I was a BIG fan of Claire Mackintosh’s first novel I Let You Go and so I was very 0155E57B-5748-4E40-A9CA-1BF823E44218
much looking forward to reading I See You. I think that had I discovered Mackintosh through this book, I would have likely been impressed, but ultimately it pales a little in comparison to her debut.

Zoe Walker, a divorced mother of two, lives in London with her kids and her boyfriend, Simon. She’s on the commute home one day when she sees a personal ad in the Gazette. It’s for a company called Find the One, which looks like a dating sight, and the picture in the advertisement is of her.

Zoe doesn’t pay much attention to the ad at first because, surely it’s not really her in the photo. Besides, there’s a lot of stuff going on at home. Her 22-year-old son, Justin, is just starting to get his act together, employed at a cafe owned by her next-door-neighbour and bestie, Melissa; her daughter, Katie, is growing up too fast for Zoe’s liking. Only Simon is a solid presence in her life – even though his relationship with Zoe’s kids is sometimes strained.

Mackintosh unravels the story of the mysterious advertisement through several points of view: Zoe, Kelly,  the police officer who finds a connection between Zoe’s ad and the attack of several other women, and an unnamed predator who is always watching.

I see you. But you don’t see me. You’re en grossed in your book; a paperback with a girl in a red dress. I can’t see the title but it doesn’t matter; they’re all the same. If it isn’t boy meets girl, it’s boy stalks girl. Boy kills girl.

The plot clicks along at a pretty good clip, chucking some plausible red herrings along the way, and ultimately ending up with a tidy (although somewhat implausible) conclusion. That said, I was totally invested in Zoe and her mounting suspicions about the people in her life. I will definitely read Let Me Lie.

Hmmm…yet another book about a therapist whose life is in shambles. This time it’sDE5C7121-EA75-4E9F-9BDC-AA702E37EEC3 Jessica Mayhew in Charlotte Williams’ novel The House on the Cliff.

Jessica is married to Bob and they live in Wales with their two young daughters. Their marriage isn’t rock-solid: Bob has recently admitted to a one-night stand, and Jessica is having a difficult time forgiving him. Understandably.

Enter  Gwydion Morgan.

I noticed immediately when he walked into the room that he was a remarkably handsome man, tall and broad-shouldered, with a natural grace in the way he carried himself. I judged him to be in his late twenties, or thereabouts.

Up close I could see that his eyes were green, fringed with thick, black lashes. I looked away. It seemed indecent to do anything else.

That instant attraction is bound to cause some professional conflict, just sayin’. Anyway, Gwydion has come to Jessica with a fear of buttons. Apparently it’s a thing: Koumpounphobia.

Gwydion is an actor on the cusp of his big break. He has a certain theatrical pedigree, too, because his father, Evan, is a brilliant but volatile theatre director. His mother, Arianrhod, is worried about her son’s mental health. Their relationship seems, to the casual observer, a tad co-dependent. When she calls Jessica concerned that Gwydion is suicidal – even though Jessica had seen no signs of this in their therapy – Jessica drives out to their house on the – you guessed it – cliff.

From the minute Jessica steps into the Morgan house, her life becomes entangled with theirs. There is definitely something going on in the house and with the family and Jessica is drawn to them, particularly Gwydion who is both erratic and impossibly attractive. The more time she tries to figure out what is going on, the more she drops the ball in her own life.

There is a Morgan family scandal at the centre of Gwydion’s story. Jessica begins behaving more like a detective and less like a therapist, but whether or not you actually believe someone would make some of the choices she makes or not  is actually beside the point. It’s all page-turning fun.

 

 

32555CAA-AE7E-4E76-8348-87072A3324C0Grace Sachs, the protagonist in Jean Hanff Korelitz’s compelling domestic thriller You Should Have Known, is an outspoken marriage counsellor who believes that women know from the very beginning if their partners are duds.

Over and over I’ve heard women describe their early interactions with their partner, and their early impressions of their partner. And listening to them, I continually thought: You knew right at the beginning. She knows he’s never going to stop looking at other women. She knows he can’t save money. She knows he’s contemptuous of her…But then she somehow lets herself unknow what she knows.

Grace’s tough talk is easy enough: she’s married to the perfect man, Jonathan, a pediatric oncologist and they have a twelve-year-old-son, Henry.

…she had chosen him, and now, as a result, she was having the right life, with the right husband, the right child, the right home, the right work.

Turns out, though, that all those rights actually make a wrong.

When the mother of one of the students at Henry’s school is murdered, the violent act opens up a fissure in Grace’s perfect life. First, her husband, who is away at a medical conference, stops answering her calls and texts. Then,  she discovers his phone  – not with him, but hidden in his bedside table. And then the police come knocking.

Grace’s life – it turns out – is a sham, and You Should Have Known unravels like any good thriller, stringing the reader (and Grace) along. The whodunit part of the story isn’t actually what’s interesting about Hanff Korelitz’s narrative though. It’s that Grace, a therapist who tells her patients to trust their guts, didn’t trust hers.

 

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce is one of those frothy, inconsequential novels that is 54A58E82-4A09-4E79-93EB-33445980025A
easily read and just as easily forgotten. I actually read the first thirty pages or so and put it down; I only picked it back up and finished it because it was a book club pick and I hate going to book club without having read the book.

Emmeline Lake lives with her best friend, Bunty, in London during WW2. Emmeline works at a solicitor’s office and volunteers at the Auxiliary Fire Service, where Bunty’s boyfriend, William is a volunteer firefighter. What Emmeline aspires to, though, is becoming a Lady War Correspondent and she thinks she’s hit paydirt when she sees an advertisement in the paper for a Junior at The London Evening Chronicle.

For the last ten years – ever since I’d won a trip to the local newspaper as a prize for writing a quite dreadful poem when I was twelve – I had dreamt of a journalistic career.

Turns out, the job isn’t much more than glorified secretary to Mrs. Bird, Woman’s Friend’s  agony aunt. (Woman’s Friend being the poor relation to The Chronicle.)  Emmy is shocked and dismayed to realize that she’s taken the wrong job, but gives a “plucky Everything is Absolutely Tip Top Smile.”

Mrs. Bird has a strict policy about the sort of letters she will and will not answer in the magazine. Letters concerning marital or premarital or extramarital relations are to be binned. Mrs. Bird will not deign to answer queries about physical relations, illegal activity, politics, religion, the war or cooking. There’s also a long document containing a list of “Words and Phrases That Will Not Be Published Or Responded To By Mrs. Bird.”

Emmy feels stifled by her inability to help the people who write to Mrs. Bird looking for a light in what is clearly often a dark time. And this might have been an entertaining story, if it weren’t for the fact that Emmy is annoying and the story is pretty much a “you-can-see-it-coming-for-a-country-mile” romp.

For starters, Pearce capitalizes random phrases in the middle of sentences so, I think, you can hear how British and, well, to steal a phrase from Emmy herself, plucky these characters are.

Bunty said rather too quickly that the army always lets you know if something awful had happened so No News Is Good News and then Bill took up the baton and said Don’t You Worry, Emmy, Edmund Is Made Of Very Stern Stuff.

I can’t tell you how annoying that got after a while. The story sort of veers away from the letter writing, too, once the ‘tragedy’ happens. It all gets knit together in the end, though, So That’s All Right.

Ultimately, Dear Mrs. Bird wasn’t my cup of tea, even though it might have been a winner in different hands. I will be passing this book on to my 80-year-old aunt. I think she will love it.

EC4364B5-CF87-4ACD-9942-7867FDAC012AJoe Goldberg is crazy smart. Hmm, let me rephrase. Joe Goldberg is crazy. He works at a rare book store in New York City’s East Village and when Guinevere Beck aka Beck walks into the store one day, Joe is instantly smitten.

You didn’t walk in there for books, Beck. You didn’t have to say my name. You didn’t have to smile or listen or take me in. But you did.

Caroline Kepnes’ debut novel You has won copious praise and has also been turned into a series on Lifetime.  Is it deserving of all the accolades? Let’s break it down.

1. Joe isn’t your garden variety psycho. He’s well-read and funny and often times he’s more sympathetic than Beck is. After their chan

You didn’t walk in there for books, Beck. You didn’t have to say my name. You didn’t have to smile or listen or take me in. But you did.

Caroline Kepnes’ debut novel You has won copious praise and has also been turned into a series on Lifetime.  Is it deserving of all the accolades? Let’s break it down.

1. Joe isn’t your garden variety psycho. He’s well-read and funny and often times he’s more sympathetic than Beck is. After their chance meeting, Joe sets out to learn everything he can about Beck, an easy enough task since millennials put the minutiae of their daily lives online for everyone to see. It’s pretty easy for Joe to infiltrate Beck’s life.

What do we know about Joe? Not too much. He lives in a shitty apartment, doesn’t seem to have any friends and has clearly earned the trust (and the keys to the kingdom) of his employer, Mr. Mooney.

2. Beck is an MFA student who seems to enjoy (rough) sex and is pining for a guy called Benji when Joe first meets her. Truthfully, she’s not that interesting, but I guess that’s not really the point. She’s just a vessel for Joe to pour all of his psychopathy into. Whether any of the attraction Beck feels for Joe is real, or whether the appeal of Joe’s total devotion to winning her affections is just part of her own narcissism, it’s hard to say.

3. The plot actually moves along relatively slowly for a novel that is meant to be a thriller. That’s because it’s over-written…sometimes it seemed to take forever for anything to happen. Joe imagines all the times he is going to have sex with Beck before he actually has sex with her, and when they finally do the deed, it’s a horrible disappointment to them both. Talk about your performance anxiety. Other sub-plots bog down the main action of the story…the will he won’t he get the girl and from there, what’s going to happen?

That said, the writing is terrific. Kepnes does an amazing job of making Joe seem both believable, creepy and, on some level at least, likeable. He is patient and volatile in equal measure. Ultimately, it’s his obsession with all things Beck that is his undoing, and the end of his relationship with Beck, when it comes, unravels in record time.

And it’s over . You begin to yelp and spring at me and I don’t like you right now. You make me do terrible things like hold you down and clap my hand over your mouth. You make me twist your arms and bear down on you, and this is our bed.

Look, You doesn’t tread any new water, but that doesn’t mean that, of its type, it isn’t worth a look if you enjoy crazy stalkers.

sadieI thought if I waited a few days after finishing Courtney Summers’ latest book Sadie, I would have a better chance of articulating my feelings coherently. Sadly, I don’t think I am actually going to be able to adequately express all the ways I loved (and hated) this book.

The premise is clever. West McCray, a radio producer at New York’s WNRK, is shaking up the station’s format by introducing a new podcast, The Girls. The podcast “explores what happens when a devastating crime reveals a deeply unsettling mystery.”  McCray dives headlong into the story of Mattie Southern, a thirteen-year-old whose dead body was discovered in an orchard near a burning schoolhouse, and her nineteen-year-old sister, Sadie, who is missing.

I’ve decided the gruesome details of what was uncovered in that orchard will not be part of this show. While the murder, the crime, might have captured your initial interest, its violence and brutality do not exist for your entertainment – so please don’t ask us.

Transcripts of the podcast (and you can actually listen to those here) alternate with Sadie’s first person narrative. Sadie leaves Cold Creek’s trailer park and her surrogate grandmother, May Beth, to find Keith, a man who once lived with Sadie and Mattie’s mother, Claire. Claire is currently out of the picture, an addict who’s had a steady stream of creeps in her bed.

Despite being blocked at every turn, Sadie is like a dog with a bone when it comes to tracking down Keith, a man she claims is her father. She buys a junker car, and asks fearless questions, hindered only by her stutter and youth. By about page thirty I was as invested in Sadie’s hunt as she was. She is equal parts vulnerable and tough-as-nails and 100% believable.

And this is where I have to pause and commend Summers, once again, for writing characters who are so real. Regular readers to this blog will know I am a fan of Summers and have read several of her books including Cracked Up to Be, All the Rage, This Is Not a Test, and Some Girls Are. I’ll tell you this – Summers is not writing the same book over and over. Her characters are not stereotypes. They are vulnerable, broken, tough, cynical and hopeful and every combination in between. Sometimes they say or do things that are wince-worthy, but as a mom and high school teacher, I know that Summers cuts as close to the bone as it’s possible to get. Like it or not.

So, I wasn’t surprised that I fell in love with Sadie, rough edges and all. I expected to be invested in her journey and I hated (that’s what I hated, folks) that it was a journey that she felt compelled to take. I hated that I was afraid for her the entire freakin’ time! Sadie loved her sister and made sacrifices for her that Mattie would never have the opportunity to understand. That’s what it is to love someone.

McCray is always just one step behind Sadie, but his podcasts fill in some blanks, allowing us to see how Sadie is viewed from other perspectives. Former teacher, Edward Colburn, says, “She was teased by her classmates because of the stutter and that caused her to withdraw.” Her boss, Marty McKinnon said Sadie was “a good kid, hard worker.” Mae Beth said that “The only thing Sadie was afraid of was losing the family she had left and that was Mattie.”

All of these ingredients add up to a story that McCray describes as being “about family, about sisters, and the untold  lives lived in small-town America. It’s about the lengths we go to protect the ones we love…and the high price we pay when we can’t.”

There are few moments of levity in this novel, but Sadie (the novel and the character) will haunt your dreams.

Highly recommended.

 

 

 

Thirteen-year-old Claudia and Monday are inseparable, even though they come from twomonday different worlds. Claudia lives with her stable and loving parents; Monday lives with her single mom and three siblings in Washington’s Ed Borough Complex, a part of town Claudia isn’t allowed to visit without an adult.

After returning to DC from a summer with her grandmother, Claudia is looking forward to starting grade eight with her bestie, but Monday is a no-show. When she doesn’t show up at school all week, and when calls to her house yield no answers, Claudia gets worried. A frightening visit to Monday’s apartment only ratchets up Claudia’s concern.

Tiffany D. Jackson’s YA novel Monday’s Not Coming is part mystery and part coming-of-age story. Claudia’s life is upended by the disappearance of her friend. For one thing, Monday helped Claudia with her school work and without her, Claudia is lost and “Without her, the [lunch] line went on for eternity. Without her, I ate alone. Being alone made you a target, though, and ain’t nobody got time for stupid boys throwing food at your head.”

Life ticks along for Claudia. She joins a dance group, meets a boy at church, starts getting help with her schoolwork, but none of these things fill the hole left by Monday. The two girls shared a lot of dreams – attending the same high school, making it on the dance squad, leaving the horrors of middle school behind. The longer Monday is gone, though, the more Claudia has to move forward with her life.

Readers will turn the pages of Monday’s Not Coming desperate to know what has happened to her, but I was interested in Claudia’s personal journey. Monday is a larger-than-life character, not afraid to stand up for herself or go after what she wants including the hottest boy in school. Claudia is shocked to discover new things about her best friend and she begins to wonder just how well she actually knew her.

There’s a twist in this novel that I didn’t see coming, and I can’t say that it worked 100% for me. However, it in no way undermined my overall reading experience. Monday’s Not Coming is a worthy addition to my classroom library.