[465]: The Dinner by Herman Koch

DSC_0740GOODREADS SUMMARY | Hogarth | February 12th, 2013 | Hardcover, 304 pages
| Adult Fiction | Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

I wish I’d read Gone Girl before this. Because then I could at least decide if the comparison has  merits. As it is, this book was not what I’d expected for something that was highly praised by the literary community. Which proves  that once again, just because it’s a highly acclaimed book, it doesn’t mean the book is written for me.

Reservation for four.

The entire book happened in one day, most likely in just a few hours. The book is sectioned in parts that correspond with the courses of the meal. And as the meal progresses, bits of pieces about the characters and the plot are revealed. In the core is a story about a couple of brothers in the throes of a sibling rivalry, but they’ll never admit to each other’s jealousy. One is a high ranking official who may just be Netherland’s next Prime Minister, and the other, a teacher on leave due to a breakdown.

They have teens consisting of three boys and one girl. One was adopted from Africa. The epicenter of this book is around these kids, and why the dinner was called to begin with. I’m not going to expand any further, as it would ruin the anticipation of unraveling the threads.

All you need to know is that the slow reveal will either make you salivate or as in my case…

Lose your appetite.

How far would you go to protect your child? At what point does that love turn into madness? If you can answer those questions, then you might have a better chance at understanding these characters better than I did.

You will never meet a more unreliable narrator such as Paul.  He is a psychopath, and I don’t mean that in all the sense of the word. Perhaps, more of a sociopath? He presents a calm and well put together character, but he’s as unpredictable as they come. He beat his son’s principal to a pulp with nary a twitch, and he’s done worst things to others that he thought have done his son wrong. And yet the world sees him as a loving husband and a doting family man.  As a parent, I know the infinite length of  how far I would to go to protect my children. What I don’t know though, is whether I would forsake laws for them.

This is where you’ll start to wonder the relevance of nature versus nurture. And in this case, I think it’s a bit of both.

Over all, I struggled with this book. It didn’t appeal to my maternal instincts, nor did it engage me as a reader. The characters’ actions made sense, but I can’t say I felt any empathy.

You need to have an appreciation for an author’s wiles not to divulge information. At the same time, you need to have patience for some details that you’d normally consider as banal. Such was the root of my struggles with this book. It was stingy with the details that matter, and generous with the things that do not.

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[459]: Lethal by Sandra Brown


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Grand Central Publishing | Published: September 20th, 2011 | Hardcover, 472 pages | Adult Fiction | Suspense | Romance | Mystery | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Honor Gillete could not have foreseen the identity of the man that her daughter found sprawled and bleeding in their yard. Not even that of an accused mass murderer who killed at least 7 people in a shooting at a shipping warehouse. Armed and dangerous, he promised Honor that no harm will come to her and her daughter. The more time she spent with him, however, the more she questions the worth of the man’s word. Honor soon discovers that Coburn ending up in her yard may not be accidental. He claims that her husband was in possession of something that could put a face to an organization whose criminal activities puts the mafia to shame.

The race is on to find whatever it was her dead husband found, but only if they can escape those who wanted them dead first.

So this book had everything that I’ve come to enjoy about her books…well, except for one thing: the ending left me shouting expletives because she decided that implied happy ending would be better than no HEA. Seriously?!

It is not okay. Okay?!

It was cruelty in the basest of form. Sigh.

This book features the second worst kind of depravity I’ve ever read in all of her works. The first one being Breath of Scandal, where the avenging heroine was gang-raped headed by a man whose family had influence in their small town. Lethal had human trafficking, corrupt public officials, drug trafficking, and killings left and right.

Chase is the name of the game here. Sometimes, it got to a point where I thought Coburn and Honor could not possibly get away from all those who were after them. I mean, how could they? When they didn’t know who was in the payroll of the crime organization, and whose money had reaches even so far as the FBI. However, the best thing about Sandra’s books is that the good guys are always a step ahead of the bad guys. Just when you think, “this is it. They’re going to get caught for sure!”, Sandra manages to let them slip away almost flawlessly. At the same time, I’m worried that I’m starting to feel complacent. That the next time I read something of hers, she’ll pull a fast one on me, then puts her characters through immeasurable torture.

I have read 12 of her books. Each one a stand alone, and not a part of a series. I honestly couldn’t tell you which is a favourite because each one is equally fantastic on their own rights. While I was writing this post, I was also stalking her Goodreads page, looking for clues on when her next book would be out. To my utter disappointment, she just released a new one. Which means, that I will be waiting for at least two more years until her next book. Then I realized, that I own at least 13 more of her books that I haven’t read. Hopefully, it will keep me satiated for now.

Do you like romantic suspense?

Or Linda Howard, for that matter? Because if your answer is yes, you’ll definitely enjoy Sandra Brown’s books. But I must warn you that hers are the habit-forming kind. You’ll find yourself looking for your next hit soon after you finish one, guaranteed.


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[455]: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters


GOODREADS SUMMARY | McClelland & Stewart | Hardcover, 576 pages
Publication Date: September 16th, 2014 | Adult Fiction | Historical | Mystery
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

The literary world is a vast universe I’ve only began to explore. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon Sarah Waters’ latest via a recommendation from one of the ladies at my bookstore. I wasn’t familiar with the author and her work, and much to my delight, I found out that Sarah Waters has the corner on a specific arch: lesbian protagonists in an historical setting. I’m ashamed to admit that this is my very first read featuring a lesbian relationship, considering that I’ve read my fair share of gay lit featuring two males.

More and more, I’m learning that if I read up on an author’s background, it helps understand why they chose a specific niche. Sarah Waters’ background on lesbians and gay in historical fictions inspired  the characters in her books. However, I’ve yet to read other books for which she’s known for (Fingersmith or Tipping the Velvet), but I was able to have to taste of it in this novel.

This one follows the story of Frances; a woman who had to be at the helm of what’s left of the family fortune.  Her brothers were both killed in the war; closely followed by the death of her father, leaving her to care for her mother and a house in a state of disrepair. As they learned that her father lost just about everything to failed ventures, Frances and her mother decided to take on borders (or paying guests) to alleviate the financial stress. This was how they met Lillian and Leonard Barber, the childless married couple who would be the subject of Frances’ great curiousity, and would spearhead a tumult of chaos in what used to be a peaceful life.

Frances didn’t expect to experience such great attraction to Lillian, but the lonely homemaker found what her husband lacked in Frances. I suppose if I’d to dive deeper into her psyche, I’d say that Frances offered refinement, and gentle love as oppose to Leonard’s exuberance. What started out as friendship and easy companionship evolved into a clandestine affair between the two women. To read such a relationship in that era and how women dealt with the condemnation of the time was interesting to me. What’s even more surprising (or maybe not so), is that in the present time, if you find yourself in a conservative circle, you’ll probably be met with the same narrow-minded judgement. In some cases, status quo is about the same.

Another point of interest for me was the implications of the women’s role during and after the war. When men left to fight, women assumed the jobs that they vacated. Waters deftly captures the gender role reversals after the war: while the men could barely find employment, the women have become established in positions that were previously unavailable to them. Some men felt castrated, and didn’t shy away from expressing their opinions.

Because this book was my baptism of fire to Waters’ works, I would consider it as an adjustment period of sorts. A taste test, to get a feel of what to expect from her. I’ve never been one to go for award-winning body of works, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try them. Sarah Waters writes with sophistication, but hardly reticent to tackle anything that could be considered crass or uncivilized, if need be.

I enjoyed this one, but I think hers are the kind of novels where your mood dictates exactly when you should pick them up. I’m looking forward to Fingersmith, though; and wouldn’t mind picking up her other novels as well.

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