Each month, I allow myself to purchase one current "best selling" or "most talked about" book. A book-of-the-moment, if you will. Sometimes I read theEach month, I allow myself to purchase one current "best selling" or "most talked about" book. A book-of-the-moment, if you will. Sometimes I read them right away, other times if I think the hype has just gotten too big, I'll set them aside for later because nothing kills a book for me quicker than too much hype (I'm bound to be disappointed). But just enough people we're talking about Anne Tyler's new book A Spool of New Thread to catch my attention and it wasn't too much attention....perfect. Add to this the not insignificant fact that - gasp - I had not yet read a Tyler novel. What a gap in my literary career.
I chose the audio version out of sheer convenience (an Audible credit was begging to be used and it was a nice narration change to hear a good strong American accent - a rarity these days). Tyler's story about three generations - although not necessarily told in a linear fashion - of an American family in Baltimore had me hooked from the very first paragraph and held me riveted throughout.
The Whitshanks are nothing remarkable from the outside. They are your standard American family. The family dynamics within are nothing remarkable either. But it's Tyler's telling of the story as she reveals layers of each generation that proves how little we all know about our own nearest and dearest that is so remarkable. We all think we know everything about our closest family members...Tyler shows us that no, really we do not. She does so in such an understated, fact-of-the-matter way that I simply fell in love with her right then and there. And promptly went and purchased every other book she has ever written (my huge Amazon box full of them arrived yesterday). I now have little trouble imagining how she won her Pulitzer.
I didn't necessarily fall in love with the Whitshank family, but I don't think that was Tyler's intention. I enjoyed my time with them and I enjoyed what Tyler revealed to me about them. I listed to the story every spare moment I had (something I don't normally do with audiobooks). What I walked away thinking after the novel was finished was that this was truly an American story, without any false notes or patriotism thrown in...nothing so obvious like that. It was straightforward and deft in the telling. There was nothing I did not like. Highly recommended....more
Well-written but uninspired sci-fi dystopia in which a heart-broken young widower unthinkingly fulfills his dead wife's dream and gives up his life onWell-written but uninspired sci-fi dystopia in which a heart-broken young widower unthinkingly fulfills his dead wife's dream and gives up his life on earth to live on a experimental space colony. It is only upon arrival, where of course there is no option of returning (of course), that he finds the predictable draconian dystopian rules implemented on the colony. It's very well-written in terms of readability but so full of plot holes that it makes it difficult to enjoy the author's talent with words. I'll keep reading his work, though, searching for something that is better thought-out in terms of plot. He's clearly talented....more
3.5 Stars. McCreight's newest novel is centered around a small university town where the body of a newborn infant has been found in the river. Molly,3.5 Stars. McCreight's newest novel is centered around a small university town where the body of a newborn infant has been found in the river. Molly, local small-town community reporter, finds herself in the unenviable position of reporting on the crime when the town's regular investigative reporter is conveniently out sick that day. Even worse, the death hits hard for Molly since she is only just recovering from a late-term miscarriage herself.
It probably goes without saying that Molly uncovers far more than just the death of an infant here. Instead, she begins to discover town secrets that go back decades....secrets people in this small town do not want revealed.
That's pretty much it in a nutshell.
I really enjoyed McCreight's previous novel, Reconstructing Amelia, which won an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. This one? Not as much. Perhaps my expectations were set far too high. I found the plot a bit too contrived: the good guys-disguised-as-bad-guys but it was obvious they'd be revealed as good guys in the end (and vice versa) was fairly obvious. There was your stock bitchy mother who got what was coming to her in the end -- no depth to her whatsoever. Our protagonist, Molly, was such a Pollyanna that it became difficult to like her, either, as she martyred herself chapter after chapter. Maybe this wouldn't have stood out so much if any of the characters had had more depth to them...they felt quite cardboard throughout the story.
All this said, I think the novel will still have commercial appeal. It's an easy read - I zipped through it in less than 8 hours of reading time - that requires little concentration. There's enough of a thriller element that will please a lot of readers and I can see it selling well in airports, etc. As mentioned, I liked the author's previous work so I hope this one does well for her even if I didn't particularly warm to it....more
3.5 Stars. After reading Edgar-nominated Sandrine's Case last year, I became a huge fan of Thomas H. Cook and was thrilled to discover his extensive b3.5 Stars. After reading Edgar-nominated Sandrine's Case last year, I became a huge fan of Thomas H. Cook and was thrilled to discover his extensive back list which I immediately bought up and filled my shelves and audiobook player with. Places in the Dark is the first one of those backlist titles I've gotten around to (I feel somehow comforted knowing they are all there waiting for me).
The story was, as evidenced by my rating, somewhat less than compelling than Sandrine's Case, yet still a solid mystery. Set in the small town of Port Alma, Maine in the 1950s, this is the story of two bachelor brothers whose lives are upended - and one will end up dead - by the arrival of a mysterious woman named Dora. Exactly who Dora is and where she comes from is slowly discovered and revealed as the surviving brother chases her across the country following his brother's murder. There are, of course, plenty of red herrings and a lot of transitions between past and present allowing the reader to try to piece it all together.
It's nicely done, really. And the narrator is a perfect fit. If you like mystery crime novels, Cook is like a warm blanket in front of the fire on a cold winters day. Not a happy, cozy mystery for him, but not violent and bloody either. Just a nice, dark mix. Perfect. No wonder he's been nominated/won so many awards....more
Layers. When you can write in layers like this you know you've reached the pinnacle of your game. This short story by Steinhauer (heir apparent to JohLayers. When you can write in layers like this you know you've reached the pinnacle of your game. This short story by Steinhauer (heir apparent to John le Carre in the espionage fiction genre) is a foray into a covert CIA action taking place in Rome and Kenya as an agent tries exact personal revenge under Agency auspices. It takes five layers of amazing story-telling to reveal how it happens - from five different POVs - and why it happens at all. All in all, the story is nothing short of amazing. If you've never read Steinhauer before this will hook you. You'll want to read his entire backlist (and I encourage you to read some of his series books). ...more
Book #1 of a new series for middle readers. Pretty scary, actually. Plot synopsis: Alex has always suffered from a mysterious, undiagnosed illness thaBook #1 of a new series for middle readers. Pretty scary, actually. Plot synopsis: Alex has always suffered from a mysterious, undiagnosed illness that kept him from being like normal kids. Homeschooled by his single mom, an Egyptologist at the Met in NYC, his illness may finally be killing him. Until his mother invokes the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. Now Alex is alive and well, but his mother has gone missing and all hell has broken loose in NYC and around the world as the veil between the living and the dead is lifted.
It's up to Alex, his best friend and his mother's trusted companion to try to put things to right again while they also search for his mother.
Non-stop action, good character development, excellent Egyptian history, etc make this perfect for the 8-10 year old range. It was good and scary (scorpions everywhere, mummies coming back to life) and while the story was wrapped up nicely it still left the perfect opening for the next in the series due out in March 2015 (I believe).
Highly recommended to motivate that 2nd-4th grade reader....more
4.5 Stars. Steinhauer's new standalone novel is the incredibly tense tale of two CIA agents, former lovers, one now retired and one still an active ag4.5 Stars. Steinhauer's new standalone novel is the incredibly tense tale of two CIA agents, former lovers, one now retired and one still an active agent. Henry and Celia haven't seen each other in years. Celia has left the Agency life behind and is now a married mother of two living in Carmel, California. Henry never got over her or how she inexplicably up and left both him and the Agency.
It is now years later and Henry is re-investigating the Austrian Air hijacking tragedy case that destroyed he and Celia's relationship and very nearly the CIA station in Austria where they both worked. Celia and Henry meet in a quiet restaurant in Carmel. They both have very different agendas and the night will play out explosively.....
While the book takes place over this dinner in Carmel, the narrative takes us back and forth to Austria and events leading up to the hijacking both from Henry and Celia's points of view. Steinhauer has been lauded as le Carre's successor in espionage fiction and I'm inclined very much to agree. I've enjoyed all of this previous novels but because this is a standalone, I'm disinclined to compare All the Old Knives with those series and just say that this is a marvelous introduction for anyone who hasn't yet read his work. Highly recommended....more
4.5 Stars. Everyone seems to be chattering about Tim Johnston's new thriller DESCENT and for good reason, this is some damn fine writing that doesn't4.5 Stars. Everyone seems to be chattering about Tim Johnston's new thriller DESCENT and for good reason, this is some damn fine writing that doesn't sacrifice either the literary side of things or the thriller side, proving that there are indeed novels that are both gorgeously written while keeping the reader on the edge of their seat for nearly 400 straight pages. Bravo.
Caitlin Courtland is in the full bloom of youth. Eighteen years old, just graduated high school, and getting ready to leave for college in the fall. A track star who lives for running, her graduation gift is a family trip to the Rocky Mountains to train her already honed body to meet even greater competition in college. But Caitlin's golden life is about to change forever.
When she goes up in the mountains for a training run with her younger brother Sean, only Sean is later found. The Courtland family is torn apart at the seams --- what happened to Caitlin?
This may sound like your standard thriller/mystery and all I can do is assure you that it is most assuredly *not.* Because Caitlin is not dead. And the Courtland family is each about to go through their own personal hell, a journey Johnston chronicles meticulously as he builds the tension with each chapter.
Ultimately, there is not one loose end here that isn't tied up and done so admirably - not an easy task in a novel such as this. Each character remains true to their own plot line throughout and this is key, because it builds a novel of such intense believability that the reader has a difficult time putting the book down even for basic tasks like sleeping or eating (gah!).
It's not hard to find good literary fiction out there. It *is* hard to find good lit fic that is also a fine thriller. Seek this one out. ...more