I’ve had a pretty good start to 2019 reading! But, it’s not what you’d normally expect from me. The books that worked for me were almost all brain candy and mysteries / thrillers! And, the two books that didn’t were both literary fiction…my usual go-to genre. I have no idea what’s going on with my reading, but I’m rolling with it.
Also, stay tuned for a Spoiler Discussion of An Anonymous Girl on Thursday!
Plot Summary: Jessica Farris signs up for a supposedly anonymous study only to find that Dr. Shields (the psychiatrist conducting the study) seems to be able to get into her head in a much deeper way than she imagined.
My Thoughts: I have an incredibly finicky relationship with psychological thrillers. But, I think I’m starting to figure out one element that can make me like them: having part of the story told from the perspective of a psychologist or psychiatrist. I like to dig into people’s minds and have always had a weird fascination with the brains of serial killers. So, psychological thrillers that are heavier on the psychological and lighter on the thriller tend to work for me. An Anonymous Girl fits this bill. It’s less reliant on action and outlandish plot twists…the suspenseful question is not what will happen, but who can you trust? The beginning of the story sucked me in in a creepy, unsettling way. There was a “WTF is going on” vibe (What exactly is this study about? What does Dr. Shields want with Jess?) and Dr. Shields, the psychiatrist in this story, gives off a Herman Koch vibe (especially like Dear Mr. M and Summer House with Swimming Pool). This book is a giant mindf*ck!
It’s all so proper and precise and insane.
Plot Summary: When star news anchor Ted Grayson gets caught on video berating a female make-up artist, the media (including his own journalist daughter) attacks and Ted is forced to re-evaluate his entire life.
My Thoughts: Talk to Me is definitely Brain Candy, but it’s Brain Candy with substance (my very favorite type of Brain Candy). It’s a snarky story that’s ultimately about regret…taking place in today’s media world. Kenney’s commentary on today’s brand of journalism is spot-on and pokes fun at pretty much all parties involved. He skewers political correctness and those who don’t buy into political correctness, traditional news anchors and click-bait “news” websites…no one escapes unscathed. But, buried under all the snark is some actual heart. Ted’s struggle with his family (both wife and adult daughter) is sad, yet so common in today’s highly driven world. By the end, I felt bad for pretty much every character in the book (well, all except one side character). I also got a kick out of the quirky personalities in Ted’s newsroom…especially Murray, a Dwight Schrute-type who writes for Ted’s broadcast. My one complaint is that it dragged a bit through the third quarter. If you’re interested in stories about falls from grace, today’s media climate, and life regret, Talk to Me is for you.
How do you explain to people that after a while the money ($11 million a year) doesn’t matter, that houses don’t matter, the fame doesn’t matter? How do you explain to a nation that prizes those very things above almost all else? How do you say to your eight million viewers each evening, viewers who think you have a dream life, a dream wife, a perfect daughter, that you are a vapid, empty shell of a person with almost no real relationships and little to no integrity, that you’ve given up long ago on being a journalist?
Plot Summary: A “sleeping sickness” (i.e. people fall asleep for long periods of time and have vivid dreams) befalls one floor of a college dorm in a small town in the California mountains (Santa Lora), but then begins to spread to the town, putting everyone on high alert.
My Thoughts: Many people raved about Walker’s debut novel, The Age of Miracles, but I missed that one. I’ll definitely be going back to it, though, because I almost 5 star loved The Dreamers! It’s like a more literary version of Megan Abbott’s The Fever (which I loved). The Dreamers is not a thriller by any means, but it still had me on the edge of my seat with incredible tension and suspense. Walker did a fantastic job conveying the fear that an epidemic of a never-before-seen disease can cause…and it reminded me of the early days of the AIDS epidemic when the general public didn’t know how it was transmitted, etc. This is a novel about fear, hysteria, isolation, and human behavior in the face of those things. And, I love her writing style…it’s simple, yet incredibly compelling, and sets a just slightly mystical mood (which is about all the mystical I can tolerate). The Dreamers has been compared to Station Eleven (my review) and I’d say the epidemic portion of the book is somewhat similar, but overall The Dreamers shines on its own. My only small complaint (and what made me rate it 4.5 rather than 5 stars) was a somewhat anti-climactic ending. This one has a shot at making my Best Books of 2019 list!
This town, these neighbors walking their dogs on the streets – this does not look like a place where a plague is right now unfolding. You can draw a lot of comfort from the normalcy of others – if this thing were really spreading, would the neighbors be raking their lawns? Would the mailman be delivering catalogues?
Plot Summary: When two British girls go missing while backpacking in Thailand, journalist Kate Waters tries to piece together what happened to them.
My Thoughts: Fiona Barton is a popular mystery writer (The Child and The Widow), but this is the first time I’ve read her books. Y’all know mysteries aren’t my usual reading fare and this one didn’t blow my mind, but I solidly enjoyed it (which is more than I can usually say about mysteries!). It’s more police procedural than thriller and it doesn’t try to play “gotcha” with anything outlandish…which I appreciate in a mystery or thriller. It’s just a solid story untangling what went wrong when two girls go missing while backpacking in Thailand. It explores the dynamics of foreigners traveling in Thailand and the Thai government’s philosophy of handling incidents involving foreigners (i.e. try to avoid needing the Thai police if you’re a foreigner traveling there). It reads quickly and I was interested in how it was all going to come together. This is the third book in the Kate Waters series, but I didn’t feel lost at all jumping in without having read the first two books. A compelling mystery and a perfect palate cleanser.
Everyone wants to know the truth. Except those who don’t. Those who stand to lose by it. I know that now.
Sugar Run by Mesha Maren (January 8, 2019)
DNF at 18%
I was really excited about this one…the premise seemed right up my alley. But, I ended up feeling really disconnected from the characters and felt like too large a percentage of the writing described scenery and surroundings rather than focused on the characters.
Talent by Juliet Lapidos (January 22, 2019)
DNF at 8%
I know, a quick DNF. There was just a bit too much navel-gazing and entirely too much pontificating about Pop Tarts (yes, really). And, I heard from someone who actually finished it that the Pop Tart pontificating continues throughout the whole novel.
What’s the best book you’ve read so far this month?
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