An unbelievable foray into the mind of a serial killer


The Only Child by Mi-Ae Seo

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Yi Byeongdo is a serial killer sitting on death row.  He hasn’t said much to anyone about the murders he’s committed and the police are anxious to learn just how many murders there were.  Unexpectedly, Yi Byeongdo has asked to be interviewed by a criminal psychologist by the name of Seonkyeong.  Seonkyeong has no idea why Yi Byeongdo has singled her out as she does not know him.

Seonkyeong has just been surprised by her husband with the arrival of his eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Hayeong.  There has been a fire and Hayeong’s grandparents with whom she was living have died.  Seonkyeong is anxious to help Hayeong feel at home but soon starts to feel out of her depth.  Seonkyeong starts to see quite a few similarities in the histories of both Yi Byeongdo and Hayeong.

I must say that I was disappointed with this one.  I have enjoyed the writing of other Korean authors and apparently Mi-ae Seo is a bestselling thriller author and screenwriter in Korea.  I just could not get into this story and found it to be written in quite a lackluster way.  There were moments when I thought, OK, here we go, but then nothing much happened.  For being a criminal psychologist, Seonkyeong’s thinking and decisions were disconcerting.  She should have known better in so many instances and that leant the book a feeling of unreality.  There were quite a few unbelievable incidents in the book.  While the author did a good job of weaving the separate storylines together, all I could think at the ending of the book was “You have to be kidding”.

Hopefully this book will find an audience that will love it but it’s not one that I can honestly recommend, even though it did have its moments.

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


Quite an entertaining, charming book


Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

L. Frank Baum wrote a book that would prove to be one of the most beloved books of all times, “The Wizard of Oz”.  What child doesn’t know this magical story?  This new book by Dorothy Letts tells the story behind the story of the Land of Oz.  The book centers on Maud Gage Baum, Frank’s wife, and fluctuates between the childhood and life of Maud starting when she was 10 years old in 1871 and the time period when the movie with Judy Garland was filmed and released.

Not only was Maud the daughter of a well-known suffragette, she was also one of the first few women admitted to Cornell University.  When she met Frank Baum and fell in love, her degree no longer mattered and off she went with him as the wife of a traveling actor.  Frank was a wonderful husband and proved to be just as wonderful a father to their four sons.  What he wasn’t too successful at was making money.  Though their life was lived frugally, Maud and Frank and their sons were happy and content.  Frank always was able to enrich their lives by his entertaining antics.  He was a dreamer and always dreamed of a better life for them.

The section of Maud’s involvement with the filming of the famous movie and her protective feelings for Judy Garland was very entertaining, though I’m not sure how factually accurate it was.  Regardless, I found this part of the book fascinating, filled with little tidbits about the actors and Hollywood.

The best part of the book is seeing how bits and pieces of Maud and Frank’s lives ended up in his book.  I thought that was very clever of the author and apparently is based on historical fact.  I’ve gotten away from historical fiction but knew I wanted to read this one since I love the movie so much.  I’m glad I requested it as it was very enjoyable and in the telling of the background of a magical story, it was quite magical itself.


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


Not for me at all – DNF


The Reluctant Healer by Andrew Himmel

Book Review:  1 out of 5 star rating

Will Alexander is a young intern at a large law firm.  When he meets Erica, he is immediately drawn to her.  She claims that he is surrounded by color auras and she believes he’s a natural healer.  Erica is a social worker who is beginning to believe she can heal people through energy healing.  Will is very conflicted about his ability to heal, despite evidence to the contrary.

I struggled through over a third of this book but could not take it any further than that.  When I got to the part when Will, Erica and a man who wanted healing all lost consciousness and Will sees them running through a field, suspending themselves in the air and then they were all striking and punching each other.  That’s where I gave up.  It’s not often that I don’t finish a book that I intend to review, but I could not waste any more time with this one.

Let me say that I have a very open mind when it comes to alternative healing.  I’m a Reiki practitioner myself and believe in energy healing and thus the reason I was attracted to this book.  My review is more based on poor writing and a story that I could not find any reason to continue reading.  It seemed very disjointed to me and I had a hard time following it.  Other negative plot points would include the fact that when Will first becomes involved with Erica and for quite some time afterwards, he thinks she’s crazy but he wants her sexually so he continues to see her.  That turned me off from the start.  As for Erica, she may well be an energy healer (and I assume they’re talking about Reiki here though I don’t believe they actually use the word) but she has such a strange way of dealing with people.  When she was trying to convince Will of their healing powers, she grabs the arm of a woman to force her to show Will that her skin condition was healed.  She also worked as a social worker, yet was apparently incorporating energy healing into her work with her clients, which had to be unethical.  There were quite a few instances of strange responses by the characters and nothing rang true to me.

Unfortunately, I can’t find anything good to say about this book so I can only give it one star.  My apologies to the author and Goodreads giveaways but this wasn’t for me.

Not recommended.

This book was won by me in a Goodreads giveaway contest.

Compassionate story of maternal love


The Caregiver by Samuel Park

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Ana and her little girl, Mara, take care of each other in their home in Copacabana, Brazil.   Ana works as a voice-over actress but her job brings in little money.  In desperation, she agrees to take a job posing as a citizen with information about student guerillas in an attempt to lure the violent Police Chief Lima from his post.  Ana then makes a decision that tears their lives apart.

Years later when Mara comes to America undocumented, she takes a job as a caregiver to a woman, Kathryn, who is suffering from stomach cancer.  Caring for Kathryn brings up memories of Mara’s mother and Mara struggles to come to terms with her past.

This is a beautifully written book about the relationship between a mother and daughter and what lengths a mother would be willing to go for her daughter.  The characters are very well developed and the book is full of heart and compassion.

The author, Samuel Parks, passed away from stomach cancer shortly after writing this book.  At the end of the book, his essay that was published in the New York Times is shared.  It’s called “I Had a 9 Percent Chance, Plus Hope” and it’s a must read for all.  After reading this book, I’m even more anxious to read “This Burns My Heart”.


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

Exquisitely written, intense and profound


The Water Thief by Claire Hajaj

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Nick’s father has died and it has caused him to take a hard look at his life.  He’s living in London, works as an engineer and is engaged to the lovely Kate.  Yet he decides to leave that safe life and go off to a poor village in Africa to help build a children’s hospital.  He hopes to absolve his long-time guilt over an incident involving a childhood friend.  He stays at the home of Dr. Ahmed, his wife Margaret, and their children JoJo and Nagode.  There he’s faced with a moral dilemma.  The people are dying from a lack of water.  The Governor is charging exorbitant fees for water delivery.  Nick learns that there is a solution to the village’s problem – a water well can be dug.  But the Governor won’t consider it.  Nick so desperately wants to help these people that he makes a decision that will impact all.

This book completely tore my heart open and made me take a hard look at my own life.  I so admired Nick’s determination to help these people.   He wants to do the right thing and truly doesn’t understand why those in power wouldn’t feel the same.  He’s so torn by his love for Margaret and his respect for her husband.  And JoJo, this young boy on the edge of manhood who longs to become an engineer like Nick, absolutely broke my heart.  The author does an amazing job of bringing JoJo alive and detailing his descent into hopelessness.  The characters in this book will long live in my heart and memory.  This is one of the most thought-provoking, soul searching books I’ve ever read.

This is a masterpiece of a novel, exquisitely written, intense and profound, a book that should be required reading for all.  It should be given every prestigious award for literary excellence.  I most highly recommend it.

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

An emotional roller coaster


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.


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


Feeling a bit duped by advertising


Red Leaves by Paullina Simons

Book Review:  2 out of 5 stars

I really had a difficult time getting through this book. The reason I chose it was that it was compared to Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History”.  There is no comparison other than the fact that the book involves a group of college friends.  There were several times when I wished I could just DNR this book but since I received a free copy from the publisher, I felt obligated to read the whole book in order to review it.  Apparently, this book was published by St. Martin’s in 1996 but has been out of print for many years and now William Morrow is re-publishing five of the author’s books over the next three years.  The author has received awards for her work so maybe it’s just me.

This story involves a young woman, Kristina Kim, and her very convoluted relationships with Connie, Jim and Albert. You know from the media’s blurbs that Kristina is going to be murdered.  She’s the narrator in the first section of the book, which consists mostly of repetitive conversations between the four “friends” about this one loves that one and that one loves this one and that one is cheating and that one wants the relationship to end, over and over and over again.  At one point, Kristina meets a policeman, Spencer O’Malley, with whom she has a flirtation.  It’s O’Malley who is assigned her murder investigation and he’s determined to find her killer.

There were so many times throughout this book when I thought “What??” Conversations were consistently a bit off, contradictory, stilted and unrealistic.  Events just didn’t fit together for me.   I didn’t find the end big reveal that shocking.  I did enjoy a few small sections of the book but then it would fall apart for me again.  I feel the story wasn’t a bad one but it was very poorly written.  My apologies to the publisher and author but truly, this book isn’t on par with “The Secret History” and shouldn’t be compared to it as it’s misleading.

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