08 July 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Summer Reading

5 book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsHope everyone in North America had a great holiday last week, whether you celebrated Canada Day or Independence Day. We lucked out weather-wise. It was fairly rainy in the late afternoon, but all cleared up in time to host our cookout. Phew!

Because of work deadlines and short workweeks, I decided to give myself a break, so I wasn't a very active poster or blog visitor last week. Next Saturday I have a women's outing, so that will also cut into my reading and social media time. But, as I've said here many, many times, being with friends and family in real life is always worth the trade-off.

review of Bunny by Mona AwadBunny by Mona Awad (Viking, June 11). I'm not quite sure why I was looking forward to reading Awad's newest novel. I guess I had forgotten my mixed feelings about her 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl (link is to my review). Anyway, this one is about Samantha who is in her last year at Warren University working on her masters in fine arts as a writer. Her cohort is all women, and the others have bonded into a tight-knit group; in fact, they call each other "Bunny." Warren is in New England (maybe near Boston), and Samantha keeps getting lost when she walks the winding streets. Yes, you got it: Samantha gets lost in the warren surrounded by bunnies. Besides the running pun, this novel is utterly weird. The Bunny women finally invite Samantha into their clique, and the deeper she gets into their ritualized social gatherings, the more she becomes alienated from herself and the only people who seem to care about her. Will she be lost forever? How about that graduate degree? The fairy tale and folk legend elements should have been more of a draw for me, but they weren't. Just as with Awad's previous novel, I was left wanting more? something totally different? In any case this one wasn't for me. I stuck with it because I listened to the audiobook (Penguin Audio; 11 hr, 44 min) for a freelance assignment with AudioFile Magazine. Narrator Sophie Amoss did a fabulous job channeling Samantha's inner dialogue and capturing the personalities of the Bunny women. Regardless, I can't really recommend the book. Note, however, that the book won some starred reviews and was an Indie Next pick.

review of What Kind of Quiz Book Are You? by Rachel MacMahonWhat Kind of Quiz Book Are You? by Rachel MacMahon (Atria, July 2) This fun book is written by a poplular Buzz Feed quiz writer. Admit it, you love taking those quizzes, don't you? Well, I do: Can they guess my Zodiac sign based on the appetizers I like? Can they tell me what kind of smoothie I am? Can they reveal my favorite season of the year? Probably not, but it's still fun to answer the questions and check out the score sheet. This book is filled with tons of short quizzes that you can answer by yourself, bring to a party, try out on your partner, or even play with your kids (you might want to pick and choose). I learned that I'm hamburger, not a cheeseburger, which makes me an easygoing person. I also discovered that my summer fun should include going to a fair. And I now know I'm a mix of panda and cat, which means I'm lazy at times but always stand my ground. Ha! I haven't taken all the quizzes yet (I've been picking them at random), but Mr. BFR and I have had a good time giving them a go. If you're looking for great hostess gift or stocking stuffer for Christmas, this book is your answer! Enjoy, and be sure to tell me which color of the rainbow you are (I'm yellow: all about optimism and cheer). (Digital review copy provided by the publisher)

review of The Reunion by Guillaume MussoThe Reunion by Guillaume Musso and translated by Frank Wynne (Little Brown, July 9): This is a thriller set in the Côte d'Azur, France. When a group of old friends and acquaintances gather at a private school for their twenty-fifth reunion, old scandals resurface. The prettiest girl in the school, Vinca, had an affair with a male teacher and both went missing, never to be seen again. Where they are now and what happened then are at the core of the story. What's different here is that we learn early on the fate of the teacher and who might be responsible for that fate. Can that secret be kept? And if not, what will happen when it hits the papers? Musso deals out other clues and twists at a slower pace, and it's very easy to get caught up in the story. Thomas, now a world-famous author living in New York, has had a lifelong crush on the missing girl. His return home and reconnection with his friends stirs up old feelings and buried memories. This time, he's determined to find out the truth about Vinca, but what he discovers is not exactly what he expected. Be careful of what you wish for. Pop culture references are a fun addition to this thriller/mystery mashup. I highly recommend it. The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 8 hr, 3 min) was nicely read by Samuel West, Cassie Layton, Clare Wille, and David Rintoul. The different voices blend well and together increase the tension and surprise of the thriller. (Audio review copy provided by the publisher)

review of Bone Deep by Sandra IrelandBone Deep by Sandra Ireland (Gallery, June 11). This thriller is set in a small village in Scotland. Lucie moves into the miller's cottage when she takes a job as an assistant to Mac, an author who lives alone in the big house with her dogs. Mac's son, Arthur, is a baker and owns the local cafe. The book is set up as stories within parallel stories: Lucie moved out of her family home after having an affair with her sister's boyfriend, Mac is writing a book based on a local legend of two daughters of a nobleman, Arthur is getting over a lost love, Mac remembers her late husband's infidelity. The story is told by Lucie and Mac in alternating chapters that reveal each woman's inner thoughts and emotional turmoil as well as their shared reclusiveness and distrust of others. The beauty of the countryside, the damp cottage, and the creaking of the millstones create an almost Gothic atmosphere, as folk story and contemporary life clash and enmesh. I was pulled into the book from the first chapters and loved the richness of Ireland's style. Although I found a couple elements of the plotting hard to believe (I can't tell you what without spoiling the story), I was completely invested and recommend this as a decent summer thriller. (digital review copy provided by the publisher)

Review of The Rage of Dragons by Evan WinterThe Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (Orbit, July 16). This is the first in an epic fantasy with a strong African (and #ownvoices) foundation. For generations, the Omehi people have had one focus: fighting their enemies using the peasants as foot soldiers in support of the magically powerful "gifted" class. A handful of women have been chosen by the goddess to control dragons and channel power to the chosen men, transforming them into unbeatable fighters. Tau is not one of the chosen, but his heritage and skills make him a good fighter with decent prospects, until his father is killed mercilessly and the girl he loves shows signs of being gifted. Leaving his village for the city and a military training camp, Tau is determined to be the best swordsman the world has ever seen, doing what it takes to have his revenge for the death of his father. Gods, demons, the dark world, legends, class conflicts, African setting, nightmares, revenge, love, friendships, betrayals: this book has it all. Winter does a good job setting up his world, and the characters' choices and conflicts are believable. I'm sure this book is fantastic in print, but Prentice Onayemi's performance of the audiobook (Hachette Audio, 16 hr, 15 min) is simply stunning. His accents and characterizations place the story in Africa; his sense of pacing and the emotional level he brings to the action and to Tau's journey are perfect. If you're an audiobook fan, pick this! (audio review copy provided by the publisher)

15 comments:

JoAnn 7/8/19, 8:04 AM  

We lucked out with the weather on the 4th, too. Thunderstorms were predicted, but we just got a few sprinkles in the early evening and fireworks went off as planned!

The Reunion sounds like a thriller I might enjoy.

Mae Travels 7/8/19, 8:16 AM  

I like the idea of putting those quizzes in a book. I never take them online because I'm convinced that whatever undisclosed organization posts them is actually collecting information via your answers, and profiling you for some underhanded purpose. That sounds paranoid, but it's a whole new world of information misuses out there. A website with evil in mind would only have to put in a significant question occasionally, and people are so naive about answering. Sometimes they even ask about "your first pet" which is often a key answer on bank security websites. Or other similar questions.

signed ... no I'm not crazy, I'm Mae at maefood.blogspot.com

bermudaonion 7/8/19, 8:23 AM  

What Kind of Quiz Book are You? sounds like a lot of fun and Bone Deep sounds good too.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 7/8/19, 8:32 AM  

I love taking quizzes, especially with others, so I think What Kind of Quiz Book Are You? would be a book I'd like. I'm not a big thriller reader, but the current popular run of thrillers offers so many good ones that I can't resist sometimes. The Reunion definitely sounds like one I might look for.

rhapsodyinbooks 7/8/19, 8:42 AM  

Totally gonna pass on the bunny book. But the quiz book sounds perfect for Jim. He loves those online quizes!

Laurel-Rain Snow 7/8/19, 9:25 AM  

These all look tempting. The Reunion sounds like fun.

Thanks for sharing, and have a great week. Here are MY WEEKLY UPDATES

Susie | Novel Visits 7/8/19, 10:05 AM  

I DNF'd Bunny and after reading your review am very glad I did. The Reunion sounds like a perfect summer book to listen to. I'm adding it to my audiobook TBR list. Have a great week!

Kathy Martin 7/8/19, 12:50 PM  

Bunny does sound strange. I too am a fan of quizzes so that book sounds like fun. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Audra 7/8/19, 1:59 PM  

Sweltering hot holiday weekend, but my wife and kid were happy as they got to hike and enjoy a splash park. (I stayed in and read!)

I finished one nonfic and loved it, and have just started another, but am casting about for a novel. I just began Supper Club and haven't decided yet how I feel about it.

Greg 7/8/19, 2:33 PM  

Glad your cookout didn't get rained out! We had nice weather too- almost TOO nice haha (hot!!).

The Reunion sounds twisty and fabulous, and the setting? Yes please! I love the sound of that one.

Have a fantastic week!

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours 7/8/19, 3:29 PM  

The Reunion is fantastic. It's about time Musso is available in English!

Sue Jackson 7/8/19, 5:23 PM  

I had to laugh at your description of Bunny because I just read its review in BookPage and you captured just what I thought from the review - utterly weird! ha ha

The Reunion sounds good, though. I hadn't heard of it yet, so thanks for the heads up.

Glad you are enjoying your summer!

Sue

2019 Big Book Summer Challenge

shelleyrae @ book'd out 7/9/19, 4:45 AM  

There seems to be an uptick in novels translated from French authors recently, I hope you enjoy The Reunion.

Glad to hear you had a great 4th with friends and family.

Have a great reading week

Vicki 7/9/19, 12:43 PM  

I've never seen any of these books before. There are a few I'd like to read.

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