Book Review: the End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

Catastrophic environmental change has brought biblical floods to London. As the city succumbs to the water,  a woman gives birth to a baby boy, who she and her husband name Z. As the flood waters continue to rise, the woman and her husband must flee the city with a days old baby in search of safety and higher ground. As Z grows from baby to toddler, the family is forced to find new refuge again and again.

Okay. This was not my type of book. The writing is excellent, Hunter has a minimalist style that is somewhere between a steam of consciousness narrative and a poem. The cataclysmic destruction of the English landscape fades into background noise against the interaction of the woman and her son. But as someone who is not exactly baby-friendly, there are waaaaaaay too many descriptions of baby bowel movements for my peace of mind. Honestly, the whole “children are the future” thing seems a little overly optimistic when the planet is literally falling apart around you.

But, I’m absolutely willing to admit that most of the problems I had with this book stem from my own anti-baby tendencies. The book is truly beautifully written, and showcases a legitimate debut talent. The steam of consciousness reminds me a bit of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida. While this book was not up my alley, I would be excited to read Hunter’s future works.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

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The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

This book is the sequel to Barry’s The Lace Reader, which has been on my TBR for quite some time (I picked it up at a library book sale a couple of years ago and simply never had the time). And while the characters in the Lace Reader do appear in this book, in The Fifth Petal, Barry chooses to focus on a few new characters in her slightly offset Salem, Massachusetts.

In 1989, three young women were murdered on Halloween night, allegedly while performing a satanic ritual. The crime, falling into legend as “The Goddess Murders,” were never solved, and continue to haunt the subconscious of Salem, Mass, ever since. Twenty-five years later, the sole suspect in the original murders is once again involved in an unusual homicide. The incident rips the scab off old wounds, bringing the Goddess Murders back into the limelight. Police Chief John Rafferty, with the aid of Callie Cahill, the only survivor of the massacre, must uncover the truth of what happened on Halloween two and a half decades ago, before more evil befalls the town.

This was an intriguing little mystery. The plots twists in and out of the Salem Witch Hysteria of 1692, and the lives of those victims and their accusers. Modern day witches, healers, and psychics abound. Banshees, wronged goddesses, and black magic infuse the plot. The modern day and the darkness of Puritan New England collide uniquely in Barry’s book. The plot meanders a bit, certain elements occasionally make the story seem overlong, but in all this is a tidy and engrossing mystery.

Any fan of mysteries will probably enjoy this book. The inclusion of plot lines from the Salem Witchcraft Trials was a big bonus for me. I had not read The Lace Reader before picking up this one (alas, I didn’t get the chance), but I was never lost. This book can be read as a stand-alone if preferred, though now I am doubly excited to read the first in the series.

An advance ebook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Fifth Petal will be available for purchase on January 24th, 2017.

 

Book Review: The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

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The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

 

This is the fourth book in the Tracy Crosswhite series. Hopefully unnecessary caveat: There may well be spoilers in here for the first three books in the series.

When a high school student takes his boat out to an uninhabited island to poach crabs, he has no idea what he’s getting into. Tangled up in his trap line is another crab trap, one with the body of a woman inside . . .

Enter detective Tracy Crosswhite, still recovering from the events of previous novels. Crosswhite, who has a soft spot for young female murder victims after the death of her sister, is determined to find out who killed this woman and stuffed her body in a crab trap in Puget Sound. But identifying the victim turns out to be only the beginning. The more Crosswhite learns about the young woman in the trap, the more intricate and convoluted the mystery becomes.

I’m going to come right out and say it: I did not finish this book. The synopsis sounds great, and for the most part the mystery was intriguing. I was getting flashes of “Gone Girl” while reading certain parts. But I just couldn’t get behind Crosswhite as a main character. We just didn’t have any chemistry. Towards the middle of the book, I found myself skipping over page after page of baby-crazy contemplation on her part, and after a while, I just felt that life is too short to keep reading a book I’d lost interest in.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that this is not a good book. A mystery aficionado should give The Trapped Girl a try. I have mixed feelings about this book. I, personally, did not like the main character, and I also don’t crack open mystery novels to hear a central female character pine about wanting a child. Yet the mystery, without the added-on drama, was an interesting one, and one that unfolded in unexpected ways.

So, long story short, I didn’t like this book very much, but I certainly don’t discourage others for giving it a shot.

An advance ebook was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The Trapped Girl will be available for purchase on January 24th, 2017.

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty

The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty By: Vendela Vida

5 out of 5 Stars

 

I loved this book. It’s a tiny thing, only about 200 pages or so, and as such can be consumed in a day (and once you start reading this, you’ll likely not stop. I discovered this book through Powell’s Books Indiespensible subscription service (which, if you haven’t heard of it, you may need to look into it. Now. I’ll wait), which has provided me with a multitude of wonderful books I probably never would have found otherwise (expect to see several of these books coming up in future reviews).

Overly parenthetical ramblings aside, I truly enjoyed this book. It’s an unconventional mystery, set in modern day Morocco, Casablanca to be exact. The book is written in the second person, a bold–and polarizing–choice; everyone seems to either love it or hate it. Personally, I think the use of second person works well for this book. We are meant to relate more closely with the nameless heroine than a third person story may allow, but she is allowed some mystery to her thoughts, which cannot be found in a first person story.

The heroine (so to speak) begins the book enroute to Casablanca from Florida, but we don’t know why she is traveling. Shortly after arriving in the ancient city, she is robbed; her passport, credit cards, and computer all disappear into the labyrinthine streets, and with them goes all connection to her past life. In time the authorities find “her” bag, but in reality it belongs to another woman.

So begins the adventure and the mystery. Deciding that as she is now no one, she can be anyone, Our nameless heroine begins to build a new life around the belongings of the other woman whose bag she now holds. Naturally (as tends to happen), things go sideways, and the heroine finds herself falling deeper and deeper into her assumed identity.

As the book progresses, we find, in bits and snippets, the reason for the heroine’s flight (as in flee) to Morocco, and why she is so quick to turn herself into someone else. The mystery here isn’t so much in what happens to her once she sets foot in Casablanca, but in the events that drove her there in the first place.

Like I said, I read this book in a single sitting, literally unable to put it down. The writing is lyrical and elegant, the second person point of view surprisingly easy to get used to. Though we know next to nothing about the central character in this book, you find yourself cheering for her, and sympathizing with her, and desperately turning the pages to find another small piece of her past.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve come across something so unusual and yet so engaging.