Sorry I Missed You by Suzy Krause

Rating:                              4

General Rating: Do you like quirky? Read this. For the first third of Sorry I Missed You, I didn’t understand what the fuss over this book was, despite Krause’s writing being quick and clever, exactly what I love. But I plodded on and ended up glad.

Skip factor:  0% I skipped nothing. Krause’s short, crisp writing, with lots of dialogue, kept me from skipping anything at all.

Who should read:  For the first time in a review, I’m not sure who to suggest should read this novel. My guess is, if you like frivolous, quirky characters, good writing, and different plots, you’ll like this. That’s as good as my guess gets today.

Summary:  This is the story of three very different women and their nerdy landlord. Upfront, there appear to be ghosts in the attic of the three-unit old-home-converted-to-apartment building they share. Each of the women, along with Landlord Larry, have a past dilemma haunting them (ha-ha) that they must come to terms with.

Nineteen-year-old Mackenzie can’t forgive herself for a lie she told at thirteen. Middle-aged Sunna, a beauty, can’t forgive a friend—and not just any friend but a more-beautiful, went-on-to-a-bigger-brighter-career friend—for ghosting her. And the totally friendless senior character, Maude, can’t get along with anyone because some man, Richard, left her at the alter—or rather, in the park in a wedding gown.

When a note in the mailbox, “Sorry I missed You” is found all but ripped to shreds, the three attempt to decipher who it was meant for. The only message they can decrypt, however, is someone will meet someone at a local coffee shop on some afternoon. Because of their haunting pasts, each of the women believe the letter was meant for them, and they begin meeting at the coffee shop every day, which results in a rather forced friendship. Then, when the building they live in presents ghosts of its own—real ghosts—they begin to rely heavily on each other.

Without a spoiler, the plot is silly, but by the time a reader realizes this, they’ve got too much invested in these women. By halfway through the book I couldn’t put it down because I LOVED all three of them along with landlord Larry.

Characters:  Krause’s characters are so different you’ll thrive on their interactions. I am honestly unsure which character I liked the most. Very seldom do I begin a book not liking any characters and end up loving all of them, equally. In fact. This is a first, so here are the characters in no particular order:

Sunna is a beauty but has been stifled by her ex-friend Britt, a bigger beauty. Sunna has no patience, is curt, and when she becomes acquainted with the older lady in her apartment building, Maude, she realizes she is on a path to become alone and friendless like Maude.

Mackenzie is the youngest and nicest tenant, who at times you believe might be a murderer. Yet you love her anyway for her compassion.

Maude is the old lady you love to hate. Bitter, annoyed, whiny, and honest to a fault, you can’t help but wish you had a little bit of her bluntness.

Landlord Larry is a forty-year-old punker who practically has nerd tattooed on his forehead. His thoughts are so entertaining that they add humor to his already peculiar, humorous life.

Minor characters – Not many. Richard, Maude’s ex, shows up but the reader judges him purely from Maude, Sunna and Mackenzie’s thrashing of him. A few other characters pop in for a line or two, but Krause keeps out the unimportant.

Storyline:  Strange, weird, silly, yet believe it or not, insightful. Lots of people won’t like this story. There are a few holes in the plot. Mackenzie and Sunna’s pasts weren’t firmed up in the end like their lessons learned. (I’m going back and reread to make sure I didn’t miss something.) And, not to ruin the tale, the way Krause winds up the ghosts in the attic is a tad farfetched even for me—an occasional paranormal writer. So, while I loved the characters and writing and enjoyed the wrap up of their internal struggles, the overall plot was a bit unbelievable.

Writing:  In Sorry I Missed You, Krause masters writing style, technique, word usage, and character development but, falls short in the beginning.

As a writer, I know beginnings are tough. You juggle the boredom of the backstory with opening sensationalism. Recently lambasted on Amazon about the beginning of one of my own novels, I’ve done some front-end soul-searching lately. Did I love the beginning of my own book? No. I didn’t blame my reviewer. My first chapter was okay. Second and third, eh. Fourth, I didn’t like. Then from five on out, I was pretty proud.

Sorry I Missed You re-sparked a flicker of confidence in me. I realized beginnings are tough for most writers—even fabulous ones like Krause.

I struggled through her first chapters. However, by forty percent in, I was back in my happy place. Comfortably curled up on the couch wondering how much reading I could get in before I started feeling guilty about my real-world chores.

If you love great writing and characters, but don’t mind a slow start, you’ll love this like me.

Read this author again? Yes. I loved Krause’s writing. I’m not a fan of wordy, and Krause isn’t. She writes clean and crisp. Her character development is as good as any writer’s, better than most. I’m anxious to read her again.  

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

 

 

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Rating:  4

General Rating:  Kidd amalgamates narrative and dialogue to perfection in this  touching tale of a motherless girl who runs away from an abusive father.

Skip factor:  1% I skipped little. The writing was just too good.

Who should read: All women, all ages.

Summary:  This is the story of Lily Owens who must come to terms with the death of her mother. Lily, abandoned by her mother for a short time before she died, remembers the day her mother returned—the same day her mother was shot and killed. Now Lily is a teenager, feeling confused and unloved. Raised by an abusive father, she finds some affection in Rosaleen, the African American woman whom her father hired shortly after her mother’s death. When Rosaleen attempts to register to vote, she finds trouble with white men and she and Lily end up in jail. Lily’s father, T. Ray, bails Lily out, but she returns and helps Rosaleen escape.

They flee to a town called Tiburon because one of the few items Lily had from her mother was a picture of a Black Madonna. Tiburon, South Carolina was inscribed on the back. Lily asks around Tiburon about the picture and ends up at the house of three African American sisters—the very house her mother had run to when she first left T. Ray and abandoned Lily. The story is of Lily’s time spent there and her journey to come to terms with her mother’s abandonment and death, and her feeling of being unworthy of love.

Characters:  I loved this book partially because of the strong female characters Kidd created. They are flawed but loving and strong. I like every single one, loved a few.

Here they are in the order I liked them:

August – The strongest of the African American sisters, August has a deep understanding of life. She is a beekeeper and teaches Lily the craft of collecting honey from bees. August knew Lily’s mother, but she understands when and how to relay pieces of information to the girl. She is an old soul, and I came away wishing I had an August in my own life.

Lily – Kudos to the author in the creation of Lily. It took some time for me to like Lily. Raised by T. Ray, who never showed her affection or love, she herself was lacking in these elements. She had a flat personality that slowly came out through the novel, making the story real to me.

Rosaleen – Lily’s caregiver was also a hard character to figure out, although I liked her gumption right away. She’s enamored by the thought of registering to vote, and spits at prejudiced white men who insult her with no regard for what they would do to her. She’s tough. But because of that toughness, Lily often wonders if Rosaleen loves her.

May – Another of the three sisters is May, who brightened the story with her unique personality. Her twin sister died years before and left her in a nervous state. To calm her anxiety, her sisters encouraged her to write her fears/anxieties down and in doing so, they created a wailing wall for her made of stone. Every time May had an episode, she led was led off to leave a note in her wall.

June – The third sister, June, does not initially get along with Lily. She also has a beau who keeps proposing to her despite she constantly turns him down. June has a journey to make on her own. I enjoyed this character, too—another strong woman.

Minor characters – Kidd successfully had me liking minor characters (like Zach) and hating the bigots.

Storyline:  This is not a fast-paced, page-turning novel. It is contemplative—simple language with deep meaning. The story flows, and I found myself looking forward to reading more.

Writing:  Lots of white space makes me happy and this book, while having much narrative, never labored on. Paragraphs were short, clean, and interesting, so I never realized when there wasn’t dialogue for several pages. She writes simply and profoundly throughout. Like this: “I filled a bowl with Rice Krispies and milk, trying to think over the snap-crackle conversation it was having with itself.” And “…people can start out one way, and by the time life gets through with them they end up completely different.”

Read this author again? Absolutely.  

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

 

The Silent Patient

Name:                               The Silent Patient

Author:                              Alex Michaelides

Rating:                              4

General Rating:      This is totally my type of book, what I call an in-your-head novel. I dislike books with long, drawn-out descriptions. This story is to the point. Has much dialogue. And is an easy read while hiding a complicated plot.

Skip factor:     0% This is one of those few books where I did not skip a word.

Who should read:         People who do not like descriptions of settings, people’s looks, or places. This is an in-the-head book. The plot consumes you.

Summary:          No spoilers. This is the story of a psychotherapist who believes his wife is cheating on him. He begins a new job and immediately throws himself into helping a single client whose case he is familiar with. So not to spoil it, I’ll say there is a murder and throughout the entire book, you will ask yourself who really killed the person? Is it this character? Or this one? Who’s crazy?

Characters:        Despite the depth Michaelides creates for each character, you do not have to go back and reread sections to clarify traits. This varies from most thrillers I’ve read where I am saying What? And then thumbing back through pages or zipping through screen after screen to find what I am remembering that has confused me. I’m not sure how the author did this, but I always felt the next clue would be in a future chapter, never in a past one.

Having said that, this is another book where I did not feel connected to any character. Another novel where I was concentrating so greatly on the plot, the character’s personalities were clues only. I never asked myself if I liked any of them until I had nearly finished the novel. The way this author writes is that good.

Here are the characters I remember:

Alicia – If I came close to liking a character, it was Alicia, the accused murderess. I rode the roller coaster of she-did-it-she-didn’t up and down and throughout. The element of surprise from this, the silent patient, character intrigued me. She kept me guessing.

Theo– The psychotherapist. This is to the author’s credit: I was about three-fourths through the book before I realized I had no attachment to him. I asked myself why. He’s believable as a psychotherapist. Think of how you read a document written by a doctor or how you listen to a doctor give a diagnosis. You listen to their words. You’re hanging onto their diagnosis, suggestions, or whatever they are relaying. Their words are important, not them. It never occurs to you that this is a person with a life, family. Theo was that believable. Throughout most of the book, I thought only of what he was saying. Additionally, he was believable. I imagine the author did much research on psychotherapy. I actually expected him to have a psychology background.

Minor characters – People came in out. Kathy, Theo’s wife; Yuri, a co-worker; Max, the adopted brother of the victim entered and exited scenes perfectly. While I neither liked nor disliked them, I studied everyone. Each character held a connection to the storyline. They were necessary.

Storyline:            There are slow parts in the middle like every book. I’ve heard some reader’s criticisms, and a few times, I thought I might end up rating this a 3 or 3.5 at best. That feeling did not last long. In all, I found the story magnificently plotted and the lives intricately pieced together. This is my type of puzzle. Towards the end, I couldn’t put down.

Writing:              Not sure how to evaluate the writing. Again, this is my style. I hate long paragraphs that describe settings. I am more a “people” person, always wondering what is going on inside someone’s head. If you are the sort who remembers what someone was wearing, their eye color, or the smell of their perfume, you may not like this as much as I did. If you are like me, always asking What did they mean by that statement? Why was this character introduced? I believe you’ll enjoy this one immensely.

And if you like strong dialogue? You’ll love. Nature lovers, interior decorators, people who like physical detail? Not as much.

Read this author again? OMG absolutely.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBubor LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Meet Another GREAT Erie Book Club.

Can a book club make you a better person?

Reading sneaks you inside someone else’s head. Your mind inches up next to theirs. Your stomach churns as their life rolls up and down and squeals around the curves. You experience their pain, realize their wants and needs. You grow to like some characters and detest others, but always, some emotion arises out of your soul when you read a book. Even indifference inspires you. (I labor over why I couldn’t put down Gone Girl and loved The Secret History when I felt so—bleh—about the characters!)

Can a book club make you a better person, though? I say yes. Book clubs introduce you to stories and lives you might never know. Stories, which inspire empathy in you.

But don’t take my word for it. Google “can reading make you empathetic” and peruse the articles.  Psychology Today’s article at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201501/how-reading-can-change-you-in-major-way explains ways in which reading affects us.

I loved this article because it suggests reading makes us more open and empathetic, and I believe empathy softens human nature. There’s nothing better in life than sitting down with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) and discussing a good book or life issues with empathetic people.

MJ logo  The Cen“Я”Us Book Club

I met some of these people—the kind I like—on a recent night out with an Erie book club. I shared coffee with The Cen“Я”Us Book Club, comprised of five women who were so much fun that I overstayed my welcome. Four out of five of this all-female book club worked for the Census together in 2015. (Hence the clever name.) When their job was done, they’d had so much fun together they wanted to remain friends.

What better way than sharing food, books, and laughter once a month?

The women, overachievers, read two of my novels for their January club meeting and asked me to attend their January meeting. We discussed the books a bit, but more importantly, we laughed our way through the entire evening talking life, people, and comradery. I had a blast. They were fun-loving, positive, and witty book addicts.  I’m thinking of writing another book just so I can go back!

Marijane Dillon book club
Top Row: Kim Trott, Maureen Bonny LoPresto Bottom Row: Kate Kunkel, Marijane “Mj” Dillon, Pam Zimmer

Thank you to Marijane, Kim, Pam, Kate, and Maureen for reminding me readers are the most compassionate, passionate, fantastic people in the world!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, and Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a paranormal element. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon. And watch for her soon to be released novel, Friends Who Move Couches.