Friday, May 24, 2013

Speaking from Among the Bones

Title: Speaking from Among the Bones
Author: Alan Bradley
Series: Flavia de Luce, book 5
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Review: I am continuing to follow the adventures of Flavia de Luce in a small English town in 1950's where she solves crimes using her wit and her chemical lab. Yet again there is a murder that Flavia stumbles upon and then continues her investigation.

In this case, an organist from the church is found murdered inside Saint Tancred's tomb in the process of uncovering the saint's remains for a 500-year celebration of his death. Flavia is of course ever present and discovers a number of details that the police managed to miss. The mystery takes its course and the plot altogether is quite enjoyable.

I actually liked this book more than the previous installments because there are a number of developments in the family plot line. Flavia discovers someone whom her mother used to visit, Flavia's father has something resembling a conversation with Flavia, there are developments in the sisters' relationships. All-in-all, those are very satisfying after four books of everyone keeping silent and giving a cold shoulder to Flavia.

I thought the ending was quite interesting and is good hook for the next book, which I will undoubtedly be picking up as soon as it's released in 2014.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2009
Rating: 7.5/10

Review: I saw this book reviewed quite a bit when it first came out and then every so often until the end of last year at which point I added it to my 'read' queue. It sounded fun and quirky and had this amazingly strange title, which attracted notice.

The novel is written entirely in letters sent by and to a published columnist, Juliet, a year after World War II is over. By a sheer coincidence she begins corresponding with a man from Guernsey who tells her stories of life on the island and its occupation during the war.

I had to look up on the map where Guernsey is -- it's a small island off the shore of France that nevertheless belongs to Britain. At some point the book fills us in on the story and the geography of the island, but I was curious long before that point. It's a pretty neat setting for the book.

The book starts out really well, with everyone telling just enough of the story to kindle the reader's interest. I think the biggest potential issue the authors avoided was making this into a depressing book. Not particularly difficult with WWII as the topic. However, this novel was a really good balance of terrifying things people had to live through and jokes, fun, and light they created to deal with their reality. The stories were heartfelt and told matter-of-factly and often in a funny manner despite being horrifying underneath and I really enjoyed that style of story-telling.

The best part about the book are the characters. They are quirky, imperfect, gregarious, simple and sophisticated at the same time. I just fell in love with the whole crew and they were the ones who kept me in the story throughout. The biggest flaw in the novel is probably the lack of plot tension and a very obvious ending. The author tried to get some plot going, but the outcome just seemed so entirely obvious the whole way through that the tension just failed to build up and I thought the second part of the book was a bit of a let down.

Nevertheless, I would wholeheartedly recommend this as a warm and funny book dealing with experiences of German occupation during WWII. This war seems to be an unintentionally recurring subject for me this year and this book turned out to be yet another really good read.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Killing Floor

Title: Killing Floor
Author: Lee Child
Series: Jack Reacher, book 1
Genre: Mystery
Published: 1997
Rating: 7/10

Review: I picked up this novel on a whim from a local bookstore. Sometimes when an author's series takes up two shelves worth, I get awfully curious about it and buy the first book in the series. I've never heard of the author before that day, nor had I seen the movie alluded to on the book jacket.

The book starts out really well and sucks you in almost immediately. We get introduced to Jack Reacher, who's a tough guy, an ex-military cop, and who is wrongfully arrested for a murder in a town that he's just passing through.

There are a number of idiomatic elements in the book. There's a black police detective, a hot female cop who takes a liking to Reacher, and an asshole chief who always gets in the way. The elements work pretty well together and I definitely enjoyed the fast ride that begins the first half of the story.

The part that I didn't enjoy is all the killing that happens in the second half of the book. Things seem to get gruesome just for the sake of being so and the fact that Reacher has no compulsion about killing first and asking questions later made me rather uncomfortable with him as a protagonist. At the end, Reacher's body count is no smaller than that of the bad guys and to me that's a bit of a turn off.

Otherwise, the book is quite well-written, with strong pacing and lots of good "aha" moments in the investigation. There are a few plot points that I thought somewhat shaky, but overall, that's a solid mystery novel that kept me reading well into the night to finish the story.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Title: Timeless
Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Alexia Tarrabotti, book 5
Genre: Steampunk
Published: 2012
Rating: 7/10

Review: After two months of non-fiction, I decided that the next installment in Gail Carriger's series would be the perfect book to read. And indeed, I've got what I was looking for. There is off-the-wall humour, adventure, sassy dialog, and plenty of intrigue. It's an easy and enjoyable read.

Timeless takes Alexia, Conall, and their daughter Prudence to Egypt where they are to meet an old vampire queen Matakara and discover the source of God-Breaker Plague. Ivy and her theatre troupe travels with them and of course lots of antics and fainting ensues.

This is the last book in the 5-book series featuring Alexia hence some of the conflicts previously left unresolved got brought over and taken care of. At the same time, the author seems to have left plenty of story for herself to write and a few loose ends still open. Unsurprisingly, there are more books planned in the same universe, though I wonder if they are going to feature Prudence instead of Alexia.

All in all, it's a nice segue back into reading. Hopefully, I can get back on track and finish a few things waiting on my shelves this month.