Archive for Fiction

Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , on May 25, 2008 by Lisa

This review is also posted at Books. Lists. Life. I am copying it here because a certain someone else from this blog also recently read it and I’d like to spur her review.

Grave Surprise is the second book in the Harper Connelly series. Since being struck by lightning as a teen, Harper has had the ability to find bodies, and to tell what killed them. In this book, Harper and her brother/keeper Tolliver have come to Memphis to demonstrate her talent when Harper discovers a grave that contains not one, but two bodies. Through coincidence (or not) they become suspects in the murder of the unexpected body.

When I read the first in the series, Grave Sight, I liked it but didn’t love it. I had the same response to this one. While I enjoy Charlaine Harris, I definitely prefer the Sookie Stackhouse books to these. Harper is a good character and has a lot of potential. She has flaws (sometimes contradictory- her leg is weak to the point of needing help walking at times as a result of the lightning, but she enjoys jogging?), she isn’t sociable and doesn’t feel the need to apologize for herself. Tolliver is a bit of a cliche- not traditionally good looking but has a woman in every town clamoring for his attention. While I like the idea of a brother-sister team, this isn’t one that I enjoy. I find the relationship between the two of them incredibly creepy. This is somewhat addressed in the book, but before I got to that point I almost put the book aside for good.

The plot itself was ok. The mystery had plenty of clues and I’m sure the average reader could figure it out. I really like the “senses dead people” idea and will certainly continue to read the books, but they won’t be at the top of my wish list.

Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , , , , on May 13, 2008 by Lisa

By the authors of The Nanny Diaries, Dedication is the story of Katie and Jake, who used to be high school sweethearts. Now in their 30s, Kate has spent her entire adult life listening to Jake sing about their relationship and break-up over the airwaves. Jake is back in their hometown for the holidays and Kate rushes home to confront him about it all.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the present and their past. It starts in 7th grade and ends at prom- when Jake vanished without a word until they heard him singing about Katie on the radio. Jake has taken advantage of their friends and written about every ugly secret they ever had in high school. I really enjoyed the parts from high school. Jake was a jerk… or was he? Some of what he did was explained… maybe. The chapters about the current day were much less satisfying. One interesting thing is that the characters are about the same age I am, so the flashbacks to high school felt pretty familiar. The clothing, the makeup, the trends- all that was pretty amusing. I don’t want to give away how it ends, but I was a bit disappointed in the very end. I’m not sure if there were a skillful buildup to the end or if it’s a bit of a cop out. I can’t decide if the story actually works or not. It was an entertaining book but it won’t go on my top ten.

The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , , , , on May 1, 2008 by Lisa

The Tin Roof Blowdown is the 16th Dave Robicheaux novel.  It is set in New Orleans and the surrounding area during and directly after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I read a review that said it offered a very good look at what life was really like for the survivors and that lead me to request it from Paperbackswap. I had never read a James Lee Burke novel before this one. It doesn’t seem to have impacted my enjoyment of the book not to have read a Dave Robicheaux novel before.  This type of book is outside of my normal reading habits, but that’s really a good thing.

Dave is looking for the person who shot and killed a couple of looters. The owner of the loot is a gangster who is also looking for the surviving looter, who may be a rapist as well. There is an unknown stalker-like character who may have been hired by the gangster and a missing heroin addicted priest. There is an alcoholic bounty hunter who is also looking for the looter. There is missing loot to be found, but by who? It’s a busy story.

The Katrina stuff is horrifying, but doesn’t really follow through to the end except for in the lack of police interest in some things because the police are overloaded. I started off thinking it was going to be a great illustration of all that was done wrong, but it really wasn’t. (Guess I should finally finish watching Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke if I want that.)  The mystery itself was full of coincidence.  The different threads to it all end up being connected in convienent ways and the final solution was both obvious and unsurprising. The big surprise (one of the relationships between two characters) was so carefully avoided that it was obvious that it was being avoided. (Why would you talk about a character and then never think of them again, unless they are key? I just kept thinking, but what is X’s connection to all this?) There was one big plot point that wasn’t really addressed, and I thought could have been left out completely. (Hint: lights) I didn’t find Dave to be such a great detective as to have 16 books.

That said, I suspect that this series is to some people what Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books are to others. A nice comfortable read, no big surpriases, lots of familiar aspects. Even having not read other books, I bet I can pick out some things that are mentioned over and over. (Molly was a nun before he married her, really.  Characters kept speaking with “mashed potatoes” in their mouth as a way of mumbling- like three or four times.   Dave kept noticing Cletus’s alcohol because he was an alcoholic himself.  Stephanie really likes her mascara (oops, wrong books!) You get the idea.) I wouldn’t go out seeking the rest of the books. It didn’t draw me into the characters enough to want to have them, but it was a good book and not a waste of time. It was a nice break from routine, which is something I should do more often.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , , , on April 17, 2008 by Lisa

Also posted at Books. Lists. Life.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan has been on everyone’s blog in the last year or so. Most everyone loved it to death. I put it on my paperbackswap list and got it in the mail some time last year, but never got around to reading it. This January, I put it on my personal TBR challenge list (found here.) Last week when I was looking for a book for this challenge, I picked it up. I read about a third of it, and then decided to take a little break to have a baby. I took the book to the hospital and on my last day there mostly finished it. (I spent a lot of time hoping to sleep, but due to being in a “semi-private” room didn’t really sleep. Or read. Or watch tv. Just laid there trying to ignore my roommate and her family.)

Snow Flower is about two women, Snow Flower and Lily, who are pledged together as laotong- a special type of friends. Lily is poor and uneducated, but has perfect feet. Snow Flower is from a wealthy family and is very proper and educated. Over the course of the book we see both women from about age 7 until their death(s). The girls get their feet bound, are matched and married, and become mothers themselves. The laotong friendship is supposed to benefit both girls. From the beginning it is obvious how this will benefit Lily. The connection with a wealthy influential family will give her some prestige and Snow Flower will teach Lily manners she wouldn’t learn at home. It is not so clear how this helps Snow Flower. The girls marry off in very ritual ceremonies and then… wait, you don’t want to know what happens, right?

This book was fascinating look at the history of the women in China. The rituals of footbinding and the marriage traditions are very interesting. The way the women lived was very eye-opening to me. Much of the book is about nu shu- a “secret” women’s writing that Lily and Snow Flower used to communicate when they weren’t together. Snow Flower and Lily use nu shu to write important events on the folds of a fan which travels between the girls as well. The books is written as a memoir written by Lily, looking back at the past.

The pages of the book just flew by. I expected it to be hard to get into the groove because of the time period, but there was never a moment of slowness. At the beginning, I was a bit annoyed at Lily’s heavy foreshadowing of what would happen. By the end of the book it wasn’t so noticable, and it started to feel like the way Lily was berating herself rather than foreshadowing. The trajectory of the girl’s lives was perfect and dramatic. Details were revealed very slowly but when you did find some new detail it was both surprising and expected due to what Lily had already known. (Ok, that makes no sense, but trust me on it.) Overall, an excellent book, highly recommended.

This review is for avidbookreader‘s TBR challenge, and also fulfills a book on my own list. I have barely proofread it, as I have barely slept and find that prospect much more appealing. My apologies.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

Posted in Fiction, General, Gina with tags , , on March 11, 2008 by Gina

I found the story to be intriguing.  In 1964, David, a doctor, is forced due to a snowstorm to deliver his baby in the doctor’s office.  His son was born perfect but an unexpected daughter was born with Down Syndrome.  To save his wife pain, David gives his daughter to the nurse to institutionalize while telling Norah, his wife, that the baby was dead.  The nurse, Caroline, doesn’t leave the newborn at the institution but instead flees to another city to raise the girl as her own.  The rest of the book is the characters dealing with the impact of that split second decision of a grieving father.  The story is beautiful, but the book fell flat with me.  The writing was very good.  The story was one that the climax happened at the beginning and the rest of the book was the fallout of that one decision.  However, I found that there just wasn’t enough emotion.  I felt that I, as the reader, should have been more involved in the character’s lives than I was allowed.  Thus I felt the character development to be inferior.  I felt there were too many secrets between the main characters and the reader.   We should have been more aware of David’s obsession with his photographs.  We should have been more involved in Caroline and Phoebe’s lives.  I really just felt disconnected from the characters.  I realize that it may have been Ms. Edwards intention to show the disconnect between all of the characters, but it just didn’t work well for me.   The ending was too pretty for me.  It just didn’t feel real.  I enjoyed reading it, but it didn’t compel to me to dig further.  After reading it, I didn’t ponder it at all.   

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Posted in Fiction, Gina with tags , , , , on March 11, 2008 by Gina

Trouble follows Mercy more than any coyote I know.  Not that I know many.  Someone is killing fae and Mercy’s favor is being called in for help.  Zee is thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t committ.  Mercy is the only one silly enough to ignore the Gray Lord’s orders and to clear Zee’s name.   This series is turning out to be one of my favorites.  Ms. Briggs surprised me with the first two installments and has not let me down.  I think that Moon Called is the strongest first installment of any series I have ever read in this genre.  Each book gets better and better.  Iron Kissed is spectacular.  The mystery is brilliant and the ending is written so thoughtfully.   The final chapters are indescrible unless I include spoilers which I am not willing to do– suffice to say it it the best ending that I have read in a long, long time.  The raw emotion that Ms. Briggs evokes from the reader is extraordinary.   I was apprehensive on how she would deal with the Samuel/Mercy/Adam triangle, as I love both werewolves involved.  I shouldn’t have been anxious because Ms. Briggs knows her characters and her craft.  It is dealt with beautifully.  I did not find it anticlimatic like some reviewers, but instead focused on the beauty of how people grow and change without realizing.  

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , , on March 5, 2008 by Lisa

Iron Kissed is the the third book in the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  Mercy has a lot going on for her in this one- she’s still got Adam and Samuel competing for her attention, she’s waiting for the other shoe to drop from the vampires (see Blood Bound for details there), and her friend and mentor Zee has landed himself in jail. The fae are willing to sacrifice Zee in order to stay out of the spotlight, but Mercy can’t let that happen, of course.

 I love this series.  It’s getting stronger with every entry. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish because there was just NO WAY I was going to bed without knowing how it ended. I love that Mercy, who is way underpowered in her circles, manages to get the upperhand  MOST of the time.  Each book goes in a slightly different direction and it does not feel repetitious at all. The Samuel- Adam triangle is resolved beautifully. I love the direction she’s gone with Ben. In fact, Ben plays a pivotal role at the end of this one, in a scene that could not have been done better.  There is a Big Event near the end of this one that has drawn some controversy, but I think it was handled beautifully. I cried, a lot. I don’t think it was pregnancy hormones either. If I were still rating books, which it appears I am NOT, I would give it 5 of 5. I can’t wait for the next one.