Monday, July 31, 2017

July Wrap-Up

Books Read:
The Necklace by Claire McMillian 3/5 stars (my review here)

Hide Your Fear by Kevin O'Brien 5/5 stars (my review here)

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin 2/5 stars  (my review here)

The Black House by Constance and Gwenyth Little 3/5 stars
Henry reluctantly agrees to be bodyguard to his boss's daughter because an escaped criminal is on the loose.  They all end up at house with a moving dead body, a sherry-drinking ghost, and an isolating snow storm.  This wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as is usual with the Little Sisters, nor was the plot as engrossing.  It's still a fun read, in their particular loony style, but it's just not their best.

Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George 3/5 stars (my review here)

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald 4/5 stars (my review here)

Audio Books Completed:
White Corridor by Christopher Fowler  4/5 stars
Snowed in on the interstate in Dartmoor, Bryant and May must solve a case over the phone for the P.C.U., as well as protect a woman being stalked in the storm.  As with all the series, this is an often witty and generally interesting mystery.  Unlike the others, there are no bizarre supernatural elements to confuse the issue.  This is definitely the best I've read of the series so far.

The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder 4/5 stars  (my review here)

The Girl from the Sea by Shalini Boland  4/5 stars  (my review here)

The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg 4/5 stars (my review here)

The Sins of the Father by Lawrence Block 4/5 stars (my review here)

The Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey 4/5 stars
Peter Diamond is a likable character and Lovesey's mysteries are intriguing.  This one included a classic locked room, riddles, and murder.  I had one problem with the solution, but other than that, it was a satisfying novel.

Did Not Finish:
Death of a Travelling Man by M.C. Beaton
The Hamish MacBeth novels are simple fluff, and basically all the same. So far I have enjoyed them to a certain extinct.  I mainly have only been reading them because there are plenty available on audio.  About half way through this one, though, I decided I just didn't care.  So many crimes in one small village just isn't believable anymore, Hamish has become stale, and the mysteries just aren't that interesting.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Katarina Bivald
4/5 stars

Sara, living in Sweden, becomes pen friends with a fellow bibliophile, Amy, who lives in a small town called Broken Wheel, Iowa.  She comes to Broken Wheel to stay with Amy for a few months to rest and read, and instead finds herself at the heart of the Broken Wheel community.

This is a heart-warming story about books, friendship, and taking chances.  Sara is likable, as are the people of Broken Wheel.  The minor plots are as interesting as the main story.  The only thing I didn't find fully believable was Amy's correspondence.  I don't doubt that she would share such personal things about herself and her friends, but I do doubt that she would do it so abruptly and incompletely.   Other than that, this was a light and enjoyable, feel-good novel.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George

Missing Joseph
Elizabeth George
3/5 stars

A vicar dies of poisoning and it's dismissed as an accident.  Months later, Inspector Lyndley's attention is drawn to the case and he finds reasons to suspect murder.

George is a good writer, and for the most part this book is no exception.  However, she described so much sex--consensual and non, and both teenage and adult--that bore no relevance to the plot, that it became ridiculous.  She also tended to ramble on with colloquies, soul searching, and elaborate descriptions.  Furthermore, the plot hinged on one huge coincidence.  The story itself was still interesting, the development of personal relationships between recurring characters was good, and the ending was poignant.  The real problem is that the tale could have been told succinctly in about half the pages, and been a much better book.

On a personal note: I began this as an audio book and was so frustrated by all the unnecessary sex and rambling that I gave up on it 3/4 of the way through.  When I found myself thinking of it a few days later, I decided to try reading it, instead.  I was able to skim all the annoying bits and get straight into the solution, so was able to finish it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block

The Sins of the Fathers
Lawrence Block
4/5 stars

A young prostitute is murdered in her apartment and her roommate is arrested; before any investigation can take place, he hangs himself in his cell.  The girl's father asks Matthew Scudder, former NYPD, to find out about her life for him.  This leads Scudder to more questions and answers than expected.

This 1976 novel is the first in the long-running Scudder series.  It doesn't seem like a mystery at first, as Scudder is not searching for a perpetrator, but for details of a life.  It is an engaging novel, that draws in the reader as Scudder finds pieces of the crime in various places.  Scudder is a likable protagonist, and the noir style works well with his character.  I found myself pondering on it when I wasn't reading it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Girl from the Sea by Shalini Boland

The Girl from the Sea 
Shalini Boland
4/5 stars

A woman is washed up on the beach, with no memories of anything that happened before she was rescued.  She discovers her name, Mia, and begins to learn about her life.  The people closest to her, though, seem to be lying and Mia struggles to find out about her life prior to her accident--if it was indeed an accident.

Mia's journey to know herself seems straight-forward enough at the beginning of the novel, but as the lies mount up, it becomes increasingly interesting.  Just when it all seems to make sense, Boland gives the story not one, but two twists that left me breathless.  Despite two plot holes, this is a great light suspense that, while a quick read, will leave the reader wanting to talk about it.

The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg

The Adventure of English: the Biography of a Language
Melvyn Bragg
4/5 stars

Bragg gives a history of the development of the English language, from it's humble beginnings through to it's near dominance globally.  This is an engaging work, written for the layperson, that tells of events, locations, and people that helped shape the language.  It's somewhat odd, even disconcerting, that Bragg refers to the language of English as though it were a sentient being, thinking, scheming, working to become the primary language.  Despite this, the Adventure of English is a lively book that surely interest history buffs and language enthusiasts.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hide Your Fear by Kevin O'Brien

Hide Your Fear
Kevin O'Brien
projected publication date 25 July 2017
5/5 stars

DivorcĂ©e Caitlin Stoller and her two children move into a beautiful home to start a new life.  Unfortunately, the house comes with a threatening stalker.

Meanwhile, in another part of the county, high school swimmers are being abducted.  One has been found dead, while the others are still missing.  Aaron has just joined the missing.

Hide Your Fear is a creepy, unsettling domestic thriller.  It weighs in at 544 pages, and I read it in three gulps.  O'Brien's writing is average, but as his storytelling ability is excellent, sparkling prose isn't missed.  He expertly weaves the two plots together and keeps the reader in suspense even after revealing nearly everything.  I highly recommend this as an un-put-down-able read.

The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder

The Return of the Discontinued Man
Mark Hodder
4/5 stars

In this fifth installment of the Burton and Swinburne series,  strange creatures resembling Spring Heeled Jack are manifesting all over London searching for Sir Richard.  Meanwhile, Burton finds himself slipping sideways in time, experiencing his life in other timelines.  All this leads to Burton and his friends going on a new expedition--through time.

Once again, Hodder takes multiple plot lines, unrelated events, and some amazing fantasy and works them all together into a fantastic tale.  His imagination seems to know no bounds as he creates world after world for this volume.  As always, his prose is good, his storytelling great, and his inventions excellent.  This penultimate volume leaves the reader guessing till the very end, and anxious to start the final book of the series.

(previous reviews are hereherehere and here.)


Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

Fever Dream
Samanta Schweblin
2/5 stars

Amanda is dying in a small rural clinic, carrying on a conversation with an unrelated child named David.  Together they tell the story of the events leading up to Amanda's situation.

This short book has a good premise, and I liked the style of Schweblin's storytelling.  However, there are no surprises in the book; the reader knows what is happening because the title gives it away, and there is never any suspense or build up.  The lack of details and character building make it impossible to connect with the characters or the action.  The unusual plot point*of the book was great, and if it had been expounded upon and used as the focus of the book, this could have been a gem.  As it was, it's a simple, mostly uninteresting story with a rushed ending.  It had promise, but didn't deliver.

*I don't want to post a spoiler so I'll merely say the "swapping" part of the book.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Necklace by Claire McMillian

The Necklace
Claire McMillian
3/5 stars

Nell, a Quincy family outsider, has been left a fabulously valuable necklace by her great-aunt.  This creates a stir with greedy relatives and eager art experts vying to persuade Nell what best to do with the necklace.

This necklace was a gift from Ambrose Quincy to May, the woman he intended to marry, bought on a trip to India during the 1920's.  When he returns home, however, Ambrose discovers that May has married his brother instead.

The novel moves excellently between the present and the past, in alternating chapters, with the reader following Nell as she uncovers a family secret, and Ambrose as he becomes a third in a tragic love triangle.

The story, despite it's predictability, is interesting through to the end.  The writing is not exceptionable, but is solid. The weakness lies in the lightness of what could have been a serious and compelling read, the shortness of the novel, the lack of details given, and the quick ending.  While it was an enjoyable read, I can't help but think that with more depth, it could have been tremendous.