Book Review | Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

under the harrow.jpegFeaturing a murder and hunt for the killer in a small town, Under the Harrow is a suspense novel reminiscent of Broadchurch. Nora is off to visit her sister Rachel for a weekend away from London. In place of a hug and a hot home-cooked meal she witnesses a bloody scene: Rachel stabbed to death in her own home. Not trusting the police to find the killer, Nora takes up residence in the town and begins her own search for her sister’s killer. Only this isn’t her first time playing detective for her sister…

Berry has penned a winner in her debut novel. Her writing style is concise and appealing for its easy to consume nature, some readers have referred to it as stream of consciousness. Characters are not exaggerated and UK slang is not overdone. Though I did not find any of the characters very appealing or relatable, their situations were understandable. This suspenseful read continues with plot twists that keep the reader speculating about possible endings. Check it out from a library near you. Disclaimer: I admit that I do not normally read mysteries, crime stories or women’s fiction. This said my opinion of the piece may be much different than a reader well-versed or generally looking to read a book in these genres. 

Book Review | Moving Day : a thriller by Jonathan Stone

Featuring guest author Punit Prakash
cover moving day by jonathan stoneMoving Day connects protagonist Peke’s past to a current problem. Born Jewish in Poland, he escaped World War II and emigrated to the US. Recently retired, he and his wife packed up their New England home prior to a cross country move to Santa Barbara. When a gang posing as movers shows up at his residence a day ahead of schedule, they load all the packed boxes into their trucks and disappear with their bounty, all of Peke’s possessions. As Peke uses his wit to track down the thieves, Stone interweaves scenes from Peke’s childhood. Survival skills learned while escaping the Holocaust come in handy during this cat and mouse chase.

This was a quick paced read that kept interest levels high. The story was mostly linear and easy to follow. Some readers may feel that World War II references are overdone, but others will appreciate the historic approach. Moving Day could work well for readers with short attention spans because it is very plot driven. Critics have given an overall warm reception to the book. Check it out at a library near you.

Book Review | Horrorstör : a novel by Grady Hendrix

horrorstor by grady hendrixWhen the furniture showroom doesn’t look as it should in the morning, a manager set on keeping his job pulls two recruits to spend the night at the store patrolling with him. On their first round, they discover two young employees attempting to film a supernatural episode. Next they discover a man who has repeatedly been sneaking into the store and spending the night amongst the furniture. Things get really out of hand when they decide to hold a séance and the ghost of a warden takes over the man’s body. Apparently the store has been built on the site of a panopticon prison. Things take off into crazyland after that, a suspense thriller, will they make it out alive.

I picked this (e)book for its appealing cover. The book was alright. It was not at all hard to get into, especially for those who enjoy workplace or corporate fiction. The 24 year old female protagonist is sarcastic and edgy. The storyline, although seriously unreal, carried well and was easy to read with a fast moving plot. Horrorstör would make a good airplane book. Check it out from a library near you.

Book Review | Monster’s Chef : a novel by Jervey Tervalon

book cover Monster's chef : a novel / Jervey Tervalon.Mr. Gibson has lost his wife and his NYC restaurant to his cocaine addiction and landed himself in the slammer. Nine months later, in a halfway house, he makes a personal connection that lands him a new gig (on parole) in Southern California as personal chef to Monster, a Michael Jackson-like, eccentric celebrity musician. Gibson signs a non-disclosure agreement and lives in a bungalow on the secured grounds. As Monster and Gibson become more acquainted, and other slightly off-base characters appear, Gibson has to choose who to trust and how to proceed – especially when a dead body turns up outside his bungalow.

I grabbed Monster’s Chef off the new fiction shelves at the library. The jacket description sounded alright, the book wasn’t too thick and I figured I’d quit if it didn’t work out. Tervalon’s writing style here is easy to read, though some characters seem unable to explain themselves. The characters are imaginable, but as other critics have mentioned, fairly flat. The idea of a rich music mogul holed up in a private mansion with a moat on his own mountain was interesting, but the suspense that was promised never really arrived. This book was okay, but when I’d finished it, I questioned whether it had been worth the time. Have a read from a library near you.

Film Review | The Truth about Emanuel by Francesca Gregorini

dvd cover The Truth about Emanuel by Francesca GregoriniFor those who appreciate the artistic, somewhat surreal and slightly disconnected, The Truth about Emanuel is a film about two young women who connect through their losses. Emanuel (Scodelario) is 17. She lives with her father and stepmother, and feels responsible for the death of her mother, who died in delivery. She and her father were very close, but with the stepmother now in the picture their relationship has become a bit strained and she can’t really connect with the stepmother. When single mother Linda (Biel) moves in next store with her small baby a relationship between her and Emanuel takes root. Emanuel helps around the house, but finally makes a discovery while babysitting that changes the dynamic of their relationship.

This film does a good job showing realistic interactions between others and both Emanuel and Linda. Kaya Scodelario’s beauty is captured and matches the quality of her acting. Her disjointed relationships are highlighted and developed sufficiently. Viewers who are looking for a film that is entirely realistic and connected may not be able to appreciate some of the artistic nuances this film presents. For example, some footage takes place underwater, though the characters are still inside the house. The Truth about Emanuel deals with love and loss in a way that may help those on the outside to better understand it and those on the inside to consider it differently. Check out Gregorini’s film from a library near you.

Book Review | The Book of You : a novel by Claire Kendal

book cover The Book of You : a novel by Claire KendalClaire Kendal’s first novel is a winner. The Book of You introduces us to Clarissa, a single woman in her 30’s, who is gainfully employed at a University. After a stressful, failed relationship with a professor colleague, she literally falls into bed with another colleague, Rafe. The evening does not go as she intends and Rafe becomes a constant, unwanted presence in her life, hiding in shadows, delivering unwanted parcels and popping up to whisper creepy things in her ear when she leaves her apartment. Clarissa is relieved to be assigned to a lengthy stint of jury duty and uses the courtroom for solace. She draws connections between the case of an abused woman and her own daily life. As weeks pass, Clarissa is in increasing danger while she attempts to gather enough evidence to present to the police before it’s too late.

From the beginning this was an interesting read. Kendal’s approach is unique, using alternating first and third person narrative. As Clarissa gathers evidence, she keeps a journal documenting the disturbing events set in motion by Rafe. These passages are written as if to Rafe, using the second person you subject (this is where the title comes from). Kendal does an excellent job giving life to her characters and the story. Her writing allows for a solid understanding of how a victim of stalking may feel. The story is not too predictable and certainly gets the reader thinking about what will happen. Check out this new release from a library near you.

Book Review | Il metodo del coccodrillo (The Crocodile) by Maurizio de Giovanni

book cover Il metodo del coccodrillo (The Crocodile) by Maurizio de GiovanniTranslated from Italian, The Crocodile is a noir crime novel that follows the trail of a patient but brutal killer in Naples, Italy. Inspector Lojacono has just been reassigned to a desk job in a new city after implications of involvement with the Camorra (think Mafia) when the first victim is found – a teenage boy shot in the back of the head point-blank. Not long after, a popular girl is killed identically in a well-to-do neighborhood, just outside her door. Links between the murders are obvious and the press dubs the serial killer ‘the crocodile’ because of similarities in how the two kill. The police are at a loss and the assistant district attorney gets Lojacono involved as the investigation becomes a race against the clock to identify the final victims before the killer strikes again.

De Giovanni has penned an interesting piece here. Short chapters alternate focus between various characters – victims, police, and the killer. The scent of Naples is everywhere and small details give the reader a genuine insight into the city. While mostly focussed on the killings and pursuit, there is still a bit of romance and character development in the intertwined stories. Overall, I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. Check it out from a library near you.