Thursday, July 7, 2016

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Darken Trilogy, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the book quite a bit simply for the fact that, besides the fact that the protagonist is a girl, it is historically accurate of the real Count Dracula. The historical setting definitely puts a lot of Lada's later decisions. S(he) was trained in the art of impaling by the Ottoman Empire itself very early in her life. The real Count really did spend a few years as a poker chip in a power play between his father and the Ottoman Empire. There really was a brother who converted to Islam.

This is an excellent snapshot and introduction to a very real character from history - literary liberties taken only so far as changing the gender - and puts a different spin with relationships, politics, and childhood experiences. Well done!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing GirlsAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars.

Wow. Often I read a book and get pulled into the story then it ends weak. Because this book was so engaging, I made the assumption the ending wouldn't measure up. It pretty much did. So much so that I want to reread the book to see if it is consistent, although I'm sure editors did this. It is completely unexpected.

The book begins 2 weeks ago. Nicolette gets a call from her brother that their father is deteriorating and the money situation is getting dire. It's time to take guardianship of him and sell the house. Come from Philadelphia to North Carolina now. And she does.

Somewhere in that first day the reader knows that Nicolette's best friend disappeared 10 years ago in June, right after high school graduation. The case has never been solved. Nic arrives and makes contact with key characters; her brother, Daniel, her father, and her high school boyfriend, Tyler. She calls her fiancé in Philadelphia and lets him know she has arrived. A few scenes are set up in a way that might or might not be significant. Kind of slow and not terribly interesting but short.

The next scene is 2 weeks later. Things have vastly changed. A neighbor named Annaleise has disappeared and the case of Corinne has been stirred up. Clearly, answers in some areas have come in the last two weeks. It's an all out crisis and the reader doesn't know what happened but by then you're hooked. Then the story works backward one day at a time to the moment we left off two weeks ago. Only every day is told at the beginning of the day which may be midnight or might be noon. Regardless, each piece fits together and the picture comes into focus. Doubt and suspicion is cast on every character then withdrawn due to previous day events.

I can't believe the author pulled it off. I have one niggling question about the night at the fair between Nic and Daniel. Besides that, it was the best thriller I've read in a long time.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True LovesOne True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This author simply has a way of describing concepts in a way I hadn't considered. First of all, let's start with the story. Emma marries her high school sweetheart then becomes a widow on her anniversary. Well written grieving, although abbreviated, I liked it. She starts moving forward and finds an old friend. There's an attraction and then love. Different love from Jesse, but steady and sure. They are engaged when Jesse is rescued. He wants to resume the old life but too much has changed.

It's a little like Castaway but from Helen Hunt's character's perspective. Except she wasn't married to Tom Hanks. Emma was married to Jesse. She loves Jesse. She loves Sam. Both love her. She can't have both. It would have been easy to write one of the men as a jerk. Fortunately, the author does not do this. I felt like there was a clear favorite and the other didn't get the attention he deserved. On the other hand, I think the real point of the book was the truism that Emma's sister says. Love is not about the other person. It is about the person you are when you are with the one you love. Although it's worded much more nicely.

The ending is beautiful although I'd like to have known a few more details regarding both men. But that really wasn't the point. The point was who the protagonist feels more authentic when in that relationship. I think that is a good concept to come away with. There is no "One." There is a choice of which lens to view ourselves, our partner, and our relationship.

I really enjoyed the book.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The NestThe Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The central story of the nest is fairly solid; a trust fund matures when the youngest child turns 40. Four grown children, living separate lives, are counting on the large payout. However, complications arise when the oldest, the golden boy (not golden for being good but golden like Midas) makes a series of choices that wreak havoc and threaten the nest. Nestled in their dysfunctional roles, some of the siblings have already spent the expected windfall. So what if it doesn't come?

What I enjoyed was reading about each sibling and the way they viewed themselves within the family dynamic and each other. I enjoyed the shifting opinions as the characters grew.

What I didn't enjoy were the side stories that dangled on the side of tangential and indulgent. I liked the story surrounding the inheritance and did not need the justification of sexuality, infidelity, or non conventional family. By the end I felt like I was reading the highlights of a college course in women's studies along with the sociological history of New York City. Okay, the sociological history of NYC was interesting. The other? Not so much. More self indulgence and justification that distracted from the storyline, IMO.

The writing is solid. The general story and conclusion is interesting. The Twins' story was irrelevant. Stephanie and her decisions were largely irrelevant. Tommy's story seemed irrelevant, as did his character. These were more like public service announcements. Beyond the one in the car, the sex details were extraneous. I was mildly disappointed with the author's choices for page space.

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

Lost Among the LivingLost Among the Living by Simone St. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nearly 4 star book for me. I enjoyed the paranormal element and the overall almost gothic, historical theme. The story was intriguing as it includes a little Great War and the difficult economy after yet before the Depression. There was a mystery regarding the death of a 15 year old girl. Jo is certain it was a murder yet she struggles with the idea that either she is being haunted or she is mad like her mother. There were some good plot twists that I guessed might come. That didn't make it any less enjoyable. My only complaint is that I wish one of the characters was better developed and had a more ending in the story. I really wished to know the mad 15 year old cousin better.

It's still an enjoyable book, though.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the FallBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a unique story that examines the way media has changed from reporting news to spinning and providing commentary to sway the public. The real story is about the protagonist and how his childhood shaped him to face the challenge of surviving the plane crash while hanging onto a 4 year old boy and how he handles the aftermath. Told from multiple points of view, the reader doesn't really know how the plane crashed until near the end. The clues must be dug up from the ocean floor and from an occasionally flash of memory.

I really liked the book. I enjoyed the writing style and the story. It was unique and had me at hello.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie Was HereBritt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a HUGE fan of Fredrik Backman and his first novel, A Man Called Ove. I also read his second novel, My Grandmother Told Me to Say She's Sorry and I am still a fan. The author is Swedish and published the book in Swedish. I don't know how the translation worked but it is absolutely charming and still hilarious. The details make the book much more enjoyable.

Britt-Marie is a character from "My Grandmother..." Last we saw of her, she was driving off in a car. This is her story, continued. Britt-Marie has a story. Britt-Marie loves order. She loves cleanliness and rules. She hasn't done anything on her own in a very long time. She loves the solidity of having a husband to take care of her. But she left him.

Now Britt-Marie is in a different village. Not a town. Town is 12 miles that way. She is out of her element but seeking the rules to make sense of this new setting. So she goes to the store to buy window cleaner. A certain brand. She needs to clean her new surroundings. But there are problems with everything she does. Mostly in the form of children. Many of these children are so hungry for adult attention, Britt-Marie finds herself in the odd situation of Being in Charge of a Sports Team.

Over the course of the book, Britt-Marie maintains her personality but softens a bit towards those who don't always practice excellent social skills or hygiene. She finds an unlikely friend in an unsavory teenager who has an order to him that she admires. She finds another friend in a woman who seems to run the village. She likes to drink a lot and she's wheelchair bound. She is referred to as "Someone."

The story of Britt-Marie is a good one. We discover why Britt-Marie is the way she is and what happens in the village. But, once again, the enjoyment of Britt-Marie is the way the story is told. Fredrik Backman is a genius.