Review: Whistling In the Dark ~ Lesley Kagen

Whistling in the darkIt was the summer on Vliet Street when we all started locking our doors…

Sally O’Malley made a promise to her daddy before he died. She swore she’d look after her sister, Troo. Keep her safe. But like her Granny always said-actions speak louder than words. Now, during the summer of 1959, the girls’ mother is hospitalized, their stepfather has abandoned them for a six pack, and their big sister, Nell, is too busy making out with her boyfriend to notice that Sally and Troo are on the Loose. And so is a murderer and molester.

Highly imaginative Sally is pretty sure of two things. Who the killer is. And that she’s next on his list. Now she has no choice but to protect herself and Troo as best she can, relying on her own courage and the kindness of her neighbors.

Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – Wisconsin.

3 Thumbs-UpThis is a great little read packed full of things that are part of life in small town USA; or is it?  At times this book had so much going on in it, the town seemed crowded.  This is also a debut novel from this Author

The book is told through the words of a child narrator who has seen more than her fair share of troubles and hardship so early on in life.  I found the way in which this character provided the dialogue to be fairly believable of someone her age who had experienced the things she had, as at times her words changed from that of a child to those of someone so much older; to me this revealed the inner conflict in her as she battled within herself to be the child she was, or the adult that was expected of her, and I thought that the Author was able to portray this side of her personality very well.  Like the child she is though, she often misinterprets ‘adult’ conversations, and after a while this became rather tiring.  The main problem I found with all the characters in this book were that they were not very deeply developed and struggled to maintain their two-dimensional persona, and it was this lack of the development of what could have been some very interesting characters in this book that made me rate it a three thumbs.

Although this book is a little slow at first, it soon picks up and is an ideal book for a wet day when there is nothing else to take your fancy.  It is full of 1950’s nostalgia, childhood innocence and also darkly disturbing scenes.  For those who are offended by same-sex relationships, there is one featured in this book and this may mean you want to give the book a miss.  However, it is not overplayed to the point where it dominates, and is not dealt with in an insensitive manner, so readers may be able to skim over this portion if they are otherwise enjoying this book.

I would recommend this book to those who are looking for their next book club read, as it is sure to be the stepping off point for some interesting discussion, and I will be reading more by this Author in the future to see how their character development evolves as they become more confident.

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Review: Fissures ~ D.L. Hodges

FissuresAndrew (Drew) Parsons, the product of an abusive upbringing by his adoptive father, has spent 7 years in jail for a crime he committed in his teens. While in the penitentiary he befriends an older inmate, John, a seasoned veteran of the prison system, who mentors Drew, teaching him the path he has chosen isn’t the one he should continue on. Returning home, after his prison release, with the desire to change his life, Drew steps back into a world fraught with conflict and misery; but also to a mother who has always been there to protect him. Soon, however, he realizes he must break away from that environment if he is to have any chance of success. Escaping his parents’ house, Drew sets out on a journey of discovery; to make a new future for himself, but also to learn the mystery of his past, to find his birth parents. As Drew begins to uncover his history he is swept into a world of lies, abandonment and violence, and the truths he finds are far from the ones he sought.

3 Thumbs-UpI doubt very much of anything will prepare the reader for what they find within the covers of this book.  Many may be put off by the title, which does seem to indicate that the contents maybe all over the pace and depressing; but once I started reading this I had to admit it was not engrossing, but a book I didn’t mind picking up when I had a few minutes.

The novel is definitely character driven, and in writing their character the Author has done a skilful job.  The main protagonist is one who realises that they have made mistakes throughout their lives and has now decided things have to change.  Through the emotions and difficult decisions this character has to make, the reader is sometimes unwillingly caught up in the emotions that seem to pour out of the character and, although this can be a good way to identify with a character in certain situations, at times I found it to be emotionally draining on myself and had to put the book down and walk away.  It is the journey to redemption of the main character that is the driving force in this book, and the reader travels every inch of this journey with them.

The storyline itself is tight and well written mystery, with some very good edge of your seats moments.  However, I did feel at times that the Author had referred too many times to his thesaurus to find the exact word they needed, but this didn’t always hit the mark and slowed the pace of the novel down considerably; this is the reasoning behind my three thumbs rating.  Some of the scenes of abuse written in this novel may upset some people, and well it should, as it serves to remind us what fragile lives we all lead and hold in our hands to mould and shape as we will.  This Author does an outstanding job of showing the reader the lives of those less fortunate; those you could almost call the lost children of society who end up in the same situation as the main character in this novel.

However, this book is definitely an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to those readers who enjoy a “bad boy turned good” tale.

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Review: Approach to Freetown (Lion Mountain) ~ Karan Henley Haugh

ApproachApproach to Freetown is the first volume of the completed tetralogy LION MOUNTAIN. It started out as a short story about an American woman who revamps her life in Africa and prepares to have a family without a husband. The protagonist Elizabeth Modra is an American artist from Lansing Michigan, who finishes her B. A. in Art in Boston and then goes to London with her boyfriend. There, he becomes very jealous of her success and becomes violent with her. At her first showing, she meets Peter Safford, a journalist, who becomes very fond of her and asks her to move in with him, which she does. Then when he takes her to cover a story in Sierra Leone, she refuses to leave. The land and people have gotten into her blood so that she wants to make this new country her home. She is determined to find out why these people are so happy and content and good to one another, even after the horrors which had befallen them during the recent Civil war.

4 Thumbs-UpIn this first of a complete tetralogy, and coming in at only 126 pages in length, explains the reason for my four thumbs rating; it just wasn’t long enough, this Author opens a whole new world to the reader in ways they could not possibly imagine

The main protagonist, a  female, is written in all her vulnerable and confused glory; so much so that any reader would be hard pressed not to want to reach out a helping hand to her, or just give her a cuddle to make her feel better.  As the reader travels with her through her trials and tribulations, the Author is able to make them experience keenly the pain and total destruction of self that this woman feels at times.  This is a character that the reader wants to be about to address and come to terms with her past, and will want to be there every step of the way to support her.  Other characters encountered are equally well written, and will produce a feeling of either like or indifference in the reader or, as in one particular character I just wanted to reach into the pages and slap them.

The locations of this enjoyable read are also beautifully written; the heat virtually rises off the pages in some areas and the inhabitants are written in such a way that they too make an impression on the reader.  It is very plain to anyone who reads this that the Author did careful research into the area she sets her work in and this adds to the authenticity of the storyline and helps carry it along in a very believable manner.

If this series of books is ever published together as a complete novel, I will definitely buy the print copy for my book shelves, and I would highly recommend this first instalment to all readers.  This is going to be a series that doesn’t deserve to be just read, it requires the time taken to savour and enjoy it as one would a fine wine or gourmet meal.

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