Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Drowning Kind (Jennifer McMahon)

I've loved Jennifer McMahon ever since I took Island of Lost Girls on vacation and didn't want to do anything else but find out what happened next. She has had some misses over the years (looking at you Burntown), but for the most part, I've enjoyed the books she's written. I've heard her called the modern-day Shirley Jackson -- her books are creepy and atmospheric and leave you wanting more.

The Drowning Kind might be her creepiest book yet. One day, Jax receives a slew of missed calls from her sister, Lexie. She is tired of Lexie's manic episodes, and so, doesn't answer the phone. The next day, she is devastated to find out that her sister has drowned in the pool at their late grandmother's house. Jax discovers that Lexie has been researching the history of the house, and that may have had something to do with her death.

But Jax is not the only one whose eyes readers see this story through. They also go back in time to 1929 to meet Ethel Monroe, who desperately wants a baby. Her husband takes her to a hotel in Vermont which has a natural spring on its grounds; this spring is said to grant wishes but it also takes something in return. The stories of Jax and Ethel run parallel to each other until the reader discovers how they are connected.

I've found that so often, a book like this is ruined by the ending, but that's definitely not the case here. I didn't see it coming. Read this one with the lights on!


Available April 2021

Thursday, November 19, 2020

How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (Gary Raymond)

 As a yearly watcher of Love Actually, I picked this book up out of curiousity. I didn't think it was going to change my feelings about the movie (which are generally positive), and I was correct. But it did make me think more about the sensitivity of some scenes.

There are a few parts of Love Actually that have always been problematic -- the "cue card" scene, the "fat jokes", etc. Raymond goes further by basically dissecting each scene with his analysis, but some of his comments were so snarky that it was hard to take them seriously. In a bookstore, I wouldn't know if this book would be shelved in the humor section or in film criticism. But he did have some valid points that hit home for me (particularly about the Prime Minister). 

So I will still be watching and enjoying Love Actually in December, but I might look at some scenes in a new light.


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Author in Chief: The Untold Stories of the Presidents and the Books They Wrote (Craig Fehrman)

Craig Fehrman’s Author In Chief details a selection of America’s presidents and the evolution of book writing style over America’s history. Our nation’s past presidents have long written books for various reasons - Thomas Jefferson wrote a first person review of Virginia as a way to share his views of the state to the wider (European) audience, with the shift to books for campaigning taking place with the use of the Lincoln-Douglas debates by Abraham Lincoln in the run-up to 1860. The nation’s thirst for learning more about the person in the office (not necessarily the gunk of the political process), combined with the country’s increasing economic and marketing machine, has changed the game for presidential writing arguably more than the men who have occupied the office.

Fehrman’s book captures the transformation in great detail, including first-person letters and dialogue from presidents and those close to them. Not every president is covered in this book, but a large swath of attention is given to those whose book or books has changed the course of how presidents wrote...and ultimately wrote about themselves. If you ever wanted to know more about the man known as “Silent Cal” (Calvin Coolidge) for being a man of few words, this book will show how much his writing changed the game for the presidential memoir.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and students of history - and presidential history - will find it well worth their time to read.