May Preview

Oh thank goodness we survived the April tax season and are now into the more pleasant month of May. The tennis tournament I played in over the weekend was fun though I didn’t win any top prizes. I battled in both singles and doubles and seem to have more work to do with my game over the summer. So I guess that’s all right, if only my bad knees will cooperate. (Note to knees: stay healthy despite the twists, turns, and pounding on the court you will endure.) Meanwhile there’s plenty of new releases to talk about this month, so let’s get started.

First off, who will be diving into Paula Hawkins’s new novel “Into the Water”? Ugh it’s received some pretty poor reviews from The Guardian as well as The New York Times, but will that stop us from reading an author whose prior book (need I mention the title) sold 20 million copies worldwide? Maybe. It doesn’t bode well that “Into the Water” includes 11 narrative voices that the Guardian says are “almost impossible to tell apart” and end up being both “monotonous and confusing.” Moreover Janet Maslin of the New York Times writes: Hawkins’s “goal may be to build suspense, but all she achieves is confusion. “Into the Water” is jam-packed with minor characters and stories that go nowhere.” Yikes. I think I’ll take a rain check on this one, though I did enjoy her prior blockbuster book for the genre that it was.

Instead I might try Richard Russo’s new book called “Trajectory,” which is a collection of four relatively long short stories. All of these stories, I’ve heard, are about aging people — college professors, a writer, and a real estate agent. Apparently it’s a book filled with characters quite different than Russo’s usual blue-collar, small-town Maine citizens, but I’ll believe that when I read it.

I enjoyed his 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Empire Falls” as well as the movie adaptation of his 1993 book “Nobody’s Fool” with Paul Newman, which was great. He’s a gem of a writer, and if you’re a fan, I heard this latest one is a must-read. So I hope to dive into it soon.

Another one I’m considering is Melodie Winawer’s debut novel “The Scribe of Siena.” Apparently it’s one part historical mystery and one part love story that includes elements of time-travel that blends the modern day with 14th-century Siena. Some say it’s reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” and Tracy Chevalier’s “The Girl with the Pearl Earring,” if you liked those.

Usually I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of time-travel narratives, but some of the high praise this one has received on Goodreads makes me want to snatch it up — as well as the fact that I visited Siena a few years ago and found its history quite fascinating. I wouldn’t mind going back in time to check out life in medieval Siena.

I might also like to try J. Courtney Sullivan’s novel “Saints for All Occasions” about two Irish-Catholic sisters who journey to America full of hope only to find that a subsequent secret drives them apart. Hmm. Maybe this one, involving Catholic guilt, silences, and secrets, will appeal to the folks who liked the novel and movie “Brooklyn,” though I think this novel will differ a bit from that. I guess I want to know more about the secrecy going on.

I haven’t read Sullivan before, so that makes me curious too. From what I’ve read about the novel on Goodreads, it might be just the right family saga for a beach read.

Lastly, I’ll probably check out Dennis Lehane’s latest novel “Since We Fell,” which sounds like it gets crazy midway through and doesn’t let up. Remember Lehane’s novel “Shutter Island”? Well if you liked that kind of psychological, tense thriller, you’ll probably like this one as well.

It’s about a former journalist (his first female protagonist) who after an on-air mental breakdown, now barely leaves her house. Still she enjoys a good marriage until apparently a chance encounter “sucks her into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness,” which she must find the strength in herself to overcome. Yikes it sounds a bit like “Shutter Island” Part 2, but perhaps it’ll be a fast-paced read while catching rays and drinking beer on the back deck. We’ll see.

Meanwhile in movies for May, I know that fans of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” who have been waiting patiently, will now be happy for the long-awaited Vol. 2. I’m sure “Guardians” will rule the month at the box office exponentially, yet it will have to compete with another “Pirates of the Caribbean” film at the end of the month. I have lost track of those, but apparently Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Keira Knightley are still apart of the swashbuckling script.

There’s also a new “Alien” prequel flick, this time called  “Alien Covenant,” which looks scary as all heck. I did see “Prometheus” back in 2012 and this apparently is the sequel to that. I’m a bit of a Michael Fassbender freak and luckily he’s returned for this one, though I’m not sure I’ll see it — as it would probably make me jump out of my skin.

But I am game for the movie “The Dinner,” which is adapted from the Herman Koch novel you might remember. Oh yes, how could one forget. It’s a novel I thought was pretty effective and disturbing. In the movie, the two couples are played by Steve Coogan and Laura Linney, and Richard Gere and Rebecca Hall. Quite a good cast.

The movie has been hailed by some critics as a “provocative journey” and panned by others, with only a 48 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Ouch. From what little I’ve read about it, the numerous flashbacks get in the way of the story’s suspense, but I’ve been trying not to read too much about it because I still hope to see it. Call me crazy for that.

Lastly for May, there’s new albums in pop music by Harry Styles, and Ruth B (she’s from Alberta!); and in country music by the Zac Brown Band; and in singer-songwriter folky music by Justin Townes Earle — all of which sound pretty good. But I’ll pick the album — “Safe Haven” — by the young Ruth B for my pick this month since she’s a local to the province and her song “Lost Boy” is still pretty infectious.

What about you — which upcoming books, movies, and music are you looking forward to this month?

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32 Responses to May Preview

  1. Vivien says:

    Too bad about tourney, but at least you had fun! Wait till you hit 50! So many great reads!!! I’m looking forward to your review of Since we fell. I really like Lahane. As well as your review on The Dinner! Take care! Viv

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi V: I’m actually over the 5-0 barrier sigh. Thx we did have a good time, lost doubles in the semis but we want to do better! Lehane’s books are usually fast-paced so I’m hoping it’s good. The Dinner movie should be intriguing. We will see. Enjoy your paradise.

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    11 narrators in one book seems overwhelming. If they are indistinguishable I can see how it can ruin a book. Using so many voices makes it seem like Hawkins was experimenting. Unfortunately sometimes experiments do not work.

    I am also glad that April is over. It was unseasonably cold her so I am hoping for warmer weather.

    Happy May!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Brian, I agree, with that many narrators it seems like the Hawkins book has an uphill battle. Don’t know why she made it so overdone! May should be much better than April — let’s hope so!

  3. I’m listening to Into the Water right now and pretty much agree with the reviews you shared. If something doesn’t turn things around soon, I probably won’t make it through the book.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Ha Kathy, sorry to hear that. I was so hoping she’d make another good thriller, but not sure why she made the latest one so crazy — with that many characters. Ugh. I look forward to hearing more about it from your review.

  4. Carmen says:

    I saw the Italian version (the original) of The Dinner. It was very good but left me with some questions unanswered at the end. Perhaps reading the book would answer them.

    I’m excited about Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. As you know, I’m a superhero freak. I’m not sure I liked Prometheus. It was a little too out there for my taste, but perhaps a second viewing would sway my opinion.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Oh gosh I’m not sure I liked Prometheus much either; it had some gory scenes that were rough for me. This new one looks like much of the same. Scary too, and I’ve gotten more chicken over time. I’m glad for you that Guardians Vol 2 is opening soon. I’m hoping The Dinner (the U.S. version) will still be worth seeing; we’ll see.

  5. The Scribe of Siena appeals the most to me from this list. And I need to find out why Sullivan sounds so familiar to me. Goodreads, here I come! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for your knees to hold up!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks TJ, that’s nice of you. I hope to keep playing tennis this year. And I agree with you about The Scribe of Siena — it grabs me though it’s not a genre I typically read. I’d like to give it a go. People are liking it!

  6. Naomi says:

    I don’t think I’ll be reading Into the Water. I read her first book because someone in my book club picked it. It was a fun read, but not enough to get me to pick up her next book no matter the reviews.
    Hmm… time travel… I’ll have to keep my eye on that one.
    I definitely want to see The Dinner – I’m curious to see how it compares to the book!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Yeah I agree Naomi — The book of The Dinner makes me want to see the movie, though it was quite disturbing a story! I also don’t think I’ll read the new Hawkins book which is too bad — I did enjoy the first one. But now it seems to have gone amiss.

  7. Catherine says:

    Your concerns about Into the Water are warranted. I just finished writing my review. Meh at best.

    I’m really looking forward to the new Kevin Kwan and Alison Weir’s historical fiction about Anne Boleyn. I had no idea The Dinner was coming out this month so am very excited about that!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Catherine: I’ll definitely stop by your site to read your review of the Hawkins book. It’s too bad, I was hoping for a good thriller. I saw the new Kwan book; his books are quite funny, but I’ll have to check out the Weir book. It sounds like you liked The Dinner novel — me too. Now we will see about the movie.

  8. Judy Krueger says:

    Oh yes, take care of your knees!
    The less said by me about Girl on the Train, the better. I will not be reading Hawkins’ new one unless some reading group picks it. Ugh.
    I did not care for The Dinner as a book, either. What on earth is wrong with me? Bucking popular opinion like that. I am curious about the movie and will see it, but not in the theater.
    But I will check out The Scribe of Siena. Dennis Lehane is always good if I find myself feeling too cheerful-:)
    Thanks for your preview. I have come to look forward to it!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Judy, glad you like the previews. They help me organize — somewhat. I’m sure you don’t care for popular fiction much, though sometimes I sink to it. I will try to stay to the better stuff!

  9. I have a review copy of the audiobook version of Into the Water and I was planning to listen to it…but honestly, 11 narrative voices?! Even with some negative reviews I may have given it a go, but that just sounds like a muddled head trip.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Ha Kate, I think go for it. Despite the negative reviews, I too am thinking of reading or listening to Into the Water. Maybe your review of it — will let me know if I should read it. It does sounds a bit of a muddle. hmm.

  10. Hello Susan! Thank you for your kind words.
    Goodness, that does sound like a good event – tennis tournament. Sports feature high on my list of good things to do.
    Excellent recommendation on new book releases, and looking forward to your upcoming review on these books.
    “The Scribe of Siena” by Melodie Winawer sounds like the most pleasant of the five. (probably because I love Tracy Chevalier)
    Dennis Lehane’s latest novel “Since We Fell,” another author that you encourage me to read. Perhaps one day… as my TBR list is huge. Have a great week ahead 🙂

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi RT: thanks, I think The Scribe of Siena might be a good one. I’m going to put it on hold at the library. I hope you are enjoying your weekend. Just tennis practice for me today and some reading — should be nice. Happy spring!

  11. I’ve read three books by Sullivan: Maine, Commencement, and The Engagements. I loved Maine, felt less thrilled with Commencement, and really disliked The Engagements. So…hit or miss?

    I haven’t really been a big Russo fan, but did enjoy the movie with Paul Newman. I like the sound of stories that feature aging characters ( I wonder why! Lol). But I also don’t actually love short story collections.

    The Dinner is a movie I’ll probably see at some point…and I plan to enjoy Into the Water, despite those reviews. I pay more attention to bloggers’ reviews than to The New York Times….

    I like the idea of the female protagonist in the Dennis Lehane book…a maybe for me.

    Thanks for sharing, and for visiting my blog. As for the Hulu production of The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m hooked. I like it better than the movie I saw in the 90s, with Natasha Richardson, although that was pretty good. I found myself very emotionally caught up in it, which is always a good sign for me…but my emotions were anger and fear, and worry that we (in the US) are not that far away from such events. Yikes! Canada, here I come! LOL.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Laurel, thanks for your comment! I plan to start the Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. Also thanks for the feedback on Sullivan as I don’t know her books yet. Her Maine novel sounds good, so I should read that one and perhaps also this one. Enjoy your week!

  12. Vicki says:

    I wish I could find a tennis partner! I’ve had The Dinner on my tbr list for a long time. I didn’t know there was a movie based on the book though. Guess I need to move it to the top of my list so I can then watch the movie. I love the Zac Brown Band.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Vicki, beware The Dinner book is quite disturbing by the end but worth a read. Glad to hear you like the Zac Brown Band; they’re quite good! Do you play tennis?!

  13. Thanks for the heads up on the Hawkins novel. I think I’ll skip it and will look for the Lehane novel, especially since it’s a standalone and not part of a series. As for movies, we’re hoping to see the second Guardians of the Galaxy maybe this afternoon. And my pick for album of the month is Chris Stapleton’s sophomore album, From A Room: Volume 1.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Bryan, I’ll be interested to hear what you think of the new Guardians movie, is it as good as the first? And thanks for the mention of the new Chris Stapleton album, which I somehow missed. I will check it out. The Lehane book sounds like it would probably be better than the Hawkins novel from what blurbs I’ve read on it. thx for stopping by.

  14. I didn’t know Richard Russo had a new book… definitely adding that one to my list. Will probably pass on Into the Water, but might try Saints for All Occasions since I loved Sullivan’s Maine. The Dinner was quite a novel. I’ll be curious to see how it translates to film!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi JoAnn, I agree about The Dinner movie; I look forward to seeing how that’ll turn out. I’m on the waiting list for the Russo book at the library. That’s good to know about Sullivan as I have not read her before. Her book Maine must be good.

  15. JaneGS says:

    The Trajectory sounds really good–I like that kind of book. I have an audio version of Into the Water that I’m planning on listening to next–I liked Girl on a Train, but I’m now a bit skeptical. I expect The Dinner to flop as a movie–not sure why, but we’ll see.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Jane, yeah so far The Dinner movie is getting low ratings but I will likely see it. I think I’ll read Trajectory fairly soon. I like the idea of aging characters, lol. I’ll be interested to hear what you think about Into the Water. thx for stopping by.

  16. I read Maine, one of J. Courtney Sullivan’s earlier books, last month and really liked it. I think she will be a good author for summer, good characters and good writing, but easy to pick up and down at a moment’s notice. If her new one is at all like Maine, definitely a good family saga for the beach.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Kim, thx for your comment. That’s good to know about Sullivan’s book Maine; I’ll have to check it out for sure. I noticed that the Washington Post’s reviewer gave Sullivan’s new novel 5 stars on Goodreads so that bodes well! Now if there were only a beach nearby! Enjoy your week.

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