Vacation Time!

I’m on vacation next week, and my reading list has been determined by the holds that just came in from the library. So here’s what I hope to read next week:

The Good Daughter: A Novel by [Slaughter, Karin]   Macbeth by [Nesbo, Jo]

The High Season: A Novel by [Blundell, Judy]

I cheated and started The Good Daughter last night; it scared the liver out of me. After the first 10% I decided that maybe I didn’t have the constitution to keep reading it. I put it down and turned out the lights. Ten minutes later I got up and starting reading more. So I guess I’m in this one for the long-haul, even though the book is deeply disturbing and I fully intend to have nightmares for a week.

Cheers!

Glass of wine with book

Review: The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Elevator Pitch: Amber Patterson is sick of being a nobody, so she decides to get rich the the old-fashioned way: by marrying a super-rich dude. The only problem is that Jackson Parrish is already married to a beautiful and accomplished woman, Daphne, whom he adores. That doesn’t deter Amber, though. She insinuates herself into Daphne’s life, becomes her very best friend, and begins to rip at the fabric of Daphne’s perfect marriage. But like any psychological thriller, all is not what it seems.

Let’s be best friends while I work on stealing your husband with my super sex skillz. –Amber Patterson (I’m paraphrasing, of course)

My Tagline:  Lifetime’s Mother May I Sleep with Danger (starring the American film treasure, Tori Spelling) meets a stack of airport thrillers for sale at a garage sale.

My Opinion: I have really mixed opinions about this book. On the one hand, I read it in big gulps without ever once losing interest. It’s fast-paced and well-plotted. Even after I figured out the twist fairly early on, I kept reading to see how it would unspool. Plus, I love unreliable and unlikable narrators. The more I dislike a character, the happier I am. (I’ve decided that’s because I like being in the vicinity of hot messes, but I don’t have the patience for it in real life.) I also admire the authors–two sisters–for being able to craft a cohesive narrative while writing together. That’s tough to do.

On the other hand, it’s a pretty corny book. Most of the characters are deeply one-dimensional. The evil ones have few or no redeeming qualities; the good characters are too saintly. The authors use shorthand to convey “good” and “evil” in ways that just feels simplistic. (An evil character is an atheist; a dumb character is overweight; a snooty character has designer clothes, etc.)

The writing in general is a little wooden at times. The dialogue doesn’t always feel believable, nor do the character’s motivation. For instance, Amber spends an incredible amount of time working toward stealing Jackson. Given how smart she is and how fast she learns, she could have been a real estate mogul herself. Why waste her talent trying to steal someone’s middle-aged husband, no matter how hot he is?

There were other aspects of the plot that I found deeply problematic, but I’d have to give away the twist to talk about those. So I’ll just say that the comeuppance some characters get delivers a problematic message (even though I’m quite sure it’s an unintentional message).

But in spite of everything I just said, I enjoyed reading the book. It didn’t make me smarter or a better person, but it was the equivalent of having a huge snack with no nutritional value right before dinner. Totally enjoyable in the moment, but not something you can do every day.

Verdict: Read it if you need a distraction and don’t want to tax your brain. Best read with a bowl of popcorn nearby.

Currently Reading

I’ve been reading less this week than last, in part because I’m in the midst of a few large writing tasks. But I did finish two books: The Queen and I and The Last Mrs. Parrish. I liked certain things about both of them, but I have a couple of rants to make, especially about The Last Mrs. Parrish. A review is coming.

I started two more:

  

And received July’s Book-of-the-Month from my club of one member (me):

On Writing

I’m working on my next book. It’s (loosely) about WWII, the French Resistance, and women who participated in the war, at home and in occupied areas. I have stacks of nonfiction, but I want some good fiction to put in a WWII mindset. What are your favorites?

Filling Reading Gaps

We all have a list of books we’ve wanted to read–or felt we should read–that we just haven’t gotten to. I have a zillion of them.

But here’s one I just got from the library that I’ve never read.

Murder, games, and mayhem? Yes, please.

To be totally honest, I hadn’t heard of the book until Liberty Hardy, my reading hero, mentioned it multiple times the All the Books podcast. I must fill this reading gap immediately!

 

Holidays Are for Reading

I’m going to start lying when people ask me what I’m doing for a holiday. If I answer honestly—that I’m going to sit on my patio, read a book, and enjoy the breeze, and when I’m done with that I’m going to sit on my couch and read a book, and then I’m going to go to bed and read a book—a lot of people seem to feel sorry for me.

“Oh,” someone sadly said to me this week, “that’s too bad you don’t have any fun plans for the Fourth of July.”

The truth is I would rather read than do just about anything else. I’m not sad at all that I’m taking a miss on parades, barbecues, concerts, and fireworks. I’m right where I want to be. I have two books on the docket:

     

The Queen and I by Sue Townsend
I loved Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole series, so I grabbed this one at a library sale while on vacation. It’s a clever satire about the British Royal Family who have been forced out of the monarchy and into real life. Hilarity ensues.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
This one is a wicked suspense novel that feels like a Lifetime movie in all the best ways. It’s compelling, but it’s not brain-taxing in the slightest.

Happy Fourth of July. May your day be free of parades.

 

What I Read: June 2018

June was a lighter summer reading month for me because I went on vacation for ten days and didn’t do much reading at all during that time (save for plane reading). I did, however, read hard before I left town.

I read eight books in June:

To Explain the Word: The Discovery of Modern Science by Steven Weinberg
My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley
The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
News of the World by Paulette Giles
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Voices in the Ocean: A Journey Into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan Casey
A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future by Charles Van Doren

I’ve been trying to diversify my reading in terms of genre and publication dates, as well in author identity and nationality. Here’s what June looked like for me:

Genre 
4 Contemporary Fiction
1 Historical Fiction
3 Nonfiction

Publication Dates
4 Published in 2018
3 Published in last five years
1 Published before 2013

Author Identity/Nationality
4 Women
4 Men

6 American
1 Australian
1 Canadian

1 LGBTQ+

Once again, I liked everything I read this month, but I do have superlatives:

Most Entertaining
My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley
Stephen McCauley has long been one of my favorite authors. If Tom Perrotta, Jonathan Tropper, Anne Tyler, and David Sedaris had a baby, it would be Stephen McCauley.

While this one wasn’t my favorite McCauley (that honor goes to The Easy Way Out), it was just as funny and poignant and generous as everything McCauley writes.

Most Beautiful
News of the World by Paulette Giles 
I’ve been a fan of Paulette Jiles since Enemy WomenShe’s a masterful writer of history. Every character feels honest; every event is rendered with care.

My tagline: Lonesome Dove meets Plainsong

Most Educational
A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future by Charles Van Doren
If you’ve ever spent any time thinking about why and how we think now, you really should read this one. Van Doren traces the history of thought from the Pre-Socratics to the late twentieth-century. What he shows is that what we can think–what we know–is largely dependent on the paradigm and standards of the historical time period. As he walks you through history, you get a sense of how knowledge changes. And you begin to see how all the pieces fit together.

Word of Warning: This was was written in the 90s and the last two chapters are hopelessly out of date. Van Doren’s predictions for computers is kind of unintentionally hilarious. And like any book written in a certain time period, his language is sometimes insensitive. I was particularly struck by the section where he calls people who contracted HIV in the ’80s through birth or blood transfusions “innocent,” implying that people who contracted the virus other ways are guilty. Given that the majority of those victims were gay, it’s a pretty egregious use of language.

I’d still recommend this book for armchair historians, especially if you have any interest in the history of science.

Happy Reading in July!