Monthly Archives: September 2018

A Stranger in the House

If I said the book I read in just a few days was hard to get in to, would anyone believe me?

Either way, it’s true. I read Shari Lapena’s book in just a couple days, but I could have read it faster, if it really gripped me. By that I mean, if I’d felt inclined to read a few chapters on my breaks and lunch at work. But I really didn’t.

Karen Krupp is an average housewife, but her life begins to unravel after she’s in a car accident due to recklessly driving in a bad part of town. When police find out a murder occurred around the same time as Karen’s flight and accident, even her stalwart husband can’t help but be suspicious–especially since Karen can’t remember anything about that night.

It seems everyone is working an angle, and no one grasps the full scope of the situation. But when the dust settles and life tries to return to normal, it’s going to be built on top of even more secrets and lies than before.

While the book was good, the first half seemed almost to be gratuitous scene setting and character establishment (which, spoiler, gets totally trashed in the end). It was a slow start. And it didn’t help hat the book is written in present tense. I’ve grown to be able to handle first person, but third person present tense is still too much for me.

But in the second half of the book, Lapena really starts throwing in plot twists, and they fit in seamlessly with the story. You end up asking yourself why you didn’t think of that before. It’s great, right up to the final twist that, personally, felt too much like a complete 180, with no warning. It’s easy to surprise readers when there’s no indication or expectation of a change.

Will I return to Lapena’s books? Maybe. They just won’t be at the top of my reading list (and really, does my list even have a top? It feels more like an eternal middle). But, she’ll be a good one to recommend to people who enjoy the thrillers. Because she is good, just maybe not everyone’s cup of tea.

Zero Sum Game

I like reading debut novels from new authors, it’s a chance to try something new, and then to recommend it to people once the book comes out. It’s cool to see how sales can change based on one person recommending it. The latest one I snagged was Zero Sum Game, by S.L. Huang.

Cas Russel is a known retriever, making a living getting things back for people. But everything goes sideways when she rescues a young woman from a drug cartel, and suddenly finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy way above her pay grade.

But Cas has one Ace up her sleeve: she’s a math protege, able to calculate complex equations in her head, and also able to calculate probability, vectors, angles and more within seconds. Her ability is what makes Cas so successful in her business, but this time it could put her in more jeopardy.

It was an interesting read, though the emphasis on Cas’ mathematical genius felt a little overplayed sometimes. The characters we’re introduced to are various shades of gray, dancing back and forth across moral and ethical lines. Huang does a good job of keeping readers guessing about what’s going on and who holds the moral high ground.

Huang clearly intends for this book to be the first in a series, as we end with more questions than answers about Cas and her history. I wish she’d given us a little more of a taste though. The suspense is going to bug me.

Huang’s book hits shelves in October. If you’re a fan of strong female characters and and science fiction undertones, you’ve only got to wait a little bit longer.

Marilla of Green Gables

Anyone who knows me would know that there would never been any question of me grabbing this advanced copy when it came in at work. If it’s related to Anne, I’m all over it.

Sarah McCoy’s interest in Marilla’s young life was piqued by one passing sentence in one of the later chapters, where Marilla talks to Anne about John Blythe and how people used to call him her beau. From there, McCoy let her imagination go.

Marilla is 13 years old, doing her best to help her pregnant mother when her aunt whirls into town. At first, Marilla feels threatened, but soon, she’s got more to do in her free time than needlework. Between her new best friend, Rachel White and her uncertain relationship with John Blythe, Marilla has to find her own way through life.

As the years go by, Marilla takes on responsibilities within Avonlea and finds herself involved with things much bigger than she ever would have imagined. But as life goes in, Marilla gets set in her ways, and soon it seems like life might pass her by.

In some ways, McCoy’s story felt like an alternate retelling of Anne’s story. Marilla doesn’t start out as a prickly old woman. Once upon a time, she was an imaginative little girl, or so McCoy imagines. But we see how life circumstances work with her own choices to shape Marilla into the woman she becomes.

My one issue with McCoy’s story is that it doesn’t satisfactorily deal with Marilla’s answer when Anne asks what happened: that she and John Blythe quarreled and she wouldn’t forgive him when he asked her to. In McCoy’s telling, they are both stuck in their pride and neither does much to try to repair the relationship. I’d always imagined the scene being quite literally what Marilla said (after it, she’s become a quite literal old woman).

But other than that one little thing (kind of big thing, since it’s what the story is all about), I enjoyed McCoy’s take on young Marilla’s life. The character of Matthew was perfectly captured, as was the future Rachel Lynde. And for the most part, one can easily believe that Marilla Cuthbert was once the young woman McCoy depicts.

So if you’re a fan of all things Anne, and you don’t mind creative liberty, and you’re not stuck on the way your childhood brain always pictured things, McCoy’s Marilla of Green Gables is worth the wait. Because you won’t get to read it until October.

The World According to Star Wars

Though I’m young, Star Wars was my childhood. I may not have watched it in theaters, but I remember watching Star Wars more vividly than even Disney.

Cass Sunstein delves into the history and development of Star Wars in his book The World According to Star Wars. He explores how Star Wars came about, discusses the question of whether it was destined to succeed.

From there, Sunstein launches into some more social and political ideas, using Star Wars themes and scenes to explore and explain things like revolution, constitutional law, and political campaigns.

The book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, given the title, but it wasn’t so far out in left field, either. It was interesting to read the history of how Star Wars got started, which certainly made me interested in a biography of George Lucas or a deeper history of the movies. And linking characters and scenes to real life issues was interesting too.

For a dedicated fan (so long as you can handle Democrats) it’s a quick, interesting little read.