Mini Reviews: memories that do weird things, horrific crimes, and a Sherlock remix.

Morning, all. Thursday already? I’ll take it! I think I’m over my reading slump: eight books in the hopper this week, including three good enough to earn “Best of…” notations. Not too shabby! Let’s see what we have…

Book148The Forgetting Time, by Sharon Guskin (2016, Flatiron Books, 357 pages, library ebook). Single mum Janie’s four-year-old precocious son isn’t like other hard-to-manage or even special-needs kids: he insists he has another mum somewhere. And it’s beginning to make things awfully shady. I like that Guskin’s story didn’t require that you buy off on reincarnation – she simply presents that it’s so and then says here’s how this played out. It was pretty horrible to imagine myself in her shoes. Child Protective Services was called, her child was obviously hurting, and she couldn’t help. The “B” storyline about a psychiatrist who believes it’s possible, but has been diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disease, wasn’t quite my bag either. The writing was stronger than the plot, but just barely. I probs wouldn’t have hung in there if I had anything better luring me away. 2 1/2 of 5 stars.

Book149If I Fall, I Die, by Michael Christie (2015, Hogarth, 288 pages, used paperback). This was a Room-esque story where the single mom is trapped inside by her own mental illness instead of a psychopath. She invents a wildly elaborate home life for her son, who doesn’t remember ever going outside. A sweet protagonist and I enjoyed watching him grow and explore; but I wasn’t bowled over. 3 of 5 books.

Book150Winter Journal, by Paul Auster (2012, Henry Holt and Co., 240 pages, hardcover). This was a gift from my sister for Christmas, part of my book haul that I’ve been trying to get through. I’ve read a few by Paul Auster, but Kim enjoys him more than I do. It explains why this gorgeously written memoir has lingered on my shelf. If you like descriptive, lyrical writing about everything and nothing, the widest range of personal essays, add this to your list of books you must read. It’s up there for me with Anne Fadiman’s collections. 4 of 5 stars.

Book151The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, by Laura Tillman (2016, Scribner, 256 pages, hardcover). I splurged on this “new” book after hearing so many good things. I’ve raved about it as I’ve gone along. It’s a tremendously hard book to read – a young couple murders their three toddler-aged children in such a cold-blooded, heartless manner – but worth it. The social justice approach was so compelling and the research unparalleled. 5 of 5 stars.

Book152A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro (2016, Katherine Tegen Books, 321 pages, hardcover). I needed a lighthearted read after Long Shadow, and Charlotte was just what I needed! The premise centers around the great-great-greats of Sherlock Holmes (the titular Charlotte) and John Watson (James…er, Jamie) as they are forced into friendship and a crime-solving partnership at a Connecticut boarding school because they are being framed for murder. I’m picky about my mysteries and Sherlock hasn’t always been my bag, but Charlotte was quirky enough without being annoying, and Jamie interesting enough without being too stereotype-y. I enjoyed teasing out the whodunnit and the romance was ambiguous enough to keep everyone happy. I can’t wait for the next book in the series! 5 of 5 stars.

Book153LaRose, by Louise Erdrich (2016, Harper, 372 pages, library book). Erdrich’s Round House was one of my favorite reads from a few years ago. Her writing is crisp, her subject matters important, and cultural diversity a plus. It was enough to nearly make me buy LaRose sight unseen. I’m rather glad I didn’t. I just didn’t feel LaRose as much as Round House. Maybe I’ve had too much child abuse and murder this month. It shouldn’t be any harder to read than rape and cultural appropriation that Erdrich has covered in other stories. But the possibility of accidentally shooting a friend and neighbor’s child, and then handing over your own is just…beyond me. It escapes me. Absolutely. So the story wasn’t for me, but Erdrich’s writing is still miles beyond so many others that I can’t tell you not to try the story just because I had a hard time. 3 of 5 stars.

Book154The Widow, by Fiona Barton (2016, NAL, 336 pages, library ebook). I thought this would be a fun, fluffy summer read – I wasn’t expecting it to consume my every waking moment. I couldn’t read fast enough! It’s not as smartly written as Gone Girl (is anything?), but the But what really happened?!! factor is right up there. I loved the alternating view points; they were so well executed and helped ratchet up the tension until I could barely stand it! The crime at the heart of the story was wicked – almost too much so – but the handling of the story and the way it unfolded were masterfully done. I am definitely impatient for another book by Barton. 4 of 5 stars.

 

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