Tag Archives: contemporary

Woman No. 17, by Edan Lepucki

20 May
woman no 17 edan lepucki

Five of Five Stars

I wouldn’t be surprised if this book gets some negative reviews because of the unlikable characters – and make no mistake, there’s not much to like about any of them. But generally I find unlikable characters more interesting and more realistic. I mean, I feel like I’m pretty well liked in my life but I also related to some of the selfishness these women exhibit. Maybe we don’t like the mirror held up to our own souls, but I love to see how other (characters) deal with the stupid situations I sometimes get myself into.

The book switches between Lady, recently separated and living in the Los Angeles hills with her two sons, and “S” (for Esther), a Berkeley transplant recently graduated and trying to find herself. S gets a job as nanny to Lady’s youngest son while also getting a little too close to the teenage, mute son. Both women have mommy issues, both likely also have daddy issues, both are thoughtless, selfish, narcissistic and neurotic, and did I mention they have issues?

Seriously, these people are not very likable, but I was fascinated anyway. I think the fantastic writing is what keeps the reader hooked. The author is just a couple steps away from a great piece of contemporary literature, and I’m very excited to see where her future writing goes.

Not everything about the book was perfect. Lady and S live such parallel lives that I sometimes got confused with who was telling the story when they went back in time. S’s “artistic plan” feels like a bit of bullshit, but having known several artistic people I can’t quite say its unrealistic or implausible. I wish we got some real answers about the mute son. And in what I consider a better way to end books, nothing is really tied up with a nice bow.

Yeah, I know, this is a bit all over the place and I seem to be giving five stars to several unlikable characters and a problematic story. But the writing brings this book to another level. It’s also kind of a fascinating look into mother/daughter relationships, and how complicated they can be. I don’t want to say anything else about the story, just go into it blind and enjoy it.

Many thanks to NetGalley for allowing me an advance copy in exchange for a fair review.

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People Who Knew Me, by Kim Hooper

20 Apr
people who knew me kim hooper

FIVE of FIVE stars

Fantastic book. Touching and frustrating and full of love and full of irritation.

The story is told by Emily, an admittedly flawed human who some readers may not like. But Emily has found herself in a tough life and really has no option but to live the life of a martyr, or live the life of a complete asshole. Enter 9/11. What would you have done? I don’t think I would do as Emily did, but I don’t dare judge the decision she made – no one should until you’ve walked in those particular shoes.

We go back and forth in time from the present back to the events in Emily’s life that lead up to 9/11. Cancer is a co-star in this book, and it was dealt with so well that I dreamed every night that it was me who was going through chemo. Parkinson’s is another co-star, and the characters’ experience with that has me now fearing Parkinson’s more than I ever have the C Word. This is not a fluffy story, there is a lot of pain involved, by many characters.

I think this book will end up being judged by readers according to whether they agree with Emily’s decisions. I probably would have ended the deception much earlier myself, but I felt that Emily could simultaneously do what she did and also be a good person inside. I love the book and cannot believe this is another (like Burying the Honeysuckle Girls) by a first time novelist. You girls are KILLING IT in 2016!!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light, by Cordelia Strube

28 Dec
On the shores of darkness Cordelia Strube

Four of Five stars

Well, this book was fantastic.
It stars Harriet, an amazing little eleven year old who is tough as nails on the outside but sensitive and artsy on the inside. Also starring her brother Irwin, who suffers from hydrocephalus and is unable to do most anything that Harriet can. Irwin loves and idolizes his big sister, but Harriet’s life changed dramatically when Irwin was born so she has a very intense love-hate relationship with him.

Their parents, who are woefully unable to cope with the precocious, gloomy Harriet and sick Irwin, have divorced, and each have new partners who are similarly flawed. All the parents and pseudo-parents in this book are terribly inept at filling the roles their chldren need from them. Irwin is showered with love and attention by his mother and her boyfriend, while Harriet is ignored and left to her own devices. On the other hand, their father is willing to spend time with Harriet, but is unable to cope with his sick son.

Their world of broken homes and revolving parental figures is shared with friends from similarly broken homes, and a slew of low-income seniors who populate their building and offer up better advice than the parents ever could.

How do either of them cope with the obstacles Life has thrown them? Will either of them be able to survive their own drastically different, shared yet individual worlds? Is Harriet truly the strong one and Irwin the weak?

The story takes a very unexpected, emotional turn (and yet a very likely outcome, looking back afterward) about 60% through. And then again as the book comes to an end you know what is going to happen in those last few pages – I swore it wasn’t going to get to me… and yet, there it was, the last page, the resolution, the beautiful beautiful ending… Yes, it got to me.

Thanks so much to NetGalley for providing an advanced copy for review.

The Dinner, by Herman Koch

5 Sep
FIVE of FIVE stars

FIVE of FIVE stars

Book Form: Holy crap! This thing goes unexpectedly DARK halfway through, and somehow gets even darker and darker and darker until the last horrifying missing piece comes in at the end. GREAT book, but be prepared for the darkness.

I had thought I was getting a more comical Gods of Carnage (a play that I hate with all my being) when I got this book. So I was very pleasantly surprised when that turned out to not be the case. I am a little surprised that so many reviews are hating the book because they hate the characters. I think that is part of the point though… you are led to think one thing about the characters at first, and then halfway through, like a play, discover nothing is as it seems. It takes you deep into serious mental and psychological issues as well. I felt like┬áthe dislike of the characters was very important to the story.

As for the comparisons to Gone Girl… the publishing world needs to stop saying that every book with a twist is the next Gone Girl. In fact this book is MILES ahead of Gone Girl by ending when it should instead of dragging out the story an extra 100 pages. And unlike Gone Girl, where one character suddenly starts behaving in ways they never should have (someone so smart to have committed that crime should not have made so many mistakes later on), the changes in the characters from The Dinner are just slowly revealed to us. The changes don’t go against character, we just realize we never knew them to begin with. As for story comparison, it reminded me much more of Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, where you really did not see the culprit coming.

In short, I loved this book.

My second “reading”, this time on Audible.
Just as fantastic. I still don’t understand any negative reviews; this story is told brilliantly and voiced perfectly by Clive Mantle. It’s been almost two years since I had read the book, and I couldn’t remember many of the details, so I was still surprised over and over again. I could recommend either book or audio, they are both great. The best word I can think of to describe this book really is simply brilliant.

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

4 Sep
FIVE of FIVE stars

FIVE of FIVE stars

This book scared the crap out of me, and made me cry too, and that’s an excellent reason to give it 5 stars and recommend it.

And although I’m more scared now than ever, this book has convinced me to keep that neurologist appointment my doctor asked me to make. JEEZUS.

If you have any interest in Alzheimer’s, for whatever reason, this is an excellently written description of it.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

4 Sep
FIVE of FIVE stars

FIVE of FIVE stars

Someone needs to make this into an independent film immediately. And how often does a true book lover say that?

I am IN LOVE with this book. It is rare that a book makes me laugh out loud, but I did laugh loudly out on my patio where all the neighbors could hear. And at the end I sobbed like a baby, not because it was sad, but because it was happy, and it was over. I could easily read this book over and over, and I don’t say that very often either.

I will say that I hated the first chapter, but I’m glad I kept going. It wasn’t long before I knew I was going to be glued to this book until the end. And of course the first chapter eventually made sense, and turned out to be perfect.

The whole book is perfect. I am utterly and completely in love.

The Good House, by Ann Leary

4 Sep
THREE out of FIVE stars

THREE out of FIVE stars

I listened to the audiobook of The Good House narrated by Mary Beth Hurt, and she did an excellent job. That is probably the only reason I kept with it and gave it even 3 stars. There was not much actual plot to the story until I was 85% done – that is too long for nothing to be happening. The end was great with lots of twists and turns, but then a ho-hum finale, and… I might listen to the audio again some day solely because of Hurt’s narration, but I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone.