Monday, September 9, 2013

The Good House by Ann Leary

A Review by Maggie:

Hildy Good is a recovering alcoholic and a real estate agent in  a fictional  New England town.  She is a descendant of a witch that was hung in Salem and because of this connection she claims to be clairvoyant and many believe she is--- However, Hildy is fooling everyone is town with her supernatural skills and her continued sobriety (not).  Hildy knows the townspeople  well and is successful with her business as she has lived here her entire life.  When she sells an expensive  home to beautiful newcomer Rebecca McAllister the two form a bond of friendship which proves a downfall  for both.  This book is not a page turner but  enjoyable and the writer does well with her description of small New England towns and   she creates interesting quirky characters.  I liked Ann Leary’s  memoir  An Innocent, A Broad   very much and that is why I picked up this book.  The Good House is being made into a movie with Meryl Streep playing Hildy .

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Review by Maggie:

Cover of snow really grabs you in the beginning; it starts with the suicide of Nora Hamilton’s beloved husband Brendan. He leaves no note and it is a mystery why he would commit such an act with such a happy and fulfilled life. Nora is a home restorer and Brendan was a policeman and they seemed to have it all.  Although as the story goes along it is amazing how little Nora really knew her husband or his family. It is set in a small town in the Adirondacks and one really feels the cold and the snow. She establishes an overall feeling of menace----one keeps reading to see what criminal activity is afoot in the small town. Many quirky characters are introduced that seem to have evil motivations but they do not move the story along since there is minimal character development.

By the time I was about half way through I had lost interest as Nora was not especially likeable and the author seemed to be filling the narrative with unnecessary side trips. However, I did finish and found the ending unsatisfying. Milchman sets us up to feel much more was happening in this town and corruption aplenty and it was not the case. This novel is a debut and I think the author is off to a good start but this for me was a ‘thriller that did not thrill’.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Best of Youth by Michael Dahlie

Review by Maggie:

Henry Lang is a rich young man and a fine person but in spite of his money he does not have self confidence. He does not fit in with the Brooklyn post-grad crowd.  He has no luck with females and does not have male friends. Henry contributes a large sum of money to a start up magazine Suckerhead in the hope he will be one of the gang and the magazine will publish his short stories. Such is not the case his short stories are rejected by the magazine by form letter. 

 He is interested romantically in his fourth cousin but she does not return his feelings. Henry spends lots of time with Abby and visits her rich aunt at her Vermont farm. He loses visiting privileges when he is responsible for killing a herd of fancy goats worth at least a million dollars. Things do not go smoothly for Henry.

After many rejections from literary magazines he is happy enough to take a ghost writing project with an ironclad contract for silence for movie star Jonathan Kipling. However, when the book becomes a huge seller and everyone thinks the star is a wonderful writer Henry is upset as Jonathan is a dreadful writer and a sleazy person to boot. Jonathan took  advantage of Henry’s beloved cousin Abby and gets her pregnant and then abandons her-----Henry is nothing if not loyal as a way of getting back at Kipling’s caddish behavior  he tells the press he is the ghostwriter behind the Kipling book. Naturally he is sued and loses most of his fortune-----however, and this would only be true in novels---Henry feels okay once he learns that Kipling was sued by Abbie and she now has most of Henry’s money lost in the contract dispute. It all sounds rather boring but Michael Dahlie is a very good writer one enjoys the read and wants to see what happens with the hapless Henry.   

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Threats by Amelia Gray

Review by Maggie:

Threats by Amelia Gray is weird but compelling. The first page is ominous and one wants to read on to see what is up…. The title comes from threats that David keeps finding in curious places like the sugar bowl, silverware draw and in his dirty laundry.  He has no idea of the origin of these threats.  Nor do we.

 It is a simple story with few characters albeit all total loons. Chico an odd detective, Shelly  a character that spends her time in the laundromat folding clothes, Marie a pseudo psychiatrist that has an office in David ‘s garage of which he was not aware, it seems  before Frannie’s departure  arrangements were made with Marie for the “office space.”  Aileen who was a wacky coworker of the presumed dead wife Frannie.  A few other strangers drift in and out of the narrative.  None of them very involved with the story but they appear mostly to make us aware of what a screwball David is-----however, he is nutty enough without being surrounded by loons. 

David lost his wife under suspicious circumstances.  Chico, the detective assigned to his case, seems to have been involved with the family many years ago before the death of Frannie.   It would seem that David’s mother had killed his sister and was in an asylum but David only says that his mother left the family and moved to a home for women.  It is speculative since nothing is made clear in Threats.

David was once a dentist and lost his license it is implied by filling a tiny baby’s tooth buds.  He has kept all his old dental xrays and finds comfort in sleeping on them.  We never know what happened to Frannie or much about her except she was tall and gangly.

Did I mention this is  a bizarre story I wanted to finish the book to see how she wrapped it up---well she does not wrap things up and I am just as confused as to what happened as I was when I started reading.  She is an engrossing writer with an active imagination.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fell the Angels by John Kerr

Book Cover
Fell the Angels by John Kerr is a  murder mystery based on a true story, the Charles Bravo murders in the mid 19th century.  It is a novel involving deception and greed and a bit of passion.  Cecelia was from a well to do family but she had made a bad marriage to a brutal alcoholic.  The only way she could separate from him and still appear respectable was to go to a type of spa.   Once there, she found she liked the atmosphere and promptly started an affair with the married director.  While this sounds scandalous she was separated from her husband and the doctor’s wife had been institutionalized for many years.  However, once Cecelia’s  affair became public her reputation was ruined.  It was thought the only way to save her from complete social oblivion was for her to marry well.   Her second husband was willing to deal with her sullied reputation since he himself had an affair that resulted in a child.  Plus her attractiveness to him was enhanced by her fortune.  Cecilia was forward thinking and canny, she took advantage of a recently enacted law where she could go to keep her fortune if the marriage did not work.  Charles was presented with a pre-nup to sign.   Charles was not pleased but he was a shady character and perhaps had a plan to get her fortune in another manner.  Spoiler alert—The marriage was only 4 months old when Charles became very ill with a mysterious illness and after lingering for three day he dies.  The original murder on which the story is based is never solved but author Kerr neatly wraps this one up.  This is an enjoyable and fast paced novel.