Twisted Paths

Run Away by Harlan Coben includes everything I love about a book. It kept me turning pages (I finished it in two days); it’s action packed with interesting characters and surprising twists.  

Simon Green is sitting in Central Park when he sees his apparently homeless/drug-addicted daughter playing music for money. She is dressed shabbily and is clearly not doing well.  He attempts to approach her, but her boyfriend intervenes. All goes horribly wrong. He needs a lawyer for the fallout after punching her boyfriend Aaron, which goes viral almost immediately (“wealthy man punches homeless man”).  Meanwhile Paige gets away. Readers will gradually find out how Paige ended up in this situation in the first place. 

Some time passes after this incident before Aaron turns up viciously murdered. The police are looking at Simon and his wife as suspects. Meanwhile, a private investigator from Chicago ends up crossing paths with Simon. Both are searching for missing people connected by Aaron.  They begin working together (as Simon’s wife recovers from an almost fatal gunshot wound) to investigate the whereabouts of their missing people.

Readers will be taken down the crazy paths of murder and missing people investigations while also switching to follow the actual murderers.  Discovering the motives behind the multiple murders along with various family secrets all bring readers to the ultimate destination: answers.  And it is quite the trip.

Making Music

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid recounts the rise and fall of the famous, seventies rock band of the same name told through a series of interviews.  The quick switches from one character to another threw me off a bit at first.  Once I settled into the format, it was as though I was watching a rock documentary, along with all the craziness and drama you would expect of a typical rock band.

The band is founded by brothers Billy and Graham Dunne as The Six, which included Warren, Karen, Pete and his brother Eddie.  Meanwhile, Daisy was making a name for herself in California.  Her incredible beauty and charisma gave her lots of attention in the music industry.  Once The Six move to California, their musical paths cross.  Daisy collaborates on a chart-topping song with The Six.  It’s at this point that they decide to combine their acts.

Seven people trying to work together provides the drama you would expect.  There are power struggles between multiple band members, sexual tensions along with drug and alcohol abuse.  Through all of this the band creates a groundbreaking, memorable album together.  Even though Billy is married to his long-time sweetheart Camila, the chemistry between Daisy and him is undeniable.  Readers will follow the roller coaster ride of this band, and find out what made them break up in the middle of an extremely successful tour.

The author perfectly captures the voices and essence of what it might feel like to be part of the music industry.  All the song lyrics at the end add an impressive touch.  This group and its members feel as real as can be.  Anyone into making and/or listening to music will enjoy diving into the lifestyle through this book.

Murder Mystery

Conviction by Denise Mina takes readers on a roller coaster ride of secret identities, murder and mystery.

Anna wakes up early to a “normal” day in which she engages her guilty pleasure, starting a new mystery podcast series called “Death and the Dana.”  The day quickly becomes abnormal when her husband Hamish and supposed best friend Estelle announce they’re in love.  The lovers immediately leave for vacation, taking along Hamish and Anna’s two young daughters.

Anna spirals out of control, with nothing but the podcast to keep her tethered to reality.  As it turns out, Anna has a personal connection to two people in the podcast.  One of the people, the rich and powerful Gretchen Teigler, already attempted to kill Anna when she was known as Sophie.

Estelle’s jilted husband Fin joins Anna as they embark on an odd adventure together.  Both are feeling hurt and angry by the sudden betrayal of their respective spouses.  Fin, a former rock star with anorexia, begins documenting their attempts to solve the podcast mystery.  In doing so, Anna’s secret former life is exposed.

Fin and Anna have several near death experiences while traveling to important sites and people from the podcast, before finally solving the Death and the Dana mystery.  Overall, this is an engaging read with some surprises along the way.

 

Metamorphosis

The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld is equally disturbing and captivating.  Private investigator Naomi and homeless twelve-year-old Celia have a lot in common.  Both have been through horrific abuse as young women, and both have left behind a younger sister in order to escape that abuse.

Naomi hasn’t stopped searching to find her younger sister, despite not remembering her name or where they were held captive.  The focus on her search has almost jeopardized her marriage.

Meanwhile, Celia worries about her younger sister, who still lives at home with Celia’s sexually abusive stepdad.   Life on the streets is very challenging, including the constant hunger and need to stay safe.  The challenge is even more harsh with the string of young homeless girls disappearing before showing up murdered.  Celia’s only escape is to recollect her only positive memory before her mom turned into an addict- the beauty and light of butterflies.  Meanwhile, Celia’s stepdad is starting to turn his attentions toward her younger sister.  She needs to face this monster again, while also needing to escape the attention of the mystery person going after the homeless girls around her.

Naomi and Celia’s paths connect as Naomi digs to find out about her own sister’s whereabouts, while also working the case of the missing/murdered girls.  The two cases connect in a shocking way.

The abuse referenced throughout the book is horrific to imagine, but the hope for a positive resolution for Naomi and Celia and punishment of the perpetrators kept me going.  The author accomplished both.

Growing Up

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is a slice of reality in its portrayal of characters and life events.

Emira is in her mid-twenties struggling with career goals.  Her friends are all employed full-time, while she is a part-time babysitter and typist.  While babysitting three-year-old Briar one night, she is discriminated against in an uppity grocery store.  A bystander happens to videotape the episode, but she does not want to pursue any legal action.  She does end up in a relationship with the videographer, who is a slightly older white male named Kelley.

Meanwhile, her employer Alix (Briar’s mom) is having her own career struggles.  She received fame for her feminist movement, but a move to Philadelphia for her husband’s job has her feeling unmotivated and lonely.  She becomes obsessed with Emira.  She peaks at her phone every chance she gets, and desperately wants to bond with her.

It turns out that Kelley and Alix have more in common than their fondness for Emira, adding another element to the novel.  Alix becomes desperate to keep Emira employed with her family.  Readers will have to see how far she is willing to go to make this happen.

I appreciated Emira’s cool vibe and loved her interactions with little Briar.  Briar is a unique and innocent voice throughout the book.  This is a thoroughly engaging read about life, relationships and needing to make difficult choices throughout the process.

Bottled Memories

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister is an adult fairy tale.  Young Emmeline is raised by her dad on a remote island.  One wall of their cabin is devoted to her dad’s passion- storing scents as one would store images with a photo.  He uses a special machine to capture scents on small pieces of paper and then rolls and seals the papers into small glass bottles.  She has a gifted sense of smell as well, and is raised to hone it even more.  She is content with their life, until realizing that her dad has been untruthful.  This catapults her into rebellious action, ultimately ending in her father’s accidental death.

Henry is a friend of her dad’s who finds her deeply in mourning and takes her off the island. Together with his wife Colette, they raise Emmeline within their beach resort.  Emmeline struggles with school and friendships, until meeting Fisher.  He is the only person accepting of her unusual sense and is broken from his life experiences too.  Their attempt to run away together ends poorly, and Fisher leaves Emmeline behind to escape his violent father.

Eventually, Emmeline ventures out to look for Fisher and her mother.  She finds both and manages to build a relationship with her extremely successful mother.  There are two sides to the tale of her parent’s failed relationship.  Emmeline must come to terms with where she fits in, and the type of person she wants to be.

The concept of this book is so unique, and there is much more detail beyond my quick summary.  Reading people and places, whether through gestures or scents, is the gift possessed by characters in this book.  Scents tell a story as they tie all of us to certain moments and people, which is the premise of this book.

Troubled Lives

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham shares the parallel points of view of Cyrus, a psychologist, and Evie/”Angel Face,” a troubled teen.

Cyrus provides his medical insight to friend and police detective Lenny in the murder case of a teen-aged girl named Jodie.  Meanwhile, he is involved in the rehabilitative efforts of Evie.  It turns out that as a child, Evie was rescued from a hidden room after the brutal  murder of her abductor.  There is no knowledge of her true identity, family or age and she has never revealed her story to anyone.  Ever since being rescued, she has lived in failed foster care situations, until ending up in a secure group home for other troubled teens.

Cyrus goes out on a limb by offering to provide foster care to Edie.  This living situation creates its own set of conflicts.  Meanwhile, the murder investigation is ramping up.  One “sure” suspect is taken in while signs point to there being another person involved in Jodie’s death.  The investigation reveals that Jodie had a secret life.  Evie crosses paths with this secret life, which is how everything ultimately comes to a head, and the answers to Jodie’s death are finally revealed.

This is a great read, which slowly but satisfyingly releases tidbits of information to keep you guessing until the very end.