Book Review: The Trespasser

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The Trespasser

Tana French

Viking

449 pages

Synopsis:

Antoinette Conway is fed up with being the low man on the totem pole of the Dublin Murder Squad. Treated by shit for being a woman on the squad coupled with daddy issues have given her a massive chip on her shoulder. She’s sick of getting the crap jobs, so when she and her partner Stephen Moran get handed a case that looks somewhat promising, they charge on full steam ahead.

But what had the looks your run of the mill DV case turner murder, suddenly doesn’t seem as clear cut anymore. And as Conway and Moran get more and more involved in the case, they start to worry that maybe they’ve stumbled on something that is too big for them.

My thoughts:

I was scared for this one. I LOVE Tana French. Love, love, love her. But I’ll be honest, Broken Harbor was a real dud for me, and The Secret Place wasn’t much better. I started to worry that maybe she was losing her touch. But I think I can tentatively say that The Trespasser is my favorite French novel to date. (I’m sorry Faithful Place, I truly am.)

Why did I love The Trespasser so much? First, I love Conway and Moran together. They had such a good vibe, even when Conway was being a huge bitch. And even when Conway was being a huge bitch, I still loved her. She was irritating to me at times, but I still loved her.

I was struck by a revelation when I was reading The Trespasser, and it was that the Dublin Murder Squad series is so great as far as procedural work. French leaves no detail unturned. This was not the most thrilling mystery of all time. It wasn’t a completely crazy whodunit that takes the reader all over the place. Her books are so much more methodical and thought out than that. It’s almost as if the actual mystery takes a back seat to the story. I didn’t even care so much who did it! I mean, I did care of course, but the book was so layered and multi faceted that it wasn’t as important of a focus.

If you’ve not read the Dublin Murder Squad series, I urge you to. It is a phenomenal series. They are written so that they can all be standalone novels, however I have read them all in order. I will list them in order below and rank them as far as my favorite (#1) to least favorite (#6). And I’d love to hear which ones you loved the most!

In the Woods, #4

The Likeness, #3

Faithful Place, #2

Broken Harbor, #6

The Secret Place, #5

The Trespasser, #1

 

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2016 in Review

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It’s been quite a year. I am rushing to finish up book #117 (The Queen of the Night, by Alexander Chee). When 2015 ended a year ago, I never imagined I would read so many books in the upcoming year. I ended last year with a total of 58, and thus set my reading goal for 2016 at 60 books. There are three major reasons that I almost doubled that number.

  1. My young children are now two and four years old. I have been having a massive reading slump since 2011. Pregnancy gives me an aversion to reading. I have no idea why. And then adjusting to two children in two years also affected my reading. We are finally in a longstanding routine and they are becoming more independent, which has all equaled out to more reading time.
  2. I discovered Litsy in June. If you haven’t heard of Litsy, I urge you to check it out. It’s a social media platform that combines Goodreads and Instagram. I can be hit or miss with social media, and I didn’t really see the point of Litsy when I first heard about it, but once I joined, I instantly got sucked up into the culture. It’s an amazing place–if you’re over there, my username is @reviewsbylola.
  3. I also discovered Book of the Month. BOTM was another thing that I was like eh, I don’t really need this. It’s a subscription service for books, and every month five new releases are handpicked by the judges. You get to choose which book you want them to send you for that month (or you can skip) and you can add on up to two additional books for $9.99 apiece. My thing was, five books sounds kind of limiting–I like choosing my own books, la la la la la. But I decided to get my mom a gift subscription for Mother’s Day and then two of my sisters and I got subscriptions as well, and we ended up become diehard devotees. I can’t even tell you the anticipation I feel on the first of every month when the new selections are released.

All of those reasons added up to being the best reading year I have ever had. I’m not talking quantity (although I am pretty sure this is my best year numbers wise too). I literally mean that this is the year when reading really came back to me. I feel like I found my place again, and my comfort. I also brought this blog back to life and discovered the Serial Reader app . . . I honestly don’t even know how 2017 can live up to this year but I’m excited to find out.

And last but not least, here are some of my favorite titles that I read in 2016.

  • Hellhound on His Trail, Hampton Sides
  • Working Stiff, Judy Melinek
  • A Mother’s Reckoning, Sue Klebold
  • Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon
  • Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted, Faye Resnick
  • Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld
  • I Let You Go, Clare Makintosh
  • Enchanted Islands, Allison Amend
  • Circling the Sun, Paula McLain
  • Flight of Dreams, Ariel Lawhon
  • Miller’s Valley, Anna Quindlen
  • Morgue, Vincent DiMaio
  • All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Bryn Greenwood
  • Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue
  • Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
  • Siracusa, Delia Ephron
  • When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  • The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper, James Carnac
  • The Trespasser, Tana French
  • The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
  • The Fall Guy, James Lasdun
  • The Sun is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon

I’d love to hear how everyone else’s year was!

Book Review: Homegoing

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Homegoing

Yaa Gyasi

Knopf

305 pages

Synopsis:

Homegoing is the story of two sisters. One, Effia,  is married to a British soldier that is involved in the slave trade, while the other sister, Esi, is actually sold into slavery. Homegoing follows the sisters and their descendants for 300 years, with each chapter focusing on family members from subsequent generations.

Effia’s ancestors stay in Africa, whereas Esi is shipped off to the United States, where the stories of her descendants continue on in various parts of the country.

My thoughts:

Unless you spent 2016 under a rock, you’ve seen Homegoing around. It was one of the big buzz books of the year and it seemed like everyone was reading it. So I had no choice in the matter, obviously.

Homegoing is a modern classic. Truly. I took an African Lit. class in college (my professor was a regal woman from Kenya who fascinated me. She was hands down my favorite professor from college) and as I read this book, I kept thinking that I could see this on a college syllabus. It has a lot to offer and the dual storylines added an interesting perspective.

The way Homegoing is broken up, into vignettes, was new for me and I appreciated that each person got a chance to tell their stories. They were all interesting, but some stuck out more for me than others. And holy crap, let me tell you–the family tree in the beginning of the book is something you must have for reference. I flipped back and forth to it countless times. I really appreciated that it was included because that many main characters, and all of them being related, just spells trouble for me.

I think it is very fitting that Homegoing will be my last review of 2016. I am so excited to see what amazing books 2017 has in store for us!

Book Review: Shelter

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Shelter

Jung Yun

Picador

336 pages

Synopsis:

Kyung is a 30 something man struggling to keep his family afloat. He and his wife Gillian are financially drowning and unsure of how to rectify the situation when catastrophe hits. Kyung’s mother and father are brutally attacked in their own home close by, and suddenly everything changes. Kyung is now forced to care for the parents that he has resented his entire adult life. Their treatment of him as a child, and the treatment of his mother by his father is something that Kyung has not come to terms with, and instead he does his best to avoid both his parents and his memories.

The cultural aspect adds another element to the story, although ultimately this could be the story of any dysfunctional family. The Korean background of the Chos certainly aided the acceptance they all bore towards the domestic abuse that occurred amongst the family members, and Kyung’s mother, Mae Cho, especially seemed to be affected and victimized by her ethnic background.

My thoughts:

I heard so much hype about this book at one point that I resolved to read it before the end of the year. I love a good dysfunctional family as much as the next reader, and the Chos certainly deliver in that regard.

The family members are all so flawed and all, to some degree, want to dismiss their problems instead of facing them head on. First you have Kyung and Gillian, who have made such a mess of their finances that it was very difficult to feel sympathetic towards them. That, coupled with deep seeded issues they both had with their own families, caused the foundation of their marriage to completely break down, something that neither one wanted to acknowledge.

Then you have Kyung’s intense anger towards his parents. After the attack they endured, he struggled between caring for them and aiding in their recovery while still harboring resentment towards both of them. Kyung is not the type to talk about his feelings, so his anger continued to fester until it eventually bubbled over.

This is one of those books that didn’t wow me at the time–I thought it was just ok. I could see why others were impressed with it, but I just didn’t have that connection. However, now that it has been over a month since I read it, I feel a bit differently. The characters in the story and their relationships made a deeper impact on me than most other characters from other books. And that is something that makes a big impression on me.

So while I am not including Shelter as one of my favorite reads of 2016, I do think it is an important book.

Book Review: Library of Luminaries series

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Library of Luminaries: Frida Kahlo

Zena Alkayat, Illustrated by Nina Cosford

Chronicle Books

128 pages

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Library of Luminaries: Jane Austen

Zena Alkayat, Illustrated by Nina Cosford

Chronicle Books

128 pages

Synopsis:

Frida Kahlo and Jane Austen are two of the four books in a series done by Chronicle Books. The series spotlights different famous women and chronicles their lives in a simplistic format. The text is accompanied by whimsical illustrations. The books are small–I would say about as tall and as wide as a slice of bread and they start from birth and continue on until death.

My thoughts:

I first saw these books a few months ago and loved the idea of an easy to digest biography with fun illustrations. I put in a request with my library that they purchase at least one or two (my library’s consortium didn’t own a single copy, which truthfully I have never had to request that they purchase a book before as they have always had at least one copy of what I’m looking for in the consortium). Much to my delight, my library purchased all four books. And apparently they are popular, as three were immediately checked out.

I started with Frida Kahlo, as it was the only one my library had. Admittedly, I knew nothing about Kahlo but I was blown away by her story. I loved learning about her childhood and her marital circumstances. I think that the bright, cultural clothes and furnishings she surrounded herself with really lent themselves to the format of an illustrated biography. The book took me less than 20 minutes to read cover to cover, but I would certainly love to read more about Kahlo in the future.

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I eventually got my hands on Jane Austen and truthfully, it just wasn’t as vibrant to me as Kahlo’s. I enjoyed reading it, and Alkayat included excerpts from Jane’s letters, as well as those of her sister Cassandra, which really added to the book. Maybe had I gone in not knowing as much about Jane, and her books, I would have gotten more out of Jane Austen.

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I love this series and definitely plan on reading the other two books (Virginia Wolf and Coco Chanel). I think these would be fantastic gifts and I also think they would be great additions to a children’s library, as the pictures are exciting and the biographies are easily digestible.

 

Book Review: The Mothers

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The Mothers
Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books
278 pages

Synopsis:

The Mothers is the story of Nadia Turner. Nadia is a teenager dealing with the death of her mother as well as her blossoming relationship with boyfriend Luke, the pastor’s son. Nadia and Luke are facing obstacles that greatly impact their romance, and they struggle to stay connected. Nadia turns to her peer Audrey and the two develop a deep bond that follows them into adulthood. The Mothers follows Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey in their formative years as they navigate adulthood.

My thoughts:

The Mothers is one of the breakout novels of 2016. I was instantly captivated by the cover and as the reviews came rolling in, I knew I absolutely had to read it. Then it was chosen for Book of the Month, so it went into my box with absolutely no hesitation.

I found it very difficult to believe that Brit Bennett is so young (I believe she is still in her 20s). Her talent is astounding. The gravity she gave her characters was so impressive, and she tackled such meaty issues. Mother-daughter relationships, abortion, infidelity–the list goes on and on. I found myself reading and thinking to myself “Yes, I have felt this way before” or “I know just what she’s feeling.”

In a way, I felt like I couldn’t quite reach the characters, as if I was outside looking in on them. That was really my only negative reaction to The Mothers, but it is the reason why I didn’t include it in my “best of 2016” category. Despite that, it is definitely a book to read. I am eagerly anticipating what Bennett does next!

 

 

Book Date: 12/19/16

untitledIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date. And here we are!

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away.  My sisters will be in town all week, and with all of next weekend being spent celebrating the holiday, I don’t anticipate much reading time. I love this time of year though, and I’m not looking forward to the long months after the holidays where winter seems to stretch on forever. We have had a long week of snow and freezing temperatures and the thought of enduring this for almost three more months is a little gloomy.

What I finished:

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It appears as though I finished a lot this week, however it looks more ambitious than it was.

Library of Luminaries is a fun series that only take 10-20 minutes to read. Each book contains bite sized information about the subject and the fun, whimsical illustrations are a fantastic addition. I have now read two of the four books (Frida Kahlo being the other), and definitely plan on reading the other two eventually. It almost feels like cheating though to include these in my book count because they are such quick reads.

In a Dark, Dark Wood showed up in my Overdrive queue a week ago, after putting it on hold months ago. I really enjoyed The Woman in Cabin 10 over the summer, so I felt that this would be a quick, thrilling read. It certainly was. I would say I actually enjoyed Wood better for two reasons: it held my interest pretty much from the beginning and the protagonist wasn’t completely annoying. If you like psychological thrillers, this is a worthwhile one.

The Santa Claus Man was an interesting look at New York City a hundred years ago. It is the story of John Gluck, Jr. and his Santa Claus Association, which answered Santa’s mail and delivered toys to the children of NYC. It had a lot of insight into the time period and was a festive holiday read.

Down Among the Dead Man is one I finished right after I wrote last week’s post. It was a pretty good read if you are morbidly fascinated by autopsies an dead people, however I would recommend the following books (these were fantastic) over this one: Morgue, by Vincent DiMaio and Working Stiff, by Judy Melinek.

Currently reading:

img_2688I am 2/3 of the way through Swimming Lessons. It is not being released until February, however it is the first “exclusive” that Book of the Month has done, meaning they exclusively were able to release it a couple of months early. It will be interesting to see if they start doing this a lot in the future. This was my family’s BOTM choice so it will be interesting to see what everyone thinks of it. It is the story of a marriage, told both by the couple’s adult daughter, and also through the wife via old letters. I really like the way it is set up, although the story overall isn’t what I expected.

I began Only Love Can Break Your Heart last night on Hoopla, so I really don’t have much to say about it yet, although it has a 100% rating on Litsy, was a BOTM pick earlier in the year, and if I’m not mistaken, was one of Liberty Hardy’s top 125 books of the year. So really, how could I not read it?

Serial Reader:

img_2683I finished The Abbot’s Ghost: A Christmas Story, by Louisa May Alcott last week. It was a readalong on Litsy and the consensus was that it was just so-so. I felt the opposite of a lot of the other readers, in that the beginning was very strong and then the story fizzled out.

I am now reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time (I think). It seems so familiar as I’m reading it, so I’m not sure if it is just because it is a well known story or if I read it as a child and forgot. Either way, I will be reading it for the next month and have no plans currently to add another book to my Serial routine, as I have really enjoyed taking my time with just one book each morning instead of two.

What is everyone else’s week looking like?