I’m having so much fun in Slovenia I’m a couple days late with Reading Wednesday. My apologies!!!
Twist of the Knife by Becky Masterman
I am not usually a crime novel or murder mystery kind of girl. But this book fell onto my “to read” list as a result of a Best of 2017 article I read. And I am very glad it did. I enjoyed it very much.
I have not read anything else by Masterman but she seemed to have a good handle on police work and FBI details, except at times some of the story seemed to have a few too many coincidences. But I’m okay with that in a novel.
The story or an innocent man on death row for the murder of his family 16 years before becomes a bit of a wild goose chase as the real killer is sought out by a collection of police professionals, each with their own stories, backgrounds and mysteries. Told from the point of view of retired cop Brigid Quinn the story is a page turner and well written.
I did not realize until after reading this book there are earlier Brigid Quinn stories (two others), but you do not need to have read them to both understand and sympathize with this character and the police work she is thrust into, all while also caring for her ailing parents.
Somewhat violent, but always well written, I enjoyed A Twist of the Knife by Becky Masterman very much. Four stars.
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
I wanted to read this book because it was receiving accolades and rave reviews from every corner and genre. The story of the authors unique experience raising a goshawk.
But I just didn’t love it. I liked it but didn’t love it. It dragged for me. Sorry, I really wanted to like it more.
But I still think many readers would enjoy it, lovingly told the underlying story is how author and bird find themselves and succeed together.
If you love birds or if you have felt lost with grief “H is for Hawk” might ring true for you, as MacDonald chronicles her experience raising one of natures most viscous predators and coming out whole on the other side.
H is for Hawk ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Do you ever think your family is crazy? Do you have that family member who is nuts? That black sheep who is a challenge? That selfish person who demands constant attention? Jealousy amongst family members?
If you have ever had the thought that your family is wacko, read A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley and suddenly your family will seem totally normal!
This is an exceptional yet disturbing Pulitzer Prize winning story of family, betrayal, love, hate, greed, madness, infidelity, abuse, and small town gossip. It has it all. Loosely based on the story of King Lear, Smiley puts the family drama in 1970’s Iowa farmland, pitting family members against family members.
The story is told through the eyes of oldest daughter Ginny on a 1000 acre family generational farm. Smiley’s brilliant character development pulls you in as each character in this family makes you both love and loathe them. Smiley has an exceptional writing style with the unique ability to lull you in as you read along and then Bam! The unexpected has you sit bolt up and go wait – what? More than once I found myself suddenly struck with the unexpected – in the way only a talented writer can accomplish.
Five stars for A Thousand Acres. I really enjoyed this book.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I finished this book but couldn’t stop thinking about the characters. Exit West is a beautiful love story with wonderfully developed characters.
The story is both realistic and torn from today’s headlines all while being somewhat mystical and even a bit “1984”.
As their city crumbles around them in war and political unrest two young people are thrown together and fall hard in love and lust. Escape becomes possible through a rumored system of “doors”. I couldn’t decide for myself if the doors were meant to be magical or more like an Underground Railroad. Hamid leaves it to your imagination.
But going through the doors is only the first step to building a new life in an unfamiliar country – one where the welcome mat is not out.
And in the end, drifting apart, finding new focus, but forever being grateful for each other during a tumultuous journey of survival.
Exit West will make you grateful for the things you have and the people you love.
Kitchen Confidential byAnthony Bourdain ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s surprising that I have never read this book. I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain’s travel and foodie shows. I like his take no prisoners attitude, even though you can see he has a soft heart.
But for whatever reason I had not read this book, THE book that really launched him. So finally I did. I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it.
I’ve read at least three books by Ruth Richle, former New York Times food critic and editor of Gourmet Magazine (among many other things) and I enjoyed her stories more. Much of Kitchen Confidential seemed a bit over the top, and yet Bourdain is writing from experience, and there is no doubt he has led a rough and somewhat crazed life – a bit over the top.
The real story I think is about survival. Bourdain is a survivor. Luckily for all of us.
Perhaps Bourdain’s more recent books show his more mature side- rightly so. His television work has also matured and he probably cringes a bit at some of the stories he tells in Kitchen Confidential.
So if you haven’t read it – it’s worth a read, and like Bourdain you’ll find it a bit rough, fowl and full of piss and vinegar.
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s been at least ten yeas since I read Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale” which went down in my list of favorite reads of all time. That very imaginative story, now getting renewed recognition because it is a TV Drama, made me look further into the list of Atwood novels. She has dozens.
Atwood is one of those authors who pumps out a book once or twice a year. Not all of them the quality of “A Handmaid’s Tale”. Last year I read a novel by Atwood for my book club that was a dud. A real dud. It was called “The Heart Goes Last.” I hated it.
My husband loved her book “A Blind Assassin”, I guess I should read that one – because I now have discovered another really excellent Atwood novel “Alias Grace”.
I will say one thing about Atwood – her stories are all over the map as far as topic, time and genre and that is a good sign of an innovative author. “Alias Grace” is based on a real character, Grace Marks, whose notoriety as a murderess in the 1870’s made her the tabloid queen of her time.
Atwood’s novel, uses both fact and fiction, real and fictional characters, history and creative manipulations to build a very compelling story about Grace Marks, her immigration to Canada from Ireland, her difficult childhood, her time as a servant and the fateful day of the murders of her employer and his housekeeper.
Did she do it? You will need to decide for yourself as the book leaves the question open for contemplation. Is she the first recorded schizophrenic? Was she possesed by another dead women? Was she a superb actress? Or just a very unfortunate young girl in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I recommend “Alias Grace”. Four stars.
Good Omens ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchette
My third Neil Gaiman book and this author is seriously brilliant and crazy at the same time. I don’t think this was his first book but it is surly one of his first, co-authored in 1990. From what I understand it has a cult following to this day.
For me, I enjoyed the raucous ride both hilarious and frightening as the story prepares for the coming of the end of the world. Armageddon never looked so entertaining with a Wild cast of characters from a witch who seems a bit “off” to angels and demons and motorcycle apocalyptic gang to an anti-Christ child.
Gaimen’s tendency toward fantasy stories is clear in Good Omens which reminded me often of the 1970’s movie The Omen while also having some similarities to Harry Potter. I enjoyed the book but enjoyed his more resent epic novel American Gods more.
Four stars for Good Omens.