Book Review: The Other Side of the Sky by Haner Bat Hannah

Title: The Other Side of the Sky
Author: Haner Bat Hannah
Genre: Romance, Drama, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Telma confidently marches over the bridge of her life and then…

Telma is an opinionated little girl who doesn’t quite fit into the world around her. She becomes a physics professor, happily married to Uri, a bridge engineer, whose life seems secure as the bridges her husband builds. However, the little girl is not quiet; she reflects on the successful adult life from her unique point of view.

Gadi, a genius from Berkeley is attracted to Telma’s distinctive view; he hopes he has found in Telma someone to lean on. An emotional-roller-coaster-like relationship develops between them. But Telma prefers the stable ground Uri has built for her.

Can she pull together the pieces of herself and emerge whole?

Yet bridges can collapse, and Uri is involved in a serious accident that crushes not only him but Telma’s entire world. When their lives become intertwined with those of Gadi and Yael, his beautiful wife, Uri’s story, revealed to her with brutal honesty, shreds Telma’s life to pieces. Gradually, Telma reconstructs herself anew, forming a more inclusive, complete, and accurate picture. A picture in which there is no need to hide behind long black hair and one in which the little girl goes back to seeking out the emerging whole. But will she ever again find peace?

The Other Side of the Sky focuses on Telma. The reader first encounters Telma as an opinionated little girl, and watches her grow up, becoming a physics professor. Adult Telma is happily married to Uri, a bridge engineer.

When Uri is involved in a horrible accident, Telma’s entire world is crushed. Telma finds her life becoming entertwined with that of Gadi, a genius from Berkeley who is attracted to her, despite being married.

As Telma comes to terms with what happened, she has to re-discover herself, and find the strength to re-emerge from this terrible turmoil.

The childhood moments of Telma’s life are very touching and help explain why she became the adult she is today, and why she made certain life story. Romantic but also drenched in a good amount of melancholy, this is a book about childhood, growing up, about love and the choices we are sometimes forced to make, about life and how short and precious it is.

Book Review: The Ones Who Won by Nuria Amir

Title: The Ones Who Won
Author: Nuria Amir
Genre: Middle-Eastern, Sports, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Meet ambitious, dynamic Tamar – a young star bucking the system.

This captivating true story, based on diary entries, takes place in the early days of the kibbutz. Tamar, an adolescent girl and the story’s heroine, draws the reader into a whirlwind of emotions, adventure, and constant wonder at the power of nature. She likes to challenge herself and almost every rule and framework of the society in which she lives. She is swept into a world of competitions and ambitious high achievement.

Plots and sub-plots intertwine as Tamar courageously navigates her path.

How will the equality-based kibbutz society, built largely by Tamar’s parents, react to the young Israeli champion? She forms a courageous friendship and a treacherous love. A weapon appears in the story’s beginning and is fired at its conclusion, bringing about a surprising and tragic ending. The motif of endless confrontation between the individual and society and how society imposes its rules comes to light through Tamar’s unique reactions. Can she maintain her freedom?

In The Ones Who Won, Tamar is a young woman growing up in a community known as kibbutz – something I knew next to nothing about. The book sheds an interesting light on the kibbutz community, from the perspective of a young woman raised in these circumstances.

It’s an intriguing perspective, and through Tamar’s reactions on certain situations, you realize as a reader how different life is for people raised this way. Despite this, Tamar is a strong-willed woman who likes to challenge herself, particularly in sports, and who sets very high goals for herself.

An inspiring book, well-written and captivating.


Book Review: Twelve Houses by Olga Soaje and Giveaway

portada twelvehouses finalTitle: Twelve Houses
Author: Olga Soaje
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase:  Amazon (Paperback), Amazon (Kindle)
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

What will she do now? Amelia Weiss wakes up alone, with the body of her husband cold beside her, dead. She cannot believe he has left her when he swore he never would. It is almost as if she is nothing without him.
But this novel is not about a man’s death. It is about a woman coming back to life. Slowly, painfully, a sensitive artist and mother makes new connections, finds new occupations, and rediscovers her place in the world.
Raised to believe a widow’s role is to take care of grandchildren and make grief her companion, Amelia takes a different path. She embarks on the most challenging year of her life.
She struggles to repair her broken relationship with her daughter and develops a second career in midlife. If she can find a way to allow herself to act in the face of her guilt and her daughter’s disapproval, she may even find love again.
This heartfelt novel is the story of a courageous woman’s spiritual rebirth. As Amelia begins to rediscover herself, readers will share in her refusal to give in to loss or to accept anything less than a rich and meaningful life.

After her husband passes away, Amelia Weiss goes through the most difficult period in her life. Without Nathan, she’s lost, clueless of what to do next. Even getting out of bed in the morning is nearly impossible. Sculpting, which always brought her joy, reduces her to tears. The love of her life is gone, and she’s left alone to pick up the pieces.
Her son, Davi, leads his own life in the city with his fiance. Her relationship with her daughter Chloe is strained. They’ve never gotten along well, and Nathan always had to act as the middle man. But now he’s gone, and there’s no one left to reconcile them. Chloe makes an effort when she asks Amelia to come visit her in the city, revealing her pregnancy and marriage troubles to her mother, who tries to help her in every way possible.
As they slowly grow closer to each other, Amelia finds a new love for yoga and gets back in touch with her old love for astrology. She learns how to make new connections and rediscover who she is and who she wants to be. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll find love again.
This novel talks about a courageous woman, who’s heartbroken at first, and slowly learns to put herself together again. Missing pieces are replaced by new ones, old friends by new friends, and she becomes whole again. It’s a heartfelt novel, just in time for the holiday, about loss, sadness, grief, and never giving up, about being loved from beyond the grave and feeling that love in everything you do. About making a new life for yourself when your loved ones are taken away. Many times throughout reading, I was reduced to tears.
With good writing, solid characters, and a keen sense of detail, Twelve Houses is a novel that will appeal to many people. I thought, since the protagonist is so much older than I am, and the topic is rather sad at first, it wouldn’t appeal to me, but I found myself rooting for Amelia, her personal growth, every minor victory, and feeling for her as if she was a long lost relative. So even if you don’t think this might be for you, at first, it’s worth giving it a shot.


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Book Review: Simon’s Choice by Charlotte Castle

8600510Title: Simon’s Choice
Author: Charlotte Castle
Genre: Drama, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

“But, Daddy? Who will live with me in Heaven?”

Doctor Simon Bailey has everything a man could ever want. Then his beautiful daughter is diagnosed with Leukemia.

He can almost accept her impending death. He can almost accept the fact that he will have to live without her. But he cannot stand the thought of his little girl having to face death alone.

He answers her innocent question in a moment of desperation, testing his marriage, his professional judgment and his sanity to the limit. As cracks form in Simon’s previously perfect family, we wonder, as do his loved ones … will he really make the ultimate sacrifice?

Combining poignant moments of both humour and pain, ‘Simon’s Choice’ is a penetrating account of parenthood at the sharp-end.

Simon’s Choice is a heart-wrenching, time-stopping novel that brought me to the edge of tears. It’s drama at its finest, showing us the darkest sides of life, but doing so in a convincing way.

Simon’s daughter has been diagnosed with Leukemia. She’s been in remission for a while, but now the illness is back and more destructive than ever. He’s a doctor and blames himself for not noticing her symptons right away. When Simon and his wife get the devastating news that their daughter will not recover, and only has a few months left to live, it shatters their family.

When his daughter, Sarah, asks him if she’s going to die, she takes up the news in stride. What she can’t cope with, is being all alone in heaven. No relatives of theirs have passed away, and there’s no one there to take care of her when she dies. So when she asks, Simon gives the most illogical response ever: he’ll go with her.

For his wife, Melissa, who translates this into Simon going to kill himself, this news shows his mental instability. She distances herself from her husband, and she goes very far with this. I found it to be believable, but my feelings toward Melissa went from feeling sorry to hating her after seeing what she put him through. She only allowed him supervised visits with Sarah, told him to move out, and so on. Basically she blamed him for everything, without putting any blame on herself.

The ending was bittersweet, and had a massive emotional impact on me. The book is strong in general, but it has its ups and downs. Melissa’s reactions were exaggerated, but I kind of understand she could behave so irrationally in light of what happened.

The book also opens up our eyes to how we act around people in as much pain as Simon and Melissa are, and it’s not pretty.

Don’t expect a light read when you start this book. I ended up teary-eyed, but if I hadn’t been in the train when reading, I probably would’ve cried my eyes out. Not for the faint of heart.

Book Review: Ganges Boy by Archana Prasanna

16087604Title: Ganges Boy
Author: Archana Prasanna
Genre: Coming of Age, Drama, YA
Age Group: Young Adult / Adult
Rating: 3,5 stars
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Ganges Boy tells a profound coming of age tale against the backdrop of the heart and soul of the fascinating city of Varanasi. Kabir, an orphaned adolescent born out of wedlock to a Hindu mother and a Muslim father, struggles to cope with the loss of his murdered mother while trying to navigate the harsh reality of street life. After years of working in a sari factory under an authoritative owner, and later as a boatman on the holy river Ganga, he is confronted with his unknown past when he meets his blind Grandfather for the first time. Kabir is taken away to politically charged Delhi and submerged in a foreign world of privilege and education. However, the initial exhilaration of the luxurious life soon fades away when he discovers a sinister side to his Grandfather. He is torn between choosing the free spirited life he once knew and the new life of opportunity. Kabir’s journey of self-identity is poignant and touching as he searches for his place in the world while also trying to understand it through religion, friendships, family, and passion.

Ganges Boy is set in India, where Muslim and Hindu people still live in a relatively unstable peace, and marriage between the two religions is strictly prohibited, where people are locked up in boxes based on their position in society, and factory work for longer than ten hours a day is no exception. I enjoyed reading this book because it brought me to territory I’d never bothered to explore before. Young adult books about India, or anywhere except Europa, Australia and the USA for that matter, are rare. I like getting to know other societies and their principles, and I learned a great deal from reading this book.

Main character Kabir has had a tough life so far. He’s spend many days in the factory with his mother, a Hindu woman who married a Muslim man. After Kabir’s father passed away, his mother and he became mostly shunned, because of their mixed-religion relationship, and Kabir being the product of it. One night his mother gets murdered, and Kabir scarcely escapes by fleeing into the Ganges river. He’s rescued by an unknown hero, and from then on, he’s left to fend for his own. He goes back to work at the factory his mother used to work at, but as he grows older he realizes he may be capable of doing more. He signs up as a boatwala, and earns a fair living. He falls in love with a girl, and he spends time with his best friend. All is great in the world, until Kabir’s grandfather shows up, ready to whisk him away from his life of poverty. But life in the city of New Dehli may be a lot more challenging than Kabir thought possible, and his grandfather lives in an entirely different world than he does. A world with bathtubs and shoes, and expensive law firms and politics.

I thought the story started out promising, but I never got the feeling I was inside Kabir’s head. It was like there was a giant barrier between me and him, because of the way the story was told, sprinting over certain events. I understand the need to talk about several years of Kabir’s life, from little kid to a grown up man, but I would’ve liked to see more of his feelings, especially at the beginning and when his Mom dies. We’re told how Kabir feels often enough – He feels exhausted, he feels sad, he feels… – but it’s never really shown. I only remember one scene where he burst out in tears in his hut after his Mom passed away, but that’s it. The same counts for all of the characters. When Kabir studies his friend, he notices ‘he looked anxious’. How? Does sweat drips down his face? Does he bite his lower lip? Dart his eyes from left to right? How does Kabir know his friend is anxious? I don’t want to hear that he is, I want to figure it out myself.

That basically sums up everything that was wrong with this book in a nutshell. It has a potentially strong story, an unique setting, and the author has a large vocabulary and she knows how to write well-flowing sentences. But the story lacks emotion. We get to hear everything second-handed, but we never experience it ourselves, as the reader. And that’s a shame, because the story would’ve been a lot more powerful if instead of being told everything, we could see for ourselves.

However, there’s a lot of good things about Ganges Boy as well. I liked the plot, the writing was decent (except for the problem mentioned above) and the story didn’t drag. I wouldn’t say it was fast-paced either, but it had a nice, steady pace all through out the book. I enjoyed it, and it was a pleasant read, but I wouldn’t reread it any time soon.

I would recommend Ganges Boy to fans of coming-of-age stories. This isn’t really YA, but I think it would appeal to readers from that age and upwards. If you ever wanted to read about foreign cultures, this is your chance as well. Without info-dumping, the author gives a lot of information about Hindu and Muslim cultures.


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Book Review: The Wicked and The Just by J. Anderson Coats

12180253Title: The Wicked and The Just
Author: J. Anderson Coats
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Mystery
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 17th 2012
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.
While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction novels, then you’ll absolutely love The Wicked and The Just. Set in 13th century Wales, this book is a well-researched, vivid account of daily life for the rich and the poor in Wales when it was occupied by England. What makes this book brilliant and unique is it’s historical correctness, and its main characters. This book is told from the alternating points of view of rich English girl Cecily and her servant, Welsch Gwen.

Cecily is a stuck up brat. She’s not entirely terrible, because she doesn’t intend to hurt people’s feelings by treating everyone she comes across as her servant, but it’s close. I had the feeling that more often than not she was just too preoccupied to worry about other people’s feelings. But Cecily is also pretty hilarious, although she doesn’t try to be. She’s clumsy, downright idiotic at times, and her idea of right and wrong is so messed up I couldn’t help but laugh at her expense. She’s not a likeable character, but I applaud the author for choosing an unlikeable heroine. I didn’t grow to like her by the end, but that still didn’t take out how good this book was, or how much I enjoyed the story. It wouldn’t have been the same if the main character had been someone I could easily like. It’s brave when authors use unlikeable protagonists, but it’s astonishing when they succeed in writing an awesome book featuring said protagonist.

The other main character, Gwen, is the polar opposite. Forced to work for every penny, focused on surviving life day by day, she is hardened by poverty, and has a grim and bitter look on life. But who can blame her? When she’s forced to work as a servant for the stuck up English girl, Cecily, Gwen’s life goes from bad to worse. When the girl’s life begins to interweave, my initial thoughts were they’d become friends. Although they learn to accept each other somewhat along the way, they never make it to friendship and I’m actually relieved. It would’ve been a bit too far-stretched. And not every book needs a happy ending where everyone’s besties and the bad guys have been defeated.

What I enjoyed most about this book besides the story, which is surprising and interesting and has a large number of twists and turns that keep up the pace, is the writing style. It’s spot on. Never too descriptive, never too lyrical, but always spot on. Then why the four and not five stars? At times, I felt like the story dragged on a bit. I would’ve liked more action and drama. But overall, this is a great read, with awesome characters and a historical setting that’s not overused at all.

Book Review: The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs

4857614Title: The Angel Maker
Author: Stefan Brijs
Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction, Mystery, Literature
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: December 30th 2008
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A literary page-turner about one man’s macabre ambition to create life-and secure immortality
The village of Wolfheim is a quiet little place until the geneticist Dr. Victor Hoppe returns after an absence of nearly twenty years. The doctor brings with him his infant children-three identical boys all sharing a disturbing disfigurement. He keeps them hidden away until Charlotte, the woman who is hired to care for them, begins to suspect that the triplets-and the good doctor- aren’t quite what they seem. As the villagers become increasingly suspicious, the story of Dr. Hoppe’s past begins to unfold, and the shocking secrets that he has been keeping are revealed. A chilling story that explores the ethical limits of science and religion, The Angel Maker is a haunting tale in the tradition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. Brought to life by internationally bestselling author Stefan Brijs, this eerie tale promises to get under readers’ skin.

Before you start reading The Angel Maker, get some tissues ready. Even if it’s just to wipe the sweat of your brow when you’re reading through some of the most suspenseful passages ever written. Or if it’s to wipe your eyes dry when reading a particularly sad part of the book reflecting on the protagonist’s childhood.

The main star of this book is Victor. First claimed to be mentally retarded, under the ‘care’ of nuns in a strict school, he slowly grows to become a genius. While nobody ever understood him in the first years of life because of his erratic behavior, by the time he turns twenty, nobody understands him because of his genius. Eons ahead of others, he wants to devise a way to make clones of himself, to prove to the world that he can, and for a bazillion other complex, psychological reasons. He succeeds, returning to his home village and bringing with him three identical toddlers with a deformity. While the villagers’ opinion ranges from wildly enthusiastic about the new doctor, and applauding him for taking care of his three sons singlehandedly, others have far less approving opinions about the good doctor. When he saves some villager’s lives, he’s gradually accepted into the community. But what the villagers don’t know is the doctor’s dark secret, about where the toddlers came from, and why they’re slowly deteriorating.

I can’t really say anything more out of fear of spoiling the book for you, but let me tell you that The Angel Maker is, above all, a thriller. It poses the question how far we’re willing to go to achieve our goals. How far brilliance and genius can take and individual, and how easily it can destroy them. It asks about what is allowed and what isn’t, and if human life is a too high price to pay. The doctor, Victor, is one of the most intriguing, complex, multi-dimensional characters I’ve ever read about. His childhood is so tragic and sad it made my heart weep for him. Gradually, I began to understand the reasons behind his actions, and the consequences of what he’d done. There is no true villain here. I couldn’t bring myself to see Victor as a true villain. More like a man misled by beliefs and convictions and his own doubts in humanity.

The triples were…adorable. Even if they were weird and creepy, even if they learned at strange rates, even if I’d probably have goosebumps standing in one room with them, they were adorable all the same. Especially when we got to see more of them. That’s what’s so truly sad about this novel. Nobody is happy. Nobody leaves the stage feeling even remotely content. Victor’s experiment comes back to haunt him, the triplets who were meant to be perfect are slowly withering away like flowers wasting away in the sun. Even the nanny isn’t happy, because she’s grown to love these children and she sees what’s happening to them, although she doesn’t understand it completely. Dark and disturbing, that’s how I’d describe The Angel Maker, although it’s a lot more.

I rated this book a three because it’s so darn pessimistic. There’s no positive message anywhere although, if you dig deep enough, there is. The author just fails to touch upon it, or doesn’t want to mention it. The general feeling I had after reading this book was one of sadness. The thriller aspect of it is great though. The book is even downright creepy at times; but it’s an atmospheric eeriness, like you come across in gothic horror novels. It’s not horror as such, but it’s still delightfully creepy. The kind of disturbing feeling that creeps up on you when you least expect it, that sneaks out from under the covers and stares at you in the middle of the night. I read this book on the train and kept glancing at my fellow passengers, half and half expecting some of them would’ve turned into monsters by the time I was finished.

Overall, this is a great book. Ideal to read during a chilly winter night. Give it a try. It’s not thriller-like in the sense of immediate danger, but it’s when you really start to think about it that you’ll feel truly disturbed – at least I did.

Book Review: Beneath The Shadows by Sara Foster

13100208Title: Beneath The Shadows
Author: Sara Foster
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Gothic Horror
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: June 5th 2012
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Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In this thrilling gothic suspense debut by Sara Foster in the tradition of Rosamund Lupton and Sophie Hannah, a young mother searches Yorkshire’s windswept moors for the truth behind her husband’s mysterious disappearance.
When Grace’s husband, Adam, inherits an isolated North Yorkshire cottage, they leave the bustle of London behind to try a new life. A week later, Adam vanishes without a trace, leaving their baby daughter, Millie, in her stroller on the doorstep. The following year, Grace returns to the tiny village on the untamed heath. Everyone—the police, her parents, even her best friend and younger sister—is convinced that Adam left her. But Grace, unable to let go of her memories of their love and life together, cannot accept this explanation. She is desperate for answers, but the slumbering, deeply superstitious hamlet is unwilling to give up its secrets. As Grace hunts through forgotten corners of the cottage searching for clues, and digs deeper into the lives of the locals, strange dreams begin to haunt her. Are the villagers hiding something, or is she becoming increasingly paranoid? Only as snowfall threatens to cut her and Millie off from the rest of the world does Grace make a terrible discovery. She has been looking in the wrong place for answers all along, and she and her daughter will be in terrible danger if she cannot get them away in time.

If you’re as much of a fan of gothic horror as I am, then the synopsis of Beneath The Shadows probably intrigues you more than you’d like to admit. It was the synopsis that first drew me in for this story, but it definitely didn’t dissapoint. It’s a bit less gothic than I would’ve liked, but it does its best to be a gothic horror with a modern twist, and it succeeds in that department. The only problem? To me, it read more like women’s fiction meets mystery. Or even a cozy mystery of sorts. There were creepy, ghostly elements, but they were either quickly dismissed or offered little to nothing to the story. This could’ve been handled differently, better even, by living up to its genre and giving the reader true gothic horror.

Grace and Adam and their little daughter Millie return back to the place where Adam grew up in North Yorkshire. They move into a cottage left to them by Adam’s parents. Soon after their arrival in town, Adam takes Millie for a walk. Hours later, Grace finds Millie’s baby carriage at her doorstep, but no sign of Adam. As the police arrive and start to investigate, there’s no trace of Adam. Some people start to believe he just up and left them, but Grace refuses to believe that. Something bad happened to her husband, because he would never leave Millie out in the cold, or leave both of them behind. But the question remains: what? And who’s responsible?

A year later, Grace returns back to the cottage. But contradictory to the homey, comfortable feel she had in it at first, now it makes shivers run down her spine. The village is tiny, claustrophobically so, and we’re introduced to only a handful of the town’s characters. Meredith is Grace’s nextdoor neighbour, although they live a while apart, and she lives in one of the largest houses in town. Although Meredith is friendly enough, there’s something sinister about the woman Grace can’t quite place. Almost accidently, Grace ends up hiring a handyman to help fix the cottage, Ben. He’s nice enough, but he too seems to be hiding a dark secret.

With everyone enveloped in their own secrets, and her husband still missing, Grace has trouble deciding who she can trust…if anyone.

Beneath The Shadows is wrapped up in suspense like a butterfly in a cocoon. Suspense drips from the pages, starting on page one, and continuing until after the end. The characters are superb. Grace is an intriguing protagonist. She isn’t particularly brave or intelligent, but she believes firmly in that her husband wouldn’t just walk out on her, regardless of what others say, and she fiercely wants to protect her daughter Millie. She’s stronger than she appears at first sight, and braver than I gave her credit for as well.

The side characters make interesting additions to this story. Grace’s sister Annabel is fun, Ben is nice, and some of the villagers are creepy or strange. I liked the narrative. Some otehr reviewers mentioned they weren’t fond of it, but I quite enjoyed it.

Another pet peeve of mine was the constant referals to the novel Rebecca. I’ve read Rebecca, and loved it, and trust me, Beneath The Shadows is nothing like Rebecca. It’s a good, enjoyable read as it is, but it comes nowhere near that classic.

All in all, Beneath The Shadows is a great book for around Halloween if you’re not in a mood to get too scared, but you do want some mystery, or during summer when you want to spend a lazy afternoon reading.

Book Review: The Voice of Waterfalls by Natasha Salnikova

12824882Title: The Voice of Waterfalls
Author: Natasha Salnikova
Genre: Supernatural Thriller, Drama
Publisher: NAS
Publication Date: October 6th 2011
Rating: 3,5 stars
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Review copy provided by the author.

Inga manages to escape from a “house of terror” where she was held as a sex slave along with other girls who were kidnapped. She is chased into the woods and runs onto the road, almost falling under the wheels of an approaching car. She thought, it would be better to die that way than to return to her captors. The driver of the car, to her surprise, saves her. He brings her to his house and introduces her to his family: his mother, his father and his younger sister. He gives Inga a key to a separate room and brings her food. She appreciates his help and calls him her knight from the road. All she needs now is a phone to make a call to her mother. Her savior, Alman, says they don’t have one in the house. He’s also not in a hurry to take her from his house in the woods to the town where she can talk to police. And Inga began to doubt the noble intentions of her savior. After some time she starts to think this house is worse than the one she was imprisoned in before, if that was possible…

You would think that, after escaping from being held as a sex slave, life would look up for Inga. I mean, how much bad luck can one person get? A lot, apparently, as Inga is thrown from one disaster into another. As she runs away barefooted from the very people who kidnapped her, locked her up, raped her, beat her and threatened to kill her whenever she did something wrong, she is rescued by a young man named Alman. Although he appears friendly enough and offers her a place to stay for the night with the promise that she can call her mother first thing in the morning, Inga soon learns that something is totally off about Alman. And it’s not just Alman whose acting strange – it’s his entire family.

What if the secret Alman and his family are hiding is something worse than all the things she experienced in that house of terror alltogether? What if, in reality, this is the true house of terror? Alman and his family start acting more and more peculiar with every passing day, she can’t leave the premises and why does she keep on hearing terrifying screams in the dead of night? When she makes a run for it and ends up at the sheriff’s office, who promptly returns her to Alman and his family, Inga begins to realize that whatever is going on, the entire town of Quiet River seems to be involved. Who can she turn to from help? Whereto can she escape if everyone and everything is against her? Help may come from an unexpected corner in the form of Anthony, a too-successful lawyer, travelling to the town of his youth to escape his own guilt.

Natasha Salnikova has a writing voice that’s excellent for storytelling. She gives just the right amount of attention to detail, but doesn’t waste any time starting the action as well. From page one, you’re tumbling into the story head on, like you’re on a rollercoaster of events and the only way to get out is to jump. After Inga’s escape from the house of terror, the tension builds up gradually. The author presents the eerie and spooky atmosphere of the town of Quiet River perfectly, and she also describes the rising tension inside Alman’s family home in a believable fashion. Everything and everyone is against Inga. Where can she escape if the only route left is through a looming forest, possibly filled with boobytraps and other monsterous things as well? What can she do if the local sheriff is not to be trusted and her savior turns out to be an even more terrifying monster than her previous captors? This sense of being captured, being stuck, having nowhere to go, is palpable from the very beginning of the story, and it only expands in proportion as the story continues. The tension is overwhelming and omnipresent, and I occassionally caught myself gasping for air, feeling equally as trapped as Inga felt in the novel.

The way Inga is portrayed is excellently done as well. Inga is a very likable character, probably because we see her in the role of unwilling victim from the start. As a reader, you instantly feel sorry for her for two main reasons: 1) she’s being used as a sex slave, 2) she mentions how much she misses her mother. That touched a soft spot with me, and made me like her right away. Then, when she escapes, I cheered her on, hoping that she would somehow end up somewhere better, although the book synopsis had already told me that wouldn’t be the case. And when Alman turned all savior-new-captor-like on her, I felt like shooting him through the head with his own hunting riffle. It’s very easy to be on team Inga, both because you instantly feel sorry for her, and secondly because she seems to have a nice, caring personality. Maybe she’s not the brightest one out there, going to a shady-looking audition in the big city, but that could happen to all of us. And maybe she’s not the most courageous and brave person ever either, but that makes her all the more human. Those heroines looking for weapons to bash in the heads of their captors immediately are interesting, I give them that, but they’re not real. Some people might be like that, but most of us would be scared to hell in the face of possible murderers, and we would cower and do as we were told as well. Inga is an excellent example of this, and it shows her flaws and humanity, and makes her all hte more likeable.

In terms of originality, I have to say The Voice of Waterfalls scores quite high as well. I’ve heard about crazy people living in remote towns near the forest before – a lot of times, actually – but the author adds her own original spin on it, which I enjoyed immensly.


Author Natasha Salnikova was generous enough to offer an eBook copy of The Voice of Waterfalls to six lucky readers! If you feel like participating, simply fill in the form below and leave a comment.

Book Review: Snow Escape by Roberta Goodman

12795635Title: Snow Escape
Author: Roberta Goodman
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Drama
Publisher: White Words, Inc.
Publication Date: September 29th 2011
Rating: 3,5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon (Kindle) | Publisher’s Website | Author’s Website

Set against the backdrop of a historic snowstorm, Snow Escape is the story of one woman’s innocent foray into the world of online dating turned deadly.
Allegra Maxwell is a 30-year old, single school teacher looking for love. Having chosen to use the Internet to meet the opposite sex, she encounters an articulate, prospective beau on the night the biggest blizzard in history is blanketing the Big Apple. Their pleasant conversation soon turns sinister when she discovers that “Charles” has been stalking her for weeks and claims he lives in her building. With threats of destroying her little by little are made, Allegra must stay one step ahead of the mind games. Turning to neighbors for help, tragic consequences ensue.
When her sanity is questioned, because the online evidence her stalker exists disappears, Allegra must prove he does exist and she isn’t losing her mind. When a power outage thrusts her into darkness, will she be able to overcome the helplessness she feels? Placed in a situation that’s spiraling totally out of her control, while trapped in her apartment building with no escape, will she survive until the authorities can reach her?

Snow Escape begins by introducing us to Allegra, a single woman in her thirties who works as a teacher and spends her spare time hanging out with friends or looking for possible dates on an online dating site. Ever since things didn’t work out with her ex-boyfriend Danny – he wanted to keep things simple, while she was convinced they had an actual relationship – things in the love department haven’t been working out for Allegra. She went on a couple of dates, but none of those guys sounded relationship material to her. Now, with a historical snow storm coming her way, Allegra finds herself stuck home on a friday evening with nothing better to do than grade homework and watch a movie, or reply to some of the mails she got from potential dates.

However, when Allegra gets a mail back from a man named ‘Charles’ and starts chatting with him online, the conversation grows eerier with the second. Not only is Charles supposedly living in her building, he also has some unsettling plans for her…Allegra’s panic increases with the minute as Charles not only is able to tell her exactly how many minutes she was asleep, indicating that watched her, but also threatens to harm her. Panicking, Allegra goes to her neighbours for help. However, not all of them believe her so willingly, and some might even be involved in the foul play…The clock is ticking mercilessly, and it’s up to Allegra to find out who she can trust and who she can’t, especially with the power falling out, clothing the building in unforgiving darkness. With a stalker and potential killer on the loose, who can Allegra turn to for help? And how well does she really know the people she’s called her neighbors for the last couple of years?

Snow Escape has an excellent premise, and it certainly delivers. The novel is captivating from the start, building tension slowly and gradually until you as a reader feel you might just be buried underneath the same amount of tension and despair as the main character.That being said, Allegra does make an interesting protagonist. The way she is being portrayed by people differs greatly. There seems to be a category of people who think she was obsessed with her ex-boyfriend and stalked him up to the point he was forced to leave town (Miguel, ex-boyfriend of one of her best friends, is one of those who seem to think that way) whereas others, including me, think that account is greatly exaggerated. From what I gathered from Allegra’s brief interactions with her friends, some of them really don’t threat her right, or have no insight in human psychology whatsoever. Allegra, honey, you definately need to find yourself a new set of friends. And stop dating on the internet.

Anyway, I found it intriguing to see how different some people can think about the same events, and how much opinions can vary. The residents in Allegra’s apartment building all hold secrets of their own as well, and it’s up to Allegra (and the reader) to find out what exactly they’re hiding and whether or not they’re the culprit. The first part of this novel is simply amazing. As I said, it’s a build-up of tension, anticipation and fear. But then the novel takes a different direction with the arrival of police officers and two detectives, and the constant feeling of dread vanishes. It’s as if this book miraculously transforms from an outstanding, nailbiting thriller into a mystery novel featuring two detectives who have to solve a crime.

I wasn’t too fond of this twist of events, but I did like how the officers had to put a timeline together and decipher who was telling the truth and who was lying in order to find out who really stalked Allegra, or if her supposed stalker was, as some of the tenants suggested, imaginative. I found this thought-process interesting to say the least, but it did drop the pace of the story significantly and all the tension that had been building up from page one simply dissapeared. The twist at the ending was unexpected and interesting, but it didn’t make up for the lack of tension in the previous chapters. Especially the fact that the detectives seemingly repeat everything that has just happened not once, but twice is a bit annoying. I would’ve preferred it if this novel had stayed with its original starting point, as a fast-paced, frightening thriller. The second part seems to belong to another book alltogether.

Solid characters with intriguing personalities offering a look at humanity in total, and on how perspectives can differ a lot from one individual to another. A nailbiting thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat for more than the first half of the story and then changes into a mystery novel with two detectives taking the front row. I enjoyed Snow Escape, and I read it in one sitting, desperate to know who was stalking Allegra this entire time, but it could’ve been better had the pace not dropped significantly in the second part, hence why only the 3,5 rating rather than a 4. But all in all, for a debut novel, Snow Escape has an intriguing premise, it’s well-executed, the characters are intriguing and Roberta Goodman’s fluent writing style makes up for a lot of the flaws in the second part. I would definately recommend it to people who are fans of thrillers like Night Stalker by Carol Davis Luce. The novel is intriguing and captivating, and I certainly enjoyed reading it. I’m looking forward to reading more works by this author.


In the spirit of Halloween, author Roberta Goodman wants to give away 3 eBook copies of Snow Escape to 3 lucky winners!