REVIEW: TANGERINE, BY CHRISTINE MANGAN

 

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country. 

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

My Thoughts: Set in mid-century Morocco, Tangerine reveals the push and pull between Alice Shipley and Lucy Mason, college friends who parted after a tragic event. Told in their alternating voices, we see the uncertainty between them.

Alice has moved to Tangiers with her husband, John McAllister, hoping to start over. Sadly, however, the marriage is disappointing in many ways. She and John seem to have very different thoughts and feelings about their new surroundings, and they are a bit off-balance, too, because of how they are depending quite a bit on Alice’s trust fund. Perhaps because of the power struggle, John often tries to push Alice out of her comfort zone, encouraging her to be more sociable, but he comes across as a bully.

When Lucy Mason arrives unexpectedly, everything changes between the three of them. Alice hasn’t moved past what happened in Bennington, when they were in their senior year of college. Nothing about those events was ever satisfactorily explained…but Alice has always felt uneasy. She pushes the feelings down, however, and tries to be a good hostess.

What will trigger long-hidden memories and feelings and change the direction between them? What will Lucy do when pushed up against the wall? Will Alice find the courage to do what she needs to do? Or will Lucy manage to out-maneuver her when she senses her own wishes might not be realized?

An intense and twisted tale of obsession that brings the worst kind of betrayal, ending with mistaken identities and lost dreams. There is no happy ending here, and the book kept its grip on me throughout, but I kept hoping for something to change, for someone to finally find a good resolution. In the end, I sighed with relief that I no longer had to guess what might happen. But I definitely wanted a different outcome. 3.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE GIRL BEFORE, BY J. P. DELANEY

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Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer the ad, the consequences are devastating.

Set in London, The Girl Before offers an intriguing look at how one architect sets out to control who lives in an unusual house that he has designed, and what he will do to make sure his vision is realized.

But what kind of vision would require such obsessiveness? Can Emma Matthews, whose tenure at One Folgate Street came first in our story, find what she is looking for? How will living there alter her life, and change her relationship with Simon? What will Simon do after she decides she wants him out of her life?

In the present, Jane Cavendish is luxuriating in the opportunity to start over after the devastating loss of her infant daughter, just days before her birth. She hopes that the simple, minimalist lifestyle in this new residence will heal her wounds.

But as she becomes aware of some disturbing connections between her and the previous tenant, she will have to reexamine what she thought was best for her life.

The tale alternates between the two narrators, and it doesn’t take any time at all to realize that nothing good can come of this new lifestyle. Hovering overhead is a dark sense of foreboding, making it impossible to stop reading. But who was evil, in this tale, and who was simply misunderstood? How would Jane’s decision to find out about the tragedy Emma suffered change her own destiny?

Halfway through the pages, I had moments of confusion, as the stories told alternately by Emma and Jane were so similar that I had to check twice at the chapter headings to know whose voice I was reading. Soon everything seemed to right itself and I was immersed once again.

In the end, I was not completely surprised by the unveiling of the final secrets….but there was still an unexpected denouement. 4.5 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***

***I received my copy of the e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE OTHER TYPIST, BY SUZANNE RINDELL

 

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Everything about Rose Baker seemed prim and proper, from her “unremarkable” appearance to her orderly way of approaching each task. Her childhood spent in an orphanage set the tone for how her life would unfold, including her time spent as a typist in a police precinct.

Until the day “the other typist” walked into the precinct and seemingly tugged at a feeling that Rose had, as yet, not experienced. At that point, Odalie Lazare became the object of her obsession.

The Other Typist is narrated in Rose’s first person voice, and as she tells the story from her perspective, we learn that it is set in the mid-1920s, a time that would become real and visual in every way. We can almost feel what she feels as she describes her impressions of Odalie, her experiences with her as the two become confidantes and then roommates. The mysterious Odalie would become the center of Rose’s universe.

Nights in speakeasies, getaways to the beach, and entry into a world previously unknown…all would inform the days, weeks, and months of Rose’s life with Odalie as a friend.

So how did everything go so wrong? What, if anything, had Odalie done to set events in motion? What could anyone do or say to change the outcome of one fateful night? How did Rose become someone even she herself did not recognize? Had she been tricked and played, or was she simply a very unreliable narrator who might fool any one of us?

I could see it all coming, of course, as Rose’s narrative dropped hints along the way. But the ending completely stunned me…and I then began to question my own conclusions. Definitely a book I would recommend for anyone who loves a thriller with unexpected twists. 5 stars.

 

 

 

CURL UP WITH ME & CONTEMPLATE: BOOKS OUT, BOOKS IN

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Even as I clear my bookshelves, and while I’m feeling virtuous about that, my eyes are glomming onto books I see on blogs…books I want.

My goal this year was to request most of my new additions from NetGalley or Vine…and I’ve done that.  But there is still that lingering need to download an e-book I see somewhere…or even pick up a physical book.

Below are the books I purchased in October.  Yes, most are e-books, yay me!  But there are three physical books.  How can I justify these additions to my shelves, especially when they are finally looking…well, almost normal.  (See one of my bedroom shelves above, after the purge).

I have no justification.

I just wanted them.  So it goes on…books out, books in.  Perhaps I can send more books out than I bring in?  What would you do, in the face of all the bookish temptation out there?

Ah, yes, you say…there is always the library.  And I should do that.  But then I say I can’t wait…delayed gratification is not my thing.

Child of the Sixties, bite your tongue!

But behold the lovely books I acquired…and tell me you would not be tempted.  LOL

***

OCTOBER 2015:

1.    Admissions, The (e-book), by Meg Mitchell Moore

2.    Cherry, by Mary Karr

3.    Deep End, The (e-book), by Julie Mulhern

4.    Girl with No Past, The (e-book), by Kathryn Croft

5.   Jane Fonda, The Private Life of a Public Woman, by Patricia Bosworth

6.    Liar’s Club, The: A Memoir, by Mary Karr

7.     Lucky Us (e-book), by Amy Bloom

8.    Shadow Year, The (e-book), by Hannah Richell

9.     Truth Be Told (e-book), by Hank Phillippi Ryan

***

We have known for a while that I suffer from this disorder:

 

compulsive book buying

 

***

LOVE SHOULD COME WITH WARNING LABELS — A REVIEW

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Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is–and what he’s willing to do to make her stay.

Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough….

And so begins the story of an obsession that takes over the lives of Clara and everyone she loves. In alternating chapters, veering between the past and the present, and in Clara’s first person narrative, we learn how the love began and where it all led. Like most things about our emotions, even when we see the red flags and hear the warning bells, we are sure that we can still control things. That we can stop the bad things from coming.

Learning the lesson about how little control we have is Clara’s story and the core of Stay, a thoughtful and provocative glimpse of love gone wrong. As Clara and her father settle in to a beach town outside of Seattle, surrounded by islands and the whole aura of the sea and a lighthouse, we also experience with them the idyllic moments when it seems as thought life can start over. That the past can be gone. And we live through the glaring awareness that nothing could be further from the truth.

What will happen to ultimately show Clara and her father that sometimes the past cannot disappear, even if we want it to do so? I like this excerpt near the end that shows us that we don’t actually have a lot of control:

“Our memories and the events of our lives are untidy things. We wish that we could file them away and shut the door, or we wish the opposite–that they would stay with us forever. You want to banish that remembrance of a tight hold on your ankle, a rope under a bed, the amber-colored medicine bottles of your father’s, the door your mother slams after a night of too much wine and jealousy…But the images are all wild things that will do what they wish….”

I loved the characters, the settings, and the message of this story. Recommended for anyone who has ever been in love with the wrong person. Five stars.

DECLUTTERING THE OBJECTS & SECRETS OF THE PAST — A REVIEW

When Lucy Bloom, personal organizer, sells her home and most of her possessions to afford her son Ash’s drug rehab, she needs a job that will bring in enough to finance her new life.

Her new job turns out to be the most challenging one she’s had: oversee the decluttering of a “hoarder” artist’s home, and do it discreetly. The downside is she has a very limited time to accomplish the task, but if she does, she’ll receive a huge bonus.

It sounds fairly straightforward, but soon Lucy discovers that her client, Marva Meier Rios, seemingly cannot let go of anything and fights her all along the way.

In the process of completing this task, what will Lucy uncover amidst the detritus of Marva’s life? What secrets from the past are informing the present? And how will Lucy finally get through to her addicted son who seems unwilling to stay in rehab?

In answering these questions and in exploring a defunct relationship that she may have ended prematurely, Lucy must discover that “there are those things you keep, things you let go of—and it’s often not easy to know the difference.”

A richly engaging story that delves into the heart of human relationships, both to other people and to the objects they possess, Objects of My Affection: A Novel was a five-star read for me.

AN INTRIGUING MIX OF SHOE OBSESSION, MYSTERY, & QUIRKY CHARACTERS — A REVIEW

Emily Levine loves shoes. You could almost say she is obsessed with them. So opening a unique shoe store in New York’s West Side could be a satisfactory way to enjoy her love of shoes.

Her marriage to attorney Larry Levine is not technically over, but they’ve been separated since she found him in bed with another woman. So opening the shop is a way to carve out an independent life separate from her husband.

Colorful characters arrive at Emily’s Place to enjoy the special discounts of “Pre-Owned Shoes.” Other unique characters include one of the employees, Merissa, and her niece Fifi.

Author Roz Siegel delivers a fast-paced mystery involving shoes, strange foot fetish snippets at the beginning of each chapter, and a sardonic sense of humor that makes Emily a fascinating first-person narrator for this story.

When women close to Emily start showing up murdered by “shoe,” she has a vested interest in helping Detective Murphy to solve the case. But who is targeting Emily and those close to her, and why? As she and Murphy follow one false lead after another, it almost seems as though the case will turn cold before they find the answers. And what if they don’t find the murderer before he skewers Emily herself with a designer shoe?

Goodie One Shoes had enough quirky twists to keep me turning those pages, and I definitely couldn’t put this one down. I’ve given this story five stars for plot twists, colorful characters, and a fresh and enjoyable narrator’s voice.

A DARK AND TWISTED TALE

When a loyal husband and father searches through his wife’s personal computer files and papers, he is trying to find evidence of her innocence in the case against her. A case that has resulted in her conviction for the murder of her alleged serial-killer patient and his wife.

So what is the story of Dr. Susie Harriot, and will Lachlan Harriot find what he needs for her appeal?

Sorting through the morass of these files, however, will lead Lachlan to unexpected secrets, twisted truths, and will finally convince him that he did not know his wife at all.

Throughout this story, I found that the best part was not knowing who to believe and untangling the many-faceted aspects of the case.

An intense psychological thriller, Deception : A Novel kept me tuned in until the surprising end, which is why I gave it five stars.

SECRETS IN AN ALL-GIRLS SCHOOL — A Review of “Unfinished Desires”

An elderly retired nun, formerly headmistress at an all-girls’ school in the mountains of North Carolina, has taken on an important task.  Although nearly blind, Mother Suzanne Ravenal is dictating tapes in order to write a memoir.

She first came to Mount St. Gabriel’s as a student, considering a “vocation.”  Her best friend Antonia is also considering becoming a nun, but at the last minute, something happened between the two girls that resulted in Suzanne’s early admission and a rift between the two.  Soon Antonia is no longer in the picture.

Subsequently, Antonia marries Henry Vick, an architect, but on their honeymoon, a tragic accident takes her life.

What transpired between the two girls forms the crux of this tale of secrets, betrayals, and future events with students in one fateful year dubbed “the toxic year.”

That year—1951—ninth graders in attendance at the school where Ravenal is now the headmistress have formed alliances.  First there is Tildy Stratton, whose mother Cornelia is Antonia’s twin sister; then there is Chloe Varnes, niece of Henry Vick and daughter of now deceased Agnes, who also attended this school.  Then comes Maud Norton, whose once-tight friendship with Tildy is now defunct.

All is set up for melodrama, which ensues rather quickly.  But it is only at the end of ninth grade that something happens while the girls are performing a play—a traditional play—and everything crumbles.

What secret has set the tone for this “toxic year”?  What relationships and alliances have threatened Mother Ravenal so much that she takes drastic steps?  And what will be the aftermath of these events?

This rather lengthy tome was intriguing, and at times, I almost gave up on it.  But it was fascinating enough that I kept plugging away.  The author very skillfully weaves the past and present, but at times, this task seemed unwieldy.  And, despite the artful literary nature of this book, I found it tedious, which led to awarding it 4 stars.  Perhaps 4.5.

A GOLDEN ERA

It was a memorable time in history—the 1980s in America—and dreams of financial success seemed within reach.

But sometimes dreams turn into nightmares, and after riding high, the crash is even harder.

Such are the lessons learned by Joe Stratford and friends, in this wonderful novel by the incomparable Jane Smiley, Good Faith.

This one was not technically part of my TBR stacks, as I got it and “The House on Tradd Street” from the library.