Friday, July 24, 2015

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell

I cannot believe that I have somehow managed to NOT read this author's work before. David Bell's newest, Somebody I Used to Know, is one of the best suspense novels I have read in a long time!

Like many of us, Nick Hansen fell truly and madly in love when he was in college. He and his girl, Marissa, had all of the usual hopes and dreams that we all have at that age. But tragedy struck, and Nick is all alone.

Now jump ahead two decades, and Nick is once again alone (recently divorced; no children) and has a decent job as a social worker. His life is settled. Some might say even boring and a little bit sad. But at the grocery store one day, all that is about to change. Right in front of Nick is a young woman that he swears is Marissa, but when he approaches her, she runs away. Acting almost afraid of him. Could it have been Marissa? But she's been dead for 20 years and this girl could not be more than 20 years old...

Hours later, he is contacted by the police. Why? Because a young woman has been found murdered with Nick's name and phone number on her person and her description matches the girl Nick saw in the grocery store. And the police want to know the connection.

So does Nick.


Read-alike author: Harlan Coben

Monday, July 20, 2015

Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri

Amit Chaudhuri’s Odysseus Abroad follows a day in the life of Ananda, a young Indian student at University College in London. Ananda is a literature student whose interests lie mostly in writing and reading poetry. He has little interest in the pre-twentieth century writers his professors keep forcing on him and some interest in a former professor of his named Hilary. Her vision problems worsened to such a degree that she had to take a leave from the college. Ananda merely mulls over memories of her, particularly a time when she took his arm and he helped walk her around the campus. Like a lot of this novel, his relationship with her is in the past even though his feelings don’t seem to be entirely there. Over the course of the day Ananda also meets up with Radhesh, his equally displaced and unhappy uncle.

There’s more action in one paragraph of a Baldacci thriller than in all of Odysseus Abroad. I’d like to think that I don’t mind subtlety in writing, but this one was far too subtle for me. Ananda almost seems to be sedated, and most plot points in the book, if they could even be called that, are left unresolved. I thought Ananda would run into Hilary at some point but Chaudhuri seems dead set on such usual plot points not taking place. This approach makes Odysseus Abroad memorable but not in a particularly good way.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs the Climate by Naomi Klein

In This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs the Climate, Klein provides a thought provoking, and in depth look, at climate change and that in order to really bring about change developed countries may need to readjust their economic ideologies. This work takes a look at climate change science, climate change deniers, communities, people, and other species impacted by dirty energy, and how money, trade laws, and timing play into it all. While an interesting and well researched read it is not a light summer pick-me-up. However, it does build up to a more hopeful tone (hope with caution, but hope none the less), with stories of ground up movements making actual impacts, people taking the time to defend their rights, and homeowners fighting to keep things like fracking away from where they live (including one Exxon CEO who joined a neighborhood lawsuit, claiming a concern for property values). 


Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi

The Republic of Imagination is a wonderful book if you like to read about books (which I generally enjoy). Nafisi breaks the book down into three books, The Adventures of  Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (which she argues all the others are derived from), Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. These books are discussed as art that has not only reflected our culture but has effected it as well - the importance of Huck, who casts off "sivilized" society being an icon American literary hero. Nafisi interweaves analysis of these works with reflections on America and her journey to becoming a citizen of this country. While I prefer her first book Reading Lolita in Tehran (another book about books) and this title can sound a bit too much like and English thesis at points, I still found it to be beautiful done and a great way to look at our culture (especially through the eyes of someone who choose to be an American).


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Judy Blume is back with a wonderful adult novel that, on the surface, appears to be about a teenage girl growing up in New Jersey during the 1950s. But In the Unlikely Event is so much more! Although this is a work of fiction, the story line is based on three plane crashes that really did occur in this area during this time.

The novel focuses on 15-year-old Miri Ammerman, and how the horror of these crashes affect her and her friends and family. We must remember that airplane travel was very new and glamorous back then, and when this small town in New Jersey is hit, it hits hard. Remember, too, that the undercurrents and fear of communism and UFOs was also running rampant, and you can imagine how much torment was going around.

Judy Blume, in my opinion, captures perfectly the feel of that time on a young girl. Once again she has done what she does best, write about the feelings, hopes, and drama of young adult life.


Read-alike: Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. This is her other adult novel.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Drop by Michael Connelly

The Drop is the seventeenth title in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series and, I’m embarrassed to admit, the first one that I’ve read. Despite jumping in so deep into the series, I was happy to find out that The Drop was easy to follow and not bogged down by back stories from previous installments.

The Drop finds Bosch, a detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, investigating the death of the son of a prominent city councilman and working on a reopened 1989 rape and murder case. The strange thing about the rape and murder case is that the DNA found on the body was from an eight year old. Could an eight year old have actually done something like this? Was a major mistake made at the crime lab? Twists and turns abound in this case. It also thoughtfully explores why some victims of crime grow up to be criminals themselves.

The case involving the councilman’s son isn’t quite as engaging, but this has more to do with all the layers and the shocking ending of the rape and murder case than Connelly doing a poor job exploring what happened to the councilman’s son. I’m not sure if I’m going to go back and read all the books in the Harry Bosch series, but considering the way The Drop pulled me in I’m sure this won’t be the last Michael Connelly novel I read.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe

Sibyl Allston lost her mother and younger sister on the Titanic three years before this story begins. Living in Boston with her father and younger brother, she is almost on the shelf of permanent spinsterhood when Benton Derby, a former suitor reappears in her life. Helen, her mother, had introduced her to Mrs. Dee and the occult world so popular at this time and Sibyl is turning to it more often to help her with her grief and other emotions about her loss.

Benton is a total skeptic regarding the paranormal and tries to convince Sibyl that it is all sham by exposing Mrs. Dee’s trickery. While agreeing about Mrs. Dee, Sibyl begins seeing visions in a scrying orb the false medium gave her earlier. Believing she is moving closer to seeing her mother and sister in its shadowy sphere, she and Benton are surprised at what is really happening and where her apparent “gift” might take her.

House of Velvet and Glass is an entertaining picture of the society of the time with its strict rules, fascination with the occult, and burgeoning scientific knowledge. 
I listened to this and found the narrator did very well with her presentation and making the various characters distinguishable.