Audiobook – A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Posted by on Jan 13, 2012 in 2011, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Louise Penny | 5 comments

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Genre: Mystery
Series: #7 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series
Publisher: MacMilllan Audio
Publication Date: 2011
Read by: Ralph Cosham
Source: Library

The Short Version:
The focus of the series moves back to Three Pines when a body if found in Peter and Clara Morrow’s garden the morning after the party celebrating Clara’s first solo art show.

Why I Read It:
I have enjoyed listening to this series from the first book. The only bad part about reading this latest one is that now I have to wait so long for the next book.

The Book:
Clara Morrow’s first solo exhibition brings together many returning characters from earlier books in this series. It’s a new character however, who is found dead in the Clara’s flowerbed the next morning. The victim was Lillian Dyson who had a connection to Clara and to Clara’s husband, Peter. She also had connections to many other people that were in Three Pines that night.

As Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team return to Three Pines to investigate they find themselves including people who have become friends in the list of potential suspects. They also find themselves continuing to deal with the aftermath and ramifications of the horrifying events that took place a few months ago. Those events are a major part of the previous book, Bury Your Dead, so I’m not going to say more here. If you have read Bury Your Dead you can be assured that the storylines in that book do continue to progress in this book.

The case of Lillian Dyson tests Gamache and his team and also tests Peter and Clara Morrow. There are truths about their past as well as truths about their relationship and professional lives that must be faced. The secrets are many and the answers are few, but do include the answer to who killed Lillian Dyson. That and some of the other developments in this series may surprise you.

My Thoughts:
I’m going to say it again. This series is continuing to get better with every book. I loved the way that ongoing storylines progressed while at the same time the central case of this particular book is fully addressed withing the book. While some books in this series can stand on their own, I do not recommend reading this one unless you’ve at least read both The Brutal Telling and Bury Your Dead.

I highly recommend the audio version of this series. I admit I’m biased because I’ve listened to all of them. They’re probably just as wonderful if you read them but the audio versions have made me a huge fan of both Lousie Pennny for her writing talent and of Ralph Cosham for his audio performance talent. To me he is Inspector Gamache.

I enjoyed the murder mystery in this one. The road the investigation took was interesting and there were some surprises along the way. I like a mystery that makes me change my mind about who the murder might be several times along the way. At the same time I also thoroughly enjoyed the continuing stories of the now familiar characters in Three Pines and in Inspector Gamache’s team. There are some serious wounds for some of these characters at this point and their ongoing stories are one of the reasons I enjoy this series so much. I have come to know Peter and Clara Morrow as well as Olivier and Gabri who run the Bistro and the B&B. Gamache’s assistant Jean Guy Beauvoir has become one of my favorite characters. The struggles he’s faced in the recent books are becoming more and more involved and one of my favorite parts ot this series.

Ruth the prickly poet is also one of my very favorite characters and the image the author paints of her at the end of this book was a beautiful moment.

If you’ve read the previous books in this series you will enjoy this one just as much or more than the others. If you haven’t read this series I encourage you to give it a shot and I also recommend the audio versions as read by the amazing Ralph Cosham.

Rating 4.5/5

SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

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1222 by Anne Holt

Posted by on Jan 9, 2012 in 2011, 4 stars, Anne Holt, Book Review | 2 comments

1222 by Anne Holt

1222 by Anne Holt

Genre: Crime Fiction
Series: #8 in the Hanne Wilhelmses series (but also the first to be released in the US)
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 322
Source: Copy provided by publisher through NetGalley

The Short Version:
A Locked Room style mystery in which a group of people trapped in a hotel by a storm deal with the tension of their cabin fever as well as the unknown murderer in their midst.

Why I Read It:
The description of the book caught my eye and I jumped at the opportunity to read the first release from what sounded like my kind of series. This is actually the eighth book in a series originally published in Norway but it’s the first to be translated to English and released in the US.

The Book:
The story opens with a train derailment high in the Norwegian mountains. Luckily only one person died in the derailment. Even luckier the accident happened close enough to a winter resort hotel that the passengers are able to have shelter there until while the worst storm in many years keeps them from being rescued. The 1222 of the title is the number of meters above sea level at which the hotel sits.

The dynamics of a varied mix of people in an isolated environment are always interesting. This situation gets complicated quickly when one of the passengers is found murdered in the snow outside the hotel. Retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is one of the passengers trapped in the hotel. Confined to a wheelchair she is unable to move freely about the hotel and among the passengers but her abilities to observe and read people are the key to investigating the murder.

When another body turns up, the tension rises and Hanne and her oddball group of confidantes turned into investigative assistants seek to identify the murder before anyone else dies.

My Thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to this series. I see that the first book is scheduled for US release this summer and I will definitely be watching for it.

Locked room mysteries are interesting and the added tension of a killer storm isolating survivors of a train derailment make this one have some added elements. While they wait for rescue the clashing personalities and the mystery of occupants of the last car keep the surviving passengers stress levels high despite their relatively comfortable and safe temporary lodgings.

Hanne Wilhemsen is a fun character. She freely admits that she’s not a likeable person. Her confinement to her wheelchair limit her freedom of movement in the hotel. She has to rely on her observational skills as well as some oddly intriguing assistants. A doctor who is a dwarf, a troubled teenager, and a hotel employee who turns out to be a worthy assistant all have a role in figuring out the multiple mysteries in this story.

Even though this is actually the eighth book in this series it was an enjoyable introduction to Hanne Wilhelmsen and I’m looking forward to the first book in the series when it’s available.

4 Rating 4/5

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Audiobook – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Posted by on Dec 23, 2011 in 2011, 4 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Sound Room Publishers
Publication Date: Originally 1843 (this edition 2002)
Read by: Ralph Cosham
Source: Library

The Short Version:
A well done audio version of a classic read by one of my favorite audiobook narrators.

Why I Read It:
I started hearing about a variety of audio versions of this book that people I know were listening to so I browsed my library website to see what they had. As soon as I saw one read by Ralph Cosham, it was an easy choice for me.

The Book:
Most people know this story. Most people have seen a variety of adaptations of it either on TV or in movies. The story isn’t new. Even the original Dickens version isn’t new to me. I’ve read it before a few years ago. This is the first time however, that I’ve listened to this as an audiobook.

Scrooge, Marley, the Cratchit family the spirits of Christmas past, present and yet to come are all well known. The moral for both individuals and society is about as subtle as a thwack on the head with a two by four but it’s not meant to be subtle.

The story is divided into five staves as in musical staff notations that relate to the title carol. In Stave One the background is set. Scrooge is a miserly grump. Class distinctions are clear. The poor are miserable with no way out and workhouses are a reality of the time. Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge. The next three staves are the visits of the spirits and the final one is Christmas Day and afterwards showing Scrooge’s changed perspective and attitude with hope that others will find the same consideration for the less fortunate that he does.

My Thoughts:
I’ve read this before so it’s not my first exposure to the story as written by Dickens. It’s not a new story but if you haven’t read the original, I recommend it. It’s dark and quite depressing in many places. Dickens portrayals of the different spirits and Marley’s ghost are vivid, interesting and varied.

The familiar characters were not anything surprising as originally written, but I will admit to kind of wanting to smack Tiny Tim a couple of times for his exaggerated goodness and positive outlook.

I loved hearing Ralph Cosham read this. He’s got a great voice that has a way of making the story feel like I was sitting in a room with a warm fire listening to a fatherly voice read the story. It’s just the right kind of narrator for this one in my opinion.

I listened to the first part of this while driving around town with The Hubster. I enjoyed hearing him laugh hear and there and the humorous moments in that first part. I like that a story this old can still have the funny moments be funny. It’s a nice balance to the darker portions.
If you decide to give the audio of this one a try, I definitely recommend hunting up this version read by Ralph Cosham.

Rating 4/5

SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

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Poachers by Tom Franklin

Posted by on Dec 22, 2011 in 2011, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Tom Franklin | 0 comments

Poachers by Tom Franklin
Poachers by Tom Franklin

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 192
Source: Gift from a friend

The Short Version:
Nine short stories and a novella length tale that are as beautiful as they are brutal thanks to the amazing way Tom Franklin has of telling a story.

Why I Read It:
After I read and loved Franklin’s first novel Hell at the Breech, my bookseller friend from Alabama told me I had to read this collection of stories. She even sent me a copy but it took me several years to finally get around to reading it. I should not have waited so long.

The Book:
The book contains an introduction by Franklin that tells of his own history in the setting of these stories.

My south – the one I haven’t been able to get out of my blood or my imagination, the south where these stories take place – is lower Alabama, lush and green and full of death, the wooded counties between the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers.

These stories are also lush and full of death. I’ve been posting about the short stories for the past few weeks on my Short Story Monday posts.
Grit
Shubuta and Triathlon
Blue Horses and The Ballad of Duane Juarez
A Tiny History and Dinosaurs
Instinct and Alaska

All of these stories are gritty and hard and at times difficult to read but the language and imagery is so beautifully presented and the untold is brilliantly left to you to complete as you read them.

Poachers is the last story and it is more of a novella length tale. It’s the story of the Gates brothers and a legendary Game Warden. The clash between the near feral brothers and the law is harsh. The brothers survive by poaching and the world they inhabit is only remotely connected to society. They have a couple of people who look out for them. Kirxy is an aged storekeeper whose only patrons these days are the Gates brothers. Esther is all alone after two husbands and six children. She lives and drinks alone but has she and the brothers have a way of needing each other. Both Kirxy and Esther themselves live on the edge of society and both have their reasons for keeping an eye out for the Gates brothers.

When things turn bad, it gets real bad in a hurry. A legendary Game Warden is back and after the brothers. The strike of a match can strike fear in the heart.

My Thoughts:
I love Tom Franklin’s writing. It’s moody and dark but at the same time lyrical and beautiful. The images, smells and feelings become real. In this collection of stories he has perfected the art of only telling just enough. There are pieces that he leaves for you to finish in your head as you read and he excels at this.

Don’t pick this up expecting light and happy feeling stories. These are often brutal and disturbing. Poaching is the theme and a part of every story. There are some characters that appear in multiple stories and their stories more complex. Other stories stand on their own completely.

All of the stories have a deep sense of place. You will inhabit that lush green land of death that Franklin talks about in the introduction. It is inhabited by lost and at times desperate people who will haunt you long after you finish reading.

4 Rating 4.5/5

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Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Posted by on Dec 9, 2011 in 2011, 4.5 stars, Alice LaPlante, Book Review, What's in a Name | 5 comments

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 307
Source: Library

The Short Version:
A fascinating story told from the perspective of a woman with dementia who may or may not have killed her best friend.

Why I Read It:
As soon as I read the description of this book I was interested. After reading a few early reviews I got on the library waiting list.

The Book:
Dr. Jennifer White used to be a talented orthopedic surgeon. When the symptoms of her Alzheimer’s became troublesome she retired early. She now lives at home with a caregiver. Her daughter Fiona is in charge of her financial affairs. Her son Mark is not exactly happy with this arrangement but given his own history it was a wise move.

As the story opens it is soon clear that Dr. White’s longtime friend Amanda has been murdered and had her fingers surgically amputated. The police suspect Dr. White of the crime but her dementia has progressed to the point where she doesn’t remember anything reliably. She doesn’t know who that blond woman in her house is even though Magdalena has been her in home caregiver for eight months.

Told entirely from Dr. White’s perspective this story comes together in pieces both in the present and in the flashbacks to the past that her deteriorating mind slips to more and more. Weaving back and forth between the moments when she is fully present and those in which she’s slipped into disorientation the puzzle pieces gradually come together in surprising ways.

My Thoughts:
This book fascinated me. When I first read about it I thought it might be a good mystery, but after reading a couple of reviews I learned that it wasn’t a straightforward crime fiction book. It only took a couple of pages of reading for me to decide that this was one of the more unique books I’ve read in a long time. I wasn’t sure whether the device of telling the story through a deteriorating mind would hold up but I have to hand it to the author. I found myself totally wrapped up in this book eagerly waiting for just another moment of lucidity from Dr. Jennifer White to let me glimpse another bit of what really happened.

The sometimes rambling and wandering threads of Dr. White’s story gave me a glimpse into the world as seen by someone with progressive dementia. At times she was on top of things, and at other times she didn’t know who the people in her house were.

It was at times touching, sometimes amusing, often sad, and as the pieces began to accumulate and fall into place for the reader as they became more an more jumbled to Dr. White an ultimately satisfying and fascinating book.

Don’t open this book expecting a typical crime fiction story. Do open it expecting to gain some empathy for family and friends dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. Yes there’s still a mystery and crime fiction element to the story but there is also a touching and tragic story of relationships between friends and family and how they can be both the best thing for all involved and the worst possible mix of personalities, dependencies and dynamics.

4.5 Rating 4.5/5

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Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell

Posted by on Dec 6, 2011 in 2011, 4 stars, Book Review, What's in a Name | 3 comments

Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell
Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Union Square Press
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 234
Source: Purchased

The Short Version:
An interesting and at times exciting true story of a daring crime and the investigation that has still not answered all the questions.

Why I Read It:
In 2003 a group of Italian thieves pulled off a multimillion dollar theft from a secure vault in a secure building in the heavily patrolled and secure diamond district of Antwerp, Belgium.

This book begins with the early stages of the planning for the caper. The patience and planning of the thieves is amazing. The holes in the security systems are in hindsight unbelievable. The amount of jewels, cash and other valuables stolen is hard to imagine.

Through a lucky break the investigators quickly identified a few of the thieves. Their own confidence in their abilities led them to be caught.

The story follows the planning and execution of the crime and then the investigation and prosecution of some of the criminals. Nevertheless there are still many unanswered questions. Among them is the location of the stolen gems and property.

My Thoughts:
This was a story straight out of an Ocean’s Eleven (and so on) movie only it’s true. In fact, the authors included several quotes from the “Ocean’s” movies that easily correlated to the actual events.

I was as fascinated with the story of the crime and it’s planning and execution as I was with learning about the Antwerp Diamond District and the business of diamonds. The fact that even many years later some of the details of how the thieves managed to pull off this crime are still unknown is amazing.

This read at times more like fiction than non-fiction. At one point The Hubster asked me a question and I said “I can’t stop reading right now – they’re in the vault.” I was so wrapped up in the tension I couldn’t interrupt it. The story of the planning, execution and investigation of this crime is highly readable and fascinating for so many reasons.

I enjoyed the background information on the diamond industry and it’s history as much as the story of the men that pulled off this crime that has never been fully solved. If not for some lucky breaks and major clues found by a man who hated to see trash dumped in the forest near his home, the thieves might have never been caught at all.

This is a highly entertaining as well as informative look at a crime that has been solved yet remains unsolved.

4 Rating 4/5

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