Wednesday, December 30, 2009

G IS FOR GUMSHOE

TITLE: G IS FOR GUMSHOE
AUTHOR: SUE GRAFTON
Pages: 261
Date: 30/12/2009
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 7 Kinsey Milhone Mystery
Own

I'm way behind o this series and I'm not sure why that is the case since I'm really enjoying these books. At least I own the next few in the series, so I won't have to go hunting when I want to read the next one.
This instalment starts on Kinsey's 33rd birthday, when three things happen.
The repairs on and renovation of Kinsey's apartment are finished and she gets to move back in.
She gets hired to find an old woman in the Mojave Desert.
And finally, she's informed that she's on Tyrone Patty's hit list and somebody has already been hired to kill her.
Unable to take the death threat completely seriously, Kinsey sets off in search of the old woman. A search that turns out to be complicated than expected and to have far reaching consequences.
The trip also brings home how serious the death threat actually is as Kinsey finds herself very close to an early end. A few more heart-stopping moments are to follow for Kinsey, but so is a very interesting bodyguard.
This was a fast paced, sexy and funny read for me. I really shouldn't let so much time pass between two books in this series.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

THE DEFENSE

TITLE: THE DEFENSE
AUTHOR: D.W. BUFFA
Pages: 309
Date: 29/12/2009
Grade: 5
Details: Stand-alone
Own

Before I start my review of this book, I should share the story of how it got to be in my possession in the first place.
I am a nightmare to buy books for. I need to keep lists for myself to make sure I don't bring home something I already own or have read. So, if it's hard for me, imagine what it must be like for my husband. Yet, Dermot likes his presents to be surprises, and this year he outdid himself because he succeeded not only in finding me a book I hadn't read yet, but also a book by an author I had never heard of before Christmas day.
Apparently he walked into the Cavan Book Centre (a secondhand bookstore) and asked the lady there for help; he needed a book for his wife, who was really into murder and had read close to everything known to men. The lady told him she thought she had just what he wanted, but is was in her home. If he could just hang around for about three hours, she'd pick the book up and sell it to him. So, Dermot hang around Cavan Town for three hours and the lady rushed home on her break in a determined effort by both of them to get me a good and totally unexpected book for Christmas.
Boy, did they succeed.
I have a confession to make though. I'm a huge fan of mysteries and thrillers, but in general and for reasons I don't quite understand I'm not usually into legal thrillers, which is exactly what this is. So I was a bit worried when I started The Defense. After all the thought and effort that had gone into getting me the book, I really wanted to love it, but would I?
The answer to that question, as my grade indicates, is an unqualified YES!
This is the story of defense attorney Joseph Antonelli who hasn't lost a case in his career and has no qualms about getting the guilty off. After all, that's his job.
When he receives a phone call from Judge Leopold Rifkin, a good friend of his, asking Antonelli to defend a man who has been accused of raping his young stepdaughter, he takes the case and does what he does best; he gets the man off, well aware that the man is almost certainly guilty.
For years afterwards, Antonelli doesn't give the case another though, and then a murder is committed. And although he doesn't know it, that is the moment Antonelli's past comes back to haunt him and his friends. Subsequent events will upset several lives.
This was not a fast-paced, thrill a minute sort of book. In fact, it is a rather hard and cynical look at the American legal system. The author worked as a defense attorney for ten years before turning to writing, so it's hard not to think that there has to be, at the very least, a grain of truth in that point of view.
A point of view that is very close to the reasons I had for not wanting to be a practising lawyer, even though I have a law degree.
The other amazing thing about this book is that although there's very little in the way of action or cliff hangers, I still couldn't stop myself from turning the pages in a desperate need to find out exactly what was going on, and how it would all end.
Now I'll have to find more books by this author, and soon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH

TITLE: HAVE A LITTLE FAITH
AUTHOR: MITCH ALBOM
Pages: 249
Date: 26/12/2009
Grade: 5
Details: Non Fiction
Own

What is it about Mitch Albom and dying men?
Why is it that they turn to him, or he to them, in their final days, months, years?
Whatever the reason, Albom is getting a lot out of these meetings and talks as far as insight, wisdom and hope is concerned, despite the ultimate heartbreak at the end. And I, as a reader of his books, am grateful that on both occasions (in "Tuesdays with Morrie" and in this book) he decided to share his experiences. I can't read his books without a notebook and pen close by to write down passages I want to remember.
This book starts with the Rabbi from Mitch's old hometown asking him to write his eulogy. The Rabbi is 82 at the time of the request and a man Mitch has always been in awe of. Reluctant to grant the request and unsure why he was asked in the first place, Mitch insists that he has to get to know the man better first.
And so begin eight years of talks about life, death, and faith. Years during which  Mitch doesn't only get to know the Rabbi better, but also starts to question the disconnect between him and the faith of his childhood.
During this time, Mitch also meets Henry Covington, former criminal, drug addict and jailbird and now Pastor of a dilapidated Church in Detroit where he tries to look after the poor and homeless.
The two religious men couldn't be more different, but between them they teach the author a powerful lesson; Just what can be achieved with a little faith.
I found lots of food for thought in this highly inspirational book.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

THE THIEF OF TIME

TITLE: THE THIEF OF TIME
AUTHOR: JOHN BOYNE
Pages: 424
Date: 24/12/2009
Grade: 4.5
Library

This was John Boyne's first novel, and its a very well written debut, definitely an indication of what was to come; numerous good novels.
This is the story of Matthieu Zela, as told by himself in 1999, over 250 years after he was born in Paris.
In 1758 the teenager Matthieu Zela flees Paris with his young half brother Tomas, after having witnessed his stepfather's execution for murdering Matthieu's mother.
On the boat to England Matthieu meets Dominique, who will be his first love, the cause of several difficult situation and the first of several doomed affairs.
Before the 18th Century ends, Matthieu discovers that he has stopped aging, and so he becomes a witness to history. He is present for the French Revolution, the Wall Street crash, and McCarthy-ism to name just a few events. And through all that time he's keeping an eye on a succession of nephews, all called Tomas or a variation on that name, and all dying at an early age, living only long enough to produce their successor.
Now, with Matthieu about to enter his fourth century, Matthieu tells his story as he resolves that this time he'll safe his nephew from an early grave.
This was a fascinating story, very imaginative and with lots of interesting tidbits without turning into a history lesson.
And I really liked the ending, which seemed to point a change in Matthieu's fortunes, but left it up to the reader to decide if that's actually the case.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I, ALEX CROSS

TITLE: I, ALEX CROSS
AUTHOR: JAMES PATTERSON
Pages: 374
Date: 16/12/2009
Grade: 5-
Details: no. 16 Alex Cross Mystery
Library

Yes! This is Alex Cross as I like him. A mystery that is close to his heart and his private and family life are in the picture as well. And it has the sort of ending that  made me wonder "what if" and what would have happened afterwards.
Alex is having a birthday party with his family and Bree when he receives a phone call informing him that the remains of his niece, Caroline, have been found. Caroline had died a horrific death, and Alex is determined to find whoever is responsible.
He soon discovers that Caroline was a call girl working in a very exclusive club from which other people have disappeared as well.
Almost from the start of his investigation though, Alex runs into obstacles. But it isn't until he's invited to The White House that he realizes what he might be up against. He might be dealing with a murderer who is above the law, and surrounded by people who will do almost anything to keep the secret safe.
And while this difficult investigation is in full swing, and should be getting his full attention, 90 year old Nana gets seriously ill, adding a different layer of fear and stress.
A wonderful page turner and a joy to read.

Monday, December 14, 2009

THE LITTLE STRANGER

TITLE: THE LITTLE STRANGER
AUTHOR: SARAH WATERS
Pages: 499
Date: 14/12/2009
Grade: 5-
Library

It doesn't happen often that a book with a main character I dislike as much as I did Dr. Faraday in this one, ends up with a mark this high. But Faraday being the way he is, is essential to the story. Had he been a different character, this would have been a different book.
The time is just after WW II when Dr. Faraday is called out to Hundreds Hall, and old Georgian house in decline where the last members of the Ayres family are trying to keep things going in some form.
But as much as the Ayres are struggling with the changing times, their past and tensions in the family, something else seems determined to destroy them.
As disaster after disaster befalls the family they become convinced that house is possessed and determined to harm them. Faraday, being the cool headed scientist that he is, is convinced the family is suffering from stress and imagining things.
But with the family and the house falling apart, even Faraday has to question if it's possible that the house or something in it is out to cause harm.
This was a good ghost story, especially because there are no clear answers, leaving it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions as to what exactly has happened.

Friday, December 11, 2009

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN

TITLE: ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN
AUTHOR: SIMON WOOD
Pages: 337
Date: 11/12/2009
Grade: 4+
Own

This book was send to me, together with another title by the same author, by Cindy M. a good online friend. I was very grateful with I received the books, and I'm even more grateful now because this is a good thriller.
It is the story of Josh Michaels, whose car is forced of the road and ends up in a river. It might have been an accident, except that when Josh looks back from his sinking car he sees the man driving the other car giving him the thumbs down gesture. Someone wants Josh dead, and he has no idea who or why, and the police don't believe him.
At the same time, someone from his far from faultless past, resurfaces in Josh's life, determined to punish him for pain caused.
With his marriage at risk and his life about to implode as well as "accidents" continuing to happen and killing others, Josh needs to find out who wants him dead and why, before it is too late.
Like I said, this was a good thriller. The only reason it didn't score higher is because it was made clear to the reader fairly early on who was behind the attempts, and why. I prefer my thrillers to either keep their secrets until the end, or come with a big twist in the tail.
This minor complaint doesn't stop me from looking forward to reading my other book by Simon Wood in the near future.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

THE LACEMAKERS OF GLENMARA

TITLE: THE LACEMAKERS OF GLENMARA
AUTHOR: HEATHER BARBIERI
Pages: 279
Date: 06/12/2009
Grade: 4.5
Library

"You can always start again, all it takes is a new thread."
This book made me wonder when you'd call a book "chick-lit" and when it is a novel about women.
As a rule, I don't like chick-lit. I'm not quite sure why that is, although I think it has something to do with that genre seeming to formulaic, often appearing to be trying too hard for my liking.
Whereas a good novel (about women or otherwise) doesn't appear to be trying to be anything at all. It just is; a good story, with realistic characters, that you just want to know more about.
This is the story of Kate Robinson, who flees from Seattle to Ireland when her life falls apart. Having recently lost her mother and seen her relationship ended in the most cruel way, she needs to get away.
By accident she ends up in Glenmara, a village on the western edge of Ireland, slowly dying away.
When she meets the women who together make the most beautiful lace, Kate sees an opportunity to put Glenmara on the map and bring some badly needed income to the village.
But all is not plain sailing. Through work, love loss, strong opposition, personal tragedies and doubt, Kate and her newly found friends cling together to save the village as well as themselves.
A beautiful book that brought tears to my eyes on several occasions and left me feeling completely satisfied when I'd read the last words.

Friday, December 4, 2009

THE GRANVILLE SISTERS

TITLE: THE GRANVILLE SISTERS
AUTHOR: UNA-MARY PARKER
Pages: 380
Date: 04/12/2009
Grade: 4-
Details: no. 1 The Granville Family
              Large Print
Library

This really was a bit of fluff, but quite enjoyable fluff. It also reminded me a bit of the "Cazalet Chronicles" by Elizabeth Jane Howard, although I seem to remember the Howard series as having a bit more depth and character development than this book.
The story in this book starts in 1935 when Rosie and Juliet Granville, the eldest two of five Granville daughters, are getting ready to make their debut.
Only a year apart in age, both girls are beautiful as well as members of a very wealthy family. A life long rivalry between the two girls gets even deeper once they enter society. And the pressure from their mother for them to make good marriages does nothing to ease the situation.
The girls attract attention from the start, but before long they find they are also facing heartbreak, scandal and unhappy marriages.
Meanwhile the world is gearing up for a war, and by the end of the book the start of WW II seems to guarantee that life will never be the same for any of the Granville's.
I liked this book enough to want to read the next two, provided I can find them in a library.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

ODD HOURS

TITLE: ODD HOURS
AUTHOR: DEAN KOONTZ
Pages: 352
Date: 02/12/2009
Grade: 4
Details: no. 4 Odd Thomas
Library

The Odd Thomas books seem to be getting odder as the go on. But, Odd himself remains an endearing and funny character and the books are a delight to read. And that despite the fact that Odd keeps on finding himself up against the darkest forces imaginable. Although, it has to be said that there is little graphic detail in these books.
In this book Odd Thomas finds himself in Magic Beach, California. He was drawn there by the forces that govern his life, but after a month he still doesn't know why he is there. The dreams he is having are very disturbing and seem to predict a major disaster, but don't explain what lies ahead.
However, once he meets Annamaria, a very mysterious young pregnant woman with secrets and powers of her own, events start to unfold fast. Odd finds himself with only hours to stop a conspiracy more devastating than anything he could ever have imagined.
It's a shame there's no sign of a fifth Odd Thomas book coming anytime soon. The ending of the book seems to indicate that there is more to follow though. I hope that will prove to be the case.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

TO REACH THE CLOUDS

TITLE: TO REACH THE CLOUDS
AUTHOR: PHILLIPE PETIT
Pages: 227
Date: 28/11/2009
Grade: 4.5
Borrowed from a friend and bookclub member

This is the story of the morning in August 1974 when Phillipe Petit managed to connect the not yet completely finished Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York with a wire and walk from one tower to the other, not just once, but several times.
Petit tells of the first time he saw a picture of the towers and how the idea was born, only to subsequently turn into an obsession.
We read about the preparations, the set backs, all he ways in which the project should have failed, and the ultimate triumph that was his walk across the wire.
Petit, as portrait by himself, is not a nice person, but then I suppose only someone completely obsessed with himself and his dream could conceive of and successfully pull of a coupe like this.
This book was written in English, but at several points in the story the French background of the author shone through. I'm glad that wasn't edited away because it adds to the authenticity of the story.
This was a fascinating book which would have been highly unbelievable had it been fiction. it was also a great follow-up to Colum McCann's "Let the Great World Spin." (Click here to read my review.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM

TITLE: BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM
AUTHOR: KATE ATKINSON
Pages: 333
Date: 27/11/2009
Grade: 4+
Library

It is really nice to be surprised by a book every now and again.
Challenged to do so by the Frontline Library course I'm doing, I picked this book very uncertain as to whether or not I would like it. In fact, I was all set to only read a chapter or two and then discard the book, again as suggested by the course. Especially since I had tried a book by Atkinson before, only to give up on it.
However, once I had started this book, I found myself intrigued by the story and its main character, and putting the book aside unfinished was no longer an option.
This is the story of Ruby Lennox, as narrated by her, literally from the moment of her conception. it is also the story of her mother, her grandmother and her great-grandmother, whose lives we visit in separate chapters called "footnotes".
None of these women's stories are happy. In fact, tragic would probably be a better word to describe their lives, yet the book had me laughing out loud on several occasions.
And Ruby's journey through childhood and to the point where she is at peace with herself, her past, her life and her family is fascinating.
I may have to give another book by Atkinson a try soon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

PLAYING WITH BONES

TITLE: PLAYING WITH BONES
AUTHOR: KATE ELLIS
Pages: 311
Date: 23/11/2009
Grade: 5
Details: no. 2 Joe Plantagenet Mystery
Library.

I like this series a bit better than the Wesley Peterson one. Although I love the archaeology aspect of the Peterson books, I prefer the characters in this series and adore the ghostly angles these books come with.
When the strangled body of an 18 year old girl is found in Singmass Close, it appears to be "just" a horrific murder. But from the start, things are more complicated and sinister than that. After a case of mistaken identity has been cleared up, Joe Plantagenet and his colleagues discover that during the 1950's four women were murdered through strangulation in the same close. In all cases their big toes were cut off and dolls left beside the bodies, just like happened this time. Has the murderer from the past, who was never caught, resumed his murdering ways, or are they dealing with a copycat?
At the same time, the police are dealing with the escape of a convicted child killer, and the disappearance of another teenage girl.
And Singmass close has a reputation for being haunted by ghostly children.
Lots of angles, lots of possible suspects, lots of unexpected connections and a few shocking revelations, not to mention the twist at the end.
A wonderful mystery.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

DARK FIRE

TITLE: DARK FIRE
AUTHOR: C.J. SANSOM
Pages: 576
Date: 21/11/2009
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 Matthew Shardlake Mystery
Library

It is 1540 and it has been three years since lawyer Matthew Shardlake undertook a very distressing investigation for Thomas Cromwell.
He is asked to defend a girl who has been accused of murdering her young cousin, but it appears his efforts are in vain when the girl is granted a ten day reprieve from torture on Cromwell's orders. In return, Shardlake has to undertake another investigation for Cromwell.
The secret of the legendary and very destructive Greek Fire has been found in one of London's dissolved monasteries, and in ten days time, Cromwell has to demonstrate it's power to King Henry VIII. But when Shardlake, accompanied by Jack Barak, a servant of Cromwell's, goes to retrieve the stuff he finds it gone, and those who were working on discovering it's secrets brutally murdered.
Now Shardlake is facing two investigations that both have to be completed within 10 days. Failure to do so will certainly result in disaster for those involved. And both investigations come with dangerous opponents, devoid of anything resembling a conscience and willing to sacrifice anything and everybody to get their way.
This series is very well written and gives a detailed, at times brutally honest and fascinating picture of the 16th century in England. A time filled with conspiracies, uncertainty and violence. It is not an easy, comfy or fast read, and I prefer to put some space between two books in this series, but as historical mysteries go, these are among the best and the most realistic I have come across up to now.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

COMFORT FOOD

TITLE: COMFORT FOOD
AUTHOR: KATE JACOBS
Pages: 375
Date: 14/11/2009
Grade: 4-
Library

This book is not especially well written, or well plotted, but appropriately enough, it was a comfort read.
It is the story of Gus, who after being hit by tragedy creates a life and a future for herself and her two daughters as the host of a very successful show on the Food Channel.
Now she's about to hit 50 and her ratings are running backwards. There is a real chance she might lose her show, and the alternative she is more or less forced into is not going to upset just her life.
Kate Jacobs does tend to put too many characters with too many issues into her books. As a consequence none of the story lines gets the attention it probably deserves, and the ending feels a bit rushed and unfinished for some of the characters.
Still, this was an easy read, with characters I enjoyed spending time with.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

THE MEMORY COLLECTOR

TITLE: THE MEMORY COLLECTOR
AUTHOR: MEG GARDINER
Pages: 354
Date: 12/11/2009
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 Jo Beckett Mystery
Library

Jo Beckett, a forensic psychiatrist is called out to San Francisco airport when a man appears to be going crazy on a plane.
After examinations and scans in a hospital, it's determined that Ian Kanan has been contaminated with something that has affected his brain, meaning that he can't form any new memories.
But this discovery is only the start of a nightmare. People want Kanan to hand over the contaminant, and have ways of forcing him. But with Kanon being contagious, but not aware of it, and the substance highly volatile, far more is at stake then Kanon's personal interests. With Kanan on the run to fulfill his mission, not finding him could spell disaster for San Francisco and the rest of the world.
This is more of a thriller than a mystery and I wouldn't have minded a bit more detecting and a bit less action.
Still, I'm growing to like the characters and the story is both well written and a real page turner. So, I will be back for more of Jo Beckett's adventures. If only to see how her emerging relationship develops.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

BLACK CHERRY BLUES

TITLE: BLACK CHERRY BLUES
AUTHOR: JAMES LEE BURKE
Pages: 232
Date: 08/11/2009
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 3 Dave Robicheaux Mystery
              Edition: Three Great Novels
                             Robicheaux the Early Years
Library

Either these mysteries are getting better as the series goes on, or I'm developing a taste for them. Either way, I can now see myself continuing with this series.
Mind you, Robicheaux is still a very troubles character, and the story continues to be dark, and filled with violence and characters you'd prefer never to encounter, but it's a very well written story and a thrilling read.
In this instalment, Roubicheaux is just about managing to keep his demons at bay when he encounters a blast from the past in the form of Dixie Lee Pugh.
When he decides to help Dixie Lee, reluctantly and against his better judgment, he soon finds himself facing the mob, as well as a murder charge.
Now he has to investigate to keep himself and little Alafair safe, as well as to prove his own innocence.

Friday, November 6, 2009

BROOKLYN

TITLE: BROOKLYN
AUTHOR: COLM TOIBIN
Pages: 352
Date: 05/11/2009
Grade: 3.5
Library

I read in a review by somebody who's name I can't remember that if this book had been written by a woman it would be classed as Chick-lit, and whoever it was, I think they were right. And not very good Chick-lit at that.
This is the story of Eilis, a girl living in Enniscorthy in the south of Ireland with her mother and sister in the 1950's.
Because there is no work to be had for her, it is decided that Eilis will move to Brooklyn, where she finds a job and a room in a boarding house.
Initially she is very lonely and home sick, but eventually she finds her place starts a course and starts dating.
Just when her new life is starting to take shape, disaster strikes back home in Enniscorthy sending Eilis on a trip back home. And while there Eilis has to try and make sense of what she wants with her life and where she wants it to be, only for her to realize that she doesn't really have any choices.
I really didn't like this book very much. It was written in such a distant and analytical way that I never got to feel close to the main character or to care about her. Maybe Toibin should refrain from writing from the female perspective. In this book at least, it wasn't working for me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

THE MISSION SONG

TITLE: THE MISSION SONG

AUTHOR: JOHN LE CARRE
Pages: 337
Date: 02/10/2009
Grade: 4
Details: Reading Group read for November
Library


A story about Africa, although mainly set in England.
A story about corruption and abuse of power.
And a story about innocence and naivety and the high price you may have to pay for trying to do the right thing.
This is the story of Bruno Salvador, Salvo to his friends and enemies, a 29 year old orphaned son of an Irish missionary and a Congolese headman's daughter.
Having been raised both in the Congolese province of Kivu and in England and with a good head and ear for languages he grows up to become an interpreter in minority African languages. This specialism means that he works freelance for the British Secret Service.
It's is through these languages that he meets Hannah, a nurse from Kivu working in England, who opens his eyes to his faulty marriage to white and upper class Penelope, and with whom he spends a night of passion.
It's also because of his language skills that he is whisked away to a secret location in the North Sea where he is to interpret a secret meeting between Western financiers and East Congolese warlords.
What at first appears to be an attempt to secure a safe and prosperous future for Kivu, soon turns out to be a farce with only one objective; to enrich the Westerners.
The actions Salvo takes upon discovering the risks to the land Hannah and he love, will change both their lives for ever, put them in danger and open their eyes to the realities of the world; Where nobody is ever as good or as honest as they seem and the interests of a small African province fade to nothing when up against Western economical and financial interests.
This book was beautifully written and a fascinating read. My only qualms with the story were that maybe Salvo was a bit too naive and trusting to be realistic. Does any 29 year old, living in England really know so little about how devious people can be, especially if he has been married to a tabloid journalist?
Coincidentally I came across a picture taken in Kivu in this weeks Sunday Times Magazine, which shows that the situation there is at least as bad as described in the book. I have torn the picture out and will keep it for the group discussion. A discussion I expect to be interesting.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

HEAVEN'S PRISONERS

TITLE: HEAVEN'S PRISONERS
AUTHOR: JAMES LEE BURKE
Pages: 206
Date: 29/10/2009
Grade: 4
Details: no. 2 Robicheaux Mystery
              Edition: Robicheaux the Early Years
              Three Great Novels
Library

Well, I liked this second book in the series better than I did the first one, although I still have a hard time with Robicheaux's self-destructive tendencies and his disregard for the consequences his actions may have for those around him.
This story starts with Robicheaux running a boat renting company in the Louisiana Bayou, a cop no more. When he and his wife, Annie, are fishing one day, they witness a plane crashing into the sea. They safe a young girl from the plane, but the four adults on board are all dead by the time they arrive.
When authorities only report three bodies on the plane, Robicheaux becomes suspicious and can't help but investigate.
His investigation will bring disaster into Robicheaux's life, and nearly destroy him.
These are very dark books, but also very well written. If the upward trend continues with book three, I can see myself reading the whole series though, dark or not.

Monday, October 26, 2009

THE SNOW GOOSE & THE SMALL MIRACLE

TITLE: THE SNOW GOOSE & THE SMALL MIRACLE
AUTHOR: PAUL GALLICO
Pages: 80
Date: 25/10/2009
Grade: 5
Borrowed of friend.

THE SNOW GOOSE:
The story of a misshapen man, living with only the company of the birds he rescues.
And of Fritha, the young girl who is afraid of him, but overcomes her fear to bring him the wounded snow goose she has found.
The story of a strange friendship, a rescue mission to Dunkirk, and miracles that will happen but can be heartbreaking.
A wonderful story.

THE SMALL MIRACLE:
Another beautiful story, set in Assisi where Pepino, a young war orphan manages to make a living for himself with the help of his loyal donkey Violetta, with the Mona Lisa smile.
When Violetta becomes very ill, Pepino looks for permission to bring the donkey to the tomb of St. Francis in the hope of a miracle. None of the local churchmen will allow such a thing though. It takes a trip to Rome by Pepino and a miraculous bunch of flowers to gain acccess. Access that might save the the donkey and helps the town of Assisi too.

It's been years since I read anything by Gallico, an author my mother introduced me to and loved. These two stories reminded me what a powerful storyteller he is, and how right my mother was.

DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY

TITLE: DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY
AUTHOR: DONNA LEON
Pages: 373
Date: 25/10/2009
Grade: 4.5
Details: no 2. Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
Library

When the body of an American man is fished out of one of the many Venetian canals it appears that he was killed during a mugging. Brunetti, however, is convinced there is more to the murder.
His investigation takes Brunetti to an American military base in a near by town, where he discovers something in the American's apartment that makes him think he's dealing with a cover up. And a second death only confirms his suspicions.
But up against the might of the US military as well as the equally powerful as corrupt Italian authorities, justice might just be out of his reach.
I really enjoy this series. I like Brunetti and the way his family appears in the story without distracting me from the mystery.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

THE NEON RAIN


TITLE: THE NEON RAIN
AUTHOR: JAMES LEE BURKE
Pages: 189
Date: 24/10/2009
Grade: 4-
Details: no. 1 Dave Robicheaux Mystery
              Edition: Robicheaux the Early Years;
             Three Great Novels
Library

This is a rather dark mystery, set in New Orleans where Dave Robicheaux is a lieutenant with the police department.
When visiting a death row prisoner just hours away from execution he finds out that he's on somebody's hit list. Not knowing how he might have ended up on the list of somebody he doesn't even know, Robicheaux starts investigating. A decision that leads him into unexpected levels of violence, death and destruction, and leaves him re-evaluating everything he held to be true.
I wasn't quite sure what to make of the story. I found it all a bit fragmented and had a hard time following exactly what was going on.
On the other hand, the story and its main character also fascinated me.
Since I have the next two books in the series here anyway, I'll read these first, before making up my mind about this series.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FAMILY LIFE

TITLE: FAMILY LIFE
AUTHOR: PAUL CHARLES
Pages: 334
Date: 21/10/2009
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 2 Inspector Starrett Mystery
Library

The Sweeney family are all gathering together on the family farm in County Donegal, Ireland, to celebrate the birthday of Liam Sweeney, the father. The only one missing is Joe, the youngest Sweeney son. But when there is a knock on the door it is not Joe but Inspector Starrett, arriving with the sad news that Joe has been found dead.
It soon becomes clear that we're dealing with a murder, and Starrett and his team start an investigation. Pretty quickly the team discover that there was a lot of tension in the family concerning the farm and its future. But was that tension enough to lead to murder, or were there outside forces at work?
While the investigation is going on, Starrett also has to deal with some family issues of his own as well as a new addition to his team who starts off making the worst possible impression.
I'm really enjoying this series. Starrett is a very likeable main character with an interesting personal story that never really interferes with the mystery. The same is true for the other regular characters in the series. The mysteries are very well plotted and worked out. And of course the Irish setting, even if it is a part of the country I have never visited, is great.
I'm going to have to try and find the previous mystery series by Paul Charles.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NINE DRAGONS

TITLE: NINE DRAGONS

AUTHOR: MICHAEL CONNELLY
Pages: 374
Date: 19/10/2009
Grade: 5-
Details: no. 14 Harry Bosch Mystery
Library

Harry Bosch is back, and this time things turn very personal.
Everything starts when an old Chinese shopkeeper is shot and killed in his shop. It appears to be a killing linked to the Triads, the Chinese mafia, and very soon a suspect is under surveillance. When the suspect tries to leave the country, Bosch and his colleagues are forced to arrest him.
Then Harry receives a phone call telling him to back-off followed by a video message on his phone. The message shows his daughter, who lives in Hong Kong with her mother, held by people and scared. Within a few hours Harry is on a plane to Hong Kong determined to find and rescue thirteen year old Madeline. Working with Eleanor, Maddie's mother and her Chinese new partner, Harry has very little time to follow the clues and rescue his daughter from a horrible faith.
The 39 hours in Hong Kong will be filled with violence, bloodshed and personal loss and heartbreak.
And after his return to Los Angelos, Harry finds that the original case still holds a few surprises.
As always a good mystery with all the twists and turns you could ask for. Harry is as usual going his own way, but also facing that he now has other responsibilities in his life that he needs to take into account.
And even Mickey Haller, our Lincoln Lawyer, makes a brief appearance.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

THE POISONING IN THE PUB

TITLE: THE POISONING IN THE PUB
AUTHOR: SIMON BRETT
Pages: 360
Date: 17/10/2009
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 10 The Fethering Mysteries
Library

This time, trouble strikes close to home for Carole Seddon and Jude because it's centered around their local pub and Ted Crisp, the pub's landlord and their friend.
It starts out innocently enough with an outbreak of food poisoning closing down the place for a few days.When the place reopens, it suddenly finds itself very popular with a group of bikers, determined to upset the peace and quiet in the neighbourhood. When the problems culminate in someone being killed on the pub's premisses, Jude and Carole jump into action, determined to save their friend's pub and reputation.Ted himself is close to despair. His estranged wife is looking for a divorce with a huge settlement. Between that and all the recent trouble, Ted is seriously considering selling his beloved pub.
Once again, Brett delivered and charming and well plotted, cozy, mystery. Carole and Jude's friendship remains a strange one, but that's one of the reasons these books are such fun. 
I'm already looking forward to the next one, whenever it may be coming out.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

THE ABDUCTION


TITLE: THE ABDUCTION

AUTHOR: MARK GIMINEZ
 Pages: 502
Date: 14/10/2009
Grade: 4.5
Library


A parents worst nightmare. You arrive to pick up your daughter after a soccer match only to be told that she has already been collected by her uncle. Except, your daughter doesn't have an uncle.
And so starts the nightmare for 10 year old Grace's family. Her mother, a very hard defense lawyer, gets angry and takes her anger out on the world and her husband. Her father, a soon to be very rich computer nerd falls apart and into his usual victim mode. And her grandfather, an alcoholic Vietnam vet has to leave behind his life in isolation and the alcohol in an attempt to help the little girl he adores.
At first, while the authorities are investigating, the family just falls apart. But once the investigation has been halted and Grace written off, it's up to the family to find strenghts they didn't know they had, face pasts they would rather keep buried and unite in ways they thought impossible if they're going to safe the girl they all love, and themselves.
A good thriller, with multiple layers and lots of good twists and turns.The only, minor complaint I have is that the story jumped from one character's perspective to another's too often. For me that eventually interfered with a comfortable and flowing read. 
On the plus side though is the fact that the story of the family and the pasts of each of it's members is at least as fascinating and thrilling as the story of the abduction itself.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

OUT OF THIS WORLD


TITLE: OUT OF THIS WORLD, consisting of:
INTERLUDE IN DEATH by J.D. Robb(4.5)
KINSMAN by Susan Krinard (3.5)
IMMORTALITY by Maggie Shayne (4-)
MAGIC LIKE HEAT ACROSS MY SKIN by Laurell K. Hamilton (4)
Pages: 357
Date: 11/10/2009
Grade: 4
Own

I do really prefer my stories longer than these were. 100 pages just doesn't do it for me. In the case of Dallas/Roarke story I just wanted to spend more time in their company.
The Hamilton part didn't appear to be a stand-alone story, but rather the start of one of her novels. Which meant that whole lines introduced in the story were left unresolved. Very unsatisfying.
The other two stories just didn't do a whole lot for me. They weren't bad, but they failed to grip me and didn't make me feel like I wanted to check out more of the author's work.
I don't think it's a coincidence that the two stories I liked best were by authors I had read before and characters I knew. That made the stories and characters more rounded for me, and therefore better.
All stories though, came with lots of action and sexual tension, and that almost always works for me.

Friday, October 9, 2009

THE LOST SYMBOL


TITLE: THE LOST SYMBOL
AUTHOR: DAN BROWN
Pages: 509
Date: 09/10/2009
Grade: 4-
Details: no. 3 Robert Langdon Thriller
Own

This must have been the world's most anticipated book for a long time. And when, after the book came out, the reviews came back, they ranged from total disgust to high praise, and anything in between. So, I wasn't really sure what to expect when I picked up this book.
Now that I've finished it, things are a lot more clear, and for me neither of the extremes holds true. To be honest, for me this was a slightly better than average thriller. Dan Brown is not a great writer. He lacks fluency and gets too bogged down in details to make this book a real page turner.
The story is interesting enough; Robert Langdon gets lured to Washington, apparently to deliver a lecture as a favour for his friend and mentor Peter Solomon, a prominent mason.
Once in Washington though, it soon becomes clear that his purpose there is something completely different. Peter Solomon has been kidnapped and in order to save him, Langdon has to uncover the Mason's ultimate secret. His first clue being Solomon's severed right hand.
Up against a powerful and deranged adversary, and with the CIA apparently determined to stop him, Langdon only has a few hours to discover something he doesn't believe exists and prevent disaster.
This is not a bad concept for a story at all, and there are a few surprising twists and turns. However, the story does take (too)long to gather pace, gets too bogged down in detail, depends on a stereotypical villain and in the end takes too long to finish after the tension is gone.
I had one revelation while reading this book though. Tom Hanks is, in fact, perfectly cast as Robert Langdon in the movies. Langdon in this book is just as wooden and one dimensional as Hanks plays him.
My conclusion has to be that at his book has become a victim of the hype that surrounded its release. Without the hype it would have been a slightly too long, not too bad thriller. With the hype it became a minor disappointment.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

SAY WHEN


TITLE: SAY WHEN
AUTHOR: ELIZABETH BERG
Pages: 262
Date: 04/10/2009
Grade: 4
Library

"To understand is to forgive, even oneself." - Alexander Chase

Although Frank Griffin sort of knows that his wife Ellen is seeing someone else, it still comes as a huge shock when she announces she wants a divorce.
Because Frank refuses to move out of their family home, they go from being a couple to being roommates and find they have to discover new ways of being around each other.
Seeing the story develop from Frank's point of view, we watch him going from disbelieve and feeling betrayed to coming to a reluctant understanding of his own role in this separation.
As Christmas draws near, Frank and Ellen have to decide whether to give up on each other and their marriage or to give it an other chance based on what they've learned and are still discovering.
As always, Berg is good at describing people, their emotions and the way they (try to) deal with life's upsets. She brings feelings to live without getting too heavy, deals with heartbreak without getting depressing and manages to bring humour to what could easily have been a deep and sad story.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

GENESIS


TITLE: GENESIS
AUTHOR: KARIN SLAUGHTER
Pages: 436
Date: 02/10/2009
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 7 Grant County / no. 3 Will Trent Thriller
Also published as: UNDONE
Library

Karin Slaughter did something remarkable here. She took a series I used to love but learned to hate (Grant County) and combined it with a series I couldn't finish the first book in (Will Trent), combined the two, and came up with a great thriller.
Sara Linton, who has now been widowed for over three years, has left Grant County and is working in the ER of Atlanta's Grady hospital.
She is working when a woman is brought in, starved and horrifically tortured.
Will Trent is also in the hospital because his partner, Faith Mitchell after she had a fainting spell. Horrified with the state of the victim brought in, Will goes to the site where she was found and forces his way into the investigation. Accidentally he stumbles upon a cellar dug into the ground, which turns out to be a torture chamber. Then a second woman is found, also tortured, she has killed herself before help could get to her.
With one woman dead, one unconscious and the local police force openly resisting interference by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation,Will and Faith have very little to go on.
But then two more women disappear and the race is on to find out what is going on and save their lives.
I still think Slaughter's main characters could do with less personal issues; her murderers really are more than dysfunctional enough for me. But, this was once again a really good thriller, like the first Grant County books, and I'm hopeful that I might find myself picking up her books again from here on in.
On a side note, I hate it when books are published under different titles on different continents. And this is the third time that is the case with a book by Slaughter.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

NETHERLAND


TITLE: NETHERLAND
AUTHOR: JOSEPH O'NEILL
Pages: 340
Date: 27/09/2009
Grade: 4-
Details: Reading Group Read
Own

This is going to prove a difficult book to blog about. I wasn't sure what to make of the story while reading it, and now that I've finished in, I'm still not sure.
This is the story of Hans van den Broek who reflects on the time he spend alone in New York after his wife went back to England with their infant son, stating a need to spend time apart.
While on his own in a city still traumatized by the terror it has experienced, he joins a cricket team, made up from immigrants, like him, and thus returning to a sport he played during his childhood in The Hague, Holland. He becomes friends with a man with a dubious background and life, whose dream it is to bring cricket to America, Chuck Ramkissoon.
Years later, when Hans is back in London and reunited with his family, Chuck's body is found in a river in New York, with his hands tied behind his back. A discovery that leads to Hans reflecting on those solitary months he spend in New York, his friendship with Chuck and the clues that might have been there to predict his violent demise.
Hans' main obsession those is with the fact that people just seem to drift out of his life, without him being able to stop that or to understand why it's happening.
This book is basically the internal musings of a not really very interesting man, obsessed with a sport I have no interest in. There really isn't a whole lot happening in this book. In fact there are lots of words used to describe very little.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that I had no difficulty at all finishing this book. Of course I had to read all of it because I'm leading the Reading Group I'm reading it for, but that was not my driving force. The book is in fact, so well written that having to read it wasn't hard work at all. In fact, if there had been more action and less introspection, it would probably have been a perfect book for me. And of course for me there was the added bonus of parts of the book being set in Holland, with bits of Dutch being thrown in to the story. Not all the Dutch is explained or translated though, and I wonder how that works for people unfamiliar with the language.
As it is, the authors way with words is what saved this book for me. What this book hasn't done though is inspire me to go looking for other novels by O'Neill.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB


TITLE: THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB
AUTHOR: MEG GARDINER

Pages: 438

Date: 26/09/2009

Grade: 4
Details: no. 1 Jo Beckett, forensic psychiatrist mystery

Own


When a high powered San Francisco Attorney drives her car of a bridge, killing herself and seriously injuring her passenger, Jo Beckett is called in to determine if this was an attempted murder suicide, or something else. Jo Beckett is a forensic psychiatrist, who finds out how and why people have died. The police is worried because in the recent past several famous or important people have died under circumstances that were at least suspicious.
Soon Jo and the police are on the tail of a society called The Dirty Secrets Club, where rich people brag about their secrets and set each others dares, in order to create new secrets. The Club was supposed to be secret, but it appears that not only has someone found out about it, they are also trying to get rid of as many of the Club's members as they can. And now that Jo is working on the investigation, she's putting herself firmly in the picture of the killers.
This was not a bad mystery, but it wasn't really working for me. Although I enjoyed the story, it never gripped me enough to really keep me turning the pages, and I found it way too easy to put the book down. However, that may be due to the fact that this is the first book in a series, with the author having to make all her introductions, and the reader having to get acquainted with both the author's writing style and the main character. I will therefore try the next one in this series, if only because my library has it. But if that one doesn't really grab me either, it will be the last one.

Monday, September 21, 2009

THE ABC MURDERS


TITLE: THE ABC MURDERS
AUTHOR: AGATHA CHRISTIE
Date: 21/09/2009
Grade: 4+
Details: Hercule Poirot Mystery
Audio: 5 Cd's / 6 Hours
Narrator: Hugh Fraser
Library

When Hercule Poirot receives a letter announcing a murder in a certain location it disturbs him, although Hastings and Scotland Yard are inclined to take it less seriously, until the murder actually takes place. When a second murder is announced and committed, everybody is taking the letter writer, who calls himself ABC, and the alphabetically committed murders seriously though. A third murder is soon committed, and all those involved in the cases get together to hopefully prevent a fourth one.
This appears to be an a-typical Christie murder in that all clues point towards a murderer who is not one of the main cast of characters. But, this wouldn't be a Hercule Poirot mystery if the Belgian and his little grey cells didn't come up with a surprising and insightful solution.
This was a great mystery to listen to, narrated really well, including Poirot's accent.

LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN


TITLE: LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN
AUTHOR: COLUM McCANN
Pages:349
Date: 21/09/2009
Grade: 5+
Own

On the 7th of August 1974, Phillipe Petit stretched a wire between the, as yet unfinished, Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and walked across, watched by thousands.
This book tells the fictional(ised) story of his performance and of the lives of several other, apparently unconnected, individuals in New York at that time.
Each person's story is told from their individual point of view, in their own voice. And as we read the stories of an Irish monk, a hooker, a young married couple,and a woman living on Fifth Avenue mourning her son who died in Vietnam, among others, we see that our lives are never as disconnected from those of others as we might assume.
A lot has been written about how this book reflects the events of 9/11, and of course it is true that that was another big event involving the Twin Towers. And event that heralded the demise of the Twin Towers, as opposed to their start. And event that also connected unexpected people in unexpected ways.
Still, I would like to think that this book would have been an equally great read had the Twin Towers still been standing.
Yes, the fact that they were destroyed in such a horrendous and violent way with such a tragic loss of life gives this book an added poignancy.But, the picture McCann creates of New York in the 1970's is strong, beautiful and heartbreaking enough to stand on its own merit.
McCann is a master at painting pictures and people with words. He picked me up and placed me in a world I knew little or nothing about.He made that world and the people in it come to life for me. He doesn't use fairy-tale endings for his characters and for that I'm grateful because it makes the story more real, the read more satisfying and the characters more lifelike than you find in most books.
This book comes highly recommended and I'm delighted I bought my copy. I would have hated to have to give this book back to the library.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A WHISPERED NAME


TITLE: A WHISPERED NAME
AUTHOR: WILLIAM BRODERICK
Pages: 342
Date: 18/09/2009
Grade: 5+
Details: no. 3 Father Anselm Mystery
Library

It’s been a while since I took five days to read a book of less than 350 pages. This book was worth every minute of it though. It contains a story that demands the reader’s full attention, a history that deserves reflecting upon, written in a language that is sensitive, descriptive and at times heartbreakingly beautiful.
When two strangers come to Larkwood monastery asking about Father Herbert, who has died, and events that took place during WW I, they deeply upset Father Anselm and the rest of the monastic community. They find themselves facing a part of Herbert’s life they never knew existed, a history that might shatter all they thought they knew about Herbert, a man they loved, trusted and admired.
And so, Anselm starts an investigation into the past and the events that took place in the late summer of 1917. Events that lead to the court-martial of an Irish soldier for desertion, with Herbert being on the panel that convicted the man. And event that profoundly touched Herbert, and changed him forever.
This is not a mystery in the conventional sense of the genre, and all the more intriguing for it.
With the story alternating between Anselm’s investigation in the present and Herbert’s experiences in the past, a horrific picture of war is painted, as well as a touching story of human compassion and selflessness.
A wonderful and deeply moving book.