Close Your Eyes

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Title: Close Your Eyes
Author: Amanda Eyre Ward
Pages: 272
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: July 26, 2011

This is the third book I've read by Amanda Eyre Ward and I was again pleased by another engaging and interesting storyline. Now, it's been ages since I read the other two by her so I don't remember much about them, but there is a simplicity to her stories that I really enjoy. They typically pick up very quickly, and the characters are easy to relate to.

Six-year-old Lauren Mahdian and eight-year-old Alex Mahdian were spending the night in their treehouse the night their mother was murdered. Their father was arrested for her murder and incarcerated, while Lauren and Alex went to live with their grandmother. Now Lauren and Alex are adults and, while the two of them are close, they differ in how they've coped with their mother's death and father's arrest. Alex has aggressively pursued his own investigation to prove his father's innocence and has chosen a lifestyle that worries Lauren. Lauren, on the other hand, afraid to commit to anyone or anything, lives a life of numbness knowing her father murdered her mother. We are then introduced to a second similar but seemingly unrelated storyline regarding a pregnant woman, Sylvia, who escapes a bad marriage and tries to find solace in her childhood, wild child friend, Victoria. The two stories merge fairly predictably, and Lauren and Alex learn the truth about some family secrets and more about their mother's murder.

The "surprises" in the storyline were mild, but the plot, in general, was engaging. I initially felt a little disappointment in the character building because their dialogue seemed nongenuine and superficial. It improved quickly after that, however, and I did feel the characters come more to life, though they were never fully fleshed out. That being said, one of the things I've enjoyed about Ward's books is her succintness. She doesn't waste any time on unrelated aspects of the story. I can depend on the fact that her books will be thoughtful, yet somewhat short, reads.

Unrelated to the writing itself, I liked that the main characters were "ethnic" (half-Iraqi I think). It's not one of those things I notice lacking, necessarily, but I liked seeing it and find that I relate to more ethnic characters. And this wasn't anything that was central to or necessary for the story.

Some readers will probably say that Close Your Eyes wraps up too well in the end, but sometimes it's nice not to have to wonder too much. This was a nicely told story about how a traumatic incident can affect children in the future and about unearthing family secrets.

Follow the rest of the tour here:

Monday, July 11th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, July 13th: Starting Fresh
Monday, July 18th: A Bookworm’s World
Saturday, July 23rd: Take Me Away
Monday, July 25th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, July 26th: Bella’s Novella
Wednesday, July 27th: Colloquium
Thursday, July 28th: In the Next Room
Friday, July 29th: Luxury Reading
Monday, August 1st: Nomad Reader
Wednesday, August 3rd: Life in the Thumb
Thursday, August 4th: Rundpinne
Wednesday, August 10th: Crazy for Books

The Storm at the Door

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Title: The Storm at the Door
Author: Stefan Merrill Block
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: June 21, 2011

The Storm at the Door is an interesting and insightful, if very reflective, book loosely based on the lives of the author's grandparents. Katherine Merrill has spent her marriage to Frederick making excuses for his erratic behavior and wondering what happens to the "real" Frederick when he starts acting differently. After a concerning incident, Katherine agrees to have her husband committed to a mental institution, Mayflower. The book alternates back and forth between Katherine's thoughts and experiences and those of Frederick's. While Frederick deals with his own mental health issues and reflects on life in the mental institution, Katherine reflects on their marriage and what it means to be married to a man like Frederick.

This is a uniquely written book. The perspective or narrative style that it's written in was difficult for me to get used to which did affect my ability to connect to it at first. First off, it's written in present tense which I typically do not care for. But second, there is a sort of distant nature to the writing. The reader is introduced to the characters as though we are watching from afar rather than engaging with the characters' stories on a more personal level as is typical in fiction. I was able to forget this the further I read into each chapter, but whenever I noticed it at the beginning of the chapter it threw me off guard a little.

The Storm at the Door did possess a level of insight that was commendable. The theme was essentially the impact of Frederick's mental health issues on their marriage which, despite taking place in a past setting, is completely current as well. Life is difficult for both parties, in different ways, that were genuinely demonstrated through the course of this novel. Due to the smart pacing of the novel, I felt like I could empathize with the characters with each experience they had related to their respective perspectives. The author's writing and use of words to tell the story, too, was so eloquent. His words are those to be read slowly. Thus, this book is not a fast read. The literary nature of this book will enthrall some, while others will have difficulty keeping interest. I say this because I felt one or the other of these feelings at various times throughout the book. A Storm at the Door was well done, especially as it illustrated the effect of Frederick's mental health issues and his experiences at the mental institution as well as for its character studies, but it won't necessarily be accessible to all readers.

I was the last stop on this tour, but check out the prior stops for more reviews:

Monday, June 13th: Luxury Reading
Tuesday, June 14th: Book Club Classics
Wednesday, June 15th: Books and Cooks
Thursday, June 16th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Friday, June 17th: Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, June 21st: Life in Review
Thursday, June 23rd: Girls Gone Reading
Friday, June 24th: Rundpinne
Saturday, June 25th: Colloquium
Monday, June 27th: Man of La Book
Friday, July 1st: Book Reviews by Molly
Tuesday, July 5th: Crazy for Books
Thursday, July 7th: Raging Bibliomania
Monday, July 11th: Melody & Words
Tuesday, July 12th: Amused by Books

Before I Go To Sleep

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Title: Before I Go To Sleep
Author: S. J. Watson
Pages: 358
Genre: Pyschological Thriller
Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: June 14, 2011

Before I Go To Sleep is one of those thrillers that will addict you to reading to find out what's really going on. Author Dennis Lehane called it "Memento on Crystal Meth" and a host of other popular authors have great blurbs on the cover and back of the book as well. Because really, this book was great! They've even sold film rights already... to Ridley Scott!

Every morning, Christine wakes up not knowing where she is or who she's with. Her memories have been taken from her so her husband, Ben, has to explain who she is and what happened. A terrible accident stole her memories or her ability to maintain her memories after going to sleep at night. After Ben leave for work, however, a phone rings in Christine's purse. A doctor tells her he's been studying her and to check the closet for the journal she's been keeping.

The majority of the novel is the journal entries Christine has been keeping over the prior couple weeks. In that way, the reader (including Christine!) has revealed to them a little at a time the various truths that Christine had been learning. For those who do not like epistolary novels, no worries! Even though the majority of the book is written as though they are journal entries, they are still written normally, as though Christine is remembering what happened. We, the readers, merely know that this is supposed to be a journal entry. But I thought it was a very clever way to reveal some secrets. And, of course, the more Christine learns, the more dangerous everything becomes because everything is not as it would seem...

I really enjoyed the reading experience and found myself yearning to read more to figure out the truth. I had a couple of gasping-out-loud moments. That being said, as great as the book was I didn't necessarily love it as much as the mounds of bloggers who are saying this was one of the best books of the year. In its favor, though, it is one of the best of its genre that I read this year. But I guess for me, even though parts of the book shocked me, the other parts didn't come completely out of the blue. I didn't necessarily guess what was happening, but it didn't all surprise me when it did. I hate to minimize how good the book was, though, because I still really enjoyed reading it , but I guess my gripe is that the end didn't absolutely blow me away which I was hoping it would!

All that being said, I would absolutely recommend this to others!

Follow the tour here:

Tuesday, June 14th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, June 16th: Life In Review
Monday, June 20th: A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, June 21st: Colloquium
Wednesday, June 22nd: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, June 23rd: The Infinite Shelf
Tuesday, June 28th: Jen’s Book Thoughts
Wednesday, June 29th: Helen’s Book Blog
Thursday, June 30th: Drey’s Library
Tuesday, July 5th: Booking Mama
Wednesday, July 6th: Musings of an All Purpose Monkey
Thursday, July 7th: a lovely shore breeze…
Monday, July 11th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Tuesday, July 12th: My Life in Not So Many Words
Wednesday, July 13th: My Two Blessings
Thursday, July 14th: Take Me Away
Friday, July 15th: Crazy for Books

Never Knowing

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Title: Never Knowing
Author: Chevy Stevens
Pages: 407
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: St. Martin's (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: July 5, 2011

Never Knowing is the second book by author Chevy Stevens who wrote last year's big hit, Still Missing. Last year we were exposed to what happens when a woman is kidnapped, held captive, and forced to become a "wife" to a psycho. This time we are introduced to Sara Gallagher, the oldest of three girls, but the only one in the family who was adopted by her parents. Sara is engaged to be married and has a 7-year-old daughter when she finally decides to officially try to find her birth mother. Sara is hurt when she learns her birth mother has no desire to ever meet her but terrified when she learns why: Sara was conceived as a result of her birth mother being raped by a serial killer who was unable to finish his intended actions. Worse yet, this information is mysteriously leaked to the press causing Sara's biological father to learn about her -- and being pursuing her.

What a super scary, suspenseful, and creepy book! First of all, it was a very strange coincidence that the night I started reading this (pre-planned) was the night I happened to watch the 20/20 special on tv about the daughter of a woman who had killed her three older children. This child was taken from her mother at birth and grew up to realize she was the daughter of a cold-blooded killer. So it was totally weird to realize the same thing was happening to the main character in the book I had just started reading! Anyway, that was an aside, but I don't think that contributed at all to the reason I found the book scary and suspenseful. The author did that all on her own. I was thoroughly addicted to this book, wanting to find out what was going to happen next and if Sara's dad was going to find her. I was even afraid to turn off the light at night after putting this book down to go to sleep.

There was one thing about the story that I made a truly wild guess about and was happy to learn that I caught on! I like to think this was my advanced insight. ;) But in all reality the story was well done and the pacing was good. I became frustrated at some of Sara's attitudes about being adopted and the lack of relationship she had with her adopted father. I could see where it may have contributed to the story but I think it would have had the same affect if her adoptive relationship with her parents was better than it was depicted. But that was my only gripe.

When I first peeked at the book when it arrived in the mail, I was surprised to find that it was written in the same style as her first book with each chapter depicting a therapy session. My first thought was that I thought it was best to keep that style to one book. But my other thought was that is this author's "thing" now and I still think it's a unique way to tell the story so in that case I liked it. If you read and liked Still Missing you will definitely like this book. And for those who haven't but who like thrillers, I would recommend this.

Definitely a suspenseful, thrilling read!