Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Reading Update

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Well, I really don't have a lot of updating to do this week.  I'm still reading the same book I was reading last week -- Children of the Revolution, by Peter Robinson. But the fact that it's taking me too long to finish isn't the fault of the book; I've just had a lot of STUFF going on lately that's kept me from reading as much as I'd like.

I'm hoping to get done with this one in a day or two and move on to something new.

I've also been doing a little more catchup work with reviews. I've been really very lazy about posting reviews this year, so I'm trying to write at least a few sentences about each of the books I've read -- just enough to remind myself that I did indeed read the book, and what I thought of it. Posted these over the weekend:

The Good Suicides, by Antonio Hill 

The Innocent Sleep, by Karen Perry

Love Story, With Murders, by Harry Bingham 

The Transcriptionist, by Amy Rowland

I'll probably be posting lots of short reviews in the days to come. Very short reviews. Anyway, that's the plan for the moment.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reading Report: The Innocent Sleep

Written by Karen Perry
Henry Holt and Company, 2014; 323 pages

As The Innocent Sleep begins, Harry and Robin are young artists living in Tangier with their son Dillon.  One night, while Harry is preparing a birthday dinner for Robin, he suddenly remembers that he's left her gift at the café in town. Robin is still at work, and the café is only a five minute walk away, so Harry decides to run out while three-year-old Dillon is asleep upstairs. Dillon is a problem at bedtime, as he doesn't sleep easily, so once in a while Harry has been in the habit of slipping small amounts of sleeping pills into Dillon's nighttime drink -- something he knows is wrong, but on this night it does solve the difficult problem. Also on this night, though, disaster strikes. While Harry is out, an earthquake hits the city. Dillon is apparently killed when the house is destroyed, although his body is never found.

Five years later, Harry and Robin have moved back to their native Dublin and are trying to rebuild their lives, while still grieving for Dillon. Harry's career as an artist is beginning to take off and Robin, who has abandoned art to study architecture, has just discovered she's pregnant again. Things seem to be going well enough, until Harry gets a glimpse of a child he's sure is Dillon on a crowded Dublin street, and the past -- along with its secrets -- comes crashing back on them.

Could the child really be Dillon? How could he have survived the earthquake? And how would he have ended up so near them in Dublin? Was the sighting just a figment of Harry's guilt-ridden imagination? Or is someone playing a cruel and dangerous game?

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this one very much, in spite of a few slightly bothersome complaints. All the way through, I kept having the niggling feeling that there was just too much coincidence and convenient turn-around going on. But then it is a thriller, and you know, going in, there will definitely be surprises, twists and about-face plot developments. So I just made up my mind to go with the flow. As it were.

Also, the frequent changes in narrator/point of view got tedious very quickly. The two main characters, Robin and Harry, take turns narrating the chapters -- and I'm getting a little fed up with that technique. But those were really minor flaws and not enough to spoil the reading experience for me.

Certainly a book I'd recommend to anyone looking for a quick, suspenseful read.

(Just gotta say this. The whole time I was reading The Innocent Sleep, I had trouble getting beyond the fact that the author, "Karen Perry," is actually a two-person writing team -- Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. Not that I care whether or not a book has multiple authors; I think that's fine. But why not just use both names?)

I received my copy of The Innocent Sleep free of charge from the publisher, through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was received, and no one influenced my opinion of the book.

Reading Report: The Transcriptionist

Written by Amy Rowland
Algonquin Books, 2014; 256 pages

Publisher's Description:

Lena, the transcriptionist, sits alone in a room far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the Record, the New York City newspaper for which she works. For years, she has been the ever-present link for reporters calling in stories from around the world. Turning spoken words to print, Lena is the vein that connects the organs of the paper. She is loyal, she is unquestioning, yet technology is dictating that her days there are numbered.

When she reads a shocking piece in the paper about a Jane Doe mauled to death by a lion, she recognizes the woman in the picture. They had met on a bus just a few days before. Obsessed with understanding what caused the woman to deliberately climb into the lion’s den, Lena begins a campaign for truth that will destroy the Record’s complacency and shake the venerable institution to its very foundation.

My Thoughts:

I really don't want to spoil anyone's pleasure by saying too much about Amy Rowland's exquisite debut novel.  So I'll be brief: I absolutely LOVED The Transcriptionist.

Possibly my attraction was at least partly based on the fact that once upon a time (in a galaxy far, far away), I had a job that required me to do a lot of transcription work, very similar to that of the book's protagonist Lena (but not for a newspaper). So I know the hazards -- and the satisfactions -- of that work. I would never have thought it could be turned into such a beautiful, haunting story. Everyone should read this book!

I received my copy of The Transcriptionist through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was provided, and no one influenced my opinion of the book.

Reading Report: The Good Suicides

Written by Antonio Hill
Crown Publishers, 2012; 352 pages

Publisher's Description:

After a team-building retreat in a remote country house, senior staff members at Alemany Cosmetics return home with a dark secret. They’ve each received an anonymous email with a disturbing attachment: a photo showing dogs hung from a tree near the very same farm they all just left. And now they're committing suicide, one by one. The connection between the shocking photos and the suicides remains a mystery -- one that racks Barcelona law enforcement and corporate think tanks alike, threatening a frightening end for everyone involved.

Deciphering the insular power structures of these new executives isn't easy, but Inspector Hector Salgado has his own ways of making them speak. Meanwhile, Barcelona is freezing, suffering from an unusual cold snap and Salgado's wife, Ruth, is still missing. Despite impossible odds, Salgado must try everything he can to bring the nightmarish events to an end, because for him it’s a matter of saving his city, and his family.

My Thoughts:

When I found Antonio Hill's The Good Suicides listed as an Early Reviewer book over at LibraryThing, I had my doubts about requesting it -- all the cover images seemed so unappealing and off-putting. But I'm glad I overcame that squeamishness, because the book inside those covers turned out to be one of my favorites so far this year. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good, suspenseful whodunit with lots of twists to keep you guessing right up to that last page.

I haven't read the first Inspector Salgado book (The Summer of Dead Toys, published in 2011) -- as usual, I've jumped into an ongoing series with very little knowledge about any part of it. And I think reading them in order might be a good idea; at times, I was a little lost when I came across references to that first work. And the separate mystery concerning the disappearance of Salgado's wife is rather intricate and tends to slow things down a bit. But it certainly didn't spoil my enjoyment of this second installment. Definitely a four-star read.

Cover of the ARC

I received my copy of The Good Suicides through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was provided, and no one influenced my opinion of the book.

Reading Report: Love Story, With Murders

Written by Harry Bingham
Delacorte Press, 2013; 390 pages

Publisher's Description:

D.C. Fiona Griffiths is facing the prospect of a dull weekend when the call comes in, something about illegal dumping in a Cardiff suburb. But when she arrives on the scene she finds, in a garage freezer, a severed human leg, complete with a pink suede high-heeled shoe.

South Wales police are able to ID the body part as that of a young woman who went missing five years earlier; a young woman who once made a living as an exotic dancer. All at once, Fiona’s job as a detective and her role as a loving daughter collide: Fiona’s father owns a Cardiff strip club and was once deeply involved in the local crime scene.

Still in recovery from a devastating psychotic breakdown, Fiona is wary of exploring a path that might end at her father’s door... And as she is just starting to get into the murdered girl’s head, a severed hand is found — and this one is male.... The answers may be more than Fiona can handle. Because in order to solve the riddle of these hideous murders, D.C. Fiona Griffiths will have to delve into the mysteries of her past....

My Thoughts:

Love Story, With Murders is the second novel in Harry Bingham's mystery series featuring DC Fiona Griffiths -- the first was Talking to the Dead, published in 2012. I haven't read that first book, and I'm not sure if that fact had any influence on my overall negative reaction to this second one. I suppose it's always better to start at the beginning of a series, and although I can't really say this was a book I enjoyed, it had some good moments. Griffiths is definitely a memorable character, and not unsympathetic. Still, I'm not sure I'd recommend the book to other readers -- and I'd definitely want to know their squeamishness quotient before turning them on to it (those severed body parts just keep on popping up).

I think my main problem with the novel was that I just never warmed to the main character, DC Griffiths. I tend to prefer sleuths who are not so -- well, damaged. When the detective's personal story starts overshadowing the mystery he/she is trying to solve, I begin to lose interest fairly quickly. And that's just what happened here, and why it took me many weeks to get through this one. Not a terrible read, but it really didn't make me want to go further with the series.

I received my copy of Love Story, With Murders through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was received, and no one influenced my opinion of the book.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays: Tales of Men and Ghosts

This week my teaser lines come from one of Edith Wharton's ghostly tales, "The Eyes," included in the volume Tales of Men and Ghosts (there's a free download available from Project Gutenberg).  I know this snippet is a little long (sorry), but I couldn't figure out where to cut it:
I was waked suddenly by the feeling we all know — the feeling that there was something near me that hadn't been there when I fell asleep. I sat up and strained my eyes into the darkness. The room was pitch black, and at first I saw nothing; but gradually a vague glimmer at the foot of the bed turned into two eyes staring back at me. I couldn't see the face attached to them — on account of the darkness, I imagined — but as I looked the eyes grew more and more distinct: they gave out a light of their own. 
Hmmmm. Okey-dokey. Well, sweet dreams.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Monday Reading Update

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Suddenly October is more than half over! I'm really not ready for it, but the holiday season is rapidly approaching, and then 2014 will be just a fond memory. Well, relatively fond, anyway.  Feels like I must've slept through most of this year.

I set myself a reading goal of fifty books for the year, and it looks like I'm going to get close, but maybe not quite all the way.  Here's what I've read since my last reading update back in September:
Peter Pan Must Die (Dave Gurney series #4). John Verdon
Island Girls. Nancy Thayer
The Mist in the Mirror. Susan Hill
The Two Hotel Francforts. David Leavitt
The Celtic Dagger (Alistair Fitzjohn #1). Jill Paterson
As usual, I'm not doing so well at posting reviews, but I'm working on that.  This week I'm reading Children of the Revolution, one of the Inspector Banks books by Peter Robinson:

And if I can plow through that one, I might get back to one of the books I started last month and put aside -- Bliss House, by Laura Benedict:

I've been reading mostly mysteries, thrillers and ghost stories lately -- it's a great time of year for that. But I think I might be ready for something lighter, without all that mayhem, gore and terror.  So I'm looking for suggestions.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Beginnings: Missing Person

VerbaMundi edition by David R. Godine
For this week's Book Beginnings on Friday, I'm looking at Missing Person by Patrick Modiano, translated from the French by Daniel Weissbort.

Modiano just won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I have to admit I'd never heard of him before the announcement. So I did a quick search for his books and discovered that very few are available in the U.S., in translation (Godine has announced plans to reissue some of his works as soon as possible). I found Missing Person available from Amazon and quickly ordered a copy. Here's the opening paragraph:
I am nothing. Nothing but a pale shape, silhouetted that evening against the cafe terrace, waiting for the rain to stop; the shower had started when Hutte left me.
Initial Thoughts:
Well, right away I'm wondering who Hutte is. And is the speaker a woman? Or a man? And why did Hutte leave? We don't really know much yet, do we? Sounds a little depressing. But interesting, in a bleak sort of way. Enough to keep me reading a bit further.

How about you -- would you go on reading? Or drop this one like a hot croissant?

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.