Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen.  Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man.  As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what look like a lake of fire.  She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media.  The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome.  As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

I hope I'm not about to hurt someones feelings, but I'm not sure I can do this any other way.  I would like to be able to give those of you who came here looking for a full review of Flight Behaviorr by Barbara Kingsolver, what you wanted.  Sadly, I can't do that.  I could pretend to have read the entire book, but I would have to lie to you, and that's the last thing I ever want to do.  It's not that I didn't read the first and the last page, because I did.  It's just that I skipped and skimmed my way through the book, hoping for something to grab my attention.

I did manage to read the first 50-60 pages before I gave up, and started my skimming/skipping process.  I wanted so much to enjoy this book, the premise and the issues it explored, grabbed my attention when I agreed to review the book.  And I know a ton of other bloggers who really enjoy this author's work.  So I feel left out of club, one that I desperately want to belong to.  I want to be able to enjoy the author's writing and the story she created, but for whatever reason, I'm just not able to.  Nothing on the page grabbed onto me.  Nothing within the covers of Flight Behavior managed to capture my imagination.

I know I'm going to be the minority on this one, and I'm glad for it.  I don't ever want to give the impression that I don't think this book is worth reading, because for people who don't live within my own skin, it probably is.  I have to accept the fact that I'm not one of them.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

London, 1931.  On the night before the opening of his new and much-anticipated exhibition at a famed Mayfair gallery, Nicholas Bassington-Hope falls to his death.  The police declare the fall an accident, but the dead man's twin sister, Georgina, isn't convinced.  When the authorities refuse to conduct further investigations and close the case, Georgina - a journalist and infamous figure in her own right - takes matters into her own hands, seeking out a fellow graduate from Girton College:  Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator.

The case soon takes Maisie to the desolate beaches of Dungeness in Kent, as well as the sinister underbelly of the city's art world.  And while navigating her way into the heart of the aristocratic yet bohemian Bassington-Hopes, Maisie is deeply troubled by the tragedy of another, quite different family in need.

In Messenger of Truth, Maisie Dobbs again uncovers the dark legacy of the Great War in a society struggling to recollect itself in difficult times.  But to solve the mystery of the artist's death, she will have to remain steady as the forces behind his fall come out of the shadows to silence her.

I've been sitting here for well over an hour, trying to figure out something to say, that I haven't said about the other books in this series.  If you guys have read any of my other reviews, you already know that I love this series.  You know that I think Maisie Dobbs is one of the most interesting characters to ever grace the hallways of mystery ficiton, of any genre of fiction.  She is a complex, engaging character who never fails to puzzle, engage, or even annoy me at times.  Not matter what emotion she is instilling in me, I love her.  But you guys have already read me stating that, even if not in those exact words.  So I'm still at a lost for what to say.

And as is the usual, the mystery itself is just as interesting and complex as the woman charged with solving it.  It's a mystery that takes a surprising turn at the end, and I am more than willing to admit, it was an ending I never saw coming.  The clues and signs were there, but for whatever reason, I completely overlooked them. It was a solution that saddened me in ways I can't go into, otherwise you might figure it out yourselves.

One quick point I do want to mention, while I found the Bassington-Hope family to be one that could hypnotize me into liking them, I'm pretty sure I would have reacted in the same way Maisie did.  At first she was just as hooked as most of us would have been, but overtime she began to realize exactly who they were.  And she accepted them for that, she was on guard, but she enjoyed her interactions with them.  Georgiana, I think I would like her.  She is a very intelligent woman, who despite her outward appearance of frivolity, has a inner strength to be admired.  I also think I would have liked to know the deceased artist.  From everything I learned of him, though he wasn't the perfect angel some wanted him to be, he seemed to be the most down to earth of them all.   Despite the arrogance and selfishness he showed, I don't think he had a malicious bone in his body.  And anyone who had the sight and the talent he had, is someone to know.  And by the way, I really want to spend some time on those beaches of Dungeness.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The Seanchan invasion forces is in possession of Ebou Dar.  Nynaeve, Elayne, and Aviendha head for Caemlyn and Elayne's rightful throne, but on the way they discover an enemy much worse than the Seanchan.

In Illian, Rand vows to throw the Seanchan back as he did once before.  But signs of madness are appearing among the Asha'man.

In Ghealdan, Perrin faces the intrigues of Whitecloaks, Seanchan invaders, the scattered Shaido Aiel, and the Prophet himself.  Perrin's  beloved wife, Faile, may pay with her life, and Perrin himself may have to destroy his soul to save her.

Meanwhile the rebel Aes Sedai under their young Amyrlin, Egwene al'Vere, face an army that intends to keep them away from the White Tower.  But Egwene is determined to unseat the usurper Elaida and reunite the Aes Sedai.  She does not yet understand the price that others - and she herself - will pay.

So not much happens in this book, despite it being 604 pages long.  Well, I take that back, a lot happens, but most of it is set up for what happens in future books.  Elayne, Nynaeve, and Aviendha, along with some Sea Folk and members of the Knitting Circle, have used the Bowl of Winds to right the weather and save the people of the world from suffering an unending drought and famine.  Sadly for them, that much power brought the attention of the Seanchan on them, and they had to run for their lives.  Aviendha being that showoff that she is, did something nobody thought was possible.  She unwove a weave, magic terminology. causing a massive explosion on the side of the gate they used to run from the Seanchan.  She is so feisty that one.

Perrin on the other hand has been busy trying to get the Prophet in line.  Along the way he picks up the Queen of Ghealdan, who swears an oath of fealty to him.  He also rescues a high ranking member of the Whitecloaks, those who were left alive by the Seanchan, and Queen Morgase, who is in disguise.  The world thinks she is dead, and does she tell Perrin who she is, of course not.  Instead she and her fellow traveller's take on assumed names and enter into service with Perrin and Faile.  Can I just say, I'm still not liking Morgase, though I do respect her.  I love most of those who are traveling with her though, and I wish them nothing but the best.  Then just when things couldn't get worse, the Shaido Aiel capture Faile, Morgase, Alliandre (the aforementioned Queen of Ghealdan), along with a few of the other women with Faile.

Egwene, being as young and naive and she can be, is trying her best to get the rebel Aes Sedai behind her, and finally launch their effort to depose the bitch queen, Elaida.  Through some really bad decision making on those opposing her, Egwene manages to gain the upper hand, and with Gareth Bryne leading her army, they strike out to fulfill their destiny.

Rand on the other hand is starting to go crazy, he rightly sees enemies all around him, and those he has put into positions of power are starting to turn against him.  His paranoia and overly inflated ego are starting to interfere in his decision making process, causing him to make mistakes.  Sadly the big mistake he makes in this book has deadly consequences for those around him, and for his sanity.

The Path of Daggers, which is the eighth book in the series, is really a filler book.  It sets up the action that is about to take place.  It's still a great book, but you have to really love these characters and care about what happens to them, or you are going to be in for a lot of boredom.  Either way, if you want to read this series, there are events and people in this book that need to be paid attention to, otherwise you will be lost later on.

Other Books In The Series:

The Eye of the World
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising
The Fires of Heaven 
Lord of  Chaos
A Crown of Swords

Friday, June 21, 2013

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Linnet Ridgeway has it all: beauty, brains, money, and a new, handsome husband.

Unfortunately, her husband's jilted ex-fiance - and Linnet's former best friend - has followed them on their Egyptian honeymoon cruise and seems to be shadowing the couple at every turn.  When Linnet is murdered, the killer seems obvious - until she produces an airtight alibi.  Soon all the other passengers on board, including an American lawyer, a nervous chambermaid, and a communist are suspects.  Hercule Poirot must call upon all of his skills of reason and deduction to break this case before the murderer strikes again.

After Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile is my second favorite Hercule Poirot book.  I don't think I've ever been shy on how I've expressed my feeling towards the Belgian detective, so I don't see a need to reiterate them here.  Within the pages of this book though, everything that normally annoys me with him, goes right out the window.  For whatever reason, Poirot shows an almost softer side, along the same way he did in Peril at End House.  I just reread the review I did for that one, and for some reason I didn't seem to touch upon that aspect.  Now, I really can't talk about it without giving some things away, but I'll do my best to keep it as generic as possible.

In both books, Poirot has a fondness for the murderers.  You can tell that he feels for them, and in Death on the Nile, tries to steer them onto a different course, albeit subtly.  There seems to be an almost paternal interest on his part, though watered down from what most of us would associate with that word.  It's that softer side of him, albeit a small side, that I find myself drawn to when it is shown to his reading audience.  It's a side that Colonel Hastings can bring out of him when he is around, but most of the time it's only caught in faint glimmers or gestures.  With Death on the Nile, it seems to come out more, and I almost get to the point where I like Poirot, as opposed to just respecting his mind and abilities.  Dont' get me wrong though, the arrogance and superiority are still there, but seeing a more three dimensional detective helps me ignore it more than normal.

As far as the mystery goes, which I won't tell you anything about, it's typical Agatha Christie.  And by that, I mean it's brilliant.  The slight of hand Christie displays with her plotting and story development is genius at times, and she doubles down here.  I still remember the first time I read this book, and the way I reacted when the solution was presented.  I never saw it coming, but when I pondered on it a bit, it was the only solution possible given the way she developed the story and it's characters.

And I want to end on a quick side note.  One of my favorite characters in the novel is Salome Otterbourne, a famous romance novelist who specializes in making her books as filled with sex as possible.  The woman has sex on the brains, and is a raging alcoholic.  If she wasn't such a dysfunctional character, she would be hilarious to be around.  If there is comic relief to be found in this book, it's when Salome is presenting herself to the world.  She was played beautifully by Angela Lansbury in the 1978 movie version, pure perfection.

And if any of you watched her TV show, Murder, She Wrote, you may have witnessed what I think is a little homage to that role.  In the 14th episode, "My Johnny Lies Over the Ocean", of the first season Jessica, a mystery novelist is on a cruise ship with her recently widowed niece.  Here niece is subsequently terrified at the end, and in order to get a confession from culprit, Jessica acts a drunk and speaks in much the same manner as Salome Otterbourne.  It's a hoot to watch.

Challenges: VM (Murder on the High Seas)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Unsuspected by Charlotte Armstrong

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Luther Grandison, famous stage a motion picture director, is admired by thousands and loved by many.  He is also a killer - a bold, evil, merciless killer.  His quiet charm coils about those near him with silent, deadly power.

Above all, Grandison is unsuspected - unsuspected by everyone except a young man and a girl.  This is the story of their struggle to prove his guilt before it is too late.  It carries them deeper and deeper into terror, dominated by his brilliant, sinister mind.  Page by page, line by line, their tale moves to a screaming climax.

Can you believe that I never knew this book existed before a month or two ago.  I had no clue that one of my favorite Claude Rains movies happened to be based on a book.  I can't begin to tell you how often I'm surprised when I find out a movie I love, started life on the printed page.  I think that says something bad about me, but I've lived with it so long, I guess it's just time to accept it.

There is really no way for me to talk about this book without giving the whole kit and caboodle away.  I would have to explain how awesome Grandison is, and how much I envy the mind the man has, even if it's towards the pursuit of death and destruction.  I would have to explain why I think Althea (played by Audrey Totter in the movie) is one of the most interesting characters in the book, and that I'm glad she didn't share the fate her movie counterpart did.  I would need to compare and contrast the role of Jane, and how I prefer the Constance Bennett version over the book.  Then I would need to deconstruct the romance element and why I think that the way the relationship between Matilda (Joan Caulfield) and Steven Francis Howard (Ted North), progressives at a more natural level in the movie, but I prefer the book's ending.  Despite the trickery and down right lying that Steven had to do in order to get into the Grandison household, it's nice to know that faking a marriage to a dead woman, doesn't necessarily make the marriage a dead idea when the woman comes back alive.

This is another example of the issues I had with reading The Thin Man for the first time.  I love the movie so much, it's hard to separate the movie from the book, and most of the time, the book is found lacking just a bit.  It goes without saying, that it normally has more to do with the actors than the storyline itself.  Though the movies does have a higher body count.

Whether you decide to read the book, watch the movie, or do both (what I think you should do), you are going to be treated to a wonderfully entertaining story of murder and deceit.  Both the author and the director are able to surround the events in a hazy cloud of suspense that you will forget you know who the bad guys are.  You won't remember until it's too late that you aren't supposed to like Grandison, that he is capable of being the unsuspected.

Challenges: A-Z, VM (Book to Movie)

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb (Giveaway Included)

Synopsis From Back Cover:

It's 1937.  In a village on the Dorset coast, fourteen-year-old Mitzy Hatcher has endured a wild and lonely upbringing, until the arrival of renowned artist Charles Aubrey - along with his exotic mistress and their daughters - changes everything.  Over the next three summers, Mitzy sees a future she had never thought possible, and a powerful love is kindled in her.  A love that grows from innocence to obsession, from childish infatuation to something far more complex.  Years later, a young man in an art gallery looks at a hastily drawn portrait and wonders at its intensity.  The questions he asks lead him to a Dorset village and to the truth about those fevered summers in the 1930s.

Katherine Webb is one of those authors that I first discovered in 2011 when I read her first book, The Legacy.  It didn't take me long to fall in love with the author's extraordinary talent of weaving past and present into one cohesive narrative.  With most other authors, I find myself getting distracted when a book shifts to the past, mainly because these shifts are only there to further the "current" storyline, so they aren't as well developed.  That's not the case with The Legacy or with A Half Forgotten Song.  The shifts are absolutely essential and in some ways a hell of a lot  more important than what's going on in the present.  They are the backbone of the story, not the helping hand.

If the flashbacks are the backbone of the story, then Mitzy acts as the connective tissues holding the whole thing together.  Whether we are visiting with her elderly self, listening to her version of what transpired between her and Charles Aubrey, or witnessing the events first hand as we are given a truer glimpse of what transpired during those fateful summers, Mitzy is the one who ties not only the characters together, but the it's her influence and her actions that set the entire tone of the book.  And if you are annoyed by the above sentence structure, I apologize.  Every twist and turn eventually leads right back to Mitzy and The Watch, her cottage on the coast.

Not to take this analogy even further, but if the flashbacks are the backbone and Mitzy acts as the connective tissues, then it's Zach and his search for purpose that takes the place of the neurons, spurring and charging the action forward.  I think I'm really stretching my analogy a little thin right now, but it's too late to stop now.  Zach is a young father whose marriage has fallen apart and his daughter is being taken across the Atlantic to America.  His art gallery has been hanging by the skin of it's teeth, and he is a man who for many reasons is at a crossroads in life, and all roads seem to lead to nothing.  Through an odd set of occurrences, Zach finds himself heading to the Dorset coast and the village where Mitzy and the Aubreys had their lives altered beyond belief all those years ago.

It's Zach's search for the truth behind a series of sketches by Aubrey that have been popping up on the market, and a half foggy notion of writing a book focusing on those three summers Aubrey spent in the village, that jump starts Mitzy's longing for the past, allowing us to get the truth behind what happened all those years ago.

Now forgive me if this review does not seem worthy of the book, because after reading what I've already written, I'm not sure it does.  For whatever reason, I'm having a hard time putting my thoughts and feelings into words.  I'm not finding the right way to express how much I love this books and it's characters.  Much like The Legacy, A Half Forgotten Song is about family and those connections that ties us all together, even if those connections exist only in our own heads.  It's about secrets and actions done in haste, born of strong emotions, that take upon themselves a life of their own.   But most of all, it's about the consequences, the foreseen and unimaginable, of those actions.  It's about how we deal with and internalize them, how we cope and how we hide from them, and how eventually, no matter how hard we try, how we have to face them head on and hope for the best.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other, hopefully more coherent reviews.

The wonderful group at TLC Book Tours have generously offered my readers the chance to win a copy of this book for themselves.  The giveaway will last until 11:59 pm, CST, on 6/27/13.  You must be a resident of the United States to enter, and all you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Nailed by the Heart by Simon Clark

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The Stainforth family - Chris, Ruth and their young son, David - moved into the ancient seafort in a nice little coastal town to begin a new life, to start fresh.  At the time it seemed like the perfect place to do it, so quiet, so secluded.  But they had no way of knowing that they'd moved into what was once a sacred sit of an old religion.  And that the old god is not dead - only waiting.

I'm not sure if you guys remember, but twice now I've mentioned the three horror novels I picked up from The Dollar Tree in April.  I have already don't the review for the book I hated, Darkness, Tell Us by Richard Laymon.  And I've even done the review for the book I loved, Dead Sea by Brian Keene.  Now it's time for the book that fell in the middle.  I didn't love it, didn't hate it, and really, I have no opinion of it.  So needless to say this review will be rather shorter than the previous two.

Basic idea of this book is pretty simple.  Family buys an old seafort located in a small coastal town, their dream is to turn it into a hotel.  Needless to say the village is a little odd, populated with some rather eccentric characters.   Things quickly start to get a little strange.  The son is sacrificing his favorite toys to the waves.  Massive plants are growing out of the walls and a chair seems to have sprouted new life.  The people in the town start to get stranger, and the misshapen dead are coming forth from the ocean floor.

Actually, I don't care enough to really even go into extensive detail with this one.  All you have to know is this, the townsfolk are trying to use the power of this returning god to fix all their problems, but they aren't alone in their desire.  A group of terrorists are amongst the group that have arisen from their watery graves, and they too want this power to come back to the land of the living.  The two groups face off, one group wins and the other side loses.  The end.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Winner, Winner!

The winner of Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley is.... Carol of Carol's Notebook!

The winner of A Study in Revenge by Kieran Shields is.... Kaye of Pudgy Penguin Perusals!