Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Fix / Lisa Wells / 70 pages

The Fix is a collection of poetry from Lisa Wells, which won the 2017 Iowa Poetry Prize. I have a mixed relationship with poetry. I love to read it out loud and savor the rhythms and patterns of words, and I subscribe to the theory that poetry can have a thousand different meanings depending primarily on the reader. This also means that I sometimes miss the "real meaning" of a poem without the background context. However, I've been trying to read more of it this year and to explore some new-to-me authors.

Unrelated to my relationship to poetry, Wells's word choice throughout her poems is casual, but her style is abstract. This makes understanding her poems a bit difficult, and I sometimes had trouble following a train of thought from one stanza to another. Overall, her poetry left me with a raw enjoyment of the art but a loss on conclusions about each poem and what she might be trying to convey.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Watch Me/Jody Gehrman/308pgs/College Setting

If you love the stalker movies that the Lifetime channel used to show, then put the kettle on because this is your cup of tea!  Kate Youngblood is a creative writing professor and recent divorcee in a small Ohio town.  After the small success of her debut novel and a painful awareness of her oncoming middle age, Kate has hit a slump in her life.  Feeling unwanted and unnoticed, she throws herself into work in the hopes of gaining tenure.  Through all of her frustrations, a pair of watchful eyes follows her life on campus.  With a pair of "intense" and "piercing" blue eyes that would make any YA author swoon, student Sam Grist purposely inserts himself into Kate's life at every turn in the hopes of one day claiming her as his own.  Unaware of his predatory plan, Kate finds a writing prodigy in her student and takes Sam under her wing, all the while ignoring that small burst of attraction she feels for him in return.

The narrative jumps back and forth each chapter between Kate and Sam's perspectives, allowing the reader to understand the competing motivations for the two leads.  Neither of the characters are incredibly likeable, but the story is entertaining and follows a quick pace.  I think the author could have stood to push the envelope further with the main relationship, but I recognize I have a penchant for the lurid, so in all the novel could be considered "complete."  Watch Me is a worthwhile read for those seeking out a thriller of sorts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I Have the Right To: a High School Survivor's story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope/Chessy Prout/404 pgs.

Chessy Prout was looking forward to her freshman year at St. Paul's School, a prestigious, co-ed boarding school in New Hampshire, for high school students. Chessy's father was an alum, and her older sister, Lucy, would be a senior; it should have been an ideal situation. It wasn't brought to the public's attention that St. Paul's was hiding, and abetting, a culture conducive to rape. Chessy courageously blew the whistle on them when she became a victim of the practice known as the "Senior Salute." She brought charges against Owen Labrie, a senior at the time, and a fair haired boy of St. Paul's. The school closed ranks, and tried to make it all go away. It's a difficult read, and sadly, a story that is all too common these days. Recommended.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Perish/ Lisa Black/ 320 pgs/ audiobook

Another first for me--I listened to this audiobook from Hoopla on a long weekend drive. I'm not very fond of being read to. I think that might be because I'm a fast reader as well as a visual learner. Anyway, this narration wasn't the best but I got through it. This is the third novel in the Maggie Gardner/Jack Renner series. It's set in Cleveland. Maggie is a crime scene tech and Jack is a detective. A detective who also happens to be a vigilante killer because he feels it's okay to get rid of the baddest of the bad guys. (Again, this is not a spoiler--it's in the cover copy of the first book.) Maggie figured out Jack's secret but now he has something on her: she killed the abusive woman Jack's been tracking for years. It's interesting and different to read about anti-heroes in an otherwise ordinary suspense. The case here is that three women, all of whom work at a mortgage company, are brutally murdered. While I did enjoy the surprise ending, there is far too much information about the mortgage business and the housing crisis of 2008. It gets rather bogged down but if you can stick it out, the ending has a nice twist.

Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds/ Ping Fu/ 276 pp.

At the age of eight during China’s Cultural Revolution, Ping Fu was separated from her
family and began caring for her four year old sister in dormitories ruled over by the
Red Guard. She made her way to the US when she was 25 and supported herself as
she learned English and earned a college degree. Ping was inspired by a story her
father shared with her about the three friends of winter -- one of which is the bamboo that bends but does not break.

This story of a woman who had all kinds of strikes against her but perseveres to become happy and successful is very inspiring.  If you enjoyed Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, you will enjoy this story of courage and strength.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Hidden Figures/MargoLee Shetterly/346 pgs.

The subtitle of this book gives a very good description of its contents: the American dream and the untold story of the black women mathematicians who helped win the space race. Having seen the movie by the same title, I was looking forward to reading this book. It gives a more in depth picture of the trials and tribulations of the women who were such an integral part of the successful United States space program. The book can be pretty technical in parts, but it tells such a little known aspect  of United States history, that it is well worth the read. Highly recommended!

The Woman in the Window/A.J. Finn/427 pgs.

Similar to The Girl on the Train, and Gone Girl, The Woman in the Window has the reader questioning what is real and what isn't. Anna Fox, an agoraphobic, hasn't left her house for months. She spends her days spying on her neighbors, mixing her medications with wine, and is a total mess. Then she sees the unimaginable--or did she? I went into reading this book somewhat jaded--I thought it was going to be too much like the above mentioned titles. I was wrong--I read it in two days. Highly recommended!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Address/ Fiona Davis/ 354 pgs

The Address is a mystery that's a mix of fact and fiction as well as past and present. The title refers to The Dakota, a well-known apartment building in New York City. The story jumps back and forth between 1884 and 1985. In 1884 the building was just being completed. The fictional Sara Smythe has arrived from England and secures the job of "managerette" for the new building. She develops an illicit relationship with one of the architects and tenants of the apartment, Theo Camden, another fictional character. In 1985, Bailey Camden, who may or may not be related to Theo, is doing interior design work on one of the Dakota's apartments. She soon learns of the murder of Theo and discovers some clues during her work. This is a fun read, though I found the historical chapters much more fascinating than the '80s ones. The mystery is a decent one, though things wrap up almost too neatly at the end.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hate to Want You/ Alisha Rai/ 371 pgs

This is the first book in a trilogy by an author I've not read before. Livvy and Nicholas are the grandchildren of the founders of a local grocery store chain. They grew up together as the two families were extremely close. They started dating in their late teens but then tragedy struck. Livvy's dad and Nicholas's mom were killed in a car accident together. This is the overarching storyline behind this trilogy--what actually happened to cause that accident and the fallout from it. Nicholas broke up with Livvy soon after the accident and they've been estranged ever since. Now Livvy's back in town to help her mother after surgery. This was a well-written story with lots of drama and emotion. I liked both characters and loved their romance but wished they had spent more time together talking. I'm looking forward to reading the other two stories in the series.