The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg - What is it about Sweden and violence against women? Not that the US is much better, but every Swedish thriller I read (think Dragon Tattoo) is just horrendous with it. Erica has moved back into her parents' small town home after their death. Shortly after her arrival, she finds her childhood best friend dead, seemingly of suicide. Although Erica and Alex had grown apart years ago, Erica still feels a connection to her and begins to investigate the death. Lackberg is a talented writer, weaving multiple story lines and characters' perspectives cleanly and without confusion. The story is a good one, with many plot twists, but it's ultimately a story we've read before.
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood - To get it out of the way, Margaret Atwood is a genius and one of the most fascinating people I've seen interviewed. She's a goddess. Stone Mattress is a collection of nine short stories, each better than the last. The first three stories are loosely connected and have some overlapping characters, but the rest stand on their own. Honestly, I can't pick a favorite. They are all smart and somewhat dark and funny. I read several of them with a smirk on my face. My only complaint is that the stories weren't longer. I didn't want them to end.
A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride - I'm not even sure how to approach this one. The book is written in a stream of consciousness style that is incredibly hard to follow at first. I really had to get into a groove in terms of reading this and any distraction took me away from it. Although the style is daunting at first, you do become used to it. It follows the life of an unnamed Irish girl and her relationship with her older brother and mother. Without giving anything away, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing is brutal, unforgiving, heart-breaking, beautiful, and difficult. The narrator inspires both pity and rage, sadness and anger. Watching her spiral out of control is challenging, but knowing the cause of that acting out, it is impossible not to ache for her.
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch - I loved The Dinner. It was tightly written and kept me guessing right up until the end. Summer House with Swimming Pool tries, slightly less successfully, to follow the same formula. Dr. Marc Schlosser, along with his wife and two daughters, find themselves not-so-accidently on vacation with a patient of his, famous actor Ralph Meier. Something eventually happens that causes the Schlossers to cut their vacation short, and eventually leads to Ralph's death. Told in a roundabout style, cutting back and forth between events, the story doesn't come together as cleanly as I wanted it to. Moreover, the entire book is narrated by Marc, who is a narcissistic, pretentious ass. While I liked the book overall, it wasn't up to par with Koch's previous bestseller.