The fierce bond of family

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Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

“I had always believed my father capable of a massacre. Whenever I heard on the news that there had been a killing spree, I would hold my breath, unable to relax until it was clear that it couldn’t have been him.”  (Wording may not appear the same in final published edition).

Randolph Tiefenthaler grew up with a father who had an extensive gun collection. Not only were the guns loaded but Randolph’s father had a bit of a temper.  Randolph always had a fear that one night his father would come upstairs and kill him and/or his brother.  Randolph is an adult now with a wife and children when his father is arrested for murder.  It all started when Randolph moved his family to a new building where Dieter Tiberius is living in the basement apartment.  Dieter is an odd character who turns into a menacing one when he starts to stalk Randolph and his family and accuses the parents of sexually abusing their children.

This is an excellent psychological thriller with deep insight into family bonds and the fears implanted in us as children that we continue to live with throughout our adult life. I’ve seen other reviews saying the author lectures about issues but I thought the whole book was fascinating.  I hung on every word and loved the buildup of suspense.  No one seemed to be able to help this family – not their lawyer, not the police and not children’s services.    At times I thought, just move away, but they hadn’t done anything wrong to lose their home, but since it involved children, I would have been out of there.  Regardless, I was quite impressed by this author.  Apparently, the book is loosely based on the author’s own experience with a stalker so he had firsthand knowledge of what this type of situation can do to a person.

The author is from Germany and he has written 8 novels, many of which, including this book, have been adapted for film, television and radio in Germany. “Fear” is the first to be translated into English.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for any others that will be translated in the future for sure.

I don’t usually give thrillers 5 star reviews as I reserve 5 stars for books that really have a profound impact on me. But in a way I think the book did have a profound impact on me as I’m still thinking about it though I’m writing this review weeks after reading the book.  This story showing how quickly our immediate world can become one that’s horribly distressful fills my thoughts throughout the days.  If you’re looking for a thriller with psychological insight, I highly recommend this one.

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

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The Dangers of Superstition

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The Good People by Hannah Kent

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Troubles have arrived at the Leahy home. When Nora and Martin Leahy’s daughter, Johanna, dies, they are left with their 4-year-old grandson to care for.  But Micheal is not as he was when they last saw him two years ago.  At that time, he was talking and walking and a normal little boy.  Now he’s unable to walk or even stand and he doesn’t talk.  He screams out in the night and flails his bent arms.  Nora sees nothing of her grandson in him but with Martin’s help, they care for him as best as they can.  But when Martin dies suddenly, Nora has difficulty dealing with her grandson and all of the other work now on her shoulders.  She hires a young woman, Mary, to come and help with the house and Micheal.

The entire town starts to have troubles. The cows aren’t producing much milk and the hens aren’t laying many eggs.  Could it be the fairy people (the Good People as they are known) who are causing their troubles?  Or is it the odd little boy, Micheal?  Is he a changeling left by the fairies?  Nora takes Micheal to Nance, the old woman who is known to have “knowledge” of the fairy world in the hope that she can bring back her “real” grandson who has been changed for this distorted version of Micheal.

I enjoyed this book very much. The author quickly creates a tense, unsettled atmosphere.  This Irish community in the 1820’s is inundated with superstition and folk lore.  They see signs in everything and their fears grow out of control.  The book is actually based on a real-life incident.

I’ve had the author’s first book, “Burial Rites”, on my TBR list for quite a long time but just have never gotten to it. I definitely will now.  This author reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Sharyn McCrumb, who writes of the people of the Appalachian Mountains with their own superstitions and knowings.

Recommended.

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

An average unreliable narrator book

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Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

What a perfect husband Paul Strom is and what a perfect husband and provider. He’s happily married to the lovely Mia and has two sons.  They’re financially well off with no worries.  At least that’s what Paul would like you to believe.  He’s planned the “best day ever” for he and his wife by taking her to their lake house for a romantic weekend of wining and dining.  But how will that get away end?

The whole book encompasses one day in the lives of Paul and Mia. It’s a very easy to read and quick moving book and whenever I had to put the book down, I did look forward to picking it up again.  Paul is an easy character to despise.  The reader learns fairly early just how psychopathic Paul is and once you learn that, I felt that he quickly became very annoying.  I also had a hard time relating to Mia.  I also found the book to be too predictable with very few surprises.  I didn’t feel the wrap-everything-up-neatly ending was necessary as I had already “gotten it” from what had previously been told and felt it was just repetitive.

But it was a fun read and I’m glad I gave it a try. Maybe I’ve just read too many unreliable narrator books lately.  But if you enjoy this type of book and haven’t been overloaded yet with the unreliability aspect, then I think you’ll enjoy this entertaining book.

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

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.