Monday, December 19, 2016

Bad Blood

The Naturals series is seriously disturbing. In Bad Blood, Cassie and the other young, "natural" profilers are on the trail of the cult of serial killers from previous books. Though not overly descriptive, the book is graphic and upsetting. As Ally Carter said, it's like "Criminal Minds for the YA world." I don't know how comfortable I'd be with my young adults watching Criminal Minds or reading Bad Blood, but I certainly enjoyed the thriller.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Selection

I read Kiera Cass’s The Selection at the recommendation of my 16-year-old niece. The Selection is a Bachelor-type process that the Prince of ‎Illéa goes through to find his new bride. America Singer has been selected and decides to participate in order to raise herself and her family from ‎Illéa’s strong caste system. Though her heart is elsewhere, America learns to like Prince Maxon.

The Selection is truly a Hunger Games meets The Bachelor hybrid. It is typical of dystopian novels, but America lacks the character to truly make me care. She is unaccountably emotional and rude to Prince Maxon at times, but inexplicably he finds her unstable personality charming.

The Selection is also the first of a trilogy and Cass leaves her readers hanging. I appreciate series where each book could stand alone, and The Selection does not. Rather than invest in the last two novels, though, I just read a summary online and am glad I didn’t waste my time on the other two books.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Chemist

Curiosity, and a good review from USA Today, prompted me to read Stephenie Meyer's The Chemist. “Alex,” aka “The Chemist,” is a former government employee that is on the run after her superiors decided she knew too much. Action, adventure, and romance ensue as she tries to survive.

Despite Meyer citing the Bourne books as inspiration, the book falls into the thriller/romance genre. Nothing about the content stood out as especially superior or inferior to similar books by Iris Johansen, Karen Robards, or Sandra Brown. What did stand out was the length. At 518 pages, it was at least 200 pages longer than it needed to be. A good editor could have easily resolved the problem. Like in her Twilight novels, Meyer also relies on unrealistic romantic relationships that perpetuate the myth of love at first sight. Overall, though, The Chemist is an easy, brainless read that is sufficiently entertaining.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Woman in Cabin 10

Lo is a travel writer on the maiden voyage of a luxury cruiser. She is struggling with her own demons when she’s convinced a crime has been committed on board.

I struggled to get into Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10. As seems to be the trend in popular fiction, the main character isn’t exactly likable, perpetuates stereotypes about women, and makes cringe-worthy choices. However, after about 200 pages, I was hooked and needed to see what happened. This book should please fans of The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel: A Graphic Novel

As a fan of both graphic and post-Soviet novels, I eagerly dove into Anya Ulinich’s Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel. Lena immigrated to the United States from Russia as a young woman. She is now a mom and author—and new to the online dating world. I appreciated the frankness of the Ulinich’s depiction of Lena’s struggles as a mother, writer, woman, and immigrant (this is definitely a graphic novel for adults). Her experiences resonated with me and gave me an interesting perspective on the expectations we place on ourselves.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Happy Birthday, Turk!

I found Jakob Arjouni’s Happy Birthday, Turk! while googling about the television series Cenk Batu: Undercover Agent. Cenk Batu is a German of Turkish ancestry, and my google search introduced me to a world of Turkish-German television series, movies, and books. Happy Birthday, Turk! was highly recommended on several sites, so I quickly ordered an English translation through my library’s interlibrary loan program.

Turk! was a fast read. Kemal Kayankaya is rough-living private investigator that is hired to investigate the murder of a Turkish migrant. I am not sure if it was the translation, but the reading, though fast, was not smooth. I never felt invested in Kayankaya and wasn’t sure how such a lazy, angry, drunken young man was able to solve this crime.

This book was valuable to me, though, as a perspective on the Turkish experience in Germany. Though Kayankaya has no ties to Turkey, he suffers from the same discrimination as other Turks in Germany. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the racism and prejudice the Turks experienced in this book, but I was.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Year Without Mom

A Year Without Mom is a touching graphic novel about 12-year-old Dasha, whose mother has gone to study in the United States. As a mother it is hard to imagine the separation between parent and child, but I also understand Dasha’s mother’s desire to improve their situation—something that Dasha cannot understand. I’d be interested to hear the perspective of a child reading this book.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Fixer

Tess Kendrick has to leave her life on the ranch with her ailing grandfather to live with her older sister, a high-power “fixer” in Washington, D.C. Tess gets caught up in intrigue when the grandfather of a new classmate mysteriously dies.

This was a fast-paced, interesting YA novel. It was an easy read, and the relationships between Tess, her sister, and her sister’s associates was engaging. Definitely a good beach read.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Forty Rules of Love

Elif Şafak’s The Forty Rules of Love was on a list of recommended reading for books about Turkey. I certainly would not recommend the novel to understand Turkey better, since the story really has nothing to do with Turkish culture or geography. However, I would recommend it to understand Sufism, Islamic mysticism, better.

The novel varies in perspective between Ella, a housewife reviewing a manuscript for a literary agent, and the novel she’s reading. The manuscript is about the poet and theologian Rumi and his relationship with Shams of Tabriz, a dervish. The novel within the novel also alters between perspectives—Rumi, Shams, Rumi’s family, even a prostitute.

I must admit that I was most interested in Ella’s story and her relationships with her family and Aziz, the author of the Rumi novel. I’m not sure why I cared about the story since Ella wasn’t exactly an attractive character and her growth in the novel did not feel like an accurate reflection of the Rumi/Shams subplot.

 I was also invested, although less so, in the relationship between Rumi and Shams and feel I should do further research to verify the fictional account. Overall, the story was appealing, though the writing often felt stilted and formal. As such, I only recommend the novel for those interested in mysticism.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Widow

Fiona Barton’s The Widow was an interesting read. The story is told from the perspective of the mother of a missing child, a reporter following the case, the police detective in charge of the case, the suspect, and the suspect’s wife. The change between points of view, and shifts between past and present, kept the chapters short and the pace fast. I was intrigued to know what happened to little Bella and whose perspective was actually reliable.

That said, this is not a book of great literature. Although the writing was adequate, the story was actually rather predictable, without the unexpected twists and turns of other recent bestsellers. I wouldn’t recommend this book as a “must read” but also wouldn’t discourage anyone from taking it on.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? was a fun read. It has been a long time since I’ve read a book with such a delightful style. The writing is clever, the tone is light (although the content is not), and Marie Semple does an excellent job of creating different characters with distinct voices. The story is told from the perspective of Bernadette--a former shining star in architecture, Elgin--a coding genius at Microsoft, their teenage daughter Bee, a neighbor with a grudge against Bernadette, and Elgin’s admin. The plot goes off the rails at the end, defying me to suspend my disbelief, but the story remains consistently entertaining throughout.