Traveling Sisters Book Reviews

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” ― Henry David Thoreau

Brenda’s review

I am always looking for something a little different from those tried plots we have come to expect and looking for authors who are bolding moving forward with our changing world. Caitlin Wahrer nails that by exploring something we don’t talk about through her characters after Nick is violently sexually assaulted after meeting a man at a bar. She focuses on the family’s emotional damage and fallout while exploring tragedy, doubt, and justice. She plays on that trope, “How far would you go to protect someone you love?” by giving the story a fresh look into the dynamics of the family.

The Damage is a well-done psychological thriller and family drama that builds up slowly while increasing tension and doubt until that unexpected final twist. The story shifts from alternating POV as we see the emotional fallout and psychological impact the attack has on Nick, his older brother Tony and his sister-in-law Julia. Caitlin Wahrer weaves in thriller elements that blur the lines between fiction and real-life to create an intense emotional story. The attack on Nick is unsettling and affecting but handled humanely, keeping the details to a minimum. We learn what we need to know to understand the emotional impact on the characters.
I found the story a bit convoluted at times throwing off the pace for me, however it is a readable story. The story delves into the everyday life of the characters that did add a more realistic feel to the lives of the characters however it slowed down the story for me.

The heart of the story is the relationship between Nick and his older brother Tony. It warmed my heart to see how Tony looked out for Nick, protected him, and even babied him. I could feel their love and the tension between them that made them convincing characters.

The strength in the story is the increasing doubt and tension in the story that didn’t let up until that final, satisfying ending that you might see or might not see coming. I highly recommend it.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley.

Brenda’s review

Hot dang, I am surprised I enjoyed The Maidens as much as I did! With all the hype, I went in thinking I was not going to like this one and expecting it not to be as good as The Silent Patient. I didn’t find The Maidens as exciting as The Silent Patient. Alex Michaelides left those twisty, shocking twists and turns I love to The Silent Patient and created a more emotional charge twist for our characters here. The Maidens is a stand-alone however, it has a clever tie-in to The Silent Patient. If you haven’t read it, you are in for a treat to read them back to back.

The Maidens is set at Cambridge University, where a secret society of female students called the “Maidens” are murdered. Group therapist Mariana returns to the campus to support her niece, and the story centers around Mariana’s obsession with proving professor Edward Fosca is the killer.

I was drawn in by the first few chapters of “The Maidens” that focus on Mariana’s grief and her work as a group therapist. I found the psychological side of the group dynamics and Greek mythology the most interesting part of the story. A lot of time was spent on Mariana trying to convince everyone who the killer is and them dismissing her. This slow down the story for me and I would like more time spent delving into the group dynamics. The suspense is light and the danger was not as tense as I usually like but Alex Michaelides manages to create a compelling and engaging story that had me turning the pages as fast as I could. There are plenty of red herrings to guess from and keep you distracted and maybe a bit too many as Alex Michaelides delves more into the psyche side of the characters with that a final twist that I almost missed. I enjoyed how we see into the emotional side to the characters with that final twist rather than a shocking plot twist. I look forward to seeing what is next because I have a feeling it will tie into the ending here.

Lindsay’s review

Gothic. Suspenseful. Mysterious.

Mariana travels to Cambridge University to spend time with her grieving niece, Zoe, whose close friend was found murdered. Mariana, who went to the same school as Zoe, finds herself deeply affected by the murder near campus and becomes involved in the investigation. Using her group therapy career skills, Mariana offers to meet with “the Maidens”, a secret sorority group of female students, to see if they know more than they claim.

This story gripped me with tension, atmosphere and suspense from page one. I felt deeply invested in Mariana and her determination to help solve the crimes. She was a fantastic main character who I loved rooting for.

The atmosphere throughout the novel was engrossingly heavy. I loved the dark, mysterious, creepy, rain-soaked school campus and all that it brought to the story. The tension was thick and I had a constant sense of foreboding worry about what would happen next. The pace and flow consistently kept me glued to the pages and the short chapters were easy to fly through.

There were unrealistic elements to the storyline but they didn’t bother me in the least. I was so wrapped up in the atmosphere, mystery and entertainment of the plot that I didn’t question a thing. I absolutely love this author’s writing!

I was a HUGE fan of this author’s debut, The Silent Patient. It’s one of my favourite thrillers. I thought it was a brilliant and clever addition for the author to include a tie in to that book. It took me until the end to clue in on the tie in characters and connection to The Silent Patient and it definitely kicked up my enjoyment level a notch! This was a solid sophomore thriller that I was intrigued and captivated by from beginning to end. I eagerly await what this author creates next!

We received a copy from the publisher like many other reviewers did!!!

Brenda’s review

Infinite Country follows a mixed-status family over decades who are divided between Colombia and the US. There have been many outstanding books written about families immigrating, and this one has a tone to it that opened up a few things I haven’t thought about before.

The story starts with a unique hook and opening line to the story “It was her idea to tie up the nun,” which sets up a little suspense to the story with some questions I wanted the answers to. Talia experiences a horrific act and retaliates. It felt more like it was used for shock value, or maybe I was just too shocked to pick up on its meaning. She is then sent to a nun-ran reform school in the Colombian mountains.

In tightly woven swift chapters, the story moves from Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena’s earlier relationship, their decisions to leave or stay, and their fight to survive with Talia’s journey from escaping the reform school and her race against time to catch her flight to reunite with her family in the US. Twenty years of family history are told as she rushes to catch that plane.

What makes this one a bit different is that it not only explores what life was like for the characters with their struggles with immigration laws, poverty, belonging, and racism. It also shows us their doubt, uncertainty due to their fear for their safety. It explores the misconception that people who leave their homeland is a “simple decision for a better life.” I could feel their uncertainty, loneliness, doubt they made the right decision, and struggle with leaving a part of themselves behind. I questioned if they did as we see the danger, poverty, hate, and violence they face in the US that is very real and relevant today.

The other thing that makes this one different is the story’s structure. Pacing can be everything in a story, and here it is done impressive and unique. In under 200 pages, Patricia Engel packs events, themes, and emotions into the story to create a page-turner that never slowed down for me. She covers years in only a few pages that stretch over 20 years. There is not much back and forth dialogue, and we see into the character’s life through short, vivid paragraphs. A lot happens to Elena in the US, without it ever feeling like drama. Engel achieves this through Elena’s inner thoughts, and we see what is important to know and to provoke an emotional response rather than creating scenes. We don’t get much time with any character however, Patricia Engel manages to create compelling characters that allowed me to feel with them. Talia does get some dialogue and descriptive scenes that enhance the story with descriptions of landscapes, mythology, and with Colombia’s long history of violence.

Elena did at times feel like a saint rather than a vulnerable, strong female character who had to make tough decisions for her children, and I was worried it was leaning towards an issue book. Still, I did think it was well done because it did open up some thought-provoking questions that I hadn’t thought about before. I liked how when Elena was challenged, she champions reproductive rights.

The narrators shift towards the end, and at first, it felt awkward, and I was confused by it. Then it starts to flow easier while building up to a tear-jerking ending!! I highly recommend it.

Brenda’s review

The last thing devoted husband and father, Owen said in a note before he disappeared to his wife, Hannah was Protect her.

Does Hannah protect her? This is the most interesting part of the story. It’s a fresh take on that “stepmother” trope and the story centres around the relationship between Hannah and Bailey as they track down the truth as to why Owen disappeared.

The Last Thing He Told Me is a solid, slow-building mystery that explores secrets, lies, love, trust, and faith in a marriage. It explores the dynamics between stepmother and child, and that is the driving force of the story. I loved the relationship between Hannah and Owen’s daughter Bailey and the bond they developed. The story exams the character’s motivations, and their development results from the bond that is developed. ALL the characters are likeable from start to finish.

We learn the mystery of Owen’s disappearance through Hannah as she does. We see her past dynamics with Owen as her narrative alternates from past and present. We learn of her early days with Owen along with her current hunt for him. The pacing is slow and never really picked up for me, even with the twists and climax of the story. The suspense is light, and the danger is moderate. The stakes are not high until Hannah learns the truth, and even then, there was not enough tension to keep this dark and twisted reader on the edge of my chair, gripping my kindle.

Even through this one was not the best for me, I do consider it one of the better reads and I recommend for reader who enjoy likeable characters and a good easy, entertaining solid lighter mystery that you go along for the ride rather than the thrill.

I received a copy form the publisher through NetGalley.

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff is inspired by the true story of a small group of Jewish people who escaped the Nazis and survived WWII in the sewers of Lviv, Poland. Now, as time goes by, it’s harder to tell these stories and base them on real-life people as the people who lived through them are gone. Theirs stories still need to be told, and authors are a little more creative in the way they tell them. Pam Jenoff has done that and taken inspiration from the nonfiction book In the Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall. It’s on our list to read. 

Brenda’s review

The Woman With The Blue Star is set in the Kraków Ghetto and tells the fictional story of an unlikely friendship and bond between two different girls Sadie and Ella, who become friends through a grate above the sewer. Their friendship, bond, and sacrifices are the heart of the story, and while I liked seeing their bravery and kindness, I struggled to buy into the instant bond between them.

The story starts with an intense claustrophobia feel from the descriptions and conditions in the sewer. It loses some tension to the story when the tone turns more towards a lighter, hopeful tone that centers more around the love between the characters. While this brings a more heartfelt tone to the story, it took away from the danger and fear I imagined they must have experienced. I struggled a bit, buying into their motivations and actions. However, this did not affect the way I felt about the story. I enjoyed the lighter, more hopeful tone of the story.

The ending takes a turn to the story I did not expect, and I enjoyed the way the story wrapped up. I highly recommend it for readers who like some dark with more of a love story to it over the dark realities of WWII.

Lindsay’s review

This book revolves around a very unlikely friendship. Ella and Sadie are from two different worlds. Ella is a Polish girl living with her selfish and uncaring stepmother who entertains Nazi officers occupying their town. Sadie is a Jewish girl hiding underground in the sewers with her pregnant mother and another Jewish family. Their chance meeting at the sewer grate begins a friendship that gets them through devastating and tragic times.

This was a mixed book for me. I enjoyed and appreciated learning about this time in our history. It always fascinates me when an author can provide a fresh perspective in such an over-saturated genre. I knew nothing of Jews hiding in sewer systems and found that shocking, eye-opening and informative. The first half of the book was stronger for me because it was highly atmospheric in its claustrophobic setting and it focused more on the sewer systems and what the families had to do to survive.

The second half of the book focused more on the friendships and romance of the characters which didn’t work as well for me. At times the storyline felt cliche, predictable and slightly cheesy. Some of the dialogue and characters behaviour was too “cute” for such a harrowing plot. The main characters were charming and endearing but didn’t suit the situation and pull the plot forward for me. The storyline was informative and hopeful but it lacked the sense of feeling “real” which prevented me from forming a true connection or investment in the characters and their situations. I enjoyed reading the story from an educational perspective, but it failed to pull at my emotions since the characters didn’t seem realistic and I didn’t feel the true heaviness of the devastating situation they were living in.

Overall, I’m glad I read it because I learned important parts of our history, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as I had hoped. I can certainly understand how this will appeal to many readers who enjoy lighter, less gritty wartime novels with charming characters and romance.

We received copies from the publisher on EW.

Book sleeves handmade by my Mom can be found here in Norma’s Etsy shop. Use SISTERS20 at the checkout for 20% off.

In my current book I am reading the character sung along to a song in the story. That inspired me to write this post and in a way to celebrate National Indigenous History Month. The post is also inspired by the meme Music Monday created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek.

The Book

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good. There has been a bit of talk about Five Little Indians after it won Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language fiction. It shines light on a shameful part of Canadian history that is not just part of history but is relevant today. Just recently, the remains of 215 children has been discovered in an unmarked mass grave at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. 

“To call it history is simply wrong” Michelle Good

Five Little Indians is a fictional exploration of the impact of living in a Canadian church-run residential school. It gives a voice to the children taken from their families at a young age and explores life after leaving the school. We follow the lives of five likable characters Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie, and Maisie, as they work to overcome the trauma they endured at the schools. Michelle Good explores that question often asked, “Why can’t they just get over it and move on?” Five Little Indians is why. 

The Song

Starwalker Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie, CC is an Indigenous Canadian-American singer-songwriter, musician, Oscar-winning composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist.

The Lyrics used in the book

Wolf Rider she’s a friend of your’s
You’ve seen her opening doors
She’s a history turner, she’s a sweet grass burner
And a dog soldier
Ayy hey way, hey way hey-yaLightning woman, thunder child
Star soldiers one and all oh
Sisters, brothers all together
Aim straight
Stand tall

National Indigenous History Month

June is a time for Canadians to celebrate and appreciate the unique histories, cultures, and contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people.

 If you like the book sleeve you can find it here in Norma’s Etsy shop and many more. Use SISTERS20 at the checkout for 20% off.

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