Category Archives: Fiction

Gone Girl

Finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  This is a re-read for book club.

Summary (from Goodreads):

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

I’ve read this before, so this isn’t going to be a straight review.  (To read my review, which is also not really a review, click here.)

In many ways, the book was even better the second time around.  Because I know everything that happens, I was able to savor it more (as opposed to the first time, when I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough).

Also because of this, I’m even more convinced that the book had the perfect ending.

(Spoilers)

Obviously the satisfying ending would be if Nick has been able to kill Amy.  OBVIOUSLY.  But it’s not an honest ending. The whole point of the book is that Amy is an evil genius.  I’m not saying that Nick’s dumb, but he’s definitely not smarter than Amy.  I’m incredibly happy that Gillian Flynn gave us an honest ending.

So if you’re one of the few people who have yet to read this book, you need to fix that.  NOW.

Highly recommended.

The Fever

Finished The Fever by Megan Abbott.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

A chilling story about guilt, family secrets and the lethal power of desire, The Fever affirms Megan Abbot’s reputation as “one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation” (Laura Lippman).”

I absolutely adored this book.  It’s similar thematically to Katherine Howe’s Conversion but they handle it absolutely differently.  Unlike Conversion, this is very straight-forward (no flashbacks to Salem) and also it seems like the mysterious illness takes a backseat at times as we learn about what ELSE is happening in the town.

I loved everything about this book.  The illness was incredibly creepy (moreso because we didn’t know what was going on or why) but even more than that, I love the fact that the story had just as much to do with other things.  This book is amazing.

This is my second Megan Abbott book and I really need to start reading more of hers because I’ve been incredibly impressed both times.

Highly recommended.

One Kick

Finished One Kick by Chelsea Cain.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kick Lannigan, 21, is a survivor. Abducted at age six in broad daylight, the police, the public, perhaps even her family assumed the worst had occurred. And then Kathleen Lannigan was found, alive, six years later. In the early months following her freedom, as Kick struggled with PTSD, her parents put her through a litany of therapies, but nothing helped until the detective who rescued her suggested Kick learn to fight. Before she was thirteen, Kick learned marksmanship, martial arts, boxing, archery, and knife throwing. She excelled at every one, vowing she would never be victimized again. But when two children in the Portland area go missing in the same month, Kick goes into a tailspin. Then an enigmatic man Bishop approaches her with a proposition: he is convinced Kick’s experiences and expertise can be used to help rescue the abductees. Little does Kick know the case will lead directly into her terrifying past…

I’ve read a few of her Gretchen Lowell books and, while I very much enjoyed this book, it didn’t have the visceral reaction for me that those books did.  (That is not a complaint.)

I have this weird fascination with abduction books (fiction ones; I don’t read the nonfiction ones because it feels a little too much like voyeurism) and this is one of my favorites.  The main reason for that is because it deals more with the aftermath than with Kick’s time with her pseudo-parents.  How in the world would you readjust back to normal life?  (If Kick is any indication, the answer is “not well.”)

This is an incredibly fun book and I’m so happy that it’s the first book in a series.  I can’t wait to see what Kick does next.

Recommended.

Desire Lines

Finished Desire Lines by Christina Baker Kline.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Desire Lines is a taut, penetrating new novel filled with psychological suspense, sensitivity, and emotional complexity by the critically acclaimed author of Sweet Water.

On the night of her high school graduation in 1986, Kathryn Campbell’s best friend, Jennifer, vanished without a trace. It’s been ten years since then, but Kathryn still feels the conspicuous void in her life – and the nagging, guilty sense that she has failed her friend.

When a divorce sends Kathryn reeling back to the Maine town where she grew up, the young journalist finds herself face-to-face with her past. At twenty-eight, she’s been living for far too long on memories and questions; now she needs to take a hard look at her own life at the same time that she is delving into the mystery of what happened to her friend.

As she explores the seemingly random series of events that led up to Jennifer’s disappearance, a pattern slowly begins to take shape. All the puzzle pieces are at her fingertips – it’s a matter of whether Kathryn can put them together in a way that makes sense. As she faces her own fear and grief, she is finally able to come to terms with the ways in which the loss of her friend has shaped her life and the lives of those who knew her. In the process, Kathryn realizes that if she is ever going to understand the circumstances of Jennifer’s disappearance, she is going to have to expose herself to the same risks and dangers. Ultimately, Kathryn’s quest to find out the truth becomes a quest to save her own life as she races against time to keep Jennifer’s fate from becoming hers.

I absolutely loved Christina Baker Kline’s most recent release, Orphan Train, so I was incredibly excited to read this book.  (This is an earlier novel that’s been re-released with a book club guide in the back.)

This is an incredibly hard book to describe.  On the one hand, there’s a mystery at the center of it, but on the other, there’s just as much to do with your life after college and how, for the most part, the life you expect to have is nowhere near the life you end up actually having.  (An excellent example of this is the movie The Big Chill.)

I love the idea that this one event has clearly shaped the lives of the rest of Jennifer’s group of friends—which makes sense, because you figure this is probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to any of them (Jennifer disappearing) and which is the better outcome? Either your friend is dead—and probably in a horrible way, given that the body was never found—or she deliberately chose to run away and literally couldn’t care less about the impact that said disappearance had on her family and friends.

It’s not as good as Orphan Train, but this is an incredibly fun read.

Recommended.

Kingston’s Project

Finished Kingston’s Project by Carrie Beckort.  I received a copy for review from the author.

Summary (from Goodreads):

How do you find the strength to embrace a future that’s different than the one you planned?

For Sarah Mitchell, the answer is simple—you don’t. For two years, Sarah has shut herself off from most of the world around her. She needs to move on, but doesn’t know how to begin.

Unexpectedly, Sarah is presented with an opportunity that could change everything. Elijah Kingston, her firm’s largest client, wants her to lead a highly confidential assignment. When Sarah learns the shocking nature of Kingston’s project, she is torn between Elijah’s promise of healing and her fear of falling deeper into despair.

Kingston’s Project is a poignant story about the effects of grief and the loss of hope. Can Sarah find happiness again, or is the hold from her fear and guilt too strong to break free?”

I think this was the perfect time for me to read this book.  My best friend and I have the macabre joke that we would each take a gold medal if grieving were considered an Olympic sport.  Turns out, though,  Sarah has us both beat.

She lost her husband and two-year-old son in a tragic car accident and now, two years later, she’s just starting to surface from grief.  (And even now, she’s not doing all that well.)  So when she has a chance to go to Colorado and manage a new, top secret project, she’s not entirely sure it’s a good idea but her best friend convinces her to accept unless there’s a major reason not to.

I would’ve considered the type of project Elijah has in mind to be the worst idea ever, but Sarah accepts.  And it’s a good thing she does, because this is an amazing, heartwarming book.  I don’t want to say too much about it, because seeing Sarah start to become herself again is not something to spoil.  But you want to read this book.

I’m happy that there’s a sequel.  You probably aren’t surprised to know that I’ve already bought it and I hope to read it soon.

Highly recommended.

The Book of Unknown Americans

Finished The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own.

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel’s recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they’ve pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles. At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamà fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she’s sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American. An instant classic is born.”

Oh, you guys, this book.

I have had this for a little while and while I am a little mad at myself for not having read it sooner, it was definitely interesting reading this with all of the current news about the immigrant children who have nowhere to stay and who may or may not be sent back to their homes in Central America.  (Note: the immigrants in this book all came here legally.)

The book takes place in Delaware, which I mention because I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, so many of the things mentioned are very familiar to me and gave me little pangs of homesickness.  (Grotto’s Pizza, I love you.)

But even beyond that, this book is perfect.  It starts out a little slowly, but that’s mostly setting the stage and showing what it’s like to be in this new country where you don’t speak the language—I can’t even imagine the insane amount of culture shock—and it shows just how welcoming some of the residents are.

Once it gets going, however, I was completely sucked in.  I loved seeing Maribel and Mayor start to fall for each other, and I was heartbroken when their parents didn’t want them to see each other.  (Maribel has a brain injury and, as the synopsis says, Mayor is able to see who she is beyond that—her parents and teachers and everyone now has a tendency to treat her with kid gloves and like she’s not capable of anything.  Mayor treats her like he would treat anyone else that he’s starting to fall in love with.)

This book is absolutely perfect and I need everyone to read it.

Highly recommended.

Dead Man’s Folly

Finished Dead Man’s Folly by Agatha Christie.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

While organizing a murder mystery game for a village festival, an inescapable feeling of dread settles on crime novelist Adriane Oliver. In desperation, she summons her old friend Hercule Poirot. Her instincts are proved correct when the ‘pretend’ victim is discovered with an all-too-real rope wrapped around her neck. The two sleuths soon discover that in murder hunts, whether mock or real, everyone is playing a part.”

This is my second Agatha Christie novel and my first Hercule Poirot novel.  While I definitely preferred And Then There Were None, I enjoyed this one, as well.

The aspect of this book that intrigued me the most is the idea of just how susceptible we can be to other people and their motives.  Ariadne (or Adriane, in the synopsis) admits that her own ideas for the original murder were different, in terms of where the murder would be committed and who the victim would be, but because several people “helped her brainstorm” (or “completely butted in,” depending on your point of view), the changes were made.  This isn’t a major point of the novel, but it’s certainly interesting to think about.

I was able to guess part of the reveal but not all of it.  (This isn’t really germane to my review, but I don’t mind giving myself partial shout outs when I can.)

I only have one more Agatha Christie book to read for the readalong (The Monogram Murders, which is a new release and is “Agatha Christie” as written by Sophie Hannah.  I haevn’t read any of her books, either, but I have heard amazing things.)

Recommended.

Now to the Discussion Questions!

  1. Both Ariadne and Mrs. Folliat hint to Poirot of an evil lurking at Nasse House. Why do you think Poirot cared to listen to the warnings, instead of chalking it up to empty suspicions?  I think in general he’s a suspicious person.  Also, when two different people warn you about something—especially when one is someone you know—you tend to listen.
  2. Throughout Poirot’s investigation he was so close to uncovering the truth. What were some of the clues he couldn’t decipher along the way?  The one that stuck with me the most was when he was told that there was always a Folliat living in the main house.
  3. The Chief Constable, Inspector Bland and Ariadne all doubted if Poirot could solve this mystery towards the end. Do you think Poirot himself was starting to give up?  I don’t think so.  I think he had unlimited faith in himself.
  4. Do you think Mrs. Folliat should be held legally accountable for her son’s actions? Does her lack of action make her guilty?  I think these are two different questions.  I don’t think she can be held legally accountable, but I definitely think she’s ethically accountable.
  5. In the book, Sir George (a.k.a. James Folliat) was not overly painted as an evil, murderous person; however, in the TV episode his sinister traits were apparent towards the end. Do you think Sir George was inherently capable of performing multiple murders? Or, do you think he was caught in a spiral of deceit that he would stop at nothing to protect?  Obviously he was capable.  I think he probably would’ve gone through his life without murdering anyone, but in this case he felt he had to.  I think he was trying to keep things from spiraling but they kept getting out of control.
  6. Lady Stubbs was described as “subhuman” from the beginning. Did you suspect her of being anything but what she claimed to be?  I did, but then I suspect everyone.  The fact that some people thought she was dumb but others didn’t was a pretty big tip-off for me.  (Generally, we all agree when someone’s dumb; the fact that there were some alternate opinions made me think that maybe she let some people see a different side of herself, either on purpose or by mistake.)
  7. Supporting character development played a big role in the novel and was only touched upon in the TV version. Do you think the relationship between architect Michael and Mr. and Mrs. Legge was pivotal to the plot or served as background filler?  I feel like a lot of the supporting character development wasn’t really pivotal, per se, but it helped me enjoy the novel more.  Does that make sense? Having an idea of how everyone related to each other helped me stay in the story, for lack of a better phrase.
  8. There were some major plot differences between the TV rendering and Christie’s book. What were they? How did you feel about them?  I haven’t watched the TV episode yet but have DVRed it.  I will come back to this. :)

The Matchmaker

Finished The Matchmaker by Elin Hildebrand.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A touching new novel from Elin Hilderbrand in which a dying woman sets out to find love for those closest to her – before it’s too late

Dabney Kimball Beech, the 48-year-old fifth generation Nantucketer, has had a lifelong gift of matchmaking (52 couples still together to her credit). But when Dabney discovers she is dying of pancreatic cancer, she sets out to find matches for a few people very close to home: her husband, celebrated economist John Boxmiller Beech; her lover journalist Clendenin Hughes; and her daughter, Agnes, who is engaged to be married to the wrong man.

As time slips away from Dabney, she is determined to find matches for those she loves most – but at what cost to her own relationships? THE MATCHMAKER is the heartbreaking new novel from Elin Hilderbrand about losing and finding love, even as you’re running out of time.”

This was my first Elin Hilderbrand, but it’s my understanding that she’s one of those authors that has a huge, HUGE fan base.

When I started it, I thought the book was fine—certainly entertaining, but nothing amazing.  I’m not entirely sure when it changed, but at some point, I absolutely fell in love with the book.

I loved Dabney and the idea that she was this major matchmaker who had a 100% success rate, even though people didn’t really believe that she had a gift.  And I loved her daughter (who had the unfortunate name of Agnes) and the men in her life, Box and Clen.  (Oh, Clen.  And I’m not entirely sure why but I kept picturing him as Clark Gable.  This might have something to do with Dabney’s fondness for old movies or it might just be some weird quirk in my brain.)

(Trigger warning: pay attention to the part in the synopsis where the word “heartbreaking” is used.  That is not a joke.)

Recommended.

Big Little Lies

Finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .

A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.   But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.   New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.”

I absolutely loved this book!  It seems like every time I read a Liane Moriarty book, it’s better than the one I read before it; she’s definitely a must-read author of mine. I’ve also bought her backlist but haven’t had a chance to read those books yet (but soon!).

I love the way that the story unfolds gradually and that quotes from other parents are interspersed in the chapters.  It definitely added to the feeling of trying to figure out what was going on.  (I was also so afraid that one of the characters I loved would be the one that ended up dead.  Obviously I’m not going to confirm/deny that, but there was a definite tension for me while I was reading this.)

I love that her characters aren’t perfect.  I love Madeline but she has a temper and holds grudges (we would be best friends).  The fact that they’re flawed makes them seem much more human and much more identifiable.

Highly recommended.

Virgin

Finished Virgin by Radhika Sanghani.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Okay, I admit it…I didn’t do it.

Yet.

This is normal, right?  I mean, just because everyone I know has talked like they’ve already done it doesn’t mean that they’re telling the truth…right?

It’s not like I’m asking for that much. I don’t need the perfect guy. I don’t need candlelight or roses. Honestly, I don’t even need a real bed.

The guys I know complain that girls are always looking for Mr. Right—do I have to wear a sign that says I’m only looking for Mr. Right Now?

Sooooo…anyone out there want sex? Anyone? Hello? Just for fun?

I am not going to die a virgin. One way or another I am going to make this happen.

Hey, what have I got to lose? Besides the obvious.”

I wanted so much to enjoy this book and I just couldn’t do it.

I expected to be able to empathize with Ellie because (true confessions time!) I lost my virginity at 20, a week before my 21st birthday.  I didn’t really feel like a freak, as Ellie does, but I was also one of the last people I knew to have sex.

Basically, I was just left very underwhelmed by this book.  I didn’t get a huge sense of Ellie as a person; it just seemed like all she wanted to do was have sex—and not because sex was great, but because she felt like the literal last virgin in the world.

Radhika Sanghani is definitely a good writer and (depending on what her next book is about) I would probably read something else by her.

It seems like a lot of people did enjoy it, though, so if you’re interested, definitely judge for yourself.