In Her Shadow by August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin’s psychological thriller “In Her Shadow” is a page-turner that leaves the reader guessing what will happen and fulfills the anticipation with a surprising, unexpected twist at the end. The novel tells the tale of Claire, a Harvard-trained psychologist whose insecurities stemming from her parents’ premature deaths exacerbate a series of actual or perceived events that trigger a relapse of an eating disorder and acute anxieties. The plot is a series of vignettes about Claire and a mysterious woman held captive by a sadistic man. It’s woven into a tale that begins broadly but narrows to an exciting – and startling – conclusion. Although the reader is initially left wondering how two very different stories are interconnected, as the plot progresses, McLaughlin links the subplots in a stunning finale.
I really enjoyed this novel. McLaughlin put her heart and soul into this book and laced it with her own expertise in health, nutrition, and relationships, among others. She uses her insights to tell a believable if disturbing story. Even as it conjures questions of “Why would someone do such a thing?” it reminds one of true stories from around the world that are even more bizarre and tragic than what her thriller portrays. The plot pace is fine, and the story moves along. McLaughlin wrapped up the story’s loose ends in a crisp conclusion that addressed unanswered questions to this reader’s satisfaction. The story begs for a sequel to unravel the aftermath of the tragedy that unfolded.
I found myself second guessing the characters’ choices at times, wondering why they did this or didn’t do that and whether their choices were believable. McLaughlin addressed some potential plot holes, such as explaining the police’s delayed response to a missing person’s report. She leaned heavily on her deep understanding of health and nutrition. While Claire’s eating disorder was a central aspect of the novel, I thought a bit overdone to focus so much on food and drink when some references didn’t seem to add to the plot.
I highly recommend August McLaughlin’s book and give it 5 stars. I look forward to reading more books – and hopefully a sequel – from this talented novelist.
In Her Shadow is now available at:
About August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a Los Angeles-based health writer and journalist with articles featured regularly by LIVESTRONG.com, DAME Magazine, Healthy Aging Magazine and more. Before completing her first novel, In Her Shadow, she worked in the fashion, film and wellness industries, wearing hats ranging from Parisian runway model to culinary coach. Considering her longstanding passion for thrillers, she wasn’t surprised when her attempt at a memoir turned quickly into a fictional tale of suspense. She is represented by John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management and is in the midst of completing her second thriller and a nutritional guide to preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Beyond Hades by Luke Romyn
To call Luke Romyn’s “Beyond Hades” a thrill ride would be an understatement. His mashup of Greek mythology and science fiction took me to so many dimensions in such a hurry that the only metaphor I can come up with is riding a roller coaster. It’s quite a rush. When you close his book and the adventure is over, you may be left shaking your head and wondering, “What did I get myself into?”
The first book in the “Prometheus Wars” series (not to be confused with the recent Ridley Scott movie), “Hades” tells the story of Talbot Harrison, an archeologist who must step in to help the U.S. military close a portal to another dimension opened by his brother Thomas, an expert in Greek mythology who disappeared through the gateway, before the mythical creatures of Greek lore enter our world and destroy it. Backed by a military rendered ineffective against giant monsters unleashed upon the Earth, Talbot embarks on a journey through multiple dimensions, from Atlantis to Mount Olympus to Tartarus, to close the portal between dimensions before they merge into one and humanity perishes. Talbot falls in with Wes, an almost superhuman Australian Special Armed Services commando with a good aim, quick wit, and vulgar tongue. Together they fight to save the world before the monsters do them in.
The twists and turns in this story as it passes from dimension to dimension make for a ride that leaves the reader both enthralled and perplexed. The narrative left me in anticipation as it carried me through Romyn’s universe as I wondered what or where Talbot would go next. The heavy reliance on mythological creatures and name spellings I had never heard of – such as “Kharon” instead of the more common spelling Charon – left me confused at times. Eventually, I figured it out like a roller coaster rider when the car pulls into the station. Kudos to Romyn for doing his research and laying out a comprehensive, if not completely accurate, portrayal of Greek mythology. I’m looking forward to finding out if he did the same for Norse myths in the follow-up, “Slaves of Valhalla.”
Romyn’s thriller really is unbelievable with all of its fantastic imagery, but that’s not a criticism. It’s highly unlikely you will read about a garbage truck teleporter or a human putting Zeus in a chokehold in any other novel. Once you suspend belief, anything, including the transformation of Talbot from academic geek to warrior in mere days, is possible.
I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it with one caveat. If you’re looking for anything other than a nonstop adrenaline rush akin to watching a bloody action-packed video game, be sure to check your bag at the door.
Beyond Hades is now available at:
How Stupidity Saved My Life by Okechukwu Ofili
Mr. Ofili has written a gem of a book filled with pearls of wisdom. He shares with readers 18 ways to have a better life by making the right choices. His conclusions are underscored by news stories, anecdotes, and moments from his own life when he realized that he was doing something wrong and that there was a better way to handle the situation.
I appreciate how candidly he drew from his own experiences and lightened up the book with humor. I enjoyed his funny and telling sketches to illustrate (literally) his points. I liked the stories that tackled tough issues, from growing up in another culture, racism, a tendency to overanalyze, and financial challenges, among others. While the life’s lessons the author shared are grounded in common sense, he packaged them in an easy-to-read, thought-provoking book. His stories made me want to know more about his personal life, but I’ll have to wait for him to share more if he writes a follow-on book.
If there’s any reason to give this book 4 out of 5 stars, it’s because it ends before you know it, and the wisdom he imparts is quite fleeting. It’s not the kind of book that those seeking help to change their own lives can rely on for solid advice. The author does not take enough time to help the reader apply it to their own lives or even sink in. It’s a great read for what it offers. His advice might not be equally applicable to all, but he left it up to readers to decide if they agree with his advice. Not everyone is an engineer or has an engineer’s mind (myself included), but his anecdotes cut across a wide demographic.
I recommend this book to anyone who prefers to learn life’s lessons from others than the hard way — on their own.
How Stupidity Saved My Life is now available at: