Sunday, February 22, 2015

Crazy Love You

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger

Haunting, spooky, addictive. Fans of author Lisa Unger unite for another bone-chilling macabre story written in her inimitable style. Much like In the Blood, (which I reviewed in January of 2014), this gripping novel is unpredictable and mesmerizing with different interpretations.

Ian Paine is a successful writer and illustrator of a graphic series of novels called Fatboy and Priss, based on his own pathetic life. It's been a long, grueling journey to reach this level of notoriety. Unfortunately for him, it's impossible to escape the past.....

Ian's life begins in The Hollows about 100 miles outside of New York City, a burg where everyone knows everybody else's business.....and more. He is a miserable child, overweight, acne-scarred, and longing for friendship in a town that shuns him. One night when his mentally ill mother "accidentally" smothers his baby sister, he flees into the woods behind his home, fearing he will be her next victim. There he meets Priss, a wild, untamed red-haired girl who soon becomes his closet friend. Her friendship, however is all-consuming, and soon turns ugly. Ian finds himself unable or unwilling to escape from the spell she casts upon him. And it's only just beginning....

Ian is now in Manhattan writing what he knows about best and joyfully in love with Megan. Priss, however, is always there, too, hiding in the shadows. Ian is never quite sure where she will appear. When his editor announces that it is time to bring the series to an end, Priss refuses to exit gracefully. What follows is a bizarre chain of events that will push Ian over the edge, making him question his own sanity.

Not everyone will like this book. It is a dark, brooding story that defies description. Yet it's a book you'll want to finish. Ask yourself this question at the end. Is Priss real or just the figment of a mentally disturbed young man? Does Ian possess surreal unearthly powers or is he simply crazy?

I'll let you decide.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Circle of Wives

A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante

Let's dip into the archives for this suspenseful thriller published in March of 2014.....Written by the same author of  Turn of Mind, this twisted tale of murder and deceit is a good choice for a cold winter night by the fire.

Dr. John Taylor is dead, a victim of a lethal dose of potassium injected by an unknown killer. The list of suspects is long and complicated, considering the fact that John was a bigamist married to three women at the same time. Quite a juggling act for the renowned plastic surgeon who devoted his life to transforming the lives of hideously scarred children. He had the power to heal.

Before his untimely death, Dr. Taylor also has the power to manipulate the women he loves. There's Deborah, his first wife of twenty-five years and mother of his three children. Poised and elegant, she loves her sprawling home and high society friends....and she's well aware of  the other "wives". MJ is the exact opposite of Deborah; an earthy free-spirit who craves the exhilarating passion that John instills in her. Helen is a driven, ambitious oncologist, perhaps the one who has the most in common with her discreet lover. Unbeknownst to him, Helen is carrying John's child, and she knows what his reaction would have been; children are not part of the equation.

It's up to Detective Samantha Adams to sift through the facts and alibis to expose the killer. To complicate matters, there's a hauntingly beautiful colleague of Dr. Taylor's who claims she was in line to become wife number four while he secretly planned to discard the other three. And what about the prominent physicians who shared his practice? They vehemently disliked John's all-consuming humanitarian efforts in a clinic where they could make vast amounts of money on vain patients' cosmetic procedures.

Author Alice LaPlante does a superb job with detail. She chronicles the lives of each suspect so the reader begins to understand the web of lies-but not until the final chapter are the startling answers revealed.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

The passage of time. "How slow it is when you're little  and how it speeds up faster once you're grown."

Once again, distinguished author Anne Tyler spins a tale of family conflict and endearing love. The book opens in 1994 with Red and Abby Whitshank lamenting a phone call from 19-year-old son Denny, the child who continues to mystify them with his wanderlust ways. Flitting from city to city, job to job, Abby agonizes over her misfit son. He's so different from their other children; domineering Amanda, Jeannie with her low self-esteem, and steady Stem, the secret pride of his father, much to Denny's chagrin.

Set in Baltimore, the story of the Whitshank family enfolds. Red is the patriarch of a successful construction company, painstakingly and lovingly built by his father, Junior. When Red suffers a heart attack and Abby has increasing episodes of "mind slips", the family must rally to the rescue of their aging parents.

A sudden death now allows the author to go back in time, tracing the origins of the Whitshank family. The story of  Red's parents, Junior and Linnie, is particularly engaging, as is the warm love affair that started as friendship between Red and Abby.

As Abby says, "We're young for such a small fraction of our lives, and yet our youth seems to stretch on forever. Then we're old for years and years, but time flies by fastest then. So it all comes out equal in the end...."  

How true. Anne Tyler writes a story of an ordinary family with extraordinary strength. Although the chapters are disjointed at times, I encourage you to continue reading if you are looking for a tender tale of four generations, written with style.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train  by Paula Hawkins

Rachel Watson likes to pretend; pretend that she's not a raging alcoholic, that she wasn't fired from a dead-end job, that her husband still loves her when in reality he's now blissfully married and content with someone new. It's easy to pretend, especially when alcohol obliterates the pain.

Rachel continues her daily commute to a non-existent job, determined to hide the truth of her circumstances from her roommate. As the train rumbles towards London each day, she is observant of her mundane surroundings, basking in the simple pleasure of imagining what goes on behind closed doors. There's one couple in particular that catches her eye every day in the neighborhood where she used to live. She calls them "Jess and Jason". They seem to be so blatantly happy, living the life that once was hers. They must be ideal, perfect partners.

Then Rachel witnesses what she believes is an act of infidelity on the part of one of the two strangers she's been watching religiously. The news that follows this incident is troubling. "Jess" (who is actually Megan Hipwell) is missing. Rachel thinks she has valuable information for the authorities about her disappearance, which is now casting suspicion on Megan's husband, Scott. If only she could be sure of what she saw. Her memory is clouded from another drunken stupor.  Reality and fantasy collide, resulting in a series of twisted and complex events that are no longer pretend. Rachel is living a lie, so who will believe her?

Hawkins artfully meshes the past and present lives of truly distinctive characters.  You'll hear from three narrators who tell a shocking, compelling story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The references to Alfred Hitchcock's suspenseful  movie  Rear Window and Gillian Flynn's disturbing Gone Girl certainly are with merit. It's no surprise that this novel has already been optioned to become a film. Books clubs may want to add this one to their growing list for 2015.

This is an outstanding psychological thriller with a dramatic conclusion.