The Escape Room by Megan Goldin was hyped a lot this summer. And, it lived up to most of that hype. It was a fast-paced, stressful read about a corporate team led to a team-building escape room and the parallel story of another firm employee. Of course, the parallel stories finally come together at the end. And, I, for one, was surprised by the way they did. It was a good read and thriller that was easy and quick. Don’t expect anything deep here, though.
Overall, I liked The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine, though I didn’t particularly like the twin main characters or the story. Hmmm. I liked the way the sisters lives focused on words from their original twin secret language and the moment their father brought home a huge stand and monstrous dictionary to put on it. It was easy to read and pretty skimmable, in addition to being short. The last ten pages and the ending were the best part of the book. I went into it thinking it was a memoir and was disappointed to discover early on that it was a novel. So, I guess, based on reading my review to myself, I wouldn’t really recommend this one. 🙂
Despite its mixed reviews, I liked Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. I liked the voice and the story, but it was unnecessarily long and I didn’t like the ending. It’s the story of Toby who has just separated from his wife, Rachel. He is left with his children and misses a lot of work to figure out how to cover their care. The point of view was somewhat challenging to follow, but overall, there was something about this story that I liked more than I thought I would. But, I didn’t love it and the bad reviews don’t surprise me.
You Me Everything (why no punctuation?) by Catherine Isaac is a pleasant, quick read with a somewhat predictable ending. However, even though you could suspect how it was going to end, it didn’t make the story less enjoyable. While the subject matter has a depressing overlay, overall, there’s hope. Jess and her 10-year-old William head to France to spend time with William’s father (who Jess broke up with several months after William’s birth). Jess is reluctant to take this trip because her mother is in a care home, suffering from Huntington’s disease. Throughout the story we get glimpses into why Jess is in her current state and why it’s hard for her to take this vacation. There are some elements of the story that are a little annoying — her friendships aren’t fleshed out very well and there are characters that seem unnecessary — but for the most part, this was a nice diversion and would make good escapist or beach reading (and it’s only $5.49 for the Kindle version).
How to Forget is the second memoir written by Kate Mulgrew. While I enjoyed it, I liked her first, Born with Teeth (reviewed here) more. The book is about Mulgrew’s return to Iowa to take care of her parents in the final months of their lives. The first half is about Mulgrew’s father and the second half is about her mother. The section on her mother was tough to read – it’s about her mother’s Alzheimers disease and, because of the eight-year progression (as opposed to her father’s rapid decline and more sudden death), it seemed even more hopeless.
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.