What Are We Reading and Reviewing in October?
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This is the place to let everyone know the books you are reading this month, and then to leave reviews of these books. You can put up a list of the books you are reading for the month or put a post about a book as you start it, or even both.
A review can be something as simple as a sentence about the book or as comprehensive as you want to make it - whatever is good for you. Our love of books is the reason we are all here.
Carol's October Reads
✔The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza - 10/1/17 -4★'s
✔Sandstorm by James Rollins - 10/17/16 - 4★'s
✔The Hangman's Song by James Oswald - 10/25/17 - 5
✔What Angels Fear by C,S. Harris - CURRENT
Blind Date With A Book
✔A Dangerous Talent by Charlotte Elkins -10/6/17 - 4★'s
✔Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell - 10/3/17- 3.5★'s
✔Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery by Alfred Hitchcock -10/3/17 - 3.5★'s
✔The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg -10/12/17 - 3★'s
✔Black and Blue by Ian Rankin - 10/16/17 - 4.5★'s
✔Winter Moon by Dean Koontz -4.5★'s
✔The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn - 10-1/17 - 3.5★'s
✔Haunted Hamlet by Kathi Daley - 10/28/17 - 2.5★'s
All My Other "Friends"
✔Proof of Life by J.A. Jance - 10/1/17 - 4.5★'s
✔Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb - 10/11/17 - 5★'s
✔Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben - 10/4/17 - 4★'s
✔Shattered Echoes by B.A. Shapiro - 10/19/17 - 4 ★'s
✔What Hides Within by Jason Parent -10/7/17 - 4★'s
✔Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin - 10/14/17 - 3.5★'s
✔The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni - 10/7/17 - 5★'s
✔Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson - 10/10/17 - 5★'s
✔The Guests on South Battery by Karen White - 10/23/17 - 4★'s
✔The Last Victim by Karen Robards - 10/16/17 - 3★'s
✔Comes A Horseman by Robert Lipuralo - 10/4/17 - 4.5★
✔Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge - 10/25/17 - 4★'s
✔The Seance by Joan Lowery Nixon - 10/27/17 - 3★'s
✔The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore by Joan Lowery Nixon - 10/18/17 - 3★'s
✔House of Darkness House of Light by Andrea Perron - 10/27/17 - 2.5★'s
✔Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grunn -10/28/17 - 4.5★'s
October 2017 Reads
✔★ ☊ ☞
✔The Seagull by Ann Cleeves - 416 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/7/2017
✔Just An Ordinary Day by Shirley Jackson - 388 pgs. - ★★★ - 10/7/2017
✔Burial of Ghosts by Ann Cleeves - 367 pgs. -★★★★ - 10/7/2017
✔☊ Cane and Abe by James Grippando - 368 pgs. - ★★★.5 - 10/9/2017
✔Silent Scream by Angela Marsons - 388 pgs. - ★★★★★ - 10/9/2017
✔An Army of One by Tony Schumacher - 400 pgs. - ★★★★★ - 10/16/2017
✔July's People by Nadine Gordimer -160 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/16/2017
✔Oil on Water by Helon Habila - 256 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/17/2017
✔Sandstorm by James Rollins (#1 in the Sigma Force Series) - 736 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/18/2017
✔The House on Cold Hill by Peter James - 310 pgs. - ★★★★★ - 10/18/2017
✔Uninvited: a Novel of Obsession by James Gabriel Berman - 223 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/18/2017
✔Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey - 320 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/20/2017
✔☊All The Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson - 356 pgs. - ★★★★★ - 10/20/2017
✔The Hangman's Song by James Oswald (#3 Maclean Series) - 490 pgs.- ★★★★★ - 10/25/2017
✔ The Last September by Nina de Gramont - 4 stars- 320 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/26/2017
✔☊ Bad Boy by Peter Robinson - 341 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/27/2017
✔The rooster bar by John Grisham - 355 pgs. - ★★★★★ - 10/28/2017
✔Watching Edie by Camilla Way - 293 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/29/2017
✔No Cure For Love by Peter Robinson - 343 pgs. - ★★★★ - 10/31/2017
>5 Andrew-theQM: Some of these have been on my list forever. It seems I always find others that I have to read first and then when I finally read the ones on my list, I always say, "Now, why didn't I read that sooner?"
>7 Andrew-theQM: Oh boy! I better be on my best behaviour which is hard for me!
>8 EadieB: To be honest, I do the same. Some I Target I get to easily, others I tend not to get to each month!
And I never know from one minute to the next what book I will be in the mood for next. Sometimes find it difficult to decide on a book to read once I have finished one - too much choice!
Dusty's TBR for October
C J Cherryh - Serpent's Reach
Damon Knight - Mind Switch
Daniel Arenson -Alien Hunter
Larry Niven - The Smoke Ring
Spider Robinson - Callahan's Crosstime Saloon
Amanda Stevens - The Kingdom
Jane Yolen - Cards of Grief
from other genres
Louisa May Alcott - Eight Cousins
John Dickson Carr - Castle Skull
Rex Stout - The Red Box
Rachel Howsall Hall - City of Saviors
Chris Mooney - Every Three Hours
Dorothy Rhoads - The Corn Grows Ripe
Karen Robards - Darkness
Diane Mott Davidson - Dying for Chocolate
Amanda Stevens - The Prophet
Lynda and Oliver's October Reading List
Anteater of Death - Betty Webb
Bad Seed - William March
Blood Lines - Angela Marsons
Breakup - Dana Stabenow
Chosen - Kristina Ohlsson
Dark Dreams - Michael Genelin
Dead Souls - Angela Marsons
Fly by Wire - Ward Larsen
Follow You Home - Mark Edwards
The Force - Don Winslow
Memory in Death - J. D. Robb
Merciful Death - Kendra Elliott
One Breath Away - Heather Gudenkauf
Other Girl - Erica Spindler
Origin in Death -J. D. Robb
Sandstorm - James Rollins
Skeleton Canyon - J. A. Jance
Survivor in Death - J. D. Robb
Trapped Girl - Robert Dugoni
Widow - Fiona Davis
Hotel - Arthur Hailey
The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde
North Water - Ian McGuire
One Plus One - Jojo Moyes
Orphan's Tale - Pam Jenoff
I think I"ll make a gentle start to October by paying a call on Mma Ramotswe in Botswana and see what she's up to. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party Always delightful to spend a few hours in her company and see what she is currently philosophising about. This one is book 12 in this delightful series.
The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Dowining Hahn
When twelve-year-old Florence boards the crowded horse-drawn coach in London, she looks forward to a new life with her great uncle and aunt at Crutchfield Hall, an old manor house in the English countryside. Anything will be better, she thinks, than the grim London orphanage where she has lived since her parents' death. But Florence doesn't expect the ghost of her cousin Sophia, who haunts the cavernous rooms and dimly lit hallways of Crutchfield and concocts a plan to use Florence to help her achieve her murderous goals. Will Florence be able to convince the others in the household of the imminent danger and stop Sophia before it's too late?
This is advertised as juvenile literature but I needed a "children's or Young adult " book for another challenge and found that this one also fit this challenge and I had read Mary Downing Hahn's work before and found that she was an expert at weaving a goose bump raising ghost story no matter how how you are. In the beginning you feel sorry for Sophia...the little ghost...but befor long you discover she is far from the angelic creature idolized by Eugenie. Sophia proves to be spiteful, manipulative, and determined to avenge her death. While some of Hahn's literary references will likely go over the heads of the targeted age group, most readers will be too absorbed in the chilling atmosphere of the tale and Sophia's terrifying influence on the living world to care. A deliciously spine-tingling tale that even the most "mature" readers will enjoy.
The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza
Erica Foster series Book #2
If the Night Stalker is watching, you’re already dead… In the dead of a swelteringly hot summer’s night, Detective Erika Foster is called to a murder scene. The victim, a doctor, is found suffocated in bed. His wrists are bound and his eyes bulging through a clear plastic bag tied tight over his head. A few days later, another victim is found dead, in exactly the same circumstances. As Erika and her team start digging deeper, they discover a calculated serial killer – stalking their victims before choosing the right moment to strike. The victims are all single men, with very private lives. Why are their pasts shrouded in secrecy? And what links them to the killer? As a heat wave descends upon London, Erika will do everything to stop the Night Stalker before the body count rises, even if it means risking her job. But the victims might not be the only ones being watched… Erika’s own life could be on the line.
This is a series with characters that for the most part, show a great deal of promise of blossoming into one of the top detective series...IF...the author will consider toning down Erika Foster's disrespect for authority and heading out to carry out her own agenda in blatant defiance of protocol. She's not the only character that needs to be sat on...her supervisors...Oakley in particular...shows such hatred for Erika that it's starting to make the plots unbelievable.
In spite of the character attitude I have to say the book had a lot going for it in the "Must Read" department. It is indeed a real page turner that I didn't want to put down. Erika Foster's character and back story was intriguing enough that I wanted to find out more about her. The serial killer is intriguing as well...but I won't say too much about that. I believe one factor of a good author is the ability to make the reader experience a range of feelings. I diffidently found myself feeling very angry at the way Erika was treated by her bosses and some other police officers and pity at the life of the character known as "Duke". Overall, Mr. Bryndza I enjoyed your book and look forward to the next one. Just please, please make Erika a bit more likable.
Alfred Hitchcock's Ghostly Gallery by Alfred Hitchcock
A compilation of ghost and horror stories. The tales include "Miss Emmeline Takes Off" by Walter Brooks, "The Valley of the Beasts" by Algernon Blackwood, "The Haunted Trailer" by Robert Arthur, "The Upper Berth" by F. Marion Crawford, "The Wonderful Day" by Robert Arthur, "The Truth About Pyecraft" by H. G. Wells, "Housing Problem" by Henry Kuttner, "In a Dim Room" by Lord Dunsany, "Obstinate Uncle Otis" by Robert Arthur, "The Waxwork" by A. M. Burrage, and "The Isle of Voices" by Robert Louis Stevenson.
As many of you know I have an 11 year old reading buddy...Brian. This was his choice for Halloween and since I needed some Halloween material I decided to read with him...something he needing me less and less for now:(. My favorite of these tales was The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford. It is now one of my favorite short stories of all time. It was creepy without being
too graphic for my reading companion. Brian says "It's just spooky and I liked it." It very much reminded me of the work of Shirley Jackson, and Susan Hill, two of my favorite 'ghostly witters.
Practice to Deceive
This is the true crime story about the murder of Washington state resident James Stackhouse. Stackhouse was murdered in 2003 during the Christmas holidays outside his home and this is the story of the investigation and the eventual murder trial. Rule writes in detail about the murder and the multiple possible characters involved in the crime which took several years to solve and go to trial. Though the book is complete in regards to the trial, there was (is) still a lingering question about the motive of the defendants and a possibility that another person was involved in the murder. Hard to put down.
*This was my first Ann Rule book and it has gotten mixed reviews -mostly from people who love her books. I look forward to reading more of her because if this was her worse book, the others must be really good.
Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben
Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn't been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother's death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he's been looking for.
When Maura's fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.
The character of Nap (Napoleon) presented somewhat difficult choices for the reader. Is he a good guy or is he a bad guy...him being a cop you kinda hoped for the later...but the first meeting we had with him he was crippling a guy with a baseball bat...so???? I found him way too driven by events that happened in his teen years...the death of his twin brother, Leo and the disappearance of his then girlfriend, Maura... in the beginning. As he began to investigate what really happened fifteen years ago we began to see that his paranoid attitude just might have some reality. The bodies begin to pile up and the story starts to take several very different paths.
I read that the story was loosely based on some actual events that took place in the "real" hometown of the author who cleverly weaved the facts into the story line. Harlan Coben fans will love it...those new to this author will quickly become fans.
The Western Star by Craig Johnson
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 - 303 pages
On a road trip to Cheyenne, Walt relives his adventure on The Western Star. In 1972, fresh out of the Marines after serving in Vietnam, Walt was hired by Lucian as a deputy. Walt isn't sure he's cut out for a career in law enforcement. Invited along on the Western Star sheriff's excursion, Walt is asked to look into some possible illegal activity. When the president of the sheriff's association goes missing from the train, Walt kicks into action. The past is paralleled along the present, as Walt's road trip is a trip to see the parole board.
Great story - until the end! It's a cliff-hanger. The next story will be worth the wait, but I'm not a fan of cliff-hangers. The other problem - Walt's mission on the train changed throughout the novel and the large cast of characters could be confusing. There was more going on during the excursion than was addressed. With Johnson, you never know if this will come back into play in a later book.
A Dangerous Talent by Charlotte & Aaron Elkins
Alix London Series Book #1
Alix London has a promising career as an art consultant, a sumptuous condo in Seattle’s toniest neighborhood, a gorgeous figure, and a presence that exudes Ivy League breeding and old money. She has it all…or does she? Only Alix knows that the image she presents to the world is a carefully constructed mirage that veils an embarrassing truth. A brilliant, once-promising art student, the daughter of a prominent New York art conservator, her world was left in ruins when her father went to prison for art forgery. Now a Harvard dropout with an emptied bank account, she is languishing in a career that has produced little more than a lucky house-sitting gig. But all of that changes when Alix meets Christine Lemay, a novice art collector with money to burn and a hot tip on a recently discovered painting by American master Georgia O’Keeffe. Chris hires Alix to perform the authentication, an assignment that finally could launch Alix into the big leagues. But soon after her arrival in Santa Fe, she finds herself tangled up in a web of forgery, deceit—and murder. Anxious to avoid becoming the next victim, she teams up with FBI Special Agent Ted Ellesworth—and gets a little unlikely help from her roguish father—to uncover the truth behind the painting and those who would kill to have it. Sharp, witty, and devilishly fun,
The art world is a complete mystery to me. I could no more tell you what the philosophy is behind an artists work than I could build a rocket...so this mystery about the art world was a good and challenging read for me. I found the book to generally be an easy reading mystery but was not as challenging or tightly written as the mysteries I normally read. The character of Alix London was intelligent and very likable but I was weary of the F.B.I. agent at first. He constantly insisted that Alix was a prime suspect in the murder of an art gallery owner and is probably a forger herself in spite of the fact there was not one shred of evidence to support this assumption. Of course they dislike and distrust each other because they are actually attracted to each other: a bit too much romance for me. The identity of the murderer becomes obvious early in the book, It would have been better if that had been reserved for later...but overall it was a very worthwhile read.
Skippy Dies / Paul Murray
Daniel (aka Skippy) dies in the first sentence of the book. He and a friend are in a donut-eating competition and Skippy just keels over, before even eating any of the donuts. From here, the story goes back in time, leading up to Skippy’s death and follows a few different characters, including Skippy, Howard (one of the teachers at Skippy’s boarding school), and Carl (a drug-dealing reprobate and bully). The book then continues beyond Skippy’s death to how people are dealing with it.
The book was ok. I actually found Howard’s story most interesting, but Skippy’s got more interesting after a bit. I hated Carl and really didn’t enjoy reading any of the sections that focused on him. I also didn’t much enjoy the sections that focused on Skippy’s friends. Some of the dialogue did not have quotation marks which bothers me! Also, it felt a little odd in the parts when the second-person pronoun, “you”, was used.
The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni
In San Francisco’s seamy Tenderloin district, a teenage street hustler has been murdered in a shelter for boys. And the dedicated priest who runs the struggling home stands accused. But despite damning evidence that he’s a killer—and worse—Father Thomas Martin stands by his innocence. And attorney Peter Donley stands with him. For three years Donley has cut his legal teeth in his uncle’s tiny, no-frills firm, where people come before profits. Just as Donley is poised to move on to a lucrative dream job, the shocking case lands in his lap, and he must put his future on hold while putting his courtroom skills to the test. But a ruthless DA seeking headlines and a brutal homicide cop bent on vengeance have their own agendas. Now, as he unearths the dirty secrets surrounding the case, Donley must risk his neck to save his client’s life…and expose the face of true evil.
I've seen mixed reviews for this book. It seems you either really liked it or you really didn't....I really did. I found the characters of Peter Donley and Frank Ross to be ones that you could really root for and the character of Dixon Connor to be one you could truly hate...but it took all of them to make a first rate story. I have read Robert Dugoni's courtroom series featuring David Sloan and thought that this one would fit right in with that series...if only Dugoni had had more of the courtroom drama that he is so good at writing. Overall it was an excellent read and it will appeal to readers that like novels with lots of action and a seemingly impossible mystery to solve.
>19 JulieLill: JulieLill - I *love* reading Ann Rule when I am in the mood to read her. I find her grasp of true crimes brilliant, as is her grasp of the lives of the people caught up with the criminal, either the criminal or (his) victim(s).
Several books on the shelves for this month:
Storm of Swords (ongoing, and almost at the Red Wedding)
Little Dorrit for F2F Dickens group
The Sentinel for a TBR reading challenge
Star Trek: The New Voyages 2 as a finish to last year's massive "read all the Star Trek short stories cuz they've been out for 50 years!!" read.
Dreams of Steam: Gizmos 4 as a way to fill this group's October Mini-Challenge and because a friend has a short story in it
The Worm Ouroboros as a just-before-bedtime read. The language is brilliant, and the individual chapters are pretty much standalone. I can see why Eddison could be called pretentious, though.
And apologies for being on radio silence for so long! An advantage of having full-time hours is that the cash can finally flow in instead of out; the disadvantage is that my weekends are now filled with the errands and tasks I could just do at any time when not gainfully employed. Plus, there was the camping trip in August to see the Eclipse (OMG it was incredible!!) and all the prep time for it, then two weeks later packing up more suitcases for the weekend that is DragonCon. Then a Hurricane and clean-up (tree limbs down but electricity all weekend and no flooding), and the list goes on.
Thank you all for staying on-line and providing a space for books and those who love them!
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Digital Audiobook performed by Simon Vance
Does anyone really need a synopsis? If you’ve seen any of the movies, you know the basic plot, but the original novel is so much more!
Stoker wrote the work as a series of journal or diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings. This could easily become disjointed, but in this case, it serves to give a certain immediacy to the writing. It also builds suspense, as we leave one character to jump to another’s perspective, frequently with a disconnect in terms of what each of the characters knows about the full situation. The danger they are in is frequently a result of not having the full picture, of not truly understanding the force against which they are pitted.
But the novel is more than just a horror story. There are several themes which would be great for book group discussion.
To begin there is the typical Victorian theme of strong men coming to the rescue of pure damsel in distress. However, Stoker turns the tables a bit when he gives Mina the intelligence, foresight and courage to fight the evil forces in her own way. Yes, the men do the actual fighting, but it is Mina who first puts together all the individual notes into a coherent chronological story, and ultimately gives the men what they need to go up against Dracula. The woman has steel!
Stoker also includes a fair amount of sexual – or at least sensual – tension. Bosoms heave, blood quickens, breathing is rapid, and people are completely overcome and overwhelmed by desire. They are simply helpless in the face of their base instincts … or are they?
The novel is wonderfully atmospheric; from the delights of a new culture as Harker first experiences the loveliness of Eastern Europe, to the growing sense of doom when surrounded by howling wolves, to the creepy, skin-crawling scene with the hordes of rats (I feel squeamish as I type this), and finally to the “pure-white” snow of the mountain blizzard, time and again Stoker puts the reader smack dab in the middle of the scenes.
There are several different audio versions. For my second listen I managed to get the Blackstone Audio version narrated by Simon Vance. I liked this audio even better than the first one I listened to. But then, I would probably listen to Simon Vance read his grocery list.
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor - Lisa Kleypas
Audiobook read by Tanya Eby.
From the book jacket: One little girl needs a family. On single man needs a wife. Sometimes it takes a little magic … To make dreams come true.
So, I knew going in that this was a cheesy holiday romance. Still, I have to admit that it was a fun read. The relationship between Mark, who has become guardian of his niece, 6-year-old Holly, after his sister died, and Maggie, the young widow who owns an old-fashioned toy shop, builds slowly, from September through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and finally Christmas Eve.
Despite the promised “magic” there isn’t much of it here … unless you count a child’s belief in fairies and Santa Claus as magic. But that’s okay. The “magic” of the central relationship is enough to entertain the reader.
Tanya Eby does a fine job performing the audio version. The voices she uses for the different characters are believable – even the little girl, Holly. Good pacing and clear diction.
Below is the schedule for the Group Read of Sandstorm by James Rollins, which is book 1 in the Popular Sigma Force Series. This is quite a long book so I have spread it over 7 days. It was a nightmare to seperate evenly because it has such long chapters (who chose this book!😂). It does mean some sections, e.g. Day 1 and 7, are longer than others but tried my best!
Tuesday 10th October : Chapters 1 to 3
Wednesday 11th October : Chapters 4 to 7
Thursday 12th October : Chapters 8 to 10
Friday 13th October : Chapters 11 to 13
Saturday 14th October : Chapters 14 to 16
Sunday 15th October : Chapters 17 to 19
Monday 16th October : Chapters 20 to 22 and Epilogue
This is a perfect time to join a book Discussion at the start of a new series. You don't have to have finished the sections by the time of the dates above. This is just a guide when the questions for the section will be posted. We will all come back and discuss with you whenever you post discussion points based on the questions. Feel free to answer as many or as few questions that you want to.
I will post a link for the Group below when it is set up on Tuesday 10th October.
A World Elsewhere / Wayne Johnston
Landish Druken is from Newfoundland and, while attending Princeton, meets George Vanderluyden. They have a falling out, but years later, Vanderluyden has since built a mansion, is married, and has a daughter. He takes in Landish and the boy Landish has taken in, Deacon.
I have to admit to being quite distracted as I read the first 2/3 of the book, so I know I missed some things. For the first 1/3 of the book, I kept reading Landish’s last name as “Drunken”. Oops! It got better (though still wasn’t terribly exciting) for the last 1/3 of the book, when I was able to better focus on it. There were a few twists at the end.
I actually smiled at the dedication and the acknowledgments: I knew his parents and it was dedicated “in loving memory” of them. I was a good friend of his youngest sister so have met some of her siblings, as well (all mentioned in the acknowledgments), though I’ve never met Wayne. Of course, that’s just a personal reaction to those parts of the book that really don’t have to do with the book itself!
Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson
Alan Banks series Book #11
Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks' life is shaken to the core when he is unexpectedly pulled into the investigation of a young girl's disappearance in this shattering suspense novel from the hand of a modern master. When the nude photo of a teenage runaway shows up on a website, the girl's father turns to Detective Chief Inspector Alan banks for help. But these aren’t unusual circumstances, for the runaway is the daughter of a man who's determined to destroy the dedicated Yorkshire policeman's career and good name. Still, it’s a case that Banks—a father himself—dares not ignore as he follows its trail into teeming London. But when a series of gruesome murders follows soon after, Banks finds himself pulled into the past and private world of his most powerful enemy, Chief Constable Jimmy Riddle. One can never escape their pasts—especially when there are sordid secrets waiting to be revealed.
It's a very engaging, dark mystery. Through the foolishness of the teenage daughter of his nemesis, Chief Constable Riddle, the recurring protagonist...CI Alan Banks gets caught up in the drug world in and beyond London. It seems that Chief Constable "Jimmy" Riddle may be becoming "a more likable human being"...if that is even possible... as he overcomes his extreme dislike for Alan Banks and has to ask for his help.
All of the characters in Peter Robinson's Alan Banks series seem real and believable. Alan Banks is heroism personified...Cabot is tough and vulnerable. Together they are a force to be reckoned with. The plot is complicated enough to keep you guessing to the very end.
First Comes Love: A Novel
By Emily Giffin
Two sisters, whose lives were changed dramatically years before when their brother died, now find themselves at crossroads in their lives. Meredith, a lawyer is unhappy with her life, her husband and her job. Josie, a teacher, is also unhappy with her life and is looking to have a baby with or without a husband or partner. Unfortunately, Josie has a secret about her brother's death and revealing that could cause a further fissure in her and her sister's relationship. I enjoyed this novel and I raced through it to find out what was going to happen to the sisters and their relationship.
Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb
Eve Dallas (In Death) series Book #45
The chic Manhattan nightspot Du Vin is not the kind of place Eve Dallas would usually patronize, and it’s not the kind of bar where a lot of blood gets spilled. But that’s exactly what happens one cold February evening. The mortally wounded woman is Larinda Mars, a self-described “social information reporter,” or as most people would call it, a professional gossip. As it turns out, she was keeping the most shocking stories quiet, for profitable use in her side business as a blackmailer. Setting her sights on rich, prominent marks, she’d find out what they most wanted to keep hidden and then bleed them dry. Now someone’s done the same to her, literally―with a knife to the bronchial artery. Eve didn’t like Larinda Mars. But she likes murder even less. To find justice for this victim, she’ll have to plunge into the dirty little secrets of all the people Larinda Mars victimized herself. But along the way, she may be exposed to some information she really didn’t want to know.
I have devoured each and everyone of the books in this series. I can't begin to say enough glowing things about them. Anyone that likes a little romance, a lot of good police work, wonderful well drawn characters that you will grow to love very quickly...will want to begin this series immediately. With 45 books out in the series it should keep you busy for years or in some cases mere months:)
City of Thieves / David Benioff
It’s WWII in Leningrad, Russia. Lev and Kolya are in jail together, but are sent out to find a dozen eggs at a time when there is very little food to be found anywhere. Sorry, not a great summary. I guess that is just what starts it off, as Lev and Kolya travel together from there.
I listened to the audio and, like many audios, there were just too many parts that didn’t hold my attention (hence the sketchy summary). Parts were ok, though, and one part was quite horrifying. Overall, though, it was merely “ok” for me.
In the Woods - Tana French
Digital audiobook performed by Stephen Crossley
From the book jacket: Three children leave their small Dublin neighborhood to play in the surrounding woods. Hours later, their mothers’ calls go unanswered. The police find only one of the children, gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. Twenty years later, Detective Rob Ryan – the found boy, who has kept his past a secret – and his partner Cassie Maddox investigate the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in the same woods.
This is a stunning debut. Gripping and suspenseful, with many twists and turns. I guessed the culprit fairly early on, but was still enthralled by the psychology of the characters – whether police, victims or perpetrator.
I really liked Cassie Maddox and Rob Ryan and would like to see this partnership further explored in future books. (Though I think it unlikely, I can still hope … and if you know the answer, do NOT tell me.)
Steven Crossley does an excellent performing the audio book. His pacing is good and his skill as a voice artist clearly differentiated the characters.
Sorry you didn't like it more. I absolutely loved this book.
Living To Tell the Tale - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This is the first in a planned three-volume autobiography, taking the reader from Marquez’s birth in 1927 to his young adulthood in the mid 1950s.
In recounting his early life, the author also tells the history of Columbia – the politics, culture, troubles and triumphs of the people. He talks about his family and the women who raised him. And, of course, he talks about the women he loved, physically if not emotionally.
Marquez cannot tell a tale without some element of magical realism; that style is so ingrained in the oral traditions of Latin America. I loved those little hints in this story of a literary technique that this author perfected and brought to lovers of literature worldwide. In some scenes I was reminded of evenings spent on the porch in the dark of a summer’s evening, listening to my grandparents recount tales of their own childhoods. And while I generally dislike “cliff-hanger” endings, the one employed here was just perfect.
Still, I’m in no hurry to read additional memoirs by Marquez. This one definitely could have used some editing.
>36 BookConcierge: I know - a lot of people did! Hard to say if I'd read it in print or ebook, if it would have been different.
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
Kurt Wallander Series Book #1
It was a senselessly violent crime: on a cold night in a remote Swedish farmhouse an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death, and his wife is left to die with a noose around her neck. And as if this didn’t present enough problems for the Ystad police Inspector Kurt Wallander, the dying woman’s last word is foreign, leaving the police the one tangible clue they have–and in the process, the match that could inflame Sweden’s already smoldering anti-immigrant sentiments.
Unlike the situation with his ex-wife, his estranged daughter, or the beautiful but married young prosecutor who has peaked his interest, in this case, Wallander finds a problem he can handle. He quickly becomes obsessed with solving the crime before the already tense situation explodes, but soon comes to realize that it will require all his reserves of energy and dedication to solve.
I thought this sounded familiar but I knew I had never the book...but I did see the DVD. The book and the DVD are very much in agreement with one another. We first meet Kurt Wallander on the case of a murdered farmer and his wife in the dead of the night in a small Swedish village. Kurt Wallander is very distracted as he is dealing with a lot of personal issues involving his family, but he still doggedly pursues the killer or killers responsible for these violent deaths. I found this a bit hard to hold any interest until I became used to Wallander's dark, melancholy moods. It was a good story even though it was slow in parts.
The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
It is the story of brutal murders in a small Swedish fishing village, and the shattering, decades-old secrets that precipitated them. In this electrifying tale of suspense from an international crime-writing sensation, a grisly death exposes the dark heart of a Scandinavian seaside village. Erica Falck returns to her tiny, remote hometown of Fjällbacka, Sweden, after her parents’ deaths only to encounter another tragedy: the suicide of her childhood best friend, Alex. It’s Erica herself who finds Alex’s body—suspended in a bathtub of frozen water, her wrists slashed. Erica is bewildered: Why would a beautiful woman who had it all take her own life? Teaming up with police detective Patrik Hedström, Erica begins to uncover shocking events from Alex’s childhood. As one horrifying fact after another comes to light, Erica and Patrik’s curiosity gives way to obsession—and their flirtation grows into uncontrollable attraction. But it’s not long before one thing becomes very clear: a deadly secret is at stake, and there’s someone out there who will do anything—even commit murder—to protect it.
The book draws the characters very well, slowly bringing everything together for the final reveal. it did seem that the ending was not very plausible nor did it really answer the "why" of the murder. Overall, it was well-paced and engaging. I would be willing to try more in the Fjallbacka series.
I See Rude People / Amy Alkon
There is a long subtitle to this one, which pretty much says it all: “One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society”. The author is a blogger and has an advice column. She is quite outspoken when it comes to people being rude. There are chapters on people talking loudly on their cell phones (one of my pet peeves!), parents who don’t parent, telemarketers, and more.
I really enjoyed this. There was plenty of humour and I applaud her for standing up to some of these people! She goes to extremes in some cases (like with the telemarketers… or hunting down the guy who stole her car, and trying to hunt down whoever stole her identity), but good for her!
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry / Gabrielle Zevin
AJ is only 39, but is a widower. He drinks a bit too much and one night, while passed out, a very valuable book is stolen from him. He also owns a bookstore in the small town on the small island that he lives on. He is pretty disillusioned with life. Shortly after the book is stolen, though, something arrives at the bookstore to wake him up again.
I really enjoyed this! It wasn’t a page-turner or an action-packed book, but it was really enjoyable. I liked most of the characters (though I wasn’t crazy about either Daniel or Ismay). I also loved all the book/literary references! And the tv references, though there weren’t nearly as many of those.
Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin
After his mother's death, eleven-year-old Marcus is sent to live on a small South Carolina island with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. Aunt Charlotte, otherwise a woman of few words, points out a ruined cottage, telling Marcus she had visited it regularly after she'd moved there thirty years ago because it matched the ruin of her own life. Eventually she was inspired to take up painting so she could capture its utter desolation. The islanders call it "Grief Cottage," because a boy and his parents disappeared from it during a hurricane fifty years before. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has stood empty ever since. During his lonely hours while Aunt Charlotte is in her studio painting and keeping her demons at bay, Marcus visits the cottage daily, building up his courage by coming ever closer, even after the ghost of the boy who died seems to reveal himself. Full of curiosity and open to the unfamiliar and uncanny given the recent upending of his life, he courts the ghost boy, never certain whether the ghost is friendly or follows some sinister agenda.
Grief Cottage is the best sort of ghost story, but it is far more than that--an investigation of grief, remorse, and the memories that haunt us. The power and beauty of this artful novel wash over the reader like the waves on a South Carolina beach.
it was a ghost story...but not the ghost story that I had expected. Was I disappointed? Yes...at first but then I discovered that it was so much more...the "literary child" of the mating of a ghost story and a psychological thriller... then I was hooked. Marcus...the 11 year old orphan is years ahead of the average 11 year old. The aunt that took him in had never met him but was his only living relative...was a mixture of hardy common sense, heartwarming sensitivity to a grieving child...and a lot of downright strangeness. The little boy ghost was also a philosophical little soul. These characters all come together to form a story that is tender, sad, and hopeful.
Black and Blue by Ian Rankin
Inspector John Rebus series Book #8
Bible John killed three women, and took three souvenirs. Johnny Bible killed to steal his namesake's glory. Oilman Allan Mitchelson died for his principles. And convict Lenny Spaven died just to prove a point. "Bible John" terrorized Glasgow in the sixties and seventies, murdering three women he met in a local ballroom--and he was never caught. Now a copycat is at work. Nicknamed "Bible Johnny" by the media, he is a new menace with violent ambitions.
The Bible Johnny case would be perfect for Inspector John Rebus, but after a run-in with a crooked senior officer, he's been shunted aside to one of Edinburgh's toughest suburbs, where he investigates the murder of an off-duty oilman. His investigation takes him north to the oil rigs of Aberdeen, where he meets the Bible Johnny media circus head-on. Suddenly caught in the glare of the television cameras and in the middle of more than one investigation, Rebus must proceed with caution: One mistake could mean an unpleasant and not particularly speedy death, or, worse still, losing his job.
Nearly 30 years after a serial killer dubbed Bible John abruptly retired after three vicious murders, he's back in the news again....which mean Inspector John rebus is back on the case. But 30 years have past...and Rebus wonders how the killer could possibly be the same one since he'd be now in his 80's. A young fan...a copy cat?... this possibility makes this case Rebus's worse nightmare walking.
I've yet to find an Ian Rankin novel that I have not enjoyed from start to finish. This author knows how to write a first class crime novel. His character of John Rebus is extraordinary. Sure he has his flaws but he operates with determination and a strong sense of old fashioned morals. Anyone that is a fan of Peter Robinson's Alan Banks books or the Stuart McBride's Logan McRea series will want to let Inspector John Rebus "join the party."
The Three Weissmanns of Westport - Cathleen Schine
Book on CD narrated by Hillary Huber
Betty Weissmann is seventy-five when her seventy-eight-year-old husband, Joseph, announces he wants a divorce. Of course, he’ll be generous; he has loved Betty and her two girls from a previous marriage for over forty years, and he wants to do right by them. But his mistress, Felicity, has other plans for the elegant West-side apartment, and Betty is evicted from her only home with little notice. Her cousin Lou comes to the rescue, offering her his beach-side cottage in Westport. So, Betty and her two middle-aged daughters, Annie and Miranda, move in together and try to make sense of this new life.
This is a charming re-telling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (my personal favorite Austen novel). I had great fun trying to match Schine’s characters with Austen’s, and trying to figure out how certain plot elements might play out. Despite my familiarity with the original, Schine surprised me more than once.
I was immediately caught up in Betty’s story, and these characters seemed very real and recognizable to me. Their situation was both funny and poignant. There were times when I laughed out loud, or groaned in sympathy. I loved Betty; she went from confused and frustrated, to steely-spined and self-sufficient. Annie was the typical oldest child, taking charge and trying her best to “fix” was what wrong, while ignoring her own emotional needs. She presents a strong, clam façade, but does her crying in private. Miranda … well … she’s the “Marianne” character here, and I wanted to throttle her several times. Still, she is a sympathetic character despite (or perhaps because of) her flaws.
Hillary Huber shines in her performance of the audio book. She has the timing and tone to perfectly deliver this comedy of manners, and, as a skilled voice artist, she is able to differentiate the large cast of characters.
Double Indemnity - James M Cain
Digital audiobook performed by James Naughton
Walter Huff is an insurance agent who heads out to a Spanish mansion in the hills above Los Angeles to renew – and hopefully upgrade – an automobile policy for Mr Nirdlinger. The client is not at home, and Mrs Nirdlinger asks Huff to return the next night, but before he leaves she also asks about accident insurance. Huff knows the woman is trouble – with a capital T – but he lets himself get reeled in and before you know it …
Cain is a master of the roman noir. His writing is every bit as seductive as the temptress at the heart of his story. You just know this is going to end badly but you cannot tear yourself away, you just HAVE to continue. His short declarative sentences and first-person narrative give an immediacy to his writing, and make the novel difficult to put down. And just when you think you’ve already gone over the cliff …. You find that Cain has one or two more surprises in store for you. The ending of this one is nothing short of chilling.
James Naughton does a superb job voicing the audiobook. His clipped delivery is perfect for Cain’s writing style.
Hidden Figures / Margot Lee Shetterly
This is a history/biography of some of the African-American women who worked for NASA (or NACA, as it was originally) during the 1940s through to the 1970s. While society, in general, had black and white people still segregated, these brilliant women started off working as “computers” (human math calculators) at NACA, and some worked their way up from there (at least as high as they were able to).
I found the biographies of the women much more interesting than the parts that focused more on NACA/NASA and the science/math though I normally am ok with science, but I suppose that depends on the type of science. These women were brilliant, and had to fight hard to get where they were and to keep going. I am so impressed with what they did. I haven’t seen the move (though I’d like to), and I’m going to guess I might like it better.
The Last Victim by Karen Robards
Dr. Charlotte Stone series Book #1
A sought-after expert in criminal pathology, Dr. Charlotte Stone regularly sits face-to-face with madmen. At the age of sixteen, she herself survived a serial killer’s bloodbath. Because of the information she gave police, the Boardwalk Killer went underground, but Charlie kept her postmortem visions of the victims to herself. Years later, to protect her credibility as a psychological expert, she tells no one about these apparitions. Now a teenage girl is missing, her family slaughtered. The Boardwalk Killer—or a sick copycat with his M.O.—is back. This is the one case Charlie knows she shouldn’t go near. But she also knows that she may be the one person in the world who can stop this vicious killer, especially when she receives help from an unexpected source: The fiery spirit of a seductive bad boy who refuses to be ignored.
Charlie has a gift...or a curse depending on how you look at it. She can see people right after they die. While it helps with Charlie's job of helping the FBI track serial killers...it can sometimes backfire...which it has now. Michael Garland who she was profiling in prison has attached himself to her and is actively haunting her. He refuses to be ignored... but is willing to help Charlie out in any way he can.
Here's where the book runs into some difficulty. it's suspenseful...it's creepy...and it has a fairly good ghost story started... and a serial killer. You would think that would have been enough. For some unknown reason...perhaps an editor or an agent told Ms. Robards "Hey we have to have a romance thrown in here." It doesn't work!!! A few shared kisses with the FBI agent was okay and acceptable but come on. The real romance was between Charlie and Michael Garland...yes...the serial killer that had brutally slaughtered who knows how many women and was very proud of it. Beyond sick! Parts of the story are very good but I'm not at all sure I could actually recommend this book to anyone.
Sandstorm by James Rollins
Sigma Force series Book #1
A freak explosion in the British museum in London ignites a perilous race for an earth-shaking power source buried deep beneath the sands of history. Painter Crowe is an agent for Sigma Force, a covert arm of the Defense Department tasked with keeping dangerous scientific discoveries out of enemy hands. When an ancient artifact points the way toward the legendary "Atlantis of the Sands," Painter must travel across the world in search of the lost city-and a destructive power beyond imagining. But Painter has competition. A band of ruthless mercenaries, led by a former friend and ally, are also intent on claiming the prize, and they will destroy anyone who gets in their way. Ancient history collides with cutting-edge science-with the safety of the world at stake!
James Rollins is one of my favorite authors and I know the one thing that he truly knows how to do is write a story that that leaves the reader breathless and wanting more. This one did all that but it also had the reader turning page after page, after page after page....699 of them. I loved the story...loved the characters...both good ones and even a few of the bad ones. The history and some of the science was even fascinating...but... I didn't think it was ever going to end. Way too much technical stuff that the average person will have no clue what he's talking about. This excellent story could have been well told in half the time and print. Anyone that loves, history, adventure, and is interested in the technical stuff will absolutely love this book.
All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders
In this fantasy/science fiction novel, Patricia who is a witch and Laurence, a engineer disagree about what is happening to the world as disaster after disaster is occurring on the planet. As the world falls apart, the two friends/lovers who met as unhappy children, try to save the world in different ways until they discover that will never work.
I had a hard time with this novel. It did not quite live up to my expectations though I did not hate her writing (and I loved certain sections) but the plot was quite convoluted and at times I had a hard time following it and all the characters.
7th Heaven / James Patterson
Two storylines ran through this one. Wealthy people are being tied up in their homes and murdered via the home being set on fire. Also, the young (teenage) son of a prominent man has disappeared and a young prostitute is being questioned, as someone saw the boy coming out of her house on the night he disappeared.
I listened to the audio, so I missed things here and there (as I often do, unless it’s particularly engaging!). I found the stories interesting, though I’m not finding the women’s personal lives as interesting as I once did. However, I will continue the series, at least for now.
Comes A Horseman by Robert Liparulo
The ancients saw Death as a blazing figure on horseback, swift and merciless. Those facing the black chasm often mistook their pounding hearts for the beating of hooves. Now, two FBI agents pursuing a killer from a centuries-old cult realize they have become his prey.
in many ways it reminded me of the DaVinci Code, there are gruesome murders, a mystery and a love affair. The ending was a bit of a disappointment though. All the tension and all the adventure building up and then... we're just done. One thing that I did find interesting was that one of the FBI Special Agents, Alicia Wagner, tries to characterize all that's happened to herself and her superior and what she came up with sums it up with a big red bow..."the stuff of bad movies." You would never ever in a million years want this stuff to leave the world of the big screen or the written word and step into your life. This book may not be for everyone. It does question some of the conservative Christian beliefs and the murders are gruesome beyond belief.
Shattered Echoes by B.A. Shapiro
After the tragic death of her husband of less than two years, Lindsey sells her house in the suburbs and moves into a renovated townhouse in the city, only to discover that an earlier tenant-over one hundred years earlier-apparently still lives on the premises. Lindsey wants to start over, but she is haunted by her past, by unfathomable guilt-and perhaps by a ghost.Shattered Echoes is a psychological thriller about murder, madness, and the supernatural in Boston's historic Back Bay.
Lindsay doesn't believe in ghost in spite of everything in new apartment moving...her books constantly being rearranged... things like her forks disappearing... the dog in the apartment one floor below cowering in the corner and her entire apartment being saturated in the smell of lavender. The real estate agent uncovers some some old journals written in the 1840's by the wife of builder of the house. The story slowly unveils a life of domination by a drunken husband and the heartbreak of losing three small children. What transpired in past has come full circle in the present and Lindsay finds that her life is no longer her own. I got a little frustrated with Lindsay and her hard hardheadedness...but maybe she had good reason for resisting that are not revealed until the very end. It's not a real scary ghost story...if anything it's rather sad. Anyone that likes history, a little of the paranormal with their murder mystery will like this book.
The Day The World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland
by Jim Defede
This is the true story of the passengers of the 38 jetliners that were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11 when the US air space was closed and all planes were diverted away from the US. Defede tells an inspiring story of a community that opened their arms to all the passengers (including the animals on the planes) that could not return home.
Though I distinctly remember 9/11 and that horrible day, I had never heard of the community of Gander, who truly countered the horribleness of that disaster. This is definitely a wonderful read and is an inspiration to others.
Winter Moon by Dean Koontz
In Los Angeles, a hot Hollywood director, high on PCP, turns a city street into a fiery apocalypse. Heroic LAPD officer Jac McGarvey is badly wounded and will not walk for months. His wife and his child are left to fend for themselves against both criminals that control an increasingly violent city and the dead director's cult of fanatic fans.
In a lonely corner of Montana, Eduardo Fernandez, the father of McGarvey's murdered partner, witnesses a strange nocturnal sight. The stand of pines outside his house suddenly glows with eerie amber light, and Fernandez senses a watcher in the winter woods. As the seasons change, the very creatures of the forest seem in league with a mysterious presence. Fernandez is caught up in a series of chilling incidents that escalate toward a confrontation that could rob him of his sanity or his life or both. As events careen out of control, the McGarvey family is drawn to Fernandez's Montana ranch. In that isolated place they discover their destiny in a terrifying and fiercely suspenseful encounter with a hostile, utterly ruthless, and enigmatic enemy, from which neither the living nor the dead are safe.
I love Dean Koontz's books because you just never know what his rich imagination is going to come up with...but whatever it is it's always a huge surprise. This is one of the scariest books that he's written in all of the years I have had the pleasure of reading his works. Usually there is a suspenseful story with some horror moments thrown in....this one has a dark undertone with both gory and psychological horror from the start to finish.
The book is actually two stories in parallel... Jack McGarvey, a cop, and his family in Los Angeles, and Eduardo Fernandez...Jack's deceased partner's father who lives on a ranch in Montana. Sometimes these two part stories clash and go off in different directions but Dean Koontz has managed to bring them together clean and neatly into an explosive ending. Anyone that is a fan of horror and the supernatural will want to make friends with not only this book... but the rest of this author's offerings.
The Illusion of Separateness – Simon Van Booy
3.5*** (rounded up)
From the book jacket This gripping novel – inspired by true events – tells the interwoven stories of a German infantryman; a British film director; a young, blind museum curator; two Jewish American newlyweds separated by war; and a caretaker at a retirement home for actors in Santa Monica. They move through the same world but fail to perceive their connections until, through seemingly random acts of selflessness, a veil is lifted to reveal the vital parts they have played in one another’s lives, and the illusion of their separateness.
Van Booy tells this interwoven story from different perspectives and in different time periods. We meet Martin, the caretaker at the retirement home in 2010 Los Angeles first; next we watch Mr Hugo in Manchester England teaching a little boy, Danny, to read in 1981; in 1968 a young boy plays in and around the remains of a downed plane he finds in the forest in France; John snaps a picture of his girlfriend at Coney Island in 1942; Amelia learns to live with her blindness in New York in 2005. And the chapters continue is a seemingly random fashion, introducing new characters, returning to revisit them, skipping back and forth in time, and occasionally giving the reader a glimpse of a connection between their stories. The final paragraph ties it all together for us in one stunningly simple phrase.
The writing is poetic and fluid. I felt immersed in the story, and was never disoriented by the changing perspectives or time lines. Some scenes are horrific, especially during the war. But the author does not leave the reader in these horrible circumstances for long; there are also scenes of great tenderness and kindness. Throughout we see how a small act of kindness – or cruelty – can reverberate through time and across continents.
That being said, I was left somewhat dissatisfied. I cannot quite put my finger on why I felt this way, but there were times when I felt that Van Booy was trying too hard, that the coincidences / connections were too clever.
Having finished it, I was so looking forward to my F2F book club meeting, but the discussion leader failed to show up and the conversation fizzled out too quickly for me. I want to read it again, and I would definitely read another book by this author.
Owl Moon – Jane Yolen / Illustrated by John Schoenherr
On a winter evening with a full moon, a father takes his young daughter out to the woods near their farm in search of the elusive Great Horned Owl.
This is just a lovely story of a father-daughter relationship, and of the joys of observing and appreciating nature. It’s a poetic story and reminds us that much can be said in silence. How I wish I had young children in my life to read this to them. I would be happy to read it over and over. Maybe even in a whisper to exaggerate the idea of a quiet moonlit night in the woods, when just being with your parent is enough to communicate the love between you.
John Schoenherr’s beautiful watercolor illustrations won the Caldecott Medal. I particularly love how he “hides” a wild animal in most of the depictions ... a tiny mouse near a fallen log, a doe hunkered down in a snowbank, a racoon curled in the hollow of a tree. I loved examining the paintings for these little details.
The Children Act – Ian McEwan
Book on CD narrated by Lindsay Duncan
Fiona Maye is a High Court judge who presides over cases in family court. She is highly regarded for her intelligence, sensitivity, and knowledge of the law. She is called upon to try an urgent case. A child and his parents are refusing life-saving treatment due to religious beliefs, and the hospital wants the Court to mandate that the treatment be given. His condition has deteriorated, and time is of the essence. But while Fiona is dealing with this heart-breaking legal case, her personal life also demands attention. The decisions she makes will have consequences for all.
I like the way that McEwan explores hidden emotions and the effects of those feelings on the characters’ decisions and actions. Fiona is trained to consider both sides, and to make decisions based on the evidence and the constraints of law. But she is human, after all, and humans frequently let emotion cloud their decisions. Try as she might to restrain her feelings, Fiona cannot entirely escape them. In the course of the novel Fiona faces several moral and ethical dilemmas; the decisions she faces in court are influenced by her personal life, and vice versa.
I was interested in the situation from the outset, partly because I recently retired from working at a major medical center in a pediatric hospital. Healthcare professionals are faced with these kinds of decisions more often than you might think. But McEwan lost me as the novel progressed, and when it ended I felt like I was missing something. This is the fourth novel by McEwan that I’ve read, but the first that isn’t also a selection for my F2F book group. I really enjoyed the discussions on those other novels; they helped cement the works in my memory. As I write this, it’s been a few days since I finished the book, and I have already lost details of it.
Lindsay Duncan does a fine job narrating the audio book. She has good pacing and great skill as a voice artist. I believed her when she was voicing Fiona, and I believe her when she was voicing Adam. 5***** for her audio performance.
The Girl in the Spider's Web / David Lagercrantz
Not too sure how to summarize, as I sort of “missed” what got it started. Ended up with the father of an autistic child working on some sort of artificial intelligence and Lisbeth Salander getting involved to protect the autistic boy.
It was really not interesting throughout most of the first 2/3 of the book, but it picked up for the last 1/3, about the time Lisbeth and August (the autistic boy) were together, but not really enough to increase my rating by much. I don’t plan to continue the series.
Murder in the Paperback Parlor – Ellery Adams
Digital audiobook read by Johanna Parker
Number two in the “Book Retreat Mysteries” series set in Storyton Hall, “the perfect getaway for literature lovers.” Well, it’s perfect except when there’s a murder during the romance readers event being held on this weekend. Some Valentine’s Day adventure!
This has all the elements of a typical cozy mystery: an amateur sleuth, a “cute” occupation / back story, a little romantic tension, and more suspects than you can shake a stick at. In this case the victim is a world-renowned romance writer, with as many enemies as she has admirers. Among the suspects are fellow writers (jealous of her success), a former lover, and several angry fans.
The premise of Storyton Hall, however, lost me a little – most likely because I had not read the first book in the series. In addition to public rooms, there’s a secret library of rare first editions, that only a select few people have access to, and which they are sworn to protect – a sort of secret society of knights / crusaders / protectors. Once I caught on, some aspects made a little more sense, but in general I thought the book was just ‘meh.’
I did love all the references to books, however. I think I’ll go back and read book # 1 before I give final judgment on the series.
Johanna Parker does a good job of voicing the audio book, but her performance couldn’t overcome the book’s flaws.
Norwegian By Night – Derek B. Miller
Eighty-two-year-old Sheldon Horowitz is widowed and grudgingly agrees to leave his New York apartment to move with his granddaughter, Rhea, and her husband, Lars, to Oslo, Norway. Alone in their shared apartment he witnesses an argument between the woman upstairs and an aggressive man. On an impulse Sheldon grabs the woman’s young son, and flees with him form this violent scene. Neither of them speak Norwegian, nor do they speak a common language, but somehow Sheldon communicates that he will keep this boy, whom he calls Paul, safe.
What an unlikely hero! Though it is never named or specifically diagnosed, Sheldon clearly suffers PTSD from his service in Korea, as a Marine sharp-shooter – a military history he has kept from his family. He also carries a heavy burden of guilt for the death of his only son, Saul, who died in serving in Vietnam, presumably to gain his father’s admiration as a warrior. Now, Sheldon is a frail, shadow of his former self; isolated by language and by dreams / fugue states that are every bit as real to Sheldon as reality.
I marveled at his inventiveness and boldness in finding his way, eluding both the bad guys and the police. My heart about stopped several times, when Sheldon, Paul and/or Rhea faced dangerous situations.
The book is also full of many humorous scenes that serve to lessen the tension. Even the bad guys fall into comic situations. (Hasn’t a love of cinnamon buns been everyone’s downfall at some point?)
Miller also gives us wonderful supporting characters. Police Chief Inspector Sigrid Odegard has few scenes, but she makes an impact – strong, resourceful, a born leader, and courageous. Her colleague Petter Hansen is the quintessential quiet detective; he pays attention to small oddities and ferrets out information that others might disregard as unimportant.
And Paul. He is a completely silent character, never saying a word, and yet Miller gives us such a clear picture of him. Frightened, isolated by language and culture, unaware of who this giant American grandfather is or why he’s doing so, Paul goes along with Sheldon. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t balk as what he’s asked to do, he simply trusts that Sheldon knows what should be done. And he clearly feels safe with the old man.
This is a wonderful debut, and I’m eager to read more by Miller.
The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic
When I was young, I fell in love with black and white films, mostly James Cagney films and The Thin Man series which led me into other films from the 30's and 40's including The Pride of the Yankees. When I found this book, I was excited to read about the making of the film. Who didn't cry at the end of this film when Gehrig/Cooper says his memorable line - "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Sandomir does a nice job relating what is known about Gehrig and his death- unfortunately there is a lot of gaps in the story. No complete footage of the famous line was ever found if even recorded. There are even gaps in the story of the making of the film but still it was an interesting book about Gehrig, his relationships with his wife and mother and the making of the film and Sam Goldwyn’s involvement in getting the film produced. Definitely a book for film fans. I have ordered the film from the library since I haven't seen it in years and I think that it needs to be seen if you read the book or are contemplating reading the book.
Not My Father's Son / Alan Cumming
Actor Alan Cumming was abused by his father while growing up. As an adult, there is a mystery surrounding his maternal grandfather that he and his mother are just learning about, as well. His memoir tells about both, going back and forth in time.
I actually haven’t seen him in very many movies (or tv), but the most memorable for me was “Circle of Friends” as “creepy” Sean Walsh, so anytime I’ve heard his name in the past or have seen him, my first thought is always oh, it’s “creepy Sean Walsh”! Which is unfortunate.
I thought this memoir was very well done, though. I think (at least based on the book), I might actually like “creepy Sean Walsh” (or, at least, the actor who played him)! He manages to insert some humour into his memoir, as well, despite the horrible things he went through as a child. I found his own story more interesting than his grandfather’s. I listened to the audio, which he narrated himself, and really enjoyed it. He has a beautiful voice and I love the Scottish accent!
The Guests on South Battery by Karen White
Tradd street series Book #5
With her extended maternity leave at its end, Melanie Trenholm is less than thrilled to leave her new husband and beautiful twins to return to work, especially when she’s awoken by a phone call with no voice on the other end—and the uneasy feeling that the ghostly apparitions that have stayed silent for more than a year are about to invade her life once more. But her return to the realty office goes better than she could have hoped, with a new client eager to sell the home she recently inherited on South Battery. Most would treasure living in one of the grandest old homes in the famous historic district of Charleston, but Jayne Smith would rather sell hers as soon as possible, guaranteeing Melanie a quick commission.
Despite her stroke of luck, Melanie can’t deny that spirits—both malevolent and benign—have started to show themselves to her again. One is shrouded from sight, but appears whenever Jayne is near. Another arrives when an old cistern is discovered in Melanie’s backyard on Tradd Street.
Melanie knows nothing good can come from unearthing the past. But some secrets refuse to stay buried.
As the story opens the reader finds Melanie married to Jack Trenholm and the mother of twin who has just returned to work as a real estate agent. A client that has inherited a Charleston home on South Battery wants Melanie to handle the sale... but Melanie is reluctant at first because she has had so many problems with the house she inherited. She has gone to check the house out and is bombarded with some very strange feelings regarding the beautiful Charleston resident.
If you can't accept in theory that you can make contact with spirits or enjoy books that run to that theme...then this is NOT the book for you. However if you can go with the flow and fun of these “contacts” you will have a delightful time on South Battery. It's the 5th book in the Tradd Street series so you might want to start with The House on Tradd Street. The books all have strong plots and Karen White carries them out with diversified, delightful, often funny characters. The Guests on South Battery will appeal to anyone that likes a little "chill" in their reading.
The Manhattan Hunt Club / John Saul
Jeff has been falsely convicted of a crime. But when he is “transferred” out of the prison, he is taken… somewhere and locked in a room with another man. It’s not long after that they are released into the tunnels underneath New York and are told that they’ll “win” if they make it to the surface. Meanwhile, his family and girlfriend think he died in a crash.
I really liked this. It didn’t take long to get sucked in, though it takes a little bit to figure out what’s going on in the book. It’s told from different viewpoints, so the reader is partial to things that the characters aren’t as they try to figure out what’s happening, as well. This was one I didn’t really want to put down – I wanted to keep reading. And, there were a couple of twists!
Victoria's Castles / Paul G. Chamberlain
This is a short book describing the castles in Victoria, B.C. It describes the architecture, as well as the history of the castles and the people who lived there.
I bought this book as a souvenir the first time I visited Victoria and have finally gotten around to reading it. I saw two castles while I was there (Craigdarroch Castle and Hatley Castle) and apparently there is one more still standing. I enjoyed the book, particularly the histories of the people who lived in them - some politicians, some businessmen. The book was short, and of course, included photos of the castles.
The Hangman's Song by James Oswald
Inspector Tony McLean series Book #3
The body of a man is found hanging in an empty house. To the Edinburgh police force, this appears to be a simple suicide case. But something about the scene strikes Detective Inspector Tony McLean as off. Days later another body is found hanging from an identical rope, with a noose tied in the identical way. McLean is convinced that these people are either being murdered or somehow coerced into suicide. Then a third body is found. Under pressure from his superiors to wrap the case up quickly and neatly, McLean must also deal with the fallout of his last big investigation and complications in his personal life. But the deeper he digs, the more he comes to believe that something dark and sinister is stalking Edinburgh’s streets. Will he be able to stop it before someone else succumbs to the hangman’s song?
This is the third book in the Tony McLean series and I have to say they just keep getting better and better...this one was excellent. In spite of his unorthodox investigative methods...Inspector McLean has a case solve rate that can't be disputed even though his superiors often try. The characters are so full of individual personality that you have no problem liking some and totally disliking others. The books have a touch of the occult that makes them all the more intriguing. Anyone that is devoted to Ian Banks or Stuart MacBride will want to give James Oswald a try. I would suggest strongly that these books be read in order.
Hide And Seek by M.J. Arlidge
DI Helen Grace series Book #6
Framed for a murder she didn’t commit... As one of HM Prison Holloway’s most high-profile new inmates, Helen Grace has a target on her back and nowhere to hide. She has made a long list of enemies over the course of her career—some are incarcerated within these very walls. When one of Helen’s fellow prisoners is found mutilated and murdered in her own locked cell, it’s clear that the killer is someone on the inside. But time is running out for Helen as she races to expose the person who framed her, and the body count in the prison starts to climb. Helen will need to draw on all her investigative skills and instincts to catch the serial killer behind these murders and discover the truth—unless the killer finds her first.
At the close of the last book Helen was on her way to prison. Of course unless M.J. Arlidge had plans to end the series...her incarceration HAD to be temporary. The prison setting had several things going that was a little hard to believe. First of all I don't see the courts putting a decorated police officer in a closed environment with people that she had been responsible for putting in that same environment...Helen was only awaiting trial...she hadn't been convicted. Then there was the freedom she had to investigate the prison murders. Actually I found that for the murders to even happen as they did to be unbelievable. The prisoners were in single occupancy cells...so if they were locked in at night, how did the killer get in? In spite of there being these open questions I found the book readable. The chapters are amazingly short so there is lots of changes in the action and you can clearly see how each of the characters are interacting. If you have never read this series ...don't make this one your first. At least start with Little Boy Blue in order to fully understand Helen's present situation.
The Seance by Joan Lowery Nixon
Lauren is reluctant to participate in the séance, and she feels the first foreboding of evil shortly after the room is darkened. When the lights come back on, her fear turns to shock: Sara Martin is missing, even though all the doors and windows are locked from the inside.
It was listed as a YA book and I can see where it would appeal to that age group more than to older readers. It was however a good story even if it was rather short. The "disappearance" was an interesting them for the author to build on. The story had a really slow start and started to fell a little bogged down...but it was worth the wait. There is a bit of a surprise at the end. I really wasn't suspecting the ending at all.
Swan Song by Robert McCammon
I discovered a liking for McCammon back in the 80's, but then forgot about him for years and have recently started trying to catch up on his book list. This one finally fit into this month's challenge category, and I'm glad of it.
At first it seems like a direct rip-off of Stephen King's The Stand, only with the destruction of nuclear war instead of disease. The few people left are trying to scratch a life out of the damaged earth, and of course there are the requisite Bad Guys who prey on the survivors. There is a Stand-like corollary with a supernatural evil stalking the land and seeking to destroy the main character, who represents the hopeful, nurturing side of mankind.
There is a turning point about halfway through where it finally verges into new territory, and I did like the ending. I always enjoy McCammon's clear and vivid writing style, and his characters are interesting.
I'm glad I finally made time for this one (it's a big 'un) but my favorite of his is still Stinger.
House of Darkness House of Light by Andrea Perron
Roger and Carolyn Perron purchased the home of their dreams and eventual nightmares in December of 1970. The Arnold Estate, located just beyond the village of Harrisville, Rhode Island seemed the idyllic setting in which to raise a family. The couple unwittingly moved their five young daughters into the ancient and mysterious farmhouse. Secrets were kept and then revealed within a space shared by mortal and immortal alike. Time suddenly became irrelevant; fractured by spirits making their presence known then dispersing into the ether. The house is a portal to the past and a passage to the future. This is a sacred story of spiritual enlightenment, told some thirty years hence. The family is now somewhat less reticent to divulge a closely-guarded experience. Their odyssey is chronicled by the eldest sibling and is an unabridged account of a supernatural excursion. Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated this haunting in a futile attempt to intervene on their behalf. They consider the Perron family saga to be one of the most compelling and significant of a famously ghost-storied career as paranormal researchers.
I couldn't wait to read this. It's based on the movie "The Conjuring" ...or maybe it's the other way around....anyway...The entire book was confusing. Not because it wouldn't have been a good story or because it's not interesting... but because of the style in which it was written. It was worse than trying to read a college text book if you are only in 5th grade. And this is only the first volume?? I understand there are 3 more just like it. It literally took me nearly a month to wade through it. As interested as I am in the subject I don't believe I'll be going back for more...I'll just watch the movie.
The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore by Joan Lowery Nixon
She spots the masked man in the dark, lonely parking lot--but too late. Grabbed and drugged, Christina is kidnapped and held for ransom. When her family pays, she thinks her ordeal is over. But then she realizes that her family thinks she planned the kidnapping! How will Christina prove her innocence?
It's a YA book so I'm not going to be too critical of it. The premise of the book seemed interesting enough and it sounded suspenseful...and it was to a lesser extent than I had thought. I could figure it out long before it happened. The ending was a little disappointing and Christina more or less shrugged the entire event off. It's not a bad book at all. This author has written 130 YA books and is the only 4 time winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Mystery. I believe the main problem was I'm not 15 years old.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (Non-Fiction)
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances. In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
This one I couldn't put down. What an incredible period in Oklahoma history...but what a terrible legacy it left for the white man. It shouldn't have surprised me that it happened...after all we have the "Trail of Tears and "The blankets laced with smallpox" and numerous other black marks in our history with all tribes of the Native Americans...so why not this...the near annihilation of an entire nation of people when this type of greed escalated to murder? This is an extremely uncomfortable read for anyone with a conscience or an ounce of good common decency but perhaps we will learn from these "mistakes' and never let this history repeat itself.
The Watchman / Robert Crais
Larkin is a spoiled rich girl who gets in a car crash and apparently has witnessed something due to this crash so that someone wants her dead. Joe Pike is brought in to protect her and keep her alive.
The car crash itself was a bit confusing at the start. It happened fast and I had trouble figuring out who was who right off! (And I still had trouble sorting out some of the characters later on, as well!) However, once I figured out the gist (even if I didn’t have the characters straight) of what was happening, some parts were fast-paced, while others weren’t as interesting. I really didn’t like either of the main characters, though, Larkin or Pike (mostly he’s called by his last name). I don’t plan to seek out any more books with Pike in them; I won’t necessarily rule them out altogether, but I won’t go looking for any.
Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows by James Lovegrove
#1 in the Cthulhu Casebooks
Had to finish the book prior to library reclaiming it, therefore accelerated my reading, but the last part of the book very addictive and I wanted to keep reading on. An excellent adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story, it is very different and a supernatural theme compared to ordinary plain mysteries. Very appropriate for this time of year. I bought into this fully and really enjoyed them. Can't wait for book 2 and 3 when published.
Schedule for Group Read of What Angels Fear by C S Harris, #1 in the Sebastian St. Cyr Series
Sunday 29th October : Prologue and Chapter 1 - 13
Monday 30th October : Chapter 14 - 26
Tuesday 31st October : Chapter 27 - 38
Wednesday 1st November : Chapter 39 - 53
Thursday 2nd November : Chapter 54 - 65
Haunted Hamlet by Kathi Daley
Zoe Donovan series Book #9
When a ghost hunter is found dead in a haunted house just days before Halloween it looks like the killer may be living impaired. Zoe must juggle the annual Zoe Donovan Spooktacular with zombies on the run, the annual pumpkin carving contest, a haunted hayride, a relationship in crisis, and a little behind the scenes investigation.
It was okay. Anyone that just wants a story for Halloween will find that this is adequate. I found the "investigation" unbelievable...unrealistic ... and on many levels, non-existent. The supposedly haunted house wasn't even scary. The police must have really been incompetent idiots to let this woman and her friends investigate as if she was the only one with sense enough to do so. It did have some cute dogs and a fun sounding Halloween carnival...other than that it was a mediocre story.
Heart and Soul– Maeve Binchy
Audio book read by Sile Bermingham.
This is a story of family, friends, patients and staff whose lives intersect at a heart clinic in Dublin. Dr Clara Casey has taken on the job of director of this underfunded but much needed clinic. She agrees to a one-year contract because she has plenty of other issues in her personal life – two adult daughters with whom she has a difficult relationship, and an ex-husband who is trying to worm his way back into her good graces. The staff she assembles is eclectic and not without their own issues. Ania is a Polish émigré looking to escape her disgrace and find a way to help her widowed mother. Dr Declan Carroll is still in training and doing a rotation at the clinic; he has a natural empathy that helps both patients and other staff members.
This is my first Binchy book, though her books have been on my TBR list for ages. This was the right book for me at the right time – a gentle, engaging story that focuses on relationships. It is a sort of snapshot of a year in these people’s lives. We learn of past heartaches, their insecurities, their strengths, and emotions.
Sile Bermingham does a fine job of reading the book. Her pacing and inflections are right on target, and she brings the many characters to life.
Update, Oct 2017 - I re-read this one to fulfill a challenge. Despite its length, it's a fast read. I've read other Binchy books since first reading this one, and now realize that it is a sequel of sorts to Nights of Rain and Stars, with most of those characters appearing here as well.
Jumanji – Chris Van Allsburg
Audiobook performed by Robin Williams
Peter and Judy’s parents are going to a matinee, and they leave the children at home, with instructions to “keep the house neat,” as they’ll be bringing some guests back after the performance. Of course, they immediately make a mess with all their toys, but even that is boring after a while, so they head for the park. There they find a discarded board game – JUMANJI: A Jungle Adventure Game - and decide to take it home and play it. Fortunately, they DO read the instructions ….
What a flight of fancy and imagination! Oh, the thrill of being just a little naughty and pulling one over on the parents … followed by the sheer terror when you realize that you are going to get caught and most certainly severely punished. How can they possibly explain to Mother and Father about the rhinoceros stampede, or the monkeys in the kitchen, not to mention the python on the mantel and the torrential downpour that has soaked all the carpets.
Van Allsburg’s wonderful illustrations won the Caldecott Medal, and this was a well-deserved prize.
The 30th anniversary edition I got from the library has a surprise: an audio CD of the book, performed by Robin Williams. I confess that I listened to it twice!
>78 BookConcierge: I think I've read Heart and Soul. Maybe I should look into Nights of Rain and Stars...
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Larsen is one of my favorite non-fiction authors and he does not disappoint in this book about the sinking of the ocean liner, Lusitania during WWI.
In 1915, WWI was raging in Europe but the United States still had not become involved. Submarines had evolved and now were roaming the oceans aiming at non-military and military watercraft. The Lusitania was on its way to Liverpool filled with non-military men, women and children and though there were warnings about submarines, many passengers were not concerned or did not know about the warnings and thought that their ship would have an escort during the most dangerous part of the trip.
Larsen does a wonderful job describing the time period, the passengers and the crews aboard the submarine and the ocean liner. He also discusses the games Churchill was possibly playing. Was he using the situation to get the US to enter the war? And what was President Wilson’s reluctance to enter the war and who was distracting him from his job.
Plainsong / Nancy Huston.
Paula’s grandfather has just died. As she goes through some of his journals/writings, she tries to piece together his life.
I think the story was fine, but I didn’t like the way it was written. No chapters, no dialogue. I don’t think this part really bothered me, but, as an fyi, it was written like Paula was talking to her grandfather in what she wrote, using “you”. It also jumps around in time, constantly back and forth, which is something that normally doesn’t bother me, but there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the jumping around, so I didn’t like the way it was done in this book. I did like the history covered in the book (it was set in Alberta and much of it in my city, Calgary). I did not like the person her grandfather was (or who Paula thought she was or who she wrote him to be) – he was a horrible person!
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
Margot Lee Shetterly
This is the wonderful untold true story of the 4 African-American women mathematicians who broke barriers by working as human computers at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia. Starting with a shortage of staff to help during WWII at the lab, these smart, college educated women proved that they were reliable and as smart as the other women and men at Langley. Shetterly discusses the time period and the racial tensions going on in that era, all in the context around what was going on at Langley with the building and designing of aircraft for WWII and including their part in the space race. This book really fleshes out the story of these women and the lengths they and their families had to go to work in those industries and the sacrifices that they had to make to have a better life. A true inspiration to all women.
Murder in the Mystery Suite – Ellery Adams
Book number one in the Book Retreat Mystery series introduces the reader to Storyton Hall and the Guardians. Jane Steward is the manager of the mansion turned boutique hotel set in the mountains of Virginia. A widow with two small boys, she’s come to live at the manor with her great aunt Octavia and great uncle Aloysius. The property has suffered from neglect, however. Jane is inspired by the extensive libraries to host a special Halloween event – a Murder and Mayhem Mystery Week, including scavenger hunts and a costume ball. Guests clamor for reservations and all is going well until the winner of the scavenger hunt is found dead – murdered – in his room. Storyton Hall is crawling with detectives – but they are mostly fakes – and it’s up to Jane and the Guardians to solve the case.
This was a delightful cozy mystery. The premise is a bit outlandish … a library so secret that family members are sworn to secrecy and a team of former CIA operatives serve as butler, chauffer, etc in order to guard the precious resources. But what the heck, it makes for a colorful cast of characters and I love all the literary references.
Johanna Parker does a fine job narrating the audiobook. She’s a talented voice artist and she capably handles the very large cast of characters.
Sundown, Yellow Moon – Larry Watson
From the book jacket: On an icy day in January 1961, in Bismark, North Dakota, a sixteen-year-old boy walks home from high school with his best friend, Gene. The sudden sound of sirens startles and excites them, but they don’t have long to wonder what the sound could mean. Soon after seeing police cars parked on their street, they boys learn the shocking truth; hours before Gene’s father, Raymond Stoddard, walked calmly and purposefully into the state capitol and shot to death a charismatic state senator. Raymond then drove home and hanged himself in his garage.
Watson writes in the first person, making this a very introspective story. The narrator is never named, though we learn that he grows up to become a writer, and some of his stories are interspersed throughout the novel. It’s clear that this event, and particularly the mystery of WHY, will haunt him, and give him material for his work for years to come.
But the narrator’s inability to let go of the murder / suicide, and his inability to connect with the people around him – his parents, his best friend, his girlfriend, etc – makes the entire novel read like an oddly unemotional third-person account. I never connected with the narrator or any of the other characters, and was left feeling “is that all?”
I’ve read several of Watson’s other books and am a fan of his writing, but this was clearly not his best work.
Karma– Cathy Ostlere
Maya and her father are going from Canada to New Dehli to spread her mother’s ashes. They arrive, however, on the same day as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two of her guards. Maya and her father are separated in the riots that ensue, and she must disguise herself and ultimately rely on Sandeep, a boy she’s just met, to keep her safe and see that she gets home.
This young adult novel is told entirely in verse, making for a very fast read. It includes some pretty serious matter, however: religious strife between Sikhs and Hindus, civil and political unrest in India, moral courage, religious differences, and the treatment of women. Central to the plot is the differences between generations and the ability of parent and child to truly see one another’s point of view, and to forgive their differences. Also, one’s own capacity to forgive oneself for past mistakes.
Maya is a strong female lead, despite the trauma she’s faced and her withdrawal into herself. Somehow, she comes across as resilient, resourceful and tenacious, even when paralyzed by fear or indecision. Sandeep is a steadfast and courageous friend; having suffered his own tragedy early in life, he’s determined to help Maya find her way. The differences in their religions and socio-economic status will not deter him.
I’m a little concerned by the ending. I’m not at all sure that Maya will be safe in the future, but I applaud Ostlere for *not* giving us a happy ending, tied up in a pretty bow.
Ukulele Murder – Leslie Langtry
Hoalohanani “Nani” Johnson is *not* Hawaiian. She was born in Kansas to parents of Irish and German descent, but her mother has always had a fascination for Hawaii, hence her only daughter’s name. After her father died, Nani and her mother moved to Kauai, where Nani, who trained at Julliard, teaches ukulele and struggles to get performance gigs. But the three ukulele professionals already in place are all Hawaiian and do not welcome any competition from a haole. When one of them is murdered, suspicion turns to Nani.
This is just bad. The writing is hackneyed, the dialogue is tortured, the plot is ridiculous, and none of the characters is believable … well maybe Pastor Dan, who dresses as Elvis to perform weddings in the Blue Hawaii Wedding Chapel, is believable. I was particularly irritated by Nani’s internal dialogue, and all the animal similes (e.g. “like a rabid hyena” or “bug-eyed iguana”).
Even worse, in my opinion, is the lame attempt at humor in re Nani’s mother’s alcoholism. Alcoholism is *never* funny. It’s a disease that hurts not only the person suffering from it, but everyone around him/her. Making light of the number of mai tais or running out of rum or passing out is just plain not funny. Shame on Langtry for even trying to make it so.
Ah, well … it was a fast read and satisfied several challenges … but I’ll never get that time back.
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