Monday, July 21, 2014

(41) Summer House with Swimming Pool

Title: Summer House with Swimming Pool: A Novel by Herman Koch
Publisher: Hogarth
402 pages
Genre: Mystery

I received an e-galley of this book directly from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Synopsis: When a medical procedure goes horribly wrong and famous actor Ralph Meier winds up dead, Dr. Marc Schlosser needs to come up with some answers. After all, reputation is everything in this business. Personally, he’s not exactly upset that Ralph is gone, but as a high profile doctor to the stars, Marc can't hide from the truth forever.

It all started the previous summer. Marc, his wife, and their two beautiful teenage daughters agreed to spend a week at the Meier’s extravagant summer home on the Mediterranean. Joined by Ralph and his striking wife Judith, her mother, and film director Stanley Forbes and his much younger girlfriend, the large group settles in for days of sunshine, wine tasting, and trips to the beach. But when a violent incident disrupts the idyll, darker motivations are revealed, and suddenly no one can be trusted. As the ultimate holiday soon turns into a nightmare, the circumstances surrounding Ralph’s later death begin to reveal the disturbing reality behind that summer’s tragedy.

Review: This isn't a story that goes from point A to point B - it sort of meanders around until it finally concludes.  While reading the first half of this book I was wondering whether I would finish it.  I had a hard time getting into it mostly because the main character Marc seemed like a pretentious whiny twit.  Even after finishing it I still thing he is sort of a twit.

Marc is a physician in Holland who cares for a lot of the art world.  He gets through his day by spending 20 minutes with each client realizing that most of the time they just want to be heard instead of treated.  When Ralph Meier walks into his office Marc becomes enamored by his personality. He accepts an invitation to an opening of one of his plays and despite loathing these events he goes. While there Marc meets and is instantly attracted to Ralph's wife while he gets annoyed by how his Ralph looks at his wife.  Confused? Well that's how I felt for a lot of this book.  The main characters thoughts wander from the past to the present with very little warning often leaving you trying to figure out why he is examining someone on the beach,  or why he is talking about hairy asses, until you realize that its just Marc off in his own head.

The second half of the book does pick up a bit while you are trying to figure out who may have committed the deplorable act of violence against Marc's daughter and why Marc's clients wife is screaming that he is a murderer. I'm not sure how satisfying the ending is but it is probably more realistic than one with a neatly tied bow.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

(40) The Farm

Title: The Farm by Tom Rob Smith
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
368 pages
Genre: Thriller

I received an e-galley of this book from the publisher through netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son.

Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes.

Your mother...she's not well, his father tells him. She's been imagining things - terrible, terrible things. She's had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital.

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I'm not mad... I need the police... Meet me at Heathrow.

Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother's unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

Review: I really loved this book because it wasn't your typical thriller/mystery.  Daniel gets a call from his father saying that his mother isn't well and then he receives a phone call from his mother, Tilde, telling him she is at the airport and that she is the victim of a huge conspiracy.

Most of the book centers around his mother's telling of her story and why she is being stalked and railroaded.  Her evidence can be taken either way and Daniel isn't sure what to believe but the evidence seems to point that something happened.  His father is acting erratically and out of character there are strange people all telling him his mother is sick and he isn't sure what to believe.

The second part of the book tells the story of Daniel who goes back to his mothers farm to find out what really happened and try to help her either by proving she was right or finding something that will help her accept reality.

I really had no idea where this book was going and was surprised by the ending.  Tilde's story might border on the unbelievable but there was always a hint of something more to it.  I haven't read something this entertaining in a while.

Monday, June 30, 2014

(39) The Girl With All The Gifts

Title: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
408 pages
Genre: Dystopian/sci fi/ fantasy

I received an advanced e-copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley.com in exchange for a fair review. 

Synopsis: Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

Review: This book is not at all what I expected, I'm not sure what I expected but it wasn't this. I don't want to give too much away because this book had a lot of twists and turns and I really never knew what to expect.  I was shocked, angry, sad, happy and stunned at different points throughout this book.

All Melanie knows is a small cell and being strapped to a chair every day in order for her to go to class.  She doesn't find this strange because she doesn't know any different.  When the outside world comes literally blasting into her world she discovers that outside is very different than everything she knows and who she thought she was is also called into question.  As Melanie, her teacher Miss Justineau and a few others flee the base that they have called home for years to find a safe place they encounter many dangers, some are even traveling with them.

I really found this book to be different and compelling.  Melanie's self awakening is slow and well planned.  You see her mature in the book despite her age.  By the end she is no longer the innocent child she was when she lived in her small cell, and those traveling with her all have their roles to play in helping her mature even if they didn't realize the role they were ultimately going to play in her life.

About the only thing I can say about this book without giving it away is that if you like post apocalyptic thrillers run don't walk to the nearest store or download the ebook immediately...don't read the back cover just start the book.  You don't want anything to ruin the ride for you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

(38) Some People Have Two Mums, Some People Have Two Dads

 Title: Some people have two Mums by Fabri Kramer & Luca Panzini & Some people have two Dads by Luca Panzini & Fabri Kramer
Publisher: Somefamilies.net
36 pages
Genre: Children's books (lgbt families)

Synopsis: Some People Have Two Mums:Milo is a happy little boy with two mums. We follow him through his bedtime routine and learn how his mothers were helped by a donor to bring Milo into their lives.

Some People Have Two Dads:  It's Daisy's birthday and her two dads give her a portrait of their family. She asks them to tell her about her birth story and afterward she proudly shows off her family portrait to her friends.

An increasing number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples are having children through surrogacy, co-parenting, donor and adoption. The Some Families books have been written to show that families come in many different combinations. Every child deserves a book that reflects their lives. At some point you should explain to your child about same-gender parents. I have written this book as an educational tool to help people understand that families come in a variety of different combinations.

Review: These two books are very cute and would make for a good bedtime read which will probably be followed by them wanting to know their own birth story. In the two Dads book, the couple used a surrogate and in the Mom's story they used a sperm donor. But despite this you could still use this book if you had adopted as a stepping stone to tell your child's adoption story or if you are a heterosexual couple you could use this book to teach your child about other types of families. The pictures are sweet and diverse and they both touch on the many different ways families are formed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

(37) One of Us

Title: One of Us by Tawni O'Dell
Publisher: Gallery Books
304 pages
Genre: Thriller

I received an advanced e-copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for a fair review. It is due to be released August 19, 2014.

Synopsis: Dr. Sheridan Doyle—a fastidiously groomed and TV-friendly forensic psychologist—is the go-to shrink for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office whenever a twisted killer’s mind eludes other experts. But beneath his Armani pinstripes, he’s still Danny Doyle, the awkward, terrified, bullied boy from a blue-collar mining family, plagued by panic attacks and haunted by the tragic death of his little sister and mental unraveling of his mother years ago.

Returning to a hometown grappling with its own ghosts, Danny finds a dead body at the infamous Lost Creek gallows where a band of rebellious Irish miners was once executed. Strangely, the body is connected to the wealthy family responsible for the miners' deaths. Teaming up with veteran detective Rafe, a father-like figure from his youth, Danny—in pursuit of a killer—comes dangerously close to startling truths about his family, his past, and himself.

Review: I originally requested this book because the main character is from Philadelphia and since I live there I thought it would be fun to read about different places I've been, but while the main character lives there most of the story takes place in Lost Creek.  Lost Creek is a struggling coal mine town where the family that owns the mine's also owned most of the people.  Throughout the years the mine owners have kept the town under their thumbs, but now the mines are drying up and the town is struggling even more. Developers want to come in and tear down some of its history to build structures that it says will bring money to the town, but the ghosts of those wrongly punished and hung (referred to as the Nellies) seem to be enacting their revenge and people are dying.

Sheridan Doyle is a direct descendant of one of the "Nellies" he grew up in the small town but has shunned its way of life and the town itself.  Wearing expensive suits he returns home to help his grandfather and finds the local police turning to him for help to stop the killing, but he doesn't realize that he may be connected to the killings in ways he wouldn't have thought possible.

Quirky characters and a man struggling to reconcile his past with his current self help move the story along.  I found this to be a quick read and engrossing story.
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