Dark, chilling tale of race violence and the KKK

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Gone Too Long by Lori Roy

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Beth is 10 years old and lives with her alcoholic mother in Georgia.  She’s been told to stay in the house and not go to the door when she’s home alone.   But she’s not alone one fateful day.  Her babysitter is there and that babysitter does go to the door and opens it.  That’s the day Beth disappears and thus begins a horrendous journey for her.

Imogene Coulter’s family is known for its connections to the Ku Klux Klan.  Edison Coulter, the man she calls Daddy, is one of its local leaders.  He’s being buried now but his legacy with the Klan continues with his son, Eddie, his daughter, Jo Lynne, and her husband, Garland.  Imogene tries to distance herself from this part of her family but when she’s asked by her mother to get rid of a wire that leads to her grandfather’s house, she’s tragically pulled into the family’s past and history.

This is a dark, chilling tale of violence against race.  This isn’t a typical thriller but rather an in depth character study of people whose oppose all that the KKK stand for but whose family members are involved in it.  Their lives and families are torn between these opposing forces.  My heart broke for Beth and the life she led after being taken from her home.  And Imogene, who is no stranger to tragedy herself, is so courageous and broken, she’d melt anyone’s heart.

What makes this book even more disturbing are the true life historical references the author places between chapters telling the history of the KKK.  The most chilling historical fact of all is the most recent one – the 2017 United the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Recommended.

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

 

Obsession in Hollywood

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The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star review

Abby has high hopes for a career making movies but she’s still living at home with her parents and working at a local supermarket.  She keeps all magazine and newspaper articles about her friend, Elise, who has gone on to become a movie actress.  She meets Elise again at a school reunion and is thrilled that Elise not only remembers how close they were but wants them to become close again.  Elise gives Abby her phone number, swearing her to secrecy, and tells her to give her a call if she’s ever in LA.  Abby steals her parents’ credit card and surprises Elise in LA where she finds an Elise more vulnerable than Abby imagined.  Abby is pulled more and more into Elise’s world.  When things begin to shift in their relationship, Abby’s desires and ambitions take a strange turn.

I’ve always been attracted to books about obsession.  This one satisfies in that regard.  Abby’s obsessions with Elise makes for an absorbing read.  Abby is a character who at first I felt sympathy for but she soon becomes a much darker character.  The end gave me chills as unbelievable as it was and played out as obsessions so often do.

On the negative side, a large part of this book is about dreams and their meanings.  Abby believes she has dreams that foretell the future and that when she dreams of people, they are actually there and that they are dreaming the same dream.  I had a hard time staying focused during these forays into fantasy.  Abby actually becomes a member of the Rhizome, an organization who interviews its members about their dreams.  It was very strange and I can’t say I enjoyed these sections of the book much.

While parts of this book were well worth the time spent, as a whole it didn’t leave much of an impression on me and is not one that I would recommend.  It felt a bit too much like a Young Adult or Chick Lit, although on the dark side, for me.

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

 

A mind-bending tale of memory and time

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Recursion by Blake Crouch

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

A new phenomenon has started throughout the world – False Memory Syndrome.  Victims have memories of a whole other life they’ve led and it’s driving many of them completely mad. One of those victims is Ann Voss Peters and she’s sitting on the edge of a high rise building ready to jump.  Detective Barry Sutton tries to talk her off of the edge but he isn’t able to save her.  Barry understands despair as he lost his 15-year-old daughter, Meghan, in a hit and run accident.  Barry begins to look into this False Memory Syndrome and is unwillingly pulled into a life-altering experience.

Eleven years before, neuroscientist Helena Smith is working on a memory chair that she hopes will help her mother who has Alzheimer’s as well as others with this disease.  When she’s approached by Marcus Slade with an irresistible offer of full funding for her research, she readily accepts.  She lives to regret this decision when Slade’s concept of her memory chair differs greatly from hers and she may have to destroy her dream to save the world.

You always know that when you pick up a book by Blake Crouch, you’ll be in for a unique experience.  This is his best work yet.  My fascination with this thrilling story never lagged at any time.  This book has a beauty to it that I didn’t expect.  This is an in depth study of grief and time and memory and is so much more than a thriller.  The love story is an emotional one.  Crouch never fails to make his readers look at the world in a whole new way.

Most highly recommended.

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

Addictive, well-written thriller

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Alicia Berenson is a famous painter.  Her husband, Gabriel, is a well-known fashion photographer.  They have it all and Alicia loves her husband.  That’s what makes it hard to understand why she would have shot him five times in the face.  Alicia hasn’t spoken a word in years and has never explained why she did this terrible act.  Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who is determined to help heal Alicia and to get her to talk about the murder.

OK, I never saw THAT ending coming!  Quite an interesting book that moves along quickly.  I became very engaged in the story and liked the characters.  I can’t say it was very suspenseful because it’s one of those books that’s more interested in the “why” since we already know the “who” and the “what” but the mystery certainly held me in its grip.  This debut author knows how to captivate his audience and I think this may well be a huge success when it’s released next February.   I definitely want to see how the movie is handled (yes, the film rights have already been snatched up, by an Oscar-winning producer no less) and will be on the lookout for what this author writes next.

Addictive, well-written thriller.  Recommended.

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Predictable and a bit of a disappointment

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The Suspect by Fiona Barton

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

18-year-old Alex and Rosie are taking a trip of their lifetime to Thailand.  They don’t know each other very well but hope to be good traveling companions.   They promise to keep in touch with their families but now a week has gone by and no word from them.  Kate Waters is a journalist who tries her best to always be the first reporter to nab any news relating to this disappearance.  She’s a bit distracted because she hasn’t seen her son, Jake, in two years when he left to travel the world.

Maybe I’ve just read too many books of this type.  Or maybe I’ve become a psychic or something.  I just always seemed to be one step ahead of this author and knew exactly what was coming each step of the way.  That’s not to say that this book didn’t have quite a few “big reveals”.  I just knew what they would be before they were revealed.  If I didn’t know this book wasn’t published yet when I read it, I would have thought that I’d read it before.  I really have no explanation as to why I knew what would happen as I don’t think the author spoiled things in any way.

The book is rather long for a thriller at over 400 pages.  I can’t say I raced through it.  I did care about the journalist Kate, but the young girls and their parents could be aggravating at times.  Unfortunately, my commitment to the book did start to wane by the end.  The ending was a bit ambiguous, too.  While it wasn’t a bad book, I didn’t feel it was as good as the author’s first book, “The Widow”.

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

An addictive read about obsession, betrayal and morality

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An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

It sounds like an easy way to make some much-needed money to make-up artist Jessica Farris.  Just answer a few questions for Dr. Shields’ psychology study, what could be difficult about that?  But some of the questions are tough to answer and cause Jessica quite a bit of discomfort.  But she tries to be honest and do what she’s being paid for.  Then she meets Dr. Shields and is asked to expand her participation in the study and quite a bit more would be asked of her.  The excellent pay pulls Jessica in further and further until she doesn’t know who to trust or just what to think about Dr. Shields’ strange study.  What will Dr. Shields do with the information she’s gathering and why does she need it in the first place?

I was immediately pulled into this book and was completely intrigued.  I couldn’t read fast enough wondering just what was going on and what this study was all about.  I have to admit that when I found out the “why”, I was a bit disappointed.  But I was hooked by that point and had to know more.  This is a book that has a surprise around each bend in the road.  Like Jessica, you won’t know who can be trusted or what’s next in store for this very likeable character.  Try not to read too many reviews about this one because you want to go in blind and not know too much.  Let these excellent authors tell the story the way only they can.  An addictive read about obsession, betrayal and morality.

Recommended.

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

This one had potential to be much better but failed

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Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard

Book Review:  2 out of 5 star rating

Sean Suh doesn’t do much with his days other than sitting in a park and drawing people he sees.  He was in a psychiatric prison for three years and is considered rehabilitated but he’s not at sure he has been.  He still has thoughts and urges that he shouldn’t have and his meds make him feel terrible.  When he meets beautiful Annabelle, he has hopes that he hasn’t felt in years.  But when Annabelle is kidnapped right in front of his eyes, the police give Sean a hard time and have difficult believing anything he says.  Sean’s determined to find Annabelle before it’s too late.

I initially was pulled into this book.  The main character, Sean Suh, reminded me of Norman Bates in The Bates Motel TV series.  Both were characters with psychiatric problems with controlling mothers but they were trying so hard to get better and redeem themselves for past deeds.  That was enough to keep me reading though I don’t think the book was very well written.  I did have sympathy for Sean.  Then I hit the last fourth of the book.  That’s when the author completely lost me.  The book ended up going in the direction I thought it would but I thought it was done in a very silly, cheap and gory way.  I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who wants to give this book a try but the last part of this book just turned me off and ruined anything of substance that I thought I had found in the rest of the book.  It may well just be me but this isn’t one I can recommend.  It had potential to be much better.

Not recommended.

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

 

Mesmerizing, heart-breaking first book in reverse order trilogy

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The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is being forced into a slightly earlier retirement, being replaced by a younger person.  She dreads her future although she has met a very nice man who she thinks might be an answer to her loneliness.  Before she cleans out her desk at the police station, she’s been given an opportunity to look into a cold case of her choice.  She knows immediately which case it will be.  A young Russian women who was trying to find asylum in Iceland was found dead and her death was deemed a suicide. However, Hulda knows that the officer who investigated this case didn’t always do a very thorough job and she has a feeling that there was more to this case than he found.

I was so very impressed with this book and can’t wait to read everything else this author has written.  His characterization of Hulda is excellent and very detailed.  This woman has had a successful career as a police officer but hasn’t always been accepted by the men in the department.  She’s determined to end her career on a high note by solving this cold case but as each day approaches her retirement, errors are made and her situation deteriorates.  She begins to pin her hopes on the man she has recently met and envisions a happier future.  I loved Hulda and felt complete empathy for her.  Secrets in her past are alluded to, which when revealed are absolutely heartbreaking.  Also the story of this Russian immigrant is so timely and tragic.

This is the first book in the Hidden Iceland Trilogy.  The series is being told in reverse order so the next book will be set 25 years prior to this book.  It’s an unusual format for a trilogy and I think I may have preferred reading Hulda’s story in chronological order since now I know how her story ends.  But this first book is so brilliantly written that I know I will be anxiously awaiting the next one.  This author is one who isn’t afraid of taking risks and definitely knows how to write Nordic Noir.  The book is mesmerizing and heart breaking and the ending will chill you to the bone.

Most highly recommended.

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

Entertaining, thought-provoking spy novel

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

It’s 1940 and Juliette Armstrong has been recruited to work for M15.  She’s 18 years old and quite naïve.  She’s been given the tedious job of transcribing recordings of meetings of British Fascist sympathizers.  But she’s soon pulled even deeper into this frightening espionage world.  When the war is over, Juliette believes the past is behind her.  But she learns that there are still consequences that need to be dealt with.

There are sometimes light hearted moments in this novel that are deceiving because this is quite a deep, thought-provoking work.  While I very much enjoyed Juliette’s witty remarks, there are layers and layers to explore in this book.  I feel like starting the book from the beginning again and dissecting it, scene by scene, which is not something I’ve ever enjoyed doing.   The fragility of loyalty, how thin the line can be between “them” and “us”, how contradictory our inner beliefs can be and how history can be re-shaped in its telling are all explored.

On the negative side, I did get bogged down some with all of the boring transcriptions but I don’t really see how the author could have gotten around those.  Also, while most of the book is very realistic and believable, there were some scenes toward the end that were a bit far-fetched.

Overall, this is was a very interesting and enjoyable read.  Recommended.

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

A “Stepford Wife” society

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Vox by Christina Dalcher

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

There have been some rather extreme changes made here in the United States.  Women must wear a bracelet-type counter that allows them only 100 words a day.  If they go over their quota, they receive a horrendous electrical shock.  Even the written word or sign language is punishable.  Women can no longer hold jobs and girls are not being taught how to read or write but only are taught how to cook and sew.  Dr. Jean McClellan is the narrator of this book.  She’s a mother of four and the wife of a man who she believes is too passive about the whole issue.  She regrets not taking action before this all started.  She no longer has a voice with which to fight.

Before all of these changes, Jean was a cognitive linguist working on a cure for aphasia, the loss of the ability to understand or express speech caused by brain damage.  All of her research stopped when women’s rights were taken away.  But now the President’s brother is suffering from brain damage and Jean is asked to resume her work.

The only fault I had with this book is that at times it felt too much like “The Handmaid’s Tale”.  There are so many similar restrictions.  But I felt that the writer does a very good job in telling this story and Jean is a very believable narrator.  The added interest comes from Sonia, Jean’s 6-year-old daughter, who doesn’t remember what it’s like to be able to speak freely.  There’s one terribly frightening scene involving Sonia that really made the whole book seem so real and possible.  It’s one thing to have your own rights taken away but entirely another when it involves your innocent child.  The way the schools were now teaching young girls was so tragic.

Interesting story told in a realistic manner.  Recommended.

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