Posts tagged ‘Suspense Novel’

Sometimes a Good Book just falls in your Lap

I know it has been 9 months since my last book review and I am sure you have frequently, if not daily, thought “how can I know what to read? How can I go on?” So never fear. I am back.

I have still been reading, I just seem to not have gotten around to blogging about it.  But let’s ease back into it with a list – phew, I don’t want to dig too deep this time around.  I have read some good things and some not so good but here are some fun reads I fell into:

  1. 26192646.jpg“Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler: This book is getting a lot of press and for good reason. This lady can write.  It is beautifully done.  The story of Tess leaving behind small-town Ohio, landing in New York City, and getting a job at a high-end restaurant is all consuming for both her and the reader.  The description of tastes, the world of dining behind the scenes, hot kitchens, and copious amounts of drug-use are all spot on.  I didn’t as much find the over-arching story as interesting as everything else, but that really is not the most important thing about this book. It is that good.
  2. “Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld: Let me say I hate reimagined books. This retelling of “Pride and Prejudice” made me cringe but it was Sittenfeld so I had to try.  And honestly, it was really fun.  The Bennetts are living in Cincinnati, Ohio (Ohio is so popular). They are overextended and double mortgaged.  There are Bingley and Darcy, rich surgeons, who have just relocated from LA to work in the Cincinnati region.  Lydia and Kitty are cross-fit fanatics.  All of the Austen characters fall right into our current culture and it is a great fit.
  3. “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George: The story of Monsieur Perdu w23278537ho is the apothecary of books to heal is so wonderful and made me smile (and tear up) often.  I have also decided that surely it is reasonable to believe that someday I too will own a barge of books that I can travel with from Paris to Provence.  This will happen…probably.
  4. “Triptych” by Karin Slaughter: I have no idea how I am just stumbling onto this author but her suspense writing is so, so good. She is coming to speak at my local library next week so I started reading her books and all of them are fun.  Her writing is very, very graphic so it is not for the faint of heart but for suspense novels these are some of my favorites I have read.  “Triptych” has been my favorite so far out of all of them. I also loved “All the Pretty Girls” and “Cowtown.”

Someday  I will get up the courage to post about “Hillbilly Elegy” which made me yell at the author when I finished.  Although the author was not in the room, and likely could not care less about my opinion, I wished he had been in the room hearing my strongly worded opinions because great gravy, that book was so frustrating.   As an aside, feel free to use “great gravy “as you see fit. An aside to the aside, if you are under the age of 70 you probably should never see fit to use that phrase.

Okay, keep on reading.  And most importantly, happy autumn!!!!!

 

 

 

September 23, 2016 at 2:19 pm Leave a comment

The list – Books for the Christmas List

I am a notorious last minute shopper.  In my childless days, I prided myself on getting all my Christmas shopping done in one day. And that day was Christmas Eve.  Now that I have children I am a bit more proactive but I still enjoy waiting until at least the latter half of December to get started.

imagesBooks are always my favorite gift to get (and maybe new Hunter boots *hint, hint to the husband*).  So, for my fellow procrastinators here is a bit of help for your holiday shopping lists.

  1. General Fiction:
    • “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff: The story is told from two sides of a marriage. It is about the versions of ourselves we show each other and the pieces we keep hidden.  It is extremely well written and one of my favorites of the year.
    • “The Lake House” by Kate Morton: Morton keeps doing what she does well,  a bit of a story of the past with the present trying to make sense of what has happened.  This book is fun and a lighter read than “Fates and Furies.”
    • “Everything I never Told You” by Celeste Ng: I reviewed this one before but it is worth restating that this is an amazing book.
    • “We are not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas: A heartbreaking story about Alzheimers but well worth the read…and the tears.
  2. Love story:
    • “A Desparate Fortune” by Susannah Kearsley – I love this author. I heard her speak earlier this year and she is funny, smart and very down to earth.  This book is not completely a love story – there is some mystery to it – but it has all of the elements of romance that Kearsley does so well and it is set in Wales. So what is not to love?
  3. Mystery
    • Start someone on the Louise Penny Detective Gamache series.  I can’t say enough about how great this series is.
    • “The Winter People” by Jennifer McMahon: This book scared me to death. The end was a little predictable but it is still was very fun.
    • “The Weight of Blood” by Laura McHugh: This was a page turner for me and the narrator, sixteen year old Lucy, was one of my favorite characters in my reading this year.
  4. Science Fiction
    • “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel: Another post-apoclyptic book but well done. The author does a great job of tying all the characters in the book together. Though as some have noted the end is a bit abrupt.
  5. Memoirs/Non-fiction
    • “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson:  This is tough read because it is so shocking. Stevenson is an attorney working on appeals for death row inmates. The stories of how easily African -American males can end up on death row is harrowing. But this book is an important read for everyone.
    • “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson: This book is not for the easily offended but it is amazingly hilarious. Lawson talks about her struggles with mental illness and physical hurtles as well as the inevitable zombie apocalypse and the use of taxodomery in daily life.  I listened to this on audible.com and the author’s reading of this book made me cry I laughed so hard.

Alright my friends, good luck with your last minute shopping. I will likely see you out and about.

And have a Happy, Happy Christmas!

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December 20, 2015 at 11:22 am 2 comments

Disappointment can be so…well…disappointing – “Second Life” by S.J. Watson

I will start off by tipping my hat to S.J. Watson’s first book “Before I go to Sleep.”  It was a great suspense.  That makes this review all the more painful for me because I was very excited for Watson’s new book.  And I understand that sometimes that sophomore effort can be so hard, particularly when the first book was so successful.  But honestly, does this Unknownpoor author have no one in his life who, over a morning cup of coffee, would say to him “don’t publish this…no seriously it is bad. Cream in your coffee?”

Julia has a sorted past.  But like all heroines (not sure this is really the right word for her), she has come out stronger and a better person.  She is married to a lifelong friend. She has adopted her sister’s (Kate) son because Kate was unable to take care of him.  She is taking pictures again.  Julia has it together.  Until she receives a call that Kate has been murdered in a dark Parisian alley.  Then things start to unravel for Julia.

In an attempt to piece together who murdered her sister, Julia begins logging into a dating website Kate used for casual hook-ups. Not a couple days into her research, Julia meets someone online.  They begin talking, and one thing leads to another and Julia’s shunning her perfect life for hotel hook-ups.  But what about Kate’s murder and solving the mystery you say? Well sure she is doing that kind of too, but mostly she is hooking up with one guy she met online.  And poor Julia, she wants to stop but she can’t. Did I mention she is a recovering addict?  So, what is a girl to do really? Like all books with this type of storyline, there is always the tension that the husband will find out, that the son will hate her, that her whole life will crash but of course she having such a great time.  Life is no picnic when your sister is murdered and you start having an affair.

The themes and twists and turns in this book have been written before – hundreds of times.  The predictability of the story is painful at best and maddening at worst.  And Julia is so terribly unlikeable. She makes so many stupid decisions that you really are kind of relieved when there are consequences – it just seems fair.

Maybe Watson was on a tight deadline and just had to churn something out. Maybe he had some personal problem that affected his writing so severely that this is where he ended up. Or maybe, and I don’t like this one but still, “Before I go to Sleep” was it for him and it is all downhill from here.  But regardless, he has his work cut-out for him in the writing of  his third  book.

Oh, and, Mr. Watson, perhaps the next book could not end in a silly cliff-hanger. Please. Cream in your coffee?

August 9, 2015 at 9:49 pm 6 comments

The best find of the Summer – “Bittersweet” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

18339743I am going to go far out on a limb, dangerously so, and say this is by far my favorite summer read.  I bought this book because I happened to read the description and it took place in Vermont. I was headed to Vermont for vacation so it seemed like a good match.

Mabel is the stereotypical nerd – frumpy, uncomfortable in her skin, insecure (you get the picture).  Her first semester in college she finds herself rooming with Genevra (Ev) Winslow.  Ev comes from a long line of the rich, the beautiful, the moneyed.  In short, she is everything Mabel is not.  Oddly, after months of Ev’s disdain, the girls bond and Ev invites Mabel to come summer at her family’s compound in Vermont.  Eager to avoid returning home, Mabel agrees and off they go to the beautiful, idyllic Lake Champlain and the Winslow’s blue blood summer estate “Winloch.”

Winloch has one main dining hall where all the different branches of the family gather to eat.  Otherwise, the property has cottages for the various Winslows to stay in. They are named after the local vegetation “Queen Anne’s Lace,” Goldenrod”, etc.  Ev and Mabel are placed in “Bittersweet” which is to be a part of Ev’s inheritance.  There is swimming, picnics, plays, tennis (of course), boating and other manner of blue blood summer sports. It is everything Mabel never knew she wanted. Of course, nothing is that perfect.  Mabel runs into Ev’s eccentric Aunt Indo who insinuates that there are family secrets to be discovered and assigns Mabel a research project.  This leads her to discover some ugly truths about the Winslow family and about her friendship with Ev.

This book is highly predicable, so I am not claiming it is original.  But the setting and the characters make it fun. And even though Mabel is drab and a bit stereotypical you can’t help but want her to succeed.  So I guess I am saying this book is a blast, with the caveat that it is not going to amaze you with its new ideas or inventive storyline.  Sometimes, this is just the kind of book you need to read.  That and really who doesn’t wish for an invitation to a place like Winloch?

 

Other summer reads that have been fun but not as good as this one:

  • “Natchez Burning” by Greg Iles
  • “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fanny Flagg (yes, even if you saw the movie you should read it)
  • “Silver Bay” by Jojo Moyes (not as good as her other books but a fun, light read) 

August 1, 2015 at 3:52 pm Leave a comment

The Schools out It’s Time to Read List

I have been reading a lot, and a lot of the books have been fun.  So here is what I think you should be reading while malingering by the pool.

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: This was one of those big hype books that never sounded particularly like my kind of genre.  But it is just so good. Admittedly, it is another of those futuristic, lots of people die from a disease, stories. But the way the story is linked with the life of a celebrity actor is just fascinating.  The novel also takes  an interesting look at theater and how it changes as the world changes. Celebrity acting is such a disconnecting/lonely thing but a traveling troupe of actors connects people and towns.  I can’t guarantee your money back or anything, but this book is worth the leap of faith.

2. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon: This book is creepy and scary and all of those good things that a creepy-scary book should be.  Below the floor boards in an old house, surrounded by encroaching woods,  someone finds the diary of a woman who was murdered in 1908.  This is really all I need to say, right?

3. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: You know from the first sentence of the book that Lydia is dead but her family does not.  Lydia is the teen daughter of a mixed-race marriage in the 1970s.  Her father is Chinese and her mother is Caucasian.  While it is a mystery through-out how Lydia died, it is not the driving force of the book. It is instead driven by the dreams that parents have and how the unspoken force of these dreams can do great harm, even when they are meant with the best intentions.  This novel was amazingly insightful, particularly in how Ng examines how broken people carry their brokenness into parenthood.

4. At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen:  I didn’t think this was a stunning novel.  And it was extremely predictable, almost painfully so, but it took place in Scotland and that made me inexplicably happy.  It is set during WWII, when three American socialites Maddie and her husband Ellis, along with his friend Hank, decide to head to Loch Ness to find the infamous monster.  They are spoiled, rich kids with a ridiculous plan.  While Ellis and Hank spend their days drinking on the shores of Loch Ness, with binoculars, Maddie sits at the pub and waits.  There is a sully maid and a burly pub keeper – so one gets in a fight, another woman gets pregnant, etc.  I think you get the idea but it is a fun, mindless read for the summer.

IMG_0498Swim, read. Work, read. Have a cocktail, read. Have two cocktails, read.  Whatever happens just make sure it ends with a book. Cheers.

May 26, 2015 at 7:05 pm Leave a comment

Hello February and other reading news

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There is something painful about February for me. It is just cold and dark.  It is the last push from winter and the snow is no longer novel and fun.  And yes, I am whining.   But it does mean I hunker down and read a lot – because it is cold and dark and the snow is no longer fun.   Alas, I have neglected to share what I have been reading for over a month so here is another multi-book post.

I was all over the place this last month in my reading but I feel like with a lot of the books I read I was somehow missing key elements in the story.  Which for me makes for a frustrating reading experience.  Sometimes I do think this poor connection is my fault but sometimes I think the author just missed the boat.  So anyway this is where my reading has traveled over the last few weeks:

1. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi: Good grief, I found this book to be extremely dysfunctional.  Boy Novak is a girl (yep that is a fun twist) who is raised by her abusive father.  She runs away and tries to piece together a new life for herself.  She ends up marrying a man who has a beautiful, charming but seemingly vapid daughter named Snow.  When Boy gives birth to her own daughter, Bird, it becomes apparent that her husband has been hiding his African-American lineage.  And so the book becomes about our reflections of ourselves, our distorted views of others, our need for classifications.  I know, this sounds like a good idea right? But Oyeyemi just has no solid footing in her storytelling. It is an attempt to recreate and then deconstruct, or something artisan like that, the Snow White fairy tale. But all of the magical elements just seem bizarre and forced. The characters are unlikeable and the story is just, well, lacking.

2. Euphoria by Lily King:  I love this writer. I think she is brilliant and Father of the Rain is one of the best fiction books about alcoholism I have ever read.  Luckily, King is still in top form with Euphoria, which is very loosely based on the anthropologist Margaret Mead and her work with the indigenous tribes in New Guinea.  I always find this desire of the Western Caucasian World to assert itself into other cultures fascinating – it is so harmful and self-indulgent but is so frequently seen as a form of philanthropy.  This book was interesting and the relationship between the three anthropologists makes for good story-telling.  I will admit to finding the end abrupt and unsatisfying (which I think means I missed something important) but I still loved the book.

3. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer: This book is snarky, irreverent fun.  It is Shafer’s first book so I can’t imagine how great his next books will be.  The book has three key characters: Leila Majnoun, the beautiful, disillusioned NGO employee working in Burma/Myanmar; Leo Crane, the trust-fund baby whose conspiracy theories may have taken him over the edge into mental illness; and Mark Deveraux, a ridiculous parody of a self-help guru.  I know this doesn’t explain the story but I promise the way their lives intertwine is some strange combination of ludicrous, comical and compelling. How can that be? I don’t know but please read it.

4. The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson: This was the kind of book I needed to read. It is suspenseful and set in Paris (two very good things).  Maud is a young British who has moved to Paris on a very tight budget to become an artist.  in fact, she is the literal interpretation of the starving artist.  In order to make ends meet, Maud finds herself in the employ of a young brother and sister, Christian and Sylvie Morel.  Christian confides in Maud that he needs her as a care taker for Sylvie who is addicted to opium.  Of course there are twists and the Morels are not what they seem.  And of course Maud rises to the occasion, righting wrongs, etc.  It is not entirely original, this novel, but it is terribly fun.  And Robertson sets the stage beautifully.

ceb38a46b41857065256efbab7ba1414I am not sure what the rest of my February reading will bring but I do know at some point I need to tackle “All the Light We Cannot See.” But until then my reading friends, stay warm, eat well, drink lots of hot chocolate and know that Spring is around the corner.

February 9, 2015 at 3:31 pm 5 comments

What the cat dragged in – mini book reviews for random reading

imagesMy reading has been a bit odd lately and all over the place.  While of some the books I have read really have been good, I just don’t have a lot to say about them. Instead I have been waiting for that one book that I felt like writing about and it hasn’t come. But it is cold and snowy and time to get reading so rather than waiting I thought it was time to throw this list out there.

1. The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls: With this book, Walls returns to what she is really good at – writing about kids who have to overcome issues with their absentee parents.  Twelve year old Bean and her older sister are abandoned by their mother, left in an apartment eating the same frozen meals over and over.  They finally decide to the hit the road and head across the country to find their estranged family and visit their mother’s hometown.  Of course in true Walls style, the journey of finding their family is heartbreaking and life changing.  I really loved the characters in this book so much so that there were moments where I really just wanted to hug both girls and tell them everything will be okay.

2. Paying Guests by Sarah Waters: This book bothers me, and I am about to tread dangerous water here.  I feel like there is a big hole in LGBT literature.  But just because that exists doesn’t mean that an author should get to submit a substandard story about that community and get it published. I feel like this novel is a recycled story that I have read a thousand times but with the twist that it is about two women.  Frances and her mother, hit hard by the post WWI economy in London, decide to rent out the top of their home to a young married couple.  Ultimately, Frances and the young woman fall in love but of course the husband is in the way so….I think you see where this is going.  Waters can write, and I have really liked some of her books, but I do expect her to put forth some effort. And this was effortless, in a bad way.

3. The Lie by Helen Dunmore: Another post-WWI book in England that addresses the issue of post traumatic stress disorder. Daniel who served in the trenches returns to his hometown but decides to camp on the land of the town’s recluse.  When she dies she leaves her land to Daniel and so he farms the land and lives simply while grappling with his memories of everything that happened in the war.  This book is beautifully written and I think it is worth reading. I will say that I think it was a bit over my head so when I finished it I just thought “huh” in that “well that happened” kind of way.

4. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: I love this author.  She takes seemingly simple lives of stay at home moms and delves into them, showing all the complexity and hardships that every life has.  It is brilliantly done because they aren’t really fluff books, but they read so easily it feels like a guilty pleasure.  This book opens with a cop investigating a murder so you know things end badly but in the next scene a well put together stay at home mom who has just turned 40 donning ridiculous high heels twists her ankle while trying to yell at another driver on the way to school.  So it is silly but real (I sprain my ankle all the time) while hitting on some really tough issues.  Moriarty is never heavy-handed in her storytelling and her light touch is the perfect example of what a good writer can do and say without pulling out a soapbox.

5. Night Film by Marisha Pessl: This book was pretty amazing and, if I am honest, scared me to death in parts.  Cordova is film director with a cult following.  Scott McGrath is an investigative journalist whose life was ruined when he began investigating Cordova years before only to find himself slapped with a defamation suit and a very large monetary judgment.   However, Cordova’s daughter, the beautiful, young and talented Ashley, is found dead on the floor of an abandoned N.Y. City warehouse in what appears to be a suicide.  Scott can’t help but find himself once again obsessed with Cordova and trying to find out what the truth is about Cordova’s daughter, his large estate in upstate New York, the underground movie releases, the rumors of devil worship, the disappearance of many of the actors from his films, and countless other mysteries that make up Cordova.  I will warn you, the truth is hard to figure out so for some readers that might be unsatisfying. But I really enjoyed the ride so I was okay with ending the book with some unanswered questions.

And so these are my random reads for the last month or so.  It is now time to find my favorite winter blanket, make sure I have all the tea I need and line up the books.  Happy reading and keep warm.

 

 

 

 

November 23, 2014 at 10:33 am 3 comments

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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