Tag Archives: Books

A Tiding of Magpies (A Birder Murder Mystery #5) by Steve Burrows

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When his most celebrated case is suddenly reopened, Detective Chief Inspector Jejeune‘s long-buried secrets threaten to come to light. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Lindy, faces an unseen threat of her own, one from which even Jejeune may not be able to protect her. Between fending off inquiries from the internal review and an open murder case that brings more questions than answers, Jejeune will have to rely on the help of the stalwart Sergeant Danny Maik more than ever. But Maik is learning things that cause him to question his DCI‘s actions, both past, and present. In the current case, and in the former one, the facts seem clear enough. But it is in the silences, those empty spaces between the facts, that the truth is to be found.

Review

This is book 5 in the Birder Murder Mysteries series. I must admit that I’m always fearful to read books in a series, especially when I haven’t read the previous books. Occasionally books can stand on their own and you don’t really need to have read the previous books.

Unfortunately, that was not the case with this novel. What first attracted me to this book was the fact that I’m also a bird watcher and I thought it would be cool to read a mystery that brought together both of my passions.

The book starts with Detective Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune working together with Sergeant Danny Maik to resolve a murder of a young man in a Polish community in Canada. The positive aspects of this book are the fact that the mystery starts off strong and really picks up midway through the book. The extensive descriptions of birds, and I particularly enjoyed the explanation on Eurasian magpies.

Unfortunately, the fact that most of the important characters had been introduced in previous books really made understanding and even sympathizing with them extremely difficult to me. Jejeune seemed flat and unrealistic as a character, and I spent most of the book trying to understand the references to events from previous books. It is almost unfair to properly rate a book that I could have enjoyed better had I read at least one of the previous books. My advice is to read the other books in the series to get a better appreciation for this novel.

It is in the silent spaces between the facts that the truth often lies.”

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a free early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Curtain by Agatha Christie

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The house guests at Styles seemed perfectly pleasant to Captain Hastings; there was his own daughter Judith, an inoffensive ornithologist called Norton, dashing Mr. Allerton, brittle Miss Cole, Doctor Franklin and his fragile wife Barbara, Nurse Craven, Colonel Luttrell and his charming wife, Daisy, and the charismatic Boyd-Carrington. Hastings was shocked to learn from Hercule Poirot’s declaration that one of them was a five-times murderer. True, the aging detective was crippled with arthritis, but had his deductive instincts finally deserted him?

Review

I don’t know why it took me so long to read this book. I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan and I just love Poirot. I’ve read most of his stories and I even watched the old BBC series with David Suchet. Somehow, Curtain was never a book I really gravitated towards. One day while perusing my favorite used bookstore, I came across the book and decided to give it a try.

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To say that this novel is bittersweet is an understatement. First, Poirot and Hastings find themselves back at Styles, the house from the novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles where we were first introduced to the eccentric detective and to his friend Arthur Hastings. The other sad part is that we now find Poirot much older and in a wheelchair.

“Nothing is so sad, in my opinion, as the devastation wrought by age.
My poor friend. I have described him many times. Now to convey to you the difference. Crippled with arthritis, he propelled himself about in a wheelchair. His once plump frame had fallen in. He was a thin little man now.”

Despite Poirot’s crippled appearance, his “little gray cells” are working just fine and soon enough Poirot declares to Hastings that one of the guests at Styles has committed five murders and is about to commit one more.

I personally liked the book. I don’t think I would ever truly love any book that narrates Poirot’s last case. The end was sad, almost brought me to tears, but didn’t completely surprise me. This was also Christie’s last published book before she died. For fans of the genre, this novel will not disappoint you a bit. For Agatha Christie’s fans, this book is a must.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”

But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

Review

I absolutely loved this book. I have been reading Louise Penny for quite some time and one of the things that really impress me about her books is the richness of her characters. I love that all the characters have so many layers. This book reminded me a little of Umberto Eco’s The Name of The Rose. Probably because it’s set in a monastery. Unlike Eco’s long and drawn out novel, Penny’s novel is full of twists that keep you guessing until the end. Don’t let the theme of a monastery full of monks and Gregorian chants scare you away from this novel. This is a very well-plotted mystery! I highly recommend it.

 

The End of The Affair by Graham Greene

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According to the narrator, Maurice Bendrix, this book tells a story about hate much more than about love. Bendrix is an author who decides to write a true story and he decides how much of it he will tell, at what point he will begin, and at what point he will end it. The tale begins with the night he encounters Henry Miles, the husband of Sarah, the woman with whom Bendrix had an affair. Henry, however, has no idea that Bendrix was once involved with his wife. Henry reveals to Bendrix that he believes his wife is seeing another man. Pretending to be a friend to Henry and jealous of the fact Sarah may be seeing someone rather than him, Bendrix offers to hire a private investigator to find out the truth.

Bendrix narrates in first-person for the majority of the story and by interpreting situations according to his personal feelings and bias renders Bendrix a very unreliable narrator. He allows his negative feelings to color his telling of the story. The remainder of the narrative is flashback allowing readers to gather more information to interpret the story.

Loved this book. I absolutely loved the writing, and what Greene did to the story and the characters.

“The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.”

“Love had turned into “love affair” with a beginning and an end.”

“She had always called me ‘you.’ ‘Is that you?’ on the telephone, ‘Can you? Will you? Do you?’ so that I imagined, like a fool, for a few minutes at a time, there was only one ‘you’ in the world and that was me.”

“So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days.”

I highly recommend this classic.

Review: Strange Things Done by Elle Wild


As winter closes in and the roads snow over in Dawson City, Yukon, newly arrived journalist Jo Silver investigates the dubious suicide of a local politician and quickly discovers that not everything in the sleepy tourist town is what it seems. Before long, law enforcement begins treating the death as a possible murder and Jo is the prime suspect.

Review

Strange Things Done is Elle Wild’s debut album and what a great debut! The story starts in the in the small town of Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. I love the dark and tense atmosphere that builds up in her narrative. I liked the way Elle Wild developed her characters, but I have to admit that I never quite warmed up to Jo. The chilling small tall narrative reminded me a bit of some of Stephen King’s great classics such as Salem’s lot. For that same reason, at times the story was a little slow for my taste. Overall, I highly recommend this dark and chilly novel.

I would like to thank Dundurn and NetGalley for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Review: Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

When her father falls into a coma, Indian American photographer Sonya reluctantly returns to the family she’d fled years before. Since she left home, Sonya has lived on the run, free of any ties, while her soft-spoken sister, Trisha, has created a perfect suburban life, and her ambitious sister, Marin, has built her own successful career. But as these women come together, their various methods of coping with a terrifying history can no longer hold their memories at bay. Buried secrets rise to the surface as their father—the victim of humiliating racism and perpetrator of horrible violence—remains unconscious. As his condition worsens, the daughters and their mother wrestle with private hopes for his survival or death, as well as their own demons and buried secrets.Told with forceful honesty, Trail of Broken Wings reveals the burden of shame and secrets, the toxicity of cruelty and aggression, and the exquisite, liberating power of speaking and owning truth.

Review

Trail of Broken Wings is a beautifully written novel about a horrible topic–domestic abuse. I personally don’t gravitate towards books that deal with abuse, domestic or sexual. However, Trail of Broken Wings was recommended to me by a dear friend and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. The book tells the story of an Indian family living in America. The chapters alternate between the accounts of the three sisters and the mother. Marin, the oldest daughter and the overachiever of the family, Trisha is the middle child and the beloved one, and Sonya the youngest of the sisters. Each one of them recounts their lives, their memories, their abuse under the hands of their father, and how they have come to cope with it. I loved Badani’s writing. She makes it almost easy to read about domestic abuse because her prose is so beautiful.

“Heroes are not born or created. They become so in the passing moments of life. When something or someone demands you be more than you have been, when you must put aside your own needs and what is best for you to fight for another, no matter the cost. The past, the day-to-day living becomes irrelevant. All that matters is that instant when the ticking of the clock is louder than an ocean’s wave hitting the rocks, when time does not stand still, but slows, every second longer than the last one. This is when the decision becomes the only thing you can hear and see. When the choice falls out of your hand and fate intervenes. When your life is no longer yours but conjoined with another’s, each dependent upon the other to survive and thrive.”

The book has some description of violence but it is not too graphic. My only complaint about this novel was the ending. It felt rushed and unrealistic. Overall, it is a beautifully written book.


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Review: The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey has become the target of a serial killer who believes he’s been appointed God’s executioner. In Copper Creek, Montana, Gwen Marcey is struggling to put together her life after cancer and divorce. When her dog retrieves a skull of a murder victim and leads her to the victim’s grave, Gwen uses her forensic art ability to identify a serial killer. She is horrified to discover all the victims look like her fourteen-year-old daughter. The murderer is a “lone wolf,” a member of the terrorist group Phineas Priesthood-and he has a score to settle with Gwen. Unraveling the tangled Christian Identity movement, where race-not grace-provides salvation, Gwen is in a frantic rush against time. She must use all her skills to uncover the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her and everyone she loves.

Review

This is book number two of the Gwen Marcey’s series. Gwen is a forensic artist who’s recovering from a divorce and from cancer. When Gwen’s dog finds a skull of a murder victim, Gwen uses her forensic knowledge and sets out to solve the crime. I really enjoyed this story. The Bones Will Speak is an exciting, fast-paced thriller full of twists and surprises. I didn’t read book one in the series, but I thought this book stood on its own. The parts I really liked about this book was the emphasis on forensic science and the job of forensic artists. At times Gwen came across as a know-it-all sort of person who is part forensic artist part detective. Overall, I enjoyed Parks’ writing style and I think this book will really appeal to fans of CSI and other forensic shows. I recommend it.

I’d like to thank BookLook Bloggers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 


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Review: First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

 

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond. Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first-grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands. On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired. As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them but also come to terms with their own choices.

Review

I feel the need to start this review by explaining how I managed to give this novel 4-stars when I completely disliked every character in this book. I am usually drawn to a good family drama, especially stories about siblings. So, the premise of this book was a huge selling point. Another reason that brought me to this novel was the author. I really enjoyed Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and I was already familiar with her style of writing. Indeed, I think Giffin really shines in family drama and the description of everyday life in a way that’s interesting and smart.

This book surrounds the story of this family, the Garlands, who after losing their oldest son in a car accident become extremely dysfunctional. There is something to be said about grief and tragedy. It either brings out the best out of people, or it brings the absolute worst out of them. In the case of the Garlands, it certainly brought out the worst.

Although this story does not really have a plot, Giffin still manages to make the narrative engaging and the dialogues dynamic. The format of the novel is set up with alternating chapters between Josie’s accounts and Meredith’s accounts of their life. Josie is reaching her late 30s. She is an elementary school teacher, self-absorbed, and selfish. Meredith’s not much better either.  She is an OCD type lawyer who, although she doesn’t see it, is also extremely selfish. Both sisters, together with the father and the mother have never truly processed the death of Daniel fifteen years earlier and somehow those scars have dictated their lives, their choices, and the relationship (or the lack of) they have with each other.

I really tried to sympathize with these sisters, but I just couldn’t. I believe Meredith’s complete ungratefulness and inability to see anything beyond her belly button had me brace myself not to slap her in the face a couple of times. And that is one of the reasons this novel deserves 4-stars. Although parts of the story are predictable and even impossible, Giffin’s character development was so good that I had a very clear idea of the voice and mannerisms of these characters by the time I was done with the book. This is an emotional and well-written novel with themes of grievance, forgiveness, friendship, and love.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.


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Review: The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson

A passionate film buff, our hero’s life revolves around his part-time job at a video store, the company of a few precious friends, and a daily routine that more often than not concludes with pizza and movie in his treasured small space in Stockholm. When he receives an astronomical invoice from a random national bureaucratic agency, everything will tumble into madness as he calls the hotline night and day to find out why he is the recipient of the largest bill in the entire country. What is the price of a cherished memory? How much would you pay for a beautiful summer day? How will our carefree idealist, who is content with so little and has no chance of paying it back, find a way out of this mess? All these questions pull you through The Invoice and prove once again that Jonas Karlsson is simply a master of entertaining, intelligent, and life-affirming work.

Review

What a cute little book! I devoured this book in a few hours. I found the premise absolutely fantastic. The cost of happiness! Great satire, sweet and quirky little book. Very philosophical and one of those books that gets you thinking about it long after you’re done with it. I’m not sure if this book is for everyone, but if you enjoy deep, philosophical satires, you will certainly enjoy this one.

I’d like to thank First To Read for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 


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Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young widow who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behavior becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of her past.

Review

When a mysterious tenant, Helen Graham, moves into Wildfell Hall, it immediately sparks an interest in Gilbert Markham. Helen’s desire for seclusion and privacy ends up arousing suspicion and curiosity among her neighbors. Gilbert, in particular, is extremely interested in Helen and one day pays a visit to Wildfell Hall. As time goes on and their friendship deepens, Helen gives Gilbert a copy of her journal to read. The journal is an account of Helen’s life in the past six years.

The book starts with Gilbert writing a letter to his brother-in-law and the first chapters of the book are written in Gilbert’s voice. After Helen gives Gilbert her journal, Brontë starts to write in Helen’s voice. This is an interesting technique and one that worked really well in this book. The main theme of this novel is without a doubt the criticism to alcoholism and its destructive effects on the lives of people affected by it. What makes this book a classic is first and foremost Brontë’s courage to tackle the issue of alcoholism, divorce, domestic, and child abuse in an era where those topics were a huge taboo, if not altogether forbidden. Does this novel compare to the quality and ranking of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights? Probably not! The prose of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a little less embellished than the prose found in her sisters’ books.

When I tell you not to marry without love, I do not advise you to marry for love alone: there are many, many other things to be considered. Keep both heart and hand in your own possession, till you see good reason to part with them; and if such an occasion should never present itself, comfort your mind with this reflection, that though in single life your joys may not be very many, your sorrows, at least, will not be more than you can bear. Marriage may change your circumstances for the better, but, in my private opinion, it is far more likely to produce a contrary result.

Once considered the lesser of the Brontë’s sisters (Emily and Charlotte), Anne Brontë did a fantastic job in this way-ahead-of-its-time almost feminist novel.

This book is part of my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge.

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