As the Page Turns (the Book Thread)

Jenny

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Last night I finished The Dog Star(s?) by Peter Heller (I think...I need more coffee). It was on the dystopian list posted much earlier in this thread.

It has no discernible plot. It's more stream of consciousness, which isn't necessarily bad as long as it seems to be going somewhere. While eventually some stuff does happen, it's too little, too late.

I was just hate reading/skimming by the end.

Do not recommend.
I recently read The River by the same author and it's one of the best books I've read in a long time. It definitely had a plot, but it was also an excellent character study, and beautifully written.

But it's not dystopian, so perhaps a double strike for you!
 

Habs

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3. If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
4 Stars Contemporary Romance
A lawyer in Manchester gets dumped by her partner of 18 years and ends up fake dating a misunderstood colleague for...reasons. Silly, tropy plot very well executed with extremely likable, well-rounded characters. I felt like I was friends with both of them by the end. Liked this a lot.
I liked this one a lot too. A bit predictable, but it was fun and entertaining. I really liked both characters and agree that they felt like my friends!
 

Erin

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My latest reads have been:

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker: It is a #metoo story of four women in the corporate world who come together when their boss, who has a questionable history with several female employees, is primed to become CEO of their company. The first 60% was very slow paced and took me over a week to get into but the action really picked up near the end. It was solid overall; not one that I would read again but I would give the author another try.
I read this one yesterday and would concur with this review, including the comment about pacing. It reminded me a lot of Opening Belle, which covers the treatment of women on Wall Street and has a very similar ending and similar characters. It also had a ton of plot points similar to Reconstructing Amelia, even though the stories are very different - but both include cyberbullying,
someone maybe jumping off a building, and Waardenburg syndrome helping to show evidence of who someone’s father is.
 

Erin

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I have been inundated with books from the library and have to put several back on hold because I can't keep up, but two I remember reading (because I just finished them):

Long Bright River by Liz Moore: I read so many rave reviews that I had to read it. I should say up front that the book is written in present tense (I know that bothers some people), bounces between past and present all the time (ditto) and doesn't use conventional punctuation for dialogue (which really bugs me) but other than that, I thought this was a very good book--a mystery, a social commentary and something of a (belated) coming of age story all in one.

Conviction by Denise Mina: The plot strains credulity, but every time I would think "I'm not reading any more of this," there would be a funny line or a cliffhanger to keep me going. If you read it, be aware that the snarky lines do not turn up until later in the book, as the first part of the book is drama on steroids. But there is social media, #MeToo, social media, divorce, addiction, eating disorders, social criticism, social media (the book focuses a lot on social media), the absolute privilege of the 1%, and a murder mystery, and all of it rolls along at top speed.
I’ve finally been able to read more, and read both of these...Conviction a little while ago and Long Bright River yesterday. Conviction was OK, although I agree about the plot straining credulity - in particular, way too many coincidental connections between several characters. But it was a quick, mindless read, which I really needed. Long Bright River, OTOH, I loved, and it was the kind of book that stayed with me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The punctuation thing didn’t really bother me, although I do wonder why the choice was made to do it that way. It seemed unnecessary. My main complaint was that it wrapped things up at the end a little too quickly, but all the reviews I’ve read talk about how long the book is, so maybe there is pressure to wrap it up too quickly.

I think I also forgot to mention that I read the latest Victoria Helen Stone, Problem Child. It wasn’t as good as Jane Doe, but better than her other non-Jane books. I did enjoy that the ending had a bit of a cliffhanger.

Other than that, I’ve mostly been rereading Lance Armstrong books, prompted by a friend mentioning the 30 For 30 episode on him. I’ve always been fascinated by books about doping in sports. Anyway, Cycle of Lies and Wheelmen both held up well on re-read and were good companions to the episode,
 

emason

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I read Sex and Vanity, Kevin Kwan's new book, this week. It's Kwan's riff on/homage to E. M. Forster's A Room with a View. I felt the book had no life of its own; it's (not very good) fan fiction and nothing more. I don't recommend it. YMMV.
 

ryanj07

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My latest reads have been...

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict. It tells the life of Hedy Lamarr from being married to an Austrian arms dealer that’s allied with Hitler to a Hollywood Star turned scientist. I didn’t enjoy it, it was a boring book about an interesting woman.

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejía was wonderful! Eighteen year old Hattie Hoffman steps into many different roles in her daily life, all dependent on who she is surrounded by and hoping to please at a particular moment. After dazzling everyone with her performance of Lady Macbeth, Hattie is found dead in an abandoned barn and the story retraces her steps during her final year of life as the mystery of her death is revealed. Even though you know Hattie’s fate going into the story from the synopsis and she’s not particularly a good person, I found myself rooting for her throughout the story. It’s a small cast of characters, so the possible suspects are limited and I still found myself surprised with the final reveal! It was very well done overall.

Next up is 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand, which I somehow lucked into getting off the hold list much faster than anticipated. I have high expectations given the fantastic reviews and I usually love her books except for Here’s to Us.
 

Erin

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On my last couple of days off work, I read a couple more books, but neither really worked for me. One was Autumn by Ali Smith, which was mentioned earlier in this thread. I found it difficult to follow and I guess I just prefer books that are more plot-driven. The other was The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward, about a mother and her three adult children going on a Mediterranean cruise together after the mother wins a contest. The third-party omniscient narrator changes the point of view between the mother and each of the children. Unfortunately, I couldn't relate to any of the characters and didn't really find any of them appealing. The only story I even found mildly interesting was the youngest daughter, but even hers I found a bit tough to follow some of the reveals. I probably wouldn't have bothered finishing except that it was at least a very quick read. But I wouldn't bother with another by this author.

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejía was wonderful! Eighteen year old Hattie Hoffman steps into many different roles in her daily life, all dependent on who she is surrounded by and hoping to please at a particular moment. After dazzling everyone with her performance of Lady Macbeth, Hattie is found dead in an abandoned barn and the story retraces her steps during her final year of life as the mystery of her death is revealed. Even though you know Hattie’s fate going into the story from the synopsis and she’s not particularly a good person, I found myself rooting for her throughout the story. It’s a small cast of characters, so the possible suspects are limited and I still found myself surprised with the final reveal! It was very well done overall.
A couple of us read this book a while ago and also really liked it - I know I did! I think you described it perfectly that you're rooting for Hattie even though she is not a particularly good person. It's a great example of how really flawed characters can still be relatable.
 

Prancer

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I just finished Her Secret Son. The book got good reviews and the story sounded intriguing enough--a woman dies in a freak accident and her partner wants to adopt the woman's son, as he considers the boy his own child. But he can't find a birth certificate for the boy and begins to realize that the boy probably isn't his partner's child at all, so he sets out to find out who the boy really is.

To me, this book read like something that was written in an advanced writing seminar. I could just see the author thinking "I must give the main character depth. I know. I will make him British and a recovering alcoholic with a sad family story. That way, he can be a fish out water and a flawed human being, but with a sexy accent to make him attractive to all the stunningly beautiful women I will put in the story." There were so many analogies and most of them were distractingly bad--"As I walked into the house, I shed my coat and boots like a snake sheds its skin." Nearly all of them were written that way--I did X like a Y. She A like a B. He Cd like a D. Everyone in the book constantly says that the son is such an awesome kid, but he seems like a pretty standard kid. And the shocking ending just made me :rolleyes.

Not a fan.

I liked The Passenger more, even though it has some really improbable plot points. A woman finds her abusive husband dead at the bottom of the stairs and decides to run because, while she didn't kill the man, she needs to avoid the police. It is immediately apparent that she has some experience in running and some connections to unsavory people; the how and why of her running and those connections unfolds as she runs. The author usually writes funny books; this one aims mostly for gritty realism (with improbable plot points), but there are some funny moments if you like dark humor. It's a page turner, but there is a better-than-average underlying theme.

I also read The Sun Down Motel because I thought it was a mystery. It is, but it's also a ghost story, which is something I am not into at all. I read it all anyway because the story was interesting to me in spite of, rather than because of, the supernatural elements. A rather lost 20-year-old decides to avoid her problems by looking into the disappearance of her aunt, who vanished 35 years earlier while working at the seedy, decrepit Sun Down Motel. In flashbacks, we learn that the aunt was herself trying to solve a mystery by tracking down a serial killer. The book has something of a young adult feel to it, although I don't think this is supposed to be a young adult book, but the author does create a really creepy atmosphere in the hotel.
 
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hanca

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To me, this book read like something that was written in advanced writing seminar. I could just see the author thinking "I must give the main character depth. I know. I will make him British and a recovering alcoholic with a sad family story. That way, he can be a fish out water and a flawed human being, but with a sexy accent to make him attractive to all the stunningly beautiful women I will put in the story." There were so many analogies and most of them were distractingly bad--"As I walked into the house, I shed my coat and boots like a snake sheds its skin." Nearly all of them were written that way--I did X like a Y. She A like a B. He Cd like a D. Everyone in the book constantly says that the son is such an awesome kid, but he seems like a pretty standard kid. And the shocking ending just made me :rolleyes.
Is it how US readers see the depth of a character? One needs to be a British alcoholic with a sad family story and sexy accent? :eek:
 

Jenny

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Everyone in the book constantly says that the son is such an awesome kid, but he seems like a pretty standard kid.
I see this a lot too. If you have to keep telling me a character is this or that, without actually demonstrating it or at least backing it up, then you've got a problem with your character.

And often it's the central character, and we're supposed to believe that everyone loves them and thinks they are so interesting and funny and whatever, which seems to me is the author trying to validate themselves by inventing a better version of themselves, trying to make it real, but not knowing how.
 

Prancer

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Is it how US readers see the depth of a character? One needs to be a British alcoholic with a sad family story and sexy accent? :eek:
Did you miss the part where I said it was like something written in a writing seminar? That I am not a fan?

I think it's a bad book. I don't know what other readers in the US think of it.

I see this a lot too. If you have to keep telling me a character is this or that, without actually demonstrating it or at least backing it up, then you've got a problem with your character.

And often it's the central character, and we're supposed to believe that everyone loves them and thinks they are so interesting and funny and whatever, which seems to me is the author trying to validate themselves by inventing a better version of themselves, trying to make it real, but not knowing how.
The classic telling not showing. This was also true for the woman who died--everyone described her as amazing, wonderful, exceptional, incredible. But that wasn't the way she came across to me in the few scenes she has.

Character is definitely not the writer's strong suit.
 

hanca

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Did you miss the part where I said it was like something written in a writing seminar?
No, I did not miss it, I just did not understand why even in a writing seminar anyone would think that being a British alcoholic is the thing that gives a depth to the character.
 

Prancer

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No, I did not miss it, I just did not understand why even in a writing seminar anyone would think that being a British alcoholic is the thing that gives a depth to the character.
Have you ever attended a writing seminar?
 

Susan1

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I got tired of waiting for my 2 "shipped" books to arrive, so I took three books back this morning before it got too hot. I could have taken them before they opened at 10, but I figured as soon as I got home, I'd get a message that one was in. So I waited till 10 and checked the website. Not yet. There was a woman standing outside between the parking lot and the front door without a mask talking loud on her phone. I put my mask on and gave her a wide berth in and out. I walked clear around more than the length of the car parallel parked in front, when I would have just walked straight across. I only used the book drop in the lobby (with a paper towel on the button and the screen).
 

JoannaLouise

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I also read The Sun Down Motel because I thought it was a mystery. It is, but it's also a ghost story, which is something I am not into at all. I read it all anyway because the story was interesting to me in spite of, rather than because of, the supernatural elements. A rather lost 20-year-old decides to avoid her problems by looking into the disappearance of her aunt, who vanished 35 years earlier while working at the seedy, decrepit Sun Down Motel. In flashbacks, we learn that the aunt was herself trying to solve a mystery by tracking down a serial killer. The book has something of a young adult feel to it, although I don't think this is supposed to be a young adult book, but the author does create a really creepy atmosphere in the hotel.
I read this one also - I think it might have been a recommendation from this thread. (Sometimes things show up in my library hold list, and I have no idea where they came from - but my default assumption is FSU.)

Mystery/crime/detective/thriller novels are kind of my go-to when I just want something to escape into. I loved the creepy atmosphere of this one, and was equally interested in the story in both timelines. Often in a book with flashbacks, I find myself much more interested in one timeline over the other.

But I also think I would have enjoyed this one more without the ghost elements. I don't mind a straight-up ghost story, but I would have rather had this one as a straight-up crime story and not a crime-story-with-ghosts.
 

ryanj07

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I sped through Elin Hilderbrand’s 28 Summers and oh, was it wonderful!! Mallory and Jake meet on Nantucket the summer of ‘93 and make a pact to reunite every Labor Day weekend, no matter what. This carries on for 28 years in the midst of weddings, births and other familial obligations. Would you put everything on hold to meet with your one, true love once a year for only three days? Much like in the vein of One Day, you check in with our main characters during the same time period each year. You know the outcome from the very beginning but somehow those ugly tears still found me as I read the last chapter.... it was beautiful, Elin just keeps getting better!!
 

Prancer

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Mystery/crime/detective/thriller novels are kind of my go-to when I just want something to escape into. I loved the creepy atmosphere of this one, and was equally interested in the story in both timelines. Often in a book with flashbacks, I find myself much more interested in one timeline over the other.

But I also think I would have enjoyed this one more without the ghost elements. I don't mind a straight-up ghost story, but I would have rather had this one as a straight-up crime story and not a crime-story-with-ghosts.
Agreed on both counts. I kind of skimmed over the ghost story parts sometimes. It did make the motel creepier, but the motel is pretty creepy anyway.

I sped through Elin Hilderbrand’s 28 Summers and oh, was it wonderful!! Mallory and Jake meet on Nantucket the summer of ‘93 and make a pact to reunite every Labor Day weekend, no matter what. This carries on for 28 years in the midst of weddings, births and other familial obligations.
Sounds like Same Time Next Year.
 

Susan1

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Of course I got a message from the library that my two books are in. I was going to wait to go to CVS this morning and do both things, but I had to use the coupon yesterday. Maybe tomorrow or Saturday morning.
 

ryanj07

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I finished Emily Giffin's The Lies That Bind and it was a ride on the hot mess express! I read her Something Borrowed series over a decade ago during my freshman year of college and instantly became a fan, it's one of those comfort books that I can continually go back to and never tire of. Her latest takes place in 2001 and focuses on Cecily, a 28 year old reporter living in NYC. We meet her after a painful breakup when she's in a bar attempting to dial her ex when a handsome stranger says "Don't do it, you'll regret it." She spends the summer on a whirlwind romance that doesn't stop when her new interest has to travel abroad with his ill twin brother. Then comes 9/11 and that's where things take a turn for the worse, it's almost disrespectful how Emily used such a tragic event as a plot point in this book. I began frantically turning the pages thinking surely such a seasoned author wouldn't go down this route and it has to get better (it doesn't). I was so done by the end that all I could do was roll my eyes. I didn't think Emily Giffin could get any worse than the icky The One & Only a few years ago but this is right down there with it. I tried to go into this with an open mind and not let my personal views of her cloud my judgement since she was recently highlighted for mercilessly tearing down other women on her social media with little remorse.... but no, I checked other reviews from longtime fans and it was just that bad. Considering her last four or so have been duds, I'm not sure I'll pick up her next one and if I do, it'll definitely be borrowed from the library.
 

puglover

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I have felt true crime books are often seen as low class exploitive sensationalism or something but I have developed a taste for them lately. I have been quite taken with the writing of Jack Olsen, especially when read by Kevin Pierce. I realize his characters are not fiction and perhaps that helps but man he really had a tremendous ability to make you feel like you really know these people - victims, perpetrator, families, law enforcement, judicial system. He strikes a good balance between not glossing over the unpleasant details but also not just writing shock and gore. I find it quite fascinating how they got caught and so often it isn't because of great police work but just plain ordinary dumb luck.
 

genevieve

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Last night I finished The Dog Star(s?) by Peter Heller (I think...I need more coffee). It was on the dystopian list posted much earlier in this thread.

It has no discernible plot. It's more stream of consciousness, which isn't necessarily bad as long as it seems to be going somewhere. While eventually some stuff does happen, it's too little, too late.

I was just hate reading/skimming by the end.

Do not recommend.
:fragile: I read that one a few years ago and liked it. Although I remember the general premise and not the details, so I can't say why I liked it (or perhaps think I liked it).

I finished Oryx and Crake, and was mostly irritated at the interesting story bogged down by how awful the main characters were. And then at the very end there was enough to make me consider reading the next book. Which likely won't happen because our Library isn't open yet and I'm def not buying any books in the series.

Now reading Lincoln in the Bardo, given to me by a friend who loooooves it. It's ok so far, but not as clever as it thinks it is.
 

Japanfan

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I finished Oryx and Crake, and was mostly irritated at the interesting story bogged down by how awful the main characters were. And then at the very end there was enough to make me consider reading the next book. Which likely won't happen because our Library isn't open yet and I'm def not buying any books in the series.
IMO the ending of Oryx and Crake is masterful. Well-worth reading once you can get it out of the libraries.

Libraries here have reopened for limited hours. :cheer2:
 

VGThuy

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There were so many analogies and most of them were distractingly bad--"As I walked into the house, I shed my coat and boots like a snake sheds its skin." Nearly all of them were written that way--I did X like a Y. She A like a B. He Cd like a D. Everyone in the book constantly says that the son is such an awesome kid, but he seems like a pretty standard kid. And the shocking ending just made me :rolleyes.
I see this a lot too. If you have to keep telling me a character is this or that, without actually demonstrating it or at least backing it up, then you've got a problem with your character.

And often it's the central character, and we're supposed to believe that everyone loves them and thinks they are so interesting and funny and whatever, which seems to me is the author trying to validate themselves by inventing a better version of themselves, trying to make it real, but not knowing how.
I hate that so much. First, those analogies sound God-awful and I would close the book if I read too many of those. Secondly, I hate being told a character is something because I feel like the author rarely follows through on that. And it’s always something ideal or positive. I don’t like it when I’m told a character is “beautiful” in third person objective narration because I feel like a subjective (and kind of vague these days) thing like that should be up to the reader unless another character is saying it but even then there are other words one can use that is less eye-rolling. Also, I’m so sick of some Americans’ obsessive romanticization of the Brits...from their accents (as if there’s only one) to their “charm” to their clothes, to their royals, etc. I mean, they’re just people.
 
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Susan1

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Did I get the idea for The Vanishing Season here? Or did somebody mention the latest Joanna Schaffhausen book? Maybe I saw the new one in the last library magazine and looked them up. It was March. They aren't putting them out now that the library is open again. I just finished it. It was the first in a series that I have on my list. The fourth one comes out next year. It was good. I will reserve the next one.
 

cygnus

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I have enjoyed the very spirited discussion on the annual Canada Reads competition on CBC radio. 5 books are defended by 5 "celebrities" (whom I have rarely ever heard of, but who are always engaging) and every day one is voted off. The winner this year looks really interesting- "We Have Always Been Here" by Samra Habib. I must look for it.

Here are the 5 books in contention. https://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads/meet-the-canada-reads-2020-contenders-1.5433115
 

Erin

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I read Emma Donoghue's Akin. It was...OK but not great. It's about 79 year-old Noah who unexpectedly acquires his 11 year-old great-nephew as a ward and the trip the two of them take to Nice. There isn't a ton of plot, and that tends to be what interests me most. The trajectory of the relationship between the two characters was pretty predictable. I did enjoy some of the bits of humour interspersed and the story about Noah trying to solve a mystery related to some pictures his mother took that were discovered among his sister's effects. But overall, it was a big letdown compared to Room. I remember someone making similar comments in this thread about another of Donoghue's books, which makes me wonder if she was a one-hit wonder with Room.
 

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