Book Review: Ordinary People, by Diana Evans

It took me a while to finish Ordinary People, not because I didn't like it but because it was definitely a slower pace book. I couldn't really describe what it's about without sounding boring. But it's not! 
This is a book about normal life, parenthood, adult relationships and what it means to be a grown-up, set in South London at the very beginning of the Obama years. It's a book about Ordinary People. 

So why read it, you ask? Why would you want to read about something so close to reality, where nothing crazy happens, there is no mystery to solve aside from that of the interpersonal relationships between husband and wife, mother and child, men and women? 

It's a valid question and I did ask myself if I wanted to keep reading the book when it became clear that nothing particularly interesting would happen.

There are two main reasons I chose to keep going, one of which is very personal to me and telling of the fact that I need to read more: Ordinary People is the first book I have read about normal people doing normal things in which all the protagonists are black. It sounds stupid and I am ashamed of it, but I've read countless books about white middle class people living in suburbia, yet never once have I read anything similar set in a black community. 

The second and main reason I recommend this book? Diana Evans is an absolutely stunning writer. Her prose is a masterpiece, very distinctive, incredibly rich, yet simple and unpretentious.  Ordinary People is no Ordinary book. It is well-written, thought-provoking and surprisingly different from anything I've ever read. 

I received this book from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Book Review: The Bad Daughter, by Joy Fielding

I read The Bad Daughter a few months ago, and had planned to review it from the start. Rarely, however, do I have to refresh my memory like I had to for this one. I had forgotten most of the plot and that led me to question my own memory, sure, but also the book, which I was certain I had read with enjoyment. 

The main character, Robin, is a psychologist and is pretty much estranged from her family. One day, she receives a phone call from Melanie, her sister, telling her their dad and his wife had been shot. This phone calls has Robin spiralling back into old patterns of anxiety - not so much because of the news themselves, but mostly because of her difficult relationship with Melanie. 

I realized that I didn't really find this book memorable because, as entertaining as the plot was to follow while reading the book, the most interesting aspects of the novel were the relationships. The mystery plot itself is fairly predictable and felt a little rushed. The dysfunctional relationships within the family had a little more depth, despite an obvious lack of subtlety. 

All in all, while I found it easy to read, The Bad Daughter was a bit of a letdown for me.  

I received this book from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Book Review: Other People's Houses, by Abbi Waxman

This blog is turning into quite the book review blog and I'm not mad about it. It's now officially summer and the best time of the year to get your read on!

Other People's Houses is the perfect beach read. Or summer read. Or nightstand staple. Basically it's a book you should read.

I had fairly low expectations (you're starting to see a pattern here) and wasn't sure if I was going to get a reality-TV type of book. Instead I found a book that was captivating, well-written, with complexity and nuance about adulthood, relationships and marriage in general.

Other People's Houses is very realistic - so much so that my husband, with whom I had only talked about the book - had dreams that I cheated on him several times after that. This book tells what goes on behind closed doors in a quiet suburban neighborhood. And what goes on behind these doors isn't always pretty, or even exciting. It's just life. Real, messy life.

The authors manages to write about regular people and make it entertaining, capturing the complexity  of each character, without resorting to being overly scandalous or forced. Everything is perfectly measured, rings true but not intrusive, and ends up making you question many "grown-up" choices. It's also funny, thoroughly enjoyable and quite the page-turner.

* I received this book from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Book Review: Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

I had read and enjoyed Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl when it first came out, so my expectations were somewhat high when I first picked up Sharp Objects. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

Sharp Objects is the kind of book you can't put down, but if you do, you can't stop thinking about it. It is sticky, messy, uncomfortable and exquisitely well-written. 

I did not read the synopsis prior to starting the book, as I did not want to taint my reading experience with a path that would be created by someone else. I let myself discover the story word by word and found myself completely absorbed in the disturbing story and its complicated protagonists. 

I don't want to spoil anything for you either, so I will choose my words carefully. But you can expect a murder investigation, an extraordinarily deep exploration of pain and grief, and complex family dynamics. 

The story's oppressive setting is perfectly rendered by the author, from the beautiful Victorian houses to the hot, muggy, stuffy little town of Wind Gap, Missouri in the summer. 

I have no doubt that Jean-Marc Vallée's TV adaptation of Sharp Objects for HBO will be brilliant - however I highly suggest you read the book first, as the nuances and the writing are too powerful to pass up. 

* This book was kindly sent to me by Penguin Random House for review.

Book Review: A Stranger in the House, by Shari Lapena

Last year, I attempted to read Shari Lapena's bestselling mystery novel, The Couple Next Door. I gave up after a few chapters, not liking the style, the clichés or the enormity of the plot.

But because I enjoy suspense novels and had heard rather good things about Lapena's latest novel, A Stranger in the House, I decided to give it a go.

The premise is not particularly groundbreaking, but I was captivated from the very beginning.

Tom Krupp, a successful business man, returns home after a long day to find his wife missing from their perfect suburban house. He finally tracks her down at a hospital, where she was brought after a being involved in a strange car accident that she has no memory of... We soon find out that she is a person of interest in a murder.

I have to be honest. While the writing didn't put me off enough to put the book away like it did the previous one, I still found it lacking in every possible way. The book is a series of clichés, plots that have been used over and over again (amnesia, new identities, etc.) and unrelatable characters.

This felt like an episode of CSI: enjoyable, but unmemorable, and totally predictable.

It was, however, a real page turner (I actually read it in one day - with a toddler around, that's no small feat!).

It's probably a good read if you're travelling, or if you need an easy read on a busy beach this summer.

* I received this copy from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
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