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book review: Black Out

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Have you ever been excited to read a book, only to find a nap on the couch much more enticing?

Have you ever had to force yourself to finish reading because you’re committed to a book?

Have you ever been so confused by the events of the book that you stopped caring what happened to anyone in it?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, and it was not a good experience for you, do *not* read Black Out by Lisa Unger.

Look, I spent time with this book! The cover condition testifies to that.

I really wanted to like this book. I truly did. I mean, who goes into a book believing that they’re going to hate it? (I mean, besides certain 10th graders who don’t always read books voluntarily.)

Though I thoroughly enjoyed the first Lisa Unger book I read because of the voice she gave to her main character, this book didn’t have the same charm. I think Unger tried to portray the main character, Annie Powers/Ophelia March, as a strong character, but for much of the book I felt that she was weak and hopeless.

Let me back up a little.

Ophelia March grew up with a mother who was desperate for love. Because of that, she fell into the clutches of a death row inmate and his son. By association, so did Ophelia. In an effort to escape her past, Ophelia became Annie Powers. She married, had a young daughter, and lived an affluent life in Florida.

It should have been a beautiful, charmed time for her, but her past began to haunt her, literally.

The book follows Annie/Ophelia’s struggles with this haunting. Both we, the audience, and Annie/Ophelia are often uncertain that what we see and hear is truth. Our eyes and ears cannot be trusted. Our instincts cannot be trusted.

I wanted to love Annie/Ophelia for her nobility, but she didn’t seem to have many redeeming graces of her own. She was constantly at the whims of her husband, her in-laws, her father, her former lover. I wanted her to stand up at some point and take control, but she was unable.

It was also a book in which I waited for the silver lining. Books like this should be for fun. We should look for the happy ending. There should be a romantic draw, an exciting future, or some sort of there-is-something-I can-look-forward-to feeling.

That didn’t happen, unfortunately. There were too many players, no neatly resolved ending, and a lot of questions left in the balance. I don’t regret reading this book, but it’s probably the last I’ll seek out by this author.

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book review: Sliver of Truth

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To be honest, I’ve put off writing the review of this book because I’m not sure what I want to say about it. Sliver of Truth by Lisa Unger was the sequel to Beautiful Lies. I liked the first book quite a lot. And I’m sure you know that sequels don’t often live up to the original. And this book was lukewarm, unfortunately.

The love affair present in the original had cooled, and that made me sad. And the mystery in this story, the potential that Ridley’s father (who died in the backstory of the first book) was still alive and entangled in some beyond-distasteful mafia activity felt contrived. Once these two plot events unfolded, I felt distrustful of the rest of the story. I wasn’t sure which character to believe. I wasn’t sure which character to relate to. I wasn’t sure what to hope for as a resolution.

Perhaps this was Lisa Unger’s intent?

Either way, I finished the book, placed it on my shelf, and let it sit there until now. I still have fond memories of reading Beautiful Lies but truly, I wish I’d let it keep its magic by not picking up the sequel.

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