Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Book of Speculation (Erika Swyler)

I'm not quite sure how I feel after just finishing Erika Swyler's The Book of Speculation.  On the one hand, I thought her writing was beautifully descriptive and exceptional at making me picture the joint stories in my mind. On the other hand, I didn't feel any sort of connection to the characters, which made the ultimate knowledge of their fates a little unsatisfying to me.

The Book of Speculation weaves two different narratives together, and Swyler does this very well.  In present day, Simon Watson is a librarian living by himself on Long Island Sound; his parents are both deceased, with his mother having committed suicide by drowning, and his sister Enola travels with a carnival as a tarot card reader. On the verge of losing both his job and his house (as it is crumbling and about to go over the bluff), he receives an old book in the mail out of the blue.  This book tells a story hundreds of years old of Amos and Evangeline, two young performers in a traveling circus.  Simon wonders why his grandmother's name appears in the book and why so many women in his family drown on the same day.  Will the book provide the answers?

As both narratives raced to their conclusions, I was disappointed by the payoff (or lack thereof), and as I stated, the lack of connection I felt with any of the characters.  However, that doesn't make the process of getting there any less fun.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Summer Secrets (Jane Green)

I'm always up for the latest Jane Green novel, as I find her books comforting after a long day.  They're relatable, and more often than not, have likable characters that you root for.  I unfortunately didn't feel that way about Summer Secrets, and while I like Green's writing style as always, I found parts of the novel just too unrealistic.

Cat Coombs has a stressful job as a London based journalist, and she deals with that stress in a most unhealthy way -- plying herself with alcohol.  After way too many benders, she finds herself one morning waking up in a strange man's apartment.  Jason hadn't taken advantage of her; he simply wanted to make sure she was safe as he too is an alcoholic.  Jason begins to take Cat to AA meetings, but all that is interrupted when she goes to Nantucket (!) to meet her long-last father and siblings.  Her love of alcohol gets the best of her, and she soon winds up doing something there that she will regret for years to come.  The remainder of the novel picks up later in time, but Cat always has that incident in the back of her mind.  Time to make amends?

Much of this novel is very far fetched, and I found a lot of cliches that I don't usually find in a Jane Green novel.  It's not my favorite, but her novels are still perfect for packing in a beach bag for a long day near the water. It IS called Summer Secrets, after all.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Golden State (Stephanie Kegan)

Family members of those who commit a crime are often scorned just as much as the actual perpetrators.  Along the same lines of Defending Jacob and We Need to Talk About Kevin, Stephanie Kegan's Golden State asks the question of how far would you go to protect someone you love? 

Natalie Askedahl is the youngest child in a family of prominent politicos.  Her life seems ideal, and she especially looks up to her older brother, Bobby, a mathematical genius; after he returns from college, things seriously change, with Bobby pulling away from his family and taking on a reclusive life.

When Natalie grows up, she seems to have it all -- a husband and two daughters, but she still desperately misses her brother.  A series of deadly bombings starts to occur across California, and the trail leads right to Bobby.  Will Natalie turn her brother in when she finds damning evidence?  What will this do to her mother and sister, who see it as the ultimate betrayal? 

I sailed through Golden State rather quickly, and it definitely is a real page-turner.  Kegan has a way with words that makes the reader want "just one more chapter."  Very solid novel.