Monday, July 22, 2013

NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl

I received an advance copy of this book through the Amazon Vine Program.

When I first picked up NIGHT FILM, the tone and layout reminded me a little bit of HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Danielewski.  The book opens with journalist Scott McGrath heading out for a run.  McGrath attempted an expose on mysterious underground horror filmmaker Stanislaus Cordova but the whole thing blew up in his face. McGrath's career was devastated by slander charges and he is working to rebuild his life.  When McGrath returns from his run, he discovers that Cordova's daughter, Ashley, has been found dead in an apparent suicide.  Despite his best efforts, McGrath finds himself getting drawn into Cordova's world once again as he attempts to discover what really happened to Ashley.  As he gets deeper into his investigation, McGrath is joined by a young coatcheck girl who was one of the last people to see Ashley alive and a mysterious young man who has a hidden connection to Ashley.  The three of them work to retrace Ashley's steps in her final days and find out what drove the girl to suicide.

One of the things that made this book so compelling were the photos of evidence throughout the book.  You see the same articles, websites and other pieces of evidence that the McGrath and his team are seeing. The reader feels as if they are going through the investigation with Scott and slowly piecing together what happened to Ashley and the truth about Cordova. The book constantly keeps you guessing about the truth and Pessl manages to maintain a high level of suspense throughout the book without it feeling gratuitous.  I found the book hard to put down because I was so anxious to found out the truth about Ashley and Cordova.  The ending was a little bit disappointing but, overall, I really enjoyed the book.  It worked really well as a mystery/suspense story.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A highly suspenseful book that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you attempt to solve the mystery of Ashley and her father along with McGrath.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

When I first heard about this book, I thought it would be reminiscent of Deborah Harnkess' All Souls Trilogy.  Beside the fact that it deals with magic, it isn't.  Others have compared this book to JANE EYRE.  I can see why they would say that but I wouldn't make a comparison there either.  The writing style (not the content) reminded me most of Diana Gabaldon. 

Nora Fischer has hit a rut in her life.  Her academic career and dissertation have stalled and her longtime boyfriend has dumped her.  Attempting to get her mind off her recent troubles, Nora attends a wedding with some friends only to discover that her trouble has followed her.  In an attempt to get away for a little while, Nora goes on a hike only to stumble through a portal to another world. The fantasy world she discovers is almost too good to be true.  Nora becomes involved with a mysterious handsome man and her world falls apart yet again soon after.  Realizing she is now stuck in this other world, Nora begins to study magic with the magician Aruendiel in the hope of both making a life for herself and possibly finding the way back home.

This book is highly detailed and well-written.  Barker has really thought out the alternate world and gives a wonderful amount of detail. The reader can often become bogged down in the detail, however.  The book moves at a glacial pace.  It took a couple hundred pages for me to really get into the story.  Even then, the pace was very very slow.  The action doesn't pick up until the very end and then the book end abruptly. I have a feeling there will be a sequel. Too many loose ends and unanswered questions.  There is a lot of good in this book but it is missing something that I can't quite put my finger on.  In some ways, it lacks fun.  It needs a little more humor and playfulness.  I loved all the details about the magic and magical history but it all felt a bit dry.  I'm hoping Barker will be able to flesh everything out in a sequel.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations.  There are a lot of interesting details in this book but it is very dry and slow.  If Barker can add the missing ingredients in a sequel, she could have a winner.

Monday, July 08, 2013

THE SILENT WIFE by A.S.A. Harrison

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

A lot of reviewers are drawing comparisons between THE SILENT WIFE and GONE GIRL.  While the structure of the book is similar, I was reminded more of THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD by Rebecca Coleman.  Within the first two pages, the reader is introduced to psychotherapist Jodi Brett and knows that she has done something very wrong.  Jodi and her partner, Todd Gilbert, have been together for twenty years.  Jodi has created a perfect life for them and acts as a wife in every way but in an official capacity. She has never wanted to get married. She is the most patient and forgiving of women even though Todd is a prolific philanderer. THE SILENT WIFE chronicles the disintegration of their marriage and is told from both Jodi's and Todd's points of view. 

I didn't find Todd to be a particularly interesting character.  He seems like your run-of-the-mill charismatic cheater. Jodi, however, is fascinating.  She is clearly an intelligent, beautiful, and capable woman. As a psychotherapist, she should have a pretty good sense of self and understanding of what drives human beings.  But her perfection makes her seem more of a cartoon character than a real person. This point of view changes, however, as the book progresses. The reader gets to know Jodi much better and sees what makes her tick. As their "marriage" falls apart in an irreperable way, we see the true Jodi start to come out.

This book was a very quick read because I had to know what was going to happen and why. The ending felt a little anti-climactic to me but I absolutely loved Jodi's character. She is really fascinating.  Harrison does a great job in slowly revealing Jodi's true self.  The sections of the book with Todd were boring in comparison. While the book is suspenseful in many ways, I wouldn't classify it as a "suspense" novel. It is much more a fascinating look at a relationship built on lies that has finally fallen apart and the consequences that come of that dissolution.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A really interesting and quick read that follows the disintegration of a marriage and its horrific fallout.

Monday, July 01, 2013


I finally got a copy of SIMPLICITY PARENTING and I'm reading it right now. So far, I am really really liking it. But I'm still behind!!! For those of you ready for a new read, our July title will be FREE TO LEARN: WHY UNLEASHING THE INSTINCT TO PLAY WILL MAKE OUR CHILDREN HAPPIER, MORE SELF-RELIANT, AND BETTER STUDENT FOR LIFE by Peter Gray.

This book focuses on the importance of play and "unschooling." I'm very curious to see what Gray has to say.  Do you have a favorite book from our Challenge yet?