Monday 12 February 2018

Books and tea on a "sick" morning...

I’ve been sick this past weekend, and am home sick again today, so this may be a brief post.  I’ve got hot tea and warm flat gingerale in front of me as I think about the books I’ve read recently.

Last week I read a book that I picked up from the big library conference I was at just over a week ago, The French Girl by Lexie Elliott.  On the cover of this book, which features a shadowy night-time scene by a pool, is the tagline “We all have our secrets”.  Kate Channing is struggling to keep her legal headhunting business solvent.  In her early thirties, she knows that working in a law office is not for her (been there, done that), and she doesn’t know what other options she has.  Then she lands a contract with a big law firm, and things are looking up… until her past comes to haunt her.  A decade earlier, Kate and five friends spent a week at a French farmhouse and encountered the neighbour girl, lithe, tanned, languid Severine, who disappeared on the last day of their vacation.  Now Severine’s body had been discovered in the well behind the farmhouse, and everyone is a suspect.  As the six friends get together and try to piece together the puzzle surrounding Severine’s death, long-buried secrets come to light that threaten their friendships, and possibly their very lives.  This sounded like it was exactly the type of book I love, and one review suggested it was perfect for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.  It started out really well, but then I found it became too repetitive and mired in self-absorption.  Perhaps it would have been a better novel if it were not restricted to Kate’s point of view only, or if Elliott offered more in the way of details about the week so long ago that was the start of all of this mystery.  As it is, this book reminded me more of Ruth Ware and less of Fiona Barton - in Barton’s books, the story actually moves along, whereas Ware’s books tend to stay mired in one character’s thoughts and are repetitive (especially her latest book, The Lying Game).  This is Elliott’s debut novel, and I can see that she has talent, but I hope she takes the time in her next book to develop her own voice and storytelling technique - there are too many books out there already just like this one.    

Then yesterday I needed to grab something to read while I went to a walk-in clinic, as my symptoms were getting worse and I wanted to make sure I didn’t need further treatment (no antibiotics needed - just fluids and bedrest… and extra kitty cuddles *sigh*), so I picked up my favourite mystery novel from childhood, Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan, and read it all yesterday.  I loved this novel as a child and I still love it - it is exactly the type of book I still read today, a bit of a combination of Du Maurier’s Rebecca and Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby.  I wrote a post about this in April 2015, and because I’ve been sick, I’m just going to copy and paste that post here:
“This novel, originally published in 1976, tells the story of Rachel, a 15-year old girl living with her family in Albuquerque, whose family learns of the recent death of Rachel's aunt and uncle, along with the young woman they hired to help out around the house.  Her parents immediately leave for the small house built in the Ozarks to bring back their niece, 17-year-old Julia.  Rachel, who has two brothers, one older and one younger, is not entirely thrilled at the idea of suddenly having a ready-made big sister, but she does her best to be welcoming when her parents return with Julia.  Immediately, Rachel senses something is not right about her.  Perhaps it’s those haunting, haunted eyes, or her strange accent and way of speaking, when she speaks at all, perhaps it’s the fact that Rachel’s gentle, loving dog, Trickle, dislikes Julia the instant he encounters her… but no one will believe Rachel, even when strange things begin to happen to her family and her neighbours.  Could Julia really be a witch?  And how is Rachel the only one to recognize her for what she is?
Duncan revised and updated her novels to make them more relevant and accessible for readers today, including references to cell phones and computers, and in this updated edition of Summer of Fear, she even made reference to Harry Potter books!  I so enjoyed reading this book again - it was just the right book for a day when I felt pretty crappy.
And I finished listening to an audiobook last week that was also really good, a Young Adult novel by Heather Brewer, The Cemetery Boys.  The book opens with Stephen and his dad moving back to Spencer, population 814, a move that resulted from his dad losing his job and spending all their savings on Stephen’s mom’s hospital bills.  They have moved in with Stephen’s grandmother, who only speaks to them when she has more chores for them to do, a long list which she demands daily.  This town seems stuck in time, and Stephen resigns himself to a summer in hell until he meets sexy punk girl Cara, her mysterious twin brother Devon, and his loyal group of friends.  When he starts hanging out with them, he begins to uncover unsavoury details about the town’s past, including vague references to something called “the winged ones”, which are  believed to have the ability to alleviate “the bad times” - all they require is a sacrifice.  Can Stephen stay loyal to his friends, save the girl he loves, and save himself, before it is too late? This darkly funny coming-of-age horror brought to mind that ‘80s film “The Lost Boys”, with Devon as the Kiefer Sutherland character, white-blond hair and all.  When I started listening to this book, it didn’t immediately grab me, but I’m so glad I stuck with it.  This author, who has written many YA vampire novels, has the speech pattern, the tone and the atmosphere down pat.  It was funny and spooky and downright creepy.  In terms of content and language, this book is unfortunately too mature for my school libraries, but I’m now interested in trying out one of her other books, maybe the first in the “Chronicles of Vladimir Tod” series, which I have in my YA collection.

Whew!  That was longer than I expected - I must be feeling a bit better!  Happy Monday!
Bye for now…

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