List It or Skip It? My Recent Reads

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Here’s a quick rundown of some of the books I’ve read from spring to fall, and a recommendation on whether you should add them to your must-read list or not even bother. (Goodreads Reading Challenge progress: I’ve completed 49 of the 55 books I pledged to read this year!)

List It…

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware: Ware has quickly become one of my favorite thriller writers, and this latest slow-burn thriller didn’t let me down; my only complaint is that it had a similar premise to In a Dark, Dark Wood (old friends get together and something terrible happens) but wasn’t as well executed as that earlier novel.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak: What happens when a British family is placed under quarantine for the Christmas holiday? You’ll have to read this engaging, funny, lyrical novel to find out. Spoiler: It involves two unexpected guests and innumerable shocks and surprises, most of them not so full of cheer.

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy: A parent’s nightmare comes to life: two couples’ kids go missing during a cruise-ship excursion and are subsequently kidnapped. Though some details feel overly dramatic and frankly unbelievable, the book is a page-turner that will keep readers hungry for more.

The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard: This literary novel combines storytelling with interviews and “news” articles, all centered around a tattoo machine that writes on a person’s arm the one thing about themselves they’re too scared to admit—or is it all one big hoax, a self-fulfilling prophecy? The suspense keeps us reading, but the downside is that we never find out for sure.

Skip It…

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: Despite this book’s hype and the author’s clear grasp of the writing craft, I felt no connection to the characters: a rather lecherous aging wanna-be rockstar, plus all his high-school friends, and a kleptomaniac woman trying to figure out her life.

The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer: In her first novel for adults, the Twilight creator seems to have hit a new low; when the narrator isn’t droning on about guns and tactical plans, she’s mooning over a totally predictable crush. And somehow Meyer’s writing manages to be even more atrocious than ever, with cliches and bad metaphors galore.

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson: Having just reread Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express in anticipation of the upcoming movie, I had high hopes for this fictionalized account of an unexplained period in Christie’s life when she went missing. Unfortunately, the book was hard to get through, with a stilted voice and dull scenes.

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One-Sentence Book Reviews

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So far I’ve read 20 books in 2016. That’s almost halfway to my goal of 50 reads this year. I’m making good progress, and I’ve found some real gems; some of the titles I’ve delved into recently were just so good that I lingered over them, not wanting them to end. Now I’m on book 21: The Magician King by Lev Grossman. It’s the second installment in his popular trilogy, which is also currently a show on SyFy. I haven’t yet decided whether I prefer the books or the TV series. In the meantime, here are some short reviews to help you decide what to pick up next: Continue reading

Book Review: The Lightkeepers

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9781619026001_p0_v2_s192x300.jpg I stumbled across The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni on a recommended reading list, where reviewers had described it as a locked-room mystery a la Agatha Christie. You have to understand: I loved And Then There Were None so much that a few friends and I tried making an amateur film version of the book. So I couldn’t resist ordering this new title and reading it as soon as it arrived—and I have to say that I’m so glad I did.

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Book Review: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

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The Yellow Birds sets its tone right from the start—a gritty description of the landscape in Al Tafar, Iraq; raw dialogue purposefully at odds with an elevated, poetic prose; soldier John Bartle’s funamental questions about his role, the war, and how to survive, both in battle and also after the war has ended. In the first pages, Powers reveals the protagonist’s primary conflict: He makes it home alive and celebrated, but his friend Murph died overseas, despite Bartle’s promise to Murph’s mother that he would protect her son. Continue reading

Book Review: MaddAddam

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I often myself so obsessed with an author that I hungrily read every work that author has written, looking for similarities and differences. I read Ernest Hemingway’s books in the order he wrote them. With others, like Ted Conover and Tim O’Brien, I started in the middle and branched out. Others I’m still working on: Haruki Murakami, Sarah Addison Allen, and Margaret Atwood, to name a few.

Which brings me to MaddAddam, the last installment in Atwood’s postapocalyptic trilogy of the same name. I’ve long considered the first book of the series, Oryx and Crake, as one of my top five favorite books of all time. It tosses the reader into a confusing world of genetic manipulation and dystopian horror, yet still manages to tell the poignant, heartbreaking tale of one of the last humans left on earth.

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