Friday, April 11, 2014

Missing You by Harlan Coben

Missing You is Coben’s 25th novel for adults, and it kills me to say that I didn’t like it. Kat Donovan is an NYPD detective whose father was killed 18 years ago. Right after that, Kat’s fiancé leaves her. In the present day, Kat finds him on an online dating site. Meanwhile, Kat is approached by a college student whose mother has disappeared. Is Kat’s fiancé involved? Keep reading to find out.

Part of the appeal of Harlan Coben is that separate story lines weave together in such good detail. The story lines in Missing You did weave together, but didn’t have the appeal as his previous books. 

Coben is still one of my favorite authors. Try some of his earlier novels.


Friday, March 28, 2014

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick about a quirky, unusual novel.

Bartholomew Neil's mother has just died of brain cancer. In his thirty-eight years, Bartholomew has never lived alone, never held a job, never had a date with a woman or a beer with a buddy. He doesn't know how to pay a bill, drive, or anything else that most of us learn how to do by that time. In other words, Bartholomew does not know how to live on his own. When he discovers a form letter from Richard Gere (his mother's favorite actor) in her underwear drawer, he starts writing to the actor as a way of dealing with his grief. Sounds strange, right? Well, that is just the beginning.

Let's begin with the people that are currently in Bartholomew's life. There is Father McNamee, a defrocked, bipolar, alcoholic Catholic priest; Wendy, a grief counselor with her own problems; Max, an F-bomb dropping cat lover, and Max's sister, a damaged "Girlbrarian," who claims to have been abducted by aliens.

Next, there is how they all end up together. Let's just say - fate.

Finally, there is an ill-fated trip to Canada in a rented Ford Taurus. To visit the Cat Parliament. Yes, Cat Parliament. And from there, the story soon ends.

Matthew Quick manages in The Good Luck of Right Now to have his readers not only understand this  very different story, but end up liking these characters so much that you root for them all the way. There is a  lot of grief and pain, but even more friendship and hope.

If you are in the mood to read something totally "out of the box", then this is highly recommended.


Read-alike: The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Revenge by Sharon Osbourne

Cover imageYes, that Sharon Osbourne. I was a little skeptical about reading this, thinking what does she know about writing. As it turns out, I liked it very much! This is a cross between Jackie Collins and Tara Hyland, two authors whose books I really enjoy. Revenge is the story of two sisters and their rise (and fall) to fame. Full of backstabbing, lies, and secrets, this is an easy read with just enough spice to keep you interested.


The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

Japanese author Higashino won Japan’s Naoki Prize for Best Novel with this gripping and unpredictable mystery. After Yasuko and her daughter end up unexpectedly killing her violent and manipulative ex-husband, they find out that Ishigami, their neighbor, is eager to help them cover up the murder. Yasuko previously thought of Ishigami as a shy neighbor who taught high school math and kept to himself. When it comes to covering up the murder, Ishigami assures Yasuko that he has everything under control. Initially this seems to be the case. Even the two detectives assigned to the case come close to dismissing Yasuko and her daughter as suspects. But Kusanagi, the senior detective on the case, still suspects something is not right and seeks help from his friend Yukawa, a physics professor who has offered Kusanagi advice on past cases.
Don’t be intimidated if you were never good at math and science.  The constant twists and turns as well as the unexpected loyalties and connections between the main characters make The Devotion of Suspect X a mystery you are likely to read quickly and then ponder for some time after the last page.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor

Did you ever pick up a book and think it was going to read one way and then find out after you read it that it turns out to be something quite different? Well, that is exactly what happened when I checked out The Union Street Bakery. Looking at the cover, it seems that this book will be a sweet little story set in a quaint small town. But no, no, no...this is quite a bit more than that!

Daisy McCrae is only 3 years old when she is abandoned by her mother at an Alexandria, Virginia bakery.  Luckily, the owners of the bakery are a kind couple with two girls of their own, and they decide to adopt Daisy. They give Daisy a good life, but something was always missing in Daisy's heart. Who is her birth mother? Why did she just leave her? No one seems to have any answers, and Daisy struggles with this growing up and even now in her early thirties, she has a difficult time with relationships and commitments.

After losing her high-powered investment banking job, Daisy is forced to move back home. Not only does she have no where else to go, but her family's bakery is on the brink of financial ruin. Daisy's plan is to go in and pull them out of their mess, and then return to her real life.

But life may have its own plan...


Read-alike author: Karen White

Monday, March 17, 2014

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell

Imagine “The Devil in the White City” combined with a study of Frank Norris’ naturalistic novel “McTeague”, and you have an idea of how Careless People is structured.  It’s an amazing amalgamation of true crime, biography and literary criticism that captivates the reader and transports him back to The Jazz Age.  The book is intricately structured.  In addition to unfolding chronologically, with each chapter corresponding to a month in 1922 – 1923, the chapters mirror those in Gatsby, with titles taken from an outline of the book that Fitzgerald wrote down years later.  Churchwell’s thesis is that a scandalous double murder that occurred in September 1922 gave Fitzgerald a plot element and the time setting for The Great Gatsby (which was actually published in 1925).  Using primary sources (which are printed in the book), Churchwell offers a compelling narrative of the still-unsolved Hall-Mills murder.  Churchwell also provides intimate details of the Fitzgeralds’ life in New York, drawing on primary sources such as their scrapbooks and monthly ledgers, and she explains which elements of that life wound up in Gatsby.  The “careless people” of the title is a reference to the main characters in Gatsby and to the principals in the murder case but also applies to most of the people in the Fitzgeralds’ milieu.

As an English major and history buff, I found the book mesmerizing in the way it wove together so many threads and provided insight into Gatsby’s timeliness.  I actually re-read Gatsby concurrently with this book, and I advise everyone to do the same.  (Watching the new movie also helps—as it illustrates the timelessness of the novel by mixing the Jazz Age with Hip Hop culture.)


Friday, February 28, 2014

Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss

Salt, Sugar, Fat is an exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting to read) account of the history of processed foods. Michael Moss’s book does not merely talk about the health problems that come from eating too much salt, sugar, and fat. He also carefully examines why we crave these ingredients and how the major food companies fine tune various foods, snacks in particular, so that we will want to eat the whole bag.

There have been calls from consumer groups and even occasional attempts by the food companies to try to make healthier foods in more reasonable quantities. These calls are in response to our nation’s obesity epidemic. So far there hasn’t been major progress in decreasing obesity in the United States. What Salt, Sugar, Fat reveals is how the urges of consumers for foods containing large amounts of salt, sugar, and fat, the low cost of those three ingredients, and pressures on major food companies from Wall Street to consistently bring in large profits work together to make decreasing obesity a major challenge.