The Current by Tim Johnston

The Current by Tim Johnston

426a4ba5-ef75-495f-b566-a93869289dfcThank you to Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill for sending me a free copy of The Current by Tim Johnston in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis from Amazon: 

In the dead of winter, outside a small Minnesota town, state troopers pull two young women and their car from the icy Black Root River. One is found downriver, drowned, while the other is found at the scenehalf frozen but alive.

What happened was no accident, and news of the crime awakens the community’s memories of another young woman who lost her life in the same river ten years earlier, and whose killer may still live among them.

Determined to find answers, the surviving young woman soon realizes that she’s connected to the earlier unsolved case by more than just a river, and the deeper she plunges into her own investigation, the closer she comes to dangerous truths, and to the violence that simmers just below the surface of her hometown.

Grief, suspicion, the innocent and the guilty—all stir to life in this cold northern town where a young woman can come home, but still not be safe. Brilliantly plotted and unrelentingly propulsive, The Current is a beautifully realized story about the fragility of life, the power of the past, and the need, always, to fight back.

My Review: 

I read Tim Johnston’s Descent a few years  back and really enjoyed the depths within the pages of what would otherwise be a typical thriller.  So when I saw The Current was soon to be published, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy because I knew what a gem it would be.

The first thing I picked up on while reading The Current was the familiarity and authenticity of small town life: the people, their thoughts and judgements, the gossip and the humbleness of the daily grind.  Authors sometimes paint small town life as quaint, or quirky even but it really isn’t any of those things.  I have lived small town life and saw it mimicked precisely in The Current.

That realness really set the stage for the small town drama that ensued. Elements from the past and present, while seemingly separate in the beginning, meld into a tragedy much bigger than the towns people originally thought. While it did take me a little while to piece together what was going on between the pas and present, by the last quarter of the book I was flying through pages to find out what would happen.

One issue I did have with the book was the beginning third or so, where bits and pieces of the past are intermingled with the present plot.  Timeframes are not noted so I kept getting confused if a character was telling about something currently happening or something that happened before.  Once I got everything straightened out in my mind, I found it easier to follow along but it was a rocky start.

The Current was also a little slower moving that I remember Descent being, but I did think that the slower pace matched the small town life and setting that Johnston so soundly built up. I would definitely call this one a slow burn.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and the depths of setting and character that Johnston is so good at creating will help this book make a lasting impression in my mind. I rate this one 3.5 out of 5 starts, I did enjoy it but I think I still like Descent better.

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

6225FA4B-7AC2-4E1E-9D0D-CC5A7E0FDD81Thank you to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow books for sending me a free copy of The Gown.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis from Amazon:

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

My Review:

I loved this book!  The Gown is historical fiction at it’s best.  The story is told through three points of view: Ann in 1947, Miriam in 1947, and Heather in 2016. I loved reading from each woman’s point of view to see what she was going to add to the story.  Sometimes when books have past and present points of view, one can tend to overpower the other, but in The Gown, the past and present storylines meld together seamlessly and all of them add to the telling of this fascinating tale.

I am always pleased to learn something new from reading, and I learned a lot about dress making in the 1940’s in this novel. I was so interested to read the details about the methods and techniques the girls used to sew and embroider.  About half-way through reading, I was googling images of this gown because I just had to see it!

In addition to all the historical components, The Gown really brought to life the friendship between two women who have both come from difficult backgrounds. Ann and Miriam lived in a time when a woman supporting herself was no easy feat. Their relationship was so supportive and empowering.  These characters were naturally developed and added one more compelling component to an already interesting story.

The Gown is well written and researched.  It has historical relevance and heartfelt emotional connections as well.  I truly enjoyed every page and can easily rate this book five out of five stars. If you like historical fiction, you would love this book!

click to buy:

Freefall by Jessica Barry

Freefall by Jessica Barry

5b8f3937-8310-42ed-8ef7-3fc2db13ef24Thank you to Harper Books for sending me a free copy of Freefall in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

“Wait for it. Wait for it….”

That’s what I want to tell anyone about to read this book! Freefall had such a good plot twist that I never saw coming and it changed the whole book! Without getting to specific and spoiling anything, I’ll just say that there were two characters that I pulled a 180 on after secrets began to reveal themselves.

For me, this book did start off a bit slowly. As some of the back story was woven into the chapters, I felt like not as much was happening in the present day part if the story. But at about the halfway point, I could see things starting to come together and the last third of the book I could not put down!

I also feel like Barry developed some very realistic characters and was able to add a lot of depth to this story, which isn’t always the case with thrillers. Overall this was a very solid debut thriller that I enjoyed even more than I thought I would! I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars.

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

57F3D613-10F4-4A2C-8465-D3EDA6B9136DI posted a photo of this book on Instagram when I started reading it, and I mentioned feeling nervous to begin as I had such high hopes for this book.  Many commented that they felt the same way. I really wanted to love this book as much as I loved The Book Thief, but sadly it was just ok, in my opinion.

I’ll start by saying that I absolutely loved the Dunbar family.  All the boys and their boyishness was so real and endearing. Each of the boys felt like someone you might already know and their bonds with each other felt so natural.  That kind of boy bond where they would do anything for their brother, expect express love.

What I didn’t like was the WAY this story was told.  I can’t say that I didn’t like the writing, because I did.  His writing is like no other that I’ve read before.  But the best analogy I can think of to describe the writing in this story is this: Imagine the Dunbar family and their story as the most tightly knitted sweater. So tightly knit that there are no holes and no light can peek through the gaps. Now imagine those threads getting pulled and pulled, looser and looser, until what was once a sweater almost isn’t recognizable as a piece of clothing anymore. That is this book.  A great family cast of characters, but a story told in such a loose, disjointed, wobbly way that it was hard to decipher what was even going on.

It almost felt like a barrage of memories that went together in the keeper’s mind, but put on paper didn’t quite make sense, in the same way that an inside joke only makes sense to the people involved at it’s origin. The story is told in short chapters and goes back and forth in time without any notice.  There are no times or dates printed to let you know where you are in the timeline of the story.

In the end, I did love the family, like I said.  And I got the chance to hear Markus Zusak speak about this new book and I think that also helped me to appreciate it more than I would have otherwise. But overall, I struggled to piece together the parts of this story in a coherent order in my mind.  I have seen some glowing reviews for this book, so if you are interested, you should still give it a try.

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren

F58ECBB9-BC4D-4C90-90A3-EE7FBBA3490CThank you to Algonquin Books for sending me a free copy of Sugar Run by Mesha Maren. All opinions are my own.


In 1989, Jodi McCarty is seventeen years old when she’s sentenced to life in prison. When she’s released eighteen years later, she finds herself at a Greyhound bus stop, reeling from the shock of unexpected freedom but determined to chart a better course for herself. Not yet able to return to her lost home in the Appalachian Mountains, she heads south in search of someone she left behind, as a way of finally making amends. There, she meets and falls in love with Miranda, a troubled young mother living in a motel room with her children. Together they head toward what they hope will be a fresh start. But what do you do with your past—and with a town and a family that refuses to forget, or to change?

Set within the charged insularity of rural West Virginia, Mesha Maren’s Sugar Run is a searing and gritty debut about making a break for another life, the use and treachery of makeshift families, and how, no matter the distance we think we’ve traveled from the mistakes we’ve made, too often we find ourselves standing in precisely the place we began.

My Review:
Sugar Run is a very beautifuly written story about troubled people and the choices they make and how those choices can effect their lives. If you like lyrical writing styles then you just might find a new favorite author in Maren.
I felt like this book’s focus was more on the characters than a plotted out story. I tend to prefer plot driven novels and this book’s plot was a tad on the loose side for my preference. But it did slowly progress and the characters are well developed.
Overall, I did enjoy the story and found it to be very insightful. Many of the characters are down on their luck, and while depressing at times, I was pushed to think about the lives that other people lead and the choices that got them there. And any book that makes me think outside of my normal comfort zone is a good book indeed. I rate this one 3/5 stars.
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling

05438002-DA51-44FC-BCD0-D0F294E22AC7Lethal White is book four in the Comoran Strike series which I really love.  I have never before rated anything by J.K. Rowling as less that five stars but unfortunately I am going with just four stars on this one.

I’ll start with the good: I loved getting back into the life of our private investigator Cormoran Strike.  His insistence of doing the right thing and taking on cases that can truly help people has me always rooting for him. Robin and Matthew continue to struggle and the attraction between Robin and Strike in this book continues.  There was actually a lot about the lead characters personal lives in this book and I really enjoyed that because I feel like it will help carry the series further.

What I didn’t like: I can’t ignore it any longer, this book was just too long. There are a lot of characters and significant time is spent building up each one so that there are really about 12 suspects for the killing that takes place. Each one was extensively developed as the possible murder so that in the end, it wouldn’t have mattered who it was because the reader knows it will be at least one of them. The ending was not a surprise unfortunately.

I also didn’t like the inclusion of politics.  Two of the main characters in the mystery were politicians and much of their differences with each other were over political matters.

This was my least favorite book in the series but I full intend to continue reading them if she keeps writing them, I just hope they don’t continue in the 600+ page length.

Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak

Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak

F674D4B0-4186-4488-A18E-3D58B85D89CCThank you to the author for providing me a free digital copy of Before We Were Strangers.  All opinions are my own.

Synopsis from Amazon:

Five-year-old Sloane McBride couldn’t sleep that night. Her parents were arguing again, their harsh words heating the cool autumn air. And then there was that other sound—the ominous thump before all went quiet.

In the morning, her mother was gone.

The official story was that she left. Her loving, devoted mother! That hadn’t sat any better at the time than it did when Sloane moved out at eighteen, anxious to leave her small Texas hometown in search of anywhere else. But not even a fresh start working as a model in New York could keep the nightmares at bay. Or her fears that the domineering father she grew up with wasn’t just difficult—he was deadly.

Now another traumatic loss forces Sloane to realize she owes it to her mother to find out the truth, even if it means returning to a small town full of secrets and lies, a jilted ex-boyfriend, and a father and brother who’d rather see her silenced. But as Sloane starts digging into the past, the question isn’t whether she can uncover what really happened that night…it’s what will remain of her family if she does?

My review:

If you really like thrillers, but have been in a bit of a thriller rut lately (because let’s face it, they are all at least a little but similar), then Before We Were Strangers might be for you.  It is very outside of the typical thriller box.  It definitely had the suspenseful vibes, but was strongly character driven with hints of romance. A large portion of the book deals with Sloane’s assimilation back into her old town and old life.  She is working on repairing old relationships, fixing hurt she has caused, and hesitantly trying to find a happy medium with her estranged family.

The mystery components were well developed and cast suspicion on many of the characters, making it hard to figure out who dunnit.  A great twist gave the ending good shock value. While I did like the main characters Sloane and Micah, I did find them to be a little unnatural at times. But overall, I enjoyed this thriller.  I rate this one 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you like small town settings and tricky love triangles, then this book is for you.