The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna Lebaron

I was moved from sympathy to bewilderment from aching heart to discombobulation. A child who describes her early abusive years in the polygamous community is the core of the story. No one deserves that kind of treatment – years of emotional and physical abuse, displacement, hunger, depravity, and lack of any emotional support or love is the horrendous picture of childhood.

I will stop here. This plight is for no one, and no one should endure it. Period.

The book per se is below mediocre. I kept comparing it to a book written by her cousin, Ruth Wariner, The Sound of Gravel, and the one that is currently being reviewed paled in comparison. Ms Wariner’s book is full of breathing characters and vivid, palpable memories, light and tragedy, compassion and memorable recollections. Everything that is in listed in the previous sentence is saliently absent in the Polygamist’s Daughter. The characters are skeletal and two-dimensional, the writing is pedestrian, and it is with the help of the co-author, and the second part of the book, in my case, only provoked me to roll my eyes with every sentence.

I am the only one to blame for the choice of the book. If I had done some research before I selected the book, I would have learned that it was published by Tyndale Publishing House that is known for publishing right-wing conservative authors. Knowing that, I would have not wasted time on this memoir, but alas, I paid for my intellectual laziness.

I could not take any sentence without a smirk about her spiritual redemption and simple and very simplistic spiritual transformation. As the author explains, she found Jesus as her father in the absence of her real father, who was, to tell the truth, a HORRENDOUS person, but sometimes I wish she had attended the therapeutic sessions led by Freud and Jung.

I watched a couple of videos featuring the author, and she sounds like a born-again, Bible thumping, white evangelical. Really? Out of the frying pan into the fire. Call me judgmental …

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The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

Typical middle-of-the road thriller – nether bad nor good. It kept me involved and was moving with the steady pace and not an extra word to distract our attention from the main plot line.
The wording is nothing to write home about because it is not literary fiction, and the imagery has never been and will never be the goal of that kind of fiction.

Characters are flat and do what they ate told to do by the author, and each serves the purpose: to introduce, to confuse, to add a twist, to reveal, to cooperate. Odd people do not exist in novels like that.

It is a perfect novel to write a literary algorithm. There are no loopholes, no detours, no missteps, no faux pas, no musings, no deviations. It was a very economical novel.

To be completely fair, there is a little bit of ambiguity in the novel … enough to get the novel a credit.

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The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

I received this book as a giveaway by William Morrow in exchange for an honest review.
The book left an ambiguous impression. On one hand, not many books nowadays tackle the subject of war with grace, patience, and poise. On the other hand, it was somewhat of a disappointing novel.
The plot line mostly moves forward with occasional flashback to the pre-war and early WWII Germany. The surviving wives of German conspirators against Hitler are grappling with their lives, survival, necessary sacrifices, and guilt.

Guilt should be and is the leading theme of the novel, but somehow the existential circumstances the characters faced did not move me. Believe me, I am not immune to the topic of war, senseless violence, and guilt, but Jessica Shattuck is not Dostoevsky.

I know – it is a hefty goal to strive to be, but there is one thing I see as a trend. American writers can do thrillers and suspense books, espionage and conspiracy novels very well ( it might be a part of literary tradition) , and, to be fair, Russian writers fail miserably at it, but when it comes to emotional anguish and self-devouring guilt, inner monologues and soul-searching, no one does it better that Russian writers.
It does not mean American writers should not try, though. A nice try …

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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Source: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

I am going to be a mean reviewer here. I am even quite confident that the book does not deserve two stars, but somehow modern thriller/mystery writers have become either repetitive or formulaic or cashing in on things that the general public will gladly buy and only then will review.
I am happy I relied on the library services to listen to this book.
The book is an exceptional combination of multiple “meh”s. The plot is weak, the allusion to water torture or witchcraft, often associated with females is somewhat far-fetched, and audio full-cast narration was somewhat mediocre.
Another questions that has been eating me alive all the time while I listened to it is how many POVs can you squeeze into the book? I know that mystery is based on initial confusion, but then the author usually offers a helping hand and leads her or his reader to the firmer ground through the bog of clues and revelations. In this book, there were so many POVs and some of them were not really present, but were “kinda there”, mostly annoying me, and even a full-cast narration did not help to distinguish one from another. To be fair, some voices sounded very similar even though they were different readers.
One other thing that frustrated me (another way of saying “annoyed me ad nauseum”) is high school drama …..

Can we please move away from it? If I knew it would involve any high school ultra hormonal themes, I would have never checked the book out. This is soooooooo not ” my cuppa”.

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Murder by Candlelight by M.K.Beran

It is definitely a little bit more pretentious that it should have been, and some editing should have been done, and the prose is somewhat artsy, ornate, and flowery, but I still enjoyed reading the book, mainly because it is not about murders and true crime, but because there are so many literary passages how evil was viewed by people of words, quills, and pens.

As I said, some passages are quite far-fetched, but the 19th century true crimes are mostly illustrations of how literature viewed evil. Quite an intriguing approach

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Playing with Fire by T. Gerritsen

Three stars is only for the effort to discuss some socially relevant ideas for this type of books. Granted, this is the evil that is easy to condemn and explore because it is an obvious evil. It is the one that the humanity should remember for a a long time; otherwise, its repetition is inevitable, but still it is the social issue that has been universally condemned – the Holocaust.

It is only a pretense that this book is a literary novel. No, it is not, it is a mediocre thriller with the important social message, and the book gets three stars for the attempt of this message. The message aside, the book suffers from the usual things thrillers usually suffer – poor and shallow characters, no insight into human psyche, all is easily there – one should not go far and beyond emotionally to read these characters.
The funny thing is I read Tess Gerritsen’s blog about how e-books turn readers into sloppy ones because they are less likely to ‘page back’ and find the clues authors have left. The statement is made in reference to some inexplicable plot twists as her regular readers pointed out. I listened to the audio while commuting to work, so it was impossible to ‘page back’ for clues, but the mystery became not so much of mystery after 30-35 minutes of listening to the book. It was so obvious even for the audio version … What kind of readers do you have, dear author?

How about truly challenging your readers with some serious stuff? Oh, well, then books will not sell so easily, I assume ….

The biggest pet peeve is the main character. I attended secondary musical school that supplements regular secondary education in Russia, and it take 7 years to graduate when one attends the classes in the evening on a daily basis, and it is hard work, even if it only voluntary supplementary musical education that requires daily effort. The main character in the book played the violin three times, each time less that 5 minutes …. yeahhh … Miss Gerritsen, the life of professional musicians is even more strenuous that attending arts school on a daily basic just to supplement one’s secondary education. What is the conclusion if some brain candy conservative right-wing reader reads this novel (and thrillers are their domain, after all)? They will confirm their beliefs that those artsy good-for nothing people still do nothing and never ever worry a day about bills and daily errands.
This is what the main character is – a butterfly without any social worries, money issues, concerns, and other things that make us human.

A bad thriller with literary pretense, and an extra star for an attempt to deal with some serious topics.

On the other hand, why can’t a genre writer write a a thriller about racism or other genocides, like the one against the Native Americans? Do you think your readers will never buy your books again?

P.S. The musical piece is beautiful and haunting. I would not call it a waltz, but it is a matter of opinion here 🙂

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