Sunday, November 19, 2017

Moving Kings by Joshua Cohen

The style of this book was a bit unusual - very long run on sentences and paragraphs, often like streams of consciousness, which were at times hard to follow.  Occasionally I had to backtrack to pick up the thread again.  But, given the chapters were written from the perspective of various characters, the format was actually quite realistic as doesn't everyone's mind wander in this way.

The novel starts from the perspective of David King, the owner and manager of King's Moving in the New York City area.  While David has built a large business, he seems a bit disreputable.  He has recently divorced his wife after she discovered his long time affair with his office manager, he is on barely speaking terms with his daughter who is herself a recovering addict, he hires a motley band of employees and his company's specialty is evicting delinquent tenants and mortgagors from their homes and repossessing their belongings.

David has hidden some money in Israel since a visit there many years earlier to a cousin and her family.  His cousin's son, Yoav, has just completed his compulsory army duty and is sent to work for David (illegally).  He struggles with the unstructured nature of civilian life, language, working with men of different origins and sensibilities and having to throw people out of their homes.  He is later joined by Uri, his partner in the army infantry who is clearly suffering from PTSD.  Entering peoples homes and evicting them brings back painful memories of their time in the "occupation forces".  As both men try to adjust, a violent encounter with a vengeful homeowner leads to tragedy for Yoav and Uri and sends David into hiding.

Though the writing style was sometimes hard to follow, I found the narrative gripping and the characters fascinating.  I liked how we saw things from the perspective of each of David, Yoav and Uri - all who had very distinct voices.  I recommend this book, but not when you're in the mood for a light read.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Just Like Family by Kate Hilton

I really wanted to read this book for two reasons:  first, I read Hilton's debut novel, The Hole in the Middle, and enjoyed it; and second, I really admire her.  Hilton is a lawyer turned novelist who has met with some success and her second novel did not disappoint.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't fine literature, but it is entertaining reading with interesting characters and a somewhat predictable plot line which doesn't detract from the overall experience.

I did like the twist in the lead character's life - Avery Graham started as a writer and then went to law school and became first a lawyer, then chief of staff to the Toronto mayor.  Most people in real life seem to take the opposite path.  I like how the story moves back and forth in time - the present day drama of life in the mayor's office gets interwoven with Avery's childhood, and wandering young adulthood as she comes to terms with her father's premature death and tries to figure out what to do with her life.

Avery is now juggling the demands of Peter, her "work husband" and the mayor who she has known (and had a crush on) since childhood.  It is clear to the reader and everyone else around her that he's an ass who has taken advantage of her devotion for years.  It takes some pretty dramatic revelations about him (which I will not spoil by sharing) for her to begin to see the truth.

She is also trying to figure out how to respond to the marriage proposal from her long time live in partner.  She loves Matt, but she had an early disastrous marriage to Hugh which seems to make her gun shy.  She is particularly guilty about how she ended things with Hugh and seems afraid to take the chance of hurting Matt in the same way.

We also see her interesting relationships with her mother, her two friends from high school (one who is now also her sister-in-law), other members of city council, representatives of special interest groups and her ex-husband.  But at its heart the book is about Avery and how she continuously struggles to find her place in the world.

An easy and worthwhile read.

Winter Solstice by Elin HIlderbrand

Hilderbrand is best known for her summer beach reads set on Nantucket.  However, she wrote a Christmas trilogy based on the Quinn family who run a small inn on the island.  Kelly, his second wife, three children from his first marriage, their mother and his son from his second marriage as well as various significant and insignificant others star in these books.  While I did not enjoy them as much as the summer books, apparently after the third was finished Hilderbrand's editor pushed for a fourth to wrap up the Quinn's story a little more neatly.  Personally I didn't think the fourth book was necessary, but if she was inspired to write it, I really liked that she also made it a sequel to one of her summer books, The Rumor.

The problem for me was The Rumor was one of my least favourite of her books - the characters just didn't grab me so I didn't feel wildly curious to hear more of their story.  So, in some ways, this book just felt a bit forced for me - an author trying to weave together more of a story for a bunch of characters whose stories had already been told.

So, I didn't end up loving this book - it was fine, just not particularly compelling.  While on social media many say they couldn't put it down and they cried through it, I just wasn't moved in the same way.  The outcomes for the characters seemed a bit too predictable - as if the author just wanted to please her fans.  Which is an admirable goal, good to keep your fans happy, it just didn't work for me.

Unless you were a particularly big fan of the Winter Street trilogy or The Rumor and you really want to spend more time with these characters, I wouldn't bother with this book.