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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Sherman Alexie's collection of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven deserves a lot more intellectual effort than I was willing or able to give it. The stories follow different residents of the Spokane Indian Reservation. Each story has a unique focus and voice, and I felt like each invited discussion appropriate for one of my graduate-level literature courses. The book does not shy away from topics such as racism, alcoholism, and mysticism. This collection takes work to read, understand, and appreciate, and I wish I were still that kind of reader.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Into the Water

The first few chapters of Paula Hawkins' Into the Water reminded me of Hawkins' The Girl on the Train and similar books in the genre. Someone was dead, but I didn't understand who, why, or how. I felt deliberately disorientated, confused, and frustrated over how obfuscated the writing was. Fortunately, that feeling did not last long, and Hawkins let me in on enough secrets of the river that had taken more than one life to keep me satisfied. For this reason, I ended up enjoying the novel much more than The Girl on the Train. Into the Water was engaging, interesting, and a page turner from start to finish.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Death of a Ghost

Death of a Ghost is the 32nd installment of M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series. Ghost finds our Scottish hero once again dealing with murder, slightly inept underlings, completely inept supervisors, and botched relationships. Hamish, though, seems to handle everything with amazing dexterity, managing to solve murders without losing his cozy position to promotion. I have felt frustrated the last several books with Hamish’s stagnation and lack of growth as a character. However, Ghost gave me a glimmer of hope that these books might finally be moving out of the mire. For Hamish fans, let’s believe that is the case.

Friday, March 3, 2017


Kate wants to flee to India, away from her scandalous family in Regency England. The only way she can get that freedom is to accept—and reject—three marriage proposals.

The only likable character in Julianne Donaldson’s Blackmoore is Henry, owner of the titular estate. Henry’s mother and sister are atrocious. Kate’s mother and sister are atrocious. And Kate, herself, is rather atrocious. I had little care or concern for her destiny and thought nothing recommended her to the story’s hero. I am a sucker for a good romance, but this book wasn’t romantic at all. Instead, it was an almost painful read due to the characters’ unattractive personalities.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Last Train to Istanbul

Selva, the daughter of a former Ottoman pasha, defies her family to marry Rafael, the son of a well-known Jewish doctor. They relocate in France but find their lives in peril as Hitler invades the country.

 Ayşe Kulin’s Last Train to Istanbul was an interesting read due to the history it presents. I have never before seen WWII through the lens of the Turkish government and people. I feel like I need to do further research on the topic, but if the history presented in this book is true, the government and its representatives have much to be lauded for in terms of their conduct during the war. Again, though, I need to do my research.

Overall, I was invested in the book and the characters, but it was at least 100 pages too long and could have benefited from more focus. I read the book in translation, so it is somewhat difficult to judge the writing, but the story tended to meander, introducing too many characters and seemingly forgetting most of them by the end. If nothing else, though, this book inspired me to read the history of Turkey during WWII.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In a Dark, Dark Wood

In a Dark, Dark Wood could have been titled Mayhem at the Hen Party. As an American, I'm more accustomed to the idea of a bachelorette party, but the concept is familiar. Nora, a mystery writer and recluse, has been invited to her childhood friend's hen party and reluctantly agrees. The weekend forces Nora to face a past she's both avoided and dwelled on for the last ten years, with predictably disturbing results.

I enjoyed Wood more than Ware's more recent novel, The Woman in Cabin 10. Perhaps I was more prepared for Ware's unnecessarily opaque writing. I enjoy mystery and surprise but find deliberate and inexplicable withholding of information to be a cheap writing device. That said, I was more quickly invested in Nora and the secrets of her past and more willing to forgive Ware for hiding Nora's story. The ending was predictable but satisfying. I am ready, though, to read a mystery that relies on mystery instead of just hiding information.