Friday, September 4, 2015

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Sue Meyers

Accidents of Marriage by Randy Sue Meyers
Published September 2014, released in paperback June 2015 by Washington Square Press
Source: ebook courtesy of the publisher, author and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

**First, an apology - I was meant to have reviewed this book on August 24. I completely lost track of time and hadn't even started it by then. Thanks, Trish, for not reaching through the interwebs and smacking me upside the head!

Publisher's Summary:
For Madeline Illica, the love of her husband Ben was her greatest blessing and biggest curse. Brilliant and charming, Ben could turn into a raging bull when crossed—and despite her training as a social worker Maddy never knew what would cross him. When Ben was in a conciliatory mood, they worked on techniques for communication and anger management, but on the day of the accident, nothing seemed to help.

My Thoughts:
This is the third novel by Randy Sue Meyers I've read (The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer's Daughters). I just couldn't connect with the former after having been impressed with the later. Still, I was interested in giving Meyers another chance because she always writes about women in very difficult situations and I wanted to see where she would go this time. In fact, I didn't even read the summary of this one when I asked to be included on the tour. Which worked out really well for me. In fact, if you decide this is one you might be interested in, I recommend you immediately start forgetting what it's about. The unfolding of the story is so interesting that way.

What I went into the novel expecting was strictly the story of a marriage (although I should have known it would be more than that coming from Meyers) and, in the beginning, that's what Meyers set up - a husband with a terrible anger problem, a wife so cowed by him that she medicates herself to deal with it even as she counsels other women stuff in abusive relationships. Then the foreshadowing begins and the reader knows something very bad is going to happen.

And here's where you'll really just want to skip to the end if you want to go into this one entirely blind. Ben's temper is the underlying, but not ultimate, cause of a traffic accident the result of which is Maddy suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Meyers has done her research on traumatic brain injury and the slow recovery from it. The struggle to help Maddy recover feels very real with family and friends all trying to help but not always being helpful, with children trying to come to terms with the new person that used to be their mom, and with the tremendous amount of work it takes to keep a household running while caring for someone who can't care for themselves. It takes a toll on everyone involved. Let's be honest, no one really knows how much a mom does to keep the household running (even one like Maddy who isn't the greatest at keeping things running smoothly) until she can't do it and it's easy to relate to what might happen then.

Along the way, Meyers touches on infidelity, drug use, and the love of power. Throughout it all, though, Meyers keeps the focus on the relationship between Ben and Maddy, a relationship that shifts and changes throughout Maddy's recovery. The love, the miscommunication, the abuse, the hate, the reliance, the need - it's all there and Meyer's does a terrific job of taking readers along for the journey.

For more opinions about this book, check out the full tour at TLC Book Tours. Thanks to Trish, at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour and, again, for her understanding!

The drama of Randy Susan Meyers’ novels is informed by her work with families impacted by emotional and family violence.

Her newest novel, Accidents of Marriage, examines the slippery definitions of emotional abuse and explores tragic circumstances forcing a family to challenge the dynamics that have long-defined them.

Randy is a founding member of Beyond The Margins, a site dedicated to the craft of writing and the business of publishing, and coauthored the guide, What To Do Before Your Book Launch, with writer M.J. Rose. She lives in Boston with her husband, where she teaches at Grub Street Writer’s Center.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fall Feasting

Okay, okay - summer's over (although, not officially yet for a couple more weeks!) and it's time to start thinking about cold weather eating. For me, that also means it's time for reading about food. I've been chipping away at my stash of foodie books the past few years without picking up a whole lot of new ones so my choices at this point are somewhat limited. I still have on hand to choose from:

Harvest by Richard Horan

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes

So, all nonfiction. I'm thinking I need to mix in something fun. Maybe a graphic novel - perhaps something by Lucy Knisley? What do you fun, foodie book would you recommend?

Dry Bones: A Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson - A Guest Review

Dry Bones: A Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson
Published May 2015 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: this copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

I've talked before about our love for the television series "Longmire" (previously on A and E, soon to begin again on Netflix) which we weren't even aware, in the beginning, were based on a series of books by Craig Johnson. When I was offered the chance to read and review Johnson's latest book about Walt Longmire and his cohorts, I knew the person who should do it would be The Big Guy. So, without further ado, here's his review of a book that he raced through.

The Big Guy's Thoughts:

I've been a big fan of the Longmire TV show since nearly the beginning when my brother turned me on to it, so I was really looking forward to reading the book.  Of course, like Harry Potter,  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and other books recently that have become block busters, you are always comparing.

I thought Walt, as written, was pretty close to as played in the show, as was Henry Standing Bear.  The rest of the characters are definitely different and many in the show are not in the book.  Vic is tougher and has a filthier mouth than Vic in the show, but I like her in the book as well, if not better.  She has edgy comedic timing.

What I think could have been improved in the book is more depth of character development.  Vic, Henry and Walt were pretty complete, but there were a lot of characters introduced that come in and out and I would prefer fewer characters being more involved.  I also tired of Walt being out in the 'outback' around the dig site getting caught in storms and washed down the draws and gully like a turd being flushed.  Maybe vary the action for more variety of situations.

However, the book was a fun read and as I mentioned I really liked the three main characters. The book definitely keeps your attention and keeps you wanting to come back for more. The premise around the dinosaur find and conflict created by the various parties at war over it, with a mix of mystery and murder, made it interesting.   Mr. Johnson's writing style is engaging and fits like Walt's old animal skin coat.  I think it can be enjoyed by men and women both and I would certainly recommend it for a good relaxing summer read.

Thanks, Big Guy! Now if we can just hang in there until September 10th, when Season Four of the television series starts on Netflix. In the meantime, we might just have to pick up a couple more books from the series.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X

It's that time of year again - time for spookie-ookie, horrifying, supernatural reading with a whole bunch of other like minded people. In other words, it's time, starting today, for R.I.P. - Readers Imbibing Peril. This is the challenges tenth year! While Carl (of Stainless Steel Droppings whose brainchild R.I.P. was) will still be around, for this year he's turned the challenge over to the ladies of The Estella Society.

As always, there are a number of levels you can jump in at, including a level for short stories, screen, and a group readalong. Any mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, supernatural, dark fantasy, or gothic novel will work. 

Given that I've just read a couple of mysteries in a row, I'm feeling a little bit like it's time to get to something different but I can't resist so I'm jumping in for Peril The Third which means I only have to read one book to succeed. My plan for this year is Sarah Water's Fingersmith which I've been saving for a while. I can't wait!

Peril of The Short Story is going to allow me to know off something off my Classics Club Challenge list - a reread of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. IF I am really feeling it, I'll know off a second challenge read and pick up The Fall of The House of Usher. 'Cause you really out to read some Poe this time of year, right?

Although I'm not a big scary movie watcher, it's practically a given that I'll catch one of the scary movies that will be on nonstop in October so I'm throwing this one in as well. Although, I'm thinking I'll be trying to find some Dark Shadows on Netflix and relive my youth. Don't tell my mom I used to watch this, though!

Are you going to be joining us? If so, what books are you considering? If not, do you find yourself getting wrapped up in the Halloween spirit with your reading?

The Likeness by Tana French

The Likeness by Tana French
Published July 2008 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: purchased this one in 2012 - thanks to the price tag which shows the year, I know exactly how long this one was sitting on my shelves

Publisher's Summary:
Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still recovering, Transferred out of Dublin's Murder squad at her own request, she vows never to return. That is, until her boyfriend, Detective Sam O'Neill, calls her one beautiful spring morning, urgently asking her to come to a murder scene in the small town of Glenskehy. It isn't until Cassie sees the body that she understands Sam's insistence.

The dead girl is Cassie's double, and she carries ID identifying her as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie herself used years ago when she worked undercover. The question becomes not only who killed this girl, but who was this girl. Frank Mackey, Cassie's former undercover boss, sees the opportunity of a lifetime. Having played Lexie Madison once before, Cassie is in the perfect position to take her place. The police will tell the media and Lexie's four housemates that the stab wound wasn't fatal. And Cassie will go on living Lexie's life until the killer is lured out to finish off the job.

It's a brilliant idea, until Cassie finds herself more emotionally involved in Lexie's life than she anticipated. Sharing the charming ramshackle old Whitethorn House with Lexie's strange, tight-knit group of university friends, Cassie is slowly seduced by the victim's way of life, by the thought of working on a murder investigation again, and by the mystery of the victim herself. As Cassie nears the truth about what happened to Lexie Madison and who she really was, the lines between professional and personal, work and play, reality and fantasy become desperately tangled, and Cassie moves closer to losing herself forever.

My Thoughts:
The summary says that Cassie was "slowly seduced by the victim's way of life" but it seemed to me that it happened much more quickly than that. Before Cassie had even stepped foot in Whitethorn House, she was drawn to Lexie's housemates and the bond they appeared to have. Cassie hungers for a family, having been orphaned as a young girl, and the chance to be a part of the family Lexie's friends have created is too much to resist. But her actions are equally the fault of the relationship she has with Frank Mackey. Although their goal would appear to be the same, both hold back vital pieces of potential evidence. The result is almost catastrophic.

This is the fourth book I've read by Tana French and, as with the other three, I'm impressed by French's ability to set a mood, to convey the language of Ireland, and to weave a complex mystery. I'm most impressed, once again, by French's characters and their relationships. They are complex, nuanced, and well-developed. Most of all, they are incredibly real.

I had a couple of quibbles with the story itself which had, primarily to do with places where logic seemed to have failed. For example, Lexie went for a walk every night late at night. When Cassie steps in as Lexie, she picks this up so as to stay in character. My issue with this was twofold - why would her roommates, her best friends, allow her to go off alone down the very lanes where she had been attacked? and why would Cassie and Frank think it was a good idea for her to put herself in that kind of danger nightly without immediate backup? French puts this down to being something that Lexie would have done regardless of what happened. I didn't buy it.

I can't remember the last time I picked up the next book in a series immediately after having finished the previous one, but that's exactly what I did with this book. I found it to be both a good idea and a less than ideal one. The characters from the previous book are all fresh - it's easy to recall their characteristics and mannerisms. Unfortunately, it also means that you don't need any of the refreshing details that authors include to bring new readers up to speed and, as they did here for me, they can get in the way of the current storyline.

And yet...I loved it. I loved getting into Cassie's head and watching the relationship with the roommates develop. And I loved that, after the success of her previous book, French did not fall into the trap of following the same pattern here. The ending was both unexpected and perfect.