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.