The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

execution

Noa P. Singleton is on death row for shooting Sarah Dixon, a young pregnant woman.  Six months before her scheduled execution, Sarah’s mother, an attorney, Marlene Dixon shows up to tell Noa that she has started M.A.D (Mothers Against Death) and that she wants to petition the governor to grant Noa clemency.  What she really wants is to hear Noa’s story, a story that Noa has never told to anyone, not during her trial or her incarceration.

There were moments of beautiful and wrenching writing, but there were just as many times where the writing was awkward or it felt as the author used ten-dollar words just to prove she knew them.  Unfortunately, most of the main characters are often annoyingly pathetic – Noa, her father, Marlene, even Sarah in her brief appearances.  The only character that might be consistently likable is Ollie, Marlene’s assistant attorney, and even he disappoints in the end.

It is a story full of guilt and remorse, for all parties involved, that goes back and forth in time between the present and Noa’s past, as well as alternating between Noa’s story and Marlene’s as told through letters she writes to her dead daughter.  This does not confuse the story, although I admit to getting bored by it about half way through.  The story grabbed me again, but ultimately disappointed in the end.  I do not need, nor did I necessarily expect, everything to get tidied up neatly, but it seemed like nothing was really resolved and what was revealed was not startling, just sad.

I really wanted to like this novel, there was a lot of positive buzz around it, but much like Gone Girl, I didn’t think it lived up to the hype.  That’s not to say that I didn’t like it, it was OK, it just didn’t grab me and leave me wanting more.

Title:  The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
Author:  Elizabeth L. Silver
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 320
Publication: Crown, June 2013

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Irish Authors

Doesn’t everyone love all things Irish?  I’m Irish by marriage only, but there is still a pull – a magical land, wonderful music, good beer…  Here are a couple of great books featuring Ireland by Irish authors that came out this summer.

city of hope

This is the follow-up novel to Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan, and now we find Ellie back in Ireland with her husband, running her own businesses and struggling with her inability to have children.  But when her husband dies suddenly, Ellie runs from all she loves, unable to deal with the grief, back to New York City.  She finds the city changed from her previous time there, and her plans of shopping and dining with old friends are overshadowed by the realities of the Great Depression.  Trying to distract herself from dealing with her grief, Ellie throws herself into opening homes, in a commune-like setting, for the homeless.  It seems to be working until one day someone from her past shows up at the door, opening up new emotions and possibilities, while eventually forcing her to confront her grief, and eventually to return to Ireland and face her past.

I didn’t like this installment of the series as much as the first, but it may just be that it suffers from the 2nd-in-a-trilogy syndrome, and the third book will pull me back in.  In spite of Ellie’s generosity and charity to others, I found her to be annoyingly self-centered and overly proud of herself and her independence in this book.  Having said that, I was still anxious to see what would become of her, and was pulled in by the descriptions of that time in NYC and by the people that surrounded her.

Title: City of Hope
Author: Kate Kerrigan
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 352
Publication: William Morrow Paperbacks, June 2013

time of my life

Dear Lucy Silchester,

You have an appointment for Monday, May 30.

Yours sincerely,

Life

Lucy has been making a real mess of her life, and now her life wants to sit down and talk about it.  Ever since she split with her boyfriend, things have unraveled and she has created an immense web of lies to keep others from asking too many questions.  She lives in a crappy apartment, has a job that she hates with people she dislikes, her car is breaking down, her relationship with her family is strained, and her friends are beginning to question her honesty and commitment.  Turns out that Life is actually a run-down man who wants her to focus on her Life and turn things around.  He follows her everywhere – to work, out with her friends, and to meet with her family – puzzling everyone and frustrating Lucy.  Eventually, Lucy learns to love her Life, and to face the choices she has made and the lies she has told.

Lucy got on my nerves sometimes – can’t lie about that – maybe it was her ability to effortlessly lie about EVERYTHING or her inability to make a smart decision!  But I loved Life – his humor, his patience, and his commitment to getting things right.  The idea of Lucy’s Life actually being another person seems implausible and awkward, and it was at first, but soon it seemed natural and obvious.  The message was obvious – the need for each of us to take the time to focus on our own lives once and awhile.  Overall, it was a fun read, with plenty of humor in Lucy’s interactions with Life.

Title: The Time of My Life
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 512
Publication: William Morrow Paperbacks, April 2013

Ocean at the End of the Lane

ocean

A middle-aged man returns to his home in England for a funeral.  While he is there he is drawn towards his childhood home, and ultimately to the ramshackle and sprawling farm on the ocean at the end of the lane.  As he sits on the shore he remembers the events of his childhood.  It was there, during the summer of his seventh year, where horrible and magical and wonderful events occurred.  It started with the suicide of a man that led him to Lettie Hempstock, her mother, and her grandmother at this very farm.  During the horrifically terrifying events that followed, the calming and magical Lettie promises to protect him.

The main character’s love affair with books – their ability to calm him and transport him and protect him definitely struck a chord with me who spent much of my childhood (ok – and adulthood too!) with my head stuck in a book.

“Growing up, I took so many cues from books. They taught me most of what I knew about what people did, about how to behave. They were my teachers and my advisers.” 

I loved this book – the characters, the events, the story, the prose.  The ending was fantastic, heartbreaking, and necessary.  It is an adult fairy tale, and one that I will read again and again.

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

Title:  Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author:  Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 192
Publication: William Morrow, June 2013

Illusion of Separateness

illusion

“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

The Illusion of Separateness ties together the lives of a number of individuals, spanning from World War II through to present day.  Chapters jump around throughout time and place, weaving together  the stories of various characters, and there are many: a blind woman who works at a museum, an American couple separated by WWII, an elderly man whose face was disfigured in WWII, a caretaker of the elderly, a famous Hollywood film director.  As the story of the individuals unfolds, the story of their connections slowly is revealed – coming full circle at the end and revealing the connections that bind the characters all together, that the seeming separateness of these lives and their stories is an illusion itself.

I will admit that this book started slowly for me, so if it does the same for you, give it a chance and it will bring you into the lives of these seemingly separate characters and their interconnections.  The writing is beautiful; I was not surprised to discover that the author is also a poet and is worth savoring.

‘…finding the candles by heat, and blowing them out one by one, as we, one day, will be vanquished with a last puff and then nothing at all – nothing but the fragrance of our lives in the world, as on a hand that once held flowers.’

Title:  The Illusion of Separateness
Author:  Simon Van Booy
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 224
Publication: Harper, June 2013

Deeply Odd

deeply odd

Deeply Odd is the seventh book in the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz.  What I love about this series is the character of Odd Thomas – the story lines are odd as well – demons, time travel, dark spirits, anything unbelievable and strange can find its way into these books.  They might not be the type of books that would hold my attention if it was not for Odd Thomas himself.  A fry cook who can see the spirits of the dead and helps them to move on – he is quirky, witty, humorous, trusting, humble, frightened and courageous.   In Deeply Odd he is still the character I have come to love.

In this latest installment of the series, Odd has a vision of children being killed and is on a quest to find the culprits and stop their nefarious deeds.  It will take him down a path of alternate realities with demons and dark spirits, but he will have the assistance of the dearly departed Alfred Hitchcock and his ghost dog, Boo, when things start to go wrong.  Along the way he is joined by a new character to the series – Edie – and she is a fresh addition – an elderly woman who is smart and brave, funny and supportive and kind – and she knows where to get some high-powered weapons when all else fails!  Annemarie, the enigmatic young pregnant woman from previous novels, plays a very small role, a relief to me since I find her vagueness annoying.

The story line does fall into the larger story arc of the series, seemingly heading towards a cataclysmic event, as Odd begins to discover and understand the greater forces of good and evil that are at work.  All in all, it was nice to spend some time with Odd again, and I look forward to our next meeting.

Title:  Deeply Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 352
Publication: Bantam, May 2013