Not Her Daughter

Not Her Daughter

Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey (Thriller)

Is kidnapping a child okay if you feel you will give her a better life?

Emma is a five-year-old whose mother mistreats her, both verbally and physically. This breaks the heart of single, childless Sarah who has never fully recovered from being abandoned by her own mother. So, she does the unthinkable: she kidnaps the kid and heads out of town with her. Once they’re on the road, it’s too late to turn back. What now?

The story is told from the points of view of both Sarah and Amy, Emma’s mother. Amy is a thoroughly unlikable person drawn with a heavy hand. She is grossly overweight, has pock-marked skin, and possesses no self-control. Deep anger toward everything and everyone in her life consumes her. She’s a lousy wife to Richard, who is small, scrawny, and prone to tears. He’s also oblivious to the bruises on his daughter. These two certainly don’t deserve to have a child, especially Emma, who is an exceptionally beautiful little girl with huge gray eyes and a sweet smile.

Sarah, meanwhile, is attractive, successful, and rich — a self-made businesswoman. Her father is pretty much of a weakling, still waiting for his incommunicado wife to come back after twenty-five years, but the other men in Sarah’s life — Ethan and Ryan — are hunks. However, she longs for her own mother, and so she needs to save Emma the way she wishes someone had saved her.

Besides creating unappealing — and thereby undeserving — characters via significant reference to their physical appearance, this book is rife with crummy mothers. Sarah, on the other hand, in spite of the fact that she takes a five-year-old from her home and family, is meant to be a better bet than any of the parents we’ve seen so far. So, how could Emma not be better off?

More than once — three times to be exact — the author had one of the narrators tell herself that what was happening was real, not something in a movie or a book. Besides jolting me out of the story to think, “except this is a book,” the line served as a reminder of how unrealistic this was. The happy-go-lucky conclusion made it even worse.

Rather than a thriller, this was a fantasy.

Three stars for writing style but not storyline.

The reviewer received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

 

 

 

 

 

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How Speleology Restored My Sex Drive

How Speleology

How Speleology Restored My Sex Drive by Michael Bernhart (Action/Adventure)

Don’t judge this book by its title – it is a witty adventure story involving some hefty topics, including racism, kidnapping, and the aftereffects of serving in Vietnam, yet it kept me chuckling from beginning to end. The year is 1993, and the narrator, Max Brown, is the 52-year-old father of mischievous nine-year-old twins, Mary and Margaret (M&M), and husband to their “scrumptious” mom, Sally, who is much younger than he. As the title suggests, he worries about sexual performance, but that’s nowhere near what this novel is all about.

His precocious daughters disappear into the wilds of northern Georgia while visiting Sally’s crazy backwoods uncle, Skeeter. They and Skeeter hope to find Confederate gold rumored to be hidden in abandoned mines. Local Klan members don’t take well to outsiders messing around in their territory, but decide to see what the treasure hunters might discover before getting rid of them. Max and Sally don’t know which of the locals they can trust as too many negative things occur after they confide in seemingly friendly folks. They must rely on their own wiles and wits if they’re going to find their girls before it’s too late.

What makes this such an enjoyable read is the voice of Max Brown as he relates what’s going on with his kids, his wife, her wacky uncle, and the various people they run into on their quest. Max’s self-deprecating humor and his wry observations keep the narration light and funny even when the stakes are high and things are going poorly. None of it makes light of what the KKK stands for, however, nor are Klansmen portrayed as buffoons. The book depicts racism in all its ugliness and introduces us to people who must face it every day. As for the title and what it implies, think PG-13 when it comes to sex. Max is honest and funny but too much of a gentleman to go into detail.

Grandma gives How Speleology Restored My Sex Drive four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Visitors

The Visitors

The Visitors by Catherine Burns (Literary Fiction, Thriller)

For all of her life, Marion has been the object of ridicule from her peers, her older brother, John, and her highly opinionated mother. Now a spinster in her 50s, she lives with John in the big old house where they grew up. Timid and out of touch with the world, she stays in the house and does her best not to irritate John. But John keeps “visitors” in the cellar, and while Marion manages to put them out of her mind most of the time, she can’t ignore them forever, especially when John becomes disabled and she’s the one who must take care of them.

This debut novel is less of a thriller and more of a chilling character study, with its creepiness coming from the fact that basically “invisible” people like Marion and John could be your neighbors just down the block. I was immediately drawn into Marion’s world where her dead mother’s haughty voice continues to regale her with judgmental observations, and strangers who show Marion the most basic kindness populate her daydreams of having normal relationships and a meaningful life. Then there are the occasional references to the visitors in the cellar, the backward glances at pivotal incidents in her painful childhood, and her daily ups and downs as the slovenly, not-so-bright woman living in the decrepit mansion with her creepy bachelor brother. Together they add up to a story that brings Marion to life. I came to like her and feel for her and couldn’t help but wonder how she would cope with the visitors in the cellar, when that time came.

The reader sees everything through Marion’s eyes and Marion’s way of thinking, and it’s a fascinating journey. While what’s going on in the cellar may seem potentially off-putting, it’s handled well and does not become the focus of the tale. Instead, we’re with Marion as she melds her past and present in an effort to create her own future. And, of course, to take care of the visitors.

Grandma gives The Visitors five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Visitors will be released on September 26, 2017, and is available for pre-order.

Claiming Noah

Claiming Noah

Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp (Women’s Contemporary Fiction)

Two baby boys are born through in vitro fertilization — one to Catriona and James Sinclair, who are the genetic parents, and one to Diana and Liam Simmons who receive the extra embryo donated by the Sinclairs. Then, one of the babies is kidnapped, and everyone’s life changes.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons. The premise itself is intriguing and immediately caught my imagination: Where was this headed? The characters are well-developed, and they act like real people. Nobody is too good to be true; no one is intrinsically evil. The author knows her stuff, whether medical or legal. And the pacing is just right, moving the action along while still allowing the reader time to learn to care about everyone involved.

The story is told, alternately, from the points of view of Catriona and Diana, giving plenty of opportunity to personally experience each mother’s joys and losses. The story itself had enough suspense to keep me reading “just one more chapter,” until I read the entire book in one day. I had my theories and my opinions of what I hoped would happen, but was never sure that it would be so.

The topic of IVF and all of its personal, social, medical, and legal ramifications is ripe for discussion, making Claiming Noah a great choice for a book group.

Grandma gives Claiming Noah five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the publisher via Net Galley, in return for an honest review.

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