We Will Not be Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
I smiled and chuckled my way through this collection of essays. I love humorous essays, but this is the first time I’ve read a collection by a black author. There were differences, but I identified with a lot of what she talked about. We’re both from the north shore suburbs of Chicago, I’ve also battled the depression she describes, and while my health issues are different than hers, I understand.
Parts of this collection are very funny; others poignant and sad. There are so many lines I’d like to quote but can’t because I’m reading an ARC (advance reader copy) uncorrected proof. I will definitely buy her first collection MEATY.
Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Mystery > Crime
I read Barton’s second novel, The Child, first, (I received an advance copy—it’ll be out June of this year) and I liked that one a little more—I think in part because we got a closer perspective of reporter Kate’s point of view, and in both novels, she was the character I identified with the most. She has two kids, but she didn’t define herself by her children like the other characters did.
In this book, we start from the widow’s perspective. Jean Taylor’s husband has just been killed after being hit by a bus. He’s notorious because he was the main suspect in the child abduction of a two-and-a-half-year old girl. He was let go because the judge threw out some evidence.
Detective Inspector Sparkes became extremely close to this case, and it gnaws at him even after he’s told to drop it, although other “coppers” can still work on it—evidently Glen Taylor can be retried if the cops come up with new evidence—if I understand correctly, the laws are different in England.
The narratives are told from multiple perspectives. Jean “the widow” of the title is told in first person, and Kate, DI Sparkes, and the mother of the missing girl in third person. The story also bounces back and forth in time, from the present day of 2010 back to when the girl first went missing three years earlier. I read this on my Kindle, so if I ever put the book down in the middle of a chapter, it could get confusing for a moment where I was (and I read the book over the course of 24 hours). I could look at the Table of Contents, but it only said “Chapter One” Not “Chapter One – The Widow – Wednesday, June 9, 2010.”
The story is fast-paced (obviously, if I read it so quickly!) I enjoyed it.
Silver Bay by JoJo Moyes
Mike comes to Silver Bay in Australia intent on building a huge 5-star hotel that emphasizes water sports like water skiing and jet skiing in the bay. He stays at the run-down inn of 76-year-old Kathleen Whittier Gaines, her niece Liza, and Liza’s 11-year-old daughter, Hannah. Liza owns a boat and takes passengers out to see dolphins and whales. Mike falls for Liza and Hannah, too, and he sheds some of his big-city London ways the more time he spends there, but too much is already in motion.
Moyes does an amazing job describing what it’s like essentially coexisting with dolphins and migrating whales. Her descriptions of the sea animals’ lives are remarkable.
Last Breath by Robert Bryndza
I’d give this 3.5 stars if I had the half star option. It was good in that, especially toward the last half, I wanted to find out how Erika and her team found the guy who was kidnapping and torturing women. Obviously, you as a reader don’t want any innocent victims to be tortured and killed. However, I think it would have been more of a page turner if we knew more about the backgrounds of his vics or, even more important, the victims he has in his sights.
We saw things from the bad guy’s point of view, which I liked. But when we finally did get the perspective of a woman he tricked into meeting him by making up a fake profile online, she wasn’t a particularly likeable character. She wasn’t unlikeable, but she seemed like a vain, self-absorbed young woman who wanted fame. She was taking classes to get better at her art, but basically I got the idea she was pretty and wanted fame like so many people who, in my opinion, have no talent but want fame anyway. If I’d heard more about her really working on her art, I would have been even more sympathetic. Or if she helped out other people—a grandmother or the homeless, anything that indicated she gave a hoot about people other than herself—I would have cared even more, although by that point in the book, I just wanted to hear about the murderer’s mistakes enabling the cops to catch him.
Another thing that really bothered me was that some of the characters are referred to by their first name and some by their surnames. It’s OK that the lead cop, Erika, was referred to by her first name and the civilians were referred to by their first names, but some of the cops were mentioned either by their first names or their surnames, and there seemed no rhyme or reason to which was which. Even the love interest is referred to by his last name, whereas Erika’s subordinate was John, and some of the people she reported to went by their first names. I found it confusing keeping people straight because of this.
In terms of the cops tracking down the clues, Bryndza did a good job with describing the detective work. I could definitely see this author writing teleplays for the zillions of cop/crime/detective shows on TV.
Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.
Fire Lover: A True Story by Joseph Wambaugh
True Crime > Arson
I found the first two thirds of this true crime story to be a page turner. I’ve never read a true crime book about a serial arsonist, let alone a serial arsonist who is the lead arson investigator for the Glendale Fire Department in Southern California —possibly the most prolific arsonist of all time. He wrote numerous articles about arson investigation and taught classes and was widely considered an expert. I’ve read news stories about volunteer firefighters starting forest fires in part to create work for themselves during the summer months, but this story was intriguing.
I already knew how difficult it is to prove arson and to link that arson to a specific person, but all the courtroom stuff grew a little tedious. It was interesting that Wambaugh for the most part took an impartial journalistic view of imparting the details that were uncovered and then every now and then he’d inject his opinion on which lawyer did a good job with his or her argument or a bad one.
It was also frustrating that John Orr refuses to accept guilt for any of it. What helped the lawyers for his case was a novel he wrote called Point of Origin, which was later made into a movie starring Ray Liotta. The story is about two firefighters, a good one and one an arsonist. If Orr would accept blame, psychologists and others would be able to study the mind of a serial arsonist and possibly gain insights as to the triggers (and possible treatment).
I was interested in this book because I’m interested in firefighters’ jobs in general, but I felt Wambaugh was only able to guess at what made Orr do the things he did, both with the women in his life and with his career. If you’re interested in this type of true crime, you’d like it; otherwise, I’d find another book to spend your time on.