Dragged for me

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The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Cora goes to the lakeside to enjoy the sun and water with her husband and young son. There she inexplicitly stabs a man to death.  There are witnesses and Cora’s own confession but the police commissioner does his own investigation into Cora’s past, uncovering secrets even Cora has trouble remembering.

I, like many others, was pulled in by the trailer for the USA mini-series starring Jessica Biel. I figured the book had to be good to have been made into a TV series.  But it really dragged for me and I can’t count the times that I thought of putting the book down for good.  But something kept making me pick it up.

This is yet another unreliable narrator book. Sometimes Cora admits to the reader that she’s lying but sometimes she’s not even sure if she’s lying.  So it’s a bit hard to follow what’s happening.  Events are gone over again and again, each time a little bit differently.  The book has its merits as the story is quite unique and I didn’t see the reveal coming.  I’ve recorded the TV series and will probably watch it even though I now know what’s going to happen.  I’m not sorry I read it but I really didn’t find it as gripping as described.

Moving and disturbing

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The Child by Pascale Kramer

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Claude is a former gym teacher who is battling cancer and losing. He lives in a low-income neighborhood with his wife, Simone.  There has been rioting in their neighborhood with the constant sound of police sirens.  There isn’t much calm inside their home either as they each in their own way try to adjust to the end of Claude’s days.  It’s just the two of them until a young boy comes for a visit and throws everything into even more discord.

The author doesn’t flinch at describing the horrors of a death from cancer. That and the effects of his decline on those around him make for a very disturbing read.  But as in her book “Autopsy of a Father”, Ms. Kramer writes in such a poetical manner that her books are beautiful to read despite the subject matter.  This is an in depth look at the end of a marriage as a result of death that I know will stay with me for some time to come.  It’s a short book, only about 150 pages, and I hope to read it again one day, not so much as to know what happens in the book as I already know that but just to enjoy the writing again.

Recommended.

Handling both motherhood and artistry

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The Resurrection of Jjoan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Joan Ashby is a celebrated author at the peak of her career. She’s been open about avoiding love and motherhood and wanting to give all to her creativity.  But then love finds her heart but she makes it very clear to her soon-to-be husband that there will be no children in their future.  When Joan finds herself pregnant and her husband is ecstatic at the news, Joan decides to devote herself to her family with all intentions of resuming her career at some point.  However, the future holds a betrayal that is a very grievous one.

This author is so very talented. I can’t say that I agreed with her character’s assessment of motherhood and her reluctance to embrace it over her career.  I’ve always thought that being a mother was the highest honor a woman could have.  But then again, I’ve never been a celebrity or in the limelight due to any particular talent of mine so I may have felt differently in her shoes.    Despite our differences, the author gave me a clear understanding of where Joan was coming from and I was immediately pulled into her world.  This is a fascinating portrayal of a woman who selflessly chooses motherhood and pays a heavy price.  The betrayal that I don’t want to give a hint of a spoiler about was truly a shocking one.

As an added bonus in this book, it includes short stories written by Joan which are as entertaining as the main story. Her stories before motherhood are quite dark.  Some of them have a connection with Joan’s story, some not as much, but all are engrossing.

I couldn’t be more impressed with this debut novel and am looking forward to more of this author’s work. This is an intelligent look at not only motherhood but all aspects of being a woman.  Each of the characters in this book will stay with me for a long time to come.

Most highly recommended.

I won this book in a contest given by the publisher and am under no obligation to give a review.

 

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.

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.

 

Such poetic beauty throughout this literary thriller

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The Trout by Peter Cunningham

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

 

Alex Smyth is living in Canada with his wife when he receives a strange piece of mail containing only a trout fly. Alex has always thought that something terrible had happened when he was a child but the memory is always just a bit past his grasp.  Memories now start coming back and he starts to believe that he may have killed someone when he was a child.  He must return to Ireland to confront his past and get to the bottom of these fragmented memories.

This is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read in a long time. I’m adding Peter Cunningham to my list of all-time favorite authors and will be reading the rest of his books soon.  This book grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go nor could I put the book down.  It was completely mesmerizing and awakened my love for truly well-written literature.  I read a lot of books but far too many pass through me without much lasting effect.  This is one that I will treasure and always remember.

The book touches on how elusive memories can be and how they can harm our lives if not brought to the surface. It also touches on how society can convince itself that what they’re seeing isn’t actually happening.  This book is set in such a beautiful location with valleys and hills and rivers and streams and yet what happened there is so tragic and heart breaking.   Predator and prey dominate this story and the author has included short snippets about trout and their lives and their most dangerous predator – man.  It’s a perfect accompaniment for this story that centers on horrific events that take place while fishing.

Most highly recommended.

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

 

I really love this author

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Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne

Rook Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

There are two “beautiful animals” in this book. One is Naomi, a young woman who is spoiled and rich and bored. She’s staying on a Greek island with her father and step-mother, neither of whom does she get along with. Sam is a naïve young woman who is vacationing with her parents. The two become friends. When they find a young man named Faoud hiding on the island, they believe him to be an Arab refugee. Naomi wants to help him and Sam is pulled unwillingly into Naomi’s plans. Naomi figures that money is what Faoud needs to make a new life for himself so she comes up with the plan to enable Faoud to rob her parents’ home.

I love the writing style of this author. I usually am a fast reader but when I’m reading one of Mr. Osborne’s books, his writing compels me to slow down and read every word. He has a beautiful way with words and pulls me into his stories as if I, too, were vacationing on this Greek Island and knew these people personally. This book is many layered, not only the suspenseful plot but also the dynamics between the characters and their families. This is a morally dark, disturbing tale and one that I became completely engrossed in.

Highly recommended.

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

Very good psychological drama

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The Child by Fiona Barton

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Kate Waters is a news reporter hot on the trail of a story that she hopes will be a big one. A baby’s skeleton has been found in a construction site.  Kate can’t get the baby out of her mind.  What tragedy was behind the burial of this infant child?  Could this baby be the one who was stolen from a maternity ward decades ago?  As she digs deeper, secrets come to the surface that will change the lives of three women forever.

The reporter Kate also appears in Ms. Barton’s first book, “The Widow”. The chapters in her new book alternate between three women.  First of all is, of course, Kate Waters, the reporter.  She’s relentless in the pursuit of truth.  Angela is the mother of little Alice who she alleges was stolen from a maternity ward shortly after her birth.  Although Angela has two other children, she has never gotten over the loss of her child and longs for closure.  And Emma, a woman who seems obsessed with this baby.

The beginning of the book starts off slowly as the author builds her story. It was slow enough that I was considering giving the book 3 stars but the second half of the book pushed my rating up to 4 stars because that’s when I truly became involved in the story. The twist didn’t come as too much of a surprise but it didn’t matter as the main thrust of this book isn’t the “who done it” or even the why but the effect on the characters.  I loved how much Kate cared for the people she connected with.  I think we have such a callous opinion of reporters, only out for the story no matter what it costs others, so it was refreshing to read of one with a heart.  This isn’t so much of a thriller as an in depth character study of three women.  We know from the beginning that the baby has died so there’s no suspense there.  But the author does a very good job of giving us a look into the hearts and minds of women whose lives were so monumentally affected by one act.

Recommended.

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

 

Dark, wonderfully written political thriller

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Small Treasons by Mark Powell

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Tess is the mother of three children and while she loves being home with them, she’s developed a very odd obsession. She can’t stop watching online terrorist ransom videos.  She gets up in the middle of the night to watch them, particularly one she refers to as “The Man in the Basement”, an American journalist held by ISIS.

Her husband John, now a professor at a small college, has a bit of an obsession, too, his being with the past. He can’t shake an incident that happened at his previous job and he still mourns his dead first wife and his grown daughter who he hasn’t seen or talked to in many years.  James Stone, a man John worked with at his old job, is pressuring him to turn over files of another professor, Professor Edward Hadawi.  The FBI is investigating Professor Hadawi in connection with an extremist religious group.  If John doesn’t turn the files over, James Stone is threatening to bring to light what happened at John’s previous job.

Stone is not only looking for Professor Hadawi but also for a young man named Reed Sharma. Reed is being groomed to be a terrorist bomber.  The growing connections between Tess, John, James Stone and Reed Sharma make up the backbone of this compelling novel.

This is a very suspenseful political thriller and very well-written. The characters are very well developed and I cared about them all.  The most disturbing section was watching how Reed Sharma is convinced that becoming a terrorist bomber has great meaning.  It’s a chilling section and very disturbing.  The author smoothly moves between the interconnected stories – from Reed’s transformation to the personal issues in Tess and John’s marriage to the political undertakings.  It’s a wonderfully written timely novel about obsession, faith and violence amidst our current political climate.  There were sections that moved a bit slowly but three quarters of the way in, there was no stopping this story.  The suspense in the last quarter of the book was quite nerve wracking.  I’ll definitely be looking for more of this author’s work.

Recommended.

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

Great start but then went downhill for me

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Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Book Review:  3 out of 5 stars

When Rachel Childs was a journalist, she encountered an extremely bad side of human nature. As a result of the trauma, she has a breakdown and virtually becomes a recluse, afraid of people.  Her husband, Brian, has the patience of a saint and lovingly tries to help her break through her fears.  I can’t really go any further with the plot in fear of writing spoilers.

The beginning of this book is 5 star, with Mr. Lehane’s usual expertise in bringing his characters to life and finding a place for them in your heart.   I was completely engrossed in the story, knowing that “something” was going to happen to change things and dreading it because, in spite of Rachel’s agoraphobia, the marriage between Brian and Rachel was so strong and loving.  When the change came, it was completely unexpected and the author began to lose me.  The book veers off from being a heartfelt novel about a woman struggling with her demons to an action thriller.  The changes of character in both Rachel and Brian just didn’t ring true to me, though I was still engrossed in the story.  What bothered me most about the second part of the book was the author’s seeming efforts to justify the characters’ actions while trying to get you to still like and respect them.  His efforts didn’t work with me and the longer I had contact with these characters, the less I believed in them.

It seems to me that this book was written more as a movie script and I’ve read that the movie rights to the book have already been snatched up. I grabbed this book because of the author and his phenomenal “Mystic River” and “Shutter Island”.   I never looked into what the book was about.  Possibly if I had known it was a thriller before starting it, I would have been better prepared for the switch in gears.  With the beginning being such a beautiful character study of a damaged woman, I truly wish the author had chosen to continue in that line.  I still enjoyed the book but what started as outstanding turned into just OK.

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