09 August 2013

Thursday's Review: One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a review

Publication Date: April 7, 2013
Publisher: Kirk Parolles
Price:  $12.25 in Paperback
           $  2.99 Kindle Edition (not yet available on other sites)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 Stars

What would make a woman who seemingly has everything decide to leave her established life and start over from scratch?  That is the subject of One Step Too Far,  the debut novel by Tina Seskis. The book opens with Emily Coleman sneaking out of the house that she shares with her husband, Ben.  With great sadness, Emily goes on the run and decides to start a new life on her own in London, taking nothing with her accept a bit of money, not even her name.  As the book progresses, Ms. Seskis lays out for us a combination of the past and present that paints the picture of the events that shape Emily's life and ultimately influence her to make the decision to leave it all behind and become someone else.  

In order to tell Emily's story, the author chose to use multiple viewpoints.  The story is alternately told through chapters devoted to the present and flashbacks of the past.  In addition, we get to see the story from the viewpoint of the people who are the closest to Emily, her mother, father, twin sister Caroline, husband, and even her new best friend, Angel.  Some readers I have talked to found the large number of different viewpoints confusing, but it definitely worked for me.  I found that the use of both different time periods and multiple characters to tell the story made the story richer and more complete.  For me, I especially like when authors tell a story from the viewpoint of several characters. When it is done correctly, as is the case with this book, it allows me to become more involved with each one, increasing the amount that I am invested in the story overall. 

Early on in the book you become aware that a personal tragedy was the catalyst for Emily's decision to run away.  I felt that the author did a brilliant job with this part of the story.   Although the tragedy was alluded to many times in the book, and by several of the characters, never once was enough information given to reveal the ending twist to this book.  There were definitely clues, and definitely times when I thought I had figured out what exactly the catalyst was, but when the actual event was revealed, I was stunned.  After first being confused and taking a moment to think about what I was reading, I began wondering what I had missed.  After a short time, though, I found myself saying, "Well done, Ms. Seskis, well done."  I admit, I get particularly excited when an author is able to put a twist into a book that I could not see coming at all.  In the end, I definitely understood why Emily would want to start over. 

There were two minor things that kept this from being a 5 star book.  First, there were several flashbacks to the younger years of Emily's friend Angel.  By the end of the book it did not seem that these chapters necessary and I felt myself wondering how they tied in.  Additionally, I would have liked the ultimate ending to have played out a bit differently, but that is just me. 

I would have to say, though, that this book was a solid read from start to finish.  I found myself looking forward to reading it and being a bit upset if something interrupted me and I had to put it down.  It both made me think about the characters, and feel for them, and the twist at the end really caught me by surprise.  
I just found out that Ms. Seskis has another book being released soon, and I am also looking forward to reading that one. 

06 August 2013

Tuesday's Review: You Know Your Way Home by Suzanne Jauchius

A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for my review. 

Publication Date: August 10, 2009
Publisher: Bree Noa Publishing
Price:   $15.00 Paperback
             $ 4.99 digital copy
Genre: Memoirs
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars

You Know Your Way Home is Suzanne Jauchius' memoir highlighting the struggles she faced throughout her life.  To begin with, Suzanne had a very rough childhood.  Couple this with the psychic gift of "seeing", and it is no wonder that she spent most of her adult life trying to find acceptance.  Unfortunately, as every good psychologist will tell you, you first have to accept yourself.  A lesson it took Suzanne a very long time to come to grips with.  Through her 5 marriages and many ups and downs, it was she who most needed to accept herself and her gift.  Once that was accomplished, she could begin to live a successful life. 

The phenomena of the psychic is a subject that fascinates me, not the least because it is so controversial and so hard to prove or disprove.  I think that was the main reason that I was drawn to this book.  I never tire of hearing the stories of people who have had brushes with their sixth sense.   Straight out memoirs, though, are not something that I am usually drawn to unless I am familiar with, or curious about, the person whose story is being told.  In the case of You Know Your Way Home, what interested me was the fact that Suzanne is a practicing psychic and has participated in a few high profile missing person cases.  Although I liked the portions of the book where Suzanne talked about this, there were too few of them in my opinion. The focus in this book is really more about the struggle that Suzanne dealt with.  How it manifested itself throughout her life, how the people in her life either helped or hindered her development, and how she eventually was able to pull her life together and become more successful.  As such, it read a bit more like a self help book than a memoir to me.  For me, so much of the book was centered on the negative parts of Suzanne's life,that the writing actually came across as whiny.  By the time she got to the part where she learned to accept herself, and therefore was able to improve her life, I found it hard to be uplifted.  

Although this book was a fast read, and was reasonably well written, there was just too much focus on the negative for me to really become invested in it.  There were so many things that Suzanne alluded to, but never really covered, that seemed much more interesting to me.  For example, I would love to read Suzanne's case book, hear more about her "conversations" with her friend Bob, read more about her family history and the grandma's and aunts that had similar gifts.  Even the life of the "brash mystery man" and his Lakota friends would have been nice to know more about.  As a result, this was a 3.5 star read for me.