Author Archives: marenbraley

Ellen Hopkin’s Burned

I felt angry, frustrated. I felt I didn’t belong, not in my church, not in my home, not in my skin.

Pattyn Von Stratten, sixteen, is the oldest of seven girls. Raised in an abusive home by an alcoholic father and passive mother, Pattyn begins to question everything she’d always taken at face value:  God, love, sex, her role as a woman in their Mormon faith.

Her protests fall on deaf ears as she is whisked away to spend the summer with an aunt she doesn’t know. But it is here that she finds acceptance and that she is worthy of being loved. It is here she blossoms into womanhood. It is here she finds ‘forever love’.

But summer can’t last forever . . .

A gripping coming-of-age tale, Burned is written in poetic form and, surprisingly, at 532 pages, a quick read. Hopkins weaves a tight-knit, engaging storyline that will keep readers in their seats; their eyes, glued to the page. (I read it in less than twenty-four hours.)

There aren’t any chapters in this book, only titles, which are actually the first line of a particular entry. Each separate entry takes a different form and must be read accordingly. I found the page titled Fireworks difficult to decipher. I’m certain there’s an order, though, in which to read the words, to make a coherent thought!

Run, don’t walk, to purchase this book. And while you’re at it, pick up copies of Crank, Impulse, Glass, Identical and any other books with this author’s name.



James Patterson’s Mary, Mary

The eleventh book of the Alex Cross series focus on Mary Smith, a serial killer who’s ravaging the Los Angeles elite. It’s a countdown for Alex Cross – a former homicide detective from D. C., and current FBI agent – to identify the killer and stop the ever-rising body count.

Mary, Mary is actually the first book I’ve read by this author. At present count, there are twenty-one in this series, so I have some catching up to do. (And I will catch up.) This one had me staying up late reading. I simply couldn’t put it down. Twists and turns kept me guessing on the identity/profile of the killer. I was half-right!

Patterson employed a couple of POV styles with this one – which, I’m guessing match the others in the series. Chapters in Alex Cross’ point of view are written in First Person. The others are in Third Person Limited. Normally, First Person is the more intimate POV, but I thought he did a better job getting into the antagonist’s head with Third, than the protagonist’s in First.

Normally, I wouldn’t opt for a crime drama, but I’m glad I did. Due to the subject matter, of course, this one isn’t suitable for younger audiences.

Nicholas Sparks’ True Believer

True Believer follows Jeremy Marsh, an investigative journalist from New York, who receives an intriguing letter about mysterious lights appearing in a North Carolina cemetery. Naturally, his curiosity is piqued. His plan is a simple one:  fly to Boone Creek, debunk the myth that ghosts walk through Cedar Creek Cemetery,  write the documentary, and be done with it. He didn’t count on meeting the local librarian and granddaughter of the woman who wrote him the letter.

Prior relationships have taken their toll on Lexie Darnell. Her heart was broken twice before, and she’s not about to let that happen a third time. She’s content – if not happy – with her life in Boone Creek. And nothing is going to change it. Not even an overconfident, big-time, journalist from New York.

The chemistry between Jeremy and Lexie explodes off every page and had this reader glued to her seat. Indeed, all of Boone Creek’s inhabitants have endeared themselves to me. I don’t know what Mayor Gherkin was so worried about. I’d move to Boone Creek in (pardon the pun) a New York minute!

To think! I nearly returned True Believer, unread, to the bookshelf. I found the first twenty-three pages dry – not at all as I had remembered his writing to be – finding myself closing the book at each line break. For me, the story truly took form when Jeremy received Doris’ letter. So my advice would be:  if, when you first begin, you notice yourself wondering why you picked up this story in the first place, just wait until you reach page twenty-four. You’ll be so glad you did.

True Believer, at its heart, is a love story. Isn’t that what we expect when we see Nicholas Sparks’ name emboldened on a cover? But it’s also a mystery, and a good one. This one’s staying on my bookshelf so that I can enjoy it all over again.

Snippet Sunday – February 2, 2014

This is a snippet from Out of Time, my 2011, NaNoWriMo. I had accepted a dare:  Write an entire chapter about the cooking of an egg.  

If she weren’t famished, and his antics unbelievably deplorable, it would be almost comical. Vanessa heaved a heavy sigh and slapped the newspaper onto the table. “Get out a bowl and two eggs,” she said.

Jeremy was about to smash the eggs together when she put up her hand. “One at a time, crack the eggs on the side of the bowl.”

On Jeremy’s first try, the shell disintegrated in his hand. Egg ran over his fingers and onto the counter.

“Take the other egg,” she said through gritted teeth.

“It’s no use,” he grumbled. “I can’t do this.”

“For goodness sake, Jeremy, this isn’t rocket science. It’s breakfast.”

‘Well, apparently, I can’t do breakfast.”

Stephen King’s Suffer the Little Children

First published in 1972, Suffer the Little Children focuses on Miss Sidley, a no-nonsense teacher, ruling her third-grade class with an iron fist. Whether or not the children played a part in the breakdown of her sanity is open to conjecture.

The author draws a three-dimensional character in Miss Sidley, who starts out harsh and bitter, and ends up mousey and weak. As for Robert, one of her students? Frankly, the kid freaked me out!

King is an expert in character development, but I find some of his endings ambiguous. Suffer the Little Children falls into this category. If, however, his intent is to keep his readers pondering the multiple layers of his fiction, he is successful. My mind is still churning it over, a full day after finishing this short story.

Suffer the Little Children can be – in fact, should be – read in one sitting. There is a brief, profane rant by an addled Miss Sidley, not suited for younger audiences. It certainly makes a case for better screening of those who will teach our children.

Jodi Picoult’s The Tenth Circle

Fourteen, in love, and just beginning to assert her independence, Trixie Stone’s normally safe world is about to crash at her feet.  In her desperation to win back her boyfriend, she lies to her father and attends a party at her best friend’s house, where things go horribly wrong.

Daniel works from home as a comic book illustrator. His latest project, The Tenth Circle, mirrors Laura’s own work at the local college, where she teaches Dante’s inferno. The connection between Trixie’s parents ends there, however, until that fateful evening when their commitment to the family, and to one another, is put to the test.

The Tenth Circle offers a fast-paced, roller coaster ride that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. I found myself stealing away to devour page after page. As an added bonus, Daniel’s illustrations are included at the end of each chapter:  a book within a book. This allows readers a deeper understanding of his character.

While Picoult’s mastery of character development is to be commended, I found it implausible that Daniel, having fallen in love with Laura, could have just flicked off the switch that controlled his dark side and kept it hidden for the next fifteen years. Having said that, though, it does not detract from an expertly woven tale.

Due to subject matter and a minimal use of vulgarity, I would recommend The Tenth Circle for those thirteen and older.

Snippet Sunday December 8, 2013

Anwar and Daemon face off at the door to Anwar’s cell. Daemon’s certain that he has the upper hand, and he’s only too happy to oblige his queen in bringing her the prisoner.

Anwar eyed the threshold as the door creaked open. Every fiber of his being screamed for him to run, that it was now or never. But as Daemon’s massive hulk stepped through the frame, Anwar found himself retreating deeper into the cell. He had failed her yet again.

“Your presence is requested in the Great Hall,” Daemon sneered.

That he derived enjoyment from this exchange did not bode well for Anwar.

“I’m afraid that truly doesn’t fit in with my schedule. Perhaps another time?” Anwar bowed formally, but how his knees did knock. Could he hope to hide his cowardice for long?