Book Review (ARC): Where the Missing Go by Emma Rowley

“I’m still here…”

The blurb doesn’t do this book justice. I’m so surprised at how much I enjoyed this story. The writing is elegant and succinct, the tension is spellbinding, and it kept me occupied on the StairMaster for over 30 minutes, which is high praise in itself :p

Where the Missing Go begins with a woman named Kate working at the “Message in a Bottle” helpline. It’s a place where missing people can call in and anonymously contact their families or friends. If they’ve vanished voluntarily, it provides a way to let their loved ones know they’re safe, without actually coming home or calling them directly. That night, Kate is alone at the helpline office, and receives a call from a young woman named Sophie, who asks her to get in touch with her parents and let them know she’s all right.

Kate’s daughter’s name is Sophie.

And Sophie has been missing for two years.

Although Kate had been beginning to accept that perhaps her daughter had run away for good, the call upends her life (a life that was already teetering on the edge), and she cannot help but try once again to find out what happened those years ago. Clues begin to mount up, and an intruder stalks Kate in the night, entering her home and leaving without making a sound. The police don’t believe her, and her family begin to think she’s going crazy – they all ask the same question: why can’t she just move on?

But Kate can’t and won’t – what mother would? When her investigation leads her to the disappearance of a local woman decades before, she’s even more sure: something happened to Sophie. And perhaps, she’s been trying to reach her mother all along…

I’m a huge fan of ‘journey’ novels, and I loved the way that Kate slowly peels the onion, unraveling her daughter’s vanishing in slow steps. I did guess the ultimate perpetrator, but there isn’t a large cast of characters, so this wasn’t difficult – nor did it detract from my can’t-put-this-down enjoyment of the story as a whole.

If you like mystery and psychological suspense, I can almost guarantee you’ll be riveted by this story by Emma Rowley. It’s a wonderful debut, and I think she’ll be entertaining us for years to come.

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Book Review (ARC): The Dark Bones by Loreth Anne White


“He’d always harbored a fear that she still lay there. Her dark bones in wait. To rise. To get them.”

Reading Loreth Anne White is a sensory experience. You can feel the biting wind in your hair, whispering in your ear like a lover might. The snow crunches and powders beneath your feet. Frost alights on your fingertips, and the sky is vast overhead, raining stars over the horizon. It’s as if you are there, walking side-by-side with the characters, hearing a bird shriek in the wilderness, seeing headlights flash in the dark. It’s my favourite thing about her writing – that acute sense of place, and it never wavers.

The Dark Bones is a sequel to A Dark Lure, and I was excited to see White returning to this world. Although I didn’t remember everything about Olivia, Cole, Tori and Ace, I remembered enough to want to check in – see how they were doing, and get reacquainted with their town and the folk who live there. Although they’re kept on the periphery, I sense another novel in those characters – Olivia and Cole’s romance especially seemed to have stuttered to a halt – so I’m anxious to see if White returns.

The novel switches between the past and the present, circling around Rebecca North, once an insecure, shy teenager, and now a police officer based in British Columbia, who returns to her hometown after her father commits suicide. His cabin is also razed to the ground in an “accidental” fire, and knowing that her Dad was working on a cold case when he died, Rebecca is suspicious of the blaze. She begins to investigate both her father’s death, and the cold case he was fixated on – that of the disappearances of local teenagers Whitney and Trevor, who vanished twenty years back. Her machinations bring her into close quarters with Olivia (whose daughter Tori is suspected to have been near the cabin when it burned), and Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend, Ash Haugen, whose land borders Broken Bar Ranch, and who cheated on her with Whitney the summer they turned seventeen.

It’s all quite a quagmire. In the beginning, I struggled to relate to the characters. Ash was a closed book, and I grew quickly exhausted with the idea of Rebecca being hung up on a guy she went to high school with. Slowly though, White hooked me in, as she has a tendency to do, and the tension ratcheted up to a fever pitch. I appreciate that as a novelist, she’s not afraid to go to dark places, and truly, the reality of what happened to Ash, to Whitney, to Trevor and more… it’s disturbing, and raw, and bloody.

As the book drew to a close, it became clear why Rebecca was so frustrating in the beginning – because she’d sublimated so many memories of her past in order to move on, and coming back was like a regression of sorts. The landscape of her childhood was a hell of forgotten feelings, and rivered with the ghost of her father, whom she’d been too late to help.

Ash too, was unable – or unwilling – to work through what had happened to him, and so, they were both stumbling, like newborn deer, into the dark.

To pre-order your copy of The Dark Bones, click here <—-

I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley and Montlake Romance, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to both!

A note to all lovely readers that if you click the Amazon link above and purchase, I will receive a small fee for referring. Thank you for supporting this blog and in turn, supporting authors!

book review: Lost Connections by Johann Hari

“The Internet was born into a world where many people had already lost their sense of connection to each other. The collapse had already been taking place for decades by then. The web arrived offering them a kind of parody of what they were losing—Facebook friends in place of neighbours, video games in place of meaningful work, status updates in place of status in the world. The comedian Marc Maron once wrote that “every status update is a just a variation on a single request: ‘Would someone please acknowledge me?”

– Lost Connections by Johann Hari

Some of the reviews for this book absolutely terrify me. But even worse are the responses.

Thanks! I guess I can skip this one!

Oh, snap. Was looking forward to it. I’ll give it a miss.

No, no, no. Nope! People, read this book. Please do not listen to reviews that are at best, shallow, and at worst, willfully ignorant. A lot of the negativity comes from people reacting exactly as Johann predicted they would, when presented with the idea that anti-depressant medications are a tool for Big Pharma to make billions, and have a negligible effect (if any) on the actual medical issues they are supposed to be treating. The reaction to this theory is – naturally – resentment, discomfort, disbelief or even anger. The prevailing sentiment seems to be, “but they work for me! Or they slightly work for me! Or they’ve worked for someone I know! How dare you!”, and that is not productive, nor is it solid evidence that Johann’s research is flawed.

Johann Hari talked to thousands of people while writing this book. Professionals and laypersons. Doctors from all over the world. Therapists. Patients. People suffering from depression and anxiety, and people with relatives suffering. He did his research. He’s made some very bold claims. And the glib reaction to those claims and theories in some of the reviews posted online really, really get under my skin. Mainly because I truly believe that this book could help save lives – and by that I don’t mean life, in terms of not dying, but life as in living. I believe this book could help people to live.

When speaking with these doctors and doing this research, Johann discovered the uncomfortable, inflammatory fact that most of the time, anti-depressants have a very small effect on depression. In some cases, they may not work at all. In others, they work, but then they stop working, and the dose needs to be doubled, tripled, quadrupled. The end result? Millions upon millions of people are on these pills, and these pills are draining into our wastewater, and pharmaceutical company executives are working at solid gold desks, and for what? What are we actually treating? Have we gotten to the root of the problem, or are we scratching futilely at the surface?

It reminds me of Febreze commercials. Stay with me! In the commercials, a dog will jump up on a couch and rub its wet dog smell** all over the cushions, and the woman (it’s almost always a woman), comes out of the kitchen smiling, with a spray bottle of chemicals, and spritzes the absolute shit out of the room. She smiles. Ahhh, that fresh scent of artificial lavender and spring breezes! But the smell isn’t actually gone. It’s just disguised. It’s been covered with a thin layer of whatever-the-fuck is in that spray bottle, and for a while at least, everyone is happy.

But underneath? The original smell is still there.

That’s what this book reminded me of. That rot – unless properly taken care of – will remain, and fester, and grow. We can try to medicate ourselves out of it, but at what cost? I should note here that I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for over a decade, and I’ve medicated, and I haven’t medicated, and recently, I came off the drugs for good. The withdrawal was beyond horrendous, but I got through it, and am now utilizing (through therapy) a lot of the tools Hari mentions in the book. Many reviewers found these tools troubling.

Yes, gardening isn’t possible for everyone. Sure, not everyone can get out into nature. Meditation might seem intimidating. Living more toward your actual values is a foreign concept. Perhaps a living wage is something Fox News told you is socialism, oh and thanks Obama! But these tools are real things that have actually helped real people, and to dismiss them outright is foolish, dangerous, and contrary to what I believe most human beings want – to live a meaningful, purposeful life that has moments of joy, moments of contentment, and moments of peace.

While I truly think that some reviewers read this with a closed mind – unable and unwilling to confront the ideas that Hari presents – I hope that the majority of people will carve out a space in their hearts for these simple, powerful concepts.

Connection. Family. Tribes. Values. Nature. And the bald truth that your pain is trying to tell you something.

Listen.

Answer it.

To order your copy of Lost Connections, click here. <—— You’ll thank me later.

**Note, I absolutely adore dogs and would happily give my life for mine. This is just an example. PLEASE BE NICE TO DOGGIES AND ALL OTHER FUR PEOPLE.