The Expats, by Chris Pavone: A Book Review

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I apologize that this is the 2nd book review in a week. I can tell you going forward you probably won’t see two grouped so close together. However, last week we were on vacation and so I was able to start and finish two books.

The Expats is Chris Pavone’s debut novel. The story is told from Kate Moore’s perspective. The story starts out with Kate and her husband Dexter in the kitchen. They live in Washington, D.C. and are what I refer to as the “working poor”. Dexter tells Kate that he has been offered the job opportunity of a life-time, but they are going to need to move to Luxembourg. Kate who is ready to step away from her current job, which is kept under wraps until considerably later in the story, says Okay. With that Kate and Dexter pack up all of their DC belongings, and their two children, to move across the Ocean to Europe.

When they get to Europe Kate realizes that her husband’s job is entailing more work than he lead her to believe and she ends up befriending another Expat wife, Julia. As Kate and Julia begin to become friends Kate notices some odd behavior from Julia and eventually comes to learn that Julia is actually an undercover agent for the FBI. More than that, they are after her husband! I won’t reveal more of the plot than that. That should be enough to let you know whether you want to read it or not.

When I first finished this book I gave it a four star review on Goodreads. After I sat with it a bit more, I decided that this is definitely a three star novel (which is actually about what is ranking on Amazon and Goodreads). I liked that the plot was something original. I don’t read very many spy novels, so this was a new concept to me. I liked the general story line. I found the characters relatable, and human feeling (not like some contrived person). However, I didn’t like how Pavone paced the story. The story alternates from telling a story of Kate’s past (five or so years previous to the story’s beginning), to the “present day”, and about 18 months into the “future”. By the end of the book the “present day” and “future” have aligned. Either way, I wasn’t a big fan of that structure. I also didn’t always appreciate the detail that Pavone wrote into the story. I felt like sometimes his plot was overly complex, edging on confusing. At other times though, it felt like he didn’t feel like “really” explaining how something happened, so he just glazed over it completely.

Overall I think this book was written very well. The author used appropriate vocabulary (some times I get upset when authors never use ‘big’ or ‘unique’ words). I think the overall story line was unique, and I liked the story overall. I just think maybe the book could have used another round of editing. Or maybe, more than that, the book should have been sent out to a test audience for their feedback. Reading some of the other reviews I get the feeling that the same things are bothering everyone, so if Pavone had used a test audience he may have been able to adjust the story to appeal to the audience more.

What are your thoughts? Are you interested in this book? Have you already ready it? Do you have any other spy novel recommendations? I would love to hear them!

The Art Forger: A Book Review

ImageLately I’ve been trying to expand my horizons. I’ve been trying to get out of my normal routine of reading. The last book review I did was Garden of Stones, which also is outside by box, so it might be hard to believe but i’m traditionally a chick lit type of gal. Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. On my way home from yoga tonight I found myself thinking about it again, in preparation for this review, and there is honestly nothing I would have changed about the story.

The Art Forger, written by BA Shapiro, is written about the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, in which 13 works of Art worth more than $500 million dollars were stolen. This part of the story is true. The robbery was a real FBI investigation and to this day remains unsolved.

When the story starts we meet the main character Claire. She is an artist in her late 20’s who lives in Boston, black marked because of a past transgression. Claire makes her living by reproducing (copying) art work of the already famous. These pieces are sold on a fictional “reproduction.com” as very high quality copies. When she isn’t working on the art work for “Repro” she is crafting her own.

One day a ghost from the past, Aiden Markel, comes to Claire, and asks if she is willing to, “make a deal with the Devil.” Aiden asks Claire to forge a Degas painting that was stolen during the unsolved 1990 heist at the Elizabeth Stewart Gardner museum. In payment for her work she will receive a large sum of money and the opportunity of a life-time. An opportunity to finally be viewed on the world market as an actual artist. As Claire works to create the forgery, curiosity lingers in her mind about whether the painting in front of her is in fact an original at all. Is she copying a copy? As Claire looks into the past she discovers that perhaps things aren’t as cut and dry as she once assumed.

The story is written to tell two stories. One of the present, in which Claire is working on the Degas forgery, and one in the past, explaining how she ended up where she is at the beginning of the story. The author does a great job at slowly allowing the reader to gain new information, never revealing so much that you might start to ‘figure things out’ too soon. This story was so compelling, and I found myself quickly flipping through the pages dying to find out how it all ended.

I highly recommend this book. At first when I found it in the book store, I thought it was a one off- a random book that no one had noticed before. However, I have spotted this book on a few lists as a ‘must read’ this summer. Beat your friends to this book, be the first to read it. It is great and easy read that will have you dying to find out more. I would definitely give this book a five star rating!

Let me know what you think. Have you read this book? Do you think you’ll pick it up? Have you read any books with a similar plot line that you enjoyed? How about a little helpful criticism, how can I improve my book reviews? Is there a structure that might be better?

Garden of Stones: A Book Review

On Father’s Day I found myself in Target looking for a card for my husband from our dogs. (I know, we are silly!) Unlike most people who can probably go into Target for what they need and leave, I actually have to look around the whole store before I am content enough to just leave. I was browsing the book section and was looking at their section on up and coming authors. I tend to get myself into a rut where I only read girly chick-lit, so I thought I’d try something different.

I saw Sophie Littlefield’s book “Garden of Stones” and thought I’d pick it up. All though, in effort of full disclosure, I did save myself some money and buy it on my kindle. The following is the official synopsis on Amazon:

In the dark days of war, a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice

Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded up—along with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americans—and taken to the Manzanar prison camp.

Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks. Her final act of desperation will stay with Lucy forever…and spur her to sins of her own.

Bestselling author Sophie Littlefield weaves a powerful tale of stolen innocence and survival that echoes through generations, reverberating between mothers and daughters. It is a moving chronicle of injustice, triumph and the unspeakable acts we commit in the name of love.

I picked up this book because when I read the synopsis I was reminded just exactly how recently in US History the internment of Japanese Americans was. It is said that if we don’t learn history we are bound to repeat it, and though I was younger when it occurred I know that post 9/11 there was a fear in the world that the US would make this mistake again  With that being said, this book wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea. I normally venture to the books with cover’s of pastel where the main plot point  is about a quirky girl just hoping to find Mr. Right.

This book is actually two stories in one. The first story takes place in the “present”, which in this book is the late 1970s and the second story takes place is the “past” immediately following Pearl Harbor. The story is that of Lucy Takeda, who is 14 at the time that Pearl Harbor occurs. The part of the story in the past is about her experience prior to, and during, her internment. The present day aspect of the story is more of a murder mystery, in which Lucy Takeda is a main suspect. I know that those stories don’t sound like they should go together, but Sophie Littlefield actually does an incredible job at blending these stories together.

The pacing in this book is spot on. I know with some books it feels like the author is deliberately slowing the pace of the story to create a longer book, or for no reason at all. That is not the case with this book.

I cannot attest to how truthful the representation of life in the internment camps is, but what the author does provide is an image that makes it plainly obvious what turmoil all those interned went through.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I was hoping for a little more “history” than was included but it wouldn’t have really added anything to the story to put it in. This book really does surprise you until the last page.

Will you be picking this book up any time soon? What are some of your favorite book genres?