Friday, April 3, 2015

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

The brilliant, hauntingly beautiful, and assured second novel, twelve years in the making, from a writer whose previous novel Stay was a Globe "Top 100" pick, a finalist for the Amazon First Novel Award, and made into a feature film. 
When she was just fifteen, smart, sensitive Jane Standen lived through a nightmare: she lost the sweet five-year-old girl she was minding during a walk in the woods. The little girl was never found, leaving her family, and Jane, devastated. Now the grown-up Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As her one last project, she is searching the archives for scraps of information related to another missing person--a woman who disappeared some 125 years ago from a Victorian asylum. As the novel moves back and forth between the museum in contemporary London, the Victorian asylum, and a dilapidated country house that seems to connect both missing people, it unforgettably explores the repercussions of small acts, the power of affection, and the irrepressible vitality of everyday objects and events. 
Here is a rivetting, gorgeously written novel that powerfully reminds us of the possibility that we are less alone than we might think.

Review:  I really, really wanted to love this book.  After reading the summary, I felt compelled to explore this novel; there was the mystery of two girls from different eras who had vanished in the same forest and the settings which included a Victorian manor/museum, an asylum, and the English countryside and woods.  Who wouldn't want to be transported into this gothic, enchanted mystery not to mention the gorgeous cover design.

The story is interesting but I found it difficult to follow along at times.  There are many characters to keep track of and at times I would have to pause at someone's name and try to remember who the heck this person was.  The unexpected turn are the ghosts who follow the main character, Jane, around.  At first you wonder how they fit into the story but then you discover who they are and why they are there.  You begin to feel for all of them, they can't quite remember who they are or what their real name is.  It is through discovery, bits and pieces of writing and places from the past, when the ghosts realize who they are.

Lots of unique details to take in, at times I felt like there was too much detail.  Although some museum pieces were fascinating to read about, it just seemed like overkill sometimes.  Because of this, the novel seemed monotonous to read and I didn't get that sensation that I couldn't wait to read the next chapter.  I only wanted to read the next chapter to possibly find out what happened to the two missing girls and actually who one of the girls was, since she was only listed in the asylum records as N.

I liked following Jane around as she traveled back to the village, the manor, the woods where it all happened.  There is even a little romance in the story which was refreshing.  I felt pained for her because of what happened when she was 15 and responsible for watching over one of the girls who ultimately went missing.  It is something that stayed with her for so long that it became a sad, unanswered part of her life, a terrible memory that could never be erased.

This is such an intricate, beautifully written novel.  You can tell that the author put tons of hours, hard work, and research into this book.  I just found it to be a bit too long in the details and the story seemed to drag at times.  However, I would still recommend this book to fans of gothic, mystery novels.  I received this book for free from blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes

Claudia Morgan-Brown finally has it all. Pregnant with a much-wanted first baby of her own, she has a happily established family of two small step-sons and a loving husband with a great career. But she is also committed to her full-time job as a social worker, and her husband travels often. So when Claudia hires Zoe to help her around the house in anticipation of the baby’s arrival, it seems like the answer to her prayers. But despite Zoe's glowing recommendations and instant rapport with the children, there's something about her that Claudia cannot trust.
Moreover, there has been a series of violent attacks on pregnant women in the area, and Claudia becomes acutely aware of her vulnerability. With her husband out of town for work and her family far away, who will be there to protect her? And why does she feel unsettled about Zoe? Realizing appearances can be deceiving even in her seemingly perfect world, Claudia digs deeper into Zoe’s blurry past and begins to wonder – how far would someone go to have a child of her own?
Riveting from its very first pages, Until You’re Mine is a multilayered masterwork of twisted, psychological suspense. Readers of Before I Go to Sleep and Turn of Mind will be enthralled by this multilayered novel, featuring a twisted plot that ends in a breathtaking and shocking finale.

Review:  I wanted to take my time reading this book because I didn't want to miss anything, being a psychological thriller, sometimes I feel that clues get missed when speedily reading through each chapter.  Everything said and actions taken by various characters were all slowly digested, but you know what, I still did not expect the surprise twist at the end of the book. The author does a great job (at least to me) of fooling the reader into thinking the killer is this certain character, and it turns out that she isn't and also isn't who you think she is or pretending to be.  This is an intricate story that is masterfully laid out by the author.  I noticed some very low ratings for this book on Goodreads, some people thought the plot was so unlikely while others thought it was predictable.  I disagree completely.  

Each character's story was interesting, from Claudia the social worker to Zoe the nanny and Lorraine the police investigator; the dialogue was true to life and easy to follow.  You get sucked into each character's life and don't want to leave until you find out what's happened.  It's not until you near the end of the book that one or two chapters will leave you scratching your head because you don't know who is speaking, but it's intended to be that way, the mystery of trying to find out who this person is and what their twisted mind is planning.  I went back and read these two particular chapters when I finally realized who was who and it was shocking!  Also, the very last line of the book is chilling and such a perfect ending.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers and suspense.  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for an honest review.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun

Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows.  Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world.  Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.

He ventures out into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness.  Chase and his buddy Jordan are devising a scheme to live off their drug-store lootings; Lila is a high school student wandering the streets in an owl mask, no longer safe with her insomniac parents; Felicia abandons the sanctuary of a sleep research center to try to protect her family and perhaps reunite with Chase, an ex-boyfriend.  All around, sleep has become an infinitely precious commodity. Money can’t buy it, no drug can touch it, and there are those who would kill to have it. However, Biggs persists in his quest for Carolyn, finding a resolve and inner strength that he never knew he had. 

Kenneth Calhoun has written a brilliantly realized and utterly riveting depiction of a world gripped by madness, one that is vivid, strange, and profoundly moving.

Review:  I wasn't sure what to expect from this book when I selected it from Blogging for Books.  The plot seemed unique and a nice departure from the norm.  And boy was it anything but normal.  I admire the change in scenery from this book.  I never stopped to wonder what society would be like if people weren't all.  This book does a great job of exploring that question.  People aren't able to sleep, they start to slowly unravel, become highly agitated until they explode into these violent, homicidal maniacs.  Their words don't make any sense; they are basically losing their minds and dying in the process.  

Biggs seems to be one of the main characters.  The book starts out with him searching through a pharmacy, looking for sleeping pills for his wife Carolyn who can't seem to sleep. Then the book progresses into other stories featuring Chase, Lila, and Felicia.  Personally, I felt that Biggs' story was the dullest in the book, I was much more interested in what was going on with the others.  Chase's adventures are memorable, especially his driving episode with dozens of sheep riding along in the back.  Lila's character tears at your heartstrings, a teenager who has lost her entire family and is left wandering around wearing an owl mask as a sort of shield against the world around her.  Then there is Felicia, who is Chase's ex-girlfriend who leaves her secure surroundings at a sleep clinic in Malibu to meet up with Chase when she realizes that she still cares for him despite their earlier issues.

Overall, a smooth, witty, unnerving read, with dashes of great simile and metaphor thrown in by the author.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian, surreal, and thrillers.  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for an honest review.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Three Poems Posted at Dead Snakes

~ Great news this morning from editor Stephen Jarrell Williams of Dead Snakes poetry journal.  He accepted three of my poems, Cold and Damp, Free Fall into Forget, and Flutter House.  The poems are now live at Dead Snakes, a journal that accepts work showcasing both the bitter and the sweet, according to the guidelines.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Immortal by Dean Crawford


When the body of a gunshot victim rolls into the Santa Fe morgue, it should be a day like any other for medical investigator Lillian Cruz. Yet upon examination, the corpse appears to be over a hundred years old with smallpox scars, and an odd wound protrudes from the victim#8217's leg. Lodged in the femur, under decrepit scar tissue, is a bullet shaped like a musket ball. The bullet looks like it was fired during the Civil War and had remained in the victim#8217's leg ever since. 

Rattled by the discovery, Cruz instructs her assistant to take specimens to the state authorities immediately and not to tell a soul about it. Minutes after the assistant leaves, the lights go dark in the morgue and Cruz is kidnapped. 

The Defense Intelligence Agency calls in former war correspondent Ethan Warner and his partner, Nicola Lopez, to discreetly investigate the disappearance. And very quickly, a relatively simple case turns into something much more sinister. With each new lead they uncover, Warner and Lopez are inadvertently bringing a warped and dangerous individual closer to achieving a catastrophic goal: immortality. In the spine-chilling tradition of Michael Crichton and James Rollins, Immortal is an action-packed blockbuster that combines science, suspense, and ingenious speculation.

Review:  I bought this book from Book Outlet because the summary seemed intriguing.  I forgot to check the page count on this book, it's quite a hefty read (399 pages) and it actually took me a little over 2 weeks to finish.  I wasn't reading everyday but the book just seemed to drag on and on.  I like that the chapters were short, but the book overall seemed long-winded at times.  Also, there was so much going on that you really had to pay attention, not only to the story but also the various characters.  Sometimes I would start reading a day or two later and ask myself who this guy was because I couldn't remember.

Overall, the plot was thought out well and the characters seemed very real.  The two main characters, Ethan and Nicola's banter back and forth reminded me of the typical CSI or detective shows you see on tv except they were both bail bondsmen or something to that effect.  

The antagonist, an elderly millionaire named Jeb Oppenheimer, was out to capture one of the "immortal" men so that he could study him and possibly create a tonic that would enable him to basically be immortal and live forever.  However, he also had an evil plan to accompany that which entailed culling a majority of the earth's population to save the earth's natural resources for an elite few who he deemed as being superior and above the rest of the population.  

The story held my interest as I read about the 7 "immortals", what caused them to live for so long, and how they were suddenly starting to die after living for over 140 years.  The ending had a nice surprise at the end, finding out that there was an 8th immortal and how this person escaped without being detected.  A good read with a nice blend of suspense, sci-fi, and action.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Lilac City Published

~ My mini-chapbook, The Lilac City, was just published by Origami Poems Project.  I'm so thrilled they published this chapbook and editor Jan Keough was so kind and gracious.  I discovered Origami's website a few years ago but never seemed to have anything appropriate to send to them until recently.  The Lilac City is about discovery of the pacific northwest and fond memories from living in Spokane, WA for over 15 years.