Sunday, June 10, 2018
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This title is popping up everywhere on suggested summer reads. It's a fascinating story mostly about people you aren't inclined to like who make terrible mistakes. I have stopped watching crime shows because they are so dreadful and cut back on the thrillers I once loved.
FIRST SENTENCE: "The trial has barely made a dent in the national news."
THE STORY: Georgina called Geo is best friends with Angela and Kaiser in high school until one night Angela disappears. For fourteen years Geo has kept secrets causing additional pain to all involved. Now she is on trial for murder.
WHAT I THOUGHT: Structured around the five stages of grief, the level of tension keeps the reader engaged although violence, rape, dismemberment, and sex may be a bit much for some readers.
I wasn't familiar with Christina Perri's hit Jar of Hearts, so I checked it out on You Tube. You might want to do the same.
BOTTOM LINE: If you can stomach the ugliness, this is a quick and engrossing read. I have to admit I devoured it in two days.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (June 12, 2018)
DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier from NetGalley/Minotaur Books for my honest review.
Saturday, June 9, 2018
The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm conflicted about THE THIRD HOTEL. Originally I was attracted by the setting in Havana, Cuba, and the author easily shares the feeling of being in that country through the pictures she paints with words. I do not believe it will have a wide audience but it will have a passionate following among sophisticated readers and cinephiles. It's a difficult book that keeps the reader off-center and unsure what is happening.
FIRST SENTENCE: "What was she doing in Havana?"
THE STORY: Recently widowed, Claire is attending the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema in her husband's place. Unbelievably she spots Richard, a horror film scholar, outside a museum and begins pursuing him. How could he still be alive?
WHAT I THOUGHT: A disturbing journey through grief and its fog. The writing is beautiful and the author created exactly the mood and world she wants for Claire and the reader.
BOTTOM LINE: If you are a cinephile, you will recognize the names of horror films that are being scattered throughout. This is a unique book that may not appeal to all readers.
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (August 7, 2018)
DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of The Third Hotel: A Novel by Laura van den Berg from NetGalley/Farrar, Straus and Giroux for my honest review.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
FIRST SENTENCE: "The first party Lavinia takes Louise to, she makes Louise wear one of her dresses."
THE STORY: Louise came to the city to become a great writer, but working a variety of menial jobs has worn her down. Then she meets the extraordinary Lavinia and her life takes off.
WHAT I THOUGHT: This may make you think of The Talented Mr. Ripley, but it is not exactly that. It definitely is different in style employing 'selfies' and other social media conventions to comment on what's happening in the story as well as the brief sentences we use to communicate on social media.
The psychological suspense creates a sense of dread in the reader. Other reviewers have mentioned Gillian Flynn and Donna Tartt and although I've read and loved both those authors I have to say that Tara Isabella Burton has created something uniquely her own in this story.
None of the characters are very nice. The story is dark, addictive, and not for the squeamish; but it is impossible not to be fascinated by the decadent lifestyle of the young and beautiful in New York.
BOTTOM LINE: Everybody will be reading this book this summer. It has already appeared on lists of best reads. Did I mention I devoured this book in two days?(It is not however for the squeamish.)
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (June 5, 2018)
DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of Social Creature: A Novel by Tara Isabella Burton from NetGalley/Doubleday Books for my honest review.
TARA ISABELLA BURTON is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Winner of the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for Travel Writing, she completed her doctorate in 19th century French literature and theology at the University of Oxford and is a prodigious travel writer, short story writer and essayist for National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist's 1843 and more. She currently works for Vox as their Religion Correspondent, lives in New York, and divides her time between the Upper East Side and Tbilisi, Georgia. She is also at work on a nonfiction book on cults. Her first novel, Social Creature, is forthcoming from Doubleday in June.
Monday, May 28, 2018
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
FIRST SENTENCE: "Sofia, the year 2008."
THE STORY: Alexandra, mourning the loss of her brother, has traveled to Bulgaria to teach English and to see the country he always planned to visit. She arrives at the wrong hotel and ends up helping an older couple and their son into a cab. As they pull away she realizes she still holds one of their bags, which contains human ashes. Flagging another cab, she begins a search for the family. Eventually the story focuses on the extraordinary life of Stoyan Lazarov, whose ashes she now protects.
WHAT I THOUGHT: About halfway through I vowed to mark this DNF, something I am loath to do. The writing is beautiful but the tale was taking on aspects of a shaggy dog story. I decided to give it one more try and it was definitely worth the effort. The story intensified combining past and current events. As with THE HISTORIAN, I turned to the Internet to further research the things I was learning.
In this story Kostova returns to the Eastern European terrain of THE HISTORIAN writing about the topography of present-day Bulgaria. She is a wonderful story teller and paints a picture of Bulgaria, both good and bad, that makes one want to immediately buy a ticket and travel there.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a long book. If you are prepared to settle back and enjoy the scenery, it will eventually draw you in. For those who love historical fiction, suspense, and mystery. RECOMMENDED.
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition (stated), First Printing edition (April 11, 2017)
DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova from NetGalley/Ballantine Books for my honest review.
Elizabeth Kostova's engrossing debut novel is the culmination of ten years of research and a lifetime of imagining--since Kostova's girlhood, when her father entertained her with tales of Dracula, she has envisioned the story that would become The Historian. With her academic spirit and extraordinary talent, she's spun an intricate tale of sprawling mystery and suspense. Kostova graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress. (from Amazon)
Monday, April 2, 2018
Mystery writer Louise Penny has been publishing a new title in her Inspector Gamache series every August. This year will be a little different. With the death of her husband, she initially decided to take a break, but she quietly began writing again with the result that KINGDOM OF THE BLIND will lay down November 27, 2018. Her many fans are relieved!
I just beginning to explore the idea of bullet journaling when I found this information at Beth Fish Reads blog. There's an introductory video by Ryder Carroll, the brains behind the system and owner of Bullet Journal and BuJo trademarks. Check it out if you are curious.
Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore in Ann Arbor is closing after 26 years.
April 2, 2018
Dear Beloved Customers and Readers,
We are regretful but ready to announce that we will be closing Aunt Agatha’s in August of this year. We have enjoyed getting to know many of you, discussing books with you, sharing author events with you and sharing the love of mysteries with you for 26 years. Many of you we are happy to think of as friends. It’s been a wonderful journey.
As in the great Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express there are many culprits for our demise – we are getting older; constant street construction; Amazon; and fierce local competition. We hope you will keep local bookstores vital and alive by patronizing the many exciting stores that remain open.
And please come by to say hello, fill out your collection, or plan to attend one of the wonderful events we have remaining on our schedule this spring and summer. However, we can no longer take your books for store credit. We suggest the library, the PTO thrift store, and the recycle center.
After we close we plan to continue selling our remaining inventory on ABE books online, and under construction is a review blog focusing on first mystery novels by women. We also have some future events planned at the library. But for now, everything is for sale!
April - 15%
May – 20%
June – 30%
July – 40%
August – 50%
We will also be selling shelving, tables, our front counter, and posters. If there’s something you are interested in please make us an offer. We also have quite a few 6’ banquet tables & folding chairs.
We have a closing event scheduled on August 26 with William Kent Krueger, and we hope you’ll join us for a final gather round the communal mysterious hearth.
With much gratitude for your patronage,
Robin & Jamie
Sunday, February 25, 2018
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Zoje Stage hits a home run with her debut novel, "Baby Teeth", on sale July 17, 2018. A psychological thriller told from alternating perspectives of seven year old Hanna and her mother Suzette.
FIRST SENTENCE: "Maybe the machine could see the words she never spoke."
THE STORY: Hanna does not talk but she is not stupid. She loves her Daddy, but not her Mommy. Daddy thinks she is perfect. Mommy knows there is something wrong.
WHAT I THOUGHT: When I was a teenager in the 50s, I remember reading and being shocked by The Bad Seed. It was the story of a perfect little girl named Rhoda, who got whatever she wanted one way or another. Her Daddy thought she was perfect but her mother started to suspect things. It became a popular play and then a movie. The other scary book I remember from that time is Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby. It came out in in the 60s and I read it in the middle of the night while I was breast feeding my first child. Some memories haunt you. I've added Baby Teeth to my unforgettable list.
I enjoyed the fact that the book was set in Pittsburgh and recognized locations and allusions. Suzette has Crohn's disease, which complicates her ability to deal with Hanna. She doesn't have the energy and feels guilty for not being perfect.
BOTTOM LINE: Not everyone will appreciate this story. It is disturbing but so well done that the reader keeps turning pages to see what will happen. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (July 17, 2018)
DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage from NetGalley/St. Martin's for my honest review.
ZOJE STAGE is a writer and former filmmaker. She was a 2008 Fellow in Screenwriting from the New York Foundation of the Arts and a 2012 Emerging Storytellers Fellow from the Independent Filmmaker Project. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Baby Teeth is her first novel.(from AMAZON)
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Glass Houses by Louise Penny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sometimes when one reads books in a series, quality varies. In the case of Louise Penny's Gamache series each title improves, gains depth. Taking the books in order prepares the reader to feel part of the community.Glass Houses is #13.
FIRST SENTENCE: "State your name, please."
THE STORY: Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, Armand Gamache and the people of Three Pines are puzzled by a mysterious figure standing immobile on the green. When the figure disappears, a murder takes place. Did someone pay a debt? The story begins in the courtroom some months later, when the suspect goes on trial. Gamache set the actions in motion. Was what he did right?
WHAT I THOUGHT: Sometimes I get annoyed when a story moves back and forth from the present to the past. But after the first jump in GLASS HOUSES, I had no trouble following the way the trial and the events leading up to it worked together.
Every one of Louise Penny's books has introduced the reader to something new. In this case it is the cobrador del frac. She explains that she created some of the legend to suit the story but the concept does exist.
Recently I've been disturbed by the amount of ugly violence in some of the thrillers I've read. I realized I prefer stories that demand a little more from the reader intellectually. Escape the real world and move to Three Pines.
BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. If you are a mystery reader, you HAVE to read this series.
Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley/Minotaur for a fair review.
LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels (Still Life, A Fatal Grace, and The Cruelest Month). She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (six times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.