Book Related Topics, Fiction, Mystery, thriller

Book Review : A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

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“And in the end, wasn’t that the key to marriage? Learning to pretend that a few unspoiled things could make up for all the broken ones.”

Lizzie Kitsakis just started working at the prestigious Young and Crane law firm when she gets a call from an old friend, Zach Grayson, from Rikers prison desperately asking for her help. His wife, Amanda, has just been found dead on the floor of their Brooklyn brownstone and he’s the primary suspect. Until recently Lizzie had been a happily underpaid prosecutor with a devoted husband but everything has come crashing down around her. She delves into investigating who could have murdered Amanda, the close knit group that surrounds the couple in Brooklyn who all seem to be hiding secrets of their own and she has to figure out which of these secrets is worth committing murder for.

“Forgiveness is a side effect of love,” he said finally. And sadly, almost. “If you are going to be married, share the ups and downs of life. What other choice is there?”

This is an impressive slow burn of a book. The author starts off building her characters’ backstories and letting us into their lives. We get two different points of view – one from Lizzie as she gets Zach’s call and starts investigating the murder and secondly, from Amanda as we get a countdown of the events that lead up to the murder. The chapters alternate between these two characters so if you don’t like that plot narrative device in a book, this one might not be for you. Even though the book started out slow and built to a crescendo, I never thought for a second it was boring. It was intriguing from the very first page.

“That’s the hardest part about marriage, isn’t it?” Zach went on. “Somebody else’s problems become your own. It doesn’t always feel fair.”

This book was full of twists and turns and none of it was silly but none of it was mind blowing either. It is sprinkled with a lot of deceit, false starts and dead ends but you never feel like the author is toying with your sense of believe. Even though I didn’t see a lot of the twists coming, they just made me go – “oh, ok, I can see that being true”, there wasn’t a huge Gone Girl twist which I loved. I’m tired of every thriller on earth trying to have a huge twist at the end just to cash in on that Gone Girl popularity. Also, I could not guess the killer which is very important to me and this is the fact that kept me reading, I just needed to know who killed Amanda. I read this book all in one day and didn’t go to bed till I was finished.

“I’d been so foolish to think love could change the essential nature of anything.”

After every few chapters, the book presents you with a transcript of a grand jury testimony containing several interviews between witnesses and the prosecutor building the case against Zach. I found these transcripts to be unnecessary and stopped reading them after the first couple installments, just started skipping them. They added nothing to the plot. Also, honestly, the ending was lackluster. Even though I didn’t guess the killer, I still felt oddly unsatisfied. I wanted someone more instrumental to the plot. Anyway, this book is very readable and even though it starts off slow, it still managed to be a big page turner. Gave this 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

 

“There is exquisite lightness in waking each morning with the knowledge that the worst has already happened.”

The publisher’s blurb tells you virtually nothing about what this book is about. In fact, the first 50 pages leave you wondering where Mandel is going with this one. Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass hotel on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. Jonathan sweeps Vincent up into a world of wealth and greed. At the heart of this book is a Ponzi scheme and the financial collapse of 2009 which makes this even more of a sobering read, now that the stock market is crashing and recession looms.

If you intend to pick up this book because you loved Station Eleven, bear in mind that the subject matters are nothing alike. But the way the books are written is actually quite similar. Mandel has a way with words, every single sentence matters and is important. This book is a real puzzle with pieces scattered all over the different chapters and they all come together at some point to make a full picture.

“Leon hadn’t understood, and he’d given Alkaitis his retirement savings anyway. He didn’t insist on a detailed explanation. One of our signature flaws as a species: we will risk almost anything to avoid looking stupid. The strategy had seemed to adhere to a certain logic, even if the precise mechanics–puts, calls, options, holds, conversions–swam just outside of his grasp. ‘Look,’ Alkaitis had said, at his warmest and most accommodating, ‘I could break it all down for you, but I think you understand the gist of it, and at the end of the day the returns speak for themselves”

The characters in this book are genuinely unlikeable characters. They are opportunists, grabbing whatever life offers them at the expense of so many people while convincing themselves that they are not monsters. The way Mandel writes about the people who are affected when the ponzi scheme finally collapses is heart wrenching. People losing their homes, their retirements, pensions, working well into their 70’s just to survive, losing houses, etc. It’s also fascinating how people never question things that are too good to be true, there was always a feeling that something wasn’t right but those feelings were brushed aside.

This is an effortless read. I adored the writing. Mandel makes sure all her characters have layers, you start to feel like you know these people, you imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes and your heart breaks when theirs does too. This book is weirdly beautiful for a finance book and even if you’re not at all interested in finance (which i’m not), it still captures you from beginning to end. I gave this book 4 stars because even though I loved it the last 50 pages just dragged on for me, I didn’t need everything wrapped up that much. Still a very compelling novel. I definitely recommend.

 

Have you read this one? Will it be making it on your TBR?

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics

Is It The Book I Hate…Or The Character(s)?

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Think of a book you really don’t like. Now think of a book that you don’t like that EVERYBODY seems to love. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is that book for me. I read this book a few years ago and absolutely hated it. It was recommended to me by a friend and it was back in the day when I had not learned the art of dropping a book if I did not like it.

If you didn’t know,  I found out early on that I seem to have a problem with books with British protagonists. They are just never likable and I don’t know why. So from jump I was struggling with the book but powered through as mentioned above. By the end of the book I was annoyed, irritated and very relieved that I was done with the book.

To my chagrin, this book is a beloved one. I kept reading rave reviews about it, it was on every list imaginable. In fact, much to my chagrin before Covid19 struck, this book could almost always be found in every airport bookstore bestseller bookshelf – regardless of country.

Every time I see this book or someone tells me how they just “read this book that I really loved”, I’d roll my eyes and want to understand exactly what it is they loved. At some point, I took the time out to wonder what I was missing and what it is exactly I don’t like about the book.

One day, after giving my response for the 100th time as to why I didn’t like the book – I just couldn’t stand Eleanor. I took a step back and wondered if you don’t like a character in a book does that automatically make it a bad book or is it the reverse where it has been written so well that you have intense feelings of dislike for a fictional character? Do your characters have to be likeable to qualify a book as good?

While it definitely affects your enjoyment of the book, I want to say no. I’d like to think that you can separate the meat of a book and its writing from the likeability level of a main character. Book that comes to mind is A Little Lie. I found the main character very frustrating but I wouldn’t say I hated the book (although Leggy did so hmm) I think it was written well enough and the characters were fully fleshed out. On the flip side, I also don’t think I have ever described any of the aforementioned British chick lit books with annoying protagonists as “a good book”

So I pose the question to you, can you hate the main character or characters in a book and still think of it as a good book or does the intense dislike color your feelings towards the book?

Taynement

 

Book Related Topics, Fiction

Book Review : Writers and Lovers by Lily King

Writers & Lovers

“I squat there and think about how you get trained early on as a woman to perceive how others are perceiving you, at the great expense of what you yourself are feeling about them. Sometimes you mix the two up in a terrible tangle that’s hard to unravel.”

Blindsided by her mother’s sudden death, Casey is devastated. She’s 31, broke, riddled with anxiety and trying to finish writing a book she started 6 years ago. This is in fact a coming of age story except our protagonist is 31 and has had a long wild youth immersed in creative pursuits and spontaneous love affairs that leave her mostly broken. She’s now at the cusp of selling her novel and finds herself in the middle of a love triangle trying to decide between her love interests.

I think as more people read this book, the reviews are going to be a mixed bag. I really wanted to love this one, I chose it as my Book of the Month pick and even the title called to me. I think the author is good at slice of life novels but a lot of this book still completely underwhelmed me. I never connected with Casey, I didn’t like or dislike her but I found some of her decision making process to be extremely lacking. Some of the decisions she made that got her to the point of being a 31 year old server riddled in debt was atrocious to say the least. The way she let emotions and men drive so much of her life was quite appalling.

“I can tell he lost someone close somehow. You can feel that in people, an openness, or maybe it’s an opening that you’re talking into. With other people, people who haven’t been through something like that, you feel the solid wall. Your words go scattershot off of it.”

There was so much about her family that could have been explored that King just flies pass through. Her father was a pervert who lost his job for spying on young girls in their locker rooms and that was never deeply explored. Her mother left her father for a younger dying man and that also just didn’t get as much light in the story.

I would have preferred a slightly different book as Casey’s current life really didn’t have that much of an appeal to me and her love interests were a bit lack luster for that to really draw me into the story. This book is completely internal and largely takes place in Casey’s head, we see everything through her eyes, it’s really hard to write a compelling and readable story that has this format. This is a character driven book so if you need a strong plot to enjoy a book, this will not be the one for you.

“It’s a particular kind of pleasure, of intimacy, loving a book with someone.”

That being said, I enjoyed King’s writing style. She has a lot of great lines about being a woman and struggling with achieving within the creative space. I think she succinctly captures that stage in our lives where we’re feeling unmoored with deep anxiety about getting our lives together, torn between achieving stability especially financially and pursuing our passion.

A lot of Casey’s friends gave up pursuit of the literary life and just went to grad school or law school to be able to make an actual living. This book picked up half way and ended on a happy note which made me happy and excited for Casey. I really enjoyed a lot of the witty conversations between the characters especially with one of her love interests’ children. King gives us a glimpse of the end of a long youth and I left the book feeling satisfied with the state of the characters’ lives when the book ends.

If you enjoy character driven books, you should definitely pick this one up. I’m also going to pick up her previous novel, Euphoria because I’ve heard a lot of good things about that one as well. Have you read this one? Are you going to? I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, We Chit Chat, Young Adult

We Chit Chat -Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Trust Exercise

“Thoughts are often false. A feeling’s always real. Not true, just real”

Plot: In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes while dealing with teenage issues and predatory teachers. 12 years later, they look back on their lives in this performing arts high school and try to dissect what actually happened to them there.

Taynement: It’s been a while since we had a chitchat. We ended up with Trust Exercise because I was seeing it win so many awards

Leggy: You know, I went into this book without reading any description whatsoever because you picked it. I was like Taynement likes plot driven books so this will be good.

Taynement: Ah, is that a first for you? Going in blind, I mean.

Leggy: It’s not a first but I usually read plot blurbs before I pick a book to read, just to see if it’s my cup of tea.

Taynement: Ah okay. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I went in completely blind

Leggy: I kept reading it and when I got to the 20% mark on my kindle, I had to go see what the book was supposed to be about. I just wasn’t getting any consistent plot.

Taynement: I think this was my thought for the entire book. I see what the main theme was but man, it did NOT work for me.

Leggy: I truly thought I was going to give this book 1 star. The beginning just didn’t work for me at all. The middle I liked more when the voice switched to Karen’s. I thought Karen had a stronger voice and point of view than Sarah.

Taynement: So I did this on audio and with each switch I wondered what I missed. It took me a minute to get back into the groove and realize the story switched and it honestly confused me.

Leggy: Karen is the only voice that worked for me and the reason for my one additional star. I thought this book could have been so much more but it’s very obvious it was written for awards. This book was a freaking Pulitzer finalist.

Taynement: The thing is if this book had the main goal of highlighting sexual assault or predators I think it did a piss poor job. I think my issue with this book was it tried to be smarter than itself and ended up all over the place.

Leggy: That’s exactly what I mean by it was written for the awards.

Taynement: I was so confused by their teacher’s story line. I thought it was borderline abuse and predatory but it was so vague I couldn’t tell if it actually was or if it was normal in the theater world. I’m referring to when he made Sarah and David reenact their breakup.

Leggy: I guess the theme seems to be that no one knows what exactly “truth” is. We’re all locked into our own points of view. Everybody has a spin. Sarah and Karen and David all lived the same things but came out of it with completely different views. David became friends with his abuser. Sarah is mad when she sees Mr. Kingsley at David’s show and wonders how David can be friends with him. Sarah portrays Mr. Kingsley as gay but Claire portrays him as extremely straight and masculine.

Taynement: Oooh, that’s an angle I can see. I really do not think this book should be done on audio. I was so disinterested by the characters, I just went through the motions of finishing the book.

Leggy: I think it shows the effects of grooming. They were all being groomed by Mr. Kingsley. In her retelling, Sarah makes Kingsley gay and invents Manuel as a character he was molesting. But then in the second part, Karen tells us it was actually Sarah Mr. Kingsley was having a “special” relationship with. And then Martin grooming Sarah and getting her pregnant. It’s all rife with abuse, different points of view and the subjectivity of truth. But my thing with this book is okay, so what’s the point?

Taynement: Yeah it never really wrapped things up in a clear manner. So you feel like you’re taking this journey and taking in the scenery but you never get to any destination.

Leggy: For such a popular book it barely has 3 stars on good reads. Ordinarily, I enjoy unreliable narrators and narratives and I do think this will make a good book club pick to discuss the subjectivity of truth and what actually happened to those kids in high school but I don’t think it was executed well.

If I wasn’t reading this for a chitchat, I would have dropped it after the first 50 pages. I found the first part of this book overwritten with these huge emotions and I understand that those emotions seemed so huge because they were teenagers. But if you’re going to write from an omniscient point of view and not a first person, then it’s just over written.

Anyway, this book is more fun to discuss with your book people than it is to actually read. My advice? Skip this one. I gave this 2 stars on good reads.

Taynement: The execution was shoddy. I agree, skip it!

 

Leggy & Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fiction

Book Review: Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Dear Edward

“There was no reason for what happened to you, Eddie. You could have died; you just didn’t. It was dumb luck. Nobody chose you for anything.”

Twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles which tragically crashes leaving Edward as the sole survivor. Now living with his aunty and uncle, Edward struggles to make sense of whatever life he has left while trying to heal physically, emotionally and mentally. Along with the devotion of his aunty and uncle, Edward develops an unconventional relationship with a neighbor his age called Shay who offers him honesty and friendship. This story follows Edward’s coming of age journey, as he copes with the aftermath of the crash. The author was inspired by a true life story of a plane crash that occurred in 2010. The plane was going from South Africa to London when it crashed, killing everyone on board except a 9 year old boy.

Traveling back and forth, the book toggles between the incidents on the plane and Edward’s life post crash. I did not enjoy this set up at all. At first, it was interesting but after a while it just came off as trauma porn. We all know these people are going to die, it’s on the blurb, so following every thought and hope they had for themselves got exhausting after a while.

Also, every passenger on the plane was just a caricature and the author employed every stereotype in the book. There’s a leering young business man, a flight attendant who is a sexy tease, a closeted gay soldier, a ruthless old business man who’s been married more times than he can count, a woman who finds out she’s pregnant while on the flight (I’m sorry but who takes a pregnancy test on a plane?). Every one of these stories felt gimmicky especially because none of these stories had anything to do with the crash or Edward, so they just felt unnecessary.

I went into this book expecting a heart wrenching read but for some reason, I didn’t connect with this book at all. There wasn’t much of a story. Even Edward’s life post crash was underwhelming. I did not connect with Edward. I felt bad but I found him extremely annoying. I waited and waited for something poignant to happen, for a switch to occur, for Edward to do something with his life but nothing happens.

We follow Edward from 12 till he goes off to college at 18 and he never does anything. I just don’t understand the people who were ugly crying at this book. Edwards lacks a sense of self and depth. The character of the therapist he sees for most of his life felt pointless as they never explored anything of value that added anything to the book. This could have been a great way to explore Edward’s emotional life but it just didn’t happen. Even the lives of the people in his life were not explored. His aunt and uncle’s marriage problems were just mentioned in passing, the fact that they couldn’t have kids was mentioned then abandoned, his aunty’s grief at losing her only sister was also mentioned in passing.

Trauma and healing are nuanced topics that require a delicate hand and deep understanding. Sadly, this author missed the mark on this. I know I’m in the minority with this review. Everyone loved this one. I didn’t. This book started slow, continued slow and ended slow. All the characters were strangers to me and lacked depth. Maybe I’m heartless but this book was a bore to read. I gave this 2 stars on my good reads.

Leggy.

Book Related Topics

I Said I Like It Like That: My Favorite Reading Genres

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I have been reading for as long as I can remember but it wasn’t till late last year that I came to peace with the genres I like and don’t like. Leggy has been encouraging me to pick up the life hack of dropping a book when I don’t like it. Putting that into practice, I began to notice patterns, a lot of the dropped books were romance novels. As you all know, I go into many books blind and once I get into it and notice it’s a boy meets girl novel, my heart sinks. I also noticed that it required all my energy and electrolytes to settle into fantasy/sci fi books.

Anyways, I took a dive into the books I enjoyed and narrowed down my favorite genres.

*SPOILER ALERT* the picture above gives it away.

Fiction: 95% of my reading life consists of pure fiction. I love how dynamic this genre is. How the story and the characters could be anything and anywhere in any direction the author chooses. It especially hits when you read a book that is fictional but feels so real (See: Beartown or American Marriage). This is also the genre for good ol’ quotables and I love a book with quotes for days.

Biography: I found this out about myself last year when I realized I had read quite a number of them. I am not quite sure what that means, I like the tea? hehe. No but seriously, I think memoirs give the opportunity to see what makes a person tick and in the case of celeb memoirs I find it interesting to see what their perspective was on an incident that might have been public fodder. I especially like when a memoir is open, honest, tells us things we did not know before and the author seems to have learned from their experience.

New Fiction: How is this different from Fiction you may be asking? There is not much of a difference but I wanted to note that I am a New Fiction release whore. Not a lot of my reading life consists of back list titles. I am sucker for the new and shiny. I get on the wait list in my library when I see titles around. I have huge FOMO and I always want to be part of the conversation when it comes to buzz worthy books. Also, walking through the bookstores and going through that section gives me a thrill.

That’s my summary on the genres that make me tick in my reading life. I do want to do better and every year I say I’d like to be as diverse in genres as Leggy is but I have to accept that maybe it isn’t in the cards for me. I’ll let you know if anything changes.

How about you? What are your favorite genres to read?

Taynement