Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Confession by John Grisham

It isn't often I have a chance to read John Grisham, but when I do, I really enjoy his books.  This one had me sitting on the edge of my seat since the clock was ticking as a crusading lawyer, a minister, and an ex-con tried desperately to keep Texas from executing an innocent man.

Both side of the  controversy are very well represented and the Texas propensity for executing criminals without too much public angst is featured prominently.  Given that the prisoner on death row is black and the town he comes from, as well as state officials, are predominantly run by white men, you also have a looming race riot.  The mother of the white victim has found her niche in life as she finds media attention and sympathy, until everyone tires of her turning on the waterworks constantly.  Donte Drumm, the one convicted of murdering her daughter, has been on death row for nine years so most people have had enough.  

Then an ex-con living in a halfway house in Kansas comes to talk to a Lutheran minister nearby and tells him that he is the actual killer.  His story sounds legitimate.  He also says he has a brain tumor and only a few months to live so he wants to confess and not let Texas execute the innocent man.  Too bad he is cooperative one minute and anything but cooperative the next.  The minister, a well-drawn character, is launched on a life-changing few days as the execution draws nearer and nearer.  He will never be the same.

There are repercussions for everyone involved in this case and although there are many characters, there is never any confusion about who is who, or who is on what side of the issue.  It's Grisham at his best in my opinion.  

Source:  gift.  Recommended reading.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Glass Guardian by Linda Gillard

I'm rather late to the party with this review.  I read it on my computer which is in the hottest room in the house so I've had to read it in small sessions.  Worth every drop of sweat though.  

What I love about Linda Gillard's writing is that she gently pulls me out of my comfort zone, and my reading world is broadened by the exposure.  Ordinarily I would never dream of reading a book where the hero is a ghost who died in WW I at the Battle of Loos in, I believe, 1915.  Thankfully since Gillard wrote it, I plunged right in quite happily and promptly fell in love with Hector the ghost.

Another thing I like about this writer is that she doesn't shy from a challenge.  The heroine of this tale has come to her late aunt's house on Isle of Skye to recover from her grief over the deaths of her partner and her beloved aunt.  She spent much time in that house as a child; at that time Hector appeared to her frequently and was her protector.  Now that she has returned as an adult, and is again in need of Hector, he appears again.  Now how do you write a love story, including sex, between a human and a ghost?  Look no further than The Glass Guardian to learn from a master how to write such scenes beautifully and believably, well close enough anyhow.

There is a bit of a mystery in that she finds evidence that her aunt, a composer, didn't actually compose one of her most famous pieces.  A Canadian scholar wants to come to Skye to research her works; should she allow him to come?

This is a gem of a book in which the house and garden are perfect settings for a unique story about a woman who learns about true love and what makes life worthwhile.

Source:  a gift.  Highly recommended reading.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Criminal by Karin Slaughter

I've been reading Karin Slaughter's books and enjoying them forever it seems.  Her newest, Criminal, is one that I found a little difficult to get into, but once I was caught up in the story I couldn't put it down.  The characters are so well depicted that I simply had to find out both their background and what was going to happen in the present day.  The story is set in Atlanta.

The background story is covered in sections from 1975 when women cops were a new phenomenon, and as such suffered endless rude comments and downright sexual assault from the men on the force.  Male cops routinely took credit for what women did with no fear of reprisals for any of their mistreatment of females.  Policewoman Amanda Wagner not only has the usual harrassment to put up with but also suffers from the fact that her father is a suspended VIP cop and member of the KKK.  She has to prove herself even more than the other women on the force.

The other major character is Will Trent, agent for the GBI, who grew up as an orphan, knowing that his father had killed his mother and other women in a particularly brutal fashion.  He finds out that his father has been released from prison, and now other young women are dying.  His angst over his background and current situation, as well as his budding romance with a doctor gets a little old but he is a sympathetic character and you just hope he will come out of it.   

Slaughter's books are definitely not for the squeamish.  There were a few passages that even made me squirm, although I'm usually able to read this kind of thing okay.  Having subscribed to her newsletter for some time now, I can imagine her glee at knowing she affects people's sensibilities so well.  She's quite a character, and that comes through in her writing.  Despite the subject matter, I laughed more than once.

Source:  Amazon Vine.  Recommended reading.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rain, Lovely Rain

It began raining lightly last evening and although I don't know if it rained all night, it has rained since I woke up this morning.  No sudden downpours that just run off; this is light but steady rain that soaks in to our horribly dry land and restores it.  

With the rain have come cooler temperatures.  A couple days ago we roasted in temperatures above 90 degrees.  Today the high is supposed to be 70.  With that sudden change, I'm chilly and actually wearing a sweater!

Some of the chills could be from my current read:  Criminal, by Karin Slaughter.  She's scaring me half to death.  I'm nearly finished so a review will be posted soon.  And with this wonderful change in the weather I'm interested in reading something more serious.  Such fun to decide what to read next.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Can you believe this?  Hot, humid summer days and I'm reading Wuthering Heights?  It's true.  Just finished yesterday afternoon.  I'm very slowly getting through some of the classic novels I've wanted to read for most of my life, and for the most part I'm enjoying them.

Wuthering Heights, though, is a strange book with very strange characters.  I had to keep reminding myself when this was written because I just wanted to slap many of the characters, especially the two Catherines for being so headstrong and selfish.  As for Heathcliff's meanness and horrid personality, I still really don't understand fully, although his childhood explains a lot.

This is a depressing tale of the families who live near each other at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.  They vie with each other for the two Catherines and everyone is unhappy.    Wuthering Heights is dirty with vile inhabitants, Thrushcross Grange clean and ultra respectable.  One family rich, the other poor; one educated, the other not.  Complete opposites, and Heathcliff is determined to have everything.

This was Emily Bronte's only novel, and I think we should be thankful for that.  I'll admit I was interested enough in the outcome to keep reading right to the end, but I'm left with a feeling of having wasted my time.  Oh well, at least I can say I read it, can't I?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Brief Update

Just a little news about my ongoing health problems since readers have so kindly inquired.  My staples are out (whoopee!) and we're sort of back in the land of limbo.  Next step is an initial appointment with an oncologist in a couple weeks to discuss chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, I'm free to build my strength back up as I feel better each day.  My ribs still ache of course and I still tire very easily, but I'm improving.  I can even drive if I'm not too tired.

I want to thank everyone for your thoughts, prayers and good vibes.  I'm grateful to all of you.  Thankfully, the cancer is out of my body and I am going to survive this.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Black Notice by Patricia Cornwell

My friend periodically gives me bags full of books she's read and I found this one in the last batch.  It's been ages since I've read a Cornwell/Dr. Scarpetta book, just long enough for me to miss them and really enjoy this one.

The mystery in this case begins with a decomposing body found in a cargo container that docks in Richmond.  The murderer's trail will lead Scarpetta and Marino to France and back again and will be very difficult to solve.  Meanwhile, it has been one year since  her FBI lover Benton's death and she has kept herself too busy to grieve, but suddenly a final goodbye letter from him is delivered to her, and she is forced to face up to her grief.

In another storyline, her niece Lucy hasn't found a way to grieve Benton's death either and is courting danger as she usually turns to violence to solve problems.  And if that weren't enough, a sexy-looking cop with connections is taking over the police department and threatening to take over the medical examiner's office as well.  Her name is Bray, and she's determined to get rid of both Marino and Scarpetta.  You can imagine, if you're familiar with the character, how Marino reacts to this.  

Finally, is there a new love interest for Scarpetta?  Stay tuned.  I had almost forgotten how caught up in this series I can get.  I'm back on the Cornwell bandwagon again.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Highgate Rise by Anne Perry

Anne Perry is one of the authors I routinely look for at book sales, and so I read rather old titles such as this one from 1991.  I like her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt very much.  They are a loving couple who understand each other, and although Pitt is a cop and their income is low, Charlotte is originally from gentry and has family and friends from that class.  This gives them unusual access to people of all walks of life.  Charlotte "meddles" in Thomas' cases, but he values her input so unless she gets herself into a dangerous situation, he's fine with that.

This was definitely not my favorite novel in the series, but one wonderful thing about all of them is that the reader gets a bird's eye view of society customs, dress, and rigorous rules as well as the plight of the poor.  That's particularly true in this book where one character is determined to do something about the rich living off the exorbitant rents they receive from living quarters that are simply death traps.  The story begins with a huge house fire and that leads to descriptions of the uselessness of firefighting techniques of the time.  Vivid storytelling  of this kind is Perry's forte.

I grew impatient with the storylines in HIghgate Rise though.  Characters are questioned over and over by both Thomas and Charlotte, each character's personality and beliefs are gone over ad nauseum.  The story veers from one storyline to another and back again.  Although we do learn the identity of the killer in the end, there are multiple loose ends left which may or may not be tied up in following novels.  Since I read them out of order, I don't know.  I just felt like I'd been dropped off in the middle of London in the middle of the night without direction.

Not that this will stop me from searching for more unread titles by Perry.  Far from it.  I do enjoy most of her books and characters so I will continue to find them for a nice change of pace in my reading life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Death in a Wine Dark Sea, Lisa King

If you like strong characterization, Death in a Wine Dark Sea,  is the book for you.  It's a page-turning mystery as well, with twists and turns to keep you wondering what's going on, and mostly the story avoids those dreaded "No, don't go in there you idiot" moments we all hate.  I truly enjoyed this book.

The main character is Jean Applequist, a character sure to strike a chord with mystery novel fans.  She isn't a cop or a detective.  Jean is a writer for a wine magazine (like the author).  I can't vouch for the wine descriptions because I'm not an expert but they certainly sound authoritative.  When Jean gets involved in trying to solve a murder, she uses the techniques she has read about in all the mysteries she reads.  She's one of us!  I loved this aspect of the character.  

We can't really identify with Jean, though, because she is a very sexy, "built," silver-haired bombshell who is a tad promiscuous.  She got her first gray hair at something like 20, and now loves her silver hair which makes her unique.  She also has a group of fascinating friends who have her back no matter what.  Great characters.

Another character you'll love is Zeppo, a sort of geeky young man with a mysterious past who lusts after Jean but turns out to be a really good guy, and a good detective.

The story begins with her friend's wedding on the groom's yacht under the Golden Gate Bridge at night.  Jean doesn't like the groom but her friend is happy.  Then the groom somehow goes overboard.  Jean sees him floundering in the water and throws him a life preserver.  Everyone assumes he's dead.  Later he calls home.  He's alive!  Even later, the police pull his body out of the water.  This time he's dead for good.  What a story.  I loved it.

Please get a copy of Death in a Wine Dark Sea for a great summer read.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Against Wind and Tide, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

After Anne Morrow Lindbergh's death in 1986, a group including family and friends gathered her writings from 1947 to the end of her life and put them in book form. There are many of the countless letters she wrote and her diary entries from various periods of her life.

She didn't have an easy life by any means. Both she and Charles were super cautious about being recognized in public, having been traumatized by the media attention when their first child was abducted. They were also quite protective of their five surviving children and Anne gave them unconditional love. In such a large family there were always changes, problems, travel, heartbreak, and joy.

Anne was a writer, well remembered for her GIFT FROM THE SEA, but she was more a thinker. I read this book at a time of crisis in my own life when I struggled to think clearly, so I was amazed at her ability to find a way to think things through with logic and far-seeing connections no matter what was going on in her life.

I came to a desire to know more about Anne Lindbergh because I wanted to learn more about Charles Lindbergh, but reading about her has been much more rewarding to me. I think this can be counted as an important book in women's history in 20th century America.