When Through Deep Waters

When through deep watersAuthor: Rachelle Dekker

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: July 3, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Tackling the difficult topics of grief and mental illness, Rachelle Dekker has written a book far removed from that of her first trilogy, but in all the right ways. Dekker has found her voice as a writer in a way I have been waiting for.

It’s hard to live your own life when you are always trying to please someone else. Alicen McCaffrey has the life her mother wants for her, but its not the life she wants.  With a wildly successful husband, California home, and a daughter she adores, things seem perfect, until it all falls apart.  Alicen feels completely responsible and hits rock bottom feeling she has nothing left to live for.  Almost everyone abandons her and she turns to the one person she has left, a childhood friend who takes her back to their childhood home in Red Lodge, Montana.  Memories of their good times spent together and her grandmother who lived there come flooding back.  However, the good times aren’t the only things that come back.  Alicen starts hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t there and she fears she is losing it completely just as her grandmother was rumored to have done.  Is any of it real?  Or is this going to be more than she can take?

The name Dekker for me always draws me to books by Rachelle’s father, wo is one of my all time favorite authors with stories like no one else writes. The first books Rachelle wrote reminded me all too well of her father’s writing which disappointed me, I was hoping for her own voice.  In When Through Deep Waters I finally saw that individual voice of hers coming out.  There was a moment or two she tried to put tie-ins to her father’s writing that could have been left out, but readers who haven’t read anything by him won’t even notice.  This story hit really close to home for me because I read it right after my son had been in an accident that could have been catastrophic; luckily it wasn’t, but the emotions were at a passionate high point anyway.  I felt a solid connection with the characters more than in any of her previous novels and could really see a growth in the writing.  A great deal of detail helped make the setting and the characters mesh in just the right way and brought the story to life.  I not only enjoyed Alicen as the main character, but also several of the secondary characters as well.  Labeling it as a thriller might be a stretch since that didn’t happen until close to the end; regardless, it is a book worth reading and keeping on the shelves for a long time.  I recommend this book to fans of both Dekkers’ and those that enjoy the writing of Tosca Lee and James Rubart.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed with are my own.

The Doll Funeral

The Doll FuneralAuthor: Kate Hamer

Publisher: Meville House

Release Date: August 15, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A strange, interesting tale that will leave readers deep in the woods of the story and not wanting to come out.

When Ruby turns thirteen she gets what she has wanted all her life, finding out her parents are not her real mother and father. Ruby makes it her mission to find her real parents and get out from under the abuse she has suffered her entire life.  Ruby sets off into the forest with her imaginary friend she calls Shadow boy and finds a group of siblings who have been living alone and welcome her to join them.  The longer she spends with them, the more she realizes they need her as much as she needs them and the reasons make it difficult to determine what is real and what is not.  Told from Ruby’s time and point of view and also that of her mother when she first became pregnant, The Doll Funeral is a tale that will engage the imagination and leave the reader wondering long after the last page.

This is a book that is very compelling, confusing and entertaining all at the same time. Ruby is a girl that sees much more than most her own age.  Ruby has an imaginary friend that helps her along the way with the troubles she goes through.  This relationship helps the story along giving the reader much more insight into the mindset of the characters.  All the characters in this book go on a very emotional journey and the writing brings the reader along to feel each of the emotions as the character experiences them.  Going back and forth between the timeline of Ruby and her mother shows how the actions of one trickles down to affect others.  A back and forth timeline can sometimes be a difficult thing to write but Kate Hamer has done an excellent job giving this duel timeline taking the story forward and engaging the reader.  There were a few pages throughout that I skimmed through to get back to the story but overall not much was to be missed.  This is a story I will recommend to readers that enjoy a thriller with a little bit of the supernatural sprinkled in throughout.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Dear Mr. M

dear-mr-mAuthor: Herman Koch

Publisher: Hogarth

Release Date: September 6, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you like to think while you read, you will love this book!

Mr. M is an elderly Dutch author who has written many books in his lifetime, but none have lived up to the hype of his early novel Payback.  Written based on a factual account of a young teacher who coerced a young female student into a relationship.  When she ended the relationship, he couldn’t fathom why she left him for the student he did and become obsessed with her.  When the teacher and two students end up in a deserted vacation home during Christmas vacation, the teacher ends up disappearing without a trace, bringing the two students under suspicion of murder, but no conviction is ever made.  People loved the book and even a movie was made from it.  But someone from the story surfaces and begins writing to the author.  The notes aren’t particularly amusing and could even be considered threatening.  What if dear Mr. M got it all wrong?

This has definitely been one of the more thought provoking reads of the year! Told from five different viewpoints throughout the story with little to no warning of who is suddenly taking over the narration.  It also switches between past and present without warning when changing sections of the book, so be warned.  However, Koch is a master story teller as I had no idea the full story until I read the whole story.  I was making conjectures throughout, but something always felt off.  Something didn’t quite make sense until the last few pages put it all into perspective.  The entire book makes it seem as though Mr. M is this washed up little talent author with the exception of two books: Payback which the book is centered on and then one about his ex-wife leaving him.  But maybe this old dog of an author isn’t all that unintelligent.

The story is primary a narration being told to the reader. There is some dialogue in a few parts that takes place here and there, so it can be a little difficult to follow at times.  There was some adult content included, both in harsh language and in implied sexual content.  The book is mostly set in the Amsterdam area, which I admit to having little to no geographical knowledge of prior to this book, which is always fun to help expand my horizons.  Overall an interesting read, but recommended for mature audiences due to the language and sexual content.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.



fracturedAuthor: Catherine McKenzie

Publisher: Lake Union Press

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When a neighborhood seems more like typical high school cliques, you know things will not turn out well!

Julie Prentice has uprooted her family and moved across the country after being harassed by a stalker over the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. They move from Washington State to Ohio in hopes of a fresh start.  Shortly after arriving, they find that their neighborhood is controlled by Cindy, the self-appointed head of their home owners association, and she wants to be involved in everyone’s business.  Julie finds an instant connection to her neighbor John Dunbar, which is a breath of fresh air to have someone nice around after the horrendous affair with the stalker.  Before long, Julie and her family become the targets of harassment once again.  There are misunderstandings and things are blown out of proportion quicker than high school gossip.  As things start to spiral out of control, Julie isn’t sure how much more she can take when tensions rise and the worst of everyone comes out.

I have to say I liked this much more than I first thought I would. There was a uniqueness to the story with the back and forth from the past to the present and the different viewpoints between Julie and John.  If you weren’t paying close attention, it might be a little difficult to follow but not terrible.  The writing to keep the tension up was done really well.  To produce a high amount of suspense in a novel, I think more of a murder mystery with a killer on the loose to keep me on the edge of my seat.  Here there was something about the way the story was written, especially after about the first third of the book, which I couldn’t put it down.  I give credit to Catherine McKenzie for that; it is not an easy task.  The last few chapters almost seemed a rush to tie things up a little too quickly though.  Several of the characters are very annoying, I’m looking at you Cindy, and some are just there to be there.  Even so, the story itself was very well laid out.  It did seem at times that even the adults were more immature than some of the kids. For example, Cindy tries to be a leader and inevitably becomes a bully.  Susan is a bit of a cling-on and Julie tries to fit in and yet finds everyone against her when she didn’t feel she had done anything wrong.

I do need to say this is for mature audiences with some of the language used, but could have been a lot worse. Overall it was a very enjoyable read and one I will recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from TLC book tours. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.