THE ARSONIST by Sue Miller
I enjoyed this very well written book until I got to the end. Then I felt cheated. Where was the conclusion? What happened? Who was guilty? Who died? Who loved?
Frankie and Bud were clearly drawn, likeable characters. Frankie’s life in Africa was detailed enough to make her believable if unknown and unknowable. Bud was always known and knowable. Sylvia and Alfie were good foils for Frankie and Bud.
The fires seemed peripheral to the story, unnecessary even.
Did I like this book? While I was reading it – unequivocally yes! Did I like it once I finished the book – not so much. The last 10 pages seemed like a cop out – I don’t know what to do with these characters and their story, so I’ll just end it.
Very unsatisfying. 1 of 5 stars
This debut novel is a quick read with a Christian wholesomeness. You will figure out the love story by the second page, but the story is really about people a small town in West Virginia, their prejudices, secrets and the ability to forgive.
Coincidence and misunderstandings abound as the story progresses to its foreordained conclusion. You won’t be surprised but you will enjoy getting there.
The characters are likeable. The villain is driven out of town. The good folks find salvation and redemption. The writing is solid.
If you like Christian, family centered novels, you will love this book. If you find them boring and cliché ridden, you should read something else.
4 of 5 stars
I was expecting more of a tale about the Texas tower massacre rather than a tale of damaged people and their secrets and the damage those secrets caused.
That said the book was interesting for about the first half then I got wearied with all the drama and more drama and more drama that involved Shelly, her lover, her husband, her daughter, her friends, etc, etc.
After finishing the book I decided it was a warning of the all mistakes people make in their lives and how those mistakes affect others far into the future.
The characters were carefully drawn. The writing was clear. The descriptions of life in Texas were interesting. The drama around the Devil’s Sinkhole was engaging and realistic. My favorite character was Dan. My least favorite was Wyatt (or maybe Madeline).
But overall, the book was just……..a book. Neither really good or really bad.
So…. 3 out of 5 stars
The OLD BLUE LINE by J A Jance
This novella gives us the back story for Butch Dixon, Sheriff Brady’s husband in many of J A Jance’s books that take place in Arizona. Butch becomes the prime suspect in the murder of his former wife who had remarried and changed her name after divorcing Butch. How he defends himself is the plot.
Although short this is a well-developed story with interesting characters and a layered plot. Part of the book is a portion of Jance’s next book – REMAINS OF INNOCENCE.
4 of 5 stars
THE SILKWORM by Robert Galbraith (J K Rowling)
This second outing for Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith continues the story of Cormoran Strike, an intrepid detective and war hero, and his assistant Robin. This story is much darker than THE CUCKOO’S CALLING and filled with cruelty and foulness. A failed and failing writer is murdered in a heinous way.
Strike and Robin combine to discover who among the many literary folk did the murder and why. The many characters are introduced and their stories filled out nicely. Each of the characters has a possible motive and you will be kept guessing until the final pages.
Rowling writes with clarity as she fleshes out each possible murderer. The plot is intricate and you will need to pay attention if you are to solve the mystery before Strike and Robin. Strike’s physical infirmity becomes a defining part of the story and Robin is forced to step up in ways that make her fiancé unhappy. That portion of the book offers insight into each of the main characters and will allow Rowling to continue the series with continued conflict between Robin, her fiancé and Strike.
A well written, engaging mystery that drags just a bit in the middle when much time is spent defining the characters.
4 of 5 stars
BONES NEVER LIE by Kathy Reichs
Temperance Brennan is a woman determined to avenge the young girls who are being murdered in Charlotte. When she learned these murders may be connected to “cold cases” where she was never to bring the perpetrator to justice, she is even more determined. When Detective Ryan shows up as well, things begin to be very interesting.
This is Reichs at her best. She weaves people and plot carefully together and brings the conclusion as just the right point in the story. There is enough monstrous cruelty here for the most blood thirsty and enough science for technical in this tale of psychology and murder solved with wit and dogged police work.
BONES NEVER LIE is part of the written series, but can be read without knowing the back story. Those who only know Temperance through television will not recognize the characters but will recognize good writing and detection.
5 of 5 stars
This book is vile, racist, anti-women, homophobic, violent, contains foul language and characters of corruption and pure evil. It is also a ripping good story. The main characters are police women (and men) in 1974 Atlanta, Georgia. If you remember 1974, you will recognize the casual racism and ethnic slurs that abounded in southern cities of that time. You will also recognize some of the music and businesses from that era.
Kate is a newbie cop. She is also completely out of her comfort zone. She is Jewish, widowed, rich privileged and educated. The women and men she is thrown in with in “cop world” are working class, racist, anti-Jew, hard-bitten, bullying and for the most part trying to do a decent job under awful circumstances.
The writing is sharp, pointed and unflinching. The plot unfolds fast enough to keep you turning the pages long after you should be safely in bed. You will find yourself sympathizing with macho cops who operate just below the level of corruption. You will figure out the bad guy and the plot twists long before Kate does, but that won’t diminish your enjoyment of this thrilling thriller.
5 of 5 stars
SHOTS FIRED by C J Box
This collection of short stories shows off Cox’s expertise in creating characters. BLOOD KNOT, a extremely short story, gives us insight into six different characters while delivering a satisfying ending. Joe Pickett, a Box character in 14 novels, makes an appearance in several tales including One-Car Bridge, the opening story that delivers a punch of an ending.
If you already are familiar with Box you will like these quick reads. If you have never read his stories before, these will have you eager for more. You will find humor in PIRATES OF YELLOWSTONE, evil in EVERY DAY IS A GOOD DAY ON THE RIVER and political incorrectness with a helping of retribution in LE SAUVAGE NOBLE (THE NOBLE SAVAGE).
5 of 5 stars
SUMMER HOUSE WITH SWIMMING POOL by Herman Koch
I made it through 100 pages of this book before deciding I didn’t like any of the characters and I truly didn’t care if Ralph was murdered or it was just a horrible mistake. Marc, the doctor who made the mistake or committed the murder, was an especially unlikeable person. He was selfish and narcissistic to the extreme. Ralph wasn’t much better. They were both lecherous towards the other’s wife within minutes of meeting (apparently not an unusual happening).
There was supposed to be humor somewhere in this book, but it hadn’t occurred by page 100 (out of 385). Marc didn’t like camping and I didn’t like Marc so I guess we are even.
Skip this one.
2 of 5 stars
Though the book is related by Ruth (Mammy), the story is really Solange and Miss Ellen’s story. You might ask “Who is Solange?” Solange is Scarlett’s grandmother, but you won’t find her in Gone with the Wind. Solange is a French heiress who is married off to a second son with prospects in sugar. She arrives in Haiti to find the sugar plantation in disarray and the second son a poor manager. Ruth is an orphan that Solange appropriates for herself. When the Haitian slave revolt becomes a dangerous reality, Solange, her husband and Ruth decamp to Charleston, South Carolina. Here Ruth finds love and marriage in Jehu, a free black. Unfortunately Jehu finds Pastor Vesey and his church of slaves. When Vesey’s plot to overthrow and murder white slave holders is discovered, Ruth’s family is shattered and the story changes location to Savannah. Here Solange marries for a third time and gives birth to Ellen, Scarlett’s mother. The last quarter of the book covers Miss Ellen and Gerald O”Hara’s marriage and life at Tara. The book ends with the outbreak of the Civil War. The book is well written and follows a pre-ordained curve to introduce us to Scarlett and attempt to give us a back story for why Scarlett is who she is. Actual events and people give a feeling of reality to the novel that is a bit too long. Too much of the book deals with Solange and her amorous adventures. If you are looking for a novel of pre-Civil War manners, you will be happy. If you really want to know Ruth and a slave’s life, this is not the book for you. 3 of 5 stars
SLOW DOLLAR by Margaret Maron
Fans of Deborah Knott will appreciate this novel that introduces some long lost relatives, visits a carnival and finds murder among the rides and “stores.” You will learn quite a bit about carnivals and the carnies that populate them. Deborah’s relatives are kind, forgiving, mean spirited, long suffering, angry – you name it. They are all here just like in real life.
Maron supplies us with another tightly crafted, engaging mystery. Although the 8th tale in this series, you can read this book without having read any of the others. The family tree is helpful in identifying all of Deborah’s many brothers and their progeny.
A satisfying read. 4 of 5 stars
DOG GONE, BACK SOON by Nick Trout
If you like animals and are in need of a good laugh or two, DOG GONE, BACK SOON is just the book for you. The plot has enough twists to keep you guessing. The characters are likeable and clearly drawn. The animals, especially Stash, are quirky and entertaining.
My one quibble is that I occasionally had to read the dialogue a second time and pay careful attention or I would not know who was speaking – and it makes a difference!
A few identifying comments would have been helpful. The romance is of the hand holding, peck on the cheek variety so those who prefer to avoid hot and heavy sex need not fear nor is there any foul language. The supporting characters – both human and four legged – are engaging and amusing.
Altogether an enjoyable read for a lazy summer afternoon or in front of a blazing fireplace.
4 of 5 stars
IRISH EYES by Mary Kay Andrews
Callahan Garrity, private eye and cleaning lady, loses a former partner and good friend when he makes a quick stop at a convenience store. Callahan, even after being warned off, tries to find the bad guys involved.
The writing is tightly plotted, the story line will keep you guessing, the characters are likeable – except of course, for the sleazy ones. Andrews has another winner in her Garrity series of mysteries. Her fans will love it and new readers, who need not have read any others in series, will find a new author to seek out.
4 of 5 stars
Two separate Christmas stories that take place in McCrumb’s Appalachia are intertwined in this cozy novel. Although the stories never link they are both lyrical and atmospheric.
McCrumb’s characters are fully developed even though the two stories are individually quite short – novella length. Both combine comic scenes with pathos. I enjoyed the jumps from story to story as the chapters alternate stories. Some may find this disconcerting.
4 of 5 stars
THE ALL-GIRL FILLING STATION’S LAST REUNION by Fannie Flagg Flagg has moved from the South to Pulaski, Wisconsin for her tale of an immigrant family and the four daughters who take it upon themselves to run the family filling station and take up flying fighter planes during World War II. But never fear, Sookie, a Southern bell who isn’t quite up to snuff according to her domineering mother, discovers she is not a SIMMONS, but was adopted (horrors!) is also a main character. How these facts intertwine is the story that will hold your attention. The four Polish sisters are based on the actual women who flew airplanes from factory to airfield (and sometimes further) to relieve the “real pilots” for combat duty. Their story makes up the bulk of The All-Girl Filling Station. Flagg wrote the book to honor the women who sacrificed as much as the men, but until recently were denied the right to military honor and benefits. Their story is compelling. Sookie’s part of the story offers humorous relief and ties all the loose ends together. You will learn an important part of WWII history and be greatly entertained at the same time. A great story well told. 5 of 5 stars
I tried really hard to like this book, but the bad translation stymied me. I made it through 75 pages before giving up. It badly needs some explanation of the many Islamic/Turkish/Arabic words and phrases used.