9.5

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Rating:           9.5

General Rating: Please! Message me if Brit Bennett’s books are ever on sale! This isn’t just a great storyline, her writing is fabulous, too.

Skip factor:  0%. Nothing. The writing was way too good to skip a word.

Who should read: Women, young and old, black and white.

Summary/storyline: This is the story of twins, Desiree and Stella Vignes, light-skinned black women who grew up in a town called Mallard.

Mallard is a “strange place,” a community predominantly composed of light-skinned blacks. The residents were: “Fair and blonde and redhead, the darkest ones no swarthier than a Greek.”

Desiree, the wilder of the two twins, convinces quiet, subdued Stella to move away with her, then strangely, Stella disappears.

The story splits and follows the different paths of the twins. One lives as a black woman, the other, as white. Desiree marries a successful, dark-skinned black man, Sam, and has a baby, who resembles her father. But when Sam turns violent toward Desiree, she flees, moving back to Mallard, where her dark-skinned baby is shunned.

Stella marries a white man, Blake Sanders, and “crosses over.” I was unfamiliar with this term. Crossing over is hiding your black heritage and living as a white person. Stella has one daughter and falls into a white-privileged community, where her fear of being exposed controls her every move.

Much later, Desiree’s daughter crosses paths with Stella’s daughter, and the story unfolds, showing the many differences between being raised white versus black.

Characters:

Bennett’s character development is superb. Here, she creates two realistic women with believable lives. Supporting characters are equally authentic. Engaging. Endearing. You’ll love some and dislike others. All are interesting, unique and contribute to the story, helping to magnify the differences between a black and white life.

Writing:  This writing is so good I was sorry I borrowed it from the library. It’s the sort of story a writer will read over and over for inspiration. There were sentences I studied: “She was never up to anything, of course, her days blending together into a sameness that she later found comforting.” Or “…flecks of bone and skin swirling in an urn.” Great description, literally and figuratively.  Exquisite.

Read this author again?  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Please! Someone let me know when her other books are on sale!

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 Instagram, Twitter, FacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice

Rating:                              9

General Rating:  A mystery that captures your attention in the beginning.

Skip factor: I skipped 5%, possibly a bit more, in the last third of the novel.

Who should read:  Anyone who enjoys mystery novels or books about the greed of the wealthy.

Summary:  On the day of artist Claire Beaudry Chase’s art exhibit, someone attacks her and hangs her in the garage of her home, leaving her for dead. But when the board she is strung from breaks, and she wakes up on the floor, the reader slips inside her head and hears her thoughts. Griffin Chase, her husband, is running for governor and has the backing of their entire community—the wealthy, police force, everyone. The man who struck and tied her from the rafter wore a mask. Could it have been her husband?

She crawls out of the garage, meanders through the woods, and falls asleep at a cabin she knows from childhood. There, more of Claire’s thoughts are sporadically revealed to the reader about Griffin and the people who have a hand in backing him for governor. Who can she trust?

Years before, Griffin’s girlfriend, Ellen, died suspiciously. Now Claire has disappeared. Is he a murderer and if so will he get away with it? Or will someone find the clues of Ellen’s death in Claire’s shadow box art exhibit?

Characters:  This author has a true gift for character development—of both those loved and of those a reader loves to hate. Her opening has readers pulling for Claire immediately. I’m not spoiling the story by saying, equally, readers do not like her husband. The main investigator, too, catches a reader by surprise. You want to like him. Can you? And while there are a plethora of other characters, the story will have you guessing who are the good guys and who are the bad.

Storyline:  The representation of the upper class seemed realistic and interesting. Beginning with a murder attempt will keep readers turning pages throughout. The unfolding of the story, a woman who cheats death and hides away to mend and then revenge herself, is grabbing. There are some surprises in the last third of the book and while I usually like surprises, a few twists and turns seemed a bit unrealistic.

Writing:  The first half of this book reads like a bestseller. It was tremendous. A 9.5. The second half slowed but not enough to discourage me from reading. This book held my attention. If, like me, you are a fan of white space, you might skip some of those long paragraphs toward the end to get to the meat of the mystery.

Read this author again? Yes. This is my first Rice novel but it won’t be my last.

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 InstagramTwitterFacebook, GoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.