Sunday, October 16, 2016

ARC Review: Murmuration by T.J. Klune

From the blurb:

In the small mountain town of Amorea, it’s stretching toward autumn of 1954. The memories of a world at war are fading in the face of a prosperous future. Doors are left unlocked at night, and neighbors are always there to give each other a helping hand.

The people here know certain things as fact:

Amorea is the best little town there is.

The only good Commie is a dead Commie.

The Women’s Club of Amorea runs the town with an immaculately gloved fist.

And bookstore owner Mike Frazier loves that boy down at the diner, Sean Mellgard. Why they haven’t gotten their acts together is anybody’s guess. It may be the world’s longest courtship, but no one can deny the way they look at each other.

Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say.

But something’s wrong with Mike. He hears voices in his house late at night. There are shadows crawling along the walls, and great clouds of birds overhead that only he can see.

Something’s happening in Amorea. And Mike will do whatever he can to keep the man he loves.

My rating:

*Spoiler-free review*

*3.75 stars*

I was pretty nervous about Murmuration from the blurb. What was this book like? Angsty? Violent? Tragic? I wasn't sure that I wanted to read it because I haven't been in the mindset to read anything bleak. However, after seeing T.J. Klune write about how this book isn't dark, I decided to give it a go.

Murmuration ended up giving me an interesting mix of emotions. Now, I'm always EXTREMELY conscious about not spoiling anything for my fellow readers. My reviews tend to be 95% about how a book made me feel. I sometimes don't even put the characters' names in my reviews because I just don't talk plot... at all. I like finding out everything for myself, and I like others to have that experience as well.

This book is pretty hard to talk about without spoiling anything but *I'm going to try to do it.*

Right from the start of the story, I cottoned on to the basic plot, or at least I thought I did. It turns out that I was about 70% correct, which is pretty good considering I am usually terrible at guessing these things. It helps that I read a M/F book within the past 12 months or so that had a vaguely similar plot, so the general vibe felt somewhat familiar to me.

More important than the actual plot, however, is how the framework of the story made me feel. There is a general sense of unease that I felt while reading this story. As you can tell from the blurb, Mike is trying to figure out what is happening to him, and going through the motions with him gave the book a more intense, mystery-vibe than I was expecting.

It's also true that the story isn't dark, per se, but it also isn't a cheery, light story either. Mike has a lot going on with him, as we find out through reading, and some of that is pretty painful stuff. This story isn't a story that will make you cry, but it does have a level of that turmoil. At least, it didn't make me cry.

If you are expecting one of T.J. Klune's funny stories, look elsewhere. This one isn't funny and it isn't supposed to be.

While I'm painting a picture of a book that seems pretty bleak... it also isn't that either. There is a lot of hope and happiness in the story, and most of that is due to Mike's relationship with Sean. The romance between Mike and Sean is sweet, affectionate, and lovely. They are already dating... sort of... when the book starts. The two are dancing around each other in an "aw shucks" kind of way, but it is apparent from the start that they are drawn together, belong together. There is no relationship-related angst, which I liked.

T.J. Klune called this book one of the most romantic books he's ever written. I'm... I'm not sure about that, at least from my perspective. In fact, while I liked the romance and loved the intensity of it, I didn't feel that RUSH of rooooommmaaannncceee until the last 3% of the story. I actually marked it on my Kindle, because I felt a WOOSH in my gut at the end. This book is romantic in a "I'll do anything in the world for you" kind of way, or in a classic, movie-type of romance. It is hard to explain without giving too much away. However, I think I would have felt that romance-punch earlier if I wasn't so distracted with trying to figure out what was going to happen next with each step of the story. I was more into the plot and what was coming than the romance for a large chunk of it.

I really liked the book for the majority of the story, and I had a hard time putting it down. I struggled a little bit with how I felt during the last 25% (other than the last 5%, which I loved). The latter portion of the book was a bit of "explain, explain, explain" for my taste, and it interrupted the dreamy, intense vibe from earlier in the story. I'm not sure how else it could have played out, but it was not my favorite part of the book.

As you can see, this book is hard to describe and even harder to quantify. It was very well written and very thoughtful, as all of T.J. Klune's books are. I have to say it one more time, but this book is very well written. TJ has a remarkable way with words, and I loved how he crafted the cadence of the book. This story was probably insanely hard to write in a way that came across as cohesive, and it flowed beautifully.

My take away is that Murmuration made me think a lot and really reflect a lot, which is always a good thing. You'll just have to try it for yourself to get the entire experience.

*Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Enjoy, everyone!

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