Review – The History of Us

The History of UsThere’s that saying that you can’t pick your family. You know the one and have probably marveled at its truthfulness at one family event or another over the years. You know, when that weird cousin brings a stripper to a wedding and no one can stop staring.* Anyway, that’s sort of the point of The History of Us. It’s all about family, and all the great and annoying qualities you wouldn’t trade for the world mostly because those defining moments in life become great blog fodder. Yes, that.

Eloise Hemple is a newly minted college professor when she receives a call informing her that her sister and brother-in-law have died in an accident. She rushes home and somehow never leaves; staying to raise children that aren’t hers but children she can’t live without — the only part of her sister she has left. Life veers into the unfamiliar and instead of writing well-received research papers on her topic of choice, she’s struggling to pay the heating bills, ballet lessons, and save for college for three children that were not part of the future she imaged, and so carefully planned, for herself.

I wanted to feel sorry for Eloise but I couldn’t because she wouldn’t let you. She knew from the moment she took that call that her life would never be what she thought, and hoped, it would be. Her three children (and they are her children), Theo, Josh, and Claire, are a different story though. Her niece Theo is a self-righteous, annoying person who thinks she’s been slighted her whole life. Yes, she lost parents but Eloise went out of her way to ensure she never lacked for anything giving up any hope of a life she might have had for Theo’s sake. When Eloise finally starts to want a life of her own after raising the three siblings, Theo balks and does everything she can to blame her for any bit of unhappiness she feels or has ever felt. Josh, well, he copes like he always does. Claire throws every plan on its head with a decision no one saw coming. All in all, life in most families.

There are the ones you feel sad for, the ones you get annoyed by, and the ones you just like no matter what. Stewart manages all the personalities well and doesn’t let you like or dislike anyone of these characters too much. It’s a heartwarming story and if you happen to like family drama, I’d give this one a try. You’ll be annoyed, you’ll possibly want to yell at a character or two, then you’ll finish the book, grab a glass of wine and head back in that room with your family knowing it will all work out somehow. Or at the very least, you’ll come out of it with a story to tell.

* Stripper at wedding is a true family story. I kid you not.

The History of Us

By Leah Stewart

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781451672626

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Review – All Seeing Eye

Jackson Lee Eye is a man with a thing about touching — he doesn’t do it. When he does, he can see everything that happens in that person’s life; the good, the bad, and the mundane. It started when he was 14. He found the shoe of his younger sister Tess lying on the ground, and picking it up, saw her dead in a well. That vision, and the aftermath, haunts him every day of his life. After finding the shoe, he saw his mother murdered and he himself pulled the trigger on his step-father. After years in a state home, he escapes and makes a living using the only skill he has, the ability to read people. When a scientist comes knocking on his door asking him to become part of a study, he goes on high alert. As it turns out, he’s being blackmailed by the government. Forced to help the military bring an end to an experiment gone wrong, he finds himself re-living the events of others and he knows this little experiment will leave him with nightmares for the rest of his life.

This was the book I was in the mood for. I wanted a little creepy, a little dark, and I got it. And the characters — well, at least one — were likable. Jackson Lee Eye and his dog Houdini were very likable characters and the others provided the creep factor I was looking for.

I expected a twist and got it, and it happened in the way I wanted it to which made this a very satisfying read. In fact, I devoured the book. I don’t have an explanation for this but I always, no matter what, enjoy stories where one or more of the characters are a psychic. I have no reason why but I just love it. And I loved how Jackson reacted to each person and what he/she was hiding. In some cases, the sociopathic natures were more interesting than the characters themselves because I kept waiting for these people to reveal themselves.

Being a person that reads the last few pages of a book early on, I was slightly surprised to see a little twist at the end that I didn’t catch. Yep, I may not like surprises all that much (really, I read the last page before I hit page 10, what would you expect me to say here) but I liked the one I came across here. I guess you can say it’s still nice to be surprised by characters.

I’m being evasive and that’s intentional. I try my best not to give away spoilers and this story unfolds in a way that I don’t want to give away because that’s the fun of it. If you’re looking for a good October book, one to curl up with on a windy fall evening, well, here’s one. It’s a fast moving thriller that will make for a good evening read.

All Seeing Eye

By Rob Thurman

Pocket Books

ISBN: 9781451652222

4 stars