Review: The Operator by Gretchen Berg

 

Title: The Operator

Author: Gretchen Berg

Published: March 10th 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read March 2020, courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

I had been looking forward to reading The Operator, expecting something light, and quirky, perhaps with a bit of an edge, in a wholesome 1950’s small town setting.

That’s not really what this is though. The Operator is satire, exploring the darker side of small town life that lurks beneath the veneer of respectability.

I struggled with The Operator, in large part because I didn’t much care much for the characters. The residents of Wooster, Ohio, or at least those with whom we spend the most time, Vivian and Betty, are mainly unpleasant, perpetually unsatisfied, small-minded women whose flaws are their own undoing. Vivian’s lifelong habit of eavesdropping, which she indulges freely as a telephone operator, proves the old adage, “eavesdroppers never hear any good of themselves”, true. While Betty, a spiteful, snob is ripe to learn, “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

Though I found the pacing a little slow and disjointed through the first half, the story has its moments as Vivian digs into the secrets being kept from her, exposing scandals far more serious than who has answered the door without makeup on, including premarital pregnancy, adultery, robbery, bigamy, and desertion.

Of additional interest, the author’s note reveals the story is loosely based on her own grandmother’s life and as such some elements of the story are rooted in fact, including the misspelled recipes, poems, and a news article.

I didn’t particularly enjoy The Operator, though I didn’t particularly dislike it either, it just wasn’t for me. It may be just what your looking for though.

++++++

Read a Sample

Available from William Morrow

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: Takes One To Know One by Susan Isaacs

 

Title: Takes One To Know One

Author: Susan Isaacs

Published: October 1st 2019, Grove Atlantic

Status: Read September 2019, courtesy Grove Atlantic/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

I was excited by the premise of Susan Isaacs Takes One To Know One and I’d really been looking forward to it reaching the top of my pile.

“Just a few years ago, Corie Geller was busting terrorists as an agent for the FBI. But at thirty-five, she traded in her badge for the stability of marriage and motherhood. Now Corie is married to the brilliant and remarkably handsome Judge Josh Geller and is the adoptive mother of his lovely 14-year-old daughter. Between cooking meals and playing chauffeur, Corie scouts Arabic fiction for a few literary agencies and, on Wednesdays, has lunch with her fellow Shorehaven freelancers at a so-so French restaurant. Life is, as they say, fine.

But at her weekly lunches, Corie senses that something’s off. Pete Delaney, a milquetoast package designer, always shows up early, sits in the same spot (often with a different phone in hand), and keeps one eye on the Jeep he parks in the lot across the street. Corie intuitively feels that Pete is hiding something–and as someone who is accustomed to keeping her FBI past from her new neighbors, she should know. But does Pete really have a shady alternate life, or is Corie just imagining things, desperate to add some spark to her humdrum suburban existence? She decides that the only way to find out is to dust off her FBI toolkit and take a deep dive into Pete Delaney’s affairs.”

So when I was considering giving up on it, just a little more than a quarter of the way through, I opted instead to put it aside for twenty four hours, and then try again. Honestly I picked it back up reluctantly and I have to admit the next quarter or so was still a slog, then at about the halfway point, the pace picked up and I suddenly couldn’t put it down.

I’m not exactly sure why I found the first half of Takes One To Know One so laborious. Told through Corie Geller’s first person perspective, the narrative felt, at times, closer to a stream of consciousness, bogged down in the details of Corie’s life. To be fair I think the poor formatting of the e-arc may have contributed to that impression, as there is no spacing between paragraphs, or even chapters, resulting in an uncomfortable run-on effect. That I didn’t really warm to Corie’s angst regarding the changes her marriage had wrought, probably didn’t help either.

For me the story finally got interesting when Corie began seriously investigating Pete Delaney and the narrative became more interactive (if that makes sense). As Corie considers and discards potential criminal scenarios that Pete Delaney could be involved in, she calls on ex colleagues for information, uses her best friend, Wynne, as a sounding board, and involves her dad, a retired police detective, in her investigation. It all eventually leads to a tense confrontation that I found unexpectedly thrilling.

I’m not sure that I can say the last half of the book was enough to redeem Takes One To Know One for me, but it’s entirely possible that you may not find the first half as problematic as I did, it may be worth a try if the premise appeals.

++++++

Available from Grove Atlantic

Or from your preferred retailer Indiebound I Book Depository I

Review: Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

 

Title: Our Stop

Author: Laura Jane Williams

Published: August 8th 2019, Avon UK

Status: Read August 2019, courtesy Avon/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Our Stop is a light hearted romantic comedy from UK columnist and Instagram influencer, Laura Jane Williams.

“To the devastatingly cute blonde girl on the Northern line with the black designer handbag and coffee stains on her dress–you get on at Angel, on the 7.30, always at the end nearest the escalator, and always in a hurry. I’m the guy who’s standing near the doors of your carriage, hoping today’s a day you haven’t overslept. Drink some time?”

Not quite sure how to introduce himself to the ‘devastatingly cute blonde girl’ who regularly shares his train carriage during his morning commute, Daniel Weissman opts to place a message in ‘Missed Connections’. Nadia Fielding is not entirely convinced the message is meant for her but she is willing to take a chance of finding true love, and replies. A flirtation ensues through the column, but when their first planned meeting goes awry it seems it will all come to nothing…unless fate steps in.

Generally the tone of the Our Stop is a light and witty romance with a very millennial vibe, though Williams touches on some serious issues such as emotional abuse, consent, depression, and UK politics.

The story unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Nadia and Daniel as their relationship is impeded by a series of missed opportunities. Nadia is likeable enough, a fairly typical heroine for the genre, except that her work has something to do with artificial intelligence, which does make a nice change from the usual professions (PR/PA) pursued by romcom heroines. Daniel is perhaps a little too perfect – embodying the ideal ‘millennial’ male, but appealing nonetheless, and I particularly liked the portrayal of his relationships with his friends, and parents.

It’s not easy to develop romantic tension over the length of a book between two people who never meet, nor given the need for a string of contrived near-misses, to sustain interest in the potential of the relationship, but I thought Williams did so reasonably well. While I did feel it was all dragged out a bit too long overall, I wanted to see how Williams would finally bring Nadia and Daniel together, and I was satisfied when they finally got their happy ever after.

Ultimately Our Stop was an okay read for me, not quite as engaging as I was hoping for, but not bad either.

++++++

Available from Avon UK

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I Indiebound

Review: The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin

 

Title: The Accidentals

Author: Minrose Gwin

Published: August 13th 2019, William Morrow

Status: Read August 2019 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

It was the blurb of The Accidentals that caught my attention, promising a generational story focused primarily on two sisters, June and Grace McAlister, beginning in the 1950’s with the death of their mother, Olivia, from a botched backyard abortion.

I liked the first quarter of this novel, which concentrated on the sisters’ child and teen years after the loss of their mother, and feel that had Gwin kept this her focus, I would have been quite satisfied. Unfortunately I soon began to feel that the characters became passengers, rather than agents, of the story.

The author seemed determined to make reference to every topical social issue possible, including but not limited to, homosexuality, abortion, teen pregnancy, racism, ‘passing’, mental illness, gender inequality, Alzheimers, cancer, the rights of felons to vote, as well as touching on major cultural events such as WWII, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Challenger Disaster, and Obama’s Inaugural Presidential Run. As such, much like the birds – the ‘accidental’s’ that lose their way = so too does this story.

Which is a shame, because it’s clear that Gwin can write, and there was a lot of good here. It’s an emotionally charged novel, perhaps bleaker than I was expecting, but also often moving and sincere.

I didn’t dislike The Accidental’s, it just didn’t quite work for me, but it may well work for you.

Read a sample

++++++

Available from HarperCollins US

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository

Review: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife by Barbara Toner

 

Title: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife

Author: Barbara Toner

Published: April 2nd 2019, Bantam Australia

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse AU

++++++

My Thoughts:

Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife is the sequel to Barbara Toner’s novel, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband.

In the intervening decade, Pearl McLeary has become a married mother of four, Adelaide Nightingale has been widowed, Maggie O’Connell is unhappily married, and not one of them is happy about the return of Louisa Worthington to Prospect.

Perhaps if I had read Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband previously, I would have been more invested in the characters, and hence the story. But unfortunately I have to admit I mostly found this quite hard going, though I did read to the end as I wanted to know how the four women resolved their issues.

I expect that those readers who enjoyed Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband, will also enjoy this.

Read an Extract

++++++

Purchase from Penguin Australia or your preferred retailer via Booko

 

Review: One for the Books by Joe Queenan

 

Title: One for the Books

Author: Joe Queenan

Published: October 2012 Viking

Read: Read December 2012

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

I had hoped Joe Queenan’s ‘One for the Books’ would prove to be an exception from the often stuffy, professorial tomes that wax lyrical about the joys of reading, as long as that reading is almost exclusively authored by, or about, Dead White Dudes (D.W.D).

In part it was, but unfortunately Queenan’s humour doesn’t quite negate his narrow definition of what ‘good books’ are. Queenan is a book snob, dismissing genre fiction almost in its entirety, and championing way too many D.W.D.

I was particularly frustrated by Queenan’s dismissive attitudes to libraries (his white male privilege is showing there), and his hatred of ebooks, and ereaders. I own about equal amounts of both print and ebooks, that brings my current total to somewhere over 4000 books. I have read many more, owned many more, borrowed many more, given away many more. I have, and I doubt anyone I know would dispute it, ‘…engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books…’ ,and I don’t care if they are written longhand on parchment, or are a complicated string of binary numbers…a book, is a book, is a book, no matter the format.

So, sadly, my search for a book from a self confessed bibliophile who isn’t contemptuous of the other 99% of readers continues.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

PenguinRandomHouse I Indiebound I Amazon US

Booko I Amazon AU

Review: Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

Title: Most Wanted

Author: Lisa Scottoline

Published: April 12th 2016 St Martins Press.

Status: Read April 2019 – courtesy St Martins/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Scottoline is known for stories that explore emotive issues which affect families within the context of a thriller, ensuring a loyal readership. I selected this book on the strength of its description, it offers a compelling hook, and definitely has genre appeal.

Most Wanted begins strongly as Christine and Marcus struggle with the idea that the biological father of their unborn child may be a serial killer, but unfortunately it soon devolves into a farce.

Unlike some other readers I actually thought that Marcus’s behaviour throughout was believable, but I could find nothing that supported Christine’s actions. I empathised with her initial fears, but really could not rationalise her subsequent conduct. Christine’s insistence on her intuitive ‘connection’ with Zachary, the donor, was laughable, and while elementary teachers are generally resourceful, I thought the way in which she inserted herself into the investigation was implausible.

On a slightly more positive note, Most Wanted was a quick, well paced read, though largely because it lacked any real substance.

I felt Most Wanted began with an intriguing idea, unfortunately I just thought it was poorly executed.

++++++

Available to Purchase via

Macmillan I Indiebound I Amazon US I Book Depository

Booko

Review: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Title: I Owe You One

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Published: Bantam Press February 2019

Status: Read April 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

It’s difficult to have to admit disappointment in what was once an author I could reliably expect to find entertaining. Perhaps I’m simply too jaded (ok…old) now to be charmed by Kinsella’s formula, because I’ve increasingly found her heroines insipid, and the romances underwhelming.

I found myself horribly impatient with not only Fixie’s inability to leave things alone, but also her repeated failure to defend herself from her narcissistic siblings. The romance between Seb and Fixie, complicated by the presence of Whiny Briony, is a touch unsavoury, though I did like the meet-cute setup. Ryan is so irredeemably awful from the outset I could never take him seriously.

That said, there were moments that I found entertaining, the shop assistants in Farr’s, the family business, were amusing, and I particularly enjoyed it when the Cake Club crashed the Farr’s store’s ‘relaunch’ party.

I Owe You One is an undemanding romantic comedy, and I expect fans of Kinsella will generally enjoy it, unfortunately I found it just tolerable.

++++++

Read an Excerpt

Available to Purchase

Penguin AU | Booktopia I Amazon Au

Book Depository I Amazon US I Amazon UK

#lovebetweenthepages

Review: Good Riddance by Eleanor Lipman

Title: Good Riddance

Author: Eleanor Lipman

Published: Houghton Mifflin February 2019

Status: Read from Feb 6th to Feb 6th 2019

Daphne Maritch doesn’t quite know what to make of the heavily annotated high school yearbook she inherits from her mother, who held this relic dear. Too dear. The late June Winter Maritch was the teacher to whom the class of ’68 had dedicated its yearbook, and in turn she went on to attend every reunion, scribbling notes and observations after each one—not always charitably—and noting who overstepped boundaries of many kinds. 

In a fit of decluttering (the yearbook did not, Daphne concluded, “spark joy”), she discards it when she moves to a small New York City apartment. But when it’s found in the recycling bin by a busybody neighbor/documentary filmmaker, the yearbook’s mysteries—not to mention her own family’s—take on a whole new urgency, and Daphne finds herself entangled in a series of events both poignant and absurd. “

Read an Excerpt

My Thoughts:

Meh.

I was underwhelmed by ‘Good Riddance’. The yearbook, and it’s potential, was a great hook for a story, but I found the plot superficial and banal. So too was Daphne, Lipman’s main protagonist.It was her father, Tom, that I liked most, and who I thought had the most complete character arc.

A quick, easy read, but not one I’d recommend unless you are a particular fan of the author.

—————————————–

Available to Purchase From

HMH Books or your favourite retailer

Review: How to be Single by Liz Tuccillo

 

Title: How to be Single

Author: Liz Tucillo

Published: Simon & Schuster AU February 2016

Status: Read from March 28 to 29, 2010  – I own a copy

My Thoughts:

How to be Single has been re published to tie in with the movie release of the same name starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, and Damon Wayans Jr.

I read this novel back in 2010 in my pre blogging days but posted some thoughts on Goodreads at the the time which I have shared below.

Maybe because I have never really been single, I just found this trite. From the perspective of being married, I want to tell these thirty something women to grow up and get over the princess in waiting attitude. I feel like most of the women have completely unrealistic expectations of what love and commitment are. Really if the reason Julie can’t get a guy is because she is only a size 6 and has cellulite – then how does that explain the hordes of happily coupled/married size 12 and up women?
Julie in particular is shallow and unlikeable, even before she decides that her true love lies in an already married man (no matter how open his marriage may be). I mean, really? I am wondering why she even bothered leaving her hotel when “researching” – somehow I think speaking to less than a dozen people in an entire country does not count as thorough investigation.
The girls who are left at home are much more interesting – Georgia falling apart in the wake of her husband leaving her, Ruby contemplating single motherhood, Serena acting like a total flake and Alice holding on to an ideal in the face of reality.
There were moments in this book – warm and humorous, but overall I think this book is irritating and I am not the least bit surprised that Julie remains single.

Available to purchase from

Simon & Schuster AU  Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

Amazon US I Amazon UK I BookDepository

and all good bookstores.

 

Watch the official movie trailer

Previous Older Entries