Carrie by Stephen King
(Pocket Books, 2005, 253 pages)
Carrie has always been the outcast in school and her mother has not helped things along the way. Carrie’s mother is extremely religious and has tried to control Carrie’s sinning so that she never becomes a woman to the point that Carrie is frequently locked in her “closet” to pray. Her peers at school are always finding reasons to pick on Carrie so there is no one for Carrie to turn to when she discovers she has telekinetic powers. Instead, she just gets angrier at all the people in her life and is convinced that they are trying to trick her. But when Sue Snell convinces her boyfriend Tommy to ask Carrie to the prom as a way to make up for the horrible things they’ve done to her, Carrie reluctantly agrees to the date but has her guard up and her powers ready if this turns out to be just another one of their mean tricks.
This is one of those classic stories that I had never read or seen the film. I’m extremely glad I finally got around to reading this and was impressed when I learned that this was King’s first published novel. I listened to this on audiobook (thanks Kelly!) and the thing I enjoyed most about it, besides the great narration by Sissy Spacek, was the introduction by King. I loved hearing about the inspiration for the book and how he originally threw the first few pages away before his wife saved them from the trash. Now I will have to watch the film, but the original not the remake.
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
(Random House, 2013, 400 pages)
Growing up, Kate and Vi knew that they were different from everyone not only because they were identical twins, but also because they were psychic. They didn’t always know when or what exactly was going to happen, but premonitions came to them mostly through dreams and strong feelings. As they grew older, Vi fully accepted her psychic powers and started to make a living off her abilities. Kate, on the other hand, destroyed her powers the best she could so she could live a normal life with her husband and two small children. Then Vi shakes up everyone’s lives predicting a major earthquake to hit St. Louis in the coming weeks. As Vi begins to get more media attention on her prediction, Kate must decide if she should use her powers to protect her family or stay true to her beliefs to leave her powers in the past.
I enjoyed this book mostly because Kate’s moral struggle was so interesting. She has such panic attacks whenever she thinks that her family might come off as anything but normal that she tries to control the situation immediately. So the fact that she and Vi have these psychic powers and that Vi embraces them so publicly has led to a lot of strain in their relationship. When Vi predicts the earthquake, Kate wants to protect her family but she also doesn’t want to come off as believing what Vi says or letting on that she has powers of her own. Also the fact that it’s set in St. Louis led to some interesting takes on St. Louis personalities and landmarks.
Death of a Unicorn by Peter Dickinson
(Small Beer Press, 2013, 204 pages)
This was a Nancy Pearl recommendation and there is no better place to find a forgotten gem. Published in 1983 and set in that time as well as 1950’s London, it follows the life of a titled young woman who is trying to strike out on her own writing a social column for a popular magazine. I wouldn’t exactly call this a mystery but it there are some unanswered questions the heroine has to look into later in her life. I loved the humor and tone of Lady Margaret and so even though the plot wasn’t exactly a page turner I still had a hard time putting it down. I’m definitely going to try out some of Peter Dickinson’s other mysteries.
“For best-selling author Lady Margaret, the past is no longer a pleasant memory. Her first lover’s mysterious death and the seeming inevitability of her inheriting the family’s stately home are cast in new light by secrets unwillingly revisited. The first in a series of reprints of Peter Dickinson’s mysteries, this classic British mystery will win fans currently engrossed in Downton Abbey.” – Amazon.com
MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake
(Anchor Books, 2003, 376 pages)
The Year of the Flood
(Anchor Books, 2010, 434 pages)
(Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2013, 394 pages)
In preparation to read the last novel in Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam Trilogy, Maddaddam, I decided to listen to the audio versions of the first two (Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood) which I had already read a couple of years ago. I liked the audio so much I decided to listen to Maddaddam. Of course I loved it as much as the first two. Set in the near future, Atwood creates a world that is disturbing, but unfortunately plausible and destroys that world with a waterless flood (plague) and shows us how strong is our need for survival.
“Set in a darkly plausible future shaped by plagues, floods, and genetic engineering, these three novels take us from the end of the world to a brave new beginning. Thrilling, moving, a triumph of imagination, this trilogy confirms the ultimate endurance of humanity, community, and love.” – Amazon.com
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
(Little, Brown and Company, 2013, 771 pages)
I can’t say enough good things about The Goldfinch; I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in a long time. I know it won’t strike everyone that way but I became really immersed in the story and Theo’s trek through his incredibly tumultuous life. Like the painting The Goldfinch, the novel was, for me, “mysteriously captivating.”
You can also check out Julia’s review.
“Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art. As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love–and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.” – Amazon.com
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
(Knopf, 2006, 431 pages)
This has been on my to read list for a while and I recently read her new novel The Woman Upstairs, which was pretty good. I think I liked The Emperor’s Children a little bit better, the characters seemed to be more fleshed out, but it didn’t have the driving plot of The Woman Upstairs. It is a glimpse into the lives of these New Yorkers which is so different than the world most of us live in. Of the three main characters only one is a born and raised New Yorker (and a wealthy one to boot) and she often has the other two friends noting the difference their Midwestern childhoods make on how the three see the world.
“The Emperor’s Children is a richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune—about the intersections in the lives of three friends, now on the cusp of their thirties, making their way–and not– in New York City. In this tour de force, the celebrated author Claire Messud brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.” – Amazon.com
The Final Cut by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison
(Putnam Adult, 2013, 464 pages)
The Final Cut is the first novel in a new international thriller series by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison. In The Final Cut, the reader is introduced to Scotland Yard Chief Inspector, Nicholas Drummond, and FBI Special Agent, “Mike” Caine. Drummond and Caine team up to find the thief who stole the Koh I Noor diamond which was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the British Royalty. The main suspect is the “Fox” who has been successfully committing major art thefts for years.
The Fox has been hired to steal the diamond by a buyer who believes in the Koh I Noor legend. The Koh I Noor diamond was originally a much larger stone. It was cut to make it more brilliant and dazzling. Legend has it that when the diamond was cut, there were three pieces. There was the Koh I Noor diamond, the larger piece of the diamond that the Koh I Noor was cut from, and the dust from the diamond cuttings which formed into a third piece. If the three pieces are reunited and covered in a woman’s blood, the diamond will become whole again and give special powers to the owner of the stone.
Catherine Coulter is the author of the FBI thriller series that features FBI agents, Sherlock and Savich. Coulter bring those two characters as well as some others from her FBI series into The Final Cut. Bringing in those characters was good way to entice readers to the new series. J. T. Ellison also writes thrillers. While I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I’ve enjoyed Coulter’s FBI thriller series, it was a worthwhile read.