The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford

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Dana Catrell wakes up after a night of drinking with her neighbor friend, only to find that in the night, the woman has been brutally murdered. She was the last known person to see Celia alive, and the police are highly suspicious that she can’t seem to remember clearly what happened the night before. With the pressure of her friend’s death and the suspicion that her husband is having an affair hanging over her, she begins to unravel, losing a little bit of her sanity around every corner. What is real, and what is imagined? Does she really remember her neighbor showing her a picture of her husband with another woman, or is her subconscious just trying to tell her that her husband is a cheater?

The lives of several broken people cross paths in this psychological thriller that will have you reading late into the night. Did Dana kill her friend? Or has she been framed? Can she figure out what happened before she is wrongfully arrested for the crime? Can she trace her own steps? Can she hold on to her sanity long enough to find the truth?

The Pocket Wife, by Susan Crawford, is a psychological thriller in the vein of The Silent Wife or Dark Rooms. The suspense will keep you guessing until the end, and wading through the main character’s unreliable narrative will leave you dying to find out the solution to the mystery. If you like psychological thrillers, The Pocket Wife is for you.

Crystal Falconer
LibraryCrystal
Book reviewer, Librarian, Tech geek wannabe
Crystal Falconer graduated with her B.A. from Western Oregon University, followed by her M.L.I.S. from University of Denver. She was born in Oregon but currently resides in Colorado with her husband, son and trusty canine counterpart.
Boulder, CO
USA
falconercrew@gmail.com

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Three Souls by Janie Chang

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China, 1935…a young woman named Leiyin wakes up one day at her own funeral. Accompanied by her three souls-her Yin, her Yang, and her Hun-she must look back on her life and learn why she is still floating among the living, not crossing over. Her journey is painful. She relives all of her mistakes and sees, from the outside looking in, the pain she has caused others in her own pursuit of happiness.

The living still need her help, and she learns she must do what she can to put things right, even after death. But how does a spirit reach out to the living? They don’t seem to feel her, even when she reaches out to touch them, and her family needs her more than ever before.

Three Souls is not the first novel I’ve read this year dealing with Eastern philosophy on the afterlife, death, traditions in respect to the spirit world-and I have to say I’m glad for this little popularity surge. I tend to be pretty morbid, in general, and I’m fascinated by world views on the more macabre subjects. This novel is beautifully written, and it’s a history lesson on the advent of communism in China, while managing to truly be about a woman not so different from any of us. Mostly self-centered, but with good intentions and a lot of love and caring for people who don’t hear it enough. This novel made me wonder what, if anything, my own actions have set forth in other people throughout the course of my life. If you like this type of read, you will really enjoy Three Souls, by Janie Chang.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

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Li Lan’s family is nearly destitute, thanks to her father’s opium abuse and lack of income. In Chinese culture, there is hope for her father if she can marry well enough that she will be taken care of, and perhaps she can take care of her father, too. But what pedigreed young man will want to marry a poor, unremarkable girl like her? The answer comes soon enough. A proposal comes through that the Lim family is interested in marrying her to their only son, and willing to go to great lengths to make it happen. The catch? The groom is dead, and has been for a while now. The Lim family believe that giving their son a fresh young bride will put his spirit to rest, and she is the lucky lady for the job. Li Lan wants to help her family and she knows that her father will benefit from the act, but can she really marry a dead man? She will never be allowed to marry another man, never have children…And the ghost groom is starting to appear in her nightmares.

The ghost bride must venture into the realm of the dead and find out how to rid herself of the curse that is her imminent marriage to the terrible ghost boy. Ancient and not-so-ancient Chinese curses and ideas about spirits are brought out in this fantastic story of evil spirits, good spirits, purgatory (Chinese style) and much, much more. If you liked What Dreams May Come, by Richard Matheson, which addresses the afterlife, and paying for evil transgressions in life, and finding family memories in the afterlife, etc, you will want to try The Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo, which is one-of-a-kind in every way, and very interesting.  Beware, however, you may find yourself addicted to Chinese superstitions for a brief period following this novel.

I would say that this novel is more “Magical Realism” than any other genre-if you like to delve into fiction that deals with the afterlife or the underworld, The Ghost Bride is a must-read!

Safe Within by Jean Reynolds Page

Elaine Forsyth and her fading husband, Carson, moved into her parents’ full-sized treehouse by the lake so that he can spend his remaining days in peace. Moving back to where they grew up brings up some old, un-faced issues that Elaine finds herself confronted with at every turn. Her mother-in-law, Greta, has never approved of Elaine, and refuses to talk to her or acknowledge that her son is the father of Elaine’s son, Mick. Mick is dealing with his own skeletons, as he spends the summer with his mother, grieving the loss of his father and tracing his old steps, only to find that there is a secret involving his past girlfriend that everyone in town seems to know about, except for him.

This is a novel about tieing up the loose ends of your life and finding closure where you least expect it, and it is a novel about making your own family, regardless of history or even genetics-family and life are what you make them. Grief, loss, and letting go of the past so you can move forward, all factor into this surprisingly uplifting story by Jean Reynolds Page, which stresses that even though you can’t change the past, you can always try to do better with the present.

If you like women’s fiction you will enjoy this novel, especially if you liked A Simple Thing by Kathleen McCleary, or The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo.