The Fifth Letter (Nicola Moriarty, 2017)

fifthletter

Why did you choose this book?

I order books for the fiction collection at my library.  I read the synopsis of this one while deciding whether or not to buy it and was immediately intrigued.  Also, Nicola’s sister is Liane, who wrote “Big Little Lies.”

What’s it about?

A group of four friends, who have been inseparable since elementary school.  As a bonding exercise, the clingiest of the group (Joni) suggests that they all write an anonymous letter containing a secret, to be read out loud to the group and discussed.  Someone writes an extra letter, having gotten cold feet after pouring out their dirtiest secret – that they are so jealous they want to kill or maim another member of the group.  Who wrote it?

Categories

Fiction

Review

I wanted this book to be good so badly.  “The Fifth Letter” borrows from the format and style of BLL, and is well-written, but OMG I didn’t care.  I never really felt that the characters were in danger, and to be honest, I didn’t really care if they were or not.  I also thought the revelations of secrets at the end of the novel were blah.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

The secrets:

Trina: feels like a bad mom, abusive husband.  Saw that coming and all moms have insecurities about motherhood.

Joni: a bunch of secrets – just have an honest convo with your hubby already!  So many misunderstandings could have been avoided.

Eden: Claimed to have had a baby as a teenager, but really was scarred as a result of a rape and the fact that her mother never believed her about what happened.  Pushes Joni, who cracks her head open on the edge of the pool and almost dies.

Deb: attends a divorce support group as a result of her parents’ divorce when she was a child.  Wants to kill Trina (but not really – “I would never act on it!”), because Trina (who doesn’t remember this) used to make fun of her for having warts on her hands.

Also, Eden’s hubby and Joni almost kissed, which sends everyone into fits of jealousy.  Dudes, calm down.

And there are sections where Joni “confesses” the whole story to a priest, basically as an excuse for the author to explain occurrences to the reader without actually describing the whole scene.  I think in the end Trina ends up dating the priest, who decided to become a psychiatrist after listening to Joni’s confession.  He was my fave character, which should tell you something.

I read this entire book in 3 hours (which is rare for me with adult fiction), and I kind of wish I hadn’t even given it that much time.

99 Days (Kate Cotugno, 2015)

99-days

Guys, I read a book!  I feel like this is newsworthy since it’s been forever….

Why did you choose this book?

This was one of the first ARCs (Advance Reader’s Copies) I picked up in my last job.  It’s a little sad that I’m just now getting around to reading it.

What’s it about?

Molly made a mistake during her junior year – sleeping with her boyfriend’s brother.  She kept the secret for a year, until her mom’s next novel was published, revealing all of the gritty details to everyone in town.  After a year away at boarding school, Molly just has to survive the summer back home.  It’s only 99 days.

Categories

Teen, fiction

Review

This book helped to pull me out of a reading slump (hence why I haven’t blogged since June).  I read it over the course of two evenings, and found it pretty enjoyable.  The book is structured with each chapter as one of the 99 days, some with less than a page of text and others of “normal” chapter length.  I made the mistake of reading some Goodreads reviews halfway through, which I think unfairly colored my perception of the remainder of the book.  Molly definitely made some mistakes and was kind of whiny, but I found the book to be fine for some fun light reading.  Patrick, however, escaped too unscathed.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

In essence, Molly gets a job at a hotel and befriends her ex-boyfriend’s (Patrick) new girlfriend, Tess.  Patrick’s brother Gabe has been falling for Molly for most of their lives (he’s also the one she slept with), and he starts dating her again.  Molly is constantly bullied by Patrick’s twin, Julia, who becomes much nicer after Molly discovers she’s a lesbian.  However, Patrick can’t resist Molly’s charms (he’s kind of a jerk) and starts fooling around with her whenever he can.  He sneaks into her house to have sex for the first time, but upon realizing that Molly went all the way with Gabe, becomes irate with her and spills the truth about what they’ve been doing together all summer.  Just as everything is coming together for Molly, it all falls apart again, except this time not even Gabe is her ally.  Luckily, by this point the 99 days are over and Molly is off to college to bond with her new roommate Roisin, who has also had a summer filled with boyfriend drama.  Talk about a roller coaster ride of a novel – I think Molly had the ambiguous ending she deserved, but I think Patrick needed to be impacted by more of the fallout.

Funny Girl (Nick Hornby, 2015)

funny girl

Why did you choose this book?

A short, sweet answer: July Fiction Book Discussion Pick!

What’s it about?

Barbara from Blackpool is determined to become the next Lucille Ball.  She turns down the title of Miss Blackpool and heads to London, where a chance encounter with an agent and a lucky break at casting lead to a sitcom that makes her a national idol.

Categories

Fiction, beach read, British humor

Other recommended reads?

Other Hornby books.  He’s written several and has a very unique writing style, of which I just can’t get enough!

Review

I liked this much more than I expected to.  The book isn’t completely about the female protagonist, but also her male co-star, her shy and sweet producer, and the pair of writers struggling in marriages of different sorts.  I liked all of the supporting characters (except maybe Bill – he was quite gruff), and I’m sure that I failed to understand some of the distinctly British humor, but it was an enjoyable, quick read that I devoured over Independence Day weekend (I’m a bit behind on posting, I know).  I’m now inspired to try some of Hornby’s other books.  I also really liked the format.  It was separated into chapters by the series of the TV show, and after the show ended, it skipped several decades and provided a fitting and satisfying epilogue.

Up next?

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

July’s People (Nadine Gordimer, 1981)

july's people

Why did you choose this book?

You may remember that I was doing books set in Africa for a class at the library.  This is the second one I read all the way through rather than skimmed (don’t tell…).  As for why I chose this book to present in the class, I was told I had to do a Gordimer because she’s a Nobel laureate, and this one seemed like it would be the most evocative of a time and place in Africa.

What’s it about?

The Smales family is forced to flee Johannesburg as a result of apartheid-induced violence.  The only place they can go is with their manservant, July, to his ancestral village.  He is the chief of that village, though not of his tribe.  Their attempts to understand the new culture and the new role of this man they have known for years are the underlying themes of the book.

Categories

Fiction

Other recommended reads? 

It’s hard to say.  This book is unique because it was written before the end of apartheid, so Gordimer was only guessing what she thought would happen.  It’s the author’s vision of South Africa.  So it’s not really historical fiction or dystopian.  Just somewhere in between.  And, yes, I realize I failed to answer the question.

Review

This is an extremely short book, which can easily be read in just a few hours.  I had a hard time with the writing style and didn’t find the descriptions of Africa or village life as evocative of a place as I had hoped, and as I saw in other books like Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible or Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees.

Up next?

A Diamond Deal with the Greek by Maya Blake

The Dog Master (W. Bruce Cameron, 2015)

dog master

Why did you choose this book?

I’m a bit obsessed with dogs.  People who know me know that’s an understatement.  This novel deals with the first dog, so I was on it!  I read the first chapter in an issue of BuzzBooks (first chapters of highly anticipated books for the next 6 months or so), and was hooked!

What’s it about?

At this point in prehistory there are several tribes of people: the quiet Frightened, the Wolfen (who take their community organization from wolf packs), the Kindred, the fish-eating Blanc, and the vicious Cohort.  The story follows a Wolfen named Silex, a Kindred named Calli and her son Mal, and a female wolf critically injured in a lion attack while pregnant.

Categories

Historical fiction?  The time period is just “prehistory” but I’ll count that as historical fiction

Other recommended reads? 

Probably other works by this author, though I haven’t read any of his other books

Review

I loved the premise of this book.  I also loved that there was a section dealing with a modern day archaeologist looking for fossil evidence of the first domesticated dog.  I found the process of domestication unbelievably simple in this book, and the structure of the tribes overly complicated.  I’m not sure that the Cohort or Frightened were necessary.  I’m also not sure how these tribes fit into actual prehistory.  I finished the book, but I’m not sure why.  I didn’t care about the plot outcome or any of the characters.

Up next?

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

The Jesus Cow (Michael Perry, 2015)

jesus cow

Why did you choose this book?

I read a synopsis and was immediately sold.

What’s it about?

Harley Jackson lives in the small town of Swivel, Wisconsin, farming and raising a few cattle.  One night, his dairy cow has a calf.  The calf bears a birthmark that is unmistakably Jesus (no more detail on the matter is ever provided).  Harley does his best to conceal this little one, but one day it wanders out the barn door, along with Harley’s secret.  Before he knows it, Harley has to decide whether to turn this happenstance into a moneymaking venture or whether to try and keep the crowds away on his own.

Categories

Humor, fiction

Other recommended reads?

If you like this, you’re going to love Garrison Keillor.  I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t care as much for his radio show, but I love his books, like Lake Wobegon Days.  The entire time I was reading this book, I just kept thinking that a fan of Garrison Keillor would love this.

Review

I loved the writing style and the way that Perry made the average details of small-town life believable and funny.  From the fact that the town is named Swivel to the crazy things that happen, this was an enjoyable romp from beginning to end.

Up next?

The News Sorority by Sheila Weller

The Sculptor (Scott McCloud, 2015)

sculptor

Why did you choose this book?

My office-mate purchased this graphic novel and said he couldn’t put it down.  As he started telling me the plot I became more and more intrigued until I had to read it for myself!

What’s it about?

David Smith is a struggling artist, who runs into his favorite uncle in a diner.  As they talk, he remembers that his uncle died years ago.  It turns out that his uncle is Death.  David makes a deal with Death and is suddenly able to sculpt any material with his hands as though it were made of clay.  The catch?  He only has 200 days to live.  And in those 200 days, many things go wrong, but some also go right (such as meeting the love of his life).

Categories?

Graphic novels, fiction

Other recommended reads?

This is a challenge, because this is the first graphic novel I’ve read for adults that is fiction rather than autobiographical.  I think you’d enjoy this novel if you are part of the art community or like superhero-type comics.

Review

The story did draw me in, but I don’t know that I loved it as much as my coworker did.  There were parts that I wish had taken a different path, but there were also some twists that I loved.  I didn’t find David’s sculptures as impressive as I wanted to – they were kind of weird.  I also think that there were some philosophical underpinnings that I missed and in order to fully grasp the story I would need to read it again.  My favorite part was a scene at the end where a person’s life flashes before their eyes.  The artwork is stunning, as scenes start slowly and then fly by more and more quickly.  It was breathtaking and beautiful.

Up next?

We have several options.  It could be A June of Ordinary Murders by Conor Brady, Deep South by Paul Theroux, or All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani.  Guess you’ll just have to check back and see!