Book Review 46: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

25 Oct

I loved The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, so I was anxious to get read her latest novel. The story alternates back and forth between the present, in Laurel’s lifetime, and her mother Dorothy’s youth. As a young girl, Laurel witnesses her mother kill a stranger. The book unravels the reasons why.

I was anticipating more of a straight mystery, but the book reads more like a thriller. There’s a whole world of disturbing, psychological tension happening during Dorothy’s youth. But you can see how her actions make sense from the perspective of a desperate young girl who wants something more. The story unfolding in Dorothy’s youth was creepy. Her desperation to be special, different, something more was too much.

I found Laurel’s story line to be boring. The present was necessary as a tool to connect to the past, but I really cared about Dorothy and how her story would resolve.

Worth a look if you’re looking for a mystery.

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Book Review 45: The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

24 Oct

*I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book from the Author.*

I have a special place in my heart for Adriana Trigiani’s books. They’re warm, welcoming, family oriented and they simply make you feel good. A little romance, a little over-the-top Italian family drama, some anachronistic professions that feel quaint in the modern world – they’re simple.

This particular book is about Valentine, a shoemaker, who falls in love with Gianluca, her much older leather supplier.  It’s a nice enough story, but it felt a little artificial.  Valentine is constantly worrying – about his age, about whether they should have kids, about her ex who is still present in her life, about where to live. On the one hand, these are issues that need to be worked out before marriage. Continue reading

Book Review 44: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

24 Oct

This book is great and thought provoking on it’s own, but after reading it, I immediately started compulsively reading about Laura Bush.  Very, very loosely based on Laura Bush’s life, American Wife is the story of a young mid-western teacher who happened to marry a rising politician who would go on to become one of the most publicly reviled presidents in history.

The first lady always feels far more like an “icon” than a person.  You get to know the president through their speeches, their actions, what they believe in and what they back down on.  The first lady is more mysterious.  Michelle Obama has bridged a little of that gap, by making herself seem more human and less perfect. I know about her, personally, and not just her role as wife and mother.

Laura Bush was a bit more mysterious. She was reserved, behind the scenes, more of a figurehead than a person. She was like the last bastion of the old first lady – before the internet and instant communication has made the first lady more accessible. This is a book about that kind of first lady.

And it’s fascinating. Continue reading

Book Review 43: Furious Love by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger

24 Oct

Glorious. I am a celebrity gossip enthusiast (to put it mildly). I think there’s a social value to gossip that is under appreciated, and I think that particularly holds true for historical gossip.  Liz Taylor and Richard Burton’s passionate, sordid marriages and affairs jump started the celebrity gossip industry as we know it today. Those iconic photos of them, frolicking on a yacht in Rome, clearly ignoring their marital vows, sparked an entire tabloid industry [pictured]. They lived their lives entirely in the public eye, and the public ate it up. The ups, the downs, the divorce, the remarriage – it was like a real life movie.

And the fascinating thing is that it was real. What you take away from this book is how powerful their connection was. Liz Taylor married many men, and married many men after Burton, but he was it. They were It for each other. They both had their demons – alcohol, food, other women, other men, and ultimately that was what made it impossible for them to be each other.

But days before Burton’s death, he wrote Taylor another love letter. Continue reading

Book Review 42: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

23 Oct

This, like basically every book I read this bar summer, should have been right up my alley. It’s a family drama, centered primarily on brothers Jim and Bob Burgess, both lawyers who leave their small town in Maine to work in NYC. Like all classic brother relationships, their’s is defined by competition, envy, and seemingly opposite world views. And yet it wasn’t my favorite.

Bob’s life has been marked by his constant competition with older, flashier brother Jim. And by a distant tragedy in their family’s past. Bob is always one step behind giving people what they want – his siblings, his ex-wife, his potential love interest, his nephew. He’s “almost” there in so many cases, and he strongly feels how he’s not good enough.

Bob and Jim’s nephew is accused of a hate crime, which ultimately unravels the family. I hate to describe it as an unraveling because it was almost therapeutic. Continue reading

Book Review 41: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

23 Oct

I wish I had reviewed this book early because I found it fascinating.  Jules, Jonah, Ethan and Ash meet at a summer camp for the creative arts.  And they form a group, centered around the fact that they feel that they are the MOST. The most interesting, the most creative, the most unique of the campers.

And as time goes on, they are interesting. Ethan and Ash end up married, and wildly successful, leaving Jules behind. Jules, working as a social worker, giving up on her actress dreams, finds herself jealous of Ethan and Ash. Jonah is a successful engineer, giving up on his musical dreams.

There’s a lot of resentment among friends. As I get into my late twenties, your oldest friends change. They get married, have kids, find astonishing success, or find an astonishing lack of success. There are gaps and cracks in friendship that appear. People judge each other because they feel defensive about their own choices, or honestly jealous of others.  It puts a strain on friendships that no one talks about. Who wants to admit that they’ve outgrown their oldest friend? Or that they’ve changed so substantially that their friendship is no longer meaningful, or special?

No one. Continue reading

Book Review 40: The Reckoning by Jane Casey

22 Oct
*I received this book for free as part of a Goodreads giveaway*
I’ve been sitting on this book for over a year. I received it in May 2012 and didn’t get around to reading it until July 2013. The premise is interesting. There’s a serial killer operating in an Irish town, but he’s only killing pedophiles and suspected pedophiles.  Maeve is the detective assigned to the case and she has a fierce sense of justice.
The book is kind of asking the question that Dexter asks.  If a serial killer is killing victims who society abhors, do we care? Is it still a crime? Maeve thinks it is, but her colleagues disagree. I’m in the Maeve camp. Just because someone is targeting “undesirable” victims, doesn’t make it less of a crime.
There are sufficient twists and turns, including a mafia connection. It was mildly entertaining, but there was a distracting plot about Maeve’s personal life that was simply not compelling.  Continue reading
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