Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books That Were Hard To Read

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday and here are our Top Ten books that were hard to read.



Room, Emma Donahue.  This book was so well written, but it was really hard to read. The subject matter is definitely not something I’d seek out.

We Are the Goldens, Dana Reinhardt.  I really enjoyed this one, but as a parent this one intimidated me because I want to keep my baby in a bubble.

The Hour I First Believed, Wally Lamb.  Columbine.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to comfortably read anything about Columbine.

The Round House, Louise Erdrich.  This was my second Erdrich book, and while I knew the writing would be excellent I also knew it would be depressing as hell.  And it was. So sad and maddening because of how realistic the story was. Definitely worth reading though!

1Q84, Haruki Murakami.  I couldn’t have gotten through this if not for reading along with my friend Kara.  Wow this book was intense.  And odd. And intense.

Honorable Mention I’m still afraid to read The Truth About Alice.  Same as the Goldens-this TERRIFIES me as a mother of a little girl.  I really want to read it, but I don’t want to build up nightmares!


Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez. Sometimes I can look past creepy shit in a good book. Here, I could not. My hypocrisy knows no bounds. #sorrynotsorry

The Hour I First Believed – Ditto my sister. Wally Lamb sure knows how to make a person feel depressed, eh?

The First Thing and the Last, Allan G. Johnson. This is the story of a woman who suffers unspeakably terrible abuse.Tread lightly.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt – And this is why I’m not so sure I’m jumping on The Goldfinch bandwagon

Good thing Amanda posted 6 because I’m only listing 4. #math

What’s on your list?

We’re Reading: Dark Triumph

Dark Triumph


Hardcover, 385 pages

Published April 2nd 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Source: Purchased for review

Holly and I are doing our favorite part of book blogging and reading a new book together.  We’ve started the His Fair Assassin series #2, Dark Triumph.  We read the first book, Grave Mercy, here, here and here.  While we were not 100% sold on the teenage assassin nun concept, it was time to try Sybella’s story.  If you haven’t read Grave Mercy beware of spoilers!

When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge – but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for…

Amanda: Either this book is 100% more intense right away or its slightly more intense and there’s just no retelling of the backstory.  I like it.

    I feel hooked at 5% in!  Also, Sybella is kind of a sad girl.

Holly:    Girls with happy childhoods don’t become assassin nuns.

A:     Too true.  But this is seriously in your face with it.  Sybella is a bad ass.  I just stopped at 29% and this seems faster than Book 1 was, hardly any repetition from #1.

H:     Sybella is definitely pretty tragic.  And I’m hooked on the story, but I’m still uneasy about this being YA when everyone is in constant danger of being raped and killed by bad guys.  Or just killed by good guys.  Not a happy place.

    Also, Sybella just declared that without vengeance, she was just a victim, but if she can avenge her injustices that her life would have meaning.  Couldn’t those nuns have taught her to find meaning in her life through other outlets?  Oh no, because they are kind of crazy and manipulative.  These teenage girls need therapy!

A:    I totally agree re: unhappiness.  Its kind of a downer of a book thus far.  I’m not disliking it, but I am creeped out. I don’t think its necessarily inappropriate for YA though, I mean its no fight to the death in a ring a la Hunger Games?  I mean yes, the threats of death all around are not normal, but sadly Sybella’s other family issues can be way too common and so they should be addressed in YA!

And yes – therapy for everyone please!  They’d all be happier and healthier with some therapy and less assassin-class.

H:     I like Sybella but she is sort of terrifying.  At least she’s smarter than Ismae was.  

A:    Sybella is totally scary to me.  You’re right though, she seems far less easily led astray than Ismae could have been.  

H:    Oh! You stopped when Sybella got punched right?! Cliffhanger….

We’re about to keep reading the next 1/3 of the book.  We ended on quite a scene so I can’t wait to see what awaits Sybella, I hope its a brighter direction soon!

Review: Bad Feminist: Essays

Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay


Published August 5th 2014 by Harper Perennial

Paperback, 320 pages

Source: edelweiss


From Goodreads…

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.

Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

I’m ashamed of how long this review has taken me to write because I loved this book.  As soon as I saw this title I knew I had to read this book.  If it hasn’t come through so far, I can safely say Holly and I are a couple of feminists.  Thanks Mom and Dad!  Quite honestly I don’t understand why any woman wouldn’t call herself a feminist-but I’ll stop before I get ranty.  Back to my point, Amanda is a feminist.  Yet I admit it, I watch The Bachelor.  I play dumb at the Home Depot.  My husband always asks how the Bachelor meshes with my feminist opinions and I know it doesn’t – so in this and in other ways I can call myself a Bad Feminist also.

Anyway, this was a phenomenal collection of essays and its overly broad to say they’re about feminism alone.  They’re also about competitive Scrabble, academia, racism, rape, weight struggles and reading.  Oh the reading:

“If you’re reading to find friends you’re in deep trouble.  We read to find life in all its possibilities.  The relevant question isn’t “‘Is this a potential friend for me, but ‘Is this character alive?’  Perhaps, then, unlikeable characters, the ones who are the most human, are also the ones who are the most alive.  Perhaps this intimacy makes us uncomfortable because we don’t dare be so alive.”

Gay lists so many books that I had to go into my Goodreads to keep up and make sure I could read them all.  And honestly, anyone that can combine commentary on feminism and the reading of my childhood-Sweet Valley High- has my heart.

Aside from cultural commentary, this book was also part memoir and it was honest and painful.  My heart ached for Gay as I read her stories.  My heart also aches because those stories can apply to all women and unless we keep talking about feminism they’re never going to change.

“Feminists are celebrating our victories and acknowledging our privilege when we have it.  We’re simply refusing to settle.  We’re refusing to forget how much work there is yet to be done.  We’re refusing to relish the comforts we have at the expense of the women who are still seeking comfort.”

Bad Feminist will make you laugh and make you cry.  Everyone -man and woman- should read this book and talk about it because there is so much work to be done.  Gay is still touring too-see if you can see her speak! I’m planning to do so.

I’ll end with this quote:

“I am a bad feminist.  I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”


All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley proof subject to change in the final edition

Thank you so much Harper Perennial and edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Salt & Storm

Salt & Storm, Kendall Kulper


September 23rd 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

ebook, 416 pgs

Source: NetGalley


From Goodreads…

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

Avery Roe and her family are definitely tough chicks! Avery’s grandmother is the Roe Witch on Prince Island off the coast of Massachusetts.  She is responsible for charms for safety for the islands’ whalers, for fidelity from their wives and even at times for their deaths at sea.  The Roe Witch is each replaced by her daughter-they only have daughters- who let’s go of her individuality to just become the next Roe Witch.  Avery’s mother has chosen to leave that path and leaves Avery behind with her grandmother.   Avery is waiting for her destiny, when suddenly her mother swoops back into her life and pulls her into a “normal” home.  We meet Avery when she’s living with her mother again who is trying to groom Avery into a nothing more than a marriageable young woman.  Avery cannot access her own magic, with the important exception of telling fortunes based on dreams, and her mother has cursed her so that she cannot return to her grandmother’s cottage.

Avery is miserable when we meet her.  As I mentioned Avery tells fortunes from dreams and she has never been wrong.  When she dreams of her own murder she knows that she cannot change her fate, but she also knows that the Roe Witch cannot be murdered.  She can only hope that by becoming the Roe Witch she can change what she has seen.  Her determination to thwart her mother and return to her grandmother rises to a new level.  I was really impressed with Avery at first.  She pushed herself to the point of blackouts trying to get back to the cottage.  She soon realizes how far her mother is willing to go to keep her from becoming a witch and has to reach out to friends for help.  Avery lost me for a bit at this point-granted her mother was awful and I didn’t like her either-but why couldn’t she talk to her rather than act out like my 3 year-old?!

Avery meets Tane, a Pacific islander who brings the magic of his own people to Prince Island.  Tane has been searching for Avery for an agenda of his own and they work out a deal to break her mother’s curse while Avery tells his dream fortunes.  I loved that Kulper brought in the Pacific Islands and touched on how the whaling ships must have both influenced and terrorized their people.  I thought Tane with his island magic brought a really interesting foil to Avery and her female line of witches.  Even though their relationship moved a bit quickly for me, I was still touched by the romance between Avery and Tane and their hopes for each other and the determination to be together.

I loved how the island itself was part of Avery just as much as the history of the Roe women.  Its a harsh life for the whalers and islanders alike and this fit so well with the fight Avery had to put up against her mother and her own fate.  Though this was a book about witches it was much less about magic than it was about love and family, betrayal and sacrifice.  This was about the choices made by mothers and daughters just as much as the fate of the young lovers.  Avery absolutely lives up to her name and her powerful ancestors.  I’m glad this was a standalone book, but I am really excited to read Kulper is writing a prequel.  The Roe women were fascinating and I would love to read more stories about them-though I would definitely not like to be one of those women!  Have you read Salt & Storm?  If so which Roe magical gift would you like?  I’m leaning towards talking in any language to any creature!

3 stars!

Thank you Little Brown and NetGalley for this copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Banned Book Week

Did you know that September 21-27 is Banned Book Week?

Don’t worry, I didn’t know either, until Amanda told me about it, via Book Journey. Then, I read though some of the lists of books that have been banned over the years, getting angry and also wondering if I had anything to contribute to this conversation that hasn’t already been said a  millions times.

Clearly, I write a blog about books, and you are reading this blog about books, so let’s just assume that you and I both are opposed to the idea of banned books, right?

Scrolling through the list, I saw titles of classic works that I know have long histories of controversies, fantasy books that lead to accusations of black magic or something ridiculous, and, god forbid, kid’s books that normalize same-sex relationships. Oh, the humanity!

But you already know that, right?

What did jump out at me though, were a couple books banned because teenagers use drugs, namely Looking For Alaska and Go Ask Alice. I read both of these books as an adult, not a teen, but I don’t remember reading them and thinking that those books really glamorized drinking and drug use. After all, there are dire consequences in both.

And then I thought about a book I did read as an actual impressionable youth – Sweet Valley High, On the Edge – AKA, the book where Regina dies from cocaine. I remember nothing about that book or the circumstances (though I did remember the name Regina just now to Google), but the message came through loud and clear: all it takes is one time to kill you, kids! To this day, I remain terrified of the mere idea of cocaine. Clearly, I am not the only one, as evidenced by this post from Forever YA: Regina Morrow is the reason I never tried cocaine.

I’m pretty sure that reading Go Ask Alice would have a similar effect on teens – “Alice” is a middle-class, regular old teenager who gets caught up in drugs – and she does not have a happy ending. The kids in Looking for Alaska get into trouble at boarding school, and the book ends with a pretty clear warning.

I suppose I understand why someone who thinks banning books is an appropriate thing to do might look at the descriptions and shout “BAN BAN BAN,” but seriously – this is the opposite of logical.

For one thing, is banning books that include kids doing dumb/illegal/dangerous things based on the assumption that anyone who reads about something is going to go out and try it? I mean, how many people read Life of Pi – and how many of those readers then got onto a boat with a tiger, just for kicks?

Second, that’s completely discounting the lesson, or conclusion, found at the end of the book(s). Spoiler alert: sometimes people die from drugs/drinking/stupidity. Isn’t that exactly the lesson you’d want to impart to a young readers, as opposed to teaching them that some ideas are off limits?

And, my final point – don’t use cocaine, guys. Not even once. #terrifiedsince1992


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On Our Fall To-Be-Read list

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday and here are our Top Ten books to read this fall:


Holly – I honestly have a lot of non-fiction books that I have my eye on, but none of them made it onto this list – probably because they take me longer to read, while I know I can realistically get through most of these while it’s still Fall.

The Silkworm – I know, I know, Amanda and I need to read this book. After all, we LOVED the first Comoran Strike book!

Feed – Amanda told me that I must read THIS Feed, by Mira Grant (currently reading it, sister!), and then I learned there is ANOTHER popular YA book, also called Feed, by M.T. Anderson. I decided I must read both.

Dark Triumph – Not gonna lie, I did not love the first book about teenage nun assassins. But, Amanda has talked me into reading the second, so we should get on that soon. Maybe this one will make more sense?

Silvern – I have some thoughts on Gilded, the first book in this series (trilogy?) – some good, some bad, some undecided, but I am intrigued enough to be ready for Silvern. I shall report back.

Little, Big – Remember when I wrote about the David Foster Wallace article that took me 3 years to read? Well, that ain’t got nothing on Little, Big. I received this book from a co-worker of my dad’s who I adore, for a graduation present. From 8th grade. In 1996. I think I tried to read it then, and I didn’t get very far, but this book has moved all over the place with me, and has a spot on my limited bookshelf. It’s time.

Amanda– I’m doing a happy dance that Holly is reading Feed! Everyone should read it! Seriously!

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) – I’m ashamed of how long I’ve had this out from the library.  The end of the second book just about killed me so I really need to start this.  Its huge though and its been intimidating me because of that.  Seriously, the hardcover is 613 pages.

Bitter Greens – Historical fiction and retelling of Rapunzel set in Venice?  Yes please.

The Cure for Dreaming – This sounds delightfully creepy.  Shamefully I have Cat Winters’ first book In the Shadow of Blackbirds on my shelf to read still too.

The Birth of the Pill – This seems timely with the news regarding reproductive freedom.  My next nonfiction to start-I am really excited!

Dark Triumph – As Holly said above, I wasn’t as enamored with the first book as others, but I’m intrigued by Sybella and I think I’m going to have to talk to my sister into reading this along with me very soon.

What are you looking forward to reading this Fall?

Pink for All Seasons

Amanda: Holly and I are excited to say we’re participating in Pink for All Seasons along with Ashley at the Bubblebath Reader.  What is Pink for All Seasons you ask?  Maybe I haven’t book pushed The Secret History of the Pink Carnation on you yet and for that I apologize! I love this series and the happy escape to the past that they always give to me.  

Holly: So, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is the first of twelve books in the Pink series. #12 will be released in 2015, so Pink for All Seasons is a year-long read-along of the whole series, one book per month. I had actually only read #1 before, so I’m jumping into uncharted territory here. Amanda of course, is doing a re-read.

Amanda: Starting with #1, the adventure is off! Spies abound throughout Europe and abroad, romances flourish and parasols are used as fearsome weapons.  And Eloise-oh I am going to miss her!  Though I’m really sad to know that this series is coming to an end next year I know its probably time.  I hate to see a series I love drag on and become painful to read (I’m looking at you Sookie Stackhouse)  Thankfully Lauren Willig is writing other great historical romances to keep me happy.  

Holly: And yeah, I decided to jump right into this read-along – so much so, that I read the first three Pink books in September. I’m totally digging them!

Amanda: We are going to have a stop on the tour next May with the Garden Intrigue (#9) but we’re definitely going to be reading along in the meantime.  We hope you join in and love these books too!  There’s even going to be a giveaway every month with a signed copy so keep an eye out for those! Amazingly, I won the first giveaway so I now have 2 signed Lauren Willig books!  #booknerdheaven  Please join in reading with us along the way! I hope someone else I know wins another signed book!

Photo credit to Elizabeth at Strange and Random Happenstance

Photo credit to Elizabeth at Strange and Random Happenstance


Review: Horrorstör

Horrorstör: A Novel, Grady Hendrix


To be published: September 23rd 2014 by Quirk Books

Paperback, 240 pages

Source: Quirk Books


Horror is not a genre that I’m drawn to typically, but when I saw the cover and the concept for the Horrorstör book I knew I had to read this.  First-the physical book itself.  Its a large paperback that looks at first like a catalog from a giant Swedish superstore that shall remain nameless.  Then you look at the cover again and catch the framed photos- intriguing right?  I wanted to read this for the cleverness of the concept alone. Each chapter begins with a product sketch and description.  You’ll notice they start to turn much more sinister as the book progresses, so even as you’re getting drawn into this story because its getting darker you’re still laughing at the book.

Now the story, the Orsk store in Cleveland, Ohio is having problems.  Orsk is a furniture superstore built as an American knock-off of the Swedish giant.  Every morning when the store is opened a new problem is discovered; problems that were not there when the store was closed the day before.  Foul substances on sofas, glassware shattered or wardrobes broken-something strange is going on.  Basil, an eager mid-level manager, bribes a few unwilling employees to spend the night in the store to help him catch the culprits before the store can be investigated by the corporate office.  Basil’s crack team includes Amy, a snarky college drop-out who goes along with the plan just to keep her job.  I loved Amy and her attitude in balance with Basil’s devotion to Orsk.  What could possibly go wrong with Basil’s plan to flush out the troublemakers overnight?

I admit as Basil and his helpers set foot into the darkened store that I put this book down rather than read too late at night.  Yes, I’m a weenie and that was maybe unnecessary.  The action got a bit gross, a bit scary, but mostly came off like a fabulously campy horror movie rather than a traumatic ghost story.  Despite the camp I was surprised at how introspective our characters became during the night at Orsk. I was really pulling for them all to dig deep and help themselves get out alive.  This book had me engrossed up until the last page-and then laughing again at the final drawings. If you’re looking for a different kind of read you should absolutely check this out.  I have to go shopping this weekend and I feel a bit afraid to head to a big blue building lest I stray off the Bright and Shining Path and meet one of Hendrix’s creations!

Questions?  Just Orsk! Ha!

5 stars!!

Thank you Quirk Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Make it Right

Make it Right (Bowler University #2), Megan Erickson


Published September 9th 2014 by William Morrow Impulse

Ebook 384 pages

Source: Edelweiss

Thank you for joining us on the Make it Right blog tour today! I hope you enjoy Max and Lea’s story as much as I did!

From Goodreads….

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Max Payton lives by two rules:

Size and strength win any fight, and never show weakness.

When a rash of assaults sends Bowler University for a tail spin, Max volunteers to help teach a self-defense class. One of the other instructors is the beautiful pixie-faced girl he keeps butting heads with…and who challenges everything he thought he knew.

Lea Travers avoids guys like Max – cocky jocks who assume she’s fragile because of a disability caused by a childhood accident. She likes to be in control, and something about being with Max makes her feel anything but. But during the moments he lets his guard down, Lea sees a soul as broken inside as she is outside. Trusting him is a whole other problem…

When the assaults ramp up and hit close to home, Lea and Max must learn, before it’s too late, that true strength can come from vulnerability…and giving in to trust is sometimes the only way to make things right.

Oh Max and Lea.  I reviewed Megan Erickson’s Make it Count here and I have to tell you that Make it Right was even more fun.   When we met Max in MiC he was the not-so-great boyfriend of our heroine Kat.  He was meathead and honestly a jerk.  You had to root against him and for Kat and Alec.   I was not really sure how Erickson was going to turn Max into a character who I wanted to see fall in love and win the girl in the end, but she definitely did!

I knew that I was starting to fall for Max when he began searching for recipes to make gourmet cat treats for the stray he took in-who wouldn’t love a guy like that?  We learn how Max learned to build up the walls around his heart and you have to let your heart soften towards him.  And wow- the date he plans when Lea gives him a chance -swoon!  Max may have made some mistakes along the way, but I knew he was going to make it when he went through so much to plan the perfect night for Lea.

Then we have Lea.  Lea is not a fan of Max at the start because she is friends with Kat, but she starts to realize the sparks flying between them are more than just Max being a jerk.  Lea has had a hard path to get to Bowler University and she has walls of her own built up.  Lea may look frail, but she teaches Max that his strength is not the only kind that counts.  The banter between Max and Lea cracked me up and I think this is one of Erickson’s strengths; her characters are just funny together!  I knew this was a book for me when I caught a Dirty Dancing reference early on.

Lea and Max give each other chances when others might not have done so.   They teach each other about vulnerability and forgiveness, as well as when to stand your ground and fight and when to accept help.  I am so glad Erickson gave Max a book to come back from Make it Count and I loved him with Lea.

Also, let me just say-damn-Megan Erickson can write some sexy, sexy scenes.  I cannot wait to see what she comes up with for Bowler University #3 next year!  Give Max and Lea a chance and let me know what you think of this pair!

4 stars !

You can enter a Rafflecopter giveaway to win your own copy of Make it Right!

About Megan:

Megan Erickson grew up in a family that averages 5’5” on a good day and started writing to create characters who could reach the top kitchen shelf.

She’s got a couple of tattoos, has a thing for gladiators and has been called a crazy cat lady. After working as a journalist for years, she decided she liked creating her own endings better and switched back to fiction.

She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two cats. And no, she still can’t reach the stupid top shelf.

Thank you edelweiss and William Morrow for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Hosted by Good Choice Reading Blog Tours


Review: Barracuda

Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas


Published September 9th 2014 by Crown Publishing

Hardcover, 448 pages

Source: NetGalley


Fourteen-year-old Daniel Kelly is special. Despite his upbringing in working-class Melbourne, he knows that his astonishing ability in the swimming pool has the potential to transform his life, silence the rich boys at the private school to which he has won a sports scholarship, and take him far beyond his neighborhood, possibly to international stardom and an Olympic medal. Everything Danny has ever done, every sacrifice his family has ever made, has been in pursuit of this dream. But what happens when the talent that makes you special fails you? When the goal that you’ve been pursuing for as long as you can remember ends in humiliation and loss?

Twenty years later, Dan is in Scotland, terrified to tell his partner about his past, afraid that revealing what he has done will make him unlovable. When he is called upon to return home to his family, the moment of violence in the wake of his defeat that changed his life forever comes back to him in terrifying detail, and he struggles to believe that he’ll be able to make amends. Haunted by shame, Dan relives the intervening years he spent in prison, where the optimism of his childhood was completely foreign.

Tender, savage, and blazingly brilliant, Barracuda is a novel about dreams and disillusionment, friendship and family, class, identity, and the cost of success. As Daniel loses everything, he learns what it means to be a good person—and what it takes to become one.

I’ll be honest and say I had a moment or two where I almost put Barracuda down, however, in the end I’m really glad that I chose not to.  Once I started to get into this book I nearly couldn’t step away, despite the fact that it was an uncomfortable read at times.  The language is harsh, the sexual descriptions graphic and the writing powerful.  My heart ached for Danny and his family, and for his coach.

Barracuda takes us back and forth in time, beginning with Dan as an adult and then flashing back to Danny in the pool and as a young man.  I liked the changes in time, though honestly I could have done without the scenes from his time in prison.  I felt like Tsiolkas made the points of what Dan got out of his time in prison clear without my having to read those scenes.

Danny thinks-no he knows that he’s the best in the world.  His vision of the future is all about the swimming and where it will take him in life.  When he fails as a swimmer he becomes completely unmoored and adult Dan continues to suffer as a result.  I kind of wanted to reach into the book and shake him at times to say: Find a focus! Find a life outside the pool!  Whether he’s Dan or Danny, he’s an angry young man and I think that was part of my struggle reading this book.  Danny hates the rich students at the school giving him a scholarship, he hates the “golden boys” that swim against him, much as he loves his family and friends he seems to hate them at times too.  The anger becomes focused in Danny’s violence later and in the sex scenes felt really brutal to me.

Danny was driven and focused and I was captivated by the scenes with him in the water.  Even when he is not winning the writing was beautiful:

The water would not love him as it had during the race; tomorrow it would once more be a force to battle, to master, to defeat.

I feel like it was the water that pulled me through Barracuda.  The descriptions of his swimming were wonderful.  I was carried along hoping for Dan’s redemption and for him to find peace from his shame.   I walked away with a lighter heart than I expected at the conclusion for which I’m thankful.

Also, I know we have such an idealistic Australia that we picture as Americans but it was really good to read about a “real” Australia.  It was important to read about class struggles, immigration and race and more than going to the beach and drinking beer in hostels.  So for those reasons too this was an eye opening book for me.  This was a hard read, but I am glad I saw it through as I am definitely still thinking about it.

4 stars!

All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley proof subject to change in the final edition

Thank you NetGalley and Crown Publishing for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.