Excellent literary achievement digging deep into human morals

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The Glass Kingdom by Lawrence Osborne

Book Reivew:  5 out of 5 star review

American Sarah Mullins has come to Bangkok, Thailand looking to hide away.  She rents an apartment in the high-end complex called The Kingdom.  She soon meets three other mysterious women there:  the married Nat, who is a British hotelier; Ximena, the Chilean chef; and Mali, the most mysterious of them all.  But political unrest causes upheavals and violence in the streets surrounding The Kingdom that begin to work their way inside the complex, causing feelings of insecurity for the residents and revealing its inhabitants’ secrets.

This is one of my favorite modern authors and he has not disappointed with this gem of a book.  Mr. Osborne is a master at subtly creating uncomfortable, unsettling atmospheres that will send chills up your spine as you are pulled into his stories.  He also is a master at describing settings that will pluck you right out of your easy chair and place you directly in the heart of the location, where you can clearly see each and every detail, smell each and every scent and odor, hear each and every sound.  I lived in Bangkok every time I picked up this book.  This authors’ books are completely unpredictable and I find them fascinating.

Do know that the book starts out slowly but don’t give up – there is much more here than there first appears.  Excellent literary achievement digging deep into human morals.

Most highly recommended.

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

 

An emotional read

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Book Review:  The Silence by Susan Allott

Rating:  5 out of 5 star

Isla Green has received a middle of the night call from her father.  He has been questioned by the police about the disappearance of a woman thirty years ago.  Apparently, her father was the last person to have seen his neighbor, Mandy, and there has been no trace of her since then.  Isla returns to Australia to support her father and secrets of the past begin to unfold.

I absolutely loved this book and it held my attention like nothing else has been able to.  I kept being pulled deeper and deeper into this unforgettable tale.  The book fluctuates between 1967 and 1997 and the transition between these time frames flows along beautifully.  This is a debut novel by Ms. Allott and she obviously will be a powerful force in the literary world.  I loved each of these characters and found the book to be both very moving and very suspenseful.

There is a very sad true history running throughout this book.   In Australia between 1905 and 1967, Aboriginal children were taken from their homes by the government, supposedly to give them a better life but in fact were taken to institutions where many of them were mistreated.  I first learned of these children when I saw the movie “Rabbit-Proof Fence” many years ago.

I most highly recommend this book.

This book was won by me on LibraryThing in a contest where an unbiased review was requested.

Implausible but lots of fun!

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29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

It has not been an easy road for Sarah.  Her boss, Alan Hawthorne, has been sexually harassing her, threatening that she’ll lose her job if she doesn’t sleep with him.  She’s worked long and hard and is deserving of an upcoming promotion.  Plus she’s not sure if her husband is ever going to come home to her and she has two children to support.  Sarah is not only up against Hawthorne but also his old boy network and Hawthorne’s advances have become more and more threatening.    One night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a little girl and takes steps to prevent it.  The little girl’s father turns out to be quite influential with some dangerous connections and believes he is now in Sarah’s debt.  He makes her an offer that’s hard for her to refuse.  A 29-second phone call is all that it will take to make all of her problems disappear.

I seriously could not stop turning the pages of this addictive thriller and flew through it in a day.  The position that Sarah found herself in with her boss was very believable and horrifying.  When it came to the attempted kidnapping and the little girl’s father’s offer, it did become quite implausible, at least to me, but I was still glued to the pages.   The author had me a bit fooled at the end and I thought, oh, no, don’t let it end like that!  The end twist is an ingenious one.  This is a well-constructed, suspenseful thriller.

Recommended.

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

An unbelievable foray into the mind of a serial killer

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The Only Child by Mi-Ae Seo

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

Yi Byeongdo is a serial killer sitting on death row.  He hasn’t said much to anyone about the murders he’s committed and the police are anxious to learn just how many murders there were.  Unexpectedly, Yi Byeongdo has asked to be interviewed by a criminal psychologist by the name of Seonkyeong.  Seonkyeong has no idea why Yi Byeongdo has singled her out as she does not know him.

Seonkyeong has just been surprised by her husband with the arrival of his eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Hayeong.  There has been a fire and Hayeong’s grandparents with whom she was living have died.  Seonkyeong is anxious to help Hayeong feel at home but soon starts to feel out of her depth.  Seonkyeong starts to see quite a few similarities in the histories of both Yi Byeongdo and Hayeong.

I must say that I was disappointed with this one.  I have enjoyed the writing of other Korean authors and apparently Mi-ae Seo is a bestselling thriller author and screenwriter in Korea.  I just could not get into this story and found it to be written in quite a lackluster way.  There were moments when I thought, OK, here we go, but then nothing much happened.  For being a criminal psychologist, Seonkyeong’s thinking and decisions were disconcerting.  She should have known better in so many instances and that leant the book a feeling of unreality.  There were quite a few unbelievable incidents in the book.  While the author did a good job of weaving the separate storylines together, all I could think at the ending of the book was “You have to be kidding”.

Hopefully this book will find an audience that will love it but it’s not one that I can honestly recommend, even though it did have its moments.

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

 

THIS is why I love to read!

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Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Abby Hayman has not had an easy life.  When her parents disappeared when she was 5 years old, she went to live with an aunt, who had troubles of her own.  Abby grew up confused by her memories of things she had been too young to understand.  She has a recurring dream of walking in a field of skeletons, which she finds completely terrorizing.  She’s 20 years old now and has just married William Zengler, a devout Christian who is madly in love with her.  That makes it all the more difficult to understand why she steps out into traffic the day after her wedding when she was so happy to be William’s bride.  Was it an accident or a suicide attempt?

The first two pages of this book proves, once again, that Joyce Carol Oates is a master at her craft.  Those pages were so chilling and pulled me right into this compelling, heartbreaking tale.   This is a very intense, dark story with some extremely brutal moments.  It’s more of a novella at only 144 pages, but Ms. Oates knows how to make every word count.  It punches your heart with a powerful emotional wallop.  Ms. Oates writes compassionately about the long term effects of war on soldiers and the devastating effect of violence on a family.  This one is going to haunt me for a long time to come.

Most highly recommended.

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

Melodramatic, gothic tale

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The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan

Book Review:  3 out of 5 star rating

After her husband’s untimely death, Jocelyn Holt has no choice but to move herself and her young daughter, Ruby, into her mother’s home at Lake Hall.  She hopes it’s just temporary because she and her mother have always had a difficult relationship.  When Jo thinks of her childhood, it’s her nanny, Hannah, who she remembers as giving her the love and care she needed.  But Hannah unexpectedly disappeared from Jo’s life and home when Jo was 7 years old and Jo has never gotten over the loss.  As soon as she was able to, she left her home and parents behind.  Now she’s returned home but things are tense between Jo and her mother.  Then Jo and Ruby find a human skull in the lake and the past is pulled into the present and Jo doesn’t know if she can trust her memories.

I found this one to be more of a gothic mystery in nature than a true thriller.  I literally cringed at some of Jo’s behavior towards her mother.  The only sensible one in the book was 10-year-old Ruby and I felt a lot of sympathy for her.  The story is told from several perspectives and the author does a good job of shifting the reader’s allegiances.  There is a certain point in the book that gripped me, mainly due to the horrible situations people can find themselves pulled into.  But then it races to the very distasteful, at least to me, ending.

An average book about an extremely dysfunctional family.

This book was won by me in a giveaway contest.

 

A fun, fast read

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The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Vincent, Sam, Sylvie and Jules are at the height of their profession.  They have worked hard and their ambition knows no bounds.  They have received an email telling them that they are to meet for an escape room test.  They get into the elevator hoping that this won’t take long and they can get back to their busy lives.  But the elevator stops, the doors won’t open and the lights go out.  That’s when they realize that this isn’t a game and they’ll have all they do to survive. But these four people have always been dangerously competitive and the stress and fears from their confinement are soon combustible.

This was a fun, fast read.  Although some of the plot didn’t come as a surprise to me and the book didn’t get my heart racing, I enjoyed the story.  It was like watching a train heading for a wreck – you knew there was going to be a blow up scene and you couldn’t look away.  The author does a very good job of bringing her characters to life and slowly building the plot.  The only likeable characters were Sara and Lucy but it’s fun having Vincent, Sam, Sylvie and Jules to despise.  And such an excellent moral lesson is in this book.  Watching these people claw their way to the top with the only goal being to make more and more money was sickening.  They worked so many hours, they never had a chance to enjoy what they were earning.  Completely crazy but the author ensures that her characterizations are believable.  She takes great care to show how these people got to where they are. The scenes in the stuck elevator are the best parts and the author has great fun getting these four ruthless people to turn against each other even more as their suspicions and distrust grow.

Recommended.

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

 

Dark, gritty tale

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Bad Axe County by John Galligan

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Heidi Kick’s parents were killed fifteen years ago.  The police said it was a murder/suicide incident but Heidi has never believed that.  She’s still looking to solve the mystery of her parents’ deaths.  Heidi is now acting as Interim Sheriff of Bad Axe County.  While people think she’s doing a great job and want her to take over as fulltime Sheriff, there are many others who will do anything to stop that from happening.  There’s now a missing girl that Heidi is investigating, who most likely has been caught up in a sex-trafficking ring.  She’s also led to information of the disappearance of another young girl four years ago and is determined to find her, even if finding more about that disappearance implicates her husband, Harley.  All of that while facing a dangerous ice storm that’s headed their way and trying to find time for her husband and three children is a heavy burden for Heidi to carry.

This is a dark, gritty, intense, violent book dealing with some of the cruelest characters I’ve ever read.  At times, I thought, “No, this really isn’t my type of book at all”.  But then there was Heidi, the former Dairy Queen, in all of her brokenness and I had to love it and keep reading.  She was the heart of this book and made it an excellent one.  Bad Axe County was one horrible place to live and even Heidi often questioned why she would want to raise her children there.  The author is adept at character development and his depiction of the hard side of the human heart.  I absolutely raced through the final chapters.  I chose this book to read because one of my favorite authors, William Kent Krueger, said it was a dark, beauty of a book and he was right.

Recommended.

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

Second book in unique reverse order trilogy

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The Island by Ragnar Jonasson

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

Four longtime friends decide to have a reunion at an old hunting lodge.  They haven’t been in touch for a long time but this is the tenth anniversary of the murder of one of their friends and they agree to get together in her honor and to re-connect.  When death re-visits this group of friends, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is determined to find out the truth.

This is Book 2 in the Hulda Series by this author.  Interestingly, this series is told in reverse order so this second book takes place many years before the events in the first book, “The Darkness”.  I enjoyed this book, but wasn’t quite as impressed as I was with “The Darkness”.  I became very emotionally involved with “The Darkness”, possibly because Hulda was close to my age and approaching retirement so I related more with her in that book.  But regardless of that, I really liked the mystery in “The Island” and had trouble putting the book down.  I liked all of the suspects and felt the author did a great job detailing how good people’s lives can be derailed.  And I loved the additional insight into Hulda’s life.  I’m very much looking forward to the next book in this series, “The Mist”, which is to be published next year, and spending more time with this interesting protaganist.

Great series.  Recommended.

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.