:

I was really pleased to receive this book through my letterbox from Corsair Publishers in exchange for an honest review, thank you so much to them. I’m a huge thriller/crime fiction fan and love reading books set in different countries so initially I was quite intrigued to get started. Plus, at 256 pages in its paperback form, I knew it wouldn’t take me long to read so I packed it in my hand luggage on my recent holiday to Mexico and read it in its entirety on the plane journey over there. Now I feel like I’ve been writing a few more critical reviews recently and when I realised this was unfortunately, not the book for me, my heart sank a little bit. I would never want to offend an author, after all, they’ve put metaphorical blood, sweat and tears into their work, who am I to be so negative about it? But, there’s times when you just have to realise that each book speaks individually to the reader and what somebody may not get on with, another person is going to love. I feel I have to be honest when I’m given a book to review and I’m in no way saying this is a bad book, not at all. I just personally didn’t connect with the plot or the characters I’m afraid.

Sabri Louatah, the author of The Savages: The Wedding.

The Savages can be described as a family drama and also a political thriller. It follows the Nerrouche family on the day of a wedding, more specifically, a member of the family called Krim who has become embroiled in some shady business with a gang leader and is constantly terrified that his misdeeds will catch up with him. His family are mostly unaware of the huge hole that Krim has got himself into and are becoming increasingly worried for his state of mind as he is in obvious turmoil. Meanwhile, another member of the family, Fouad has recently began a serious relationship with Jasmine, daughter of the first Arab candidate for the French presidential elections. As tensions rise on both sides of the family, the two stories are brought together in a dramatic cliff-hanger of a finale that could change many of our characters lives forever.

St-Etienne, France where part of our story is set.

There is so much more going on in this narrative then what I’ve just mentioned before. In fact, the whole story is very complex and there always seems to be something going on, you could never say the pace is dull. I do enjoy an intricate plot of course, but for some reason this story just felt far too busy for me. There was almost too much going on and at times, I just wanted the author to slow down and get some clarification on a few things which I was confused about. It almost felt like there was a sub-text of hidden things below the surface of the novel that the reader was just expected to understand and perhaps this is my own fault, being quite ignorant of parts of the culture explored in this novel. I don’t necessarily need everything spelled out for me but sometimes, I just felt like this was a party I didn’t have an invite to.

There are occasional great parts of this novel that I do want to highlight. First of all, the pace which I’ve already mentioned. Secondly, I quite enjoyed the character of Slim, the groom of the wedding as he struggles with his sexuality and the attention of a young transvestite. I would have loved to see more of his story explored but who knows? This is a four part saga and there’s plenty of times for the reader to get to know the characters a bit better. Personally, it was just unfortunate that I never felt fully invested in either the plot or the characters to get excited at any level and sadly, there’s not much chance of me ever continuing with the series.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 2):

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Savages: The Wedding was the thirty-first book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018.