April 2011 Reading Recap

I cannot believe it is May already!  April has flown by, and now there is only one month left until summer! My stepdaughter will be out of school in just a few short weeks, with the pool opening at around the same time.  I see a lot of pool lounging in my future.  But I digress . . . on to my reading re cap.

April was an awesome month for me! As many of you know by now, I had a pretty severe reading slump for the first few months of the year, but I came back full force in April. I read 11 books this month, which is a LOT for me.  I have only been working part time, so that has greatly increased my reading time.

I read–

*Faithful Place, Tana French

*Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman

*Escape, Carolyn Jessop

*The Wrong Mother, Sophie Hannah

*The Report, Jessica Francis Kane

*Little Face, Sophie Hannah

*Brooklyn, Colm Toibin

*Flush, Virginia Woolf

*Foxfire, Joyce Carol Oates

*The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Kate Summerscale

*The Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby

Quite a lot of mysteries in there! Three nonfiction books too.  I am going to Florida in two weeks (yay!), so hopefully I will get a lot of reading done and May will turn out to be just as good a reading month for me as April was.

How was your month?

Book Review: Peyton Place

Peyton Place

Grace Metalious

Northeastern

384 pages

This is a book I read during my reading slump, probably around the beginning of February, and I didn’t even remember it until last night.  That’s pretty pathetic, given that I loved it so much that I took it to work the very next day and handed it to a coworker, insisting she read it.

The main plot follows the lives of three women—lonely and repressed Constance MacKenzie; her illegitimate daughter Allison; and her employee Selena Cross, a girl from across the tracks, or as it is called in the book, “from the shacks.” The novel describes how they come to terms with their identity as women and sexual beings in a small New England town. Hypocrisy, social inequities and class privilege are recurring themes in a tale that includes incest, abortion, adultery, lust and murder. The term “Peyton Place” became a generic label for any community whose inhabitants have sordid secrets.

Wikipedia

I rarely use any synopsis besides my own, let alone one from Wikipedia, but it has been too long, and I am afraid any synopsis I attempt will be sorely lacking.  In fact, I am starting to believe I need to reread Peyton Place all together, which is embarrassing, given the fact that I only read it three months ago.  I do remember how the salacious stories of a small Connecticut town in the 1950s were captivating to me.  I loved the female characters that Metalious portrayed.  Selena and Allison are so unflinchingly realistic, and I went back and forth between applauding them and loathing them.

I can’t urge readers enough to pick this one up.  It was quite popular in its heyday, for good reason.

Other Reviews:

Novel Insights

I received this book as a gift.

Book Review: Little Face

Little Face

Sophie Hannah

Penguin

320 pages

Alice Fancourt is a new mother and has just left her newborn daughter for the first time after giving birth a few weeks before.  She is only gone a short time, but when she comes home, she finds her husband asleep and Florence in her crib.  Only . . . she is certain the baby she comes home to is NOT Florence.  Alice immediately phones the police and an investigation is started, but no one, including her husband, believes her.

One week later, Alice and the baby disappear together, and the police are forced to take the matter more seriously.  Add on top of that the murder of David Fancourt’s first wife a few years previously, and you have a novel of suspense on your hands.

I wrote a review just a few days ago for the first Hannah book I read, The Wrong Mother.  I loved that book so much that I decided to read more of Hannah, and I wanted to start at the beginning, so I picked up Little Face. It did not disappoint at all.  There was a strong psychological aspect, which picked up more and more as the novel went on.  I couldn’t decipher whether or not Alice was correct in her claim that the baby she came home to was not Florence.  While her husband seemed to be a caring, considerate husband at the start of the book, he quickly became abusive once Alice refused to recant her allegation that the baby was not Florence.

I am even more interested in Hannah now.  I have ordered her next book and plan on saving it for my vacation next month.  I highly recommend reading Sophie Hannah if you are on the lookout for a good literary mystery.

Other Reviews

Steph & Tony Investigate

Semicolon

Farm Lane Books Blog

I purchased this book from Barnes & Noble.

Book Review: The Report

The Report

Jessica Francis Kane

Graywolf Press

256 pages

The year is 1943 and England is in the throes of WWII.  The residents of Bethnal Green are rushing to the nearest bomb shelter when tragedy strikes; at the entrance, a mob scene results in the death of 173 people.  The sadly ironic part is that the retaliatory bombs that were expected that night from the Germans never came.

Laurence Dunne was contracted by the government to investigate the disaster.  People are anxious for answers, and many of them are mourning the deaths of family and friends.  Tilly, one of the central characters of the book, is a young girl both mourning the death of her small sister as well as trying to come to grips with what happened that night.  She becomes a central focus of the investigation and Laurie Dunne’s probe into what happened that night.

I admit, the only reason I read this book is because it was highly recommended by other book bloggers.  Otherwise, I likely wouldn’t have given it any consideration.  What I enjoyed the most about The Report was how it portrayed a little known historical tragedy and interlaced it with human emotion.  I appreciated what Kane was trying to do, and I became very invested in Dunne’s investigation and his final report.  One would think that an investigative report would be cut and dry; you search out the facts and present them as the truth.  What Dunne discovered was there were so many aspects to what happened that night, and perhaps the truth would only cause more heartbreak and sorrow.

The reputation of The Report is well deserved.  It is a tightly woven historical novel that is engrossing from beginning to end.

Other Reviews:

Devourer of Books

Farm Lane Books Blog

Erin Reads

Diary of an Eccentric

I purchased this book for my Kindle.

Book Review: The Wrong Mother

The Wrong Mother

Sophie Hannah

Penguin

432 pages

Sally Horning is your typical frazzled mother of two young children.  She has a caring but clueless husband and a busy career.  Her one bit of respite was one year ago when she went on a “business” trip and met a man named Mark Bretherick.  Sally and Mark had a week long affair that lasted only as long as their respective trips.  Now, a year later, Sally is shocked to hear on the news that the wife and daughter of Mark Bretherick have been found dead–the result of a murder/suicide.  However, when Mark Bretherick appears on the screen during a news broadcast, Sally is horrified to realize that this is not the Mark Bretherick she spent a week with.

Sally begins her own sleuthing into the mysterious deaths of Geraldine and Lucy Bretherick, as well as also trying to discover who the real Mark Bretherick is.  She is extremely hesitant to clue anyone into what she is doing, as that would mean fessing up to her affair, so even her closest friend is unaware of the mess Sally has gotten herself into.

I have been on a “literary mystery” kick recently.  I am not sure how well developed this sub genre is, but basically I was looking for something along the lines of Tana French, now that I have read all three of her books.  I stumbled upon Sophie Hannah one day when I cam across an interview she had done with French.  I noticed that French seems to be constantly touting Hannah’s work, so I knew straight away I should give her a try.

Comparatively speaking, Hannah’s books are more fast paced and plot oriented.  The character development is nowhere near the caliber found in French’s books.  Regarless of that fact, I am definitely seeking out all of Hannah’s books now.  The suspense is there, and all I want with a good mystery is to keep my attention while drawing me into a good story.  If you are on the lookout for another mystery writer, do not hesitate to give Sophie Hannah a chance.

The Wrong Mother was the book club choice for my real life book club this month.  I am hosting, so I got to choose the book.  I rarely choose a book that I know so little about–I literally discovered this book the day I suggested it, but I was in the mood for a mystery and I figured What the heck.  We haven’t met up yet, so I can’t say how my book club liked it, but I was enthralled.  I read the book in about 24 hours.  I was afraid, before reading the book, that it wouldn’t be great for discussion, but I think we will have plenty to talk about!

Other Reviews:

A Novel Menagerie

Everyday I Write the Book

I purchased this book from Borders.

Book Review: Escape

Escape

Carolyn Jessop

Broadway

448 pages

I admit it; I am hopelessly addicted to TLC’s TV show Sister Wives.  For those of you in the dark, it is a reality show based on a man named Kody Brown and his four wives, not to mention countless children.  Not having much experience with the polygamist lifestyle, I was surprised to see how normal and seemingly logical the lifestyle is.  The idea of having “sister wives” actually makes sense when watching the show, so reading this memoir was a shock to my system!

Carolyn Jessop married her husband, Merril Jessop, straight after high school after being coerced by her parents and other members of the FDLS church.  Merrill was over twice her age, and Carolyn had absolutely no interest in marrying him.  However, she had grown up in the church and believed that she had no choice but to enter into this mandated marriage to a man that already had three wives and numerous children.

Carolyn spent many years being stifled in a loveless marriage.  Merril allowed

Merril Jessop and six of his wives

her to continue in her schooling, but he was also a very possessive and controlling husband who cared little about what any of his wives wanted.  Carolyn risked her life to bear eight children, one of which had severe health issues.  Because of her lifestyle, Carolyn had to fight to get her son the healthcare he desperately needed.  Unbelievably, the police officers in her area were all members of the FDLS, so she wasn’t even able to call an ambulance for her son unless her husband consented.

Carolyn had hoped to escape her lifestyle for years, but was hindered by the health issues of her son, not to mention the danger involved.  She was eventually able to flee one night when Merril was out of town, but the FDLS was on her trail almost the second she left.  And although she was able to escape,, her older children were used to the lifestyle they had grown up in, and were not happy that they were forced to leave the only family they had ever known.

I was shocked by the behavior exhibited in Escape by Merril and other members of the church.  The FDLS is portrayed as a dangerous cult, which is the opposite of what we see on Sister Wives.  I tend to believe that Escape is probably a more accurate portrayal of the FDLS church as it was operated under Warren Jeffs.  Kody Brown and his wives seem to be secretive about their religion, so there are a lot of questions surrounding their beliefs and how closely they follow the FDLS doctrines.

I guess you could say Escape brought up a lot of questions for me, and now I am even more curious about the FDLS faith.

Other Reviews:

S Krishna’s Books

Maw Books Blog

I purchased this book for my Kindle.

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