Black-eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin – Book Review

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This is a psychological thriller, told with great suspense by Heaberlin. Tessa Cartwright is the only surviving victim of a serial killer. Eighteen years ago, Tessa regained consciousness in a field of Black-eyed Susans with the bones and bodies of other victims. The man who was convicted and is sitting on death row is trying to get a re-trail to prove his innocence, Tessa has declined to help, even though she believes that he may be innocent.

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After receiving a “gift” of freshly planted Black-eyed Susans underneath her daughter’s window, (and these are not the first flowers that have been planted outside her various addresses), Tessa decides that she needs to help the defense. The novel follows stalkers and various other nefarious leads, never giving us all the information, since Tessa doesn’t remember much from her attack. This memory loss and the problems that it brings really helps move the plot along, and has us wondering if Tessa will remember in time.

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I enjoyed this novel. It kept me on my toes – I didn’t want to miss a single clue. Tessa’s character was well drawn and she had my sympathy from the beginning. I highly recommend this book. It was one of the most interesting thrillers I’ve read.

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Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta – Book Review

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This novel takes place in Nigeria in the beginning, during and after the 1967 uprising of the state of Biafra. While I have knowledge about a lot of unrelated things, one of the many subjects that I know next to nothing about is Nigeria. I must say that while it was never an easy read – uprisings seldom are, it was a wonderful book, and I’m glad that I read it.

The main character, Ijeoma, is an innocent child who has a rather limited understanding of exactly what is taking place. Luckily the area she lives in, has been pretty much left untouched by the civil war. It isn’t until misfortune overtakes the family, and her mother decides to leave her in the care of a friend of her fathers’ that we are shown what has happened to the people of the country. At this teachers’ house, Ijeoma is used as an unpaid servant where she is introduced to her only friend and confidant, Amina, who is also an unpaid servant to the teacher. Their friendship blooms into a relationship which once discovered brings her back into her mother’s life. While her mother, a Christian, tries to prove, through constant reading of the Bible how evil a girl Ijeoma is, I love her reaction.

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If you know anything about Nigeria, I would suppose that you know that any form of same-sex relationship can lead to imprisonment and death. This is the story of the early years of homosexual life, coming out of the closet, and the societal reaction to it.

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Chinelo Okparanta

I must say that I really enjoyed this book. I could both see and feel Nigerian life in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I was totally invested in the life of Ijeoma, and felt both her frustration with her constricted life, and her efforts to change that life. I highly recommend this novel.

Reading While Sick

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Last week I never posted a book review, and I won’t post one this week, either. I’ve been quite sick and finally learned that I’ve got walking pneumonia. I’ve been doing very little for two weeks (other than my usual “chores”) than reading. Here’s a list of some of the books that I’ve read. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman; Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato; Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams; You Don’t Have to Like Me by Alida Nugent; The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley and What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross.

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My couch is getting well used, and my list of books read keeps growing – this sounds like a readers dream, but I’d give up some of the reading for a little less coughing – can’t believe that I actually wrote that, however I’m heartily sick of being sick. Since I’ve finally gotten some actual medicine in me, I’ll hopefully be writing a review next week. I’ve read so many books lately that I’ve got lots and lots of reviews to write.

Enjoy reading, and I hope everyone is feeling extremely healthy!

Top 5 Books I Read in 2015

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This is a list of the books that I enjoyed a lot in the past year. I read a lot of different kinds of books, and some have been reviewed here.  That being said, I really couldn’t come up with the best since I really really like almost all the books that I read.  So, really, here’s a list of some of my favorites.

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  1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I loved this book for the same reason that I love Gilbert. She is joyful. Creativity is for all of us, not just those who call themselves artists.

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  1. House of Thieves by Charles Belfoure

   Who doesn’t love a book where those who have been treated terribly get to shine (through nefarious means) in the end? Also the Gilded Age, the Astor’s, bad behavior, social unrest and thievery.

 

  1. Tracks by Robyn Davidson

   This is the second time I read this book, and I have to say that it affected me the same way as the first.  This is one of those books that makes me want to go out and take my own journey.  It was a life-changer for me.

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  1. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin

   While I have to admit that I’m not at all happy with how long Martin is taking with the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, this book is a wonderful fantasy book – which by the way – is the first in a series. Yes, Martin, please please please finish A Song of Ice and Fire before we all explode with anticipation! However, this book was a great fantasy romp. And, as an added bonus, is also illustrated! How utterly cool is that?

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  1. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

   I actually just finished this, so it’s utmost on my mind. I will be reviewing it in the near future. It’s the first in a trilogy, so I’ll be trying to see if I can find the second and third books at nearby libraries, since my library doesn’t have them. It’s a good fantasy/supernatural book with all the requisite angst and magic. Great fun.

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So here you have it. Another list of interesting, fun books. I hope that you have plenty of time to read in the New Year!