Reese Witherspoon is letting me down. The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott wasn’t a great read for me (following my disappointment with her other pick, The Whisper Network). The premise of The Secrets We Kept was a good one – Amazon says: “A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice–inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.” (Clearly I’ve gotten lazy and am not even writing my own synopses!) However, the execution left a lot to be desired. I was, frankly, bored by this story. It could have held much more intrigue and excitement. Perhaps part of the issue for me is that I haven’t read Doctor Zhivago, but nevertheless, this was one to skip for me.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker has been on my list since Reese picked it last year. And, while it got better as it went (and I really liked the message), the characters weren’t very likable and I found the story dragged so much that I was just speed reading to get to the end (which I predicted long before the “big reveal”). It’s about sexual harassment in the workplace and how a small group of friends at a business worked through that harassment. The chapters alternate with testimony and detective questioning.
Verity by Colleen Hoover was a quick and enjoyable thriller, but a bit more risqué than my usual choices. Nevertheless, I blazed through it in an evening because I wanted to find out the conclusion. Lowen is financially unstable (at best) and is surprised to be asked to ghost write for a well-known author, Verity Crawford, after Verity’s car accident. To do her research, Lowen ends up living in the Crawford’s home, where of course, creepy things happen. From start to finish, this was a creepy story, but I didn’t expect some of the twists, which made it a good read.
Fiona Davis’ books are a mixed bag for me. I kinda liked The Masterpiece and really liked The Address). Chelsea Girls was good enough that even though I had to speed-read because someone else wanted it from the library and, though it was late and I was tired, it kept me awake and interested. It’s the story mostly of Hazel, but also Maxine, who meet working for the USO. It’s the McCarthy era and Hazel and Maxine’s Broadway hopes and dreams are in peril because of their communist connections. The story is fast-paced and was interesting to me since it’s a topic I don’t know much about. I enjoyed it.
I have a love-hate relationship with Joshilyn Jackson’s books. Some I really enjoy and some not so much. I liked The Almost Sisters, I loved Someone Else’s Love Story, reviewed here, and I didn’t at all like The Opposite of Everyone. Her latest, Never Have I Ever was OK, but not fantastic. In this one, main character Amy’s life is upset when Roux comes to town and upends the book club and other facets of steady neighborhood life. Somehow, Roux knows Amy’s deepest secrets, that even her husband and best friend don’t have any idea about. Things get trickier and trickier for Amy and you certainly want to keep reading to find out what happens. However, this one was a bit slow and not suspenseful enough for my liking. I didn’t hate it, but it was only so-so for me.
Those People by Louise Candlish was meh. The premise was interesting – a nightmare couple moves into a quiet block where neighbors know each other and close down the street each weekend to let kids run free. This couple runs a used car lot off their front lawn, erects scaffolding to do repairs themselves, destroys an exterior wall, all while playing loud music all the time. And, the quiet previous residents ask politely and finally lose it around this rude and selfish couple and their property-value destroying ways. People end up dead and theres’s a mystery to uncover. Each chapter begins with notes from a police inquisition from various neighbors and then the story works backwards chapter by chapter until the “incident” and then forwards again afterwards. I wanted to like this one, but everyone in the book was annoying and it was slow and a little dull. I only finished it to find out whodunit. I wouldn’t bother grabbing this one if I were you.
I followed a story of one introvert (The Bookish Life of Nina Hill reviewed here) with another: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center. This novel was on a bunch of lists this summer. I had read her previous book How to Walk Away (reviewed here) because I got it free for my Kindle. This is the tale of Cassie, one of a few female firefighters in Austin who moves to Massachusetts to help her mother (who left Cassie when Cassie was sixteen) after eye surgery. Cassie, like Nina Hill, has sworn off love after a traumatic experience. I wish I had not read these two similar stories one after the other. And, while at first, I thought the two stories were going to be redundant, once I got going with this one, I really enjoyed it (more than Nina Hill, in fact). Again, this is a summer romance more than anything and much of it is predictable, but if you are looking for a good, quick, enjoyable story, this is a great choice.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman was a little like a bar of chocolate: sweet and enjoyable — a nice binge — but nothing that’s going to fill you up or linger. I had it on my TBR list and almost took it off since Gayle (Everyday I Write the Book and The Readerly Report) said it was only OK, but I found it on the Express Checkout shelf and grabbed it anyway. I also had liked Waxman’s The Garden of Small Beginnings (reviewed here). And, since it only took a few hours to read and was funny and endearing in moments, I am glad I read it. It’s the story of Nina Hill who likes her quiet life and job in a bankrupting (sure that’s not a word) independent bookstore. Of course, that life is interrupted by the death of the father she didn’t know and a man who she wants not to like. I am sure you can predict the ending and the story isn’t going to knock your socks off, but if you like a book that has everything tied up in neat knots, this is a good choice (and an excellent beach read too).
I was excited to find The Farm by Joanne Ramos in the Express Checkout section (sadly I also found 8 other books there from my list, so there has been a compulsion to read, but it’s also a busy time of year). However, while the first two-thirds were good, I hit a wall and slogged slowly through the last third. It’s about the women who run or live at “Golden Oaks” a home for surrogates who are paid a great deal to carry women’s babies. While the surrogates are led to believe that they are carrying for women who cannot conceive or carry babies to term, in fact, it is often for women who simply don’t want to disrupt their careers or bodies by carrying their own babies. I was disappointed in this read. While the topic was interesting, it didn’t live up to the hype.
I grabbed The Need by Helen Phillips off the “quick read, can’t renew” shelf at the library. I read about it somewhere and thought I’d give it a try (if only I had looked at my trusty Amazon first – it only has garnered 3.5 stars there – always a sign that the book should be skipped). It’s a slim novel, easy to read, and the cover is terrific. However, I didn’t enjoy it at all. It’s first told in alternating chapters, one at work and one at home, in the life of Molly, a paleobotonist. I appreciated this review, “This book started off with a BANG! for me. As I was reading, I wondered why it had not been receiving very many good reviews. Then, I got deeper into the book. Mystery solved.” Ha. And I will waste no more of your time reviewing this one. Skip it.