Melancholy Baby by Robert B. Parker:  Book Review

Melancholy Baby by Robert B. Parker: Book Review

Melancholy Baby by Robert B. Parker is a crime novel. It is the fourth of six novels in the Sunny Randall series, thus far. However, it is not necessary to read the books in order. The detective, Sunny Randall, is the main character in each book. The other books may share parts of Sunny’s life, which would entice interest to read the other books. I like Sunny and would read the other books to delve into more of her life. She is a likable character.

I picked this book up at the library because it looked interesting. As I started reading, I noticed that most of the text is dialog, and the pages are thick. So I knew it wouldn’t take me long to finish the book. After I started reading another of the author’s books, Death in Paradise, I noticed that this is just his style with dialog and short chapters.

Melancholy Baby Synopsis

The primary focus of the Melancholy Baby is the Sarah Markham Case. However, there are two other aspects of the story that get a lot of attention also. They are Sunny’s feelings about her ex-husband getting remarried and the shared custody of their dog, Rosie.

Sunny Randall, the main character, is a private investigator. She and her husband, Richie, have been divorced for five years, and he recently got remarried. Even though she is the one that wanted the divorce, she doesn’t like the idea of him getting married to someone else. To help Sunny to figure out why she can’t live with anyone, except for her dog, she talks to a psychotherapist regularly. About two-thirds of the book is Sunny talking to her psychotherapist about her husband, her childhood, and the Sarah Markham case.

Sunny’s dog, Rosie, is a large part of the story in Melancholy Baby. Rosie is introduced on the first page, implying that she is Sunny and Richie’s child. Richie came over to his ex-wife’s house to pick up Rosie to take her for a few days, as per their shared custody agreement. Sunny’s family and friends also treat Rosie as if she was a part of their family. They all love and spoil her.

“He cut a small wedge of cutlet off and gave it to Rosie. She took it carefully from the fork and ate it.

“Daddy,” I said. “She’s not supposed to eat like that from the table.”

“I know,” my father said. “But I’m her grandfather. It’s permitted.” (page.256)

Sarah Markham Case

Sarah Markham is a college student who hires Sunny to find her biological parents. Her parents insist that she is not adopted; however, they will not get a DNA test to confirm it. Positive DNA results would close the case immediately. Since they refused a DNA test, there had to be some secrets.

Sunny’s first thought was that Sarah was lying. Sarah did not want to answer any questions. If Sunny was going to figure out Sarah’s birth parents, she needs to cooperate and give Sunny some information. Relentlessly, Sarah finally answered the questions.

There is some danger in the Melancholy Baby, but it doesn’t feel like danger. Some men beat Sarah and her boyfriend up and told her to stop the investigation of her parents. This incident seemed suspicious as if Sarah made it up.

“Well,” I said. “Somebody, for some reason, doesn’t want this investigation to go further. Can you imagine who that would be?”

Mr. Markham took in some air.

“Of course, Barbara and I would like it to stop. It is painful for us. But you can’t believe we would harm our own daughter.” (page 96)

My Analysis of Melancholy Baby

Later in the story in Melancholy Baby, murder happens. Why would someone murder people just because a young woman wants to find her birth parents? The calmness of the deaths mystified me while reading the story. The investigation throughout the book didn’t seem too dangerous. I kept thinking that there should be no one killed during this type of case.

Murder in the story surprised me because it was very calm before and after the killings. I felt that murdering people just did not go along with the story. Killing people in the story was no big deal. I would not call this book a thriller. The killings are matter-of-fact. It is not horrifying as I would think it should be.

I loved Rosie being part of the story because I love dogs, especially small dogs. She receives so much love and affection. It warms my heart to see people treat their pets like their own children.

The ending of Melancholy Baby wasn’t that great. The crime was solved, but still, a lot of unanswered questions remained. I would have liked to know more about what Sarah thought at the end. The information received during the investigation must have been a big shock to her. The author didn’t say anything about what happened to her afterward. The readers don’t even see much of how she reacted after hearing the truth.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book for people who like crime drama novels. Although it is a fast read, it had enough action in it to keep my attention. The story intrigued me to want to keep on reading to see what would happen next. I wanted to know how it would end.

Another great crime novel I did a book review was Tell Me by Lisa Jackson.

I enjoyed this book enough that I would like to read the other books in the series:

Caraval by Stephanie Garber:  Book Review

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: Book Review

Caraval is the first book of a series written by Stephanie Garber. It is a Teen fantasy book with a little bit of romance in it. I enjoyed reading this book very much. The characters and the story were captivating. I was always trying to figure out what was real and what was not, just as the main character was in the story. From the very first page, the story lead me away to another world. That is what stories are supposed to do. The story was entertaining from the beginning to the end of the book.

Scarlett is a delightful character. She is only one year older than her sister, but she feels responsible for her ever since their mother left them and their father. When their mother, Paloma, abandoned them, Scarlett thought she needed to protect Tella from their mean father. These two sisters have a very strong bond, which they will rely on throughout the story.

Caraval Synopsis

Scarlett and Donatella (Tella) have been told enchanting stories by their grandmother about Master Legend and Caraval ever since they were little girls. She explained to them how she was at Caraval and had the most beautiful dress. She also told them about the story of how Legend got his name. The sisters grew up fantasizing about what it would be like to go to Caraval.

Every year, right after their mother left, Scarlett would write Legend a letter begging him to bring his Caraval players to Trisda, the island where she lived, for her sister’s birthday. Finally, after seven years, Legend wrote Scarlett a letter back with three tickets for entrance to Caraval. Legend only responded to her once, and that was after she told him she was engaged to be married.  He ignored all of her other letters.  The three tickets were for Scarlett, her sister, and Scarlett’s fiance.

Scarlett’s father had arranged the marriage. She has not met her fiance yet. So far they had just a little correspondence with each other through letters. He seemed nice and said he had a room ready for Tella too. It was a way to get them away from their father.  Scarlett was looking forward to this marriage.  It gave her hope for a better life.

Julian, a sailor that Scarlett just met, gets the fiance’s ticket. He bargained with Scarlett that if he can have one admission to Caraval, he will get Scarlett and Tella to the isle where Caraval will perform this year. Scarlett accepts his offer.  Julian ends up pretending that he is the fiance at Caraval and helps Scarlett in the game.

Caraval: The Magical Game

Caraval is a magical place where the guests have the option to be players in the game. Upon entrance, the guests have the option to be a player or a spectator.  The players have five days to figure out all of the clues. The first one who completes the contest wins a prize, which is different each year. This year the award is a wish. After Scarlett arrives at Caraval, she finds out that Legend has kidnapped Tella. Tella is a part of the game. The person who finds Tella first wins and receives a wish.

The announcer invites each guest into Caraval with the same speech. Every guest is invited into Caraval with the same announcement.

“Welcome, welcome to Caravel! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world you must remember it’s all a game. What happens beyond this gate may frighten or excite you, but don’t let any of it trick you. We will try to convince you it’s real, but all of it is a performance. A world built of make-believe. So while we want you to get swept away, be careful of being swept too far away. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.” (page 77)

Throughout the story, Scarlett will often go back to the words that were said in this announcement to try to figure out what was happening in the game. A lot of it is not real, but it will seem very real and dangerous.

My Thoughts While Reading

Throughout the book, Scarlett and Tella’s mother, Paloma, is often mentioned. She just disappeared one day and abandoned her husband and children. Scarlett’s father did not become mean until she left. He searched everywhere for her but could not find her.

“When their mother, Paloma, had abandoned them, all the soft parts of Scarlett’s father seemed to disappear along with her. His rules went from strict to severe, and so did the consequences for failing to obey. It would have been so different if Paloma had just stayed on Trisda. Scarlett vowed she’d never leave Tella alone the way their mother had left them.” ( page 111)

In the beginning, I thought that her mother got lost in the Caraval, and maybe a wish made her father mean. However, her mother wasn’t part of the story. It was Scarlett’s grandmother that was mentioned at Caraval often. I think maybe in another book in the series, Stephanie Garber will tell the story about Paloma. I hope it will because I want to know what happened to her.

My Analysis

There were cliffhangers after almost every chapter. I thought to myself that I would read to the end of the chapter and then stop. But I couldn’t because I had to continue reading to find out what happens next.

There is a lot of action. Scarlett never knew who to trust. She didn’t know what was real or just magical. The magic works with your fears and desires. Every chapter there was a new adventure. There were no dull moments.

I didn’t keep on thinking, as I do in some novels, about the end because there are so many mysteries in this story. Scarlett doesn’t know who Julian really is. Could he be trusted? Why did Legend pick her? Is she going to find her sister? I’m enjoying every part of the story.

I was thinking at the end of the book that we would find out about their mother. I was thinking that she went to Caravel and that is where she disappeared. Did some magic happen that changed their father? This question that I had throughout the book was never answered.

I will need to read the next book in the series to find out. This was a very good book. I can’t wait until I can get the next book to continue the story.

The other two books in the series are Legendary: A Caraval Novel and Finale: A Caraval Novel. I am definitely going to read these books.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris:  Book Review

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris: Book Review

Bring Me Back by B.S. Paris is a good psychological suspense novel. This is the first book I have read by this author. After seeing the book displayed in the new books section at Barnes and Noble, I ordered it from the library. It looked interesting. I enjoy suspense novels once in a while so I wanted to read it.

Set up and Introduction

The story takes place in London. Twelve years earlier a woman, Layla Gray, had gone missing in France. Finn was Layla’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance and he is telling us the story. Finn says that he lied to the police from the beginning. He knows that Layla is not dead.

“I had no idea what to do. I knew I’d have to report you missing but that I’d have to have a story, otherwise they’d see my history and if you didn’t turn up, I’d be arrested for your murder. ” (p. 92)

Bring Me Back keeps going back to the beginning of their relationship and then coming to the present. One chapter says “before” and the next “after”, and it keeps going like that. In the “before” chapters, Finn is retelling the story to Layla. He often says, “Do you remember? ” However, it is a monologue because Layla never responds. It’s like when you talk to someone in a coma. You are talking but don’t expect a response. It is unusual the way it is written.

In the middle of the book, the chapters change. Finn is still telling his side of the story, but Layla is telling her side as well in every other chapter. She tells what is happening presently and what she is thinking. It goes back and forth now between Finn and Layla telling the story.

Bring Me Back Synopsis

An announcement goes out in the newspaper that Finn and Layla’s sister, Ellen, are getting married. Soon after the announcement, Russian dolls start showing up at Finn and Ellen’s house. Finn is trying to find out who is leaving the dolls. This specific Russian doll is significant to both Finn and Ellen. Finn figures it is someone who does not want them to get married.

When the announcement in the newspaper about the upcoming marriage of Finn and Ellen, Layla was furious that he was going to marry her sister. She then devised a plan to let Finn know that she was still alive. Layla started leaving Russian dolls where Finn will find them.

The summary on the inside flap of the book implies that the book is about finding out if Layla is alive. Although very early in the book Finn knows that she is alive. The question is what does she want? He is not certain it is Layla, but someone is trying to provoke him and maybe pretending to be Layla.

Finn begins receiving emails from this mysterious person. The sender is trying to give clues as to who they are, but it takes Finn a while to figure it out.

My Analysis

Bring Me Back was an enjoyable book to read. I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted to know what Finn was going to do. Was he going to stay with Ellen or go back with Layla? Also, how crazy was Layla? Would she do something to hurt Ellen? The book is an easy read. I finished it within three days.

This is a detective story but it does not include the police or detectives. It is about Finn trying to figure everything out on his own. It is suspenseful. I thought that since the book talked about a murder in the beginning that it would be the regular detective story where the police are trying to find the murderer. It is not at all like that. It is all about what Finn is thinking and what he is trying to figure out who is behind the Russian dolls.

Characters

Finn is not a likable character. I don’t like him too much because he lies and keeps things from his girlfriends. He has lots of money hidden from Ellen. However, he wants to be with these women because they are totally honest. He is allowed to lie and keep secrets, but his partners cannot do anything wrong. Ellen would never go through his stuff. He hides money from both Layla and Ellen. A lot of money.

He loses his temper quite often. If someone gets him really upset he punches them until they are almost dead, even women. This is a continuous pattern with him throughout his life.

“My temper led me into two more scrapes, one of which led to me being charged with assault after I beat up a colleague who called me Paddy one time too many. After that, I managed to more or less stay out of trouble, until the night I attacked Harry.” (p. 81)

I didn’t hate Finn throughout the story, but I did not feel sorry for him either. The ending of Bring Me Back was good. It has some things to ponder. If Finn did not have a temper, he could have had a happy life with Layla.

Another great psychological suspense novel I recommend is Room by Emma Donoghue. Here is my review of the book. I loved this book, and a movie came out based on this Room.

After The Flood by Kassandra Montag

After The Flood by Kassandra Montag

I enjoyed this post-apocalyptic book by Kassandra Montag. It kept my interest throughout the book. After The Flood is a longer book so my focus wasn’t about wanting to know how the book ends. I enjoyed the characters’ adventures. I wasn’t waiting to find out the mystery or figuring out if the main character was going to get what she wanted. Although that was in the story, I didn’t care too much about that. I just wanted to know about their relationships and the dangerous obstacles that they will face and how they were going to survive.

It was kind of boring at the beginning. I was about one-fifth of the way into the book, and I had no idea where the story was going. It did not seem like there was a plot, except for finding Row. Ok, hurry up and save Row, and that is it, end of the story. I then read the summary of the book to read what else is supposed to happen to see if I even wanted to continue reading the book. It said that Myra will board a ship and then lots of adventures will happen. I continued on and the book became more interesting. It is a long book where there are more details. I’m used to reading shorter books where events happen more quickly.

After The Flood Synopsis

A little more than a century into the future, a catastrophic flood covers most of the earth. Only mountainous regions are dry. Some survivors live in the water on boats and ships while others live on the land.

Myra has a 7-year-old daughter, Pearl. They live on the water. Seven years prior, right before the second flood came and destroyed their house in Nebraska, Myra’s husband took their oldest daughter, Row, and left. Myra was pregnant with Pearl at the time.

There was a 100-year flood and a six-year flood. The 100-year flood happened when Myra’s father was young. So not too many people remember what life was like before the waters destroyed the land.

However, with the six-year flood, people had time to prepare. A whole year Myra’s family were building a boat and storing food, clothing, and medical supplies.

“We had lost internet and electricity for good the month before and we watched the horizon daily, fearing the water would arrive before Grandfather finished the boat. “ (page 44)

Myra’s grandfather taught her how to fish, which helped her tremendously while surviving in this new post-apocalyptic world. After the flood, she used her fishing skills to catch fish to eat and to sell. She bartered fish to obtain other food and clothing. It was a dangerous world to live in.

“When I began to fish, Grandfather scolded me for fishing without intention, throwing lines in before I observed the water. Thinking that as long as hooks were in the water the fish would bite.

Watch the water. You must submit to it. Don’t fight it, Grandfather would say as the boat rocked gently under a hot noonday sun. “ Page 358.

My Analysis

The plot is if they could rescue Myra’s daughter, Row. She could have died or already sent to the breeding ship. Jacob, Myra’s husband, was most likely dead. But Myra never could figure out why he would leave and take Row with him. It had haunted her all these years.

I didn’t care much about the storyline in After The Flood. The characters’ relationships were more interesting to me and their day to day life. It was very entertaining. Usually, when I get to the end of reading a book, I look to see how many pages I have left to read. I didn’t do that at all for this book because I didn’t want it to end.

I enjoy post-apocalyptic novels and movies. However, the story is written in such a way that even if you don’t like post-apocalyptic books, you may still enjoy reading this book. It is adventurous with some romance in it too.

Tell Me by Lisa Jackson Book Review

Tell Me by Lisa Jackson Book Review

SUMMARY

The main character is Nikki Gillette. She is investigating an old case where a mother, Blondell O’Henry, supposedly killed her oldest daughter and injured her two other children. Most people in their small town believed that she injured herself to look like she was a victim. They wanted her to be put in jail and throw away the key. It has been twenty years since she was convicted and sent to jail. Now her son, who is 28 years old now, recants his story and says that his mother did not shoot him or his sister. In court when he was eight years old he had testified that his mother shot his sister.

Nikki was excited to investigate this case because she was also looking for a criminal case that she was emotionally connected to write a book. She had written two books prior to this and needed one more to fulfill her contract with her publishing company. Nikki had known Amity when she was younger. They both went to the same high school. The mystery throughout the book is that the night Amity died, she called Nikki and asked her to meet her because she had something very important to tell her. Nikki said she would but never made it because her parents were fighting and she couldn’t sneak out of the house.

“She’d never really told the truth about the night Amity had been killed at the cabin in the woods – never admitted that Amity had asked her to come – and she’d buried that guilt deep. But maybe now she’d have her chance. Maybe now she could make right a very deeply felt and festering wrong. (Page 33)”

ANALYSIS

Since Nikki is the main character, we heard mostly from what she was doing and feeling.  Sometimes Lisa Jackson wrote scenes where we got to see what Reed was doing with his side of the investigation.  I wanted to hear from both Reed and Nikki.  They are both working on the same case and will be husband and wife soon. 

A few times when Nikki was interviewing Blondell O’Henry in jail to get her side of the story the author told us what Blondell was thinking.  It made it more interesting and trying to figure out what she is hiding.  Why wouldn’t she want to tell her side and maybe get herself out of jail?  I enjoyed the suspense with finding out what really happened that night Amity O’Henry was murdered. The suspense kept me interested in continuing to read the story until the very end. There were lots of twists. A little romance between Nikki and Reed was a good addition to the story.

Another great crime novel I did a book review was Melancholy Baby by Robert B Parker.

 

One Child by Torey Hayden Book Review

One Child by Torey Hayden Book Review

ONE CHILD by TOREY HAYDEN

I started reading One Child: The True Story of a Tormented Six-Year-Old and the Brilliant Teacher Who Reached Out over 20 years ago.  Working downtown Pittsburgh and taking the bus gave me time every day to read.  When I was about halfway through this book, however, my purse with the book in it was stolen at work.  After all these years I often thought about the book, wondering what happened to that little girl.  A week ago I found this book at the library and decided to read it again and finally find out how the story ended.

ONE CHILD SYNOPSIS

Sheila is a victim of child abuse. She lived in a migrant camp with her father after her mother abandoned her.  When Sheila was four-years-old, her mother left her on the side of a highway and fled to California with her younger son. Child abuse was apparent when Sheila was found and taken to the hospital.  She had multiple healed fractures and scars.  Custody then went to the father who was recently released from prison.

The newspaper reported that a six-year-old girl tied up and then burned a three-year-old neighborhood boy in woods near their houses.  The little boy was in critical condition.  The girl, Sheila, was taken into custody after the incident and then sent back home until an opening became available in the children’s unit at the state hospital.  She was causing trouble for a month at home, so authorities decided to enroll her in a classroom for severely disturbed children until she could be admitted to the state hospital.  The classroom teacher was Torey Hayden who described her experience with dealing with Sheila in One Child: The True Story of a Tormented Six-Year-Old and the Brilliant Teacher Who Reached Out.

Her father was very poor living in a migrant camp with no heat, plumbing, or electricity. Consequently, Sheila came to school every day with the same clothes on and without taking a bath.  She stank with body odor and urine.  After a while, Torey cleaned Sheila up a little before the other children arrived at school.  During this time, Torey had time to talk with Sheila alone to find out more about her situation.  It was their special time.  Sheila loved it and started opening up to her teacher.  Their relationship develops throughout the story.

SOME THINGS WE WILL NEVER KNOW

I enjoyed the honesty in the book.  There are many things in this life that we will never know.  Torey tells us this in the book.  Sheila refused to do assignments that involved writing or drawing on paper.  When someone would give her paper, she would crumble it up and throw it, over and over again.  Sheila demonstrated how intelligent she was by doing verbal math or playing with blocks.  So it wasn’t because she didn’t know how.

I never learned whatever it was that motivated Sheila toward her paper phobia.  Later interactions with her over it and later comments that she made reaffirmed my belief that it was related to a fear of failure.  But I never really knew, nor did I feel a pressing need to know, only because so few human behaviors can be reduced to such simple cause-effect terms (p. 157)

Another mystery is why Sheila tied the little boy to a tree and burned him.  She never talked about it.  The book is told from Torey’s perspective, so we never really know or understand what Sheila is thinking.

Yet not once was the abuse incident brought up.  Not with the kids. Not with me or the other adults.  Never.  I did not suggest the topic either.  Although I seldom avoided issues, this one I felt instinctively I should leave alone, for no other reason than what my gut told me.  So we never discussed it.  I never found out what had been going through Sheila’s mind that cold November evening.

 

MY REVIEW

One Child: The True Story of a Tormented Six-Year-Old and the Brilliant Teacher Who Reached Out is a true story of child abuse which is heart-wrenching.  Torey saved Sheila’s life.  If Sheila would have been admitted to the State Hospital, she would most likely have been drugged and remained a mental patient the rest of her life.  I loved this book.  Although it is hard for me to hear about child abuse, I like happy endings.

Another great book, similar to this one, is Damaged and Bastard Out of Carolina.  They both are about child abuse and very good reads.

 

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