Book Reviews

All my book reviews are originally published on my home blog page.  However, for easy accesss, they can be found here too.  

Please note, that as a I review a book, I find it hard to fault a book when it is written well.  If the content is different than what I would want or the outcome is not what I had envisioned, I still will find something redeeming about the book.  

It is my hope that this part of my blog will be helpful for all who love a good book as much as I do.  

 

 

The Curiuous Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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By Mark Haddon

In the book by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the reader is immediately immersed into the life of a boy with an evident neurological disorder. I have to say, that as I started reading this book, I felt that the young man in this story was indeed suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. There is evidence within this novel that supports the reader drawing this conclusion however after reading the book, in researching this novel, the author never intended to name this disorder. Nowhere within this novel does the author refer to this young man’s symptoms as Asperger’s Syndrome; however it is strongly implied.

Christopher, who is the protagonist, comes across his neighbor’s dog with a pitchfork sticking out of it. Since his disorder shows signs that are in fact so close to that of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, he seems completely unaffected by what he has seen. His reaction is not what mine would be and when a policeman happens upon the scene and Christopher shows absolutely no sympathy. The police feel he is the primary suspect and arrests him. This case leads Christopher on the hunt for the actual dog killer. Through this, he finds notes that his dad has stashed away; a secret that rocks him and sends him on a spiral that leaves the reader on the edge of their seats.  He ill equipped to understand his limitations but this book is both endearing and heart wrenching. It gives a face to those that live with incapacities that can alter their life but within this book; there is strong message of hope.

I loved this novel and consider it on the upper echelon of my all time favorites. I was exposed to more information regarding Asperger’s or really any neurological disorders similar to that than any textbook I could have read. This book has become a Tony Award winning play and I was excited that shortly after I read it, the play came to my area. The stage itself is transformed to look like a big box, which is appropriate since that is the way this disorder is defined. I highly recommend this book! Read the book first and then go see the play in that order. Your life will be richer because of it.

 

 

The Red Queen

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By Victoria Aveyard

In The Red Queen, Mare Barrow is the quintessential bad-*** capable of taking out both Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior without breaking a sweat.

This was a book set in an incredibly messed up world that was filled with surprises around every corner. One of the biggest surprises to me was the fact that I actually liked this book! Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved the other two hit dystopian works mentioned above. Luckily I got involved in those series before I was “dystopianed” out. The Red Queen took this somewhat played out genre and breathed some life back into it, making it a subject that I ended up really enjoying.

The book takes place in the future of the world we know today. The Silver Blooded people group that exhibit god like abilities rules this government. These men and women are simply called Silvers and all have some variation of a gift or special skill. Some are extraordinarily powerful and can do things like control other peoples’ minds, summon fire, or heal the sick and injured.   In this world, it is the Silvers who rule over their non-Silver counterparts, known as the Reds, who bleed the same as you or I.

Mare, a Red and the heroine of the story meets a Silver man who arranges for her to be employed into the service of the king instead of being drafted to fight in a war that has raged for as long as she can remember.

After she begins serving at an event known as the Queenstrial (basically a show of Silver women who feel they are worthy to wed the heir of the throne) Mare displays powers she never before knew existed within her Red blooded body. As the entire royal court bears witness to the powers of Mare, the King and Queen find themselves in an unusual predicament. Under normal circumstances, they would have her killed, and yet they can’t; now that the whole world knows the truth of what Mare is and what she is capable of. Acting as if she were Silver being raised by the Reds, they instead opt to take her in and give her a back-story along with a betrothal to the second prince in line for the throne one day.

Mare learns how to control her powers with the help of Julian, a man with a rather sordid past in the royal court. As Julian guides her through this chaotic new world, Mare learns how to best be the Silver girl she must now become while hiding her secret Red heritage. Mare’s relationship to her betrothed prince blossoms into a true romance, but the love doesn’t stop there. Mare also finds a connection to the first heir to the throne, who turns out to be the Silver man who got her the job at the palace in the first place!

In the end, this book is a strong first showing in a continuing story that does include additional books. It really has the makings of a fantastic series. Mare is never a woman that needs to be rescued and she certainly carries an edge to her personality that makes her extremely likable.

The story line takes some exhilarating twists and turns that I didn’t foresee. Yet, it answers questions as I wait to read the next book. All and all, this is a book I would recommend to anyone who loves an action packed YA adventure. It would especially lend itself to anyone looking to find a strong female lead to talk to your teenage daughter about. It sure helped me to find something new to talk to my own daughter about and that in of itself is worth the cover price!

 

Big Little Lies Mini-Series/Book Comparison

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Let me start this review by declaring that I am a huge fan of author Liane Moriarty. She has a way of weaving certain words and details into her stories with a technique that leaves me awestruck every time. I read her book Big Little Lies last summer and was excited when the mini-series with Reese Witherspoon was announced for February 2017!

After reading the book and watching the miniseries, I decided to do a comparison between the book and the mini-series to see which one I liked more. Please be aware that this, unlike my other book reviews, will contain spoilers towards the end. Proceed with caution if you are intending to read this book, which I highly recommend you do!

First off, this was probably my favorite book by Liane Moriarty to date. I will say that the ending left me mad, but only because I didn’t figure out the plot twist on my own. Looking back once it was done, I started to see the subtle clues left by Moriarty all throughout the book. She really is a master storyteller with an incredible talent for keeping you hooked until the absolute end of the book.

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A plot summary of the book may help a bit to get things started. (No spoilers just yet) The book is based around three women. The first is Madeline Mackenzie, a strong woman with no filter. She speaks her mind at every opportunity and is a force to be reckoned with. She and her first husband (Nathan) are divorced, though Nathan happens to live in the same town with his much younger free spirited wife (Bonnie) and their child (Skye). Madeline is also remarried to Ed and together they have had two children, one being the same age as Skye.

Madeline carries a lot of rage towards Nathan. In her mind, he abandoned Madeline and the daughter they share, Abigail, because he claimed being a parent was just too hard. Later on when he marries the much younger Bonnie and starts a family with her, Madeline is faced with many of the same emotions she failed to work out previously. It certainly doesn’t help matters when Abigail forms a bond with Bonnie. This bond causes Madeline to fear that her emotional grasp on Abigail may be slipping right out of her own hands. Ed, Madeline’s current husband, does his very best to understand the emotion turmoil his wife finds herself in. He knows that Madeline’s feelings range from cheerful to rage and that they can swing as the wind blows, but this is just how Madeline is and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Celeste, the next central female lead in this story, is far different from the brash and bold Madeline. Celeste is far more reserved and, for lack of a better term, tends to space out at times. In the book, Madeline and Celeste become close friends when a near drowning brings them together. Celeste had taken her twin sons to swimming lessons and was off in her own world when one of the boys happens to wander away during the lesson and nearly drowns. Madeline, dressed as stylish as ever, doesn’t hesitate and jumps in fully clothed to save Celeste’s son. From that point on, a friendship blossoms and they become thick as thieves. No matter Celeste’s comfort level with Madeline, she never reveals a secret she has become very good at hiding.

Jane, the third in our trio of female leads, is new to the small coastal Australian town. She’s a young single mother who is often mistakenly thought of as a nanny and not mother to her son. Her son, Ziggy, is her world and she makes it clear that raising him is her mission alone since Ziggy’s father has never been a part of his life.

The story begins as the three women prepare for their children’s’ kindergarten orientation in December. (Schools start in January in Australia due to their seasons being opposite ours.) On Orientation day, an encounter with a bully leads to a confrontation between parents. There was an attempt to choke a sweet little girl by the name of Amabella (and that is not a typo; the name is French as indicated in the book). Ambella’s mother, Renata, happens to be as fierce as Madeline is and understandably wants to know who was responsible for this attack. When the little girl, Amabella, points to Ziggy, Jane’s son, lines are immediately drawn in the sand. Madeline takes sides with Jane, pulling Celeste in with her, while Renata vows vengeance for her daughter. Tensions further rise when Ziggy, questioned about the incident with Amabella, denies ever hurting her and Jane doesn’t make him apologize for something he didn’t do.

When school starts the following January, both mothers and their children don’t allow the incident to rest. Renata does all she can to makes sure Ziggy is singled out. When invitations for Amabella’s birthday party are handed out, everyone receives one except Ziggy.

Madeline is outraged by Renata’s actions and decides to take matters into her own hands. She soon organizes an outing to Disney on Ice for the entire kindergarten class, which happens to fall on the very same day as Amabella’s birthday party! This leads Renata and Madeline into a stand off that continues throughout the book.

(Now, if you haven’t read the book and want to, I suggest you stop reading at this point!)

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The character of Madeline Mackenzie was described in the book as a taller woman with brown hair. That is a far cry from Reese Witherspoon, who played the dynamic character of Madeline. However, after watching the show, I can’t imagine anyone else playing Madeline. Reese was phenomenal and every bit the sassy character that Madeline Mackenzie is portrayed as in the book.

Another difference I noticed with the portrayal of Madeline was that in the book, she and her current husband Ed share two children, a boy and a girl, together.  The character of Chloe, Madeline’s daughter with Ed, is in the same class as Ziggy and they end up becoming good friends.   The son Madeline shares with Ed was not included in the HBO mini-series. Frankly, he wasn’t that necessary for the story line of the show, so it didn’t surprise me that his character was cut.

Nicole Kidman portrayed Celeste and, at first, this was hard for me to imagine. In the book, Celeste is painted as a younger, more naive woman who falls victim to her abusive husband. The idea of a younger character made more sense when trying to understand how someone would allow herself to become a victim. (More on that later.) The choice to use Kidman in this role did work within the plot of show and it lead to some very steamy scenes in the mini-series.

Jane was the one character who in my mind was represented by the actress I pictured, Shailene Woodley. This was by far the most accurate character representations based on the details from the author. In the book, Jane’s parents were vital characters in her life since she was such a young mother. Jane begins a kindred relationship with Madeline, as Madeline understands what it is like to be a single mother at a young age. (A big difference here is that in the book we learn that Madeline promise Jane’s mother, Mrs. Chapman that she will look out for Jane.)

HBO’s version follows the plot at the beginning of the book fairly closely. The major difference at the onset is that the show takes place in Monterey, California whereas the book takes place in Australia.

There aren’t too many differences in the book/show for the first half of the mini series. After the third of seven episodes, fans of the book should start to become aware of some majors differences. Madeline works at the local community theatre and the production she has been working on side by side with the director is in fear of being shut down due to its content. This detail is not in the book, but it is a fun twist given that Renata is the one pulling the strings behind the scenes to make life for Madeline all the more challenging. Celeste, a non-practicing lawyer, is asked to represent the play at Madeline’s request. This causes a great divide between Celeste and Perry because Perry is controlling and doesn’t want his wife to work. The mini-series also includes an affair between Madeline and the director of the production, though she remains faithful throughout the book to Ed.

Jane reveals to Madeline both in the show and book that a man previously sexually assaulted her when she was younger. The product of that night is Ziggy. Jane immediately becomes fearful when Ziggy is accused of hurting Amabella. Her concern is that violence runs through her son’s veins because of his father’s actions.

In the book, Madeline learns that Jane’s attacker’s name is Saxon Banks. When Madeline shares this information with Celeste, she is outraged because this is the name of Perry’s cousin who happens to also be Perry’s best friend.   The name of the attacker in the show was changed to Saxon Baker and there was never any inclination of him being related to Perry.

Abigail, Madeline’s daughter from her first marriage to Nathan, is working on a secret project in both the book and the show.  Due to Bonnie’s influence and her bohemian ways, Abigail makes the decision to auction off her virginity to the highest bidder in an attempt to raise money for Amnesty International. That was just as shocking in the book as it was in the show!

Madeline’s reaction was just as extreme and as humorous as you’d expect (the same reaction I’m sure most people would have!). Due to the way Madeline’s character is portrayed, I couldn’t’ help but laugh at her take on this serious issue. Obviously the idea is beyond ludicrous, yet it somehow manages to convey a very serious undertone regarding the character of Abigail. On the show, Abigail shuts the site down on her own but in the book it is only shut down once a man from the United States offers Amnesty International one hundred thousand dollars to have the auction terminated before the intended completion. Abigail ends up raising a substantial amount of money for her cause and still keeps her virginity intact, much to the delight of Madeline.   However, the person behind this large donation is closer to Madeline than anyone suspects.  (The anonymous donor is another tidbit of information not found in the mini-series.)

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Coming back to the lives of Amabella and Skye in which there is continued abuse occurring to both girls as the school year moves along. Both girls are still being bullied and everyone is quick to jump to the conclusion that Ziggy is still behind it all. (Both shown in the show and book.)  Ziggy soon becomes the target of a petition to have him expelled, though there are never any eyewitness accounts to support the accusation that he is the one hurting the girls. What is most shocking of all is the fact that Ziggy and Amabella, against all odds, have become good friends and Amabella continues to refuse to identify who is hurting her.

Another commonality between both the book and the mini-series is an annual school fundraiser hosted by the PTA. The event might closely relate a dance or a ball and this year’s theme happens to be Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn. Parents are encouraged come dressed as either of these two figures but I have never seen an event quite as spectacular as described in the book and portrayed in the mini-series. Of course the city of Monterey exudes money, thus being the reason the event is over the top.

As everyone begins to arrive at the ball, Perry and Celeste are shown having an epic fight at home in both the book and the show. It is not uncommon for their fights to become physical. Celeste is abused throughout the book and series. She does all she can to fight back, though she often does so only in self-defense. She never fears for her life until later on when it is revealed the actual bully who has been targeting the girls is one of Celeste’s twin sons.

Celeste is quick to make the connection between her son’s behavior and that of her husband’s and knows that she needs to get her children away from their father as soon as possible. It is after she has secured an apartment that Perry happens to answer her cell and learns of Celeste’s plan to leave him. All of this is happening as both the book and the mini-series continue to steamroll their way to the fundraiser being attended by the entire town.

On the night of the fundraiser, Perry confronts Celeste and begs her to give him one more chance. We know the same as Celeste that they have already tried counseling and even their current counselor is in favor of Celeste’s plans to leave Perry.

(The following is from the book)

When they arrive at the fundraiser, (in the book) Perry is upset but keeps his emotions at bay. Celeste finds Renata and Bonnie to apologize for her son’s behavior towards their daughters, vowing to get him help and to break the cycle of abuse. Soon everyone is on the balcony together, including Renata, Celeste, Jane, Madeline, Bonnie along with Perry, Nathan and Ed. Here, Celeste reveals to Madeline that she is the one who donated one hundred thousand dollars to Amnesty International in order to have Abigail’s site shut down. Nathan thanks Celeste and Perry for their generosity, not knowing that Perry is a controlling and abusive jerk who would not be happy to have his money spent like that without his knowledge or permission.

Once Perry fully grasps what Celeste has done, he makes a jab at her about how she likes to keep secrets like the apartment she just acquired. Celeste does all she can to keep this occasion civil and tries to introduce him to the people on the balcony he has never met before. As Perry continues to argue with Celeste, Jane approaches the couple.

It is in the moment, Jane says, “I already know you.” That is all Jane needs to say before Celeste comes to a bombshell of a conclusion regarding her husband. Celeste now realizes that Perry really was Saxon Banks, the man that had assaulted Jane earlier on. This also makes him the actual father of Ziggy! As Celeste puts two and two together, she then begins to realize that Perry had given his cousin’s name to Jane on the night of the assault and had probably done the same to an untold number of other women in the past. Celeste, in that moment, understands his abuse was not merely a private detail they shared together, though these encounters often led very passionate sex. She always assumed his abuse that manifested itself into hot and fervent sex was something they shared together and was just part of their relationship.

Perry knows he’s been busted, but he claims he doesn’t understand why Celeste is so upset. This is when she realizes that Perry is far sicker than she’d ever imagined. Perry says they will talk about all of this at home, but, after she says something to him, he backhands her in front of the others around them. As Ed comes to her defense, Renata picks up her phone to call the cops. Bonnie completely flips out on Perry and accuses him of being the actual reason his son is hurting innocent girls.   As she draws closer to him, Bonnie unintentionally pushes Perry off the balcony. The fall is just enough that Perry ultimately dies from the impact.

Renata tries to cover up Bonnie’s role in Perry’s death. Ed wants to tell the cops the truth of what occurred, but Madeline goes along with the idea of protecting her ex husband and his wife.   Ed is livid and feels betrayed that Madeline chooses to protect Nathan over what her own husband wants her to do. (The scene that shows the hurt that this causes Ed in the book is pinnacle to the story line the book follows and is quite dramatic.)

This is when it is revealed that Bonnie’s father had abused her earlier in life. This is what caused her to lose it when she realized Perry was the reason that his son was abusing and bullying her daughter. The guilt of what Bonnie’s done doesn’t take long to become too great and she eventually confesses to killing Perry.

Celeste later leaves town with her sons to start over and take another chance at life. Before she leaves, she sets up a trust for Ziggy since he was in actuality Perry’s son. Jane begins a romance and Madeline is forgiven by her husband for siding with Nathan over him.

(This is from the Mini-Series)

With the mini-series, when the showdown started on the balcony, it was just Renata, Celeste, Jane and Madeline. When Perry started to beat Celeste, Bonnie saw what was going on and came to Celeste’s rescue. Instead of falling off the balcony, Bonnie shoves Perry down the stairs. She never confesses to the murder and all the women covered up the death together. The mini-series ends with all the ladies, including Renata and Bonnie, on the beach playing with their children.

As for which version was better, I’d have to go with the book. It’s no secret that a book nearly always contains a great deal of information that was left out of the film adaptation. However, with that being said, the mini-series did a great job bringing the characters to life. Though the book lends its way to the imagination of a few steamy love scenes, the show reveals a very R-rated production. I absolutely loved the opening credits and the theme song was so catchy that I continued to hum it to myself long after the seventh episode had finished. I just wish that the ending of the series were true to form with that of the book. If you have a chance, please share any differences that I may have left out. I hope you check out the book and the mini-series. It is time that won’t be wasted!

 

The Things We Wished Were True

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Marybeth Whalen

Author Marybeth Whalen holds nothing back as she masterfully weaves concepts such as a scorned lover, an accidental drowning, intense moments of stalking, a torrid love triangle, and a kidnapping in wonderful story that truly has everything. The Things We Wished Were True is a melting pot that reveals a story that is a suspenseful page-turner. The cover of this book barely contains the plot twists as readers are immediately thrown into the many story lines that balance out so well within this book. Normally, I would say that this large amount of layers within one story would be too much for a writer to fully explore, but Whalen makes it all work out.

The novel presents a number of colorful characters with personalities so precise and well defined that you’d swear the author was describing someone you know. First, there is Zel. Zel’s an empty nester who loves to be in the midst of everyone’s business. She means no harm and she isn’t wanting to be as intrusive as she lets on. In Zel’s mind, she’s being useful. But is she really?

Next is Bryte. Bryte is guilty of having stolen her best friend’s boyfriend year’s prior. Drama unfolds as she does all she can to avoid the subject resurfacings of infertility within their marriage. With Bryte becoming pregnant once already, her husband feels they need to try again yet Bryte knows it was not that easy, as she had let on.

Jency is just returning to town after years away. Her homecoming is saddened by her feelings of being broken and alone in the world with the betrayal of her husband. Now, with him in prison and the prestigious life she once lived over, she has to put her two young girls first as she moves home for the support from her parents.

Luke, a single father whose wife has walked out on him, struggles to care for his two children. Even though she left him, he is trying to make it work and not sure if he willing to give up on his marriage, quite yet.

Caylee, an eleven-year-old girl, is tasked with watching her little brother for the summer. However Caylee is only a kid herself and is forced with the consequences that her mother places on her to act more like a parent than a kid.

These neighbors all find themselves spending a hot summer day together at the neighborhood pool. When a little boy nearly drowns, the neighbors soon discover that their lives are far more intertwined than they had ever believed before. As the summer marches on, each person ultimately comes to recognize that the smallest circumstances can in fact matter the most in life.

This book had me guessing from start to finish. The author did a complete job in including each character in the book’s many twists and turns, while also keeping a few surprises just for select characters. In the end, I loved how Marybeth Whalen took a cast of seemingly unconnected people who happened to live in the same neighborhood and weaved them into a tapestry of interdependence and showcased just how connected everyone truly is.   The author’s added descriptions of summer smells and sounds helped me feel at home in the neighborhood she created before me. In the end, I would give this five stars and highly recommend it.

 

Summit Lake

By Charlie Donlea

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If you have a need for a murder mystery that will get your heart racing and your blood pumping, then I’ve got the right book for you! Charlie Donlea’s debut novel, Summit Lake, checks every box in what a great suspenseful book needs. I would highly recommend Summit Lake for anyone who loves an exciting murder mystery.

The book opens with the brutal murder of Becca Eckersley, a young woman in the prime of her life. To say this is an intense scene would be an understatement. The detail Donlea uses to paint this setting goes far beyond simple words on a page. This particular backdrop, like many others in the book, becomes an experience that does nothing less than draws readers in further.
It is easy to become invested in this story. Through the use of creative flashbacks, Becca Eckersley’s life is weaved seamlessly within the life of an investigative reporter, Kelsey Castle. The story itself takes place in a little mountain town nestled deeply within North Carolina.

As the story of Becca’s romantic life unfolds, Castle is able to learn that Becca’s perpetual need for male attention is a potential driving force in her investigation. As Kelsey continues to review the case, a connection between herself and the late Becca makes it urgent that Kelsey do all she can to bring justice to the young woman killed in the prime of her life. As if this story needed any further intrigue, it isn’t long before we learn that Kelsey too is running from a troubled past and her involvement in the Eckersley case has become more than just a story to her.

What I loved about Summit Lake was the detailed imagery Donlea used to paint the scenery of North Carolina. Those near and dear to this area (as I am) are always overly critical of its description, and Donlea’s effort really does the state justice. I sometimes find that the overuse of flashbacks and the use of multiple timelines can get repetitive and confusing. That certainly wasn’t the case here! Most of all, this story was not predictable by any means. If I say anymore, I know I’ll start giving away too many important details, so take my word for it and grab this book today.

The next book by Mr. Donlea is set to be released in late April, and I for one am excited about what sort of anxiety he has in store for readers next. As mark of a true mystery writer, Donlea delivers readers countless hours of restless sleep as we come down from the ending of a masterful thriller.

 

 

Bad Mommy Book Review # 6

Tarryn Fisher

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If you ever want to take a ride on the crazy train then be prepared as Tarryn Fisher’s Bad Mommy has everything you’ll ever need. With a dynamic central character whose mental health is forever in question and a setting so real it feels like it could be happening down your block, Bad Mommy is a psychological thrill ride sure to grab you right from the start.

Fig Coxbury, the central character of the work, is an egomaniacal fiend who is only out to get what she feels is rightfully hers. Trouble arises when what she feels she is due is only a thought born from her twisted view of the world around her.

Ms. Fisher gives depth to the thoughts and actions of Fig by providing the alternate voices of Jolene and Darius Avery, the unfortunate family whose lives are the focus of Fig’s devilish desires.

Everything starts out innocently enough when Fig first notices a young girl playing in a park. This seemingly normal scene quickly spirals into one of insanity as Fig becomes fully convinced that this is the same child she unfortunately lost to a miscarriage a couple years earlier.

After thoroughly stalking the little girl and her mother, Jolene Avery, Fig acts on her urges and impulsively purchases a neighboring home to the Avery family. Before long, Fig intertwines herself deeply into the lives of this unsuspecting family with the intention of getting back the life she feels she’s owed.

Jolene, dubbed Bab Mommy by Fig, has no clue that this newfound friend who always seems to be there for her is in reality working against her at every turn. Darius, Jolene’s husband, is not safe from the actions of Fig either as he too soon becomes a target of Fig’s every growing desires.  Darius, is center stage to this story as the reader soon finds out not everything is as wonderful in his life as the fairytale Fig constructs for herself of the handsome Mr. Avery.

Readers are treated to the varying voices of all three characters as the story unfolds. This refreshing approach helps to fully understand just how crafty and unhinged Fig truly is in her quest for return of the life she never rightly had in the first place.

Tarryn Fisher’s creation of Fig Coxbury is a masterpiece of psychological torment and jealousy. She is the perfect character for anyone who guiltily enjoys watching as another’s life self-destructs before their eyes. From beginning to end, readers are taken on a journey of fascination as Fig’s seemingly innocent story unfolds to one of selfish madness with the ultimate goal of replacing the life of another with her own.

I love a great story that showcases the troubling psychological wellbeing of others.   This is a definite issue around all of us in today’s society.  Mental health is looked upon as a mere afterthought.  Fig is a great example of this.

Fig is a train wreck of a character that I loved to hate. The first portion of the book provide Fig’s point of view regarding her inability to have children making her desires and wants totally understandable.  This is something so many of us can relate to. However, when the author starts bringing in the perspective of the other characters, you can finally begin to comprehend just how insane Fig really is.

The ending of this book left me speechless. To say I didn’t expect what I found on the last page would be an understatement to say the very least. Tarryn Fisher’s Bad Mommy is a psychological study and glimpse into the world of an absolute psychopath who has no qualms about ruining the lives of everyone around her so long as she has her own needs met. This is a true page-turner worth your time!

Book Review # 5

The Woman in Cabin Ten

By Ruth Ware

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The name of this book detoured me from picking it up for months. I’d continually see it displayed at Costco, but I simply didn’t want to read about a woman in a cabin in the woods.  The only reason I ever actually looked into this book was when, a few months later, this book was selected as the next read for my book club. I grew more excited about the book after I actually read the synopsis. I could get behind a book that took place on the water. Somehow I got the vibe of Girl on a Train meets the water. Before I’d finished the first chapter, I was hooked and the author did her job of reeling me in like a fish on her line.

Right away Lo, the heroine, is thrown into a dangerous world when her flat becomes a target of a burglary. She is locked in her bedroom and hurt but is eventually able to pick the lock and get to her neighbor’s flat downstairs and call the police.

Needless to say, the attack leaves Lo petrified of the world around her. She decides to leave her flat for the seeming safety and anonymity of her boyfriend’s place. Awoken in the middle of the night by Judah, her boyfriend, she lashes out in a bid to defend her and winds up breaking his nose. The burglary and assault she suffered has truly rattled her more than she could ever expect or articulate and acts as the driving force for the premise of the book.

Fast forward a couple days and Lo, a journalist by trade, finds herself on a ship headed in search of her next story. An unintended result of the burglary is that with the loss of her purse, Lo has also lost a number of items that she has trouble piecing together.   Needing mascara, Lo goes to the cabin next to her own and asks the young woman there if she can borrow her mascara. (That in itself seemed weird. There are just some things you don’t borrow. Borrowing mascara is worse than borrowing someone’s underwear!). This woman resides in the Cabin Ten from the title. After their brief encounter, Lo leaves and doesn’t see the woman again for the rest of the night.

Later, after Lo recounts that she has had too much to drink, (something she often says she won’t do the again) she hears a splash from the side of the boat. Looking over the rail, Lo sees the woman from Cabin Ten sinking to her death. Lo notifies the security team on the lavish boat of what she saw, but they are quick to inform her that no one is registered to Cabin Ten. As a result of this revelation, Lo conducts her own investigation leading to questions no one wants to answer.

Lo, as a main character, is a relatable person that feels real at many points. Her personality has its blemishes, but Lo is able to work beyond her limitations to make her a life successful. Openly suffering from depression and anxiety is just one of the many marks of Lo’s character that many readers may find relatable.  I would say depending on the reader, she is either likable or not likable.

This book rivals others such as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. I liked this book so much more than I initially expected I would. I did feel it missed a couple marks and didn’t really touch on or take advantage of the suspense that was built during the opening burglary scene. This detail was somehow never tied in with the rest of the book. I really enjoyed this book and it kept me guessing until the end, however, I’m starting to feel that this genre of “girls meets disaster” is becoming a bit over played. As far as The Woman in Cabin Ten goes, I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. It was not the most obvious of choice for my next book, but certainly turned out to be a great “who done it?” read.

 

Book Review # 4

The Professor (McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thriller Book 1)

By Robert Baily

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This is certainly a must read for anyone with a love for Alabama Football or the University in general. Thomas McMurtrie was a graduate of both the University of Alabama and the Alabama Law School while also playing football for the famous Bear Bryant. After only a few years out of law school, Coach Bryant, referred to as the Man by McMurtrie, recruited the young lawyer back to the University to work as a law professor. Feeling honored by the request, Tom readily accepted the offer as a personal favor to his old coach.

Forty years later, Tom still works as a professor at the University and has written a highly respected book concerning evidence. This is a book nearly every lawyer has used in case evidence at one time or another throughout their career. When a new Dean of Law decides to set his sights on the older professors, Professor McMurtrie, by now known as simply the Professor, finds himself on the Dean’s list of potential targets.

The Dean’s confidence is first bolstered by an altercation he witnesses between the Professor and one of his students. When it is caught on video and uploaded to You Tube, the Dean finally feels he has the evidence he needs to push McMurtrie into retirement. The Dean enlists one of the Professor’s former students as lead council to force the Professor out of the University for good.

Feeling as if he caused the young law student, Rick Drake, whom he’d had the altercation with to lose out on several lucrative offers; Tom reaches out to Drake to give him a case. An old friend has asked Tom personally to take this wrong death case but for health reasons, Tom refers the case to Rick Drake. After the Professor promises to stay our of Rick’s way, Tom soon realizes what Rick is really up against and secretly sends his former assistant, Dawn, to assist Rick in any way she can.

As the case takes off it becomes one that incorporates dangerous elements and threatens both Rick and Dawn. Before long Rick comes face to face with the former famous lawyer who had stabbed the Professor in the back and was working alongside the Dean to force the Professor out of his job at the University.  Rick is in the case of his life and working against the best attorney in the state of Alabama and operating with only a fraction of the resources he needs.

If you like a suspenseful thriller with a tender-hearted edge to it, this is a great choice to add to your reading list. This book showcases that second chances sometimes become the stuff that dreams are made of.

This is only the first book in the series and the second book, Between Black and White, works to expand the story further by taking a minor character from Robert Baily’s first book and giving him the spotlight. I enjoyed The Professor quite a bit. It was well written and used easy to understand legal jargon that made it sound very official and kept me guessing throughout the entire story.

 

Book Review # 3

The Mountain Story                                                                                                                                                                   Lori Lansens

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The Mountain Story is one of my all time favorite books. Told in alternating time periods by the narrator who is also the protagonist of this novel: Wolf is a young man determined to end his life. The book begins as a letter to Wolf’s now grown son as Wolf tells him that he has a story to tell; one he has not yet shared with his own wife. Moving back in time eighteen years from the letter, Wolf is a young man on the cusp of adult hood but is consumed with guilt from an accident that takes his best friend Byrd, from everyone who loves him. The guilt that consumes Wolf along with the family dysfunction that over runs him, forces him up to the mountain to end his life.

The story begins to unfold when his path crosses with three very different women.   Wolf comes face to face with these women that will ultimately change his life. The women all know one another but their true relationships are revealed little by little throughout the first couple chapters of this book, keeping the reader engaged. As the foursome become desperately lost on the mountain, the wilderness soon takes its toll on them all as they are just trying to find their way home.

Given that this novel is not in the specific genre of mystery, it has more twists and turns than a roller coaster. Without giving too much away, because the ending is one that left me awe struck at many different points, this book is worth the adventure it takes the reader on.

With the intricate weaving of past events from Wolf’s life that makes him the young man he was when his plan was to end his life on the mountain coincide with bits and pieces the three women share with him about their past life, the reader is given the big picture of how this book is brilliantly constructed.

Redemption is one of the themes I took away from the book. Here is the main character, Wolf; who most people had written off. However, I think that a person who has struggled with life in a way this character is portrayed can take advantage of knowing that second chances are real. Although this book is a work of fiction, it is inspirational in a world tied down by devastating news stories.

This is a heart-warming story of endurance and perseverance that hits right at the soul of anyone that has faced the most difficult circumstances. Always written in a fast pace voice, as the reader, I was always on the edge of my seat to as how this beautiful story would conclude.

 

Book Review # 2

The Dinner                                                                                                                                                                                                                         By Herman Koch

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February 2, 2017

Upon completion of The Dinner, I had to ask myself if my cultural differences interfered with my interpretation. To clarify, I felt the book was very well written, but the content made me shake my head at times. All in all, this book could make the most dysfunctional family look normal.

Let’s start from the beginning. The novel is set in Holland and follows Paul Lohman, the narrator of this novel. At first, you are given a picture of two brothers and their wives sitting down for dinner at a well-known upscale restaurant. It seems as ordinary as anything else in life for these brothers to enjoy a night out together. As you delve into the book, you see there are deeper issues with this family and the brother’s relationship.  Paul doesn’t seem as if he likes his brother too much. We have all been there. Family is given to us; we don’t choose them. It is natural to assume that in some cases we would never have selected them as friends if not related. The author taps into this issue.  However, that is family at the core. They are part of us, and because of that we put up with our family’s idiosyncrasies. The same is true as it is depicted within The Dinner.

In the beginning, we see Paul walking to the restaurant with his wife, Claire. As he narrates, he gives history that is important to the basis of the story, weaving the past with the present. His brother is the supposed shoe-in for prime minister of Holland and Paul sees everyone one fall at the feet of Serge Lohman. It is safe to say Paul doesn’t view his brother in the same light.

As the dinner progresses with Serge and his wife, Babette, we are introduced to both the couple’s children. It is further revealed through their conversations that the purpose of this dinner is to discuss a serious issue that involves their sons.

Beyond this point, too many spoilers would be exposed.  Needless to say, this story numbs the very fiber of one’s moral being. We are left with the simple question, “What the hell?”

As previously mentioned, I wondered at first if my shock over the story was due to a cultural difference, since the writer is from Holland. It might be akin to when those not from the United States looks at us Americans and say, “Ah, that’s those Yankee’s for you…”

After careful consideration and reflecting on other reader’s reactions to this book, I don’t particularly think that culture was the deciding factor in the decline of the characters’ judgments. This book taps into the very nature of human beings and the harsh reality that some people are just not good.  When concessions are made in order to cover up bad choices, it can lead to a series of regretful decisions, as shown in this book.

As far as the novel itself, I felt it was masterfully crafted and engaging. This story is fast paced and I couldn’t wait to find out how it had concluded. In the end, although it was upsetting, this story showed the reality of the sometimes very ugly human spirit.

 

Book Review #1

The Secrets She Carried                                                                                                                                                                                                   By Barbara Davis

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January 26, 2017

Barbara Davis’s premiere book, The Secrets She Carried, is an eclectic mix of mystery and romance. Set between alternating decades, the story follows the lives of two characters; Adele and Leslie.

Adele makes the decision early on to seek her future far beyond the childhood home she has always known. Adele isn’t simply leaving behind a childhood home, but also a mother who wishes only the best for her daughter. As for her father, Adele has little to say and even less to feel for the man who had left so many years before.

Adele soon finds employment on a North Carolina tobacco farm that is struggling to come to terms with the Great Depression. In only a short time, Adele soon discovers that she has fallen hopelessly in love with her employer’s husband. These feelings are beyond mutual and soon they begin a torrid love affair.

Fast-forward eighty years and we meet Leslie, the great granddaughter of the plantation owners: Henry Gavin and his wife, Suzanne. Leslie had left the farm when she was seven years old after a freak accident took the life of her mother. Leslie’s grandmother, Maggie, the daughter of Henry Gavin who is the current owner of the farm, passes away in the midst of turning the tobacco farm into a vineyard with her business partner, Jay. When Leslie arrives to claim her inheritance, she is shocked by some of the stipulations contained in the will and the questionable treatment she receives from her grandmother’s business partner.

Always in the mood for a mystery that highlights the importance of a time period, this book lends itself equally well to the history of tobacco farming and its importance in North Carolina’s history. The story laces together details regarding the difficulties of farming and survival during the Great Depression.  As the story weaves back and forth between the lives of Leslie and Adele, questions continue to arise concerning the mysterious death of Leslie’s great grandfather’s mistress; Adele.

Leslie, the only surviving member of the historical family for which the town has been named, is a strong woman with little desire to ask for help from anyone.  The fact that she must now learn to rely on her new business partner while also trying to ensure that the struggling vineyard she has inherited is able to bring about its crucial first harvest, is almost beyond her abilities. And if that weren’t enough, Leslie must also address recent concerns regarding the emergence of the drunken father who had left her broken hearted so many years before. Adding to the mystery of this book is the impending romance that Leslie tries to fight with Jay.

The characters of Leslie and Adele are brought to life through the depth of details and vivid imagery used by Davis. The Secrets She Carries provides us two leading characters who exemplify the female strength and determination that proved so vital to this nation at this time. With every turn of the page, a new theory takes hold and it isn’t until the following chapters that readers are made aware what is fact and what is only speculation. This is a book that will surely leave you guessing.

The cliffhanger ending of this book leaves readers with a hunger for a sequel that is hopefully soon to come. A masterful blend of history and fiction, The Secrets She Carries delivers upon its promise to leave readers questioning and wondering what secrets the next page holds.

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