It is fairly obvious the school year has begun, as I have been quite delinquent in my book blog. My apologies to you all, but at least I have some 'dandies' to share so...happy reading!!
The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi
If you like the television series Criminal Minds, if you like a mystery book that leads you through a maze, showing you the 'answer' and then denying it, and if you like unique, tortured souls as the lead characters, then this book is for you. Mila Velasquez is the best detective around when it comes to finding kidnapped children; it's her specialty. However, to be a woman detective who has devoted her life to finding missing children, something in her life is a little haywire. She's got an 'interesting' background, a life peopled with her past, and some odd habits. Enter Goran Gavila and his team of specialists - Gavila is a behavioral scientist and they need Mila's help with their latest case. It involves severed arms, young girls, and an entire litany of psychopathic characters. Carrisi does a masterful job of weaving the story all together, when one is not really sure where it is going. Beware of the twists and turns - I went down many a dead-end, thinking I knew 'who dunnit', only to be turned away. The ending is worth it. This is definitely what I call a page turner:)
The Wedding Gift by Marla Suyapa Bodden
This was our book club choice for our 'historical fiction' month. After much deliberation around a variety of time periods, we opted for the antebellum south. The premise of the story is fairly straightforward - a plantation owner gives a slave to his daughter as a wedding present. The twist? The slave is the bride's half-sister. Even then, Bodden could have relegated this to a fairly stereotypical southern story, with the evil overseer, the drunken owner, the ever-suffering wife, and the loyal slave. However, Bodden goes well beyond this. As told by both Sarah, the half-white, half-black slave, and the slave owner's wife, Theodora, the story is more of the life of women back in the 19th century, their lack of choice, the lives they must lead, and the legacy they wish to pass on to their children. Clarissa, the spoilt white daughter, has a surprising depth to her at times, and Sarah, her sister and slave, is simply marvelous. Her courage and intelligence would make her a charismatic civil rights leader if she had been born 100 years later. The bad guys (the overseer, the owner, the husband) are well-developed, but not highly complex - they really have no redeeming qualities. We are told of a slave's life, the never-ending fear that her children will be sold away, never to be seen again; we see the families they try to create and the way in which plantation life tears them apart. A bit of a mystery surrounds the final one-third of the book that is fairly intriguing (and I won't give it away). Needless to say, this was a fairly fast read, not particularly long, good story-telling, and I hope a great discussion for our book club.
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
Listening to this book on audible.com was a beautiful journey back into a time of shame for our country. It begins in 1968, when an elderly widow, Martha, answers the door to a young pregnant girl named Linny. Linny is accompanied by an African-American man, who is both deaf and mute. As the young girl holds her newborn daughter, the guards from her 'school' retrieve her, not knowing of the baby's existence. The other escapee runs through the rainy night, thought to be drowned, but miraculously saved. Thus...the story begins. We go back to a time when children who were mentally impaired were placed in institutions, hidden away from the world, lest one be 'embarrassed' by their outbursts, their inappropriate laughter, their inability to form words properly. We see the world through Linny's eyes as she lives the life of the institutionalized, and watches as the world changes around her, as civil rights eventually come to the developmentally disabled. We also watch Martha as she struggles to raise a child on her own, determined to do 'right' by Linny. And we also share Homan's life (aka '42' at the institution), marveling at how a deaf-mute could survive in a world that treats him as a cipher. This is a powerful story of how far our world has come, what it takes to survive, the people who become 'family', and the lighthouse that weaves the story all together in the end. This is well worth the read.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
First, you have got to see this book in person, not on Kindle. It's an amazing work of art, with a variety of page types and 'creative' news articles embedded into the fiction story. It is also the heaviest book I've ever lifted; it's got to be the paper used, as it is smooth to the touch and dense. So, if you want a lighter weight book, go with the Kindle version, but honestly, the book itself is just really cool! Now...to the story. So, full disclosure - it took me two months to read this book and I'm not even sure why. It's really very good, but I just kept putting it down, picking up other 'quick' reads, not wanting to drag the heavy tome with me to places, and generally making excuses. The amazing thing was I could always pick it back up whenever I wanted and I was immediately transported right back into the story. I'm thinking that if I hadn't started school at the same time I'd started this book, I would have breezed through it. Pessl is a really, really good writer, trust me. She constructs a complex story line, fascinating characters, and even throws in a bit of occult/fantasy to round it all out. The premise surrounds a middle-aged reporter who's been put in the penalty box by other news sources for getting a story wrong about Stanislaw Cordova, a "Quentin Tarantino-ish" movie director, who makes Marlon Brando look like a publicity hound. Cordova's daughter, Ashley, is found dead at the very start, and our diligent reporter, Scott McGrath (boring name compared to all the other characters) is pulled back into the Cordova universe, convinced a mystery is waiting to be solved. McGrath has a couple of dandy sidekicks who are quirky and twisted, and the places they go - oh my - it's a roller coaster ride, for sure. I really need others to read this book, as I'm dying to talk about the ending; it left a lot of questions in my mind, but not the bad kind of questions like "what happened" but the good kind like "why...?" So yes, I definitely recommend this book - there is a reason it's been on the best-seller list for months. Quirky, twisted, creepy, complex, dark...what's not to like??
The Story Catcher by Ann Hite
This was actually the book I voted for when we had to choose a 'historical fiction'; luckily, I lost, as I really wouldn't call this 'historical fiction.' It is most definitely a ghost story. However, it takes place during the Great Depression, when not flitting back in time to figure out the ghosts' lives, and the story is set both in the mountains of Appalachia and an island off the Georgia coast called Sapelo (look it up - it's been in the news lately). Thank goodness, a few family trees were written at the beginning of the story, as I had to keep referring to them time and again. Numerous families are connected, but a couple of main ones tell the story. First is young Shelly, an African-American teen whose brother has run off, whose mother works for the tyrannical pastor in their small mountain town, and who is viciously jealous of the pastor's daughter, Faith. The other main family is the GeeChee connection out on Sapelo Island (a small hunk of land that was settled by slaves, where families have lived for generations, tied to the sea and the land). As Hite brings these two stories together, we also see the ghosts and their interaction with the humans. They have 'issues' left to resolve, a few dead bodies to find, a few folks who need retribution to come their way, and a few mysteries to solve. I loved the dark gothic settings, the fire-and-brimstone preacher who needed his comeuppance, the gritty young girls trying to find justice in an unjust world. This is a great vacation read, or a dark, stormy weekend curl-up-by-the-fire kind of book. It's a quick read, well told, about a different place in time (it does, however, make you look over your shoulder more than once, wondering who may be watching you that cannot be seen!).