Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

This book tells the true story of the murder of three-year-old Saville Kent and the efforts of Detective Jonathan Whicher to determine who killed the young boy.  I had been looking forward to reading this book for some time but found myself disappointed quite early into it.  First of all, I didn't realize that the victim was practically a baby and that broke my heart.  The author is quite matter-of-fact about Saville maybe to keep the reader from becoming attached to him; but it was a hideous crime that was upsetting.  Second of all, Summerscale is very diligent in her efforts to portray the new detective force of Scotland Yard as the novelty that it was in 1860.  She includes excerpts from novels written during that age including Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.  There are all kinds of facts about the culture and mindset of English people of the time; lots of information about what things costs and what people earned.  I guess it could be interesting, but I was looking forward to a true-life mystery and felt all the facts detracted from the actual story of who killed Saville.  At least for me.  I read about half of the book but found myself falling asleep too many times.  I don't know if the murderer was ever discovered and I don't care.  If you want to read a book about how the great detective evolved and about mid 19th century England, I would recommend this book.  I think Summerscale did some great research and presented the information in an interesting format.  It just wasn't my cup of tea.
Rating:  DNF

Thursday, May 27, 2010

43. The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney by Suzanne Harper

From the Back cover:
"How do you ignore a ghost?
Sparrow Delaney absolutely, positively does not want to be a medium like her six older sisters, her mother, and her grandmother. She does not want to see, hear, smell, or talk to ghosts. If she sticks to her rules and doesn't let anyone know that she can do all those things—everywhere, all the time—Sparrow just might pass as a normal tenth grader at her new high school. She makes a new best friend and meets an irritatingly appealing guy in her history class. But when another boy catches her eye, all Sparrow's dreams of being ordinary go up in smoke. Becausethis boy is a dead one—a persistent, charming, infuriating ghost, who won't let her be until she agrees to help him Move On."

I really enjoyed this young adult book.  The message of learning to be yourself and accepting who you are is a great one; and the book presents it without being preachy or pushy.  The story is a fun one as you can imagine when it deals with a reluctant medium.  Sparrow Delaney is a great character, easy to relate to, very likeable, with a stubborn core that makes her human.  Her six sisters, mother and grandmother are much more shadowy which probably fits right in with this story.  
Rating:  4.5

Sunday, May 23, 2010

42. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

From the back cover:
"January 1946:  Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.  And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name."

What I can say about this book that hasn't already been said?  If you've already read it, you know what I mean when I say I absolutely loved it.  If you haven't read it, please do.  It was such a charming, delightful surprise.  The entire story is told through a series of letters to Juliet and her answers, with a few amongst her friends thrown in.  I haven't always loved the books I've read that use letters as a literary device, but in this book, it works marvelously.  Each character reveals himself/herself more as the correspondence continues; and you simply fall in love with these people (with a couple of exceptions whose letters make them humorously unappealing).  Not only is this a great story, but it contains so many details about the occupation of Guernsey during WWII.  I had never heard about this piece of history and found the stories of deprivations and how both the English and Germans adapt to the situation fascinating.  The Literary Society came into being during the occupation when a few soon-to-be members were found out after curfew. They used a literary meeting as an excuse and continued to meet thereafter.  Friendships were born and reading was promoted.  Juliet, who lives and writes in London, receives a letter from Dawsey who had bought a secondhand book with her name and address in it.  "I wonder how the book got to Guernsey?  Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers." Juliet  I love that thought.  Maybe that's why I book mooch: sending out books that will hopefully find their perfect readers and hoping others find their way to me.  The Guernsey Literary Society is one book that I will be keeping and reading again.
Rating:  5

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

41. The Last Continent by TerryPratchett

Rincewind, the most incompetent wizard alive, find himself on a hot and dusty continent, looking rocks for grubs to eat.  But Rincewind is not destined to die even though he meets Death several times in this book.  His destiny is to save the last continent which bears a striking resemblance to Australia.  His adventures as he tries to avoid his destiny are hilarious as usual.  Actually there are two stories to follow in this book.  The other story involves the head wizards at the Unseen University back in Ankh Morpork who vaguely remember a misfit wizard named Rincewind.  They decide to search out a lesser known wizard in the far reaches of the University and behold a tropical paradise outside his window.  They all go through the window and soon find themselves trapped on the other side of Discworld and in a completely different time.

There truly were some laugh-out-loud moments in this book.  Pratchett's descriptions and parodies are spot-on.  But I was also confused many times trying to figure out exactly what was going on.  There are people or animals watching others and I just didn't want to stop to figure it out.  But great humor regardless.
Rating:  4

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

40. Gone for Good by Harlan Coben (audio)

This is the second audio version of Harlan Coben's book that I have listened to.  While both books were great, I really liked the narrator of this version better.  His voice is clear and easy to understand; and he is able to change his voice just enough so the listener can follow who is speaking.  Great job.
As for the story itself, it was full of twists and turns; had a nice romance without any gratuitous sex and the romance worked right into the story itself; and the characters were believable, some were a little too black and white:  Will was a bit too innocent and clueless but definitely a good guy, while McWayne was as evil as they come.  Other characters you think you know only to find what you thought may be wrong.  But they all grasped your interest from the start.  The mystery surrounds a murder that took place eleven years earlier when Will's brother was accused of killing his old girlfriend, Julie.  The brother disappears and there is a taint attached to the family from then on.  When his mother dies of cancer, Will's girlfriend disappears as well, and the action just escalates.  This was an abridged version of the book which contributed to my confusion of what was going on as well as the fact that I listened to it over the course of three days.  It would always take me a minute or two to remember what was going on or who someone was; sometimes longer than a minute or two.  Even so, I really enjoyed listening to this book  and was interested and surprised right up to the final sentence.  I have two Coben books sitting on the shelf.  I hope they are as much fun to read as they are to listen to.
Rating:  4.5

39. Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

Interesting Times picks Rincewind up right where Sourcery left him.  On a deserted island.  We find him being approached by a group of Amazons who need a male to continue their line.  Unfortunately, Rincewind is magically relocated to another continent where the wizards of Unseen University have sent him acccording to a secret deal with a rule of a devious ruler of that country.  Here he runs into his old friend, Two Flower, who is plotting a revolution against the ruling class, in the most politest possible way.  On another front, seven barbarians, including Cohen from another book, have entered the country with takeover in mind.  Honestly, the barbarians are the most hilarious part of the whole story.  One of the seven is actually a retired teacher, who tries to civilise the other six, who are older than dirt with no intentions of dying any time soon.  How Rincewind survives is a masterful tale of his own ineptness and incredible luck.  The whole book is just one giggle after another.  Since I am skipping the illustrated novels for now, I have one more book to read in the Rincewind series and then I will take a break from Pratchett for a while.  But I am looking forward to seeing what happens to the hapless wizard as he visits the Last Continent, which bears a striking resemblance to Australia.  Sounds like another good laugh.
Rating:  4.5

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

38. Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Sourcery is another romp through the weird and wacky Discworld.  It also marks the return of Rincewind, a minor wizard with limited magical powers but possessing the all-important gift of staying alive.  That's not easy for a wizard to do on Discworld.  Especially when a powerful sourcerer shows and takes over the Unseen University, the home of most wizards and the repository of magical knowlege.  A huge war begins begins the wiarding factions with towers springing up everywhere.  Rincewind just wants to avoid the mess but gets tangled up in it anyway.  The Luggage is in this book as well, but in a more limited capacity.  As always, the book is filled with hilarious analogies and personifications; but it is also very hectic and jumps from one site of action to another.  Personally, this is probably my least favorite of Practchett's books that I have read so far. All seven of them.  There's tons more to go.  And even though it is my least favorite, I still enjoyed it a lot.  Anything that makes me laugh is a good thing.  Now I've started Interesting Times and looking forward to more good times.
Rating:  3.75