Saturday, November 08, 2014

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Mystery

Dexter Morgan is a blood analyst at the Miami Police Department, but he has a very dark secret. Dexter likes to kill. Trained by his adopted dad, Dexter was given a code and only kills those that deserve it; criminals that the justice system has let slip through the cracks. When body parts start turning up around Miami completely drained of blood, Dexter can't help but admire the work it takes to do that. His sister, Officer Deborah Morgan, wants to become a detective and believes this is the case that will get her there. She works with her brother to try and figure out who is doing this and catch them. But Dexter can't figure out if he really does want to catch this "artist".

Having watched the television series, I knew the background on the characters. I wonder if this would have made as much sense to me without having seen the tv show first. I also wonder if I would like Dexter without the tv show.

The story itself was more about Dexter than it was about the mystery, which is odd for a mystery book. Usually the characters take a back seat for the mystery but it was the opposite in this case. I would read the next book the series, but hopefully it focuses a little bit more on the mystery.

First Line: "Moon."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Dangerous Denial by Amy Ray

Thriller

Trevor Mayhew grew up in a broken home. His father abused him and his mom passed away when he was young. Trevor's grandmother was the only source of happiness in his life but he was forbidden from seeing her, until his grandmother took Trevor and ran away. Years later, the past catches up to him.

BK Hartshaw also had a less than loving childhood. Her mother favoured her other sister and, once their mom married a rich car mogul, the kids were basically forgotten. Trying to make something of herself, BK moves in to an apartment with her best friend and starts work at a PR firm. BK's friend has a stalker though, causing the girls to always be looking over their shoulders.

This book is a thriller through-and-through. Most of the characters are treated horribly, which makes you root for them and hope they make positive changes in their life that their families try to stop from happening. Despite rooting for these characters, I felt like I didn't know them enough. I think this may have been a factor of the time shifting in the book. There were months and even whole years skipped in the book for, I assume, the purpose of shortening the book, however if some of that additional time had been included in the book I feel like I would have more context behind the characters and the decisions they were making. For example, what really happened between BK and her boyfriend Max? Rather than their split making sense, it felt like just a tool for driving the plot forward. Added to this, the book started with headlines as to which year we were in, but later in the book this seemed to be forgotten and I got a little confused as to where in time we were.

This book is a quick, fun read for those in to thriller novels. I would recommend it as a summer read, even though that season is now behind us. Pretty good for a debut author!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this book tour!

First Line: "BK Hartshaw stared at the face of the man with the gun."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

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About the Author
Amy lives near the short but picturesque seacoast in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter. Before becoming a writer she owned an old fashioned five and dime store where, in addition to regular priced merchandise, she had a display of items that actually retailed for five or ten cents each.

Dangerous Denial is her first published novel.

Check out her Facebook | Twitter

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Fiction/Literature

Sarah is a busy and successful mom and career woman. She's a VP of HR at a consulting company and always on the go. Juggling this with her three kids takes a lot of work but somehow her husband and her manage to keep all the balls in the air. While trying to drive and answer emails, Sarah gets in an accident that results in a serious brain injury: she can no longer see or process anything on her left side. The disease is called Left Neglect and its sufferers don't realize that there is even a left. The picture of just the right looks whole to them. Sarah must go through rehabilitation, which brings her mother in to town to help her, and a variety of unresolved issues about her childhood.

Having never heard of Left Neglect, this book does a fantastic job of explaining what it is and an even better job of how someone processes and deals with having it. We watch Sarah go through many emotions from when she doesn't even know she has any problems to surprise of having the disease, some denial, hope to getting back to work, and acceptance of how hard things are going to be.

Funnily enough, I felt that Sarah was a bit stuck up (she mentioned how she was a Harvard grad too many times to count) and don't feel like I was pulling for her as much as I could have been if the character hadn't been written the way she was in the first 100 pages or so. I'm not sure if this was meant to be like this, or if Genova was iterating how educated and put-together Sarah was so we could see how left neglect could completely destroy everyday life for someone like that.

I really enjoyed this book. It taught me about something I never knew about before and was an easy read.

First Line: "I think some part of me knew I was living an unsustainable life."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

Historical Fiction

In 18th century England, Thomas Kellaway and his family decide to move to London to put behind some painful memories of losing their son and try to take advantage of an opportunity with the circus. Kellaway and his son Jem are carpenters, specializing in making chairs. They end up living next door to William Blake, a poet and engraver that sympathizes with the French. Jem makes friends with another girl his age, Maggie, who has lived in London her entire life and is the daugther of a wheeler and dealer who tries to sell anything to anyone.

This book doesn't give an in-depth look at Blake's life, as he plays a secondary character, but we do learn a little of his poetry and perhaps of its origins. As far as character studies go from usual Chevalier books, I feel like we only skimmed the surface with Blake. I didn't really learn much about him aside from the fact that he engraved, he wrote poems, he was on the French's side, and he seemed to like children. More details would have been appreciated.

The lack of a strong theme was a big problem for this story. It didn't seem to be about much, which made it a slow and rather unsatisfying read. This is my least favourite book that I've read by Chevalier so far.

First Line: "There was something humiliating about waiting in a cart on a busy London street with all your possessions stacked around you, on show to the curious public."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead

Non-Fiction

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small village in the mountains of France, known as place for summer vacations. During World War II, it served as much more than that. The locals helped hide Jews, resisters, and communists. Many were children that were integrated in to every day life so that non-locals wouldn't know who was supposed to be there and who wasn't. The villagers thought their actions were completely normal and wanted no recognition for what happened, which is why we are only hearing about this story now.

My expectation from this book was to be horrified by the Nazi's actions and uplifted by the actions of the French villagers. This book paints Vichy France, the government, as the problem by blindly following the Nazis and doing whatever they request without pushing back. Having read Sarah's Key a while back, this wasn't surprising but for some reason it still surprises me when I read it.

The problem with this book is that I didn't feel overly uplifted by the story of what the French villagers were doing. Reflecting on this, I think it's because I felt that Moorehead skimmed over everything, trying to cover off each person, story, event and never took anything in to details. Just when I was starting to get in to the rhythm of the story that was being told, it was on to the next person, the next story. For example, author Camus was mentioned because he was in France during the war but it didn't really tie in to anything in the village and it was never in more than a few paragraphs at a time.

The other item in this book that seemed to have me reading it slower was the use of proper nouns. Every single sentence in this book had multiple proper nouns being used. I had to slow down for each to try and remember whether it was a city, person, group, etc. Opening up the book to a random sentence (I added the bolding): "His headquarters were at Le Puy, on the Boulevard Marechal Fayolle, named after the much-decorated hero of the Somme and the Marne." None of the proper nouns mean anything to me. It's a weird complaint and one I've never had about a book before, but an issue to me nonetheless.

I feel that this book would have been much more effective if Moorehead had focused on a few characters and committed to telling us their stories from beginning to end.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour.

First Line: "When Aaron Liwerant brought Sara, his fiancee, to Paris from his parents' house in Warsaw in the summer of 1926, France was a good place for refugees."

Rating:
(3/5)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Black & Blue by Ian Rankin

Mystery

Inspector John Rebus is managing a few cases, harassment from television stations about a possible wrong conviction, and a personal interest in two serial killers. The cases start with a man that is impaled on a fence, tied to a chair, with a bag over his head. Did he jump or was he pushed? What circumstances caused the man to end here? The evidence takes him up north, looking at a crime boss Uncle Joe. He is known to run drug rings but no one can touch him.

While investigating this crime, Rebus' old partner commits suicide. This is after media has been hounding him on a case he closed many years ago where some suspected that his partner planted evidence. The media hounds Rebus too and an internal investigation is opened with someone who is not too fond of Rebus heading it up. Rebus is assigned DI Jack Morton, an old friend, to watch Rebus' every move and follow him everywhere.

This makes it harder to Rebus to continue his unofficial investigation in to the serial killer Bible John, and his more recent copy cat killer, Johnny Bible. There was lots going on in this book but everything managed to work and fit together quite nicely.

Morton and Rebus being paired up was the best part of this book. The two have a mutual respect for each other but Rebus is angry enough at having Morton watching his every move to get a few good one liners off at Morton. Morton also, somehow, manages to get Rebus off alcohol. Let's hope it lasts. He may just be able to make something with Gill work out if things stay this way.

First Line: "Tell me again why you killed them."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne

Mystery

FBI Agent Jessica Blackwood is called in to consult on an interesting case because of her background as a magician. The Warlock has hacked in to the FBI's website and left an encrypted message. It takes their computer scientists a week to uncover that the message contains GPS coordinates and, when they visit those coordinates, they find a dead girl, dead only a few hours. The problem is that this girl died 2 years ago. The FBI knows they are dealing with an illusionist and hope that Blackwood's experience can help them.

Not surprisingly, things escalate and the illusions get more complex and on a larger scale. They need to find The Warlock before he kills more people, and before the public starts to believe what he is doing is real.

This book is unlike anything I've read in the past. I've read books on magicians and illusionists and books about mysteries but I can't recall reading one that combines the two. I really enjoyed the magical element brought to the crimes. It's rare that I wish for more crimes to be committed in books, usually I want the good guys to find the bad guys, but I couldn't help but wishing there were a few more tricks up The Warlock's sleeves to see what else Mayne could come up with.

I also enjoyed Blackwood as a character and everything her background brought to the story. I've never seen Mayne's tv show but it's obvious he knows his stuff. However I do have a few small issues with this book. Blackwood's ex-boyfriend, Damian, made a few appearances throughout the book and it seemed that whenever Mayne couldn't figure out how to get the FBI to figure out the next clue, Damian did it for them. It felt a bit like cheating. I also have an issue when books turn the killers on the main character. This happens far too often in books that I read and it always feels cheap to me. Why can't characters figure out who the murderer is and then capture them? Why does it always have to involve being taken? My last issue would be with the ending. I felt like everything wrapped up too quickly and I wondered if I missed something. The book was left open for another Blackwood novel though, and I would pick it up if another were to come out.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour.

First Line: "You're going to die."

Rating:
(4/5)