Review by: Mark Palm
I don’t know if I have ever read a novel where the epigraph sums up a work so well. In this case it is nothing more or less than the definition of a word from Webster's Dictionary. The word is twist, and the novel is Twisted, by Marjorie Brody. Twisted is a YA book, and it can be read by a YA audience, but don’t think for a minute that this is an easy book to read. Twisted is one of the most psychologically sophisticated novels I have read in a long time, and it manages to deal with several difficult and disturbing issues, without dumbing them down or making them less troubling, in such a way that they are accessible to the audience that needs to hear them the most.
In Twisted fourteen year old Sarah is gang-raped by four boys on the night of the Freshman Dance. It’s horrific, and Ms. Brody manages to convey that with shirking detail but keeping the scene from being graphic. Also horrific is the fact that Sarah decides to hide the fact from her family because her Mother is too proud and would probably blame Sarah somehow. So not only does Sarah hide the tor dress and her bruises, she in fact hides the trauma even from herself, until the boy who lured her into the rape confesses to the Police. In the middle of this fiasco the only person Sarah feels that she can trust is an eighteen-year old schoolmate,Judith. The older girl's life seems ideal; she has a great family, is engaged to a guy who loves her, and has plans for college. She is also pregnant, and encourages Sarah to tell someone. Through thick and thin it seems like Judith is mysteriously drawn to the younger girl, and she encourages Sarah to tell the truth, but Sarah seems like she will do anything to keep the situation quiet.
If this was all that there was to Twisted, it would be solid, but remember the title; Ms. Brody has a bunch of finely tuned surprises up her sleeves, and she tends to drop them in just when I started to get comfortable. There are big twists and small twists, but they are all so integral to the story that I can’t let them slip without spilling a barrel of spoilers, so I won’t. Just be prepared to be surprised.
The characters are all solid, along with the prose. I was a bit confused at times about the narrative voice, but even that might be a deep and truly subtle twist,so I can’t complain too much. There were a few times in middle where the pace dragged a bit, but never for too long. Just when things got a bit calm Ms. Brody unfurled one of her psychological bombshells, and pulled me to the edge of my seat once more. The last few, near the end were particularly shocking, and best of all, planned and executed with restraint and style. All in all, Twisted is a stiletto of a suspense novel, short, sharp and sleek. I ‘d like to see Ms. Brody take a shot at an all-ages thriller soon; I sure that she would really blow my doors off.
Mr. Trow clearly knows and enjoys the time and setting, and both come to life. The characters of Grand and Batchelor are refreshing realistic, and enjoyably down-to-earth. There are a plethora of supporting characters, and they are all multi-dimensional as well. If anything, the amount of characters and the space they occupy in this novel may have been a bit of a hindrance at times. I found myself enjoying each tangential character and their individual stories, but at the expense of narrative drive and tension. I felt at times that Mr. Trow was taking two good stories, almost two good books, and forcing them into one fairly enjoyable but rather unwieldy whole. The amount of coincidences and plot devices that had to happen to bring the two main characters and their stories together stretched credulity at times, but it never broke. Mr. Trow’s assured prose, and his unabashed enjoyment managed to keep the plot one point, and if the pace was slowed now and again by the side trips, each detour was enjoyable. I suppose it might not be too much of a spoiler, since this is advertised as the first book of a series, that in the end Grand ends up staying in London, and he and Batchelor hang up their shingle. I’ll probably drop in for the next case.
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My all time favorite writer has been #1 New York Best Selling Author Kelley Armstrong for many, many years. I still remember browsing my local Barnes & Nobles to find the first book that introduced me to my favorite genre, Paranormal Romance. The book was Bitten and it is now a television series on the Syfy Network.
Since then, Kelley Armstrong has written many more novels, short stories, and anthologies. Her work encompasses both adult and young adult readers. Today I want to introduce you to her newest series of books, The Cainsville Series.
Omens ~ Book 1 of the Cainsville Series
This is the first book in the series and introduces us to our major characters. Olivia is our lead female, and I love that she is strong and independent, but starts out having to learn and acquire these attributes. Olivia's life is turned upside down as this adventure begins, and after many trials she is lead to the quaint, but mysterious little town of Cainsville.
I love the undertone to this book; you know something strange is going on, but you can't quite place it. It is very special the way Kelley Armstrong uses the subtle hints to alert you that there is more than meets the eye in Cainsville, and I adore that she is taking her time revealing this small town's secrets. (Don't miss your chance to win a signed copy below!)
Visions ~ Book 2 of the Cainsville Series
The second book picks up immediately after the events in Omens. I love how Kelley Armstrong carries the story on seamlessly, almost as if the first book never ended and you are just continuing the story, and what a story it is! Things start to get a little creepy in Cainsville, and we also get to learn more about what is really going on with those town elders.
The story takes giant strides with this book. Characters are given greater depth and the reader is kept captivated by the continuous turmoil of emotions that are presented throughout. Characters you love to hate are more lovable, and characters you aren't so sure about start to take position in our heart.
Deceptions ~ Book 3 of the Cainsville Series
Full Review of this book is coming shortly. This book will be released on August 18, 2015.
After five days of hideous abuse the girls, violated, their spirits almost broken, manage to escape. A good samaritan helps them flee to Vancouver, but it’s clear that the sisters will be affected forever. As they try to adjust to life in the city and struggle to overcome the trauma that haunts them they discover that Jess is pregnant. After deciding to put the child up for adoption she changes her mind at the last minute, and the girls become a foursome as Jess gives birth to a daughter.
The story continues eighteen years later, as the sister, under new names, are carving out lives in Vancouver. Dani and Jess are doing all right, although they work non-stop just to get by, but Courtney, who faced the worst of the abuse, parties incessantly, goes from job to job and disappears for weeks at a time. Her life affects both sisters, but has a profound impact on Jess’s daughter, Starling, who knows next to nothing about the sisters past. Crystal disappears once more, and the story plunges back into the harrowing finale.
If I were to judge this book only as a thriller I would give it high marks; it is unbearably tense, and as blood-curdling as a horror novel. The sisters are all solid characters, and the prose is spot-on. What elevates this book for me is that it makes a vitally important statement about the effects abuse has upon girls without sacrificing any of the qualities that makes it a good novel. I can see that the girls have almost no hope from the beginning. The abuse they suffer at the hands of their father will mark them for life. The poverty, the isolation, and the lack of opportunities almost guarantees that their lives will be hard; and they are. All of the girls struggle with money, with relationships, and they work unbelievably hard. Still, somehow, they have hope. They persevere, by supporting each other, and if they don’t exactly triumph, they survive, with grace and dignity. That’s a lot for a thriller.
The Prince of Polnya, with his own wizard and an army wants the wizards to lead an expedition to the Wood, to save his mother, the Queen, who has been lost for decades. The following is bloody, and harrowing, and lets us see that the Wood is fearful indeed. Agnieszka becomes entangled in the intrigues of the Court, and war threatens to ravage the land. Worst of all is that every victory may only be a feint on the part of The Wood, whose patience is as long as the life of a tree.
Ms. Novik is a skilled plotter, and she did a good job of keeping me off balance. What made it work really well is the characters of Agnieszka and Sarkan. They both fulfill their roles as Sorcerer and Apprentice, but their characters are layered, and deep. I found myself applauding Agnieszka’s impulsiveness, and booing at Sarkan’s imperious behavior. Until Agnieszka realizes that each victory she achieves may hold a kernel inside that will guarantee that the Wood will win. Then each character seems to grow and fit together, the way that their magic does in some earlier scenes. Kasia is well-drawn,tragic and heroic, and Ms. Novik makes The Wood a character in it’s own right, as deep and sinister as any villain could be. Uprooted is a fantasy that has a fairy-tale feel to it, and I mean that in the very best way. I have been a big fan of Ms. Novik and her Temeraire series, and this book is as every bit as good, which is high praise indeed.
Eliana is intent on infiltrating MI-6, seemingly to stop Mason Treadik, who is intent on creating an army of the perfect assassins, mainly the poor souls I mentioned earlier. There is more than a whiff of James Bond about Havelocke, but Ms. Everly seems to enjoy turning the cliches on their ears. She has a deft hand with action, and the plotting is tight. Her third person prose is solid, but as Havelocke it sings. This doesn't seem like it’s going to be a deep book, but so far it’s a ton of fun, full of energy and wit, and I expect that I’ll be sitting on the edge of seat for the next couple of months.
If this were all there was to this book it would be good. As it is, there is a ton more. Mr. Pearl knows the era, and the conventions of the fiction of the period, and he honors them as often as he turns them on their head. Subplots and backstories abound, but they augment rather than hinder the main story-line, giving it richness and depth. The plot is smart and clever, and kept me on my toes the whole time. Stevenson and his family were enthralling, and Mr. Pearl gives us a deep and detailed world without slowing the pace. Of particular interest is his treatment of Samoa, which he brings to life with loving detail. The Island’s natives are also well-drawn, transcending the condescending way the European characters view them, to become strong deep characters, especially Vao and Tulagi.
The Last Bookaneer is more than just a clever literary thriller. Without stopping to lecture Mr. Pearl manages to touch upon the nature of creativity, and gives his bookaneers a surprising amount of depth and complexity to their philosophies and lives. I was particularly moved by Kitten, a bookaneer who is also the love of Davenport’s life. Her story, and her character were so strong and moving that I wanted more. Tie it all up with an surprising and satisfying ending and you have a novel worthy of Stevenson himself.