Audiobook – A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Posted by on Dec 31, 2009 in 2009, 4 stars, Audio, Book Review, Louise Penny | 5 comments

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (Audio)
Series: #2 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2006
Read by: Ralph Cosham
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Second in an interesting mystery series set in and around a quiet Quebec village. The Chief Inspector is a fascinating combination of master and student.

Why I Read It:
I enjoyed the first in the series and wanted to learn more about the characters. I stayed with the audio version because Ralph Cosham is exactly the voice I would have chosen for Inspector Gamache

The Book:
When CC dePoitiers is murdered, no one in the village of Three Pines seems upset at her death. She was a highly unlikeable person. What does upset the villagers, however is the thought that one of their own may have killed her. When Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec is assigned to investigate, it’s a bit of a return to familiar ground for him. He was in Three Pines just over a year ago investigating another murder. His familiarity with the village and its inhabitants is both a help and a hindrance in this new investigation. It seems that everyone in town might have a reason to kill CC and the killer may be someone he already knows and likes. Gamache also has to deal with a new member of his team and the return of a formerly disruptive team member.

My Thoughts:
I liked this one just as much and possibly even more than Still Life. The main characters have been introduced, so this time around some of the backstories begin to be explored. Gamache is a great character. He’s both kind, and firm as a leader and investigator. He’s a remarkable mentor to his team members and a husband who is still deeply in love with his wife of many years. While a great teacher, he is also a willing student. The way he investigates the crime involves learning from the potential witnesses and potentially the killer or killers. He does have his limits and when his patience is tried, he can be a formidable boss or interrogator.

This series has such an interesting style. The storytelling is gentle and measured, yet Gamache is a highly professional investigator and it’s definitely not a cozy series. The setting of Three Pines is quaint and quiet. A place I’d like to visit, but for the murder rate. This story takes place around Christmastime so it was wonderful timing for me to be listening to it during the latter part of December.

So, with the second book in the series done, there are still some unresolved issues with Gamache and his team and career. I’ll be requesting the next book from the library soon.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Posted by on Dec 28, 2009 in 2009, 5 stars, Book Review, Support Your Library | 8 comments

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Genre: YA Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 405
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #55
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Stop whatever you’re doing, go get this book and read it. Now.

Why I Read It:
I wasn’t sure I wanted to read another book about the aftermath of a school shooting but Galleysmith’s Review raved so much about this one that I just had to give it a try. I’m so very glad I listened and read this one. It’s excellent.

The Book:
Valerie Leftman is going back to school for her senior year. This is big because last May, her boyfriend went on a shooting spree and killed and injured several students and teachers. Valerie was shot in the leg as she tried to stop him just before he turned the gun on himself. It turned out that many of the people Nick shot were on a ‘hate list’ that Valerie and Nick had kept in a notebook. To Val it was harmless venting, but to Nick it was clearly more serious.

Valerie is struggling with a lot of things. Is she a hero for stopping Nick or is she an accomplice for keeping the “hate list’? Should she be back at school? Valerie’s family life was strained before the shooting, and it’s not any better now. Her parents seem to be both wanting to help her and blaming her all at the same time.

My Thoughts:
I thought this book was just excellent. Told from Valerie’s viewpoint it takes place both in present time as she struggles with her return to school and in flashbacks as she remembers both the day of the shootings and her relationship with Nick before that fateful day. She’s looking at everything with new eyes now as she wonders if she should have seen this coming and struggles with her own guilt and culpability. When she returns to school she doesn’t know where she belongs. Her old friends don’t know how to respond to her presence and while the girl Valerie stopped Nick from shooting appears to want to be friends, Val is suspicious.

I liked that the story is told by Val. Nick (as seen though her eyes) is not the purely evil killer many see him to be. Her conflicting feelings are well written as are those of the other characters. Almost everyone in the book is someone I both liked and disliked. Val’s therapist is fabulous. My issues with the characters were Val’s Dad, in whom I struggled to find something redeeming and the art mentor who what just a touch too ‘out there’ for me.

Those are seriously minor quibbles, trust me. This book is one of the best I’ve read all year. The roller coaster of emotions and healing that Val, her family, and community go through is just as much of a roller coaster for the reader.

Yes, I cried my way through the end.

5 stars Rating 5/5

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Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Posted by on Dec 22, 2009 in 2009, 4 stars, Book Review, Charlaine Harris, Sookie Stackhouse | 4 comments

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Genre: Mystery / Vampire / Romance
Series: #4 in the Sookie Stackhouse series
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 291
Challenges: Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge #4

This is the fourth book in the Sookie Stackhouse series and I’ve enjoyed every one so far and am looking forward to the next one.

With any series it’s difficult to discuss plot without giving spoilers to the earlier books so if you haven’t read the others yet, skip the next paragraph.

After the events at the club in Jackson, Sookie wants nothing to do with the drama of the vampires and other supernatural creatures she’s come to know. Her on and off vampire boyfriend Bill has left for a trip to Peru. Sookie has just finished a busy New Year’s Eve at work and has made an interesting New Year’s Resolution – to not get beat up due to things in which the vampires have managed to get her entangled. That plan ends up in jeopardy when a partly dressed and amnesiac Eric (Bill’s boss) ends up at Sookie’s house in hiding from a coven of witches and Sookie’s brother Jason goes missing. The mystery and adventure just take off from there.

This series is a lot of action with ongoing character development as it progresses. The culture of the Vampires and the other supernatural creatures gets more developed as well as complex with every book. There are some interesting new non-human characters in this one.

My two favorite parts were the amnesiac and very different Eric (is this more like what he may have been when he was alive?) and of course . . . Bubba!!

Rating 4/5
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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Posted by on Dec 18, 2009 in 2009, 4 stars, Book Review, Scott Westerfeld, Support Your Library | 6 comments

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: YA Fiction
Series: #1 in the Uglies series
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 425
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #54
Source: Library

I added this book to my TBR list after a conversation among book bloggers on Twitter. It sounded so interesting. Then I started seeing other bloggers reviews popping up and based on the many positive reviews I was reading I had to move it up the list and read it sooner rather than later. I’m very glad I did. This is the first in a series and I’m already looking forward to the next book.

Tally Youngblood is almost sixteen and she can hardly wait for her birthday. In the world Tally lives in at sixteen everyone gets to have the operation that turns them from an Ugly to a Pretty. Once Tally turns Pretty she can go live in New Pretty Town where her responsibility will be to have fun all the time. Her best friend turned Pretty a few months ago and Tally is lonely and counting the days until her birthday. Then Tally meets Shay, another girl who’s almost sixteen. But Shay isn’t looking forward to becoming Pretty. She’s thinking about running away and joining a group of people she’s heard of who live outside the cities and never have the operation to become Pretty. When Shay runs away Tally is put into a tough spot. She finds out that she won’t be allowed to become Pretty until she betrays her friend and tell the authorities where Shay has gone.

I thought the concept of this dystopian story was an interesting one. In Tally’s society, everyone is made to look the same to prevent anger, resentment and war due to the differences between people. As the story progresses it’s not any surprise to find a very disturbing undertone to what everyone is taught is a good thing. When Tally discovers what life is like outside the rules of society and begins to question what she has been taught is true is when the story really took off for me. The characters were interesting and I was really pulling for Tally to make the right choices despite her tendency to continually cover her tracks with lies.

I liked the world that Westerfeld imagined. It’s not so far out of the realm of possible futures to dismiss out of hand. The little bit of history of how society ended up where it is was enough to make it plausible without being a history lesson dropped into the middle of the book. That’s the piece that I felt was so lacking in The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

I’ve been reading a lot of Young Adult and Dystopian books recently. I’m finding them intriguing. I can thank the excellent group of book bloggers that I chat with on Twitter for all the recommendations. I definitely would not have read this one if I had missed out on the Twitter chat.

This was an interesting first in a series that I’ll be continuing.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Aunt Dimity’s Christmas by Nancy Atherton

Posted by on Dec 13, 2009 in 2009, 3 stars, Book Review, Nancy Atherton, Support Your Library | 3 comments

Aunt Dimity's Christmas by Nancy Atherton

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: #5 in the Aunt Dimity series
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 214
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #53
Source: Library

This was a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas episode of this gentle cozy mystery series.

Lori Shepherd did not grow up as a child of privilege, but thanks to her mother’s lifelong friend ‘Aunt Dimity’ she now lives a privileged life. When Lori was at her lowest and all alone after her mother’s death she suddenly became the heir to Aunt Dimity’s wealth, Cotswolds cottage, and responsibility for Dimity’s charitable trust. She also has Dimity’s blue journal that Dimity uses to communicate with Lori despite Dimity’s very dead status. Now that Lori is happily married and mother to infant twin sons she’s looking forward to a perfect family Christmas in the Cotswolds.

When a vagrant collapses in Lori’s front yard a series of events are set off that derail Lori’s carefully laid holiday plans. The man’s identity is unknown but as she tries to find out who he is and where he came from she discovers more mysteries as she goes. With the assistance of a kindly priest, she finds more and more people who have been positively influenced by this mysterious stranger and more and more questions about his past.

The story remains a predictable Christmas parable yet still enough of a mystery to have a few surprises

The only thing I didn’t like about this installment of the series was that at the beginning Lori seems more selfish and materialistic than she’d been in any of the previous books. It was annoying and a surprising change in her personality, but seemed to be exaggerated to make the point of the story. It doesn’t really keep this from being a pleasant little cozy Christmas story with the expected moral and the return of our normal Lori at the end.

3 stars Rating 3/5
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A Killing Frost by John Marsden

Posted by on Dec 10, 2009 in 2009, 4 stars, Book Review, John Marsden, Support Your Library | 3 comments

A Killing Frost by John Marsden

Genre: YA Fiction
Series: #3 in the Tomorrow series
Publication Date: 1995
Pages: 275
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #52
Source: Library

This is a continuation of the story begun in Tomorrow When the War Began an continued in The Dead of Night. In the first book, Australia is invaded while a group of teenagers is on a camping trip out in the bush. They return home to discover that their families have been imprisoned and end up living out in the bush on their own while doing what they can to make things difficult for the invading army. The next books follow their story. Since this is a third book in a series, it’s nearly impossible to avoid spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

It’s been six months since the invasion. The war continues and the kids have grown up in ways no teenager should ever have to, yet at the same time they’re just kids trying to deal with unimaginable circumstances. They’re scared, they’re bored with hiding in the bush, they’re worried about their families and friends and they’re angry at the invading army and the colonists.

I though this third book was much better than the second. The impact this war and their isolation has had on the group is showing. They’ve become more like soldiers in the ways they’re trying to cause trouble for the invaders yet at the same time this book also brings to light their vulnerabilities and fears.

I’m more an more impressed with Marsden’s ability as a writer and storyteller as this series continues. The main character and narrator Ellie is well drawn and just as vulnerable as she is strong. Nothing is certain as the story plays out. The reader knows that Ellie is telling the story in retrospect, but what may happen at any time or to any of the other main characters is not certain.

The suspense and action really heats up in this one. There’s a section in the middle that left my heart pounding and and the tension rising as I read as fast as I could to not have to stop reading at the end of my lunch hour with so many questions unanswered. Ellie is definitely the star of the story, but some of the other characters are getting more rounded out as the series continues.

It feels like this was maybe planned as a trilogy because the end of this one, although leaving the door open for more could also have been a possible ending. I’m glad it didn’t end, though and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the fourth one soon. This one clearly leaves it open to take some new directions.

4 stars Rating 4/5
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