99 Red Balloonsby Published 24 Aug 2017
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Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?
When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.
What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?
Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…
"99 Red Balloons" Reviews
3.5 Stars.* (rounded up)
Grace goes missing one day while walking home from school after leaving the sweets shop by herself. It was the first time she had walked home alone. Every other time her mom, Emma had walked with Grace or spied on her, of course she regrets it. But Grace was now a big girl, being eight years-old and all and Emma thought Grace was finally old enough to walk by herself. Emma was wrong.
Stephanie, Grace's aunt provides support to both her sister Emma and her brother-in-law Matt during this tragic time. All three of them have secrets, secrets they want to keep hidden from each other and the police.
Maggie is an older woman whose granddaughter Zoe went missing decades ago. Every time she sees photographs of missing children in the paper or on the news, it reminds her of Zoe. She has never gotten over it. After Zoe went missing, she lost her daughter Sarah and her husband Ron passed. If it weren't for her best friend Jim, she isn't sure how she would have survived these last few years. When she sees photos of little Grace having been taken outside of a sweets shop, it reminds her or Zoe, for the circumstances are exactly the same.
Will Grace be found? How does Zoe’s disappearance relate? This was a novel that I found captivating and compelling. I was interested in both Stephanie and Emma’s story and Maggie’s as well and was impressed that this was Elisabeth Carpenter’s debut novel and would recommend it to fans of suspense novels.
Thank you to Edelweiss, Chelsea Tresp, Harper Collins and Elisabeth Carpenter for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Published on Goodreads and Edelweiss on 9.12.17
*Will be Published on Amazon on 9.26.17.
At the very beginning I was pulled into the story almost instantly as Elisabeth (Libby) Carpenter has crafted an extremely powerful and fast developing first few pages and first chapter. I loved that it was so easy to get into the story - I had no qualms about that but I did worry that due to the events of the first chapter that the thrill level couldn't be maintained. It kept my interest quite well until around 50%+ but at some point after that it became seriously uneventful and my mind was drifting. The ending was not the plot twist I was looking for as it was easily predictable, I would've welcomed a surprise at this point to pull me back into the story but unfortunately it was not meant to be.
99 RED BALLOONS starts out as a fantastic thriller should - without spoiling it for others with the details - a girl disappearing. It quickly became apparent to me in the part of the book that I lost interest that it would be more apt to call it a family drama. Although the kidnappings would be described as events that occur in a thriller novel, this book pretty much revolves around the family dynamic and the dysfunctional family scenario where secrets and lies are the normal modus operandi.
There was also some of the book, the unnamed chapters, where it was not entirely clear who's perspective it was from which became a little confusing at some stages of the book. Most of the chapters are named Stephanie, Maggie etc but a few of the others were problematic. There hasn't been much of an effort to develop the characters beyond their name and basic details making it hard to distinguish one from another. It would've made sense to individualise the main characters involved in the story and leave the peripheral figures lacking substantial detail.
I read to relax and some of this lack of clarity made the story more complex than it really was or needed to be. I do like a book to challenge me otherwise it is boring but it shouldn't test your memory to this extent. That said, I feel this was a good debut novel and that the overall premise was sound. It would, with more character building, be even better and help to make the story more enjoyable.
This was one of the books in my to-be-read pile that I was most looking forward to reading but I ended up being disappointed unfortunately. There have been so many fantastic books this year that the standards have risen considerably - this shows anything of a slightly lesser standard in a bad light. I also want to give a quick mention to the the cover which really grabbed my attention, such a great design.
Obviously this is just my subjective opinion and I think this book would very much appeal to those who like family drama's. I would strongly recommend it to those people as a worthwhile read. I would read another Elisabeth Carpenter novel in the future but I would be less excited than I was to read 99 RED BALLOONS.
I would like to thank Elisabeth Carpenter, Avon and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book. It was my pleasure to provide my honest opinion.
Eight year old Grace had been begging her parents to start letting her walk home from school with her friends so they finally begin to let her. Grace's mother, Emma, had at first followed her daughter and hid to keep an eye on her as she walked but once she saw she was doing alright she let the girl make the trip on her own until one day Grace didn't come home.
Frantic with worry every searches every where for the little girl finding the last place she was seen was seen in a sweetshop with no other clues to her whereabouts. Soon the police and media are involved in the search for young Grace when ageing widow Maggie Sharples sees Grace's image on the news bringing back memories of her own granddaughter being kidnapped years before. For Maggie though the face she sees on the television is a bit too familiar to be coincidence.
99 Red Balloons is a thriller that takes the thought of every parent's worst nightmare and expand the story to yet another level blending the past and present together. The overall plot is one that is sure to keep a reader on edge with a little girl's life on the line when she can't be found but for me this one also seemed to be a bit confusing with so much going on.
The story is told with alternating points of views from various different characters all throughout the book which is where I think I struggled with keeping track. Some chapters are from the family then a lady watching the story unfold and even a little girl who had been taken. By the time it all wrapped up it made sense but during the early pages and the middle there were a few times the voices within the chapters just weren't standing out enough to remember who was who.
In the end I decided to rate this book at 3.5 stars. The intensity was there to keep me wanting to know how it would unfold but I had to sometimes stop and remind myself who was who and what situation I was reading so the flow could have been a bit better in my opinion.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
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I kept thinking "maybe it's just me..." but at 70% in, I don't care if it's just me. I can't find a reason to continue trying to read 99 RED BALLOONS. It has a bunch of positive reviews which led to my self-doubt. Most of the reviews focus on the plot, which is not bad at all. The plot is the redeeming quality here, even though you will figure out the ending way way way before it happens.
The writing and organization of the book is a mess. With every chapter, I had no idea who was narrating unless the chapter was named "Maggie", "Stephanie" etc. This was mainly due to lack of characterization. With the exception of Maggie, an elderly woman, there is no real personality among the characters. It is curiously dry and detached. Some chapters are not named, and as a reader I was lost as to who was speaking. I was 50% into the book before I saw a semblance of narration pattern, and even then, it remained inconsistent and confusing.
This was an ARC from the fabulous HARPER COLLINS AVON publisher and I am so grateful to them for allowing me to read and give my honest review.
This was an okay read. So many great psychological thrillers out this year that I've read and this one didn't quite rank up there with many of them. This novel features a missing child at the core of its plot, again something I've read a lot of this year.
I found the alternating points of view in this somewhat confusing, despite each chapter being headed with the person speaking. To some degree it was that not all the characters had distinct voices, didn't stand out in their own character. At times I found I was straining to follow things mentally rather than relaxing into a great read.
It's not a bad book however and the plot has a number of sub-plots that begin to weave together into some decent reveals. I had spotted or guessed the major one very early in the book but kept my mind open to being wrong.
The characters that did really stand out for me, therefore the perspectives I enjoyed reading the most was that of young child Zoe who I took to heart very quickly in her scary predicament and elderly Maggie. I thought Maggie's pain and inner torment was done really well - her friendship with Jim really sticks with me too.
This is a novel that tackles family secrets, child abduction and has plenty of flawed characters throughout.
There is only a tiny, very small focus on anything police related - so despite a missing child you won't find a crime element in this novel. I did feel personally that would have added enormously and given us some alternative perspective to the overall story. In reality? A lot more talk about what the police were doing would have absolutely been happening. The author just decided not to focus on it. That's her writing choice :-)
I was hoping for a spectacular finish to bump my rating to 4 stars, however it flowed into the picture at a fairly slow pace with no real surprises by that point. A major end twist would have been fabulous.
3 stars from me. A book that others will indeed rate higher. I think the fact I review hundreds every year means I look at comparison books in the same genre and rate accordingly. In a genre that's "busy" you've got to really stand out. I would definitely read the next book by this author as the writing was not bad at all and I'd like to see what she comes out with next.
I received a copy of this book thanks to Avon via NetGalley. All review opinions are entirely my own and completely unbiased.