Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry Review

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Goodreads Synopsis: When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, what she finds is entirely different: her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder.

Stunned and adrift, Nora finds she can’t return to her former life. An unsolved assault in the past has shaken her faith in the police, and she can’t trust them to find her sister’s killer. Haunted by the murder and the secrets that surround it, Nora is under the harrow: distressed and in danger. As Nora’s fear turns to obsession, she becomes as unrecognizable as the sister her investigation uncovers.

A riveting psychological thriller and a haunting exploration of the fierce love between two sisters, the distortions of grief, and the terrifying power of the past, Under the Harrow marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.

My Thoughts: At first I was a bit wary of this book because of the writing style but after about 20 pages, I was hooked. This book kept me guessing until the very end.

Nora, the main character, is definitely an interesting person. Because she is telling the story, you never really know if she’s reliable or not. The author is very good at showing her emotional decline after he sister’s murder. Nora reminded me a lot of Libby Day from Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places…damaged and unlikable.

There are many twists and turns, which I love, and most were unpredictable.

The book is fairly short at 219 pages but it is very dense…there were no moments when I felt like it dragged. I would much rather read a shorter book that packs a big punch than a long book that drags on and on.

I would definitely recommend this one to all of the thriller lovers. It was a great story!

My Rating: 5 stars

I received this book from Penguin Publishing company in exchange for an honest review.

The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim Review

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Goodreads Synopsis: When Leora Ebersole sees the small plane crash in her Old Order Mennonite community, she has no idea it’s a foreshadowing of things to come. Once the young pilot, Moses Hughes, regains consciousness, they realize his instruments were destroyed by the same power outage that killed the electricity at the community store, where Englischers are stranded with dead cell phones and cars that won’t start.

Moses offers a sobering theory, but no one can know how drastically life is about to change. With the only self-sustaining food supply in the region, the Pacifist community is forced to forge an alliance with the handful of stranded Englischers in an effort to protect not only the food but their very lives.

In the weeks that follow, Leora, Moses, and the community will be tested as never before, requiring them to make decisions they never thought possible. Whom will they help and whom will they turn away? When the community receives news of a new threat, everyone must decide how far they’re willing to go to protect their beliefs and way of life.

My Thoughts: The synopsis of this book was very intriguing to me. I went through an Amish Romance reading phase shortly after getting married but after reading numerous books with very similar plots, I strayed from that genre. This book does feature Old Order Mennonite characters but the story is vastly different from the Amish books I was used to. It is an apocalyptic/ disaster type story where America is affected by an EMP.

The story was extremely interesting but it caused me to have some anxiety while reading it. Knowing that this scenario is definitely possible, I was a bit stressed as I am very good at jumping to conclusions and blowing things out of proportion in my mind. (This is why I avoid the news at all costs). I did not lower my rating because of my anxiety…I finally decided to read it as a fictional story and nothing else which really helped.

There is a lot of character development in this story. It explores the way people can change when faced with life-changing circumstances and impending danger. Leora, the main character was a bit unlikable at first but as her past is revealed it becomes more understandable why she is who she is.

The premise was very interesting and unique. This would be a great book club book as it could promote a lot of discussion of many issues.

My only problem with the book was the romance…I am not a fan of romance in books and this one seemed slightly unnecessary to me. I could see some people enjoying the romance but I could have done without it.

My Rating: 4 stars

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot Review

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Goodreads Description: Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.

The journey starts in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, her small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo. Today are stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, East Baltimore children and grandchildren live in obscurity, see no profits, and feel violated. The dark history of experimentation on African Americans helped lead to the birth of bioethics, and legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

My Thoughts: I vaguely remember hearing about HeLa cells in college but they weren’t extensively covered. I was fascinated to learn in this book that these cells came from a woman in the 1950s and were taken without her knowledge or consent.

This book goes into great detail about the woman behind the HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and also discusses the timeline of medical practices and research. Things are discussed in a factual but interesting way, although there were a few times when the author’s personal views seemed to seep in a bit.

It is good that this story was written, it was shocking at times…the way patients were treated and the lack of rights that they had was almost unbelievable. I found the story interesting but there were times when large amounts of information relating to biology and cells were presented that I started to get very bored.

I’m glad that I read this book as I gained a lot of new knowledge about cells and how they are used in research as well as the ethical controversies that arise from that research. The story of Henrietta and her family was also very interesting…it was very frustrating to read her family’s perspective on the situation and the injustices that occurred.

This was a solid 3 star book for me…I liked it but didn’t love it.

My Rating: 3 stars

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

 

Sister Dear by Laura McNeill Review

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About the book:

Sister Dear (Thomas Nelson, April 2016)

All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start. But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?

Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish — time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.

But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.

As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/24TOGXK

About the author:
 
 

Laura McNeill is a writer, web geek, travel enthusiast, and coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a graduate program in interactive technology at the University of Alabama. When she’s not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in Mobile, AL with her family.

 

My Thoughts: I went into this book with a lot of excitement, as psychological thrillers with twists and turns are my favorite kinds of books. Because I love them so much, I tend to read a lot of thrillers and the downside to that is that they can sometimes blend together and become predictable to me. Few thrillers that I read earn a 5 star rating from me…they have to knock my socks off and surprise me in some way to garner 5 stars.

Unfortunately, this book did not stand out to me. The plot was a bit weak and I was able to pick up on the twist early on. The story started out strong but got a bit slow in the beginning, with a fairly interesting ending.

This may have been a case of “it’s not you, it’s me” with this book…I read such a large quantity of thrillers so it didn’t feel special or new. I think someone who only dabbles in thrillers or someone who is a more casual reader would enjoy this book much more than I did.

The characters were the best part of the story, in my opinion. I enjoyed following Allie through her journey after prison. I gained a lot of insight into how difficult it is for people to transition back into society after being in prison.

This book is published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing company, but I wouldn’t consider this a Christian book. Readers should be cautioned that this is more edgy than typical Christian fiction. Because it’s not extremely “preachy”, this book could be enjoyed by anyone who likes thrillers.

Overall, this was a good book. I liked it but didn’t love it. I’m happy to have read it and would definitely recommend it.

My Rating: 3 stars

I received this book from the publisher and Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange of an honest review.