Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters)

Like the Energizer Bunny, Sarah Waters's The Paying Guests just keeps going and going and going. I usually enjoy this author's books a lot, and that was especially true of The Little Stranger and the mindboggling Fingersmith. Unfortunately, The Paying Guests is just not on the same level.

Frances and her mother are living in London in 1922 after the war. Financial difficulties cause them to have to take in two lodgers, Leonard and Lillian Barber. Frances soon finds herself deeply caught up in this couple's troubles, with tragic consequences she never saw coming.

The Paying Guests should work on paper. It has all the elements that make a story page-turning: beautiful writing (what Waters is known for), interesting characters, a love affair or two, a serious crime, and deception. However, if I'm going to commit to 564 pages, I need some sort of payoff at the end. I didn't feel any sense of satisfaction when I finished this one; what I felt was that the author left me hanging.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Is Capitalism Obsolete? (Giacomo Corneo)

Giacomo Corneo's Is Capitalism Obsolete? is a journey through various economic systems to figure out if there is a better one than capitalism. Corneo places this discussion in the context of Europe, and much of his book focuses on European economics. This means if you are looking for a thorough discussion of American economic policy, don't expect a very deep dive into those waters. However, you will find a discussion that is relevant to the broader global discussion of globalism, us versus them, Brexit, and other hot political topics and how economic and financial inequality fuels much of the current landscape.

Corneo's book discusses several different economic philosophies, much of which is wrapped in political theory as well as economic, coming to the conclusion that the faults of each of these various systems are greater than the faults of modern capitalism. Landing back at capitalism, Corneo suggests various political and economic reforms to "fix" the broken system. Some of the fixes (transparency in politics) make a lot of sense; others (greater usage of direct democracy) likely would need some discussion given referendums and voter initiatives have left a mixed legacy in many locations. He also suggests some government involvement in corporations, including ownership in stock, as a means to help ease economic inequality, tying in universal dividends to citizens as a means of providing additional income. Corneo breezes through corporate power and influence in government without suggesting fixes to curb and limit the lobbyist influence, which is a several billion dollar industry in America. The book's European focus lends much to the outcomes and suggestions he offers.

Is Capitalism Obsolete? is an interesting read. I don't agree with all of the fixes or suggestions, but there is a fair amount of evidence and data to back up the suggestions that Corneo makes. It also isn't a book that will provide a heavy dose of reform in American circles, but for those looking at what is going on elsewhere, it will provide a useful commentary.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Red Queen (Victoria Aveyard)

In May 2018, Victoria Aveyard concluded her Red Queen series with the publication of War Storm. I don't usually read the young adult genre, but I kept hearing about this series so I took Book #1 (Red Queen) on vacation. I definitely had mixed feelings about it; however, I seem to be in the minority here because of its plethora of young (and older) fans.

Main character Mare Barrow lives in a nightmare world. She is a Red (due to the color of her blood), living in the poverty-stricken Stilts with her family. The Reds are ruled by the Silvers, who each have superpowers such as reading minds and creating fire. One day, Mare is called to the Silver Palace and discovers that she has a superpower of her own. This fact causes much chaos, many secrets, and ultimately, dark tragedy as she enters the world of the Silver Royals.

At times, Red Queen is a real page-turner and had me completely enthralled. But there were quite a few parts that I felt went on endlessly. The writing is very well done, so I will certainly give this book a higher rating on my scale. However, I didn't quite care enough about the characters to continue on with the series.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Last Time I Lied (Riley Sager)

Author Riley Sager had a big hit last year with Final Girls, and now he returns with the equally thrilling The Last Time I Lied. While I found the plot slow and meandering at times, as a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed Sager's newest book.

Fifteen years ago, Emma Davis spent a summer at Camp Nightingale. She was the youngest camper in her cabin, sharing it with friends Vivian, Natalie, and Allison. One fateful night, the three of them disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. In present day, Emma is a promising artist when she is contacted by the camp's old director telling her that the camp is being reopened. Emma is asked to come back to teach art, and she wants to use this opportunity to find out once and for all what really happened to her friends. But incredibly, another mysterious incident comes about, and Emma is looked on with suspicion once again
As I mentioned, some of the narrative really meanders as the reader races to the conclusion. But the actual ending makes up for that. The best types of books are those that totally surprise you, and this finale definitely did. I never saw that one coming!


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

I Let You Go (Clare Mackintosh)

I am always on the lookout for books with great twists. I actually prefer to know if a book has a twist before I begin reading it. Then I can have fun trying to guess what it is throughout. Clare Mackintosh's I Let You Go appears on many "Books With a Twist" lists, and I can honestly say that I NEVER saw this one coming.

There's not much I can say here without giving anything away. This is what I'll tell you: The lead character, Jenna Gray, is living a nightmare and escapes to a remote village where everyone knows everybody else. She finds love there, but eventually, as it always does, her past comes back to haunt her in a big way.

That is the absolute most I can tell you without spoiling anything. The twist and ending are magnificent, but I Let You Go is also a powerful tale of grief, guilt, and unimaginable horror.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Guess Who (Chris McGeorge)

Filled with a few surprises and interesting twists, Chris McGeorge's debut Guess Who has as its core a  fresh plotline that you don't read about every day.

Ever since he solved a murder when he was the tender age of 11, Morgan Shepperd has become a star detective on TV, figuring out such Jerry Springer type cases like "Who's the father?" He lives a famous life, but a shallow one, filled with lies, drinking, and harmful substances. He wakes up one day drugged in a hotel room, only he's not alone -- five complete strangers are also waking up at the same time, and worse, they soon discover a corpse in the bathtub. A mysterious figure tells Morgan that someone in the room is the killer, and it is up to Morgan to solve the crime in three hours or the hotel will be blown up.

It sounds implausible, and it probably is, but that doesn't mean it's not a page-turner. The ending to me felt a little ridiculous, which is why I gave Guess Who a 3 rating, but I did greatly enjoy the process of getting there.


Friday, May 11, 2018

When Life Gives You Lululemons (Lauren Weisberger)

Emily Charlton was always one of my favorite characters in Lauren Weisberger's megahit The Devil Wears Prada. I also loved Emily Blunt's portrayal of her in the movie: the sass, the snark, the eye rolls, etc. However, in When Life Gives You Lululemons, Weisberger's latest Prada novel, Emily is written so one-note and shallow that she becomes practically a different character, at least in my eyes.

Lululemons takes readers into the very uppity lives of its three main characters living in Greenwich, Connecticut. Emily, as we know, is Miranda Priestly's ex-assistant, who has reinvented herself as an image consultant to the stars. Karolina Hartwell needs Emily desperately, as she is a supermodel married to a senator and currently going through the aftermath of a DUI arrest. Miriam is friends with both of them, and up until recently had a very successful law career, but moved to Connecticut to stay at home with her children.

Unfortunately, I found myself not particularly liking any of the characters this time. From Karolina and her arrest to Miriam and her husband, each successive plot event became more and more unbelievable. I do realize that Weisberger's books are meant to be escapist, but they do need to have some semblance of reality. I did enjoy the appearances by the fabulous Miranda, but they were too few and far between.