Review – The Guest Room

The Guest RoomThe Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

Published January 5,  2016

Doubleday

My rating: 4.5 Stars

 
After seeing so many positive reviews of The Guest Room I just had to read it. This is the first book I’ve read by Chris Bohjalian.

The book opens to Richard Chapman speaking about how he had presumed there would be a stripper or two at his younger brother Philip’s bachelor party. It bothered him a little bit that it was in his home but he didn’t want to be a downer. He tells us that when he thinks about strippers he prefers to think of girls may be earning some extra money for college etc.

His wife Kristen agreed to let him host the party. Of course she was not going to attend said party but instead was taking their younger daughter, Kristen and her mother to a Broadway matinee. After that they would be staying over at her mothers for the weekend, not planning to return home until Sunday.

When the girls arrive along with Russian bodyguards, the men at the party are told that there should be no videos or pictures taken. They indicate that if these rules are broken, the cellphones as well as the offending fingers using the cellphone will be broken.

The men talk about how it will be a night to remember.

Oh it will definitely be memorable….

*** Possibly very minor spoilers ****

How did it all go wrong? Only the men at the party are able to give their version to police…. because the talent? The talent was gone. And the Russian bodyguards? Well they were dead.

This book was gripping to say the least. Some parts were very upsetting and hard to read but I could see how they were important to the story. Human trafficking is a very real issue and honestly some parts of the story made me so sad. Some parts also made me so angry. Angry that this is going on everywhere!

“There is a chance that the little eye candy you had dancing around your living room were not prostitutes. They were underage sex slaves. Big difference”

There may be times where the story seems a bit farfetched. However, while some of it is definitely feasible, it’s almost like a “true story” movie. Where dramatizations are added to the story to try and keep readers engaged. In the end though it is a book of fiction, so not everything will be probable or likely to happen that way in real life. Thank goodness many of the books I’ve read wouldn’t happen in real life! Of course a reader wants to be entertained and so writing a story, trying to make it exciting and entertaining without going too far overboard that people find it too unrealistic? I would bet that it’s often quite hard for writers to find that balance.

I thought that the story was well-written. I liked that there were multiple points of view and thought it added to the story. I especially thought the daughter Melissa’s point of view was interesting. Her view of all that was happening, her parents arguing, wondering what kind of trouble her daddy was in, and what she read on the internet was so confusing. “Alexandra’s” point of view was hardest to read, but essential to the story. I found it emotional and heartbreaking. I also thought that the character development was great. I hated Spencer and really disliked Philip. Poor little Philip, it was always someone else’s fault….I REALLY wanted to punch him in the face.

I was really invested in the story and the characters and had to see how it all ended. The fact that some of what went on in the story really does happen is absolutely heartbreaking. I think that the author told a really good story.

I will definitely be reading more from Chris Bohjalian.

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking. (CAST)
www.castla.org

Girls Education and Mentoring Services (GEMS)
www.gems-girls.org

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Title: Out of the Storm

Out of the StormOut of the Storm by Carol Ashe

Published February 17, 2016

FriesenPress

 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 
When Carol Ashe contacted me and asked if I would like to read her debut novel, “Out of the Storm” I was happy to say yes. Born and raised in Winnipeg, I was thrilled to read a book with Winnipeg so prominently featured. The events in the book take place in my hometown as well as other parts of Canada, including Calgary and Ontario.

Isabelle Carte (Isa for short), is a dedicated detective with the Winnipeg police force. So dedicated to her job that when her relationship with her fiancé, Robert ends she really isn’t all that upset about it.

But things hit a little closer to home when a man becomes obsessed with Isabelle. He begins killing women just to get her attention. Is it someone Isa knows? Who would go so far as to kill just to get her attention?

***Possibly some minor spoilers***

Isabelle decides that her family’s camp in Ontario is the best place for her to stay for now.   After making their way to the cabin, Isabelle and her dog, Jack settle in for some well deserved rest and relaxation.

At first Isabelle doesn’t realize she’s not alone up at camp. A neighbor, Alec Reed is also at the lake to renovate his family’s cabin, which hasn’t been used since a family tragedy years before. Neither Alec nor Isa is happy to see each other….but it’s not long before that all changes. But there are many obstacles that they will have to overcome if they want to make it work. Will Alec be able to deal with Isa’s job and the danger it entails?

As the investigation into Isabelle’s stalker continues, she is even more determined to solve the case.  At the same time, Alec becomes even more worried for Isa’s safety. They both know she can’t hide out at camp forever.

But there is also a madman on the loose who wants Isabelle all to himself and he’s not about to let her go without a fight.

I really enjoyed this debut novel.  I don’t often read romantic suspense novels so it was a nice change of pace. This was a quick read with an interesting plot and great characters. The descriptions of Isabelle’s family’s property made me wish I was there.  I love life at the cabin and it reminded me of all of the times I spent up at the lake over the years. The suspense was good and I enjoyed watching the relationship between Isa and Alec grow.

The way the book ended made it seem like there may be more books to come in this series.  I am definitely interested in finding out what happens, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Thank you, Carol Ashe for sending me this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

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Review – Since She Went Away

Since She Went AwaySince She Went Away by David J. Bell

Published June 21, 2016

NAL

 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been meaning to read one of David Bell’s books for quite some time. I thought the description of “Since She Went Away” sounded very interesting. I requested it on Netgalley and was quite happy when it was approved.

Jenna Springer is a hard-working single mother to fifteen year old son, Jared. Her life has recently been turned upside down as just a few months earlier her best friend, Celia disappeared.

The book opens three months after Celia’s disappearance. Jenna is at a site where police are searching after something suspicious was reportedly found. Jenna is terrified about what they might find but feels she has to be there in support of her best friend. Jenna is relieved but exhausted when the police finally announce that the search has turned up nothing in relation to Celia’s case. However, it’s right at that moment that a pushy reporter shoves a microphone in Jenna’s face. Feeling cold and tired and not thinking clearly, Jenna reacts and curses, giving the media a clip they are only happy to replay over and over on the news that evening. This causes an already suspicious town to wonder if Jenna really does have something to hide.

The media and public have their suspicions of Jenna as she is her best friend and the last person in contact with Celia. Feeling disconnected from her friend, Jenna had asked Celia to meet her at midnight at one of their old meeting places. However, just as Jenna is about to leave to meet Celia, an issue with her son, Jared comes up. This causes her to be late for meeting Celia. Jenna is known for being late to everything and hopes Celia will understand when she arrives. But when she does get to their meeting spot, Celia is nowhere to be found. At first Jenna thinks Celia just went home but when one of Celia’s diamond earrings is found at the scene she is officially declared a missing person.

Jenna is desperate to find out what has happened to Celia. Did someone take her? Or is it possible that Celia could have decided to just walk away from her life? Her life with her husband, Ian and teenage daughter, Ursula seemed fine but who knows what goes on behind closed doors.

Now on top of everything else Jenna’s son Jared’s new girlfriend, Tabitha has suddenly gone missing. Could this somehow be related to Celia’s disappearance?

The story is told from Jenna and her son, Jared’s point of view. As the story continues more and more things come to light and it’s hard to guess who to trust. We learn more about Celia, and her friendship with Jenna, all the way back to high school. We also learn that Jenna, Celia and Ian (Celia’s husband) were all very close friends at one time.

At the same time more information about Jared’s relationship with the mysterious Tabitha and her life comes to light. Although both stories are very interesting on their own, we do eventually see how these two story lines intertwine. There was a lot going on in this story.

This is a really good book with an interesting plot and great character development. I really liked the two main characters Jenna and Jared, a single mother and her teenage son that came across as believable characters. I enjoyed their relationship. The many other characters were also interesting and well-written. I loved Jenna’s friend Sally. She’s the kind of friend I wish I had around, especially during hard times. But still you never know who you can trust in a novel like this. I was suspicious of almost everyone at some point. With the many twists and turns I had lots of different theories about what happened and who was responsible and my guesses kept changing as the story played out.

It came together fairly well in the end and although I had figured out some of what happened I was very surprised in regards to who was responsible for what. I did not see that coming.

I was fairly satisfied with all that happened but found the ending to be rather abrupt. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more information about what happened after things were “resolved” and how the characters lives went on.

All in all a very good read. I look forward to my next read from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and David Bell for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: The Little Brother

The Little BrotherThe Little Brother by Victoria Patterson

Published August 11, 2015

Counterpoint

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book late last year and it’s one that has stayed with me ever since. In my opinion a very important book that needs to be read.

Even Hyde feels that despite his parents divorce in 2001, he’s doing fine. The only thing that does bother him is that he is separated from his older brother, Gabe. Even chose to live with his successful father in California while his brother continues to live with their highly emotional mother in Cucamonga.

When Gabe visits Even and their father on the weekend Even can sense that his brother is angry and seems to feel like he has been left behind. But both boys enjoy the freedom to come and go as they please as there is little to no supervision.

Although Even starts to notice Gabe’s behavior grow increasingly worse he prefers to concentrate on the brother he knows well. Gabe can be funny, charming, sensitive and very funny. He doesn’t want to think about the ugly side of his brother, the horrible things he can say to his friends and when he uses his intelligence in such a bullying manner. He prefers to blame his brothers friends for their bad influence. Although he wants to ignore it when Gabe starts to skip school more and is smoking weed daily, there comes the day when he can’t rationalize Gabe’s behavior any longer.

When Gabe commits a crime so horrible and sickening Even doesn’t know if he will ever be able to forgive him.

*****Possibly some very minor spoilers*****

 
Even has a hard time recounting what happened on the Fourth of July weekend. A jumble of images in his head it’s nearly impossible for him to put into words. This novel is Even’s point of view as he recounts the events that occurred after his older brother, Gabe and two friends videotape themselves brutally raping an unconscious girl. When the video ends up in Even’s possession he struggles with the decision of what to do with the tape.

I could feel Even’s anxiety and how overwhelmed he was with the what he knew. He truly wanted to do what was right but he wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. You could just sense the inner struggle back-and-forth of what to do. The author outlined his thought process so well. For example when he realized that what he saw could never be unseen. That he was now in a place where he didn’t entirely trust his father to do the right thing if he went to him with the information.

It was mentioned how people often say that if their loved one committed crimes they would be quick to turn them in no matter what. Until you’re in that position in my opinion how could you possibly know what you would do? Can family loyalty persuade us to make the wrong decision? As I continued to read I wasn’t sure what Even was going to do.

I am sure a lot of people have a time in their life where they wish they could unsee or unknow something but at the same time realizing that is not possible. Knowing you have a responsibility to do something, to do what’s right even if it means your life is irrevocably changed as well.

Though this book was sometimes difficult to read I feel that it’s a very important book that helps bring attention to many important issues. I didn’t know when I first started to read that the book IS actually based on a real crime that occurred in Orange County California about 10 years ago. Disgusting how in many cases wealth can affect proper justice from happening. Some of the descriptions of the trial, the lawyers, the media and victim blaming enraged and horrified me.

I really like Victoria Patterson’s style of writing. The book is well written, easy to keep up with, and the story flows along smoothly.

A dark and emotional read but one that I would still highly recommend.

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