Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Killing Monica

Fiction by Candace Bushnell.

Killing Monica

I've read several novels by Candace Bushnell (her most famous is Sex and the City, which was a great book), and they are usually fun reads, but this one was a little disjointed. It's about a chick-lit author who is tired of writing about her glam-girl character and wants to kill her off. Hmmm... et tu, Candace?

It gets a single thumbs-up for holding my attention and having a killer title though.

BTW my seventeen-year-old daughter saw this book and thought it might be about murdering that character from Friends. It's not.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Fiction by Agatha Christie.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot Series)

I just read Agatha Christie's autobiography and she said this was her very first shot at a detective novel. It was rejected a few times and then finally published, gaining her a contract to write more books and not much money. She rather describes this book something she just dashed off and forgot about until they agreed to publish it, and sort of characterizes her other novels as books which she'd churn out with a few months' work when she needed a bit of cash.

This did not jibe with the intricately plotted stories I remembered reading, so I thought I'd look at her first book again with all that in mind.

I have to conclude that she was just being self-deprecating, or was in fact an incredible literary genius, or both. This book is still fabulous one hundred years later.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Seventh Mother

Fiction by Sherri Wood Emmons.

The Seventh Mother

Eleven-year-old Jenny moves from place to place while her dad finds seasonal jobs all over the country. Sometimes a woman joins them for a bit, giving a little love to motherless Jenny, but none of them seem to want to stay for long in the transient lifestyle Jenny's dad enjoys. Then Jenny and her dad meet Emma, and Jenny dares to hope that this "seventh mother" will be the one who stays...

This was a good character story that took some surprising twists. I definitely recommend it!

I also read by this author: Prayers and Lies.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Imagine Me Gone

Fiction by Adam Haslett.

Imagine Me Gone

See all those little golden and black-and-white circles on the cover of this book? That means it's a Smart People Book. I've read a few of these, and some are better than others, but they often have a certain style that (I believe) is supposed to seem lofty and intellectual. So this novel was no exception; it had a few of the usual affectations of Smart People Books, things I'm supposed to be intellectual enough to roll with.
  1. The story jumps around in time without giving you any indication in the chapter headings of when it is taking place. As a Smart Person, I am supposed to take my cues from the text and discover if this is the past or present we are discussing, and how much time has elapsed since the last part.
  2.  Some parts of the story take place completely inside the mind of one of the characters. However, it is not necessary for the author to enlighten the Smart Reader about these things. It is up to him or her to simply figure out if events really happened or were just imagined.
  3. Quotation marks are optional. Smart People do not need such ridiculous grammatical conventions to know when someone is talking. Smart People can tell from the context if a character is speaking aloud or silently ruminating or whatever.
Unfortunately, I am not enough of a Smart Person and I find all this business a little exhausting.

All this being said, this was an interesting novel, albeit extremely dark in nature, which is also characteristic of a Smart Person book. Have you ever heard of HAPPY book winning an award? I think not. Still, the characters were believable and I wanted to know what happened to them.

I'm going to give this a tentative thumbs-up, but it's on the verge of a half up half down.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Talisman

Fiction by Stephen King and Peter Straub.

The Talisman

This was a long fantasy story. I enjoyed it, although it had some difficult parts. It was not nearly as bleak as the Gunslinger, and good did finally triumph over evil.

I also read recently by this (or rather, one of these) author(s): The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Underground Railroad

Fiction by Coltson Whitehead.

The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club)

Did you think that the "Underground Railroad" was a metaphorical train? I did. In this book it's a literal locomotive engine under the earth. Now, I don't think that's an actual historical representation of the underground railroad, but it does make for an interesting story.

This book follows one slave in the early 19th century on her journey... not exactly to freedom, but to somewhere, anywhere outside slavery.

It's a truly thought-provoking book, both fascinating and terrible to read.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Double Bind

Fiction by Chris Bohjalian.

The Double Bind

Laurel, the main character in this story, is a crime victim who rebuilds her life as an advocate for the homeless and a social worker who ends up in the throes of an obsession with discovering the truth about the past of one of her clients. It seemed at first like a story like a woman with (what I call) hell-bent syndrome, but it turned out to be slightly different. There was a strange ending that I'm still slightly unsure about.

I'd say this book was good, but not nearly as good as others by Mr. Bohjalian I have read. (see below; also Midwives, which I read years ago was very very good.)

I also read recently by this author: The Guest Room , The Night Strangers

Monday, October 16, 2017

An Autobiography

Nonfiction by Agatha Christie.

An Autobiography

This was a long version of a celebrity-memoir type, by which I mean the story is only interesting if you are already interested in the person for another reason. Since I do really like Agatha Christie and her stories I did enjoy reading about her, but the book is not by any means as good a piece of writing as any of her novels, which are fabulously plotted.

Of course, that is not the intention of an autobiography, and in her defense I don't think Mrs.Christie ever intended this to be published and read in the form it's in. It's basically a collection of her musings about her life history complied and edited by her daughter after her death.

That being said, I was interested particularly in her relationship with her first husband (Mr. Christie, from whom she was divorced rather early in life) and where her writing ideas came from, so it was worth reading.

I also read recently by this author: Ordeal by Innocence

Friday, October 6, 2017


Fiction by Lisa Scottoline.

Damaged (Rosato & DiNunzio Series #4)

This was a decent legal thriller about a lawyer trying to help a special-needs kid who lives with his aged grandfather. I've read several books in the Rosato & DiNuzio series by Lisa Scottoline, and while this one is not my favorite (that was probably Think Twice) it was still pretty good.

I also read recently by this author: Every Fifteen Minutes

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Olive Kitteridge

Fiction by Elizabeth Strout.

Olive Kitteridge

This book was more of a collection of stories than a novel.  All of the stories have the one character (the epynonymous Olive) in common, but there is no story progression or overall plot.

Although the characters in the stories are wonderful and interesting, and Olive herself is surprisingly enjoyable to read about although she is not a wholly sympathetic character, I disliked the lack of an actual story. I really don't prefer short story collections, and I don't like this one masquerading as a novel and tricking me into reading it. However, for a short story collection it was really good, and I did finish reading it (mostly because I was hoping it would tie together somehow in the end, which it didn't), so all in all I'll still give it a reluctant thumbs-up.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

How I Lost You

Fiction by Janet Gutler.

How I Lost You

This was a story about a high-school girl and her best friend. It's obvious to the reader that the best friend is kind of a terrible person but the girl stays steadfastly loyal to her. You know (from the TITLE) that this friendship is going to have to end.

It should have been a good story but the whole thing seemed too transparently predictable and shallow. I can'r explain why exactly, but I would never have finished this book if I hadn't been stuck on an airplane with nothing else to do for two hours.