1. Still Mine by Amy Stuart: This is one of the books that fell short for me. Once again, we have a bit of an unreliable narrator since Clare is running from her past and demons, is a recovering drug and alcohol abuser, and as the reader, we have no idea why she's "on the job" in some small, remote town. But she's there and she's determined to find out what happened to the local girl who has recently gone missing. Overall, this was a pretty "meh" read. I did read it quickly though because there's still an element of "I need to know what happens", but it definitely wasn't suspenseful, at least not until the last few pages. The whole storyline felt weak, and the ending was kind of lame. (2.5/5 stars)
2. Always Watching by Chevy Stevens: This is the story of Nadine, a psychiatrist at a psychiatric hospital, whose past has finally caught up with her. Having spent 8 or so months at the age of 13, living in a spiritual commune (ie. a cult) with her mother and older brother, Nadine has never been able to recall certain events of that time. That is, until she meets patient Heather, a young woman who has recently left the same commune, run by the same man it was back when Nadine was a girl. Treating Heather leads to Nadine finally uncovering truths about her own past on the commune, events she couldn't even recall under intense hypnotherapy sessions years ago. As Nadine starts to put the pieces together, and discovers that the commune has grown larger and more successful, she becomes determined to do anything to stop them from hurting even more innocent victims.
I was expecting more of a thriller because this IS Chevy Stevens after all, but I'd say this was more of a psychological mystery...still really good and a page turner, just not as intense as her other books I've read. (3.5/5 stars)
3. All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker: I really liked this book, despite it's graphic content. The premise: what if you could be given a drug immediately following a traumatic event that would erase your memories of it? Would you take it? You'd still know what happened, but you wouldn't be able to remember the actual event. This is the story of a 16 year old girl who is brutally raped in the woods during a party and her parents decide to give her the drug. They feel confident that they don't want their baby girl to have any recollection of this horrible crime and hope by not remembering, she can continue to live her life as a teenager. But maybe not remembering isn't as peaceful as you would hope it would be. How do you get closure then? How do you heal, recover and move on? Does not remembering the actual emotions associated with the event make it easier to accept such a thing happened? And then of course there's the whole question of: if you can't remember what happened, how is that person ever going to be caught and brought to justice?
This story is told entirely from the perspective of the psychiatrist treating not just the 16 year old girl, but of her parents too. It was a unique point of view and I felt it worked well in this situation since so much of the story was able to be told through the dialogue of the therapy sessions. Also, the "retired" psych nurse in me enjoyed the memory/memory recovery aspect of the book. The topic is tough though, and revisited over and over so fair warning to those who don't want to read about such a topic. (4/5 stars)
4. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: This was the pick for last month's A Slice of Brie Book Club, and while I've been wanting to read it for years now, I was left feeling pretty underwhelmed by it. It's a beautiful book, physically, and well written, but the characters and the story really didn't do much for me. I wanted it to be more creepy - I feel like it had all the elements to be so, but it really wasn't. Parts of the story I found confusing (the time-loops and the hallowgasts) and other parts just boring. I really can't see myself finishing off this series, but I will still see the movie once it's out of theatres! (3/5 stars).
5. The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain: I really enjoyed this book and I devoured it in a few sittings. 25 year old Riley has always believed that her older sister committed suicide when she was a teenager and Riley was only 2. But when her father dies and she is faced with the task of going through his stuff, she discovers that her sister has been alive all this time and is living under a new identity. Riley, desperate to seek out the whole truth and find her sister, also risks exposing family secrets and putting people at risk.
What a crazy situation to be in: both your parents are now dead, and your brother wants nothing to do with the past. And then you find out something that will rock your world: just when you feel like you have almost no family left, you find out that your sister is indeed still alive. Why? How? And where is she? Once we know for sure that Riley's sister, Lisa, is still alive, we get periodic chapters from her point of view, dating back to the time she staged her own suicide. I really enjoyed these chapters and getting to know Lisa and what was going on in her life and how she was dealing with everything that was happening. I was often feeling scared for Lisa and while I hoped that Riley could be reunited with her, I also didn't want anything to jeopardize Lisa's life (or Riley's).
While predictable at times, this was a definite page turner as I needed to know how everything turned out. It wrapped up a bit too neatly, but then again, not everything in life has to be messy, does it? (3.5/5 stars)
December's A Slice of Brie Book Club pick is Wrapped Up in You by Carole Matthews. If you want to join us, we'd love to have you! More details HERE.
What have you been reading lately?
Do you read Winter/Christmas themed books around the holidays? Any recommendations?