Picky Reader – 11

Please remember, these are not book reviews, just one reader/writer’s opinion/impressions and a reflection of that individual’s personal taste.

Dinner For Two by Mike Gayle is one of those books you get to the end of and just want to go, “Awwwww.”  It’s…sweet, touching, funny at times.  It’s chick lit written by a man and with a male main point of view character and, drum roll please, there’s a unique twist to the plot.  The tables are turned simply by virtue of the fact that the main character is male.  Well done. 

I guess I’ve been reading so much women’s fiction lately I forgot that I always liked thrillers such as Got the Look by James Grippando.  (Regular Picky Reader followers should be impressed to note that I got two books by male authors and read them first.)  Evidently there is more than one book featuring the character of Miami lawyer Jack Swyteck, although this is the first one I’ve read.  Jack Swyteck is an appealing character.  The kidnap victim he’s trying to rescue, not so much, but the book’s more about him than it is about her.  A thriller such as this has something for a broad audience.  Not too much blood and gore, not a lot of technical stuff you need to follow.  Characters who seem realistic and a plot that isn’t difficult to follow.  Also included is a satisfying, concrete conclusion.  This not one of those fade to black, oops we didn’t catch the bad guy and we still don’t know who he is.  If the mark of a good thriller is you would rather be reading it because you want to see what happens next than doing just about anything else, then Got the Look hit the mark with me.

Sleepwalking in Daylight by Elizabeth Flock is sort of a sad book.  I’m not sure why I chose it.  If I recall correctly, I glanced at the inside flap saw something about a woman in an unhappy marriage making choices and thought, okay, why not?  With about twenty pages until the end I was thinking, wow, how can a woman who professes to love her children be such a bad mother?  There’s a rather surprising twist, two of them, I suppose in those last twenty or so pages that illustrates the point I think the author was trying to make beautifully.  A woman can love her children, but become so distracted in trying to fulfill her own needs that she loses sight of what’s best for them.  She tries to be a good mother, but sometimes it’s just exhausting and there are moments where you simply give up, especially when you feel isolated and alone even though you’re married to the father of your children.  Enough of those moments and your child can be lost to you.  The choices she makes in the end completely saved a heroine I had come to despise. 

Elizabeth Flock is dead-on at times in her descriptions of what it feels like to be unhappily married while mired down in the day-to-day drudgery of housekeeping and child-rearing.  I dare any woman who’s got anything in common with her heroine to say she never felt the way the character of Samantha feels.  It’s an impressive feat for an author to mirror her readers back to themselves in some way.  Bravo.

I’m putting out a call to all the 38-year-old, never married, hot, successful heterosexual, single men who have been best friends since high school with an equally attractive 38-year-old never married single woman.  Yeah.  That happens.  All the time.  This is the premise I was expected to buy in Beth Harbison’s Hope in a Jar and for me it was a tough sell from the get go.  It got tougher to swallow when these aging teenagers realize they’re in love with each other, have been (possibly) for a long time, but neither of them had the guts to act on their feelings.  I truly wanted to scream at both of them, “Grow up!”  I finished the book, but all along I thought the premise was pretty thin, something I could certainly never get away with.  But if I had a name, an agent, a few successful book sales behind me, then I probably could. (You can chalk my disgruntlement up to jealousy if you want, but I was a reader long before I was a writer.  I know when I read something that works for me.) I read Shoe Addicts Anonymous a year or so ago, and enjoyed it as I recall.  I didn’t realize it was by the same author until I’d already started reading Hope in a Jar.  Once again, it isn’t the writing and it isn’t that the author can’t tell a story.  I guess, when you get down to it, it’s the characters.  I kept wondering, are people this age really this immature?  Really?  The flashbacks to high school didn’t endear me to them either.   Maybe it’s not the characters so much as it is I didn’t understand their motivation.   And that the three main characters all grudgingly attend their high school reunion, when at least two of them do not want to, I didn’t buy that either.  I wanted to say to them, “You’re thirty-eight years old.  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”  But no.  They go.  They have a miserable time.  They leave.  Why?  Am I supposed to admire these characters?  No one enjoys high school.  The only reason to go to a high school reunion is if you’re wildly successful and fabulously rich, and you know you look amazingly better than all of your peers.  If you’re single, between jobs, overweight, and not feeling good about yourself, most likely you’ll skip your reunion.  That’s what I do.  Not these characters.  I know it’s fiction, but for me it wasn’t believable fiction.  I hate that.

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