Library Girl's Guide To Books

Reviews and Musings From A Reading Life.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Lying Game  

                                      by Ruth Ware   
                                                                                                                               When fifteen- year old Isa was sent to Salten House, a last chance boarding school on the cliffs near the English Channel, she was befriended by Fatima, Thea and Kate. They soon became inseparable and the girls taught Isa how to play The Lying Game.   

1. Tell a lie.
2. Stick to your story
3. Don't get caught.
4. Never lie to each other.
5. Know when to stop lying.

          The game had a complicated set of rules and the better your lie, the more points you made. If people believed your lie, you got even more points. The girls became the scourge of Salten House because of this and soon the other students began to stay away from them. They didn't care because they had each other. 
          Isa was going through a difficult period. Her mother was in the hospital dying and her father sent her and her brother away because he was having difficulty coping.  Kate's father, Ambrose, was the art teacher at Salten House. She and her father lived nearby so the girls began spending every weekend there. Kate's house, The Mill, was located on a tidal estuary called The Reach. The girls spent their time swimming and hanging out with Luke, Kate's step-brother.  Ambrose became like a second father to Isa. One evening, as the girls were supposed to be studying, they received a text from Kate: I need you. They quickly dressed, climbed out the window and broke the rules by leaving the school grounds to go to Kate.  Then something happened that caused the girls to be expelled from Salten House.
          Seventeen years later, they receive the text that they had all been hoping would never come: I need you. The three women drop everything to leave London and go to Kate. Isa is now a mother and she takes her baby, Freya, with her. The Mill is now crumbling and falling into the sea but Kate won't leave it. She has summoned the others to The Mill because a  body has been found buried near The Reach. The Lying Game will now take on a whole new dimension.
        The Lying Game has an atmospheric, almost Gothic setting and the reader is drawn into it. I could feel the damp seeping into The Mill, the tension between the women as what happened all those years ago might be revealed and what they have to lose if it is revealed. There are creepy, suspicious townspeople who seem to be threatening the women and is there more going on than Kate is telling them?  The reveal of what happened all those years ago, was surprising and there is another twist at the very end.
        I enjoyed this book but didn't like it as much as the author's other two books. I thought it was a little bit slow and I really didn't bond with the characters that much. It has had mixed reviews but if you enjoy psychological, twisty mysteries with a strong sense of place and a focus on women's friendships, you should give it a try.  It will soon be a movie as the movie rights have been sold.

Monday, October 23, 2017

 My Sunshine Away 

                 by M.O. Walsh  

In the summer of 1989, in an upscale Baton Rouge, Louisiana, neighborhood, a horrible crime was committed on Piney Creek Road. The narrator, a fourteen year old boy who lives across the street from the victim, sets the scene with his opening comment:

"There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the suburban sidewalk of Piney Creek Road, the same sidewalk our parents had once hopefully carved their initials into, years before, as residents of the first street in the Woodland Hills subdivision to have houses on it."

We then learn that our young narrator is one of the suspects. The Woodland Hills subdivision was, until that time, a wonderful place to grow up. Neighbors  got together for crawfish barbecues, children played together, neighbors worried about keeping their gardens watered and alive in the sultry heat and everyone supported their football team.  All of that changed when fifteen year old Lindy, a talented track star, free spirit and neighborhood favorite was assaulted. Neighbors turned on each other, suspicions ran wild, families unraveled and secrets were revealed.

Set in the sultry heat of Baton Rouge and told through the eyes of our young narrator, who was in love with Lindy, this coming-of- age story is honest, heartbreaking and compelling. As he looks back on what happened, with an adult perspective, we can feel his heartbreak and guilt as he recalls that horrible time.  He is a likable narrator and I was hoping that he wasn't the one who committed this terrible crime. Readers are rewarded at the end with what did happen and how it affected everyone on Piney Creek Road.  I felt like I was right there in the Louisiana heat experiencing the story along with our narrator.  It is a dark story but so well written that I couldn't stop reading it. I listened to it on audio and the reader, Kirby Heybourne, was perfect!

This debut novel was a New York Times Bestseller, an Amazon Featured Debut and was named a Best Book of 2015 by NPR, Kirkus and Booklist.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Magpie Murders: A Novel by [Horowitz, Anthony]                       Magpie Murders

                                           by Anthony Horowitz                                                      

In Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz has crafted a cleverly constructed classic whodunit full of red herrings, puzzles and, of course, murder!

Susan Ryeland is an editor for Cloverleaf Books. This small publishing house is surviving because of their # 1 writer, Alan Conway.  Conway writes a series of mystery novels featuring the super crime solving sleuth Atticus Pünd  They are wildly popular. Unfortunately, Alan no longer wants to write his Atticus Pünd novels, but instead wants to write literary fiction. The problem is that he isn't very good at writing literary fiction. When he turns in his last manuscript, Susan is looking forward to reading it. She doesn't particularly like Alan but she wants to keep her job so she must keep him happy, as well. His latest book, Magpie Murders, has to do with a murder at Pye Hall, a British manor house in a sleepy English village. Soon there is another murder and it seems that almost everyone in the village has a motive for these murders. When Susan gets to the end of the manuscript, she discovers that the last chapter is missing. What happened to it, and why would Alan turn in his manuscript with the last chapter missing?  When Alan is found dead, and his death is ruled a suicide, Susan begins to investigate. The editor becomes the sleuth and things are not as they seem. 

The story goes back and forth between the story in Alan's book, Magpie Murders, and what is going on with Susan's life as she investigates his death. She soon begins to realize that this murder, within a murder, is more complicated than anyone could guess. There are lots of suspects in this little village and just as Alan Conway is writing the last book in his series, his main character is also dealing with his swan song. 

I really dislike book reviews that give away the whole plot, so I'm not going to do that. There is so much going on in this book that it is difficult to review it without spoilers. All I can say is that, if you love a great twisty mystery that has been compared to Agatha Christie, you will love Magpie Murders. I had my suspicions about what was going on but ultimately I didn't figure out the ending. Another good one from Anthony Horowitz.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

           Noir: Private Eyes, Dames, Liquor, Guns & Murder!

  (Part One)


I have loved Noir movies since I was a young girl but had never read any of the books these movies are based on until my book club decided to read The Big Sleep. I sure didn't know what I had been missing! This is Part One of my Noir reviews. 

First Up:  The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely    

                                by Raymond Chandler                   
I reviewed The Big Sleep in an earlier review but I can't do another Noir review without mentioning it.

Raymond Chandler had a huge stylistic influence on American literature. He, Dashiell Hammett and a few other writers created the "hard boiled detective novel" as we know it today.

Chandler was an oil executive who lost his job during the Depression and, at the age of forty-four, started writing hard boiled detective novels. He wrote short stories for various crime magazines and in 1939 published The Big Sleep. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, is a tough talking private eye with a stoic demeanor and a sharp tongue. He loves cigarettes, liquor and has a strict moral compass that saves him in many situations, especially when women are involved. There are seven Philip Marlowe books but the last few were written by other authors after Chandler died.The opening paragraph sets the scene: 

It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder blue suit, with a dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark little clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

What a wonderful opening paragraph!

The story begins when Marlowe is called to a mansion owned by General Sternwood. The General wants to hire him to see who is behind the blackmail threats he has been receiving about his younger daughter, Carmen. The General is very ill, wheel chair bound and spends his time in a steamy orchid greenhouse because of his health. He has two grown daughters, Vivian and Carmen and they are both out of control. He mentions that Vivian is married to Rusty Regan but his son-in-law is missing. He has supposedly run off with the wife of Eddie Mars, who owns a casino where Vivian can frequently be found. The General is fond of Rusty and wants to find him but he does not hire Marlowe to look for him.

Vivian is a femme fatale with a gambling problem who doesn't like "masterful" men. Marlowe makes a great observation when he meets her:  I sat down on the edge of a deep, soft chair and looked at Mrs. Regan. She was worth a stare. She was trouble.  She wants to know if her father has hired him to find her husband, Rusty. Throughout the book everyone wants to know if Marlowe is looking for Rusty Regan.

Carmen, the younger sister, has become involved with a pornographer who is blackmailing her father, General Sternwood. Something isn't right with Carmen and Marlowe is trying to figure her out. When Marlowe begins investigating, he finds out more than he expected.

The plot is complicated with lots of symbolism and characters but the writing is unforgettable. Chandler transports the reader to 1939 Hollywood with bootleggers, pornographers, crooked cops and steamy rain soaked streets Some of the dialog isn't politically correct and some of the words might be difficult to understand in our current time but this is one terrific book! 

Farewell, My Lovely

In this second Philip Marlowe novel, that Chandler considered to be his best, we once again find Marlowe in the wrong place at the wrong time.  As he is trying to find the missing husband of a client, he sees a huge man, Moose Malloy, about to enter a bar that is for blacks only in 1934 LA. 

Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.

Malloy has just gotten out of prison after eight years and he is looking for his lost love, Velma. Velma used to sing at this bar and he is desperate to find her. Marlowe tries unsuccessfully to stop him from entering the bar and he is soon coerced into finding Velma for Moose. Soon there is a shooting and Moose is on the run. When another client hires Marlowe to find some stolen jewels, there is another murder and Marlowe is in the thick of it as he becomes a target. His search for Velma gets him into all kinds of trouble.

Once again we have vintage Chandler with a wonderful setting on the streets of 1940's LA,  crooked cops, a blonde, It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window,  a murdering gang of jewel thieves, drugs, Marlowe's kidnapping, I got up on my feet and went over to the bowl in the corner and threw cold water on my face. After a little while I felt a little better, but very little. I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance. I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.

Chandler's plots can be confusing but his language is what makes his books so wonderful.
This is the second Chandler novel about Philip Marlowe that I have read and it won't be the last.

 I listened to both of them on audio and the narrator, Ray Porter, was perfect.  

The Postman Always Rings Twice

                                                   by James M. Cain

This short novel published in 1934 is a prime example of classic noir. Frank Chambers jumps off a truck at a run down diner in California. He is always one step ahead of the law and drifts from town to town.That is until he sees Cora, the sexy wife of Nick Papadakis, who owns the diner. Nick is a brutish boor and is no match for the sexy Cora. Frank is immediately attracted to Cora. Nick, a Greek Immigrant who is seeking the American Dream, sees a young man who can help him in the diner and  he hires Frank on the spot. Cora sees Nick as her ticket out of her horrible life. It isn't long before Frank and Cora are involved in a steamy affair and decide to kill Nick.  Although Frank is a big-time loser, he would never have thought of killing Nick. He wants Cora to run away with him but Cora wants him dead and she wants the diner.  As in another Cain novel I have read, the woman gets her lover to commit murder, even if he has never been the murdering type. Oh, the power of women!

When this book was first published it was banned in Boston and other cities because of the sex and violence in it. I bit her. I sunk my teeth into her lips so deep I could feel the blood spurt into my mouth. It was running down her neck when I carried her upstairs.

There are twists and turns, a trial, and an ending that might surprise you. The title of this book is puzzling to many because there is no postman or ringing, so it is left to individual interpretation. It is said that  Albert Camus used this book as inspiration for The Stranger. I have seen two movie adaptations. The first was with Lana Turner and John Garfield and the second one has Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson. both are good.

 I listened to this book on audio and Stanley Tucci really brought the story to life. 

Double Indemnity

11036868                        by Jame M. Cain    

Insurance agent, Walter Huff, goes to a home in the Hollywood Hills to do a renewal on an insurance policy for wealthy Mr. Nirdinger. While he is there, he meets Phyllis, Mr. Nirdinger's beautiful, younger wife. Next thing you know, Phyllis is contacting him and asking questions about the policy that would be a red flag for most insurance agents. Not Walter, because he is completely enamored with Phyllis. Soon they are concocting a murder plan to get rid of poor Mr. Nirdinger, on a train, so that they can split the insurance money and be together. The story is told by Walter in the first person as he looks back on what has happened.

I had killed a man, for money and a woman. I didn't have the money and I didn't have the woman. 

Cain likes to take ordinary men and put them in a situation where they will kill for a lover, even if they have just met the beautiful woman.  I have found that to be a little bit difficult to believe in the Cain novels I have read, so far. The story line is good and the plot has twists and turns, so this is a worthwhile read. Cain is an important noir writer, so if you like noir, you shouldn't miss him.

I listened to this book on audio and the narrator, James Naughton, was very good.

Loved the movie with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray as Walter. Yes, that Fred MacMurray from My Three Sons, only now he is playing a killer!  Great casting.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I work with teens in my library but lots of adults come in asking for recommendations for Young Adult books. Besides The Hunger Games  and Twilight, there are many wonderful Young Adult books.  Here are some of my favorite YA books that adults will love. How many have you read?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Product Details

The Girl Who Knew Too Much 

                                       by Amanda Quick

           I am not a big romance reader but I do enjoy Amanda Quick's (Jayne Ann Krentz) Historical Romances. Most of them are set in the 1800s but this book is set in 1930 during the Golden Age of Hollywood. I love everything about old Hollywood so I was really looking forward to reading this book. I listened to it on audio and the reader, Louise Jane Underwood, was adequate but not one of my favorites. 
        The story begins in New York City where Anna Harris is working for a wealthy socialite as her personal assistant.  Anna returns home to find her employer dead on the floor and the words "Run!" written on the wall with her blood. Anna runs out of the room, in a panic, and sees that the safe is open. Inside it is a valuable necklace, a notebook and money. Anna also finds a note that says "don't trust anyone, not even the FBI."  Anna grabs the money, that her employer owes her, the notebook and gets into the Packard that her employer has also given her. She drives across the country, changes her name to Irene Glasson and begins working for a small newspaper in the Los Angeles area. One night, Irene is called to meet with a woman at the Burning Cove Hotel. The woman promises her a scoop on a great story about a famous movie star. The Burning Cove Hotel is known for its discretion and famous stars often stay there. When Irene arrives, it is only to discover that her contact has been murdered and is floating in the pool. 
         Then she meets Oliver Ward, the owner of The Burning Cove Hotel. Oliver was a famous magician who was badly injured in his last performance and now owns the hotel. He wants to prevent  a scandal for his hotel and Irene wants to find out what is happening, so they form an uneasy alliance. Of course, this being a romance, sparks fly but Irene/Anna doesn't know who to trust.        Everyone seems to have secrets, including Irene's deceased employer.  As more deaths occur, she realizes that she is in danger, too. 
         This was an enjoyable book but not my favorite Amanda Quick novel.  The killer was unexpected, so that was nice. Can't quite put my finger on why I didn't like it that much.  Not a horrible book but not a great one, either.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Women in the Castle: A Novel by [Shattuck, Jessica]

The Women In The Castle

by Jessica Shattuck

Over the last couple of years, there has been a surge in fiction books set during WWII. When I saw this book, I wondered if I wanted to read another book about the Nazis. Don't get me wrong, I love historical fiction set during WWII but that seems to be mostly what I have been reading lately. I am glad that I did read this book. It is a fine example of literary fiction. I listened to it on audio and the narrator, Cassandra Campbell was perfect!

The book opens with a Prologue. Marianne von Lingenfels is at her husband's ancestral castle in Northern Germany helping his aunt, Countess, prepare for the Harvest Party that will be attended by elite Germans. Marianne's husband, Albrecht, comes from a long line of German generals and his family is prominent in German high society and very well respected. At the Harvest Party, the men disappear to meet in private and that night, Marianne becomes aware that the men are planning something. They are part of a group that, on July 20, 1944, are going to try and assassinate Hitler. Marianne promises the men that she will take care of their wives and children if their assassination attempt fails. It does fail and the story begins.

It is 1945 and the women in the title are Marianne, Benita and Ania. No nonsense, Marianne is the leader of the group. After the war,  she finds Benita and Ania and brings them, and their children, to live in the now crumbling castle. The castle has fallen into disrepair after the war but at least they have a place to live. The women are very different from each other and they have secrets. The plot of The Women In The Castle is complicated and difficult to summarize, without revealing too much of the story. These very different women form a family during this difficult time but it isn't easy. Marianne, who has had a privileged upbringing, thinks that their shared experiences of losing their husbands in the Resistance will cause them to bond.  But Marianne soon learns that everything isn't black and white and things are more complicated than she could have imagined.

 This interesting, thought provoking book asks, can you really love someone if you don't know everything about him or her or what has been done in the past?  Can the past be forgiven? As you get to know each woman and learn of the devastating things each has endured, some of these questions become a little clearer. Readers get a feel for what life was like for ordinary Germans after the war and I liked reading a book with this different perspective. I did find that the timelines were sometimes confusing and the story got bogged down somewhat with too much detail. I also had a little bit of trouble bonding with the women but I still recommend this book.

This book has been compared to The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I disagree. The Nightingale was the best book that I read in 2015 and, while I liked The Women In The Castle, it was slower than The Nightingale.  I would compare it more to All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer, another fine example of literary fiction.

The Lying Game                                          by Ruth Ware                                                                   ...