Secrets of Eden

Secrets of Eden
By: Chris Bohjalian

Published: 2010

# of pages: 362

Official description: From the bestselling author of The Double BindMidwives, andSkeletons at the Feast comes a novel of shattered faith, intimate secrets, and the delicate nature of sacrifice.
"There," says Alice Hayward to Reverend Stephen Drew, just after her baptism, and just before going home to the husband who will kill her that evening and then shoot himself. Drew, tortured by the cryptic finality of that short utterance, feels his faith in God slipping away and is saved from despair only by a meeting with Heather Laurent, the author of wildly successful, inspirational books about . . . angels. 
Heather survived a childhood that culminated in her own parents' murder-suicide, so she identifies deeply with Alice’s daughter, Katie, offering herself as a mentor to the girl and a shoulder for Stephen – who flees the pulpit to be with Heather and see if there is anything to be salvaged from the spiritual wreckage around him.But then the State's Attorney begins to suspect that Alice's husband may not have killed himself. . .and finds out that Alice had secrets only her minister knew.
Secrets of Eden is both a haunting literary thriller and a deeply evocative testament to the inner complexities that mark all of our lives.  Once again Chris Bohjalian has given us a riveting page-turner in which nothing is precisely what it seems.  As one character remarks, “Believe no one.  Trust no one.  Assume all of our stories are suspect.”
My opinion:  Didn't like it very much.  It was depressing with all of the domestic violence and disfunctional characters.  The whole angel thing was weird and didn't really fit with the main story line.  I liked the plot twist at the very end (the last few pages!), but I wish the rest of the book had been less disjointed and the characters easier to relate to.

Why I gave this book 2/5 stars:  Depressing, graphic violence descriptions, weird characters that were hard to relate to, a whole theme in the book that wasn't really developed and didn't go with the rest of the book.

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The Night Strangers

The Night Strangers
By: Chris Bohjalian
Published: 2011
# of pages: 375

Official description: From the bestselling author of The Double BindSkeletons at the Feast, and Secrets of Eden, comes a riveting and dramatic ghost story. In a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire, a door has long been sealed shut with 39 six-inch-long carriage bolts.             The home's new owners are Chip and Emily Linton and their twin ten-year-old daughters. Together they hope to rebuild their lives there after Chip, an airline pilot, has to ditch his 70-seat regional jet in Lake Champlain after double engine failure. Unlike the Miracle on the Hudson, however, most of the passengers aboard Flight 1611 die on impact or drown. The body count? Thirty-nine – a coincidence not lost on Chip when he discovers the number of bolts in that basement door. Meanwhile, Emily finds herself wondering about the women in this sparsely populated White Mountain village – self-proclaimed herbalists – and their interest in her fifth-grade daughters. Are the women mad? Or is it her husband, in the wake of the tragedy, whose grip on sanity has become desperately tenuous?   
The result is a poignant and powerful ghost story with all the hallmarks readers have come to expect from bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian: a palpable sense of place, an unerring sense of the demons that drive us, and characters we care about deeply. 
The difference this time? Some of those characters are dead.
My opinion: First of all, why is the book called The Night Strangers?  The title doesn't match the story at all.  Secondly, this is an intense, but not too scary, book!  I enjoyed reading it because it kept my attention, made me wonder and think about what was going on, and creeped me out without really scaring me.  I thought the blend of story lines was unique and while I was wondering if they would collide in a messy heap, I was pleasantly surprised when it all came together at the end.  I particularly liked the ending because it was unexpected and original.

I didn't connect with any of the characters and found myself frustrated with the character of Emily throughout the book.  Her husband is going through PTSD and depression, but she isn't very supportive or involved in his life.  And when things start getting weird, she doesn't question it until it's too late.

I can imagine this book being made into a movie.  It wasn't in depth enough (as far as the characters) for me to really like, but it was entertaining.  I recommend it to fans of horror, suspense, and paranormal fiction.  It has one brief sex scene and some language, but nothing overwhelming.  There's also a theme of witchcraft throughout the book.

I have to mention: I really liked another of Bohjalian's books called Midwives.  Excellent writing on an issue that is so controversial (at least where I live!).  It's also just a good story.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Interesting, easy read, unique story line, characters not easy to relate to, story line not engrossing enough to keep me completely hooked.

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By: Neil Gaiman

Challenge:  Once Upon a Time

Published: 1996

# of pages: 370

Quote: "The marquis had told them where to wait, and then he had slipped away. From somewhere, Richard heard a baby begin to cry. The marquis slipped out of an exit-only door and walked toward them. He was chewing on a piece of candy."
Official description:When Richard Mayhew stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London pavement, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternative reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere.
My opinion:  It took a little while, but I ended up loving this book!  It's hard to explain why, but I loved the writing, the setting, and the characters.  It was full of adventure, but wasn't confusing or lacking in other departments.  There was a feeling of camaraderie between the characters that really drew me in.  It's a unique quest plot.  There's humor, but also danger, sadness, loyalty, betrayal, and violence.

It's hard to pick a favorite character.  Door is one of the main characters and she is a little harder to get to know.  But she's strong and has so many loyal friends who want to help her.  Richard is great, he behaves just as you'd expect and I love the parts he plays in Door's quest.  And the marquis is a fascinating character.  He's my favorite type of character....not all good, but not all bad.  Hard to figure out.

I recommend this book to fans of Gaiman, fans of dark fantasy or urban fantasy, and readers who are interested in reading a unique take on a quest plot.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars: Great descriptions, likable characters, humorous, unique twist on traditional plot

Other reviews:
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