The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis

Hi again, bibliophiles!

Hope everyone has been enjoying a beautiful and warm summer! The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis is definitely a summer read so it should fit right in with the season. Definitely a beach read. Here’s a quick synopsis:

It has an ocean-front view, a private beach–and a deadly secret that won’t stay buried.

No. 7 Ocean Drive is a gorgeous, multi-million-dollar beachfront estate in the Hamptons, where money and privilege know no bounds. But its beautiful gothic exterior hides a horrific past: it was the scene of a series of depraved killings that have never been solved. Neglected, empty, and rumored to be cursed, it’s known as the Murder House, and locals keep their distance.

Detective Jenna Murphy used to consider herself a local, but she hasn’t been back since she was a girl. Trying to escape her troubled past and rehabilitate a career on the rocks, the former New York City cop hardly expects her lush and wealthy surroundings to be a hotbed of grisly depravity. But when a Hollywood power broker and his mistress are found dead in the abandoned Murder House, the gruesome crime scene rivals anything Jenna experienced in Manhattan. And what at first seems like an open and shut case turns out to have as many shocking secrets as the Murder House itself, as Jenna quickly realizes that the mansion’s history is much darker than even the town’s most salacious gossips could have imagined. As more bodies surface, and the secret that Jenna has tried desperately to escape closes in on her, she must risk her own life to expose the truth–before the Murder House claims another victim.

A page-turner? Definitely.
A gruesome thriller? Absolutely.
A twist ending? Kinda, but about two-thirds of the way through, I caught on and saw it coming.

This novel was by no means a 5-star, spectacular read. It’s not worth running out and buying, BUT if you know someone that can lend you a copy or if you’d like to grab it from the library, it is worth the reading time. OR if you’re looking for a quick read with minimal mental investment required, this is for you!

That’s about all I have for this on. Until next time, bibliophiles….

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

Hiya, bibliophiles!

I recently finished listening to City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg. Let’s just launch right into it. Here’s a synopsis from Amazon:

New York City, 1976. Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown’s punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor—and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year’s Eve.

The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever.

City on Fire is an unforgettable novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock ’n’ roll: about what people need from each other in order to live . . . and about what makes the living worth doing in the first place.

I thought this novel was, for the most part, interesting and engaging. In particular, I loved how the different story lines intertwined together. That’s one of my favorite “types” of books: starting out with separate perspectives or characters and watching as they grow towards each other. I’m also a big fan of exploring complex, dysfunctional families, so listening to the dirty deeds and stuffy struggles of the Hamilton-Sweeneys was right up my alley.

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HOWEVER, City on Fire didn’t suck me right into the story. It felt very “written”, rather than a natural flow of thoughts (if that makes any sense). The writing could be a bit stiff and forced at times. Plus, I had a hard time getting into the punk scene. I don’t love punk rock and was not familiar with a lot of the bands the author insisted on mentioning over and over. I think it would have been more meaningful if the author had quoted lyrics or described how the music made the characters feel more than just name-dropping.

Overall, City on Fire was intriguing, but I didn’t connect much with any of the main characters. I found it hard to settle into the setting of the story and sometimes the writing was too formal, bringing me out of the story and making me think more of the author than the characters. It wasn’t a bad novel and I didn’t dislike it, but I don’t think I’ll be recommending it anytime soon, especially given that it was almost a 40-hour read.

Until next time, bibliophiles….

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Hey bibliophiles!

I just finished reading The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. It was the book that my monthly book club chose. One of the reasons I initially decided to join a book club (besides the fact that I was having trouble making adult friends…life after college is hard) was that it was a great way to break out of my reading comfort zone. Oops, I think I’ve just broken Rule #1.

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Anyways, I’ve read plenty of books that I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up. Some I didn’t like, but some I LOVED. The Life We Bury was somewhere in between for me. I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed the plot for the most part. Let’s start out with a synopsis:

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe’s life is ever the same.

Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran–and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl’s life, especially Carl’s valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory.

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

Like I said, the plot was intriguing. I enjoyed the twists, some of which I could see coming and some of which took me by surprise. I have to say that the dysfunctional family aspect really tugged on my heartstrings. It was almost too real for my taste; it hit close to home for me. I can appreciate the effort that goes into writing something that emotional and real. I love when a book grabs my emotions and shakes them all around.

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So what did I not like about this book? I didn’t like the writing much. It didn’t live up to the “show, don’t tell” standard and it was full of cliches. For instance, Joe’s relationship to Lila is a typical “seemingly cold-hearted woman, but only because she has a dark past, but oh look, now she’s really opening up” and Joe uses awful pick-up lines. That part, I had a hard time dealing with.

Overall, I’m happy I read the book and I can’t wait to discuss it at my book club. I would recommend it to a friend, because the story itself was interesting and the emotions were (for the most part) real. It was an easy, very quick read with super short chapters. It clocked in at just over 300 pages. On the flip side of things, it’s probably a book that a few months or a year from now, I’ll forget.

Until next time bibliophiles…

Compulsion: A Novel Part #2

Hello again bibliophiles!

I just returned from a pleasant vacation despite Hurricane Joaquin’s best attempts to derail it! I had a wonderful time relaxing by the pool, engaging in tourist-y adventures, and of course, reading!

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To the subject, I finished Compulsion: A Novel by Meyer Levin. Essentially the last half of the book details the arrest and trial of Judd Steiner and Artie Straus. As I mentioned in the previous post about Compulsion, you know from the beginning that Judd and Artie will be found guilty and sent to prison. The beauty of the book came in observing everything unfold. As much as Judd and Artie believed they were superior specimens and intelligent above all others, they made infantile mistakes that led to their arrest. It is quite obvious that they suffer from some mental abnormalities, however they are never clearly diagnosed.

Ultimately, Compulsion – okay, well really the actual murder and trial back in 1924 – raises a host of questions about human nature, free will, mental health in relation to crime, and responsibility. In fact, the novel itself is quite controversial. Meyer Levin has been accused of romanticizing the murderers because his approach to describing them rejects the notion that they are only one-dimensional, evil killers. Rather, he approaches them in a holistic, humane way. Yet the public is still so angered by the murder of over ninety years ago that they would rather believe the real murderers (Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Loeb) are sadistic and cruel instead of considering them as people with mental health issues.

Although we now know phrenology is a pseudo-science, at least they were making an attempt to study Leob's and Leopold's mental state.
Although we now know phrenology is a pseudo-science, at least they were making an attempt to study Leob’s and Leopold’s mental state.

PAUSE. Everyone put your pitchforks and torches away. I’m not condoning the murder in anyway and neither was Levin. Regardless of their mental health, I do believe the murderers were responsible for their actions. However, the point that the book tries to make, and the point that I’m trying to reiterate here, is that things are rarely black-and-white. There are so many dimensions to people that we can’t paint them one color. While some people are happy to condemn a criminal, that’s not enough. We should be striving to understand people; what makes them who they are and what drives them to do the things they do. Okay, I admit it: this may be a sore spot for me since my degree is in Psychology.

That is all! This book is done. While I was away I also read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling so be sure to check out that post!

Compulsion: A Novel (But Also What I Feel to Keep Reading…)

Compulsion: A Novel by Meyer Levin has completely sucked me in. I am currently about half-way through the 456-page book. It is based on the infamous Leopold and Loeb case of 1924 in Chicago where two wealthy young men, Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Loeb, murdered 14-year-old Robert Franks.

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Often referred to as the crime of the century, the Leopold and Loeb case opened people’s eyes to the growing violence in Chicago. Meyer Levin was actually a budding reporter at the time and was involved in the case as it unfolded. Years later, he wrote Compulsion going back in time to relive the case.

Millionärssöhne als lebenslängliche Zuchthäusler Die amerikanischen Millionärssöhne Natahn Leopold (oben) und Richard Loeb (unten), welche vor 6 Jahren den Sohn des amerikanischen Millionärs Frank aus Sensationslust ermordeten und zu lebenslänglichen Zuchthausstrafen verurteilt wurden. Die Eltern der jugendlichen Mörder versuchen seit Jahren unter Aufwendung großer Geldmittel unter Aufrollung eines Riesenprozesses ihre Kinder freizubekommen

However, Compulsion isn’t merely a repetition of facts. Instead, it is a fictionalized account of the case written from different perspectives, including those of the murderers. Names have been changed and gaps have been filled. What I find particularly intriguing is that this book isn’t like other murder mysteries. Rather, you know from the start who killed Paulie Kessler (the fictionalized Robert Franks) and you know that Judd Steiner and Artie Straus will eventually be caught. Still, it’s such a journey as you follow along how they planned the murder, how they were caught, and the psychology behind it all.

To be continued …