Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Lo Blacklock is being given her big break.  Her boss is on sick leave so she gets to cover the super-exclusive yacht/cruise ship for her travel magazine. Common spaces, including a large dining room, spa and oversized jacuzzi and sauna, and only ten luxuriously appointed cabins with staff assigned to each cabin individually, you know the ship is made to impress.  For its maiden voyage the passengers are well-known journalists of the travel industry and rich potential investors.

There’s a problem.  Lo was the victim of a home invasion shortly before leaving port in England for Norway and is still badly shaken from the experience.  Yes, she is on edge and possibly she drank a little more than she should but she is positive that she spoke with the woman next door in cabin 10 and later in the evening saw a person thrown overboard from that veranda.  She knows what she saw, but no one believes her, especially since cabin 10 is empty because the person who was supposed to occupy it, a man, cancelled at the last minute. Did she really see what she thought she saw?  If so, who was thrown overboard?  And does that mean she’s on board with a murderer?

Don’t read this book if you are thinking of taking a cruise any time soon. Granted, you’re only in danger if you witness an awful event, but maybe don’t take any chances.  I really enjoyed Ware’s debut In a Dark, Dark Wood but while I liked this one, I wasn’t as thrilled with it overall.  The twists were good, but I had difficulty identifying with a character that kept making similar mistakes and was at times hard to like.  A decent thriller, but read her first if you want to try this author.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

On his way back from buying a carton of ice cream for his wife and son, Jason Desson is kidnapped at gunpoint, drugged and forced into a futuristic looking cube sitting in the middle of an abandoned warehouse.  He wakes up on a floor somewhere else where lots of people are welcoming him back after being gone for over a year.  Jason is really confused, but he doesn’t quite let anyone know because one thing is giving him pause.  That cube was really similar to a teeny-tiny prototype he drew up in his mind back in his graduate school days to allow an object to simultaneously exist in different states (think Schrodinger's Cat a zillion-fold) and if that is what it was then what in the heck just happened?!

Yep, this is the book I chose to take with me as a beach read.  And it was perfect...for me.  The quantum physics is really well explained, so don’t worry about the book being overly technical.  It does get really really REALLY weird.  

Basically one version of Jason made it possible to travel to alternate worlds.  All those huge life choices you made that altered the course of your life, as well as all the tiny decisions that nudged things a bit, as well as the things that happened on a huge scale, like say an asteroid strike, have all happened in one of these universes.  But what would happen if one you decided to slip into the life of another you?  How could You1 find his way back to the world where You2 took over your life?  And what happens when you keep opening doors to other worlds?  Would that mean more of you would pop into or out of existence?  

I really liked this book, if you couldn’t tell, because it made me think and freak out alongside the main character.  Yes, it’s a book about alternate worlds, but at the core it’s about what is most important in life and what you would do to get it back.

Written by the strange mind who brought you the books the television show Wayward Pines is based on, I recommend it for those who miss Michael Crichton or Twin Peaks, or are looking for something sciencey to read after loving The Martian.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

It’s 1976 on an avenue in England and Mrs. Creasy has gone missing.  Ten-year-olds Tilly and Grace take it upon themselves to solve the mystery.  The adults are all blaming it on the record heatwave but after talking to the vicar the girls get it in their heads that if they can find God on the avenue they will be able to find Mrs. Creasy too.  

From the beginning it is apparent that there is a deep dark secret on the avenue.  Flashbacks to 1967 fill in some of the blanks, but otherwise we are left with what Tilly and Grace can puzzle out as well as some brief glimpses into the homes on the avenue.  

It was refreshing to read a book where the kids seemed like kids; they made horrible childish mistakes and assume they know more than they actually do.  My only complaint was it was a little difficult to keep track of some of the characters since I spread out my reading over a week instead of sitting down and reading it in a couple of days.

If you’re looking for a glimpse into the underbelly of suburbia of the past (which seemed pretty similar to suburbia in America today) or just a good coming of age story you might want to find out what the trouble is with goats and sheep.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Children by Ann Leary

The Children by Ann Leary

Joan and Lottie live at Lakeside year round, part of the terms of the trust when Joan’s husband and Lottie’s stepfather Whit died.  Lottie spends her days on the property and up in the attic writing lists for the internet (yes, you can make money doing that) and updating her very popular mommy blog (yes, you can make money doing that too even if you make up your husband and kids) and Joan runs and is involved in community events.  But this summer Lakeside seems to be filling up.  Sally, Lottie’s sister, is on a break from playing violin with the symphony and decides to move back in for a bit.  And Spin, the baby of the family, and a son from Whit’s first marriage, comes by to introduce the family to his fiancee and turn everyone’s world upside down.

I usually don’t like when books suddenly change mood/tone part way through, but I’ll make an exception for this one.  What started as (I thought) a first world problems book turns into a glimpse of how one evil person can change the dynamic of an entire family.  At first I thought it was going to focus on the quirkiness of the family members living in Lakeside and the mental illness of one of the residents, and while that was a factor in the story, the focus instead changed and became a little mysterious.  Someone has it out for Lottie and is trying to harm her reputation online -- who could it be?  And why?

What I thought was going to be another book like The Nest turned out to be more -- a short read that twists in ways you wouldn’t expect.  Be prepared, this book starts out light and gets pretty darn dark.

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

Detective D.D. Warren is still on administrative leave after her injury on the job but she has a really hard time pushing paper and supervising from afar, especially with a case like this one.  
Flora Dane was kidnapped years ago and survived 472 days in a wooden box before her rescue.  She is a survivor and has made it her mission in life to never be a victim again.  When she is taken one night she uses all available resources to survive and escape; she is both victim and assailant.  

D.D. doesn’t know what to make of Flora: is she a survivor or a vigilante?  What happened the day her captor was killed?  What happened in those 472 days?  Flora told her story once to one person at the FBI, but has never answered any further questions.  When Flora goes missing again D.D. and her team will need to dig deep into Flora’s past to figure out who could have taken her and why and where she and possibly other missing girls may be before it’s too late.

Great edge of your seat suspense on audio.  While this book is part of a series, you can enjoy it fine as a standalone story.  It’s a hard read/listen, what was done to Flora when she was captive is horrific, but she is a survivor.  It really brings the ideas of trauma bonding and what events like this do to the victim in the long term as well as their families was really interesting to read about in this account.

This is not my first book by Gardner, and it surely won’t be my last.

Hostile Takeover: A John Lago Thriller by Shane Kuhn

John Lago is back.  After writing The Intern’s Handbook to help his fellow assassins at HR, Inc. survive their employment and after barely surviving the end of his own time as an intern/assassin John decides to marry the girl who is probably the only one more deadly than he in the world and plan a takeover of HR, Inc.  Of course things don’t go as planned.

If you’re a fan of action movies where each stunt is more outlandish and over the top then the last, and one liners fly every which way, this is probably a great read for you.  I would recommend reading the first book (The Intern’s Handbook) before this one.  And read the first two before the third comes out, rumor has it this is going to be a trilogy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Four siblings are due to inherit the trust their father created for them when the youngest of the siblings turns forty.  Nicknamed “the nest” three of the four are anxiously awaiting the substantial (at least a quarter of a million dollars) inheritance since they have already accrued debt or been living a lifestyle that money is needed to maintain.  Shortly before the inheritance will be in the hands of the siblings disaster strikes.  The most financially stable of the bunch needs money to escape a horrific legal mess of his own creating and their mother, having control of the trust, uses the money in it to pay the bills.  The three other siblings are stunned.  The money they counted on for their entire lives is gone.  What will they do now?

I finished this book about a week ago and was wondering what to write.  I’m amazed at how popular this book is considering that many reviews I’ve read weren’t very positive because some readers loathed the main characters.  This truly is a book about first world problems.  It’s hard to feel too much empathy for these characters because they were counting on money for their happiness, and when the money doesn’t materialize, naturally, it’s a disaster for them.  I wouldn’t say I didn’t like the characters, I just didn’t feel too badly for them, especially when the spouses of two of the siblings kept stressing that they shouldn’t count on “the nest” because they thought it was too good to be true.  And they were right!

I will say it was a compulsive read.  There are a lot of side stories that draw you in and the writing was paced in such a way that you needed to know what happened next.  I would give this author another try, but this is yet another case where I don’t get why the book is so hugely popular.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Zoo is one of twelve contestants on In the Dark, a survivalist-type of reality show.  She is doing this as a challenge to herself before she settles down and starts a family with the man she loves.  Zoo successfully completes a week of group and team challenges and is enthusiastic to start the first solo challenge of the show.  At first the challenge goes well but after weeks stumbling across rotting corpses (she knows they are props, she saw one when she was on a group challenge) and empty houses (how much did the studio pay these people to vacate while she walked by!?) she still holds on to the last clue she received: Home Sweet Home.  Zoo is not a quitter, she is going to see this through to the end.  She is walking back to her husband across Pennsylvania and the ruin the show’s producers have created because she knows home will bring an end to this stupid game.  

The book is constructed in alternating chapters of the events happening for the show and just a few weeks later while Zoo is trying to walk home.  As a reader we know something horrible happened while Zoo was in the woods, a pandemic of some sort, but she stubbornly holds on the idea that it is all part of the show.  She sees cameras and props everywhere; she can’t accept that reality changed outside the game.  The psychological strain of her surroundings, how she is able to change everything around her to fit the story she wants to tell herself, is amazingly well done.  I felt that Zoo was believable with her blinders on, as readers we have her inner thoughts and the processes she goes through to manipulate what she sees with what she desperately wants to believe.

Fans of psychological thrillers will devour this book as will those who enjoy end of the world fiction and reality television shows.  I’ll admit I have never watched Survivor or anything like it, but I was on the edge of my seat listening (wow, great book on audio!) to this debut novel.