Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Drop by Michael Connelly


Detective Bosch has been a part of the cold case division for a short time. He knows he doesn't have too long left in his career, as he's already back from retirement and can only stay a maximum of 5 more years on the force. He has a young partner, Detective Chu, and a bunch of cold cases to get through. When a hit comes back on DNA, but for someone that would have been a child at the time of the crime, Bosch and Chu are asked to investigate. This comes at the exact same day that ex-Deputy Chief Irvin Irving learns that his son has committed suicide. Irving is now a councilman and against the police department after being ousted. He's never been a fan of Bosch, but Bosch is requested specifically from Irving to investigate his son's death.

Now with two cases, Bosch buckles down. Is the Irving death really a suicide or was there a third party involved? Any why was the blood of a child found at a murder scene? The two cases take Bosch and Chu all over. A new female love interest is introduced and there's already ups and downs in that relationship.

Every Bosch book I've read captures your interest right away and holds you the entire time. I really enjoy Maddie and how her youth allows her to see different things than her dad does. This different perspective and her interest in the police force will make her a very interesting character in the future and she's already starting to impact some of what her dad does.

This is another great book in the Bosch series. Looking forward to reading the next one.

First Line: "Christmas came once a month in the Open-Unsolved Unit."


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Postmistress


Iris is the postmaster in Massachusetts during WWII. She takes her job very seriously, as she is entrusted with delivering messages of life to mothers, sons, and lovers during war time. She falls for Henry, who every day goes up to the top of the tallest building looking for German U-boats in the harbour. In the same town are newlyweds Emma and Dr Trask. When the doctor is called to deliver a child and loses the mother, he blames himself. He needs to make up for the loss he feels he caused and decides to head over to England, after hearing a report from reporter Frankie Bard about the bombings over there.

Most of the characters reside in the USA but we have the reporting from Frankie Bard on what's happening in Europe and a little bit from Dr. Trask. Dr. Trask is really just a vessel for his wife's story, her concern for him, and her interactions with Iris over how they think he is doing. Frankie has some heartbreaking stories to tell of her travels in Europe, but they are so detached from the other characters in the book that they're almost like a completely separate story.

The Postmistress is the title of the book and supposedly the centre of the book, but she herself complains during the novel that it's not 'postmistress' it's 'postmaster', so why the hell is the book called 'postmistress'? Unfortunately this book offers nothing unique from most other WWII books to make it stand out. It has a disjointed story with a weak ending and isn't something I'd recommend.

First Line: "It began, as it often does, with a woman putting her ducks in a row."


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

Historical Fiction

In late 19th century Mexico, Teresa is born an unknown father and mother known as the hummingbird. Her mother abandons her with her aunt quickly and Teresa questions who her family is. She makes friends with the local healer and midwife Huila. Huila takes Teresa under her wing, recognizing something special in this girl. Teresa's aunt eventually abandons her as well, and Teresa is taken in by Huila, who works in the household of Don Tomas, which ends up being Teresa's real father.

Life is tough during this time. There are dangers from many different sources. Teresa witnesses these dangers as she grows up and knows that she wants to care for people, same as Huila does. She learns how to bring children in the world and finds that she can take pain away from the mothers as they give birth. Huila tries to nurture these skills in Teresa.

Mexico itself becomes a character as the country, its landscape, and its people provide the perfect backdrop to the magical nature of Teresita and her healing powers. There are some supernatural elements that lost me a little, but eventually brought me back on board to the story. It's obvious that Urrea, who at the end states he believes Teresa is in relation to him, has done an incredible amount of research for this project. His passion for his homeland and the history flows off the page. Even when there were hiccups in the story for me, this passion kept me glued to the story.

First Line: "On the cool October morning when Cayetana Chavez brought her baby to light, it was the start of that season in Sinloa when the humid torments of summer finally gave way to the breezes and falling leaves, and small red birds skittered through the corrals, and the dogs grew new coats."


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach

Historical Fiction

During the seventeenth century of Amsterdam, the tulip craze was at an all time high. People were buying and selling bulbs without even seeing them. Many were getting rich but some were losing everything.

Cornelis and his young wife Sophie decide to get their portrait painted by artist Jan van Loos. As soon as Sophia sees him, she falls in love with him. Jan tells her she must leave her husband and live with him. The two hatch a scheme that involve tulips and the pregnant servant Maria.

Honestly, most of the characters are idiots in this book. There were a thousand simpler ways of ditching the old husband than the one they came up with. But of course, without this crazy idea there would be no book. Tulips really only come in to it near the end so I'm also not convinced this is the correct title for the book. It was still enough of a plot to keep me entertained enough to continue reading. It just wasn't the best crafted idea ever as I kept rolling my eyes.
Each chapter starts with a quote, and some chapters are only one page long, making it feel at times that there were more quotes than story.

First Line: "We are eating dinner, my husband and I."


Monday, October 08, 2018

The Food Taster by Peter Ebling

Historical Fiction

Ugo has had a tough life. His mother committed suicide so she wouldn't have to die from the plague. His father and brother treated him life garbage until one day he had enough and left. In his travels, he fell in love with a girl and they had a child, Miranda. His wife died in childbirth. They had a small farm that was doing poorly when the Duke happened upon his land. Angry that Ugo's land has disturbed the Duke's hunt, the Duke decides that he must become his new food taster.

Ugo and Miranda move to the Duke's castle and Ugo starts tasting the Duke's food for poison. He finds that he can no longer enjoy his food anymore since he's so worried about dying. Everything he does is to try and keep himself and his daughter safe and alive. This leads to some pretty crazy situations, including getting the Duke's girlfriend killed for thinking and pretending there was poison in his food when there wasn't.

Ugo isn't very smart and doesn't always make the right decision, but he's always trying to do best for his daughter. This includes as she grows up and trying to find the right husband for her. There's a boy in the kitchen that tries to trade Miranda's hand in marriage for information to Ugo about possible poisoning of his dishes.

This was a fun book. Ugo got in to some very unique and troublesome situations. His heart was always in the right place though, he was a pretty likable character.

First Line: "For years after my mother hanged herself, I wished I had been older or stronger so that I could have stopped her."


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Chimney Sweeper's Boy by Barbara Vine


Gerald Candless, renown author, dies of a heart attack leaving behind his wife and two grown daughters. The girls, Sarah and Hope, were very close to their dad as he fostered a special relationship with them at the expense of his wife Ursula. As the family comes to term with the loss, we learn how spoiled the two girls are and how miserable Ursula was with her husband.

When Sarah is approached to write a biography of her dad, she accepts. The first thing she does is start looking in to his past only to find that there's nothing to look in to. Gerald Candless does not exist before a certain date and the Gerald Candless of the town her father claimed as his died as a child. Their father assumed this identity. Why? What was he running from?

This book was difficult to get through for two reasons. First, all the characters are either miserable people or pathetic. The girls are complete snobs and never get what's coming to them. The mom could have helped herself but did nothing. The second reason is because there's a whole bunch of unnecessary filler content. Why do we need to know about Hope and her boyfriend or Sara and her boyfriend? There is no substance there and it doesn't really drive the plot forward.

When we finally find out the reason Gerald left his original life, it's a bit of a let down. We are told throughout the book a few times that this reason is not true only to find out it is. The way it was revealed was sort of interesting, but none of the characters ever really find out which was a let down.

First Line: "Not a word to my girls, he had said on the way home from the hospital."


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas


Ruby is a rebellious teenager who runs away from home in England to visit her grandmother in Cairo. She has basically no relationship with her grandmother, but is desperate to leave and try something new. Showing up on the doorstep of her grandmother, the manservent Mamdooh is none too pleased to see her. She eventually convinces her way in and finds Iris, her grandmother, who is old, ailing, and struggling to remember her past. Ruby offers to help Iris document her history so that it is not forgotten and Iris can't pass that up.

Iris came of age in Cairo during WWII. She fell in love with a soldier and got engaged, working as a secretary to the British government. It was times of high stress but lots of partying and lots of love. People did things quickly for fear that war would wipe out everything.

As Ruby pieces together her grandmother's past, she also finds her own love story in Cairo. She starts to fall for the brother of the taxi driver that took her from the airport to Iris' house. This boy shows her around the city and she starts to love both Cairo and him.

This was a great coming of age story from two different generation's perspective. We learn about Iris' journey to adulthood during the war and we see Ruby's as she grows up in Cairo. Ruby is a believable teenager, starting off a little annoying but coming in to her own. I'm not sure I ever really understand her relationship with her mom, or her mom's relationship with Iris. They tried to flush out the latter in the book but it was a fairly short conversation near the end of the book and not really sufficient for me to understand or believe it.

The event that finally brings everyone together seemed a bit drastic but I guess typical to a coming of age fictional story. I've been having bad luck with books recently, unable to get through a few of them before giving up, so I was happy to be able to easily get through this one.

First Line: "I remember"


Monday, September 10, 2018

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Historical Fiction

Allison Bannister has been tracking the history of Mary Seymour, daughter of Queen Katherine Parr. When she comes across a recently discovered portrait of Anne Boleyn, Allison knows better and that it's truly Mary. Allison knows this because she lived with Mary in Wolf Hall before she made the leap in time to current day. Allison was a teenager living in Wolf Hall when she fell in love with her cousin and steward of the house Edward Seymour. She ended up getting pregnant and sent away then her child was taken from her when she gave birth. She roomed with Mary and though they hated each other at first, they needed each other and grew to respect each other. Mary had special abilities to see the future so Allison looked to Mary to help her find her son Albert. Mary looks to Allison to save her from being tried as a witch.

The story is told from Allison and Mary's perspective. Allison is in current time to survive and see if she can't find her son through history. Mary is in the 1500s, after being pushed aside. Both struggle with similar problems despite the time gap and they never forget the promises they made to each other. Allison is not only searching for her son, but also her friend Mary to find out what happened to her.

Mary Seymour's story in real life is pretty mysterious, so Cornick takes what history knows and builds around that quite well. The magical/fantastical element makes this unrealistic but it's still a fun 'what if' story.

The historical fiction and character relationships were the best part of this book. Mary's story from the 1500s seemed well researched and flowed very well. The relationship between Mary and Allison, as well as any of the other characters was believable and endearing.

Where this book lacked was in the time travel element. Allison traveled forward in time by 500 years yet had no problem coping with any of the technical or cultural changes. She was driving a car (how?) and wearing modern clothes without issue. Characters had no problem believing that she was a time traveler. It was a tough pill to swallow and it nagged at me throughout the entire book.

Despite this, it's still worth picking up and reading!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour! If you're interested in purchasing the book you can do so here.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough


This is a generational story of the Cleary family. With Irish roots, they settled in New Zealand and got in to sheep shearing. The family was large with many boys and one girl, Meggie, who just barely made ends meet. The eldest Cleary sister sends out a request for the rest of the family to join her on her huge farm in Australia. The family moves out there and learns life in the Australian outback. There are many ups and downs. Losses and births. The story focuses around Meggie as she grows up. As a girl, she looks up to the priest responsible for the local area. As Meggie grows up, she thinks there is an opportunity for her to pull the priest away from God but it's not meant to be. Love and heartbreak, this book has everything.

Being an older book, I find this book is very gentle and graceful. It's a pretty long one, and there were some things that probably didn't need to be in it, but the story developed the characters very well. Each character makes horrible decisions, but also good decisions. It's a pretty good representation of normal life.

Despite the gentle nature in which the story is tell, it's still pretty depressing overall. There's too much heartbreak for this poor Cleary family, it just doesn't seem fair to them.

This is true classical literature and I'm going to make sure I share my copy with others.

First Line: "On December 8th, 1915, Meggie Cleary had her fourth birthday."


Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg


Each year, Laura's family gathers at her parent's place to go to the town fair. It's been a family tradition forever and one that can't be missed. Before she heads there with her husband and two teens, she gets a call from her sister saying that she has something very important to discuss with Laura and their brother. The conversation doesn't get very far before their father has a stroke and heads to the hospital. Laura's sister Caroline can't wait. She has been seeing a therapist and the therapist has recommended she talks to her sibling about what happened in their childhood. Caroline states how her mother never gave her any love and treated her completely different from the other children. When Caroline was supposedly in summer camp, she was actually at a hospital recovering from her mother attacking her with a knife. Laura has a hard time reconciling this with the childhood she remembers.

I got sucked in to this book very quickly. None of the characters are perfect and I was questioning truth along with Laura as she was hearing Caroline's story. There's also guilt of not believing a victim's story. Oddly enough, most of the male characters in this book were pretty much absent from the story because they couldn't handle the discussion, which I found a bit odd. I was a bit disappointed at the ending but still not a bad read.

First Line: "It is a photograph of a staircase that I took with my Brownie camera over forty years ago."


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann


Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Priest Father Mateo are back for book 6 in the Shinobi series (this is my 3rd introduction to them). Carrying a message up Mount Koya, the two stop at a temple as the weather turns bad, seeking refuge. In this temple are a group of Buddhists that live there, as well a father and his boy also seeking refuge from the storm while they wait to spread ashes. Hattori knows the Buddhist responsible for the protection of the temple and asks him, on break of the weather, to carry a message outside the temple for him. As Hattori and Mateo go to sleep, they are woken in the middle of the night to find that this Buddhist is dead. Hattori suspects someone know that he was a messenger and killed him for it. But then a few hours later, there's another death. Who is killing these monks?

Hattori and Mateo offer to help solve the crime and start interviewing all of the suspects. In the previous books I've read, what I liked most about this series was the history of Japan it provides in the 1500s, how Hattori needs to teach Mateo the culture of Japan since he is an outsider, and the interactions between the two men. This book had the first. A temple in the mountains and descriptions of the different Buddhas and their meanings. However it lacked a bit in the other two categories. There were some concerns mentioned from Hattori on what he thought Mateo might say. Maybe Mateo is learned enough from Hattori on how to behave properly and this isn't needed as much anymore? It was always a fun part of previous books though, which also follows in to the last category of the banter between the two. Because of this, I feel like it would be difficult to pick up the series with this book. Overall, still a good book but my least favourite of the three in this series I've read.


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.