Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review #37: Black Lands by Belinda Bauer

Title=Black Lands

Author= Belinda Bauer
Format= Advanced Reading Copy from Publisher
Publisher= Simon and Schuster
Genre= Fiction/Suspense
ISBN=978-1-4391-4944-7 (240 pages)

Release Date= January 5, 2010

Rating= 8 stars out of 10

My Review and Description:

This is an incredibly intense and psychologically captivating read. Did I like it? Did I enjoy it? No. Like and enjoy are not two words I can associate with this book. Did it move me? Change me? Paralyze me with fear? Enrage me? Yes, to all four. Because of the emotions it brought out in me, my rating for it was high. (See my new rating system for 2010 along my sidebar). The writing was splendid and riveting. The story line too real and frightening. The characters flawed and raw. The ending justifying.

The story starts with Steven, a 11 year old boy living with his Grandma, his little brother and his mother. Steven's household is not one filled with love or warmth. It's as if it is frozen in time, back to the day his Uncle Billy disappeared. The day that his family stopped living.
His Grandma holds out hope for his return, his mother feels weighted with the burden of two kids and his little brother entertains them all in his childhood innocence.

Steven is already a quiet and unusual child but his love for digging makes him even more strange. This is his escape and along with his friend, Lewis, he spends most of his Saturdays digging up holes around his town.

Not an entirely bad hobby for an 11 year old kid but what Steven is digging up or what he HOPES to dig up are the remains of his Uncle Billy.

Billy never came home and no evidence of his body was ever found. No closure.

Steven is determined that if he finds him he will bring his family back to life and give peace to his Grandma (Nan).

He takes it once step further however and that changes the pace and feel of this novel.

Arnold Avery was a known and convicted child murderer serving his sentence in a nearby prison for admitting to the murders of six children. Steven is convinced that Avery killed his Uncle and knows where he is buried. He begins writing him letters in hopes of getting closer to the truth.

What starts is a terrifying game between a cruel man and a hopeful child.

This is a really good book to review with my new rating system because I felt so many things about it when I read it. It's not as simple as a thumbs up or thumbs down.
Now that I am a mother I can not easily stomach topics that involve harm to children especially if it is graphic in nature. So my unease with the topic should not hinder my rating of it's overall storyline and the talented writing style of the author. The voice is sharp and original. I could not ignore that.

I do recommend Belinda Bauer as an original author with a talent for bringing to life the grit and reality of lives in limbo. She gives us a psychological thriller, a mystery and a family drama. A warning to readers, there are parts of the story where the character of the child murderer details his fascination with his crimes. These are the parts, as a mother, I found difficult to read.

This had the weight of a Joyce Carol Oates' novel and the grit of a John Connolly thriller.

Thank you to Wendy and Alyson from Simon and Schuster for sending this to me.

Happy Reading!

red headed book child

(Note: I am currently catching up on my pile of books sent to me from Simon and Schuster from the last six months. I feel they all deserve reviews and I am trying to time them according to their release dates. That is why you are seeing so many reviews from this particular publisher. They are just really kind folks I've met in my years of bookselling who continue to appreciate my love of reading.!!!)


Anonymous said...

I admire your ability to review and rate this book even though it is not one you would have picked for your own enjoyment! I couldn't have done it. You did, and very well, which in turn will have me trusting your reviews over many others. For this I thank you and give you a 5 stars thumb up! :)

June G said...

Thanks for the review and the notification. I found out about it from your Book Blog message. I'll have to check it out. I hope I can stomach it.

I didn't finish The Lovely Bones because I didn't enjoy the subject matter, though I may give it another chance in the future. Black Lands sounds like it has similar issues, but I'm going to try it anyway.

Lisa said...

I felt the same way about We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Didn't like it, certainly didn't enjoy it. But it was riveting and I was glad that I read it.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Wow.... I kind of want to read it based on your review..... :)

Morgan Mandel said...

There are some books and movies that I have feel compelled to finish, though they are disturbing. This sounds like one of them. Also, from what you say, the author did a great job.

Morgan Mandel

Jenny said...

Despite your warning about how it got it's high rating, I am intrigued!

Jan said...

Sounds like you are a part of Simon & Schuster's Book Club Advisory Board. I am too. I love it. Wendy is the best. I chose to read Elizabeth Nobele's The Girl Next Door, because it was the hoildays and didn't want anything too heavy. I'm still reading it. I have enjoyed her other books and am enjoying this one as well.

Ryan said...

Sounds like something I'm going to have to get my hands on when I have a chance. Thanks for the review.

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Aesome review. Doesn't sound like one I'll be reading soon because I'm not sure if I can stomach that either, but it still sounds awesome - like the idea is original and has the potential to go very far.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Michelle! I just love the new way you rate books! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Great review...and I love that book cover.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Great review. Doesn't sound like one for me but I enjoyed your review :)

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Old bookworm- Thanks! I try very hard to be as honest as I can!
June- Thanks for letting me know you got my Book Blog message.
Lisa- I've never read that one!
Shelia- It's intense and eye opening!
Morgan- It's hard to believe it was the author's first books.
Jenny- :)
Jan- I have been asked to do the Book Club Advisory Board but it never officially went through. Do you have a blog?
Ryan, Jenn, Peter, J.Kaye, Juju- thanks for reading!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I'm really looking forward to this one as well; glad to read your great review. Happy New Year

Sheila Deeth said...

What a perfect review. You give just the information that a potential reader wants.