Hello, everyone! The bad books beat me 3 to 4 this month. I had two DNFs (did not finish), one book that I slogged through until the bitter end, and one book that blew my socks off. Finding a great book can sometimes be like searching for a needle in a haystack. But don’t be discouraged! It’s my job to wade through the mire of mediocre books so that you don’t have to. Here’s a list of 3 books to avoid and one you just might love for the upcoming month.
Inheritance by Lan Samantha Chang
Quick Summary: Set during WW2 and its surrounding years, the novel follows the saga of Junan and Yinan, two sisters whose unbreakable bond stretches thin when Junan’s handsome husband incites a dangerous rivalry between the two women.
My thoughts: I had very lukewarm feelings about this book. On the one hand, I thought Chang’s prose was elegant and affecting. She wrote her characters with clarity and grace and even if I didn’t find the story engaging, I still felt connected to the struggles of Junan, Yinan, and Junan’s husband Li Ang. On the other hand, Chang struggles to connect the perspectives of three generations into a cohesive story. In some chapters the novel is recounted from Junan’s perspective, in other chapters it is told through Li Ang’s eyes, and in others, through the memory of Junan and Li Ang’s daughter Hong. The unneeded complexity of three different narrators for such a simple story made the novel seem artificially confusing. It was also too slow for my taste. Around 2/3 of the way through, I lost interest and stopped reading.
To read or not to read? It didn’t capture my interest. I would pass.
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
Quick Summary: Lower class SAT tutor Louise meets über-rich socialite Lavinia by chance. In a whirlwind of parties and adventures, Louise grows obsessed with Lavinia and her impossibly fabulous lifestyle.
My thoughts: I read so little of this book that I don’t know if it’s even fair for me to give a review, but it’s my blog, so who cares. Anyway, Social Creature is not my kind of book. I’m immediately turned off by novels about rich socialites who are beautiful and charming and ethereal and ditzy and basically bird women who don’t exist in real life. It’s such a sexist stupid trope. I’m also tired of reading a story about a mousy little poor girl who is “shown the light” by a fabulous rich girl. Haven’t we seen that story a million gazillion times? As for Burton’s frenetic writing style, it has merit, but again, it’s not to my taste. Maybe I’m a hater, but I felt even from the first thirty or so pages that I’d read this book before and I wasn’t going to waste another second reading it again.
To read or not to read? If you like books with as much substance as an episode of Gossip Girl, then by all means read this novel. But if you want a novel with a semblance of realism, I’d skip this one.
The Witch Elm by Tana French
Quick Summary: Toby has everything: money, charm, a great job, and a beautiful girlfriend. All that disappears when he’s brutally beaten by burglars in his apartment. His mind a mess, his speech slurred, and his memory kaputt, Toby moves in with his dying uncle at the Ivy House, the family home where he and his cousins spent many joyful summers together. But his idyll breaks when his cousin’s son discovers a skull in the witch elm in the backyard. Now the Ivy House is a crime scene and everyone, including Toby, is a suspect.
My thoughts: Oh, Tana French, I have such a love-hate relationship with her. Every time I read one of her mysteries I come across the same problems. She’s a fantastic storyteller, but she’s too long winded. She has such unique prose, but some of her phrasing is obnoxiously clever. And my main problem is that her mysteries are just not satisfying! I almost gave up on this book because I was 250 pages in and the ending was nowhere in sight. Toby is an innocuous narrator and it was fascinating to watch his descent into paranoia. Overall, I enjoyed the twists and turns of the novel, but they didn’t “wow” me like a really good mystery should. My main beef with the book is that it’s just too damn long. She could have cut out 300 pages and it would have made the book a stunning thriller. As is, it’s a 500 page slog.
To read or not to read? Read it because it’s Tana French. But it’s not her best!
The Sandman by Lars Kepler
Quick Summary: Shocked by the sudden reappearance of a boy kidnapped more than a decade earlier, detective Joona Linna and the Stockholm police must confront the horrifying reality that Jurek Walter, the infamous imprisoned serial killer, has an accomplice. Determined to rescue the boy’s kidnapped sister, Joona sends Inspector Saga Bauer into Jurek’s maximum security prison to gain his trust and discover the girl’s whereabouts.
My thoughts: I loved this book! This was a mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat in a way that only Lars Kepler can. An intelligent, noble detective; a frightening Hannibal Lecter-esque villain. The chapters read like movie scenes. Definitely my favorite Lars Kepler book. The only bad part was that it ended on a cliffhanger and I don’t know if my library has the next book!
To read or not to read? Read it! Read it right now!