Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Woman in the Window (A.J. Finn)

There's a lot of buzz right now about A.J. Finn's The Woman in the Window, and when it comes out in January 2018, I think it's going to be huge.  Everyone from Tess Gerritsen to Louise Penny has already sung its praises. I'm about to do the same.

The thing about this novel is that it keeps you constantly on your toes, never 100% sure of what is happening or even if what the narrator tells you is actually true.  Our narrator is Anna Fox, a woman with severe agoraphobia, who insists that she saw a murder in a neighboring house.  If this sounds like it's straight out of Hitchcock, that's probably true.  Since Anna doesn't go outside, she is a classic film buff, and old movie themes play prominently in the storyline.  Chapters are short -- very clever since that keeps the pages turning and the reading light on late at night.

Twists abound in The Woman in the Window.  A colleague of mine read this at the same time as I did, and it was interesting that she guessed one twist and I guessed another.  Neither of us suspected the other's correctly guessed twist.  That's what makes this book really original and a supremely fun read.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Retreat of Western Liberalism (Edward Luce)

Edward Luce’s The Retreat of Western Liberalism is a short but very comprehensive take on the current state of affairs in Europe and the United States.  Luce touches on the economic, social, and political causes of the rise of nationalism and its battle with an increasingly interconnected world, staking the argument that classical liberal values such as freedom and liberty are at risk.

This is a book that can be read cover to cover in a few hours -- a dedicated afternoon or at most two should be able to knock it out -- but it is one that is definitely worth reading if you are interested in the root causes of the current world situation and can afford to leave your ideological herd for a spell. Luce casts blame at all sides and at a number of events over the past decades to show the slippery slope and how that descent has steepened.

The author spends ninety percent of the book arguing the causes and ten percent touching on solutions, a bit of a disappointment given how strong the first three parts of the book were. Luce admitted that he was not in the predictions game regarding our future.  However, the book’s closing felt incomplete without some additional red meat content that he felt would address the issues that plague America beyond mere mentioning of a few basic talking points.  Despite this, The Retreat of Western Liberalism is worth reading and will provide moments that make everyone in the room think (and perhaps even get annoyed) as their worldview is challenged. 


Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Lying Game (Ruth Ware)

A few months ago, I sat down to read Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin 10 and finished it in a 24-hour time period.  As I said then in my review, that's very rare for me -- I usually prefer to take my time with a book to really savor it.  With that one though, I couldn't put it down.  Ware's The Lying Game didn't quite have that same effect on me, but it was still a good read.

Ware takes her own time to build up the suspense, so this is definitely a slow-burning novel.  After Isa receives a text message from her old friend Kate, she immediately packs up her baby daughter and heads to Salten to see what's wrong.  The other members of their group, Fatima and Thea, also come, and Kate tells them that a long-buried secret of what they had done as schoolgirls has returned.  These girls had once been known for playing "The Lying Game," and it seems now that they will pay the consequences as adults.

The overarching problem of The Lying Game is that none of the characters are particularly likable or even that interesting.  But since this is primarily a plot-driven novel, Ware is able to make up for this deficit with her atmospheric writing and suspenseful story.