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review 2018-06-12 04:31
Eleven Hours by Paullina Simons
Eleven Hours - Paullina Simons

Didi Wood, eight and a half months pregnant with her third child, heads to a mall to get out of the oppressive Dallas heat and get some shopping done. She is supposed to meet her husband for lunch at one o'clock. By 1:45, she still isn't there-she's riding down the highway at breakneck speed with a madman at the wheel. His name is Lyle, and he has abducted her from a department store parking lot. But why he's done this, and what he wants, are anyone's guess. Now the police and the FBI have to somehow track him down. And a very pregnant Didi must keep herself and her unborn child alive at any price-even as they ride closer and closer into the darkest chamber of a psychopath's mind...

Amazon.com

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This novel describes scenes of GRAPHIC sexual assault.

 

Desdemonda "Didi" Woods, nine months pregnant, is abducted while shopping at a Dallas mall. While the abductor takes her across the flatlands of Texas, Didi's husband, Rich, works with the FBI to try to reach her in time. There are time stamps at the beginning of each chapter, so the reader can keep track of how much time is passing.. but spoiler! the whole thing takes 11 hours. ;-)

 

So now that you know the general premise, let's dive into all the cringey, facepalm potholes in the sloppy writing here!

 

First off, this novel was originally published in 1998, so it understandably, laughably reads VERY 90s now. There's a lot of time (pages) spent on Didi's shopping spree prior to her abduction -- wracking up $200 at Estee Lauder, moving on to FAO Schwarz, Coach, I even had a big hit of nostalgia when she has a walk through a Warner Bros. store... 'memba them! But something about this shopping also put me off about Didi as a character in general when she mentions that her child had requested a set of wooden blocks... that's it, just some blocks... but Didi wore herself out so much buying bags of stuff for HERSELF that she couldn't be bothered to try to find the blocks at the end of the day.

 

Though it's not really noted anywhere in the synopsis, once you get into the meat of this story, there is a noticeable Christian Fiction lean to the tone, which only gets progressively stronger as the plot moves along. Even Rich's job in the story is "national sales manager for a religious publisher based in Dallas." To be honest, the heavy-handed preachy tone laid over the suspense just got tiresome. But weirdly, on the flip side, there's also a strong dose of profanity and crudeness to the material here.

 

The kidnapper character is mildly disturbing but only shows minimal physical violence for most of the story. It's mostly just bursts of verbal abuse. It's likely that you've read much worse characters in more recent crime novels. One scene that was really bothersome though was when Didi is searching for something in her purse or on her person that she could possibly make into a weapon later, "anything that might help" as she says... but chucks a paperclip at the bottom of her bag. Pages later, her tormentor makes a lewd comment toward her and it's written, "she wished she had something sharp and ragged in her hands at that moment"... oh, what? like a paperclip maybe??!

 

Then there's the super team of Rich and the FBI. If you watch the time stamps on the chapter headers, Didi is abducted at 1:30pm. By 4:15 SAME DAY, the police are already saying "it doesn't look good." Wow. Just throwing in the towel then, boys? Later, when Rich is conversing with Scott, one of the FBI agents, Rich pleads, "Tell me it's going to all be okay." When Scott does, Rich snaps back, "You're lying." Here, with this crew, lies Didi's hope at being saved. Precious time being wasted with this BS back and forth.

 

Just in general, the writing is not stellar. One line that actually had me laugh out loud at how terribly lazy it was: Didi purchasing Sun Ripened Raspberry lotion from Bath & Body Works, which... keep up now... "smelled berryish". This is the same author who went on to write the pretty successful Bronze Horseman trilogy. We all gotta start somewhere, I guess.

 

I'll end on a positive though. There was a conversation near the end between Didi and her abductor where he reveals why he did what he did. Not saying it made the guy innocent, but it did have me feeling a moment of honest pity for him. Around these chapters were also some moments of honest suspense that I wished would've been consistently present throughout the rest of the novel.

 

Note to readers: This novel contains spoilers for William Shakespeare's Othello and Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

 

______________


EXTRAS

 

* In her dedication, Simons notes that this, her 3rd published novel, was dedicated to her 3rd child. She also mentions that the book was made possible (possibly inspired?) by her husband taking a job as editorial director for Wishbone Books, which required the entire family to relocate to Texas.

 

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text 2018-05-01 04:25
April Epilogue - Reading in Review
The Broken Girls - Simone St. James
The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche - M.L. Longworth
Summer Hours at the Robbers Library - Sue Halpern
The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA - Doug Mack
Lake Silence - Anne Bishop

23 books read this month.  A very happy surprise for me; had I been asked to guess, I'd have said no way would this be a great reading month by numbers.  My Christmas subscription of NewScientist magazine started arriving at the end of March and I read each weekly issue cover to cover - some articles more than once (*cough*quantum time*cough*).  

 

MT has also had a spectacularly bad run - even by his standards - of small, non-serious, but debilitating injuries: first minor surgery to his left wrist, immediately followed by an injury to his right wrist; just after the dr.'s all-clear, he sprained his ankle.  A day or two later, he severely sprained his right wrist (and arm) dragging a heavy trolly uphill.  As these injuries ALWAYS happened on Thursday or Friday, a girl could be forgiven for giving him the side-eye at this point, but it really is bad luck.  Both his and mine, because I am picking up the slack, including laying down a stone pathway that has to be done before we have a new garden fountain delivered.   For the record, I've always excelled at doing nothing, so I'm knackered!  But proud (about the path - stuff the housework).

 

All of that excess of info to say that I can't believe I read 23 books!  1 5-star read and 4 4.5-star reads amongst the lot. A few disappointments, but no outright bad books to speak of.  

 

Two charts this month - all the books were printed except 1 Audiobook:

 

 

 

My TBR project:

I've set a book buying budget for each month that = 50% of the total books I read the previous month.  Any books not bought carry over to the next month.  

 

I have to cry Force majeure for May, because this happened, and since I make up the rules for this little experiment, those books don't count. 

 

Moving on...

 

Last month I bought 14 out of the 16 budgeted, leaving me with 2 to carry over to May.  My total books read in April being 23 leaves me with a budget of 11 (rounding down for a  small error of margin). 

 

total books I can buy in May:  13

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review 2018-04-25 15:59
Slow Moving Book That Doesn't Deliver
The Distant Hours - Kate Morton

I kind of laugh at this book being marketed as Gothic. It's really not. I mean there's an old castle, but the book itself is so far from Gothic it's not even funny. This is a slow moving book that doesn't pick up any speed. When the book comes to the reveal at that point I just shrugged about it. There is ultimately nothing to say in the end except what a waste of many lives we get to read about in this book.


"The Distant Hours" has a long lost letter being delivered many decades after it should have gone. One of the characters in this book, Edie, is displeased (maybe that's too strong a word) that her mother may have secrets that she has never heard. Deciding to force herself into her mother's past, Edie goes hunting and goes to a castle her mother stayed at during the war years in England (Milderhurst) where the three Blythe sisters still live. Edie's mother (Meredith) has her own reasons for not wanting to revisit her past. However, Edie is given the opportunity to learn about the author of the mysterious "The True History of the Mud Man" and goes to learn more about the Blythe sisters. 

 

Eh, Edie bugged me. Sorry. I just could not get over her sneaking and even reading her mother's private letters. Yes her aunts sucks for giving them to her (and seriously though) but Edie feels entitled to know everything about her mother. She also pries about the Blythe sisters since she also feels as if they should just open themselves up to her. Edie feels sorry for Juniper, likes the one twin, Saffy (Seraphina) and fears Percy (Persephone). 

 

The secondary characters are barely present in this book. You read about the Blythe father and his madness, but you don't get to see it. You hear about it for the most part. We hear about how Juniper has been broken since her long lost fiancee left her, but you don't really get it since she is portrayed as vaguely confused. Juniper is also supposed to be a wonderful writer, but once again we don't get to "see" that, we just hear about what a genius she is. Same issue when we get the reveal about Percy's love life. I don't know why Morton decided to cut out things that would make these characters come to life, but she did. I absolutely loved "The Forgotten Garden", felt meh about this one, and just down and out disliked the last two books of her that I read. 

 

The writing was okay, I just found myself bored. Honestly nothing much happens in this book until the very end. And the ending was not worth slogging through this thing. 

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review 2018-04-08 12:20
Summer Hours at the Robbers Library
Summer Hours at the Robbers Library - Sue Halpern

I was in the mood for a gentle, general fiction story and got one with this book, but for a gentle story it packed a wallop.

 

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library is a story about three broken people who are thrown together over a summer in the Carnegie library of a dead industrial town.  Sunny is a 16 year old no-schooled daughter of hippies (or as they call themselves 'alternatives') sentenced to a 12 weeks stint at the library after getting caught trying to steal a dictionary from a local bookstore.  Rusty is the enigmatic businessman who suddenly shows up one day and spends ever subsequent day in front of one of the computers for hours at a stretch.   Kit is the reference librarian who starts off coming across as an extreme introvert at best, a future agoraphobic at worst.  She moved to Riverton 4 years previous to the story and her one, over arching goal is to avoid all non-work human interaction.

 

The story is told over the course of a summer post the global financial disaster, and is interspersed with Kit's therapeutic narrative of her past; a slow building story that starts off feeling oh-so-predictable, but by the end set me back on my heels muttering jesus under my breath.  I was pretty sure I didn't like Kit - or, more accurately, that I respected Kit - until the end.  Then, I understood; I'd have done almost nothing differently, in her shoes.

 

I liked Sunny and her story felt so very authentic; her ending might have been a little too perfectly tailored, and I think the author could have packed a double wallop had she chose a different path, but I still enjoyed her character.

 

Rusty felt a little obligatory - probably the least impactful story of the three, but for the time this book was set, his character was representative, and for all that his redemption was a bit too easily found, I still liked him too.  Mostly, I appreciated the author's choice not to go the predictable angst-ridden route.

 

I started this review thinking "4 stars" but really... that ending.  The author deserves the extra 1/2 star because she led me perfectly, exactly like a well written story should.

 

The perfect read for a breezy, sunny, lazy day.

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review 2018-04-07 13:38
The Last Hours by Minette Walters
The Last Hours - Minette Walters

I selected this book based on an online recommendation. The cover and description were appealing, so I decided to give it a shot. The author is new to me, but the era of history is not. Fourteenth century history does, however, seem to be unfamiliar to the author.

Very little of the attitudes, speech, and beliefs of the characters in this book felt 14th century to me. Besides being flat, one-dimensional characters, many of them sounded like modern people thrown into a novel about the plague. Faith and church, which were an important part of life to most people, rich or poor, at this time, are treated with disdain and mockery by almost every character. Medical knowledge of the 21st century is injected throughout the novel to create an island of survivors while everyone around them is dying.

The only character I had any sympathy for was one the author tries very hard to paint as a villain. But I had pity for the neglected and abused fourteen-year-old daughter whose mother had long ago decided that insults were her favored parenting tool. We are supposed to believe that at some point Lady Anne had tried her best with Eleanor, but her treatment of the girl is horrifying, and it is not shocking that the girl has turned into a brat doing whatever it takes to get some attention. That's what neglected kids do.

As for Thaddeus and his boring ramble through the countryside abusing his own crew of teenagers.....I don't even know what the point of that was. There is a murder that is solved along the way, but no one seems too concerned about it.

The book ends with 'to be continued' but I will not be looking for more of these selfish, anachronistic characters' stories. 

This book was received from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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