Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

Seven Ways We Lie
by
Riley Redgate

Rating:

High school is no walk in the park for seven angst-ridden teenagers and friendships are stretched to their limits when Paloma High School officials receive an anonymous tip about an inappropriate student-teacher relationship. In this debut novel, written by then-college student Riley Redgate, lies routinely mask the deep secrets and insecurities of students at a Kansas high school and, as the investigation continues, their secrets come out in painful revelations.

The story is written from seven different points of view which the author has matched to the seven deadly sins:  lust, envy, greed, sloth, gluttony, wrath and pride, giving the reader the task of figuring out which character fits which sin. While some of them are friends, others are on the fringe, but the scandal brings them together and forces them to face the moral question of what to tell.

I enjoyed reading this YA novel. It has a clever structure and is very readable, but also addresses many important themes:  pressure to succeed, fitting in, bullying, friendship, love, teenage sexuality, loneliness and troubled family relationships. Despite the book’s heavy drama, the story has a prevailing optimistic message: that it’s okay to be different. In addition, I particularly like how the characters grow and develop strong relationships that would have been unlikely if there had been no scandal.

A couple things bothered me about the story, however. A student has overheard a conversation from behind a closed door, so no names come with the anonymous tip yet the school immediately runs with it. The principal calls an assembly and asks students for help in finding out who is involved. Then the school administration interviews each student and broadcasts updates and pleas for more information during the morning announcements. This approach seems highly unrealistic to me. No preliminary investigation before going public, full credence to the person who sent the tip. A later tip also leads to swift school action, with no checks to whether it’s valid.

My other issue is that each student seems to have a serious secret, brought on by intense personal and family relationship issues in which the parents play very passive parenting roles. Of course these problems are what drive the story, but the author’s many themes are compressed into the seven students, making me wonder if any of them know what a normal day is like.

To write a book like this while still in college, however, is a remarkable accomplishment and I think the author shows a lot of talent, particularly when she develops certain characters. I also love the cover, which is what attracted me to the book and convinced me to read it. I look forward to more books by Redgate and recommend Seven Ways We Lie to readers who like books with modern teen drama.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Advertisements

Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H. Levy

Last Stop in Brooklyn
by
Lawrence H. Levy

Rating:

It’s 1894 and Mary Handley, New York’s first female detective, has a lot on her plate in this clever historical mystery, the third in the series which features Handley as a fearless and modern-thinking independent woman during a time of major growth and social change. The story begins when Brian Murphy hires Mary to find out whether his wife is having an affair. Simple enough until she finds out what the wife is up to, which pertains to the real attempted assassination of Wall Street magnate and railroad titan Russell Sage. A second case brings Mary face-to-face with powerful industrialists, career politicians and corrupt police investigators involved in a highly publicized murder case and all mired in the complex machine that defines turn-of-the-century New York.

Mary’s new case focuses on the actual murder of Carrie Brown, a prostitute who was brutally killed in the city’s East River Hotel. Rumors were that Jack the Ripper had come to America and NYPD Inspector Thomas F. Byrnes was under pressure to solve the crime quickly. The evidence was circumstantial, but an Algerian named Ameer Ben Ali, who was a regular the hotel, was convicted and sent to prison for life. Mary gets involved when Ameer Ben Ali’s brother hires her to find out the real story.

Much of the investigation takes place on Coney Island, Brooklyn’s last stop, which at the time was the largest amusement park and resort destination in the United States. It attracted all types, wealthy vacationers, immigrants and working-class visitors. It was a perfect place to disappear or hide a crime and when another woman is murdered, this time Meg Parker, a black prostitute from the Gut section of Coney Island, Mary wonders if there is a connection to Carrie Brown’s murder. Subsequent murders that follow a pattern make Mary’s investigation a race against the clock, including the whereabouts of a mysterious man with blond hair. To connect the dots, Mary turns to her old boss, Superintendent Campbell and her police officer brother Sean, who put their jobs at risk to help their favorite lady detective.

I enjoyed this new story, which includes many of the city’s actual movers of the time, including Sage, Andrew Carnegie, Teddy Roosevelt, social reform photographer Jacob Riis and Captain Alexander “Clubber” Williams, a corrupt police inspector whose interrogation methods became known as the “third degree.” Levy does a great job showing what New York was like during the 1890s, highlighting the very topical prejudices and difficulties for the immigrant population. Racism and anti-Semitism as well as hatred towards different cultures, especially Arabs, were common and Levy does not hold back when he depicts these beliefs in several uncomfortable scenes. The author balances these and other gritty, adult scenes with the light banter between Mary and her new love interest, reporter Harper Lloyd.

Readers will also like learning more about Mary and her family dynamics, including her very likable father who works in a butcher shop and her meddling mother who wants nothing more than to see Mary settled. This story line reflects an optimism among Mary’s family, despite the prejudices, danger and violence that surrounds them.

I recommend Last Stop in Brooklyn to readers who like imagining what historical figures were like and who enjoy the intrigue of an entertaining mystery.

I received a copy of Last Stop in Brooklyn from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Like historical mysteries?  Visit these links for more information about the Mary Handley Mysteries:

Second Street Station



Brooklyn on Fire


Photo Credit: Fran Levy

Author Interview – Lawrence H. Levy


Information about Second Street Station, Edison and Tesla


Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

The Lotus Eaters
by
Tatjana Soli

Rating:

In this historical fiction novel, Tatjana Soli paints a very detailed picture of Cambodia in South Vietnam from 1963 – 1975. The story revolves around Helen Adams, a young American photographer who travels to Cambodia in an effort to both prove herself as a woman in a male-dominated profession and to gain understanding of her brother’s recent death in combat. She immerses herself in her job and becomes enamored of the Vietnamese culture. That pull keeps her in Cambodia long after others leave. It wouldn’t be enough of a story without romance, so Soli adds the seasoned Sam Darrow, a self-absorbed Pulitzer Prize winner, and Linh, Darrow’s Vietnamese assistant.

Helen, Darrow and Linh join U.S. army troops on their missions to secure villages and they photograph the atrocities of the war. Their personal relationships grow and change, all the way to the final pages of the book.

I enjoyed this story, but Soli’s writing style is a little terse and that can get in the way of the flow of the novel. She is best at describing the scenery, the action and the historical backdrop. But the characters in this book are less developed.

I also found some of the scenes hard to believe, when troops are fired upon and Helen jumps into the action, the first to reach a wounded soldier, the one to wipe his brow and tell him he’s going to be okay. She’s up in helicopters, transport planes, doing the army crawl, crouch-running and rolling and jumping into bunkers, just as grenades and bombs explode. These scenes do provide excitement, however.

All in all, The Lotus Eaters is an enjoyable read, with an interesting historical backdrop.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys
by
Elizabeth Strout

Rating:

If you loved Olive Kitteridge as much as I did, you may want to take a look at The Burgess Boys. It’s a different kind of book, but there are many things to like about this story of Jim and Bob Burgess and Bob’s twin sister, Susan. We meet them as fifty-something adults, deep into their lives and full of complex problems, set into place when, as young children playing in the family car, they rolled down the driveway and over their father, killing him.

Bob is found at the wheel and, and at age four, shoulders the blame for this terrible accident. He has endured a lifetime of complicated family dynamics and at the opening of the story is an affable, but divorced and lonely borderline alcoholic lawyer. He’s overpowered by his brother Jim, a famous defense attorney turned corporate lawyer, who has spent a lifetime berating and punishing Bob for their father’s death. Susan has her own problems with her son Zachary, who has been arrested for throwing a pig’s head into a Somali mosque. The two brothers try to help her and their lives change in major ways.

This is a book full of thoughts, conversations, arguments, feelings and reflections. This slower pace may frustrate some readers, because the story seems to reach a point of going nowhere, only to pick up deep into the second half. I am wondering if Strout has deliberately constructed her story to show how the characters begin the story deeply rutted into their lives and very slowly undergo major changes that drive the story to its conclusion.

I think Strout does a great job showing how grown siblings communicate with each other, something that is frustrating to view as an outsider, but can ring true for many.

I like Bob’s character the most because of his great ability to soothe people and calm situations, despite his arguably messed-up life. He has deep thoughts that are presented in a simple way and a manner of connecting with people that makes a real difference. For me, that quality rises above his other major flaws. Jim’s character, although arrogant, has many realistic traits and he is complicated in a different way. His outer finish of confidence and authority carry him far, but the way he lashes out at Bob makes him difficult to like. I like how Strout shows how they change in relation to their flaws.

It’s hard to name the real plot in this story and that’s where I think there’s a problem. Strout introduces the reader to the Somali people who have moved to Susan’s town and the difficulties they have had integrating and being accepted. And although Zach’s character pulls them into the Burgess story line, there is something forced here. Again, I’d like to think it’s deliberate on Strout’s part, to show how very hard it was for the Somalis. But, except for Abdikarim and his character’s initial struggle to fit in and later assimilation, it’s hard to know the rest of the Somali immigrants.

And you either like open endings or you hate them. I like open endings because they allow me to think about the characters long after I’ve finished the book. And I think this kind of ending realistically shows how there is never a perfectly neat finish to people’s complicated and messy lives.


Want more? Click below for more Strout stories:

Olive Kitteridge the book

Olive Kitteridge the HBO miniseries

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10
by Ruth Ware
Rating:

Lo Blacklock has a lot of troubles. Her London apartment has been burgled. She takes medication for anxiety, tends to drink too much and can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep.

Getting away on an exclusive luxury cruise may be the answer, but this trip is for her job as a travel journalist for Velocity magazine. Her boss Rowan can’t go and Lo is under pressure to do a good job.

This was my chance to show I could hack it – that I, like Rowan, could network and schmooze and get Velocity’s name in there with the high fliers.

There is a lot of hype about the Aurora and its maiden voyage to see the Northern Lights. The boat is small, but extravagantly decorated. Lo is part of a select group of passengers who will occupy ten cabins:  photographers, journalists, investors, and Lord Richard Bullmer, the ship’s super rich and powerful owner.

Lo isn’t off to a good start. She arrives sleep-deprived and hung over and has barely read her travel packet. And a bad argument with her boyfriend the night before has left their relationship on the rocks. Drinks before and during dinner don’t help, either. When Lo finally passes out in her cabin, she hopes for a long sleep and a fresh start in the morning.

Awakened by a scream and a splash, Lo is certain the woman in Cabin 10 has gone overboard. But no one believes her story. Was she too drunk to remember the events correctly? As the ship continues its journey, Lo tries desperately to uncover the truth, but the other passengers seem to have their own secrets and motives. With no one to trust, and no internet, Lo is alone with her fears. Oh, and by the way, Lo is claustrophobic. Not a good thing when you’re out on a boat.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is very readable suspenseful story. Ruth Ware throws plenty of red herrings into the mix and sets Lo up in many frightening situations that make the reader wonder, is it just Lo’s unreliable reasoning that makes them so scary? Certain discoveries fool the reader into thinking the mystery is solved, a technique I enjoy, only to lead Lo into what seems to be inescapable danger. The story finishes nicely, with satisfying explanations, including several unexpected tie-ups.

I recommend The Woman in Cabin 10 to readers who like to experience the danger of exciting stories from the safety of a comfortable chair. I particularly like the author’s use of an unreliable narrator. Watching flawed character make mistakes is very suspenseful.

I’m the kind of reader who likes to go along for the ride, letting the plot develop. What kind are you? Do you like to solve the mystery before its finish?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

What’s That Book? Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

whats-that-book

TitleRules of Civility

Author:  Amor Towles

Genre: Fiction

Rating:  3 stars

What’s it about?  High society New York in 1937 in which characters search for love and success in Post Depression New York. The story follows Katey Kontent, a secretary on Wall Street and banker Tinker Grey, who meet by chance at a jazz club in Greenwich Village. Katey begins a year-long mingle with the upper class elite, with plenty of challenges.

How did you hear about it?  Selected by my book club. I was attracted to the book cover too, which made me want to get right into it.

Closing comments:  I like reading about New York during the late 1930s. It is always interesting to think of parents and grandparents who lived through those times. It’s only natural to cheer for Towles’ young characters as they search for love and success.

Towles had a good idea, throwing together Katey, Eve and Tinker. It’s fun to watch the sparks fly as they get to know each other and form alliances. Characters are somewhat unrealistic, however, too perfect, too self-assured and well-read.

All in all, though, a light and entertaining read.

Contributor:  Ginette


whats-that-bookHave you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

Short Stories from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I have always loved short fiction and was excited to see a book built around short stories. In The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, A.J. recommends the following stories to his daughter.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I have only read one of them! And I’m guessing it’s one that many of us read in high school English class:  “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. Take a look at the list. How many have you read? Which are your favorites?


Source: Wikipedia

“Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl (1953)


Source: Wikipedia

“The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1922)


Source: Wikipedia

“The Luck of Roaring Camp” by Bret Harte (1868)


Source: richardbausch.com

“What Feels Like the World” by Richard Bausch (1985)


Source: Georgia Encyclopedia

“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor (1953)


Source: Wikipedia

“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calveras County” by Mark Twain (1865)


Source: amazon.com

“The Girls in Their Summer Dresses” by Irwin Shaw (1939)


Source: Wikipedia

“A Conversation with My Father” by Grace Paley (1972)


Source: Wikipedia

“A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger (1948)


Source: Wikipedia

“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)


Source: Goodreads

“Ironhead” by Aimee Bender (2005)


Source: Wikipedia

“What We Talk about When We Talk about Love” by Raymond Carver (1980)


Source: Wikipedia

“The Bookseller” by Roald Dahl (1986)


Click here for a review of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by
Gabrielle Zevin

Rating:

A.J. Fikry is at a crossroads. He’s a prickly young widower and owner of a small island bookstore off the coast of New England. Business is bad and his favorite book rep has been replaced by the unfamiliar and quirky young Amelia Loman. Deep in grief, he spends his nights drinking in the upstairs apartment. He’s lost, but at least he still has his rare edition of poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. Until it’s stolen.

He has little time to focus on the stolen book, however, because of what is waiting for him in the back of the store:  a baby, with a note attached. What to do? There’s only one answer and that is to make a new life for himself.

A.J.’s climb out of darkness is a charming tale about love, friendship and family. Each chapter begins with a clever synopsis of a classic short story, initialed by A.J.  And each story is tied to the events and characters in the book. And while Zevin’s characters are not complex, they combine to form an appealing and amusing group, including one of my favorites, Police Chief Lambiase, leader of the Chief’s Choice Book Club.

Readers will enjoy great dialogue and several laugh-out-loud scenes, including a hilarious author visit and reading. The story isn’t all light, however, and there is a lot more to this book than a simple love story. Zevin includes serious themes of hopelessness and loss and their effects on the characters. Meeting these characters first-hand is a must:  describing them in detail would ruin the experience for future readers.

In the end, the book is overwhelmingly hopeful and uplifting. I especially enjoyed it because the author’s ideas began to sink in after I had finished. Book lovers will appreciate the many references to literature and bookstores and everything in between. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a fast read, but don’t be fooled and don’t be surprised if you pick it up for a second time!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

A Great Reckoning
by
Louise Penny

Rating:

After a deadly hostage situation, Former Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has taken early retirement from the Sûreté du Québec. He’s regrouping in the cozy village of Three Pines with his wife Reine-Marie while he prepares for his new job:  Commander of the Sûreté Academy. There’s been a bad batch of cadets from the police academy, not to mention a corrupt administration, and Gamache is determined to clean house. While some get the axe, new professors are hired, including his boyhood friend, Michel Brébeuf.

Brébeuf is no friend now, however. Their bond shattered after Brébeuf’s unforgivable betrayal while at the Sûreté. Gamache also decides to keep Serge Leduc, formerly second in command at the academy and rumored to be the cruelest and most corrupt at the school. Many are nervous about the changes and wonder, is Gamache doing the right thing?

Classes begin and the cadets and professors settle into the new regime, but it isn’t long before a shocking murder upends the academy. Investigating the murder are Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste and an outsider, Deputy Commissioner Paul Gélinas from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Authorities rule out no one, including Gamache and four cadets, who have been researching a mysterious map found in the wall of the Three Pines bistro. Their relationships and personal histories make an excellent second story and I enjoyed seeing how Penny explains their motives and ties them into the mystery. As the story develops, evidence seems to implicate one of the students, the tattooed and pierced Amelia Choquet, and before long, many questions arise about her relationship with Gamache.

Published in 2016, A Great Reckoning is one of Louise Penny’s more recent Armand Gamache mysteries, a very readable and entertaining story. While it’s clear the characters have a lot of history together in her earlier books, I did not have trouble getting right into the story. She includes many of these side characters and subplots, including the residents of Three Pines and some quirky pets which enhance the story nicely, true to the genre. Her many references to tasty food may also inspire the reader to cook up something a little more sophisticated for dinner!

I particularly enjoyed Penny’s references to poetry, ancient philosophy and literature, which tie together many themes and helped me understand how police investigators think and cope with violent situations. I especially liked this line credited to a Buddhist nun:  “Don’t believe everything you think.” In addition, themes of family, long friendships, loyalty and doing the right thing run through every page, something I love to see in a book.

It is tempting to guess the finish as different characters reveal their motives and explain their involvement, but while answers flow freely in the last few chapters, the puzzle isn’t finished until the very last page.

I recommend A Great Reckoning to mystery readers because of its entertaining setting, characters and plot, but all readers will appreciate Penny’s storytelling talent.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

The Surrogate
by
Louise Jensen

Rating:

How far would you go to have a family?  After trying for years and two failed adoptions, Kat and Nick wonder if they will ever become parents. Kat is shattered and Nick wants to take a break, until Kat’s friend Lisa shows up.

Did you ever think about surrogacy?” she asks.

It seems like the perfect solution, but in any psychological thriller, reader beware. Nothing is at it seems.

Set in England, The Surrogate is a tale of lies, deception and secret painful pasts. Kat and Lisa were girlhood friends, but now there’s a wall between them because of a deadly car accident in which Kat’s boyfriend Jake died. Kat left town to shake off her misery and meets Nick, a chance for happiness.

Nick has his own secret past, however and something isn’t right about Lisa. What to do? Keep reading this exciting story in which even the most imaginative reader won’t guess how it ends.

As the pregnancy progresses, Lisa’s motives come into question. Why is she so evasive? Why does she keep asking for money? And something isn’t right with Nick. Secret text messages and lies about where he’s going make Kat think the worst. Is she being paranoid? But what about the scary figure lurking outside their house?

The author mixes in plenty of side characters with murky and abusive tendencies and the story proceeds with great momentum, as Kat continues to make foolish decisions that dig her deeper into a dark and complicated character dynamic.

I enjoyed reading this fast-paced and entertaining thriller, loaded with twists and turns and plenty of opportunity to get mad at Kat for her bad decisions. Instead of trying to figure it out, I went along for the ride and was rewarded with a wild finish. I also love the cover, which made me want to dig right into the story.

While I thought the story was excellent, I was frustrated with an assortment of grammar mistakes, particularly involving the use of “me” and “I” as well as misplaced apostrophes. These errors take away from the polish of the story. I received my copy of The Surrogate before its September 25 release, so perhaps these mistakes have been corrected.

I recommend The Surrogate to readers who like modern suspenseful stories about relationships.

I received a copy of The Surrogate from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!