Friday Book Whimsy: Book Challenge, Part II

Today’s post will continue the Book Challenge I found recently on Pinterest. Read last Friday’s post for Part I.

A book that made you laugh: I often find author Bill Bryson to be smug and mean-spirited. But he’s often enormously funny. A Walk in the Woods is a book that caused me not only guffaws, but often laughing until I had tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s a book that makes me forgive him for his smugness.

A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving: I purchased the Kindle version of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple when it was first released without knowing much about the book. When I took a look and saw the format, I was immediately uninterested in reading it. The book is mostly a series of text messages, memos, school documents and so forth. There is very little narrative. So it sat in my library for months before I dove in. I loved the book, as I indicated in my review.

The first novel you remember reading: What else? Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Oh, I read Nancy Drew and other kids’ mystery books, but Little Women was my first real novel. I loved it the first time I read it, and the many times I’ve read it since. And I always cry when Beth dies. Oh, spoiler alert.

A book that you wish more people would read: I have no way of knowing how many people read any given book, but I have a general sense that author Julia Keller is hugely underappreciated for her dark and richly textured Bell Elkins series. The stories take place in West Virginia and feature a county-prosecutor-turned-private-detective in partnership with the former sheriff and former deputy. The novels are not cheerful, but the characters are interesting and likeable, and Keller’s descriptions and stories ring true.

Favorite title of a book: I’m a sucker for a good title. I’ve also been known to pick a book from its cover. One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow has both. The book, written by Olivia Hawker, will be one of my favorites of 2020. Read my review here.

A book you love but hate at the same time: There has only been one time that I can recall that upon reading the ending, I literally threw the book across the room. Thank heavens I wasn’t yet reading on Kindle, because I’m not sure I would have been able to resist the impulse even then. That book is Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. The story was so compelling that I couldn’t put the book down. But that ending. Oh. My. Goodness. And that’s all I’ll say in case you’re one of the 10 people in the world who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie.

That’s all for this week. To be continued.

By the way, I would love to get your answers to these same questions. Last week’s too.

Friday Book Whimsy: Behind Her Eyes

In the past few years, I’ve become a fan of the so-called psychological thriller. Like the thousands and thousands of readers who, like me, got hooked on The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, I’ve read a number of books of this genre, trying desperately to find a worthy follow-up. Unfortunately, I’ve mostly been disappointed. For example, Girl on the Train’s author Paula Hawkins’ second novel, Into the Water, was a great disappointment.

Still, I forged on, and found myself reading Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough. The book was described as an eerie thriller with an ending that would surprise and shock the reader. It seemed like a safe bet. I like a good ending. Gone Girl had a good ending. When I finished that novel, I literally through the book across the room in frustration. But it was a good frustration.

When I finished Behind Her Eyes, I didn’t throw the book across the room because these days I read on my iPad, but I wanted to. Unfortunately, not because of a good frustration, but because of my disappointment that I had spent so much time on the book and the ending was so incredibly STUPID.

Don’t get me wrong. I found much of the book to be a good yarn with thought-provoking characters. Sure, at times I had to suspend belief because of the unlikeliness of what was transpiring. But the characters, while not particularly likeable, were interesting.

Louise is a single mom, stuck in a boring office job. One night she goes out for a drink after work. She meets an good-looking man whom she finds interesting and easy to talk to. This leads to that, and they share a passionate kiss and he leaves. She expects to never see him again, but lo, and behold, it turns out that he is her new boss, something she learns the next day when she goes to work. Oh-oh.

Oh-oh, because he has photos of his gorgeous wife sitting on his desk. What’s more, he still can’t seem to keep his eyes off of Louise. Louise vows to herself to make certain nothing untoward happens, but accidentally befriends his wife. Belief-suspension kicked in, because this reader can’t even begin to understand how this happened, despite the author’s efforts to explain.

It isn’t long before Louise realizes that something is amiss in the marriage, but she can’t figure out who’s at fault. David (the boss) appears to be controlling and Adele (the wife) appears to be frightened of her husband. As for David, he continues to appear to be the kind of man who is sweet and loving. Louise spends most of the novel trying to figure out what’s happening.

It isn’t badly written. In fact, I enjoyed most of the novel. The conclusion, however, was so ridiculous (at least in this reader’s view) that I simply can’t recommend the book. It became clear as to why Behind Her Eyes got such mixed reviews from other readers.

So, read the book at your own risk!

Here is a link to the book.


Friday Book Whimsy: The Silent Wife

imgresI guess in order for me to enjoy a book, I have to like at least one of the characters. And try as I might, there was literally not a single character I liked. I’m pretty sure that’s what author A.S.A. Harrison intended, but it didn’t work for me.

The Silent Wife, like many books about husbands, wives, abuse, and craziness, has been compared to Gone Girl. I wish publishers and book marketers would stop doing that. Gone Girl stands alone in making the reader make a surprised and horrified gasp at the end of the book. Even if the tension in The Silent Wife was similar to that in Gone Girl, it can’t be compared because the author tells you from the get-go that the husband is killed and the wife is a murderer.

Todd and Jodi are common-law husband and wife. They have a beautiful condo overlooking Lake Michigan in Chicago. Life seems perfect, except that it isn’t. Todd, it seems, is a serial philanderer and Jodi lives her life in denial. While Todd’s life seems to be spiraling out of control, Jodi is convinced that everything is hunky dory.

I truly wanted to slap them both. He, for being hoodwinked by a money-hungry college girl and she for putting up with his shenanigans and eagerly awaiting his return. Seriously?

The main characters of Gone Girl were also not the most likable of characters, but the book had such a creepy and interesting story, that I just couldn’t stop turning the pages. And oh, that ending….

On the other hand, I really found nothing interesting enough about The Silent Wife to make up for the unlikable characters and annoying story line.

I can’t recommend this book at all.

Here is a link to the book.


Friday Book Whimsy: The Gates of Evangeline

24875394In 2014 and early 2015, every thriller was marketed as being the next Gone Girl. Suddenly that changed. Now every psychological thriller is purported to be the next The Girl on the Train. I guess that’s how an author knows he or she has made it – you become the gauge by which all similar genre are measured.

But having liked both Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, I was interested in The Gates of Evangeline by first-time novelist Hester Young, and purported to be the next The Girl on the Train. For one thing, in addition to being marketed to fans of The Girl on the Train, it is also called a southern gothic mystery, and that label will grab me every single time.

As it turned out, while not nearly as compelling as The Girl on the Train, I found The Gates of Evangeline  to be a worthwhile read for lovers of mysteries.

Charlotte (Charlie) Cates, an ambitious divorced career woman who lives in New York City, is stopped dead in her tracks when her 5-year-old son suddenly dies of a brain aneurism. Now she struggles just to get up every morning. The novel opens with her trying to get her life back together.

An old friend who is the editor of Cold Crimes Magazine comes to her rescue by asking her to investigate and write a subsequent article about a 30-year-old cold case at an old plantation in Louisiana called Evangeline. A child has been missing for three decades and is presumed dead. A body, however, has never been found and no one was every charged. Faced with a bleak future spent mourning the death of her son, Charlie is tempted by this offer.

About this same time, Charlie suddenly begins having dreams that accurately predict terrible things happening to children. This, coupled with her ongoing depression, lead her to accept the challenge and move to Louisiana to live on the estate with the family of the missing child.

What she finds are a lot of family secrets, mysterious and mixed reactions to her presence, and a spark of romance.

Though somewhat predictable (I was able to come up with the ending long before the book was over), I nevertheless enjoyed the story very much. Young developed interesting characters and I enjoyed her storytelling.

I look forward to her next effort.

Here is a link to the book.


Friday Book Whimsy: Dear Daughter

searchIt seems like every day I come across a new mystery/suspense/thriller novel that purports to be “the next Gone Girl.” Clearly, Gone Girl is the book that authors want to write (and readers want to read). Having found Gone Girl to be one of the most satisfying thrillers (in an oddly unsatisfying way) I have ever read, I must admit that I, too, am looking for the next Gone Girl.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little is on equal footing with Gillian Flynn’s amazing novel-with-the-twisted-ending, but man, the book did hold my attention, and the only thing that prevented me from throwing the book against the wall (as I did when I finished Gone Girl) was the fact that I was reading on my iPad. It wouldn’t survive the toss.

Jane Jenkins is a Kim Kardashian-type Hollywood celebrity, famous only for being the daughter of a well-known actress. Well, famous for only that up until the time that she is tried and convicted of murdering her mother, a crime she’s pretty sure she didn’t commit. I say pretty sure because there were a lot of drugs and alcohol in her life. Ten years after being imprisoned, she is released on a technicality, and sets out to find out who did, in fact, kill her mother (if it wasn’t her).

Through a bit of sleuthing (and some unbelievable coincidences), she is able to find out where her mother grew up and learns things she wouldn’t have dreamed about her mother’s life as a young woman. In the meantime, she is trying to hide from the paparazzi who are endlessly trying to find out where she went following her release. The public, you see, still think she’s guilty.

Little’s writing is sharp, perhaps a bit too sharp. Jane goes through life mouthing nothing but quips. Much of the writing is clever, but it went a bit too far. I think Little’s character development was good, and I got a great feel for who Jane is and the frustrations she felt both currently and while growing up the child of a celebrity who is famous ONLY for being the child of a celebrity.

There are a few too many coincidences to lead me to unequivocally recommend the book. Still, the story was compelling and I couldn’t stop reading, wanting to find out who actually murdered her mother. And the ending – boy oh boy. That’s all I’ll say.

Despite its flaws, I highly recommend the book (gosh, I can’t believe I’m saying this) for anyone who liked the book Gone Girl.

Here is a link to the book.