Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Lying Game/ Ruth Ware / 370 pgs

I'm really not sure how I feel about The Lying Game. While I think the author tried hard to make the reader care about the characters and their relationship, the whole thing just fell a little flat for me. Isa, Kate, Thea, and Fatima spent one year together at boarding school and formed a thick bond before they were all told to leave for something mysterious that happened. They've kept in touch sporadically and have always been there for each other in an emergency. So fifteen years later when Kate texts "I need you," they all drop what they are doing and race to her side, Isa with her six-month-old baby in tow.

It becomes clear that the ladies are hiding a secret, something to do with Kate's father, who was a teacher at the boarding school. The girls used to play--and really still play--something called the lying game where they tried to get other people to believe their lies. Since they really don't seem to have outgrown this immature game, it can be hard to like the characters. The story is told only through the eyes of Isa and her rationalizations of her behavior, especially in regards to her partner, Owen, got on my nerves. But the writing is fantastic and the setting is atmospheric. I was really rooting for Fatima, who seemed the only sensible one, to take charge and sort everything and everyone out, but alas this is not what happened and the story ends on two notes--one tragic and one ugly.

I Found You/ Lisa Jewell / 344 pgs

This is a complicated, twisting suspense novel that kept me interested the whole way through, even though I was disappointed with some aspects at the end. There are three different story lines to follow:

1. Alice, a somewhat scatter-brained mother of two teenagers and a six-year-old, discovers a man sitting for hours on the beach outside her cottage in coastal England. Pouring rain leads her to take pity on him and approach him, and she learns that he has amnesia. He's physically fine, but has no idea who is he or where he came from. Alice has misgivings, especially given her children, but she invites him to stay in her back shed while he tries to figure out who is.

2. Meanwhile in London, the newlywed husband of a young Ukrainian woman, Lily, goes missing.The police don't take Lily too seriously but she knows something is wrong. She becomes even more alarmed when things about her husband don't appear to add up.

3. Twenty-some odd years ago, we follow the story of the Ross teens--Gray, 17, and Kirsty, 15--as they holiday at the beach and run into a strange but alluring young man.

The narrative is full of emotion and keeps you guessing about who the amnesiac man is. At times the story veered toward the unbelievable and the coincidental but I still enjoyed it. Toward the end I was extremely disappointed when the villain's downfall happens off page and is reported via a short newspaper article.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dead Scared/ Sharon (SJ) Bolton / 378 pgs

This is the second book in Bolton's Lacey Flint series. Lacey is a British police officer with a very murky past and a sometimes reckless regard for the rules and her own safety. She's still getting over the trauma she suffered in the first book--I liked this realistic aspect--when she's asked by her one-time lover, a higher level officer named Mark, to go undercover at Cambridge University. Mark almost died in the last book and is still recovering physically. It's clear these two care about each other but there is a lot keeping them apart. i.e. the job, the past trauma, their fragile emotions.

Lacey is sent into Cambridge as a supposedly anxious, bordering on depressed, undergraduate because there has been a pattern of suspicious suicides at the university that has some people concerned. Honestly, Lacey didn't do a very good job of being a meek, high-strung student but she's only there for two weeks as things escalate quickly, so... This story is exceptionally creepy, dealing with people who purposefully bully and drive emotionally fragile young women into suicide just for kicks. It's definitely not for the faint of heart. I'm a big fan of Bolton's books and this is a solid entry in the Flint series.

Dating You/Hating You / Christina Lauren / 353 pgs

This is a workplace romance which, given that and the title, has been compared to Sally Thorne's The Hating Game. I loved The Hating Game and I've liked a few other Christina Lauren books so I was really looking forward to this one.

Evie and Carter are Hollywood agents. They meet at a mutual friend's party, hit it off, and go on an adorable first date. Then disaster strikes. Evie's agency takes over Carter's agency and soon the two are pitted against each, vying for the same job. Despite Evie having more experience (she's about 5 years older than Carter) overall and in the exact position that is up for grabs, she's at a disadvantage because of her misogynistic boss. Women in the workplace and what they must deal with on a daily basis is a theme in this book and I really liked how Carter slowly realized how things were different for Evie. Because they have to put any potential relationship on the back burner while things are tense at work, the romance can seem a little MIA in this one. But Carter is a great hero who accepts everything about Evie, even the fact that she can stand on her own. So while I wished there was a little more actual romance here, the characters and smart dialogue make for a fun read.

Monday, August 14, 2017

One of Us is Lying/Karen M. McManus/360 pgs.

It starts out like a scene from the movie, The Breakfast Club. 5 high school students are sent to detention: Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper, and Simon. Bronwyn is the "smart" one; Addy is the "beauty;" Nate is the "bad boy;" Cooper is the baseball "jock;" and Simon is on the outside looking in. Simon writes a blog of dirty little secrets of his fellow classmates--which happen to be true. So, when he ends up dying in detention, the four others in the room become prime suspects. The book is told in alternating chapters in the remaining characters' voices. For a debut YA novel, I found it very engrossing, with teenage angst coming through loud and clear! Recommended!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Going Down Easy/Carly Phillips/284 pgs.

Kaden Barnes is a computer/gaming whiz, and part owner of a billion dollar company. One of his former partners is going after him and the company. He is in need of a personal assistant (he either keeps firing them, or they quit), and that's where Lexie Parker enters the picture. One of Kaden's partners hires her, and sparks fly. However, Kaden has issues with anxiety, and being hard to work for, and Lexie has a twin sister, Kendall, who is bipolar, and for whom their parents have made Lexie the caregiver. Both Kaden and Lexie have trust issues, so although they're attracted to each other, they have a rough way to go for their "happy ever after." I'm of fan of Carly Phillips, but I don't think this is one of her best efforts.

Lingerie Wars: A Romantic Comedy/Janet Elizabeth Henderson/310 pgs.

Lake Benson, and Englishman, lent his sister money to buy a lingerie shop in Scotland. Unfortunately, his sister isn't much of a businesswoman, and Lake sees his money going down the drain. He comes to Scotland to set things right, and ends up confronting the owner of another lingerie shop across the street from his sister's. The owner, Kirsty Campbell, is an ex-model, and having fallen on hard times is trying to make a go of her own shop. A competition between the two stores ensues, and comedy, romance, and a  quirky cast of  characters rounds out a fun read. Entertaining!

Circling the Sun/Paula McLain/366 pgs.

Paula McLain gives an engrossing, fictionalized account of the life of Beryl Markham--a woman horse trainer, airplane pilot, among her other accomplishments. From around the age of 4 years old, Beryl was raised by her father on a farm in Kenya, where she ran free, interacted with the natives, and developed an independent spirit that got her into trouble as she became older. This historical fiction account of Beryl's life gives the reader a glimpse into the political times of Kenya in the early 20th century, the restrictions (and freedoms) of English women living in an "uncivilized" country, just to name a few. This is our August book club read, and I wasn't looking forward to it, since I'm not a big fan of historical fiction. However, this was one of the most interesting books I have read in awhile. Our book club has also read McLain's The Paris Wife, which was equally intriguing. I highly recommend both books by this author!

The Duke's Disaster/ Grace Burrowes / 439 pgs

Grace Burrowes has a lot of historical romance titles to her name but I've never read her books. I had one of her paperbacks lying around so I picked it up and started reading. About a half later I put it down, went to the library's OverDrive site and dowloaded the ebook to my Kindle:-)

Noah is the duke in question and he's not much for small talk and socializing so he decides to cut to the chase and ask Lady Thea, a down-on-her-luck earl's daughter turned companion to marry him. Thea agrees because she doesn't think she has any other prospects and Noah has agreed to provide a decent dowry and come-out for her younger sister. The marriage takes place straight away and off we go. Thea has a secret that she only tells Noah in dribs and drabs so things are rocky almost from the start. These two have problems communicating about the big things and that was frustrating. And yet, I found there everyday interactions adorable and enjoyed the rapport between them. Burrowes has a distinctive cadence to her writing, especially dialogue. It's at once refreshing and wearing, especially over the course of the book. Still, I enjoyed the story and just might give another of her books a try.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death/Adrian Owen/261 pgs.

Neuroscientist Adrian Owen has dedicated the last twenty years exploring the gray zone--what the lay person knows as the "vegetative" or non-responsive state of a brain damaged person. In a very readable format, Owen takes the reader along on his journey of discovering "life" in brain damaged patients who were otherwise considered totally unaware of their surroundings. It's a fascinating read, with the ethical issues coming into play, and where technology in the future will lead research in this area. Highly recommended!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Love and Friendship/ Jane Austen / 52 pgs

This is one of Austen's earlier works, written when she was very young. It's a short series of letters  written by "Laura," detailing her chaotic life. I can best sum up Laura by this word: dingbat. Her letters are funny in the way that Austen portrays her shallowness and complete lack of sense. The tale is entirely unbelievable with its frequent coincidences and outlandish behavior from Laura. However, you can see glimpses of Austen's cutting wit and her keen sense of observation.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Ocean at the End of the Lane/ Neil Gaiman / 181 pgs

I enjoyed my second foray into horror much better than my first. This is an interesting little tale about a boy who lives on the edges of a sometimes magical, sometimes dark fantasy world that is unknown to almost everyone else around him. He is befriended by a neighbor girl a few years older than him and becomes unwittingly drawn into her family's fight to contain some dark creatures that are threatening the human world. Things get pretty tense as our narrator (whose name I don't think we ever learn) is attacked from all sides. While I thought this story was well done and entertaining, I found myself wishing the narrator was a few years older. For one thing, he seemed to know an awful lot for a 7-year-old, including the word "chitinous." But more than that, I couldn't stop feeling doubly horrified that all these terrible things were happening to such a young child. It was easier for me to imagine him being ten instead of seven, and that made me feel mildly better:-)