Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sole Survivor

Fiction by Dean Koontz.

This story begins with Joe Carpenter, a broken man. Joe's wife and young daughters were killed in a terrible plane crash one year before, leaving him with nothing to do but wait to die and join them. He's alienated all his friends, stopped going to work, and lives in a dingy apartment furnished with only a mattress on the floor. But then Joe gets a tiny ray of hope: maybe somebody did survive the crash after all. And could that person be one of his loved ones?

This was an exciting thriller with an unexpected ending. You do have to keep an open mind about the weird turns the plot takes...

I also read recently by this author:  The Forbidden Door/ The Night Window

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Regulars

Fiction by Georgia Clark.

Evie, her best friend Willow, and her roommate Krista are single girls in the city, always on the lookout for good prospects in work and love. All three are not really succeeding in this: Evie has an job at a magazine that she hates but is afraid to lose, and manages to quickly wreck things with a great dating prospect in chapter one. Willow is tentatively trying to break into the art world, and has a quite nice boyfriend she seems to keep at arm's length. And Krista is the most self-sabotaging of the three; she's an aspiring actress who can't seem to make it to auditions on time and runs through unsuitable boyfriends at top speed.

All three young women think they have found the answer to their problems when they are given--wait for it!-- a magic potion called "pretty." Will it actually make them prettier? More successful? Happier? Read and find out!

This was a fun story with--ummm-- a little more graphic sex (some of it non-heterosexual) than I usually prefer. But still, it's an interesting read.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Nonfiction by Tara Westover.

Well, this must be memoir month for me! This is the fourth one I've read recently.

I borrowed this from my sister-in-law, who assured me it was really good, although the brief synopsis-- "a story of a woman's educational journey" --sounded terrible. Fortunately, it was not terrible.

This story, like The Sound of Gravel, was about a girl growing up in a crazy fringe-group-Mormon family. But Tara's father was not a polygamist; he was just a paranoid fundamentalist who wanted to live off the grid. Tara's family was afraid of being under the government's control, which meant avoiding many things, such as schools and doctors. Tara and her siblings were "homeschooled," which to her mom and dad meant, "taught to read and then put to work."

Just like the other pair of similar memoirs I just read (All at Sea and Happiness) I couldn't help comparing these two books as well. So this story was good, but not quite as good as the other one.

(By the way, I'm aware that normal Mormons are not like Tara's or Ruthie's family, any more than normal Christians are like the crazies who protest soldiers' funerals. All the real Mormons I've ever met are perfectly nice folks.)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Sound of Gravel

Nonfiction by Ruth Wariner.

This was a really good memoir! Ruthie was born in a polygamist colony in Mexico, the 39th of her father's 42 children. Her father was killed shortly after her birth over a religious dispute-- the murderer, her uncle, was dubbed the "Mormon Manson"-- but her mother married right back into another polygamist family in the group, making Ruthie the fourth (I think!) of her mother's eventual ten children.

This story is well-told and really makes you understand what went on in this rather crazy family.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Girl Who Was Taken

Fiction by Charlie Donlea.

At the beginning of this story, two girls (Megan and Nicole) disappear from a late-summer party after their high school graduation. After the frantic searching by police and townspeople dies down, Megan escapes her captor and comes home. But there is no sign of Nicole.

This was an exciting book with a surprise ending.

Monday, June 17, 2019

All at Sea

Nonfiction by Decca Aitkenhead

Another memoir. I read this right after Heather Harpham's Happiness, and couldn't help comparing the two.

This story is also about an artistic-type woman who is a later-in-life mother of two young children, and she seemed similar to Heather in personality. But Decca has a very different story.

Decca is on holiday with her family at the seaside and her three-year-old son Jake swims out too far in the ocean. Her partner Tony goes out to save his son, and drowns in the process. It's a shocking thing.

This was a pretty good memoir too, but not quite as good as the other.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Happiness: A Memoir

Subtitled: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
Nonfiction by Heather Harpham.

 Heather Harpham begins her memoir with the story of giving birth to a baby girl alone (her partner Brian "didn't see himself a as a father") and then discovering that the baby had serious issues requiring immediate medical intervention. Fortunately, little Amelia-Grace lived, and Brian came around to the idea of fatherhood, but there was still a long road ahead for this little family with a sick baby.

I have mentioned before that memoirs in general are problematic undertakings; writing about oneself is difficult, and most people fail to craft both an honest and interesting narrative.

This was a good memoir.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Last Time I Saw You

Fiction by Liv Constantine

At the center of this story are Kate and Blaire, who were once best friends but have been estranged for fifteen years. But when Kate's mother Lily is murdered, the girls meet again as women and put aside their differences, hoping to work together and find Lily's killer. But there are plenty of complications: Kate is getting threatening messages from a mysterious source, the police suspect Kate's dad of the murder, and Kate isn't sure she can trust her husband...

This was a really good thriller, and I was definitely surprised by the ending. I'd say it was not quite as good as the first book I read by this two-sister-writing-team, but that's a pretty high bar! It's definitely worth reading.

I also read by this author: The Last Mrs. Parrish

Friday, June 7, 2019

Sweet Lamb of Heaven

Fiction by Lydia Millet

Anna's husband Ned didn't want children, or so he said. Indeed, when she found herself pregnant and insisted on keeping her baby, he threw up his hands and proceeded to ignore both her and the child for years until Anna took her daughter and left him. But once they were gone, he suddenly insisted on finding them and bringing them home. Then, since she hadn't legally divorced him or agreed on custody, Anna was frightened and tried to hide.

But Ned kept finding her. She ended up on the lonely coast of Maine in a seaside motel. And although it was winter, more and more people started showing up to stay there too, people who seemed to kind of know each other. Anna wondered if she was being paranoid, but she felt a sinking certainly that Ned was going to catch them...

I really enjoyed this book to start out with. I liked the character of Anna and the unusual things she experienced after her baby's birth (I'm trying to avoid spoilers!), but later in the book I started to like it less. There were some very strange elements, slipping the plot out of the realm of reality, that were simply not explained. Did Ned have extraordinary powers somehow? Or was he just mean and lucky? Was Anna crazy? Nobody explains any of this.

It was mostly a good book....

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Married to a Stranger

Fiction by Patricia MacDonald.

Emma, a psychologist and heiress, marries David after a rather short courtship (six months) and a surprise pregnancy. Despite her stepfather/trust-fund manager's advice, Emma refuses to sign a prenuptial agreement, insisting that she trusts David.

But that trust is shaken when someone tries to murder Emma on their wedding night, and David is the prime suspect!

This was an exciting thriller!

I also read recently by this author: From Cradle to Grave.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

From Cradle to Grave

Fiction by Patricia MacDonald.

Morgan, a graduate student, is worried about her best friend Claire. Claire has been married only a year and has just given birth to a new baby, and although Claire has always been an upbeat, positive, person, Morgan is afraid she might now be suffering from postpartum depression. Morgan tries to help and urges Claire to see a doctor, but Claire refuses, and Morgan has her own studies to worry about.

But then Morgan finds out her friend is at a real crisis point, and there is a shocking turn of events.

This is an exciting book with  several surprises.

I also read recently by this author: Don't Believe a Word