Feb 25, 2014

Review: TripTych by Karin Slaughter

I know I'm very late in reading the work of mystery/suspense writer Karin Slaughter, but all I can say is better late than never. I love that all of her stories take place in Atlanta, Slaughter's home town, and of course, I've heard so much about her highly acclaimed Grant County Series.  In keeping with my decision to read less review books and focus more on books I've always wanted to read,  I decided to start with KS's later spin-off series from 2006, Will Trent. TRIPTYCH starts the series off with a bang!

Michael Ormewood, a long-time detective with the Atlanta PD, is investigating the rape and murder of a known prostitute that lives in the projects. Its a disturbing crime scene made even more gruesome with the realization that the victim's tongue had been bitten off during the attack.  Will Trent, with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, has been sent in to assist on the case. The puzzling part is that there have been two other cases of young girls being raped and their tongues bitten off, but they were not murdered like the last victim. And the prostitute, Aleesha Monroe, was in her forties. Soon, there's another victim: a fifteen-year-old who may have been raped before she died. Her tongue, however, was cut off, not bitten and the shocking part is this victim is Michael Ormewood's next door neighbor.

Will and Michael work together to figure out who the perpetrator of these horrific crimes is, but Michael resents Will's intrusion and Will doesn't care for Michael. Meanwhile, there's an ex-convict who was recently released from prison after serving two decades for raping and murdering a fifteen year-old girl back in 1985. And the fact that the victim's tongue was bitten off is too much of a coincidence to ignore.

My Thoughts;

I'll just get right to it and say that though this was a gruesome story, I loved this first book of the series. Admittedly, I don't read a lot of books like this, but it was a nice change of pace for me and was exactly what I was in the mood for. I have noticed, however that some reviewers haven't rated this book very high, but I gave it 5 stars. In my opinion, a good thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat and this book did that for me. I could not stop reading and when I had to stop, I couldn't wait to get back to it. I was so immersed in the story and so connected to the characters that I lost all track of time. My favorite thing was the story telling style of KS. I appreciated and enjoyed how she would reveal certain revelations throughout the book.  That made it possible for me to have many AHA moments.  But I will say, not to be stereotypical or anything, if I didn't already know the author was a woman, I would've sworn this book was written by a man. That is also one of the interesting aspects for me as I read this book. Also, when I read a thriller/mystery, I want to be shocked and surprised.  I don't want to see everything coming at me. I hate predictability and this book was not predictable. There were many moments where I sat there with my mouth hanging open. For me, that's a great thriller/mystery novel. TRIPTYCH gave me all of that. I'm not saying its the perfectly written book, or there's nothing out there like it, but it had everything in it to make it a great thriller! Thats all I can ask from a writer.

I'm really looking forward to reading FRACTURED, the second book in the Will Trent Series and I'll be curious to find out if KS can sustain the momentum with the subsequent books in the series. All I can say is at this point, I am a big Karin Slaughter and Will Trent fan! I still hope to find the time to read the Grant County series as well.

TRIPTYCH (Kindle Version)
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Published: August 2006
Print Length: 512 pp
Recommend? Yes!! For lovers of mystery and suspense who are NOT squeamish!

Feb 22, 2014

Review: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash (Kindle Edition)

(No Spoilers Included)
A few months back I started seeing a lot of buzz about Wiley Cash from my other Southern Lit lovers. Surprisingly, I had not heard of this author until then, so I looked into his work and saw that  he had a new book, THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY that hadn't been released yet, but his debut novel, A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME was getting a lot of positive reviews, not to mention, it was the type of book I love to read..

The story takes place in the small North Carolina town of Marshall, in 1986 and is centered around three complex narrators who tell this story of family, faith and betrayal.. First, there's Adelaide, an elderly woman who has seen a lot in her 80-something years who has strong religious beliefs that she isn't afraid to stand up for. Then there's Jess, a nine-year old boy, living with his mother, father and older brother, Stump, who was born mute and has never spoken a word. The last narrator is Clem, the local sheriff, who knows loss first hand yet does his very best to serve the people of Marshall in a fair way, even though he doesn't agree with some of the ways of certain townspeople.

Jess and Stump's mother, Julie, had a very religious upbringing  and even though her husband, Ben, didn't share her conviction and dedication to the church, she attended services several times a week.  Neither Ben nor the boys ever accompanied her to the her church.  But one day after the boys saw something they weren't meant to see, Julie was convinced by a church elder to bring Stump to church with her for a healing. Jess was upset by this but felt he couldn't tell his mother the truth as to why he felt so strongly about it for fear of getting he and his brother in trouble and upsetting his parents.

Adelaide had stopped attending the church ten years prior after the shocking death of one of its parishioners during one of its unusual worship services led by Pastor Chambliss. She felt so strongly about what was going on behind those blacked-out windows that she  even moved the children's Sunday school classes outside the church. Abigail didn't agree with Pastor Chambliss' ways, nor did she trust him so she kept her distance. But when there's another death at the church, the trouble lands on her doorstep and she can't ignore the truth any longer.

As Sheriff, Clem always tries to keep the peace but the events that took place during that Sunday evening service, and the subsequent fallout, put him in the middle of a very volatile situation. He must find answers before more lives are lost but getting people to talk proves very difficult. To complicate matters, Clem comes face to face with a man he hasn't seen in years and who bring with him very painful memories from his own tragic past.

My Thoughts:

One thing I liked about his novel is the three very different perspectives each narrator brought. The young innocence of Jess, the wise voice of Adelaidel and the calm and quiet manner of Clem work together so beautifully, though I would have to say that Clem is my favorite narrator. He's such a likable and fair character and I couldn't help but feel drawn to him.

I'm sure most people can't imagine the kind of worshipping that went on in the church of this story, but the truth is, it is real and things like snake handling and healings do go on in southern churches even today. In fact, there was a news report just last week where a pastor was killed after being bitten by a snake during a service. I had just finished reading this book and even I was shocked by it. Though I have read several southern fiction books involving worshipping with snakes, they disturb me. That said, in my opinion, Wiley Cash did a great job bringing that element without letting it cloud the main plot line. The 1980's were an interesting time in our history, with a lot of changing going on and I enjoyed revisiting that time. I was completely absorbed and had difficult putting this one down. There was a lot of history being told by Abigail and Clem, which gave a clear understanding of where they came from and what kind of people they were. In fact, I felt there was as much background being given as was current storyline, but it didn't bother me at all because it was all very interesting and relevent to the story being told.

If anyone ever wonders why I love reading Southern Fiction so much, all they need to do is read this book and they will have their answer. Nowhere else, in my opinion, will you find deep-rooted stories of family, southern culture, past and present, and genuine characters as you find in books in this somewhat overlooked genre. Wiley Cash is my favorite 'new to me' author and I will be telling everyone I know about his work. I'm very much looking forward to reading Cash's new novel, THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY, which will be released next week. I can't encourage you enough to give this writer a try - I promise you won't be disappointed.

Author: Wiley Cash (@WileyCash)
Website: www.wileycash.com
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: April 2012
Length: 325 pp
Recommend? YES! This will be on my list of favorite books for 2014


Feb 18, 2014

Review: Sycamore Row by John Grisham (Unabridged Audio Version)

(No spoilers are included in my reviews)
Admittedly, I stepped away from Grisham's novels several years ago after reading eighteen of them as soon as they each were published. I was one of his biggest fans. Then suddenly, I wasn't loving them as much as I once had. I'm not sure if I grew tired of the stories or if the stories grew tiresome, but when SYCAMORE ROW came out recently, something about it sparked an interest in me that hadn't been there in awhile. I had to read it.

About the Book: (from the author's website)

Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten, will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens, just three years earlier.
The second will raises far more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?
My Thoughts:
When A TIME TO KILL came out, though it was Grisham's first novel, it wasn't released until after THE FIRM, so I was already a huge fan. Jake Brigance was a terrific character in that book and was made even bigger when Matthew McConaughey brought him to life on the big screen in the motion picture. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see that character been brought back for this novel. 
The first paragraph of the book grabbed me right away. The visual Grisham painted was stunning, and not in a good way. It set the bar high for my expectations from that point on. The story takes place three years after the infamous trial where we first met Jake and I felt it was perfectly suited for the story and made it all seem like a natural progression. 
Seth Hubbard's story was engaging and, like all Grisham novels, methodically told. There were a lot of facts and they were brought out in a well-timed manner. Grisham is a wonderful storyteller and I enjoyed being taken back into the lives of some of the people of Clanton, Mississippi and to also see that time doesn't move as quickly down there in that small southern town. 
John Grisham has always had a knack for creating remarkable characters that enrich his stories and that was proven once again here. He brought back a few from the first Brigance novel and introduced some new faces that were equally as entertaining. I found myself matching the voices of the character from the book to the actors I remembered from the earlier film, probably because I was listening to an audiobook and it just seemed to flow that way naturally for me. Speaking of the audio vesrion, I can't say enough about Michael Beck, who did the narration for this book. He was amazing! He did all the voices and did them so well. I remember him as an actor as well so it was nice to have that familiar connection with him. 
I don't know if Grisham has more books planned for Jake Brigance, but since he's calling SYCAMORE ROW book two, I'm assuming there will be more to come. If so, I will definitely be on board. In fact, I'd also love to see Matthew McConaughey reprise his role...but maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part! 
The bottom line is that I really enjoyed this book and it made me realize how much I'd missed John Grisham. I have many of his later novels but haven't read them. Maybe its time I give them a try. if you're looking for an engrossing book written by a master story teller I highly recommend SYCAMORE ROW.  

SYCAMORE ROW (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: John Grisham
Narrator: Michael Beck
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: October 22, 2013
Length: 20 hrs 50 mins
Recommend? ABSOLUTELY!

Feb 16, 2014

[TSS] Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Unabridged Audio Version)

If you're one of those people who looked at the cover and title of this book and thought it was just another flowery, romantic story of love, I'm here to tell you that you couldn't be more wrong. This is the second Moyes book that I've read and once again, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I read and its impact on me.

ME BEFORE YOU is the unlikely story of a twenty-six year old English woman still living with her parents and elderly grandfather, struggling to help contribute to the family's income. Louisa, unlike her older sister, did not exude much independence and drive, so her parents didn't expect a lot out of her in the long term. She put up with her father's constant teasing and light-hearted put downs and for the most part, didn't show how deeply his words wounded her. Her mother made up for her father's insults by offering non-stop complacency with Louisa's choices. When Louisa lost her job at a local coffee shop she was forced to scour the limited workforce. Reluctantly she took a job working as a companion for a local wealthy family looking after their grown son who had suffered a life changing accident two years prior. Once a hard-nosed, thrill seeking, successful executive, Will Traynor was now confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.

Will Traynor was an impossible man who seemed to take pleasure in being harsh to Louisa and making her feel completely inadequate for even the simplest of tasks. Lou, as she was often called, wanted to quit right away but her sister Katrina guilted her into staying on, especially after their father lost his job at a local furniture factory. She was making good money taking care of this man and if she quit now she would be hurting her family. Lou decided that the only way to deal with Will was to stand up to his bad attitude. As time went on, progress was made and they even developed a kind of comfortableness with each other.

When Louisa overheard a conversation with Will's mother and sister, it became clear to her why they had only hired her for a six month contract. This information disturbed Louisa and went against everything she believed in. She felt completely helpless and felt she couldn't discuss it with anyone, considering the legal ramifications it entailed. Neither her family nor her boyfriend  realized the stress she was under and when she finally confided in her sister, a plan was devised. Lou made it her mission to make Will see that his life was not over. To complicate matters, Lou's close proximity to Will's every personal need created a closeness that became second nature for her. She was also spending more time with Will than her own boyfriend, Patrick.

Lou is fighting time and battling a decision, that frankly, she has no right to change. This is Will's life and she must find a way to come to terms with it, but she vows never to give up until the very end.

My Thoughts:

Though this is a story of love, it is only secondarily a love story, in my opinion.  This incredible story is told from a unique perspective and goes beyond the outer surface to the very difficult and controversial topic of assisted suicide. That being said, there is even more than that. Through her complicated relationship with Will, Louisa also learns so much about herself, as does her family. I like that they begins to see her in a different light and even gives her the respect she deserves for the difficult job she has. The compassion is not all one-sided either. Will, even in his most vulnerable state, is able to help Lou overcome an event in her past that has, until this point, shaped her life. The beauty of this story for me was the unexpected gift of self discovery that Will is able to give Lou. The impact he has on her life changed her drastically and will stay with her forever.

This is a complicated, layered story that is anything but a typical romance. As with the previous Moyes book I read, THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND, I was completely immersed and satisfied with the story.   I chose the audio version of this title and I felt it was superbly done. The narration was done by several different people and they all had fantastic performances.

Jojo Moyes is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and one that I will not miss in the future. This book is totally different than the earlier one I read and it shows her versatility. Some writers stick to the same theme or technique throughout their career and though there is nothing wrong with that, Jojo Moyes has surprised me twice and that makes me want to read more from her.

I couldn't recommend this book more, whether in print or audio. It is an absorbing, interesting novel that deserves all of the accolades my fellow readers and reviewers have given it. If you're looking for a good book to lose yourself in, you must read ME BEFORE YOU.

ME BEFORE YOU (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author: Jojo Moyes (@jojomoyes)
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 12-31-2012
Length: 14 hrs 40 mins
Recommend? Absolutely YES!!!!