April 1st, 2012

nose in a book

Books 27-28: The Other Half Lives and The Fallen Angel

Book 27: The Other Half Lives (Spilling CID #4) .
Author: Sophie Hannah, 2009.
Genre: Crime. Police Procedural. Psychological Thriller.
Other Details: Hardback. 560 pages.

"When your world falls apart and everything is ruined, you lose part of yourself...One half, the best half, dies. The other half lives." - Mary Trelease, The Other Half Lives.

Another complex, convoluted thriller from Sophie Hannah that begins with a confession of a murder that did not take place. During a December weekend trip to London Ruth Bussey and her boyfriend Aidan Seed have decided to share hidden details of their lives before becoming more intimate. Ruth intends to tell him about a traumatic event in her past but she hesitates and actually says very little. Then Aidan makes the shocking confession that years ago he had killed a woman named Mary Trelease.

The narrative moves forward a few months to the end of February when Ruth approaches Charlie Zailer. Ruth shares this information with Charlie hoping that the police will be able to convince Aidan that he is wrong. Ruth knows that Mary, a rather reclusive and 'difficult' artist, is alive and well. Beyond this there is really no way to summarize the story other to say that Hannah examines the lives of three damaged women (Ruth, Charlie and Mary) and in doing so enters quite dark and disturbing territory.

As with all of Sophie Hannah's novels I found this a very compelling and satisfying read; one very hard to pull myself away from. Again, I had no idea where the plot was heading with all the twists and turns. A very satisfying crime thriller. In the USA this was published in 2010 as The Dead Lie Down.

Book 28: The Fallen Angel (Nic Costa #9).
Author: David Hewson, 2011.
Genre: Crime. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Hardback. 400 pages.

August in Rome and Nic Costa is out for the evening with a friend when the quiet night is shattered by a scream. Responding, Nic finds a teenage girl, covered in blood, and the body of a man lying dead in the Via Beatrice Cenci. British academic Malise Gabriel had stepped out for a cigarette onto some scaffolding outside the apartment his family was renting and it had given way, leading him to fall to his death.

At first it seems to be a straightforward accident but some aspects do not add up. In addition, Malise's wife Cecilia, his daughter Mina and troubled son Robert appear to be keeping vital information hidden from the investigators. Nic is especially concerned by Mina Gabriel's obsession with Beatrice Cenci, a young noblewoman who had been beheaded in 1599 accused of murdering her father, who had sexually abused her. Could there be an echo of the past in this death in the present?

Hewson confidently weaves history and art into this intricate and intelligent novel. In this case he has drawn on the real-life tragedy of Beatrice Cenci, which has inspired artists, writers and poets and generated much public sympathy. As in the novel the anniversary of her execution is still commemorated according to Hewson's closing notes.

This novel held my attention from its dramatic opening to the final pages. I have grown to love these characters and very glad that I read the series in order seeing how events over time have changed them. I know I shall be very sad if this turns out to be the last in the series now that David Hewson's attention is elsewhere with the highly anticipated novels based on the Danish TV series, 'The Killing'. Still, I felt this was one of the best in the series, so if proves a swan song for Nic and his pals, then it is quite a memorable one.

Beatrice Cenci: the true story behind 'The Fallen Angel' - David Hewson's blog entry.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

To finish off the month, I read another ebook. This was Osprey Elite #119: Apache Tactics 1830 - 86 which I found to be very well-written, and understandable. I was intrigued with the history, and the maps of the tactical situations were fascinating. Very good piece of work.
Jazzy Looking Around the Corner

March Reads

20. Rainbow’s End by Irene Hannon
21. McKettricks of Texas: Tate by Linda Lael Miller
22. Mail Order Christmas Brides by Jillian Hart and Janet Tronstad This two novella collection is about two women who go out west in order to become mail order brides. Both women are marrying men who have been married before and have children from a previous marriage. There are some sweet moments in the book when you see the women interact with the children who are to become their stepdaughters. The romance in the book is sweet and innocent. This is a good book to read at Christmastime or when you are in a Christmas mood that has romance in it without any of the sex that you sometimes see in romance novels.
23. An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers This second book in her Mark of the Lion series, wraps up the stories of Hadasseh, Marcus and Julia. About a year after Hadasseh was sent to the lions all of Julia’s friends had deserted her and Marcus is still angry with her for sending Hadasseh to the lions. Marcus is searching for Hadasseh’s God and goes to Judea to look for them. Miraculously Hadasseh survives the lion attack though it did leave her with scars and a limp that she would have for the rest of her life. She becomes the assistant to the young physician that had cared for her.
24. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood This is a must read book for all women. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead where her primary purpose is to sleep with the commander that she is assigned to and to get pregnant. She lives in a world where the primary purpose for women is to get pregnant and have babies. Women are not permitted to hold down a job or even own property in their own name. Offred does remember when she had a job, a husband and a child. This book is written as a warning that women can lose the hard earned rights that we fought for. We recently came closer to Offred’s world when Congress held a hearing on birth control for an all male panel where a young woman who was supposed to testify was left out purposely and where a radio host called her a slut just for standing up for her rights. This book is an example of what could happen if we become complacent about our rights as women. In Gilead women are treated as slaves and there is even an underground railroad for women to leave the oppressive world of Gilead.
25. Unbelievable by Sara Shepard
26. Highland Crossings by Pamela Griffin, Laurie Alice Eakes, Jennifer Hudson Taylor and Gina Welborn This collection of four novellas are linked by a brooch given by Mary Queen of Scots. These inspirational stories are set in different time periods with the women characters related to each other. The stories are set in the same area of North Carolina. This collection is unlike some of the other collections that I have read where the stories only have the setting in common. I think that it is a good idea to interconnect the stories which makes the reader interested in where the brooch is headed next. The authors also give a little bit of taste of the time period that the stories are set in which gives you background information. I would recommend this collection of four novellas to those who do enjoy inspirational historical fiction. I did receive this book from Netgalley in return for a review.
27. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
28. Courting the Doctor’s Daughter by Janet Dean
29. Broken Wings by Carla Stewart Mitzi and Gabe Steiner captured audiences with their jazz singing as a duo on stage. Now Gabe suffers from Alzheimer’s with Mitzi to care for him in a nursing home. On a fateful night at her volunteer job at the local hospital she runs into Brooke Woodson who is engaged to Lance who is running for DA. Mitzi undercovers the truth behind Brooke’s accident and befriends her. She also shows Brooke what a godly marriage should be about, it isn’t about biological clocks or how much money a husband makes. Mitzi also tells her the story of how Gabe and her got together. Mitzi’s and Gabe’s story is a sweet love story though bittersweet at times.

March Books: #27-44

The Darkest Seduction by Gena Showalter
White Lies and Other Half Truths by Barbara Tiller Cole
To Desire a Devil, Notorious Pleasures, and The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
The Outlaw King by Sandra Hill
Locke & Key: Head Games, Crown of Shadows, and Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill
The Wedding of the Century by Mary Jo Putney
Jesse's Wife by Kristin James
Seduced by Starlight by Charlotte Featherstone
American Vampire #24 by Scott Synder
Jane and the Wandering Eye and Jane and the Stillroom Maid by Stephanie Barron
Timeless by Gail Carriger
Lover Reborn by JR Ward
An Irresistable Bachelor by Jessica Bird

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Books 24-29

24. My Infamous Life, by Albert "Prodigy" Johnson. Prodigy, one half of the rap duo Mobb Deep, published his autobiography (with Laura Checkoway), which includes his background as a child, his struggles with sickle cell anemia, his music success, his stint in prison and release. I am really not sure how I feel about this one. I'd never really heard of Mobb Deep before this; this was a book sent to me at work and I thought I'd give it a go, for something different. The book flows well, and I imagine this being a hit on the Young Adult shelves. But it's not for the easily offended. Prodigy doesn't hold a lot back on his experiences with drugs, sex, alcohol, and (arguably the most disturbing) the violence in his life. This was... an eye-opener. Prodigy admits his mistakes in a very pragmatic, matter-of-fact tone. How remorseful and apologetic he truly is, who knows?

25. A Time of Miracles, by Anne-Laure Bondoux. A beautiful story. Blaise Fortune grows up with a woman, Gloria, in the Republic of Georgia in the 1990s, when several former Soviet countries were declaring their independence. Blaise and Gloria subside by begging and living off their wits, but the residents of the Complex, at least for a while, form a tight-knit community which even includes a schooling system. Blaise's favorite thing is to listen to Gloria's story on how he was found on a train that had derailed nearby and how Gloria found him. When Blaise is older and the strife around them intensifies, they make a cross-country journey to France. For Blaise, Gloria says, is actually a citizen of France and therefore the two of them can seek sanctuary (she would take Blaise's mother's passport.) During the journey Blaise begins to question who he really is, and begins to wonder about Gloria's stories about him. He finds out the truth can be more remarkable than fiction. This was a neat story, taking place in a time and location not often used, and the themes of finding one's way and identity, not to mention ultimately forgiveness, are well done here. The map of Blaise's travels is a nice touch.

26. Nothing, by Janne Teller. This story has been compared to Lord of the Flies, and it has a very similar, dark, horrific feel. The story starts when a student, Pierre Anthon, announces during the first day of classes that there is no meaning in life so what is the use of anything? He then leaves the classroom and takes up residence in a tree, where he taunts his classmates for the next several weeks. His classmates, all under 15, decide to prove him wrong -- that life and many things do have meaning-- and thus coax him down from his tree (his high horse). They decide to contribute an item that means something to them to this pile of meaning. After some thinking, the students decide each one of them would select a student and decide what that student must add to the pile. The decisions become darker and more macabre as the story goes on, and the consequences have a tragic effect. Nothing is an excellent, haunting and lyrically told story, but I recommend following it with a comic chaser.

27. Soldier Bear, by Bibi Dumon Tak, with illustrations by Philip Hopman. A sweet story, good for older grade school and middle school (could be used for second grade and up, but I'd recommend parents and teachers read along with younger children; there are one, maybe two chapters younger and more sensitive readers may find upsetting). This is based on the true story of Voytek, a bear who is adopted by a group of Polish soldiers as a cub. Voytek, along with the other animal mascots, causes his share of trouble in the unit -- hogging the shower water, and mooching for food, beer and cigarettes. But his antics and empathy win him a lot of fans. Among other things, the bear helped carry artillery shells, once cornered a spy and in general helped the morale of the soldiers. Voytek eventually becomes an enlisted member of the Polish Corps. The pictures in the back of the book are a nice addition, and lead credence to this remarkable story.

28. The Lily Pond, by Annika Thor. This is a sequel to A Faraway Island. Stephie and her younger sister Nellie has adapted to life on a Swedish island to escape the dangers of Nazi-occupied Vienna. But Stephie, now 13, is leaving the island for the mainland to go to school, a chance given to her thanks to a scholarship and an arrangement with the Soderbergs, the family who stayed on the island during the summer as temporary lodgers, to allow Stephie to stay at their residence. Stephie is thrilled at the chance to attend school and go back to a city life again. However, she must navigate the new mores and politics of the city, and she still worries about her parents back in Vienna. Stephie also is falling in love with Sven, the Soderberg's son. But he has secrets of his own. Fans of A Faraway Island will like this sequel. It is a sweet coming-of-age story.

29. Departure Time, by Truus Matti. An interesting story... actually, two stories in one. The first tells of a girl who is coming to grips with the recent loss of her father. The second is of a girl who doesn't remember who she is. It turns out the two stories are related as the tale progresses. The second girl finds herself at a hotel, whose only occupants seem to be a fox and a rat. Bit by bit, she starts to remember her past and who she is. This was an interesting story on many levels, as the reader finds out more about both girls. However, there was one point where the story went from one girl to the other mid-chapter, which I found jarring. Had that happened more than once I would have seen it as a progression of the story, the stories merging. But it just happened once so it looked more like either an accident or something got lost in translation. Also, the resolution with the second girl went on a bit too long; my interest started to wane some. I did enjoy the resolution of the first girl's story, however.

Currently reading: Social media for business : 101 ways to grow your business without wasting your time, by Susan Sweeney and Randall Craig.