NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
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)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
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.