The Other Typist

The Other TypistThe Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally, a book to get me out of my book slump. Well narrated, Gretchen Mol kept my interest. On the surface, this is the story of a rather sheltered woman (orphan raised by nuns) who develops almost an obsession in her friendship with an exotic and beautiful woman who joins the typists at the police station. But before too long, the listener will realize that Ruth is a very unreliable narrator. Just who is she? Who is Odalie? There is something very unsettling about her obsession. I won’t say more, except that my face to face book club had a lot to say about this book, and there were at least three different interpretations of the ending. The book has been criticized for its ambiguity, but I think that is one of the strengths of a good psychological novel. This will undoubtedly be made into a movie, and it will be interesting to see what they do with it.

Book Description: Confessions are Rose Baker’s job. A typist for the New York City Police Department, she sits in judgment like a high priestess. Criminals come before her to admit their transgressions, and, with a few strokes of the keys before her, she seals their fate. But while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves the room, she reverts to a dignified and proper lady. Until Odalie joins the typing pool. As Rose quickly falls under the stylish, coquettish Odalie’s spell, she is lured into a sparkling underworld of speakeasies and jazz. And what starts as simple fascination turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.

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The Headmaster’s Wife

The Headmaster's WifeThe Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lyrical book that will keep you guessing. I spent the first half of the book wondering why it is titled The Headmaster’s WIFE. First we get the shocking story of a man who seems lucid, but obviously not quite in his right mind. A story of love and lust and possibly murder. What is it that has caused him to unravel? The twist in the middle will throw all of your conclusions away, and we begin the story again from the point of view of the wife. Her story is one of loss and grief and a different kind of unraveling. Is she alive or is she dead? You’ll have to read to the end to find out. I didn’t like the characters, but I did find them compelling and developed a certain compassion for these two broken and hurting people. The ending was a bit ho-hum and I think could have been developed a bit better. It is a quick and easy read, and would make a good book club book. Lots of fuel for discussion.

Book Description: Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the Headmaster of Vermont’s elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges. Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story and an exploration of the ties of place and family.

The Silent Wife

The Silent WifeThe Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Touted as a psychological thriller, but it’s really more of quiet puzzle. We’re already told at the very beginning who dies, so no suspense there… The puzzle is in what causes these two people, who have had a stable 20-year relationship, to come unraveled. They have both complacently accepted the status quo – a long-term live-in arrangement (never actually married). As long as Jodi gets to play housewife, and enjoy the luxury of a comfortable home, she has kept silent about his “extra-marital” affairs. But everything changes when Todd gets a girl pregnant and is badgered into actually leaving Jodi. Neither Todd nor Jodi are particularly likeable, and that made it hard for me to care about anything that happened to them. The story became much more compelling after the assassination, and although I had already anticipated the twist in the plot at that point, it was enough to raise this from 2 to 3 stars for me.

Book description: A chilling psychological thriller about a marriage, a way of life, and how far one woman will go to keep what is rightfully hers. Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater; she lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds; she likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps; she has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept.

Room

RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Caution: Review may contain spoilers!

This book was a bit different from what I expected. I had just assumed it would end with their escape from captivity, but that actually happened relatively early on in the book. So this is Jack’s world through his eyes – Room, the only home he has ever known, the escape, and then adjusting to life Outside. The escape plan was very far-fetched for me. Would a desperate and depressed mother really put a 5-year-old in such a dangerous position? We don’t know her thinking since this is Jack’s story. I just found it somewhat unbelievable that such a plan might actually work. But that is a minor quibble. The charm of the story is Jack, and the picture he paints of his world. The innocence of the narrator removes us a bit from the horrific aspects of the mother’s ordeal, so we can focus on his experience and how he adjusts to a much bigger world than he has ever imagined. Unlike his mother, he loves Room, and must come to terms with the loss of what was his entire world. There is much food for thought here, and I am looking forward to a very lively book club discussion.

Book Description: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go To SleepBefore I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Caution: Review may contain spoilers.

I waffled between 2 and 3 stars for this book. It was okay, but mainly because I can tolerate more flaws in audiobooks where I would quickly lose patience reading it. It’s an okay story. The premise is intriguing and it started out very well. The author sets up the story of a woman who doesn’t know who she is, but apparently she has been keeping a journal. She is seeing a doctor who calls her on a cellphone that he gave her and tells her where she keeps the journal hidden from her supposed husband, Ben. The mystery is set up right from the beginning as she begins to read about her life and on the first page of the journal she has written “DON’T TRUST BEN.” So far so good. Then we follow Christine from day to day through the journal to see what brought her to this point. So we have an unreliable narrator, an unreliable husband, and who knows whether or not this doctor is reliable. The plot moves forward ever so slowly as memories do resurface from time to time, and she seems to be able to hold onto them as they are retriggered through the journal each day. But that gets very repetitious. The key to solving the mystery seems to be to find out what happened to her long lost best friend, Claire, who might be able to provide some answers. But the story takes far too long to get there, and we have completely lost the suspense that was set up at the beginning. To be fair, I already knew how it would end. But would I have been surprised at that point? Maybe, but it had no psychological impact for me getting there. The book needed much more in the way of creepy foreshadowing.

The setting, London, was entirely irrelevant, especially since the publishers had completely Americanized the dialog. I had to keep reminding myself this was supposed to be Britain as even the audiobook was narrated by an American, Orlagh Cassidy. Intriguing premise aside, the specifics were just not credulous. The journal reads like a novel, not a journal. Do we seriously believe she has time to write with such mind-numbing detail and keep it hidden from Ben? And Claire – what kind of best friend wouldn’t have tried to find Christine? Not to mention her son… This might have worked a lot better as a dual story perhaps with some back and forth between Christine’s and Claire’s point of view. This could be a decent movie with some of the plot points tightened up and opening it up to more points of view.

Book Description: ‘As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me …’ Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.

Tigers in Red Weather

Tigers in Red WeatherTigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Description: Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summer heat, sunbleached boat docks, and midnight gin parties on Martha’s Vineyard in a glorious old family estate known as Tiger House. In the days following the end of the Second World War, the world seems to offer itself up, and the two women are on the cusp of their ‘real lives’: Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is heading for a reunion with her own young husband, Hughes, about to return from the war. Soon the gilt begins to crack. Helena’s husband is not the man he seemed to be, and Hughes has returned from the war distant, his inner light curtained over. On the brink of the 1960s, back at Tiger House, Nick and Helena–with their children, Daisy and Ed–try to recapture that sense of possibility. But when Daisy and Ed discover the victim of a brutal murder, the intrusion of violence causes everything to unravel. The members of the family spin out of their prescribed orbits, secrets come to light, and nothing about their lives will ever be the same. Brilliantly told from five points of view, with a magical elegance and suspenseful dark longing, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut novel from a writer of extraordinary insight and accomplishment.
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This book falls under my Moby-Dick project because it is written by the great great granddaughter of Herman Melville. It may be brilliantly told – but I didn’t find much to like about this book. It does have a certain elegance which kept it from being one star for me. None of the characters are likeable. I’m not even sure they are believable. But this was an audiobook, and I can listen to things that I wouldn’t have the patience to finish reading. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion and from different points of view. If you like liars, lust, family secrets, a certain psychological tension, and dysfunctional relationships, then this probably isn’t a bad book.

Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful SymmetryHer Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s a lot to like in this book: interesting ideas, quirky characters, atmospheric setting, lovely descriptions. I particularly loved Martin and his wife, and cheering on his efforts to overcome his OCD. But I had to work too hard at suspending my disbelief in the mechanics of the plot, and the motivations/choices of some of the characters. Still, there was a certain fascination with the creepiness of some of the relationships.

Description:
Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt Elspeth Noblin has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the flat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls’ aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie.

The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons, and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbors: Martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including—perhaps—their aunt.