Monday, 2 July 2018

Long post on a long weekend...

It’s the first long weekend of the summer, and since I’m on summer vacation now, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate my newfound free time by writing an extra long post!  (I don’t know if it’ll be “extra long”, but I will tell you about both the book I read and the audiobook I finished, which I don’t always have the time or energy to do).
I get e-newsletters from Kirkus, an American book review magazine, that offer weekly reviews of new books as well as lists of themed books that include some new and some backlist titles.  Kirkus is very hard to impress, so when they give a good review, you can bet it’s usually a pretty good book.  I recently received a list of “the 13 scariest books ever written”, a list that includes We Need to Talk About Kevin, A Simple Plan and The Shining  (https://www.kirkusreviews.com/lists/13-scariest-books-ever-written/ring/).  On this list was a book by thriller writer Megan Abbott, whose books I am familiar with but have never read.  You Will Know Me, published in 2016, tells the story of the Knox family, Eric and Katie, their insightful, quirky son Drew and their focused, driven, possibly obsessive daughter Devon.  Devon is their star, a girl on the cusp of training to be an Olympic gold medallist, and the hopes and dreams of the family, as well as the whole gym community, rest on her strong shoulders.  All seems to be going well until a tragic accident takes the life of young, handsome Ryan, boyfriend of the coach’s niece, Hailey. It seems like a random hit-and-run, but when rumours and suspicions begin to fly, the structure of the gym community begins to crumble, leaving each member to ponder to what lengths the others would go to ensure the success of the whole.  OK, I enjoy watching Olympic gymnastics, but I will never be able to watch again without considering the torturous conditions those poor girls endure to train for it. That was the thing I took most from this domestic thriller, the punishment these girls put their bodies through every day, all the time, and the focus and intensity with which they must necessarily view their path.  How any parent can endure watching this is beyond me, but having never been a parent, I’m sure there are many things I would be incapable of understanding unless it was my own child (or so they tell me!). I didn’t find it overly “scary”, although it was somewhat suspenseful, in the way that Defending Jacob by William Landay was, but it was nothing like We Need to Talk About Kevin, whose author managed to make it a thriller while also being extremely literary.  I felt that this is what Megan Abbott was trying to do with this book, to make it seem like more of a Lee Valley book than what it really was, which is a Canadian Tire book.  There’s nothing wrong with Canadian Tire books, but to move from one level to another takes great skill and immense talent, and unfortunately Abbott falls far short of reaching this goal.  I think her efforts actually detract from the flow of the story; it’s as if she has fixated on a couple of techniques that she thinks will raise the bar and just keeps repeating them over and over, making the text not more literary but rather, at least for this reader, more tedious.  I found the suspense part pretty standard, but what was most intriguing for me was the relationship between Devon and Katie, and I would have been so much more interested in this novel if it had focused more on the domestic drama, with full character backstories, including the dynamics between the gym community members, than on the hit-and-run and subsequent investigation and speculation.  It was an OK book, but not one that makes me want to rush out and read other books by this author.
And I finished listening to an audiobook last week, one in the “Andy Carpenter” series by David Rosenfelt that I was delighted to discover I hadn’t already listened to before.  Sudden Death begins with Andy Carpenter and Willie Miller arriving in Los Angeles to discuss film options for Willie’s personal story of wrongful imprisonment and Andy’s success in handling his case.  When they arrive back in Paterson, New Jersey, Andy is whisked from the airport and delivered to the home of football star Kenny Schilling. He has been brought in to talk to Schilling after shots were fired when the police surrounded his house.  What Andy finds is a body folded up in Schilling’s closet, surrounded by a pool of blood from the bullet wound in the chest. The victim is Tony Preston, Kenny’s friend and fellow football player, and the evidence is compelling for a murder charge.  Andy reluctantly agrees to take the case, putting his team to work to find anything that could prove his client’s innocence. Could there be someone else who wanted Preston dead? Are his drug-related activities to blame for this? Or is Schilling being framed for some reason? Andy, of course, is able to see beyond what most lawyers and investigators accept as evidence, and the resulting investigation is nothing short of riveting, demonstrating that Carpenter is as sharp in the courtroom as he is insecure in his personal relationships.  I loved this book, and hope to have the opportunity to listen to all the books in the series, as I love the narrator, Grover Gardner, who really brings the “Andy Carpenter” books to life. Note: I’ve never read any of these books, only listened to them as audiobooks, so as an experiment, I should try reading one of the books to see if I read the words on the page with Gardner’s voice in my head. Hmmm… if I do this, I’ll let you know the results.
That’s all for today (but that was pretty long, eh?!).  Hope you had a Happy Canada Day, and if you are off today, enjoy the rest of the long weekend!
Bye for now…
Julie

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