Thursday 8 July 2021

Two books, one post...

I think this is the first time I’ve missed a post, so rather than wait until next Sunday, I've decided to write about the last two books I’ve read this morning.  It’s cool and rainy, and I’ve got a steaming cup of chai and a delicious date bar, and it’s the first full week of summer holidays for me, so it’s the perfect time to write this post.

My book club met last Saturday to discuss the Young Adult novel Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.  I chose this book to add to our list because I usually have at least one YA novel, most often during the summer, and this was one a teacher at my school had read and really enjoyed.  This novel tells the story of sixteen-year-old Aza Holmes and her friends Daisy and Mychal, three young people who are determined to solve the mystery of a billionaire, Mr Pickett, who went missing in the wake of a fraud investigation and claim the reward money.  Aza suffers from OCD and is constantly worrying about contracting an infection, specifically C. diff.  She is also grieving the loss of her father, so when Daisy and Mychal drag her into this adventure, she reluctantly agrees to participate.  She and Pickett’s son, Davis, knew each other in elementary school, so they use this connection to their advantage.  Davis and his younger brother Noah are surrounded by people who work for their father, but no one who is truly family.  Add to this the fact that their father, upon his death, is planning to leave all his money to his tuatara, which he believes holds the key to increased longevity, and you’ve got two very confused and lonely boys. This motley group search for clues to help locate Pickett, but along the way they encounter other challenges, particularly related to relationships, friendships, and familial responsibility.  Everyone seemed to enjoy this book.  They felt that Green wrote from a female perspective convincingly, and wondered how he could understand Aza’s mental health issues unless he’s lived it (he has).  They thought Daisy was a foil, a bit of comic relief from the more serious explorations into mental health issues.  Green did a good job of including social media as a form of communication, one that is so prevalent with young people.  This book explored the topics of absentee parents, the not-always-great relationships between parents and children, and self-harm.  We discussed the relationship between Aza and her mom, and her mom’s own fears of “losing someone else”.  All in all, it was a great discussion.

And since I’m off for the summer, I have already finished reading Alex Michaelides’ second, much-anticipated novel, The Maidens.  I loved his first book, The Silent Patient, so I think I had unrealistic expectations for this one, and unfortunately I was somewhat disappointed, although clearly the book was gripping enough that I managed to finish it in three days.  Tara, a student at St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, goes missing, and Mariana, a psychotherapist specializing in group therapy, gets a distressing call from her niece, Zoe, who is also a student at St Christopher’s, as well as the missing girl’s best friend.  When Tara’s body is found, the victim of a seemingly frenzied attack, she leaves her busy practice in London and heads to Cambridge, where she reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation, despite the remonstrations of the lead investigator as well as the main suspect, Edward Fosca. Fosca is a Professor of Greek Literature who regularly meets with some of his most intelligent students, a group of young, beautiful women he calls “the maidens”, a cult-like reference to the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone.  Tara was part of this group, but the police don’t seem to be taking Mariana’s concerns seriously, so when another girl, also a “maiden”, is murdered, she is determined to stay in Cambridge and prove that Fosca is guilty.  Mariana, still grieving the loss of her husband Sebastian, has a tendency to run away and hide from the truth, but she finds new purpose in helping Zoe and decides that it is her duty to protect her.  Can she solve the mystery before Zoe becomes the next victim?  You’ll have to read it to find out.  There were plenty of potential suspects, plot twists and red herrings, and it was written well enough, so I don’t quite know why I was unable to really lose myself in this story.  I guess I couldn't really identify with Mariana, and some of her decisions were questionable at best. Still, you could certainly do worse than this thriller, so if I were to use Kirkus' rating system, I would say “Borrow it”, as opposed to “Buy it” or “Skip it”.  

That’s all for today.  Stay dry and pick up a good book.

Bye for now…

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