Friday, May 16, 2014

The Husband's Secret

by Laine Moriarty

The basis of The Husband's Secret is a cold case homicide that happened in a small town 30 years ago. And for all those years one man has been suspected of committing the crime, but there is no proof to convict him. It isn't until Cecilia discovers a letter her husband stashed away to be read in the event of his death that the evidence is revealed.

This book has a number of different story lines to follow that all come together in the end. There was Tess, whose husband admitted cheating on her, so she leaves home with their son to stay with her mother, who happens to live in the small town where the old murder occurred. There was Rachel, the widowed mother of the girl who was murdered so many years ago and has never stopped trying to get the man arrested who killed her daughter. And there is Cecelia, the perfect wife and mother of three perfect girls, who finally finds the key to unlocking the mystery.

This is a good beach read.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


by Joseph Heller

A while back, my younger brother suggested we read Catch-22 and discuss it together and naturally I agreed. Unfortunately, it took me two years to get to it..... and even at that I didn't actually read the book but listened to it from my audible account. So last month I went to StL a little embarrassed but ready to hash it out with B only to discover that he too had put the book on the back burner! So instead of having a discussion, I kinda gave him a recap, which I think reignited his interest in reading it, so maybe we'll be ready by Thanksgiving (hint to any other family members who'd like to join the conversation).

Here are my thoughts on Catch-22:
First, I'm not sure I would have had the patience to stick with it to the end if I were actually reading the book. It is very redundant. But kudos to Tootsie for getting through it in print!

Next, I was amazed at how skillfully Heller stuck with the paradoxes- to a fault. It was almost confusing, but also quite funny. The entire book is like an eternal "Who's on First" skit. Here are a few of my favorites:
     - Major Major's father was a farmer who made a good living not growing alfalfa. The more he didn't        grow, the greater his subsidies, so he worked very hard at expanding the area in which he did not          grow alfalfa.
     - Receiving pennants as prizes is absurd. Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, they only signify        that the person had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than everyone else.
    - There is no need to repay the government, because in a democracy the government is the people,           and we are the people, so you may as well keep the money and eliminate the middle man.

And of course, the catch-22 itself, the initial understanding relating to a person's sanity. In a nutshell, catch-22 specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Bombers were crazy to keep flying missions and could therefore be relieved of further duty if they asked. But, if they asked they were considered rational since they recognized the danger, and therefore they had to continue flying missions because they were sane, but they'd have to be crazy to keep flying missions.

I can see why it creates such controversy. Heller is pretty strong in his anti-war perspective on one hand identifying the atrocities and on the other hand laughing at them. He pokes fun of American bureaucracy, bringing into light its incompetence and corruption. I think people could find it offensive that he is making fun of the horrors of war and of America, but I did see the humor.

I'm glad I can now say I've read this classic, even though I didn't actually read it. 

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

by Anthony Marra

This book covers a ten year period of wars in Chechnya between 1994-2004. A young girl, Havaa is left orphaned after her father is taken away by Russian militants, who are now hunting for the girl. A neighbor, Akhmed takes her into the city where he leaves her in the care of the resident doctor, Sonja, who is the only doctor in a nearly demolished hospital.

I had a hard time sticking with A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. The characters seemed so similar and their relationships were so intertwined that I had to keep looking back to refresh which one I was reading about, which if you use an e-reader you know is not an easy task. The story is told using flashback with a timeline heading each chapter, but the transitions were poor, making it confusing. There was just too much going on and no clear focus. Sonja was looking for her lost sister, who ran away in an attempt to escape her drug addiction. Akhmed was a doctor who wanted to be an artist and had a son who turned traitor after his horrible experience during the first war and then betrayed his neighbors during the second attack. Havaa's father opened his house to refugees after war 1 then was recaptured in war 2, but not before hiding his daughter. There were some war story details, but not a lot to distinguish it as exclusive to Chechnya over any other war torn place.

This could have been a great book with some editing because Marra clearly has a talent for writing, just lacks  direction. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014


by Marcus Sakey

Part Sci-Fi but more thriller, Brilliance begins with a unique idea that ends up in an all-to-familiar plot. In the 1980's the government recognizes a significant growth in the number of people born having unusual mental abilities that give them advantages over others. Immediately the government classifies this group (brilliants/abnorms) and determines to control and contain them by sending them to special schools where they are "reprogrammed." In comes Nick Cooper, himself a "brilliant" who works for the government catching the bad brilliants. Until he meets one of the enemy up close and personal (little romance), and discovers that his own daughter is also a brilliant about to be sent off to the government schools. Now Nick has to clear the name of his girlfriend and save his daughter from from impending doom.

When I started reading this book I kept telling my SF loving husband he should read it, but midway through the plot became so obvious and the book lost its SF quality and turned into an action thriller bound for Hollywood. If you like those Bourne Identity or XMen kind of stories this is right up your alley. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An Instance of the Fingerpost

by Iain Pears

In the end this was a pretty good historical mystery, but it was a challenge to get there. An Instance of the Fingerpost  is a recounting of a murder told from four different perspectives. In Oxford, 1663, Dr. Grove is found dead from what looks like poisoning, but did the person convicted really commit the crime? To get to the bottom of this crime, readers are presented with four different character testimonies, each of which has a unique perspective on the events preceding the murder. This aspect of the book is intriguing, showing how people who participate in or witness the same event can end up with such contrasting impressions.
Pears does a great job distinguishing the contradictory points of view and providing distinctive voices for each of the testimonies. And each of them brings in a specific aspect of the time period and culture in keeping with their own prejudices and stations in life. While this is interesting, it also provides some challenges in reading, which part way through became confusing and tedious.
I thought the first and last character statements were far better and easier to read than the middle two.  Those guys went off on political and religious tangents that distracted from the story. I even thought it may have helped me to take some notes along the way just to keep track of all the people and their relationships to the characters (there are a LOT of them). For me it kinda got overwhelming.  However, if you are an Anglophile you'd probably love those sections. Either way this book is not a fast read.