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Here, Now — I’m an avid reader who, like a lot of you, found it harder and harder to squeeze in quality reading time within a normal day. It got to the point where most of my reading was being done sitting on the toilet. That is until I broke down and bought a Kindle. Now I read everywhere, including the toilet, finishing one to two books every couple of weeks.

That’s the reason for the resurgence of book reviews in Cracked Spine. That and the fact I want to point out books I found worth my time that you may enjoy as well. I’m here to please, people. I may not get to the bad books as I don’t have time to waste on them (although I did finish the highly praised The Priest’s Graveyard that featured a chick so goddamn annoying it took all I could to finish it) but I plan on talking about the good books like the one I read last month.

It’s the debut novel from S.J. Watson’s titled Before I Go to Sleep. I originally saw it listed on Amazon’s Best Books of the Month for June 2011 accompanied with a lot of praise.  Here’s the official synopsis:

Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. [Hey, this is starting out like Jaded’s weekends] She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle- aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.

But it’s the phone call from a Dr. Nash, a neurologist who claims to be working with Christine without her husband’s knowledge, that directs her to her journal, hidden in the back of her closet. For the past few weeks, Christine has been recording her daily activities—tearful mornings with Ben, sessions with Dr. Nash, flashes of scenes from her former life—and rereading past entries, relearning the facts of her life as retold by the husband she is completely dependent upon. As the entries build up, Christine asks many questions. What was life like before the accident? Why did she and Ben never have a child? What has happened to Christine’s best friend? And what exactly was the horrific accident that caused such a profound loss of memory?

Decent setup, right? Kind of like Memento and 50 First Dates rolled into one. Admittedly, I was a bit tentative about starting this book because I’ve been married before and I’m well-versed on women forgetting stuff on a daily basis. Plus, reading about past events over and over again has the potential to be as tedious as it would be aggravating. Luckily, S.J. Watson knows the score and is not only able to put you in the head of a woman who has to learn who she is every morning she wakes up, but do so in a way that is absolutely captivating.

As each day progresses, and Christine begins unraveling the mystery that is her life, her condition and how she got that way, you are along for the ride as she reads the previous day’s journal entries written to herself. Each day she finds out about every discovery she made, setback she experienced and secret uncovered, knowing that when she wakes up the next morning, she would read about that day’s entries as if she were reading them for the first time, with no recollection of having written them.

All of this information leads Christine to more questions asked than are answered while dealing with the overall fear that she cannot trust anyone, including her own husband, who she depends on for her entire existence, the doctor who is trying to help her regain and retain her memory and even the journal itself.

While you’ve undoubtedly seen the “amnesia” premise done multiple times before, Watson puts his own spin on things, creating a paranoid, disorientating thriller that leads to one of those nail-biting climaxes only good books can deliver. It’s kickass and one of the better psychological thrillers I’ve read in a while. You can grab it in all the usual formats; Hardcover, paperback, Kindle (don’t blame Amazon or the author for the price, the publisher sets it), and an audiobook.

Or, if you hate reading, wait for the movie. It was recently announced that Brighton Rock’s director, Rowan Joffe, will write and direct the movie adaptation. But you’ll be missing out as, and I mean no offense to Joffe when I say this, there’s no way it will be as good as the book.

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