Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August Books

The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood
If you liked Ove and the hilarious grandma in Frederik Backman's books, you will adore 104-year-old Ms. Ona Vitkus in Monica Wood's latest novel. I would highly recommend listening to the audio version; this spunky, sassy, smart old lady is a hoot! Wrapped in a sad beginning as the boy scout who is doing Ona's summer yard work tragically dies of an undetected heart issue, his father Quinn comes in to finish the assignment. Pulled into Ona's life story through old tapes of the boy interviewing Ona, as well as their mutual goal to get her into the Guinness Book of World records, the friendship between Quinn and Ona is priceless. We see the boy's mother, Belle, as she shares the stories of her quirky, awkward little boy. We watch as Quinn, an itinerant musician who never really understood or valued his son's uniqueness, learns who the boy really was. And we experience Ona Vitkus' life as she marches through the twentieth century, unraveling her tale to the small boy as she also helps him with his own life problem's. If you've got a road trip upcoming or just like to listen to books on long walks as I do, this is one of my all-time best 'listens' - heartwarming, hilarious, and ultimately quite profound, with some charming characters along the way:)

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)
Rowling, trying to write under a pseudonym that has obviously been discovered, began with The Cuckoo's Calling, followed by The Silkworm.  She has created a fabulous due in the cranky, egocentric, retired military investigator Cormoran Strike and his sidekick Robin, a gritty, tougher-than-she-seems detective. Seeing that the new HBO series called Strike comes out this fall, it would be a good time to hop on this train:)  And seriously, these mystery books are just really good, each one better than the last, culminating in Career of Evil, which is by far the best of the lot.  Having received a human leg in the post (yes, seriously), Strike and Robin set up their own investigation into what turns into a modern-day Jack the Ripper series of murders in London.  With Robin at the eye of the storm, stalked and followed by the killer, Strike delves deep into his past to uncover some nasty individuals who have a beef against him.  This book reveals more of these two main characters, developing Robin's reasons for detective work, as well as Strike's past with his mother and her ex.  Gritty humor as well as tense, hand-wringing moments abound as I read voraciously to see who dunnit, and would Robin actually marry the complete arse she's been dating for nine freaking years.  It is not necessary to read the first two as this one stands completely on its own, yet why not read the whole series?  It's summer, they're fabulous, and then you'll be set for the show this fall:)

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Perhaps I am getting jaded by the search for the next 'great' thriller; they all seem to be devolving into the same formulaic plot line.  Thus, while I find Walker writes a solid mystery, it is nothing new. Two teenage sisters disappeared three years ago, and now the younger one, Cass, returns and insists they must find Emma, her older sister.  As Cass strings out the story of her three years of captivity, the FBI behavioral analyst and the FBI agent in charge listen to her tale and ultimately try and lead Cass to where they want her to go. The analyst has a familial past which leads to some perspective issues as well. At times I wondered how realistic the family was: Were the sadistic wars within a step family that brilliant and dark? Could the girl really be that clever? Is mom a legit monster? Would FBI agents really be able to pull off this scheme? Ultimately, what I decided about this book was that yes, it is a solid, page-turning thriller that will grip you as you try and figure out the puzzle; yet, if you've read a lot of thrillers, it quite frankly is just a re-do of what has already been done.  My suggestion?  How about throwing in some characters who are not white, wealthy, and privileged, but instead have some complexity in social class, race, religion, geography, life choices and motivations, etc.?  Just my two cents:)

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Ah, the sheer beauty of sparse and spare prose that tells a beautiful story of love and companionship in just 179 pages. This book had been on my TBR list for the last year and I am eternally grateful to have spent an afternoon with Kent Haruf's final novel. This talented, award-winning author set all his books in the small town of Holt, Colorado, where everyone knows each other's business. In the very first chapter, we see seventy-year-old Addie go to Louis, the widower down the street, and ask him if he would consider spending nights with her.  Not for sex, mind you, but to assuage the loneliness of old age and widowhood.  Thus begins the story of their months together: the slow friendship that builds, the relationship with both a grandson and a dog, the busy-body-ness of their small town.  This is just a stunning book that provokes contemplation of what is necessary to not only sustain life, but to live it.

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler
It is a problem when the title gives info away, and I can figure out who-dunnit in the first twenty minutes...phooey. It is a decent page turner, with a police investigation into the killing of the university president's son, combined with the sketchy past of the lead investigator.  However, it is so full of stereotypes and one-dimensional characters, as well as fairly pedestrian writing, that I found it to be a waste of a few good hours. I am sure this book has an audience; it is just not me.


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