Captivating novel about friendship

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The French Girl by Lexie Elliott

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Do we ever know our friends?  Kate Channing isn’t sure.  A decade ago, she had spent a week with her friends in a French farmhouse.  Severine is a French girl who lives next door.  The case of her disappearance remains unsolved.  But now the case has been reopened because Severine’s body has been found in the well at the farmhouse.  Kate and her friends are pulled back into the memories of what happened in France and the deceptions that have been kept secret since then.

Kate Channing isn’t the usual “girl in distress” type that predominates today’s suspense novels.  She’s a smart lady who is doing her best to go it on her own as head of her legal recruitment company.  I liked and admired her and emphasized with her stress of dredging up past memories with all its accusations and questioning of her friends.  Could one of them have killed Severine?  Why would they have wanted to?  There are no great twists or surprises here, just good narration and fleshing out of characters.   I found the book to be addictive and kept wanting to read just a little more.  If I had had the time to just sit down for a few hours, I would have flown through this one.

A captivating novel about friendship.  Recommended.

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

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The devastating effects of a rape accusation

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Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

James has it all.  He’s married to lovely Sophie, he has two beautiful children and he’s a successful member of parliament.  He’s handsome and could have any woman he wants, even if Sophie weren’t the love of his life, which she is, so why would he commit rape?  Yet he stands accused and faces a trial that could destroy his family, reputation and career.

Kate is the lawyer who is prosecuting the case against James.  She’s sure that he’s guilty and she’s determined to prove it to the jury.  But this case is turning into one that she may not be strong enough to endure as it has dredged up old memories that still haunt her.

At the beginning of this book, I thought, OK, here’s another book about a possibly philandering husband, same old, same old.  But it turned into something much deeper.  The author did an excellent job in describing how hard it was for the woman accusing James of rape to testify at the trial – or is she just a woman scorned? – and the difficulty of finding justice in such a case.  How can a jury decide who is telling the truth when it’s really one person’s word against the other’s?  Is it really all down to how well either attorney presents his/her case?

The author also presented Sophie’s situation very well.  She loves her husband and wants desperately to believe him.  But hearing the testimony at trial and reading the papers where their marriage and life together is being scrutinized just tears her apart and causes confusion and distance in their marriage.  Even the strongest marriages could be strained to the breaking point under such an accusation.

A well-thought-out, heartfelt novel which I recommend.

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

Complex, clever thriller

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The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

All is not what it seems in this complex and clever thriller.  Nellie, a New York preschool teacher, is happy with her work and her lifestyle.  When she meets Richard, she’s swept off her feet into quite a different world of affluence.  There are hints galore about “something” that happened to Nellie in her past that has made her a very “nervous Nellie”.  Her telling of the story fluctuates with the telling of the story by Vanessa, Richard’s ex-wife.  She now lives with her Aunt Charlotte and drinks too much like her mother did before her.

The unreliable narrator has become a very popular form of literature these days.  This is one that I felt was quite well plotted and hard to crack before the author “tells”.  There’s a twist halfway through the book that had me sit up thinking “Whaaaat??” and had me questioning everything I had just read.  When you think all the twists have been revealed, there’s still one more that I never saw coming.

Quite an enjoyable read and kept me on my toes.  Recommended.  This book is being published on January 9, 2018 and can be pre-ordered through the publisher:

https://us.macmillan.com/static/smp/wife-between-us/

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

A fun, fast read

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The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Book review:  3 out of 5 star rating

12 year olds and summer – what a perfect combination.  Eddie and his friends, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hobbo and the only girl in the gang, Nicky, are enjoying every minute of it.  They like to leave each other messages with little chalk stick men drawings.  They’re having a great time of it until they’re led to a dismembered body.  And what has led them to this body?  Little chalk men drawings.  Now they’re grown up and each have received mysterious letters with a chalk stick man.  That’s when they realize that the past isn’t over after all.

The book fluctuates between 1986 and 2016.  I loved the atmosphere that this author created and was pulled right back to the 80’s.  Such fun running all over this English village with these kids, seeing what excitement there is to find on those hot summer days.  This book is reminiscent of Stephen King’s novella, “The Body”, which was made into the film, “Stand By Me”, and is impressive for a debut.  To me, King’s novella is a classic and Ms. Tudor has a way to go before her work can truly be compared to King’s but it did remind me of it but without the deep sadness that King’s book invoked.  It has a spooky feel without anything supernatural going on and I liked that the author didn’t feel the need to include gory details to make her book suspenseful.  Unfortunately, the end didn’t come as a surprise to me and I’m not that quick to pick up on clues.  These clues seemed to be a bit too obvious.  I almost felt like I was a step ahead of the author throughout the book and knew what was coming.  But the book is very addictive, the characters are likeable (at least when they’re children) and it was a fun read.

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

 

A thriller with a lot of heart

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The Dry by Jane Harper

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Aaron Falk has returned to his home town.  He and his father had been run out of that town when Aaron was a teenager due to suspicion of their involvement in a young girl’s death.  Now Aaron’s good friend, Luke, has apparently killed his family and then committed suicide.  Luke’s parents ask Aaron to look into what really happened.  Was Luke so despondent about the future of the farm during the area’s horrendous drought that he lost his mind, killing those he loved?  And will the town accept Aaron back or will the young Ellie’s death still haunt him and all who loved her?

I very much enjoyed this thriller.  It’s as suspenseful and engrossing as you would want any thriller to be but it also is an excellent study of how the past can affect the lives of so many for years to come.  And it’s also a look at how an environmental catastrophe can tear apart a community.  There are many layers to this absorbing book.  This is the author’s debut novel and she’s already nailed how to bring her characters to life.  These were people I knew and cared about, which made the stories of the past and the present all the more heart rending.  You’ll feel the heat from this town, both due to the weather and the anger that has been nursed for years.  An explosion is inevitable.  Perfect plot and perfect character development.  And the best part is that this is only the first of the Aaron Falk series.  There’s more to come with “Force of Nature” to be published in February, 2018.  I’m very much looking forward to it.

Highly recommended.

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.

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.

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.