Friday Book Whimsy: Since We Fell

Author Dennis Lehane is a good story teller, particularly when it comes to character development. A number of his books have been made into movies – Shutter Island and Mystic River, both dark and interesting films. Since We Fell will likely be no exception. It seems to have been written to be made into a movie.

Like many of Lehane’s central characters, Since We Fell’s protagonist Rachel Childs stayed with me long after I finished the book. She wasn’t exactly likeable, but she felt real to me and though I couldn’t quite relate to the dark side of her personality, the fact that she was multifaceted instead of one-dimensional was a plus.

Childs’ never knew her father, and her mother wouldn’t tell her who it was. Her mother had long ago written a book about parenting that apparently earned her enough money to live on the rest of her life. And yet, she was probably one of the worst parents I’ve ever come across in a novel. She was selfish and manipulative and gave Rachel an entirely unstable childhood.

The book is written almost like two separate novels. Rachel (who is a television journalist) spends the first half of the book trying to find her father. She is determined to find the man who her mother refuses to identify despite Rachel’s never-ending pleas.

Rachel teeters on the edge of unstability, and after visiting Haiti in her role as a journalist, and witnessing poverty and violence like she’s never seen, she has an on-air breakdown, is subsequently fired, and spends the next few years not leaving her home. Her husband, himself a self-serving TV journalist, divorces her.

She eventually reconnects with a man who has made brief appearances throughout the book, and responds to his kindness. They marry.

Then the book gets complicated and Part 2 begins. I know. I know. Part 1 seems complicated enough!

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the second part of the book, but it becomes a thriller that deals with trust and greed and who one can love. Part 2 finally clarifies why the first line of the book is “On a Tuesday in May, in her thirty-fifth year, Rachel shot her husband dead.”

In looking at reviews, opinions range from I couldn’t put this book down to this convoluted story made for one of the worst books I’ve ever read. I fall somewhere in between, but lean to the can’t-put-the-book-down side.

It’s true that much of the story is convoluted and demands that the reader suspend reality, but I just kept coming back to the characters. They were just so danged interesting.

A review of this book is difficult to write without giving away the surprises, and the twists and turns are critical. So you’ll just have to read Since We Fell yourself and see what you think.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: 2015 Must Reads

I have read a few 2015 releases already – World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane; Under the Same Blue Sky, by Pamela Schoenewaldt; and A Spool of Blue Thread,  by Anne Tyler, to be specific. I enjoyed all three, and have posted reviews of them all.

But there are a few 2015 books that have either recently been released or are yet to be released that I wouldn’t even think of missing for a variety of reasons.

In no particular order….

Few would argue that To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most important American books of all time. The characters are unforgettable. Scheduled to be released on July 14, Go Set a Watchman is, for all intents and purposes, a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. What makes this book particularly unique is that it was actually written and submitted years before To Kill a Mockingbird. Thought to be lost, the manuscript was found and will be released. Go Set a Watchman features the same characters as To Kill a Mockingbird, but 20 years later.

Sadly, author Kent Haruf passed away last year, but not before completing Our Souls at Night, which was released May 26. Set in the same fictional eastern Colorado town of Holt, Our Souls at Night is the story of two elderly people, both who lost their spouses several years ago, who find friendship and love in their later years amidst the small town gossip. Kent Haruf writes the most unbelieveably beautiful prose imaginable. I have this book sitting on my ebook shelf, and am eagerly looking forward to finishing the books I have borrowed from the library to dig into this one. I’m certain I won’t be disappointed.

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows was released June 9 to much acclaim. Barrows is the author of the much-loved (including by me) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Barrows’ newest novel takes place in 1938 in a small West Virginian town, and tells the story of a young girl forced by her father (a United States Senator) to live in this small town despite her boredom. Boredom that is until she meets the Romeyn family and begins to unravel some family secrets. Sounds very good.

Julia Keller has become one of my favorite authors, and her protagonist Bell Elkins is one of my favorite characters. Last Ragged Breath, which will be released on August 25, is the next in the dark mystery series that also takes place in a fictional town in West Virginia. Her novels are contemporary, however. Keller’s writing is phenomenal and richly realistic. I can’t wait for this book to come out.

Speaking of mystery series, I’m eagerly awaiting Louise Penney’s next book The Nature of the Beast, featuring my beloved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The mysteries take place in a fictional small town near Quebec in Canada. Penney’s writing is imminently readable, but for me, the series is all about C.I. Gamache. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I want him to be one of my BFFs.

Our favorite bail bondsman Stephanie Plum and her gang of hilarious friends will be back November 17 in Tricky Twenty-Two. I am compelled to include this book, not because it is great literature, but because every single one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels have been so funny that I am in danger of, well, never mind. There is no way in the world I would miss a single one of these mysteries. The Stephanie Plum books are one of several that I really prefer to listen to as opposed to reading simply because the woman who narrates the books – Lorelei King – is absolutely tremendous.

Author Sue Grafton will be releasing the next in her so-called alphabet series featuring private investigator Kinsey Milhone on August 25. I used to love this series, but as of late, it has began to feel repetitious. Still, there are only so many letters in the alphabet, and this novel, entitled X, is the third from the end. I can’t quit now. For the past 23 books, I have been wondering what Grafton would title the X-book. You know, like A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, L is for Lawless, O is for Outlaw, etc. I haven’t been able to think past X is for X-ray. Instead, Grafton went for simplicity with the title simply being X.  Who knows? Maybe Grafton will start over with double letters. You know, like AA is for Awesome Aardvark.

All the Single Ladies, by Dorothea Benton Frank, is a must-read for me simply because I absolutely love her settings, all of which are the low country of South Carolina, near Charleston. Her books always feature a strong-willed woman facing difficult circumstances and coming out unscathed. I like Frank’s writing. All the Single Ladies was released June 9. The story centers around three women facing the death of a fourth woman. I hate books where characters die, but I will undoubtedly give this one a try.

My new favorite author, Karen White, has a new novel out, released on May 12. The Sound of Glass follows a familiar Karen White theme – a young woman learns she has inherited a family estate that, of course, has a secret attached. The Sound of Glass takes place in Beaufort, South Carolina, which is a draw for me. I’m not sure I’ll get to this novel right away as White is very prolific and I have only recently begun reading her books. But I will definitely read it sometime soon.

Are there books either recently released or soon-to-be-released that you are going to read?

Friday Book Whimsy: World Gone By

imgresDennis Lehane is one of my favorite authors. His books are the kind that you don’t forget for a long time after you’ve finished the book. The characters and the stories stick with you. The people he creates aren’t black and white, but shades of gray, just the way people are in real life.

World Gone By is the third in a series. Normally I wouldn’t review a book that is part of a series. I believe, however, that World Gone By is a book that can stand alone. While you will understand the characters a bit more if you have read the first two in the series – The Given Day and Live By Night – this book will draw you in even if you don’t want to read the first two.

The protagonist, Joe Coughlin, is a complex character. He was born and reared in Boston (most of Lehane’s books take place in Boston as that is where he was born and still lives), the son of an abusive father and a neglectful mother. Through a series of actions that take place throughout the series, Coughlin gets caught up in a world of crime – he’s a gangster in Ybor City, Florida, and Cuba – but is now mostly out of the business. He is by no means to be confused with the caricature of the “gangster with a heart of gold.” Still, he has his own set of morals, and while they resemble our morals in no way whatsoever, they make a degree of sense. The reader can’t help but like Joe even if they don’t like the world in which he is involved.

World Gone By is not a book that would appeal to everyone. It is graphically violent. I think it’s probably nearly impossible to write a believable book about the mob without violence. The plot plays out about the only way it can, and the ending came as no surprise.

Lehane’s writing, my friends, is why anyone should read this book. And if books about the mob don’t appeal to you, read other books by this author. He writes a marvelous detective series featuring private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. Don’t get me wrong. These are not lighthearted mysteries. But Lehane’s writing is incredible.

Several of his books have been made into movies – Mystic River (one of my favorites), Shutter Island, and The Drop come to mind.

I suggest you give Lehane’s books a try.

Buy World Gone By from Amazon here.

Buy World Gone By from Barnes and Noble here.

Buy World Gone By from Tattered Cover here.

Buy World Gone By from Changing Hands here.