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review 2018-08-10 19:48
A blend of psychological (noir) thriller with domestic drama, with a conflicted
Saigon Dark - Elka Ray

Thanks to the publishers, Crime Wave, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This novel is a thriller that takes place within the domestic sphere and one of its unique features is that it is set (mostly) in Vietnam. The main character is a paediatric surgeon, Lily, whose family escaped to the United States when she was a child, and after studying Medicine decided to go back and work there. Although she is a successful professional, her personal life is not a happy one. Her husband, another doctor from a similar background to hers, has left her, and her youngest child, a little girl, suffers from a rare genetic condition, and she does not know how well she will develop. Tragedy strikes; the character seems unable to react rationally due to the pain and makes one disastrous decision after another. We all know that secrets have a way of coming back and biting us, and although Lily is quite lucky, not even she can escape the consequences of her actions, or can she? (I am trying not to reveal any spoilers).

The novel is told, in the first-person, from the point of view of Lily, and as was the case with a recent novel in the same/similar genre I read and reviewed, that might be a problem for some of the readers. It is impossible not to empathise with Lily, and although some of her reactions are bizarre, the author is very good at getting us inside her head and making us understand her disturbed mental state. Perhaps we think we would never do something like that, but we can understand why she does. Personally, I did not sympathise with her (or even like her very much) and at times felt very frustrated with her. I had to agree when one of the other characters told her that she was selfish, blind to other’s needs, and she never thought of anybody else. This is all the more evident considering her privileged existence in contrast to that of the general population, and how much of what happens is a direct result of her actions and her decisions, whilst others are victims of the circumstances with no options to escape. She seems to realise this towards the end, when even her son is more together than her, but all that notwithstanding, the action of the novel is gripping, and it is impossible not to feel curious about what will happen next and wonder if fate and karma will finally catch up with her.

The novel moves at a reasonable pace, at times we seems to be reading a standard domestic drama (about child-rearing and the relationship with her new husband), whilst at others it is an almost pure thriller, and we have blackmailers, red herrings, betrayals, and plenty of suspects. I think those two elements are well-combined and are likely to appeal to fans of both genres, although those who love hard thrillers might take issue with the amount of suspension of disbelief required to accept some of the events in the novel.

The ending is fairly open. Some questions (perhaps the main one) are resolved, but some others are not, and this might be frustrating for readers who prefer everything to be tied up in the end. There is a hint of some insight and growth in the character, but perhaps not enough considering the hard lessons she’s gone through.

There is some violence (although not extreme), serious issues are hinted at (domestic violence, poverty, bullying), and I particularly liked the realistic setting, and the way it depicts Vietnam, Hanoi and Saigon, the big social differences, and the expat scene.

In sum, a blend of psychological (noir) thriller with domestic drama, intriguing and heart-breaking at times, which takes place in an unusual and fascinating setting, recommended to those who don’t mind first-person narration and slightly open endings and who prefer their thrillers with more drama and less emphasis on procedural accuracy.

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review 2018-08-10 00:19
Survival through adversity.
Motherless Child - Valencia Griffin-Wallace

I fear that the story narrated in this audiobook is sadly all too common. Ms Griffin-Wallace was raised in an environment of drug addiction, abuse and poverty. She joined a gang because it gave her a family and she survived her childhood by keeping her wits about her.
She had a younger sister to whom she became a mother figure, often finding a way to provide food when their parents had failed them.

 

Encouragingly she managed to escape from this cycle, even though she found herself pregnant at an early age and followed this with two tarnished relationships. Eventually she found the love of a good man and was able to extricate herself from the cycle of abuse.

 

To her credit, the author now lectures and supports other women facing similar issues and gives them the strength to escape.

 

I enjoyed the narration by Andrea Jones-Pierre, she sounded authentic and I was actually surprised to find that she was a narrator, rather than the author herself.

 

I hope this book provides encouragement to others suffering similar struggles.

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review 2018-08-09 03:48
Page of Tricks (Inheritance #5)
Page of Tricks (Inheritance Book 5) - Amelia Faulkner

Heed the warnings for this one because this gets dark:

Mental torture, forced drug use, drug addiction, detailed description of past child sexual abuse, violation of autonomy 

(spoiler show)

 

I was worried after the last couple of books that this series would end with a whimper instead of a bang, but thankfully I had nothing to worry about. And I can reiterate, definitively, that book 4 can be skipped as everything that's revealed there is brought up here - not in every detail but enough to know what you missed. I was also worried I'd have to endure more of Freddy and Mikey's POV, but thankfully that didn't happen. Sadly

Freddy and Mikey are still alive at the end of the book, so I might have to put up with them again later,

(spoiler show)

but I can deal with that when I get there. I was hoping to see 

the ever-elusive Nicky but he was again MIA. I'm getting mighty curious about him and what powers or abilities he may or may not possess.

(spoiler show)

 

The big showdown with the Duke has come at last and it's just as messed up as I'd thought it'd be. I got so angry at Freddy and Mikey multiple times, and I still can't really buy their relationship - and thus Freddy's motivation. I'd more easily believe that Freddy's pride was insulted by his dad presuming to take a plaything away from him than I do that he actually cares about Mikey but whatever, it was a smallish part of the plot and not lingered over too much.

 

It was neat to see Windsor take a more active role in the story, now that he's a little older and learning new words. :D Lawrence and Quentin are put through the ringer in this one though and it's often difficult to read because all their weaknesses are used against them.  Both of them have grown and changed so much since the first book and their adventure here tests all of that growth to its limits. I really had no idea how this was all going to be resolved, which just added to the angst and intrigue. 

 

This was a wild ride and once the action gets going it doesn't really let up until the end. It was hard to put down at times and it went quickly. We get a nice little epilogue that hints at what the next arc is going to be dealing with, and I for one will be eagerly awaiting that release.

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text 2018-07-31 16:03
Highlights of July 2018
A Perilous Undertaking - Deanna Raybourn
The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson
Bog Child - Siobhan Dowd
A Poisoned Season - Tasha Alexander

I read more this July than I anticipated, chalking up 21 books.  These four really stood out for me and I'll definitely be interested to read more from these authors.

 

In fact, I already have Tasha Alexander's A Fatal Waltz in my reading pile at home.  I'm hoping to add the second Shades of London (The Madness Underneath) to my Halloween Bingo reading list.  If I'm lucky, I'll also be able to use Deanna Raybourn's A Treacherous Curse in the Halloween cause.

 

I also note that my public library has two more titles by Siobhan Dowd:  The London Eye Mystery and A Swift Pure Cry.  Once I've notched a few more titles towards this year's reading goals, perhaps I'll wander off mission with one of them.

 

Still a month left in the Summer of Spies!  I've got lots of good reading ahead.

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review 2018-07-26 14:42
The Child - Fiona Barton

The main characters of The Child are all intriguing.    There is Kate the reporter following up on a story of a baby’s remains found buried during a construction dig.    Angela is the mother of a baby that was kidnapped from the hospital just hours after her birth and has never had closure.   Emma is a surprise POV; she lived at the location that the baby remains were found.     I found it interesting how different their lives were yet together the stories all came together perfectly.

 

There were secrets, intrigue, and surprises that I never saw coming.   The mystery was not hard to solve but with each different twist and turn I learned more about the various characters.    I was invested in Kate getting her story, Angela getting her closure, and Emma coming to terms with her teenage years.   There is so much more to this story than meets the eyes.  

 

The ending was the surprise.    The Child is certainly a psychological thriller that kept me on my toes.    I could not put the book down.  

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