Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

The Stranger She Loved: A Mormon Doctor, His Beautiful Wife, and an Almost Perfect Murder
I don’t read a great deal of true crime books because humanity is depressing enough without reminding myself of how awful people can be. However, this case came up to my attention, and I wanted to learn more about it. Michele MacNeill was discovered dead in a bathtub by her husband, Dr. Martin MacNeill, shortly after what seemed to be a successful face lift. Martin immediately acted in a way that seemed suspicious to first responders; however, her death was ultimately deemed natural. It was only through the insistence of Michele and Martin’s children and Michele’s family that the case was eventually re-evaluated and Martin was charged with her murder. I did find this book fascinating, if not unsettling due to Martin’s sociopathic behavior. I don’t think I’ll read any true crime any time soon because it took a bit to forget this one!

The Animals: A Novel
Bill Reed manages a wildlife sanctuary, although outside of legal limits. At first glance, Bill seems a stand-up guy, but the layers of this story peel away like onions. It seems Bill had a criminal past and this book alternates between the present Bill and the Bill of the past, along with his sins and crimes. I really enjoyed this book. I was bothered by the lack of quotation marks (I know, I know, prose… still, it’s not my favorite style), but I was drawn into Bill’s life and Bill’s past and present betrayals.

The Children's Crusade: A Novel
I struggle with lack of character development and while I felt this book characterized the children well, there was a distinctive lack of character development with Penny—the mother—and somewhat with Bill—the father. If the book had just been about the children and their relationships, that would have been okay, but it wasn’t entirely. The book began with a glimpse at Bill and Penny’s early married life, and then skipped ahead to where, inexplicably, Penny is an absentee mother and wife, far more interested in her art than her family. I had such a struggle with the jump that I actually looked back to the beginning to see if I missed something, but I didn’t. I understand that people can change over time and sometimes that’s all it is, but I still had a tough time with the leap. Other than that, I enjoyed the story told from the point-of-view of each of the four children. I did feel that since so much of the focus was on Penny’s mothering, or lack thereof, the story needed to be told from her, as well, or with less focus placed on it. I was disappointed because I felt that if it wasn’t for that gaping plot hole, I would have really enjoyed the book.

Black Dove, White Raven
I tried and failed to finish Code Name Verify by this same author. I finished this book, but I truly pushed through. Teo and Emilia are siblings, but of another manner. Teo and Emilia’s mothers perform stunt airshows together, until Teo’s mother dies during a stunt. Emilia’s mother takes Teo and Emilia to Ethiopia (the country of Teo’s father) and goes through the trials of raising children of two different races in the midst of Mussolini invading Africa. I felt that the pacing of this book was off. It was slow. Whole chapters were devoted to inconsequential things, while other important things (like Theo grieving his mother?) were entirely left out of the book. Definitely not the best book I’ve ever read.

The Last Flight of Poxl West: A Novel
Maybe I’m in a mood, but I wasn’t really awed by much of what I read this week. Poxl West is Eli’s de facto uncle, a war hero who writes a memoir of his time as a Jewish man in the RAF during WWII. After Poxl becomes critically acclaimed for his life, he drifts further from Eli’s life--though he still remains Eli’s hero. This book alternates between Poxl’s memoir and Eli’s thoughts at the time. As time goes on, it becomes evident to the literature world that Poxl’s memoir is not entirely truthful, and Eli is forced to recognize that his hero maybe isn’t quite the hero he claims to be. I found Eli’s reaction to Poxl’s lies to be utterly truthful and without any glossing over natural reaction, but I found the parts that were to be Poxl’s memoir slow and not overly engaging. I understand the author had to tell the story of Poxl to balance out Eli’s life, but it didn’t grab me like I thought it would.

What are you reading?


Lyndsay W said...

To be honest, sometimes I'm relieved when you don't enjoy some of your books because then I have less to add to my looooooooooong list of books I want to read.

Currently I'm reading Magyk - the first book of the Septimus Heap series. It's Amara's current favourite series and she begged me to read it so we could talk about it.

One crazed mommy said...

I remember when the news was reporting the case on the first book. I remember thinking Michele wsa so pretty - why did he convince her to have a facelift? Bizarre. I may have to read this one also, but like you I have a hard time reading True Crime Novels, as they haunt me long after I read them. I read a book many, many years ago about the murder of a Morman Family. The entire family was massacred in their barn by members of their congregation, and it was so disturbing. They had photos throughout the book of the family, their little girls (who were also murdered), the barn and house where they lived, and even church congregation photos. It was truly horrific, and it stayed with me for weeks after I read it. It still makes me shudder. I can't remember the name of the book...but the details I can't forget.

One crazed mommy said...

I had to go find the book - It was called Prophet of Death by Pete Earley - very disturbing!!!

InTheFastLane said...

I am currently reading The Children's Crusade (almost done if I would quit falling asleep at night...), and feel very much about Penny the way you do. I wanted to know more about her. But maybe that is intentional? IDK - I haven't gotten to the end yet, but perhaps she remains an unknown, because that is what she was to her family, including her husband. And no one really took the time to find out who she was. Bill just chose to ignore or walk away from her when he didn't understand. And the children were all too busy with their own thing and taking care of each other to really find out who Penny was. Maybe Penny has her own book somewhere? Or maybe the real Penny only exists in the art she created?

Theresa Mahoney said...

You've been on a roll this week. I have been thinking of starting Clan of the Cave Bear series, but the last two books got really bad reviews. I don't know if I want to invest myself in a story where I'm going to end up angry when I finish the books lol.

Barb Ruess said...

Hey! I have time to read your blog today! :)

I tried (twice) to read Brief History of Seven Killings. I made it a couple hundred pages in but... I have no engagement with the story or characters and it's a lot of work to read that book if you don't feel connected to the story. So I give up.

In between those tries I read The Paying Guests which was a little slow in parts but still pretty entertaining.