The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
(Hachette Books, 2008, 384 pages)
I was initially turned on to Lauren Groff thanks to Fates and Furies. After reading it I remember making a note that I wanted to read her debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, but the book summary didn’t really sound like “me.” There’s a lake monster (seriously, that was enough to give me a moment’s hesitation) and then a journey through the history of a small New England town. Even though I hesitated to grab this, I’m so glad I finally decided to give it a go because I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I was reading I found myself comparing Groff’s writing style to John Irving, which is high praise (especially coming from me who would essentially follow Irving anywhere #literarycrush).
The novel is told from the perspective of Willie Cooper who has returned home after an affair with her archaeology professor. While she tries to lay low at home her mother reveals to her that the story of Willie’s conception she’d been raised to believe was true (scandalous though it was) was a lie. Now she has to unravel her family history to try and uncover her real father. She appreciates this challenge and is surprised to find how much she discovers about her family tree and the history of the town.
If you’re looking for a unique story with fantastical elements interspersed in the history of a small town The Monsters of Templeton won’t let you down. Also, if you’re just a fan of Groff and/or good fiction, this is a book for you.
Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
(Harper, 2016, 356 pages)
This was the final selection for the spring 2018 Between the Covers book club. Girls on Fire is set in a small town in Pennsylvania in the 1990s; this is at a time when grunge is coming on the scene and the idea that kids are practicing Satanism is scaring parents everywhere. When a local teen is found dead in the woods this only leads parents to worry more about their kids. Hannah exists on the periphery of this apparent suicide. She knew the guy, but they didn’t really run in the same circles. What his death does lead her to is a friendship with Lacey. Lacey is the new girl at school who seems to exist in her own world; not caring what anyone else thinks.
As Lacey and Hannah grow closer we learn more about what happened in the woods. We also see Hannah distance herself from the quiet “oatmeal” life she had been living. With Lacey it’s like she can be a new person and operate more freely in the world. But with this freedom comes rebellion and unexpected jealousy. Not everyone is happy that Lacey and Hannah have found each other and secrets end up being divulged in ways no one could have expected.
Girls on Fire was most definitely a compelling read. Wasserman keeps you guessing where the book is going to go up to the very end. I knew it was going to be a dark read but I was surprised at how much it got into my head. I needed a literary palate cleanser after finishing this one. Graphic novels and romance quickly found their way to my nightstand. That being said, in spite of the darkness I enjoyed Wasserman’s literary talents.
Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah
(William Morrow, 2016, 299 pages)
Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah features Agatha Christie’s famous detective, Hercule Poirot. In this novel, Hercule Poirot along with an inspector from Scotland Yard and several other guests is invited to the Irish mansion of Lady Playford. Lady Playford has decided to change her will. At dinner, Lady Playford announces that she is leaving her entire fortune to her dying secretary rather than her two children. As you might expect, the secretary does not live to see morning. Who killed him? Poirot is on the case.
The estate of Agatha Christie authorized Sophie Hannah to use Hercule Poirot in her novel. Hannah has written one other Poirot mystery entitled The Monogram Murders. Closed Casket did hold my interest, but the mystery is not as intricately woven as a Christie novel.
You Have Killed Me by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones
(Oni Press, 2009, 184 pages)
You Have Killed Me is the story of a detective hired to find his former girlfriend by her sister. Told from the point of view of the detective, the story was good, but it wasn’t long enough to fully develop the characters. I got the gist of what happened at the end, but to fully understand it I needed to go back to recall the characters. This would be better read in one sitting with characters and events fresh in one’s mind. The black and white art is amazing. I recommend it for a quick read for fans of detective fiction.
Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
(Clarion Books, 2015, 272 pages)
Very creepy folklore! Fun read.
Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton
(Marian Wood Books/Putnam, 2017, 483 pages)
Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton is the 25th novel featuring private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. This book bounces between 1979 and 1989. In 1979, four teenage boys make a four-minute tape featuring a sexual assault of one of their classmates. When the tape goes missing, the leader of the boys accuses another female classmate of the theft. The “thief” ends up dead, one of the boys, Fritz, goes to jail for her murder, and the leader of the group disappears. Fast forward to 1989 where Kinsey gets involved in the 1979 case. Fritz is being blackmailed by someone who says s/he will release the tape unless a $25,000.00 ransom is paid. Since that tape could send Fritz back to jail, Kinsey is asked to locate the blackmailer(s).
Y is for Yesterday is part of Sue Grafton’s alphabet series. Z is for Zero will be released in 2019. Grafton has not yet decided if there will be more Kinsey Millhone stories beyond Z. It is interesting to read these novels because they are all set in the 1980’s. Cellphones and computers were not widely available in those years so Grafton must rely on the tools available at the time to help Kinsey in her investigations. While I didn’t particularly enjoy Y is for Yesterday because of the subject matter, Grafton’s alphabet series has been fun to read. I’ll be sure to read Z is for Zero.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
(William Morrow, 2018, 448 pages)
I was lucky enough to snag an Advanced Reader Copy of this book (pub. date: January 2018) which I kept hearing about… It lived up to the hype 😉
Here’s the review I posted on Goodreads:
“I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this book. I was sucked in almost immediately. Even though I was tense almost the whole time I was reading it (suspense!) I hated to put it down. This is a quick read recommended to anyone. If you’re a fan of classic suspense films you’ll appreciate The Woman in the Window that much more for all the film references throughout.
There have been comparisons to Girl on the Train but this is of a much higher caliber. I was already recommending it to people before I’d even finished. Even if thrillers/suspense aren’t what you regularly read I think you’ll enjoy this as a good gateway into the genre.”
Dangerous Minds (Knight and Moon #2)
by Janet Evanovich
(Bantam, 2017, 319 pages)
Dangerous Minds: A Knight and Moon Novel by Janet Evanovich is the second book in the series featuring Emerson Knight and Riley Moon. In this novel, Emerson’s Buddhist monk friend, Wayan Bagus, asks Emerson to help him find his missing island located near Samoa. The island has vanished into thin air. The only clue that Wayan has is that the men who removed him from his island had distinctive tattoos and uniforms. Emerson traces the uniforms back to the National Park Service and follows the clues from there.
The plots in this series are very improbable, but the quirky characters make the story fun to read. Besides Emerson and Riley, there is Emerson’s cousin, Vernon, who believes in Bigfoot and pretty women. There is the Buddhist monk who loves watching old movies even in the midst of life-threatening events. Then, there is the villain who uses a hatchet as one of his primary weapons. There is no mention of a third book in this series, but it is probably only a matter of time.
Curious Minds: A Knight and Moon Novel
by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton
(Bantam Dell, 2016, 322 pages)
Curious Minds: A Knight and Moon Novel, by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton is the first book in a new series featuring Emerson Knight and Riley Moon. Emerson Knight is rich, eccentric, and well educated. Riley Moon is a new junior analyst for the Washington DC mega-bank, Blane-Grunwald. Riley is assigned to help Emerson keep track of his money. When Emerson insists that he wants to see his gold, Riley accompanies him to the gold vault under Wall Street. There Emerson and Riley discover that the gold is being stolen and being replaced with look-alikes. The adventure begins!
Emerson Knight and Riley Moon are very likable characters. Emerson lives in a mansion, but sleeps in a tent in his library. Riley was raised in rural Texas and was a bit of a tomboy. While the story is far-fetched, it was enjoyable. The second Knight and Moon Novel is Dangerous Minds. It has been added to my reading list.
Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr
(Random House, 2016, 598 pages)
Trajan Jones, a psychological profiler, and Dr. Michael Li, a trace evidence expert, left the New York City Police Department for a quieter life in the upstate town of Surrender. They are now online teachers, but they soon become investigators of numerous dead youth. Intriguing.