Book Review | Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

leave no trace cover.jpgA psychological thriller, Leave No Trace details the story of two traumatized young adults. Maya is in her early 20’s and works at a mental health facility. Upon emerging from the Boundary Waters after having been missing for ten years, 19 year old Lucas is committed to said facility. Maya and Lucas begin with rocky interactions, but forge a connection that allows them to help one another. As the book progresses, they deal with some dark secrets from their pasts.

This is a solidly average novel that begins with a bang and continues to simmer throughout. There was nothing spectacular in this book. Despite the characters dealing with difficult situations, the text did not evoke much emotion. The novel can be read quickly and may appeal to those who consider living off the grid or have a particular interest in the Boundary Waters. There may be holds at your local library since this title was just released in September.

*Fans of Leave No Trace, may enjoy Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St.Vincent (2018).

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Book Review | The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

the unforgotten book cover.jpgAt 15 years of age, Betty is old enough to take care of her manic mother when she drinks herself into a stupor, rendering her unable to run the bed and breakfast she manages. Betty is strong and takes on her mothers duties, cooking for and serving the boarders. When a string of gruesome murders begins in their small Cornish town, it brings a slew of reporters, one with whom Betty falls in love. Fifteen though, isn’t quite old enough for him not to be in danger of a prison sentence for being her lover, even if Betty is the sole witness to the Cornish Cleaver’s latest act.

The Unforgotten is a good read. The story alternates between Betty’s teen years in the 1950’s and the present, 50 years later. This choice works well and serves to involve the reader mentally. In addition to having plotted a mysterious psychological thriller, Powell has also penned a love story here. Despite thinking I knew what was coming, the final twists were certainly unexpected. This book would be great for fans of suspense who enjoy a bit of heartbreak. Check it out from a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*Fans of The Unforgotten, may enjoy Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St.Vincent (2018).

Book Review | Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St.Vincent

ways to hide in winter cover book.jpgSet in the Appalachians of Pennsylvania, Ways to Hide in Winter is a slow burn, psychological thriller. Kathleen, a widow in her late 20’s works up a mountain at a state park’s general store. As sole shopkeep, she sees to the needs of hikers in summer and hunters in the off season, brewing coffee, flipping burgers and selling canned goods. When a stranger from afar appears at the hostel next door, her curiosity is piqued and the two develop a friendship of sorts. As the title suggests, they both have some dark secrets in their past that they’re choosing to confront at a later time.

Immediately, the writing style of this book grabbed me. St.Vincent’s style is clear without being simplistic and her sentences provide imagery giving life to a place very far from regular urbanity. This is a successful novel that draws the reader in and continues to simmer throughout. It may be especially appealing to those who have thought of abandoning their regular lives for a more stark and natural existence, further away from people. There may be holds at your local  library  since this title was just released in November, but it’s worth the wait.

*Fans of Ways to Hide in Winter, may enjoy I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid (2016).

Book Review | Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

our kind of cruelty cover.jpgAfter dating for nearly a decade, Mike and Verity have broken up and Verity has moved on. Mike’s poor decisions while living abroad are no longer relevant as the date of her marriage to Angus approaches. Mike is still trying to win Verity back while working a high paying job to afford her the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. Their communication, though, seems stilted and it’s not easy to decide the true meaning of things said and emotions felt.

Our Kind of Cruelty is a good read. Mike’s voice is inviting and catchy from the beginning. The story flows quite quickly and as small cracks appear in Mike’s character, the reader is invited to question his narrative. This choice works well and serves to involve the reader mentally. While the tension steadily builds in the first half of the novel, I found the second half to be less impressive. I felt as though I was waiting for a final twist that never came, which ultimately left me disappointed. Overall though, an entertaining piece. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*Fans of Our Kind of Cruelty, may enjoy Watch Me by Jody Gehrman (2018).

Book Review | Watch Me by Jody Gehrman

watch me cover.jpgAt a small college in Ohio, Professor Kate Youngblood leads a writer’s workshop. Her student, Sam, creates a tension that makes her feel alive, but also sets off inner warning signals. As relations with a student are forbidden, Kate struggles to maintain ethical behavior. Sam quickly insinuates himself in Kate’s personal life and after a body turns up, she questions which warning sign will be enough to force her to extract Sam for good.

Watch Me is a good read. The book is inviting from the first chapter. Chapters alternate narrator between Kate and Sam, with Sam writing as if he is speaking to Kate using the second person. This stylistic choice works well. The writing itself was enjoyable, with certain sentences adroitly crafted. The story progresses quickly and tension builds. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*Fans of Watch Me, may be interested in The Book of You by Claire Kendal (2014).

Book Review | Shadow Man by Alan Drew

shadow man cover.jpgIt’s the mid 1980’s and there is a serial killer in the fancy planned communities just south of Los Angeles. The Night Prowler sneaks in through an unlocked door or cuts through the screen to find a victim he can overpower and then strangles her with his bare hands. Residents are instructed to keep their windows locked while the body count rises. Meanwhile, a high schooler is found dead in a field just outside town. The bullet hole means the MO is not a match for the serial, but is it a suicide? It seems darkness is hiding in more than one place in this community.

Shadow Man was definitely a good read. The story held my interest from beginning to end. The small cast of characters was easy to keep straight and I appreciated the way Drew alternated focus between the various plot lines and character perceptions. Though not as suspenseful as I had expected, there was appreciable tension. Highly recommended for fans of noir crime or literary crime fiction. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Best & Worst of the 46 Books I read in 2017

During 2017 I expanded my reading horizons to include many books I wouldn’t normally choose. The selection contained mostly novels, a few memoirs, other various non-fiction works, an art book and a screenplay. In an attempt to make this post useful to readers, I’ve created sections to group the books based on my overall enjoyment of the texts. Most, but not all of the books I read during 2017 were released in 2017. The overall selection was heavily influenced by copies I received freely from publishers through Goodreads giveaways. A full list of titles appears at the end of the post.

My six favorite books:

Taduno’s Song – An African musician must find his lost voice in order to rescue his lover from a corrupt government.

The Clairvoyants– A Cornell student who sees spirits of the deceased unravels the mystery surrounding a missing persons case.

Songs of the Baka* – A writer and photographer share their travels to several uncommon destinations.

Spaceman of Bohemia* – A man on a solo mission in space is abandoned by his wife and encounters a strange creature aboard his ship.

Shelter in Place – A bipolar man falls in love with a woman who comes and goes after his mother is imprisoned for killing a man with a hammer.

The Fortunate Ones* – A painting stolen from a Jewish home by the Nazis during World War II resurfaces in Los Angeles decades later and brings together an unlikely pair of women.

After those six, my next nine top picks:

Under the Harrow – A suspense thriller involving the murder of a woman in England.

The One Eyed Man – After becoming a widower, a man lets his true self shine through resulting in his own reality TV show.

Brussels Noir* – Short stories, some bizarre, that take place in Brussels.

Soldier Boy* – Based on a true story, this YA book relays the stories of two boy soldiers in the Ugandan civil war.

Men without Women – Short stories from Japan focused on men without women.

Oola* – Thought-provoking story of boy meets girl and their hermetic existence.

Twig* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s America deals with life’s struggles.

A Fortune Foretold* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s Sweden deals with life’s struggles.

Sourdough – A tech industry workaholic is transformed into a breadmaker after being gifted a unique sourdough starter.

Four books that should have been better:

The King is Always Above the People* – Short stories involving Latinx characters.

O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – A collection art commissioned for the anniversary of San Francisco’s City Hall.

A Loving, Faithful Animal* – A girl in Australia comes of age in a broken home.

As Red as Blood* – Scandinavian teens find a bloody bag of money.

Four books I feel would be better to pass on:

We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – An Italian media mogul plots and schemes to hype an upcoming film failure.

Malafemmena – Short stories focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations.

Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – A memoir by a German major about her time abroad and PhD struggles.

A Life of Adventure and Delight* – Short stories of everyday life involving characters of Indian descent.

All titles appear below in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Title links above and below are to book reviews I’ve written. Carey, Currie, Maksik, Murakami and Sloan are the only authors I’ve read before this year. I’m happy to answer any questions about these books or provide suggestions for further reading if there’s a certain title you’ve particularly enjoyed.

So Much I Want to Tell You* – Anna Akana
The King is Always Above the People* – Daniel Alarcón
The Leaf Reader* – Emily Arsenault
Taduno’s Song – Odafe Atogun
Mexico Stories* – Josh Barkan
Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry
The Clairvoyants*- Karen Brown
Wrong about Japan – Peter Carey
The Hanging Girl*- Eileen Cook
We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – Pino Corrias
Book of Moon* – George Crowder
The One Eyed Man – Ron Currie Jr.
The Slave* – Anand Dilvar
Brussels Noir* – Michael Dufranne
Malafemmena – Louisa Ermelino
The Sunlight Pilgrims* – Jenni Fagan
O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – Jeremy Fish
Soldier Boy* – Keely Hutton
Songs of the Baka* – Dennis James
Spaceman of Bohemia* – Jaroslav Kalfar
White Fur* – Jardine Libaire
Bluebird, Bluebird* – Attica Locke
The Infinite* – Nicholas Mainieri
Shelter in Place – Alexander Maksik

The Beauty of the Fall* – Rich MarcelloBright, Precious Days* – Jay McInerney
Leopard at the Door* – Jennifer McVeigh
Men without Women – Haruki Murakami
Wolf Haven* – Annie Marie Musselman & Brenda Peterson
The Gun – Fuminori Nakamura
Oola* – Brittany Newell
Twig* – Madelon Phillips
A Fortune Foretold* – Agneta Pleijel
Rebels like Us* – Liz Reinhardt
A Loving, Faithful Animal* – Josephine Rowe
Fantastic Beasts Original Screen Play* – J.K. Rowling
Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – Rebecca Schuman
Lola* – Melissa Scrivner Love
A Life of Happiness and Delight* – Akhil Sharma
As Red as Blood* – Salla Simukka
Sourdough – Robin Sloan
Our Own Private Universe* – Robin Talley
A French Wedding* – Hannah Tunnicliffe
The Fortunate Ones* – Ellen Umansky
Fraulein M.* – Caroline Woods

*These titles were given to me through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my honest review.