REVIEW: SYCAMORE, BY BRYN CHANCELLOR

Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

 

Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart—most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature—desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope—as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town.

 
 
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Sycamore takes the reader back and forth through time, as we follow the residents of the small Arizona town. One of their own, a young teenage girl new to the town, went missing in December 1991. But as our tale sweeps back and forth from the past to the present, we learn about a relationship that turns the town upside down just before Jess disappears, and for many years, there was speculation that she had either run away due to the shame or that someone had hurt her.

 

As the residents’ lives continue and change, the town itself goes through its own metamorphosis until one day, a newcomer makes a discovery that will spin them all out again. What was the truth about Jess Winters and her disappearance? Would any of them ever recover from it?

The characters were interesting and were all linked around these events in some way. It was hard to keep track of them all throughout the story, but I couldn’t stop turning the pages. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE MISSING YEARS, BY LEXIE ELLIOTT

 

Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago—her father.

Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighborhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first nighttime intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything.

 

My Thoughts: The Missing Years is told from the perspective of Ailsa Calder, who has returned to the mysterious Scottish home that is part of her inheritance. Her half-sister Carrie is acting in a play in Edinburgh, and the two are reconnecting after many years. They are hoping that their mother’s death has given them the opportunity to be true sisters.

But before the two of them have the chance, a series of disturbing events terrorize them until they are ready to run.

I held onto each page with intensity as more and more disturbing happenings brought them to a tragic conclusion. What townsfolk, if any, are responsible for what is happening? I thought I had it all figured out but then I was stunned by how it all unfolded.

Could the house itself be haunted and responsible? Or are some of the neighbors playing tricks on them? I enjoyed this book and gave it 4.5 stars.***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “A SEPARATION”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a relatively new download for me:  A Separation, by Katie Kitamura, who, with exquisitely cool precision, propels us into the experience of a woman on edge, with a fiercely mesmerizing story to tell.

 

 

Beginning:  It began with a telephone call from Isabella.  She wanted to know where Christopher was, and I was put in the awkward position of having to tell her that I didn’t know.  To her this must have sounded incredible.  I didn’t tell her that Christopher and I had separated six months earlier, and that I hadn’t spoken to her son in nearly a month.

***

56:  Later that afternoon, I hired a taxi and drove to one of the small villages inland.  I imagined Christopher must have done the same at some point—there was only so much time you could spend on the terrace, by the pool, or otherwise within the confines of the hotel before tedium set in.

***

Synopsis:  A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love. 

A searing, suspenseful story of intimacy and infidelity, A Separation lays bare what divides us from the inner lives of others.

***

What do you think?  Do you want to keep reading?

***

REVIEW: THE SLEEPWALKER, BY CHRIS BOHJALIAN

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When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing in the night, her daughters Lianna, 21, and Paige, 12, fear the worst. Their mother is a sleepwalker, and not only does she do bizarre things while in this state, she has put herself in danger.

But Annalee hasn’t had an episode in years, and she has had treatment at the sleep clinic. However, the usual set-up for her disturbance is present: her husband, Warren, an English professor, is away. In the past she has only taken her nightly excursions when he is gone.

Alternative narrators tell the tale of The Sleepwalker, and Lianna is the primary one. An anonymous narrator brings interesting and mysterious pieces to the story at the beginning of each chapter.

Set in small town Bartlett, Vermont, the reader will meet various friends and neighbors along the way, and there will be gossip, and the snippets of speculation that flow through the town will occasionally reach Lianna…and disturb her. The reader will learn more about the condition of parasomnia, which includes sleepwalking, night terrors, and even sleep sex.

In the beginning, the detectives will question each of the family members, focusing on the relationship between Warren and Annalee. They even look at Warren as a person of interest. Our narrator, Lianna, describes for us the occasional “fights” between her parents, and characterizes them as “quiet” skirmishes, “their barbs sharpened on whetstones of condescension and sarcasm.”

One of the detectives, a man a few years older than Lianna, is seemingly drawn into her orbit. What is the story of Gavin Rikert? Why is he so drawn to their family, and why does he seem to know so much about Annalee? Why does Lianna feel such a connection to him?

As the story wends its way through the time after, and some bits from before, we end up even more puzzled until…something quite astonishing happens. And then the final reveal unfolds in waves. First there is one discovery, and then another one, until I had to question everything I thought I knew about that alternate narrator. Another fabulous tale from the author that kept me intrigued throughout…and which earned 5 stars.    I received my e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

cropped again 5***

HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: “DON’T YOU CRY”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today I am eagerly awaiting a book from an author recently added to my favorites list: Mary Kubica, whose newest book, Don’t You Cry, will be released on May 17, 2016.

 

 

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New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica returns with an electrifying and addictive tale of deceit and obsession 

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.

***

I loved two other books by this author, The Good Girl and Pretty Baby, so I am very excited to read this one.  What are you anticipating?

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