Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Emma: A Modern Retelling

Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith is just that—a version of Jane Austen’s Emma taking place in the modern day. McCall Smith adds a few modern “twists” that purists might find distressing or at least distracting, but he mostly stays on Austen’s plotline. McCall Smith has an easy style of writing that is comfortable and entertaining. His Emma, though, lacks the genuineness of the original and the attractiveness of Paltrow’s Emma and Silverstone’s Cher. His Emma seems to be less clueless, if you will, and more malicious, which takes away from her appeal. However, he does try to redeem her in an ending that feels rushed. Casual Emma fans will enjoy the retelling, but fanatics should probably stay away.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Breakdown

In B.A. Paris’s The Breakdown, Cass sees a car broken down on the side of the road during a storm. After hesitating to help, and ultimately deciding not to, Cass is shocked when she learns the fate of the stranded driver. This shock, combined with a family history of early-onset dementia, leads to Cass’s own mental breakdown.

The premise sounds intriguing, but I found the first 250 pages to be extremely tedious. Paris recounts incident after incident of Cass’s mental demise. Ok, I get it, now move on. The final 100 pages finally pick up, but I’m not sure they made up for the slog of the first two-thirds of the book. This was my first Paris novel--and likely my last.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Lying Game

Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game unites four friends seventeen years after their expulsion from boarding school. What brings them back together? A tragic secret on the brink of being revealed. The story is told from the perspective of Isa, on maternity leave after giving birth to her daughter. The big problem with The Lying Game was it was rather boring. Isa was boring. Her worries and concerns felt boring and redundant. The secret, at many junctures, was boring. The reasons the girls were expelled from school and their treatment from the local population seemed artificial and emphasized victim shaming and blaming. Although the book picks up in the last 100 pages, I was disappointed and rather bored for the first 250. If you have read other Ruth Ware, pick this one up. If not, skip it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Child

A baby’s body is found on a construction site. Fiona Barton’s The Child follows several characters as they react to this discovery, including a newspaper reporter and the mother of a missing child.

More than anything, I read The Child because I needed something to read. I didn’t love Barton’s The Widow, but I clearly enjoyed it enough to read the author again. I was pleasantly surprised by The Child. I guessed the ending early on, but even that did not diminish my enjoyment. It was a fast and engaging story—a good pick for a summer read.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Jane Steele

Lindsay Faye’s Jane Steele is an interesting play on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Jane Steele is fan of Jane Eyre, and her life in Victorian England often parallels that of the other fictitious Jane. Their paths differ, though, from the beginning of the book when Jane Steele confesses to the reader that she is a serial killer. Despite this confession, Jane is generally a sympathetic main character and the situations she finds herself in, including her romance, are interesting and unique. I wouldn’t consider Jane Steele must-read fiction, but it certainly does the job of entertaining a reader on a summer afternoon.