Thursday, April 30, 2009
TITLE: THE CARNIVAL MASTER
AUTHOR: CRAIG RUSSELL
Details: no. 4 Jan Fabel Mystery
This was a dark series from the first book, but The Carnival Master was the darkest instalment yet. it was also a very integrate story, with an awful lot going on. And not all of it appears to be connected until the very end, when even that which shouldn't be connected suddenly clicks into slot.
Jan Fabel has resigned from the police in Hamburg and is working out his last few weeks, when he's asked to look at a serial murder case in Cologne. In that city, someone is attacking women during the annual carnival festivities, killing them and removing a piece of their flesh.
Maria Klee, Fabel's former colleague, is still on leave after her earlier horrific experiences, when the need for closure and revenge takes her to Cologne to confront the cause of her misery.
Although Fabel had no intention of taking on the case in Cologne, he changes his mind when he discovers the danger Maria is in.
Dealing with two cases at the same time is pushing Fabel, and it is not at all sure if he'll be able to safe Maria. The trip to another city does make up his mind about the future though.
A very violent but very good book, with even more going on then I mentioned here.
Monday, April 27, 2009
TITLE: THE BLIND ASSASSIN
AUTHOR: MARGARET ATWOOD
Details: Re-read (1st read 20/02/2002)
Audio / Abridged / 5 CD's / 6 Hours
Narrator: Lorelei King
Library Book club selection
Before I start on the story in this book, let me say that I'm not a fan of abridged audio versions of books. I feel you always miss way too much in a shortened telling of the story, too much detail gets left out. However, this was a re-read for me, I couldn't get my hands on a copy of the book and the only thing that was available was this audio book.
And, if I'm honest, I have to say that for the purpose of a re-read, and as a tool for refreshing your memory, an abridged audio book is not the worst idea. I think it worked for me this time anyway. Although I won't know that for sure until we get to the discussion of this book tomorrow.
Because I read and reviewed this book before, I'll copy my earlier review here, although I may add a few lines and edit a few other ones.
This book has several stories intermingling. There is the story about Laura and Lilly Chase, as told by Lilly, 50 years after her sister Laura drove a car of a bridge and died. It is also the story of a love affair between an unnamed man and woman, whose identities are kept obscure on purpose. And finally there is the science fiction story the man tells the woman on the occasions when they get together.
But much more than that it is a story about betrayal, sacrifice, secrets, selfishness and loneliness. In many ways it's a heartbreaking story in which there are no winners and no happy endings.
There are several secrets in the story which are only revealed very late in the book, although it was possible to guess at what they were. And once you figure out who the woman in the affair is, all the other pieces fall into place.
This book managed to fascinate me for a second time, which is quite an accomplishment, and I wouldn't rule out reading this book again at some point in the future.
Quote from page 632:
In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. it's loss and regret and misery that drive the story forward along its twisted road.
TITLE: DEWEY; The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
AUTHOR: VICKI MYRON
This is the story of a tine, eight week old kitten that was found, one very cold morning, in the library book drop box in Spencer, Iowa.
The kitten is found by Vicki Myron, head librarian, and she instantly falls in love with the kitten who ends up being named Dewey Readmore Books. A feeling that appears to be mutual.
Dewey turns out to be the perfect library cat and is soon completely at home there. What's more, he has a way with people, sensing what they need and providing it to who ever is open to receiving it.
Soon Dewey is providing joy and comfort to all who enter Spencer library and before long people start visiting the library just to meet Dewey. As he lifts spirits in Spencer during the depression of the 1980's his fame steadily spreads; statewide, nationwide and ultimately worldwide.
For 19 years Dewey lived in the library and spread love, joy and smiles. His death broke everybody's heart, but fond and loving memories of him live on.
This is also Vicki's story whose life as a single mother with serious health problems was anything but easy. By it's nature it's a sentimental story, pulling at the reader's heartstrings. But I challenge any animal lover to read this book without filling up on a few occasions.
Quote, page 116:
" A great library doesn't have to be big or beautiful. It doesn't have to have the best facilities or the most efficient staff, or the most users. A great library provides. It is enmeshed in the life of a community in a way that makes it indispensable. A great library is one nobody notices because it's always there, and it always has what people need."
TITLE: MIICHAELMAS TRIBUTE
AUTHOR: CORA HARRISON
Details: no. 2 Burren Mystery
The year is 1509, and Mara is still the Brehon (judge) in the kingdom of The Burren (West-Ireland), dispensing law according to the ancient laws and customs.
It is the time of the Michaelmas Tribute when the people pay their lords in good or money in a token of their appreciation. But this time, when the fair where the tributes are paid is over, one of the stewards collecting for his lord is left dead, murdered.
It is down to Mara, as Brehon, to investigate the death and pronounce judgment on it. Her investigation brings her in contact with all the layers of her society, and gives the reader a great insight into the laws and customs in Ireland before English law took over.
However, before long a second body is discovered and the big question is whether or not the two murders are connected, and if so, how.
But Mara has other things on her mind too. King Turlough still wants to marry her, and Mara has to decide if she is prepared to give up her much loved life and independence to become queen.
I really enjoy these books. It is great to learn so much about a time in Irish history I know nothing about. It's even better to do so in a well written mystery, with likable and realistic characters, with the story gently pushing along, taking the reader with it.
TITLE: THE STEEP APPROACH TO CARBADALE
AUTHOR: IAIN BANKS
Details: Audio: 12 disks / 14 hours
Narrator: Peter Kenny
Alban Wopuld has been avoiding his extended family for years. Now though the whole family is getting together at Garbadale to decided whether or not to sell the successful family firm to an American company and to celebrate the birthday of his grandmother. Reluctant, Alban decides to join in this reunion.
But, this return to the family forces Alban to deal with his past and the pain and secrets connected with it. There is the mystery of his mother's suicide, the reasons for which are obscure. And there is the matter of his first love, enjoyed with his cousin Sophie before they were brutally and almost completely separated by the family. The answer to the mystery and the reason for the separation will come as a huge shock to Alban, upsetting everything he thought he knew about his life.
This was an interesting and well written story, told by a good narrator who knew his way about the various accents.
The only thing that did get on my nerves at times was Alban's obsession with Sophie.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
TITLE: HELL'S HORIZON
AUTHOR: D.B. SHAN
Details: no. 2 The City
As books go, this is the sequel to PROCESSION OF THE DEATH. In the time-line of the two stories though, they run parallel to each other.
Al Jeery is a member of The Cardinal's personal guard. The Cardinal runs and controls The City, although he is really just a very powerful criminal.
When Al is asked to investigate a murder, he discovers that the victim is someone he was close to, and his so far routine existence is turned upside down.
The investigation brings Al into contact with The Cardinal, The City's Inca forefathers and the powerful and apparently untouchable assassin Paucar Wami.
As Al digs deeper, more horrific deaths follow, all close to his life, and he discovers that nothing in his life is as it appeared and that he has more in common with Wami than he could ever have imagined.
Although this was quite a dark story, it was more mystery than horror, and not quite as dark as the first book.
The way the book ends though, it would appear that book three will be very dark and very fascinating. Bring it on!
TITLE: NORWAY TO HIDE
AUTHOR: MADDY HUNTER
Details: no. 6 Passport to Peril Mystery / Large Print
I know, I shouldn't read mysteries out of order. But I couldn't find any earlier titles in this series in my libraries, and I just wanted to check this series out. So, when I found Norway to Hide in Dublin, I brought it home with me, not realizing this was the sixth and so far the last title in the series.
Anyway, it was the right book to read after the heavy and disturbing read that was CHILD 44. In a complete contrast this book was a light and easy read, at times laugh out loud funny.
Emily Andrews is leading a group of elderly people on a holiday in Scandinavia. Also along is Jackie Thum, who used to be Jack, male and Emily's husband.
When one of the tourists turns up dead, Jackie is the prime suspect, but an airtight alibi saves her. Not long after, a second murder is committed and Emily goes all out trying to find motive and murderer in an, at times hilarious, hunt.
Definitely not a literary masterpiece, this was a great escape from reality.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
TITLE: CHILD 44
AUTHOR: TOM ROB SMITH
Details: no. 1 Leo Deminov Thriller
First of, let me say that this book was very well written and plotted. And I can only guess at the amount of research that must have gone into writing this book.
Yet, having said all that, I found myself reluctant to go back to this book every time I put it down. Not because of the gruesomeness of the murders of little children, although they were gruesome without a doubt, but because of the realities that came with living in the Soviet Union in the 1950's. I found myself flying through the parts of the book dealing with the investigations of the murders, but every time the story turned to the politics of terror as inflicted by a government and those following it blindly or out of fear, I would stall.
Here's the story:
Leo Deminov is a hero of W.W. II and an officer of the Ministry of State Security when he's asked to visit the house of a colleague whose son has been found dead. The colleague and his family claim that the boy has been murdered. However, official documentation states he died as result of an accident, since in the ideal Soviet society there is no need for murder, hence it doesn't happen. Leo has to convince the family to tow the line, which he does. However, for Leo this is the moment his blind faith starts to crumble. And when he learns of more, identical deaths, he knows he has to investigate.
But what starts out as an illegal and dangerous investigation soon turns into one that he has to solve successfully if Leo and his wife are to have any chance of surviving.
There is a second book featuring Leo, but I'm not sure if I will want to read it.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
TITLE: DEAD WOMAN'S SHOES
AUTHOR: KAYE C. HILL
Details: no. 1 Lexi Lomax Mystery
It is always a great feeling to find a new mystery series by a new author, and this was definitely a good find. And with the next one, THE FALL GIRL, due to be published in August, I won't have to wait too long for my next fix.
as for the story; Lexi Lomax has run away from her husband and his dubious dealings, with a suitcase full of money she has no intention of using.
She finds herself in a ramshackle cabin on the Suffolk coast, completely broke, with only her Chihuahua, Kinky, for company.
When she's mistaken for a private investigator and is asked to follow someone, it seems to be an answer to her prayers and an easy way to make some much needed money. Until that is, she finds herself up to her neck in years old secrets, poison pen letters, a missing cat and, oh yeah, a corpse.
Lexi suddenly has a lot to worry about, especially her own safety.
Kaye C. Hill manages to strike a very good balance between a well plotted mystery with a credible solution, fun and well drawn characters and some hilarious situations. It was a joy to read.
Monday, April 13, 2009
TITLE: THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE
AUTHOR: STIEG LARSSON
Details: no. 2 The Millennium Trilogy
Boy, does Larsson know how to write intricate thrillers. In this, the second installment of the Millennium Trilogy there is lots going on and there's a variety of players, much like was the case in part one.
One word of warning though; I wouldn't advice anyone to read this book without having read "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" first. Not only does this book continue the stories of the characters that were introduced in the first book, it also gives away most, if not all, the answers to the mysteries in that story.
The main characters in this book are once again Mikael Blomkvist, investigative journalist and publisher of Millennium Magazine and Lisbeth Salander, researcher extra-ordinaire, but also a young woman with many issues.
In this book her issues and her past catch up with Lisbeth and she finds herself accused of a triple homicide. While the police launch a nationwide hunt for what they consider a deranged killer, Blomkvist is convinced that Lisbeth can't be guilty and sets out to prove as much.
There is a lot more going on in this book, and as usual it involves social issues, but since I don't want to give away any part of the solution, I won't go into any of that.
What really impressed me about this book is that at no time was there the often seen black versus white divide. It wasn't a case of the sole investigator up against a police force refusing to look beyond the obvious. Yes, there are some out and out villains, but apart from those, all the characters are multi-layered, like real humans.
The run up to the story proper is long, and while I was reading that part of the book I thought maybe too long. Having read the whole book though, I realize that it was necessary in order to establish the characters so that the rest of the story made sense.
I'm both looking forward to and dreading reading the third and final Millennium thriller.
Looking forward to it because it's bound to be another intricate and fascinating book. I'm dreading it as well though because once I've read that book there won't ever be another book by Larsson because he died so tragically prematurely.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
TITLE: THE CAVE
AUTHOR: KATE MOSSE
Details: Quick Reads series
This book is part of a series called "Quick Reads". These are books aimed at adults who are learning to read (better). The books are not very big, but they contain full and grown up stories, and there is absolutely no reason why the should be snubbed by more experienced readers. And considering that they are priced at only 1.99 Pound, they are attractive price-wise too.
In this book Kate Mosse returns to the past and to France, like she did in Labyrinth and Sepulchre.
The story is set in 1928 and Freddie is driving through France on his way to meet friends. Although WW I has been over for 10 years, Freddie is still troubled by the death of his brother and the fact that his remains were never found.
During a thunderstorm, Freddie crashes his car but is lucky enough to find a remote village where he finds shelter. He meets a young girl, Marie, there who tells him a shocking story about her family and her village. A story that leads Freddie to discover a centuries old secret and brings comfort to his own life.
This story was so interesting that I could have done with it being longer and more detailed. As it is however, it was a fun, quick and fascinating read.
TITLE: THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON
AUTHOR: LAUREN GROFF
I find it very hard to classify this story. It has the characteristics of a mystery, although there is (recent) murder. I also reminds me of a family saga. But in the end I think it's a story about growing up and finding your roots. I would call it a coming off age story if the main character hadn't been well into her twenties. Whatever it is though, it's a good and captivating read.
On the day Willie Cooper returns home to Templeton, broken-hearted and unsure about her future, the corpse of a huge monster floats to the surface of lake Glimmerglass.
Because Willie is depressed and lethargic her mother, Vivienne, sets her a task. Willie has always believed herself to be the result of her mother's wild youth in a commune, with her father being one of three possible men. Now she finds out that her father is in fact a local Templeton man, who is in some distant way related to her forefathers, who were the founders of Templeton.
Her quest to discover his identity leads her back in time through the history of both her family and her town. It brings her in contact with ghosts and uncovers some family scandals. It also brings Willie back to herself and gives her a new perspective on life.
A good, although not a fast, read.
Monday, April 6, 2009
TITLE: THE ART OF MENDING
AUTHOR: ELIZABETH BERG
It's been a long time since I read a book by Elizabeth Berg, and that's a shame. I had almost forgotten how good she is at writing about real people, living a situation you could imagine finding yourself in. She's not one for coming up with a perfect, fairytale ending, just to make the reader feel good. Instead, she keeps it real, offering a resolution as you would find in real life; something that is a first step in the right direction, provided the characters keep on moving in the right direction after the reader leaves them.
This story is being told by Laura Bartone, who is in her fifties. She and her family are heading on their annual trip to her parental home for the Minneapolis state fair. However, this time it won't be an effortless holiday. Laura's younger sister, Caroline, who has always been the odd duck out, needs to share some traumatic childhood memories in order to move on with her life. They are not memories she shares with Laura or their brother, and Laura is deeply shocked and confused by them. They leave her questioning what to believe.
As the family is shocked by another devastating event, Laura and her family have to come to terms with their past and find the power of forgiveness and new beginnings in order to face the future without falling apart.
The character Laura lends her friend a copy of LOST LAKE by Mark Slouka, remarking that it's very good. Now, of course, I'll have to check that book out.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
TITLE: 8TH CONFESSION
AUTHOR: JAMES PATTERSON
Details: no. 8 Women Murder Club Mystery
Two mysteries are at the centre of this novel, as well as issues of the heart variety for three of our four friends.
Cindy, the journalist, decides to investigate the brutal murder of a homeless man known as "Bagman Jesus" when the police have neither the time nor the resources to look into it, receiving some assistance from Lindsay and her partner.
Meanwhile, Lindsay herself is investigating the suspicious but for a long time unexplained deaths of San Francisco's rich and famous. Deaths that only get explained when they're linked to an open case from the 1980's.
Meanwhile, Lindsay is still struggling with commitment to Joe, Cindy finds a new love interest that puts her on a potential collision course with Lindsay, and Yuki falls for a man who turns out not to be what he appeared to be.
This was an easy read, but not really anything special. While Patterson's writing did keep me turning the pages, this story didn't really count as a thriller for me, and could have done with one or two surprises.
TITLE: A PERFECT SPY
AUTHOR: JOHN LE CARRE
Details: Audio / 18 Cd's / 20 hours & 58 minutes
Read by: Michael Jayston
"A lot ado about nothing" is how I would describe this book. For a story this long and at times confusing, remarkably little actually happens.
Magnus Pym, counsellor at the British Embassy in Vienna and life-long spy vanishes after attending his father's funeral in England. Pym has been under suspicion of being a double agent for some time and now both the British and the American secret service are desperate to find him, while his wife tries to make sense of the whole situation.
The explanation as to what is going on and why emerges as Pym writes his life story.. Except that for me the life story didn't really explain anything.
If I had been reading this book, I would probably have cast it aside in frustration. Listening to it in fits and starts made staying with the story possible. But I was never really compelled to finish listening to it.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
TITLE: SALVATION IN DEATH
AUTHOR: J.D. ROBB
Details: no. 27 Eve Dallas & Roarke Mystery
After having read all these Eve Dallas books, revisiting her and Roarke on yet another adventure is a bit like coming home, a welcome reunion with old friends.
Nora Roberts in her guise of J.D. Robb draws you into the story from the very first paragraph and doesn't let you go until the last full stop, bringing the reader on a thrilling and at times sexy ride along the way. And while the books are definitely formulaic, they never feel like that.
This instalment starts with a priest conducting a funeral mass in a packed church. When he arrives at the Holy Communion and drinks the wine, he drops dead from poisoning.
Soon after Eve starts investigating, she discovers that the murder victim wasn't who he said he was, wasn't even a priest in fact. And after the discovery of his true identity, the background to his fraud and the reason he got himself murdered, both Even and Roarke find themselves revisiting their dark pasts and relive old nightmares.
Friday, April 3, 2009
TITLE: HOME TO BIG STONE GAP
AUTHOR: ADRIANA TRIGIANI
Details: no. 4 Big Stone Gap novel
I think this is probably the last of the Big Stone Gap novels, but who knows? The series started off as a trilogy, and this is part four. And although the story lines in the book are neatly tided up, there is scope for a follow up. And considering how much I enjoyed these books, I wouldn't be sorry if Trigiani decided to revisit Big Stone Gap again.
With Etta married and living in Italy, something Ave Maria has a hard time coming to terms with, life in Big Stone Gap has changed dramatically. And when Jack Mac has a major health scare, it becomes very clear that nothing in life can be taken for granted.
When a very close friendship of Ave Maria's is threatened by the revelation of an old secret, Ave Maria has to reassess her values and her feelings. Only coming to terms with the past can bring the possibility of a happy future.
Trigiani is a champion when it comes to writing about feelings, emotions and the things that motivate people. She doesn't require a steady stream of dramatic events to keep her readers interest. Her characters and their lives are interesting enough to do that on their own account.