Carter Briggs knows about the power of the written word. Not only can he entertain and touch his three best friends with his stories and jokes but a simple text message to them could have been a factor in the auto collision that took their lives.
Wracked with guilt and hurting from the loss of the fellow members of the Sauce Crew, Carver faces the difficult task of trying to move forward with his life. It doesn’t help that the twin sister of his one his friends and a high-powered judge and father to another friend hold Carver responsible for the death of his friends. And both want to see Carver “pay” for his actions.
Jeff Zetner’s Goodbye Days chronicles Carver’s journey to come to terms with the death of his friends and the impact it has not only on him but those around him. Carter’s witty, self-aware narration is honest, authentic and, at times, utterly raw. Zetner ably captures the conflicting emotions Carver experiences, including several panic attacks that send Carver looking for help beyond what his family and friends can offer. Continue reading
The runaway success of “Gone Girl” has created a new sub-genre in the mystery/thriller section. It seems like every other book that comes out these days cover blurb touts it as being in the “same vein as ‘Gone Girl.'”
And while there have been a few books that have come close to capturing the page-turning intensity of Gillian Flynn, there have been more than a few that felt like pale imitations of the original.
For the first third of “Distress Signals,” it feels like Catherine Ryan Howard has tapped into the same vein Flynn did with “Gone Girl.” Only to see it all fall apart the more Adam Dunne digs into the disappearance of his fiance, Sarah. Continue reading
It seem like a lot of the mystery novels I’m drawn to these days feature an unreliable narrator (or narrators in the case of The American Girl). Whether this is due to the success of novels like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train has encouraged publishers to jump on the unreliable narrator bandwagon or that it’s just that I’ve become more aware of this particular narrative hook, I’m not sure.
What I do know is that, at this point, it takes a lot to make an unreliable narrator story stand out to me.
Kate Horsley’s The American Girl was able to do that. Well, at least it was able to do that for the first hundred or so pages. Continue reading
Thinking her fourteen year-old son Tommy is spending the night at one of his best friend’s house, Elizabeth Sanderson in disturbed to receive a phone call saying her son has gone missing. As the shock sets in, Elizabeth can’t help but feel that history is repeating itself. Tommy’s father vanished in the night years before. Could it be that her son has followed in his father’s footsteps?
The answers are far more compelling and interesting than that and they make this book one that was, at times, next to impossible to put down. Add in an element of the potential supernatural and you’ve got the another winner from Paul Tremblay — an author who after reading just two of his books has been put onto my “must read anything he writes list” and whom I eagerly seeking you his back catalog.
Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock starts with a heck of hook and doesn’t let up until the final page is turned. The question of how well you really know your kids and your family haunts every page of the novel and drives much of this superlatively told, suspenseful mystery. Like his earlier haunting A Head Full of Ghosts this is one of those novels that defies categorization beyond “a really good book that everyone should read.” Continue reading
Margaret Atwood’s latest novel The Heart Goes Last has some intriguing ideas but I’m not sure they all necessarily add up to a satisfying reading experience. Like many of her books, the setting is a near future dystopian one with our protagonists Stan and Charmaine living in their car and surviving on the meager earnings Charmaine earns as a waitress. When they’re giving the opportunity to trade in this life for something akin to a romanticized 50’s sitcom version of life, the two agree.
But there’s a price to be paid and a dark side to the agreement. Every other month, the couple spends time separated and locked up in prison. The other month is spent in freedom and doing various jobs within the community based on their skills. The couple is supposed to have little or no contact with the other couple that lives in their house while they’re in prison, but a seemingly change meeting between Charmaine and the other man who lives in their house begins an affair that will begin to change the dynamic of things.
The Heart Goes Last has an intriguing hook and set-up, but the farther I got into the novel, the less I found myself enjoying it. Part of it is that the deeper we get into the novel, the less likeable these characters become. And while there are some interesting twists to the situation that Stan and Charmaine find themselves living in (one early twist finds Stan falling in love with a woman who left a note behind, simply by imagining her, only to late find out that note was written by his wife for her lover), I felt like the novel lost a lot of its early momentum by the mid-point. It does pick up a bit at the end, but that’s not before I felt like I had to wade through a hundred pages that make me care less and less about the characters and what was going on.
Despite all that, Atwood still has a wonderful grasp of language and composes some utterly beautiful and haunting sentences and passages. But that isn’t enough to make this novel live up to its early promise.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine program.
In seven days, New York lawyer Lily Wilder will walk down the aisles, capping off her whirlwind romance with her finance, Will. The two met seven months earlier in a bar and after a passionate weekend, the threw caution to the wind and decided to get married. But the question looming over the wedding is do these two really know each other and are they the right fit?
See, Lily has a side of herself that she’s kept secret from Will. Lily enjoys living up to her last name and living wilder than many — binge drinking, sleeping with strangers, friends, really anyone who comes on her radar (she’s even carrying on an affair with her boss at her law firm). She also has a dark secret from her past that she’s hidden from everyone (or so she thought) and that if it comes to light, it could undo all her current and future happiness.
Despite warnings from family members, friends and lots of other signs saying that maybe she isn’t ready to settle down and that she and Will aren’t a good match, Lily is determined to go through the wedding. Continue reading
Heading into junior year, Alex, Mollie and Veronica are the queen bees of their school — and they know it. They’ve all been friends since elementary school, but things are about to start changing for each of them.
Lauren Saft’s Those Girls feels like its channeling the spirit of Mean Girls without any of the heart that made the movie work. The stories are told in alternating points of view from each of our three protagonists and I’ve got to admit that somewhere around a third of the way through the novel, I found myself losing track of certain plot threads, like which girl pined for the boy next door and which one was hooking up with him.
There’s a lot of very bad behavior by all these characters, making each of them completely unsympathetic as the story progresses. Saft tries to get us to understand what motivates each of these girls with the alternating first-person narration, but I slowly found myself getting irritated by the girls and their actions instead of understanding them or sympathizing. Each girl (and the other characters who they come into contact with) come across as shallow, vain and down-right mean. It makes it hard to spend close to 300 pages with them.
Which brings up the question of why I kept reading when I wasn’t really enjoying the novel. I kept hoping that Saft might be setting up Alex, Mollie and Veronica for some kind of a fall in the final chapters or maybe we’d finally see their actions catch up with them. Alas, this doesn’t happen — nor do any of the three appear to really learn anything from their actions. This includes random sex, seducing each other’s boyfriends and two of them slipping the third a roofie that nearly costs a male teacher his job.
Maybe I’m just not the target audience for this novel. Whatever it is, I have to give this one just a single star.
In the interest of a full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book.