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review 2017-05-14 07:21
Woman No. 17
Woman No. 17 - Edan Lepucki

By:  Edan Lepucki 

ISBN: 9781101904251

Publisher: Crown 

Publication Date: 5/9/2017 

Format: 9781101904251

My Rating:  4.5 Stars

 

Edan Lepucki returns following California with her latest WOMAN NO.17 – a cleverly written twisty contemporary of motherhood, womanhood, relationships, and identity.

Infused with art in many forms, a web of deceit, dark and witty — a sinister look into a Hollywood family and complex relationships. When things are not always as they appear.

Think a "helicopter" insecure mom with a past; an impersonator, selective mutism, alcoholism, childhood traumas, a revealing photograph, narcissistic behavior, self-sabotage, social media (Twitter) obsession, time, age, a love triangle, and a bunny.

However, this is no typical “Fatal Attraction” . . . A modern contemporary saga: deeper, absorbing, and entertaining. No boiled bunny; however, a floating Peter Rabbit bunny.

An emotional powerhouse of a novel!

Being a child, daughter, and mother is painful." A burden. Told from different perspectives.

Set in Hollywood Hills, a part of the Santa Monica Mountains; a hillside neighborhood of the central region of the city of Los Angeles, California— Lady Daniels is married to Karl, a rich guy who appears to love his family and has given her the life she never had previously. Lady has not always had it so glamorous and able to live this lifestyle.

As we revisit the past, Lady was formerly married to a no-good bum, jack-ass Marcus. None of her girlfriends or anyone liked him. She gets pregnant and ready to have an abortion years earlier and Marcus wants her to keep the baby. Before their son, Seth is even a toddler, Marcus leaves with a little help and financial incentive from Lady’s mom.

Lady hated her mom. Vicious and gorgeous. They had not spoken in twenty years. A love/hate relationship. As a single mom, Lady raised her son, Seth, barely making ends meet. She is protective of him. He never speaks. Marcus never knew about his selective mutism. Then Karl comes along and they marry and are raising son Devin (age two) and Seth. He is a good father to both boys.

As the book opens, Seth is now nineteen, and Devin is a toddler. Devin is a constant chatterbox and talks non-stop, unlike his brother. Seth does not speak and talks via his iPhone, sign language, social media, and letters.

Lady and Karl have an argument regarding an incident about her son Seth. She asks Karl to leave for a trial separation; however, they have a unique relationship and still see one another. Lady does not know what she wants. She is very confused and troubled.

Lady had written an essay in Real Simple about the strains of parenting a mute child After it went viral, she landed a book contract to expand on the subject.

In her forties, she decides to hire a nanny to help take care of Devin, so she could spend her time writing. However, she goes to coffee shops among other things and never writes. She procrastinates and overthinks everything.

She hires a twenty-two-year-old girl, called “S”. S is not her real name. She connects with Lady and Devin. Immediately, Lady hires her without even doing a background check. She moves into the cottage.

Lady is needy and in desperate need of companionship. She makes crazy poor choices. She pushes Karl away, and overprotective with Seth, and does not have the patience for Devin. However, she and S soon become friends. Even though they have a twenty-year-age difference, the two have many things in common. Mainly their dysfunctional overbearing mothers. (and, Seth). The claws come out.

As the book moves on, we hear from Lady and S. We know early on, S has something up her sleeve. Lady has a past involving a photograph called Woman No. 17, taken by her sister-in-law, and nemesis, Kit. How will these three connect? (Lots of triangles in the book).

S begins working on a secretive art project and in the meantime, she becomes closer to Seth. (before/after) in reverse. They connect in more ways than none. He is working on a film plus much more. He also is a little naughty. S loves to drink as well as Lady. Lady is always hungry.

Readers learn more about Lady’s past and S’s family. Seth is mysterious with a secretive side. Lady thinks about Marco and wants him to meet (their) son. Karl is trying to get back together. Marcus is curious about his dad. Lady and S have their own secrets.

Stop. Drop. Dead. Private signs.

Twitter: @Sethconscious and @muffinbuffin41. Crazy action going on here.

Seth is a teen boy. Lady Daniel’s baby boy. He was like a wild animal, rarely seen and barely understood. He has selective mutism. Was Seth a skilled liar? Dangerous? S and Seth are both artists.

With all the drama and the deception, there are so many funny hilarious moments. One of my favorites one-liners, among many:

“Mommy,” Devin said, finally tearing himself away from the screen. “You done with your dog hair?”
I laughed and wiped my face with my sleeve. “Hair of the dog, baby."
"And, yes, I finished it. Go back to watching your show now. Mommy’s all right.”



Triangles: Seth/Lady/S, Marco/Karl/Lady, Lady/Marco/Kit, Seth/Kit/S, (Sure I am leaving out more).

A woman saddled with secrets. Guilt. Betrayal. A mother who straddles between love and doubt. A collision course. Two complex women. Secrets and lies. Lady is not as put together as she would like others to believe. WOMAN NO. 17 would make an interesting movie. (Very LA)

 



The author skillfully crafts complexities of life with a twist. A compelling portrait of motherhood. WOMAN NO. 17 is like nothing you will ever read. It is unique. The author is talented and delves into the human psyche. With flawed characters, written with a deep understanding of mothers, daughters, sons.

The best description (bullseye) and an accurate summary of the book (great review):

. . . “Despite the hint of deceit and scent of illicit canoodling in the air, Lepucki doesn’t appear to be interested in writing a trashy noir cum sly bodice-ripper, though some of the sexy scenes do get a pinch, well, rough. Pretty early on, it’s clear that she’s experimenting with exploring something deeper. Mainly: what it means to be a needy, vulnerable, passionate, discarded lover,
wife, daughter, and mother.” . . .

“Woman No. 17” is structured like a classic she-said, she-said. In odd-numbered chapters, we hear about events from Lady’s perspective —
and the scoop ain’t pretty. " . . .
San Francisco Chronicle.



Like the book based, mini- TV series, Big Little Lies, there is a façade. Twisted secrets. Friendships. Motherhood. Relationships. She was poor, lonely, and single when Lady met Karl. Did he ever really know the real Lady? Lady is coming unglued and her life is unraveling. Self-sabotage. The haunting photo.

Gripping. Provocative. Thought-provoking, and yet frustrating.

The book raises big questions about identity, ethics, art, parenthood, relationships, motherhood, social media and our modern digital age. A mix of intriguing, stimulating, unpredictable, mysterious, and utterly engaging.

I hit the literary jack box: I scored an electronic early reading copy from NetGalley, and granted an early print book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers, and purchased the audiobook, which sealed the deal!

My favorite narrator is Cassandra Campbell. I pretty much pre-order every book she narrates. Her voice is calming and soothing. She was a perfect Lady and Devin. Phoebe Strole was well-suited for the younger S! 11 hrs and 46 mins. Kept me entertained for days!

Ironically, I had just finished The Scattering (Strole) and The Book of Summer (Campbell) performing and directly afterward got to hear them both as a duo team.

Looking forward to reading more from Lepucki. Her writing is inventive, unique, sharp, fascinating, dark, mysterious and witty. I found myself dying to get back to the book. It was addictive. Strongly reminded of Ellen Meister’s The Other Life with the art connection, humor, and an honest look at the innermost thoughts of struggling women.

A special thank you to Crown, LibraryThing Early Reviewers, and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/01/01/Woman-No-17
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review 2017-05-05 06:10
Into the Water
Into the Water - Paula Hawkins

By: Paula Hawkins

ISBN: 0735211205

Publisher: Riverhead

Publication Date: 5/2/2017 

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars

 

Paula Hawkins who took the literary world by storm, with her first murder mystery sensation, The Girl on the Train, which of course came to sell approximately 20 million copies and a major motion picture (loved) starring Emily Blunt, returns with the highly anticipated INTO THE WATER —a twisty, complex, bold, and ambitious follow-up, which may be even better!

Whereas, The Girl on the Train involved more of a murder mystery centered around three perspectives, a commuter train, alcoholism, infidelity, and cozy suburban homes; INTO THE WATER, is centered around a village of people from multi-generations of women, men, teens, and those spirits which have passed on. From multiple perspectives (a dozen or so), critical to the atmospheric, Gothic, dark crime noir contemporary suspense tale—leading to the shocking climax.

The “last four words” will leave you holding your breath. You are assured to re-read them again and again. It is worth the journey, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

“Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.” Murky waters hide dark secrets.

INTO THE WATER is a mix of historical fiction, psychological, paranormal, and Gothic, taking us back to over 300 years of murders, suicides, and suspicious deaths of local girls and women in the area. Some women were called witches.

Beginning in 1679, when the first woman was forced into the water under suspicion of witchcraft, and to the present day with the suspected mysterious "suicide" of Danielle "Nel" Abbott, an obsessive journalist and photographer who dedicated her life to raising her daughter, Lena and her work. Especially the truth about The Drowning Pool.

A book of childhood memories.

What we learn and hear as a child may not always be the reality. People will try and protect, they will spin a story to suit their own needs. The truth may not ever be clear. We may think a certain way; however, we may learn too late, the story was not as it appeared. What is the truth? Never assume you have all the facts.

Memories of childhood stories we tell about our lives. We recall a situation and may have a clear memory of it and then discover something that is completely false or the interpretation may be different – things which shaped our lives and made us the people we are today. What if we were wrong?

“We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorized with every act of relocation. – Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations

Can guided imagery instructions increase the likelihood of false memory creation and of remembering previously unremembered true events?

First, let me start out by saying a few words which hopefully will have some impact on your reading experience. Do not make comparisons.

INTO THE WATER is a totally different book than Hawkins' first. It is strong enough to stand on its own merits. I discovered through an online interview - the author was working on this idea before The Girl on the Train and continued to work on it even during the first book promotion.

As you can only imagine the pressure and scrutiny involved when you now have a built-in audience, expectations, publishers, editors, movie critics, and fans to please. Not her first rodeo. I commend the author, which could have taken the lazy approach and rested on her first success. Hawkins, after all, is the highest paid author in the world. She had nothing when she began. Instead, she creates a complex and highly absorbing story which had to be a “bear” to write with all the many perspectives and timelines. However, she pulled it off like a rock-star!

Hawkins mentioned in her interviews, she wanted to provide readers a totally unique experience. In my opinion, she exceeded her goal. INTO THE WATER is complex and when you read it, you will understand. This is much more than a who-dun-it. It is a why-dun-it and how-dun-it?

At the center of the story is The Drowning Pool. The crime novel is set in Beckford, a gloomy dark historic fictional village town overlooking the river where an unprecedented number of women have drowned or ended their lives. You can feel the darkness and black cloud.

These women were brought to the water (forced), suffered, or accused of witchcraft to see if they would sink or swim. Some thought it was a place of horror. For some, a place to cover up their crimes (to bury their secrets).

Two of the latest apparent suicides is the single mother Nel Abbott who has been investigating the history of these women for a story and a young teenage girl, Kate. Lena is Nel’s daughter and Kate’s best friend, so she has lost two people very close to her. Did they jump or were they pushed? Not only these two but all the ones from ages past.

The lives of the women who went to the Beckford Drowning Pool. A place that over centuries has claimed the lives of Libby Seeton, Mary Marsh, Anne Ward, Ginny Thomas, Lauren Slater, Katie Whittaker, and more- countless others, nameless and faceless.

Why and how? Some would rather hush, suppress, silence. Nel wanted this memoir of her life and the Beckford pool starting with the swimming of witches. Some say the women left something of themselves in the water; some say it retains some of their power, for ever since then it has drawn to its shores the unlucky, the desperate, the unhappy, the lost. They come here to swim with their sisters.

Another key character is Jules. Jules Abbott is the sister of Nell. They are estranged. They grew up in the Mill House. Nell was always obsessed with the women in the river. What they did and who they left behind. Now, did Nell take it too far?

Jules was always the fat sister (or so they said), the ugly one, and Nel the pretty one. A misunderstanding. Now she is forced to return to the place she never wanted to come back to look after her sister’s daughter (her niece), to sort out the bloody mess. She relives her past. The old memories resurfaced. Disturbing. Chilling. However, what she thought as a child was not the way it happened. No one ever communicated. There are many with dark grim secrets of the past. A picture is worth a thousand lies.

“I was very young when I was cracked open. Some things you should let go. Others you shouldn’t. Views differ as to which – Emily Berry, The Numbers Game

Amidst the drama, lies history in the town of Beckford. The Drowning Pool was a cliff-black and dark while sparkling in the summer. Contrasts. A place of spirits, hopeless people, despair. A place where people (women) go to end their lives. Or is a place where men use to end the women’s lives? Some of them went into the water willingly, some did not. Some went in fighting. A place of secrets. People turned a blind eye.

No one liked to think about the fact that the water in the river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women. Not many people believed Nickie Sage, a woman who speaks with the spirits. Nel listened when she began writing a book about the events of the river and the haunted past.

Detective Inspector Sean Townsend also has a past. He appears to be the upstanding policeman. His father Patrick was a former police officer known for his violence. His mom was also a victim of the Drowning Pool. Did she commit suicide or was she killed by her husband, Patrick? Did Sean as a boy witness his own mother’s death? What is real or what had he been told or made to believe?

There were stories of witches dragged to the water since the 16th century or desperate women flinging themselves from the cliffs to the rocks below.

Not many people liked Nel. . She likes married men. She was investigating. People in this town like to keep their dark hidden secrets under the radar. (and boy they are plentiful). Everyone wanted to put the deaths behind them, to get on with things.

As the book moves forward with a large cast of characters. Libby (1679) Anne Ward (1920) Lauren (1983), (2015) Jules, Lena, and Nell (Danielle) Abbott; Katie, brother Josh, parents Louise and Alec; Nickie (psychic), Mark (teacher), DI Erin Morgan, DI Sean Townsend, wife Helen, dad Patrick.

The author dives into gritty subjects of women’s abuse, underage teens having sex with older men, body image issues, and violence. You will be second guessing everyone and there are some evil characters who never take responsibility for their actions. Always passing off the blame. No one can be trusted.

I can actually see this one playing out as a mini-TV series similar to Big Little Lies versus a simple movie. It has enough material to continue for numerous episodes. It would be powerful with the right cast.

When approaching the last part of the book, it was absolutely unputdownable. For days, this one grabbed my attention. Mind-bending, and captivating! I loved Nikki (psychic) she is cynical and humorous. Very bad men and the women persecuted, even in the present.

My reading experience: I pre-ordered the audiobook and within the first couple chapters, I realized this was not the kind of book you could be listening to while multi-tasking doing other work or running errands. There are multiple characters and you need to pay attention and learn the major players. All these introductions play into the bigger picture. From the middle to the end, the pieces all begin to come together. You will think you have guessed, and then you turn the page and think again. Trust me, you will be guessing to the final words.

I decided to slow down, give the book my undivided attention. Also as a book blogger, I tend to speed read- rushing to get to the next book, as many of us do on a time schedule. However, with the wide range of reviews for this book, I wanted to spend more quality time. After listening to the entire audiobook and rewinding numerous times, attempting to bookmark, I decided to purchase the kindle book version, which was a nice way to go back and collect my notes of the characters for review writing.

The audiobook was fantastic with an award-winning lineup of talented performers; however, would recommend both audio and book format. Laura Aikman, Rachel Bavidge, Sophie Aldred, Daniel Weyman, and Imogen Church (she is always spectacular).

I read the editorial reviews the day the book released- the negative and positives. What I found most helpful were the interviews with the author. I enjoy learning about the inspiration behind the book. It will enhance your reading experience. In addition, enjoyed reading about Hawkins and her writing experience with her last book- having to borrow money from her dad to take the time to write the book. It was her last shot. She hit the literary jackpot. This is truly an inspirational story for any writer or reader. A success story.

In Summary: I am more excited about the film of INTO THE WATER, more so than The Girl on the Train, even though I loved TGOTT movie. What will be interesting: all of us from the US hope it will once again be filmed here in the states (like her previous movie); however, sure the UK will want it to remain in their own backyard. Either way, I know it will be a "hit" and one I am dying to see!

Another winner here! Highly creative. Demonstrates the author's skill and talent, to cross multiple genres.

JDCMustReadBooks

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/01/01/Into-the-Water
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review 2017-04-25 18:09
AB Negative
AB Negative - Kevin P Thornton,Robert Bose,Shona Jayne Barnard,R. Overwater,Al Onia,S.G. Wong,Brent Nichols,Axel Howerton,Axel Howerton,Susan Calder,Therese Greenwood,Randy McCharles,Sharon Wildwind,Dwayne E. Clayden,Janice Macdonald

A solid little collection of short stories in the mystery and noir genres.  I have the pleasure of being familiar with several of the authors because of a writers & readers conference that I attend here in Calgary each August. 

 

With short stories, I often find myself wishing that they were longer and more detailed—several of these stories would, in my opinion, have been better suited to novel-length works, or at least novellas.  As with most short story collections, some appealed to me more than others.

 

It was refreshing to read stories set in my home province and, in some cases, in my own city.  I also give kudos for the very clever title of the volume (AB is the abbreviation for Alberta, dovetailing nicely with the blood group).

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review 2017-04-17 15:32
Drudgery is not my cup
A is for Alibi - Sue Grafton

This is not my genre. Lot's of driving, lot's of talking. Spining wheels in place. There was also a lot of "look what I reseached, isn't it interesting". In little pieces, mercifully, but the instances were numerous.

 

That said, nice trick with the cynical detective/femme fatale trope. Some of the commentary was entertaining too.

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review 2017-04-17 06:59
The Weight of This World
The Weight of This World - David Joy

By: David Joy

ISBN: 9780399173110

Publisher: Penguin/Putnam

Publication Date: 3/7/2017 

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars

 

Talented storyteller, David Joy returns following his outstanding debut, Where All the Light Tends to Go to rural North Carolina mountains of Appalachia with another dark, gritty Southern noir THE WEIGHT OF THIS WORLD. From flawed and tortured souls, in search of light within the darkness.

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.

In Sylva, NC Aiden McCall, at the young age of twelve, witnessed his dad murder his mother, then turn the gun on himself. A sight which would haunt him for the rest of his life. His worst fear was becoming his father one day.

Growing up in a group home he only had one friend, Thad Broom. Thad had his own past. Aiden had always believed that as time moved on the world would open up, that life would get easier rather than harder.

Hard led to harder. Life had a way of wearing a man down into nothing. The older he got the more complicated the world had become.

With enough money and a fresh start, Aiden and Thad could set things right. However, the housing bubble burst and jobs dried up. Thad was on deployment in Afghanistan when the construction business went to pot.

Those years Thad got to leave Aiden was jealous. But when Thad came back, Aiden was not sure who had it better or worse. If they could only leave the mountains. Aiden thought somewhere like Asheville, Hendersonville, or Atlanta for a fresh start. An opportunity for a better life.

April Trantham, Thad’s mother, had her own problems and past, starting from a young age. When the boys were in high school April inherited six acres and an old run down house and a single wide from the old man George had cancer.

April and Aiden find comfort in one another while Thad is away. Thad returns after a traumatic tour of duty in Afghanistan he is never the same, more damaged than when he left. The three of them want to escape their traumas; however, the weight of the world is heavy around them, and they cannot seem to escape.

. . . “There were so many horrible things they had buried inside themselves, all of the memories that had come to govern their lives. He found himself wishing that he could have been the one to bear it all. He wished that he could have taken all of the bad in this world and piled it onto himself so that he would have been the one to ever know that kind of suffering.”



From drugs, hatred, murder, crime and violence. Thad and Aiden’s drug dealer accidentally kills himself, leaving the two young men with drugs and cash; however, they cannot seem to pull themselves from the darkness. A drug- deal gone, bad.

. . . “Things weren’t okay. Everything wasn’t going to be all right. The world was entirely broken,”

Thad soon realizes that dying was a one-way ticket to judgment and it made no difference whether it came now or years down the road. He would be judged on his way to find redemption.

A mother who had not fully given herself to motherhood and her son, due to her own demons of pain and her innocence stolen. Aiden, trying to forget his haunted past. Did some people deserve to die? People had choices. These three may have more in common than they know.

As in his first book, David Joy skillfully balances the all-consuming brutality and darkness of his characters with the lyrical beauty of his writing. He captures the emotions, the setting, the culture; from crimes, dysfunction, hatred and poison, and struggles of the wounded human spirit, often with limited choices and repeating their own environment.

Told with compassion, from sadness to hope. Fans of gritty Southern noirs/literature and authors Ron Rash, Wiley Cash and John Hart will appreciate this skillfully written tale.

A special thank you to Penguin Putman and NetGalley for an early reading copy. (Also purchased audiobook)

JDCMustReadBooks

David Joy's books are always meant to be read, pondered, and listened to. MacLeod Andrews is a perfect narrator for THE WEIGHT OF THIS WORLD, as he was for Where All Light Tends to Go. Both 5 Stars.

A great Q&A with the Author: Smoky Mountain News
The weight of desire: David Joy releases second book

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/11/01/The-Weight-of-This-World
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