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review 2020-03-03 02:53
The Red Lotus
The Red Lotus - Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian always manages to keep me on the edge of my seat. This book was no exception. In this book we follow Alexis Remnick. Her boyfriend goes missing during a vacation in Vietnam and she is left to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Little does she know the answers might be closer to home than she thought.

I couldn't wait to pick this up whenever I was forced to put it down. Given everything that is going on with world health crises this was pretty timely. I can't wait to see what Chris Bohjalian writes next.

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review 2019-02-03 10:50
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
The Double Bind - Chris Bohjalian

When Laurel Estabrook is attacked while riding her bicycle through Vermont’s back roads, her life is forever changed. Formerly outgoing, Laurel withdraws into her photography, spending all her free time at a homeless shelter. There she meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of photographs that he won’t let anyone see. When Bobbie dies, Laurel discovers a deeply hidden secret–a story that leads her far from her old life, and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her.





Laurel Estabrook is just nineteen when she is attacked while riding her bike in a local park in Vermont. Her unidentified assailants jump out of a dark colored late model van, intent on causing her serious harm. Laurel fights for her life and manages to escape but not without scratches, bruises, one broken finger and plenty of emotional trauma. Somehow in the middle of the scuffle she also manages to memorize the van's license plate, so it's not long before her attackers are in custody. It turns out one guy has a job as a personal trainer and owns a gym marketed toward professional body builders. This guy also has been tied to other assault and rape cases, something his partner had no idea about. 


Laurel gradually comes back from her trauma, does her best to rejoin society but her experience unfortunately did scar her with PTSD and agorophobia. She decides to give up biking, taking up swimming instead. During one of her outings, Laurel meets Katherine Maguire, the founder / director of the local homeless shelter, decides to start volunteering there. Through her volunteer work she meets Bobbie Crocker, a former professional photographer, now homeless and schizophrenic, working to get into subsidized housing. When Laurel looks through some of his photography work, the novel's big mystery begins to kick in. She notices that of all the celebrity photos in his collection, not one seems to directly credit Crocker's name. Laurel starts working through this mystery to distract her from the days when her PTSD symptoms are at their worst. But then there is one surprising photo that shakes her to her core --- a photo of the house where Laurel grew up. She begins to develop a theory about Crocker, something that may surprise readers in the way it links him to a famous couple within classic literature (in a unique but confusing way). 


Note: "Double Bind", in simplistic terms, is a psychology reference that notes damaging effects of contradictory information / explanation / instruction. In the case of parenting, if bad enough, it's theorized that the child on the receiving end can potentially develop schizophrenia in such an environment. Double Bind the novel uses this idea to play with the idea of "nature vs. nuture".


It's not a perfect novel, but it got some things right enough to keep me reading. As far as the mystery end goes, much of Laurel's line of thinking I found to be pretty reaching. What captured me as a reader were the themes of mental illness / PTSD & the effect on normal life routines, and the topic of homelessness. Being someone who both battles mental illness of my own and has been on staff of homeless shelters, comparing my own experiences to those posed here at least held me to the story that much ... but in general, I was struggling to remain invested through the second half of the book. 


A couple of the things that did stand out to me, though:


* Having the character of Crocker be inspired by a real photographer and then incorporating the real photographer's work (photos) throughout the novel was a cool touch that brought a more personal level to the story. 


* I loved Marissa and Cindy, David's small daughters  -- can't help but cheer for young Marissa's already established pronounced empathy as well as her BS detector ... but David's quiet but pervasive, almost martyr-ish "she's lucky to have me" attitude toward his relationship with Laurel low-key bugged me. 


I keep trying with Bohjalian... and while I did certainly like this one at times... I've yet to be really wowed by one of his novels. 

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review 2018-04-22 15:30
The Flight Attendant
The Flight Attendant: A Novel - Chris Bohjalian
Cassie was out of control. Her behavior was quite predictable and as I read, I had a feeling that she was bound to hit rock bottom sometime soon. What she didn’t expect was passenger 2C. Sure, Cassie flirted with the passengers in her sections as she assisted them and there were some that she gave more attention to but she didn’t expect passenger 2C to totally change her life.
Cassie liked her alcohol and she liked her men. As a flight attendant who flew all around the world, she saw a variety of men, most of them she saw only once. Cassie also had a habit of drinking until she passed out. After a night out and she found herself coherent, sometimes she knew where she was and sometimes she didn’t. This was the same perception Cassie had towards the men she woke up with: sometimes she remembered them and occasionally, they were strangers.
This morning, Cassie woke up to passenger 2c laying beside her. She had remembered some of the night before but yet this morning, something felt different. As Cassie eyed Alex lying beside her, she began to panic. Alex was dead, his blood had managed to seep onto her side of the bed and she had been lying in. Still shaky from last night, Cassie tries to take in the room around her. Cassie knows that she needs to get back to her own hotel as the airport shuttle is scheduled to pick up the crew shortly yet her mind is still trying to piece together what happened last night with Alex. Is it possible that somehow, she killed Alex? Shuttle…....Alex…... she must hurry, there is not much time to contemplate.
Quickly piecing together what she can, Cassie realizes what she must do and what I think, I would have done and that is, to disappear from the scene. She needs to eliminate herself completely from this room and quick. But, is this even possible in a world where technology is everywhere? Can she possibly clean up the room and be totally removed in time?
This was an exciting and intriguing novel as I raced through it. Cassie risky behavior set the stage for a girl who was on the edge and one whose mind was racing. As the murder makes the news, there is no stopping what happens as they investigate every possible lead. Cassie’s behavior begins to get more wild and crazy as she tries to “help” but Cassie’s helping has me shaking my head at her in frustration. It’s definitely a novel that kept my attention and was a fast read.
I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Doubleday Books in exchange for an honest review.


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review 2018-04-19 02:07
Not as good as his other books
The Flight Attendant: A Novel - Chris Bohjalian

The Flight Attendant-Chris Bohjalian, author; Erin Spencer, Grace Experience, Mark Deakins, narrators. The main character, as the title suggests, is a flight attendant. She is not at all likeable. Cassandra Bowden is largely a drunk and a liar. She sleeps around and makes ridiculous decisions and choices making one wonder how safe it would be to on a plane if she was working the shift. On one of her flights to Dubai, she meets an American and makes plans to see him later on that night, as she often does with the men she meets. They drink, they have sex, and then she says goodbye and flies off again. In this instance, they both drank so much that they passed out. When she awoke, she discovered that she was lying next to a blood covered dead man whose blood had even seeped into her hair. The only thing she remembered, though, besides their heavy drinking, was a mystery woman who called herself Miranda who had brought them a bottle of some very fine liquor, a bottle which wound up smashed on the floor of the room. She had no memory of his murder or the reason for it. She hoped she did not do it! Cassandra was terrified. She didn’t know the laws in Dubai. What would happen to her if she called security to report the murder? What would happen if they discovered it after she left? Would she ever get back to the United States? Could she have killed him? Could she be extradited? Would she be charged with murder? All of these questions went through her head. She seemed to panic and decided to run. After attempting to clean up, wiping down the room and getting rid of any incriminating evidence, she leaves the room, seemingly unaware, apparently, of cameras in the hallways, videos that are recording her movements around the hotel and possibly even in the streets outside. As she runs, she throws out some of her personal belongings to hide evidence but also discovers that she cannot find her lipstick or lip balm with the logo from the airline. Will they be discovered? Although she thinks a lot about her predicament, she doesn’t seem to take her situation that seriously; she continues to sleep around and get drunk. When pictures surface that show it could very well have been her in the hotel with the dead man, although she had been lying and denying it when she was questioned, she realizes that she needs a lawyer. The union provided a lawyer for her, but often she defies her and does not follow her advice, endangering herself and others. Is there a killer out there? Is the killer looking for her? Is she a spy? Was the dead man a spy, a terrorist? All of these questions are plausible, but the story seems less so. As the story moves on, it turns out that the mystery woman who entered the room is Russian. Her real name is not Miranda. She was brought up in luxury, in Russia, by a well connected father, as opposed to Cassandra who was brought up in America by a father who was a drunk, and she was always short of money. The circumstances surrounding both of their upbringings shaped each of them and pointed them in the directions their lives would take. Both women had problems. The male narrator did a fine job, but one of the females so over-emoted and over exaggerated the accents of some foreign expressions that it was often indecipherable. She seemed to be making herself an integral part of the story, rather than an adjunct to it. It was distracting. The ending was unexpected, and also, almost unbelievable as the true identities of several characters was revealed. I usually wait with baited breath for this author to come out with a new book, but this one seemed a bit out of character for him and was a bit of a disappointment. I had to suspend disbelief often as the plot unraveled in implausible directions and often felt contrived. Still, if you are a fan of Bohjalian, you will not hate this book; you just might not love it.

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review 2018-03-12 18:16
The Flight Attendant: A Novel - Chris Bohjalian

I think a lot of people can relate to going out for drinks and waking up the next morning wondering "What did I do?" or the scary "Where am I?" Cassandra, however, wakes up to a different bed in a different room with a dead body lying beside her. Super creepy, huh?

I really liked how the author put me into the day to day world and the past of Cassie. She is a character that I know a lot of people can relate to and feel for. She is a totally wounded character and just living life day to day, flight to flight, and drink to drink. A lot of the book deals with Cassie's flaws, but it doesn't take away from the overall affect at all. It simply adds to the terror with this huge vice of Cassie's that she doesn't even understand could be fatal to her.

The whole time through this book, the sense of danger is at the back of my mind and my mind is going crazy with scenarios on how this is going to pan out.

An excellent read that I sped through, felt for the character and thoroughly enjoyed.

Thanks to Doubleday Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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