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CBR16 Archive

Tuesday

6

February 2024

0

COMMENTS

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Written by , Posted in Uncategorized

3 Stars

Best for:
I’m not totally sure if I’m honest. It’s similar to her other books, but also not.

In a nutshell:
Jess is visiting her half brother Ben in Paris, but when she arrives, he’s nowhere to be found, and his cat has some blood on it.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
Thought I’d round out the Lucy Foley catalog.

Review:
Hmmm. I nearly gave up on this book because it wasn’t holding my attention, but there is a twist that comes about 1/3 of the way through that brought me back in.

Like her other books, this one is told from the point of view of a few different characters, nearly all of whom live in the same apartment building in Paris, plus Jess, who is visiting her brother Ben. There is Sophie, who lives in the penthouse with her husband Jack, and who is quite the snob. There is Mimi, who is very young and a bit shy, and lives with a flatmate. Then there is Nick, who knew Ben from their university days, and got Ben the apartment. Finally the concierge, an older woman who lives on the ground flour and takes care of the building.

Jess sort of flees London, and tells Ben she’s going to crash with him for a bit. His last message to her before she arrives is a voice note giving her instructions for how to find the flat. But when she arrives a few hours later, there is no trace of him, but his keys and wallet are still in the flat.

The book jumps back and forth in time, following different perspectives wit the goal of figuring out what the hell happened to Ben. I’ll admit that the resolution was somewhat surprising and fairly satisfying, but overall the book just wasn’t that interesting to me.

What’s next for this book:
I will probably eventually listen to Foley’s books if another one is released, as it’s decent to listen to while on a run.

Monday

22

January 2024

0

COMMENTS

Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People who don’t need to like … any of the characters in the book?

In a nutshell:
Roach is a true-crime-loving bookseller. Laura is also a bookseller, new to the same shop. She writes poetry somewhat related to true crime.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
Strong ratings online in this genre.

Review:
This book is entertaining, but I found the character development lacking. Not that the characters weren’t developed, it’s just the direction they went in. Let me explain.

This book is told from both Roach and Laura’s perspectives. We start off from Roach’s perspective, and she’s waiting in line for entry to a live taping of a true crime podcast. Two women hosting, so something modeled after My Favorite Murder or perhaps Wine and Crime. Roach is sort of a walking caricature. She uses this absurd phrase – ‘normies’ – to refer to people who are different from her. Do people really speak like that? Are they so insecure in their own originality that they have to label people who are different from them? Seems bizarre. (Especially after I looked up the etymology and apparently it used to be what disabled people used to refer to people without disabilities, which actually makes sense to me.) She is described a few times as not having washed hair, of smelling unclean, of putting on dirty clothes. I understand there probably are people out there like this, but it all feels a bit like an exercise in a creative writing class to create the most stereotypical ‘alternative’ person out there.

Then there is Laura. Laura is basically the polar opposite of Roach. She is a poet, a writer, wears matching tights and berets, carries a tote bag with a literary quote on it. I’m not sure if we were meant to prefer Laura to Roach, but also I found her to be written as deeply unappealing. We later learn about some trauma she has experienced in her life, and some current challenges she is facing, but she is so judgmental, so fake, and so sad.

Roach tries desperately to be friends with Laura after she learns that Laura writes ‘found poetry’ based on true crime books. But Laura hates true crime, while Roach loves it. Things move from there as Roach tries harder and harder to get Laura’s attention, and Laura tries harder to stay away.

I did appreciate the discussion of true crime and the current obsession with it. How, especially with more modern crimes, podcasters and their fans often seem to forget about the very real victims involved. Same with some true crime books. In the past I listened to a couple true crime podcasts, but not anymore, and I appreciated the discussion about it from Laura’s perspective, though I felt that Roach’s was intentionally absurd so as to make any defense of true crime writing and discussion seem negative by default.

As I said, I found the book to be an easy and engaging read, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.

Minor spoiler here for those who have read the book:
I was wondering, did anyone else find Laura’s reaction to the Roach poem a bit hypocritical? Just as Laura takes (uncredited) lines from true crime books and puts them together and claims them as her own found poetry, Roach took Laura’s poem and added to it to make it her own work. Obviously for very different reasons, but it felt a bit rich for Laura to claim her work is fair use but Roach’s was plagiarism.

What’s next for this book:
Nothing for me – I think I’m good.

Friday

19

January 2024

0

COMMENTS

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Fans of her previous book; fans of Liane Moriarty’s work.

In a nutshell:
Jules and Will are getting married on an island off the coast of Ireland. Someone will be dead by the end of the weekend.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
I just finished one of the author’s other books and am always looking for good audio books to listen to while running.

Review:
I love a twist that I didn’t quite guess but also makes sense.

This is another book told from multiple perspectives – there’s the event planner and owner of the location Aoife, bride Jules, groom Will, best man Johnno, bridesmaid Olivia, and ‘plus one’ (wife of the bride’s best friend) Hannah. Everyone has something going on. Will is a minor reality TV star; John-O has started his own whiskey company. Olivia (half-sister of the bride) has dropped out of university under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Hannah is a bit uncomfortable with her husband Charlie’s close relationship with the bride.

The events unfold over just a couple of days – the day before and the day of the wedding. A narrator provides interstitials letting the reader know details about a body found the night of the wedding. But who is it? And who killed them?

Without giving anything away, I would say that the book unravels in a considered and thoughtful manner, and nothing is too far-fetched. We feel for some of the characters, but also some are quite unlikable. I listened to the audio book, and the voicing of the men was particularly good – I had a visceral reaction to the chapters focused on the public school (in the British sense) boys getting back together after their glory days as teens.

One sort of recurring theme is how these entitled men treat people they deem week or unworthy – smaller kids they went to school with, women they dated. These men are gross but are also serving in positions of fame and power. Blech. I think this sort of meta social commentary led me to enjoy this one more than The Hunting Party, her previous similar book.

What’s next for this book:
I think this author has another similar book so I’ll probably check that one out to.

Sunday

7

January 2024

0

COMMENTS

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Fans of the Liane Moriarty style of storytelling, who aren’t worried about slightly darker tales.

In a nutshell:
A bunch of friends of university – along with their partners – spend New Year’s Eve at an isolated lodge in northern Scotland. A storm hits. Someone is dead.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
I was looking for something to listen to while running. Instead I ended up listening to it while doing pretty much anything because I couldn’t put it down.

Review:
This book has features I love: it travels back and forth in time (though only across three days); it takes place in an isolated location; it is told from multiple viewpoints.

We get five viewpoints in this book: Heather and Doug, who work at the lodge, and Katie, Emma, and Madeline, who are part of the friend group celebrating the holiday at the lodge. Katie and Madeline have been friends since childhood; Emma has joined the group of Oxford alumni as an outsider who is dating Mark. We learn early on that someone has died, but we don’t know who it is (not even their gender) or if it was an accident or murder.

There are hints as to who the dead person is, and any number of possible motives slowly reveal themselves. I had a bit six different theories by the end, and any one of them could have been true based on how the story unfolded.

Within the standard telling of a murder mystery, the author weaves in how relationships from youth change as we get older. There’s one couple with a new baby; two couples with a member who wasn’t part of the original friend group. There are shared stories and histories, and roles people are expected to play because they played that role when they were 21. 12 years later, people might have changed, and that can really play with the dynamics of a group.

This probably was around 3.5 stars for me, but I have rounded it up because I think there was some interesting character exploration and also some legitimate red herrings that kept me guessing until the end.

What’s next for this book:
I’ll be checking out the other books by this author for sure. (I’ve literally already bought the next one.)

Saturday

6

January 2024

0

COMMENTS

Disobedient Bodies by Emma Dabiri

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
All those impacted by Western beauty standards.

In a nutshell:
The way the West defines beauty (‘entangled in the forces of patriarchy and capitalism’) isn’t something to aspire to, and it is holding women back.

Worth quoting:
“How might we possibly reconcile the reality of the joys and pleasures we can find in our bodies, and in rituals of beautification…with the age-old and sometimes fraught feminist discourses, and the justified pushback against an overemphasis on our looks as not only a drag on our time, but a form of control?”

“Adornment brings with it rich associations of taking pleasure in our bodies as well as conveying a sense of ritual.”

“How did we end up with a phobic relationship to the passage of time itself?”

Why I chose it:
The topic stood out, but also the fact that this wasn’t a tome filled with centuries of history, meandering its way to a point. Sometimes I like that! But sometimes I don’t. This appeared to be focused and well-edited.

Review:
This review feels a bit all over the place, but that’s more about me than the writing in the book – I think the author succeeds with her project here; I’m just having some trouble synthesizing my thoughts into words.

This is a book in three parts – ‘How Did We Get Here?;’ The Birth of My Disobedience;’ and ‘New Ways to ‘Do’ Beauty.’ The sections are fairly self-explanatory; the first deals with societal expectations around women and beauty; the second features the authors own experiences in coming to realizations about what the Western / European expectations around beauty mean and the consequences of them. She is a woman with Black and Irish heritage, and so can speak to the racialization of beauty in a way that authors from a solely white background cannot, and that is something I valued in her writing.

The final bit is the part that I feel is missing from similar books: a discussion about the ways in which taking care and experiencing our own definitions of ‘doing’ beauty can line up with a positive experience of being a woman. She references braiding; I thought about going to nail salons with friends and how much fun that was (I still keep my nails painted pretty much all the time – I love the way it looks). She also talks about beauty as a verb – something you do, not something you are – and as not just a physical manifestation. I also appreciate that she pushes back on the idea that all we really need is more diversity and ‘representation’ of different types of bodies – she wants to fully interrogate how to upend this thinking. I admit I struggled a bit with this section, but I think I understand what she means – sort of like instead of pushing for more women CEOs, we should be upending the idea of capitalism itself as a goal. I think? I will need to re-read this section.

I’m about to enter my mid-forties, and about two years ago I stopped dying my hair. It’s nearly grown out now, and I don’t have tons of gray, but it’s definitely there. My fear of looking older kept me dying my hair, but now I think the streaks look kind of cool. But also … I don’t care if other people keep dying their hair, as long as it’s what they want and enjoy? I also have tattoos – I find them beautiful, but others definitely judge them as some sort of defacement of a body that they are entitled to take pleasure in viewing. I genuinely could not care less if people find my tattoos ugly; its the rest of me that I am working on feelings the same way about. I love a view of women’s bodies as not things for others to take joy in, but for us to take joy in, and that doesn’t mean we need to discard all beauty rituals we engage in. Dabiri is asking us to be thoughtful in what we choose.

What’s next for this book:
I’ll be keeping this one, and possibly picking up copies for friends.

Monday

1

January 2024

0

COMMENTS

A Portrait of the Piss Artist as a Young Man by Tadhg Hickey

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Those looking for inspiration from sober alcoholics / people with substance use issues.

In a nutshell:
Comedian Hickey shares what his life was like growing up in Cork, Ireland, with a mother who was mentally unwell.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
I follow Hickey on TikTok and didn’t realise he has a book. The book is … different from what I expected.

Review:
I was hoping to squeeze this in as my last review for 2023 but alas, I just missed out.

This book feels like an honest portrayal of what Hickey went through as a child with a mother who has ill mental health, and how he eventually found he was drinking and misusing substances to the point that it was impacting his ability to be there for his daughter. He talks about what he needed to get sober the first time, about relapsing, and about what he needs to stay sober. He also shares some insight into his career and his family life now that he is living a sober life. I’m not someone who has faced struggles with alcohol or substance use, but I found his portrayal to be interested, told with humor (obviously – he is a comedian) but also with insight and reflection.

Near the very end he spends some time talking about his activism, which is how I came across him – his TikTok sketches highlighting the current situation in Gaza. Those who have been following what is going on in Palestine may have noticed that Irish politicians have been very vocal in their support of Palestine, as have many Irish artists. Hickey is no different in that respect, and is using the platform he has to speak up. Obviously the take of someone who isn’t currently living there is not the priority at the moment, but I do appreciate that he is willing to be vocal about his opinions.

What’s next for this book:
Archive it (audio book)