Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Seven Letters from Paris: A Memoir

Seven Letters from Paris is American Samantha Vérant’s memoir of rekindling a romance with a Frenchman she met 20 years earlier while traveling. The premise is romantic—that the spark of true love can remain for many years, and it gives hope to readers that are down on their luck or struggling in bad relationships. Although the memoir is written as a narrative, and Vérant gives a lot of description and details (sometimes too much of both), the book lacks a certain literary quality. It was interesting to read her story, and I stuck with it because of my love for Paris and obvious desire to marry a Frenchman and move to France, but I never felt captivated by the writing.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Agency: A Spy in the House

The Agency: A Spy in the House is the first in a series of YA novels by Y.S. Lee. Young Mary Quinn is rescued from the gallows by an unusual school for young women in Victorian England. The school educates girls in desperate situations, and Mary finds herself with the opportunity to become a spy in the guise of a domestic servant.

Mary is an appealing heroine, although she does make some decisions that really boggle the mind. Lee does a nice job of describing a realistic Victorian London that many of off us have probably romanticized and introduces some history I was previously unaware of. I was both educated and entertained by the novel and will certainly read the second book in the series.

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.