Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Bookshop of Yesterdays (Amy Meyerson)

I have always loved books about bookshops. There's just something so cozy about curling up with one and settling into the story (see Veronica Henry's fabulous How to Find Love in a Bookshop for a great example in this sub-genre). Amy Meyerson's The Bookshop of Yesterdays does not quite give off that cozy feel. There's too much mystery and drama for that, and not all of it fits in well with the story.

Miranda Brooks is a history teacher in Philadelphia living with her boyfriend. But she grew up in California, where she spent a large amount of time in her Uncle Billy's bookshop, Prospero Books. When Miranda turns twelve, Uncle Billy has a fight with Miranda's mother, and Miranda never hears from him again. But when Billy dies many years later, he unexpectedly leaves Miranda the now-almost-bankrupt bookshop, along with a literary scavenger hunt to tell her his secrets.

Throughout the book, I didn't think the characters were fleshed out as much as I would have liked them to be (with the exception of Miranda and her mother). The ending also felt a little flat and unrealistic. And as I said, when I read a book about a bookshop, I love to get that cozy feeling, and I didn't really get that with The Bookshop of Yesterdays. However, if you like your bookshop books to have a little mystery and drama in them, you may just enjoy this one.


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Behind Every Lie (Christina McDonald)

I really enjoyed Christina's McDonald's suspenseful The Night Olivia Fell, so I was excited to read Behind Every Lie. While it didn't pull me in quite as much as the other, I still couldn't wait to find out what would happen.

Eva Hansen wakes up in a hospital, having no memory of being struck by lightning. A detective is also eager to talk to her about something else that happened that same night: the murder of her mother (Kat). Eva cannot remember anything of the tragic incident, but she was found unconscious just down the street. She soon becomes the prime suspect in the case.

Eva flees to London, where her mother is from, to uncover answers to her mother's many secrets and, at the same time, to try to clear her own name. McDonald wisely tells the story in Eva's and Kat's alternating perspectives. And because Eva is suffering from memory loss, the reader finds out what really happened to her mother right when Eva does.

Just like in The Night Olivia Fell, McDonald's writing is again superb, and the story itself is filled with twists and turns. The ending fell a little flat for me, though. Also, in an effort to make the reader feel sympathy for Eva, McDonald throws everything bad she possibly can at her, which in the end, feels unrealistic. But I still love this author's work and will continue to seek it out.


Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Wife Who Knew Too Much (Michele Campbell)

I started reading Michele Campbell back in 2018 when I picked up It's Always the Husband. I found that one very addictive and so I couldn't wait to read her other books as they came out -- She Was the Quiet One and A Stranger on the Beach. I can't say that her thrillers have much of anything new in them, but they are very difficult to put down. This continues in her latest, The Wife Who Knew Too Much.

Long ago, Tabitha Girard and Connor Ford were an item. She worked at the pool at his country club, and he was just rich and handsome. They go their separate ways until, one day, Connor comes back into Tabitha's life as she is waiting tables. He is now unhappily married to filthy rich Nina but wants to stay in the marriage so he can get some of her money. Tabitha and Connor hook up, of course, and when Nina takes her own life, they seem to be free to be together....until the police begin to suspect Nina's death was the result of foul play.

The Wife Who Knew Too Much begins with Nina's diary account of right before she died. This hooks the reader right away. The ending fizzles out a bit, but as is usually the case with books by Michele Campbell, it is awfully fun to get there.


Available July 28, 2020

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Hunger: The Oldest Problem (Martín Caparrós)

Hunger: The Oldest Problem is Martín Caparrós's passionate account of the starving in our world and his take on the causes of hunger -- despite the world producing more than enough food to feed everyone more than necessary. Caparrós originally wrote this book in 2014 in Spanish, with a recent update featuring an edition in English. 

His stories take the reader throughout the globe - including here in the United States -- highlighting accounts of starving within Chicago and organizations that are trying to combat it. The author spends significant amounts of time in Africa and South Asia, where the problems these nations face vary in specific causes but share many common bonds. He also talks about the geopolitics behind the current state of hunger, the corporatism that helps fuel it, and the struggles that over a billion humans face in getting enough to eat on a daily basis. 

Caparrós’s journalism is captivating, and his storytelling is powerfully painted. You sense his frustration at a number of entities and globalism for the state of affairs among the hungry billion. While you may not agree with some of what he advocates, you will certainly empathize with the plight of the hungry and will be left with plenty to contemplate once you finish reading.


Friday, April 17, 2020

You are Not Alone (Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen)

I've been a really big fan of the writing partnership of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. While I preferred their previous books (An Anonymous Girl and The Wife Between Us) more than this one, I was still very engrossed in You are Not Alone.

Shay Miller is the primary narrator, but we also get perspectives from other characters. One day, Shay witnesses a suicide at the subway station and becomes obsessed with finding out more about the woman who died. This brings her into the world of Cassandra and Jane Moore, glamorous sisters who work in public relations. Cassandra and Jane take Shay under their wing, helping her with everything from finding an apartment to getting a makeover to bringing her into their circle of friends. But are these sisters really as nice as they seem or is there an ulterior motive for their kindness?

I found a few plot points and coincidences to be a little far-fetched, but I still raced to the end to find out what would happen. Hendricks and Pekkanen are a talented writing team -- if you're looking for exciting new mysteries, anything by them would be a great choice.


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Imaginary Friend (Stephen Chbosky)

I began reading Stephen Chbosky's Imaginary Friend on January 27 and didn't finish it until April 13. I don't think it was necessarily because the book was 705 pages but because the story simply became boring and repetitive.

Imaginary Friend centers around Christopher, a little boy just seven years old. He leaves an abusive household in the middle of the night with his mother, who is hopeful they can start a new life where they can't be found. The beginning of the book when this is happening sucks you right in. Then, things start to become ridiculous. Christopher gets lost in the woods and goes missing for six days. When he returns, he is a changed boy and needs to get his friends to immediately help him build a treehouse back in the woods. This treehouse becomes central to the plot but not in an interesting way.

The story goes back and forth between an "imaginary" side and the real side and later, its religious overtones are revealed. Through all this, the only characters I really cared about were Christopher and his mother. But it's hard to stay engaged even with them when they are interacting with a white plastic bag, an army of deer, and a "hissing lady." Unfortunately, Imaginary Friend could have been half the length and still not been successful in telling an interesting story.


Monday, April 13, 2020

Tin Man (Sarah Winman)

It's difficult to offer a clear synopsis of Tin Man -- not much seems to be happening, but actually, everything is happening. The main story revolves around only three characters (Ellis, Michael, and Annie), but begins with Dora, Ellis's mother. Dora wins a replica of Van Gogh's Sunflowers painting in a raffle. The importance of that painting comes back throughout the book.

Ellis and Michael are the first to meet when they are young and quickly become best friends, and then more. A decade later, Ellis is married to Annie and Michael has disappeared. Much of Tin Man is about what really happened in the years in-between.

There are so many overarching themes in Tin Man. Among them: love, friendship, loss, grief, and coming to terms with who you really are. I wish that Winman spent more time delving deeper into these themes and spending more time with each character. Instead, this short book is filled with description after description. While the prose is beautiful, I was left not knowing the characters as much I would have liked.