New York Times Bestselling Author

Posts made in May, 2017

Book Review: Suspense

Posted by on May 31, 2017 |

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

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Suspense > Mystery

“I don’t invent my characters. I steal them from my surroundings. To be a writer is to be a thief. Every day I rob myself blind.”

 These are the words of the protagonist of the novel, Liza, and indeed, the book deftly blurs the lines between what it means to be an author—what is real and what is fiction in the life of a fiction writer.

 Liza is a thriller writer, although a few times she calls herself a romantic suspense writer. I’ve read romantic suspense, and the novel within the novel is not in a romantic suspense book. In the book that Liza is writing, new mother Beth is depressed because she discovers her husband is having an affair. Beth has some sex, but it’s not romantic. Romantic suspense heroines are plucky and don’t weep all the time feeling sorry for themselves.

 For that reason, I liked the main storyline with Liza more—she was at least working at her career and trying to have a baby despite reproductive barriers. I definitely identified with going to writing conferences and being a midlist writer. Anyone who has been published or has seriously worked toward publication will also identify.

 Liza is writing her book at the same time she’s trying to get pregnant from her husband, who has been distracted by the disappearance of his good friend and law partner, Nick. The mystery of what happened to Nick is compelling, although I didn’t buy the resolution one hundred percent. Even granting the leeway you have to give fiction, it was a stretch.

 Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.


 

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Book Review: Women’s Fiction

Posted by on May 28, 2017 |

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave

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Women’s Fiction

 I was excited to read HELLO, SUNSHINE after reading author Laura Dave’s book, EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES, and I was not disappointed.

 The protagonist of HELLO, SUNSHINE, Sunny Mackenzie, tells the reader right away that she’s not a good person, but I liked her from the start because of the intimate way she told her story about how she lost her husband, home, and job in the same day—her thirty-fifth birthday.

 Her job is the CEO of the number cooking show on YouTube—with a staff of 250 people, multiple cookbooks, and a soon-to-be show on the Food Network. Then, the social media that helped her become who she is abruptly conspires to destroy her burgeoning empire.

 What follows is a story about Sunshine discovering herself by coming to terms with a family past she ran away from. Though the story is about Sunshine in particular, it’s also about how all of us can get swept up in the versions of ourselves we present by only showing certain aspects of our lives on social media. For most of us, it’s just a few hundred/thousand “friends,” but for even minor celebrities, the reach can be much greater.

 I really enjoyed this book. Dave really knows her stuff when it comes to food and wine—and people—marriage, family, and our relationship to ourselves. Highly recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.


 

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Book Review: Short Story Collection

Posted by on May 27, 2017 |

The Graybar Hotel by Curtis Dawkins

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Short Stories > Prison > Drug Addiction > Alcoholism

If you like Orange is the New Black or are interested in the topics of addiction and our damaged prison system or if you just like well-written short stories, you will enjoy this collection authored by a man who is serving a life sentence for murdering a man during a home invasion.

 

As with any short story collection, I liked some stories more than others, but the writing is consistently good. The stories convey the boredom of incarceration, but what I felt most acutely was not being able to get away from the endless mindless chatter of other inmates (like one character who consistently bored his other inmates with explicit descriptions of his dreams). One of my favorites of the book was titled “Engulfed,” in which the narrator describes the liars in prison as well as the way those of us on the outside lie—to others and to ourselves.

I would have expected stories about the fear of being raped, but there wasn’t any of that. There are some stories about the fear of being beaten up over not being able to pay back debts to other prisoners.

Some stories are about what becoming an addict is like—what leads someone to begin to steal to support a habit. Others are about the first days of incarceration, others about what it’s like to be inside for many years, another about the challenge of getting out into the world.

I read this in two big chunks, which is not the way to read a short story collection. However, taken in smaller reads, these stories show the lives of damaged people inside and outside prison walls.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

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Book Review: Nonfiction > Humor

Posted by on May 15, 2017 |

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

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Nonfiction > Humor

Theft by Finding is a collection of excerpts from David Sedaris’s diaries from the years 1977 to 2002. I chuckled several times, and certain parts had me laughing so hard I nearly fell off the couch—especially the parts about him mangling French when he was learning the language after he and his partner had just moved to France. (It’s a brave thing to move to a foreign country and attempt to learn a new language—you’re going to humiliate yourself on a regular basis for sure, which Sedaris does, to the reader’s amusement.)

 

In addition to the humor, what was fun about this book was the modern history—in 1981, he writes of reading about a “cancer” that only affected homosexuals. In 1982—the popularity of Frogger. In 1985—he gets a “ghetto boom box” for Christmas. Sedaris learned about the World Trade Center attack while he was in Paris. The Bush/Gore debacle in 2000—and his father’s life-long lectures to him about the importance of voting Republican.

 

Like his collections of essays, his whacky family also provide laughs when they visit or he visits them—sometimes on purpose, like his sister actress/comedian Amy Sedaris, but sometimes just by being themselves told through David Sedaris’s dry wit.

 

Sedaris spent more years than I realized really struggling financially, so he lived and worked among racists and unabashed wife beaters and lunatics. Sometimes the stories were sad, but sometimes the narcissism of his neighbors was chuckle-inducing.

 

He talks about quitting drinking and taking drugs casually—it seemed like one day he decided to quit and that was that.

 

I really enjoyed this, and if/when he comes out with 2003 to 2017, I will definitely read that—I’m looking forward to it!

 

Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the opportunity to review this book.

 

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Book Review: Women’s Fiction

Posted by on May 13, 2017 |

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

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Women’s Fiction > General Fiction

Identical twin sisters Tabitha and Harper and Tabitha’s sixteen-year-old daughter are the primary story tellers of this novel. None of them are particularly likeable at the beginning. Tabitha is upright and not good at expressing her feelings; Harper is laid back but doesn’t have a real career and is having an affair with a married man; and Ainsley is a spoiled brat. The changes in their circumstances transform all of them over the course of the book—for the better.

 

Tabitha and Harper haven’t really spoken for fourteen years, since they were twenty-five when tragedy struck. Even before that, the twins, who had once been inseparable, started growing apart when their parents divorced and Harper moved to Martha’s Vineyard with her father and Tabitha went with her mother to Nantucket. They were seventeen-years-old when their parents divorced, so that can’t account for why Tabitha and Harper are so different. Had they been thirteen or younger, I would understand why Tabitha is so concerned with appearances—their mother is a fashion designer with a boutique selling expensive outfits to the wealthy. Their father, however, lets his home fall into disrepair and, like her father, Harper just throws clothes on without concern for what she looks like as long as she’s comfortable. With her string of waitressing and delivery jobs, she doesn’t need to look stylish.

 

When their father dies (at the beginning of the book), the sisters are forced to talk, especially when new events call for them to essentially switch places. I liked reading about the characters’ transformations.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.


 

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