This installment: a tricksy psychological thriller (f); a droll CD with a French twist (f); a teen take on culinary skills (f); another thriller, very suspenseful (f); an inspiring documentary about a lively Holocaust survivor (DVD); and the joys and pitfalls of Lesbian life (f).
Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea
A psychological thriller in which Sidney, a TV journalist, tries to prove Grace innocent. She’d been convicted of killing her boyfriend in the Caribbean and has been languishing in jail there for 10 years. Sidney uncovers a shoddy, pressured investigation and her shows’ ratings soar. Then there’s new, disturbing evidence, Sidney follows up and—well I won’t give it away but the denouement is a shocker. I love books like these—they just gallop along and I’m always ready for a wild ride.
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
On the page this seemed too arch and fanciful but when the CD came my way I ended up really enjoying it. Partly because the performer produces the entitled drawl of the very well-heeled and somehow that brought the story home. Frances’s husband Frank died suddenly and the circumstances bloomed into scandal; she’d left him where he lay and gone off on her planned skiing jaunt. Now she discovers she and grown son Malcolm are in effect penniless and they sail off to Paris for a last hurrah. Malcolm is an odd, damaged fellow, kind of passive but charming. Little Frank, the cat, appears to be the place where the original Frank’s soul has lodged. The ship’s psychic seems to be able to communicate with him. At the end in Frances’s friend Joan’s apartment, an odd bunch coalesce and perhaps Malcolm will truly connect with his sometimes fiancée Susan for a possible happy-ish ending. Outrageous. Droll. Entertaining.
With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
At 17, Emoni is doing amazingly well all things considered. Like sharing the care for her baby daughter with her abuela, keeping on top of school, working at a soul-destroying burger joint, and negotiating with her kid’s young father and his fussy parents over custody. Her passion: cooking, for which she has an intuitive genius. She manages a week in Spain as part of her challenging culinary arts class but of course there are many bumps along the way. Lively, inspiring, a great example of “own voice” (books about a culture from an author from that culture).
If She Wakes by Michael Koryta
I was really ready to be caught up in a thriller, and this one got me by the throat. Tara, a college student, is in a coma. Abby, an insurance investigator, discovers what put her there was more than a straight-forward collision. (Abby was a race-car stunt driver with a trauma in her recent past.) There’s an incredible baby-faced villain, suspense up the wazoo, and great characterizations. Trying to reach Tara in her locked in state while some relatives are ready to pull the plug adds another heart-stopping dimension. A winner!
Big Sonia (DVD)
It was her fierce, bright, old face peering over a leopard print steering wheel that enticed me to check out this hitherto unknown documentary, and glad that I did. Small of stature, huge of presence, an amazing mix of joy and grief. Kansas City where you can find her ensconced in her wildly colorful, busy John’s Tailor Shop which she took over after her husband was incapacitated. Both were Holocaust survivors, and Sonia goes around to high schools and prisons to share her indelible tale. Her children and grandchildren weigh in (not easy growing up with such burdened parents) and her granddaughter made this film. Oh, the indomitable human spirit—we can use every example we can get!
In at the Deep End by Kate Davies
When Julia discovers she’s a lesbian after a long spell of frustrating hetero sex, what a brave new world she’s entered. Tough artist Jane initiates her, tough artist Sam takes over and it’s giddy until…Turns out Sam likes to control which deposits Julia into many fish out of water experiences. Especially polyamory and the BDSM scene. It’s often hilarious (from the reader’s point of view) but very hard on Julia until she finally breaks free. London setting.
Back next week.