The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre
Rating: 5 stars
Helena is an extremely famous, but very difficult to like, romance author. She’s written 14 bestsellers in her 32 years of life. She lives by rules and is extreme in her privacy. But she is suddenly diagnosed with brain cancer and given three months to live. She knows that before she goes she has to write a final book – the truth about the death of her husband and loss of her daughter. She needs to confess her truth to alleviate the guilt that has weighed her down so much in the last four years. She also realizes that in order to get the book written in time, she’ll need the help of a ghostwriter. Someone who can write well, match her voice, and be fast. She finds that in her writing nemesis, Marka Vanske.
Helena is not a very likeable character. She is rigid, uncompromising, condescending, angry, and driven by her characters and the worlds she creates. And yet you feel so passionately sad by how she is living and how closed off she has become from everyone. In her final months she is forced to let in Kate – her agent, and Marka – her sworn enemy. They help her work through her most painful years and ultimately be able to die in peace.
I decided to read this book because it pops up on amazon every single time I search a Colleen Hoover novel. Hoover is my favorite, so I figured they must be similar in style. And they are! Unfortunately, there was no romance in this book. But you don’t miss it. The little bit of friendship and trust that buds between the characters is fantastic. The book is so well written. It’s marketed as a mystery, and there is a bit of it. You’re told at the beginning that Helena has killed her husband, but it takes you until the end of the book to figure out how and why. Overall, this was really a beautiful book and well worth picking up.
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Rating: 5 stars
Naomi is well known among parents of missing children as “the child finder.” As a lost child herself, with no memory of what happened the first nine years of her life before she was found, she has an innate ability to get into the mindsets of the children that are gone and more often than not, is able to find them. Sometimes she finds them in time, and sometimes it’s too late. But she’s incredible at what she does. She’s optimistic and full of hope when looking for the lost children, but has a deeply hard time trusting and loving people that want to be close to her.
In The Child Finder, Naomi is hired to look for Madison Culver, a child who mysteriously disappeared in the northern Oregon woods three years ago at age five. It seems impossible that she would have survived a day, let alone three years, but her mother refuses to believe Madison dead. Soon after the book begins, you find that Madison did indeed survive, thanks to a rescue from a deaf and mute old man named B. Mr. B nurses Madison back to life and keeps her captive for his own comfort and pleasure. Madison learns how to keep him from getting angry by being whatever he needs from her. She doesn’t talk because seeing her lips form words makes him extremely angry. She starts to call herself “The Snow Girl” and constantly makes up stories and fairy tales in her mind to separate that persona from Madison, the girl she used to be.
This book is definitely a page turner. If you’re highly sensitive, you should know that Mr. B does use Madison for sex, but it’s never described and she does not seem truly aware of it happening, thanks to the imaginative nature of her mind. I did have a little bit of a hard time believing that a five year old could be as mature and intuitive as Madison became in the three years she was held captive. If she were a few years older to begin with it wouldn’t have felt like such a stretch to me. But at any rate, it was an excellent story. It’s the first book I abandoned all else for so I could keep reading in quite awhile. I really didn’t want it to end. I highly recommend it!
I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
Rating: 3.5 stars
This page turning mystery is about the circumstances relating to a missing 16 year old girl who traveled to London with her best friend one year in the past. We start on the train where Ella, “the witness,” sees two teenage girls flirting with two men who were just released from prison. Her mothering nature kicks in and she thinks she should try to figure out who these girls are and warn their parents that they might be up to no good. She ignores that instinct and feels haunting regret the next day when the news reports one of those girls has disappeared. Each chapter of this story is told between the varying perspectives of Ella – the witness, Henry – the father of Anna, the missing girl, Sarah – the friend, Matthew – the private investigator, and occasional interludes by the “watcher.” The bulk of the book takes place around the one year anniversary of Anna’s disappearance when everyone is hoping with renewed interest Anna will be discovered.
Every single chapter in this book ended with a mini cliffhanger. They kept me reading late into the night, even though I could barely keep my eyes open. I like the shift of perspectives and learning more about what could have happened and who might have been to blame, but I ultimately found all of the characters a little bit dull. I thought the main premise around Ella’s guilt was slightly ridiculous. Why would anyone think it was their responsibility to hunt down parents of total strangers she sees across a train car just to basically tattle on them? If they were a lot younger, then maybe…? It was interesting to see how each of the characters found blame in their own actions and thought they might be the reason Anna disappeared, even if they might have truly had nothing to do with it. While the cliffhangers definitely kept my attention, about halfway through I became frustrated with how they never really went anywhere. You’re left in suspense, but nothing is ever answered until the final pages of the book. I wish we had been given a bit more satisfaction after so much enticement earlier in the story. Maybe elaborate and eliminate a couple of the suspects along the way.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty decent mystery. There were a couple of twists and turns you’re not expecting. It’s a fast read and keeps your attention. It’s not one of my favorite books, but I recommend it if you like that genre.