Friday, March 30, 2018

What's Val Reading? (March 2018)

Can you believe it's already the end of March? And that I'm actually posting Val's monthly recap in the month it covers? (It's only happening because I'm up late listening to the Cubs-Marlins game, and we're in the 16th inning. I do not understand why there are no ties in baseball. I say go to 12 and then call it. But MLB isn't exactly knocking down my door, asking my opinion!)

Anyway, Val read quite a few books in March. Here they are!

(I've linked each book's Amazon page in the title in case you want to check it out. These are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase, I'll get a small commission.)

Faithful Place by Tana French (Goodreads)

This book takes place in present-day Ireland, and the story kicks off when Detective Frank Mackey gets a call that forces him to go back to “Faithful Place,” the neighborhood he grew up in and hasn’t returned to since he left at age 19.  Frank left brokenhearted, thinking his girlfriend, Rosie, who was supposed to run away with him, decided to go to England without him.  But now evidence suggests that may not be what happened at all…

I really liked this book.  For being a police procedural, it had characters that were surprisingly well-developed and dimensional.  I figured out the “who done it” part earlier than I have in some other books, but I didn’t know the “why” – and that kept me enthralled to the very end.

This is the only Tana French I’ve read, so I can’t speak to level of violence or sexual content in her other books, but this one was not overly graphic and I don’t recall it including any sexual content. I can’t remember specifically if there was language, but I’m guessing there was. 

Overall, an engaging mystery with rich characters. 4 stars.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper (Goodreads)

This is the second book by author Jane Harper, whose first novel, The Dry, I read and LOVED last year.

Force of Nature is set in a National Park in Australia.  A group of five women set out on a three-day hike as a team-building activity sponsored by their company.  At the end of day three, only four women make it to the rendezvous point, and they’re in bad shape.  Where is Alice, and what happened out there in the wilderness?

It’s hard not to compare Force of Nature to The Dry since they are technically part of the same series, centered on Federal Agent Aaron Falk.  Of the two, I liked The Dry better because it felt a lot more personal and urgent.  The Dry introduced the reader to Aaron as he went back to his hometown, which he left as a teen, to investigate the death of his best friend Luke, as well as Luke’s wife and their child. And it included flashbacks to Aaron and Luke’s teen years, which I am always a sucker for. But I will say that because of the personal nature of the crime, The Dry felt very dark and heavy as I read it.  Force of Nature was not as heavy – it hit the sweet spot of suspenseful but not scary – I was invested enough to read most of the book in one sitting, but it didn’t keep me up at night or ruin my mood for the day.  

Although this book is part of a series, you could read Force of Nature alone if you wanted to (you might have a few questions about extraneous characters mentioned, but nothing that would ruin the story).  But I loved The Dry so much, I’d suggest you start there.  (I gave The Dry 5 stars.)

No sexual content; can’t remember if there was language or not. 4 stars.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty (Goodreads)

Liane Moriarty is becoming one of those authors I can always count on for a good book.  (Previously I’d read The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot).

This novel is about Ellen, a hypnotist, who falls in love with Patrick, a widower with a young son and some unusual baggage – Patrick has a stalker.

While Ellen’s work does factor prominently into the novel, I don’t think you need to believe in hypnosis to enjoy the story.  That said, if that type of thing weirds you out or you know you don’t want to read anything about it, I’d say just go ahead and skip this book.

I thought the book was so well-written – it kept me guessing and engaged the entire time.  I especially enjoyed Moriarty’s writing when she would let the reader in on Ellen’s thoughts and emotions in a given situation.  I thought her reactions were so authentic, and I really resonated with her (especially in her tendency to avoid conflict).

The premise sounds like it could be gimmicky, but I was surprised and impressed with the themes of love, redemption, and community woven throughout.

There are sexual relationships in the book, but I don’t recall it being explicit. 4 stars.

Northanger Abbey (Audiobook) by Jane Austen (Goodreads)

I’m not even going to bother giving a plot summary for this book, so if you want one, just google it (or go to Goodreads).  I’ve read Northanger Abbey before, but when I saw the audiobook was on sale (thanks to MMD’s daily kindle deals) and that it’s narrated by Emma Thompson, I jumped at the opportunity to revisit the story.  I haven’t listened to a ton of audiobooks – probably 10-ish?  But this one is SO well-done.  Often audiobooks are read by one person, but this book was performed by an entire cast, and it was just fantastic.  

Obviously, no language or sexual content in this one. 4.5 stars.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (Goodreads)

I liked this book, but I really feel that it could have been so much better.  It centers around two women in their early 30’s who live in a small North Carolina town in the Blue Ridge Mountains – Paxton and Willa.  Paxton and Willa basically haven’t interacted since high school, when they were polar opposites – Paxton was the popular rich girl, and Willa was the quiet one.  Now a mystery involving both of their grandmothers emerges, and they have to work together to figure out what happened 75 years ago.

This book was OK.  I think the plot was intriguing, and it could have been a really good book if it had been about 150 pages longer.  It kind of felt like everything was just skimming the surface.  I wish there had been flashbacks to what was happening when the grandmothers were teens, since that is such a large part of the story.  Also, both Paxton and Willa have love interests in the book.  I thought Paxton’s romance was believable and interesting, but Willa’s felt forced and out-of-the-blue. The characters do engage in sexual relationships, and there was one scene that seemed pretty racy to me, but you could easily skip over it and not miss anything important.

Overall, the book kept my attention, but it isn’t a favorite. 3 stars.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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