Review: Under a Silent Moon, Elizabeth Haynes

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book on Netgalley from the publisher in return for an honest review*
Under a Silent Moon, Elizabeth Haynes
In the crisp, early hours of an autumn morning, the police are called to investigate two deaths. The first is a suspected murder at a farm on the outskirts of a small village. A beautiful young woman has been found dead, her cottage drenched with blood. The second is a reported suicide at a nearby quarry. A car with a woman's body inside was found at the bottom of the pit.
As DCI Louisa Smith and her team gather evidence, they discover a shocking link between the two cases and the two deaths-a bond that sealed their terrible fates one cold night, under a silent moon.

Elizabeth Haynes grew up in Seaford, Sussex and studied English, German and Art History at Leicester University. She currently works as a police intelligence analyst and lives in Kent with her husband and son.

I love a good detective story and the synopsis of this book sounded promising. Combined with that cover, a house in the middle of nowhere with a big moon I had a good feeling about this one.
I usually have my hands on a detective story every other book I pick up but it has been a while and I noticed it in how much I enjoyed the book. I was in the mood for a good puzzle.
I liked Louisa but did have some problems with her too. She felt like a strong and ambitious woman, knowing exactly what she wanted but that did not always show in her behavior. Especially in her private life decisions I often felt like slapping her to make her see reality. As this was just a very small part of the book it was easy to overlook though it did leave an impression.
The story itself was a great puzzle. The police investigation is followed on the level of the DCI and you get all of the clues the story has to work with. This makes it easy to follow and puzzle along. I did find it a big risk as it often happens clues are just popping up to give a story an extra surprising factor which was not really possible here. It worked out very well. There were enough possible suspects and stories to make it an interesting investigation.

Under a Silent Moon
Author: Elizabeth Haynes
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
ISBN-10: 0062276026
ISBN-13: 9780062276025
Harper: eBook | Hardcover
Under a Silent Moon
4 stars

Wishlist Wednesday: Yesterday's Sun, Amanda Brooke

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Wishlist Wednesday is a weeklies hosted by Pen to Paper. As I have enough wishes when it comes to books I decided to join this weekly and tell you about them. I am obviously curious about the books on your wishlist too so feel free to leave a message.
Yesterday's Sun, Amanda Brooke
How could you ever choose between your own life and the life of your child?
Newly-weds Holly and Tom have just moved into an old manor house in the picturesque English countryside. When Holly discovers a moondial in the overgrown garden and its strange crystal mechanism, little does she suspect that it will change her life forever. For the moondial has a curse.
Each full moon, Holly can see into the future – a future which holds Tom cradling their baby daughter, Libby, and mourning Holly’s death in childbirth…
Holly realises the moondial is offering her a desperate choice: give Tom the baby he has always wanted and sacrifice her own life; or save herself and erase the life of the daughter she has fallen in love with.

Yes the cover did catch my attention... obviously. You know by now I am always reading the synopsis of pretty cover books. After reading I started to wonder what she would do having such a piece of information in your hand. Will you talk to your husband or are you afraid he thinks you are just making it up. Anyway, I now need to know what will happen to Holly and Tom.

It's Monday April 14th 2014! What are you reading?

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It's Monday! What are You Reading! is a weekly hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey. This weekly is meant to keep you people updated on what I read the last week and what I am planning to read the upcoming week.

Next week I will be having a week off from work. I promise I will make up for not being around so much the last weeks. I did read a few books last week though. I think my decision to just pick up something was the right one. I finished Eilanders (The Silver Dark Sea) by Susan Fletcher. This was the book group and it is a good book to open a discussion. I also read Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes. A great detective story.

Eilanders, Susan Fletcher Under a Silent Moon, Elizabeth Haynes

I am currently reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. This book has over 800 pages so I will see when I finish.

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton

Review: Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book on Netgalley from the publisher in return for an honest review*
Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead
Joan is a ballerina whose life has been shaped by her relationship with the world-famous dancer Arslan Ruskov, whom she helps defect from the Soviet Union to the United States. While Arslan's career takes off in New York, Joan's slowly declines, ending when she becomes pregnant and decides to marry her longtime admirer, a PhD student named Jacob. As the years pass, Joan settles into her new life in California, teaching dance and watching her son, Harry, become a ballet prodigy himself. But when Harry's success brings him into close contact with Arslan, explosive secrets are revealed that shatter the delicate balance Joan has struck between her past and present.

Maggie Shipstead was born in 1983 and grew up in Orange County, California. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, VQR, Glimmer Train, The Best American Short Stories, and other publications. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University.

The synopsis of this book is what pulled me. The ballet scene knows a lot of Russian stars who had their education on the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg. In the early twenties various of them joined Diaghilev in Paris for the Ballet Russes already escaping the revolution in Russia. This story is from a bit later though when big stars from the Russian Ballet where escorted by KGB secret agents while performing outside of Russia.
Starting with Joan being part of a ballet company just finding out she is pregnant. Giving a believable view of the world of ballet, with the hard work from early in the morning till after the show in the evening. The hard work to secure a spot even if it is just a far corner of the stage, as long as you are on it. The differences in life style of people performing on stage compared to 9 to 5 jobs.
The book tells the story from different points of view. Joan, Arslan, Elaine, Jacob, Harry. The book is written with a lot of flashbacks and it is not always clear in what time period we are. Especially with Elaine who is still working in the ballet world it took me a while to realize what the time period was. This was slowing down my reading progress significantly.
I did enjoy the plot of the story though and the developments. Though you can read trough the lines and pick up more hints about the developments in the story it was developed well enough to keep you in doubt till the last day. I really enjoyed the way the situation was dealt with in the end.

Astonish Me
Author: Maggie Shipstead
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 272
Format: eGalley
ISBN-10: 0307962903
ISBN-13: 9780307962904
Knopf: eBook | Hardcover | Audiobook
Astonish Me
3 stars

Meet the author: Heather Brittain Bergstrom

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Today on the blog I welcome Heather Brittain Bergstrom. Her novel Steal the North is out today!!

Hallo allemaal. Bedankt dat ik gastblogger bij jou mag zijn, Ciska.

I am a Pacific Northwest native who grew up in eastern Washington. The eastern half of Washington State looks nothing like the western half—the Seattle and Puget Sound of movies. It is high desert. The northernmost tip of the Great Basin, to be exact. Think sagebrush instead of dense pines. Vast open spaces. Scablands. Coulees. Rolling wheat fields. And enormous dams on the “great river of the west”: the Columbia.
I grew up between the two largest Indian reservations in Washington: the Colville and the Yakama reservations. Grand Coulee Dam divides my home county from the Colville Reservation. Native Americans are very much part of the area where I grew up. There’s extreme prejudice against them for being “drunks” and “lazy,” for being allowed to fish in places where whites can’t (part of their treaty rights), and lately for being allowed to help manage some of Washington State’s natural resources.

As a kid, my school took frequent school field trips to the enormous dams on the Columbia River. Dams scared the hell out of me, so I’d sneak into the tiny Native American cultural centers adjacent to the visitor centers. The museums fascinated me. I didn’t realize as a young girl that the museums were afterthoughts by the Bureau of Reclamation: a nifty place to display the tattered remains of indigenous cultures whose centuries-old and sacred fishing sites were now drowned forever in backwater.
Most places in eastern Washington (rivers, towns, dams, schools, lakes) are named after Indians, as if to honor them, but in reality many Native Americans live in extreme poverty. You can drive on highways and roads in eastern Washington, where to the left is reservation land and to the right is nonreservation land. The difference is incredibly sad and unfair. Native Americans in Washington State have survived despite everything whites have done to their land and heritage.
In a way, through the act of writing Steal the North, I stepped back into those tiny museums.

I wrote short stories for a decade before trying my hand at a novel. (Five of my short stories can be found online at Narrative Magazine) In my short stories, the main characters are usually trying to leave eastern Washington, just as I did only days after I graduated from high school. My stories are far more autobiographical. It wasn’t until I’d been away from my homeland for over a decade that I began to miss it. I thought why not write a character, for the first time, who misses eastern Washington instead of another one who is desperately trying to flee it. What if a California girl (Emmy), who attends an art high school in Sacramento and lives in a midtown apartment surrounded by theatres and ethnic restaurants, is suddenly sent north for the summer to eastern Washington to live with her fundamentalist aunt and uncle in a trailer park surrounded by sagebrush and potato fields? And what if, instead of hating it, the girl falls madly in love with
the landscape, her aunt and uncle, and the Native American neighbor boy (Reuben)? I wanted to write a novel about a woman (Emmy’s mom) who had turned her back completely on her past, including her family, her faith, and the landscape that had shaped her. In doing what Lot’s wife had been unable to do, however, this woman left her daughter without any connections and no sense of herself. Steal the North is a novel of reclamation: a daughter’s journey to steal back her birthright. The idea of birthright—I believe that was the spark.

The title, Steal the North, evokes the Native American myths in the novel. These myths are most at play in Reuben’s chapters, of course, because he is Native American. But he also shares these myths with Emmy. Even Aunt Beth, who believes truth comes only from the Bible, knows an Indian myth or two. They are part of the land. The title also evokes native myths in a larger context. Coyote, Raven, and other Animals—in the time before humans—stole the sun, stole fire from the Sky People, stole each other’s wives, stole food, tails, fancy clothing. My female protagonist, Emmy, steals the north (her birthright) from her mom, the dad she’s never met, and even her beloved aunt and makes it her own. Reuben and Emmy steal the north for themselves: by taking long drives, but also in the way lovers take intimate possession of places. And then, of
course, the north was stolen from the Indians by whites. There is another way that the title works,
but to discuss it would give away the ending.

I grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist church. A few of my short stories deal with this large aspect of my childhood. But they didn’t quite get it out of my system. I needed the length and depth of a novel to further explore this. Spirituality is a strong theme in Steal the North.
Oddly, I kept coming across parallels while writing this novel between the Christian church and Native American spirituality and culture. The healing ceremony that brings Emmy to eastern Washington for the summer doesn’t seem as bizarre after Reuben explains that his people still have healing ceremonies at the end of the twentieth century. Reuben admits he is a “sweat lodge junkie.” His confession makes Emmy’s conflictions with purity seem not as ridiculous. I did not set out to equate these two very different religions and cultures, but I kept finding parallels. If nothing else the Native American spirituality in Steal the North tempers the harsher Christianity. In reality, many tribes have melded their native religion and Christianity. This melding drove the early missionaries nuts. I find it beautiful.

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