Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hidden Bodies Book Review

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

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In the compulsively readable follow-up to her widely acclaimed debut novel, You, Caroline Kepnes weaves a tale that Booklist calls “the love child of Holden Caulfield and Patrick Bateman.”

Hidden Bodies marks the return of a voice that Stephen King described as original and hypnotic, and through the divisive and charmingly sociopathic character of Joe Goldberg, Kepnes satirizes and dissects our culture, blending suspense with scathing wit.

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: truelove. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice...

Review by Brittany:

So I loved You, the weirdness and all. In fact, it was one of my favorite reads of 2015, so picking up this one was an obvious choice for me.

How can I possibly love Joe Goldberg so much when I know he's a freaking psycho?! There's something about him that I find so shamefully appealing. And now he's in  LA, making fun of the people with aspirations while becoming one of them.

What I liked about this one was that Joe becomes more human in this book. He begins to want things and to care about people, something that didn't seem to happen in the first book. He figures out that he actually enjoys writing screenplays and maybe this could be his thing. He falls in love with Love, a woman he meets while trying to chase down Amy to kill her, and begins to want a future with her. He notices how her brother tears her down constantly and starts dreaming about making her life better, even if that means getting rid of her brother. Joe's still Joe, twisted and willing to murder if that makes life easier, but he's developing a little bit of humanity this time around.

It was the other characters in this book that made it less of a favorite than the first one. Forty, Love's brother, was so annoying and obnoxious. I reached a point where all I could think about was how he was thirty-five and still a childish mess. I needed him to get his stuff together, and that just didn't happen. Love was similar in that she was always forgiving Forty's behavior. Like everything he did was fine because they were twins and you have to love your family.

I did like this book, but I think You was better. Joe just didn't have the same spark in this one, and I liked the characters from the first book better. However, if you're a fan of Joe Goldberg, then you should still pick this one up.

Notable quotes:

This is what all the love songs are about, the moment when you find your own way forward with someone and there is no turning back. 

I wonder when the wondering will stop. I hate this part of the split, when that girl just lives in your head.

Sometimes, what you do for one night destroys your future.

It's an ugly thing, the inside of a family, the disappointments, the disgust...

I don't know any perfect couples, true partners who share the load equally.

...most of the time in life, I'm starting to realize, love is not the problem.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Decision Book Review

The Decision by Penny Vincenzi

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A love affair between self-made property tycoon Matt Shaw and dazzling fashion editor Eliza Clark, spanning sixties London, the extravagance of Milan and the glamour of New York.

A marriage that's both passionate and difficult, as Matt and Eliza's lives become irrevocably divided and entwined with others: charming advertising man Jeremy Northcott; flamboyant Italian fashion icon Mariella Crespi; Matt's sister Scarlett, who has her own complicated love affairs. And then there's Louise, Matt's tough and sassy business partner, as successful as he is and fighting for her future.

A child, Emmie, adored, precocious, and ultimately the victim of her parents' doomed marriage, she both holds them together and drives them apart.

The decision, which is agonizing and desperate, and taken in the divorce courts - where truths will be told, secrets revealed and reputations shattered. And at the heart of it all lies the fate of a little girl.

Review by Brittany:

I am a die-hard fan of Vincenzi's novels, and this one was no exception. Her characters are always so well fleshed out, even the minor characters, that they feel more like real people than so many other characters in other novels. Vincenzi also fleshes out her plot lines well, leaving no detail out and covering even the most tedious parts of a story.

This book had all of the qualities that I so love about Vincenzi. One thing that did stick out to me in this one is that Matt, the "hero" of the story, is not quite as likeable as other characters in the novel. He has moments when he is so surprisingly generous and sweet, but often he is buried under the chip on his shoulder from being brought up poor, which never leaves him. Even as he becomes successful and makes oodles of money, he still holds onto his grudges about having to be self-made. He was often grumpy and unbending, constantly giving Eliza a hard time throughout their marriage for wanting to maintain some of her own identity, even after becoming a mother. I found him hard to like.

Emmie was written to be a spoiled, manipulative child who knew what strings to tug to get her way every time. Towards the end of the book, when the divorce and custody case is being worked out, I was almost surprised at how much both Eliza and Matt wanted to have Emmie live solely with them. As a character, Emmie wasn't written to seem particularly wonderful, and there aren't many times in the book when either of her parents seemed overly taken with her, with the exception of the end. Matt often expressed his feelings that it was Eliza's job to take care of Emmie, leaving me with the feeling that he was disinterested in being an active father.

Despite the inconsistencies I felt there were in each parent's relationship with Emmie, and my general dislike of Matt as a character, I still loved the book. Vincenzi used this book to focus on marriages, the ways in which they work and the slow ways in which they can crumble. While Eliza and Matt are the focus of the book, other relationships are explored. Scarlett, Matt's sister, has an inability to meet single men and often gets entangled with married ones instead. Mariella, Eliza's good friend, is married to a man who is twice her age and exceptionally rich, causing questions as to why she married him in the first place.

All of these relationships are well-explored, making this another big hit with me. I love Vincenzi's delicious writing and the ways in which she can make me think about relationships.

Notable quotes:

In short, being with him was complete and absolute pleasure; she felt cared for, amused, interested, satisfied in every way.

Love invaded you, and even when it had become the enemy it was not to be easily overpowered.

Money, she saw in that moment of ferocious clarity, wasn't just the means whereby you acquired what you wanted or even needed; money was power, and lack of your own supply, even under the most benign and domestic of circumstances, was a genuine and rather ugly impotence.

"It's hard to describe, it's a kind of fear, I suppose. Of being judged and found wanting. A feeling you're safer just with yourself."

Marriages do not suddenly drop dead; they expire slowly, from a thousand cutting words, a million misunderstandings, from an unwillingness to apologise to a willingness to take revenge. There is a dawning, slow at first then gathering pace, that things are not as they were and moreover not as they should be, that responses are not what is hoped for, that disappointment is more frequent than delight, that resentment is more persistent than forgiveness, all remarked upon and brooded over and then stored angrily away. Desire dies, affection withers, trust becomes a memory.

By this time tomorrow she would know. Whether she would still be a mother, a proper mother, the sort that did the ordinary things, got her child up every morning and tucked her up in bed every night, took her to school and picked her up again, knew when she'd had a tummy ache or a bad dream, got cross with her, argued with her, decided when the get her hair cut, or that she needed new shoes, tolder her off for skimping on her homework or her ballet practice, insisted she made her bed and tidied her room and wrote thank-you letters and cleaned out the hamster's cage...Or the other sort, the once-a-week sort, the provider of a perfect room and whatever-you-fancy food, who waited impatiently outside school, aware of the mild curiosity of the other mothers, the purveyor of treats and outings, and ultra-generosity to friends, surprised by a new dress, a fringe, a fad, always with time to give, over-indulgent, never cross, never critical, desperate to know about a school concert, a friend's party, plans for a holiday, watchful for new loyalties, jealous of new traditions... 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Tea Planter's Wife Book Review

The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies

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Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamer in Ceylon full of optimism, eager to join her new husband. But the man who greets her at the tea plantation is not the same one she fell in love with in London. Distant and brooding, Laurence spends long days wrapped up in his work, leaving his young bride to explore the plantation alone. It's a place filled with clues to the past - locked doors, a yellowed wedding dress in a dusty trunk, an overgrown grave hidden in the grounds, far too small for an adult... Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but she has little time to celebrate. In the delivery room the new mother is faced with a terrible choice, one she knows no one in her upper class set will understand - least of all Laurence. Forced to bury a secret at the heart of her marriage, Gwen is more isolated than ever. When the time comes, how will her husband ever understand what she has done?

Review by Brittany:

I requested this book off of NetGalley because the blurb intrigued me, and, yes, because I thought the cover was pretty.

I really enjoyed reading about Ceylon and learning about the tea business and the life of the laborers and servants along with Gwen. It is a totally different world to the one we live in, and to the one Gwen lived in before marrying Laurence. Her attempts to adapt to his world are heroic, especially considering the barriers that his sister, Verity, constantly puts up for Gwen.

Laurence was an interesting character to me. Half the time he seemed invested in Gwen, but there was the other half when he seemed to not care much either way. His focus was clearly on his business, and his shady relationship with Christina left me feeling sorry for Gwen often throughout the story. Christina was blatant about her feelings about Laurence, and Laurence often let Christina act outrageously, which made me angry on Gwen's behalf.

When Gwen gives birth to twins, one of whom is dark-skinned, she is forced to evaluate her options. She frantically thinks back to what might have happened to cause one baby to be born white and one to look Sinhalese, and she panics about what this might mean for her relationship to Laurence. The choice she makes that night completely alters the person she becomes, taking some of her relationships with her.

Overall, I thought this book was good. The imagery of Ceylon was well-written, along with the challenges that Gwen faces in trying to become the mistress of Laurence's house. There were times when the story dragged and times when I wanted to shake Gwen for some of her choices, but I think this goes a long way toward proving how good of a writer this author is.

Notable quotes:

She knew it wasn't fair, but couldn't help feeling stung.

She felt poised at the point when life shakes itself up, and you have no idea where you'll be standing when it settles in a new pattern, or whether you will be standing at all.

She understood home wasn't a place. It was her daily relationship with everything she touched, saw, and heard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Eyre Affair Book Review

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

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Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Bronte's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter a novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide. 

Review by Brittany:

I had heard good things about Jasper Fforde and was told that, especially as a reader, I would enjoy these books.

Jumping into this first one was a little strange as I had to get used to the different parts of the world. The different characters, the different special ops teams, and the goings on were a bit of an adjustment to other books that I've read.

I absolutely loved the idea of characters from books coming out and people getting to go in. As a reader, there have been so many times when I've wished I could do just that, and there was a certain appeal to reading about that happening in this book. I was also really intrigued by the major crime being that Hades was trying to alter literature by kidnapping the main characters. It's an interesting idea and one that would probably be just as detrimental as this book made it seem like it would be.

I also loved how Fforde included details about Thursday's personal life. The reader gets to meet her family members and develops and understanding of what is going on with her and Landen, the man she was once engaged to. Even though the basis of the book is about Thursday's job, I was so pleased to get to know her on a more personal level.

This book is written in such a way that it's almost wink-and-nod with it's sometimes subtle and sometimes unsubtle humor. With character names like Jack Schitt, it's hard to take this book too seriously. Once I got past the initial adjustment period, I couldn't put this one down. I loved this book and I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series!

Noteable quotes:

I found myself wondering what it would be like to have children and then wondering what it would be like never to know.

If only life were that simple; if one could jump to the good parts and flick through the bad...

"Life for you is short; far too short to allow small jealousies to infringe on the happiness which can be yours only for the briefest of times."

"Human emotions, well...they're just a fathomless collection of greys and I don't do so well on the midtones."