Tag Archives: sophomore novel

I Shall Be Released

I’m beginning to hear voices and there’s no one around…/ Reality has always had too many heads. Bob Dylan, “Cold Irons Bound.”

Forgetting Place

The Forgetting Place: A Novel by John Burley (William Morrow, $14.99, 344 pages)

Wow.

John Burley’s second novel, The Forgetting Place, is a worthy successor to Absence of Mercy. At first it did not appear as if that would be the case, as the story seemed to meander for a while. But, Burley’s managed to do it again.

Dr. Lise Shields arrives at Menaker, a correctional psychiatric facility in Maryland and becomes embroiled in a massive “cover up” – or does she? That is the question readers are left with when they finish the book. Who exactly are the victims in this story?

The plot is well conceived, but pulling this story off was no easy task. Fortunately, Burley did pull it off. So much so that one cannot be sure with any absolute certainty what did or did not happen. This brilliantly parallels the confusion evident in the minds of the mentally ill that Dr. Shields is or is not treating.

One of the main male characters has a lover, who is a suspected terrorist; the latter winds up being murdered. That’s about all one can say for certain. To go into much greater detail would create too many spoilers for prospective readers of this work.

This is a fine novel, Mr. Burley! If you can keep this going, you’ll wind up with a cult following and perhaps much more.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on February 10, 2015.

“The Forgetting Place is a deep dive into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. Surprises wait at every turn.” Lisa Unger

“Layered and evocative – an intelligent, powerful read.” Sophie Littlefield

“Will send chills down your spine. A taut psychological thriller.” Alice LaPlante, author of A Circle of Wives.

Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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Things We Said Today

Things We Didn’t Say: A Novel by Kristina Riggle (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99, 352 pages)

As with her first novel, Real Life and Liars, Kristina Riggle presents an interesting story with well-defined characters in her recently released novel, Things We Didn’t Say.

Casey (Edna Leigh Casey) is attempting to reinvent herself while erasing her past by delving into a new relationship with her fiancé Michael and his three children.   While taking on her new role of step-mother-to-be, she believes she has escaped her former alcoholic life and the tragedy in her past that she still blames herself for.   That is, until her challenging teenage future stepdaughter Angel finds Casey’s personal journal and discovers the details of Casey’s past and her feelings about her current frustrations with taking on the role of stepmother.   This realization, combined with recent distance from her controlling, workaholic fiancé, leads to her decision to leave her current situation and – once again – start over.   However, on the very day that Casey decides to leave she receives a call that Michael’s son Dylan has gone missing.

The search for Dylan takes Casey, Michael, his children, and ex-wife on an emotionally charged journey that will change how each of them perceives their current situation.

Riggle writes with extreme clarity and develops her characters with variable dialogue that provide each of them with their own identity.   Each character’s challenges and reactions to a family crisis are believable, although a bit extreme, while presented in a modern-day blended family scenario.   Riggle also presents realistic themes such as the dangers of online communication and the prevalence of runaway teens.

However, as much as I enjoyed her writing, I have to admit that for most of the story I found the adults in her novel to be unlikable.   Casey is a meek, insecure individual who allows her fiancé to make all the decisions and accepts his criticism with silence, even when boundaries are crossed with his crazy ex-wife Mallory.   Michael is self-absorbed and so focused on the legality of child custody that he allows and even instigates ridiculous behavior from Mallory.   And Mallory is the stereotypical example of a woman with a horrid past experiencing bouts of mental illness.   I found myself entranced in the novel, hoping for a miracle that would give the children some sense of “normalcy” in their lives.

But that said, I found the book entertaining and the characters begin to redeem themselves as the story unfolds; and Riggle begins to fashion a more realistic view of a blended family undergoing a family crisis.   I have to commend Riggle for presenting her view of the possible and probable challenges that families in an atypical family structure might face.

Kelly Monson

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Things We Didn’t Say was released on June 28, 2011.

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San Francisco Nights

Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens (Delta Trade Paperbacks)

This debut novel by Shawn Klomparens became a must read when I finished his second novel, Two Years, No Rain.   The location and protagonist are quite different – this story being set in San Francisco rather than San Diego, and the main character a woman (Jessica Zorich) rather than a man (Andy Dunne).   What permeates both books is the slightly unnerving sense of impending danger.   There is an undercurrent that lurks in the background which the reader cannot ignore.

Jessica is an attractive red-headed advertising copywriter with a hesitant, non-committal approach to life that is not serving her best interests or desires.   She begins her tale by bemoaning the relationship rules she has invoked with her upstairs neighbor/sometime boyfriend Patrick McAvoy.   Their interactions could be labeled “Push Me, Pull You” after the Dr. Doolittle character.  

Patrick is not at all exciting for Jessica because he is stable, trustworthy and reliable.   The story picks up its pace when a tall mysterious artist named Josh Hadden fixates on Jessica at a party that Patrick arranged.   Sensing the attraction, Jessica enjoys feeling like the center of someone’s attention.   Josh is lusty, aggressive and deeply committed to his political beliefs!

Although Jessica has had difficulty with her romantic ties with Patrick, she makes easy transitions to a new job and a quirky semi-relationship with Josh, a lithographer who is intent on melding modern technology with the age-old art.   Her one life-long relationship is with her sister Katie.   These two sisters are portrayed as each other’s bedrock.

In Jessica Z, Klomparens dazzles the reader with his cinema verite style that brings the reader along while Jessica narrates her actions and thoughts.   Jessica oddly stifles her modesty, comfort and privacy when she is with Josh.   She becomes prey – her mouse to his cat.

Jessica’s lack of self-protection is truly naive and shocking.   Klomparens exploits the humanity that becomes apparent when we spend time with others – time enough to break through their public faces and expose the vulnerability that resides deep inside every person.  

This novel is insightful and persistent in its explorations of relationships.   It offers lessons about life that are both true and troubling.   Highly recommended although it is not light reading.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of the book was received from the publisher.   Jessica Z is also available as a Kindle Edition download.

 

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