MY LAST CONTINENT: A NOVEL by Midge Raymond (Audiobook)

My Last Continent: A Novel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sad! Beautiful! MY LAST CONTINENT is a story about love and loss, about running away only to find yourself in a remote land of ice. I’m almost certain that reading this book will be the closest I get to Antarctica, and I appreciated the author’s gorgeous descriptions.

There are three main characters in this book: Deb, an ornithologist who studies penguins; Keller, a former Boston lawyer who heads to Antarctica as a dishwasher; and the continent itself, who brings Deb and Keller together and comes between them at the same time.

We know from the beginning that a tragedy is looming. A cruise ship in the area full of tourists has hit ice and a distress call has gone out. The story moves back and forth, past to present, as Deb reveals what brought her to Antarctica and how she fell in love with the penguins and Keller. Of course, there’s always an ominous feeling present, wondering what will happen with the doomed ship.

This book was well researched, and the author’s love of Antarctica shone through brilliantly. Though the ice is stark and intimidating, the ecosystem is fragile. Should humans be there? Maybe not, but I can understand why people are drawn to the last continent.

Fantastic debut novel! I listened to this book on audio, which was narrated by Cassandra Campbell. I think she captured the compassion, desperation, and hope of main character Deb beautifully.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE POCKET WIFE by Susan Crawford

Publisher: William Morrow
Released: March 17, 2015
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½

A stylish psychological thriller with the compelling intrigue of The Silent Wife and Turn of Mind and the white-knuckle pacing of Before I Go to Sleep—in which a woman suffering from bipolar disorder cannot remember if she murdered her friend.

Dana Catrell is shocked when her neighbor Celia is brutally murdered. To Dana’s horror, she was the last person to see Celia alive. Suffering from mania, the result of her bipolar disorder, she has troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death.

Her husband’s odd behavior and the probing of Detective Jack Moss create further complications as she searches for answers. The closer she comes to piecing together the shards of her broken memory, the more Dana falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside her . . . or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again?

A story of marriage, murder, and madness, The Pocket Wife explores the world through the foggy lens of a woman on the edge.

I’m left with mixed feelings after finishing THE POCKET WIFE, though overall it was good. This is Susan Crawford’s debut novel, and it’s about a woman with bipolar disorder who may or may not have murdered her neighbor. Dana Catrell was the last person to see Celia alive, and too much alcohol combined with lack of meds has wiped Dana’s mind of the whole terrible situation.

The book started off strong, and Dana was an intriguing unreliable narrator. It was difficult to tell for her and for the reader whether her memories were fact or invented. The author did a great job putting readers inside Dana’s mind so they could experience her confusion and frustration too. After a while though, the plot lost the suspense and started to ramble. I’m on the fence over the conclusion of the murder mystery. It was a stretch, though it still worked.

I listened to parts of this book on audio. It was narrated by one of my favorite performers, Cassandra Campbell. Of course, she was wonderful.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

HE’S GONE by Deb Caletti

Publisher: Bantam
Released: May 14, 2013
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★

The Sunday morning starts like any other, aside from the slight hangover. Dani Keller wakes up on her Seattle houseboat, a headache building behind her eyes from the wine she drank at a party the night before. But on this particular Sunday morning, she’s surprised to see that her husband, Ian, is not home. As the hours pass, Dani fills her day with small things. But still, Ian does not return. Irritation shifts to worry, worry slides almost imperceptibly into panic. And then, like a relentless blackness, the terrible realization hits Dani: He’s gone.

As the police work methodically through all the logical explanations—he’s hurt, he’s run off, he’s been killed—Dani searches frantically for a clue as to whether Ian is in fact dead or alive. And, slowly, she unpacks their relationship, holding each moment up to the light: from its intense, adulterous beginning, to the grandeur of their new love, to the difficulties of forever. She examines all the sins she can—and cannot—remember. As the days pass, Dani will plumb the depths of her conscience, turning over and revealing the darkest of her secrets in order to discover the hard truth—about herself, her husband, and their lives together.

HE’S GONE is the first book by Deb Caletti that I’ve read, and I greatly enjoyed it. I thought it was the perfect balance of suspense and women’s fiction, with an intriguing mystery and an emotional backstory to keep readers turning the pages. The story moves back and forth between the main character, Dani Keller, searching for clues to her husband’s whereabouts, and Dani’s introspective look at her life and what’s brought her to this point in time. I think Dani grew a lot and became a stronger person as this ordeal played out. The ending was fantastic. Loved it!

Part of this book I listened to on audio (borrowed from the library), mainly because one of my favorite narrators – Cassandra Campbell – gave the performance. She was perfect as Dani Keller, capturing her personality and predicament very well.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Audiobook Review: SAFE WITH ME by Amy Hatvany

Format: Audio; 10 hrs, 21 mins
Narrators: Joy Osmanski, Rebekkah Ross, Cassandra Campbell
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Released: March 4, 2014
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½

The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. A year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose fifteen-year-old daughter, Maddie, survived only because Hannah’s daughter had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him in the wake of the transplant that saved their daughter’s life. Meanwhile, Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: The Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.

A masterful narrative shaped by nuanced characters whose delicate bonds are on a collision course with the truth, Safe with Me is a riveting triumph.

SAFE WITH ME is one of those books that stirs up all kinds of emotions. Anger, heartbreak, empathy, and hope. It’s the kind of story that rattles you from the very beginning and makes you a part of the characters’ lives. I liked how the author handled some heavy subject matter with sensitivity and compassion.

The story is about two mothers, Hannah and Olivia, who are brought together by chance when Hannah’s daughter dies, and her organ donation allows Olivia’s teenage daughter Maddie to live. The donation was anonymous and confidential, but fate has different ideas, and the three women unknowingly become tangled in each other’s lives.

Hannah, Olivia, and Maddie were complex, realistic characters dealing with serious issues – Hannah, dealing with the death of her child; Olivia, suffering at the hands of an abusive husband; and Maddie, struggling with the guilt that someone had to die for her to live. My heart went out to each one. Listening to the audiobook helped me connect with the characters even more. Joy Osmanski, Rebekkah Ross, and Cassandra Campbell gave brilliant performances, capturing the essence of their character.

SAFE WITH ME is another winner from Amy Hatvany. Definitely sad at times with some nail biting moments along the way, but the ending left me feeling optimistic.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.