The Casual Vacancy

So J.K. Rowling can write for adults, after all. “The Casual Vacancy,” the sordid tale of politics and personality in the small town of Pagford, is the author’s first true foray into adult literature—although, let’s be honest, she already had adults reading her work when she was the queen of all things Potter. The book is engrossing—unwieldy at first, but once you get in, it’s difficult to put it down. If you choose to take it on, here’s a quick primer on the characters: Barry and Mary Fairbrother: Barry dies at the outset, resulting in a “casual vacancy” on the … Continue reading The Casual Vacancy

The “How To” on “50 Shades” Kind of Fun

Far be it for HeadLitzyDitz to ignore what her readers are looking for. I crack up every time I check my blog stats only to find people are still reading my review on “50 Shades of Grey.” Of all the books I’ve read this year and last, it really ranks as one of the worst. But, it does fill a void. People like to read the hot stuff, too. The other trend that has come to my attention is how people get to my review—a lot of the referring searches have to do with “how to.” Which made me think—are … Continue reading The “How To” on “50 Shades” Kind of Fun

Sharp Objects

Looking for a quick, can’t-put-it-down psychological thriller? Look no further than “Sharp Objects.” The book, author Gillian Flynn’s first, debuted to critical acclaim when it was published in 2007. It’s getting renewed, and well-deserved, attention thanks to Flynn’s success this summer with “Gone Girl.” Themes? Where do I start? Family dysfunction, serial killers, pain, loss, grief, rejection, batshit crazy people … it’s all packed nearly into 252 pages. Chicago crime reporter Camille Preaker is sent back to her southern Missouri hometown to cover the possibility a serial killer is stalking the sweet little girls of Wind Gap. Camille’s upbringing was … Continue reading Sharp Objects

The Midwife of Hope River

What a lovely book. That probably sounds contrite—and I certainly don’t mean it that way. But it is—”The Midwife of Hope River” is really, a lovely book. Engaging, romantic, quiet, introspective, sad … it’s not as gripping a novel as say, “Gone Girl.” But the story of Patience Murphy latches on to you emotionally, making it difficult to put the book down. Murphy is, as she almost always has been, on the run. An orphan on the run, an almost-widow on the run, and now a possible felon, having played a role in the death of her activist husband, Patience … Continue reading The Midwife of Hope River

The Age of Miracles

The hell? I’m not sure who or what told me to read “The Age of Miracles.” And let me be clear—I am not disappointed I did. But seriously …. what the hell? This debut novel from Karen Thompson Walker was as disturbing as it was entertaining. And by entertaining, I mean that it swallowed up my day whole. I didn’t want to put it down, mesmerized by the desperate plot line. Sixth-grader Julia narrates a year in her life, beginning with a cataclysmic event—the slowing of the Earth’s rotation. I drew an immediate connection from this book to Tom Perrotta’s … Continue reading The Age of Miracles

Gold

If I’d read this before the Olympics, maybe I would have followed the cycling more intensely. Chris Cleave’s latest, “Gold,” pits frenemy against frenemy as cyclists Kate and Zoe go head to head for the right to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. It’s Cleave’s third novel and his follow-up to the very popular “Little Bee”—a book that made me bawl. So first things first. Is it as good as “Little Bee?” Hmm.  That’s a tough one. It’s kind of like asking which Harry Potter novel is the best one. Everyone will have a preference. I suppose I liked “Little … Continue reading Gold

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

I wanted to hate this book. When I first saw it, while mildly intrigued, my first snarky thought was “Yay. Another woman goes on some completely unrealistic vision quest and writes a book and gets Oprah to dote on her, and really I’m just jealous I can’t take a 15-minute walk without one of my kids needing my attention and isn’t she just special?!?!?!” But, yeah. It kind of kicked ass. It didn’t take but a few pages to realize I shouldn’t be jealous of, or envy Cheryl Strayed. Instead, I found a certain kind of empathy for her.  At … Continue reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity

History geeks, grab this book. I took this book with me on a vacation to Washington, D.C.—the perfect setting to dive into presidential history. Beginning with the unlikely friendship between Presidents Hoover and Truman and culminating with President Clinton’s visit to the White House briefing room to support President Obama’s tax/budget package, readers will learn much more about the political machinery that is the White House than you’ll ever discover from CNN, MSNBC or Fox. Believe it or not, Republicans and Democrats can get along. I’m a little bit of a political junkie, but not so much that I would … Continue reading The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity

The Sandcastle Girls

You know the term “investment piece?” We hear it a lot in fashion and furniture. Sure, it’s not exactly trendy, and it costs more, but it lasts longer. You’ll use it forever. It’s well-worth the larger financial and/or emotional investment. That’s “The Sandcastle Girls.” This book isn’t going to blow up the summer reading charts in the same fashion as the “50 Shades” trilogy or Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” But it certainly isn’t any less worthy of accolades. It’s simply a really tough read. It is about a love affair, but it’s not traditionally romantic. Set in the early 1900s … Continue reading The Sandcastle Girls

One Breath Away

It’s another hit for Heather. “One Breath Away,” Heather Gudenkauf’s third novel (“Weight of Silence” and ‘These Things Hidden” are also excellent), is a great modern mystery, taking readers on a terrifying journey to find out just who would walk into a small-town Iowa school and take a classroom hostage. Gudenkauf’s storytelling style of alternating the narration between characters suits this story well, so that we can experience the hostage experience from all sides—the parents, the teachers, and the police. The only person missing from the circle of narrators is the gunman himself, and for good reason. If he talked, … Continue reading One Breath Away