I have quite a varied taste when it comes to books; typically a story that draws me in is one that makes me laugh. I enjoy animal stories, have read almost every book by Jodi Picoult and am a sucker for a story with strong emotion. Recently, however, I have found an interest in thrillers because I like to follow what the “bad guy” does and can’t wait to see how he/she will get caught. Overall, I need a book to really draw me in at the beginning and make me feel something throughout, and of course, a happy ending is always best!
The Widow’s House – Carol Goodman
333 pages (2017)
If you enjoy suspenseful stories with unreliable narrators this is a book for you! Carol Goodman brings to life the haunting story of an unsure marriage and a once-stately mansion in disrepair along with the bloody history to which it belongs. Our main characters Jess and Clare met in the town where this house resides and have now returned due to financial strain and in the hopes of inspiration for Jess’s long awaited second novel. They come to town looking to buy a house but find themselves given an offer they cannot refuse; the position of caretaker at the Riven house where their once teacher and mentor now lives in ill health. The story that follows is fraught with creepy happenings and tense situations. As you read, you will find yourself questioning the things Clare sees and does (as she is our narrator throughout) and often wondering, “What will happen next?” Overall this is an engrossing and chilling tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat and guessing until the final twist at the end. The sense of a somewhat cliffhanger at the end is the perfect ending to this creepy novel.
Two Good Dogs – Susan Wilson
342 pages (2017)
The latest book by the supremely talented Susan Wilson, this book will alternatively frustrate and delight you. The story brings together four people all struggling with their own inner demons, as well as two dogs who act as the glue that holds these people together. Set against the backdrop of the stunning Berkshire Mountains, this novel is filled with beautiful descriptions of the Lakeview Inn around which the book is centered. Layered in are brief narrations by one of the dogs featured in the book. I have always admired Susan’s ability to speak for her dog characters and this book is no exception. In this story, Chance (the dog) is a Pit bull with a rough past who was saved and given a second chance, hence the name, and has now become a therapy dog for Adam who becomes a frequent visitor to the Lakeview. The inn is owned by Skye and serves as a fulfillment for her dream of having an inn to call her own. Unfortunately, it comes with not a few issues and her daughter Cody is not exactly enthused with the idea either. Cody herself is also harboring a huge secret that she feels she must keep from everyone or face some deadly consequence. Our last main character is introduced rather late in the story but does end up playing a crucial part, and he also happens to be the owner of our other “good dog.” Ultimately, I believe this book will move you in a variety of ways and will satisfy you at the end, with a sense of justice and completion.
Leave Me – Gayle Forman
343 pages (2016)
This book poses and answers the question, “How can a woman leave her family and what are the events that could cause this to happen?” Our main character, Maribeth, is a mother to 4-year-old twins with a husband who always seems to work and not help much with household chores. Add in her job working for a magazine, sorting through hundreds of emails a day and you have one very busy and often stressed-out lady. She is so busy, in fact, that she mistakes a heart attack for an attack of indigestion from a late dinner of Chinese food. Upon discovering her issues are not stomach related and are actually a bit more harrowing, she is sent home from the hospital after surgery. She soon finds that home is not an environment conducive to healing and makes a pain-induced snap decision to pack up and get out of town. Her ensuing journey takes on a sense of self-discovery where she learns things bout herself and even the family she has left behind.
The thing that really struck me about this book is that I can see this happening to any over-worked, stressed out mother, especially if she has a health scare. I found myself sympathizing with Maribeth and wondering why her family did not seem to realize the struggle she ws having with her recover. I know that a lot of people will feel differently and be mad at Maribeth for her actions, and I think my advice would be to keep in mind what she has gone through and that she feels as if she has given more than her fair share and does not see any return from her loved ones. There were definitely parts of the story where I questioned why she was acting the way she was and wondering if she was considering what her family may be going through after her disappearance but I found that in the end, everything works out all right.
In the Clearing – Robert Dugoni
355 pp. (2016)
This is the third book in the Tracy Crosswhite series; however it is not overly necessary to read them in sequence to understand the story. This is a compelling thriller about a cold case that happened 40 years in the past. Told with alternating snapshots of the time the crime was committed and the current timeline, this fast-paced story will keep you guessing until the end. The disturbing scenes in the book will make you gasp and wonder “what next?” as well as why this gruesome murder occurred.
What I really enjoyed about the book is how the many characters in the story really come to life. There is one character who was particularly likeable and who had me laughing several times. I enjoyed the twists and turns as Tracy followed the decades-old leads and tried to determine what happened that fateful night. There was just one thing that turned me off a little about the book, which is the lack of attention given to another case happening in the current timeline. It fest as if it had no real purpose other than to fill in some downtime in the cold case. Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would suggest that readers who like it should read the other books in the series, which are just as good and in my opinion even better.
Sweetbitter, – Stephanie Danler
356 pp. (2016)
This novel from newcomer Stephanie Danler takes the reader through a year in the life of Tess, who has just arrived in New York looking to escape her past. Most of the story is set in the restaurant where Tess lands a job as a backwaiter. The reader becomes privy to the hectic life behind the scenes at this restaurant, where many illicit things take place. Tess becomes completely enamored and caught up in this life as well as with two people who shape her new life in New York; Simone, a senior server and Jake, a bartender. Ultimately, this is a novel of rebirth, soul-searching and a character that has to lose herself before she can figure out who she is.
I enjoyed this novel in a different way than I usually do, in that I could not put it down simply because there were times when I was confused on what was happening and had to read on to figure it out. There are some entertaining pieces in which you get bits of conversations that feel like they could be heard in real-life situations. I would recommend this book for those who do not shy away from gritty, coming-of-age stories with the “traditional happy ending.”
Be aware: this novel contains very strong language and adult situations.