NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit*, December 31, 2010

This review is from: The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway) (Hardcover)

I knew when I opened the first page of this book that I should have read the first one in the Ruth Galloway mystery series -- The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway) -- so if you haven't read it, stop and remedy that now. This second book immediately made me wish I had "met" the characters previously so I could understand what led to Ruth's pregnancy and to know the relationship she had with her baby's father. That said, and even though her pregnancy takes up a lot of the novel, the book is really a mystery about the murder of a child, and how that child's headless skeleton comes to lie underneath the doorway of an old mansion. Who is the girl and how did she end up there?
Ruth Galloway is 40ish, unmarried, and a slightly overweight forensic archeologist. She is called in as a consultant when bones are found during the demolition of a large, old house (once an orphanage) that is being converted into apartments. Joined by other colleages -- Max and Cathbad -- Ruth begins to assist Detective Police Inspector Harry Nelson in the investigation. The more she delves into the case, the more trouble she has. Who is afraid of what she might find out and how far is that person willing to go to stop her!?

Although the story is not what I would call fast paced, it's the characters and their interactions and dialog that make the book interesting. I really like that the protagonist is a strong, intelligent, and independent middle aged woman. Her friends are interesting and the archelogocial details are fascinating.

I think most who enjoy forensic mystery stories will like this novel -- but be sure to read them in order as I didn't think this one worked well as a stand alone!

A solid 3 1/2 stars.

*Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit = Everything changes but nothing is destroyed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Emperor's Tomb by Steve Berry

3.0 out of 5 stars A thriller that takes you deep into the history of China, December 20, 2010
I have read most all of Steve Berry's previous novels -- my favorite was The Third Secret: A Novel -- and I like the way that the author blends history, archeology, and adventure into a mystery thriller. The typical Berry novel is a cross between Clive Cussler and Dan Brown, and they are fast paced, quick reads.

In this novel, Cotton Malone and Casssiopeia Vitt (these characters most recently appeared in the previous novel The Paris Vendetta: A Novel) are reunited in a mission that focuses on China and a conspiracy that may prove deadly as there are those who want to keep an incredible discovery a secret. Malone and Vitt are brought into the inner workings of the post Mao government where there is a showdown between the two leading contenders (Tang and Ni) for that country's leadership role. Add in traitorous eunuchs, Russian spies, and trigger happy soldiers and you have a somewhat confusing story of cross and double cross. At stake is China's leadership yes, but also a race to verify that oil -- not fossil fuel as long believed was scarce -- but abiotic oil that is self replenishing and would never run out. What a find for China if true -- China that needs massive quantities of imported oil to run its industry and shelter its people. A Russian geologist has what he believes is proof that abiotic oil exists and was actually discovered in Gansu over 2200 years ago!! He is wanted by both the Russians and the Chinese and they will stop at nothing to get the verification they need. For if China doesn't need to import oil, it will no longer have to follow the dictates of the other nations and won't be held in check by threats of embargo. How powerful the leader of the nation that possesses unlimited oil would be. But no other country will find out! Is the verification they need hidden in the Emperor Qin Shi's tomb? The only problem is that the tomb has been off limits and sealed for over 2000 years!

Although the historical parts of the book were quite interesting (dynastic succession, eunuchs, important discoveries made centuries ago in China but kept from the western world) the narrative was somewhat disconnected. The point of view and the scene would switch back and forth quite frequently. I found the dialog more like an anthropology lecture sometimes and something that irritated me was the way the author wrote the way the Russians talked. The Chinese spoke English smoothly, but the Russians said things like "I not know" and "She gives to Tang who returns boy" i.e., skipped words, etc. Annoying -- I'm certain that any Russian secret agent would speak English quite fluently.

In short -- this book was OK but seemed more like a lecture in between unbelievable scenes of escapes and near death experiences. The fight scenes seemed to go on far too long and some of the transitions dragged on between bursts of action. Read it if you like to read about Chinese history and if you like spy stories and adventures. The conclusion was quite predictable.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ghost Country by Patrick Lee

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun sequel - sci-fi thriller..., December 6, 2010

This exciting follow up to The Breach reads like a movie script and I could see the action sequences and the main characters on the big screen as I turned the pages. A worthy sequel, Mr. Lee takes the characters on an incredible adventure following their discovery of a dead city filled with dusty bones.

Travis, Paige and Bethany used the cylinder to time travel to Yuma, Arizona, where they figure out that a controlled catastrophe is about to happen in the current month of December and that it will have the effect of virtually destroying the known world. What that incipient disaster is has them running all over the continents, back and forth in time, and facing their nemesis -- a former humanitarian in cahoots with the sitting President and a host of other corrupt scientists and government officials.

Although some suspension of disbelief at the last minute saves and some of the science and politics is required, it is after all science/adventure FICTION, and should be read just for the pure escapist pleasure of it.

Seems that there is plenty of room for another book in this series and I will look forward to reading it as well.

Recommend -- enjoy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Breach by Patrick Lee

4.0 out of 5 stars What is The Breach and who can you trust?, November 30, 2010
Lucky me! I have the second book in the series, Ghost Country, waiting for me right after turning the last page of this very interesting sci-fi type thriller. This first novel, The Breach, ends with a lot of unanswered questions and a cliffhanger that will make fans rush to find out out what happens next.

The story begins with a lone man trying to find answers in the Alaskan wilderness. Travis Chase has just recently been released from prison after serving time for a crime that we never quite get the details of but that will probably be significant later. He discovers a crash site of a 747 -- everyone on board is dead. There are cryptic messages and a strange series of instructions about a sphere that was taken from the plane. This sets in motion a very fast paced and suspenseful adventure that involves alien technology and lots of blood and guts. Travis rescues one of the two hostages taken from the plane and the two of them embark upon a mission to stop and prevent an apocalypse beyond his imagination.

The futuristic sci-fi and the technical information provide the reader with lots of interesting things to imagine and the narrative moves quickly as Travis and his rescued hostage Paige try to second guess and outwit the entity that is trying to control all the events that transpire. The problem is that The Whisper knows and can predict everything...from years in advance.

This is a quick read that you'll devour if you like futuristic "end of the world" science fiction adventures!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

5 stars -- a wonderful, beautiful, and satisfying read. I really loved it and think you will too!
Stories don't get much better than this.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

4.0 out of 5 stars Where will she go? What will she do?, November 2, 2010
I almost cried when I finished the last page of this trilogy. I slowed down my reading to a snail's pace to drag out the last few paragraphs knowing that I'd never read another word about Lisbeth or the rest of the wonderful cast of characters created by Stieg Larsson in three fantastic novels that captivated and enthralled me. I was left thinking that there was unfinished business here and that I would always wonder what happened after...

This book, the third in the Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy Bundle: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest takes up immediately where The Girl Who Played with Fire (Vintage) ended -- Lisbeth is mortally wounded and about to undergo surgery for the gunshot into her brain. Her eventual recovery and days spent in hospital are not wasted -- she is always planning her revenge and will accept no compromises in her quest for justice, finally, after years of being a persecuted victim. The reader is drawn into the story quickly and roots for Lisbeth's triumph over her oppressors and wishes her to overcome all the obstacles that have been placed in front of her. No capitulation. She's one of the most interesting heroines in suspense fiction, or perhaps such a finely developed idiosyncratic character has not previously been found in any genre lately! I was at times annoyed by her stoic and total refusal to engage with those who tried to help her as well as to be moved with pity or admiration for the way she dealt with the injustice served her.

I highly recommend this series and wish I could have the pleasure of reading yet another story involving Lisbeth Salander. This final novel in the trilogy brought some closure to her story, but there were still some unanswered questions that I believe I will ponder for some time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire

4 stars -- great intelligent thriller with lots of interesting details and suspense. I love the characters, especially Lisbeth, and have already started the third and final book in the series. I had hesitated to even start this trilogy because of all the hype, but I'm glad I did and recommend it to anyone who likes this genre.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Murderer's Daughters

3.0 out of 5 stars Escaping a shocking act of domestic violence..., October 21, 2010

I was quite disappointed in this uneven, overly slow novel that never seemed to go anywhere. The premise was interesting -- two sisters struggle through a series of sad and depressing events after their father murders their mother, attempts to stab and kill one of the sisters, and continues to torture them emotionally and disrupt their lives from his jail cell. I believe some have remarked upon a similarity to Janet Fitch's heartbreakingly beautiful novel, White Oleander (Oprah's Book Club), but I did not see much similarity beyond the basic facts that in both books a parent committed a murder and went to prison and also both tried to manipulate their children while incarcerated.

Told in first person alternating voices, this novel tells the tale of Lulu and Merry - the murderer's two daughters who witnessed his crime against them and who try to escape being known and defined by his act. Taunted at school, in the home of relatives and later in an orphanage, the girls can't seem to get away from the horror of their childhood abuse and the stain that violence left upon them. The sisters are as different as night from day as they deal with the trauma and suffer various types of post-traumatic reactions. The two behave quite stereotypically with the older sister taking on the reliable, responsible maternal role and the younger Merry becoming a bit off balance, promiscuous, and developing an addictive type personality. They remain close although constantly trying to hide their past, shielding Lulu's children from the knowledge that they have a grandfather in prison, and fighting about Merry's continued relationship with their father whom she visits at the penitentiary.

The narrative continues through the course of their young adult lives as each sister struggles to find her place in the world and to leave her past behind. Their bond is threatened when their father announces that he's about to be released from prison. Will the sisters be able to forgive him and accept him back into their lives? What, after all, is the nature of family and how strong is a pull toward a biological parent no matter how "bad" they have behaved? Can anyone remain unaffected after a shocking act of domestic violence and become whole again? These are all questions that the reader might ponder while reading. I personally didn't like the way the book ended, but perhaps others might have found more profound meaning in the conclusion. No new revelations here!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hell Gate by Linda Fairstein

This 12th in series is OK (3.5/5 stars) although there seems to be too much going on to really flesh out both story lines – the one with the victims of the ship going aground and the other involving the disappearance of the congressman’s mistress. I do like the interplay between the characters but sometimes the narrative and dialog seems more like a lecture than actual conversation. I usually learn something new with every book, especially the historical background – in this case with the mansions and Federalists from Revolutionary times. I’ll read the next as I am a fan.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Private by James Patterson

3.0 out of 5 stars Typical recent Patterson thriller, October 9, 2010

This review is from: Private (Hardcover)
This novel provides exactly what fans of James Patterson have come to expect from his recent (co-authored) novels. It's a quick and easy read -- nothing deep or thought-provoking here. It provides enough intrigue to be called a thriller and though short on suspense, the narrative moves along smoothly juggling a couple of different plot lines: the unsolved murders of at least thirteen school girls and two other concurrent investigations -- a football gambling scandal and the killing of his best friend's wife.

Jack Morgan runs a private investigative firm with several associates; they operate a bit outside of the law and have unlimited resources and contacts to help the team achieve the necessary results by whatever means necessary.

If you're looking for a mindless thriller, this might just fit your requirements and if you're a Patterson fan, you won't want to miss this one and you won't have any lingering effects or nightmares after you've turned the last page.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Petty Magic

4.0 out of 5 stars Changes everything you thought you knew about witches..., September 29, 2010

This is a lovely book about 149-year-old beldame Evelyn Harbinger, a witch who uses her power exactly as prescribed and allowed by her coven --"By magic I shall do no harm, except in defense of myself or another." Eve uses her abilities to transform herself into a young woman each night and then goes about using her charms and wiles on unsuspecting human men. She's adventurous, lonely -- and greedy!

Told in the second person, Eve takes "you" on a journey into her world. She plies you with tidbits about being a witch in the modern world and explains how she travels and what she eats. In short, she shows you what witches are and aren't. Eve is about her business when she meets a young man, Justin, who reminds her of her long lost love -- a man she met and fell in love with during World War II, in Europe, where they worked together in the French Resistance to defeat the Nazi regime. Typically, witch-mortal romances are disastrous -- after all, he ages normally while she retains her youth and lives a very long life. She can't say no to this chance to reconnect with the spirit of her dead lover, Jonah. She must have Justin.

A fun novel dealing with World War II history, magic and love. What more could a reader want on a cool autumn night -- read it for a warm feeling!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

4.0 out of 5 stars Need to find out more about Lisbeth..., September 25, 2010

This review is from: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Paperback)
It seems that that this is a book that tends to polarize people -- either they rave about it or they pan it. Well, I liked it -- despite all the naysayers and the critical reviews. The plot moved along at a steady pace and the revelations of the narrative were interesting and surprising. I confess to having seen the movie (with subtitles) before reading the book, and felt that the movie was a faithful adaptation. I liked the character of Lisbeth and wanted to know more about her, hence why I picked up the book. I did get a little bored with all the financial shenanigans and the endless detail about the money laundering, but the story about Harriet and the Vangers was definitely worth wading through all the other stuff!

Glad I read it and think that most readers who like a good mystery will enjoy it too! I definitely plan to read the other two in the series.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly amusing, got old fast..., September 16, 2010

This review is from: Star Island (Hardcover)
This latest novel read like an issue of one of the more lurid entertainment magazines -- however in this case, fiction is a bit stranger than truth although some of the current stars do manage to create a lot of mayhem and mischief. Hiaasen has taken a page or two from the tabloids and churned out another trademark romp -- this time focusing on Cherry Pye, a young singer who is poised between rehab and a comeback tour. Unfortunately, she's so out of control that even her handlers can't seem to slow the skid.

The other characters in this sometimes funny story include a familiar face -- Skink, formerly known as Clinton Tyree, who had a short-lived term as governor of Florida before he went "green" and bonkers. He's been in several previous novels and hasn't changed a bit. In addition, Hiaasen has given somewhat clever names to the players in this novel including the giant bodyguard Chemo (and his weed-whacker arm), Bang Abbott (one of the paparazzi) who hatches a scheme that goes horribly wrong, the slimy promoter Maury Lykes, and the rest of the cast fill out a bizarre tale that amuses at times but ultimately the joke goes on too long. I really had no empathy for any of the characters, not even the stand in Ann who is supposed to be the one we root for, rose much beyond a stereotype. I think there was just too much going on -- definitely this was tongue in cheek, over-the-top satire of the world of celebrities and the folks who feed off them. Basically the novel was a cliche of all that and although I found it mildly amusing, I wasn't unhappy when I turned the last page and closed the book.

I've read all of Carl Hiaasen's novels and probably will read the next one, so I expect other fans of this author and this genre will do so as well.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro

3.0 out of 5 stars Bloodthirsty vampires -- plague continues..., September 12, 2010

This review is from: The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy (Hardcover)
Although I rushed to start reading this book immediately after closing the last page of The Strain (The Strain Trilogy), I ended up not being as engrossed in it and tired quickly of the endless descriptions of the killing of the hordes of vampires that had infested every nook and cranny of New York. The book tended to bog down in the middle but finally took off toward the conclusion of this volume in the trilogy.

The story continues right where it left off; led by an ancient Master who controls them, the new breed of vampires (virus and parasite) have a long sucker that springs out of the mouth to acquire sustenance, and once drained of blood, the humans are turned. These zombie-like creatures roam the streets and subterranean tunnels of New York, the changed ones tending to return home to their loved ones to infect them as well. Fighting this epidemic is an unlikely vampire hunting and killing team, intent on saving the human race, composed of a CDC doctor named Eph and his associate, Nora, a Holocaust survivor and professor turned pawnshop owner -- Setrakian is the one who has the most knowledge about these creatures and a plan for how to stop them, and a city rat exterminator, Fet, who has key knowledge of the underground sewers. These folks are intent on saving New York, and the world, from extinction. Now the Ancients have joined the hunt to seek out and destroy the Master -- because he is evil and is not following the rules and plan that have been laid out since their origination or becoming.

The narrative is mostly non-stop action and the reader is treated to all manner of violent vampire killing methods with lots of gory details, vivid descriptions of the changed ones young and old, and the hunt continues to find and stop the Master before he can take over the world with his dastardly plan. Meanwhile, Eldritch Palmer, a very wealthy but physically sick human is trying to buy immortality by enticing the rogue vampire to the "New World" and acquiring whatever means will allow that to happen. In addition, Eph's ex-wife and his son Zach's mother (who became a vampire in the fist book) is searching to find her boy.

This second book in the series ends on an ambiguous note, another cliffhanger, and we will have to wait to find out what happens to all the remaining humans in the final thriller in this trilogy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and fun -- don't take it too seriously!, September 1, 2010

This review is from: The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy (Hardcover)
Despite almost being put off by some negative reviews, I found the book to be a fast-paced and entertaining tale about a new breed of vampires -- perhaps changed by some "strain" that could be identified later as a virus or parasite (easier to eradicate in a future book?). Led by an ancient Master, these vampires have a long sucker that springs out of the mouth to acquire sustenance, unlike the vampires of old with fangs that bite into the neck. These zombie-like creatures roam the streets and subterranean tunnels of New York, the changed ones tending to return home to their loved ones to infect them as well. Fighting this new horde is a vampire hunting and killing team, quite a motley crew, composed of a CDC doctor and his associate, a Holocaust survivor turned pawnshop owner, and a city rat exterminator. These folks are intent on saving New York, and the world, from extinction.

Many have pointed out the flaws in some of the action sequences, the stilted dialog, the lapses in logic and the strained credulity they experienced while following the story line. My advice -- don't take it all so seriously, quit analyzing and just enjoy the ride! The narrative moves quickly advancing the action and the reader is treated to all manner of vampire killing methods (not the ones you're familiar with from other novels of this nature that have the typical vampire lore), vivid descriptions of the changed ones, and the hunt for the lair of the Master. Meanwhile, a very wealthy human is trying to live forever by enticing the ancient vampire to the "New World" and acquiring whatever means will allow that to happen. Along the way are some side stories involving abusive husbands, divorce, custody issues, nosy neighbors, bad mothers, evil lawyers -- well you get the picture!

The book starts out strong (the dead plane on the tarmac at JFK airport) and will keep you turning the pages until the end...of this volume in the proposed trilogy by this author duo. Although not a cliffhanger ending, it did leave me wanting more. Thank heavens I have The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy waiting in the wings to start tonight!

All in all -- it's a fun and fast read -- don't take it seriously!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

3.0 out of 5 stars Katniss lost her focus and passion..., August 28, 2010

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As were other readers, I was disappointed and let down by this book, the final installment in the previously thrilling Hunger Games trilogy. I had really anticipated liking it more. I think the main point fueling my reaction is that the interaction and the dialog between the individuals and the interplay of their relationships that I had found so interesting in the first two novels were missing in this one. By the end, I really didn't care about any of the formerly endearing or revolting characters and got tired of the endless descriptions of weapons and all different manner of war and death. I prefer to read about people and their feelings and thoughts to reading about battles, chases, and escapes from the clutches of bad guys or fantastic hordes of killing machines.

I really didn't have much empathy for Katniss because she seemed to always be either impetuously disregarding what was in her best interests and doing something stupid out of anger or revenge or huddled in a secret place crying and wallowing. Neither is attractive in a character I want to admire and root for in a novel that is supposed to be about strong heroines and causes. I guess I felt that the novel was relentless in its diatribe about the horrors of war - got it the first time in the first chapter. I had hoped that Katniss would lead the rebels to the Capitol in an organized well thought out battle where GOOD would decisively triumph over evil. By the time she made it to the Capitol, her motives seemed shallow and more for personal reasons than for the good of Panem as a whole - it was about her and what Snow had done to her loved ones and her life. More or less it seemed to me that, in the end, she whimpered toward a victory that was hollow and pointless as she slunk back to District 12 to quietly live out the rest of her days. The epilogue was supposed to indicate that she had reached a level of peace or acceptance but merely seemed like an afterthought. She had completely lost her passion. And I lost interest in her.

Despite my overall dissatisfaction and my review indicating that to me the book was only so-so, anyone who was enthralled with The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) will certainly feel compelled to read this book to finish out the series. I am also sure that the movie(s) will be wildly popular.

The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell

3.0 out of 5 stars Complex and absorbing..., August 29, 2010

This review is from: The Scarpetta Factor (Hardcover)
This novel, the seventeenth in the series featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, is full of the forensic details, cutting edge FBI analysis protocols, and technological advances that Patricia Cornwell is known for writing. The well known and much-loved characters are all together again as they work a complex case that perplexes and engages them in various facets of the investigation. Lucy and New York prosecutor, Jaime Berger, team up as lovers and co-investigators looking for a missing woman, Kay autopsies a jogger who has been dead much longer than witnesses claim she was, Benton faces an old nemesis who ran him out of the FBI years ago, and Marino is investigating different facets of the parallel cases as they coalesce into a surprising climax that brings the team full circle.

The narrative was, at times, a little slow moving and occasionally got bogged down with endless description and the detail that is typical of a Scarpetta novel dealing with the scientific data that helps solve the case. The novel isn't exactly riveting but it was interesting. The characters are almost like family after having read about them for so long -- we know their good points and their demons and accept them for who and what they are, still loving them despite their idiosyncrasies and foibles.

I'll keep reading Patricia Cornwell because she really is the queen of the 'medical examiner novel' authors, and Kay Scarpetta is the model that all the other female pathologist characters has been built on by other writers. I enjoy novels of this nature and look forward to the next installment.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

3.0 out of 5 stars Pedantic, boring, tedious..., August 23, 2010
This review is from: The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon, No. 3) (Hardcover)
I'm sorry to say that this book was just "ok" for me. I found much of it pedantic and boring and tedious. I skimmed entire chapters, just wanting Brown to get on with the story. Perhaps I'm tired of secret societies and hidden mysteries. I don't have the patience to wait while Langdon works through symbols and codes to get the answer -- oh wait -- that's not all! There was no universal truth or magical end result in this novel. In addition, it was overly long and could have used some serious editing -- or mass deletion of minuscule detail.

I do not like the cliffhanger chapter endings that Brown used throughout this book. I never developed any kind of empathy or interest in the characters that populated this novel, and even Langdon became annoying as he "almost got it" many times. The revelation at the end was not unexpected and certainly wasn't so exciting that it was worth plodding through the previous 500+ pages.

Parts of the story were interesting, but it seemed as if Brown tried too hard to blend religion and science and the ancient mysteries. Recommend that if you must read it, borrow it! Or better yet, wait for the movie...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

4.0 out of 5 stars A journey of discovery and a tale of a family..., August 14, 2010

This review is from: A Secret Kept (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed this very interesting story about a French family and the unraveling of the "secret" that was at the heart of the mystery in this novel. Although set in modern day France, the narrative has a timeless quality about it as a forty-ish, newly divorced man, Antoine Rey, starts investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of his mother, Clarisse, after his sister Melanie is injured in an automobile accident after suddenly remembering something dramatically suspicious about their mother while the two of them are off on holiday.

While his sister is hospitalized and during her recovery from her injuries, Antoine becomes compelled to find out more about his mother and who she was and how she died since both of her children feel as if they never really knew her and the subject has never been talked about within the family. In the course of his inquiries, he discovers and faces the truth about a mother he loved deeply but lost far too soon.

Antoine is a very complex man who is simultaneously dealing with his love and longing for his ex-wife and their three children-- two of whom are surly and distant teenagers -- and with the sudden urge to finally know more about his mother. He suffers loneliness and self doubt, bored with his career as architect, and morose about his lack of close relationships with his children and his father's family. I found him an interesting character with a lot of depth and sentimentality that led to many moments of self examination and introspection. The other supportive characters were not so well drawn, but did provide the means for Antoine to interact with and to push the narrative along.

I read the novel in one sitting. I don't think the story is so much about the revelation of the secret or even the nature of it, but more about the process of discovery and about the importance of exploring the bonds of family relationships and about knowing each other. Do children really ever know their parents -- and should they know everything? It is human nature to question and to want answers to the age-old question -- "why"...


Friday, August 13, 2010

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum

3.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately unsatisfying..., August 13, 2010

This review is from: The Stormchasers (Hardcover)
This book was not on the same level as Blum's previous work, Those Who Save Us. Although I enjoyed this narrative well enough at the beginning, the middle really dragged, and the ups and downs of reading about Karena dealing with obstinate Charles (the twin with severe bipolar illness) wore me out and ultimately bored me.

Although the metaphor of stormchasing and bipolar "storms" was apt, the relentless reminder to the reader of how Charles' illness affected his sister, was overdone. I think most readers will be able to predict the outcome of the story once the "secret" is revealed. I did, however, enjoy the technical information about the development and science of storms, particularly tornadoes, since I live in the Midwest where this type of weather is common and often destructive.

Another reviewer has remarked about the fact that the two men in the book rarely use Karena's name. Her brother (and twin) calls her either "K" or "sistah", and her boyfriend refers to her as "Laredo" or some other term. I also found that annoying. I really never felt that I got involved with the characters in this novel -- they were very one dimensional and I found myself becoming irritated at times rather than empathizing with their plight. I was basically just glad to get to the wholly anticlimactic end.

I will wait patiently for Blum's next novel, and see if she can revert to the quality storytelling that made me a fan when I read her first book. Overall, just found The Stormchasers only mildly interesting, a bit disappointing, and would tell those who ask, "It's OK."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating epic tale!, August 5, 2010

This review is from: Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy) (Hardcover)
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This is a fantastic epic, the first in a planned trilogy by the author of The Pillars of the Earth (now a miniseries) and World Without End. I simply raced through the pages, unable to put this book down even though it was a hefty nearly 1000 pages.

The story moves seamlessly and logically, starting in 1911 and ending in 1925, and has a large cast of characters -- all so beautifully developed that the reader comes to care about each one -- the good and the bad. A helpful CAST OF CHARACTERS is provided at the beginning of the book that may be copied and used as reference, but it is really not needed as the reader is introduced to each and they are so memorable that it's easy to keep them straight. The families are American, English, Scottish, French, German and Austrian, Russian, and Welsh. There are Lords and Ladies, Dukes and Duchesses, Kings, Queens, Earls, Dukes -- even the servants, miners, and other assorted people populate this work of fiction. The author has also inserted real historical figures into the story, and their interaction with Follett's characters is very well done.

Book one of the CENTURY TRILOGY is set in Europe before, during and after World War I. From a mining town in Aberowen, South Wales, to the drawing rooms of the privileged aristocracy in Russia, Britain, Germany, and to the War Room in the White House of Woodrow Wilson -- the narrative captivates as it tells the tale of the people involved in the conflict and their lives during this period of change in the world.

The story is intriguing and complex, but eminently readable. The violence and gore that were present in Follett's previous works is absent here, and the action is fast and the storytelling fantastic. I have a fondness for historical fiction, and this work does not disappoint as the author has obviously thoroughly researched the era and has rendered it beautifully.

I won't provide a detailed synopsis of this book since the product description on this page does that, but will say that it's a drama about life and love during these fateful years and I promise you that this will go down as being one of the best books you've ever read.

I cannot recommend it highly enough and can't wait for the sequel! This book, however, has a very satisfying conclusion and can stand alone as you are not left with unanswered questions at the end! Historical fiction at its best.