Monday, November 23, 2015

Reading List

Yes, I'm still reading, but failing to post, which seems to be the story of my blogging life! So, here is a list of the rest of the books I've read so far. I will spend the last weeks of this year reviewing some of my favorites since there is no way I can get to all of them. If there are any on the list that you would particularly like to hear about let me know.

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson (I liked Hundred-Year-Old Man better)
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
The Woods by Harlan Coben
The Four Ms Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton (not her best)
The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood (too gross and disturbing to finish)
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
After Acts by Brian Litfin
Inside the O'Brien's by Lisa Genova (unlikable characters but interesting information on Huntington's Disease)
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (audiobook- previous review)
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Glass Sentence by SE Grove
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Martian by Andy Weir
A Royal Pain  by Rhys Bowen (lost all the fun of the first book)
A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash
The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell (great title, very dry retelling of facts)
The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki (seemed like I'd read this before- story of "Sisi" empress of Austria)
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (like Thursday Next series better)
Rose Madder by Stephen King (a reread)
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (oddly similar character in Rose Madder- but you know what I think of SK)
My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni

In January I accepted a challenge to read 50 books this year, I'm at 47 now so I may beat that number.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dead Wake

by Erik Larson

After having tackled the beginning of WWII in a previous novel, Larson goes further back in time to take on the start of WWI and the sinking of the Lusitania. In 1915, a German U Boat fired a torpedo at the Cunard Cruise ship, sinking it in less than 20 minutes. The bulk of this book introduces readers to the captain, crew and passengers of the Lusitania, as well as taking an inside look at the German officers on board the U-20 submarine that took her out.

For the most part, Larson tried to present an engaging history as he related the thoughts and moods of Lusitania's Captain Turner as well as of the many passengers who boarded the boat and subsequently lost their lives. He also dedicated significant space to the German Captain Schwieger's perspective, and the atmosphere of the US, Britain and Germany at the time of the attack. While this information was perhaps interesting, it was not a new or fresh perspective. Overall, I think he spread his net too wide in trying to mention the names and details of too many people. Then on top of that, he went into great detail with lists and descriptions of passenger baggage and content. Adding in a side story of Woodrow Wilson, the loss of his wife and his subsequent courtship of Edith Bolling completely distracted from the ship story.

This was not Larson at his best, I much prefered The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, the other books I've read by him. If you are a history buff, you might enjoy this account, but general interest readers may find it slow paced and resembling more of a history textbook than an historical account. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Her Royal Spyness

by Rhys Bowen

Mix together one part historical fiction, one part mystery and two parts humor and you get Her Royal Spyness.   I think I stumbled upon this book as a discount on Pixel of Ink at a time when I wasn't sure what to read next and the description seemed like it'd be a quick read so I grabbed it. I am glad I did. Her Royal Spyness is the first book in a series set in 1930's England. That is significant only in that it provides the necessary class system to put Lady Georgiana in the predicament in which she finds herself: twenty-one, unmarried and unable to get a job, being 34th in line to the throne needing to keep up appearances, but without the money to do so.  Living in her brother's town house without any servants, Georgie returns home one evening to find a dead man in her bathtub. Now she has to figure out who he is and how he got there before the police get involved and she becomes a scandal. With the help of her sophisticated, socialite friend Belinda and her grandfather, Georgie manages to keep herself and her brother out of trouble.

This is a fun and funny book. A good read when you want something light. I can see myself reading the next one. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Silent Sister

by Diane Chamberlain

When Riley was just two years old, her 17 year old sister Lisa died in a canoe accident, or so she was always told. Twenty years later, as she returns home to clean out her family home after the death of her father, this fact comes into question, and the more she uncovers, the more she is convinced her sister is actually alive! Thus begins her search for her long lost sister.

Jade (Lisa in a past life) snuck away in the night after a terrible encounter with her violin instructor leaves him dead and her holding the gun. She has spent the last years creating a new identity to avoid her certain prison sentence.

That is the story of The Silent Sister in a nutshell. Although there are a couple of plot twists, they are so predictable it doesn't matter. I also didn't find the main characters very believable. Riley is supposed to be a psychologist, but she seems totally baffled by some relatively uncomplicated personal and family issues. Jade is supposed to be incognito, but she is a violinist in a very popular bluegrass band that is always on tour.  Throw in a brother with PTSD, a neighbor who was blackmailing the now deceased father and an overly boisterous girlfriend and there you have it.

This was just an okay read.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


by CJ Sansom

You may recall my mentioning that I have a strange inclination to read books in a series out of order, which is always accidental. Well, here is the one that I happened upon book #6, which is likely also the end of this series, although I'm not positive. Lamentation is a sort of historical detective series set in England during the time of King Henry VIII. The PI in the story is Matthew Shardlake, who happens to be friends with the new queen, Catherine Parr. And Catherine has gotten herself into a bit of a pickle when she writes her personal religious confessional diary (a lamentation) and it gets stolen. Henry, being adamant in his faith view, and an ardent member of the disposable wife club, may have a problem with her opinions and she is afraid of losing her head. In swoops Shardlake to the rescue. I think you get it....

The book is pretty long, and it reads that way. I suspect previous books in this series may have been better because Sansom is a decent writer, but this entire concept was a stretch in believability. The whole idea of the missing lamentation being such a threat and the various characters and encounters in this novel were just too far-fetched. Particularly if you are at all familiar with Henry and his wives, you know that when Catherine Parr is his wife he is on his deathbed, just seems his mind may have been elsewhere.

My suggestion to you dear reader, is to pick up Dissolution and start at the beginning. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

by Mark Twain

When I was in fifth grade one of my friends was reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Being the competitive and reading person I am, I rushed straight to the library and checked it out. Unfortunately, I never made it very far as it was above my head. From that time on I had a secret admiration for Chrissy and put her on a little pedastal. Recently, I saw it referenced in an article I was reading and thought, "I never did read that book," but now I have and I may be even more impressed that Chrissy was reading it when she was 10.

Connecticut Yankee is a masterpiece of satire. In it, Twain criticizes knighthood and monarchy and the ignorance and barbaric nature of the middle ages, and in the same breath he praises chivalry and the king's majesty and the simplicity and peacefulness of that society. Hank Morgan, after being hit on the head in his factory, finds himself transported back to the time of King Arthur. Using his advanced knowledge, Morgan aka The Boss sets out to enlighten these people by introducing inventions and social reforms that he believes will make them a better community. He tackles everything from public education to the bicycle to the telephone and even uses his prowess to take on Merlin!

This is a fun and funny read. Glad I am finally old enough to understand it :)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Nightingale

by Kristin Hannah

I'm rather leery when it comes to selecting books by their 5-star reviews on Amazon because I've been led astray more often than not. So I'll start by saying this time I was not disappointed! For about a year I have had friends tell me I need to read The Nightingale. Whenever I get a recommendation from a friend, I immediately add the title to my Goodreads "to-read" shelf and then I read the book jacket summary. The reason I kept delaying picking up The Nightingale was because it is a WWII story and I have read many, many of those. Since you too are likely to have read your fill of them, I want to reassure you, this one is not like all the others. It's not that I haven't liked reading about that time, or that I haven't liked many of the aforementioned books, it's just that at some point there becomes a lot of overlap. Not here.

This is the story of two sisters living in France when the Nazi's begin to take over their country. Vianne and Isabelle have never been close, and when the German's come into their small town, they take entirely different directions that lead them even farther apart. Isabelle begins working with the resistance by helping downed English and American pilots escape the country and return to business, while Vianne just doesn't want to cause a stir. Each of the sisters contends with physical hardships and emotional heartbreak and fight the enemy in their own way.

The story is well written, the characters are engaging  and mostly believable, and despite it being a rather long book, it is a fast read. While some of the actions of the characters may have been a bit too modernized, I really enjoyed this book and have pushed it on a few of my followers already--- just read it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Visitors

by Sally Beauman

When I was a young teen King Tutankhamun's treasures sailed across the ocean to begin a three year long tour of America. I'm not sure if it was all the news coverage or Steve Martin that made me jump on that bandwagon along with the rest of the country, but the fascination stuck. So even though I didn't get to see the stuff in person, I did go through a phase of reading all about the boy king. So The Visitors is a bit of a blast from the past, except Beauman took a different spin on Tut and told a story of the discovery.

The story begins strong, young Lucy is sent off to recover from a bout with typhoid in the warmer climate of Egypt. Here she meets up with the daughter of an archaeologist and the two begin spying on the dig site. In this part of the book readers learn about the Valley of the Kings, the funding, the relationships between Howard Carter, the Earl of Carnarvon, Herbert Winlock, Albert Lythgoe and others who were innermost in the discovery of Tut's tomb. It's after the actual discovery that the book takes a detour and begins delving into Lucy's later life and secondary players who surround her, and thus the story is dragged through the mud.

This was an okay historical. Could have been better if the author hadn't become distracted.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


by Rebecca Scherm

Riding in on the coattails of the recent psychological thriller rage, Unbecoming received lots of hype and recommendations, which in my opinion may have done it a disservice by raising reader expectations. And while it is not a bad read, it is not "another Gone Girl." The idea is good but the execution is lacking some really basic elements like suspense, interest and pace.

In the beginning there is Julie, an American living in Paris under an assumed name supporting herself by restoring art. Julie has lots of secrets, she is on the run trying to dodge possible arrest after planning the burglary of a small town art museum. And she is afraid of her boyfriend conspirators finding her. So right away you think you're getting into some sort of suspense, but then Scherm begins the unfolding of that story and begins another one that is replete with adolescent angst. We meet Grace of Garland TN (who is Julie in France) and so begins the teen love story, which is slow, uninteresting and unbelievable. The story of Grace discounts the story of Julie so that her actions don't really make sense.

In reality, this book may have been a big hit if it had been sold to a YA audience. If you like Fault in our Stars type books you may like this too. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee

I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school and loved it. Then I saw the movie and loved it even more and watched it over and over because the story is just that good (not to mention Gregory Peck). Then I read the book again later just to remind myself that the book really is better than the movie, and yes, still loved. If you have this same love for Atticus and Scout and Jem and Boo then no matter what I say you will feel drawn, obliged even, to read Go Set a Watchman, and if I could dissuade you I would. But I know you'll read it, so be forewarned.... you'll never see Atticus and Scout the same way again.

In this story, Scout isn't Scout, she's Jean Louise. And that's good because it helps separate that beloved girl from this horrific adult version of her who is always angry to the point of being mean. And Atticus isn't Atticus either. Lee doesn't gently take him off his pedestal, she knocks it out from under him causing him to crash hard on the ground. And there is no Jem or Dill or Boo. In their places are Hank and Aunt Alexandra and Uncle Jack, none of whom are engaging or even really likable. There also isn't a great story that subtly tears down racism and class culture, instead there is a lot of preaching and yelling and hate.

I wish Harper Lee would have kept this hidden as it was. I wish I hadn't read it. I hope when I watch TKAM again all will be restored. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

by Christopher Scotton

Loved the title, not so much the book.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth is a coming of age story set in Appalachia during the 1980's. Fourteen year old Kevin is struggling to come to grips with the accidental death of his three year old brother. He blames himself and so does his father. So Kevin and his mom retreat to her backwoods hometown in Kentucky where Pops works on getting them both through the grieving process.

If addressing the grief thing isn't enough, Scotton also throws in the issues of coal mining and homosexuality and frankly does a disservice to all three by making them trite and overly fantastical. Here's my snarky synopsis:

Kevin, the distraught teen meets up with Buzzy, a mischievous but good-hearted hillbilly who is showing him the ropes of the hills. The all-wise and good Pops decides to take these boys on a camping trek through the mountains where they can observe first hand the devastation the evil mining companies have wreaked upon the mountains. Suddenly out of the blue, these three innocents are caught in the crossfire of a mad hunter. Pops and Buzzy are shot, Buzzy runs off (I can't remember exactly why) and it is up to Kevin to save them! Kevin, (who is a city boy and 14) removes his hiking gear and reveals his true identity as "Superboy" being able to dodge bullets, create a magical compress to staunch Pops' profuse bleeding, build a rig and drag him for miles over the river and through the woods, fight off wild animals and be strengthened by the legendary White Stag! As expected, he comes through, Pops heals and the town gathers together to sing kumbaya.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The House We Grew Up In

by Lisa Jewell

I almost didn't read this book because of the poor grammar in the title, but I did, so here's what I thought:

In the beginning the Bird family seems like any other family, a dad, a mom, 2 girls and twin boys, but that's where any semblance of normality ends. For starters there is Lorelei, the mother, and while she is fun-loving, she has a serious hoarding problem, which splits loyalties within the family. The older sister is always angry, the middle sister is a timid door mat, one twin is mean and the other has some serious social issues. And just when you think the father is the only normal one, they suffer a tragedy that sends him over the cliff.

I'd like to say this book had potential and could have been good, but I can't. When it first started with the hoarding issue, I thought it might be insightful like Still Alice was toward alzheimer's. And there were a few (few) interesting glimpses into the mental state of a hoarder, but Jewell couldn't settle on one disorder, she had to try squeezing in incest, homosexuality, drug abuse and more! It was just too much of a mess!

The House We Grew Up In was just a "toxic family" where "one disgusting lurid thing after another" happened. Don't bother, there are too many books and too little time!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Kind Worth Killing

by Peter Swanson

Lately whenever someone says, "I loved The Girl on the Train!" I respond with, "then your next read should be The Kind Worth Killing."  If you're a Hitchcock fan and sensed a little "Rear Window" while you read Girl on the Train, then this book will bring to mind "Strangers on a Train." If you're not and it didn't, don't worry, I still stand behind my first sentence.

Two strangers meet on a plane, Ted, a wealthy businessman frustrated with his life and his wife, and Lily, a beautiful traveler willing to listen to his complaints. After hours of airing grievances and making hypothetical threats, Lily takes Ted's whining at face value when she volunteers to help him plot the murder of his wife. In fact she goes one step farther by saying she'll carry out the deed, which when you consider that everyone dies eventually, she'd only be helping things move along their destined course more quickly. And just like that, the ball starts rolling.

This is a fast-paced read and despite it's rather stereotypical characters, there are some unexpected twists that make it a unique book. You may see some things coming, but you'll definitely be caught off guard by others. It's fast, it's fun and it's a bit creepy.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Speaks the Nightbird

by Robert McCammon

Finally I have picked up a series at book one! I so often find myself reading books that midway through I discover they are the second, third, or worse yet, the one I am currently reading is book 6... didn't know it. But I started from the first with Speaks the Nightbird and it is a long but well-done beginning.

This historical mystery takes place in North Carolina during a time when America was cleansing out the witches from her midst. Magistrate Woodward and his assistant Matthew Corbett have been assigned to visit the small town of Fount Royal and determine the fate of the accused Rachel Howarth, who the town has deemed a witch, blaming her for their hardships and several brutal murders. The magistrate views this as a formality and wishes to quickly dispense of the witch and move on, but Matthew is convinced she is innocent and sets out to prove it by uncovering the real butcher. A lot happened in this 800-page novel but it managed to keep things interesting and moving along. I can't say whether or not I'll pick up Matthew Corbett mystery book two, but don't let that deter you since I've never been one to get too caught up in a series.

If you like witch trial stories, historical fiction, or mysteries you'd probably like this. And if you like following the adventures of a particular sleuth this would be one to begin.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

by Robin Sloan

If I ever ran across a store named Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore I would pop right in! Good title and even a good idea, but not the best execution, although that may be my age.

Clay, a 20-something techie currently out of work takes the nightshift at this 24-hour bookstore in which his job is not to sell books, but rather to take notes on the clients and books they borrow from the store. Clay is forbidden from reading any of the books, which is a rule he breaks before his first night in the store. He discovers that these books are actually codes, and each patron to the shop is on a mission to be the first to solve the code. Naturally, Clay determines to get to the bottom of it all. He enlists his friends, who are quirky and tech-savvy and off they go, globe-trotting and book stealing to solve the puzzle.

Sounds fun, and it is an ok read, but I think a great opportunity missed. Again, that may be an age thing, or maybe someone much more interested in technology than me. And what's up with all the Google-love happening in this book?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

I don't recall having ever seen a movie or read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before, but somehow I knew the tale, but I think that is likely the case for most people, you know the story. And really, you do know it, whether or not you've taken the time to read it. While it is a quick read, it is exactly what I knew. Dr. Jekyll, wanting to create a perfectly evil being, invents a potion to separate himself into two personalities: good and evil. The wealthy Jekyll lives and works well within his community, but once transformed into Hyde, he seeks out innocent victims to torture and kill. Unfortunately, what happens is that the evil personality of Hyde grows continually stronger within, and Jekyll has more and more trouble returning to himself. His friends and neighbors are concerned, but are reluctant to confront him or take action. And those that try are quickly rebutted by Jekyll.

There are a lot of moral issues insinuated throughout this book, which would make it a good choice to read and discuss with teens. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Black Tower

by Louis Bayard

Before there was Sherlock Holmes, there was Eugene Francois Vidocq, but unlike Holmes, Vidocq was a real criminal-turned-cop and the original plainclothes detective. In The Black Tower, Bayard takes advantage of the Frenchman Vidocq by using him to solve another infamous French crime, the murder of the boy king Louis XVII. Many people have laid claim to being Louis-Charles, son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI and all have been found frauds. Now there is a new claimant to that title whose assertions seem to be spurring some mysterious deaths. It is up to Vidocq and his reluctant sidekick Carpentier to find the murderer and to uncover the truth of the matter.

This is the second book I've read by Bayard and I'd say that while his characterization might not be the best, he's a solid author who does a good job of merging true history with fiction. I've got at least one more of his on my to-read shelf.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Confessions of a D-List Supervillain

by Jim Bernheimer

This book is so far out of my traditional reading material that I'm only providing a brief overview. First, it seems to be a comic book novel style and second, it is written in first-person present, which doesn't generally bode well but works in this book.

Calvin "Mechani-Cal" Stringel is a self-proclaimed mediocre supervillain. Actually, he doesn't seem to be a villain at all, but rather a mid-level superhero with sketchy boundaries. Some strange bugs have invaded his futuristic world that are attaching themselves to people and making them bug addicts. Because Cal is protected in his mechanical suit, he has remained unaffected by the bugs, making him responsible to rescue the "superheroes" and get them back to saving the world.

Confessions of a D-List Supervillain was a rather enjoyable step outside of my reading box and a book I'd recommend to YA guys, but not too YA given the graphic romance bit.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins

Creepy psychological thrillers seem to be topping the reading charts, and if you're on that band wagon you've probably already read The Girl on the Train. If you haven't, then it should be your next Kindle purchase!

Rachel's journey into craziness begins when she can't get pregnant at which time the drinking also begins. When her husband dumps her for another woman, it picks up pace, but when the new woman has a baby, Rachel is a gonner! Her heavy drinking causes her to lose her job, but she continues her commute in town because the trip takes her right past the home of her ex and another "beautiful couple" who she observes and fantasizes about. She begins a campaign of harassing phone calls, random drop-ins and drunken rages where she suffers blackouts and memory loss. And then, "beautiful girl" disappears, and Rachel finds herself bruised and banged up and can't remember where she was when this happened. Suddenly, she is in a whole other world of trouble.

This book is full of suspicion and twists that keep you reading and guessing until the very end. If you liked Gone Girl and Sleep Tight, you'll like this. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Murder as a Fine Art

by David Morrell

A very well-written historical fiction murder mystery! What makes this so well done is how much information you gain about Victorian England as you read, without it seeming as if you are having a history lesson. Morrell provides specific details that effortlessly fit in context and situation, making them a part of the story rather than a sidestep.

In 1854, Thomas de Quincey's last installment of "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" was published, providing a shockingly gory account of the notorious East End murders, which occurred in the early 1800's. So when some similar murders begin taking place and because of his other scandalous essay "Confessions of an Opium Eater", de Quincey is a natural suspect. Fortunately for him, de Quincey has on his side London's Inspector Ryan and his own equally outstanding daughter, Emily.

In this novel, de Quincey delves into the mind of a serial killer and explains Murder as a Fine Art.  While trying to outsmart the "artist" he is constantly battling the haunting effects of his opium addiction. His brilliant daughter provides support, but is also a swashbuckler in her own right. She is a smart, sassy, daring character, if not a bit rebellious. Inspector Ryan and Constable Becker add some level-headedness to the mix and all bases are covered to solve the mystery.

If you liked The Pale Blue Eye and The Alienist, then read this one too!

She's Baaaaaaaaack!

So far 2015 has been one big roller coaster ride. There have been moves.... numerous.... births, deaths (again numerous), graduations, parties, tests and trials of many kinds, and yes, there have been books! You just haven't heard about them. For now, it appears that my ride may be coming to an end, or perhaps I'm just on the flat, windy track, so I will attempt to review those books. Generally, I can remember the main details of a book, but I'm not so good at remembering specific goods and bads. If I hated a book, I could probably say why, otherwise I can't provide much more than a synopsis. So until I'm caught up, these will be short.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Irresistible Henry House

by Lisa Grunwald

At the Wilton School of Home Economics, young women are taught the basic skills of housekeeping and motherhood under the strict supervision of Martha Gaines, who herself has been neither a wife nor a mother, but is expert on both subjects. Every two years the school receives a baby from a nearby orphanage so the young ladies in the program can practice their skills. Henry is practice baby number 10, and Martha is immediately smitten with him! In fact, she loves him so much that Martha adopts him herself, for fear of losing him to a permanent home. And so begins the story of The Irresistible Henry House, who is loved by many mothers and adored by one.

We follow Henry through the '60's and '70's on his journey to find himself. He bounces among adoring women most of his life, but he can't ever seem to find that love for himself. Ironically, although he knows exactly how to make himself irresistible to women, in reality he truly isn't a charming person.

The one thing Henry does love is art, but even that suffers due to his lack of sentiment, so even though he loves to draw, he seems only to be able to copy the work of others. In fact he becomes so good at copying that he gets a job working with Walt Disney studios as a "betweener." An artist who fills in the cells for the movement of animated characters in films.

I enjoyed this story. It's an interesting perspective on these actual practice houses and the baby-boomer years, which may be part of the reason I liked it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Invisible Man

by HG Wells

A fast and fun read, The Invisible Man is pretty much what you'd expect on the surface, but lying underneath are overtones of how society shapes people, but I'll just stick with the actual story and not venture into assumptions.

A stranger comes to the small town of Iping, checks himself into the inn and locks himself into his rooms requesting no disruptions. This only piques the interest of the townspeople, who invent ways to discover who he is, which only serves to make the stranger angry. What the people don't know is that he is a scientist, who has discovered a formula for invisibility. In the beginning, this seems like a great advantage, but soon the stranger realizes how problematic invisibility can be, but he can't figure out how to regain his skin. Becoming more and more frustrated, the stranger embarks on a criminal path, first some petty theft and then declaring a Reign of Terror and recruiting people to help him.

So if you have an afternoon to sit by the fireplace and read, this would be a good choice. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

In the Woods

by Tana French

Detective Rob Ryan is good at his job, and he might be great if he didn't have this nagging unsolved mystery in his past creating a constant distraction. To begin, we learn that as a young teen, Rob (aka Adam) and his two best friends, Peter and Jamie go into the woods to a favorite hangout and stumble upon a rape in progress. The attacker notices the witnesses and begins chase, Rob escapes, his friends do not, but their bodies are never found.

Next we are introduced to the "main" mystery, a dancing prodigy who is murdered just before her departure to ballet school.  Ryan is assigned a new partner, Cassie who coincidentally reminds him of Jamie, which causes some conflicting emotions and instability for him. But he is determined not to let this sassy girl outshine him.

So that's it, two mysteries for the price of one! Here's what happens (perhaps a bit of a spoiler so proceed with caution if the above sounds interesting to you): the mystery of Katy the dancer comes to an unsatisfactory resolution. Despite the blatant clues the answer was still head-scratching. Intertwined throughout this story, Ryan is secretly revisiting the past in hopes of putting it to rest. As the story progresses, you can tell French wrote In the Woods as a beginning to a series, since it is obvious Ryan won't have all the answers by the end of these pages. Problematic though is the fact that by the end of this book, despite all the sneaking and spying, nothing else is uncovered. Detective Ryan is no closer to solving that mystery than he was on page 1. There is not one new clue! Furthermore, as the story develops the characters deteriorate to a point where I had lost interest in them and their plight.

In general the book is well written, just some plot flaws. If you like the noir genre then you'd probably enjoy this book and even continue with the series and discover whodunit. I have my ideas, but don't care enough to discover on my own... so if you read the rest of the story let me know.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Two Books One Author

by Laine Moriarty

There are two reasons I am combining these book reviews, first I am still rather behind on my blog posts and second the books are pretty similar in many aspects.

Big Little Lies
Madeline, mother of 3, has everything under control except the emotions of her preteen daughter. Jane, a single mom trying to run away from her past and Celeste, gorgeous mother of twins and married to the perfect husband become friends at the kindergarden parent night. The threesome join forces to battle a kindergarden bully, the snobby PTA members and even Madeline's ex-husband's new wife, but when someone is killed at the school social night they become the perfect murder suspects.

The Last Anniversary
Sophie is 39 years old, single, stuck in a rut with her job and her biological clock is ticking away. She has become frantic because she wants children, but can't seem to find a man for the job. Things aren't looking good for her and she is depressed. And that is when her ex-boyfriend calls her up with some shocking news that could change everything!

Both of these books were okay, but I didn't find either very engaging. Whereas they should have been light, easy reads I had to force myself to keep reading. To me the characters were unreal, unbelievable and silly and the plots were predictable. Her books all seem to go in the same direction with the same type characters, at least one of which is the most beautiful woman on earth.  Each book tries to address some relatively tough real life issues like postpartum depression, abuse, jealousy and unplanned pregnancy, but unfortunately they are dealt with in a rather nonchalant way and then seem to be blown off with miraculously happy endings.

The reason I went ahead and read the second book after not being super impressed with the first is because I had already purchased both and some of my friends really do like this author and her books, so you might love them too.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Lotus Eaters

by Tatjana Soli

The Lotus Eaters had potential, but just never got there. Helen Adams, a photographer for Life magazine, heads to Viet Nam to cover the war, which in itself posed problems for me, since her first time out she didn't even know how to load a camera! But that aside, the author does recover a bit by her descriptions of the land and the impacts of the war on the Vietnamese and seems to be heading in a good direction. Unfortunately, the story shifts focus and turns into a bit of a love triangle, turning this supposedly hard-as-nails female journalist into a love sick fool. And here is where the story becomes scripted and predictable. Helen is smitten with another photographer, Clarence Darrow, who has a wife back home. Clarence's local guide, Linh, has a secret crush on Helen. None of the characters go beyond the stereotypes and neither Helen nor Clarence is very likable or interesting. Linh has a good back story, but not enough to pull this story up.

As I said, the writings on the land, the people of Viet Nam and the war are interesting and well written, but if that is what you're going for, I'm sure you could find it in a better book.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Art Forger

by B.A. Shapiro

The springboard for this novel is the notorious Gardner Gallery art heist of 1990, in which thirteen works of art were stolen by a pair of thieves disguised as policemen and remain lost to this day. However, very little mention is made of the actual event, the true foundation of this book is the history and the process of art forgery. And although the Degas "masterpiece" described in these pages is an invention of the author's mind, the details and specifics of art forging and other infamous forgers mentioned are real. Interestingly, Shapiro goes into a lot of detail about mixing paints and chemicals to remove paints and layering of paints but I didn't find it as tedious as that in Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling. 

What happens in The Art Forger is that Claire Roth, a starving artist, gets offered a deal to paint a forgery of After the Bath V, one of the missing works from the Isabella Gardner Gallery, in exchange for her own art showing in one of the foremost art studios in Boston. The issue is, this dealer has the original from which she is supposed to make her copy, and he wants to "return" her forgery to the Gardner Gallery as the real thing.  Not only does she have to deal with how he got the painting, as she is copying it, she comes to believe his "original" is also a fake.

A little mystery and a little history. If you like art and art history, you'd like this book.