In 1934 San Francisco, William Eng is 12 years old, the only Chinese boy left at the Sacred Heart Orphanage after the other runs away. He is treated shabbily by the sisters (as are all of the "orphans"), but he knows in his heart that his mother isn't dead. Even after five years, he still believes in her and knows she will come back for him.
I really can't go much into the storyline without spoilers, because most of what happens will take the reader by surprise. When William teams up with a blind girl named Charlotte, his one true friend from the orphanage, to search out a woman he saw on screen on one of the children's rare outings, we cross our fingers and hope. We feel dashed the ground at the obstacles and rejection he receives, but we still hope.
As the story of Liu Song, William's mother, comes to us in flashbacks of time, we find ourselves almost moaning aloud at her struggles and sacrifice.
This is not a "feel-good" novel - it is superbly written and drags the reader in, down to the depths and the heartache and the injustice. It perfectly captures the pathos of the Depression Era as well as the plight of Chinese immigrants who faced bigotry at every turn from their fellow Americans.
I highly recommend this one.
William had been to the public library only once before, on a field trip, and even though he wasn't allowed to check out anything, he never forgot how it felt to wander in and see books on shelves as high as the ceiling. The library is like a candy store where everything is free.
Liu Song's smile vanished. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She'd known of parents who sold off their extra sons to families that needed the help, but rarely had a daughter changed families - at least in America and not in her neighborhood. Except in arranged marriages. ...more
This is the story of Agnes Morel, a quiet, hard-working woman who keeps mainly to herself, and how her life journey brought her to Chartres, where one of her odd jobs is cleaning the cathedral.
Agnes's day-to-day interactions are recounted in such a fluid fashion that the reader gets a great feel for all of the characters. Some of them I list below:
There's Robert Clement, a local artist - Agnes sometimes poses for his nudes.
Abbe Paul found Agnes under a man's coat asleep in the North Porch over 20 years ago. Rather than giving her the boot, he let her stay.
Terry - Agnes's friend who is the local dogwalker
Philippe Nevers - The fashion icon of the village - Agnes used to be the babysitter for him and his sister Brigitte (who was a spoiled little monster then and has grown up to be .. not much different).
Alain - he is working as a restorer at the cathedral. He persists in engaging Agnes in conversation until a friendship of sorts develops.
In every story, there must be a bad guy (or in this case, woman):
Madame Beck and her friend Madame Picot - widows and local gossips.
The story travels back and forth in time, and (this may simply have been because I had an ARC), I initially had a difficult time figuring out what was happening when, as there was no clear break between incidents. Eventually, however, I was able to figure out who belonged where :).
Agnes's history comes out in bits and pieces, and as a reader, I felt so connected with her as she quietly tries to maintain herself after having undergone so many losses and heartbreak in her life.
The power of friendship is put to the test when the peace that Agnes has worked so hard to find becomes threatened by present accusations and gossip from her past life. As a reader, I could feel my heart clench, hoping that things would work out for her and being infuriated at the maliciousness of some of the townspeople.
This is a beautifully written story. At times, I almost felt as though it was a series of vignettes held together by the quiet, steady presence of Agnes throughout.
I recommend this one for fans of historical fiction (as the history of Chartres is woven throughout the novel), as well as for those who like character studies and quiet romance.
Boredom is a luxury of a life lived without fear.
"I felt that way, my dear," Iris had said. "I felt it many times after I left Honore and the other fellow was pummeling me fit to break my ribs. But then, I said to myself, what about the times when you don't feel it? What's true not isn't always true tomorrow and tomorrow I feel life is good and if I die now I'll miss that feeling."
"To be lucky all you need is to believe you are lucky. I was lucky in a mother who, simple soul as she is, believes in luck. Even when her man, my dad, died she went on believing she was lucky. And she made me feel so too."
BLOGGERS: Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review.
Writing: 5 out of 5 stars Plot: 5 out of 5 stars Characters: 4.5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 5 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 4.8 out of 5 stars
Sensitive Reader: No worries.
Book Club Recommendation: Yes. This book would appeal to a variety of readers - both casual and not-so-casual readers would likely enjoy it. ...more
The Dominic Grey series has been picked up by Amazon's Thomas and Mercer imprint, which goes to show, yet again, that if your book is good enough, even if you start out self-publishing, someone is going to notice!
In this third-in-series novel, the reader travels with Dominic Grey (our tough guy) and Victor Radek (our absinthe-addicted cult phenomenolist) from San Francisco to England to Paris and Italy on the trail of a killer whose victims are leaders of so-called "black cults".
In this intelligent thriller, we come across great thinking points on Satan, Lucifer, and the origin of evil even as we follow our main characters on their journeys (most of the time they are on separate paths as they follow various leads).
We may not feel too sorry for the victims, but whoever is killing them has to be even worse. Intrigue, betrayal, deception, kidnapping, truly evil villains and a mysterious beautiful woman who keeps appearing (and then disappearing) - what more could a thriller offer? Oh! Danger! There's plenty of that in this title as well.
Although this is a series, the author does a great job of filling in background info which means that you don't have to read the previous two titles to appreciate this one (but I DO recommend them!). In my review of the first novel, The Summoner, I stated: "I'm hoping to see a lot more of one of the secondary characters, Victor Radek, who is interesting in his own right." - and in this novel, Victor definitely comes into his own.
One thing that distinguishes this series from many other thrillers that I definitely appreciate is the character development. There's not just swashbuckling, knuckle-clenching action, you learn enough about the protagonists and their backgrounds to make you care about what happens to them.
He didn't know what was more disturbing: being helped by a beautiful girl who kept disappearing into thin air, being chased by a pack of bloodthirsty Satanists who knew his name, or taking a plane to London in pursuite of a mysterious figure who terrified both the bloodthirsty Satanists and the girl.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars Plot: 4 out of 5 stars Characters: 4 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 4 out of 5 stars
Sensitive Reader: One dream sex scene and some brief scenes of violence. ...more
Almost two years ago, I read and reviewed my first Kate Morton novel, The Distant Hours - five stars for me all the way, with its gothic feel and mysteries within mysteries.
The Secret Keeper is another great read, artfully weaving between WWII England and present-day - telling the story of three women - Laurel, her mother Dorothy (Dolly), and an old friend of Dolly's named Vivien.
When Laurel is sixteen, she witnesses a shocking incident involving her mother. After telling her story to the police, she promptly tries her best to bury the incident. Her two-year-old little brother Gerald was the only other witness, and she hopes that he won't remember it either.
Present-day: Laurel is a well-known actress, and her mother is slowly fading in a nursing home. A photo drops out of an old copy of "Peter Pan" - a picture of her mother and a young woman named Vivien. In Dolly's lucid moments, Laurel begins to question her and becomes determined to know her mother's past before it is too late.
Ms. Morton is a masterful period writer - she vividly brings life during the Blitz to the forefront of the reader's mind. This tale of regrets, lost loves, and mistakes made will keep you turning pages far into the night. I was able to glean parts of the mystery earlier on, but the way the plot unfolded and the additional surprises made it well worth the read.
You will close these pages with a sigh, for Dolly is much more than she appears at first glance, a woman of tremendous strength who definitely deserved the second chance she was given.
QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):
Youth was an arrogant place, and to believe simply that they were less adventurous than she was had suited Laurel just fine. Not for a moment had she considered that there might be anything beyond Ma's appearance as a happy wife and mother; that she might have been young once herself, and determined not to turn into her mother; that she might even be hiding from something in her past.
It was one thing at the 400, with him so dashing and handsome in the guise of Lord Sandbrook, but here, tonight, dressed in his usual clothing, all tattered and dirty from a night out working in the Blitz . . . Dolly shuddered to think what Vivien would say if she realized Dolly had a boyfriend like him.
Vivien shed desolation like an unwanted coat, and stepped towards the shining lights. It was all so simple really. She had brought about her family's death; she had brought about Jimmy's death; but now she was going to make sure Dolly Smitham was saved. Then, and only then, she would go to the Serpentine and make her pockets heavy with stones. Vivien could see the end and it was beautiful.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars Plot: 4 out of 5 stars Characters: 4.5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars
This is a tale of a soon-to-be bride who is kidnapped by two men. In the Persian culture of the time, this means that her chances for marriage are nowThis is a tale of a soon-to-be bride who is kidnapped by two men. In the Persian culture of the time, this means that her chances for marriage are now ruined along with her reputation. As she works to maintain her dignity and look for escape, she also tries to get to know one of her kidnappers, who seems a cut above the type of men known to do this kind of work. Her family and friends are also looking for her, and she works to leave clues behind as she and the kidnappers travel.
There are some lovely poetry quotes included and a look at this older Persian culture which is rather illuminating. The cover art is lovely as well.
I felt that the character(s) were never fully drawn. I read on because the history was interesting, but I never felt a connection with the main character or any other.
If you are interested in learning a bit about the culture of Persia I would recommend this title.
QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):
To dwell in the past or the future is to live in a state of destruction.
Even though a woman's honor would be maintained when she was kidnapped for ransom, few would receive offers for marriage because of the stigma attached to women who have kept unsavory company or who have spent time alone with unrelated males. Surely, Arash'a royal family would refuse me.
Stop weaving and watch how the pattern improves. Maybe the shaikh had meant that other forces are at work. Perhaps synchronicity is not mere coincidence - it's more a complicity of multiple wills coming together for reasons we do not understand. A force in the universe that responds, guides, and unifies. It seems that we exist for the sake of everything else.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars Plot: 3 out of 5 stars Characters: 2.5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 3 out 5 stars ...more
What turns a carefree, club-hopping girl with lots of friends into an anxiety-ridden, OCD-driven loner?
Meet Cathy Bailey, still recovering from a horrible relationship with Mr. Wrong, otherwise known as Lee Brightman. He swept her off her feet in 2003, when she first met him working as a doorman at a nightclub. Four years later, she is unable to leave for work or come home without obsessively checking and re-checking her doors and windows. She no longer has friends, and she's even reluctant to go to work functions. When Stuart Richardson, a clinical psychologist, moves in as her new upstairs neighbor, a tentative friendship begins - one that may help her overcome her anxiety and beat her OCD.
This novel shifts from past to present, but not in a jarring fashion. As we read about Cathy now, we learn about Cathy then, when she meets a charming, handsome man and falls for him. As he begins to turn a bit creepy, we see how she almost gets out of the relationship, but allows him to charm his way back to her through her friends.
This novel perfectly captures the terror and helplessness of domestic violence - the man who appears so charming to others and is a monster at home. As a former battered woman turned counselor (for a period of time), I can say from personal experience that the horrific picture painted by this novel is so very real and true-to-life. That niggling voice that's telling a woman that something just isn't "quite right"? So easy to overcome - you must be over-reacting, especially because your friends are SO wishing that THEY had such an attentive boyfriend. Does it feel as though he's invading your space? Checking on you too much? Is he actually FOLLOWING you or did he just happen to be in the same place at the same time? Maybe you're just being selfish and paranoid.
Until the day you realize that you weren't. You weren't over-reacting, you weren't being selfish and paranoid. But now it's too late -you're trapped because trying to leave is much more dangerous than staying and you only have one chance at escape.
I wish I could say more about this novel without spoilers. Lee is a horribly creepy, believable, deserving-of-hate villain. Sadly, there really ARE people like this in our world, and the damage that they cause goes much more than skin-deep.
Reading this novel is more than just getting lost in an absorbing story - more than page-turning - more than an "OMG .. what's going to happen next?" experience. It is also a psychological thriller that will leave the reader with a better understanding of the issue of domestic violence and hopefully a better understanding of its victims.
QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):
Some weekends are good; others, not so. Certain dates are good. I can only go food shopping on even-numbered days. If the 13th falls on a weekend, I can't do anything at all. On odd-numbered days, I can exercise, but only if it's cloudy or raining, not if it's sunny. On odd-numbered days, I can't cook food, I can only eat cold things or heat stuff up.
"Catherine," he said, his voice low, shockingly calm. "Don't make me do that again, okay? Just come home on time, or let me know where you're going. It's simple. It's for your own safety. There are some really dangerous people out there. I'm the only one who's looking out for you, you know that, don't you? So make it easy for yourself and do as you're told."
I'd always thought that women who stayed in abusive relationships must be foolish. After all, there had to be a moment, a realization that things had taken a wrong turn and you were suddenly afraid to be with your partner - and surely that was the moment to leave. Walk away and don't look back, I always thought.
Writing: 4.5 out of 5 stars Plot: 5 out of 5 stars Characters: 4.5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4.5 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Sensitive Reader: There are some scenes of violence, some sexual references, and an F-bomb dropped here and there.
Book Clubs: Definitely. First, because it really IS a great read. Second, I can guarantee pretty lively discussions due to the subject matter. ...more
Synopsis: Boone Drake is the youngest bureau chief in the history of the Chicago PD.
Boone now has a new wife (Haeley) and a stepson named Max. Boone's life is finally settled, and his faith is steadfast, but he seems to continually peer around the corner, waiting for something bad to happen. He has already experienced more tragedy than most, and, with his faith sorely tested, I can almost understand how and why he finds himself unable to simply accept the good turn his life has taken.
Trouble once again strikes close to home, and Boone is drawn to China in the hopes of untangling one small boy from a band of human traffickers.
Opinion: "The Breakthrough" is the last in the Precinct 11 trilogy. I somehow missed "The Betrayal" (the second in the series), but DID read and review "The Brotherhood", the opening book of the series. I wish I HAD read the second book, because I definitely felt its lack while I was reading this novel. It would have been nice to have more background written into this one, especially since many of us find ourselves picking up a title out-of-sequence, and knowing what happened before is always helpful. In my case, knowing what happened before usually makes me want to go out and buy the previous title(s).
I enjoyed the action in this one once Boone was in China, but felt that the China adventure was ended rather abruptly.
I was slightly disappointed in this one - other than the action scenes, it felt rather flat and one-dimensional. For a reader new to the series, the characters would also likely fall flat, as we don't get a rounded look at them in this novel. I can't be certain, but I think that my experience with "The Brotherhood" is likely the only thing that kept me reading "The Breakthrough".
Writing: 3 out of 5 stars Plot: 3 out of 5 stars Characters: 3 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 3.5 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 3.25 out of 5 stars
Sensitive Reader: No problems with this one
Book Clubs: Iffy; I always think that the best books for book clubs are ones that provide lines of discussion not just about the book itself, but about themes within the book as well. Some of the themes that I think this book might open up: How does a Christian maintain a relationship with a non-Christian without stepping away from the tenets of their faith? The age-old: Why DOES God allow bad things to happen to good people? Maybe even a discussion about human trafficking. ...more
Having read and reviewed Gillian Flynn's "Sharp Objects", I was happy to receive this latest work from the author. I like dark fiction, mystery, and the odd bit of creepiness, and this newest title definitely fits the bill.
This novel is told in the first-person POV of Nick Dunne, interspersed with diary entries from Amy, his wife.
Nick was a successful magazine writer and his wife Amy wrote quizzes for magazines in New York. Life was good, especially because Amy also had a decent trust fund from her parents, two psychologists who are the writers of the "Amazing Amy" series of children's books, based loosely on their daughter's life.
Shortly after Nick loses his job, closely followed by Amy losing hers, Nick receives a call from his twin sister Margo "Go". Their well-loved mother is dying of cancer, and Nick decides, without consulting his wife beforehand, that they will move back to his hometown of North Cartage, Missouri to help Margo take care of her. Nick and Margo had always talked about opening a bar, so they borrow from Amy to do so, while Amy ends up being the one sitting with their mother during her treatments, with nothing to do and no friends.
On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick receives a call from his neighbor. His door is wide open and their cat is sitting on the porch. Nick arrives to find a scene of disorder, with a heavy ottoman overturned and other signs of violent struggle throughout the house. Worst of all, his wife is missing.
This is a story of the dark side of marriage and humanity. Ms. Flynn is a talented writer, expert at drawing a mental picture that so perfectly chills the reader: "There's something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold."
With most missing-person cases, close family are the immediate suspects, and Nick finds himself followed closely by the two detectives assigned to the case. Following the clues left by his wife's anniversary "treasure hunt", we also suspect Nick, even while he voices his innocence. Amy's diary entries only add to our suspicions, as we follow the trail of a marriage gone cold, filled with dark bursts and suspicions.
When I wasn't reading this book, I was thinking about it. When I was reading it, it was difficult to put down. I was drawn in from the first page, and totally transfixed thereafter. This is a brilliant piece of psychological writing that will have lovers of dark fiction wishing there were more pages.
This one will definitely be on my "Best Reads" of 2012 list. Pick it up; you won't regret it.
I simply assumed that I would bundle up my New York wife with her New York interests, her New York pride, and remove her from her New York parents - leave the frantic,thrilling futureland of Manhattan behind - and transplant her to a little town on the river in Missouri, and all would be fine. I did not yet understand how foolish, how optimistic, how, yes, just like Nick I was for thinking this. The misery it would lead to.
These messages and orders brought to you by my father, a mid-level phone-company manager who treated my mother at best like an incompetent employee. At worst? He never beat her, but his pur, inarticlate fury would fill the house for days, weeks, at a time, making the air humid, hard to breathe, my father stalking around with his lower jaw jutting out, giving him the look of a wounded, vengeful boxer, grinding his teeth so loud you could hear it across the room. Throwing things near her but not exactly at her. I'm sure he told himself: I never hit her. I'm sure because of this technicality he never saw himself as an abuser. But he turned our family life into an endless road trip with bad directions and a rage-clenched driver, a vacation that never got a chance to be fun. Don't make me turn this car around. Please, really, turn it around.
He came home from work and kissed me full on the lips, and he touched me as if I were really there. I almost cried, I'd been so lonely. To be kissed on the lips by your husband is the most decadent thing.
In the videos, I wore clothes Amy had bought me, and I brushed my hair the way she liked, and I tried to read her mind. My anger toward her was like heated wire.
"...why are you so wonderful to me?" He was supposed to say: You deserve it. I love you. But he said, "Because I feel sorry for you." "Why?" "Because every morning you have to wake up and be you."
Writing: 5 out of 5 stars Plot: 5 out of 5 stars Characters: 5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 5 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 5 out of 5 stars
Sensitive Reader: Some profanity
Book Clubs: Definitely a great pick - there will be lots to discuss as you move through the book and the direction of the story and the feel for the characters change....more
Jeremy Logan is a professor of medieval history at Yale University as well as an enigmalogist - one who seeks to uncover the truth behind a mystery. He is also an empath, a fact that he keeps close.
Ethan Rush is a doctor who has experienced great tragedy - one that caused him to leave the hospital scene to work for the Center for Transmortality Studies studying life after death, near-death experiences, and the like.
H. Porter Stone is the richest treasure hunter in the world and when he calls Jeremy in to help him with his latest find, Jeremy is puzzled. What could Stone want from him during an archaelogical dig?
Under the Sudd, the largest swamp on the Nile, lies what Stone believes to be the tomb of King Narmer, the legendary Pharaoh who united Egypt. Secrecy is paramount, and time is of the essence, but many mysterious things are happening that may well put an end to Stone's expedition. A curse may hold the clues:
Any man who dare enter my tomb or do any wickedness to the resting place of my earthly form will meet an end certain and swift. Should he pass the first gate, the foundation of his house will be broken, and his seed will fall upon dry land. his blood and his limbs will turn to ash and his tongue cleave to his throat. should he pass the second gate, darkness will follow him, and he will be chased by the serpent and the jackal. The hand that touches my immortal form will burn with unquenchable fire. But should any in their temerity pass the third gate, then the black god of the deepest pit will seize him, and his limbs will be scattered to the uttermost corners ofthe earth. And I, Narmer the Everliving, will torment him and his, by day and by night, waking and sleeping, until madness and death become his eternal temple.
I've read Lincoln Child often, especially teamed with Douglas Preston, and generally, I like him quite a bit. His writing is meticulous, and he often does a great job slowly sucking the reader in until the pages fly. I did not feel that with this novel. It's hard to put my finger on it, as there is still great writing, and a story that should tingle the senses, with lots of mystery mixed with legend, psychic abilities, and even a human villain of sorts.
The action scenes feel cursory and fleeting almost to the very end (when there IS a scene that makes your heart race). I didn't feel a strong tie to any of the characters (not something we necessarily look for in thrillers, after all, the point is thrills, not a character study), but lacking strong action scenes or even a psychological undertow, characters are what keep this reader's interest. I never felt a strong pull to pick this one back up to see what happened next, but I did keep reading, because the scenes drawn were very vivid - it was as though the Sudd had a life of its own - dark, dreary, muck-filled, and viscious. There was also a character that I started to feel more for towards the end, but it was too late in the novel to redeem it for me.
This one is not a BAD read, but it lacked the true thrills that I expected and never lived up to the promise of its premise. I WILL, however, not let that keep me from picking up the NEXT Child title that comes out; we can't always bat 300, but this one was a slight miss for me.
QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):
"Two myocardial infarctions. An open-skull fracture. An emergency C-section. Two gunshot victims, one critical. A third-degree burn case. A knife wound with renal penetration. One simple and one compound fracture. An old gent who stroked out on the gurney. Oxycodone OD. Meth OD. Amphetamine OD. And those were all in" - he paused - "the last ninety minutes."
"There's a belief that strong evil persists in spirit long after the physical gody has perished. The greater theevil, the longer its influence lingers - not unlike the half-life of radioactive material."
Writing: 4.5 out of 5 stars Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars Characters: 2 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 3 out 5 stars