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.

Sail Away

Seven Dead Pirates by Linda Bailey is not your typical coming of age story.  Sixth grader Lewis Dearborn is socially awkward and painfully shy, but that all changes once he  befriends the seven pirate ghosts that live in his great-grandfather’s home.

Lewis’s great-grandfather passes away shortly after turning 101 years old.  He leaves his grand old home on the Atlantic coast, named Shornoway, to Lewis and his parents.  Lewis immediately feels drawn to his new tower room overlooking the ocean.  But, things change when he realizes that pirate ghosts are sharing the room with him.  Lewis’s great-grandfather promised them that Lewis would be the one to bring them to their pirate ship, the Maria Louisa, which is an exhibit in a nearby museum.   Their ultimate dream is to reach the pirate paradise, Libertalia.

Lewis reads them pirate stories, buys them second-hand clothes and prepares a plan to bring them back to their ship.  His growing friendship with the pirates emboldens him in other areas of his life (namely at school).

Ultimately, the pirates rediscover their ship and manage to get revenge on the band of pirates who caused their deaths.  The message of being bold enough to take a chance for change relates to multiple characters.  There is action, humor and unlikely friendships, all combining to make this a jolly good read 😉

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!!

Moonstone Curse

Loot by Jude Watson is my second to last read from this year’s Intermediate Nutmeg nominees.  March and Jules McQuin are twins who have been separated ever since the fateful night when their dad, mom and a friend were stealing cursed moonstones from Carlotta Grimstone.  The curse caused their mom’s death, the friend’s incarceration and foretold their death at the age of thirteen.  Their dad Alfie, who is an infamous robber, decided to separate them in an attempt to outsmart the curse.

March stayed with his dad and learned the life of an accomplished robber while his sister stayed with aunt Blue, a performer in a traveling trapeze/circus act.  In a terrible turn of events, March witnesses his dad “falling” from a building during a job.  Alfie is able to muster a few last words to his son before he passes away.

March is reunited with his long-lost twin when they are both sent to a juvenile facility back in the U.S..  It’s here where they meet up with their new “family,” companions Izzy and Darius.  This group of four pull from each other’s unique talents to follow the clues that Alfie has left behind.  Their mission is to steal back the rest of the moonstones in hopes of breaking the curse on their lives.  Of course, they also hope to make seven million dollars upon returning the gems to their original owner.

While this story at times stretches the realm of reality, it is action-packed and fast-paced.  I think it will definitely appeal to middle grade readers; I know it appealed to this middle-aged one!

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.