Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday's Book Bag: New Releases for 7/26.

Get ready - three great novels/thrillers come out this Tuesday. I feel like a stock analyst, shouting, "Buy, buy, buy!" but they are all worth picking up.

*The first, Heather Young's THE LOST GIRLS, takes us back to 1935, where six-year-old Emily disappears from her family's vacation lake home. Emily's doting mother is devastated, and she and her two daughters spend the rest of their lives at the lake house, waiting for Emily to return. Six decades later, only the middle sister, Lucy, is still alive. Afraid of dying without telling her story, she writes the tale down and leaves it, along with the house, to her sister's granddaughter, Justine. Justine's older daughter, Melanie, becomes interested in Emily's disappearance; her mother, Maurie, returns, bringing her usual craziness; and ghosts from Justine's own past threaten their safety. Justine doesn't know what happened at the lake sixty years ago, nor does she know if it's safe for her family now... This novel was a quick read, which pulled me into its tale immediately. The POV alternates between present-day (late 1990s and then flips back to the 1930s, as Lucy tells her story). Young does an excellent job in creating her characters: Lucy and her older sister Lilith practically jump off the page, as does little Emily. This is a somber book with serious themes; it's not always an easy read. Still, the back and forth POV works well in this case, and you'll quickly become enraptured in the past, in particular. Overall, this was a different book (in a good way), with insightful and well-drawn characters, and an intriguing plot. Lucy sticks with you, even after it's over.

*The second, Debbie Howells' THE BEAUTY OF THE END, tells us the story of Noah Calaway, a lawyer and semi-successful crime novelist who lives alone in Devon. A barely functioning alcoholic, Noah is stuck in the past, when he was in love with a beautiful girl, April Moon. Years later, Noah receives a call: April is in the hospital, nearly dead from an overdose, and even worse, she's suspected of murder. Noah makes the trip to her side, and begins sifting through the pieces of April's life, trying to figure out what happened. As he does, he uncovers a different April than the one he thought he knew--and much more. This is a suspenseful and fascinating thriller. Once you're in the groove, the book picks up speed and completely hooks you. This is a feat in itself because our main character, Noah, is not particularly likeable, a bit clueless, and really rather frustrating. The one we truly might empathize with, April, is in a coma. But somehow, Howells makes it all work. She's really a master at unfurling the suspense. Overall, I really enjoyed this one. Parts of the plot and Noah's actions certainly irked me, but the storyline was exciting and fun to read.

*The third may be my favorite of the group! In Amy Gentry's GOOD AS GONE, Anna and Tom Whitaker's lives are irrevocably changed the night their thirteen-year-old daughter, Julie, disappears. The only witness to her kidnapping is her ten-year-old sister, Jane, who watches petrified from her closest as a man takes away her sister. The broken parents remain in their home, hoping against hope that someday their daughter will return. And then, amazingly, one night the doorbell rings and there she is: Julie. And just like that, the broken family is whole. But is it? Anna simply wants her daughter back, but does she really have her? This novel hooked me from the beginning. It starts out with Julie arriving home and then we hear from Anna and some of the other characters as the family adjusts to Julie's homecoming. But we also delve into the past, which adds this amazing layer of suspense and intrigue and leaves you slightly befuddled, completely invested, and flipping pages like mad. Gentry's book is compulsively readable from a thriller standpoint, but also features emotionally damaged characters, struggling to survive after losing Julie for so long. It's not only an excellent thriller, but a nuanced portrait of a truly fractured family. Overall, this is a great thriller: a fast-paced read with a plot that will have you guessing (and gasping) and turning pages long into the night.

So there you have it folks. Go out, pick up these books, and prepare yourself for some sleepless nights, as you frantically turn pages, lost in the lives and plots of these great characters and novels!
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