I’m recommending authors where the book was their first novel. Are there signs pointing to a newly minted author versus one in the middle or end of their career one? Who knows? They are now published authors and that is all that matters (sort of). I will say if you are looking for something where you have to take notes on who is what and what is not, these books are NOT for you. They are predictable in some sense, but yet I wanted to keep reading both.
In a dark, dark wood is written by Ruth Ware and the 354 pages went by fairly quickly once I devoted time to it. Once I got past the setting of England, Nora’s invitation to the hen party, and her eventual acceptance to the party, the wheels started to move faster. The book did an adequate job switching between the past and present, meaning it did not overly focus on one or the other, and served its purpose. The characters had enough depth to them that they felt three-dimensional and by the end of the story it was satisfactorily wrapped up with a few loose strings, but that was intentional (I believe). I consider this an easy read book like Water for Elephants.
Reese Witherspoon is adapting this into a movie and feel it could definitely come alive on the screen although it must be done in the right way. The author faltered with some of her scenes especially near the end. Ware should have extended the last scene of Nora and Clare because that was the reason the story was written in the first place. What transpired prematurely ended between them, and if she dug a little deeper into her creativity well, I believe it could have been stronger. I will say the scariest part for me was the psychological make up of the characters Clare and Flo, which I’m not sure what was intended, compared to what actions any of them took. I will say enough information was given for why certain things happened, and that is why I’m recommending this book.
This Burns My Heart is written by Samuel Park and the 322 pages contains a love story set in South Korea. The story weaves between the 1960s when there was rapid change after Postwar Korea to the more current time of today. It focuses on the role of women, often having to sacrifice themselves for the happiness of their husbands and children, and how they navigate in this culture with strict rules. The characters of Soo Ja, her husband Min, and an acquaintance from her youth, Yul, were equally developed to satisfaction.
Soo Ja, the main character, is married to a man who loved her in his own way, and yet that was not enough. She bore a child named Hana. Her story continues and the ridicule she is forced to endure. How do you find your strength when you are married to someone who treats you poorly, where his family treats you even worse, and you are the one ultimately holding everyone together? The interactions and dialogue between Soo Ja and Min were the best parts of this book and the interactions and dialogue with her in-laws came a close second.
I would have preferred Hana to be a little less helpless during some scenes, but now looking back if she had acted in a different way it might have not seemed as realistic. There was too much usage of Hana’s name when Soo Ja spoke to her daughter and detracted away from certain scenes in my opinion. I really enjoyed the ending because there was proper closure to the main characters and most everything came full circle. This book edged out the other one by a few hairs, but again I recommend them both as first novels because let us face it, it takes quite a bit effort and time to write any novel.