I know I’ve been lax with my posts lately, but many things have been happening in the past few weeks that have taken up my evenings and weekends and so have impacted my reading and blogging time (I hate when “life” gets in the way of books and reading!!). But I have a hot cup of tea and a slice of homemade Date Bread to keep me company as I write this long (and long overdue!) post.
This will be a “two-fer”, as I’ve had a chance to finish reading two books and am halfway through a third, which I will have to set aside in order to read the book for my next book club meeting on Saturday. The first book I read was by Canadian author Catherine McKenzie, and it was un-put-downable! Please Join Us tells the story of a couple of lawyers living in New York who are experiencing a crisis when one of them faces criticism and remonstrations at her law firm when her number of billable hours are down for the month. Nicole is highly competitive and takes this criticism and the implied threat of dismissal very personally. Her husband, Dan, works as on-site counsel and faces none of these pressures, and he tries to reassure her that things will get better, although they are definitely struggling, both financially and in their relationship. When Nicole receives an invitation to attend a week away at a ranch to join an exclusive women’s networking group, she jumps at the chance, even though Dan warns against it, claiming that it sounds like a cult. Panthera Leo, as the group is called, is made up of high-powered women who profess to stick together, watch each others' backs and help each other out, to deal with things “like a man would”. Nicole bonds with a couple of the women, and while she is shocked by some of the events during the week, she sees the value of this group and accepts their help when faced with difficult situations at work and in her personal life. The things that are asked of her seem benign, but when one night, after a frantic call from a member, things seem to spiral out of control, Nicole must figure out a way to leave the group without ruining the life she and Dan have built together and also ruining her career. This novel totally sucked me in from the beginning and kept me turning pages to find out what happens next. It reminded me a bit of The Other Black Girl, in that you never quite knew exactly what was going on at any given time, because the narrator of the story only has her version of events to share. But all things became clear as I reached a very satisfying conclusion, and I was both glad to find out what was really happening and sad that there wasn’t more to read. I would highly recommend this thriller to just about anyone who enjoys books about hidden agendas, secret organizations and cults.
And I finished another fabulous book last week, Escaping Dreamland by Charlie Lovett, which was very different from Please Join Us, but was also un-put-downable. Lovett’s novel has two storylines set in two different time periods. In 2010, Robert Parrish is an up-and-coming author who seems unable to write a follow-up to his bestselling debut novel. He and his girlfriend Rebecca are struggling in their relationship, as Robert refuses to reveal the truth about his past with his father. After a huge argument that results in Rebecca's departure, Robert realizes that the only way he can win her back is to delve into his past, which involves a series of children’s books that created a deep bond between father and son, but which also holds a dark secret. In 1906, Magda, Eugene and Thomas are three strangers who end up meeting and developing a deep friendship over their efforts to write three children’s book series. They have a wonderful time and enjoy many outings together when not working on their books, but after an event that threatens to sever their relationship, things are never quite the same. Can Robert figure out what he has to do to win Rebecca back? Will Magda, Eugene and Thomas ever resume their friendship? These questions and many more will be answered if you read this excellent novel. It was a perfect example of metafiction, which is coincidental, as I was just reading a book to the students at school, The Wonderful Book by Leonid Gore, that was also an example of metafiction - and the kids even understood the concept!! It was an homage to the power of children’s books and the effects books can have on us. It was a love song to New York, and also a history lesson - the amount of research for this novel was extensive. It was beautifully written and each character was fully developed and credible. I was sucked into both dramas and found myself looking for reading opportunities wherever I could. As you can probably tell, I loved, loved, loved this book! And it was just a fluke that I even discovered it, as I read a review for a newer publication by this author but my library didn’t have it yet, so I checked this one out instead. The cover didn’t even really appeal to me, since it suggested a work of historical fiction, which it kind of was, and which I don’t normally enjoy. So here’s a lesson in the truth about not judging a book by its cover! I think if you enjoy novels that are steeped in the love of books and reading, and especially the value of books for children, then this is the book for you.
That’s all for today. Enjoy the sunshine and the unusually mild weather!