First, though a quick announcement. For those of you who haven’t read it, THE SUBURBS HAVE SECRETS will be free until April 1. I wanted to give everyone who is stuck inside a chance to grab a good read without having spend money. The ebook is available through all channels. You can go straight to Amazon by clicking here
One good thing about social isolation is the ability to do a lot of reading. Actually, I do a ton a reading in the winter. Some of the books I read were winners. Some were not. (These are solely my opinions. You may disagree.)
THE COLLECTOR’S APPRENTICE by BA Shapiro. Billed as an historical thriller of art and revenge set in turn of the century Paris, The Collector’s Apprentice ticked all my boxes. I couldn’t wait to read it. Sadly, my expectations didn’t meet reality, and I was sorely disappointed. The details about Impressionist art were fantastically researched. But the thriller aspect of the book wasn’t thrilling at all, and the revenge came way to0 late for me to care. DNF.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR by Hallie Ephron. Let me say right off that Hallie Ephron is a fantastic writing teacher. I have sat through her lectures and learned a ton. For that reason, I’m sad that I didn’t enjoy her latest thriller. Again, it simply wasn’t thrilling. There was no tension or sense of urgency. (Shapiro’s book suffered from the same issue.) Since Ephron is such a brilliant teacher, I’ll try her again, but in the meantime, this book was a fail. GRADE: C-
THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS by Lisa Jewell. At last a thriller that lived up to the billing. The book, which features three narrators, looks back at the murder-suicide of a London cult. Nothing about the crime is what it seems. Jewell throws in some great twists, including one on the last page that has me begging for a sequel. GRADE: A+
DEAR EDWARD by Ann Napolitano. Not everything I picked up was a thriller or mystery novel. DEAR EDWARD is about the 12-year-old sole survivor of a jet crash. His coming-of-age story is juxtaposed with the story of the crash itself. Edward and the other passengers on the plane are connected in surprising ways. Do not be scared away by the description. The book is beautifully written, tender and hopeful. It’s amazing. GRADE: A+
DAISY JONES AND THE SIX by Tara Reid Jenkins. Jenkins is one of my favorite authors these days. This book was original and entertaining. Written in the form of an interview transcript, DAISY JONES tells the story of a fictitious rock band, from its humble beginnings to its implosion shortly after success. Jenkins does a great job of creating characters (and plot) using only dialogue. You’ll feel like you’re watching a documentary instead of reading a book. GRADE: A
A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD by Therese Ann Fowler. This book has a zillion five star reviews. Mine is not one of them. Fowler tries to touch on too many issues and as a result, creates a book that is heavy-handed. The characters feel like they’re cloaked in agenda rather than three dimension. I would have preferred if she stuck to one theme – for example, race and in the inequality of the justice system – rather than try to throw in everything from #MeToo to gun show loop holes to Christian hypocrisy along with it. Based on the reviews, however, a lot of people disagree with me. GRADE: C
DIYMFA by Gabriella Pereira. I can’t really afford to take a formal MFA, but thanks to Pereira, I don’t have to. She takes the three components of traditional MFA programs – Community, Reading and Writing – and shows you how you can design your own program. Guess what I’m doing this spring? GRADE: A
THE SECRETS WE KEPT by Lara Prescott. This book, about how Dr. Zhivago was smuggled to the US and the price paid by those who knew Boris Pasternak was interesting, but not as riveting as I thought. I was much more intrigued by the Pasternak story line than the central romance. GRADE: B-
THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton. I was in love with the book – which tells the story of a 60 year old kidnapping and a world famous mystery novelist – right up to the last chapter. That’s when someone told Morton she had to tie everything up with a happy ending. Killed the entire book. Up until then, however, the book was amazing. Morton is a beautiful writer who knows how to tell a story. GRADE: B
That’s it for this winter. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and share the titles you’ve read. I’m always looking for recommendations as well as reader bewares!