Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Review: The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger

The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger

Publication date: 7th May, 2015
Published by: Tinder Press, Headline
Genre: Literature, Fiction
Stars: 4 ****

The Blurb

Set in a stunning but scared Canadian landscape, The Mountain Can Wait is a story of fathers and sons and the heartache they cause each other, in the tradition of Annie Proulx.

Tom Berry has always been a loner, a man content to live out his days in the wilderness with just enough ammunition and kerosene to last out the winter. A single father, he has raised his children with the same quiet and absolute dedication he brings to his forestry business, but now he's discovering that might not have been enough.

When his son, Curtis, on the brink of adulthood, disappears after a tragic accident, it falls to Tom, the hunter, to track him down. Whether he can truly reach Curtis is another matter.

My Thoughts

The majority of this story is set deep in the mountains of British Columbia in Canada. It's a story about the struggles of a family Tom Berry and his children. Tom is father to Curtis and Erin and his wife walked out on him when their daughter was just a baby. Since then Tom has had to raise his children on his own whilst running his forestry business. He is a dedicated family man and committed to his company which plants trees in areas that have been damaged by logging companies.

The story starts out with Tom's son Curtis hitting a young girl on a country road one night whilst driving home from a party that they had both be at. When he realises what he has done, Curtis panics and instead of facing up to hit he flees leaving the girl to die in a ditch. The story then follows what happens after that fateful night.

The Mountain Can Wait is a haunting tale set against the stark backdrop of a mountain wilderness. On the surface there isn't really a lot to this book but there is something about Sarah Leipciger's writing that grabs you and puts you right in, immersing you in Tom's life as he begins to understand the trouble that his son is in.

Tom has never really been a man for feelings and whilst his children have been brought up learning all the practical skills they should need such as hunting they've never really had the emotional support. He's tried his best for his children and has always done right by his employees but ultimately Tom is a loner who feels most at peace when he's alone in the mountains. It's Tom's lack of emotions that means when Curtis comes to see him after the hit and run that means Tom just can't see that his son is in trouble. Curtis with noone to turn to leaves town and goes in to hiding leaving Tom the difficult task of trying to find him before the police do.

This is a depressing read due to the subject matter but there's a little glimpse of hope by the time the story finishes that left me satisfied and glad to have read the book. A great debut from an author that I will certainly read again.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Review: The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

Publication date: 7th May, 2015
Published by: Orion
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Stars: 4 ****

The Blurb

When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper's isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it's the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it's just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done.

For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of corpses - women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them - has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she's losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens.

But the slaughter at the Cooper farmhouse didn't quite go according to plan. There was a survivor, Rowena's 10-year-old daughter Nell, who now holds the key to the killings. Injured, half-frozen, terrified, Nell has only one place to go. And that place could be even more terrifying than what she's running from.

My Thoughts

Reading the blurb for this book on Netgalley I knew that it sounded just my kind of book and I was right as it was a truly gripping read. The action starts from the very first page when Rowena Cooper finds two strange men standing in her hallway. From that opening scene we are propelled on a bloody and gruesome journey on the trail of a sadistic serial killer and his accomplice.

Detective Valerie Hart is the person responsible for trying to track the pair of killers and the hunt for them becomes an obsession as she is trying to catch one of the most brutal killers she has ever come across. At first she comes across as bit of a cliche, alcoholic detective dependent on the drink to numb the pain of what she sees daily in her job but as the story moves on Valerie grows on you.

Then we have Nell. Rowena's 10 year old daughter who has managed to escape the bloodbath at her house. She is left traumatised and injured and is found unconscious in the snow by a stranger. He takes her back to his cabin to wait out a blizzard whilst our killer continue their murderous rampage. 

This is a truly dark and twisted read that when done right like 'The Killing Lessons' is becomes a wonderfully compelling read. Saul Black gets the pace just right and his main serial killer is certainly one of the most dark and depraved that I have come across in a while. A must for all crime fiction readers who love a good cat and mouse chase that is packed with gore and drama.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Review: The Far End Of Happy by Kathryn Craft

The Far End Of Happy by Kathryn Craft

Publication date: 1st May, 2015
Published by: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Women's Fiction
Stars: 4 ****

The Blurb

Twelve tense hours, three women, and the suicide standoff that turns one family's little piece of heaven into a scene from hell

After enduring years of a struggling marriage, Ronnie Farnham has decided to divorce her husband and is beginning to hope for a happy future--until the morning Jeff is supposed to move out, when he locks himself in their barn with a rifle.

When a massive police presence arrives to control the 12-hour stand off, the women in Jeff's life are pushed to their breaking points. Based on the author's harrowing personal story, The Far End of Happy is a powerful novel about the way one man's spiral towards life's violent conclusion tests the resolve, love, and hope of the women he will leave behind

My Thoughts

Whilst browsing Netgalley I was initially drawn to the cover of this book, so pretty & so peaceful but then I read the blurb & realised that this was definitely a case of never judge a book by it's cover. The blurb left me intrigued and having been touched by attempted suicide & depression in my own life I felt that 'The Far End Of Happy' was going to be an important book for me to read.

Ronnie Farnham, has always been prepared to overlook so many of her husband Jeff's flaws but his alcoholism and the serious debts he has racked up lead her to file for divorce. Jeff has been on the road to self-destruction for a long time and Ronnie as finally gotten to the point where she can no longer be with her husband for her sake & more importantly for the sake of her 2 young sons. The story starts on the morning that Jeff is supposed to be moving out of the family home, he's drunk and planning on driving. Ronnie and one of her young sons try to stop him and this results in the hostage stand-off with the police.

Ronnie is able to get away from the farm with her sons and then spends the next 12 hours cooped up in a room with her mother and her mother-in-law whilst the stand-off between Jeff and the police plays out. Ronnie's mother-in-law refuses to see that it is her son who has the problem and lays the blame firmly with Ronnie.The story is told from the points of view of all 3 women and through a series of flashbacks we learn a lot about Ronnie's marriage and that perhaps Jeff wasn't the husband and man that everyone thought he was.

Ronnie is an engaging character and I was able to feel her pain as she struggled with the impact her decisions are likely to make. This story is an important one and Kathryn Craft tells it well drawing from her own personal experience of suicide. The Far End Of Happy is based on true events from the author's past and Craft blends her own story effortlessly with fiction. She tackles the subject sensitively and gives deep insight into the minds of the loved ones touched by suicide. It's a novel packed with emotion and the 12 hour time-scale really ramps up the tension. Despite the outcome of the stand-off we are left with hope and the belief that Ronnie and her boys have a positive future.

I can't really say I enjoyed The Far End Of Happy as enjoy seems the wrong word when it comes to this type of book. The story did however touch me deeply but there was something missing for me but I can't quite work out what that missing thing was that would have given the book that 5th star. I'd highly recommend this book to reading groups are there are so many things that can be discussed.