Speechless

Vox by Christina Dalcher made me wake up thinking about potential outcomes.  The story is about a futuristic U.S. in which the president and his cohorts are working to silence women.  Women are forced to wear word counter bracelets which allow them 100 words a day.  Anything over this allotment results in severe electric shock.

Jean (Gianna) Rossi is actually a doctor of neuroscience,  but under this regime she is a stay-at-home mom (along with all women).  She watches her oldest son being pulled/brainwashed into this new “Pure” ideology, while fearing for her youngest daughter’s desire to speak at all.  Girls’ schooling is now focused on home economics and accounting, and the girls are given incentives to speak as few words as possible during their day.  Those in power seem desperate to silence women and anyone against their agenda by any means.

Jean is suddenly pulled back into a special team to work on curing speech aphasia.  The team includes her former lover (this relationship gets complicated).  Her work team had just found a solution before everything changed. Now they are together again to cure the president’s brother.  But not all is as it seems.  Is the president’s brother even in need of this cure, or are they using them to impede speech for all women permanently?

Jean has frequent flashbacks of her feminist college roommate who wanted nothing more than for Jean to speak up.  Now she realizes that doing nothing empowers evil even more. She finds that she has what it takes to rebel.  Despite some medical terminology that was at times over my head, I couldn’t stop reading.  Readers will definitely be intrigued by this frightening future devoid of women’s voices.

Lots of Love

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh is a love story with some tragedy along the way.  Sarah and Eddie fall madly in love during a chance meeting while Sarah is visiting her parents’ in England.  She feels that this is the real deal, until Eddie ghosts her.  He won’t return any of her attempts to contact him, and he isn’t visible on social media at all.  It’s as if he’s just vanished.  Her friends try to reason with her that he changed his mind and that she needs to let him go.  But she can’t and doesn’t for the entirety of the book.

Meanwhile, we discover more about Sarah’s past.  SPOILERS AHEAD

Sarah frequently writes to a younger sister that she lost in a car accident.  In fact, she was visiting the accident site the day she met Eddie.  For a while, the author had me believing that Eddie was responsible for Sarah’s sister’s death which is why he cut himself off.  Instead it’s the opposite.  The terrible accident actually killed Eddie’s sister, not Sarah’s, and Sarah was partly responsible.  Sarah’s sister never forgave her for the accident, and has not spoken to her since.  The backstory is filled in as to why/how this happened.  This, of course, is the reason Eddie cut ties with Sarah.  Once he realized who she was, he couldn’t bear to be with her (right away anyway).

Sarah and Eddie eventually reunite and all ends well.  There are some good twists and writing, but the nonstop, obsessive love was too teenager-ish for me.  I would lose my mind having to hear about this guy a million times if I were Sarah’s friend.

 

 

Force of Nature

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was a slow, lazy ride through the marshlands of North Carolina… and I enjoyed every moment of it. Kya is the youngest of a large family living in a shack in the marsh.  Due to her abusive father, her mother and older siblings all leave one by one until Kya and her father are the only ones left.  Now, the abuse Kya faces is neglect.

She is forced to school for one day, but she can’t tolerate the bullying.  It’s not even worth the free, hot meal.  She learns to take care of herself with nothing but seabirds, and her love of nature, as her comforts.  The townspeople begin referring to her as the Marsh Girl.  Her solitude changes when a boy a few years older than her, Tate, begins leaving her little gifts.  Eventually, they develop a relationship in which he teaches her to read and they share their love of marsh life (and each other).

Tate goes to college, and Kya is abandoned again.  This time a popular, handsome young man from town begins to get close to Kya (Chase, I think?).  She thinks this time will be lasting and true, until she discovers that he is engaged.  He has been using her as a mistress the whole time.  She breaks off her relationship with him.

Eventually Tate tries to reconnect with Kya, who at this point is much more guarded.  Chase also tries to reconnect.  He aggressively confronts and attempts to rape her.  When Chase is found dead, Kya is arrested and tried for murder.  I won’t give away any more.  And there is SO much more, including some information about Kya’s mom and siblings.  Of course there is also the verdict and what becomes of Kya.

This is a story of steadfastness and finding beauty in unexpected places/people.  The author captures the living, breathing importance of one’s environment, and how people and our land can shape us.

Ten-Year Mystery

The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz brings readers into the fuzzy, forgotten memories of main character Lindsay’s past.  Her close friend Edie died while alone in her apartment during a drunken night ten years earlier.  The case is considered a suicide, but Lindsay is determined to figure out what really happened.

She begins investigating the case.  Lindsay starts reaching out to their group of friends from that time.  They haven’t been in touch since Edie’s death.  Doing so opens a wide cast of possible suspects, including Edie’s own mother.  Lindsay also confides in her current friends for help.  As she starts to unveil certain moments from that night, she can’t help but wonder if she may have had something to do with Edie’s death.

Finding out more about Lindsay’s psyche makes her seem a likely suspect to the reader as well.  There are some surprising twists along the way.  Eventually we find out the truth about Edie’s death while almost encountering another murder along the way.

 

Couple of the Year

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing is an extreme take on adding some spice into marriage.  Narrator husband and his wife Millicent decide that targeting and killing women sparks passion into their marriage.  The story opens as they are planning their fourth murder.

Husband (can’t remember or find his name!) pretends to be a deaf man named Tobias to get close to their prospects.  When their third victim’s body turns up, Millicent plans to resurrect the presence of a notorious serial killer named Owen in order to thwart the police and press.  Meanwhile, they go through with claiming their fourth victim, the whole while trying to pin it on Owen.

Owen’s “presence” begins to have a domino effect on the people in their lives, both friends and family.  Through it all we get the backstory of their marriage, including how they met, their children and how they became killers.

Everything falls apart when Owen’s sister comes forward to prove that he already died and therefore couldn’t have possibly murdered these women.  The investigation goes into full effect.  Eventually, we discover that Millicent had ulterior motives behind their fourth victim.  All signs begin pointing to “Tobias.” I won’t give any other spoilers; read to find out if he is caught and if “justice” is served.

This is a great story with seriously disturbed characters and a very twisted marriage.

Tormented Mind

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides had such an unexpected twist that I gasped out loud.  I won’t reveal the twist in this entry, instead a brief summary of the premise of the book.

Theo is a devoted psychotherapist, and has been intrigued by Alicia Serenson’s case for years.  He seizes the job offer to work at the treatment facility where she has been a patient since shooting her husband repeatedly in the face.  This murder was more high profile considering Alicia’s well-known work as an artist.  Alicia has not said one word since being accused of murder and declared insane.  Theo hopes to help Alicia heal and to break her silence.

Meanwhile, we discover that Theo was driven into his field because of his own psychosis as a young man.  A devoted therapist helped him overcome his self-loathing and insecurity due to an abusive father.  He now works to help others like himself.  The story splits between his personal life, in which his wife is having an affair, and his work with Alicia.  Theo assumes a detective role as he digs into Alicia’s life (family/friends and her work) to figure out how to help her.  He tries to uncover secrets in her final paintings as well.  One painting in particular, the Alcestis, provides an extremely interesting framework into her psyche.

After a rocky start working together, Alicia shares her journal with him, and begins to open up more.  Before long, an unknown staff member injects her with enough morphine to put her into a medically-induced coma.

A must read to find out how Alicia’s husband was really murdered, and to discover who wants Alicia to stay silent.  The workings of the human mind and the connections between art/story made this book  riveting to me.  I couldn’t put it down!!

The Perfect Con

In Her Skin by Kim Savage was a recent teen mother-daughter book selection at my town library.  This book was a wild ride.

Jolene has been raised to be a master con artist by her mother, and was being used in sex trafficking by her mother’s rotten boyfriend.  Jo’s mom comes out of her drug-induced stupor long enough to realize it’s time to escape her boyfriend.  He kills Jo’s mom once he realizes her plan.  Jo escapes to a life of more cons and homelessness in Boston’s Tent City.

Jo discovers the perfect con to get out herself out of this life which is by impersonating Vivienne Weir.  Vivienne was a young girl when she disappeared from her friend’s home while the wealthy parents “watching her” dined at a nearby restaurant.  Jo is embraced into a new life as Vivienne by the very couple who were in charge when the true Vivienne went missing.  Jo is attracted to their daughter Temple, but also knows to be wary of her once horrible secrets are revealed.  Temple is not as perfect as one would assume.  Jo becomes obsessed with Temple and they form a twisted relationship with hints of romance.

Secrets, lies and survival are the major elements of this story.  Everyone is part of the deception in some way, and it comes down to who will come out on top.