Mini Reviews: Three Literary Thrillers That You’ve Probably Read Already

I call these literary thrillers because they delve into the psychology and daily lives of the characters well as being suspenseful. These three mini-reviews are completely spoiler-free, and therefore don’t say much at all, but I hope you’ll read them anyway.

cover image partial teenage boy's face mostly obscured by messy hairFinding Jake
by Bryan Reardon

Stay-at-home dad Simon Connolly rushes to the high school with all the other parents in his family’s upper- middle-class neighborhood when they get the news that something terrible has happened there, but he and his wife Rachel, a lawyer, only get to collect their daughter, Laney. Jake, their son, Laney’s older brother, a quiet loner, is missing…and a suspect.
The writing in this first novel is a little amateurish at times, so you have to be in the mood to read uncritically. How the police behave is completely unrealistic, but to be fair, it’s hard to have a suspenseful story without having some unrealistic plot elements. The story is written in Simon’s voice, jumping back and forth from present to past, in alternating chapters, with Simon constantly questioning his parenting over the years. (For example, it starts in the present and jumps back to eight months before Jake is born.) Fans of Jodi Picoult and William Landay’s Defending Jacob should like this one.
For a more psychological, less suspenseful take on the subject of a guilt-ridden father wondering whether he raised a son capable of an atrocity, try The Good Father (Doubleday, 2012) by Noah Hawley.

Read a sample of Finding Jake.

HarperCollins, Feb. 2015
272 pp.

cover image view of countryside from train windowThe Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train, which came out mid-January, is the book everyone was calling the next Gone Girl, so I read it early  to avoid spoilers. If you liked Gone Girl, you will probably like The Girl on the Train, which is set in the suburbs of London and has an young woman narrator upset over an ended relationship. I thought it went on a little too long, but it was a fast, addictive read like Gone Girl.  (Personally, I liked The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson better, which came out shortly after and also got thrown into the Gone Girl category. I thought I had posted a review already, but I guess I haven’t!)

Penguin, Jan. 2015
336 pp.

cover image young woman with umbrella walking on rainy city sidewalkOne Step Too Far
by Tina Seskis

The cover of this debut novel, which is also compared to Gone Girl, has the tagline “No one has ever guessed Emily’s secret. Will you?” Set in England, this one alternates between past and present, with the present chapters narrated in the first-person present tense by Emily – a young woman hiding from her past and starting a new life – and the chapters about the past in the third-person. If you liked Before I Go to Sleep or The Silent Wife, you might like One Step Too Far. It kept me reading and guessing, but in an annoyed kind of way.
If I were 23 years old, instead of 53, I think I would have liked it better, so check out some of these other reviews (more detailed than mine, but still mainly spoiler-free, I think):

Traveling with T
The Well-Read Redhead

William Morrow
304 pp.

Disclosure: I feel bad about not reviewing One Step Too Far sooner because I received an advance reader’s copy from the publisher.

Pleasure Reading for Bookish Foodies: That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay #weekendcooking

cover image with Eiffel Tower and tulipsThe two main characters in That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay are a reader and an author – both middle-aged, divorced, and love to cook. Both are slightly dissatisfied with how their lives have turned out in what is not quite the end, but is getting closer to being the final chapter. (Of their lives, that is…using a bookish metaphor here.)

With a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the front, you can guess how this story turns out, right?

Well, maybe and maybe not. Eve Petworth (the reader) lives in a suburb of London and Jackson Cooper (the author)  lives in the Hamptons. Eve sends Jack (think Lee Child, does he cook, I wonder?) a fan letter about his latest thriller and they begin a correspondence about cooking and eating that becomes an anchor for each of them in the swirl of their daily lives.

Dear Mr Cooper,

I could probably contact you more directly by e-mail, but the effort of handwriting will encourage me to choose my words carefully and I am conscious that I am writing to an author.

I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your book ‘Dead Letters’ very much. The scene where Harry Gordon eats the peach (‘leaning over and holding back his green silk tie with one arm while the juice christened the shirt cuff of the other’) introduced a moment of summer into a watery English day. And it reminded me, as well, of the almost decadent pleasure that comes with eating fully matured fruit – sadly, a rarity.

With best wishes,
Eve Petworth

Eve’s and Jack’s correspondence continues through the novel, but it’s just the seasoning for the main storyline – Eve’s daughter’s engagement and marriage – with its underlying theme that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself or go to Paris.

Author Deborah McKinlay lives in the U.K. This Part Was True is her second novel. Instead of an author bio, here’s the recipe that she says defines her.

I’m sure I heard about This Part Was True from a past Weekend Cooking post, but I can’t find the post. I’m sure I’ve seen several mentions of it from book bloggers, possibly from one of these:

Book Journey

I enjoyed That Part Was True very much, especially because it was very much about reading and writing, and cooking and eating – some of my favorite things to read about! It’s also got that British depressive streak that keeps even their domestic fiction (which this is)and chick lit (which this isn’t) from being too cloying. On the book publicity, it’s compared to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because of the letters and the cooking, but there’s no historic element here. I can’t think of another book to compare it to right now, but I’ll keep thinking!

That Part Was True
McKinlay, Deborah
Grand Central, 2/4/14
240 pp.

Weekend Cooking buttonThis post is part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click on the image for more Weekend Cooking posts.

Easter Goodies #WeekendCooking

Easter means candy. To some people. I’m not saying me, necessarily.

Certain store-bought candies are gluten-free, but buying handmade candy from a confectioner’s is out, so I thought I’d make some more for Easter.

White Chocolate-Covered Pretzels on a platter
White Chocolate-Covered (Gluten-Free) Pretzels made from a very basic recipe at All Recipes. Click on the picture to get to the recipe.

I had made white chocolate coconut truffles for an event last weekend but forgot to take pictures, so I made some more for Weekend Cooking Easter. Since some people don’t like coconut, I used a different recipe that didn’t call for coconut extract and didn’t roll a few in the toasted coconut (although that’s actually the best part, I think!)

The recipe I used for these easy white chocolate coconut truffles is here.

After making the gluten-free challah from my Nosh on This baking cookbook, which I have written about before and will write about again, I had leftover egg whites, and so I made these chocolate cookies from the Winter issue of GFF Magazine, which is a new foodie magazine with great recipes. The recipe for these Brownie Pecan Cookies isn’t online, but here’s a picture.

Brownie Pecan Cookies close up
Brownie Pecan Cookies. Not very Easter-y, I know, but some people only like chocolate desserts.

I underbaked the first batch slightly and overbaked the second batch (with the pecans on top) slightly, I think, but I tried one of the pecan ones, and it tasted pretty good!

And then, the dessert that I had actually been planning to make and almost forgot to make, this Lemon Ricotta and Almond Flourless Cake, which I’d made once before in the fall,  but is more of a springtime dessert, so perfect for Easter! We haven’t cut into it yet, but it came out of the pan OK!

Ready to go in the oven
After baking. Was still wobbly so baked a little longer than minimum time.
Ready to eat. Maybe I’ll sprinkle a little more confectioner’s sugar on top right before serving.

For the morning sweet tooth, hubby made delicious gluten-free hot cross buns from another good baking cookbook Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts. He usually puts cinnamon in the dough, but this recipe didn’t call for spiced dough, so we added cinnamon to the frosting.

hot cross buns on platter

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking buttonThis post is part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click here for more Weekend Cooking posts from bloggers around the world.

Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian


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