The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope

Posted by on Dec 17, 2010 in 2010, 3 stars, Book Review, Copy from Publicist/Publisher | 3 comments


The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope

The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope
Translated by John Cullen
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 256
Challenges: none
Source: eGalley provided by publisher through NetGalley

The Short Version:
In the Basque region of Spain at the time of the civil war, two women from markedly different backgrounds come together to help each other and keep a secret.

Why I Read It:
When I read about this book on the NetGalley site it sounded just so intriguing that I couldn’t resist.

The Book:
The story takes place both at the time of the Spanish Civil war and many years later when the grandson of one of the two women returns to the family home to spend some time in quiet solitude to study for a legal examination. A lowly maid has inherited the home of her wealthy mistress and now plays host to the grandson.

At the same time that the events of the earlier time are revealed and the different circumstances of the two women plays out, the story of the grandson and his conversations with the friendly neighbor doctor are blended in.

To say much more about the plot would be difficult without giving away events that are better read in the way the author tells them.

My Thoughts:
This story doesn’t jump back and forth between time frames so much as it swirls in and out and back and forth. Even in translation the writing is hypnotic and beautiful. The story seems a bit slow paced and the ending is fairly clear from early on.

Because of the way the story moves back and forth in time it took me a while to adapt to the way it is told. Although I thought it was good, it was also frustrating in the way the reveal was no surprise at all long before it happened. Yet at the same time the writing and the way the story is told is intriguing and poetic. It was a book I took a long time to read because I had to immerse myself in the story whenever I sat down to read it.

Days later I’m still having a difficult time putting my feelings for this book into a concise few words. I both liked and disliked it and found it both fascinating and frustrating at the same time.

I think this might be a good book club book because of the way my mixed feelings about it make me want to discuss it with someone else who has read it.

Rating 3/5

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Audiobook – Miss Julia Delivers the Goods by Ann B. Ross

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 in 2010, 3 stars, Ann B Ross, Audio, Book Review, Support Your Library | 0 comments


Miss Julia Delivers the Goods by Ann B. Ross

Genre: Fiction
Series: #10 in the Miss Julia series
Publication Date: 2009
Read by: Cynthia Darlow
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #50
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Lighthearted antics of a Southern ‘woman of a certain age’ who gets herself into a mess while playing cupid and solving a crime.

Why I Read It:
I’ve listened to this series and enjoy the light humor and need to catch up with the most recent books.

The Book
This is a series so if you haven’t read the previous books, there might be spoilers of events prior to this one.

Miss Julia as usual manages to get herself all wrapped up in other people’s business while steadfastly declaring that she does no such thing. Miss Julia’s household consists of herself, her longtime housekeeper Lillian, Julia’s kind and charming second husband Sam, and single mother Hazel Marie and her son Lloyd. Hazel Marie is the former girlfriend of Miss Julia’s first husband and Lloyd is his son. If you want to find out how they all end up living happily together at Julia’s, then you’ll just have to read or listen to the earlier books.

After Hazel Marie admits to feeling ill and being concerned that it’s something serious, Miss Julia takes charge (as usual). The doctor’s diagnosis is a surprise to all. On top of that, Miss Julia is distressed to hear that Hazel Marie has broken off her relationship with Private Detective J.D. Pickens. As much as Mr. Pickens drives Miss Julia crazy, she does think he’s good for both Hazel Marie and Lloyd and she’s determined to get the them back together.

Then, Sam’s house that he uses for an office is broken into, vandalized, and burglarized. Julia convinces Sam to put Mr. Pickens on the job and of course, she can’t help getting involved herself.

My Thoughts:
These are just light enjoyable driving around listening for me. I probably wouldn’t read the books in paper format, but I enjoy listening to them in my short daily driving type of audiobook consumption. The Hazel Marie story is predictable and the outcome is really never in question. The minor mystery of the incident at Sam’s office is less predictable, and a good addition. I was less sure of how that one would play out.

As always I enjoy Miss Julia’s interactions with the other characters, particularly the ladies from her church. Her insistence that she’s not judgmental or a busy body is usually strongest when she is actually being one or the other. Nevertheless her devotion to Hazel Marie, Lloyd, Sam and Lillian show the true kindness in her heart.

Cynthia Darlow does a fairly good job with most of the characters, but I’m not fond of the way she reads Lillian’s character. I think Lillian is much smarter than Ms. Darlow’s vocal characterization makes her out to be.

Rating 3/5

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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Posted by on Dec 3, 2010 in 2010, 5 stars, Book Review | 15 comments

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Western
Publication Date: 1985
Pages: 895
Challenges: none
Source: Purchased ebook

The Short Version:
An epic cattle drive from south Texas to Montana, but so very much more.

Why I Read It:
I’ve sort of wanted to maybe sometime read this book for ages and when a readalong with a pace of about 100 pages a week came along I decided to finally take the plunge.

The Book:
The central story is of two former Texas Rangers who decide to drive a herd of cattle from their little town of Lonesome Dove in the south of Texas to Montana in order to start a ranch in what may be the last untouched frontier in the country.

But oh, the book is so much more than that.

Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call have been friends, co-workers and business partners for thirty years. They’ve got a small group of men who work for them and the group is pretty much family for all of them. When Jake Spoon (another former Ranger) shows up, he’s on the run after accidentally killing a man in Arkansas. His tales of the beauty of mainly unsettled Montana pique Call’s interest and before long their Hat Creek Cattle Company is hiring more men and heading north with a herd of cattle.

Along with the story of the cattle drive are several additional plot lines. Lorena is the local prostitute who just wants to get out of Lonesome Dove and to San Francisco and when Jake Spoon says he’ll take her there, she finds herself trailing along with the cattle drive. July Johnson is a young idealistic sheriff from Arkansas who is chasing Jake because of the man he killed in Little Rock. July’s unhappy wife is searching for her own path to happiness which may or may not include her husband and child. Clara Allen (Gus McCrae’s former love) is now in Nebraska running a horse ranch with her husband.

All of these stories progress individually and intertwined as this magnificent story unfolds.

My Thoughts:
Why, oh why did I wait so long to read this book? Now, I can’t wait for The Hubster to read it because I have no doubt he’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

If you have avoided this book because you don’t like “westerns” toss that thought right out of your head. This book is an epic historical fiction story of a time and place that hasn’t existed for a long time. It captured me fairly quickly and even though there were a couple of points where I was ready to move along before the author was, it was truly a wonderful experience to read. It’s part adventure, part love story, part western, part heroic myth, part coming of age story and both funnier and sadder than I’d ever anticipated.

There are so many great characters in this book. Both the heroes and the villains are wonderfully written and there are a few who land in both of those categories. The women characters are obviously limited by the real roles of women in the American west at the time of the story. Yes there is the good hearted prostitute, the outlaw, the naïve young boy, the rancher’s wife, as well as the good and bad among both the Indians and the White men.

Gus and Call are like an old married couple. After being friends and partners for thirty years it fits and feels genuine. Call is quiet and a loner, but Gus is quick witted and cares deeply for those he loves. Many of the supporting characters are just wonderfully written and will stick around in my brain and my heart for a long time.

If you like sweeping historical fiction with a bit of danger and adventure as well as a bit of fun, then don’t be intimidated by the size of this book. It’s totally worth the time. Yes, there are some brutal parts, but life on the frontier was brutal at times. There are also parts that are incredibly beautiful, tender and heartwarming too.

Just read it. Trust me on this.

Rating 5/5

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Free Fall by Robert Crais

Posted by on Nov 23, 2010 in 2010, 4 stars, Book Review, Robert Crais | 0 comments


Free Fall by Robert Crais

Genre: Mystery/Detective
Series: #4 in Elvis Cole series
Publication Date: 1993
Pages: 288
Challenges: none
Source: Purchased new

The Short Version:
Elvis Cole and Joe Pike take on pretty much everyone in a great combination of humor and action.

Why I Read It:
This is what I consider one of my ‘fun’ detective series and I’m trying to catch up.

The Book
Elvis Cole is hired by a young woman to find out what is going on with her fiancé. Mark Thurman is an LA cop and she thinks he’s in some sort of trouble. When Thurman himself shows up in Elvis’ office and basically says ‘go away I’m involved with another woman’, Elvis figures his work is done. Jennifer Sheridan, however refuses to believe it and convinces Elvis to keep digging.

Thurman is part of an elite undercover unit of the LAPD working in the notorious South Central area fresh out of the aftermath of the Rodney King riots. As Elvis keeps digging he finds some things about this unit that just don’t seem to add up to honest police work.

Possible crooked cops, gangs and a wrongful death suit against the unit that was mysteriously dropped all indicate that something isn’t right.

Elvis and his partner, the wonderfully scary but fun Joe Pike, take on both the cops and the gangs in search of the truth while trying keep themselves and their client alive.

My Thoughts:
I just love Elvis Cole. He’s a great mix of smart detective who genuinely cares about people and has no patience for nonsense. He’s got a great sarcastic wit which makes the books a perfect blend of interesting mystery and action with moments that make me laugh. Joe Pike is just awesomely scary and cool and definitely the man I’d want looking out for me. Yes, they’re tough guys who can banter with the best of them (Ok, Elvis banters, and Joe makes profound statements with either a single word or look), but they have a great sense of justice and want to see the right result to any situation.

This one takes place in LA with the Rodney King incident and riots still fresh in everyone’s mind. When Elvis and Joe discover that there’s some sort of police corruption mixed up with dangerous gang leaders they can’t let it go. Going against both street gangs and an LAPD unit straight out of FX’s The Shield? Of course I’d bet on Elvis and Joe.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t discover this series fairly recently because I have a lot of backlist to work my way through before I’m in that awful position of having to wait for the next book to be published. The series is just getting better with every book.

Rating 4/5

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A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta

Posted by on Nov 19, 2010 in 2010, 4 stars, Book Review, Michael Koryta, Support Your Library | 3 comments

A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta

Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction
Series: #3 in the Lincoln Perry series
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 294
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #49
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Private Investigator Lincoln Perry is hired to find the son of a recent murder victim and soon finds himself a suspect in multiple murders and a complex extortion plot.

Why I Read It:
I’ve read and enjoyed the first two books in the series.

The Book:
When Alex Jefferson is brutally tortured and murdered, his widow asks Lincoln Perry to find her husband’s long estranged son in order to let him know his father is dead and he is to inherit a large sum of money. Oh, and the widow? She was engaged to Perry before she met and married Jefferson. In addition, it was a knockout punch delivered to Jefferson by Perry that got Perry kicked off the Cleveland police force and into the PI business.

This makes what should be an easy missing person search start out with plenty of complications, but it gets worse. Before Perry can even tell Jefferson’s son about his inheritance, the kid is dead and Perry is in jail under suspicion for his murder.

Then it gets even worse. The more Perry and his partner Joe Pritchard work to find out what really happened to both Alex Jefferson and his son and why, the more twists and turns come along. At almost every step is a clue for Lincoln and Joe that is soon followed by apparent evidence leading the police to suspect Perry is behind the murders and extortion.

The story twists along with events from the past coming back to haunt people, revenge, extortion and a very scary Russian hit man who ended up being one of my favorite characters.

My Thoughts:
Like the first two in the series this was a fun to read thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Lincoln Perry is a character I like a lot. He’s smart and sharp tongued with little patience for the law enforcement authorities despite his previous career as a cop. He’s funny and devoted to his friends.

I enjoy the banter in Koryta’s books. He uses entertaining and quick witted dialog to progress the story, but there’s plenty of action too. The Russian hit man is scary, but he ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book.

The story is complicated and despite the many twists and turns it takes along the way (some more plausible than others), it’s an entertaining read. The essential question of who murdered Alex Jefferson and why turns out to have a surprising and yet by the time you get there, not so surprising resolution.

I look forward to continuing with this series as well as Koryta’s standalone thrillers.

Rating 4/5

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Audiobook – The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

Posted by on Nov 16, 2010 in 2010, 3.5 stars, Alexander McCall Smith, Book Review, Support Your Library | 3 comments


The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith (Audio)

Genre: Fiction
Series: #11 in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series
Publication Date: 2010
Read by: Lisette Lecat
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #48
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Not much of a detective story, but an enjoyable visit with familiar characters in Bostwana

Why I Read It:
I’ve listened to all the previous books in this series and thoroughly enjoy listening to Lisette Lecat read them.

The Book:
Precious Ramotswe only has a couple of minor detective agency related stories in this installment of the series. One of which ends up having both partners in a marriage ask her to find out if the other is having an affair. The other detective type storyline isn’t that complex and involves finding a safari guide who was kind enough to a visiting American woman that she left him some money in her will.

The more involved storyline in this one is that Mma Ramotswe’s assistant, Grace Makutsi has some personal trauma to deal with. Her fiancé is injured and his aunt uses this as an opportunity to keep Mma Makutsi away from him whether out of jealousy or because she feels Grace is not worthy as a future member of the family.

Of course Mma Makutsi’s arch nemesis Violet Sepotho makes a reappearance too.

My Thoughts:
As always I absolutely enjoyed the heck out of listening to Lisette Lecat’s reading of this series. Her voices and and personalities she gives to the characters have made them feel like old friends by this point in the series. The running jokes are totally expected, yet they still make me laugh.

It’s a very slow paced and rather plot thin series and I’m sure that if I read the books I would not have continued with it, but the audio versions are just a complete delight. The gentle sensibility of Precious Ramotswe and her love for her homeland of Botswana make her a fictional character that I’d love to sit down with for a cup of tea (red bush tea, of course).

Rating 3.5/5

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