Tag Archives: fiction

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.

The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

2 Mar
woman-in-cabin-ten-ruth-ware

3 of 5 stars

I’m not going to gush over this book, but I’m not going to hate on it either. It was fine. I listened to the audio version, and that made it a little difficult to follow all the characters, but overall it was narrated well and I don’t think it had an impact on my review.

But I didn’t love it. I don’t think it really falls into the “Mystery” genre, it was more in the Thriller category. “Gaslit woman terrorized on tiny cruiseship” is basically the plot. I did not like the intermittent sections of news that told what was happening on land at all. It was so bizarrely off from what was happening on board that I thought maybe this was supposed to be a sci-fi book and the ship had cruised into an alternate dimension. But no, it was just a bunch of stuff thrown in to throw you off, way way way off, so off that you don’t have the slightest clue what’s going on, much less understand the mystery.

Well, I guess that veered into “hate on it” territory. I didn’t hate the book. I enjoyed it while I was waiting for it to start making sense. But the problem is that the last third, once you’ve finally figured out what has actually been happening, really doesn’t make any sense – not any logical, realistic sense. And I just didn’t buy anything that was happening in the last few days of Lo’s time on board.

On the plus side…. I understand what the author was going for, which is a great murder mystery surrounded by the extra-legal situation of international waters. I think she had a great idea, and she does come close to a very Agatha Christie type story. She just doesn’t quite get there.

Well if you want a fairly easy read, with a lot of mystery and excitement, or want a modern-day Agatha Christie but don’t care a whole lot about logic and sense, then you might enjoy this. That sounds sort of sarcastic, but it’s not. Sometimes you need a Mission Impossible or a Bourne Identity, and sometimes you need a Woman in Cabin 10.

Let me give it a GIANT thumbs up for one thing: Titling it The WOMAN in Cabin 10, and not The Girl. Thank you Thank you Thank you for that.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, by Fredrik Backman

27 Feb
and-every-morning-fredrik-backman

FIVE+ of FIVE stars

This book took me months to finish. MONTHS. I started in November and didn’t finish until February. Not because it was horrible, or slow, or a difficult read… but because my heart could barely take it. Any given page in this book had my heart trembling in my throat, drowning with emotion. After any 3-5 pages I would be a sobbing mess, having to set the book down again for a couple weeks while my heart healed. Like all Backman books, this one is happy, sad, beautiful, heartbreaking. But this book is even more of an emotional ride than the others. Perhaps because the main character isn’t as overtly flawed as Backman’s others. Ove had people split down the middle, with people either hating the ornery old man or seeing beyond his outward prickliness. The Grandpa in this story admits he was not the perfect father, but his love for his wife and grandson shine through so magnificently that there is no doubt of the amazing heart within this man.

And because of all the love he contains in his heart, the rest of the story is just too heartbreaking to take. Like all Backman books, the sadness is surrounded by happiness, because Grandpa is surrounded by as much love as he contains in his heart. I mean, it is pointless trying to convey in this review how powerful this book is. Why am I even trying. This book is FIVE STARS. The book is beautiful, it is powerful, it is heartwrenching, it is a must read.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair review. My fair review includes the caveat that I’m sorry it took so long to get a review entered, but the novella is so painfully beautiful that I just couldn’t get all the way through until now.

The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda

24 Feb
the-perfect-stranger-miranda-megan

FIVE stars of Five

Five stars all around.
This book had me completely on edge the entire ride.

The narrator is borderline unreliable; you are never quite sure if she’s telling us the truth, lying to herself, or outright crazy. She does have some boundary issues, some of which I related to, but the reader can’t be sure if they cross a line or exactly which line they cross. Megan Miranda does an excellent job of throwing in clues here and there to keep us off kilter.

But reliable or not (I’m not spoiling the answer!), the narrator is a very intelligent woman. I loved her. To the outside world she may have had some issues, and she’s disappointed herself, but that does nothing to take away the very quick way her mind works.

I’ve seen some reviews state that the narrative isn’t perfect, and while that may technically be true, Miranda accomplishes so much more than your average author does in a mystery book like this. This story is intricate, in the very best way, and I felt Miranda did a genius job putting it all together, just as she did in her previous book All the Missing Girls.

I don’t believe it’s a spoiler to state that nothing much is what it seems here, and that Miranda really shows how any narrator can be unreliable because you are seeing the story solely through their interpretation of events. But what if a reliable narrator tells you a story based on misinterpreted events?

All the Missing Girls was incredible and made me a huge fan of Megan Miranda, now The Perfect Stranger has sealed that deal. I cannot wait for her next book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me an advance copy for review.

The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi

14 Jan
the-dispatcher-john-scalzi

2-Stars

I would have loved this if there were any sort of explanation for the entire premise of the book. I will even go along with an explanation that uses big scientific words I don’t understand. Or simply claim “Magic!”

But there was no explanation for what was happening, unless I missed it (it is on Audible, so it’s *possible* I missed something), and so there’s no way I can give this more than 2 stars.

Narrated quite well by Zachary Quinto.

Siracusa, by Delia Ephron

26 Aug
siracusa delia ephron

Five of Five stars

I pretty much loved this book, though I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t happy with the ending. In fact, I almost took off a star for it. However, I need to also admit that I’ve operated on very little sleep while reading this book, and finished it very late last night, so it’s entirely possible I just missed appreciating something in my haze. Regardless, not enjoying the last couple of pages doesn’t take away from the hundreds of pages that I absolutely loved.

I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers recently, and I like thrillers, but most are not great literature. Neither is this book, but the writing is still on a much higher level. I fell in love right away, it was a relief reading the stories of these four main characters and getting to know them in a way you don’t in an average thriller. However, though there is a sort of mystery/thriller aspect to the story, it’s much more like just a great piece of fiction.

The book reminds me of The Dinner, where you have two couples getting together (on vacation here) telling a story, and you know something has already happened, and it was a bad something, but you don’t know what. You have to just sit along for the story until you find out. Like The Dinner, these four characters are somewhat unlikable and very self-absorbed. Unlike The Dinner, this story is told alternately from all four points of view, and it is really fun reading the different view points, and noting the slight differences in stories, and wondering who was lying, who was exaggerating, and at what point the truth merged.

There are four very different people here, and though they may be unlikable, I found them fascinating – and not entirely bad. I especially loved the woman who was so obsessed with her young daughter that she did not really know a thing about her. I thought the growth, changes and disintegration of the marriages was told well and accurately. Sadly, it was the young daughter who has the most interesting side of the story, but we don’t get to hear her version. But that’s what brings the spookiness and utter creepiness to the story.

I highly recommend this book. I usually like to clear my brain of intense literature with a bit of fluff now and then. In this case I was clearing all the fluff out of my brain with the great story telling in this book.

So much thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for a review.

The Summer That Melted Everything, by Tiffany McDaniel

21 Aug
summer that melted everything tiffany

Four of Five stars

One of the greatest books I just cannot bring myself to finish.
It’s seriously amazing, and extremely tedious.
The writing is tremendous, the writing makes my head hurt.
There is a lot in this book, I mean there is a LOT in this book. It would be great to be forced to read this in college and then sent out to write a very very long essay after. I would have written the crap out of an essay on this book.
But I have graduated and no longer have to read books that are wonderful and have so much in them that they have too much in them and require my brain to work so hard to get every ounce of enjoyment out of it.

This is an amazing book. I hope you try it, I hope you finish it. But I cannot.

Thank you so much to NetGalley for the chance to read an advance copy in exchange for a review.