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review 2017-02-26 20:16
Beautifully written story of a lost in translation version of the American Dream
Behold the Dreamers - Imbolo Mbue

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collings UK, 4th State for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review.

This novel, written by an author hailing from Cameroon, like her characters, tells us the story of the Jongas, a family of emigrants trying to make a go of life in the USA, more specifically in New York. Jende strikes it lucky at the beginning and gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a big executive for Lehman Brothers. That seems to open many opportunities for Jende and his family, paving the way for all their dreams to come true. Unfortunately, the undoing of Lehman, some personal issues in the Edwards family and the pressure of their unclear immigration status (Jende arrived with a 3 months’ busy that he’s overstayed, his wife has a student visa but they might not have enough money to finance her studies to become a pharmacist and their son would have to go back if the father does) change all that.

The story, written in the third person alternating the points of view of Jende and his wife, Neni, is full of details of the subjective experience of the characters, from the worries about their immigration status, the variety of connections with people from home (from parties, to disinterested advice, emotional support…), their feelings about New York (their favourite places, the cultural shock of confronting new rules, prices, weather, standards and extremes of poverty and richness), their initial shock and later better understanding of the Edwards lifestyle, the educational opportunities and the effect of the stress of their situation on their personal lives.

Both characters are credible, engaging and easy to empathise with, even when we might not agree with their actions and/or decisions. They also have dreams and wishes for their future and their family. To begin with, they both think the USA will change their lives and open up avenues they’d never be able to pursue back home. Jende couldn’t even marry Neni back home and his wife had to live with her parents and had no chance to study. Everything seems possible in the USA, but slowly it becomes clear that things aren’t as straightforward as they thought at first, that being white and rich in America doesn’t equal happiness, and that not everyone is prepared to give them a chance.

There are funny moments and also very sad ones (especially when the couple disagrees and their relationship becomes difficult) and one can’t help but become invested in the story and the future of the couple and their children, who become ersatz members of our family. If at times the Jongas appear as victims of circumstances and a system that they don’t understand, at others they take things into their own hands, and, whatever we might think about what they do, they act. The book is beautifully written and offers an insight into lives that might be different to ours but we can easily share in.

On a personal note, I was a bit disappointed by the ending, not so much by what happens but by how it comes about, and I wasn’t so sure the reactions of the main characters towards the end of the book were totally consistent with the personality they’d shown so far, although it might be possible to see it as a result of the extreme pressures they experience. What that would suggest of the likelihood that their Cameroonian dream will end up becoming a reality is the crux of the matter but something left to the imagination of the readers. The scene towards the end of the book between Clark Edwards and Jende Jonga where they share their future plans (both of them moving on to a future more in keeping with family values and less with work), makes us think of how differently the women of the book see things compared to their men. Gender relations are one of the most interesting and troubling aspects of the novel.

A solid book with great characters that deals with important issues (domestic violence, family relations, cultural differences, immigration, asylum seeking, race relations, the Lehman Brothers and the economic crisis following its fall, the American Dream…), is a joy to read and it will make you consider many those topics from a different point of view.  

 

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review 2016-12-31 03:08
#CBR8 Book 134: How Not to Let Go by Emily Foster
How Not to Let Go - Emily Foster

Spoiler warning! This is a direct continuation of part one of The Belhaven series, How Not to Fall, and while the reader is given enough context to understand what happened in the previous book, it will not make as much sense or have the emotional resonance for the reader unless you have read the first one. Seriously, these books are two halves of a whole story. Also, you will probably get spoilers for the first book in the series in this review. So maybe skip it until you've read part one. It's a really great start to a romance, and I promise you that the second part gives the story a satisfactory ending.

 

At the end of an extremely steamy month of physical intimacy, medical student Annabelle "Annie" Coffey can't help but fall in love with her intense lover, Dr. Charles Douglas, only to be told that due to the horrible abuse he watched his family go through at the hands of his father, and the extreme emotional strain this has had on him, Charles isn't capable of returning her feelings. Their arrangement was always meant to be one month of no strings attached sex, before they went their separate ways, remaining friends. Utterly heartbroken, Annie is in no fit state to maintain any sort of friendship. She leaves Charles without even saying goodbye and goes home to her parents, hurt and devastated, to slowly put herself back together. The couple meet briefly a month later, at Annie's best friend's wedding, and Charles is mortified at how much he has hurt her.

 

They don't have any contact or see each other for nearly a year. Having worked closely together for years before they started their sexual relationship, both deeply miss the company and professional input of the other. Annie keeps writing long e-mails to Charles, but never sends them. She knows he will be at a big conference in London, where she will be presenting, however, and having spent their time apart trying to come to grips with her feelings for him, and recalibrating them, so they might have a chance at a friendship, she reaches out and asks to meet Charles when they are both in England.

 

Back in London for the first time in four years, Charles also has to face his family again. His genius computer programmer brother and his long-suffering, abused mother. When the airport is closed down suddenly as Annie is due to fly back to the US, she ends up staying over at Charles' brother and gets to meet and see for herself just how monstrous his father actually is. She begins to see the challenges Charles struggles against and what is he fighting so desperately not to become.

 

While at least the first two thirds of How Not to Fall is all laughter, intimacy, getting to know each other better, the flutterings of infatuation and a LOT of smexy times, the last third shows that in the face of severe psychological damage, the love of a good woman and an amazing physical connection isn't enough to magically heal.

 

In How Not to Let Go both Annie and Charles have to change and redefine their relationship. Annie has to get over her initial heartbreak and figure out if her heart has lied to her, or if Charles is worth loving and keeping in her life, even if she can never be his partner. It takes her a year of processing and soul-searching before she's ready to consider a friendship with him, despite their continued physical attraction. Charles, on the other hand, is gutted that he ever caused Annie a moment of pain and has spent a year just trying to be worthy of her respect. Through a lot of gruelling therapy, he's started mapping out exactly how messed up his psyche is and how many protective layers there are, keeping him from being able to allow himself to get close to or trust anyone.

 

There is a LOT of pain in this book and several rounds of gruelling emotional exploration. It's quite clear that both Annie and Charles are better together than apart, but Charles has such a long way to go before he can return Annie's love and his family situation really is so very messed up. While the first book was told entirely from Annie's point of view, this one has more or less alternating chapters from Annie and Charles, so the reader gets to fully see inside Charles as he works his way up from the pit of despair, through the swamp and wasteland, up rage mountain to battle the metaphorical dragon, before he can begin to break down the walls surrounding his inner self.

 

With How Not to Fall, I had trouble putting the book down, and kept reading long after it was entirely sensible. I find Annie and Charles such incredibly compelling characters and kept wanting to read more about them. In this book, I occasionally had to take a break, though, as their emotional journey was absolutely exhausting to me. While the first book focuses mostly on Annie, the second book is probably more Charles'. We get to meet Charles' family, his anorexic little sister, who has no end of imagination games to parse out people's inner psyche; his extremely brilliant and sensitive younger brother, who seems to express himself best through piano playing; his lovely mother and see the joy they can share when Charles senior, Lord Belhaven is nowhere near them. We also get to see the contrast in Annie's home life with her incredibly loving and supportive parents.

 

The first book ends on a cliffhanger, when Annie leaves Charles. The second book begins at the same place. Neither book will be entirely satisfying without the other, they are really two halves of a whole story. While some romances get the couple together quickly and spend very little time actually having them get to know each other, the opposite has to be said for Emily Foster. By the end of the book, Annie and Charles have known each other for about four years, and have had their "Thing" for the best end of two. The course of their true love certainly doesn't run smooth, and there is a lot of pain to work through and a whole lot of metaphorical dragon slaying to do before they can have a chance at their HEA.

 

I have no idea if Foster intends to write any more about the younger Charles siblings, but based on their appearances in this book, I would absolutely love to see a book starring Charles' younger brother Simon as a hero, or his wounded but snarky younger sister Elizabeth as a heroine. Preferably both. I know that she primarily writes scientific non-fiction, but based on these two books, it would be a terrible shame if she didn't continue writing realistic and very satisfying romance as well.

 

And with this, I post my final book review of the year. Cannonball 9 starts on January 1st. Anyone interested in participating can sign up here.

 

Judging a book by its cover: How Not to Fall had a couple embracing and kissing in the rain, here the weather is a lot more sunny (possibly indicative of the brighter times faced by the couple towards the very end of the book). It may just be me, but the male cover model reminds me a lot of Ryan Gosling. Charles does not. I forget exactly how Annie is described in the book, but I'm pretty sure the female cover isn't a very good match for her. Nonetheless, it's a sweet and romantic book cover. Doesn't quite match the emotional turmoil of the contents, but there IS a happy ending, so maybe I'm just being overly critical.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/12/cbr8-book-134-how-not-to-let-go-by.html
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review 2016-12-28 12:20
Book Review - Witness, by Caroline Mitchell
Witness - Caroline Mitchell

Having read three crime novels by this author in the past, I was quite intrigued by Witness, as it was described as a thriller rather than crime. I’m not a huge fan of police procedural crime novels, so really wanted to see what I thought of this thriller. Although I did actually enjoy all of the Detective Jennifer Knight series, and the fascinating character of Frank in the first book, Don’t Turn Around, who still stays with me, I have to say that Witness is now my favourite book by this author.

Witness does cover the topic of domestic abuse, so be warned if that is something you feel uncomfortable reading about. However, this novel focusses more on the psychological side of that abuse and the impact that has on the life of the victim and those around them.

Some abusers like to play games. This one definitely does. Prepare yourself for a fast paced and tense game with very dark and real consequences!

I loved this thriller. Found it really hard to put down. I was at about 60% when I went to bed last night, and only planned on reading a few minutes. Two hours later it was 1am and I had completed the book, as I was unable to put it down, despite my head bobbing and eyes repeatedly closing.

I highly recommend this to fans of thrillers and psychological thrillers.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1785792070
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review 2016-08-12 05:19
It Ends with Us
It Ends with Us: A Novel - Colleen Hoover
ISBN: 9781501110368 
Publisher:  Atria 
Publication Date: 8/2/2016
Format: Paperback 
My Rating:  5 Stars +++

 

A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

First, let me begin by saying. I LOVE ATLAS! Unforgettable.He can cook for me any day or night.

Second, this was my first book by Colleen Hoover! (can you believe it)? The first, of MANY more to come. (adding her backlist as quickly as possible). Wow, she is like no author I have ever read. Her style is Unique. Superb. Moving.

Third, IT ENDS WITH US was truly amazing on all levels! Emotionally charged, powerful, compelling! I savored every minute. My Top 10 Books of 2016!

Words cannot adequately describe my feelings about this book. Trust me, move it to the "Top" of your reading list (like now). EPiC in every way. From domestic violence, abuse, control, suspense, obsession, hope, courage, love, healing, understanding, and compassion. An array of emotions from all extremes.

IT ENDS WITH US, opens with Lily Bloom, age twenty-three. She has just buried her father and gave an epically disastrous eulogy- and now she feels she cannot breathe.

Her father is Andrew Bloom, the adored mayor of her hometown of Plethora, Maine. He was the owner of the most successful real estate agency, and the husband of Jenny Bloom, her mother and teaching assistant. He has a violent temper- verbally and mentally abusive. Lily has watched her abusive father beat her mom her entire life. She is escaping to a rooftop in Boston to think and clear her head. Why did her mom stay in this type of relationship all these years.

Lily Bloom once fell in love with a homeless guy (he was a senior in high school). Atlas changed her life. (what a moving story-“award winning”). Her relationship with this nineteen-year-old teen, when she was fifteen, brought shame upon her family. However, it changed her for the better. She will never forget him. She will always love him. What she does not know- he feels the same.

While on the roof that night (present), she meets a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, and they hit it off. They become acquainted with “naked truths.” He is almost thirty years old and no desire for a wife. He does not want children-- the only thing he wants out of life is success. However, there was so much more he was hiding.

Lily does not see him again until much later, after she opens her own florist business and runs into a gal (Allysa)—wealthy husband, hard worker, with a fabulous personality and talks Lily into working with her. Of course, she happens to be the sister of Ryle. They become BFFs very quickly.

Are there really bad people? Is she missing all the signs and the secret tragic- troubled past of Ryle? All those years when she could not understand why her mom put up with her dad’s abuse. She despised her dad. Will she find herself caught in the same situation? When love clouds your judgment. Sometimes it is the one who loves you- who hurts you the most.

Gripping! The author brilliantly crafts a remarkable story. Hoover slowly unravels the past, sprinkled with poignant journal entries from a dairy Lily kept as a girl. She addressed each of her entries to Ellen DeGeneres, (LOVED), because she began watching her show every day when she was just a little girl. Then as she was older, every day after school and was convinced Ellen would love her if she got to know her. She wrote letters to her regularly until she turned sixteen, but wrote them like one would write entries in a diary. She never mailed them.

She swore she would never read them again, but with the passing of her father, she began thinking about her childhood. Somehow Lily wanted to find a little strength for forgiveness, or possibly run the risk of building up more resentment.

Slowly the past is unraveled, keeping readers glued to the pages with the poignant story of Lily and Atlas Corrigan, a senior in high school, and homeless. What happened to these two? Why are they not together now. Both from broken abusive homes, the story will touch your heart, while rooting for these two until the ending. Enter Ryle (love triangle) and more complications.

I kept expecting Ellen to jump out of the pages, before the ending (I think a special Ellen show, is in order. An entire show devoted to IT ENDS WITH US) It would be "fabulous!" Would also make for a great movie.

The author’s writing evokes so many emotions. The past and present connect. A boy and a girl, both drawn together by circumstance, time and space. Torn apart. Will fate bring their paths together again, when they least expects? Lily will learn firsthand of the difficult choices, and decisions her mother had to face.

Does everyone have a little good and evil in them? Darkness and light. From flowers to people, emotions, choices, sacrifices, and lives connected. Understanding women in abusive situations, with compassion, when things are not always black and white as it seems from the exterior. In domestic abuse, how many times do you forgive? When do you walk away? Each person is defined by their past. All characters are flawed in some way. Inspiring!

Loved the note from the author. Compelling, perplexing, and ultimately uplifting! I loved ATLAS!. He is too good to end…I hope we hear more from him in the future.

A mix of contemporary, domestic suspense, and romance. This one tops the list in women’s fiction. A must read for every woman, no matter your age. Strong family, mother-daughter, and relationships.

I loved IT ENDS WITH US so much, purchased the audiobook narrated by Olivia Song for a moving repeat experience. A perfect title.  For fans of Sarah Pekkanen, Paula Treick DeBoard, Nicholas Sparks, and Amy Hatvay.  

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 



Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!It-Ends-With-Us/cmoa/5786eac20cf23020133c69a6
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review 2016-08-10 20:08
Behind Closed Doors
Behind Closed Doors - B.A. Paris
ISBN: 9781250121004
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 8/9/2016 
Format: Other
My Rating: 5 Stars +  

 

A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 5 Stars +

Movie Worthy, Top Books of 2016, Brain Twisting, “Grip-Lit” (AKA gripping psychological thriller), B.A. Paris, delivers a smashing debut BEHIND CLOSED DOORS (love the cover), where nothing is as it appears.

Lovers of chilling "killer" psycho domestic suspense thrillers—move this one to the "top of your list." It is worth the hype, and then some! Also purchased the audiobook, narrated byGeorgia Maguire, delivering an outstanding performance!

Grace Angel, wife of brilliant lawyer Jack Angel, is a perfect example of a woman who has it all—the perfect house, the perfect husband, the perfect life.

Life had become perfect eighteen months earlier. The day Jack danced with Millie (her younger sister with Downs Syndrome) in the park. Or not?

Jack likes privacy. The house, grounds, and the privilege of owning the most beautiful house in Spring Eaton. Security is important to him. Control. Appearances. Perfection.

Esther joined the circle of friends a month earlier. Esther intrigues Grace. Esther and Rufus are welcome newcomers, to the area. Grace feels she has to impress. Possibly Esther notices more than Grace realizes.

Grace fell in love with charming, amusing, and intelligent—Jack. He knows what to say and how to say it with his film-star good lucks. After all, Grace was lucky Jack wanted to marry her. Or is she?

Grace’s sister Millie, age seventeen, nearly eighteen has downs syndrome. What exciting charming, and intelligent man would want to marry a woman with a sister and a burden to care for. A dream come true. A man who loves her and her sister.

Desperate to care for her sister, she never thought she would ever be able to have a family and a life. She even sometimes wished Millie was normal. Her parents rejected their daughter and it was left up to Grace to support her. Her parent’s wanted to put her up for adoption. Grace fought for custody of Millie, as her principal caretaker.

However, soon after the honeymoon she realizes she has to protect herself, and her sister. From the evil one in her own household. The man with two sides. Jack has turned into a monster. Behind closed doors he is evil, and slowly reveals an even more sinister plan, than she could ever imagine.

This plan does not involve a happily ever after. She is a prisoner in her own house.

Jack is calm, and collected on the exterior, but her new friend is intelligent- making it dangerous for someone like Grace. She is suspicious. Losing is never a word in Jack’s vocabulary.

To make things even more intense, Millie talks about George Clooney (inside joke between the two sisters), and a strange grotesque painting with shades of red, a red room, a facade yellow room, abusive patterns, a room, a basement, steps, a prison, Thailand, sanity, no cell phone, no money, no housekeeper, no life, and a constant threat –taking time away from her sister, limited visits--she has no rights.

Torture. How will she escape? She is not even allowed to go to the bathroom by herself. This man controls her every move.

Where had the perfect gentleman gone? Had it all been a façade? Had he covered his true self with a cloak of geniality and good humor to impress her, or was there a bigger plan to his madness?

Had she sold her soul and Millie’s to the devil? A psychopathic husband.

Grace has to find a solution to this nightmare. As the time draws near for Millie to come and live with them (tick-tock) —Jack gets clever. Everything Grace has told him, he uses against her. He is keeping her prisoner and she is scared for Millie. He is out for revenge. Fear (and desperation) - the best deterrent of all.

“In the drive outside, he holds the car door for me and waits until I’m in. As he closes it behind me, I can’t help thinking it’s a shame he’s such a sadistic bastard, because he has wonderful manners.”

An abusive past, a craving. Jack becomes a lawyer, specializing in cases of domestic violence—the defender of battered women. However, is Grace really the reward or is it Millie? From perfection to horror. Jack even wants her to appear unstable. A husband for a psychopath. How will she convince people he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Jack loves torture and imprisonment. He thrives on it.

As the day’s countdown for Millie’s release, will Grace be able to outwit and beat Jack at his own game before it is too late? Is she capable of murder, when it may be her only choice to save her sister?

From past to present the author keeps you hooked, from the first word to the last- What a page-turner. OMG! Jack is pure evil. This is one of those thrillers you will want to read in one sitting. Unputdownable. A “Sleeping With the Enemy” on steroids with a modern twist. From being held prisoner to complete control, this is one cleverly crafted psychological suspense gripping thriller.

 



The character development, the twisty plot, the choices, and moral conflict, along with fear and anxiety --all drive the psychological tension in unpredictable ways. The author brilliantly delves into the psychology of her antagonist and builds suspense slowly through ambiguity, making BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, A Top 10 List "Best psycho-thrillers for 2016!"

EVIL. Guaranteed to mess with your head! The author truly emphasizes the unstable mental and emotional state of her characters. You have to “LOVE” Millie and (Jorj Koony) George Clooney. Her sharp character added just the perfect amount of wit. "Bad Jack. Very bad man." Plus, every Grace needs a friend like Esther.

I enjoyed the “battle” of Grace and Millie against Jack. Their mind; filtering the good and evil, the moral and immoral, sane and insane – where the line between fact and fiction is blurred. The ending was priceless. Do you really know what goes on behind closed doors?

No surprise the film and TV rights to talented B.A. Paris’ debut thriller has been acquired, and can certainly see why it was the #1 bestselling Kindle novel with 100K copies sold in the UK in the first three days.

Can’t wait for Every Little Thing, coming January 26, 2017 and one I will be pre-ordering. An author to follow!

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!Behind-Closed-Doors/cmoa/570f07f00cf2d6bf6ee48b65
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