Monday, September 05, 2016

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

Fiction/Mystery

In the south of the 60s, many civil rights cases went ignored by local authorities and the FBI. Iles brings light to this with a story of Penn Cage, mayor of Natchez, Mississippi and Henry Sexton, journalist and the only person that seems interested in solving these crimes. The story takes place in current day with a few flash backs to the 60s. Penn is a product of the 60s, his father a reputed doctor who helped both the African American community and the Klan, out of fear. While Sexton is on the verge of a breakthrough in hunting down a group of Klan members that called themselves the Double Eagles, Penn finds out that his dad is going to be charged for the murder of the nurse that served his office during the 60s. Penn suspects this is because the local DA and sheriff can't stand him. But soon he and Henry find that what they are working on may be connected.

This book is 800 pages and just the first of a trilogy. However it's also the 4th Penn Cage book. It was my first introduction to Penn and though there were some mentions of cases and relationships from the past, it was easy to understand what was going on. The quality and scope of these books remind me of Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth/World Without End. It just takes place over a much shorter time frame.

For such a long book, the story seemed to only take place over a matter of a few days. Despite this, the events of the day didn't seem crammed at all. I really got sucked in to this novel and was immersed in the story, though it did take me a while to read!

There were some great climactic moments in this book and I was surprised at the outcome, which I feel doesn't happen that much to me these days. There are a lot of questions I have for the remaining two books. I hope they are answered; specifically the targets that were put on Martin Luther King and JFK. How exactly did these play out?

I really enjoyed book one. I'll start reading book two soon.

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

First Line: "Albert Norris sang a few bars of Howlin' Wolf's 'Natchez Burnin'' to cover the sounds of the couple making love in the back of his ship."

Rating:
(4.5/5)
About the Author
Greg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, Mississippi. His first novel, Spandau Phoenix, was the first of thirteen New York Times bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of The Quiet Game, Turning Angel, and #1 New York Times bestseller The Devil’s Punchbowl. Iles’s novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children.

Find him on Twitter, Facebook and at his website.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Non-Fiction

Randy Pausch is known for his viral video of the 'last lecture' he gave at Carnegie Mellon, with only months left to live after his diagnosis of terminal cancer. He gave the lecture knowing it would be videotaped and there would be a piece of him permanently there for his kids to watch. With three kids, his youngest just 18 months, Pausch knew he had to leave something for his kids to understand who he was and how much he loved them.

The book talks through how to achieve your childhood dreams. It shows the importance of not giving up on those dreams, no matter how old you are, as they can still come true even late in life. It also gives some advice of how to be a good person, which seems to be aimed at his kids to learn from.

While I appreciate Pausch's positive attitude and what he's trying to do with this book, I didn't really learn anything from it. Most of it is common sense. Nothing blew me away. It was an ok read.

First Line: "I have an engineering problem"

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne

Children's

It's been 19 years since Harry, Ron, and Hermione fought Voldemort and won. Harry and Ginny now have three kids, with Harry working at the Ministry. His youngest, Albus, doesn't fit in. On the train to Hogwarts for his first year, Albus feels the pressure to make friends and finds another loner like him, Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius is incredibly unlike his father and a breath of fresh air for that family. When Cedric Diggory's father shows up begging Harry to bring back his son by using a time turner, Albus decides to take this on himself. Him and Scorpius turn time back to different periods of the Triwizard Tournament to try and save Cedric.

This book is just a copy of the play, which makes it a pretty quick read because you're mostly reading just dialogue. I had a hard time picturing how this script would look on stage because it jumps back and forth between characters and locations a lot. It seems that this would be hard to put on stage because it would require lots of set changing. I'd be interested to see how this comes to fruition.

For the story, I really liked the different what if scenarios. Making small changes in the past can cause huge changes in the future, which we've seen play out in a lot of different movies and books but I enjoyed this take.

Where I was disappointed is in how our favourites have changed. I had no issues with Hermione; she's exactly what I expected. Ron however, I thought he had aspirations to become an Auror and work for the ministry. Instead, he's running a joke shop like his brothers (or his brother's joke shop?) and is a very shallow character. Then there's Harry, who was the biggest disappointment of them all. He is a horrible father and rather self-centred. He blames it on not having a father at the end of the book, which is a big cop out. I wasn't impressed Harry!

Despite the few character problems, it was still nice to get some new Harry Potter content.

First Line: "A busy and crowded station."

Rating:
(4/5)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

Fantasy

In the third book of the Thursday Next series, Thursday is taking refuge in the well of lost plots, where unpublished novels live. She has people that want to kill her in the real world so staying safe in a book seems like a good plan. She only needs to fill in for a character a little, and tries to help the main character of the novel treat his wife better and stop being so stereotypical.

Meanwhile, Thursday is trying to get her certification with Jurisfiction, the group the polices books. Miss Havisham from Great Expectations is training her, but when a Jurisfiction agent is found dead, they wonder if they are safe.

This series is so much fun to read. There is an incredible amount of thought put in to these books, bringing in plot and characters from classics and other well known books. This time we get to see a bit more behind the scene and how Fforde proposes books are written in this word. There are viruses that misspell words, there are grammasites, and many other bad (or good) things that could make their way in to a book.

If you are new to this series, start at the beginning as it would be hard to pick up from book three. Recommended!

First Line: "Making one's home in an unpublished novel wasn't without compensation."

Rating:
(4/5)

Friday, August 05, 2016

The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry

Mystery

This is the third novel in the Cotton Malone series, bringing back many of the characters we met in the first two books. When Cotton sees that two men have broken in to the local museum, he follows them in and finds them spraying the museum with an unknown substance. The museum ignites and water won't put it out. Cotton finds his friend Cassiopeia close by and knows that she's involved somehow.

Cassiopeia tells Cotton that the leader of the new nation from all the old USSR countries is trying to find coins from Alexander the Great. One of them was in the museum that burned but Cassiopeia was able to get there first and replace it. This leads Cotton and Cassiopeia on a parallel journey to find the coins.

Steve Berry books are a lot of fun. They are great thrillers with a historical element to it that always teaches me something. There were some characters brought in half way through the book that weren't developed and I couldn't remember too much about them from the previous books. It would have been nice to get more of a reminder on these characters.

Still a great book, and a good read for the summer!

First Line: "Alexander of Macedonia had decided yesterday to kill the man himself."

Rating:
(4/5)

Monday, August 01, 2016

The Ninja's Daughter by Susan Spann

Mystery

In 1565 Kyoto Japan, Hiro, a ninja, is sworn to protect foreign Jesuit Father Mateo. The foreigner doesn't completely understand the customs or culture of Japan so Hiro tries to help him with this and with translation. When a young kid comes to the two asking for help, they find a girl on a bridge, murdered. The girl happens to be Hiro's niece so together with Father Mateo, the two vow to find out what happened. Tensions are running high at this time in Kyoto with the police forbidding the investigation and different warlord vying for power. A threat is made on Father Mateo's life and Hiro has to decide whether the investigation for the Father is more important.

Though this is the fourth book in the series, it can read as a standalone. The characters did mention other mysteries that they had solved so I assume that these were from previous novels, but there's no information missing that makes it hard to understand what is happening in this book.

While the mystery was interesting and there were lots of twists and turns, for me this book was more about the characters. I really enjoyed Hiro, the strong and loyal ninja. He has a bit of a sense of humor, putting up with Mateo's naivety in the ways of Japan. Father Mateo is a kind soul and despite being a man of religion, religion was in no way an overbearing part of this story.

An enjoyable read! I think I'll go back to the beginning of the series and start there!

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

First Line: "Knocking echoed through the silent house."

Rating:
(4/5)
About the Author
Susan Spann began reading precociously and voraciously from her preschool days in Santa Monica, California, and as a child read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest.
Find her on Twitter, Facebook and at her website.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson

Fiction

This small little book is about Ambrose Zephyr and his wife Zappora Ashkenazi. When Ambrose finds out he only had 30 days to live, the two take off to try and see the alphabet. They don't make it too far and decide to come back home, as they reminisce on their lives.

I bought this book because I judged the book by the cover. The art design of the front and back pages is beautifully done and it's easy to understand why the author has won awards for book design in the past. Unfortunately the story isn't as nice as the book. Overall, the memories of this couple are so clipped and abbreviated that you can't get in to them before the author is off to something else. Because of this, I felt that I couldn't connect with the characters and therefore didn't care much about Ambrose's life coming to an end or Zappora having to give up her husband so early.

First Line: "This story is unlikely"

Rating:
(2.5/5)