A Quartet of Book Reviews

The latest in book reviews...some rather lengthier tomes than usual...

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand

I fell in love with Hilderbrand's storytelling and Nantucket setting from the first novel of hers I listened to - Silver Girl. I was eager to return to Nantucket, and this title did not disappoint!

Told through alternating points of view, we learn about high school twins Hobby and Penny, golden children of Zoe, friends with Jake and Demeter, ready to take on senior year...until a tragic car accident that takes Penny's life and puts Hobby into a coma. What follows is how the characters - and the island as a whole - come to terms with this shattering event, and all the constellations that revolve around them. This novel has everything - deeply drawn characters, wonderful prose, an engaging number of storylines woven together, and a great setting. I really loved Summerland, and I've already checked out another Hilderbrand novel to listen to - other audiobooks just don't appeal after this one!

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

I'm a big fan of Picoult's stories, so of course I was interested in her latest! This was has a present-and-past premise...a modern day baker meets an older German man in a sleepy New Hampshire town, only to have him confess that he is a Nazi who was part of the "Final Solution".

And that he wants her to kill him.

I know, I know, it sounds strange and convoluted, but Picoult makes it work - but where the novel really picks up speed is when the baker's grandmother talks about her experiences in the concentration camps, and Picoult intersects all their storylines so well together.

Though it had the modern element and a bit of a twist at the end, to me, this was absolutely a well-crafted, well-told story of a survivor of the Holocaust - harrowing, fascinating, poignant and painful though the story was. Picoult did a masterful job of providing details and vivid imagery, and I found myself sorry to return to the present story. I wouldn't say it was one of her "twisty-er" works, but still a great story, well-told, thought-provoking and utterly absorbing.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I was - and am -  a huge Harry Potter fan. Huge. So Rowling is going to write a novel for adults to set herself apart from the Potterverse? Sure! Count me in!

Gosh, what a disappointment.

I think some of novel (incredibly lengthy without having to be) novel is Rowling setting her cap that this is ADULT - lots of objectionable language and sex, vapid characters and all set in a very grown-up, tongue in cheek country village. Imagine reading about a dozen sets of Dursleys but with lots of f-bombs, inferences to sex and over characterization.

But the biggest problem is...I don't care one whit about any, ANY of the characters. They were impossible to sympathize with, root for, or frankly keep track of, since she introduces a myriad of characters from page one that intersect all over each other, making it hard to keep straight.

I didn't even finish it. Ugh. Back to Harry Potter!

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

This is one of those "behind the curtain" works of non-fiction I can't help but gravitate to. ;-)

Tomsky was (still is?) an employee of numerous high end hotels, and reveals all the shams and shenanigans that can happen both in and out of the rooms. He reveals ways to get out of charges, what workers think of rude customers, what housekeeping *really* does and how to get the best service. All of this is intermixed with his own journey from New Orleans to New York City, and though vaguely interesting, what the reader will wants is the salacious stuff, not the navel-gazing stuff. ;-)

Vaguely horrifying and totally interesting, as well as a quick read, this is definitely a guilty pleasure book!

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