The stuff nightmares are made of

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The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Oghi has woken from a coma only to learn that he has been involved in an accident that has left him paralyzed and unable to speak and his wife dead. He is left in the care of his mother-in-law and is the object of neglect and abuse.  He only has the small bedroom and his memories and has no control over anything in his life – his health, his money, his home, his future.  His mother-in-law obviously doesn’t have Oghi’s best interests at heart.  She starts to work in her dead daughter’s garden, strangely digging larger and larger holes.

To say more about the plot would be to spoil the author’s meticulous rendering of this chilling story. She builds up a feeling of dread and suspense that had me on the edge of my seat.  There was one scene in the book where I literally jumped out of my chair and walked around the room reading it.  I flew through the book and am looking forward to more of this author.  It’s a short read but definitely intriguing.  Quite a literary accomplishment in the thriller genre.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Fascinating, illuminating and moving

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The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

Book Review:  5 out of 5 stars

There are three stories in this wonderful novel about the history and destiny of bees and their ties to humanity. The stories take place in 1851, 2007 and 2098. 1851 tells the story of British shopkeeper William Savage, whose dream is to build a better bee hive to ensure his children a better future. 2007 centers on George and his son, Tom. George is a beekeeper who longs to build up his business together with Tom, but Tom’s longings lie elsewhere. In 2098, Tao has the horrendous job of hand painting pollen on trees in an effort to provide enough food for the Chinese inhabitants. There are no longer bees in her world. It’s a very physically taxing job and she fears for her little son who will soon be old enough to join the workers. But then tragedy strikes and Tao sets off on a perilous journey looking for answers.

I absolutely loved this book. Each of the three stories touched my heart. The chapters are short and I would no sooner get pulled into one story than the author would switch to one of the other stories so there are often cliffhangers. I was never disappointed to switch as I found each of the stories as fascinating as the other. This style of writing really moved the book along and kept me wanting to know more. This Norwegian author cleverly maps out this beautifully written book so that each of the stories have a final connection.

Bees. Such little creatures but so very important to our existence. Our world has seen what might happen should bees disappear completely. The author has provided a fascinating look at the beginning of bee keeping, the period when bee colonies first started encountering difficulties and what the future might look like without hard working bees. Even more than a study of bees told in a very moving way, this book also touchingly delves into the bond of parents and their children.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

A heartwarming tale of a charming curmudgeon

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The Temptation To Be Happy by Lorenzo Marone

Book Review:  5 out of 5 stars

Cesare Annunziata is a very cynical man. His is a rather lonely life.  He’s a 77-year-old widower who doesn’t have much of a relationship with either his son or his daughter.  His long-time friend, Marino, lives downstairs in Cesare’s building but Marino hasn’t been out of his apartment in years.  Cesare occasionally does see a nurse, Rossana, but he’s not sure exactly how he feels about her.  There’s also the cat lady in the building who Cesare tries to avoid at all costs.

And then beautiful, young Emma moves into the building with her husband and life will never be the same for Cesare. He’s always had an eye for the ladies so he’s completely intrigued by the elusive Emma.  But then he and the cat lady start hearing awful sounds coming from Emma’s apartment and she starts showing signs of abuse.  Should Cesare become involved or keep his nose out of it?

What is a perfect delight this little book is! It’s written in a light manner but has deep philosophical undertones.  I laughed out loud as I read, that is whenever I wasn’t crying.  I continually nodded my head in agreement at the things that Cesare said and thought.  This is really quite a touching story and I absolutely loved grumpy old Cesare and all of the residents in the building.  I was shocked to learn that the author is only 42 as he nailed this elderly man to a tee.  The author is Italian and I believe this is the only book of his that has been translated to English.  I do hope to see more of his work available.

Highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Quietly discomforting

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Autopsy of a Father by Pascale Kramer

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Ania is estranged from her father, Gabriel, a prominent journalist, not having seen him for four years. However, she decides to visit him with her young son, Theo.  The visit is an awkward one.  Ania is shocked to learn the next day that her father has committed suicide.  Ania returns to her father’s home where she grew up and tries to piece together the last years of her father’s life.  She discovers that her father was fired from his job when he defended the murder of a harmless African immigrant.  Her father’s actions have released a violent response in the community.  How did her father turn into such a racist?

I was very impressed by this short novel translated from the French language in which the author wrote. It’s a quiet book but kept me riveted to the pages with a chill up my spine.  The title is a perfect one as this book is in fact an autopsy of this man, an in depth look at his life, family and animosity towards immigrants.  It’s insightful and compelling and casts a light on the racial tension in France.

I now want to read more of this author’s work and I’ll be getting a chance to do just that since, along with an ARC of Ms. Kramer’s newest book, the publisher also kindly sent me a copy of “The Child” by the same author. You’ll be seeing a review on that book fairly soon!

Very unsettling and quite fascinating. Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Packed with emotion

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The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

This book is based on the real-fire catastrophic wildfire that took place in 1947 in Maine. There’s been a very long drought and Grace Holland and her best friend, Rosie, long for rain.  But the lack of water isn’t the only drought Grace is facing.  From what she hears from Rosie, Grace knows that her marriage bed is not what it should be.  A violent night with her husband leaves her pregnant with her third child.  This is her third pregnancy in less than two years and she’s exhausted.

When Grace is five months pregnant, the wildfires start to rage out of control. Her husband, Greg, leaves her with their two very young children to join the firefighters. The fires wreak havoc upon the homes and lives of Grace and Rosie.  But Grace’s tragedy doesn’t end the day of the fires.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Anita Shreve and she has surpassed herself with this book. I’ve read reviews saying that it’s too slow moving but I thought it was just perfect.  This is a complex plot that only begins with the tragic fires.  The author has done a masterful job of depicting the difficulties of this marriage, its effect on Grace and her longing for a better life.   I was glued to each page of this book and had no idea what was going on around me while I was reading it.  The day of the fire is edge of your seat suspenseful.  The story of Grace and her marriage and the time following the fire is so gorgeously written.   The ending brought tears to my eyes.

Most highly recommended.

Quite a captivating book

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The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase

Book Review:  4 out of 5 stars

Jessie hopes that a move to the country will help her relationship with her teenage step daughter, Bella. Jessie is also trying to escape from being surrounded by memories of her husband’s deceased wife, Mandy, and wants a fresh start.  But their new home is not the haven that Jessie had hoped for.  Bella is caught up in the disappearance of a young girl, Audrey, some 50 years ago.

The book fluctuates between telling the present-day story of Jessie and the story of the missing Audrey 50 years ago. Five years after Audrey’s disappearance, Margot and her three sisters are sent off by their mother to stay with Audrey’s parents, their Aunt Sybil and Uncle Perry.  Sybil and Perry have been housebound since their daughter’s disappearance and pretty much shunned by their neighbors since Perry had been a suspect in his daughter’s disappearance.  Margot is pulled into the strange world Audrey has left behind and the sisters are drawn apart by the attentions of two young men.  When disaster strikes, hard decisions need to be made.

This is the second book by this author and I’ve had the pleasure of reading them both. I very much enjoy the characters and atmosphere that she creates in her books.  While in many ways, it’s a typical tale of an old English house with past secrets, the author has quite a knack for bringing her characters to life and has wonderful insight into the human heart.

Spellbinding and recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Free Promotion… Miedo 2: A Reckoning With Fear

BOOKS & MUSIC

Starting tomorrow, Thursday, 29th June and through to Monday, 3rd July, Miedo 2: A Reckoning With Fear will be free at Amazon.

I’m doing this promotion with the hope of obtaining some honest reviews and attracting new readers for my third and final project of this series. The link below is universal. I do hope you take up on this offer, and thank you in advance for your support.

Miedo2

As Miedo comes into young adulthood, he is confronted with new demons while he searches for answers to his past through Spiritualism. But, rather than finding answers, he is left with more questions as a plethora of paranormal experiences occur in his life yet again. His spiritual journey leads him towards the path of Christianity, but where will his physical journey take him?

Contains adult themes

Amazon Universal Link

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Do we ever know anyone?

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Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Billie Flanagan is the mother of teenager Olive and the wife of Jonathan. She’s a bit on the rebellious side and despite warnings of hiking alone, she sets off for Desolation Wilderness and doesn’t return nor has her body been found.   A year after her mother’s disappearance, Olive begins to have visions of her mother asking that Olive find her which convinces Olive that her mother is still alive.  Jonathan is trying to have Billie officially declared dead so he can access insurance money that the family desperately needs but he’s having doubts as to what happened to Billie as he has found secrets that she has kept from him.

I had trouble getting into this one. Some of the characters’ decisions just didn’t gel with the characters’ nature as the author described them.  Some of it was hard to believe, especially the ending.  The parts concerning Olive mostly seemed written in a YA style.  The author does do a good job of describing the characters’ grief and their struggles following Billie’s disappearance.  And it certainly did keep me guessing right up to the end.  While I did find some enjoyment in reading t, the book didn’t impress me enough that I want to read the author’s other books so I can’t give it more than 3 stars.

An average book that I enjoyed.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

What an imagination King has!

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Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

What can I say? I’ve been a fan of Stephen King’s since I read his first book, “Carrie”, in the 70’s.   He seldom, if ever, disappoints and he has produced another gem in this novella.

Gwendy (combination of Gwendolyn which her father wanted to name her and Wendy which her mother wanted) is a young girl who is determined to lose some weight so has been running up and down the Suicide Stairs in Castle Rock. One day she meets a stranger who gives her a very special box.  But is that box a blessing or a curse?

Stephen isn’t the only one listed as author of this book. Richard Chizmar also worked with him on this.  I’m not familiar with Mr. Chizmar’s work so can’t tell what his influences are in this story.  It does seem like all King to me.

As always, King’s books are not just about horror. He’s an expert at characterization, which is what I love about his books.  He makes his characters so accessible, so down to earth and so relatable that you understand them immediately and care about them.  That’s what makes his horror so horrible because you only want good things to happen to these people, nothing bad.  But of course you know they’re headed to that dark side of life.

Entertaining and recommended novella.

A fast, entertaining book

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The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Cass takes a short cut through the woods one stormy night, even though her husband had made her promise not to. She sees a stopped car with a woman in it but she’s too frightened to stop and just wants to get home.  The next day she learns that the woman in the car had been killed.  Cass is overcome with remorse and shame that she didn’t stop to help the woman.  As she struggles with her guilty secret, she also struggles with her fear that she is losing her memory – or her mind.  The silent phone calls she’s receiving haven’t helped as she believes they’re from the murderer.

What I liked about this book was the fact that not only did Cass not know who she could trust but she couldn’t even trust her own mind. Sure, there were times she over reacted but she was under a great deal of stress.  I felt that the author’s decision to add in a fear of early-onset dementia was what held the book together for me.  It made it all seem very realistic and I was pulled into the suspenseful plot.  I did figure out what was going on fairly early but I still had to see what happened.  I didn’t expect the ending and thought the author did a good job of pulling it together.  It’s also one of those books where you just want to shake the main character and say “Just tell someone, you fool!”  But of course that’s all part of the fun.

A fast entertaining book. Recommended for light summer reading.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.