Review: Before Everything by Victoria Redel 

This book is a lot of work to read. It’s emotionally taxing (although I didn’t even cry until near the end) and, frankly, depressing. Anna is dying of cancer. And that’s no spoiler, pal. That’s the premise of the book. 

Before Everything is also about love and friendship and family and a few secrets. Victoria Redel designs Anna’s friendships so realistically that the secrets the women have make me remember secrets I have with my friends … not contrived or hyperbolic or beyond belief, but just stuff we know about each other because we’ve been friends for so long. 

I read this book in hopes that I’d come to a better understanding of what it’s like for the family of a person dying of cancer. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself feel it 100%. So instead I read with my shoulders tensed, my mind rushing to get to the next scene, and only half my heart with Anna. 

It’s a good read if you can let your guard down. I held back because otherwise it would’ve been too painful. Thinking about that, well, maybe I did learn what it’s like to be close to someone who’s dying. 

-calliope

Buy BEFORE EVERYTHING

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Review: All the Ways the World Can End by Abby Sher

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Funny.  Sad.  Relatable.  Unbelievable.  This book covers all this and more.  And then it goes back and repeats.

Lenny has a lot going on in her life.  A LOT.  Her dad is dying from cancer, mom is a busy attorney who uses her job to escape that harsh reality, and sister Emma is away at college. That leaves Lenny to deal with the day to day stuff.  Still, she’s in denial about how sick her dad actually is.  She copes by keeping a list of all the different ways there are for the world to end.  Oh and her crush on one of her dad’s doctors.

I went back and forth on how much I enjoyed this book, alternating between liking it very much and just liking it.  It’s good, heartbreakingly so at times.  But there are some underlying issues I didn’t feel good about.  Lenny’s behavior at times borders on mentally unstable.  Understandable with all she’s dealing with but still.  And her obsession with the doctor is over the top. Nevertheless it’s a good read, a realistic picture of life and dealing with death.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  All the Ways the World Can End

Review: End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

13414676This is a really nice book. I can’t fault the writer at all. However, I have to say it was gut wrenching for me. Schwalbe and his mother had a very special bond. Hell, from what I grasp, she had a special bond with everyone she knew. She seemed like she was a truly amazing person.

The part that was really hard for me was the dedication Schwalbe had for his mum. No, it wasn’t a bad thing. It was an amazing thing. When my father died, I can’t lie, I was, perhaps more devastated by my lack of involvement in his final days. That is so very hard to write. To admit to. Sure, I can blame circumstances. Being in a different country, blah blah blah, but that doesn’t ease the guilt one feels. Then to read a book where Schwalbe went to such great lengths….well it was very hard. Yes, he was lucky. His mum was lucky. We can all say, well, he had a job that allowed him to be by his mother’s side so often. That’s all. He could afford to spend 5 hours a day with her when she was having treatments. He could call her a dozen times a day. Reality is more simple than that though. He made it happen. Amazing sacrifices he made to make sure his mother was surrounded by love in her final years…

I’m jealous of his dedication. Of his courage. His sacrifice. Of those hours, days, weeks, months, and years he had with his mum at the end. Reading this book made my gut clinch with my own guilt…I miss my dad…I wish I had been the kind of daughter to him that was like the son Schwalbe was to his mum…I wish I had that opportunity…

There’s nothing else to say really…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

Review: Life and Other Near Death Experiences by Camille Pagan

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Dying isn’t funny. Or at least it shouldn’t be. But somehow this wonderful little gem of a book makes it so.

Libby’s perfectly crafted world comes to a crashing halt in the span of less than a day. Not only does she find out that she has cancer, likely very quickly ending her life, but she also finds out that her dear husband is gay.

So she does what any of us would do in that same situation. She quits her job, which she hated anyway. She kicks her husband out and sells their apartment. She purges herself of all her worldly possessions and takes a lengthy trip to the Caribbean. Make perfect sense, right?

She soon finds out, however, that simply crawling into a corner and waiting to die isn’t as easy as it might sound. She has a brother and father who both love her dearly. She finds herself relishing the simple things in life, such as the feeling of warm sand between her toes. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with her elderly landlady.

And then there’s Shiloh, the handsome pilot she finds herself falling for. When he discovers that she plans to give up without putting up a glimmer of a fight, he quickly lets her know that’s not an option.

Make no mistake, this is a romance story. But it’s also a funny story, one about family and bouncing back. It’s a story about not giving up regardless of the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. The writing is witty and wry, and the characters are so likeable that you almost forget that it’s a work of fiction. A fun, inspiring read!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

Review: Ghostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of Graffiti by Olivia Wildenstein

25242652If you’re into YA genre this book is perfect for you. Predictable in parts, but not in others. I appreciate that Wildenstein kept this book honest all the way through. She didn’t try to make us feel better at the end and protect her readers from real life as so many others do.

If I have any complaints, I suppose that I wish she had left out some of the smaller side-stories and focused more on Ghostboy. The concept of “Ghostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of Graffiti” was brilliant. I absolutely loved it and how it came about. I feel the smaller side-stories going on with all of the friends, perhaps took away from the main focus of this novel. It’s not that I minded them. I just felt at times that we could have better understood the connection between Ghostboy and Duke and Chameleon if we had more time to share with them and to see the relationship develop. I would have liked to see another 200 pages of the adults in the story and the three main characters….

I realise that 320ish pages is the magic number for novels for the last 20 years…I just wish this one gave us a wee bit more….As much as I enjoyed this story, I just left it feeling a little sad and unsatisfied. Not because of the ending but because of the lack of depth I felt from the characters. Just like Ghostboy fades and goes invisible, I knew that all these wonderful characters were there, but they too were fading in and out of focus…I just needed more to solidify them forever in my heart…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review…

Buy it now Ghostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of Graffiti by Olivia Wildenstein

Review: Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

17302690I usually don’t pay much attention to reviews. A contradiction, I know, coming from someone who shares my love of great stories by writing reviews. But let me clarify. I don’t pay much attention to reviews unless they come from someone whose opinion I know and trust, someone who enjoys the same types of stories that I do. So I hope that’s how you view us here at the Muses, trusted friends who offer a little bit of something for everyone.

Having cancer sucks, even more so when you’re seventeen years old. That’s just what Richie is facing. And even worse, he’s been moved to hospice. We all know what that means. He’s the youngest person on the hospice ward with the exception of Sylvie. So of course there’s a romance brewing. If the story ran on that alone, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. It’s the cast of supporting characters that adds so much more. There’s Richie’s crazy but fun uncle who manages to sneak him out for a night of fun on Halloween. There’s his grandma who is complicit in helping him sneak around with Sylvie. Sylvie’s dad, by the way is one scary dude. Staying out of his reach becomes a full-time challenge in itself for Richie. And then there are the nurses and staff members, all full of personality and compassion at the same time.

I think it’s unfair to compare this story to The Fault in Our Stars as so many reviews have done. Because let’s be honest, that was a one of a kind, once in a lifetime story. And I don’t say that to take anything away from this book. It’s a different kind of book that just happens to share a few common characteristics with TFIOS. But it’s just as good in its own way.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Somebody Up There Hates You: A Novel

Review: In The Mirror by Kaira Rouda

in the mirrorThis review is dedicated to my father, Donald O Epp, Jr who lost his battle to lung cancer last week. RIP, Pops and fly high….I love you…always…xx

So here we have a book about a young woman with cancer. There’s no secret that this is a book designed to tug on your heart strings. And it does exactly that. Despite that, I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written. The main character does some really questionable things. She makes some unwise decisions, almost to the point of being over the top. As a reader, I was starting to question what was going on. The author reins it all in and handles it beautifully. A layman in the story provides answers to any misunderstandings or wrong feelings the reader might feel as well by explaining some of the feelings and thought processes a cancer patient might feel.

At the end there is one small part that I feel could have been left out entirely from the book, and in my case, it would have made the book even better. Having said that, I understand that not everyone in the world can handle story-lines that don’t have a solid wrapped up finish to them. I *do* understand why the author threw this little bit in, but again, I wish she hadn’t. It did take a bit away from the story from me instead of adding to it like it probably did for others. Overall I still really enjoyed this book. I found myself seeking it out and in a hurry to return to it when I did set it aside. If I had started this book on a weekday instead of a weekend, I’m pretty sure I would have finished it all in one day. I enjoyed it that much.

On a more personal note, I might have been moved so much with this book because I recently was told my father has stage 4 cancer. That’s a tough thing to hear as a family member. Let alone for the patient. It’s also awful because I just happen to be on a totally different continent and can’t be near him. It’s hard to even write that….let alone acknowledge it.

I enjoyed this book so much because just as all of us must ask questions and wonder, “why me…why us”, these characters do as well. They struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Of guilt. Selfishness. Resentment. Thankfulness. The list goes on and on. It never ends and day in and day out they struggle with the roller-coaster ride that is cancer and the emotions that they have to struggle with. Seeking answers where some may never be found. Of what it means to be sick. Of what it means to want to go back to happier times. Of wishing it was someone else instead. Of seeing others enjoying life as if nothing has happened. Of survivor’s guilt…Wishing that a loved one did not have to go through this, but so thankful that you’re not the one that has it…of feeling guilty that you’re healthy and happy and someone you love is not…I appreciated this. I think everyone, regardless of where they are in life can do the same if they read this book. Something such as this will always be felt most by the patient. That goes without saying. But cancer is horrible enough that it doesn’t just scar the victim. It effects those all around them as well. Who doesn’t want to save the world? Let alone their child, or their lover, or a parent, or their best friend…..yet, somethings are not ours to decide…they are just ours to deal with….

That’s a tough pill to swallow…..

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by NetGalley for an honest review