We've all seen or heard those commercials warning us about predators just waiting and luring on-line to steal our identity.
But what if instead of stea...moreWe've all seen or heard those commercials warning us about predators just waiting and luring on-line to steal our identity.
But what if instead of stealing your identity, you wanted someone else to assume your identity to protect your family and friends from the truth that you'd decided to shuffle off this mortal coil?
That's the premise of Lottie Moggach's fascinating novel Kiss Me First. An avid World of Warcraft fan, Leila is used to the idea of on-line role playing. After discovering the philosophical discussion forum The Red Pill (referencing The Matrix trilogy), Leila begins to make a name of herself in the on-line community and is approached by its mysterious founder and podcaster with an opportunity. Leila will assume the on-line identity of Tess, a young woman who wants to take her own life but doesn't want to cause her family or friends any pain or suffering. Leila's task is to study Tess in every detail and then assume her identity on-line -- Facebook, e-mails and other social networking connections -- all while Tess removes herself from the world. The idea is that Tess will move far away and Leila will provide status updates and responses to friends and family to help put their mind at ease that Tess is alive and well.
Leila accepts and spends several months trying to get to know all about Tess. Then, Tess decides it's time to go and Leila steps into the role of playing Tess.
All goes well for a while, until a romantic entanglement from the past resurfaces -- one that Tess didn't give Leila many details about. As Leila and the long-lost boyfriend connect, Leila slowly begins to take more and more chances in connecting with members of Tess' life, leading to some fascinating consequences.
As a page turning thriller, Kiss Me First delivers in spades. The chapters are divided between Leila's search for where Tess really went and the truth behind her disappearance and flashbacks to Leila's work to assume Tess' on-line identity. Questions of just how well we can really know someone we only interact with on-line abound and in the light of the reality series Catfish and the real-world situation with former Notre Dame player Manti Te'o last year, there are some fascinating questions raised and implications pondered.
My one grip is that while the novel explains the title and its significance, the cover art isn't fully explained or justified by the novel. With this novel and The Shining Girls hitting the market and my shelf this summer, I couldn't help but wonder if having flies on the cover of your novel is the latest trend in publishing. (less)
If you were curious about when and how the diamond engagement ring came into fashion, J. Courtney Sullivan's latest novel The Engagements will give yo...moreIf you were curious about when and how the diamond engagement ring came into fashion, J. Courtney Sullivan's latest novel The Engagements will give you an idea. Life long bachelorette Frances Getty dreamed up the famous marketing line "Diamonds on Forever" in 1947, never knowing the impact it could and would have on romance, marriage and sales of diamonds.
Woven into the story of Getty are five relationships and the impact that a single diamond ring can have on them. At first, the connection between these five relationships isn't clear, but Sullivan deftly weaves together her various plot threads until the final tapestry is revealed in the novel's last fifty pages.
Each of the relationships is at a different point, with various parties having a differing view on the diamond ring and what it symbolizes. For some it represents a feeling of being trapped, for others its a potential road to freedom and for others it's something that isn't wanted or need and is viewed with a bit of contempt.
What makes The Engagements works so well is the rich characters. There are some you will like more than others, but Sullivan gives the reader ample insight into their motivations and thoughts to help us understand where they are and their feelings on marriage. From the mother who is horrified at her son's impending divorce and its implication to the woman who sees marriage as outdated and unnecessary, much to the horror and chagrin of various family members, all of these characters feel authentic.
The one downfall of the novel is a plot thread involving a lost wedding ring that seems to have been lifted out of a variety of sitcoms. In a novel where so much else rings true, this one doesn't work as well as it was intended.
But it's a minor quibble in what is, otherwise, a stellar novel. (less)
Reading Ask Bob, I couldn't help but think that writer Peter Gethers was tapping into the same pool as Jonathan Tropper. Tropper's novels are about fl...moreReading Ask Bob, I couldn't help but think that writer Peter Gethers was tapping into the same pool as Jonathan Tropper. Tropper's novels are about flawed men and the people who love them. With Gether's novel, the people who love them is extended to not only those of the human variety but also Dr. Bob's animal companions -- both those who helps cure and those who are an intimate part of his life.
Living in New York City, Robert Heller has a thriving veterinarian practice and is the popular writer of a weekly newspaper column (think "Dear Abby" for pets). But unlike the works of James Herriot, Ask Bob is less focused on the animals he treats as it is on Dr. Bob himself -- his life, his loves and his family.
Each chapter begins with a column from the syndicated newspaper feature, which will reflect on and foreshadow some of what is to come in the proceeding chapter. And as the novel expands the circle of Bob's universe, several chapters also some with an essay on a person or pet that Bob encounters in his New York practice.
And while Dr. Bob may seem to have it all together in his newspaper columns, perception is not necessarily reality when it comes to his personal life. It's not that Dr. Bob is a mess by any means. It's just that he's human with all the quirks and foibles that comes with it.
The novel is divided into two halves, reflecting on Bob's life and his family before and after a life-changing event. To reveal more about the event would be to give too much away, though sharp-eyed readers may deduce the event long before Gethers get to it on the printed page. Whether you figure it out early or not doesn't make a huge difference because Ask Bob is a character study -- and a compelling, amusing, funny and fascinating one at that.
As I said earlier, much of this novel reminded me of what Jonathan Tropper does with his flawed male protagonists. Gethers does a great job of making Bob and his world feel authentic and lived it. There are times when we love Bob and times we're disappointed in him, but as the story unfolds we're shown that Bob is uniquely human and flawed -- just like the rest of us.
Told with warmth and humor, Bob's story is one that will enthrall you and may even tug on the heart strings a bit. It's got humor and it's got pathos and all of it is equally earned.
Ask Bob is a low-key, enjoyable novel. I'm glad I got the chance to meet Dr. Bob and spend a couple of hundred pages with him. (less)
Being the book snob that I am, I've had this one of my to be read list ever since I heard it was being adapted for the silver screen.
And with the movi...moreBeing the book snob that I am, I've had this one of my to be read list ever since I heard it was being adapted for the silver screen.
And with the movie finally hitting theaters, I decided it was time to give it a try.
I've not read a lot of Dennis Lehane, though people have told me I should. I read "Mystic River" a few years ago and found it compelling, but I haven't yet picked up any of his other books. Reading "Shutter Island" I think I'll be revisiting Lehane in the near future.
One of the blurbs on the book cover called "Shutter Island" a cross between Stephen King and Agatha Christie. It's a very apt description and the whole idea of a locked-room mystery with the supernatural element works very well. But thanks to the movie's campaign, I was aware that there was some twist to the events of the story and so I found myself looking harder for clues to it than I might have if I'd not been aware a twist was coming. Thankfully, Lehane puts all his cards on the table early, laying the groundwork for the plot twist well enough that it works when it finally arrives and it doesn't feel like something he came up with out of left field.
I can't say more about it without ruining it for others, but I will say it did make the book worth reading and worth skimming back through to pick up on the clues Lahane lays out as the story unfolds.
Here's a word of advice when it comes to Elizabeth Haynes' Into the Darkest Corner -- don't start reading it to get you settled into bed at night or t...moreHere's a word of advice when it comes to Elizabeth Haynes' Into the Darkest Corner -- don't start reading it to get you settled into bed at night or to cure insomnia when you wake up in the middle of the night.
If you do this, be prepare to not get any more sleep and to not care that you're missing it. Or that your eyes are becoming drowsy, but you just can't put the book down.
Haynes' first novel, written during November's annual novel writing month, is a first-rate suspense thriller. When Catherine meets Lee as the bouncer of a local club, she's instantly attracted to him. Sparks ignite between the two and soon their flame is burning brightly. But is Lee too good to be true?
Unfortunately for Catherine, the answer is yes. Lee is controlling, manipulative and doesn't want to let her go.
Years later, now known as Cathy, she's struggling to start her life over and fight her OCD urges. These urges are having an impact on her professional and personal life. Cathy also knows that Lee will soon be released from prison and could come looking for her, despite her best efforts to vanish and get away from him.
Into her life comes the new neighbor upstairs, a charming man who is willing to help Cathy with her insecurities and possibly learn to trust a man again. But as before, Cathy and we begin to wonder if he's not too good to be true.
The story unfolds in both the present and the past as we slowly discover what happened to Catherine and what is happening to Cathy. Haynes' style carries the novel and she knows exactly how to drop hints and clues to keep not only the reader guessing but also make you want to read just one more chapter. Haynes also does a solid job of delivering twists and turns that feel earned and not like they're thrown in just to keep the novel's momentum going. She also avoids several cliches and had me second-guessing some of my assumptions about where events would take Catherine/Cathy in the novel.
If you're looking for a good way to lose sleep, this is just the way to do it. I know that I'll be eagerly looking forward to the next offering from Haynes. (less)
As a long time Spider-Man fan, the title of Sarah Bruni's first novel caught my attention.
And while it would be easy to assume that The Night Gwen St...moreAs a long time Spider-Man fan, the title of Sarah Bruni's first novel caught my attention.
And while it would be easy to assume that The Night Gwen Stacy Died is another in the long trend of tie-in novels, retelling a classic comic book story line, that is not the case here.
Seventeen-year-old Sheila Gower doesn't quite fit into her small town. Taking a job at a local convenience store to save up money to escape town by going to France, she meets a man who refers to himself as Peter Parker. And while Peter does have a secret identity, it's not necessarily that of everyone's favorite wall-crawler. Instead, it's to hide the fact that his life is just as mundane and doesn't quite fit into the small town life as Sheila does.
The two have a budding flirtation which gets taken up to the next level when Peter and Sheila decide to run off together and hit the road to Chicago with Peter even referring to Sheila by the name of Gwen. To add some zest to the story, Peter pretends to hold up the convenience store and kidnap Sheila (the store's surveillance system only captures video, not audio).
With a lot of references and examination of classic Spider-Man storylines, The Night Gwen Stacy Died is a fascinating character novel for the first two-thirds of its run. It's one the novel hits the final third that things begin to derail a bit, keeping what could have been a great book merely a good one. I can see what Bruni is trying to do here, but it feels like the final third of the novel works too hard to drive the point home and it all ends up feeling a bit less than satisfying. (less)
Ever since Stieg Larson's Millenium trilogy hit it big, it seems like the mystery shelves have been flooded with a ton of imported mysteries and thril...moreEver since Stieg Larson's Millenium trilogy hit it big, it seems like the mystery shelves have been flooded with a ton of imported mysteries and thrillers, all attempting to capture lighting in a bottle for a second time.
Of the translated thrillers I've read over the past couple of years, it's Snow White Must Die that not only captured me and wouldn't let go but also left me hoping that the rest of this series will get translated and published in America ASAP. Simply put, Snow White is one of the most entertaining and enthralling mystery novels I've read in a long time.
Over a decade ago, two girls with a romantic connection to Tobias Satorius went missing. Suspicion centered on Tobias, who experience a 24-hour blackout around the time of the disappearances, leading to Tobias' conviction and ten year jail sentence. As he's released from prison, Tobias returns home to find his parents estranged, his father's business in ruin and the town unwilling to forget the crimes of which he was convicted.
When Tobias' mother is assaulted on an overpass and put in the hospital and another young girl disappears, the town is only too ready to convict Tobias again in the court of public opinion. Enter police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein who are summoned to the scene of the attack on Tobias' mother and slowly begin digging into the details of the current crime and trying to unearth whether or not Tobias was actually guilty of the crimes a decade or more before.
While Snow White Must Die is clearly trying to hitch its wagon to the Girl With the... phenomenon, the novel reminded me more of the best works of Elizabeth George and Laura Lippman (who I feel are two of the best writers publishing today, mystery or otherwise). The team of Kirchhoff and Bodenstein reminded me a bit of the early days of Lynley and Havers in all the right ways. As the fourth book in the series featuring them and the rest of their team of detectives, I found myself yearning to spend more time getting to know these characters and see where their stories led next.
As for the mystery, it works fairly well for much of the novel, though I was able to discern some of the twists from the later half of the book before our detective heroes do. But that's because the reader is clued into certain pieces of information and character moments before the detectives are. The only other drawback is several of the names in the novel are similar, creating some bit of confusion as to who is who in the early going, but this confusion is quickly left behind if you're willing to invest a little time and attention to the novel.
And that won't be a difficult thing to do. Snow White Must Die is a rewarding and compelling mystery thriller that had me eager to turn the next page and saying to myself, "Just one more chapter" at the close of each chapter. A solid mystery with some interesting detectives all adds up to a satisfying first American entry into this series. And one I hope that to visit again sooner rather than later.(less)
High-profile lawyer and single-mother Kate Barron is devastated when her fifteen-year-old daughter Amelia jumps to her death off the roof of a private...moreHigh-profile lawyer and single-mother Kate Barron is devastated when her fifteen-year-old daughter Amelia jumps to her death off the roof of a private high school. Accused of plagiarizing a paper on her favorite author Virginia Woolfe and leaving behind the word "sorry" scrawled on the building, Amelia's death looks like an open and closed case of suicide.
Then Kate receives a mysterious text messages, telling her that Amelia didn't jump. Kate begins slowly piecing together the final few months of her daughter's life from e-mails, texts and social media postings to try and determine what really happened and if the mysterious text message is true or not.
Kimberly McCreight's Reconstructing Amelia moves back and forth in time between chapters focusing on the past and Amelia's point of view and the present, told in third person and focusing on Kate's investigation. Sprinkled in are a blog that comments on the social order at the school, text conversations between Amelia and her various friends and journal entries from Kate's early days as a single mother. McCreight presents clues as to what happened to Amelia and why over the course of each point of view, allowing the reader to surmise and see patterns long before certain characters do.
All of this placing of the various pieces of evidence works well to help keep the pages turning during the initial stages of the novel. It also helps gives the reader a different vantage on all the players involved in the story and how each one had an impact on Amelia's life and death.
Most of it works for the first three-quarters of the novel. However, once the revelations about how and why Amelia died start coming to light, the novel loses a bit of its momentum. One storyline in particular about Amelia's romantic life seems to be left open and isn't satisfyingly resolved when the final pages are closed. Given that most of the other questions in the novel are answered, this lack of a full answer stands out a bit like a sore thumb. (It could be that the question is answered and I just missed it due to the sheer number of things happening in the final pages).
I hadn't heard any of the comparison to Gone Girl before I picked up this book and looking back, I'm glad I had not. It seems like a lot of books these days want to be "the next Gone Girl" and while Deconstructing Amelia does offer readers multiple perspectives from various narrators, that's really where the comparisons end. Amelia doesn't rely on an unreliable narrator for its twists and turns. Instead, it relies on a character-driven mystery that unfolds across the various viewpoints and time frames to give the reader the real reason as to what happened to Amelia.
It's a fascinating first published novel by McCreight. I'm certainly intrigued enough by her first novel to add her to my list of writers to watch. (less)
**spoiler alert** At an unspecificied time in the future everyone turning sixteen is given surgery to become "pretty." Tally Youngblood is young woman...more**spoiler alert** At an unspecificied time in the future everyone turning sixteen is given surgery to become "pretty." Tally Youngblood is young woman, counting down the days to the procdure which despite being extremely intensive is considered worth it for a life of luxury and decadence among her peers. She's waiting to be reunited with her best friend and enjoy the life of being pretty together.
That is until she meets Shay. The two bond over having lost all their friends to the surgery and waiting to join them. They sneak out of the city to the wasteland and Tally discovers that not only does Shay not consider herself "ugly" but she has no intention of having the surgerys. Instead she wants to run off with a mysterious boy named David to a secret group of insurgents who refuse to have the surgery. She invites Tally to come with her, but Tally refuses.
Shay runs away, leaving details on how Tally can find the group if she desires. On the day of her surgery, Tally is taken aside by Special Circumstances and told unless she finds Shay and betrays her to them, she (Tally) will be ugly for life. Tally agrees and sets out on her quest to find the rebels.
If that were all the story was, it might just be merely interesting. And though the story does follow a fairly predictable character arc for Tally (she finds the group, fits in better than Shay and decides to stay), the secret behind the surgery that Scott Westerfield reveals mid-way through the novel is far more fascinating. And it also goes a long way to explaining some of the behavoir by post-surgery characters in the novel.
Tally finds out that the surgery creates a specific kind of brain damage among all receipients. This twist explains why certain characters are so vapid and hedonistic in the story. Not only are the people being made to all be the same externally, they're being made to think the same way, to no longer question anything and to live only for the pleasure of the moment. The process is reversible (theoretically) and all of these various storylines lead to one massive cliffhanger that had me curious to see where things go next. (less)
Connie Willis offers readers an early holiday gift with this wonderful short story collection. I admit that I found this book in the sci-fi section, b...moreConnie Willis offers readers an early holiday gift with this wonderful short story collection. I admit that I found this book in the sci-fi section, but I honestly think it transcends that. Yes, it's got some stories that deal with themes common to science-fiction and have sci-fi elements, but it's more than that. There is a holiday themed mystery, an examination of the original Christmas story and even a story that sets out to prove why Willis thinks "Miracle on 34th Street" is a superior holiday film to "It's A Wonderful Life." But what sets the collection apart from being just a collection of sci-fi stories with a Christmas theme is that Willis offers stories that must take place at Christmas. As she states in her introduction, it's hard to re-invent the wheel when it comes to holiday stories and she doesn't attempt to do so. Instead, she takes the convential stories and gives them her own unique twist making them entertaining and magical at the same time.
I sat down to read this collection not feeling very much in the spirit of the season. But in reading these engaging and intelligent stories, I soon found myself feeling a bit more Christmas-y. If you're feeling a bit burned out by the holiday season, pick up this collection and give any of the stories a try. I guarantee they'll have you whistling a Christmas tune in no time. (less)
Endorsed by Joss Whedon, this is graphic novel collects the seven issues of the Identity Crisis mini-series.
I read all seven episodes in one sitting....moreEndorsed by Joss Whedon, this is graphic novel collects the seven issues of the Identity Crisis mini-series.
I read all seven episodes in one sitting.
Somoene is targetting the loved ones of superheroes in the DC Universe. But what's the agenda and why? The answers are truly universe changing and shocking, including not just the identity of the serial killer but also revelations of events that happened in the early days of the Justice League.
Identity Crisis examines what it means to be a hero and just why someone would choose this life. It also looks at the impact on the families of those who choose that way of life.