I’ve been quite disappointed with the literary fiction I’ve read so far this year. Aside from The Cranes Dance, there hasn’t been anything that’s hit me over the head and dragged me back to its cave. A.S.A Harrison’s The Silent Wife did nothing to change my mind. Jodi and Todd’s twenty year relationship is limping toward its end, but Jodi doesn’t want to acknowledge that. She’d prefer to go on pretending that everything is fine, that as long as Todd comes home to her every night his extramarital flings will remain just that: flings. When his latest fling demands he end his relationship with Jodi, though, Jodi ups her petty revenges to murder. We know from the very first sentence Jodi will kill Todd. It’s simply a matter of when. And I have to tell you, it wasn’t by the time I was 65% of the way through, which is where I gave up. Jodi is a flat, uninteresting, unsympathetic character. Todd is only slightly more engaging for his vascillation between staying with Jodi and leaving her at the behest of his mistress, a younger woman named Natasha. Natasha herself is a stereotypical, oversexed demanding bitch of an “other woman”. The narration pulls you out of the story too often, drifting into a sort of omniscient voice. I found myself checking the bottom of my Kindle every so often. 15%. 23%. 42%. It’s meant to be a gripping, tense thriller. Instead, it’s a skim-the-page and oh-god-why-am-I-not-done-yet book that gets relegated to the did not finish pile.
The Village by Nikita Lalwani did a much better job in comparison, though it still didn’t quite get there. Ray and her two person crew are in the village of Ashwar to film a documentary on the village, which is a social experiment: an open-air prison, where each inmate has been convicted of murder and their families live with them. At first the crew interviews villagers and shoots film of their every day lives, but soon the repetition of the daily lives of the prisoners and their families becomes too boring for television, and Ray’s pushed beyond her vision for the program. I loved Ray’s way of looking at the world, like she was seeing it through the lens of a camera. Every scene holds a fascination for her, and she wants to capture it all and give it away. Like the photos Terry takes in Jessica Lott’s The Rest of Us, Ray’s videography makes me want to rush out and see it. From a real-life perspective, the idea of a prison where the inmates live with their families, where they’re allowed out into the nearby town during the day in order to find employment, that they’ve effectively turned the prison village into an actual village, is an interesting and viable concept in terms of how the penal system might adapt. It switches between present and past tense, though, and it’s one of those things that you’ll be reading along and THEN you notice it and it interrupts the flow of the story and you struggle to get back into it. And there’s an incident about halfway through the book that makes little sense; I found myself scratching my head over it. (Releases July 9th, review copy provided by the publisher.)
With the disappointing literary fiction bringing me down, it’s a good thing I had Jo Piazza’s Love Rehab on hand. It is, again, an intriguing concept: a twelve step program to break you of your bad dating and post break-up habits. Sophie’s spent a lot of time complaining and crying to whichever friend will listen to her about her most recent break up. When her best friend ends up at an AA meeting, she tags along and finds there’s something freeing about a room full of people who will give you the unmitigated support you need when it comes to a break up. The romance was predictable, but the voice was fun, and I couldn’t help think this book came out at the wrong time. If it had been released at the height of the chick-lit boom, it would be a movie by now. In fact, I think it should be a movie. A sweet, sassy romantic comedy starring Jennifer Garner as Sophie. Someone make this happen. Stat.
Throughout the month, I re-read a number of books: Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh, The Pagan Stone by Nora Roberts, Escorted by Claire Kent (have you read this yet? Good. Surprisingly good.) But it was after I’d re-read The Science of Temptation by Delphine Dryden that I felt compelled to pick up something else by her. I’d already read The Seduction Hypothesis and enjoyed it, but not as much as Temptation. So I bought How To Tell a Lie. Allison’s been playing an MMPORG for months as part of her research: what cues and clues you can pick up on to tell if someone is lying online. She’s been bantering and flirting in the game with another player for a few months, and then randomly one afternoon they discover they work at the same university. Seth’s an economics professor, Allison’s in psych, so they’ve never actually met. Their online relationship moves offline in fits and starts, but Allison’s past keeps throwing her off. There was so much to love about this book. It’s laden with geekery and you could totally nerdgasm all over it. Allison and Seth’s conversations moved easily from light and fluffy to more serious topics and back again. I loved how Seth wasn’t afraid to use sarcasm or anger to push Allison closer to him, making her think rather than scaring her off. My one issue was the ending. I didn’t have a problem with the happy ever after. It was the emotions in it that felt rushed. That’s not going to stop me from putting Delphine Dryden on my auto-buy list, and picking up the rest of the books in the Truth and Lies series. Now where did I put my credit card?