Delightful Reads, 1st Quarter 2013

Since I work in the finance world, my year is divided into quarters. Since I found it hard to review a YEAR’S worth of books at once, I figured that I would try it in smaller, quarterly chunks. Plus, I have read a ton the last few months. Here are some of the highlights:

The Snowman – Jo Nesbo

It’s been a while since I’ve read any dark murder mysteries, but my dad raved about this book after I gave it to him for Christmas, and when my dad raves about ANYTHING, it’s worth checking out. Part of a Norwegian mystery series (ala Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but a different Scandinavian country), the Harry Hole mysteries by Nesbo can really be read out of order, which is good because this was #5 out of 7 or something like that. Hole and a ragtag bunch of crime squad employees race against the clock to find a murderer who leaves mysterious snowmen at every crime scene he creates. Harry is a lovable curmudgeon of a detective, whose unorthodox methods make the suits uncomfortable but always lead to results, in the end. If you aren’t faint of heart and are looking for a good series, I recommend this for sure. It’s gruesome, but the detail with which Nesbo sets the crime scenes is amazing, and Harry’s inner turmoil is addicting.

The Third Wheel (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7) – Jeff Kinney

Since my hubby teaches youngsters, we always try to keep up with the latest and greatest in children’s literature. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is HILARIOUS, one of those books written as much for adults as for kids. This book doesn’t compare to the first one in the series, but I guarantee a few belly laughs as you read about Greg Hefley attempting to navigate through the perils of middle school without being embarrassed by his parents or his quirkily adorable bestie, Rowley. This book  focuses on finding a date to the big school dance, always a stressful time in middle school. Since this book is written for the tween set, I finished it in one sitting. SO. FUNNY.

The Night Strangers – Chris Bohjalian

This is another selection from my “psychological thriller” phase I went through in January. Chip Linton is a pilot who is trying to forget the failed crash landed he attempted in order to save the passengers on his commuter flight. 39 people died that day, and a few of them have decided to haunt Chip’s life, talking to him, appearing soaking wet with their injuries, asking him for something I can’t understand. Trying to start fresh, Chip and his family move to a small, creepy town full of earthy “herbalists,” (don’t call them witches) who take a freakish interest in his twin daughters. Weird things are afoot in the strange old house the Lintons bought, and Chip becomes increasingly withdrawn and borderline psychotic. When the dead figures start asking for company in the afterlife, Chip gets downright creepy. I had to stay up and finish this at 1 AM on a work night because I had to know what happened.

The Sixes – Kate White

I still have unresolved feelings about whether or not I enjoyed this book. It was a wannabe psychological thriller mixed with a wannabe steamy romance mixed with a wannabe chick lit read. Phoebe, a gossip author who was falsely accused of plagiarism, tries to start over by taking an adjunct teaching position at a college run by one of her best friends. She starts to settle into small town life, finds a hot man to occasionally shack up with, and everything seems hunky-dory. Then, a female student is found dead, and a secret society that may or may not exist comes back into question. Phoebe’s friend, Dean Glenda, asks her to dig into the secret society, the Sixes, who then start to target Phoebe. She grows increasingly paranoid, strange things start appearing in her house, another few people end up dead, and Phoebe’s sordid past at a private boarding school are all brought to light. This book was predictable as all get out, but I still finished it, hoping it would turn out as good as The Year of the Gadfly. It didn’t.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story – Liane Moriarty

This was a really good read. Ellen, a hypnotist typically unlucky in love, seemingly hits the jackpot when she meets a widower online that appears to be perfect. They fall for each other, fast, and then he drops the bomb: he’s being stalked by an ex-girlfriend. Ellen becomes fascinated by this while, unbeknownst to her, said stalker is seeing Ellen under a false identity in order to keep tabs on her stalkee. Saskia, the stalker, gets increasingly unhinged until a frightening event brings everything to a head. What’s especially interesting is the interplay between Ellen’s point of view and that of Saskia. Often, the same events are described by two different people with two different perspectives. Saskia usually doesn’t see what’s wrong with the things she does, and the reader gets to see her “stalker-logic” for her actions. This was 75% cute love story, 25% psychological thriller, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

The Dressmaker – Kate Alcott

I went through a big Titanic phase back when Jack and Rose first hit the silver screen. I read every book I could find about the Titanic, fiction and non, and could quote passenger counts, building specs, biographies of notable passengers, you name it. So I had to pick up this book, about a young girl named Tess who gets a last minute job as a servant for Lady Duff Gordon, her idol in the fashion world, who just happens to be boarding the ill-fated ship. On board, Tess begins to see the ugly truth of classism, as servants are treating like nuisances while the rich are wined and dined every day. Lady Duff Gordon takes a liking to Tess and begins to “mentor” her as a young design star. Then, the ship sinks. Tess and Lady Duff Gordon both survive to get to New York and start work on an important fashion show, even as the Gordons are brought into a lifeboat scandal. Tess struggles between what she knows is right and the future she dreams of as a dressmaker, while balancing her feelings for two different men that she met on board. This book was…ok. Interesting story, but I tired of Tess after a while. I did, however, get some detail on a Titanic tale I hadn’t heard much about. This was worth the read, but after the characters reached New York, I had to struggle to finish it.

Bared to You (Crossfire #1) – Sylvia Day

You pretty much have to compare Bared to You with Fifty Shades of Grey, if you’ve read both of them. To sum up the comparisons, this book is MUCH dirtier (in my opinion), has somewhat of a plot, and the main female character doesn’t make me want to beat my head against the wall with asinine internal monologues. This was a steamy guilty pleasure read, and I will be reading the subsequent books, even though I’m embarrassed to admit it. The plot, though more developed than Fifty Shades, is basically the same: young career woman has awkward introduction to an incredibly rich and eligible bachelor who then tries to sleep with her as much as possible for the next two-hundred pages. Though the story-line may be formulaic at this point, this one is worth the read. I mean, if you’re into that sort of book.

 

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