In the interest of clearing some of my review backlog, here are some lightning reviews. They are mostly light reads, and mostly bestsellers, and most of them are now TV series, or movies.
- The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler: This is a book about a book club, in which every chapter corresponds to one Jane Austen book that the club reads for that meeting. It sounds like it has scope for being delightfully meta, but unfortunately there are only occasional comments about Austen’s books, usually used as a crutch to emphasize a particular character’s personality and outlook on life. This is mainly a romance novel about understanding oneself, and makes insightful comments on human nature. I found the characters quite unrelatable unfortunately, mostly because they are middle aged, white, and live in small town USA. It might be more appealing to someone older, or more of a romantic. 2.5/5, skip this.
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple: This is a comedy set in Seattle, about a woman who mysteriously goes missing before a family trip to Antarctica. This one has an excellent plot and pacing, and the author keeps the big reveal right for the end of the book. It’s hard to categorize this one into a genre, but it’s definitely an entertainer. 3.5/5, read it for the annoying narrator’s on-point Seattle humour.
- Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty: This book has so much drama. I’m not necessarily against it, especially while on long plane journeys, but I’m not sure I’d have selected this book at any other time. This is a story about the mothers of some kids in a kindergarten class at a public school in Australia. The mothers have very different lives, and lifestyles, but are brought together every day, and strike up a friendship. Their secrets begin to be revealed, and some of them are very dark and violent. 3.5/5, I would not recommend it, but it’s interesting how an activity as commonplace as dropping off kids at school was made the setting for a thriller-ish novel.
- An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green: This is another YA book by one of the Green brothers. A mysterious sculpture suddenly appears in NYC, and April seems to be the first to notice it. She vlogs about it, and becomes a celebrity overnight. It is revealed that multiple identical sculptures have appeared all over the world, they seem to be extraterrestrial, and there’s a puzzle that needs to be solved to reveal their secret. The Green brothers have always been excellent at presenting the modern world sensitively and this book is no exception. April is a queer teenager experiencing 15 minutes of fame and sudden, ridiculous political influence, and the whole story is presented in a completely believable way. Unfortunately the SciFi aspect of the book misses the mark, and the ending of the story is not convincing. 3/5, skip it.
- The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins: This is a bestselling thriller novel, and I could see why- despite being a very mainstream sort of story, it keeps you hooked with its flawed characters and slowly revealed plot twists. Rachel passes one beautiful house every evening on her train ride home from work, and the attractive owners catch her fancy. She imagines that they are very happy and successful, but she couldn’t be further from the truth. They, and Rachel for that matter, are hiding some dark secrets. 3.5/5, read it. It’s not often you read about a heroine with a dirty mouth and her own demons to face.