Category Archives: Book Reviews

Deadly Lies

Deadly Lies
by Chris Collett
Genre: Mystery
Published 9/29/17 by Joffe Books

①❷③④⑤      2 of 5 stars

DI Tom Mariner investigates the death of investigative reporter Eddie Barham, an apparent suicide – except it’s not suicide.  PC Tony Knox assists with the investigation. Witness to the death is Jamie, severely autistic, also sibling to Anna and the deceased.  Anna Barham, sister of the victim, takes on the care of Jamie while trying to find why her brother was murdered.

Overall impression: The premise drew me in, and I enjoyed the twists and turns as the investigation progressed. The pace increases dramatically toward the conclusion.

What I like:

  • The premise: the only one who could say what happened…can’t say what happened.
  • The Brocken Spectre (you’ll have to read the book to see how it applies).
  • Snappy observations are sprinkled through the book. My favorite is when Anna first meets DI Mariner, whose recent nose injury makes his speech sound a bit thick, and “Anna had to fight a bizarre urge to pinch her nose and respond in the same way.”
  • Good opening sentence: the who and the what are identified, but not the back story which would have bogged down the opening.
  • Short chapters. New info, red herrings, changes of perspective are all moved along very well in chapters that are quickly read.  Also, the chapter endings are good: they made me want to turn the page right away and get to the next part.

What I don’t like:

  • DI Mariner, Anna Barham, PC Knox
  • Is this story a treatise on autism and medication, or a mystery? Difficult to tell. It’s labeled mystery.
  • DI Mariner jumps to conclusions. How does a newspaper story that is “personal” to its author bend itself in Mariner’s mind to be about “personal services”?
  • The story reads like it was hastily abridged: answers are sometimes announced before the evidence is introduced.
  • Anna’s brother Eddie took care of Jamie for years. When Anna assumes care of Jamie, she starts from scratch learning his favorite foods, etc. Why didn’t she just check Eddie’s cupboards to see what he stocked for Jamie?
  • Too much detail that doesn’t relate to the story. While the detail does establish the characters’ experience and mindset, the reader doesn’t need that much detail to get the picture.

Thank you to Joffe Books and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

alexie

by Sherman Alexie
Art by Ellen Forney

Rating:  ◊◊◊◊♦ 5 stars

Junior, 14 years old and living on a reservation, attends an all-white school in a neighboring town.
Imagine the issues!

I howled with laughter at the cartoons. This is a quick read.  For me, the cartoons tell the story and the words fill in the gaps. The cartoons bumped my rating from 4 to 5 stars.

Employing wit and imagination, Alexie touches on bullying, racism, poverty, etc. – without belaboring it. The point isn’t to immerse the reader in the problems, but to follow Junior through them to his next challenge.

This is the only Alexie book I have read, and probably the only one I will read. But I will almost certainly read this one several times.

If you like this book, you may also enjoy Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and Rez Road Follies by Jim Northrup.

IQ

IQ
By Joe Ide

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Fiction

Rating:  ❶❷❸④⑤

Copyright October 2016 by Mulholland Books

Atone for your errors and misdeeds. Use your brain and your talents to make of yourself something you like and respect, no matter what your circumstances are. Although the story takes a winding route to get there, the messages get through.

IQ (Isaiah Quintabe) takes on cases in high crime areas that would otherwise go unhandled: abuse of children, kidnapping, etc. He is intelligent, quiet, thoughtful, perceptive…a likeable protagonist. Some of his clients are less likeable – mostly the ones who have the money to pay the bills.

What I like:
The moniker IQ, short for Isaiah Quintabe.
Marcus.

What I don’t like:
The dialogue is less than believable.

IQ makes for an interesting, unusual character, one with the potential to improve with each successive book if this becomes a series.

Thank you to Mulholland Books and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Unforgettable

unforgettable

Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime
By Scott Simon

Genre: Memoir
Rating: * * * * (4 of 5)
Copyright 3/31/2015 by Flatiron Books

This book sounds in print just the way Scott Simon sounds on air.

Simon projects a thoughtfulness and poignancy on air which comes through exactly the same way in this memoir and tribute to his mother, her life, and the incredible bond they shared.

It is little wonder that Simon’s reporting balances facts with whimsy and humor, given the example his mother set for him:
“Write thank-you notes. Tip well. Sing. Drink responsibly. Remember that good manners cost nothing, and open doors. Reach out to someone who is lonely. Make them laugh. Help people smile.”

P.S. What a terrific photo on the cover of the book!

Hello Hello!

Hello to you!

A lot has happened since the last posting on this blog. I’ll spare the details. With renewed vigor, postings will resume on this blog!

Far Away

Far Away by Victoria Blake
Troubador Publishing Ltd / Matador
(c) 2015
Genre: History, Fiction

Rating: * * *

Two soldiers captured in Africa in WWII meet in an Italian prison camp. Along the homeward journey, they write journals: one a memoir, the other a fairy tale. Interspersed with the soldiers’ story is the story of the soldiers’ grown children years later, unraveling the war experience they didn’t hear firsthand from their parents.

What I like about this story: I knew next to nothing about Italy or the Italians during WWII, and this book filled in some details.

Thank you to NetGalley and Troubador Publishing for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.

I Hear a Red Crayon

RedCrayon

I Hear a Red Crayon: a Child’s Perspective of Her Brother’s Autism
by Bonnie Feuer
(c) October 2015
The Connecticut Press and Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)
Genre:  Children’s Nonfiction

Rating:  * * * *

A combination of the title and the cover image drew me to this book about a girl growing up with an autistic brother.

The illustrations really make this book work:  I felt an instant connection with the confusion and disorder as well as the breakthrough moments of joy and understanding through the black-and-white images.

While the text may appeal mostly to older kids and young adults, the illustrations make the book equally – or perhaps even more – accessible for younger children.

Thank you to NetGalley, The Connecticut Press, and IBPA for the Advance Reader Copy I received in exchange for an honest review.

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The World’s Strongest Librarian

Librarian

The World’s Strongest Librarian
A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family
by Josh Hanagarne
audiobook read by Stephen R. Thorne

Rating: * * * *

Not a wasted moment drawing the listener into this audiobook!

What did he do with all the arms?  Gotta love this kid, I was thinking through helpless laughter as the author relayed his quite logical childhood reaction to the story of a warrior smiting his enemies by lopping off their arms, this kind of pragmatism has got to bode well.

By the time the author bestowed upon his symptoms a name of their own: Misty (after all, they took on a personality all their own) I was totally hooked, and I remained that way through his long journey of learning to cope with Tourette’s.

Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy

Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy
Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals

by Dinty W. Moore
Ten Speed Press (c) 2015
Nonfiction (Adult)

Rating: * * * *

What a riot! The questions sent to Mister Essay Writer Guy are giggle-worthy, the responses are snort-worthy, and the essays that follow leave me laughing long after I’ve finished (re-)reading them.

In the vein of Ben Franklin’s infamous letter to his (former) friend Mr. Strahan which was signed,
You are now my enemy, –
And I am, –
Yours.
B. Franklin
.

This is the kind of book to pick up in a durable format, the better to stand up to frequent use.

Thank you to Ten Speed Press and NetGalley for the Advance Reader Copy I received in exchange for an honest review.

Going Commando

Going Commando by Mark Time

Going Commando

Going Commando

February 2014, Troubador Publishing

Rating: * * * *

Hilarious, absurd, and impossible to put down!

Thank you, author Mark Time, for recommending this selection.

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