Book Review: Just Fine With Caroline

just-fine-with-caroline-coverSynopsis: From the author of Sit! Stay! Speak! comes a tender, terrific novel complete with long-buried secrets, a three-legged pot belly pig, and an irresistible dog—an unforgettable story about love, friendship, and community. Perfect for fans of Mary Kay Andrews and Mary Alice Monroe.

Caroline O’Connor never dreamed she’d be back home in Cold River, Missouri, the Ozark Mountain town where everyone is ‘up your business.’…they mean well as they drive you crazy. She thought she’d left town for good, but now she’s back, helping to care for her New York born mother—struck with Alzheimer’s, and prone to saying and doing anything—and her father, the beloved local doctor frustrated he can’t cure his own wife.

As for Caroline, she’s doing ‘just fine’ coping with her parents, her brazen cousin Ava Dawn’s marital disasters, her mostly-deaf dog…and with Noah Cranwell, far-flung relative of a local family mostly infamous for running moonshine, an ex-veteran who’s come to Cold River with troubles of his own.

Caroline believes she knows everything about Cold River and the people who live in its hills and hollers … but sometimes life’s greatest surprises happen closest to home.


TRB Book Review: 5/5
Comedic, relatable, it has just enough romance tied with a strong female lead that made it oh-so addicting!

In the past few months I have come to respect and adore Women’s Fiction in a completely new and unexpected way, Just Fine With Caroline has only solidified my newfound love of the genre! Annie England Noblin’s ability to establish her character’s personalities, intertwine their lives, and drown you with an absolute need to keep reading is just fantastic!

Caroline moved back home to Cold River before she was able to finish her college degree so that she could help take care of her family, specifically her very ill mother and her busy but devoted doctor father. She’s spent nearly 5 years back in town, running her parent’s bait shop by the river and attempting to be the happiest version of herself. She’s got good friends, old flings, and a loving but dysfunctional family that keeps her grounded – but is she too grounded? When Noah Cranwell moves back into town she is one of the first to discover him across from their shop at the old Cranwell Station. From dealing with her cousin Ava Dawn’s psycho and soon-to-be ex-husband, to uncovering the mysterious past of the Cranwell family and their connection to her own, Caroline is tested by her own patience and the people that she cares for. Long buried secrets come to surface and she is pushed to the edge of her own reason where she fights to forgive and allow herself to love.

My Thoughts:
As I mentioned above, I am new to the Women’s Fiction, or the Contemporary Fiction scene so if I’m being entirely honest I had mixed feelings about this book when I began reading. I was very excited when I found out about it, hence my dying to get my hands on an ARC!

I thought that it started very simple, a basic story line with un-rounded characters, but those were my thoughts in the first 5 pages. I then realized that I wasn’t giving this book enough credit, I was judging the first 5 pages I mean come on. I quickly whipped myself into shape and started over with an entirely different approach (having just finished a long suspense novel with very hard-spoken English I’m not sure I was used to “regular” English and it knocked me back a step). Once I re-approached it, I couldn’t put it down.

The first half of the book is a little slower, you are introduced to the characters and get to know them a little better, their lives, why they are where they are, some history about their pasts as well as the town of Cold River. Caroline is instantly a strong character, very witty and sarcastic. At one point in the book I believe she describes herself as “small but scrappy,” which could not be more on point! Her cousin Ava Dawn is struggling to get out of her abusive marriage, living with Caroline and her parents and helping to care for her aunt. It is obvious right away that they are close to each other but complete opposites in the personality department. Caroline’s father works as a doctor in town and is a very distant, removed character even though he is often in the story. Noah Cranwell and the Cranwell family have an air of mystery about them, but the author manages to uncover just enough to keep you hooked as you’re reading. Noah and Caroline’s relationship is cautionary and then at times very passionate. There are some smaller stories woven throughout about Caroline’s good friend Court and her ex-boyfriend Reese, as well as old friends and Ava Dawn’s marital traumas. These grow and develop perfectly as the book goes on. They’re so relevant to the story, to who Caroline is and why she feels the way she does, it was all very well strung together!

“Caroline had already decided not to stay. She wasn’t going to go fishing, and she wasn’t going to wait around for the grand opening either. Instead she was going to go home, sink into a bubble bath, drink an entire bottle of cheap wine, and read the book her father had given her over a month ago about Pretty Boy Floyd.” – pg. 333, Just Fine With Caroline

This book is a fantastic display of real life emotion. The day-to-day struggles of a young woman and the confusing nature of relationships and responsibilities. It is so relatable and it feels so real that you tend to forget you aren’t right there in Cold River with the characters! I swallowed up all 368 pages in less than 3 days, and felt a lump in my throat when I realized that it was over.

Just Fine With Caroline will be available via your favorite online retailer on October 11th, 2016, which is just under 2 weeks away! So if you haven’t already, please make sure to pre-order and add this to the top of your #tbr list ASAP, you will not be disappointed!


I’ve received this complimentary ARC from the author Annie England Noblin, in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author:

annie-england-noblinAnnie England Noblin lives with her son, husband, and three dogs in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English and communications for Arkansas State University in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She spends her free time playing make-believe, feeding stray cats, and working with animal shelters across the country to save homeless dogs.

 

To learn more about this author, please visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AnnieEnglandNoblin/ 

You can pre-order a copy of this book from one of your favorite online retailers below:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Harper CollinsWalmart,

Book Review: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

Synopsis: 
Elka barely remembers a time before she knew Trapper. She was just seven years old, wandering lost and hungry in the wilderness, when the solitary hunter took her in. In the years since then, he’s taught her how to survive in this desolate land where civilization has been destroyed and men are at the mercy of the elements and each other.

TRB Book Review: 3/5 stars
Gripping, a suspenseful book with gorgeous scenery that you just won’t want to put down!
“Tiny electric lights like glow bugs in glass jars were strung up ‘tween tall posts and made that street look like the starry sky.” – pg. 108, The Wolf Road

Lewis captures her audience with the refreshingly feisty leading lady, Elka and the journey she takes to escape the murderous and bloodthirsty man that she had grown to love as a father. Having lost everything at a young age, Elka was taken in by Trapper and raised to respect and utilize everything that nature had to offer. For 10 years she had learned his tricks and the trades of the woods including hunting and trapping to survive. These skills were too easily put to the test when Elka learned the truth about Trapper’s murderous nature, having a comfortable woodland life torn away and a sinking fear that she would be the next to lose her scalp at his hands. She sets off on a journey to find her biological parents and escape the bloody past she was unknowingly a part of. Little did she know that she’d set her own trap trying to find redemption, and would soon discover how much like him she had become.

My Thoughts – This being Lewis’ debut novel I am happy to say that she did a wonderful job harnessing the language, scenery, and heart-skipping moments of terror and suspense brought on by a young girl alone in the wild that is trying to escape the law and a very dangerous man. It was a difficult start because I was not expecting the broken English of the backwoods to be used so diligently throughout. Once I was able to read and understand the abbreviations and work out what the characters were saying, I quickly dove in.

The first scene in this book throws you immediately into a confrontation between Elka and Trapper (you will soon after know him by Kraeger) where ultimately she is fighting to survive after a hard journey to escape him [Kraeger]. The entirety of Elka’s story is a lead-up to this moment, which the book will return to at a later point. At times the pages seemed longer than they were and things seemed to drag on more than necessary. Considering that in an apocalyptic world without vehicles, and knowing that travel was a commitment of true labor by foot, I still am certain that this story could have been cut by about 100 pages and still have been entirely interesting.

To witness Elka harness her skills of survival in the woods nearly every step of the way really helped to establish her character and fine tune her purpose. Whether it was starting a fire, trapping a rabbit, fending off (or running from) vicious wildlife, trying to make friends with strangers, or falling victim to the snake-like tongue of a handsome gentleman with hidden purpose – the realism made it very enjoyable to walk alongside her even through the struggles. She is one tough cookie, even while learning some life lessons on the road.

Trapper, or Kraeger, is a mysterious fella throughout the entire book. He doesn’t like to talk, or be talked about so you don’t learn anything about his past or why he is where he is. I suppose that’s Lewis’ point in making him such a secretive, awful person that you dislike immediately upon introduction. You get Elka’s version of Trapper as the man who took her in, raised her, taught her the ways of the forest in the first few chapters. The perspective changes when Elka finds out who Trapper really is, Kraeger, the human scalper & murderer. His nighttime “wolf hunts” turned out to be his game of cat and mouse with hunting innocent women and children and taking their scalps as his prize.

It is obvious throughout the book (more so toward the end) that many of Elka’s memories from the 10 years she spent with Trapper were blocked out of her mind. They slowly come back to her as the story progresses, making her remember the terrible things that she took part in which all lead up to the twist at the end. In the last 50 pages, you come to find out that she played a much larger, much bloodier and guilty part in the cruelty of Trapper’s ways than you were led to believe during the first three-quarters of the story.

My absolute favorite thing about The Wolf Road was the vivid imagery that Lewis used throughout. She described the scenery, things that Elka experienced for the first time, with such a colorful and imaginative likeness you could picture it as though you were there standing next to her.

“This was a forest a’ pure beauty. We was too far north now for the lodgepole pines but black-and-white spruce and some a’ them alpine firs covered everything. Moss crawled up rocks and strangling ivy tightened ’round trunks. Forest was thick and the air hung round in a mist most a’ the day. Smelled a’ softness and warm and like them first days a’ spring, even this far into summer. This forest was alive, I felt it in every bit a’ me. Exciting chatter a’ squirrels and crickets, tracks and trails a’ deer and moose, no sign a’ man’s heavy hand.” – pg. 236, The Wolf Road

Overall I think that this is a very well done debut novel full of rich scenery that houses a decently rounded protagonist and a mysterious and vengeful antagonist. The length of the novel (356 pages) seems a bit long to me, it took me longer than planned to finish because I had such a hard time staying interested after reaching the halfway point. It became more like the repetitive tale of a girl running from a killer with an anticlimactic ending for me, but the writing was done well and the use of such detailed imagery and lifelike situations kept it intriguing. I can’t justify categorizing it as much of a thriller/suspense book, it comes across more as a lightly suspenseful fiction piece with the last 50 pages being the most twisted and gripping part. A great read for anyone looking for a change in the apocalyptic scene who appreciates a good wilderness survival story with a surprise ending.


I’ve received this complementary copy from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author:

beth-lewis-cred-andrew-mason
photo by Andrew Mason

Beth Lewis is a managing editor at Titan Books in London. She was raised in the wilds of Cornwall and split her childhood between books and the beach. She has traveled extensively throughout the world and has had close encounters with black bears, killer whales, and great white sharks. She has been a bank cashier, a fire performer, and a juggler.

 

 

 


For more information on the author, please visit her website at http://www.bethklewis.com/

You can purchase a copy of this book from one of your favorite online retailers below:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Penguin Random House, Book Depository