Mystery, Love, Horror Book Reviews

In May I read a bit of everything, mystery, horror, love and , of course, my favorite dysfunctional families. So here, in brief, are my book reviews for fourteen of the books I read last month.

  • Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise by Oscar Hijuelos   – I’m a Twain fan so when I won this book at book event I was delighted.  And, I was not disappointed. This novel is based on carefully researched historical data and was written by one of the masters of this genre. In this, his last book, Hijuelos, does a marvelous job of showing us Samuel Clemons and Henry Stanley ( as in Stanley and Livingstone fame). It’s a great read about people, places and the times – late 1800s. *****
  • Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter – I read this for the Mystery Book Club I belong to at my local library and while I was very annoyed by the sexism in this book (it was written in 1996 and even then he should have known better) it is the first in the Detective Morse series. Yes, the same series you can watch on PBS. And, since I don’t think women act like this I’m only giving it two stars. **
  • Home by Marilynne Robinson – If you read and loved the Gilead books you enjoy this lovely read.  The characters are luminous and down to earth. Completely believable as they struggle and survive. ****
  • The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George – Simple and nice. ***
  • Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards – This book gets very mixed reviews but I’m on the loved it side.  I found it to be a compassionate, well written picture of a very sad/hard to understand life.  I think true pacifism is a difficult concept for most of us to understand but it made me think.  *****
  • Mystery at Crown Island by June MacLeod – Written by a local writer. A good beach read. ***
  • The Girl In the Red Coat by Kate Hamer – I found this debut thriller to be a good read, overall.  There were places where the story slugged along and, some of the time, the 8 year old girl was a bit unbelievable but what started out as a missing child, kidnap story quickly became a story about survival.  Give it a try. ****
  • Moon Daughter by Zoe Ghahremani – A story in Iran of a family and the value of human life.  ***
  • Carrots: A Shelby Nichols Adventure by Colleen Helme – A fun, easy read.  You’ll enjoy the main character but the editing leaves much to be desire.  **
  • Never Smile At Strangers by Jennifer Jaynes – Fans of mystery novels and tension-filled psychological thrillers will genuinely enjoy reading this book.  Nothing new but well written and has a very great moments. ****
  • Awakened by Sheri Darksbane – An urban fantasy about a nerd geek. lesbian.  If you’re in the right frame of mind you might like this one.  I wasn’t crazy about it and it never really fully engaged me. **
  • The  Secret Son by Jennifer Burke – After the death of his wealthy father in a car crash, Seán Murtagh flies home to Wicklow for the funeral. There he is stunned to discover that his father’s will disinherits his family and leaves everything – including the family home – to a secret son, Andrew Shaw. This premise alone was enough to get me reading and as the characters were developed I continued to read.  This is well researched, modern Irish novel. *****
  • The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman – ***
  • Prisoner Moon by John VanRockel – *

 

Books, Books, Books

    I’ve been traveling a great deal and when I travel I read books but I don’t blog. So, here’s a quick list of what I’ve read and what I thought about it.

  • Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen – I’m a big Quindlen fan.  I’ve followed her since I first read her column in the Wall Street Journal.  This book is a lovely read with some good twists and a perfect ending.  *****
  • One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson – Jackson Brodie Book 2 – One act of extreme road rage and the world tips and things get crazy.  You don’t need to have read Book 1 – Case Histories – but if you like a series read book one first.  I like this character and hope Atkinson writes a few more. *****
  • A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball – while this is a little disturbing it was a good read. A bit of science fiction, since this takes place in the future in a utopian society.  The premise is that persons who want to commit suicide can be allowed/helped to start their lives over by deprograming their brains and then reprogramming them.  It keep me up until I finished it. ****
  • Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock – Believe it or not this is beautiful love story about manic depression and cancer.  I laughed.  I cried. And I recommend this as a book club suggestions.  *****
  • The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich – Weird, suspenseful, thriller.  It was compared to Gone Girl but I don’t think it should be.  True the couple in this book is not loveable nor is anyone, but this marriage and the couples actions will keep you reading if for no other reason then to figure out what is going on and how they will get out of the mess. ***
  • Mating In Captivity by Esther Perel – I read this for book club and I will say, it provoked an interesting conversation about sex and relationships. But, I didn’t like it. However, if you like books about couples therapy you might enjoy it. **
  • When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker – A simple story about losing the love of your life and letters from beyond the grave that reveal secrets that make those left behind search for answers. It was simple but if you like this type of book it was better than some. ***
  • Temple Secrets by Susan Gabriel – This was advertised as Southern Humor and while it is about the south and the characters are written with humor and great skill, it is much more then that.  Focusing on the Temple Family members – black, white, good, bad – all the extended family with all their quirks.  It was an excellent read and I hope to see more from Gabriel. *****

 

August 29, 2015

It’s been an excellent week for reading – too hot to do anything else. Some days I read at the beach. Some days I stayed inside with the air conditioning on. Six of the books I read were 5 star books! Truly a great week for reading! Next week I must get back to work no matter how hot it is.

The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles – Two orphaned sisters, both excellent seamstresses, take wildly divergent paths to adulthood in 1920’s Brazil. One makes a disastrous marriage to a wealthy man and the other becomes an outlaw. Full of vivid detail, some parts of this book are excellent and some are just overly long. ***

A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler – This is my favorite Tyler book. I’ve read it several times because I love these characters. It’s a story of a totally trustworthy young man who no one trusts. It always makes me feel good when I read this book. *****

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg – I’m and Elizabeth Berg fan so even though I knew this was a departure from her usual style, I knew it was about George Sand and I thought it would be fascinating – but – it wasn’t. How Berg managed to make Sand boring I don’t know but I really can’t recommend this book. But I’m still a Berg fan and I appreciate the fact that she stepped out of her comfort zone and gave this a try. *

After You by Julie Buxbaum – an emotional story about devastating loss. It starts a bit slow but keep reading – it’s actually a well told story that will make you cry and cheer. *****

Swimming Upstream by Ruth Mancini – I thought this would be simple “chick lit” but I gave it a try because it was free on Kindle and I was happily surprised. This is a book about friendship, and rejection, and love, and mental illness and it totally surprised me in the epilogue. Give it a try. *****

Then and Always by Dani Atkins – I have to say this book was Great! I thought it would be okay but it was surprisingly wonderful. It begins with a terrible accident that disfigures a young woman and changes her life but then another accident seems to show an entirely different life – it will keep you guessing right to the end as to which life is real. *****

In The Mirror by Kaira Rouda – a serious look at a young women who is facing her imminent death from breast cancer. But while it is a serious, sad, topic, Jennifer is funny and bright and still thinking clearly. I started this book with trepidation but I loved, and throughly enjoyed, every minute of the read. *****

Defending Jacob by William Landay – this is a well written legal thriller. A normal teenager is charged with murder and his family reacts. The father is an attorney who totally believes in his son’s innocence but as evidence mounts it is hard to hold the family together. *****