Library Girl's Guide To Books

Reviews and Musings From A Reading Life.

Sunday, June 3, 2018


                    by Laura Lippman         

I am a lover of noir in books and film. When I read a review of Sunburn that said it is a modern noir, I knew that I had to read it and would probably love it. I was right. This is an enjoyable psychological thriller that will keep you interested and guessing till the end.

Polly and Adam meet in a bar in Belleville, Delaware. They are both there for a reason. Polly is running away from something and someone and Dan has his own reason for being there. Both of them are just passing through this small town yet they are strangely drawn to each other. Polly's cool, quiet and aloof demeanor both excites but also unnerves Adam.  Instead of moving on, they stay for the summer and are soon engulfed in an intense, steamy, passionate affair. Although Adam doesn't quite trust Polly, he can't stay away from her. As the summer progresses they begin a cat and mouse game that soon turns deadly when someone dies. Was it an accident? Neither Adam nor Polly is who they seem to be. Is Polly a cold blooded killer or a victim?  Why is Adam, an adventure seeking, globe trotting traveler, there in the small town of Belleview? 

It has been said that James M. Cain's novella, The Postman Always Rings Twice, was the inspiration for this book. As in some of the Cain books I have read, the man instantly falls for the woman and will do almost anything, even murder, to keep her. Like Postman, this book is set in a diner, the female character is a femme fatale who is irresistible to men and might have been involved in planning a murder.

The twists and turns in Sunburn will keep you guessing and the ending was unexpected. If you like noir and psychological suspense, you will want to read Sunburn.

I listened to Sunburn on audio and Susan Bennett's narration was a perfect fit for the noir tone and feel of Sunburn.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Great Alone

by Kristin Hannah

When  thirteen year-old Leni Albright's father, Ernt, returns from Vietnam, he is a changed man. He is volatile, unable to control his temper and restless. Leni can't remember what he was like before the war but her mother, Cora, keeps trying to remind her that he is a good man deep down. On a whim, Ernt decides that they are moving to Alaska for a fresh start. He believes that he will get his life back and become a changed man in the open spaces in the mostly uncivilized Alaska of 1974. They are going to live off the grid and he assures them that everything will be fine. When they arrive on the Kenai peninsula, they realize that they are woefully unprepared for winter and it is fast approaching. With the help of neighbors, they manage to set up a sparse homestead and learn what they will need to survive the long winter months.

But as the long winter drags on, Ernt begins to drink again and he becomes more and more paranoid. His violent streak escalates and Leni watches as her beloved mother bears the brunt of Ernt's anger and jealousy. Her only salvation is a local boy, Matthew, who becomes her friend. But Leni must keep her friendship a secret from her dad and soon everyone is walking on eggshells.

The Great Alone has a wonderfully developed sense of place. I felt the cold seeping into their bones, felt the danger that were dealing with in this wild place but also appreciated the beauty of it. The colorful characters in the town added to story. Everyone pitched in and helped everyone else.  A story about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and  domestic violence isn't uplifting and as Ernt's violence grew I wanted to scream at both Leni and Cora to get out and run but Cora wouldn't leave him. She tried to get Leni to leave but Leni wouldn't leave her mom. After five years, Leni does try to leave with devastating consequences.

This book is in part a coming of age story, a love story and an adventure. The title of The Great Alone comes from a poem The Shooting of Dan McGrew  by Alaskan poet Robert Service "were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear, And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear..." 

I loved Kristin Hannah's 2015 book The Nightingale. It was the best book I read that year so I was hoping to love The Great Alone. I liked it but didn't love it. I listened to it on audio and Julia Whelan was a fantastic narrator!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The  Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck:  

A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life

             by Mark Manson

Mark Manson is a superstar blogger with 90.9 K followers on Twitter. I am now one of them. When I read this book I thought that finally someone is making sense. The title kind of turned me off because I am not a fan of the F -word but I had heard so many good things about this book that I decided to try it on audio. The F-word is used a lot in the beginning of the book and at one point I thought I would have to stop listening. I kept with it and I'm so glad that I did because the word isn't used as much after that. Manson calls this the anti self-help book. Most self-help books focus on what people perceive their shortcomings to be and then laser in on them. Some examples are, I'm not pretty enough, I am too fat, I don't make enough money and self-help books are very eager to tell you how to make more money become prettier, lose weight. These books are reinforcing your perceived shortcomings. Manson feels that the media is constantly bombarding people with the message that the key to a successful, happy life is more: more money, more things and then we get into what he calls the Feedback Loop From Hell. We don't make enough money so we are upset, then we are upset that we are upset about that and then we get anxious and then we are anxious about feeling anxious and the loop goes round. 

The author feels that the key to a happier life is to be honest about your life. The popular focus on being positive all the time is doing more harm then good. Life sometimes stinks and we need to face this fact and learn to deal with it. The feel good mindset isn't helping anyone. We need to learn to deal with the bad things that come our way because doing that makes us better.We all have limitations and once we know our limitations and accept them, we can be successful in life. Someone will always make more money than we do, have a nicer car or house or job and we have to let all of that go. Failure is inevitable and we need to accept it and take action. Manson feels that shielding kids from adversity is a huge mistake. If children are constantly shielded from adversity, when it comes, they won't be able to deal with it. He also feels that giving a child a participation medal, just for showing up, is wrong too. It doesn't work that way in real life.

Fear of failure holds a lot of people back from pursuing their dreams. Manson uses some real life examples, including himself. He had failed at a lot of things and was basically living with various friends and sleeping on their couches. He wanted to start an Internet business but was afraid of failure. But he thought, I am already a failure so what do I have to lose.? He proceeded and he has become wildly successful. 

This book isn't about being apathetic and not giving a F*ck  about anything but rather that we need to choose what we are going to give a F*ck about.  Don't get upset over the little things but give a F*ck about what is important.

There is so much in this book and it is difficult to  review because of that. Here are some of the things that struck me:
  • We must know our limitations and accept them.
  • Choose what you give a F*ck about.
  • Live with some negatives things because we learn from them.
  • Accept failure and take action.
  • Don't shield children from adversity because they won't be able to deal with it when it comes. 
  • True happiness comes from solving problems
  • We are not entitled or special, so get over it.
  • Suffering has value and we can learn from it.
The language in this book might offend some people but I agree with so many of the points that the author makes. I listened to it on audio and Roger Wayne's narration is fantastic. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hardcore Twenty-Four (Stephanie Plum Book 24) by [Evanovich, Janet]


Hardcore Twenty-Four

                                         by Janet Evanovich

In this newest Stephanie Plum adventure we find Stephanie taking care of a boa constrictor, because she has taken its owner in on a failure to appear in court warrant, looking for zombies who might be cutting off the heads of bodies to suck out their brains and Grandma Mazur who has met a man online who looks exactly like George Hamilton. She also has Diesel staying in her apartment much to the dismay of  Joe and Ranger. Par for the course for Stephanie, right?

I have always looked forward to a new Stephanie Plum novel but the last few have been disappointing. This latest novel is just plain dumb. The sexual humor is getting old and a little too crude, Lula is getting tiresome and Stephanie's character has taken a nose dive. We know she is attracted to Ranger but is in an, almost engaged,  relationship with Joe. She has managed to fight her temptation to sleep with Ranger but not anymore. Plus she considered having sex with Diesel?  Sex with three men? Not funny or appealing.

Grandma Mazur is still outrageous and when she runs off to meet a man in Florida who looks just like George Hamilton, Stephanie has to go after her to save her from a group of swingers. Her mother is now taking pills and drinking liquor to deal with Grandma instead of getting out the ironing board. Whatever happened to her sister, Valerie, and her dad?  There used to be some fun scenes around the dinner table with her family but not anymore.

While there were a few funny moments in Hardcore Twenty-Four, there weren't enough to save it. The plot was thin, there was more of the same with Joe and Ranger and bringing Diesel into the story did nothing to enhance the plot. Oh and Stephanie keeps crashing Ranger's vehicles. Sound familiar?

I have listened to all of the Stephanie Plum books on audio. Lorelei King started narrating the series on book seven. While most of her voices are fine, her Grandma Mazur voice is grating. Stephanie needs to marry Joe, settle down and hang up her handcuffs because this series has run out of steam. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Lying Game  

                                      by Ruth Ware   
                                                                                                                               When fifteen- year old Isa was sent to Salten House, a last chance boarding school on the cliffs near the English Channel, she was befriended by Fatima, Thea and Kate. They soon became inseparable and the girls taught Isa how to play The Lying Game.   

1. Tell a lie.
2. Stick to your story
3. Don't get caught.
4. Never lie to each other.
5. Know when to stop lying.

          The game had a complicated set of rules and the better your lie, the more points you made. If people believed your lie, you got even more points. The girls became the scourge of Salten House because of this and soon the other students began to stay away from them. They didn't care because they had each other. 
          Isa was going through a difficult period. Her mother was in the hospital dying and her father sent her and her brother away because he was having difficulty coping.  Kate's father, Ambrose, was the art teacher at Salten House. She and her father lived nearby so the girls began spending every weekend there. Kate's house, The Mill, was located on a tidal estuary called The Reach. The girls spent their time swimming and hanging out with Luke, Kate's step-brother.  Ambrose became like a second father to Isa. One evening, as the girls were supposed to be studying, they received a text from Kate: I need you. They quickly dressed, climbed out the window and broke the rules by leaving the school grounds to go to Kate.  Then something happened that caused the girls to be expelled from Salten House.
          Seventeen years later, they receive the text that they had all been hoping would never come: I need you. The three women drop everything to leave London and go to Kate. Isa is now a mother and she takes her baby, Freya, with her. The Mill is now crumbling and falling into the sea but Kate won't leave it. She has summoned the others to The Mill because a  body has been found buried near The Reach. The Lying Game will now take on a whole new dimension.
        The Lying Game has an atmospheric, almost Gothic setting and the reader is drawn into it. I could feel the damp seeping into The Mill, the tension between the women as what happened all those years ago might be revealed and what they have to lose if it is revealed. There are creepy, suspicious townspeople who seem to be threatening the women and is there more going on than Kate is telling them?  The reveal of what happened all those years ago, was surprising and there is another twist at the very end.
        I enjoyed this book but didn't like it as much as the author's other two books. I thought it was a little bit slow and I really didn't bond with the characters that much. It has had mixed reviews but if you enjoy psychological, twisty mysteries with a strong sense of place and a focus on women's friendships, you should give it a try.  It will soon be a movie as the movie rights have been sold.

Monday, October 23, 2017

 My Sunshine Away 

                 by M.O. Walsh  

In the summer of 1989, in an upscale Baton Rouge, Louisiana, neighborhood, a horrible crime was committed on Piney Creek Road. The narrator, a fourteen year old boy who lives across the street from the victim, sets the scene with his opening comment:

"There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the suburban sidewalk of Piney Creek Road, the same sidewalk our parents had once hopefully carved their initials into, years before, as residents of the first street in the Woodland Hills subdivision to have houses on it."

We then learn that our young narrator is one of the suspects. The Woodland Hills subdivision was, until that time, a wonderful place to grow up. Neighbors  got together for crawfish barbecues, children played together, neighbors worried about keeping their gardens watered and alive in the sultry heat and everyone supported their football team.  All of that changed when fifteen year old Lindy, a talented track star, free spirit and neighborhood favorite was assaulted. Neighbors turned on each other, suspicions ran wild, families unraveled and secrets were revealed.

Set in the sultry heat of Baton Rouge and told through the eyes of our young narrator, who was in love with Lindy, this coming-of- age story is honest, heartbreaking and compelling. As he looks back on what happened, with an adult perspective, we can feel his heartbreak and guilt as he recalls that horrible time.  He is a likable narrator and I was hoping that he wasn't the one who committed this terrible crime. Readers are rewarded at the end with what did happen and how it affected everyone on Piney Creek Road.  I felt like I was right there in the Louisiana heat experiencing the story along with our narrator.  It is a dark story but so well written that I couldn't stop reading it. I listened to it on audio and the reader, Kirby Heybourne, was perfect!

This debut novel was a New York Times Bestseller, an Amazon Featured Debut and was named a Best Book of 2015 by NPR, Kirkus and Booklist.

Sunburn                        by Laura Lippman          I am a lover of noir in books and film. When I read a review of Sunburn tha...