Books I am reading


This is a place where I will share what I am reading. I would love to see your book reviews and responses to mine.

Gee-Gee's bookshelf: Book Reviews

Thursday, July 25, 2013

     I have read several books in the Mary Russel series by Laurie R King. I have thoroughly enjoyed each one. So when I had an opportunity to preview The Bones of Paris, I agreed. I was not disappointed.
     The setting is Paris during the summer and early fall of 1929. The story takes place mostly in Montparnasse and Montmartre, areas of ex patriots from England and America and the art community of Paris. The lead character, Harris Stuyvesant, is a former FBI agent working as a private detective across Europe. He has been hired to look for a young American women who has been missing since the end of March. He has a personal vested interest in finding her because he had had a brief affair with her, and had wanted to reconnect and develop a more long-term relationship. He was conflicted because he was also in love with a women he met in England and had wanted to marry. But after a terrible event, she did not want to see anyone and did not want to pursue their relationship.
     There are many colorful people and locations, both real and part of Ms King's imagination. She has woven together a highly suspenseful story, beautiful and hideous settings, and participants from quirky to psychotic. Paris is as much a character in the story as any of the people.
    This book is intelligent, challenging, filled with interesting (at times frightful) characters and a story with more twist and turns than a ride in the Alps. If you like mystery and suspense, historical settings and colorful characters, this book is for you.
     As an aside, Harris reminded me of the venerable Toby Peters of the mysteries by Stuart M Kaminsky: hard-headed, a tough exterior with a romantic heart, and continually charging into physically abusing situations to find the person in distress.
Posted by Georgia S at 3:18 PM 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

This book was written in 1938 and reads like a 30's movie. I could hear the "tough guy" accents and the "doll's" flirtatious "innocents". Some attitudes and words were not politically correct, something I wouldn't excuse in a current book, but take time and culture into account with this book. In my mind's eye, I could see the art deco style of the museum and other buildings mentioned.
      The mystery was clever and took interesting twists and turns. The repartee between school teacher Hildegarde Withers and Detective Oscar Piper was fun, sexist on his part and not talking it on her part, and mildly reminiscent of Topper, Tom and Tuppence, and Hepburn and Tracey.
I found this interesting enough, I am planning to buy the next book in the series to see if it improves in complexity. For a quick, light read, it was entertaining, perfect for a summer vacation read.
Posted by Georgia S at 8:44 PM

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

     I have always been intrigued by stories of time travel. I have often wished that I could time travel, and I love to see what new way of travel has been invented by each author.
     Ms Price starts the story with a 21st C divorced woman, self-employed, with 2 young children. She lives in Oakland and takes periodic forays into San Francisco. She begins to have odd dreams, and over a few days begins to sense she is entering into another time in San Francisco. I found the first 20% of the book a bit tedious and slow. Ms Price put so much time into describing what Robin was seeing and experiencing, but was very short on plot movement. If I hadn't made a commitment to write a review, I may not have finished the book. But I am very glad I stuck with it.
     Robin begins to recognize that she enters into another body when she awakens in 1900. Without giving away any more of the plot, I found the story to be creative and interesting, filled with heart-pounding moments, and episodes of caring and sensitivity. Robin searches for her purpose in moving between the two time periods, and learns that her actions can have effects that she cannot foresee. She and her love interest in 1900, move cautiously to try to prevent a catastrophe caused by 2 people trying to rob a bank. I found it very satisfying that their first few attempts did not turn out as they had hoped, and, the consequences increase with each attempt to intervene. From a gentle strolling pace, the story begins to gradually accelerate until it becomes a heart-pounding race to save the potential victims. And as the story concludes, Ms Pace creates a very satisfying full circle to the story.
     This is one I highly recommend. Another review alludes to other books in this series, and, if true, I will be first in line to get the next book!
Posted by Georgia S at 7:25 PM

Thursday, June 6, 2013

     Death in the Vines has just been published. As an amateur reviewer, I received a free copy. I did not initially realize that this book was the third one in a series. But I had no difficulty completely enjoying this story.
It takes place in Provence, France, and area about which I know almost nothing. So the cultural practices and scenery descriptions were wonderful. I felt as if I had literally seen a small glimpse into the area, and I would definitely like to visit it now.
     The story inter-weaves three plot lines in a masterful manner. There are a series of rare wine thefts at one winery, there are two disappearances of an elderly lady that ends with her being found dead after her second disappearance, and, there seems to be a serial killer starting a spree.
One knows there are interactive relationships between these three plots, but it is not clear in what ways until the very end.
     One element that I liked especially is that all the plot lines were not resolved in a neat package at the end, but each one resolved in it's own time over the last third of the book.
     I am highly recommending this book. It is a good piece of literature. It is a finely crafted mystery. There are interesting, multi-layered characters. And then there is the setting of Aix-en-Provence, the wine country, and small town life. I am going to find the first two books in the series and finish those as well!
Posted by Georgia S at 6:48 PM

Saturday, May 25, 2013
     The Gifted is the 14th book in the Joanne Kilbourn series by Gail Bowen, a renown Canadian author. It is due out on Aug 13, 2013. I have the privilege of reading it early in order to post a review. I am a volunteer reviewer.
      The book focuses on Joanne, her husband, Zack Shreve, and their daughter, Taylor. Taylor has come to live with Joanne and Zack through partially reveal circumstances that have probably been more fully explained in earlier books in the series. Taylor is a soon-to-be 15 year old with considerable artistic talent. She is the birth daughter of a famous artist and there is much concern by Joanne and Zack that Taylor follows a much less destructive path that her mother.
     The story is set in Regina, Saskatchewan, and the beauty of the area is deftly folded into the narrative. Taylor has had two paintings chosen for a charity art auction, her first public showing. She is well aware of her birth mother's life and talent, and is very afraid of not living up to her mother's standards. (Her mother died when she was only 4 years old, and came to live with Joanne and Zack when she was 11 years old.)
     Taylor's model for one of the paintings is a 19 year old fellow artist in the same art school. At the art auction, it becomes obvious to all that he is having an affair with the sponsor of the auction. Taylor is clearly upset. Her parents are concerned because little is know about him and he is beginning to have a strong influence over Taylor. When the older woman is found dead Joanne and Zack confront the older woman's husband, one of Zack's best friends. Who killed the socialite? Zack's friend? The young model/lover? And how can Joanne and Zack shield Taylor form all the gossip and danger?
     This is not a high-speed chase, bloody, action story. This is an exploration of who is "family", how the past informs the present, what friendship means, and can our love protect those we love. Ms Bowen is a skilled writer. She is explores family dynamics, informed parenting, life-style decisions, and the gray areas between "good" and "evil". I was "hooked" very early on in the book and followed all the twist and turns with interest, at times, anxiety, and always a desire to find out how all is resolved. It felt as if I was watching a movie; I was very much drawn into the story.
    I highly recommend that if you like a good mystery without all the gore and violence, you read The Gifted. It is available for pre-order.

Posted by Georgia S at 12:36 PM

Friday, May 17, 2013

     The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson, is one of the most compelling books I have ever read. It is the story of a man's journey from childhood throughout his entire life. It is a story of North Korea in the recent past. It is a story of evil, brutality, the human need to connect with others, the meaning of love, and ultimate triumph.
     This book is not for the faint of heart. In it, unspeakable atrocities are described in vivid detail. What is more disturbing to me, is the cold determination of the abusers, and their ability to justify what they do in the name of loyalty and national security. It makes me weep for the slippery slope we have embarked upon in our owncountry. Photos of our own soldiers torturing and humiliatingcaptured "enemies" too often came to mind.
     But Mr. Johnson is a master storyteller, weaving glimpses of hope, humanity, and even love, into the story so that one is compelled to continue. I began to feel I was in the story, and it was very hard to put it down to do mundane things like laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking dinner. It is easy to see why he won a Pulitzer prize for this book.  The picture of North Korean life reinforced my gratitude for living in this wonderful country, but it also highlighted areas where we have so much to improve: the poverty and lack of decent education of so many of our citizens, the high rate of people incarcerated compared to the rest of the Western world, and the level of violence in our country. There are large areas of our country where people live with just as much fear and despair as the citizens of North Korea. This book has compelled me to do more to work toward improvement here at home.
     I highly recommend this book, but warn that it is not an "easy" read. I had to pray constantly as I read; for the millions (billions?) of people throughout the world for whom the life described is a reality, for the wisdom to see whatever part I play in creating this awful reality, and for the courage to work toward peace and safety for all.
Posted by Georgia S at 11:57 AM

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
I have been hooked by Maggie Hope. This is the third book in the series, and I think they just keep getting better. There needs to be a suspension of belief for all the coincidences that place Maggie in an ideal position to serve in the British intelligence, and, that she has the particular (and unusual) set of skills to make her useful. She is moving up the hierarchy in her spy craft, and this time she is sent into Germany on a quick delivery of radio tubes and the planting of a receiver device for eavesdropping, but ends up staying longer than originally planned, putting her life and her "handler's" life in jeopardy. And the on-going intrigue with her parents just keeps getting more and more complicated.
If you like period stories (WWII), intrigue, strong women and danger, this is the book for you. Publishing date in May 21, but can be pre-ordered now.
Posted by Georgia S at 10:23 PM 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
An Equal Opportunity Death Review

This is the first book in the Vejay Haskell series. Years ago I read several books in the Julie Smith series and thoroughly enjoyed them.
This book starts with an introduction to the main character and the town in which she lives. I felt that Ms Dunlap did a skilled job of blending the needed background information into the telling of the story. Then gradually all the characters are introduced. And the town is laid out. All very skillfully.
 Vejay is an interesting woman: an escapee of the San Francisco pace and pressures. She is now a meter reader for the utility company. She is strong, fit, and attractive.
The plot was well crafted. It took many twists and turns, keeping me interested and engaged. I did not foresee the ending until almost the end of the book.  I have a mental formula for evaluating the books I read, from pedestrian/formulaic to intriguing/edge of the seat. An Equal Opportunity Death sneaks up on you; very placid initially, picking up momentum as it goes, much like the ever rising Russian River in the story.

I enjoyed the book and will read others in the series, but there is a BUT… I found Vejay a bit annoying at times. For someone so accomplished and self-reliant, she could be incredibly immature (her opening argument with Frank, the character who is murdered), and ignorant (taking dangerous risks on her own). What is it about smart women that cause them to think they know better than the police in a case? I know, there wouldn’t be a story without Vejay going off on her own. But I know there are other authors who keep suspense alive without the main character acting as ignorantly as Vejay does. (China Bayles, Maisie Dobbs, Maxie of Maxie and Stretch, to name a few) I found myself annoyed with her immaturity or know-it-all attitude to completely immerse myself in the book.
I class this book in the “fun but not profound” category. If you enjoy mysteries and location-linked stories, this one is for you.
Posted by Georgia S at 1:42 PM 

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

I have been completely enthralled by this book. I am writing this review at 2am because I couldn't stop reading until I finished the book, and now I can't get to sleep; I am so filled with the characters, the opera singing, the unfolding of life and love. The story was first conceived during the Japanese Embassy take-over in Peru in the mid-1990's. The idea of how the terrorists and the captives would interact intrigued Ms. Patchett. There is a gentle unfolding of trust, friendship and even love. Hidden gifts bloom is this space where it seems there is nothing to do. If you love explorations of characters, the struggle to understand those who are different from us, and then to discover similarities, this book is for you. I felt as though I was taken to the heights of what is good in humankind, and plunged to the depths of hell that is created when fear reigns.