Book Review: When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker—and a giveaway!

When I'm GoneWhen I’m Gone
Emily Bleeker
Lake Union Publishing, March 2016
ISBN 978-1503953383
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Dear Luke,
First let me say—I love you…I didn’t want to leave you…

Luke Richardson has returned home after burying Natalie, his beloved wife of sixteen years, ready to face the hard job of raising their three children alone. But there’s something he’s not prepared for—a blue envelope with his name scrawled across the front in Natalie’s handwriting, waiting for him on the floor of their suburban Michigan home.

The letter inside, written on the first day of Natalie’s cancer treatment a year ago, turns out to be the first of many. Luke is convinced they’re genuine, but who is delivering them? As his obsession with the letters grows, Luke uncovers long-buried secrets that make him question everything he knew about his wife and their family. But the revelations also point the way toward a future where love goes on—in written words, in memories, and in the promises it’s never too late to keep.

This book has everything going for it: a heart-tugging widower, a mystery to be solved (actually, more than one although they’re not the kind you find in mystery novels, strictly speaking), family secrets to be revealed, a promise of hope for the future. There are surprises both good and not so much so and it’s clear that Natalie truly cared for her husband and children. It was—and still is—a loving family and the secrets that are revealed towards the end are maddening as well as sad. Why, then, didn’t I connect with this story as much as I should have?

When I’m Gone is beautifully written and the characters are vividly drawn but I think perhaps it was a wrong choice for me. Truthfully, there is nothing actually wrong with it and I think most other readers will really appreciate it whereas I just never was emotionally invested and that may be partially because I find the idea of these letters coming for such a long time kind of unhealthy for those who are left behind. It seems to me that the healing process is dragged out much longer than is natural and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. One heartfelt letter, yes; a string of them, maybe not.

When I think about the story Ms. Bleeker has given us, I’m quite sure my reaction isn’t fair but I also believe I understand it. I had five deaths to cope with in 2015 and, by the end of the year, I was continually on edge wondering what horrible thing would be happening next. Perhaps it’s too soon for me to read a tale like this one because my own emotions are still fragile. Because of that, I fully intend to read this again when I’m more receptive and I’m pretty darned sure I’m going to love it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.

************

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button        Amazon Buy Button

************

About the Author

Emily Bleeker 2Emily Bleeker is a former educator who discovered her passion for writing after introducing a writer’s workshop to her students. She soon found a whole world of characters and stories living inside of her mind. It took a battle with a rare form of cancer to give her the courage to share that amazing world with others. Emily lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and four kids. Between writing and being a mom, she attempts to learn guitar, sings along to the radio (loudly), and embraces her newfound addiction to running. Connect with her or request a Skype visit with your book club at emilybleeker.wordpress.com.

Connect with Emily:

Website Button     Twitter Button     Facebook Button     Goodreads Button 2

************

Follow the tour here.

************

To enter the drawing for a print
copy of When I’m Gone by Emily
Bleeker, leave a comment below.
The winning name will be drawn
on Saturday evening, March 19th,
and the book will be sent out
after the end of the tour. This
giveaway is open to residents  of
the US and Canada.

************

TLC Book Tours Button

Book Reviews: Tokyo Kill by Barry Lancet and The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Tokyo KillTokyo Kill
Barry Lancet
Simon & Schuster, September 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4516-9172-6
Hardcover

Jim Brodie made his initial appearance in Japantown, an action-packed thriller and the series debut.  He now returns in a novel which is no less filled with derring-do and lots of exotic descriptions of Japanese culture and history.  Brodie inherited a half-interest in Brodie Security, founded by his late father and headquartered in Tokyo, and also operates an art dealership, which he claims is his main profession, in San Francisco.

In Tokyo seeking a rare painting, Brodie is approached by a 90-year-old veteran of World War II asking for protection because members of his military detachment in Manchuria during the war-time occupation by Japan were being murdered.  After he supplies a security detail, events take over the course of the rest of the novel, as Brodie investigates the possibility of Triads, Chinese spies and others as the culprits.  And that takes on a life of its own.

The author has lived and worked in Japan for more than a quarter century, and the flavor and information about the country permeates with authenticity throughout the novel.  His description of various types of martial arts practiced in Japan is a further exhibit of his expertise.  Powerfully written, Tokyo Kill is a very enjoyable read, and this reader is looking forward to additions to the series.
Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2014.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Care and Management of LiesThe Care and Management of Lies
A Novel of the Great War
Jacqueline Winspear
Harper, July 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-222050-9
Hardcover

The old adage that an army travels on its stomach certainly is an apt description for this standalone by the author of the terrific Maisie Dobbs series.  Like those novels, it is sent in and around World War I and captures the horrors of the Great War, the muddy trenches, the deaths and its effect on the folks back home.

The plot centers on Kezia Marchant who marries Tom, the younger brother of her good friend, Thea Brisenden, with whom she went to school, both becoming teachers.  Then upon marrying Tom, Kezia becomes a farm wife.  All this takes place shortly before the outbreak of hostilities, and when the war breaks out, Tom feels imperiled to enlist, leaving Kezia to manage the farm.

In the brief time before Tom leaves for France, a ritual develops, as Kezia learns to cook with a flourish, using ingenuity and good sense to set a table unlike anything her husband had ever experienced.  And when he receives letters in the trenches they are filled with glowing accounts of dinners Kezia has prepared for him, filling his drudgery with lightness.  And the rest of the soldiers in his unit take to the descriptions as well, adding to their joy in the face of the poor rations they have to endure.  This is a novel demonstrating the ability of people to withstand all sorts of horrible experiences and survive, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2015.

Book Review: The Letter Q edited by Sarah Moon

The Letter QThe Letter Q:
Queer Writers’ Notes To Their Younger Selves
Sarah Moon, editor
James Lecesne, contributing editor
Arthur A. Levine Books, May 2012
ISBN 978-0-545-39932-6
Hardcover (ARC)

The title of this remarkable anthology says it all—a multitude of LGBT authors, more than sixty of them, have come together to tell themselves as young adults what they wish they had known back then. In doing so, they also are reaching out to today’s youth who are struggling with their sexual identities, letting them know they are not alone and others have felt the way they feel. Written for age 14 and up, the letters are honest, emotional and forthright, no holds barred. There are even practical suggestions for making one’s own life just a little bit easier.

Some of the writers involved will be a surprise to readers and some will not but that really doesn’t matter because the point of it all is to make the road just a little easier for the younger generation.  The target audience is obvious but this is a book that can be appreciated just as much by those of us who are not LGBT because it gives us a small glimpse of what life is like for young adults who are unsure of themselves and those who ARE sure but are having difficulty finding a comfortable place in our world. One really important note is that this book will strike a chord with all teenagers who are struggling with issues of any kind, not just sexual identity.

Has this been done before? Perhaps it has but, if so, I haven’t seen it.  The authors and editors and publisher involved all are to be commended for a fine idea executed brilliantly and with great compassion, so much that I was frequently brought to tears. I strongly recommend it for young adults and adults alike and especially would like to see it shelved in every school library. Lives can literally be saved.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2012.