The Relive Box and Other Stories by T. C. Boyle

The Relive BoxThe Goodreads summary for The Relive Box by T. C. Boyle starts by describing it as a collection of “raucous” short stories.  To me, raucous means rowdy, which didn’t quite fit. So, out came the dictionary, which says that – in fact – raucous means “making or constituting a disturbingly harsh and loud noise”, and this makes a lot more sense because one of the words I had written down after finishing the book and was preparing for my review was disturbing.

I also wrote down dark, cold and depressing; there is little in these stories that could be described as hopeful – maybe the end of Are We Not Men?, which left me feeling somewhat optimistic .  The rest, if I’m honest, left me feeling depressed.  The world they present, which is probably our not to distant future if we don’t play our cards right, isn’t one I want to live in. 

A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris

a pocketful of crowsIn a time when superstition ruled the way people behaved, a brown-skinned, black-eyed, girl falls in love with the beautiful son of the local laird.

She is not the type of girl people fall in love with, not the type the local folk trust.  She is not like them, she is a traveller. She moves on the wind, with the animals, lives with nature.  She is completely free, or at least she is until she falls in love.

Then she becomes bound, changing her name, her ways, her future.  She trusts in the love she feels and, already in love with her myself, I prayed that that love wouldn’t be betrayed.

The course of true love never runs smooth though and this story is no exception.  The question is whether there will be a happy ending or if it will all end in tears? 

The Last Day of Emily Lindsey by Nic Joseph

33160789

Nightmares are scary things for all of us (well, for me at least, so I’ll project that same response onto anyone reading this), no more so than for Steven, who has been having the same dream for as long as he can remember.  It’s one he can’t explain and can’t shake.  As he grows older, his dreams start to invade his waking hours, becoming visions he can’t control.

Growing up in the foster system, afraid his new parents would “send him back” if he told them how bad it was, he has managed to (mostly) successfully hide what was happening to him from those he loves and those he works with.  Work is especially important as he is a homicide detective – no one wants a crazy policeman do they?

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

33574127

I think I may have to change the layout of my posts, or stop using goodreads to get the “blurbs” as reading the one for The Stolen Marriage, you might as well not read the book because it gives so much away.  So, like with Cold Blood a few weeks ago, I am putting the summary at the bottom of the post – read it if you would like but, for me there, was too much included and too much given away for a plot that had be hanging to the edge of the page all the way through the book.

It’s why I love Diane Chamberlain books so much – she tells tales that are complex and complicated and that I can’t put down.  And, yet again, she hasn’t disappointed me.  In fact, this – for me – was one of the best books of hers I feel like I’ve read in a while and, as I’ve liked everything of hers I’ve ever read, that is saying something.

Why did I enjoy it so much?  First off, the characters.  Central to the story are Tess – a young woman of Italian heritage who has grown up sheltered and certain of the path her life would take – and Henry, the man Tess marries – who is an enigma through most of the book.  He has secrets he can’t share that could mean he’s very good at pretending to be good or is just plain bad.  I decided early on that he wasn’t bad and prayed for the rest of the book I was proved right (you’ll have to read The Stolen Marriage to find out if I was!).

Both Tess and Henry as so well written and so detailed and complex, I believed in them totally, and in all the characters that surrounded them, including Tess’ former fiancé and Henry’s family.  Set in 1944, their behaviours weren’t always one I understood but they felt right for the time and showed just how difficult it is to be yourself in a world and in a society where social mores ruled how everyone (or nearly everyone) behaved.

Then there is the setting – Hickory, a small town in the south, where Baltimore born Tess struggles to fit in, not only for her Italian roots which make her stand out but also because she is one of “those” women, one who wants to be independent – to have her own opinions and (dare I say it) work.  I found out after reading the book Hickory was a real place which Chamberlain had visited and it shows in the way she describes the town, it’s people and it’s places.

The polio outbreak, which is central to the story, is also a real event – one that took place in Hickory – and this is the third reason I loved this book.  It was something I knew nothing about and not only was it interesting for the history buff in me, it also made for an interesting story, one that allowed Tess and Henry’s relationship to change as the book progressed and created a catalyst for what happened to them.

For me, it made for a compelling read, one – as I said at the beginning – I couldn’t put down.  I really can’t find a thing bad to say about it.  I loved it from the first page to the last and can’t recommend it enough.

Now here’s the promised blurb:

In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behaviour and save her own life?

Enjoy!

Emma x

loved-it

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Format: ebook
Published: 3rd October, 2017
Pages: 384
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

 

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own

Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

35789068The observant amongst you will have noticed I haven’t been posting on the blog this last week.  Cold Blood was one of the reasons.  I needed to read it, and didn’t want anything getting in the way of my reuniting with Erika Foster, a favourite detective from a favourite series.

Those self-same observant people may have also noticed that I haven’t started this post out the way I normally do, with the goodreads book blurb right next to the title.  It’s still here for those who want to read it – but at the end because I was worried it would give too much away for a book that holds a lot of twists, turns and surprises.  This is too good a story for spoilers (in my humble opinion!).

Close to Home by Robert Dugoni

33845132

While investigating the hit-and-run death of a young boy, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite makes a startling discovery: the suspect is an active-duty serviceman at a local naval base. After a key piece of case evidence goes missing, he is cleared of charges in a military court. But Tracy knows she can’t turn her back on this kind of injustice.

When she uncovers the driver’s ties to a rash of recent heroin overdoses in the city, she realizes that this isn’t just a case of the military protecting its own. It runs much deeper than that, and the accused wasn’t acting alone. For Tracy, it’s all hitting very close to home.

As Tracy moves closer to uncovering the truth behind this insidious conspiracy, she’s putting herself in harm’s way. And the only people she can rely on to make it out alive might be those she can no longer trust.

When I pick up a Robert Dugoni book I always feel like I have to say thank you to Bibliophile Book Club for introducing me to the Tracy Crosswhite series.  That was back with book one, My Sister’s Grave, and now I’m on book five but I still can’t get enough of Tracy. 

99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter

99 red balloonsTwo girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…

So as well as a title that sends me back to my teenage years and memories of watching Top of the Pops, 99 Red Balloons has everything I look for in a psychological thriller – missing children, family secrets and a story that slowly comes together through the eyes of a number of characters, none of whom seem to be quite telling the truth.

And I got all that and more, with a book with plenty of twists, turns and red herrings plus a “wow” moment about two-thirds in that had me pause for a second so my brain could readjust and rethink everything I had read so far.  You’ve got to love those moments and it completely changed the book for me.