Archive for February, 2020

The House of Brides

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

By Jane Cockram

The Short Take:

A disappointing take on a gothic thriller. It had all the elements–from the remote manor house on the coast to the handsome but perplexing man. But the plot and writing were a mess.

Why?

This book was clearly influenced by Rebecca but Cockram is no Daphne Du Maurier. In fact the most entertaining thing about this debut novel was spotting the Rebecca references, like the name of the main male character (Max Summer), an affair that takes place in a boat house, even towering rhododendrons– that last a stretch since the setting is Christmas time in England.

The main character, Miranda, is supposed to be in her late 20s but exhibits all the maturity of a tween. People’s actions and interactions are so illogical as to be incomprehensible. And the big reveals have you saying, “Seriously?”

That’s too bad because a nice updating of one of the best classic gothic thrillers would have been a great read. Which made me wonder why the classic movie Rebecca hadn’t been remade. A quick google and I discover Netflix is doing just that. Now that’s something to look forward to.

A Little Plot:

Miranda’s career as an influencer has crashed spectacularly. A letter arrives addressed to her deceased mother which asks for help at Barnsley House. Her mother wrote a tell-all history about the women of this grand estate and Miranda has always wanted to know more. Her father tells her to stay away. She doesn’t.

Followers

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

By Megan Angelo

The Short Take:

What at first appears to be a fluff of a novel about social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram is actually provocative, thoughtful, somewhat frightening, and highly readable.

Why?

Angelo’s debut novel follows two storylines that eventually merge. One, set in 2016-17, centers on a woman who makes her friend a celebrity through social media strategies and posts. The other, set in 2051, focuses on a whole community where the lives of all residents are not only streamed but curated (think The Truman Show on steroids).

The juxtaposition of these two plot lines explores the evolution of interactive technology and how it ties into the devolution of genuine human interaction. However, this is no dystopian 1984. It addresses big issues with a light touch. It’s amusing as well as alarming, with characters that you find yourself liking even though they clearly believe the ends justify the means, no matter how unethical. They have story arcs that result in an emotional, and satisfying, ending.

Both the past and the future scenarios pose the question: Is one’s existence valid if it isn’t seen? It’s something the main characters struggle with.

The final third of the book brought a major plot twist that I found delightful but will not delve into here. Let’s just say it involved a “beautiful wall” but not where you’d think.

A Little Plot:

Instead of writing her novel, Orla posts silly click bait articles about celebrities for her social network employer. Then her roommate, Flo, enlists her aid to become famous for being famous.

With her every move (and those of everyone she knows) streamed live, Marlow moves through her life passively, thanks to the drug Hysteryl provided by her media sponsor. Then she learns a secret about her family and everything changes.

For more about Megan Angelo and her book click here.

Such a Fun Age

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

By Kiley Reid

The Short Take:

This debut novel is fantastic. While it reads bright and breezy it also addresses the issue of subtle racial biases we might not acknowledge. It raises your consciousness but also does a masterful job of entertaining.

Why?

Every page of this book is a delight. The plot has the perfect level of intricacy and twists. The characters live vibrantly on the page with all their flaws and strengths. The dialogue sparkles. And what it has “to say” is done with eye-opening flair.

The book is largely written from the perspectives of the two main characters: Emira, a young black woman striving to transition into full adulthood after college and Alix, a some-what older white mother who’s created a career in confidence building.

Emira becomes a part-time babysitter for Alix’s three-year-old daughter (the wild observations that come out of this child’s mouth are reason enough to read this book). It’s this relationship that drives the main story, shaped not only by current needs and expectations but also a painful incident in Alix’s past.

Putting the inner thoughts and outward behaviors of these two back-to-back highlights how attitudes and expectations differ depending on status and experiences. That they each have a circle of supportive friends provides even more context to the story.

It’s simply a great read.

A Little Plot:

Emira reluctantly leaves a party to provide late-night babysitting when Alix has a family emergency. Alix requests she take her little girl to a fancy local grocery store for awhile (the kid digs grocery stores). However, store security challenges the validity of a black woman with a white child. This event leads to major changes in the relationship between the two.

For more about Kiley Reid and this book click here.

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