Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

A plane goes down eighteen minutes into the flight from Martha’s Vineyard to Teterboro Airport.  Eleven people were on board the plane but only two live: Scott, an artist who was a late addition to the passenger list, and a four year old boy who instantly becomes a multi-millionaire.  Scott is hailed as a hero after swimming over ten miles to shore in darkness with a dislocated shoulder and the boy clinging to his back.  Scott wants nothing to do with the media frenzy and hides out as the talking heads speculate about the crash, his life and his fellow passengers.  Was it a coincidence that Scott, an artist who paints tragic accidents, survived?  Did terrorism bring down the plane because of the two important men who were on board?  Or was it simply an accident?

I really enjoyed this book.  I kept bringing the CDs in from my car so I could continue listening!  The author uses an interesting method to construct the book.  The story, and secrets, of each character are revealed leading up to the moment they board the plane in individual chapters alternating with the story of what is happening in the present.

I can’t really say much without giving away some of the things revealed in the course of the book at just the right moment, and this moment isn’t it.  I can say that I really liked Scott and if I’m ever in the eye of the media I want to have the poise and eloquence he has.  The invasiveness of the media is front and center as conspiracy theories and dirt flies.  Scott rightly asks, what does his private life or his art have to do with a plane crashing?  The question is, does it?

As the details of the crash are revealed both the NTSB and the reader keep changing and modifying their ideas of what happened.  I can tell you that the end of the book is pretty shocking in a lot of different ways but it’s a really good ending.

The Total Package by Stephanie Evanovich

The Total Package by Stephanie Evanovich

Dani Carr spent one night with hunky quarterback Tyson Palmer, her former tutoring student, at homecoming during a college reunion weekend.  Years later Tyson has cleaned himself up, drugs and alcohol are firmly in his past, and Dani is now a successful sports commentator who still has a bit of a crush on Tyson.  When the two meet again, after Tyson finally remembers her, sparks fly.

I just found out that the three books the author has written all tie together.  Not having read the others didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of this book, but having “met” the two other couples in this romance series I think I’ll be checking out their stories as well. 

For fans of contemporary romance, football, recovery stories and secrets!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Yet more doom and gloom for the state of Pennsylvania.  It was odd reading the last two books simultaneously (I listened to Miller’s Valley while reading Heat & Light) but it was interesting to see how different groups of people are being affected by the forces around them.  Instead of fracking, this book is about water and the use of eminent domain to create reservoirs.  Miller’s Valley had been adversely affected by a badly placed dam and now the homes in the valley flood terribly with every heavy rain.  Houses have been ruined, people have died, yet there are those who refuse to leave their homes and farms behind. 

Mimi lives on a farm in the valley and her father is tied to the land.  He refuses to even think of leaving even when his young daughter is figuring out that there may not be a choice.  This is the story of Mimi’s childhood and growing up in a home that may not be there forever and what that means to her and her family and friends.  This is truly a coming of age story, Mimi makes bad choices and good choices and you can see the sense of everything she does. 

Some of the secondary characters were extremely memorable, especially Ruth, the agoraphobic aunt who won’t leave her home even in times of crisis.  Her storyline takes a turn I never saw coming!

Fans of family stories and character studies will find a lot of like here.

Gasland: Can You Light Your Water on Fire? (Fracking Documentary)


After reading Heat & Light I wanted to see the gas fields described in that book so I took out this documentary.  The frightening part of this documentary is that the man who sets out to find out more about fracking lives in northeastern Pennsylvania by the Delaware, so this whole fracking deal is a lot closer than I thought. 

This is an absolutely frightening documentary.  I have heard about tap water being set on fire, but to see it happen over and over and over again, especially alongside ranches for beef cattle and crops, was disturbing to say the least.

Eye-opening, scary and unfortunately happening right now, this is a film I wished I watched years ago.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh

Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh

Bakerton, Pennsylvania was in the center of coal country and when the mines were open Bakerton flourished.  The mine has been closed for years and unemployment and shuttered businesses are almost all that is left of Bakerton.  There are a few farms, and the nearby prison provides some good jobs, but besides the local bar there isn’t much else in Bakerton which is why meth has moved into town.  Then the natural gas companies arrive.  Bakerton sits atop the Marcellus Shale and gas companies want to extract these natural resources through fracking.  Now residents are hurrying to sign leases giving the gas companies access to the land under their land; after all they aren’t doing anything with it so why not make some money?  Things could finally be looking up for Bakerton…or are they?

The nickname for this book already is “that fracking book” but it’s not really about fracking.  It’s about how a community deals with their everyday once the rigs come to town.  The land leases seemed too good to be true, and many residents are finding that is the case.  Traffic, noise, water contamination and other issues plague members of the community and their relationships with one another.

There are a lot of different stories followed here, not just the plight of one household, which is what made it so interesting.  Also the wide reaching effects of drilling in the area, even if your land is not leased to the gas companies.  Energy and how we get it is the core of the book, touching on coal, gas and even nuclear energy, all of which have made their mark on Pennsylvania, but it is the personal stories and experiences in this small town that happens to be placed in resource rich country that made such a great read.

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Nora and Rachel are very close; Nora tells Rachel everything and is sure Rachel shares everything with her.  But when Nora goes to visit her sister in the Yorkshire countryside and finds Rachel murdered she decides to start digging in to her sister’s life to figure out who killed her.  That’s when Nora starts discovering more and more secrets about her sister and gets closer to figuring out why she was killed.

The author does a great job with misdirection, I really thought I knew what was going on a few times, just to find out I was wrong.  The author makes you start thinking some really dark thoughts and then Nora has her aha! moment (and we have it right along with her) and all starts to make sense.

Fans of dead ends and thrillers that concentrate on motive will enjoy this short, yet not sweet, story.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Cassie flees her life in New York for a crumbling mansion in St. Jude, Ohio.   Her beloved aunt June, who raised her after her parent’s death when she was eight, left her the house.  Cassie is directionless and ignoring the phone and the mail while the house falls apart around her, that is about the only plan she has.  After months of inactivity and almost total avoidance of the outside world there is an insistent visitor on her doorstep; a man who is there to tell her that she has been left the entire fortune of Hollywood legend Jack Montgomery.  

Sixty years ago in St. Jude Hollywood came to town to film Erie Canal starring Jack Montgomery and Diane de Soto.  Lindie, a tomboy, gets a job as a runner for the film, and tries to use her position to bring Jack and her best friend June together.  Lindie thinks that June’s fiancĂ© isn’t good enough for her, but a movie star would suit nicely.

Both storylines take a turn in this book and even Twin Oaks, the crumbling mansion, has a say in the action.  There are plenty of subplots and, as in all good romances, misunderstandings, as well as villains and the curse of bad timing play a role.  The jumps between time periods makes the story flow and there are a few shocking reveals at the end.

Those who are not fans of time periods switching back and forth won’t have trouble keeping track of when they are in this book.  The time periods are sixty years apart and so different it’s impossible to confuse the two. 

A good beach read with some substance, this is more than a romance; it has elements of historical fiction and mystery as well.  Fans of all these genres will find this an enjoyable read.