Surznick Reads: April 2016 - The Surznick Common Room

Friday, April 29, 2016

Surznick Reads: April 2016

Hi and happy Friday! We hope you had a great April. May is going to be a crazy month for us, so we're looking forward to the last (hopefully productive) weekend in April. Here's a look at what we read this month!

Sarah's Reads!

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
From "During a picnic at her family’s farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime, a crime that challenges everything she knows about her adored mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this is her last chance to discover the truth about that long-ago day, Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past. Clue by clue, she traces a secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds thrown together in war-torn London - Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy - whose lives are forever after entwined. A gripping story of deception and passion, The Secret Keeper will keep you enthralled to the last page."

I've had less than great experiences with Kate Morton in the past and was hoping that this book would redeem her for me, but truth be told, it didn't. I actually think I could just copy my review of The Distant Hours from two years ago and use it again here. Once again, this was a book club selection that I didn't finish in time because I was just so not into this story. It started off way too slowly and skipped back and forth between the 1940's and present day, and between multiple characters. The story doesn't really get interesting until about page 300, which is only about 60% of the way through the book. It's a big investment for not much return. I will say that I particularly enjoyed the last 50 pages, as there was one final twist that I didn't see coming. Overall though, the book was too long and not interesting enough to keep me entertained. I think my time with Kate Morton has finally come to an end for good.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Spritz: Italy's Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes by Talia Baiocchi & Leslie Pariseau
From "From Milan to Los Angeles, Venice to New York, the spritz - Italy’s bitter and bubbly aperitivo cocktail - has become synonymous with a leisurely, convivial golden hour. But the spritz is more than just an early evening cocktail - it’s a style of drinking. In Spritz, Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau trace the drink’s origins to ancient Rome, uncover its unlikely history and culture, explore the evolution of aperitivo throughout Northern Italy, and document the spritz’s revival around the world. From regional classics to modern variations, Spritz includes dozens of recipes from some of America’s most lauded bartenders, a guide to building a spritz bar, and a collection of food recipes for classic Italian snacks to pair alongside."

First things first, the photos in this book are beautiful. I want to both drink and cut out and frame every one of them. This is our first cocktail "cookbook" and I'm so excited to add it to our collection. The book begins with a little history about the spritz cocktail - what it is, when you drink it, how it's evolved over time, etc. Then we get to my favorite part - the recipes. We made the white spritz earlier this month. It was super delicious and easy to make (i.e. had ingredients that I could read.) Our only complaint about the book is that we weren't familiar with ingredients in many of the cocktails. Maybe it's just us and we're not very worldly with our alcohol, but it's not a deal breaker. Spritz is an excellent book to have for both functionality and fashion. I might keep it on our coffee table just to flip through the photos. We received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for review.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Nick's Reads!

The Dinner by Herman Koch
From "It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love. Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy."

Both of my books this month were for our at-home book club, and I suppose you could lump both of them into some sort of crime thriller category. While reading The Dinner, I really enjoyed it. I liked the character development, and the plot in general. I wish I would have written my review right after reading it, because now that some time has passed, my thoughts on it are cooling a bit. Turns out the story and the characters really didn't stay with me all that much. It's a fun read, but nothing to go crazy over.

My Rating: 3 Stars

(You can read Sarah's review of The Dinner here.)

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
From "More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss - a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed. The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago... and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it."

SO GOOD. It's hard for me to say much else, but I'll try: I absolutely loved this book, I could not put it down. It was exciting, terrifying, disturbing, mysterious, emotional - everything. How'd I do? When it comes to crime thrillers, this is my new numero uno. Read this book.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Sarah & Nick


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