Sunday 27 November 2022

Post on a rainy November day...

It’s gray and rainy outside, thoroughly unpleasant for walking, but perfect for reading!  It’s the middle of the afternoon, and I’m looking forward to doing just that once I finish this quick post.

I read a really interesting novel by Canadian author Emily St John Mandel, another book I found while “shopping in my closet” .   The Lola Quartet is a slow-moving mystery set in New York and southern Florida involving four high school friends who once played in a jazz band called “The Lola Quartet”, but at the end of their final year, they all move on with their lives and lose touch. One of the members, Gavin, moves to New York to become a journalist after his girlfriend, Anna, disappears, rumored to have gone to spend the summer with her aunt in Georgia.  Shifting back and forth in time, we follow Anna as she attempts to stay in hiding, but what is she running from?  And she has a young girl with her, Chloe, who may or may not be Gavin’s daughter.  Fired from his job at a New York newspaper for plagiarism, he goes back to Florida to work with his sister repossessing houses.  She was taking photos of one such foreclosed house when she saw this girl who looks a lot like Gavin, which sets her brother, who has always wanted to be a 1950's private investigator, off on a mission to locate Anna and Chloe, a search that begins with reaching out to his former jazz quartet friends to find out if they have any clue about where Anna went or what happened to her a decade earlier.  Underlying the interconnected stories of the characters in both the past and the present is the theme of music, particularly jazz, giving this story a vintage air.  The narrative was very Paul Auster-esque, in that it was both dream-like and timeless, with prose that carried this reader along as though drifting on clouds or down a slow-moving river.  It’s been nearly a week since I finished it, but that’s how I remembered feeling when I reached the final pages.  It was a short book that seemed much longer, but in a really good way.  I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys Paul Auster mysteries; in fact, this book makes me really want to reread the “New York” trilogy, maybe over Christmas break.

That’s all for today.  Stay dry and curl up with a good book!

Bye for now…

Sunday 20 November 2022

Post on a snowy morning...

It’s windy and snowy and quite chilly this morning as I write this post.  Good thing I have a steaming cup of chai and a slice of freshly baked Date Bread to keep me warm.  Oh, and also a purring kitty on my lap… Does it get any better than this?!

Nothing that I had from the library was grabbing me last week, so I did a “shopping in my own closet” thing and found a few books on my own bookshelves that I thought I would try.  What I ended up reading was The Drowning by Sweden’s “Queen of Crime Fiction” Camilla Lackberg.  This is a later book in the "Fjällbacka" series, and it is the first book I’ve read by this author, so I came into it not knowing any of the backstories of the characters or their relationships inside or outside the station, but I think I still got most of it.  When the debut novel by Fjällbacka resident Christian Thyndall becomes an instant hit, mesmerizing readers with its dark magic, crime writer Erica Falck, is thrilled, as she is the one who recommended Christian to her editor.  But when she discovers that he’s been receiving threatening letters, she begs her husband, Detective Patrik Hedström, to investigate. Patrik and the other detectives at the station are at loose ends when trying to console the wife of a man who’s been missing for several months, a man who seems to have disappeared into thin air.  When he discovers that the disappearance of the missing man and the threatening letters may be tied together, he enlists the help of the whole team to dig deeper into their pasts.  But what he uncovers is more strange and deadly than anyone could have anticipated.  This was a good book, with characters that were interesting and a plot that was definitely complex and psychological, and I would certainly read other books in this series.  My only complaint is that this book took some time to really get going plot-wise, and her books are all quite long.  I’m not sure all of them are like this, but it’s a bit of a deterrent if I can’t really get into the story until nearly halfway through a 500-page mystery.  I think I would have to spread the novels out and not read them back-to-back.  

The other book I pulled off my shelf was The Lola Quartet by Canadian author Emily St John Mandel, which is really interesting (and quite short!!), but I’m not quite finished and will have to wait until next week to tell you about it.

That’s all for today.  Stay warm and keep reading!

Bye for now... Julie

Sunday 6 November 2022

Late evening post on a long-ish weekend...

It’s late on the first Sunday in November, my favourite weekend of the year because we get that extra hour due to the clocks being turned back.  Obviously I didn’t use the extra hour to write my post this morning, but I figure it’s better late than never.

My Volunteer Book Club met yesterday to discuss Alex Michaelides’ psychological thriller, The Silent Patient, and everyone LOVED this book!!  Here’s what I wrote about it when I read it the first time in February of 2019:

“I read two books last week and finished listening to an audiobook, so this might be a long post.  The first book I read, or should I say devoured, was The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.  Artist Alicia Berenson is in an institute for the criminally insane after stabbing her husband to death.  For seven years, she has not spoken a word, not even to defend herself or explain her actions.  Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber, convinced that he can break through her wall of silence and get her talking, gets hired on at the institute and takes on her case as his personal challenge.  But as he digs deeper, he discovers that her silence is covering up secrets far more complex than he ever imagined.  And he must consider whether, ultimately, he really wants the truth revealed.  This debut thriller sucked me in right away, and kept me flying through the pages until the very last paragraph.  It was one of the best “unreliable narrator” novels I’ve read in a long time, and the plot twists were so sudden and shocking that I had to stop and think about it all until everything fell into place and I was amazed at the final picture these puzzle pieces created.  This would be a great novel for anyone who enjoyed The Silent Wife (ASA Harrison), The Widow (Fiona Barton) or Before I Go To Sleep (S J Watson).”

I really can’t add any more details than what is written above, as I wouldn’t want to give anything away.  This also means that I can’t really talk about our discussion, as we mostly discussed aspects of the novel (such as characters, narratives, timelines, etc) in relation to the ending, but I obviously don’t want to reveal the ending.  It was a really, really good book that I found unputdownable, even the second time.  I kind of remembered the ending, but not all of it, so it was still somewhat of a surprise for me, and I can understand why I had to think about it the first time before figuring out just what had happened.  If you like psychological thrillers, I would highly recommend this novel.

And I finished another book today, The Burning Girls by C J Tudor, which was pretty good as well.  This novel tells the story of Jack Brooks, a vicar and single mother of fifteen year old Flo, who moves from her home parish in Nottingham to the small village of Chapel Croft in pursuit of a fresh start.  Well, Chapel Croft wouldn’t have been her first choice, but she does her best to settle into a community that is steeped in tradition and history, particularly around the martyred parishioners who were burned at the stake in the 1500s.  Jack is taking over from the former vicar who hanged himself in the chapel, but she is determined to make a go of this, despite the hardships she and her daughter face when trying to get used to village life.  When creepy things start to happen, Jack is suitably frightened, both for herself and for her daughter, but rather than abandoning their new home, they stay and try to figure out what’s going on.  Oh, along with the martyrs, two teens, Merry and Joy, disappeared from the village 30 years before and have never been heard from again.  This would definitely be enough to send me running to the nearest bus station and heading back to Nottingham, but clearly Jack has a stronger constitution (and calling) than I.  She is also running from an unfortunate incident in her recent pass that makes her reluctant to return to her former stomping grounds. Despite the warnings and visions experienced by both Jack and Flo, they continue to search for clues to help solve the mystery, but can they do so before someone else gets hurt?  Reading this book was a bit like watching a classic horror movie, where you yell at the main characters to “go back, don’t open that door”, and yet they not only open the door, they step out into the night (alone!!) searching for whatever made the noise.  It was not literary, but it was good creepy fun, perfect for reading around Halloween, when our thoughts turn to ghostly apparitions and things that go bump in the night.  If you are looking for a good, creepy story set in a small British village, you could definitely do worse than this one.

That’s all for tonight.  Have a good evening!

Bye for now... Julie