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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

Historical Fiction

In the third and final book in the Versailles/Louis XV trilogy, this time we look at two women from King Louis XV's last years. The first is his final mistress, the Comtesse du Barry, who started out as a luxury escort. She makes friends with the right people and is eventually presented to the king. Not surprisingly the court hates her not only because she's an escort but also because she's a commoner. The second is Louis' eldest daughter Adelaide. She is an extremely rigid woman and doesn't have a very good relationship with her father because she hasn't approved of any of his mistresses.

The two women are completely different, likely why they were both selected for this book, and it really highlights the extremes that existed in the French court. Christie does a great job of showing how tone deaf French royalty was during this time, which eventually brought their demise. Obviously all these years later, in a much more advanced society, it's easy to see the errors of their ways but I wonder if it would have been easy to understand back then. This book actually made me want to read more on the French Revolution.

Having read Christie's other two books in the trilogy (read my reviews for The Rivals of Versailles and The Sisters of Versailles), even though these characters were unique from all the other ladies highlighted in Christie's books, I found them somewhat less captivating.

It's still a worthy read - you should definitely check out all three books! It gives you great insight in to some of the more periphery characters of the Louis XV reign. You can buy the book here: Amazon

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

First Line: "I slip away from the warmth of the kitchen and out into the deserted hall."

Rating:
(4/5)
About the Author
Sally Christie is a long time history buff. She has lived in England, Canada, Argentina, and Lesotho though she currently resides in Toronto (and hence, I'm claiming Canadian author here!). The Sisters of Versailles is her first book even though she's been putting pen to paper for a while. Learn more at her websiteFacebook, or GoodReads.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Stars Can Wait by Jay Basu

Fiction

Fifteen year old Gracian is in love with the stars. He sneaks out of the house at night whenever he can to gaze at the sky. Being in Germany-occupied Poland during World War II, this is pretty dangerous. His brother Pawel forbids him from going out again, so instead Gracian focuses his attention on his brother, who has a mysterious past. While the family struggles to survive during war time, Gracian wants to understand who his brother really is.

Where this short book lacks in plot, it makes up for in writing style. There's not a whole heck of a lot happening in this book, the first half of the book is spent describing the family dynamics and how life is for them in WWII Poland. The second half of the book is about Pawel. But really, most of the book should have been about Pawel since it's the story of how Gracian learns about his brother.

The writing style is very fluid and quite graceful. It's unfortunate that it couldn't be married with a good story line.

First Line: "On an autumn night in 1940, one year into German occupation, in a Polish mining village called Malenkowice within the area known as Upper Silesia, a fifteen-year-old boy named Gracian Sofka sat poised and upright in his bed watching his sleeping brother."

Rating:
(2.5/5)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Mermaid's Daughter by Ann Claycomb

Fiction

In a modern day, tragic re-telling of the Little Mermaid, Kathleen comes from a long history of women that have a strong affinity to the sea. Kathleen isn't fully aware of her history, but she does know that her mom walked in to the sea one day when she was a baby with rocks in her pockets. She suffers from the same stabbing pain in her feet and mouth that her mom did and wonders if she is bound to the same fate. Thankfully, she has two things to help her get through this pain: her girlfriend Harry and music.

Harry and Kathleen vacation in Ireland to learn more about Kathleen's family history and find out that the tragedy extends back many generations. To help Kathleen cope with this, Harry and Kathleen's father set out to compose an opera specifically for her. They wonder if they can reverse the curse in Kathleen's family and save her with music.

I really enjoyed the Disney movie The Little Mermaid but had never read Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, so I only know the child-friendly version of this story. We know that the Disney movie is a musical and it suits the story very well that this re-telling also involves music. The most enjoyable part of this book for me was when Katheleen's dad and Harry were creating the opera for her. There was underlying tension of Kathleen possibly getting worse, combined with the stress of creating and producing on an opera.

Unfortunately, compared to Arial, Kathleen was a completely selfish, annoying character. This is called out by herself and Harry throughout the novel, but it doesn't help me connect with her. By the mid point of the book I was rather fed up. I understand that she's in a lot of pain but she treats her partner like garbage when all Harry wants to do is help. I feel like this could have been toned down a bit to allow me to feel more sympathy for Kathleen rather than hating her.

Still, Harry and Kathleen's father more than make up for the dislike I had for Kathleen. That combined with the interesting story make this a worthy read.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour! If you're interested in picking this book up, you can get it here.

First Line: "'Kathleen,' she says, 'you are going to go mad.'"

Rating:
(4/5)
About the Author
Ann Claycomb’s fiction has been published in American Short Fiction, Zahir, Fiction Weekly, Brevity, Hot Metal Bridge, The Evansville Review, Title Goes Here, and other publications. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University.

Find her on Harper Collins' bio page.