Friday, March 26, 2010

Hush by Mark Nykanen

Hush by Mark Nykanen

Celia is an art therapist that works with trouble kids in a small town in Oregon. She lives with her husband Jack overlooking a valley, far removed from the town centre. Celia spends more and more time alone because her husband is cheating on her, which causes her to bring home her work more often. When Davy, a new elective mute, is brought to her centre she works with him and reviews his art to see what his story is. She also meets Davy's pushy step-father Chet. As Davy learns to trust Celia, she learns more through his drawings and starts to suspect Chet of abuse. Chet can't allow this secret to get out though and has some nasty plans for Celia.

This wasn't the best written book and you knew what was going to happen. The scene where Chet finally decided to deal with Celia was very graphically written, which I suppose was the whole point of the book. That being said, I didn't feel like the story line was engaging enough and didn't feel any connection to Celia to really care if she lived or die. Nothing about this book was original, it just felt like a bad horror movie.

First Line: "Davy Boyce climbed on top of another gray stump and fired again."



Saturday, March 20, 2010

So Much For That by Lionel Shriver

So Much For That by Lionel Shriver

Shep Knacker has been planning his 'Afterlife' for a very long time. Ever since he was taken to Africa as a kid and realized that you can live on a couple of dollars a day, Shep made a plan to return in his adulthood and settle down. Shep sells his company and house in preparation but has to keep putting off his trip. When he finally purchases the tickets and gives the ultimatum to his wife Glynis, she can either come or stay behind, Glynis tells him she has cancer. This forces Shep to put the Afterlife on hold again, possibly forever, because Glynis needs him, his money, and his limited health insurance to live.

Shep notices that his friends start to withdraw, including his best friend Jackson. Jackson has troubles of his own though, which occupies a side story in this novel. With a child that has a rare genetic disease and a bad decision about plastic surgery, the normally vivacious Jackson starts to turn inward. Shep has to deal with this, a mooch of a sister, the failing health of his father, a kid that won't ever leave his room, and a quickly depleting bank account.

Shriver is a master character writer. Just like We Need to Talk About Kevin, each character in this novel has a major flaw. Sometimes those flaws are unforgivable and not many of the characters are sympathetic. As risky as this is, Shriver still manages to draw the reader in and keep you turning the pages quickly. Each time Beryl, the mooching sister to Shep, appeared I just wanted to reach through the pages in smack her. Even Glynis' frigid attitude made me uncomfortable.

The characters give interesting commentaries on government and specifics such as health care. What is the cost of a human life? Is there ever a right time to give up the fight against cancer and just enjoy life? The questions posed are direct and the answers are more honest than most of us ever get about these subjects. Shriver does a great job and I'm looking forward to her next work!

Buy this book from Harper Collins

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First Line: "What do you pack for the rest of your life?"



Overheard in a Dream

Overheard in a Dream by Torey Hayden

Nine year old Conor comes to James as an autistic child in need of help. James, a psychiatrist, starts with play therapy and discovers that Conor is not autistic but is very, very troubled and emotionally disturbed. Little by little Conor who feels very safe in James' play therapy room starts to communicate. He sees ghosts and is haunted by them.

James decides to involve the whole family and starts to hear Laura's, Conor's mother, story. Laura is a famous writer. She weaves a story about her life from her childhood on. It involves a whole fantasy world revolving around Torgon. The story is an elaborate fantasy with well developed characters and plot. James must decipher what is real and what is not.

I found the book totally predictable. Torgon's story was a bit tedious and I would have preferred more of Conor's story and less of the fantasy. Even the little twist at the end was 'telegraphed'. I did enjoy the book but this is not up to the standards of Hayden's non-fiction.

First Line: "The boy was so pale you would have thought he was a ghost."



Friday, March 05, 2010

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

On what seemed like a normal trip with his friends outside his home village of Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone, the rebels come into his village and start killing anything that moves. When he thinks it is safe, Ishmael and his friends head back to his Mattru Jong to search for the families but find only bodies littering the street. When they can't find their families, the group of boys search for food from nearby villages. They quickly learn that groups of boys are looked upon suspiciously because that's what the rebel forces travel as.

As they travel village to village, they receive help from unlikely sources and see more violence and death than any child should. Eventually soldiers bring the remaining boys into a village and promise them safety. Ishmael watches these soldiers clean their guns, take drugs, and watch Rambo before going out to kill rebels. When the soldiers lose too many men, they pose an ultimatum to the village. Either join us and fight or leave the village. At the age of 13, Ishmael becomes a soldier.

The story follows Ishmael as he lives the nightmare of war and then his rehabilitation. Ishmael's story is sad but it draws you in and holds your attention for the entire duration.

The majority of the book was explaining Ishmael's journey before he became a soldier. I was interested in learning about how he was rehabilitated but found that not enough of the novel focused on this. The ending left me hanging a bit too. Though it did make me look up Ishmael online.

Despite the fact that the book didn't go into as much detail as I would have liked, I couldn't put it down. I was concerned for Ishmael's well being and hoped that him and his family would be ok. It's great to see that Ishmael is trying to help other kids who have gone through what he has and bring this story to the world.

First Line: "There are all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it were happening in a faraway and different land."



Thursday, March 04, 2010


Hush by Kate White

Lake Warren is going through a messy separation with her husband Jack. After settling for shared custody he is now suing for full custody of their two children. Things, however, are going well with her job at a fertility clinic as a marketing consultant. The fertility clinic specializes in helping the over-forty crowd conceive. When the new doctor on staff Dr. Keaton starts flirting with her Lake responds and finds herself in his bed. But the next morning finds him with his throat slashed and Lake find herself in a world of trouble.

Not wanting anything to hinder her custody case, Lake does not go to the police and indeed lies about her whereabouts. Lake feels the only way out of her dilemma is to find the killer herself. With the police questioning her, Lake starts to question people at the clinic and snoop into clients' files. This seems to put her more and more into danger as she starts to discover some shady dealing at the clinic.

Lake must now keep track of what she has told the police and others and what is the actual truth. Lake is constantly second-guessing herself between what she can tell the police and what she has found out. The reader is kept on the edge of their seat wondering if Lake will slip up and who killed Dr. Keaton and why

This was a wonderful mystery full of deceit, revenge and dark secrets. Several times I wanted to peek ahead and find out who did it. Kate White delivers a real page-turner.

First Line: "Pain woke her, forced open her eyes."

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