May 16, 2014

Review: Fractured by Karin Slaughter (Will Trent #2)

In this second installment of the Will Trent series by the incredibly talented Karin Slaughter, we are back in Atlanta investigating the brutal murder of one teenage girl and the apparent abduction of another. When Abigail Campano comes home from an afternoon of playing tennis to find her affluent Ansley Park home broken into, her mind instantly goes to Emma, her 16 year-old daughter. When she reaches the top of the stairs and looks down the hallway leading to Emma's room, she sees the small, crumpled body laying at the feet of a man leaning over her with a knife. Abigail's protective mother mode, along with her adrenaline, kicks in and she lunges for the intruder and literally strangles him with her bare hands, using her fingers to gouge his eyes out at the same time.

Agent Will Trent, with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, is called to the scene to assist the Atlanta Police Department in its investigation. When Will arrives, he soon starts noticing things about the crime scene that just don't add up. A few hours into the investigation, it becomes clear that the APD has made a pivotal error in assessing the crime scene, in turn, wasting valuable time. As a result, the GBI takes over the case which does nothing to sooth the friction between the two law enforcement agencies.

For this case, Agent Trent is assigned a partner, which is something new for him. Faith Mitchell, a detective with the APD is as surprised as Will but they attempt to put their personal feelings aside and get to work on the case. Both Faith and Will have connections to the case, though both are reluctant to divulge the connections. With the life of a young girl hanging in the balance they have a suspect in their sights but proving his involvement becomes tedious and difficult. As the hours tick by, the hope of finding their victim alive wanes as they try to put all of the pieces together before its too late.

My Thoughts:

A few months ago when I read the first book in this series, I was riveted and I am happy to say I felt similarly about this one. FRACTURED is not as violent as TRIPTYCH, the first book, but it was equally as heart-pounding. I didn't miss the gruesomeness of the first book, and it showed me that Karen Slaughter can give the same thrills without all of the shock and horror she showed previously. That said, I'm sure there will be other books in this series that will have more violence but it won't keep me from reading them at all. Her restraint in this book spotlights her talent as a great suspense writer.

On another note, I liked the introduction of Detective Faith Mitchell as a new character and I feel like she brought a dimension to the story that worked very well. I hope to see more of her in the future. From the very beginning, I have appreciated KS's writing style. There's not many writers that can really take me by surprise the way she does in her stories.  Its one of the things I love most about her writing. I've also noticed that my vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds since I began reading her books. I've started highlighting all the new words I discover as I read just to keep track. These are words I've never heard before such as: fulcrum, spurious, misogyny and shemales to name just a few.  As a lover of words, this is a bonus for me.  

The next book in the series is UNDONE and it brings in the main character of her Grant County Series, Sarah Linton. I've not read that series though I do have the first book, BLINDSIGHTED, and I am planning to read it as well.  I'm really looking forward to continuing with the Will Trent books as I've developed a passion for crime/suspense fiction. I know these books have been out for awhile, but its never to late to get started. Karin Slaughter is a writer that I enjoy so much and though it may take me some time to get caught up, I am going to enjoy every book along the way.

FRACTURED (Will Trent #2) 
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Sold By: Random House, LLC
Published:  July 2008
Length: 400 pp

May 6, 2014

Review: The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

The Memory Garden
Author: Mary Rickert
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: May 6, 2014
ISBN: 1402297122 (ISBN13: 9781402297120)
Length: 304 pp

Nan Singer hasn't seen her two childhood best friends, Ruthie and Mavis, in sixty years. She always thought they'd be close their whole lives but a tragedy involving their other friend Eve and the secrets surrounding that tragedy drove a wedge between the girls and they all went their separate ways.

Now an old woman, Nan has been raising Bay, the baby she found in a box on her front steps fourteen years ago. Nan is used to people leaving shoes on her porch for her unusual shoe garden, but never did she ever think someone would leave a baby. Bay is fourteen now and Nan is afraid the secrets from her past are about to be unearthed and with no one else to care for Bay, she reluctantly reaches out to her old friends in the hopes they will be willing to help out.

Nan is not the only one in the big old house keeping secrets. Bay notices someone lurking in the woods  surrounding their garden but is keeping if from Nan.  Bay has always heard the whispers around town that Nan is a witch and Bay has never believed it, but she is beginning to wonder if they are right.  She's noticed herNana has been very stressed ever since she announced these old friends were coming to visit. Once Mavis and Ruthie arrive, things get even weirder. Though Bay would like to know what is really going on, Bay is too afraid to find out what it is and just wants everything to get back to normal, whatever that is.

My Thoughts:

When I read the synopsis for this book, my curiosity was automatically piqued because I do enjoy magical realism and I felt this was right up that alley. There are several aspects of the book that give it great potential for a mysterious, magical story, but I have to say I had difficulty connecting to them, especially in the beginning. I loved the idea of the peculiar shoe garden and how at the beginning of each chapter Rickert included a description and meaning of a flower that was incorporated into that chapter. I felt that was a cute idea and it helped tie the garden into the story.

There is a lot going on in this story and it was difficult for me to follow, especially in the beginning. I believe the author wanted to build up to a big reveal and keep referring to the secrets that were being kept and wanted to keep the reader guessing, but I found myself getting confused and having to go back and re-read pages to make sure I was getting it right. That is the main reason I had difficulty connecting.  At 33% done, I was growing frustrated because I felt the story was just not taking off. Finally at around 55 or 60%, I started connecting and got into the story. Typically, I will give up on a book by that time, but I really wanted to love this book so I kept reading. I am happy to say that I enjoyed the book from that point on.  Eventually the confusion began to clear, I knew who I was dealing with and I finally grasped the idea the author had. I am sorry it took me so long to get there, but at least I did and I can even say that I liked the ending of the book very much.

After finishing the book and thinking back on what I'd just read, the ending and the message it conveyed, I started appreciating Rickert's vision of what she wanted to do with this book. THE MEMORY GARDEN is a book about friendship, secrets, loyalty, regret and forgiveness. Once you finish reading, its for the reader to sit back and decide which characters were real and which characters were not. If you haven't read it, you may not understand that last comment, but that's OK. I'm not going to ger more specific than that because I always try not to give anything away in my reviews. You'll have to read it and see for yourself.

The bottom line for me is that even though I had a rough start with this one, I am glad I stuck with it and I will try more of Ricker's work in the future.

May 1, 2014

The Giver (The Giver Quartet, Book 1) by Lois Lowry

I don't typically read many dystopian books but I felt I couldn't put off reading THE GIVER any longer, especially with all of the talk about the movie coming out.  Recently, I saw an interview that Meryl Streep was doing about the movie version she had just finished filming. She was saying what a fan she was of Lois Lowery and how great she felt the movie was going to be. I knew then I had to read this book before I see the movie.

This futuristic, dystopian story of life in an extremely uniformed and controlled culture is a very intriguing and unique story. I'm really glad I took the time for it. I chose the audio version because I already had three print books going at the time. I'll get to the performance part of this post in a minute.

THE GIVER is a story of community of people who live in a society of sameness.  There is no pain, no war or hunger. Everyone is equal in this future world. Every aspect of their life is uniformly planned out. Each year there is a ceremony for the children turning twelve years old that is attended by the Community and at that time it is revealed what job you are assigned and you begin training for that role that you will carry out for the rest of your life.

For Jonas, it is time for his Ceremony of Twelve and he is given a very special assignment - one that is not given out each year. He is to train with The Giver, who holds all the truths and memories of their people. It is considered the highest honor to be given the title of Receiver. As Jonas begins to understand what the Giver has sacrificed for the Community and the truth behind their seemingly perfect existences, an inner struggle begins to emerge.  Jonas has to decide if he will fulfill his obligation or stand up for what he believes in knowing what he has learned from The Giver.

My Thought:

This is such a simple story that is also incredible. I really didn't know what to expect with this book but I was quickly awed by the sheer oneness of this society. Lois Lowry writes about this with such perfection, you can't help but believe it. The story is so original and so simply told. There are no bad people in this story. All the people are good, even though some of the rituals they have seem cold and heartless. They simply do not know anything else.

I chose the audio version because of time management and though the narrator, actor Ron Rifkin, did a good job, he was a noisy narrator. By that I mean, I could hear him take his breaths with almost every sentence, many times I could hear him swallow or open his mouth. Its kind of hard to explain and may sound odd to you. I listen to a lot of audios and I've never come across this before. That said, I think he did a good job with the narration and once I got used to it, it didn't distract me from the story, though it was very noticable so I thought I'd mention it.

The recommended age group for this book is ten and up. It would be a great book for parents to read with their kids. There's a lot to be taken away from this story and it would generate some good discussions along the way. Now that I've read it, I'm even more anxious for the movie to come out. I read the other day that along with Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges will play The Giver (a perfect choice IMO), and Taylor Swift even has a role in it as Rosemary. There are four books total in this series that Lowry began writing in 1993. For more information on Lois Lowry and the many other books and series she's written, visit Fantastic Fiction

Here is the official movie trailer. You Must check it out!

THE GIVER by Lois Lowry (Unabridged Audio)
Author: Lois Lowry
Narrator: Ron Rifkin
Publisher: Listening Library
Published: Audio - 2003
Length: 4 Hrs 41 Mins