Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

Mystery

Stephanie just returned from what was supposed to be a relaxing trip in Hawaii. Unfortunately it ended up with her spotting a criminal on her bond sheet and bringing the two men in her life Ranger and Morelli to help her out. Instead it was a big jealous mess, with Stephanie leaving all of them to return home to Jersey. Jersey isn't much better. Her cousin's bond office is still under construction, her arch nemesis might be dead (maybe that's a good thing?), and there are lots of skips she needs to find.

Enlisting the help of Lula, the two get in to more trouble than they solve. It's a typical Stephanie Plum book. Easy to read, fun, with lots of shenanigans. The only thing I find is that after 18 books in this series, I kind of wish that Stephanie would just pick a man already rather than leading the two of them on. I feel bad for them.

First Line: "New Jersey was 40,000 feet below me, obscured by the cloud cover."

Rating:
(4/5)

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Memoir

Sonali was in Sri Lanka on Boxing Day in 2004 when there was an earthquake in the ocean that caused a huge tsunami to rip across the water, coming on to shore in many countries in the region, killing more than 200,000 people. The book starts in her hotel room that morning with her husband, two boys, and family friends. Her family friend notices the tide start to look different, then the water start to come in. She urges them to leave and the family runs. Sonali doesn't even have time to notify her parents next door.

This book has one of the most chilling starts I've ever read. It's a first person account of Sonali leaving her hotel room, running for safety, and the wave overtaking them. She loses contact with her family and struggles to stay alive. Books don't usually impact my dreams, but I actually had nightmares the night after I read the start of this book. It was riveting.

Sonali finds out that none of her family survives. Right after the wave, she winds up at the hospital, hoping that one of her family members will show up and completely in shock. Sonali has absolutely no filter on her thoughts during this time and honestly I feel less of her because of this. She thinks some pretty horrible things of a child that survives.

The rest of the book focuses solely on Sonali's grief. She is, understandably, destroyed by losing her whole family: husband, two children, mother and father. She shuts herself away in a room of a family member in Sri Lanka, not returning to her home in London for years. She tries alcohol to sooth her grief. Eventually it gets to the point where remembering doesn't hurt her, but helps her. However, this part of the book reads like it should be her journal rather than a book for public consumption.

If you're looking for a book on the tsunami, this is not the book for you. This book is completely about grief and what happens to a woman who loses her entire family.

First Line: "I thought nothing of it at first."

Rating:
(3/5)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

Fiction/Literature

As a young girl, on her mother's birthday, the young narrator asks her mom to stay home with her and her brother. They want to celebrate her birthday with her. Angry that her mom won't stay, she wishes death on her and death is what her mom gets. The girl realizes that she holds a power in wishes and believes herself responsible for her mom's death. She cannot forgive herself and turns to ice on the inside, incapable of any kind of relationship, including with her brother.

As a grown woman, her life is monotonous. She once again makes a wish. This time, that lightning will strike her. It does, but does not kill her. Instead it leaves her with ringing in her head and the inability to see red. In a support group for other lighting strike survivors, she hears about Lazarus. He died for 40 minutes before coming back to life. The narrator needs to understand what it's like being dead.

Before writing this review, I spent a good 10 minutes trying to remember what the name of the main character was. Looking at other reviews, it seems that we never learned it in the book, which I find hard to believe that I never really pieced this together while I was reading it.

This book is full of depressing subject matter. All the characters are Debbie Downers, but I still had hope that the narrator would find what she was looking for and be able to turn her life around. Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel but it's quite a journey for a few of the characters to get there.

First Line: "Be careful what you wish for."

Rating:
(3/5)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lights Out by Ted Koppel

Non-Fiction

The American power grid is incredibly vulnerable to an attack - both physical and cyber. Ted Koppel examines the vulnerability, what the government has done to protect itself, and what individuals are doing to prepare. A haunting picture is painted of how easy it would be to take down power for hundreds of thousands of people and the catastrophic impact of such an attack. The USA is not prepared and they aren't even thinking about preparing. There are some individuals who have prepared but in the grand scheme of things,

This book brought back memories for me of the 2003 power outage in Ontario and the surrounding states. I was at university, having to write an exam at the time. I remember having almost nothing to eat that didn't need to be cooked. And this power outage didn't last all that long. For us, it was only about a day. Now what would happen if this lasted a month. There's no way I would have been prepared enough.

Koppel examines those that might be prepared enough to be able to shelter in place for this kind of outage. And it's not easy to get up to that level of preparedness. These people have farms and greenhouses, or they have the whole community behind them for support. Most of them seem to be rural locations. What about those in urban and suburban areas? The answer seems to be leave the area for a place that has power.

Unfortunately the message seems to be "too bad for you" as there's no plan for this and there doesn't seem to be anyone interested in putting together a plan for the future. Koppel asks about this, but doesn't really get anywhere with the government officials.

This was an interesting subject, though probably could have been a newspaper article rather than a full book. First Line: "Darkness."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Creation in Death by J.D. Robb

Mystery

When Lieutenant Eve Dallas gets a call during her off shift, she knows something bad has happened. She finds a young woman with obvious signs of torture laid out on a white sheet in a park. Eve knows that this is the work of a man she was chasing nine years ago. He carves into the chest of each of his victims the length of how long they stayed alive during his torture. This perp got away from Eve before, she isn't going to let him get away this time.

This time, Eve notices a personal connection. The young woman killed was an employee of Roarke, Eve's husband, the sheet she was laid on was one of his companies, and the soaps used to was the victim were also from Roarke. Eve wonders if this means she could be a future victim. Working with her regular team and Roarke, they want to make sure that the killer doesn't get away this time.

This book is the 25th in the series, which I've been reading in order, so I've been reading these books for a while. Robb does a great job with character chemistry. Eve and her protege Peabody have great banter back and forth, and Eve's relationship with her husband is special. All the secondary characters have interesting chemistry as well. The biggest gripe I have with this series is that frequently, the killer has a personal vendetta against Eve. Usually it results in the killer trying to capture Eve and kill her. It is usually used as an easy out for plot to have the killer explain why he or she has killed everyone. Otherwise it's used as a way to get Eve closer to the killer. Either way, it always feels cheap to me and this is another book where the killer wants Eve. Thankfully most of the plot is sorted out before it comes to this so it's not as much of a buzzkill as it usually is in other "in Death" books.

First Line: "For him, death was a vocation, killing was not merely an act, or a means to an end. "

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Fiction

It's Leonard's birthday and he wants to kill his ex-best friend and then himself. When he wakes up, he takes the Nazi gun his grandfather left for him, eats breakfast by himself because his dad hasn't been in his life for his while and his mom is too busy with her fashion career, and packs four presents he wants to deliver before he kills himself and Asher. Then Leonard sets out to deliver these presents.

As Leonard delivers these presents, we learn more about him and why he wants to kill himself. Leonard says good bye to his unlikely friend, an elderly man who lives beside him and the two share a Bogart movie affinity. He says good bye to the young man who plays violin every day at lunch while Leonard listens, his favourite teacher, and Lauren, a girl who tries to deliver Jesus' message at the subway station. We also learn about Leonard's ex-best friend and how those two were friends, and how their friendship dissolved.

This isn't just teenage angst and drama that makes you want to roll your eyes. It is full of raw emotion that really tugs at your heart. Thing is, deep down, Leonard doesn't really want to die. He has had a traumatic experience and there's been no responsible adults to help him work through it. He also doesn't really have any close friends his age because he's an outsider and seen as not normal. But, as his favourite teacher tries to describe to him, not being normal can be a beautiful thing.

I really loved this book. The interactions between Leonard and his teacher moved me to tears, which is very rare for me.

First Line: "The P-38 WWII Nazi handgun looks comical lying on the breakfast table next to a bowl of oatmeal."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Woman Who Heard Colour by Kelly Jones

Fiction

Lauren is an art detective and think she may be on to an incredible find from WWII when she visits Isabelle Fletcher. Isabelle's mom worked for the Reich as an art director but Lauren thinks she could have been involved with stolen art by the Nazis. Lauren sits with Isabelle and learns about her mother, Hanna's, entire history. Lauren finds out that some art was saved that the history books aren't aware of. We learn the true history through Hanna's eyes and the history that Isabelle knows.

Hannah has synesthesia, which is when you can hear colours. This is a pretty interesting avenue but I feel like it could have been explored a bit further in this novel. We know that Hannah has this condition, we know that she loves one of her paintings because of what it sounds like, but that's pretty much as far as the author takes it.

Despite this, it was a very interesting story of art during WWII in Germany and how the Nazis tried to have it destroyed and there were others who tried to save it. Worth a read!

First Line: "As Lauren O'Farrell hurried up from the subway on her way to visit Isabella Fletcher, she knew the moisture under her blouse, along her collar, and spotting her chest was as much the result of nerves as the heat that had invaded the city for the past several days."

Rating:
(4/5)

Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Colour of Our Sky by Amita Trasi

Fiction

As a ten year old in Mumbai, Tara's life is pretty normal. She lives with her mom and dad, but her father is known for helping out children less fortunate. One day, Tara's dad brings home Mukta, a young child from his home village whose mother is a prostitute. Mukta would have been destined for that life had she stayed in her village but maybe now she can know a more regular life. Her and Tara become quick friends, until disaster strikes the family. Tara blames Mukta and plans for her kidnapping.

As an adult, Tara is in the USA and wonders what happened to Mukta. She never got over the guilt from what she was responsible for. Heading back to India, she hopes that she can find her childhood friend.

Right from the beginning, all the way to the end, I was completely engaged by this story. The writing flows very well, despite there being shifts in time. I wouldn't have guessed that this was Trasi's debut novel.

Tara feel guilt her whole life on what she did to Mukta and this guilt shapes who she becomes as an adult. She makes decisions based on this guilt and to further punish herself. I thought this was a very genuine portrayal of a woman wracked with guilt.

This was a simple but wonderful book. I recommend it!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour. To purchase this book, click here.

First Line: "The memory of that moment hit me like a surging ocean wave - drawing me into it - the sour smell of darkness, those sobs erupting like an echo from a bottomless pit."

Rating:
(4/5)
About the Author
Amita Trasi was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She has an MBA in human resource management, and currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two cats. Learn more at her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Fiction

Abdullah and his sister Pari are inseparable. The two share a very close bond after losing their mother at a young age. Their father takes them on a journey in to a larger Afghan town where they meet up with their uncle who works for a rich husband and wife. Pari is handed over to this couple, and Abdullah never sees his sister again. This book tells us the story of various people who have a degree or two of separation from Abdullah and Pari.

The book starts off riveting. We learn about Pari being sold to this couple, and how his uncle's life plays out. Then the stories get further and further away from Abdullah and Pari until at the end, they eventually make their way back. The start and ending were great, the rest felt like filler and got to the point where I was struggling to figure out who the characters were and how they were connected.

Unfortunately I think this is the weakest of Hosseini's books. But I haven't given up on him because of how much I liked the others. If/when he puts out another book I'll read it.

First Line: "So, then."

Rating:
(3/5)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles

Mystery/Thriller

In the third and final book of the Natchez trilogy, we hope to finally learn the truth about what happened the night Viola Turner died. The trilogy focuses around Dr. Cage's son Penn trying to clear his father's name and learning about all the klan activity that occurred in the town back in the 60s. Some of these dangerous men are still alive and don't want the truth to come out. This book focuses on Dr. Cage's trial (finally!) and the aftermath of Penn's loss.

We know the characters by this point, so this really is a story-driven novel in wrapping up all the loose ends. The full trial of Dr. Cage being tried for Viola's murder plays out. It includes his lawyer not objecting to any evidence being entered and then some jaw-dropping surprises at the end.

This was one of the best trials I've read in a book. There were twists and turns. You wondered what the defense was trying to do, and why they were hiding their motives from Penn. There was so much suspense!

If you haven't read the first two books, you cannot pick this one up by itself and expect to understand what's going on. But trust me, this series is worth the time investment. It's a fantastic series and ends with a bang.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour. You should definitely consider purchasing this book! Buy from HarperCollins

First Line: "Grief is the most solitary emotion; it makes islands of us all."

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.