BOOK REVIEW: The Best of Adam Sharp, by Graeme Simsion

BOOK REVIEW: The Best of Adam Sharp, by Graeme SimsionTitle: The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
Published by St. Martin's Press
Published: May 2nd 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 314
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Sparks

From the #1 bestselling author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, an unforgettable new novel about lost love and second chances

On the cusp of turning fifty, Adam Sharp likes his life. He’s happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does the occasional consulting job in IT.

But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been: his blazing affair more than twenty years ago with an intelligent and strong-willed actress named Angelina Brown who taught him for the first time what it means to find—and then lose—love. How different might his life have been if he hadn’t let her walk away?

And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously?

 The Best of Adam Sharp is the latest by Graeme Simsion, the author of the highly-acclaimed The Rosie ProjectThe Best of Adam Sharp follows the life of a British man at fifty-something reminiscing about a relationship he had twenty years ago with Angelina Brown, an intelligent and beautiful actress. When the two had a chance to be something more than just a passionate fling, Sharp doesn’t take the chance and the two part ways. Twenty years after the two part ways, Adam receives a message from Angelina, and it causes him to wonder about the stability of everything in his life.

Unable to stop thinking about what might have been, Adam takes the chance and reconnects with Angelina, only to find out that it’s probably better to let what happened in the past and what fizzled out in the past remain in the past because it’s never going to be what you think and hope it will be, because Angelina is with someone else and really has no intention of ultimately shaking up her own life just to have a taste of that “what could have been.”

As I was reading this, I kept thinking I am not the target audience for this book. I’m about twenty years too young to really relate to anything that’s going on in the story, except for the flashbacks to Adam and Angelina’s initial romance. I think this would be a better read for someone who is a bit older than I am, someone who has had the chance to love and let go in this kind of way or for someone who is a little bit more of a romantic than I am. I also found it interesting that it played with the idea of polyamory and extra people in a relationship for a bit, and that’s the first time I’ve seen it in commercial fiction in a somewhat positive light. Then again, I don’t always gravitate toward commercial fiction with a romantic bent, so I might be completely off the mark in that! However, the writing made this a highly compulsive read, and I definitely wanted to see how everything played out for Adam and how it resolved itself. In the end, I felt that Adam got what he wanted and what he deserved as fairly as the universe could possibly present it to him. It’s never easy coming to terms with a lost love and the chance and failure of reconciliation, but sometimes it’s the journey that really matters.

I received this book from Book Sparks and the publisher for review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Woman No. 17, by Edan Lepucki

BOOK REVIEW: Woman No. 17, by Edan LepuckiTitle: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Published by Hogarth Press
Published: May 9th 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Sparks

A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California.

High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. She’s going to need a hand with her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In comes S., a magnetic young artist, who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s young toddler son, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage, one. S. performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady. But as the summer wears on, S.’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. Lady and S. will move closer to one another as they both threaten to harm the things they hold most dear. Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

“You think you know how a story begins, or how it’s going to turn out, especially when it’s your own. You don’t.”

I’m participating in Book Sparks’s Summer Reading Challenge this year, and Edan Lepucki’s Woman No. 17 is one of the books I read as part of the challenge that I couldn’t put down. I’m branching out of my reading comfort zones by participating in this challenge, and I think it’s helping me figure out why it is I gravitate toward certain genres and styles of fiction and it’s also showing me that branching out every now and then is an amazing palate cleanser.

Woman No. 17 explores the upsides and pitfalls of self-expression in the name of art, and I liked that S was not that likable of a character from the beginning, but she’s also a character a reader can empathize with because I feel like so many of us go through all of those loops and twists to try to understand our parents without actually going to the source because that’s awkward and uncool. It seems more interesting to our weird brains to do the roundabout thing and figure things out for ourselves when a lot of the time, our answers can be easily gained with time and the right questions. Anyway, I digress.

S, following in her mother’s footsteps, becomes a nanny to Lady, a woman living in southern California, and her youngest son. S finds out that Lady has an adult son, Seth, who is mute, and it’s revealed throughout the novel that Lady has a difficult time letting Seth go and grow up. The dynamic between S’s projection of her vision of her mother’s self, Lady, and Seth becomes pretty predictable by the middle of the novel when Seth and S begin communicating with each other without Lady’s knowledge. I think this is where the novel ultimately lost me because it was so predictable, especially in the connection between S and Seth by the end, and I felt that just one more twist in the whole thing might have made me enjoy this book that much more.

There’s a lot of drinking and a scene of animal abuse that caught me off guard (I’m not generally disturbed by these things, but it is worth mentioning for those who might be), but the writing itself is sharp, well-paced, and kept me reading even though I found myself rolling my eyes at S’s behavior. Lepucki shows her familiarity with the southern California landscape and the sorts of people who inhabit it and the people it attracts, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. The characters, while ridiculous to me at times, seemed realistic within the setting and I didn’t feel as if it was completely unbelievable. Woman No. 17 is an enjoyable summer read that will take you away from the world for a few hours and leave you feeling quite entertained.

I received a copy of this book from Book Sparks and the publisher for review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins

BOOK REVIEW: Into the Water, by Paula HawkinsTitle: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Published by Riverhead Books
Published: May 2nd 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 386
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Publisher

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

 Some say the women left something of themselves in the water; some say it retains some of their power, for ever since then it has drawn to its shores the unlucky, the desperate, the unhappy, the lost. They come here to swim with their sisters.

This summer I am participating in Book Sparks‘s Summer Reading Challenge, and the first book of the summer is Paula Hawkins’s Into the Water. I have been eagerly waiting to read this after reading The Girl on the Train last year, and I feel like she met my expectations with her sophomore novel. Into the Water is a slower-paced novel compared to the runaway feeling that I got while reading The Girl on the Train, and I think that the pace and atmosphere of each book fits the title. Into the Water unfolds slowly through multiple perspectives and all of the details float around until the final few chapters when everything comes together.

Into the Water‘s strength lies not in the driving force of the plot but in its undercurrent. The main plot revolves around the death of a single mother in a pool of water in which other women throughout the town’s history have also died. To me, the most interesting aspect of this novel is the history of that pool and the stories of the women who died there. I would have loved for the novel to revolve more around the histories of those women because their stories were nuanced, engaging, and compelling. I wanted to know more about the lives of those women and what led to their downfalls.

The major drawback for me in this novel are the narrators. I felt like there were too many narrators (eleven! I wrote the names down to keep track of them, and I’ve never felt like I’ve had to do that before), and that many narrators lead to a jumpy, sometimes jarring plot. I like stories with multiple perspectives, and I think eleven narrators can work if it’s a longer book or a longer series, but when a book is less than four-hundred pages, I find that eleven narrators eventually blur and lose their distinctions.

Overall, this is a solid read for me, and I breezed through it on a lovely spring day with my cat on my lap on our deck.

An advance reader’s copy was sent to me on behalf of Riverhead Books and Book Sparks for my honest opinion.