Monday, February 28, 2011

8. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Set in Barcelona shortly after WWII, this book is the story of the young son of a bookseller who becomes obsessed with a book called The Shadow of the Wind written by Julian Carax.  Daniel wants to learn more about the author and only finds more mystery and intrigue as he grows older and more involved with the intrigue surrounding Carax.  This review by Stephen King sums it up, "If you thought the true gothic novel died with the nineteenth century, this will change your mind.  The Shadow of the Wind is the real deal, a novel full of cheesy splendor and creaking trapdoors, a novel where even the subplots have subplots . . . This is one gorgeous read."   I have to admit this book was a little too dark for my tastes, but there came a point when I really did become caught up in the story, where all the subplots started to come together.  I think my daughter, Cassie, would really like it.  Zafon does write beautifully and I've included some wonderful quotes about books:

"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul.  The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it.  Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens."

"Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart.  Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later--no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget--we will return."

Really beautiful writing but the story was a little too disturbing.  I did like the ending, I liked the story of Daniel and Bea, Fermin and Bernarda, but overall, just a so-so read for me.  Rating:  3.5

Sunday, February 20, 2011

7. The Lottery by Patricia Wood

I know I got this book because I had read some great reviews about it.  The premise of a man with a low IQ winning the lottery grabbed my attention.  Right now, I'm having a hard time deciding what to read next, so I picked this one simply because it's a bigger book and hard back.  (Trying to make more room in the library by reading the big books first)  I like the character of Perry.  He is simple and good hearted, works hard and loves his grandmother.  What's not to like?  What I didn't like was the overwhelming use of the F-bomb.  After twenty or so pages, I called it quits.  Unless someone gives me a compelling reason to try this again, I will probably sell it at my yard sale next summer. 
Rating:  DNF

6. The Society by Michael Palmer

I think I am done with medical mysteries.  They all seem to follow the same story line:  bad doctors get rich and powerful and kill to protect or increase their power.  Rogue doctor stumbles on secrets and is framed to keep anyone from believing him/her.  There is always a love interest which develops incredibly fast possibly because of the intensity of the dangerous situation the couple find themselves in. 

In The Society, the bad guys are not all doctors, just the rich heads of HMO's who are denying care to middle America.  Dr Will Grant is a member of the Hippocratic Society which is fighting the callousness of the HMO's.  Of course, he finds himself drugged and at risk of losing his medical license and facing possible drug charges and a malpractice suit; but he finds love in spite of it all.  And the whole HMO system is brought to its knees because of the greed of the ones in this book. 

Palmer does raise some pretty scary questions about the state of medical care in the U.S.  I know there is no easy solution, but it is a huge mess.  He seems firmly against HMO's but doesn't give any ideas on how to make medical more affordable or how to tackle the whole issue of insurance, etc.  Not that I want to read about any of that in a murder mystery, but still . . .
Rating:  3

Thursday, February 17, 2011

5. Dearly Departed by Tristi Pinkston

The second book in the Secret Sisters Mystery series was a quick, fun read.  Ida Mae Babbitt finds herself depending on the Relief Society sisters after a couple of accidents leaves her with a broken ankle and wrist.  She chafes at her inability to serve others and being forced to be the recipient of the service of others.  In the meantime, Arlette's granddaughter, Eden, gets pulled into a murder mystery.  Soon the whole ex-Relief Society Presidency gets pulled into an investigation of a care center where all is not as it seems.  Tristi has written an interesting, crisp  mystery that makes sense but is not too easily solved.  Her humor shines through every page without becoming slapstick.  The dynamics of the ladies gels even more in this sequel and I liked the romantic side stories.  I also enjoy reading an LDS book where the religion is portrayed throught he characters lifestyle without any sermonizing.  The book doesn't attempt to convert or cover doctrinal issues.  But we get glimpses of what Mormonism is by who these ladies are.  I look forward to the nest installment in this issue.  How are you coming along on that, Tristi?
Rating:  4.5

4. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson

Hornest's Nest takes off exactly where the previous book ended with Lisbeth in the hospital and bodies being discovered all over the place.  I found this book harder to follow as the cast of charcters becomes incredibly large and the plot incredibly complicated.  There is a lot of discussion about Sweden's constitutional laws which I found tiresome.  The book follows the investigation into the murders from the 2nd book and another investigation into a secret department within Sweden's Secret Service.  While the conclusion was satisfying, I thought there was too much going on and not enough of Lisbeth and Mikhail.  These two characters make the books.
Rating:  3.5

3. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

I rarely read a series back-to-back, but this one called for it.  I'm glad I had the second book ready so I could keep up with a growing cast of characters and try to keep all the events straight.  There is a lot going on in this book as we foolow Lisbeth and Mikhail on two different paths to solve the same crime.  In this book, two of Mikhail's colleagues are brutally murdered and Lisbeth is blamed.  A massive manhunt begins to find what the papers characterize as a violent, Satanic sociopath.  Lisbeth manages to elude capture because, contrary to what the media is reporting, she is incredibly smart and wily.  Like the first book, this one has way too much violence and sexual content and would be better without it.  But the action is gripping and the mystery unfolds layer by layer, drawing you in.  The end of this book is a definite cliff-hanger which explains why I downloaded the third to my Kindle.  More on that in the next review.
Rating:  4

Sunday, February 06, 2011

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Well, there's too much sexual content, profanity and violence in this book, but I still liked it.  There are two main characters, Lisbeth Salander and Mikhail Blomkvist, who don't even meet until halfway through the book.  Mikhail is a journalist who has just lost a libel case and will be spending three months in jail.  He is offered a job by a billionaire to solve the murder of his niece thirty years ago.  Along the way, he realizes he needs help and also learns that he was investigated before getting the new job by a crack investigator, Lisbeth.  Now here is a hard-to-define character.  She has been declared incompetent with violent tendencies by that state and has to report to a guardian.  She is anti-social and has a weird sense of morality.  And she can hack into any computer.  Together the two develop a relationship while solving the case and uncovering some really rotten family secrets.  Mikhail is a likable, interesting character right from the start, but Lisbeth grows on you.  And the mystery is pretty compelling.  The book lives up to all the hype it has been receiving.  I'm now reading the second in the series; and it's pretty gripping.  More to follow . . . Rating:  4