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.

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.

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.

Will leave you teetering on the edge of the abyss

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Things We Lost in the Fire – Mariana Enriquez

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

These 12 short stories are all set in Argentina. Be warned – these stories often involve violence, sometimes towards children, and are often quite grotesque.  But if you enjoy stories that leave you off balance and that are completely unique and unpredictable, then you’ll like this collection.  The stories are very well written and are quite chilling.  The first story, “The Dirty Kid”, literally made the hair on my arms stand up.

What I liked most about these stories was that she left many of the endings up to your imagination. Of course, you knew where she was heading with her tales and our imaginations don’t have to go too far in order to envision what happened.  I think this made the stories seem more realistic.  The world of Mariana Enriquez is a dark, violent one and I’m very glad I only visited it through her stories.  And since it’s only through her stories, I’m hoping that more of her work will be translated to English.  She’s a very talented author and has created a fictitious Argentinian world that highlights both its beauty and poverty and the hauntings left there by some of its tragic history.

Recommended to those who enjoy dark horror.

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

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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.

 

A bewitching story that falls flat

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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Book review:  3 out of 5 star rating

A woman is found dead in the water, water where many other women have drowned. In fact, this water is known as The Drowning Pool.  Nel’s death has occurred just months after Katie, a friend of Nel’s daughter Lena, was found drowned.  Now Nel’s sister Jules has returned home though she swore she would never return.

This is quite a complex story involving many characters. The book goes back to 1679 during the Witchfinder Trials, where women suspected of being witches are thrown with bound hands into the water with the idea if they floated, they could be declared witches.  But if they drowned, oh well, guess they weren’t witches after all.  Legend has it that The Drowning Pool is haunted by one of these girls.

The author jumps back and forth between the story of the girl drowned for being suspected of witchhood to the present story of Nel’s drowning, the recent story of Katie’s drowning and also a woman who had died a couple of decades ago. I thought the author did a very good job of creating an eerie, haunting atmosphere and I enjoyed that part of the book.  However, I never really got too involved in the mysteries of these drownings and felt the red herrings went in too any directions and became confusing.  There was an overabundance of statements such as “after what I did” or “how can I bear this guilt”, which of course left you hanging not knowing what they did.  But I can’t say that I ever really cared what they did or didn’t do or who did what to whom.  Though I did enjoy parts of this book.  I think it just went in too many directions.

It’s quite a different book from “The Girl on the Train”. It had great potential of being a good psychological character study but I can’t help but feel that the author was trying too hard.  The stress of writing a follow up to her immensely popular first book must have been quite intense.  Here’s hoping that her next one will pull together better as there’s no doubt that she’s a talented author.

Not quite what I expected

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The Only Child by Andrew Pyper

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Dr. Lily Dominick is a forensic psychologist in New York. She’s assigned a very unique patient.  This patient with no name not only claims that he’s 200 years old but that he inspired the literary monsters in  “Frankenstein”, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” and “Dracula”.  He also claims that he’s Lily’s father.  Lily’s mother had been murdered when Lily was a young child and she has always longed to know more about her mother and exactly what happened to her.  So Lily decides to find out just what this patient knows about her past despite the apparent dangers that such an association would bring.

I have always felt that Frankenstein’s monster is one of the most heart breaking literary characters ever created. He was so close to being a part of mankind but would always be doomed to be on the outside, alone and unloved.  When I requested “The Only Child”, I had just finished binge watching the last season of “Penny Dreadful” and was still caught up in all of the emotional and suspenseful aspects of that excellent production.  So I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this latest re-imagination of a similar monster.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, although I do have quite a few of his titles on my TBR list. The author has such a good reputation that I expected a more complex tale.  I expected to feel great sympathy for the monster who was trying to connect with his daughter.  The book starts off well and I was pulled right in.  But the monster didn’t tug my heart strings at all.  Lily’s character was also disappointing and seemed to jump from one feeling to another too quickly.  One minute she’s fearing a man who was hunting the monster and the next she was in love with him.  What held such promise at the beginning of the book basically devolved into a cat and mouse chase.  The ending was not at all surprising to me.

The book wasn’t a complete disappointment as there were parts that I enjoyed. I just feel like there was so much promise that never materialized.  I loved the basic premise of the book and I would like to try another one of the author’s novels.

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