Quite entertaining

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Lies by T.M. Logan

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

When Joe Lynch unsuspectingly follows his wife’s car one day at the bequest of his small son who wants to “surprise” mommy, he sets off a series of terrible events.  He’s now being framed for a murder that he believes never even happened.  Just when you think things can’t get worse, they do and the noose keeps getting tighter and tighter around Joe’s neck.

This is quite an addictive book and I really cared for Joe and his plight.  He’s such a good guy, good father and good husband that the course of events seemed so very unfair.  Social media and technology play a heavy hand in this suspenseful thriller.  It was quite scary to see how easier this app or that app can be downloaded onto your phone and your privacy is completely gone.  How realistic the tale was, I’m not sure but it was certainly a fun ride.  And I never saw the end coming.  Not only was this a fast thriller but it also touched on the fragility of our relationships with others and how destructive lies can be.

Recommended.

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

 

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A delight that will break your heart

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Nana is living the life of a stray cat in Tokyo.  He’s claimed the top of a van as his home.  He’s doing just fine, thank you, until one day when he’s hit by a car and injured quite badly.  Satoru, the cat lover who owns the van and who has been leaving Nana food, takes Nana to the vet and brings him into his home to recuperate.  Nana reminds Satoru of a cat he had as a child that he had to give up.  That cat’s name was Hachi and Satoru still mourns the loss of that beloved cat.  Five years pass quickly when Satoru tells Nana that they have to take a journey.  Satoru has to find another home for Nana but doesn’t tell the reason why this is so.

Have you ever had a cat that you loved beyond all reason?  Then this is the book for you.  Nana the cat is the witty narrator of this delightful yet poignant story.  I’ve read several books by Japanese authors over the last year that had the same charm and quirkiness.  These books are written in such a simple manner and yet are so profound.  They read like a folktale with deep meaning and I’ve on the hunt for more like this one.   This delightful book truly touched my heart and I know I’ll never forget it and that’s all I can ever ask of a book.  Nana and Satoru crept into my heart and there they will stay.

Most highly recommended.

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

 

Haunting, touching psychological drama

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The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star review

Nine-year-old Samuel misses his mother.  She’s left him alone with the housekeeper Ruth.  Ruth as told Samuel that his mother had to go to America to try to save the family business.  She didn’t even say goodbye and left in the middle of the night while he was sleeping.  But she’s been gone months and he begins to suspect that something has happened to her.  He begins to believe that Ruth has murdered his mother.

The comparisons of this book to the work of Shirley Jackson and Daphne Du Maurier convinced me that it was a must read.  I believe the book is closer to the work of Jackson than Du Maurier.  The author has created a very tense, suspenseful atmosphere.  At points in the book, you think you know where it’s headed but then the author turns it around, again and again, until you’re really not sure what to expect.  My heart was touched by the anguished plight of young Samuel.  It’s quite a sad story, either way the author decided to go.  I had a hard time putting it down and found it to be a very satisfying read.

Recommended.

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

 

Totally bleak, exhausting novel

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Ohio by Stephen Markley

Book Review:  2 out of 3 stars

Four classmates come back to the hometown of New Canaan one summer.  Bill Ashcraft is an alcoholic and drug abuser and has completely lost his way.  Stacey Moore comes back to confront the mother of her former girlfriend.  Dan Eaton is a veteran of the Afghanistan War and has never forgotten his first love.  Tina Ross has something to settle with the former captain of the football team.  There are actually four novellas in this book, each involving one of the above characters and all interacting with one character, the deceased classmate, Rick, who was killed in Afghanistan.

This book has all the markings of a book I should have loved.  It’s a truly tragic story and I had read such good things about the book.  But I truly did not like it.  Before I chose this book, I had read that the author uses beautiful language but any beautiful language used is negated by the constant course language used by the characters.  I had read that it was an emotional book but to be emotional for me, a book needs to have characters the reader cares about.  I did not like these characters and couldn’t relate to their problems.

This book seems to be a social commentary on how 9/11 left our country and its people in shambles.  I don’t believe we’re all suffering from PTSD as this book indicates.  It’s almost written as a dystopian novel, creating a horrible, destroyed world I’m not familiar with.  It seemed to me that most of the characters, though certainly not all, used 9/11 and the war as an excuse for not getting their lives together.  I soon tired of reading about their self-indulgences involving alcohol, drugs and sex and sickened of them wallowing in their self-misery.

Not recommended.

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

The first of a series from a well-loved author

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The Last Hours by Minette Walters

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

The Church believes that God has sent The Black Death amongst the people of England as punishment.  It’s 1348 and no one understands how this plague kills so quickly.  Fear is rampant.  But Lady Anne of Develesh has some knowledge of sanitation and the spread of disease and she decides to quickly bring in all of the serfs inside her manor house which is protected by a moat.  When her husband, the brutish Sir Richard, returns home from visiting a prospective husband for his daughter, Lady Anne refuses to let him and his men back in, fearing that they have been infected.  As time goes by, a new fear arises – the fear of starvation as food supplies dwindle. A serf, Thaddeus Thurkell, leads a band of ill-equipped young men into the unknown to see if any other villagers are still alive and also in a quest for food.

Do be aware that this is the first of a series and leaves much of the plot hanging.  I have been a long time reader of Minette Walters’ crime novels and she has always been a favorite author of mine.  I was thrilled to learn of this new book since she hasn’t published a full length novel in the last ten years.  This is quite a departure from Ms. Walters’ prior books, though it does contain a murder and has quite a suspenseful plot.  I enjoyed this story and would love to see it being done on Masterpiece Theater.   Lady Anne is an admirable character though I’m unsure if such a knowledgeable person would have existed in 1348.   This is quite an in depth study of the reactions of people faced with a terrible plague such as this, with some growing into stronger people and others only caring about themselves.  It also has a contemporary component involving class inequality.

On the negative side, I did begin to lose interest about half way through.  There are parts of the book that dragged on too long.  It’s quite a long book, being 544 pages, and I found myself just wanting to get to the end.  I had been completely unaware that this was the first of a series and when I saw the words “to be continued”, I felt cheated but I also felt that I didn’t really want to read another book in this series.  So for that reason, I can’t give this wonderful author more than 3 stars for her newest endeavor.

While it wasn’t entirely for me, I would recommend it for those who enjoy historical fiction.

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

Excellent addition to the Marlowe collection

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Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

At 72 years of age, Philip Marlowe has retired.  But when he’s offered a case by an insurance company, he decides to have one last adventure.  They want Marlowe to investigate the death of Donald Zinn.  They’ve paid Zinn’s widow a very large sum of money but something doesn’t seem right and they think Marlowe is the man to get to the bottom of it.

Who doesn’t know and love Philip Marlowe?  What a perfect delight to have an author such as Lawrence Osborne bring him to life once again.  The Robert Chandler Estate asked Mr. Osborne to write this book and they couldn’t have picked a better author to do the job.  Osborne has done a wonderful job of creating an older Marlowe.  And he has done an excellent job of depicting a man who has led an adventurous life but now is headed to a more sedentary life and all of the conflicting emotions that go along with that.  So enjoyable to once again join Marlowe as he takes on his last investigation.

This is a bit different from Mr. Osborne’s other books in that he adapts the Chandler style of telling this story.  But his particular talents still shine through.  He’s lived in many countries and has quite a knack for detailing each location that he brings his characters to.  Most of this book takes place in different locations in Mexico and the author brings his readers right there with him.  With all the sights and smells and colors, you’ll completely forget that you’re not actually there.  I do hope that one day Mr. Osborne will once again bring Mr. Marlowe out of retirement for another adventure.

Recommended.

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

 

Dig in and explore this literary work

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The Family Tabor by Cherise Wolas

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Harry Tabor is about to be honored as Man of the Decade for his charitable works.  His family are on their way to his home to join him and his wife, Roma, who is a child psychologist.  His son, Simon, is a lawyer and will be bringing with him his wife and two young daughters.  His daughter, Camille, is a social anthropologist and his daughter, Phoebe, is a lawyer.  They’re all so proud of Harry and each of them have their own reasons for wanting this occasion to be a family-bonding one.

But Harry’s mind seems to have been playing tricks with him and hiding some vital memories.  Those memories start to resurface, helped along by a voice in Harry’s mind and even a vision or two.   As the memories increase, Harry’s jubilation at his upcoming honor starts to crumble.  Is he the honorable man he thought he was?  His children, whose lives seemed all so perfect, are also struggling with their own demons.  Simon can’t sleep at nights and has discovered a desire for Judaism, Camille is having career setbacks and has taken a job at a hospice and Phoebe has an imaginary boyfriend as she can’t face her family with her loveless life.  None of them are being truthful with each other or their parents.  Poor Roma knows her husband and children are having problems but can’t get them to confide in her.

I was completely blown away by this author’s debut book, “The Resurrection of Joan Ashby”.  While I can’t say the same about her newest effort, I did enjoy it.  It took me awhile to become invested with the characters and the writing was sometimes a bit too ponderous for me.   But I grew to care for this family very much.  I think Simon’s story touched me the most.  He was a good father and husband and his new-found desire to explore his Jewish roots should never have had the outcome it did.  I felt so crushed for him.  Roma took on the troubles of each of her loved ones and was such a true-to-life character.  As for the Man of the Decade, Harry, his journey in this book is definitely a compelling one.

I think the book may not be to everyone’s taste and that’s a shame because there are such wonderful literary tidbits throughout.  There’s no fast paced plot here and the writing can be a bit heavy at times.  But to those who like a book that you can dig into and explore like an archaeological excavation, I do recommend this one.

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

 

Can always count on this author for an interesting read

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The Disappearing by Lori Roy

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Lane Fielding has returned home after twenty years to once again live with her parents.  She never wanted to return but her divorce was a hard one and she’s back with her two daughters, Annalee and Talley.  She’s not welcome in town since her father has for many years been suspected of abusing, and possibly killing, young boys at a nearby reform school.  Lane has her own mystery of what happened to her when she disappeared at the age of 13 years old that still follows her around.  Now another young blond girl has disappeared and the reporters are back in town.  The past will soon touch Lane’s fragile family in an even more frightening way.

I’ve read all of Lori Roy’s books and they never disappoint.  The author is very good at bringing her damaged characters to life and keeping her readers hooked.  This is a slow moving book, sometimes I thought it was a bit too slow but then it would pick up again.  I loved Lane and admired her efforts to be a good mother to the often difficult Annalee and the young vulnerable Talley.  Lane had a hard upbringing and she vowed to do better by her daughters.  She and her twisted family and their battle with their demons makes for an interesting story.  The past is never too far from the present.  This novel is apparently based on the real-life tragedy at the Arthur Dozier School for Boys in Florida.

Recommended.

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

An emotional roller coaster

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Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

7-year-old Hanna is such a good little girl for her father.  But things are much different when she’s with her mother.  The little girl loves her father and feels he understands her.  She wants her mother out of the way – permanently.   Hanna has never spoken and though her parents have had many medical tests done, no reason for her muteness has been discovered.  Hanna’s mother, Suzette, has had a hard life.  Her mother was not the best to her and Suzette has vowed to do better with Hanna.  Suzette has also had a lot of medical issues and the stress due to difficulties with Hanna has brought Suzette to the breaking point.

This book is labeled as a thriller and at times I thought it was spreading into the supernatural genre and/or the horror genre.  But my take on the book is that the situation this family found themselves in was all too real, which made it all the more frightening.  This is a shocking story and at times it felt like it couldn’t possibly happen.  The battle of wits between this fragile mother and her young child was truly cringe inducing.   There is a scene towards the end of the book that completely brought me to tears.  The author does a fabulous job of keeping readers on an emotional seesaw.  One chapter had me thinking, oh, the poor little girl, and the next chapter had me thinking oh, the poor mother.  This was quite an emotional roller coaster of an experience.

This isn’t going to be for everyone and at times I wasn’t sure it was for me but then I’d start enjoying it again.  There are times when I felt like the young girl’s ability to manipulate and plan was unbelievable and I didn’t care at all for the foul language the mother used.  But it certainly kept up the tension and suspense.  Apparently the book has caused quite a bit of controversy and people are talking about it – a lot – so that’s certainly a plus for it.

Recommended.

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

 

Powerful, emotional read with a shaky start

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School of Velocity by Eric Beck Rubin

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Jan and Dirk are teenage boys when they meet in the Netherlands.  Jan is studying the piano and dreams of a musical career.  Dirk has already had a career as a child actor.  Jan is a quiet boy, while Dirk is flamboyant and outgoing.  Jan soon is obsessed with Dirk and follows him everywhere.  To his surprise, Dirk seems to want to be with him and they soon become fast friends, with sleepovers where they watch porn.  They lose touch when Dirk goes to America to find his way to stardom and Jan stays in the Netherlands to go to music school.  They don’t see each other again until Jan becomes ill and reaches out to Dirk.

OK, I have to admit that I was turned off by the beginning of this book.  Dirk’s language and topics of conversation were sometimes a bit offensive and while young boys may think of only one thing – sex – it isn’t my preferred reading material.  Dirk’s character seemed to go quite a bit over board with his rebellious spirit although the adults unbelievably took it all in stride.  But I’m very glad I stuck with this book.  It really turned around after they each went off to pursue their adult lives and I became engrossed in the book.  It’s a beautifully written story about male friendship and quite sad.  I also enjoyed the author’s description of a musician’s life and the total absorption in the music.  The book leaves open quite a few questions and that’s fine with me.  I didn’t need this type of book wrapped up nicely.  It’s a powerful, emotional read and I don’t even want to start another book yet as I want to give this one some more thought for a while.

Recommended.

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