Sunday, January 25, 2015

All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland

Fiction

The Drummond family is getting together for the first time in many years to watch daughter Sarah launch in to space at Cape Canaveral. Mom Janet is separated from husband Ted, who shot son Wade when he found out he had slept with his new wife. Wade, protecting his mom, had the bullet pass through him in to his mom, infecting her with HIV. Sarah was born with one hand due to the medications that Janet was on during her pregnancy. Youngest son Bryan has tried to kill himself more times than they can count but has now gotten his girlfriend pregnant and has found a reason to live. Obviously this is an extremely dysfunctional family. The title of the book very accurately describes what to expect.

The characters in this novel are what makes this book. They are all imperfect yet as a whole family unit it works and they support each other. The whole book is completely unbelievable but it doesn't matter because you get invested in the characters and their crazy adventures.

I've been a bit disappointed with recent Coupland books I've read. Even though this isn't my favourite by him I still enjoyed it.

First Line: "Janet opened her eyes - Florida's prehistoric glare dazzled outside the motel window."

Rating:
(4/5)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

Non-Fiction

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, are attempting to reach the peak of 21,000 foot Siula Grande in Peru. The two eventually make it to the top but then it starts to snow and cracks appear in the ice. Simpson ends up falling and breaking his leg badly. He's at the top of the mountain and you need two legs to get down. Simon tries to help Joe but it gets to the point where Simon needs to cut Joe's rope to save himself, leaving Joe to find a way down the mountain himself.

Simon returns to base camp with a heavy heart and a lot of guilt. But Joe isn't dead. He's still fighting to get down the mountain despite his broken leg and no food or water. This is a tale of survival, but it felt rather monotonous to me. He fell while climbing over rocks and we're told about each individual rock he fell over. Having read books like Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, I felt that this one was missing some of the magic from that book. Everything just happened and there wasn't much suspense about it nor awe from it because it was drawn out.

Part of the problem could have been the language used. While I know what some of the terms are, I had to look up "col" and "abseil". Wouldn't rappel be a better word in place of abseil? Wouldn't more people understand it? Even though this story takes place in 1985, it has a timeless quality to it. This could happen today.

Even though there seem to be three afterwards for this book, no wh ere does it actually state what the hell was wrong with his leg! All the book spent talking about how much pain his leg was in and what was wrong with it, I expected to learn exactly what the problem was with it and how they fixed it.

First Line: "I was lying in my sleeping bag, staring at the light filtering through the red and green fabric of the dome tent."

Rating:
(3/5)

The Girl with the Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson

Thriller/Mystery

George Foss is having drinks with his on-again-off-again girlfriend when he notices a familiar face at the bar. It can't be Liana. She's on the run from the police and George hasn't seen her since college. George drops his girlfriend off and then circles back to the bar to see Liana. It is her and she needs George's help. George can't help but remember the one semester they shared in college together. The two shared something special and George hasn't been able to find anything like it since. But he knows she's dangerous.

Liana explains that she just needs George's help to return some money to an ex-lover. It's a simple ask, with no risk. Except nothing with Liana is no risk.

The book flips between the present day and the past. It did a good job of providing good background from the past before continuing on in the present. The way the chapters of the past ended definitely made me want to keep reading. I'm not sure I would call them cliffhangers but they were good at driving the plot forward.

The history between George and Liana was described as quite steamy yet something was missing for me as to why George would offer to return money for Liana. I kept thinking that I would say no if I were him. That would be the end of the book though, wouldn't it? I'm not sure what else could have been added to help me accept this as I'm not entirely sure why I felt like I would have said no right away. This also was an overall problem I had with the characters. I never understood Liana and her problems and I never cared much for George.

By the time I got to the end of the book, I felt like far too much had been left to chance to be even the slightest bit believable. Even the characters describe it as such! The ending was a "hail mary", with the characters just hoping that everything would work out. I wish the ending had been a bit smarter so that it was believable what had happened.

Despite this, there was enough tension to keep me flipping the pages and wondering what is going to happen next. This would make a good beach read. It's easy to get through, doesn't require too much thought, and is a page turner.



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

First Line: "It was dusk, but as he turned onto the rutted driveway he could make out the perimeter of yellow tape that still circled the property."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

About the Author
His poems, stories and reviews have appeared in such journals as The Atlantic, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Epoch, Measure, Notre Dame Review, Soundings East, and The Vocabula Review. He has won awards in poetry from The Lyric and Yankee Magazine, and is currently completing a sonnet sequence on all 53 of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Check out his Website | Twitter

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Mystery

In this third book of the Department Q series, we're back with Detective Carl Morck and his assistants Assad and Rose, sorting through old unsolved crimes in Denmark. Scottish police send them a message in a bottle that's been sitting around and forgotten about by the Scottish police for years. By blowing up an image of the message, the team works on trying to sort out what the message, written in blood, says aside from "HELP ME" at the top.

This book spent a lot of time with the suspect himself. It explained his background and some of his past crimes as well as how he tried to build a life to make him look normal. Because I find Morck and the crew so entertaining, I missed them. More than half of the book was not them investigated the crime. Even though the other piece was well written and engaging, I would have preferred more time with Morck.

In the past two books, the author has touched on Morck's psychological problems with his partner getting shot but he never seems to hit the nail directly on the head. It was discussed for a total of about one chapter but really needs more exploring in the next book.

I really enjoy the books in this series and this was no different. I found the ending exceptionally well done. Highly recommended!

First Line: "It was the third morning, and the smell of tar and seaweed had got into his clothes."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Fantasy

Eragon is a normal kid in an abnormal world where dragon riders once existed and an evil king now reigns. While hunting, Eragon finds a hard rock in the Spine and brings it home hoping he can sell it to help his family. Except the rock hatches in to a dragon and he becomes a rider, bringing back an old tradition. The king wants the dragon and sends Ra'zoc, which kill part of his family and force Eragon on a journey to keep his dragon safe. Fortunately he has local tale-teller Brom with him who has seen a lot in his days and can help keep Eragon safe.

The result is a fairly long journey to find allies and the mysterious Varden, who are fighting against the king. Not surprisingly, this brings lots of fighting, imprisonment, and battles. The book is a fairly large one so I thought a lot of ground would be covered and we'd get in to some action with the king but that didn't happen. While I had no problems getting through the book, looking back on it I feel like not much happened. There was a lot of walking through the forest and some fighting. There were a lot of questions asked and not many answered. This was probably the most frustrating part of the books. The mysteries that were easy to figure out for yourself were identified and those, such as why Eragon saw Arya, were questioned and then never resolved.

With the book being so long, you would think there would significant character development. Eragon and Saphira, the dragon, are the centre of this book but I don't really feel like we learned much of who Eragon is. We know his past and who he was raised by but don't really know what makes him tick. I felt more connected to Brom, though I'm not entirely sure why.

Despite the problems this book has, it did capture my interest and keep it for the length of the book. I do have the second in the series so I'll read it and determine from there whether I want to continue on to the last book.

First Line: "Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Woman with a Gun by Phillip Margolin


Mystery

Stacy Kim, an aspiring writer, visits an art gallery and sees Kathy Moran's famous photograph. It was taken of a woman in her wedding dress on a beach holding an old pistol. Stacy is inspired. She wants to know what happened before and after this picture and wants to use it as inspiration for a book. It grabs her so much that she uproots herself on the east coast and moves to the west coast, where this happened. From there, we are taken back to when the crime actually happened and how the police and DA responded. A rich man was murdered and burglarized on his wedding day, his wife found wandering on the beach. A DA was brought in externally due to the small town not having much experience in murder cases. The DA knew the photography, Kathy Moran, from a long time ago as Moran was also a lawyer. There's attraction between the two and Moran's history is also explored.

It sounds like there's a lot going on in this book and there is. But it somehow all works. The pieces fit together nicely and the history of the characters and the case is laid out clearly. Sometimes jumping around in time can be confusing for the reader but that wasn't at all the case here. The book wouldn't have worked without this background information so I was appreciative to get it and have it pulled off so well.

The plot itself was engaging and the twist at the end was pulled off. I kept turning the pages to figure out what was going on and try to determine who dunnit! This is one of the most important things for me in a mystery and this book definitely delivered.

I would have liked to like the characters a bit more. I'm not entirely sure why I felt blase about the characters but they were nothing special. It was the plot that drove this book forward.

First Line: "'Wilde, Levine and Barstow, how may I direct your call?'"

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mulled Murder by Kate Kingsbury

Cozy Mystery

It's Christmas time at country club Pennyfoot. There's a Christmas Eve wedding, caroling in the library, and an annual production put on by owner Cecily's friend. Needless it say it's a busy and slightly chaotic time of year for this hotel! When the body of a guest washes up on shore, Cecily knows this will just add to the craziness. The man was stabbed and the name he checked in under wasn't his real name. The detective is more interested in leaving for holidays than investigating, which leaves Cecily to investigate herself. When a young girl appears on her grounds with no memory of who she is, Cecily puts her to work and wonders if there's any connection to the other crime.

Getting more history from this hotel, we learn that its past could be part of its present predicament. There are tunnels and illicit card rooms that have since been bricked up and boarded off. Could the criminals be using these tunnels to move goods or hide?

I don't usually read cozy mysteries because I like the gritty part of mysteries. I want detectives and blood, the rough streets and sketchy characters. There's none of that here. Everything moves a bit slower and everyone is a bit more careful. The detective only shows up for a few pages and the regular folks are left on their own to figure out whodunnit. Even though this isn't my usual fare, it was still fairly enjoyable right up until close to the end, where the description of the crime and criminal were packed in the end as a character recounted it rather than it actually happening. I felt a bit cheated by that.

First Line: "'Really, Frederick!'"

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich

Holiday

It's a few days before Christmas and, like usual, Stephanie Plum is less than prepared. She keeps putting off everything, including finding her latest skip Sandy Claws. Suddenly a not-too-bad-looking man appears in her kitchen. He's going to help her get in the Christmas spirit and find Claws. But how exactly did he just appear like that? Typical to Stephanie's chaotic nature, there's a car fire and other craziness that follows her around.

I was pretty disappointed with this book compared to the rest in the series. It was rushed and not nearly as funny as most the books in this series. Perhaps that's because there wasn't enough time to have grandma or Lula get up to their regular antics. The book just ended and I was left with the feeling that I was missing something.

First Line: "My name is Stephanie Plum and I've got a strange man in my kitchen."

Rating:
(2.5/5)