Marrying the Mistress

I reluctantly picked up Marrying the Mistress from the lending library at work. I quickly hid this trashy book in my bag. I figured it would be a quick, fun weekend pool read. Yet,I did not want to publicly promote this book pick.

Joanna Trollope provides a glimpse into a family’s reaction to divorce. She develops an authentic portrait of domestic friction. Surprisingly it is full of realistic sibling relationships, generational differences, midlife crises, nasty family dynamics and lightly woven subplots. The story veered far from trashy. The title and cover were very misrepresenting. Besides my extreme dislike that the characters used the first names when referring to their parents rather then mom or dad, Trollope creates an interesting novel. 

The Divide

The Divide was an enjoyable, easy read, yet far from groundbreaking. Nicholas Evans use of many voices was a good technique providing a glimmer into each key character's unique perspective and feelings. I'm at a bit of a loss on what else to write about this book. The eco-terrorism angle was different. The writing was mediocre. The characters were run of the mill. The book was nothing spectacular.

The Secret Scripture

The Secret Scriptures focuses on Roseanne McNulty, a centenarian and long-time resident of the Roscommon mental hospital. The institution, her home is to close. Roseanne’s life spans a turbulent era in Ireland’s history, from the Irish civil war to the German bombing of Belfast during World War II. The destructive history shapes the experiences of this intriguing protagonist. Roseanne relays here story taking on the task of writing her personal narrative or the "secret scripture." Her voice is sad, strange, strong and often confused. Her account interweaves with that of her psychiatrist, Dr. Grene who is charged with assessing whether she can finally be released.
Sebastian Barry writes about love, loss, broken promises, failed hopes, morality, religious prejudice, archaic beliefs. Barry's style is poetic. He creates beautiful prose out of the wreckage of horrendous circumstances, diving into the complexity of human emotions while illustrating that destructive actions are in our nature. 
Barry faltered tremendously with the twist at the very end. The twist was too coincidental, unbelievable and completely unnecessary. Luckily this mishap did not diminish the books overall quality. 

Deceptive Intentions

Deceptive Intentions is listed under two different titles. Heart of Deception is the other listed title. The prequel also has two different names. I’m not entirely sure why M.L. Malcolm has taken this approach. Any thoughts or known reasons please let me know.

I am surprised how much I enjoyed the genre. It’s my first spy novel, although this book can also be characterized as a family saga, loosely historical and perhaps even a coming of age story. I think I may like Secret Lies or Heart of Lies even better as one of the primary characters Leo Hoffman’s early life as a spy is explored. In Deceptive Intentions I wanted to learn more of Leo’s clandestine identity. I was fascinated by the colorful, foreign landscapes of Tangier and Egypt. Unfortunately the spy story line was vague and underdeveloped in this book.

I did enjoy how Malcolm used historical figures to shape the narrative. Sadly the author makes some glaring mistakes. The mob plot was rushed. The Fifty Shades of Grey chapter was completely out of left field. Taking this strange, disconnected approach confused the flow and style. Even with the criticisms, I will embrace Heart of Lies, as the characters were absorbing. I am invested in their origins.  

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a journey of insight, new friends, loss, love, growth and the ability to change. I love how Rachel Joyce highlights that there are always opportunities for new beginnings even when for so long things have been stuck. Joyce’s characters are varied, intricate and very unique. The premise of walking across England with no supplies, yachting shoes or truly clear intention is absolutely absurd. Nevertheless our protagonist Harold moves forward emotionally, spiritually and physically. Joyce has developed a character to emulate, as it is honorable, dedicated and exciting to take on a challenge and then succeed beyond everyone’s, including your own, wildest expectations. Joyce does a great job of creating a complicated, rich, sad yet happy tale.

Lunch in Paris

Lunch in Paris is a predictable, pretentious, uninteresting memoir of an American woman who falls in love with a Frenchman and moves to Paris. The author’s story is not at all gripping or poignant. Moving from the States to another first world country is not brave or automatically interesting to compel the creation of a memoir. Moving to Pakistan, Iraq or Ghana, well that’s a different matter. Elizabeth Bard self-portrayal is obnoxious and bratty. Additionally she takes a formulaic approach of comparing the States to France. Americans are portrayed as uncultured and greedy while the French are sophisticated, higher beings. This book’s saving grace was the recipes. To start I want to try the quick and dirty chocolate soufflĂ© cake, trout with cherry tomatoes baked in foil and yogurt cake. There are many more recipes that peaked my interest and did not appear super challenging to accomplish. The recipes were more interesting then Bard's story.