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review 2018-01-11 20:34
Only the Rain
Only the Rain - Randall Silvis

By:  Randall Silvis

ISBN: 978-1542049948

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer 

Publication Date: 1/1/2018 

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars

 

From the internationally acclaimed author and gifted storyteller, a master of complicated human souls— Randall Silvis bring readers his latest, ONLY THE RAIN —a gripping and emotional story of an ordinary man faced with a split second decision, leading to dire consequences. 

One which could change the course of his life and those near and dear to him. 

A short book (read in one sitting), A remarkable heart-rendering blending of literary, drama, mystery, suspense, and psychological thriller. Most importantly, as with all Randall Silvis’ books, THOUGHT-PROVOKING and INSIGHTFUL. 

The author's lyrical prose is "spellbinding" drawing you into the raw and emotional world of his characters. A given—numerous highlighted, bookmarked, pages and passages. 

Told in the form of email entries written from a man searching for answers to his good friend and Army buddy from Iraq, Spencer. (has been six years since he has seen him), the story unravels. 

“Thing is, there’s just too much I have to tell somebody, and nobody else I can tell it to.”

Back from Iraq, Russell Blystone is an average guy. A former soldier still haunted with dreams and nightmares from the war. The horrific experiences continue to make him feel helpless and guilty. He continues to fight his demons even back home, attempting to live a regular life.

“Personally, I’ve come to believe that theories are of small value when it comes to actually living your life, to making all the hard decisions you have to make and then dealing with the consequences of those decisions.”

Russell now has a family. A wife (Cindy), and two daughters (Dani and Emma). Another baby on the way. He has a secret. He must tell someone. The computer is his only outlet and email communication (even though he may not send).

He is too ashamed to tell his wife and his Pops. Pops and Gee, the grandparents who raised him after his mother died. Gee passed on a year ago, and now Pops is living at Brookside Manor, an independent living facility. They are very close. 

He got himself into this mess, and he has to get out. 

Pops is strong, funny, witty, wise, and caring. (loved his character). He has a smile that lights up a room. Russell cannot tell Pops what he has done. Russell loves his Pops and respects him. (enjoyed the interaction with other residents). 

Pops and Gee would be ashamed of him. However, if he cannot figure a way out of this, he may have no other choice but to tell Pops. Pops, also a veteran from the Vietnam War understands the horrors of war. However, will he be so understanding of his most recent actions?

Cindy, Russell’s wife (a bank teller) has not had a comfortable life. A drug dealing abusive low-life dad (Donnie) and mother, Janice. She managed to escape. However, he continues to try to worm his way back into their lives. They keep their children away from him. 

Here is where the nightmare began: 

Russell and Cindy finally have their home and trying to live a healthy family life. He has just lost his job at the plant which is being shut down. He does not want to tell his wife yet since she worries so much. 

Due to her past and the current pregnancy, he wants to try and find another job before he causes her more stress. He wants her to feel safe and secure. He still has a few weeks to wrap up the situation before the Chinese take over. 

In the blink of an eye, his life would go from secure and hopeful to being one step away from homeless. Without health insurance, the mortgage, utilities, taxes, and a family of four to feed. 

With Cindy's bank job, the income would be of little help without his salary. He is stressed. He cannot let his family down. With minimal jobs in the area, he must keep this a secret until he lands another job. 

It is raining one day, and he is on his motorcycle. Due to the traffic, he takes a different route. He passes a worn down house when he sees a woman dancing naked in the rain with Gregg Allman music playing loudly in the background. 

She seems to have fallen, and a pit bull is chained nearby. Out in the middle of nowhere. He must make a decision. To keep going on the slippery road, or turn around and stop to help the girl. 

At first, he decides to keep going, but then again he thinks she needs help. He turns around. He helps someone who does not want help.

Always spells TROUBLE. 

The girl seems to be strung out on drugs. When he stops and carries her inside, she is wet and muddy and appears to be alone. He tells her she needs to get in the shower. She is in the other room, and when he pulls back the shower curtain, he sees four cardboard boxes with duct tape. He lifts off the lid and sees bundles of cash.

A drugged woman trying to seduce him, and cash. Fear, panic, excitement. Should he leave it, or take it. Most likely the money was from drug dealing. Who would know if he grabbed it? Just one box. The money would help him pay the bills until he found another job. It would save his family. 

This one impulsive decision would haunt him. He was no better than a typical thief. Shame. Grief. Fear. Disgust. The war before and the battle waging within him now. A strong need to feel loved and safe. Thinking about the same decisions he made during the battles in Iraq. 

Why did he take the money and what was he going to do with it? His daughter gets sick, and he has to use the money to pay the hospital bill. Now what?

Then the worst happens. His boot prints. The drug dealers. He needs more than Spence. He needs his Pop. He has to tell him. To help figure a way out. A strategy. Pop's storage unit. 

Now the drug dealers are on his trail, and his low life father in law Donnie is involved. In a race against time, he has placed his family, his Pops, and himself in the middle of impending danger. A race against time. 

What is his exit strategy? He needs to be the kind of husband and father Pops had been. What about plans A, B, and C. The Domino Catastrophe Theory. The dominoes do not stop falling.

An ordinary man struggling, trying to do the right thing during childhood, college, adulthood, the army, marriage, and parenthood. Stealing the money involved his entire family in one way or another. He lost his job and when he saw the money he thought this was the answer.

Secrets and lies always have a way of snowballing. The day of reckoning. The McClain brothers are an extension of Iraq. As if the same war. 

“Is it possible to hate something you did and to hate yourself for doing it, yet still be glad you did it?”

With gut-wrenching intensity, action-packed ONLY THE RAIN draws you into a realistic world of one man’s choices and consequences. Crossing ethical lines in order to save his family. A man, struggling with his inner demons. 

What makes this story so absorbing (in addition to the correspondence to Spence), his friend— is the heartwarming and intricate relationship between Pops and Russell.

Life. “You gain, you lose. You win you fail. You spin, you die." 

“Spin and die, To live a butterfly again.”

 

 

 

A post shared by Judith D Collins (@judithdcollins) on Jan 10, 2018 at 3:26pm PST

 



I adore Randall Silvis’ writing style. In addition to the digital copy, also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Eric G. Dove for an engaging performance. 

I became an instant fan of the author when I first read (Ryan Marcus Mystery Series #1) Two Days Gone. (fabulous). Top Books of 2017! 

Be sure and add to your reading list, Walking the Bones, coming Jan 23, 2018. A second book in the series. Another 5 star! Blog Tour Host, Jan 23. Enter a book giveaway contest starting Jan 15-Feb 1. Working on my review now. Top Books of 2018.

"...[a] deeply satisfying sequel....this solid procedural offers heart-pounding moments of suspense. Silvis smoothly blends moments of exquisite beauty into a sea of darker emotion to create a moving story heavy with the theme of the 'past is never past.'" - Publishers Weekly Starred Review Walking the Bones. 

If you enjoy sophisticated and intelligent thrillers with a literary flair, highly recommend this author. There is another author who is one of my favorites ,T. Greenwood. These two authors have a remarkable talent for storytelling. Both authors have a rare gift of making you fall magically in love with their words. Also, check out her upcoming book (Aug 2018) Rust & Stardust

If you enjoyed ONLY THE RAIN, recommend James Hankins’Shady Cross and Dennis Lehane's Since We Fell. (currently reading/listening) narrated Julia Whelan (one of my favorite narrators). 

JDCMustReadBooks 

If you missed this Kindle First read during Dec, you should grab it now. In e-book, hardcover, and audio formats. Highly Recommend.

 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/12/15/Only-the-Rain
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review 2018-01-06 22:53
A book of stories about the female experience with a powerful voice
Her Body and Other Parties: Stories - Carmen Maria Machado

I finally read this celebrated book, and it’s quite a read. It’s all at once devastating, complicated, weird, queer, scary, sometimes funny, and the writing was always beautiful. Machado has written about the female experience in a number of different stories, some I enjoyed vastly more than others, some captivating me, a couple dragged on a bit. But this is unlike anything I’ve read before. A book YOU should probably all read! 

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review 2018-01-06 03:50
A unique novel that questions the afterlife (and so much more), and has left me speechless
The Afterlives: A Novel - Thomas Pierce

This book almost defies description and I'm still basically 'speechless' upon finishing. Yes, I can say it's a fictional novel (unless author Pierce knows things we don't!), but then I can tell you all the different genres and subjects it touches: fantasy, the supernatural/ghosts, sci-fi and aliens, relationships, religion and the question of God, conspiracy theories, and the biggest question of all - what happens to us all when we die.
The novel begins when Jim Byrd dies for a few minutes, but he is left with no experience of seeing an 'afterlife', ie, no 'tunnels with lights'. This leaves him with huge life questions and starts seeing the world in a whole new way, along with his new 'HeartNet' to keep his ticker beating safely. The world in which this novel is set in, is even filled with holograms, and so many questions for Jim, and consequently for the reader. I didn't read this as quickly as some books because of that, and I was often putting it down to digest and think about what I'd just read because of everything I just had to absorb. There's actually a lot of humor in the novel too, so even though there are huge topics on the table like life and death, the tone of the book remains light, even when big events happen.
Originally I was put off by the fact that Jim's romance and subsequent relationship with his wife Annie, would be central to the novel, but it ended up being such an original journey that they were on, that I was absorbed by their story within the bigger story.
This is such a unique and intelligent novel, one that will get your brain thinking and your heart thumping. I know I won't read another quite like this in 2018, and it's got to be read to be fully appreciated. Fabulous.

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review 2017-12-30 18:21
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories - Alice Munro

The title story in this volume is fantastic. The slow unfolding and peeling back the layers of the story, the host of well-realized and believable characters bumping up against one another, the historical Canadian setting, and the surprise ending: I loved it all, and am not at all surprised that a movie was based on this 50-page story. It’s better than many a novel.

And there are a couple other stories here that I liked. “Comfort” is about the death of a husband, a severe biology teacher who fought the incursion of religion into the curriculum. I enjoyed this mostly for the husband’s story, and was less interested in the wife’s grieving and found the end to peter out. The last story, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” follows a philandering but loving husband whose wife develops dementia and embarks on a nursing home romance. This one is poignant and its situations interesting, though I didn’t ever feel I knew enough about the wife and their relationship to completely engage.

The remaining six stories seemed to me to be variations on a theme, and it’s a theme Munro fully developed in The Beggar Maid, which I previously read and enjoyed. The protagonist is a woman who is searching for herself, who has an unsatisfying marriage; some of the stories focus more on the marriage, others on her life before or after. Sometimes she leaves, although this was an uncommon choice at the time these stories are set, while other times she contents herself with a fling. Her family background includes a dead mother and remarried father, living in some small town she has left behind. Her story involves learning about herself or about life and how to live in it.

These aren’t bad stories, but they didn’t particularly speak to me. In some cases I felt like perhaps I was a generation too young to appreciate the societal influences on these women and how those influences shaped them. The way the women fail to assert themselves in their relationships and make their needs known, the way their marriages often seemed to be strange and independent creatures rather than partnerships negotiated by the people involved, even in a world not too far removed from the modern one, left something of a blank for me. And because these are quiet, character-driven tales, it’s hard to appreciate them if they don’t speak to you.

All that said, of course these are very well-written stories, as one would expect from a Nobel Prize winner. I didn’t enjoy them all as much as I’d hoped; I wish Munro had included more along the lines of the first story. But it’s good literature, and I’m happy to have read it.

--

A question for those who have read more Munro than I: is this collection specifically thematically focused, perhaps to fit its title, or does all her work focus on these same preoccupations? What Munro collection should I read next if my goal is finding one that doesn’t feel repetitive after The Beggar Maid and this book?

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review 2017-12-29 22:16
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

This is a fantastic novella. It’s a parable of globalization, but its brilliance is in rendering real, three-dimensional characters even from a brief scene or description.

Exit West is set in the modern world, beginning in an unnamed Middle Eastern country on the brink of civil war, where two young people meet in a classroom and are propelled by circumstances into a premature intimacy. The difference between this book and the real world is that when Nadia and Saeed – and millions of others around the world – decide to flee or to immigrate, they do so by way of doors that randomly appear and allow teleportation from one part of the globe to another.

Some have criticized this decision for erasing the harrowing travel that is a hallmark of many real-world refugee experiences, which it does. But I don’t think telling the story of refugees is Hamid’s primary goal, though it is part of the book. The doorways allow him to speed up globalization, take the world’s growing interconnectedness to its breaking point in a brief span of time, and ask big questions about what how world will look in the decades to come, with ever quicker travel combined with massive disparities in wealth and security. How much sense do borders really make in today’s world and the world of the future? Can we afford to limit our focus to our own countries? What happens as people continue to flee from poor and war-torn parts of the world to Europe and the U.S. – how will richer countries respond and be changed?

There’s a lot packed into this short book, measuring over 200 pages only due to generous margins and spacing, as well as two blank pages between each chapter. But what holds it together is the vitality, complexity and humanity of the characters, our protagonists and the people they encounter as well as the characters we briefly meet in vignettes from all over the world. The book can sometimes be hard to read, especially for long stretches, because the characters’ circumstances are often tough, and when they are as real as people you know, it’s impossible not to care. Then too, the writing is excellent: not flowery, but assured, every word in the right place.

Overall, a fantastic book, with great characters, an involving story and a lot of food for thought. And while the subject matter can be difficult, it never becomes hopeless. I highly recommend it.

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