Showing posts with label jon harrison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jon harrison. Show all posts

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Banks of Certain Rivers...redux!

Hello readers!  You may remember that last year, I did a review for a novel called The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison.  I was reluctant to review it at first, because it was self-published, but the book ended up being exceptional and quelled any fears I had about its self-published status.

That said, The Banks of Certain Rivers found a publisher this year!  It was released by Lake Union Publishing on September 23.  I was asked if I would mind re-posting my review in honor of this updated edition, and I wholeheartedly agreed, because it's good stuff.

So, feel free to enjoy my review again HERE.  And congrats to Jon Harrison on the new edition!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From the Land of Gas Leaks and Broken Ovens: August 2013 in Review

Oy vey, August has already managed to come and go.  Though I did have a few fun posts, I also had a record low number of posts for the month (only 12! Ouch).  Fitting, I suppose, given the chaos of our recent and upcoming moves.

I mentioned previously about some of the struggles we had with our temporary rental, the list of which has grown to include the 4 (fixed) natural gas leaks, a broken oven, 2 broken dishwashers, an immovable, enormous fire pit in our backyard full of broken glass, a burst pipe, and neighbors who have had a few too many visits from the local police force for my liking.

HOWEVER, I am happy to report that we will be officially moving to our (forever?) home starting September 14, less than 2 short weeks from now.  Oh, how I count the very minutes.  YOU CAN'T IMAGINE.  (For any new followers getting lost in this story, feel free to read back here and catch up a bit.)

September is also going to be crazy-slash-awesome because it is mine and Hubster's 6th wedding anniversary, the start of my third trimester, AND my 30th birthday (of which I am not scared in the least, thankyouverymuch).  Plus, you know, autumn and all the greatness that is apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes (decaf...sigh), and cooler weather (especially for this sweaty preggo. What I would give for a 65-degree day).

(Oh, and in book news, don't forget that Stephen King's Doctor Sleep comes out September 24...which is, OF COURSE, my birthday...and I've already preordered it and will be staring at my Kindle at midnight to watch it download.)

ANYWAY.  That's this month.  Let's recap a bit of last month.

The August 2013 Fave/Least Fave picks go to:

August 2013 Favorite: The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison
August 2013 Least Favorite: Race Across the Sky by Derek Sherman

In total, I read/reviewed 5 books:
The Never List by Koethi Zan

Race Across the Sky by Derek Sherman
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison
Hungry by Darlene Barnes

Otherwise, I was admittedly a bit absent, but I did reveal that Tater Tot is going to be a boy, and we went back to 1990 to reminisce about pen pals.


So, there's August...bring on September and all the chaos that shall ensue!  (I promise my months will get uneventful again soon, maybe in October?  Well, at least until this baby arrives.  

Nevermind, I make no promises.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison


Title: The Banks of Certain Rivers
Author: Jon Harrison
Publisher: self-published by the author
Publication Date: March 19, 2013
Source: copy received from an outside party for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Neil Kazenzakis is barely holding his life together: ever since an accident left his wife profoundly disabled, he's been doing his best as a single dad and popular high school teacher. He's also been dealing with Lauren Downey, his sort-of girlfriend of the past two years who's pushing for a commitment—and for Neil to finally tell his son Christopher about their secret relationship.

Neil's carefully balanced world begins to fall apart when some questionable footage of him is anonymously posted to YouTube...just as Chris learns about Lauren in the worst possible way. Doubting his own recollection of the events in the online video and threatened with the loss of his job and the ability to care for his wife, Neil must find a way to prove the truth to his family, his community, and himself as he struggles to regain the splintered trust of his son.


My Review:

You all know that I am very, very, very (you might say very) picky about reading self-published novels for review.  So, the fact that this one made it through my tighter-than-a-chastity-belt screening process says something right off the bat.  When I read the description, it immediately grabbed me--it sounded like a great family drama, and a little different from those in the women's fiction genre (my typical source for relationship dramatics).

Soon after jumping into this novel, my remaining worries about its self-published status were banished.  Neil's story takes off like a shot, and within a few pages I was immersed in his complicated world.  However, even though the plot snowballs quickly in the beginning, Harrison does a great job leaving some details and events for later, allowing the full saga to unfold slowly throughout the book.  I loved the feeling of constantly uncovering new twists, even when I wasn't looking for them.  Admittedly, there were a few parts about halfway through where I felt things were maybe a little TOO drawn out, but for the most part, the book keeps a solid pace.

There are a lot of complicated issues warring against each other in Neil's life.  Disabled wife, secret girlfriend, teenage son on the verge of going to college, incriminating videos of him at work...a book with this many issues has the potential to fall flat if the author doesn't handle them with care.  I've read some novels like that that end up feeling either too overzealous (the issues didn't mesh into one story well), or too perfunctory (not enough time was spent on each issue to make it feel important).  Thankfully, Harrison blended all of these issues into one seamless narrative.  They all interconnected extremely well, and made the novel feel fuller, rather than too ambitious.

I only have one complaint to share: I felt like the ending was rushed.  After such an intricate, well-paced story, the conclusion ramps up and ties together far too fast (especially the conclusion as related to Neil's work woes).  The actual events involved in the ending were satisfying--that wasn't an issue.  But I just wish a little more time had been taken to get there, in order to make it feel more in line with the rest of the novel.

Bottom line: this novel is wonderfully complex, but it still has a contemporary and fast-moving plot.  The characters are engaging and clearly-voiced.  The ending wasn't perfect, but I was willing to overlook it in my overall rating because of how much I loved the rest.  If you have doubts about picking this up because it's self-published, do yourself a favor and put them aside.  This novel will take some time to unfold itself, but I promise it's worth the wait!

Have you read any great family dramas lately?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday reading update...

Hope you all had a great weekend!  What's everybody reading today?


Reading is definitely at a slow pace around here lately, but as we get into a routine in our rental house, it's picking up a bit.  Last week (our first week here) we found 4 (FOUR!) natural gas leaks in the basement and kitchen (thankfully fixed now), and have been working around the many carpenters, painters, and flooring repairers that have been coming in and out.  Yes, the last tenants were real winners.

But otherwise, things are calming down, I found my new local library (HOORAY!  More on that soon), I am no longer huffing gas fumes, and today is my first official day flying solo as a stay-at-home-mom (husband started his new job this morning).  All exciting things!  Though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to move into our actual house next month...

Anyway, my current read:

The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison

Neil Kazenzakis is barely holding his life together: ever since an accident left his wife profoundly disabled, he's been doing his best as a single dad and popular high school teacher. He's also been dealing with Lauren Downey, his sort-of girlfriend of the past two years who's pushing for a commitment—and for Neil to finally tell his son Christopher about their secret relationship.

Neil's carefully balanced world begins to fall apart when some questionable footage of him is anonymously posted to YouTube...just as Chris learns about Lauren in the worst possible way. Doubting his own recollection of the events in the online video and threatened with the loss of his job and the ability to care for his wife, Neil must find a way to prove the truth to his family, his community, and himself as he struggles to regain the splintered trust of his son.
Heartbreaking, poignant, and written with devastating humor and warmth, The Banks of Certain Rivers is a shattering story of memory, loss, and just how far a man will go to show the people closest to him the meaning of love.(from Goodreads)

I received a copy of this novel for review a while back, and finally got around to starting it last week.  It's Harrison's debut novel and I am really enjoying it so far.  The story is taking a while to unfold, but I love the characters and don't mind meandering my way through their journey.  Hopefully a full review for you later this week!

What will I be reading next?

Likely going to be The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan.  I'm on the TLC tour for August 20, and with my lethargic reading pace lately, I better start it soon!  :)

After that, I have a few possibilities and tour books lined up, including Hungry by Darlene Barnes, Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa, and The Smart One by Jennifer Close.

What are you reading this week, friends?
 
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