dimanche 20 avril 2014

Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman

 
The children had never been this far from home before. Liv had spent most of yesterday driving around, hunting for no-mess Crayola coloring books, praying they weren't too juvenile to keep a six- and eight-year-old occupied in the car, then running up and down the supermarket aisles in search of bars and snack pouches in case they couldn't find food on the road. Or in case they did find something, and Paul wouldn't allow the kids to eat it.

Liv Daniels and her family leave on holiday for the first time in years on a trip to see her husband's parents. When they stop for the night in a hotel, everything seems to be going well. But when Liv wakes up the next morning, she finds her two children missing. The police are called and a search begins, but it soon becomes apparent that the person responsible may be closer than Liv thinks...

Ruin Falls showed up in a Most Anticipated Books column on one of my go-to blogs, and the atmospheric cover caught my attention. The blurb seemed to promise a tense thriller so I added it to my To Be Read list. When it showed up on Netgalley I requested it and was pleasantly surprised when it was accepted - one of the first ARCs I asked for and received! I decided to wait until shortly before the release date to read it and devoured it in a single day. Ruin Falls is a thriller novel done right and I loved it!

Set over a two week period, Ruin Falls tells the story of Liv Daniels. A mother, wife and business owner, she shares a farm with her professor husband and two children. Following her husband's eco-friendly lifestyle, they avoid consumer culture as much as possible. Leaving on vacation, Liv's world is torn apart by the disappearance of her children. But it is the identity of the kidnapper that really sends Liv reeling as she is forced to reexamine everything she thought she knew and every belief she held dear in the light of a horrendous betrayal.
I don't think I will give away any major spoilers if I reveal that the kidnapper is Liv's husband, Paul. The reveal itself happens very early in the novel, an  the true mystery is not who took the children but why and where he has taken them. The fact that Paul is the one to be behind the abduction allows Milchman to play around with the standard kidnapping storyline as the police relegate it to a domestic dispute, leaving Liv alone to try and recover her children.

Milchman does a fantastic job of creating tension - right from the first page we are dragged into Liv's frame of mind as more and more events ramp up her feeling that something is wrong. Even before we discover the kidnapping, Liv is stressed, convinced that something is wrong or about to happen. From an agressive truck driver to her son disappearing in a crowd, Liv is constantly on tenderhooks and so is the reader.

Having your children taken is any parent's ultimate nightmare and Milchman does a fantastic job of portraying that in Ruin Falls. That is made even worse by the aforementioned fact that the police will not do anything because the father is the one who has taken them. Liv's feeling of helplessness fills the pages and it is great to see her slowly gain the confidence she needs to save her children. She really develops through the course of the novel, and I loved the fact that despite the presence of a male character who assists her, at the end Liv is totally alone when it comes time to face the true villain of the piece.

Of the supporting characters, most are well developed, though unfortunately Paul comes across as a bit of a cipher whose aims and motivations are left quite fuzzy. His parents are much more interesting characters, and the truth about his past is done in a very nice way, keeping you guessing and putting together the various pieces all the way through. I would have liked there to be a little more closure to his storyline, though what does happen to him is definitely well deserved.

As I mentioned above, the conclusion is worthy of the build-up, pitting Liv against everything she has feared and forcing her to stand up and fight for her children. The book ends with a hopeful twist, though one that remains bittersweet when you consider the implications of everything that has happened.

Ruin Falls does not break any major ground when it comes to this kind of family-in-danger thriller, but it does do what it set out to extremely well. Edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting tension from the first page to the last, it is not the kind of book that I found myself laying aside without a tug of reluctance, wanting to read a little bit more to find out what would happen next or how a situation would resolve. The mystery was well done and did not ever feel drawn out, and the conclusion was worthy of everything that had been set up until then. I felt for and related to Liv and the other characters. At its heart, Ruin Falls is about motherhood and the lengths any of us (mothers or fathers) go to protect our children (although I have to admit that Dads do not come out of this one particularly well!) I will definitely be adding Jenny Milchman to my Must-Read List. I gave Ruin Falls 4 shoemaking psychopaths out of 5.

Ruin Falls will be released on April 22nd.

Goodreads
Buy It For Kindle
Author's Website

From the Blogosphere:
Loveinwrittenword
Chorley Chronicals
A Garden Carried in the Pocket

From the Author's Mouth:
Interview carried out by fellow author Cynthia Lott

vendredi 18 avril 2014

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld


This is an enchanted place. Other's don't see it but I do.

From his cell, the narrator of The Enchanted tells us the story of the inmates, guards and other inhabitants of the ancient stone prison where he is being held on death row. Through his sometimes almost supernatural sight, he tells us of the Lady, an investigator hired by lawyers to try and get death row inmates out of their death sentences, the Fallen Priest, who struggles to make sense of the tragedy that caused his fall from grace, the warden whose wife is fighting a losing battle against cancer, and York, a brutal killer with a heartbreaking past of his own. As his own execution draws closer, the narrator draws all of these characters together in the enchanted place where wild horses run...

An Amazon pick of the month, The Enchanted has received quite a lot of attention in the past couple of months. After reading the blurb, and hearing the comparisons to such great books as The Green Mile, I added it to my To-Read list, unsure quite what to expect but looking forward to discovering what it was all about. What I found was a heart-wrenching literary fantasy, definitely worthy of the positive vibes that have been rippling through the blogosphere recently.
Told by a nameless narrator - whose identity is hinted at throughout but not fully revealed until the very end - The Enchanted brings together a number of disparate characters, all of them with dark secrets in their pasts, all of them struggling to make sense of the world around them and such concepts as justice, forgiveness and morality in a place where morals are a commodity and not a necessity. As our narrator skips between the characters, we get a fully rounded glimpse into the enchanted place that is this prison: a dark place where guards turn a blind eye to murder and rape in return for drug-money kickbacks, but also an enchanted place where the slightest act of goodwill can shine like a star gone suddenly nova.

Combining fantastical elements with a harrowing examination of the penal system and an investigative subplot surrounding the Lady and her attempts to see York escape the death penalty, the novel is able to constantly surprise and astonish, drawing out revelations about characters that turn monsters into victims without shying away from the dark truths. While examining something as sensitive as the death sentence and the way we treat men and women in prison, The Enchanted never goes for the easy answer or the simple emotion, forcing the reader to make their own minds up or at least go away from the book asking themselves questions.

Denfeld's writing combines short, sharp sentences with a poetic turn of phrase at times that culminates in a final scene that I defy anyone to read without at least a lump in their throat. Told mainly in the first person, the story moves skillfully between the characters, giving them all space to breath and develop despite the short length. While there are a few truly villainous characters (one each especially amongst the guards and the prisoners), most of them are far from simply cardboard cutouts - every single one of them has a story to tell.
The ending is bitter sweet, depending on the characters, but most of the story questions posed by the novel are answered while the more philosophical conundrums are left - as I said above - to the reader to make sense of. The fantastical elements, while present, are left in the background and again it is left up to the reader to decide how much of them are real and how much of them are wish fulfillment on the part of the narrator.

Harrowing and yet uplifting, dark and yet full of hope, The Enchanted is one of my books of the year so far and I imagine that it will be somewhere in my top ten by the end. Filled with real people and brimming over with beautiful, dark imagery, the book is a thought provoking novel that doesn't forget that the first job of any novel is to tell a story. I will most definitely be looking out for Rene Denfeld's next work. I gave The Enchanted 5 flibber-gibbets out of 5.

Goodreads
Buy It For Kindle
Author's Website

From the Blogosphere:
The Lost Entwife
My Shelf Confessions
Fantasy Book Critic

From the Author's Mouth:
Interview at Foyles.co.uk

mercredi 16 avril 2014

The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier


The young men completed their training row in record time.

All her life, Diana Morgan has been obsessed with Amazons. Told stories of these empowered female warriors by her grandmother when she was a child, she has devoted her career to proving that they actually existed. Dismissed by many as a deluded fool, Diana jumps at the opportunity that is presented to her by a strange old man who claims to need her assistance at an archaeological dig that may just prove all of her theories. What she discovers, though, will take her on a journey from Algeria to Greece to Turkey to the far north on a quest that includes bronze bracelets, a secret society and the truth about the Trojan War...

Although the cover for The Lost Sisterhood did not really catch my attention, when I read the blurb describing Amazons, Troy and a quest that spans the globe, I couldn't resist giving it a go. And boy am I glad that I did! Combining historical fiction and a thriller-type quest, The Lost Sisterhood is a sprawling novel set in two time frames and filled with great twists and exciting set pieces.
 
The modern part of the novel follows Diana Morgan as she chases clues left behind for her by her grandmother across the world in search of the 'real' Amazons. Caught in the middle between two powerful men - each with their own reasons for trying to find the mythical warrior women - Diana must stay one step ahead of them at all times, with the help and support of Rebecca, her best friend from childhood, now an archaeologist, and Nick, the obligatory love interest, a man who is at first antipathic to her and her quest but gradually becomes an ally and more. The love story between the two, while well done, was the least interesting part of the novel to me, mainly because the thawing out between the two of them did not strike me as all that realistic based on what happens to them.

Where the novel excels, though, is in the historical part of the story. Following two young women from the deserts of modern-day Algeria, this section of the book - with chapters interspersed with the modern-day ones - combines what little is known about the Amazons from ancient sources with a masterful retelling of a number of ancient myths and legends, primarily the fall of Troy and the Trojan War. Fortier does a fantastic job of reinventing all of these stories and characters, giving them a new twist. What she does with Paris and the story of Helen was especially well done.

I found the beginning of the love story between Myrina and Paris to be slightly more believable than that between Diana and Nick, although the way it develops caused me problems. Myrina's willingness to - at first - take on a more submissive role in the relationship grated with her personality as seen up until then, and yet Fortier was able to make sense of it as the story progressed and bring Myrina back to the strong female character she had been in the earlier chapters.

The Lost Sisterhood does a great job of combining historical fiction and a modern thriller, bringing some neat twists to age-old stories and reinventing them for a new audience. Overall the female characters are worthy of the subject matter - each one of them is an Amazon in her own right, although the love stories for both main characters tarnish that slightly by taking away some of their freedom and power. Still, a fantastic read and I will be looking out for the next book Anne Fortier may write. I gave The Lost Sisterhood 4 bronze bracelets out of 5.

Goodreads
Buy It For Kindle
Author's Website

From the Blogosphere:
Tangled in Pages
Historical Novels Review
Cuddlebuggery

From the Author's Mouth:
Video Interview on the Author's Website

WWW Wednesdays: 16th April 2014



Found this over at Should Be Reading and thought I would take part, always fun to take stock of what you're reading...

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you'll read next?
 

My answers:
 

What are you currently reading? I'm just about finished with The Demon's Brood by Desmond Seward, about the Plantaganet Kings of England, and Half Bad by Sally Green.
 
 
What did you recently finish reading? The last book I finished was Missing You by Harlan Coben. Not his greatest, but a solid thriller with a 'surprise' twist at the end that I personally saw coming from miles away. Enjoyed it nevertheless!
 

What do you think you’ll read next? I have recently received my first (!!!)Netgalley books and two of them will be coming out this month so am going to read those so as to get the reviews up as close to the release as possible. They are Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman and Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres. Two very different books, but both of them look great!

mardi 15 avril 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like To Own



Top Ten Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like To Own



Kindle Paperwhite

I already have a Kindle Touch and a Kindle Fire, but I'm hoping that I can get the next gen Paperwhite in the next few months.



Book Shelves (Already Have)

We moved about six months ago and one of the first things I did when looking for our new apartment was to find a place to put all my books. I'm really happy with these shelves and had a great time arranging them!



A comfy reading chair

To go with the shelves, I would love to have a really nice comfortable leather chair to read in.



Kindle Covers

There are some great covers out there, but these ones are absolutely fantastic. I would leave a real bookish cover to proclaim to all that I'm a voracious reader!!!
 
 

Reading Lamp (Already Have)

In the same office as the shelves, this is great for avoiding eye strain, especially with the adjustable smaller lamp in the middle. These really do not hurt the eyes.



Go Away Reading Mug

Stolen from What Comes Next Review, this would be perfect to use in the break room at work to tell people to Leave Me Alone!!! :)



Marauder's Map Replica (Already Have)

Cheating a little bit on this one since it is just as much based on the movie as the book but hey the book came first! I actually brought myself one of these at Universal Studios a few years ago, along with a Voldemort wand.



Book Map

Stolen from Hidden in Pages, this is a great idea - a map made of book titles.

 
 
LOTR Ring

Huge fan of the book, huge fan of the movies, I so want to have one of these!!
 


 

Bookish Computer Case

As much of a computer geek as I am a bookish one, I saw this over at Great Imaginations and decided I must have one! How cool is this??!

So what is on your Wish List?

vendredi 11 avril 2014

Eden in Winter by Richard North Patterson

 
For three days, Adam Blaine and his family had entered the Dukes County Courthouse, a modest two-storey brick structure with white trim and doors, and passed through a double door to a spiral staircase that rose the courtroom itself.

In the aftermath of his father's apparent suicide, Adam Blaine has taken it upon himself to hide the truth - that the man who raised him was in fact his uncle and that his real father is the murderer who pushed his own brother off a cliff. As he struggles to protect those he cares about from the fallout, Adam also begins a relationship with his dead father's mistress. With the police and a journalist closing in on the truth, though, it seems that his dead father's reach may extend beyond the grave...

Ever since I read Balance of Power back in the early 2000s, Richard North Patterson has been a writer whose books I devour as quickly as I can. Though many of his earlier works were more straight-up legal and political thrillers, in the past few years he has been releasing a loose trilogy that depart from his status quo. Called the Martha's Vineyard Trilogy and starting with Fall from Grace back in 2012, these three books are more literary than what Patterson has written up until now. Following the fates of the Blaine family and those they have affected, Patterson has slowly developed a family saga with complex characters and a tangled web of lies and betrayals.

Eden in Winter is the final book in the trilogy and returns to "modern" day after the flashback to the 1960s presented in Loss of Innocence. We find the Blaines caught up in the immediate aftermath of the events of the first book as Adam's "uncle" - his real father - and brother are called to court in order to give their versions of what happened the night Benjamin Blaine ended up at the bottom of a cliff on Martha's Vineyard. As their testimony is given, we see how Adam has been manipulating events in the background, giving us a glimpse into just how good Adam is at what he does. As the story progresses, we follow Adam's struggles with his own life, and see as he tries to change it. A large part of that change involves Carla, his father's mistress, pregnant with his child. What begins as Adam wanting to make sure that his baby cousin has a better life than he does turns into much more as he and Carla draw closer.

Adam as a character develops in some interesting ways throughout the novel and we get a front seat to that as a large part of his storyline is taken up with his discussions with a psychiatrist friend. Forced to look into his relationships with his parents, his brother, his lovers and his job as a CIA contractor in Afghanistan, Adam comes to some major realisations about what he wants out of life and most of the impetus that keeps the pages turning revolves around seeing how and if he will be able to make different decisions than his father did.
Patterson's writing is crisp and at times lyrical. The skills gained writing more thrilling material in the past transfer well, making sure that what is at its heart a character piece delving in to the complex relationships of this - admittedly screwed-up - family is also a page-turner. Being so heavily invested in these characters from the previous novels also helps, obviously.

The one negative is that the final resolutions are a tad pat, especially when it comes to the relationship between Adam and Carla. Although the set-up is such that the ending seems in a way logical, it also demands a suspension of belief on the part of the reader that what should be such a totally dysfunctional and even slightly twisted relationship should work. Patterson lays the ground work, though, especially thanks to Adam's conversations with the psychiatrist throughout the early chapters.

A family saga full to the brim with deceit and lies, Eden in Winter delves deep into the characters of the Blaine family and manages to create a page-turning yarn that is hard to put down. With hints of the political and legal thrillers that Patterson is well known for dribbled throughout, the book is a nice resolution to a departure trilogy for the writer. As usual, a great read that cements Patterson for me as a must-buy whenever he brings out a new book. I gave Eden in Winter 4 bodies at the bottom of a cliff out of 5.

Goodreads
Buy It For Kindle
Author's Website

From the Blogosphere:
No reviews that I could find

From the Author's Mouth:
Interview and article for the Boston Globe

mardi 8 avril 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Unique Books I've Read


 
Top Ten Most Unique Books I've Read

 
 Perdido Street Station

An early example of the so-called “New Weird" current of fantasy, Perdido Street Station is unique both for its imagination and its creation of atmosphere. A steampunk novel before steampunk was popular, Perdido Street Station presents an industrial city filled with amazing races, characters and magic. If you want a single example of why this book is unique, consider the fact that one of the races who live in New Crobuzon is a race of sentient cactuses!


An Instance of the Fingerpost

Unique for its complex plot, but also for the intriguing way that Pears presents it. Told through four different points of view, An Instance of the Fingerpost unveils the same events again and again and again. As each character tells his story, we realise that what we thought we knew is not in fact the truth. It is not until the final tale is told that we realise who is actually behind the crime and why. A classic whodunit told in a totally unique way.


Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel

Another fantasy inclusion on the list, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel does not have the most original plot, but where it stands out from the rest is in the clever use of footnotes. What should have been of secondary importance becomes vital to the novel, providing not only verisimilitude to the alternate history that Clarke has developed, but also giving key information to understanding the plot.


Dune

A sci-fi classic, Dune is unique for its combination of awe-inspiring SF vistas, amazing worlds but also the philosophical ideas that Herbert allowed to seep into his prose. While telling a great adventure story with everything one could hope for from an epic tale (intrigue, betrayal, sword-fights, space ships, drugs, giant worms!), Dune also has a hell of a lot to say about honour, family and fear.


The Dark Tower Series

Cheating a bit for this one, since this is a series and not an individual book. Still, this is one of the most unique on this list for so many reasons. A fantasy epic set in a quasi-Old West world, The Dark Tower combines so many elements that it is difficult to choose one. However, for me what makes this so unique is the fact that through this seminal series, King was able to bring together his entire oeuvre in one huge tapestry that includes a mind-warping journey to our own world where our heroes encounter... Stephen King, a writer who is imagining them all at the same time!


American Caesars

I have been engaged in a reading project since 2012 whose objective is to read a book about every single American President in the order in which they served. This project began with this unique book that traces the lives of the twelve last presidents and does so in the style of Suetonius' Twelve Caesars. What makes it so unique is the way the writer focuses on the different facets of these men - their public lives on one hand and their private lives on the other.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Not so much unique for its storyline or characters, Miss Peregrine's School's marked difference lies in the clever use of photography throughout (as you can see in the cover above). Not one to listen to as an audiobook, the charm comes from the photos that Ransom Riggs inserts into the novel, all of which harken back to the strange, unsettling early days of photography when it seemed that people could fly and ghosts hovered at the edges of view.


The Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters has one of the most unique narrative voices I have ever come across. Told through the eyes of the three eponymous sisters, the novel is told in a plural third-person, as if all three sisters are telling the story at the same time, which from time to time moves into a singular third-person, as one of the sisters takes over. It seems confusing, but it is surprisingly easy to follow, aided by a great plot and fantastic characters.


The Reason I Jump

A non-fiction look into the life of an autistic child, The Reason I Jump is both unique and life-affirming. Unique because it is one of the few times that we get a first person look into what it is like for an autistic child day to day, life-affirming because of the strength, courage and empathy displayed by this amazing boy.


Life After Life

Although there are a couple of books that have done similar things before, Life After Life was the first book I read that dealt with the idea of living the same life multiple times. A fantastic story told in a unique way, as we cycle through Ursula Todd's lives again and again and again, as she attempts to "get it right" both for herself and those around her.

Which Books Are Most Unique On Your List?