Reviews: The Couple Next Door, Rooftops of Tehran, and The Windfall

I’m behind on reviews. I think I’m always behind on reviews. SO, to make life a little easier for myself during This Holiday Season, I’m going to group the last three I read for my book club. These were read in August, September, and October respectively. Two of them I didn’t care for but one of them I really enjoyed.

Some very vague spoiler-ish statements are below, but these are pretty safe to read.

 

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

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Quick summary: Parents Anne and Marco go to a dinner party next door and check on their sleeping baby every half hour. Between the last check in and leaving the party, their baby disappears.

This book started out great; I was really enjoying the pacing and settling into the mystery. Then, about halfway through, the POV switched and told me who was mostly responsible for the crime. That took the wind out of my sails, but I remained interested until the final 50 pages or so where I was able to easily figure out the remainder of the mystery. (I usually don’t try to figure out a mystery/thriller novel as I read, I like to let it unfold. This was so obvious I didn’t even have to try.) And then my approval tanked even further on the very last page where my exact thought was “Wait, what, really?!”

I liked Anne and the detective but Marco annoyed me from the start. Everything else fit a little too neatly, the characters were too one-dimensional, and the story wrapped up too perfectly - at least, until that last page when the dumb twist happened. 

Rating: The Couple Next Door only got 2 out of 5 from me; I just didn’t care for the twist at the end. It irritated me more than anything.

 

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

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Quick summary: Four teenagers in Iran in 1973 spend the summer laughing, hanging out on rooftops, and falling in love. When a friend of theirs is killed by the Shah's secret police, they show their defiance in unexpected and tragic ways. 

As Pasha fell in love with Zari, his best friend Ahmed (my favorite character) looked on and made him laugh, cry, and appreciate every moment - and I did, too. The language of this book was lovely and poetic. The pacing for the first two-thirds was on point; since it started out with Pasha's trauma in the hospital I kept rushing to find out what was next. I can't say much about what put Pasha in the hospital as that's a huge spoiler, but I will say it was a powerful moment that I had to stop and re-read. After the "reveal," the rest of the novel was slightly less exciting. Still moving and worth finishing the book, but it wasn't a page turner at the end. 

I would've liked more historical context because I know very little about this time and place in history. Seraji did include some author notes that helped - now I guess I have to research this time period on my own! Either way, the characters were well developed and Seraji's writing often made me smile. 

Rating: This is 4 of 5 stars, the ending wasn't as good as the first two-thirds of the novel but it was still a lovely read overall. 

 

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

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Quick summary: When Mr. Jha comes into a large amount of money, he decides to move his family to the rich side of Delhi. With this move comes unexpected problems and the Jha family has to decide what really matters in life.

I read this one on my Kindle and I kept looking down thinking "Thirty percent...forty percent...fifty percent...have they STILL not moved into this house?!" The entire book was simply about an older couple moving from one neighborhood to the other and their son's struggles as he studied abroad in America. Mr. Jha and his new neighbor, Mr. Chopra, irritated me to no end. All they did was try to one-up the other with the most ridiculous things. They bragged about their gadgets. They bragged about how useless their sons were. On and on until Mr. Jha snapped. The Jhas never had a family talk where they acknowledged all their recent problems; they just accepted their new strange life and moved on. It all just seemed rather pointless to me. 

One side plot was the romance of Mrs. Ray and Upen and I have no complaints about that. It was sweet. I also liked Mrs. Jha, Elizabeth, and Serena. Basically, the men in this novel (not including Upen) were frustrating and the women were much more intriguing characters. 

Rating: The Windfall gets 2 out of 5 stars thanks to Mrs. Ray.