Does anyone feel pressure to squeeze in just a few more books during the last week of the month? I sure do. April has been a month of ups and downs, reading-wish, and I spent the first part of this week slogging through a book that I eventually decided to stop reading because I wasn’t enjoying it. However, I was able to finish three books to round out the month.
A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
Stacy Willingham’s debut novel, A Flicker in the Dark, has all the pieces of a thriller that I love: a mentally anguished protagonist with a dark past, a cast of untrustworthy side characters, and a mystery with plenty of twists and turns. Chloe Davis is the daughter of a serial killer and has been haunted by her father’s brutal murders of six teenage girls for most of her life. Now at 32 years old, Chloe must confront the past she’s tried to ignore when an apparent copycat has come to prey on young girls in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
I really enjoyed this book, even though it took me awhile to get into the story. None of the characters, not even Chloe, are particularly likable, but the story is strong and I was surprised by the twists in the third act. Willingham is an excellent writer, and I look forward to reading more of her books.
Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen
This book has been on my list for a long time, and I flew through it this week. Ava Wong has been the good Chinese American daughter all her life. A graduate of Stanford and now a married corporate lawyer on sabbatical with her first child, Henri, she goes through her days meeting others’ expectations. Until her old college roommate, Winnie, returns to San Francisco and asks Ava to meet her for coffee. That meeting leads to Ava joining Winnie’s counterfeit purse dealings in China and the U.S., but if Ava is to be believed, her involvement is reluctant and Winnie’s coercive behavior is more powerful than the lure of millions in counterfeit luxury brands. Soon Ava is in deep, and the two must find a way to escape the FBI, Chinese gangsters, and their own cultural expectations.
This book gave me a Catch Me If You Can feeling, and I loved that. One of my favorite writing conventions is an unreliable narrator, and Ava is definitely one to be watched. Counterfeit is a fast-paced, fun read–perfect for the end of the month.
Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese
Confession: I think The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the most ridiculous books I’ve ever read. It’s nothing but pages of narration with little compelling me to care about the characters, even poor Hester Prynne with her scarlet A branded across her Puritan’s dress.
Luckily, I found Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese to be a lot more engaging than The Scarlet Letter. I love a good historical fiction novel, and this novel delivered with a descriptive narrative across generations. Isobel Gamble, born in Scotland, lives in fear that someone will discover her synesthesia–her ability to attach one sense to another–and brand her a witch like her ancestor. With a warning from her mother, she learns to hide how she sees colors attached to noises, words, and smells while honing her skills as a needleworker. Then, she and her husband Edward move to Salem, and she meets young Nathaniel Hawthorne. With her husband away on shipping travels and her need to adjust to the community, Isobel draws closer to Nathaniel and into an affair. With themes of love, morality, and friendship, this book is a good read and full of historical tidbits, even for someone like me who doesn’t care for Hawthorne.
And now we’re at the start of May! What will the month bring, bookish friends?