Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

Cass Anderson lives in a beautifully idyllic hamlet in England and is married to a wonderful man. She loves her job teaching, but she is looking forward to her long summer vacation. At least she was. On the last day of school, during a horrific storm, she takes a windy desolate road through the woods to her home. On the side of the road she sees a woman in a car and assumes she is broken down. Cass pulls over but the woman in the other car makes no attempt to ask for help so Cass drives home with the intention to call for help for the other driver when she arrives home, just in case. But Cass forgets to make the call and the next day she hears about a murdered woman on the radio; the woman in the car is dead. Even worse, once the murdered woman’s identity is made public Cass realizes she had lunch with the woman the week before. 

Cass feels extremely guilty for forgetting to call, but it seems to be only one in a long string of things she has been forgetting. Her mother died of early onset Alzheimer’s a couple of years before and Cass is afraid she is suffering from the same illness. She is seeing things that aren’t there, things aren’t where she left them and items start arriving at her door she has no memory of ordering. It looks like Cass is headed for a breakdown herself.

Picking up the book you know going in this is a thriller so you are waiting for the shoe to drop. And it comes down with a crash! You really get into Cass’s head and understand why she feels that she is slowly losing her mind. Then again, you know the genre of the book you are holding, so you always have that little bit of doubt. 

The book starts slowly but everything builds up to the amazing conclusion that will have you cheering out loud. This is a great book, please do yourself a favor and stick with it. You’ll be thrilled that you did.

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Today Joan and her four-year-old son Lincoln decide to visit the zoo. Lincoln enjoys the play areas away from the main section of the zoo so he can play with “his guys” like Thor, Predator and Captain America. It’s a typical fall day. Lincoln doesn’t want to leave and Joan needs to encourage him towards the exit. But what were those popping noises Joan heard before? And why are they continuing? As she nears the exit, sees the people on the ground, and glimpses a man with a gun, she knows that today is not like any other day she has ever experienced. She needs to keep her wits about her and do all she can to keep her son safe. Her tired, hungry son who doesn't really understand the danger they are in.

I typically don’t like when readers act out the voices of children, but this reader really brought Lincoln to life as a four-year-old boy. When he spoke too loudly or started getting grumbly I understood, he’s a little kid! The reader kept that part of the story alive for me. That said, I switched over the print (thankfully I had both) because I was getting really anxious listening, and needed to know what happened next and I can read so much faster.

I’m not a parent so maybe a parent would like the ending more than I did? I understood the direction and message the author wanted to convey, but I didn’t like the execution of the ideas. I really enjoyed the first 90% of the book but the ending fell flat for me. Again, could just be me and the bulk of the book is a really great read.

The Child by Fiona Barton

The Child by Fiona Barton

The skeleton of a newborn is found by a crew at a construction site on the outskirts of London. Reporter Kate Walters finds a small article in a competitor’s newspaper about the discovery and it starts firing questions in her mind, most importantly, who is the child?

The book has four narrators: Kate; a mother whose newborn was stolen from a hospital decades before; and both the mother and daughter who at one time lived at the property where the skeleton was discovered. You know that all four women are tied to the baby in one way or another but it doesn’t become clear until the end.

Each chapter has a different narrator, and therefore a different point of view, and on the audiobook each of the four narrators are voiced by a different actor. This is a character driven thriller, you really get to know these four women and what events in their past have made them the people you meet in the opening pages.

I was able to figure out what was going on very early in the story, but I still wanted to keep reading to find out how it all came about. My one issue is that there is some DNA testing in the book and the science didn’t really make sense which may have been a good thing because I kept doubting that I truly did figure out the plot!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

About fifteen years ago Helena emerged from the marshlands of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan where her family lived in her entire life. It was then that she discovered the truth about the world, and about her father Jacob. Helena’s mom lived in the marsh with her father for over a decade, years she would never get back with her family, years from which she would never recover. Helena’s mom was fourteen when Jacob kidnapped her and brought her to the cabin, only slightly older when she became pregnant. Helena grew up in the marsh never knowing much about the world outside the marsh, her reading materials were National Geographic's from the 1960s, and never knowing that her mother was a prisoner until mother and daughter realized they had to leave. Jacob, nicknamed the Marsh King by the media, was captured after two years on the run and sentenced to a lifetime in prison. 

Twelve years after her father entered prison Helena has started over. No one knows who she once was, not her husband or their two young daughters. But then the unthinkable happens. Her father escapes from prison. Helena knows that the only one who can possibly capture the Marsh King is the Marsh King’s Daughter.

The narrative alternates chapters between the life in the cabin and Helena’s present day life. It was a good way to work up to the events that made Helena flee the cabin and the father she adored, while at the same time working up to the present day meeting between Helena and her father. Needless to say you are on the edge of your seat as the book nears its conclusion! 

If you are at all interested in wilderness survival this will appeal, even if you know you never want to live off the grid this is a glimpse as to how life would be with limited provisions and no electricity. This is also a fascinating character study of three people living in isolation; and a daughter growing up outside of society and how difficult the transition to the “real world” is for her after she leaves the marsh. 

I really enjoyed this book but those that are a little squeamish may want to skip the audiobook and stick to print; you can skim print, you’re listening to every word on audiobook. I’ll admit I was flinching on more than one occasion, but it was such a great story I just kept listening and listening to find out what happened.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy Carpenter is a Final Girl. She is the sole survivor of the Pine Cottage massacre when all her college friends were brutally murdered by an escaped psychopath. (I did laugh when I found out Pine Cottage is in the Poconos, but having stayed in a cabin there I can picture the scene. Not sure I’ll be staying anywhere near there again though…) Thankfully Quincy can’t remember any details of the night the knife-wielding maniac slaughtered her friends and injured her, but there are a few people that find it curious (and convenient) that she can’t remember anything.

Quincy is one of three Final Girls. Lisa Milner survived a sorority house massacre and has devoted her life to helping women overcome their problems and the horrible things they’ve experienced. Samantha Boyd is the third, surviving a killing spree at a hotel in Florida, but she disappeared years ago out of the public eye. Quincy is shocked to find out that Lisa is dead, apparently by suicide, and soon after Samantha comes out of hiding and shows up on her doorstep because they are the last two Final Girls and need to stick together.

I want to say more, but anything I say will mess up some of the reveals of the book. This psychological thriller takes the typical slasher movie ending of one girl standing and writes the “what happens after the cops come” part of the story. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming and I really liked how the author kept switching my opinion of who was the evil one of the piece. You get to know these Final Girls and how damaged they are after their ordeals, but also how strong they really are.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor

Almost twenty years ago Jess Winters disappeared from Sycamore, Arizona. A woman recently relocated to the area is on a walk when she discovers skeletal remains. Everyone assumes that Jess has finally been found but the discovery of the body brings memories of events happening around the time of her disappearance to the forefront of everyone’s minds. 

This isn’t a mystery or a thriller. This is a character study of a small town dealing with events, including the disappearance of a teenager, and how these events have a ripple effect across the entire town. I especially liked the construction of the novel; short chapters which could each be a short story telling the underlying story of the town. It was interesting to see how an event that doesn’t even really touch certain people changes their lives in such dramatic ways.

A good choice on audio and in print -- I found myself going between both formats to know what was going to happen next.

The Black Book by James Patterson and David Ellis

The Black Book by James Patterson and David Ellis

What a great thriller! I pick on Jimmy (what I fondly call James Patterson) because he is so darn prolific but I’ll admit I enjoy his thrillers and sometimes he comes up with a GREAT one. 

Billy Harney is a homicide detective with Chicago PD. He loves his job and believes in justice. That’s why he’s been working for IA on the sly for a couple of years trying to break a protection racket. When Billy busts a house of ill repute with a LOT of VIPs in attendance he upsets a lot of people and it’s starting to look like he’ll be framed for murder. Then Billy is shot in the head...and lives. With his memory of the week leading up to his shooting gone from his head he’s trying desperately to remember before it’s too late.

I loved this one on audio, so far this is the best audiobook I’ve listened to all year. I loved how the story alternated between the present and the past and with Billy’s memory gaps we’re as in the dark as he is as he puzzles things out. If you need a fun quick read you can’t beat this one.