Rating: 4.25 Books
Author: Herman Koch
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: 10/2013
It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.
Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act--an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children, and as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
In The Dinner by Herman Koch, two brothers, Serge and Paul, and their wives made plans to meet for dinner to discuss an issue with their sons. Serge Lohman is a successful politician and is running for Prime Minister, married to his wife Babette and has three children, Rick, Valerie and an adopted son Beau, while Paul Lohman, the narrator, is married to his wife Claire and has one son Michel, is a stay at home dad. Paul and Claire, decide to arrive a half hour late to dinner, hoping Serge and Babette, would be at the restaurant waiting for them, however, they had not arrived yet. Once they arrived, Serge would constantly try to have a serious conversation with everyone at the table but Paul would find ways to change the subject. Immediately Paul starts to discuss the reason he does not like Serge since he finds him to be pompous and selfish and believes Serge tries to show sympathy only to garner votes to become Prime Minister. When Paul finds Serge's behavior outlandish he excuses himself to go to the bathroom, but when he returns, he finds Serge and Babette arguing at the table and Babette excuses herself. At the same time Claire and Babette are away from the table, Serge once again tries to strike up a conversation but Paul diverts his attention when a voter wants to take a picture with Serge. Once again Paul leaves the table and realizes he has his son's telephone and decides to goes through it. While Paul is investigating Michel's phone, Michel calls from home wondering why his father has his phone and is going to get the phone at the restaurant. When Michel goes to the restaurant to retrieve his phone, Paul asks him about the videos on the phone and YouTube. Michel blames his cousin, Beau, for putting the video on YouTube and trying to blackmail both Rick and Michel. The conversation goes from one topic to another but Serge is finally able to bring up the subject that has brought them all to dinner--their son's, Michel and Rick, committed a crime but the police don't know who it is yet and they are being sought after. Serge expresses his concern for Rick because it's affecting him and believes they should go to the police. Everyone else at the table is trying to convince him it was an accident and nothing should be done. Serge is also willing to give up his candidacy for Prime Minister in order to do the right thing for Rick. Paul and Claire decide to do what's necessary to stop Serge from holding a press conference the next day. Ultimately, Serge loses the election and his son, Beau, goes missing. The truth remained with the family.
This is a complicated book. Initially, it took some time getting into the book because it seemed a dry and hard to get through. Even with that said I thought this book was well written. The semi-slow pace adds to the suspense of the book. It had me at the edge of my seat. In the course of reading The Dinner, I started to feel anxious because I got the sense there are things going on in the background but I wasn't sure what they are or what they mean. For example, Paul's character immediately made you dislike Serge and pointed out all the characteristics he wanted you to see - arrogant, sneaky, pompous, and selfish. Nonetheless, as the book progresses you start to get a better picture and understanding of what the dynamic is between the brothers. Paul suffers from a disorder while his brother tries to help him so he doesn't lose control. As you continue to read you know something bad has happened and you start getting antsy trying to figure out what it is--What did the boys do? Why are the parents avoiding the topic? Why is Paul withholding information from Claire? As Koch continues to draw you into the story you find you're at wits end trying to figure out the mystery and when it's finally divulged you're disgusted and appalled. We finally get the gist of why the dinner was put together--their sons committed a crime and the police are looking for them. The boys killed someone and have a history of attacking other people while videotaping the encounters. On top of that, the adults plan to do nothing about it except for Serge, who seemed to be the only one with morals and ethics and concern for Rick. The crime was starting to weigh on Rick's mind, for instance, he was having sleepless nights and his schoolwork was being affected. On the other hand, Michel was behaving as though nothing was out of the ordinary. The only thing that worried him was the news report with the blurry pictures of the crime being committed and Beau threatening to tell the adults what they did. In the meantime, Paul and Claire are trying to convince Serge that it was an accident and they shouldn't tell the police and Babette doesn't want Serge to destroy his chances at becoming Prime Minister. Is it any wonder the teenagers have no moral compass when the people raising them don't have them either.
I found the story line intriguing which is why I chose to read the book. You will find a lot of mixed reviews for this book. Honestly, I thought the book was good even though I gave it a 4.25 rating. It's a slow start/progression and you wonder what is going on but stick with it since the dynamic between the adults makes it for a very interesting read. The Dinner makes you question the things you thought about yourself and the people you love and the things you would do for them.
There are so many things to discuss from this book: Did you like the book? What do you think of the style of writing? How empathetic are as humans? What would you do for your child? Do you have strong morals and ethics? Which character do you identify with? Why do you identify with that character? What do you think of Michel and Rick? Do you think Beau posted the videos on YouTube and is blackmailing his cousin and brother? What do you think happened to Beau? What do you think of the marriages between Serge and Babette and Paul and Claire? Who was manipulating who in the story? Do you think the boys learned their lesson or will they do it again? How would you have handled the situation?
Author: Tana French
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: May 2008
THE DEBUT NOVEL OF AN ASTONISHING NEW VOICE IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE
In Tana French's powerful debut thriller, three children leave their small Dublin neighborhood to play in the surrounding woods. Hours later, their mothers' calls go unanswered. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children, gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, Detective Rob Ryan--the found boy, who has kept his past secret--and his partner Cassie Maddox investigate the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in the same woods. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case him, and that of his own shadowy past.
"What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this--two things: I crave truth. And I lie."
As the narrator of the story Detective Rob Ryan takes us through two stories simultaneously. We start off with the mystery of what happened to him and his friends that fateful day in the woods. He was the only survivor and nobody seems to know what happened to his friends, Jamie and Peter, including him. Throughout his childhood he would often wonder and question whether his friends were alive and if they left him. His story is weaved in occasionally during the current investigation of twelve year-old Katy Devlin who was killed in the same woods. Ryan is convinced there's a connection between the two cases but the only problem is that he can't remember anything the day his friends disappeared. While working with his friend and partner Detective Cassie Maddox he starts to lose touch with reality. Ryan had no choice but to tell Detective Maddox about his past. They both try to keep it hidden from the Chief and they're new partner Sam O'Neill but Maddox is often concerned about Ryan's mental state and realizes that he isn't handling the Devlin case well. Ryan keeps remembering odd details from his friends disappearance but starts to make serious mistakes in the Devlin case. It finally came to a head when his house of cards fell down and not even his friendships were able to survive.
I was a conflicted reading this book. I'd heard a lot of good things about it and couldn't wait to read it but I found Detective Ryan to be infuriating, self-sabotaging, immature and lost. I wanted to like him as a character but all I wanted to do was yell at him for making very dumb mistakes. He is an oxymoron. I sympathized with him for what he went through when he was young and his abandonment issues but on the other hand he had no self-awareness of the way he behaved and treated others until it was too late. The story line was good and Ryan told it well but there were times it needed to pick up a bit. Are there parts I would take out of the book? Nothing that I could pinpoint to but there was a sense of dragging. There were times I wondered how he became a detective. It often seemed he wanted to play detective more than be one. While he wasn't inept at all Maddox definitely held up a lot more than her end of the stick.
I know it sounds like I really didn't like this book and it's strange that I would give it for 4 Book Rating but it wasn't the story line that I disliked it was the character which to me shows I invested a lot of emotional time in the book which makes it a good book to read. Would I read it again? Honestly, probably not. This has no bearing on French as a writer but has more to do with Ryan the character. Am I going to read the second book to this series? Yes, I want to know if the original case gets solved. I want to know what happened to Adam Ryan's friends and why he was let go or how he was able to escape. To me that was the more compelling story and not the Devlin murder.
Did you read In the Woods? What did you think? Did you like the book? Would you read another of French's books? Have you read any other of her books? What did you think of Adam Ryan and Cassie Maddox? Is there anything you would alter in the story?
Author: Nelson Demille
Publisher: Warner Books
Publication Date: October 1994
The cold war is over, and Keith Landry, one of the nation's top intelligence officers, is forced into early and unwanted retirement. Restless, Landry returns to Spencerville, the small Midwestern town where he grew up. The place has changed in the quarter century since Landry stepped off his front porch into the world, but two important people from his past are still there: Annie Prentis, his first love, and Cliff Baxter, the high school bully who became the police chief of Spencerville and Annie's possessive husband. They're all about to come together again-and rip Spencerville apart with violence, vengeance, and renewed passion.
MY THOUGHTS (w/spoilers):
Keith Landry returns to Spencerville with no clear plans for his future. All he knows is that he no longer has a job with the U.S. government and he's tired of being used by them too. He decides to return to his childhood home to try civilian life while in the back of his mind always thinking of the girl who got away, Annie Prentis, and what could have been. After realizing Annie's husband, Cliff Baxter, is a bully not only to his wife but to a whole town Keith decides everyone is better off without him. However, he promised Annie not to do anything which makes things quite difficult when they realize they still love each other and want to be together. Cliff knew his behavior would come back to haunt him as his time as police chief and a husband may soon be ending. Considering Cliff's life is starting to fall apart the last thing he wants to lose is his wife and not because he loves her but he sees her as a possession. However, knowing how volatile Cliff is Annie and Keith decide they're willing to give their relationship a try and take off. Unfortunately, Cliff tracks them down and takes Annie away to a remote area where it won't be easy for anyone to get to her. Not willing to give up on the relationship Keith sets off to get Annie and get some overdue payback.
I've read another book by Demille before and liked it (e.g., The General's Daughter). This book, however, took me some time to finish. There was almost a point when I didn't think I was gonna finish it. It just kept dragging. UGH! When I knew I was getting to the end I was getting more excited that I would finally finish the book than the book actually being good. I'm guessing it was trying to build anticipation but I wanted Keith to make up his mind and figure out what and how he was going to do. I didn't understand how he was an intelligence officer for years and he just couldn't get it together. I expected his expertise to kick in. The build up leading up to the rescue and big showdown with Cliff left me quite disappointed. I thought to myself "Really?! That's it!" Nothing hurts than finishing a book and feeling like you wasted your time. This by any means is to disparage Nelson Demille's writing abilities. I have friends who are fans and I value their book choice opinions. This book just didn't do it for me.
Have you read Spencerville? Would you read it after my review? If you have read it, did you like it? Would you reread it? What did you think of Keith Landry throughout the book? Have you read other Nelson Demille books? Would you recommend any of his books?
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication Date: January 2015
EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
MY THOUGHTS (w/a few spoilers):
The Girl on the Train is a page turner from the beginning. While this is Paula Hawkins's first time writing a thriller she did a great job keeping the reader engaged throughout the whole story. Hawkins's uses the voices of three characters to tell the story - Rachel Watson, Megan Hipwell and Anna Boyd. Each character tells their story in relation to Megan's disappearance.
Rachel Watson is the sad, depressed, drunk heroine who's life has been turned upside down by her divorce to her now ex-husband Tom. In order to dull the hurt and anger caused by her ex-husband Tom and his new wife Anna Boyd, Rachel has turned to drinking. One day while on her way to work she believes she may have seen the person who is responsible for Megan Hipwell's death. Due to having a fantasy about Megan's life Rachel feels compelled to involve herself in the investigation because she's convinced herself she can help solve the case. This is also a way for her to have a purpose in her life. However, Tom and Anna discredited Rachel to the police by painting her as a stalker and harasser. In the meantime Rachel is haunted by a memory of the night Megan disappeared but due to being in a drunk she can't put the pieces together. Amid Rachel's storyline we also hear from Megan and how unhappy she is with her life. Even though she is happy with her husband she has a secret that she has hidden from him and tries to deal with it herself. Oftentimes unsuccessfully. Meghan comes across a lost individual. Throughout the book Anna has deep contempt for Rachel. As she divulges her reasons for the threat she believes Rachel poses to her and her family it's also hard to find a lot of sympathy for her character.
As I read The Girl on the Train, I couldn't help but feel sad and embarrassed for Rachel. Her life consisted of trying to lie not only to herself but to everyone around her and prove she had not fallen apart. Slowly Rachel divulges what her life has been like for the past few years after her divorce. She'd lost everything. Through Megan's disappearance Rachel felt she could make things better. She would not only help bring the murderer to light but also help pull herself together. She would be a hero. Unfortunately, Rachel didn't take into account by trying to help Megan she would also uncover some parts of her past she also hid from herself. Meghan came across as someone who was very unsure of herself and always trying to please someone. She was very unhappy. She would try to find happiness in all the wrong places and unfortunately it came back to bite her. Anna was my least favorite character. She failed to take any responsibility in causing Rachel's relationship to end. It was at the end that she redeemed herself.
My only one very small complaint about the book is that Hawkins didn't make Rachel's sobriety believable to me. From what I understood Rachel had been drinking for quite some time and I didn't see Rachel struggling to quit. Maybe Rachel's need to help in the investigation overcame her need to drink. I guess it can happen.
Overall: I really liked the book. It was well written and kept me engaged throughout the whole thing. I wanted to know who the killer was and was surprised when it was revealed. I read and did the audiobook too (gave me an opportunity to knit). I enjoyed both mediums. I have not seen the movie but I plan to.
What did you think of the book? Did you think all the character's were believable? Do you think Hawkins did a good job unveiling what happened to Meghan? Did you feel for any of the characters? If so, why or why not?
Author: Lianne Moriarty
Published Date: August 2015
Sometimes it's the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal.
A murder...A tragic accident...Or just parents behaving badly? What's indisputable is that someone is dead.
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She's funny, biting, and passionate; she remembers everything and forgives no one. Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare, but she is paying a price for the illusion of perfection. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for a nanny. These three women are a different crossroads, but they will all wind up in the same shocking place.
Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
An unlikely trio of women become friends during the first day of school orientation for their 5-year old children. If only it was that easy. The books starts with a murder which took place at a parent/teacher Trivia Night. Although the place was full of people nobody seems to know what happened including the ones that were at the scene. The story focuses on Madeline, Celeste and Jane. Madeline is a firecracker. She’s someone who would bat for you if she considers you a friend but who you wouldn't want to be on her bad side. Jane is young, quiet and shy but with a secret that she's scared anyone will find out. Celeste is in a word - beautiful. She walks into a room and people literally trip over themselves to stare at her. Her life and her husband are what everyone hopes to have. However, they all have their own dilemmas. Moriarty does a great job keeping you engaged in the mystery while divulging what is going on in these woman's personal lives.
I really enjoyed this book and was hooked from the beginning. While the book is a suspense/thriller there's also is an element of humor. Oftentimes I found myself laughing at the snippets of the various parents trying to tell the detective what happened that night. While some were drunk or weren’t even in the area of the murder, many couldn’t quite help divulge the personal information of some of the parents there. In the meantime, the detective is trying to figure out what happened and we get a pretty good idea of how cliquey the school has become. The story had me guessing up until the end and I definitely didn’t expect the outcome.
What did you think of the characters? Would you have been friends with Madeline, Jane and/or Celeste? Could you relate to any part of the problems that they had? Did you think Moriarty did a good job telling the story? Is there anything you would change? Did you know who did it before it was revealed? Do you think the ending came together?
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