#5Books: Book Recs and Widows: YES, this is worthy of ALL the hype

Widows. Guys, WIDOWS is the movie to see this year. As a reminder, here’s my book review for the book on which it is based.

And yes, it is all about the ladies. The premise for the movie is the same as the book in essence, though you know, it’s set in Chicago, and involves corrupt politicians rather than set in London in the 1980s.

Ronnie (Viola Davis) recruits Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) into performing a robbery when their husbands die in a botched robbery. However, the money they stole is from Jamal Manning (Bryan Tyree Henry), a man running for Alderman in one of the districts in Chicago and Jamal wants his money back — and he threatens Ronnie to that end.  At the same time he sends his brother, Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya), to find out why Harry, Ronnie’s husband, stole from him and on the way, his focus shifts to Ronnie again when he finds out that Harry’s notebook — a record of everything job he has performed, and had planned for the future — is in her hands.

Then there’s the Mulligans, Jack and his father Tom, who are running against Jamal and are out to stop him from winning at any costs.

The ladies are the focus of this movie, and are spectacular in their roles. Ronnie is devastated at Harry’s loss, and the film examines her relationship with Harry in poignant flashbacks that gives us just enough to understand them. Alice is under-estimated by everyone around her, including Ronnie, and Linda is just about holding on as she tries to figure out just how to save her store and her kids.

Into this threesome comes Belle (Cynthia Erivo), who is holding down two jobs, and leaving her daughter to go babysit someone else’s kids to make ends meet.

As much as the movie is about the heist, it’s about them finding the strength to stand on their own two feet when no one else in their lives thinks they’re capable of it. Viola Davis is mesmerising, and there’s this scene when the movie starts when she screams in grief at Harry’s death alone in the bathroom. Utterly compelling, especially contrasted with later events.

Alice looks like a ditzy blonde, and is almost believing it herself when Ronnie recruits her. Slowly, as they start planning the heist, she begins to come into her own, and more than anything believes in herself. She’s smart, capable and there is nothing quite like seeing her realise it. 

Belle, I wish, had more screen time. Like the book, Linda and Alice begin to resent Ronnie ordering them around, but they follow her lead, but it’s Belle that doesn’t take any of Ronnie’s shit — her rudeness, her abrasiveness — and demands that she treat her differently.

Linda and Michelle Rodriguez are the most illuminating — this character is less antagonistic than the book, and comes with a wealth of vulnerability instead. And watching Michelle Rodriguez playing that is sooo illuminating because Linda is nothing like any character she’s played before, and she is fantastic in it. 

Daniel Kaluuya is getting raves for how menacing he is, and yes, that is absolutely what he does. There’s an epic bad guy role (other than this one) in his future.

The movie is relentless in it’s pacing, and it was only at the end that I feel I could breathe easily — and I love the feeling of a movie just taking you along on this epic ride, and at the end all you want to do it go on it again. 

Last Woman Standing 

From the author of Good as Gone (“So gripping you might want to start to question your own family’s past”—Entertainment Weekly) comes a brilliant and timely thriller: Strangers on a Train by way of Thelma and Louise.

Dana Diaz is an aspiring stand‑up comedian—a woman in a man’s world. When she meets a tough computer programmer named Amanda Dorn, the two bond over their struggles in boys’ club professions. Dana confides that she’s recently been harassed and assaulted while in L.A., and Amanda comes up with a plan: they should go after each other’s assailants, Strangers on a Train–style. But Dana finds that revenge, however sweet, draws her into a more complicated series of betrayals. Soon her distrust turns to paranoia, encompassing strangers, friends—and even herself. At what cost will she get her vengeance? Who will end up getting hurt? And when it’s all over, will there be anyone left to trust?

WHEW. I feel like my subconscious might be trying to tell me something because women out for revenge stories are incredibly attractive to me right now. A Strangers on a Train and Thelma and Louise combo sounds fan-tastic. I’m also curious as to what happened to Amanda in the second half of the blurb — if Dana is losing it, where is Amanda in all this?

The Drowning

Every summer camp has a ghost story. For Alex Parson, that story came true—and twenty-one years later, the ghost from that story is back for revenge…

Every summer camp has a ghost story. While Alex is working as a swimming instructor at a rural boys’ camp, he hears the tale of John Otis, who is rumored to snatch one boy from the camp every seventh summer. It’s a ridiculous story, clearly meant to rile up the campers.

The next day, an eight-year-old boy named Joey Proctor is in Alex’s swimming group. Frustrated by Joey’s fear of the water, Alex leaves him on a raft in the lake, tells him to swim back on his own, and storms off. Alex returns after nightfall to find the raft empty. Joey is never seen again.

Now, twenty-one years later, Alex is a wealthy Manhattan-based real estate developer with a trophy wife and two young daughters. But someone is after Alex—it seems Joey Proctor is back, and he wants revenge…

Please don’t be horror, please don’t be horror … because I want to know how the hell is Joey Proctor back?

The Department of Sensitive Crimes 

From the beloved and bestselling author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series comes a lighthearted comedic novel about a Swedish police department tasked with solving the most unusual, complicated, and, often, insignificant crimes.

The detectives who work in Malmo Police’s Department of Sensitive Crimes take their job very seriously. The lead detective, Ulf Varg, prioritizes his cases above even his dog’s mental health. Then there are detectives Anna Bengsdotter, who keeps her relationship with Varg professional even as she realizes she’s developing feelings for him . . . or at least for his car, and Carl Holgersson, first to arrive in the morning and last to leave, who would never read his colleagues’ personal correspondence–unless it could help solve a crime, of course. Finally, there’s Erik Nykvist, who peppers conversations with anecdotes about fly fishing.

Along with an opinionated local police officer named Blomquist, the Department of Sensitive Crimes takes on three extremely strange cases. First, the detectives investigate how and why a local business owner was stabbed . . . in the back of the knee. Next, a young woman’s imaginary boyfriend goes missing. And, in the final investigation, Varg must determine whether nocturnal visitations at a local spa have a supernatural element.

Using his renowned wit and warmth, Alexander McCall Smith brings a unique perspective on Scandinavian crime. Equal parts hilarious and heartening, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a tour de farce from a literary master.

Alexander McCall Smith is one of those authors I’ve always meant to read, but was always slightly intimidated at the thought of starting any of his long-running series and voila, problem solved. I hope. This sounds like it could be a fun read especially as it doesn’t take Scandinavian crime too seriously. 

The Birds that Stay

A chilling mystery set deep in the heart of the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec where the sins of the past come back to wreak devastating consequences on the present.

In a small village in the Laurentians north of Montreal, a reclusive older woman is found strangled and frozen outside her home. Roméo Leduc, the enigmatic Chief Inspector for Homicide, is one day away from his first vacation in years, and reluctantly answers the call on the case. Roméo suspects a local biker gang is involved in what appears to be a robbery gone awry—or was the old woman a victim of a violent hate crime?

Marie Russell, a 58-year old writer and divorced mother of two, lives next door to the victim. Marie becomes an inadvertent detective when her mother, suffering from dementia, offers a startling clue that links the woman’s murder to a terrible incident that happened on Marie’s suburban Montreal street in the 1970’s. Together, Marie and Roméo discover that the murder goes even further back, to another crime during the darkest days in Hungary at the end of WWII. As they combine wits to find the killer, they are forced to face demons from their own pasts as they confront a cast of characters from the Quebec of yesterday and today; where no one and nothing is really as it seems.

What starts as a straightforward murder (ha because those are always straightforward) turns into something else entirely, and I am so utterly taken by how Hungary and WWII become part of a murder in Quebec.

Temper 

For fans of the high-stakes tension of the New York Times bestsellers Luckiest Girl Alive and The Lying Game, a razor-sharp page-turner about female ambition and what happens when fake violence draws real blood.

After years of struggling in the Chicago theater scene, ambitious actress Kira Rascher finally lands the role of a lifetime. The catch? Starring in Temper means working with Malcolm Mercer, a mercurial director who’s known for pushing his performers past their limits—on stage and off.

Kira’s convinced she can handle Malcolm, but the theater’s co-founder, Joanna Cuyler, is another story. Joanna sees Kira as a threat—to her own thwarted artistic ambitions, her twisted relationship with Malcolm, and the shocking secret she’s keeping about the upcoming production. But as opening night draws near, Kira and Joanna both start to realize that Malcolm’s dangerous extremes are nothing compared to what they’re capable of themselves.

An edgy, addictive, and fiendishly clever tale of ambition, deceit, and power, Temper is a timely, heart-in-your-throat psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.

See, I have a type — of book — currently. Though from the sounds of it, it’s possible this might include murder as well as revenge. I want to see Kira and Joanna realise what they’re both capable of to get what they want.

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