Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Expats

by Chris Pavone

When Dexter Moore takes an overseas job, his wife quits hers and the family packs off to Europe. Once there, Kate begins to suspect her husband isn't being completely honest with her and she begins to investigate. All the while she is keeping her own secrets and discovering others that may devastate her future. Because the story is written on three time lines (present day, near past and distant past), it presents some confusion, particularly in the beginning, so it takes almost a third of the book before you get a sense of the plot.

Having been an expat, I think Pavone does a pretty good job of revealing that lifestyle, but that isn't the point. As a thriller, it is lacking much thrill and the big shadow hanging over Kate's head throughout the story turns into a dud. It isn't until the last 30 pages that the deceptions begin to unravel and the cons come to light. Even though I am aware of the many securities breeches and concerns within companies, I question the feasibility of this scam.

The Expats is the second book I've read this month that despite it not being a great book I think the author has potential.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Founding Brothers

by Joseph Ellis

"...there is nothing new under the sun." (Eccl 1:9)

Founding Brothers made this abundantly clear. From the birth of our nation until now politicians have been debating many of the same issues, have been tickling the ears of the people, have been "flip-flopping" and have been self-importantly trying to make history.

Ellis presents the founding of our nation in six separate sections, which relate much of our early history while attempting to shed light on the relationships among these men. The author tried to humanize them using records and letters, yet emphasized that Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, Hamilton and the rest, had a heightened sense of their historical significance. They recognized they were plotting a new course, their decisions were extremely crucial and they believed the success or failure of this new nation rested on their shoulders. It is clear that Ellis is partial to Adams, presenting him with sympathy while painting Jefferson with a darker brush.

The narration in this audio was stiff and text-book like, the separate sections didn't build upon one another as chapters, making it a bit choppy. I'm not sure if I'd have stuck it out in text, because it was sometimes hard to keep listening. I rarely read straight history, so don't have much to compare it to, which also makes me feel a bit unqualified to rate it. It was good information.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Criminal Plots Challenge

That ends the reading challenges for the year.

Here is what I read:
1. Book with weapon in the title: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
2. Book published more than 10 years ago: Crooked House by Agatha Christie
3. Book written by an author from home state: Twisted Perception by Bob Avey
4. Book with protagonist of different sex than author: Woman in White by Wilke Collins
5. Book written by author using a pen name: Blaze by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)
6. Stand alone novel by an author writing a series: Mozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sharp Objects

by Gillian Flynn

Initially, I wanted to read Gone Girl by this same author, but when I saw this title, I picked it instead because it would meet criteria for my reading challenge. In a nutshell, a small town girl turned big town news reporter returns to her hometown to cover a suspected serial killing. In barely over 300 pages, the author introduces enough personal, family and social issues to confuse a psychologist! Alcoholism, drug abuse, underage sex, rape, cutting, munchausen by proxy, fixations, child abuse and neglect, murder, gun rights, animal rights, mean girls... I could go on and on; these people lived in one seriously warped town! The story was far-fetched, yet predictable. And unfortunately, very little was resolved among all that mess. Never the less, Sharp Objects is Flynn's first novel and I think she has potential, it just may be a while before I can give her another shot.

If  you have read any of her others, let me know if I should try again.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)

In my efforts to chip away at that criminal plots challenge, I needed to read a crime novel written by an author using a pen name. I didn't find many who fit this category and originally wanted to read a book by Andy Stack (aka Ann Rule), unfortunately these books do not come in a digital format, so I went for this one.

If you are an avid SK reader you will know that within his novels, King frequently gives a nod to characters and places in his other novels. My DH recently found this flow chart of these connections  Flowchart: Connections in Stephen King novels What is amazing is that he does this same thing as Bachman! In Blaze he mentions Shawshack Prison (from Shawshank Redemption), Derry (town in It, Insomnia, Dreamcatcher and 11/22/63), the last name Cullen (also a main character in The Stand), and the last name Coslaw (also a student in 11/22/63).  I'm sure there were other connections I missed, but since I know he does this I tend to be on the lookout.

Even though Blaze would not be at the top of my SK favorites, the man is a skilled writer and can just take a story and run. Here, Clayton Blaisedell, Jr. and his con partner, George (who is actually dead and talking in Blaze's head) kidnap a baby from a wealthy family in order to collect a large ransom and retire somewhere warm. The story relies on flashback telling the story of Blaze's youth while concurrently relaying the kidnap caper. King originally wrote this novel in 1973, but didn't have it published until 2007 after major editing.

It's a quick read that SK fans should read, however don't let this be your first!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Crooked House

by Agatha Christi

It has been years since I've read Agatha Christi. When I was in high school, I went through a phase of reading the Hercule Poirot mysteries and must have liked them because I read most of them. I selected this book to meet the criteria for that criminal plot challenge.... I haven't forgotten it.

Crooked House is very much in keeping with what I remember of those others, very succinct and straightforward. In this book the abundant dialogue almost gives the feeling of reading a play. Ms. Christie identified this book as one of her favorites, which gave it the edge over some others I considered. The premise is three generations of one eccentric family living together in one house, the grandfather is poisoned and everyone is a suspect.

As far as mysteries go, not much; as far as novels go, ditto.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mozart's Last Aria

by Matt Rees

In Mozart's Last Aria, Matt Rees explores the mystery that surrounds the early demise of Amadeus Mozart. Running with the popular belief that he was poisoned, Rees employs Nannerl, Mozart's elder sister, who takes it upon herself to discover the murderer. The idea has a lot of potential, unfortunately Rees' account falls short. His character development is weak, the characters and situations are unbelievable, he loses plot focus, and the story line gets bogged down in terminology familiar only to a musical progeny.

First, my disclaimer:  I have almost no knowledge of music terminology and am only minimally familiar with the works of Mozart, as in, I have heard some of his pieces. I'm not sure where my lack of musical knowledge falls among the general public, but in this book it is a stumbling block. Next, the story begins as somewhat of an historical mystery, but midway through gets sidetracked in an unfathomable romance and then struggles unsuccessfully to return to the original purpose. Then, the main character is confusing and confused. She is presented as a determined and independent woman at the same time she is manipulated by her father, gets trapped into a marriage of convenience, and is morally weak. On one page she is making harsh demands of princes and barons and on the next she is falling helplessly into their arms (a favorite ploy of Nora Roberts). In short, she is unlikeable and unbelievable. Finally, the writing is forced, resembling a high schooler's essay that required varieties of the absolute phrase.

Didn't like it and wouldn't recommend it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Warmth of Other Suns

by Isabel Wilkerson

Ms. Wilkerson has taken on a little addressed slice of the American pie in The Warmth of Other Suns. As a whole, the story is at times a sad, tragic, yet interesting piece of history. Wilkerson shows the extent of her research in the book, which mainly follows three people's journeys and adventures as they escape the repressive southern states for a perceived freedom and jobs in the north and west. Each of the people individually presents their personal hardships both in the south and in their "promised lands"and at the same time, they collectively tell the story of the Great Migration of blacks in America between 1915-1970.

Ida Mae Gladney left her Mississippi home in the late 20's for a brief stay in Milwaukee, but ultimately ended up in Chicago's South Shore. She, her husband and her small children snuck away from their life of share cropping in hopes of freedom. George Starling escaped his certain death (lynching) in Florida after disagreements with the citrus picking companies. He landed in New York with his wife, taking a job with the railways. Robert Foster made it big in California as a renowned physician and surgeon when he left Louisiana to get away from the prejudices of the south. They were all trying to escape Jim Crow and poverty and the impending sense of servitude that permeated the south. Unfortunately, the north didn't always live up to their expectations, as Martin Luther King indicated, "Let's not fool ourselves, we are far from the Promised Land, both north and south." There were two other issues that blacks faced in their attempts to assimilate;  many could never "truly put behind them the hurts {they} had endured in the South" and those that were unhappy still needed to "prove that their decision to move north was the superior and right thing to do."

I enjoyed the authors integration of quotes and give her credit for tackling this daunting tale of American Blacks. Although Ms. Wilkerson had a great story to tell, I found the book unnecessarily long, overly repetitive and lacking continuity. Because of the particular format, Wilkerson retells events over and over again, which I felt detracted from the message. If the presentation were more succinct these amazing life stories would really stand out!