Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Face In The Crowd by Lynda La Plante

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The coroner's report identifies the body as young, black, female, and impossibly anonymous.  Yet one thing is clear to Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison about the latest victim discovered in one of London's poorest districts - that news of her murder will tear apart a city already crackling with racial tensions, hurling Scotland Yard and Tennison herself into a maelstrom of shocking accusations and sudden, wrenching violence.

Even as London's brutal killer remains at large, Tennison remains locked in a struggle to overcome of her station house's brutal chauvinism and insidious politicking.  And as the department's deeply rooted racism rears its head to overshadow every facet of her new investigation, the trail of her prime suspect is growing colder.  Worse, when the details of the beleaguered detective's stormy personal life explode across the headlines of London's sleaziest tabloids, Tennison's already frenzied determination to bring the killer to justice will be catapulted into obsession - one that could send her spiraling over the edge.

I'm not sure what to say about this one that I didn't say about the first book in the series, Prime Suspect.  So I must humbly beg your forgiveness if this review is a bit shorter that either one of us would have liked it to be.

Jane Tennison, as much as I loved her in the previous book, I fell even harder as I read A Face in the Crowd.  She isn't the nicest or most sympathetic of characters, but there is just something so deeply flawed and fragile about her that I can't help but find her both sympathetic and endearing.  She is someone who has to constantly work the angles and play her cards right in order to not just get ahead, but even be allowed to play the game.  She is in constant fight mode, which wreaks havoc with her personal life but seems to benefit her as she fight in a male dominated workplace.

She is one of those characters that most of her colleagues don't like, but respect her abilities.  She is viewed in a rather sexist way, judged for actions and attitude that would be admired in a man.  When I read books like this, I always wonder how much of this actually goes on in the workplace.  I'm sure it's contingent on what the job is, homicide detectives probably being one of those that does have a bit of sexist overtones to it still.  But, what do I know.  I'm neither a homicide detective or a woman, so I really have no clue on what it is really like.

As much as I love Tennison, what has really been making me fall in love with this series are the mysteries themselves.  Lynda La Plante has such a wonderfully detailed style that somehow manages to keep the story simple and realistic.  None of the details seem unnecessary or out of place, but it's the depth of those details that makes every word and action on the page, jump off and embed itself in my imagination.  I got lost within this world and the back story of this brutal crime.  And by the end, I was content with the outcome and just a bit pleased with the fact I didn't see all of it before hand.

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 reviews.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Sophia Petrillo

I must say that I'm feeling just a tad bit sad over the month of February coming to an end.  I have had so much fun revisiting one of my favorite groups of girls, that It's almost like having The Golden Girls go off the air once again.  I've really enjoyed hanging out with the girls again and I guess it's time to introduce the last of the quartet, Sophia Petrillo, the den mother of them all.

Born in Sicily, the home of a lot of my ancestors, Sophia eventually made her way to the United States, where she took on New York then Florida.  Through children, deaths, divorces, and business failures, Sophia kept a level head and pulled her and hers through it all.

When she was forced to move out of her nursing home and into the home that her daughter, Dorothy, shared with two other women, Sophia quickly fell into the role of mother and mouther to them all.  After listening to Sophia talk, you are able to understand where Dorothy got her mouth from.  Sophia had a caustic wit and lethal tongue, but even at her meanest, there was a deep and everlasting love behind it.  

She was a brilliant storyteller who never tired of telling about the old days in Sicily.  Whether is involved the business of making people sleep with the fishes, putting curses on her rivals, or her unending list of lovers (including Picasso), Sophia had either one of the most interesting your adult hoods or had an even better imagination.  

She was the glue the that held the house together.  Without her, I believe, the other three girls would have made more mistakes (especially in love) than they did with her around.  There wouldn't have been the sage, older woman to give advice and solace when it was most needed.  Sophia was the heart of the group, a heart that still beats every time she appears on the small screen.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 2/27/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Metroreader.

I received an ARC of A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer Dubois for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

I used to own Sometimes I Dream by Mario Frangoulis but have not been able to find it for a while, so the other day I bought a new CD.  He is my favorite tenor by far so I never tire of listening to this one.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Synopsis From Back Cover: 

Wealthy Eliza Fairbanks may have been old and delicate, but she was hardly senile.  So when she claimed to have found bats in her bedroom and arsenic on her strawberries, Miss Pinkerton was promptly assigned the case.

The shrewd nurse-detective watcher over Mrs. Fairbanks, but apparently someone else was watching even more carefully.  For soon the old lady's worries were over.  And unfortunately, so was her life...

There is just something amazing about the atmosphere that Mary Roberts Rinehart can pack into a small piece of real estate.  Once again, she showcases her talent by setting a murder mystery in a home that is inhabited by some very strange people.  You would think that after a while, all these mysteries that take place in spooky houses would become repetitive.  I think with lesser authors, that is a real big possibility.  With Rinehart at the quill, quite the opposite happens.  There is something so refreshing about her motives, characters, and the structure of the murder itself.  Her books are able to capture my imagination no matter how often I've encountered the basic plot line.

The Haunted Lady is no exception to that rule.  For only the second time I had the pleasure of spending time with Hilda Adams, Miss Pinkerton.  This book takes place a few years after Miss Pinkerton, which simply means I have some back reading to do.  Hilda is older, a bit wiser, and the interest in her from "her" inspector seems to be getting the two of them closer together.  She is, once again, sucked into a murder mystery by the inspector, though that's not what it appears to be at first.  When Hilda is first approached to enter the home, it's a babysitting assignment.  Figure out why Eliza Fairbanks thinks someone is out to get here.  Sadly for Ms. Fairbanks, it's quickly becomes obvious that someone was out to get her.

It doesn't take long for our Miss Pinkerton to start putting her nose and intellect into the happenings in the house.  She has a lot of characters and family dynamics to explore and she has no qualms about doing it.  After only two encounters with her, Miss Pinkerton, much like her creator, has become one of my favorites to hang around with.  I'm really looking forward to seeing her at work in the future.

Challenges: VM (Occupational Hazards)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Dorothy Zbornak

I don't care who you are, or where you think you are in life right at this moment, we all think of the future.  We all imagine ourselves 20 or thirty years older and the kind of person we think we will turn into.  And I bet every single one of us can point to a fictional character and say that's it.  It could be they way they look, act, or talk, but something about them reminds you of yourself.  One of those characters for me is Dorthy Zbornak for one very simple reason, her sarcastic wit.

Dorthy started her adult life in such a manner that guaranteed herself some hardships.  She was never all that popular in school and was viewed as a bit of a nerd.  Her self esteem wasn't all that great so she agreed to guy out with a guy because she didn't they she could do any better.  The poor thing found herself pregnant and being forced to marry the guy, the creep she stayed married to for way too many years.

She eventually leaves the jerk and moves in with two other woman, Rose and Blanche, which is where we get to meet this wonderfully sarcastic woman for the first time.  Dorothy is the one person in the house that you could always count on to give you a piece of her mind, but be their for you when all the chips were down.  She had a mouth and a brain which is one of those wonderful combinations of traits. 

It's her relationship with her mother, Sophia, that really makes Dorothy shine.  They have such a love-hate dynamic that has always been fascinating for me to watch.  They both have razor tongues, but they are both as loving and as gentle as puppies when the chips are down are they are needed.  It's such a wonderful relationship to watch that I'm saddened to not be able to watch it everyday like I used too.

I'm really looking forward to being the old guy with the heart of gold and a sharpened tongue.  Thanks to Dorothy, I have an example to follow.

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Memories define us.  So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?  Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight.  And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story.

Welcome to Christine's life.

Ever since I finished reading this book I've been trying to remember when I watched Memento for the first time.  I know it was while it was still playing in theaters, though the only one in Wichita that was showing it was a smaller theater that specialized in less mainstream films,  Sadly, both their locations have closed since then.  So lets say, early 2001 was when I fell in love with the movie for the first time.  Thankfully, I will not have the memory issue with Before I Go To Sleep because I will have the blog to always remind me.

Now, apart from some superficial similarities, Memento and this novel are not the same thing.  They aren't even close.  While they both involve problems with memory and trauma, the movie is a revenge thriller while the book is more of a psychological thriller.  They both have their moments of terror, though I must say the written word and what it allows your own imagination to conjure has any movie beat hands down.

Now that I got that confusing mumbo-jumbo about absolutely nothing out of the way, lets get down to the book.  From the instance that Christine wakes up in a bed she doesn't recognize and a man who looks way too old for her, I was hooked.  The apprehension, confusion, and abject terror that would ooze off the page at various points along the journey kept me going when part of my brain were trying to play catch up.

Christine is one of my favorite kinds of characters, the unreliable narrator that can't be counted on to tell the whole truth.  In most cases, it's because the narrator is trying to hide something from the reader.  In this case, it's because Christine really doesn't know what's going on and has to rely on what her husband tells her and her own journal entries from the day(s) before.  For her, everything is secondhand knowledge.  As the story progresses parts of her memory seem to come back, but it's never very clear if it's because she just read about it in a journal or if the brain is actually trying to repair itself to get her out of an ever growing sticky situation.  She has serious problems trying to figure out what is memory, what is truth, and what are flat out lies.

While I found the premise and plot points to be engaging, I found nothing in the book really surprised me and that the storyline was pretty predictable.  I'm not saying predictable is a bad thing, at times it can actually be the opposite.  In this case, I'm not sure it really had any impact on my enjoyment of the story.  Even the parts that seemed a little far fetched kept me entertained enough to continue on Christine's journey.

The only real issues, and while they may sound major they really didn't turn me off the book, I had were in the way her family are depicted and the frantic nature of the climax.  I know that in any book we are supposed to use our willing suspension of disbelief, but there comes a point where things just don't make sense.  How could people in her life, who are supposed to love her, allow things to get this far?  I just find it hard to believe that despite how painful it must be to be around someone who doesn't remember you when they wake up everyday, that you would completely walk away and allow the "mystery" in this book to happen.

As far as the pacing of the end goes, I'm getting used to it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.  It just seems that too many books are ending in the last few pages with so much kinetic energy spilling off the page that I'm concerned the book itself may catch fire.  Everything seems so rushed anymore.  I'm sure it's somehow supposed to build up tension, but it rarely ever works out that way for me.  For the most part, and I'm including this book, is just seems that the frantic nature does more harm than good.  I would have rather had more of an emotional payoff as opposed to a rushed action scene.

Overall, I think the book was great for what I needed it for.  It was pure escapism for me, but not something that I'll be in a big hurry to read again.

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

Challenges: A-Z

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Hilda Adams hardly considered herself a detective.  She was, first and last, a trained nurse - whose shrewd mind and quick eye just happened to have been invaluable to Inspector Patton of the Homicide Bureau on one of two occasions.

The Mitchell case was apparently going to be one of them. Old Miss Juliet had endured quite a shock when her nephew committed suicide and Hilda was determined to keep an eye on her.  But the old lady wasn't as frail as she looked, judging by the vanishing trick she performed at night.  And Hilda began to suspect she had on her hands either a murder disguised as a suicide - or a suicide disguised as a murder!

Before anyone starts to sigh and grumble about having two Mary Roberts Rinehart reviews in a row, I'll let you know there is one more coming this week as well.  There will be another one in between, but I'm having to get caught up on these or I'll drown under a sea of read books.  Besides, how can you complain about one of the greatest mystery authors to ever walk the surface of the Earth.

Now while Miss Pinkerton is the name of this wonderfully crafted mystery, it's not the first book to star Miss Pinkerton, Hilda Adams.  I will say that the next review of her books is another Miss Pinkerton novel.  I have a sneaky suspicion that reading these in order would have been better, at least as far as following her relationship with the inspector.  Other than that point, I think reading these out of order is just fine.  It's the mystery and the characters that seep through the pages and into you brain, not the timeline.

Hilda is one of those characters that I can imagine myself having tea with, before a roaring fire, and having a chat about anything that came to mind.  She is intelligent, determined, and loyal to her job and her patients.  She doesn't shirk from duty, even if it appears to put her life in danger.  She may complain about the long hours and lack of sleep, but she loves every second of it.  Despite her lack of police training, Hilda has a keen eye to see underneath the layers of red herrings and the personal facades of those she is around.

This particular mystery that Hilda finds herself involved with is one that I think Mary Roberts Rinehart is brilliant at telling.  I would say 95% of the action takes place in the Mitchell House.  Because of that, Rinehart is able to build such a claustrophobic experience for the characters and the readers alike.  It keeps everyone on pins and needles waiting to see what comes down a darkened stairwell or out of room that should have been empty.  The atmosphere hangs over the heads of everyone involved, making them suspicious of each other and just a bit paranoid.

It's a mystery crafted with skill and precision.  A mystery that involved characters that are never what they appear to be and enough clues and misdirections to have even the great Hercule Poirot confused and in doubt of his own reasoning skills.  It's the type of mystery that Rinehart is at her best, and I love every second of it.

Challenges: VM (Occupational Hazards)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 2/20/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Metroreader.

I know I'm a glutton for punishment, but sometimes I just can't help myself.  After reading my first Maise Dobbs book last year, when I was given the opportunity to read more for an upcoming TLC Book Tour, I jumped at the chance.  I wish I could have reviewed all of them, but I'm not that good.  So instead I went with the first two and the last two.  So I got trade paperbacks of Maise Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, and A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear.  I also received an ARC of Elegy for Eddie by her as well.

The last time I was in Barnes & Noble I decided to order two books that they didn't have in stock, well they came in last week and I was able to pick them up.  I wanted The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, but didn't want the movie tie-in cover, so I got this trade paperback instead.  When I reviewed The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, I couldn't find a picture of the cover I had on my edition, so I used this one instead.  I just assumed it wasn't available but when I was looking on line a few weeks ago, I found it.  So I ordered it, and the fact that it's a hardcover is just a bonus.

I was perusing a used music store looking for Whitney Houston's Greatest Hits and was disappointed when the didn't have it.  I looked through their clearance section, 3 for a $1, and found one CD that I wanted.  So I picked up Testify by M People for thirty-three cents.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Frightened Wife by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Anne Collier was certain that her husband, Fred, was trying to kill her.  The terrified beauty immediately went to probate lawyer Wade Forsythe's office to have a will drawn up.  In the event of her untimely demise, Anne wanted her hidden fortune in the hands of her six-year-old son, Billy, and out of the greedy grasp of her unsavory spouse.

But tides then turned.  Fred was put abruptly out of the picture by a bullet through his skull, Anne was confined to a hospital bed in an apparent botched suicide attempt, and little Billy has disappeared.  The frightened wife was not a frightened widow and, as far as the police were concerned, a cold, premeditated murderer.  But Forsythe knew Anne had to be innocent.  And he'd lay his career on the line... and perhaps his life as well to prove it.

This is the second time that Mary Roberts Rinehart has tricked me.  With her wonderfully composed teasers on the back of every paperback book I pick up, I'm instantly convinced that I'm about to dig into an elegant example of her brilliant mind at work.  I was sure that I would spend all 286 pages with Wade and Anne as they tried to defend her innocence and find the real killer who left her husband dead and her bleeding on the floor.  Boy was I wrong, instead of 286 pages, all I got with them were 116 heart pounding pages that had me on tenterhooks the entire time.  As it turned out The Frightened Wife isn't just the title of the book, it's also the name of the first of 5 well crafted short stories that Mary Roberts Rinehart was able to spring on me.  I really think I need to start checking the table of contents when I pick one of her books up.  This is the second time I picked up a book expecting a novel, and getting some of the best examples of mystery short stories.

Unlike the previous collection of her short stories, all 5 of these little gems featured my favorite crime of all, murder.  There is just something so glorious and fulfilling when you read about a bloodthirsty murderer being caught and either sent away or allowed to take a bit easier way out.  With each one of these stories, Rinehart shows of a mastery of storytelling that I don't think many of today's mystery authors could achieve.  The labor and pure genius it takes to display a meticulous crime and it's ramifications in such a short space of time, blows me away every time I happen to run across it.

I already have two other books of hers finished, both of them full length mysteries.  Hopefully I will be able to get to those reviews and the other various ones waiting to be written soon.  In the meantime, if I haven't convinced you to try this author out yet, please do so soon.  I promise you won't be sorry.

Challenges: VM (Occupational Hazards)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Blanche Devereaux

There is just something about 80s sitcoms that I can never shake out of my system. I'm not even sure what it is.  All I know is that I have never really been able to get in sitcoms since.  I've tried and tried, and other than The Nanny in the 90s, I have never really like them.  So this week I'm still exploring the characters from one of my favorites, The Golden Girls.  This week it's the sexy Blanche Devereaux up on deck.

I guess the obvious place to start with Blanche is her brazen sexuality.  As a kid, and I'm not even sure I put a lot of thought into it, I just assumed that older people and sex just didn't exist at the same time.  Of course I'm not sure I wanted to think about adults and sex at all, in any context.  But it's that honest depiction of sexuality in her later years, that has made Blanche a pop culture icon that millions of us can look to and understand that sex doesn't end just because your hair starts turning gray or you are halfway to 100.  At least it give me hope for the future since I'm 35 and single.

Don't get me wrong, I think despite how hard she tried to hide it, beneath that sexpot image was a vulnerable women who attempted to hide that fact as best she could.  She didn't have the greatest relationship with her parents or even her siblings growing up.  None of them were very close which left Blanche looking for love where she could get it, handsome men.  Even as she got older, those patterns never really changed.  She was never very close with her own children, though she did try to mend that later on in life.  It was the men in her life that gave her a sense of self, though she never really did have great luck with them.

She dated more than her share of losers, a few of them criminals who took advantage of her.  When she did find herself in a relationship that could actually work out, she always found a way to sabotage it.  She was just never comfortable enough in a man to trust that she wouldn't be hurt again.  So like a lot of us who have put our faith in the wrong person, she never accepts the fact that another is actually who he appears to be.

I think of all the characters on the show, Blanche was easily the most complicated and perhaps even damaged of them all.  But it's her ability to survive despite all her flaws and insecurities that has allowed Blanche to be a character that most of us can not only identify with, but love as well.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 2/12/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Metroreader.

I received a ARC of Gone West by Carola Dunn from LibraryThing member giveaway program.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whitney Houston, 1963-2012

No matter how many times the death of a celebrity takes me by surprise or makes me remember a particular song or movie that moved me, I'm never prepared for something quite like the death of Whitney Houston.  

I was at work tonight when I first heard the news.  One of my employees said he heard it on the radio, and I refused to believe him at first.  For some bizarre reason I thought he was joking, though why you would joke about something like that is beyond me.  I had to leave the store and go to one of the restaurants in the mall because they always have CNN on.  I stood there for about 5 minutes in a little bit of shock.  It's not because I personally knew her or even felt as if I did.  Instead it felt as if part of my childhood and young adult life has suddenly disappeared.

I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't listen to her.  She had one of those voices that moved me, even when I was too young to really understand the words.  I stayed with her through the 80s and 90s, hoping and praying that she would get away from a destructive marriage to Bobby Brown.  I cheered when she finally left him, and prayed for a big comeback.  Though she never regained the status she once had, she never faded in talent or strength of mind.  I loved her new music as much as I did her older hits.

She is a talent and human being who will be missed by millions.  I pray for her friends and family.  I for one will be one of those who will miss her new music that will never be created, but I will take comfort in all that she has done before.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Rose Nylund

When I was trying to figure out the theme for this month's posts I was watching an episode of The Golden Girls, laughing and enjoying myself.  I mean those four women were just down right hilarious.  Then I realized that I had never said a word about them, nothing.  Not even a peep.  So this month, I will be correcting that outrageous mistake on my part.  Instead of just doing one post about all of them, there will be 4 weeks celebrating these wonderful, one of a kind characters.

Of all the girls, I would have to say Rose Nylund was my favorite.  It's not just because she is from my home state of Minnesota, though I think that helped me fall in lover with her more.  Especially when I was living away from there, she felt like a little bit of home, even though I knew nobody like her.

Rose, for those of you not familiar with the show, came across as a bit naive and innocent.  She would always relate current situations back to people she knew in St. Olaf, MN, her hometown.  Now when I say naive, I mean it.  It would take Rose a bit to understand certain sexual or societal tones that she had not been familiar with.  I think it's because of that trait that made Rose so damn lovable.  In the back of my mind, I always wondered how much of it was real.  I'm just not convinced that someone of her age could be that unaware of certain things.  I always felt as if she laid it on a bit thick to make others underestimate her, giving her the uperhand.

I don't want to get into her bio, but I will say that her father was a monk.  That should give you an idea on how crazy her childhood was.  What I do want to say is how Rose made me feel as I watched her on my screen.  Despite, or because of it, her ditzyness she made me feel as if this was someone I could talk to for hours and would never judge me.  She was caring (always doing volunteer work) and always seemed to have time to listen to others, even when they would not return the favor at times.  She was a truly beautiful character with an amazing soul.  I just wish more television characters today could live up to her example.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

Synopsis From Back Cover:

As she sits in her Bloomsbury home with her two pet birds, elderly Harriet Baxter sets out to relate the story of her friendship, nearly four decades gone, with Ned Gillespie - a talented artist who took his own life at the age of thirty-six, never having achieved the fame and recognition that Harriet maintains he deserved.

In 1888, the young art-loving Harriet arrives in Glasgow at the time of the International Exhibition.  There she befriends the Gillespie family and soon becomes a fixture in their lives.  But when tragedy strikes in the form of a kidnapping and the notorious criminal trial that follows it, the promise and certainty of her new world rapidly spiral into mystery and deception.

Would it be strange if I started off this review by saying I hope nobody reads past this sentence?  That I would prefer it if you were to just close your browsing window and go on to something else.  I know that my request may seem a bit strange, but I assure you that I have my reasons.  The first being is that I really have no frickin clue on how to write a review on this one, without spoiling some of the plot points for you.  I can't describe how I felt about the story and it's characters, without saying why I felt that way.  I guess that wouldn't be a problem for you if you were so inclined to pass up on this book, which I must say would be a big mistake.  What I want every single human being on the face of the globe to do is go out, as fast as you can, and get a hold of this one for yourself.

Now if you are still reading this, don't say I didn't warn you about giving maybe a little too much away in my review.  One other little warning I feel I should get off my chest would be that one you start this one, you will not be able to let it go.  It will get it's manicured talons underneath your skin and probe your nerve endings to pick it up, time after time, until your optic nerves have rested after absorbing every last word.

What can I say about our "heroine" of the piece, Harriet Baxter?  I could say she has a gift for words.  I could even say that she is extraordinary in her storytelling capability.  I may even mention that she is secure within herself and knows exactly how you and I should see her.  After all, I'm pretty darn sure it's the way she sees herself as well.  Now Harriet would tell you that she is a compassionate human being who just wants the best for those around her.  I think she may even mention selfless, kind, a good friend, and she may even bring up that she misses having a father figure in her life.  Now you may only get that last part out of her if she is in a sentimental mood.

What I'm pretty sure Harriet won't mention is that she's delusional, egotistical, manipulative, cunning, has the intelligence of a sociopath, and for all intensive purposes is probably a murderess (though indirectly.)  Now does that make Harriet a bad person?  I would have to say yes.  What I would also have to say is that I loved every minute spent in her company.  I think in the back of her head, she knows exactly what kind of person she is, and she loves it.  She is, despite everything bad she has ever done, one of the coolest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet and I would love to hang out with her.  I have never loved such a horrible person more than I do her.

Now I know that Harriet is the one narrating this story and that there is no way she would have said of the comments I included in the last paragraph.  Instead, and I think against her will, she sprinkles the clues to her true personality throughout the book.  For every once in a while when Harriet is describing an encounter with another character or her behavior in a particular situation, you get the impression that not everything is what she's saying it is.  Harriet herself has no problem mentioning a negative reaction she gets from someone, but she has her own spin on it.  Sadly for her, all those incidents end up adding up.  It doesn't take long to realize that Harriet isn't being as truthful as she could be.

Now I'm not going to get into the specifics of the story, because I do want to leave a little mystery.  Nobody wants the full monty before they actually get to experience that pleasure for themselves.  What I will say though is that Harriet and the Gillespies go through some rather trying times and not single one of them walks away unscathed.   What I will also say is that there is not a single character that I don't love and want to spend more time with.

Now I do want to say one more thing about the review itself.  I tried my best to keep the details out but there was no way for me to talk about Harriet and my feelings towards her without saying the why.  I started, erased, started, erased more times than I could count when I first sat down to type this up.  I tried to balance the information I gave you and I hope it's not too much.  After reading this far, I'm not so sure I did a great job in the articulation of my feelings, but I hope that I presented it in a way that makes you want to go to the bookstore as soon as possible to get this one for yourself.  I promise you won't regret it.

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Favorite Fictional Character --- Frank & Joe Hardy

When I first decided that I was going to pick The Hardy Boys for this weeks feature, I wasn't sure what direction I was going to go in.  At first I thought I would be all intellectual about it.  I was going to delve into the hidden meanings and racial controversies that have sprung up over the years.  I was going to examine, in minute detail, the cultural significance they have come to symbolize.  Then I realized I have no frickin clue about any of that, most of which I think is dreamed up by people who have nothing better to do with their time.  So instead I'm just going to explain why I liked, and still do, them so much.

I don't quite remember in what grade I first discovered The Hardy Boys series.  I'm going to assume, for the sake of argument, that it was around the same time I first came across Nancy Drew.  And while I loved the Nancy Drew books, I fell in love with Frank and Joe Hardy.  You could probably say that as a little kid, I had my first literary crush on them.

Here were these two young men who not only had a great family life, but got to live out these amazing adventures that most of us could (and still do) dream about. They have a world famous detective for a father.  A father that encourages them in their capers, and always seems to need their help.  Because of that the boys kinda get the best of both worlds.  They get to show their father up a bit and earn his approval at the same time.  Their mother is that paragon of virtue, the content housewife and mother.  She stays home and makes sure that all three of the men in her life are taken care of and supported in whatever fashion they need.  She has no problem packing a picnic lunch for her boys to take out on a case and will even throw in extra food for their friends.  It would be impossible to not love a mother like that.

But it's those adventures, some of which take them far from home, that makes Frank and Joe Hardy childhood icons.  They get to do things that and visit places that I could only experience through their eyes.  Now of course, as I've gotten older, I've come to understand a few things about those adventures.  For starters, the boys never seemed to be in school, despite attending Bayport High School.  So I'm not sure if their principal was that understanding or that they were such excellent students, that they always made their work up.  The other aspect I've come to understand is that I can't imagine the money it would have taken for these two young men to do what they do.  So the only assumption you can come away with is that Fenton Hardy was such a world class detective, that he made killer money.  It's either that or they just got everything for free.

The major realization, the one I actually understood to an extent at the time, was that no matter what their adventures, the two boys were going to come out of it just find.  No matter how scary or unpredictable the situations they found themselves in, no real danger was going to land on their doorsteps.  They were never going to be shot through the end by the thief they were trying to expose.  They were never going to have their dead bodies dropped into the river because they got to close to solving a case.  It's that almost sterile sense of "danger" that made the books so hospitable to my young mind.  I don't think I would have enjoyed them as much if these adventures were really that dangerous.  Even in the world of fantasy, my young mind needed massive safety nets.

As an adult, I still value the cleanness of it all.  There are time, as a mystery lover, that I don't want to read something dark and somber.  I need that little bit of lightness to bring me out of that funk that a truly dark book can put you into.  As a father, I rejoice in the idea that there are still fun books out there for younger readers that don't explore the seedier sides of life.  I love the fact that I can turn these books over to my son and know that he will get just as much enjoyment out of them that I did, without his psyche being traumatized.