Thursday, March 24, 2016

Recent Reads

Lately I have been reading a lot more than I have been writing. Some of the books I’ve read have been good while others did nothing more than help pass the time between writing projects. When I finish reading a book I usually write a review. As an author I know that every review is important, even if the review is not entirely favorable. A review gives an author feedback; shows that an author’s work has left an impression; and proves that the reader cares enough to react to what he/she has just read.

I would like to share with you some impressions of my recent reads. These short reviews will tell you what you can expect in each book but the best way for you to form a judgment is to read them yourself. I hope I have guided you in some way. Enjoy!

The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Alex Woods is a young boy who gets struck in the head by a meteorite; as a result, he becomes a scientific celebrity with occasional bouts of epilepsy. Alex meets an aging American war veteran and the two form an unusual friendship. When Alex ends up at Dover customs with 113 grams of marijuana and an urn of ashes, his actions leave an entire nation in uproar. Actually, that is how the book begins. This novel is an amusing and enjoyable read and there is a special surprise for fans of Kurt Vonnegut.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Everyone seems to be reading this debut novel and it forms the basis for an upcoming psychological thriller film. Very appropriately, my wife read it on a train. In the novel, Rachel travels on the same commuter train every morning. In passing, she observes a couple outside their home on a street where she once lived. She sees them so often she believes she knows them. And then, she sees something shocking and she finds herself trapped in a chilling series of events. Simple, yet complex, this thriller deserves all the raves it has been receiving.

Ludwika by Christoph Fischer
A young Polish woman is forced to leave her family and relocate to Nazi Germany to work for an SS officer. Thousands of stories have been told about World War II but the plight of ordinary citizens of Poland is mostly overlooked. Yet the war left no one unscarred. Based on a real life person, Ludwika’s story proves that survival is possible in the most difficult of situations. This poignant drama is an easy read that leaves a lasting impression.

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
The tale of a bachelors' party in a suburban living room goes horribly wrong against the backdrop of sex trafficking. The novel is written well and has a powerful beginning, yet despite the twists and turns along the way, readers will quickly lose patience with the characters and how they deal with the aftermath of that tragedy. Richard Chapman, who hosted the party on his brother’s behalf, has such bad judgment that it is impossible to be sympathetic with his plight. The ending, in particular, is not particularly satisfying. This is the author’s eighteenth book. I am not sure if I would read another.

A Tourist He Thought by Bogdan B. Rusev
An unnamed man travels from city to city. He carries no luggage. Wherever he shows up, people die. Yet this man is not a secret agent but rather an odd sort of tourist. Each chapter takes place in a different city and the settings are presented well, even if the protagonist spends most of his time in dismal hotel rooms. This short novel, the first to be published in English by a Bulgarian writer, has great potential but its most climactic scene is presented halfway through the tourist's journey, leaving one wondering if the chapters were not placed in the correct order.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
A chance encounter between Ted Severson and a strange woman at Heathrow airport leads to the two of them plotting the murder of Ted's wife. What follows is a farfetched story that is not as suspenseful as one would hope. The characters have no redeeming qualities but there are enough twists and surprises to keep one’s interest until the very end.

A Conventional Murder by Julia Rohatyn
The Front Desk Manager of a Boston hotel has been murdered. Manager Rebecca Bauer teams up with her security chief Betsy Connolly to catch the murderer and the pair do a better job of it than the incompetent police officer assigned to the case, an officer who coincidentally just happens to be Betsy’s boyfriend. Having worked in the hotel industry for many years I enjoyed this mystery’s setting, even though the extensive descriptions of management procedures slowed down the action. The book, which promises to be the first in a hotel-based series is a quick read which will appeal to those who enjoy very cozy, uncomplicated mysteries.

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