SNAP

71wtI34-tjL   A pregnant mother walks up a British highway to phone for help, leaving her three children in the broken down car; when the children follow her trail later they find a phone receiver dangling from the hook but their mother has disappeared.  With this opening Belinda Bauer’s SNAP slowly unravels into a compelling murder mystery with a thrilling twist.

As the eldest, eleven year old Jack is in charge of his two younger sisters; their father is too devastated to cope. When their father does not return one day from his run to the market to get milk, Jack turns to burglary to sustain the household and keep his younger siblings from being discovered and sent to foster homes.  Five year old Merry mows the front lawn to keep up appearances, while Joy hoards newspapers, clipping articles about her murdered mother.

Their lives are brave but pathetic. Known as the Goldilocks burglar because he naps in the rooms of children, Jack looks for books on vampires he can steal for Joy to read.  He delivers his stolen goods to the neighborhood fence, Louis, another unlikely criminal who proudly pushes his baby son around in a stroller.  With Louis’ connections, Jack can target only empty homes where the owners have gone on extended vacations, but one day he  enters a house where he finds not only a pregnant woman in her bed but also the knife he somehow knows killed his mother.

Bauer cleverly weaves her characters together, introducing each in a different context unlikely to arouse the reader’s suspicion, until they overlap.  Her red herrings become real clues to the murderer’s identity and motive, as Jack and police detectives Marvel and Reynolds make missteps as they close in on the suspect.  The subplots overlap and unravel quickly into a compelling tale filled with survival, manipulation, violence, and murder.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, SNAP has an unconventional but satisfying ending, and  Jack is now one of my favorite fictional characters. With so many possibilities for discussion,  I considered SNAP as a candidate for book club lists, but after some thought, I decided I would rather keep my own images of Jack, Marvel, and the Whiles in my head, without dissecting them.  Read it and let me know what you think..

Top Ten Tuesday Shortlist

The Broke and Brookish suggestion to list books for a book club discussion had me reviewing my reading and thinking about what I would like to discuss.  One of my book clubs is about to reveal the list of books for 2017 at their annual luncheon in November; books are chosen by the person hosting the discussion but must be readily available in the library.  Another smaller group picks books bimonthly at the end of each meeting – sometimes newer books not yet in the library system and one none of us have read.  Constantly looking for another book to read, book lists are like candy to me.  I devour them instantly and want more.

Here is my short list (with links to my reviews)  but there are so many more…

Florence Gordon   by Brian Morton

The Many  by Wyl Menmuir

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

Homegoing  by Yaa Gyasi

The Door by Magda Szabó

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Book Club Picks for 2015

images-1Whether or not you like to discuss books, a list of possible new reads is always tempting to explore, and next year’s selection of books from one of my local book clubs offers quite a range.  Only ten books, one a month; November is for lunching and December for the holidays.

The books I’ve read and reviewed are in red; click on the link to read my thoughts.  I checked out summaries and review of the others – just to see what there are about…

Have you read any on the list?

Book Club Picks for 2015

1) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

2) China Dolls by Lisa See

“…three young women who come up together on the “Chop Suey Circuit” — all-Asian nightclub shows for mostly white audiences: Helen {is} from the traditional family of a well-heeled Chinatown merchant; Grace escaped an abusive home in the Midwest; and Ruby is a scrappy climber, a Japanese dancer “passing” as Chinese. They pledge everlasting friendship to one another, only to see their bond suffer the ravages of fame, time and war, particularly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.”  from Jennifer Keishin Armstrong review in the New York Times

3) Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay

“A crime thriller based on a daughter’s mysterious disappearance… thrusts her father into the world of violence and deception that lurks just below the surface of his nondescript Connecticut suburb.”  from Kirkus Reviews

4) The Blue Zone by Dan Buettner

Review from the New York Times: How To Live Longer Without Really Trying 

5) The Tattoo by Chris McKinney

“Ken Hideyoshi is the new guy in Halawa Correctional Institute (Hawaii)…. observes his cellmate Cal—the mute tattoo artist of the prison, a wife murderer. SYN, a gang symbol, is tattooed on his hand, and he has a Japanese emblem inscribed on his left shoulder. He asks Cal for a tattoo on his back…While he is being worked on, he tells Cal his life story, a tale of hardship and abuse… ”  from the Barnes and Noble Overview

6) Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo

“Just two months shy of his fourth birthday, Colton Burpo, the son of an evangelical pastor in Imperial, Neb., was rushed into emergency surgery with a burst appendix.  He woke up with an astonishing story: He had died and gone to heaven, where he met his great-grandfather; the biblical figure Samson; John the Baptist; and Jesus…  Colton’s father, Todd, has turned the boy’s experience into a 163-page book…”  from Julie Bosman’s New York Times Review

7) The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

Short story collection by Nigerian author of “Americanah”

8) The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry  by Gabrielle Zevin

9) The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar

“Héctor Tobar’s second novel sweeps its central character from almost-serfdom and sends her on an odyssey through the teeming mysteries of Los Angeles and the wild jungles of the California judicial system…”

Book Review: The Barbarian Nurseries  by Richard Rayner, Special to the Los Angeles Times

10) Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  by Maria Semple

Talk Amongst Yourselves

chat_icon_clip_art_7491 When asked to recommend books for discussion in a small group of “intelligent and fun ladies,” I scrolled through my reviews to find fare for a local book club.

I found:

  1. Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
  2. Anton DiSclafani’s The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
  3. Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed
  4. Kent Haruf’s Benediction
  5. Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life
  6. Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot
  7. Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early
  8. B. A. Shapiro’s The Art Forger
  9. Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
  10. Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.
  11. Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Some I will probably reread whether or not anyone wants to discuss them.