Saturday, May 31, 2014

More Psychological Study Than Mystery

The swim team mothers give up a lot to get their kids to practices and meets. They are middle-aged, unsatisfied with their lives, particularly their husbands, and living vicariously through their daughters' success. Their remedies, aside from the swim team, are affairs and consideration of divorce.

The mothers aren't the only ones watching the swim team. A serial killer, who lives near the pool, sees the young girls and remembers how much he enjoyed making the light in their eyes go out. He dogs the swim team members and eventually one is found dead.

This book is written in second person narrative style. I believe the author did this to connect the reader connect more closely to the characters. However, for me, it had the opposite effect. In the opening chapters, there were too many characters I was asked to associate with. After the book finally settled primarily on Annie, I was tired of the style. Some readers may enjoy this style, but for me it was tedious particularly since most sentences started with “This is . . .” to tell you what you were seeing.

The setting is interesting. I believe the information about the dynamics of swims teams is accurate. I found it fascinating. The area these families live in sounded idyllic, a country setting with lots of space and access to nature.

I was disappointed in the mystery. I thought it would be more of a typical mystery with an interesting background. In actuality, the focus is on the lives of the women and their dissatisfaction. It became quite tedious to be constantly in their thoughts, particularly when the thoughts were mostly negative.

I can't recommend this book, unless you want to experience a book written in second person (thankfully there aren't many of them), or if you want to experience the way middle-aged, privileged women become unhappy and dissatisfied and how they deal with it.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An Amazing World Filled with Gods, Villains, Heroes and Murder

Seventy-five years after Saypur conquered the Continent, Dr.Pangyui, a Saypur historian, travels to Bulivov, the center of government on the Continent, to study the history and learn more about the Gods who once ruled the land. Before he finishes his studies, he's murdered, and a young investigator, Shara Thivani, and her secretary, Sigurd, are sent to investigate.

Before being conquered by Saypur, the Continent was ruled by six Gods or Divinities. While the Gods were alive the Continent was wealthy and magnificent. Now it's a ruin, and the people are starving. The glorious architecture, the project of one of the Gods, is in ruins. Buildings are shoved together and staircases lead nowhere.

As Shara begins her investigation, mysterious occurrences make her wonder whether all the Gods are dead. The Kaj supposedly killed all of them, but only three deaths can be verified. The city is filled with the spirit of rebellion against Saypur. Shara and Sigurd have to determine whether Dr. Pangyui was killed by the revolutionaries, or whether he got too close to the secrets of the Gods.

The best part of this book is the world Bennett has created. It's complex filled with a mysterious history and an equally mysterious present. I loved discovering the past glories of the Continent. The characters, particularly Shara and Sigurd, are well done. They may a good team. You can't help but like the way Sigurd nonchalantly shoves obstacles out of their path. Shara does more of the analysis, but she is also brave and determined.

If you like fantasy and mysterious worlds, you'll enjoy this book. However, if you're after fast paced adventure, this novel moves rather slowly. I enjoyed the opportunity to savor the unusual world, but at times it stretched out and became a little tedious.

I reviewed the book for the Amazon Vine Program.

An Inheritance, A Victorian Romance, and a Mystery

Julia Conley has been out of work for several months when she inherits the ancestral home of her mother's family. Julia's mother died when she was five, and Julia and her father left England for New York. Her father encourages her to go to England and see the house, but Julia has mixed feeling. She fears encountering all the sadness that surrounded her mother's death. The death her father never talks about.

The house outside of London turns out to be filled with more junk than treasure, but suspiciously, Julia's cousins are eager to help clean it out. There is a mysterious portrait in the drawing room of a woman in Victorian dress. Julia finds herself drawn to the portrait wondering who the woman was.

Imogene Granthan lived in the house in the middle 1800's. Much younger than her husband, she was repressed and unhappy until Gareth Thorne was commissioned to paint her portrait. It is this portrait that has piqued Julia's interest.

The novel toggles back and forth between Julia's story and Imogene's. Although it can be difficult to follow two story lines, these are held together by the portrait. As Julia learns more about the picture, Imogene's life unfolds in the background.

There is enough mystery and romance to keep the book interesting. Julia is a likable character. Her cousin Natalie is the kind of girl you love to hate. The setting is well done. The author makes the dusty old house come to life. If you like romance and mystery, this is a good pick.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

An Amusing Unhuman Mystery

Inspector Hobbes and the Curse is an amusing fantasy take-off on Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Hobbes, the Sherlock of the pair, has enormous physical and mental capabilities that aren't quite human. His bumbling sidekick, Andy, is accident prone, particularly when he drinks too much, or is faced with a beautiful woman.

The novel is set in a charming village in the Cotswolds. The villagers are upset because Felix King, a billionaire developer, is trying to buy up local property. His sister and assistant, Viola, is a tempting target for Andy's attraction to beautiful women.

Panthers and werewolves are sighted in the area around the village and may be responsible for the sheep killings that initially involve Hobbes in the investigation. However, human murder is also on the agenda, and this book turns into a typical murder mystery.

I enjoyed the book. It's light-hearted reading appropriate for a rainy day, or any day you're eager for amusement. The characters are well drawn. They're not quite human, except for poor Andy, but that makes them more fun. The plot and setting are interesting and draw you in to the world of the novel.

Although this is the second novel in Wilkie Martin's mystery series, it can be read as a standalone tale with no reason to go back to the first story for background. I recommend it as a relaxing fantasy read.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Family Struggles with Life Behind the Berlin Wall

Stretching from 1948 to 1989, Life Behind the Wall, tells the story of three generations of one family caught up in the turmoil in Berlin after World War II. The book consists of three self contained stories set in different time periods.

In the first story, Candy Bomber, Erich Becker, a thirteen-year-old boy is trying to help his family, particularly his grandmother, survive. Food is scarce and Erich is willing to dare sneaking into the American compound to steal food.

The second story, Beetle Bomber, features Erich's younger sister. Sabine walks using crutches because of contracting polio. She wants a place of her own and finds a disused bunker. As the Berlin Wall goes up the thoughts of many in East Berlin turn to escape.

In the third story, Smuggler's Treasure, Sabine's thirteen-year-old daughter smuggles Bibles into East Berlin. In this story, the wall comes down, and we experience all the pent up emotion of the Berliners.

I highly recommend this book for middle grade students. The stories focus on heroic adventures appropriate for young teens. The main character in each is a boy or girl thirteen-years-old. This makes it easy for young readers to identify with the main character and vicariously live the adventure.

The stories are historically accurate and are an excellent way to introduce young readers to an important era in world history. Although the stories have a religious undertone, it is not preachy, but more an expression of the characters' way of life.

I reviewed this book for BookLook Bloggers.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Missing Person and a Fabulous Hotel in Bolivia

Jacob Smalls, a freelance travel writer, is asked by his former girlfriend to travel to Bolivia to help find a missing person. She promises him a complementary stay at the fabulous new Hotel Metamoros as an inducement. Jacob loves the freebees his job entails, particularly the five star hotels and comped meals. He also loves his ex-girlfriend and hopes the trip might get them back together.

The missing person, Hilary Pearson, was one of his first editors. She encouraged him, and he has good memories of her. If she's alive, he'd like to rescue her. The trip starts well until Jacob notices Kenny on the same plane. Kenny was a gofer in Hilary's office. Although it's implausible, he thinks he was her boyfriend. He's inept and inserting himself into Jacob's trip doesn't bode well for recovering Hilary alive.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The author clearly knows about travel writers. It's one of the most interesting parts of the book. Likewise he's excellent at conveying the setting. I enjoyed his descriptions of Bolivia. However, the characters are not likable. Jacob is wrapped up in himself. He acts self-assured, but it seems to be a pose. Kenny is an inept side-kick, but not an amusing one. The women are bitchy and vindictive.

The book starts slowly with Jacob getting ready to go to Bolivia. He does some detecting, but the book centers on getting ready to go traveling. The second half of the book picks up. Now he's in Bolivia and is faced with political rivalries as well as problems with hotel personnel, and his girlfriend.

If you like scenes from other countries, you'll enjoy this book, but the mystery and characters could be better.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Useful Overview: Not a Comprehensive Guide

If you're looking for some of the most interesting and famous sites in the US, this book will help you locate them. It's a good book to help you decide where to take the children for a fun, educational trip.

The pictures are excellent. There is a bit about each location and ideas for sights to see, restaurants, and places to stay. However, you have to dig deeper if you want to have a comprehensive view of the area.

The book covers sites in Washington, DC; New York City; Boston; and Chicago. There are sections on New Orleans and the South, Florida, the Grand Canyon and the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest and California.

The guide includes National Parks, places to hike, and other points of interest. If you're planning a trip, this is a good place to start, but once you've decided on you destination, you'll need to get other resources to give an overall idea of the area.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Fixer is Back

In this second novel in the Fixer series, Lydia, the fixer is recovering from serious injuries she received at the end of the first book. She has cut herself off from her former life, but she's still in touch with Mort Grant, the detective with the Seattle PD who saved her life at the end of the first book.

Mort is tracking a serial killer: a prostitute named Trixie who kills her Johns. She's very clever and leads are hard to come by.

Ingrid and Reinheardt Vogel own the Seattle Wings basketball team. The whole city is routing for the team to win the playoffs, but the owners are having trouble with their star player, LionEl.

Although the three separate threads come together for an ending that ties up all the loose ends, I was disappointed in the resolution of Mort's part of the novel because it didn't seem realistic. All three threads are interesting and relatively fast paced. It's easy to follow the different characters and keeps the story moving. However, if you find more than one story line distracting, you won't enjoy this book.

This story focuses primarily on Mort and the serial killer. Lydia has less of a role and doesn't use any of her Fixer talents until the very end although she becomes involved with exposing a child pornography ring. I found the Vogels interesting, but the basketball story has a very loose tie to the other threads, except as background, until the end.

All the characters are interesting and the plot is timely with the emphasis on basketball, serial killers, and in Lydia's case, child pornography. It's an enjoyable read.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Science Fiction, Murder, and Political Intrigue: Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch

When Pittsburgh was destroyed by a nuclear explosion, Dominic lost his wife  he has been immers. Since then he has been immersed in grief unable to work steadily although he is a skilled investigator. He spends as much of his time as he can in the Archive, an interactive digital construction, that allows him to return to savor the life he had with his wife.

The Archive is also used for researching deaths for insurance companies. At the beginning of the story Dominic is working on the case of a young woman who appears to have been murdered. The case is intriguing because someone is erasing parts of the matrix to cover up how the young woman died.

This is a dark book reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and other noir authors. Dominic can't recover from his wife's death. His obsession with finding how the young woman died leads to much more frightening trouble. His unhappiness and obsession made it hard to connect with this character.

The author has built a believable world, but all the electronic media, an internet that is constantly playing in the background, detracted from the plot. If you like science fiction coupled with a murder mystery, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for New Galley.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

An Idyllic Inn, A Wedding, and the Stress of Old and new Relationships

Olivia and Brody, a couple in their fifties, are getting married at Emily's Olivia's best friend's, inn in Provence. When they arrive the setting is perfect. They're very much in love. It seems like a perfect weekend.

Then family and friends arrive: Olivia's two daughters, Brody's best friend, Jake, and Brody's mother, Fanny. Each brings problems. Casey, the good daughter, is upset because her boyfriend didn't come. Nell, the wayward daughter, invites a guy she meets on the plane to come to the wedding. Jake, who will do the wedding ceremony, doesn't believe in marriage. Fanny is distraught. He husband of fifty-five years left her without an explanation. In addition, Emily and her French husband Sebastian, are having marital difficulties.

If you like romance, you'll like this book. The characters hold your interest. Olivia and her daughters are very real. My only criticism is that Brody seems too good to be true. He allows Oliva to deal with her daughters' traumas without becoming involved or upset. He's just there for her.

This is a story about the importance of love, particularly the love of family and close friends. It has a heart warming ending. I enjoyed it.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Historical Romance, Murder, and Political Intrigue

Lily Donaldson lost her father in a fire that also claimed the life of her fiancé, Andy's, father. After the fire, Andy, disappears, and she's left to wonder why.

When Lily's mother dies, she takes a position in Austin. It's 1904 and the city is bursting with wealth and intrigue. Lily settles into her duties at the Butterfly Palace, the palatial home where she's a maid, but the past comes alive when she recognizes one of the guests and her ex-fiancé. She's disappointed when he pretends to not recognize her.

Andy's coldness is not the only problem in Austin. Lily is attacked in the churchyard by a man who is probably the Servant Girl Killer. She escapes, but now she wonders is anyone safe?

Unlike most of Colleen Coble's books this one has a very complex plot with political intrigue, murder, and counterfeiting. It's almost too many threads for one story. The characters seem superficial and behave in ways I doubt would have been allowed in the Austin society of 1904.

I also felt the book was rushed. There are many instances where the clues and what they characters know are contradictory. It even happens when the author is describing the weather. I rather enjoyed the plot, but all the errors detracted from the story. If you like Colleen Coble's books you may enjoy this one, but it's not one of her best.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.