review: Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

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This book was *not* what I expected.

It was an entertaining read in many ways, but the summary is somewhat misleading.

Tsara Adelman visits her Uncle at his vast estate for the first time in many years to attend a party he’s holding. While there, she’s kidnapped by Mike Westbrook – a local man who believes that Tsara’s uncle is holding his child captive.

Mike intends to trade Tsara for his son, but the two rogue cops Uncle Castle sends after them have other plans. Deep in the wilderness, Tsara and Mike must fight for their lives while negotiating their own complex relationship.

Now, here’s what I thought would happen. Tsara and Mike would fall in love / have sex, there would be drama from that unintended consequence of two attractive people thrown together in heightened emotional circumstances. I also believed that a huge focus of the tension would come from the children hidden in Uncle Castle’s wine cellar, and the repercussions from whatever nefarious things he was up to with them.

Instead, the book went in the opposite direction, and I was baffled by some of the narrative choices.

1) Tsara being happily married, for one. There wasn’t any urgency or complexity there – it just *was*. Realistic, perhaps. Entertaining to read about? Not so much.

2) Mike was another wasted opportunity for me. He could have been so much more. I just didn’t believe in his reasons for doing anything he did. Not to mention, it was obvious from the get go that he wasn’t going to hurt Tsara – so any danger or sexual tension dissipated under the weight of that kind of apathy. I just couldn’t bring myself to care if he got his child back, or what happened to him.

3) The reasons Uncle Castle was keeping the kids captive. NOT exciting.

4) The book was much too long with some needless description and it became to meander toward the end. I think it could be trimmed down with careful editing.

The good?

1) Tsara was a likable character, with spunk and guts. She also had a dry sense of humour and was a stickler for grammar, which I appreciated.

2) The writing is solid, with few mistakes – if any – and once I became aware this book wouldn’t quite live up to the summary, I enjoyed the story. Especially the trial. That was an interesting choice. I’m not sure I completely believed any of it, but still, it’s nice to see an author take risks with a tale.

3) Tsara’s decision in the end, which I won’t go into here. It made me respect her as a person all that much more.

Generally speaking, this was a promising debut, however I think it needs a new summary (I thought the book would be a breathless journey through the wilderness – it isn’t) and editing to trim down some of the excess descriptions. I would be interested in reading more from this author. I think she has potential to write good mysteries – but I would recommend – as a reader – that more personal conflict is always juicy, appreciated and ups the ante – especially in a story like this one.

review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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Oh, Harry.

I resisted reading this series for a while when it first came out, mainly because it was so popular, and you know that feeling of, “well it can’t possibly be good if so many people like it”? Thankfully, I did end up reading this book and anxiously awaited the final installment when it came out in 2007.

It all begins so innocently and so wonderfully, with Harry living in The Cupboard Under the Stairs with his horrendous “family”, the Dursleys, until one day, funny things start to happen. Harry finds he has a specific set of abilities that scare the Dursleys, owls begin appearing, letters come through the fireplace and there is something that no one is telling him. Something big.

When Harry does finally find out the truth –

You’re a wizard, Harry.

– it’s pretty magical. He discovers Diagon Alley, Gringotts, Hogwarts and makes friends with Hermione and Ron. Over time, darker forces threaten his happiness, and he learns the truth about his parents’ death, the mysterious scar on his forehead, and ultimately, his own destiny.

JK Rowling perfectly captures every child’s dearest fantasy – that they will discover that they are actually a wizard, destined for amazing things and whisked off to wizarding school where they will learn to do magic and escape from their humdrum lives.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone isn’t the strongest of the series (I give that to Azkaban but it is the beginning of a beloved tale that will stand the test of time (given it’s been made into a theme park and all…), and introduced us to a cast of characters that I will never forget.

review: Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

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Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine – for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I can’t BELIEVE this is Holly Seddon’s first novel! It’s engrossing, raw, mesmerizing and utterly unputdownable. I was so entranced with this mystery that I actually snapped at my husband when he interrupted my reading. I put off chores so I could finish it. It’s THAT good.

Try Not to Breathe is the story of Alex Dale, a journalist teetering on the brink of disaster. Every morning, Alex writes freelance stories. Every afternoon, Alex gets blind drunk and often wakes up with urine-soaked sheets. It’s a devastatingly accurate depiction of severe alcoholism, and Seddon doesn’t sugar coat it. Alex is truly without a friend in the world – her only friend, her only love, is drinking.

But then – one day, while researching the work of a doctor who specializes in comatose patients, Alex stumbles upon a patient she recognizes. Amy Stevenson, a young girl who was attacked and left for dead over fifteen years before – now in her thirties, frozen somewhere in the quagmire of her own mind. Alex sets out to unravel the mystery of Amy’s attack – hoping to track down the person(s) responsible and in doing so, find some kind of redemption – personal and professional.

I absolutely adored spending time with Alex. After all, perfect characters are boring. Alex is a messy disaster of a person, and yet. You just can’t help rooting for her to get herself together and find the truth. The mystery is riveting, the peeks into Amy’s drifting, vanishing life are heartbreaking, and the surprise twist at the end actually *surprised* me. Excellent, excellent work.

5 enthusiastic stars. I can’t wait to read much, much more from this author. She’s off to a fantastic start in her professional writing career.