09 November 2011

October Book Report

I'm so glad that you enjoyed the recipe from the previous post.  A few people wrote to me saying they were going to try it, though they might have to leave out/substitute some of the ingredients.  I think that's one of the best things about the recipe - it really is as much of a guideline as anything else.  Let me know if you try it and whether or not you liked it!

I took a look at the books I read in October, and apparently I was on a mystery-reading kick.  That happens to me a lot - I'll get going on a bunch of books and only later realize they were all the same genre.  Go figure.

Anyhoo, here's what I read last month - have you read any of these?

Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear.  I've been wanting to read this book for a while, as several people I know really like it, and the series of Maisie Dobbs books.  I had an audiobook version, but gave up on it, since the particular recording I had wasn't broken into chapters - and since I usually listen during lunchtimes, it was hard to keep the story flowing.

The story takes place after World War I, and Maisie Dobbs, a former war nurse and woman who has worked her way up through humble beginnings, starts her own business, as a "psychologist and investigator," having been mentored by someone with an impeccable reputation.  Her first case is a man who thinks his wife is cheating on him, and the story turns out to be much more benign than that.  It leads Maisie into an investigation of a place called "The Retreat" which is a home for severely wounded WWI soldiers to live out their lives away from public viewing of their wounds/injuries.

Maisie is a really interesting person, with an interesting background and character.  Her backstory is as interesting as the current story, and the case she investigates.   The other characters are well-written and the story effective.

I cannot wait to read more books in this series!

Killer in High Heels, by Jemma Halliday.  This was a 99-cent download for the Nook.  I thought, what the heck, I'll try it, as I have been known to enjoy a light mystery on occasion.  Well, I didn't even finish it.  It's just stupid and annoying, and I even feel like it was a waste of 99 cents.

Live and learn.

Thereby Hangs a Tail, by Spencer Quinn.  This is the second installment of the Chet and Bernie series, and in this book, Bernie is hired by a Countess who has entered her dog in the Balmoral Dog Show, the most prestigious show in the dog show world.  The countess, Adelina, received an anonymous message in the mail, showing a picture of her dog, Princess, with an X over it.  Princess is a top show dog, and Adelina is worried that someone will try and hurt the dog  before the show gets underway.  Suspects abound, from a rival champion dog owner, to the trainer, and even the Count.  It's up to Chet (a loyal dog of indeterminate breed) and Bernie to set things straight.

I enjoyed the overall story, but one of the things that amuses me most about this series is Chet's narration.  He loves Bernie, but like any family member, recognizes his flaws.  But I also enjoy his sometimes stream-of-consciousness thoughts that go nowhere.  It's like talking to a person who keeps saying "Oh, remind me later to tell you about _____" but later never comes, and only afterwards do you realize you never heard any of the stories.

I also like that for the most part, these stories have levels of complication, and that Quinn manages to keep everything and everyone straight, so that you never feel like you are empty-handed by the time you get to the end.

I already have the third book downloaded onto my Nook, so it probably won't be long until I spend some more time with this intrepid detective duo.

The Forgotten Waltz,by Anne Enright.  I really wanted to like this book.  I had read her previous book "The Gathering" and thought it was pretty great.  But the main reason I finished this book was to get to the end, to see how a couple of the secondary characters fared.

The narrator, Gina is telling the tale of her affair with Sean Vallely.  Both are married, and he has a young daughter.  The story threads along and inserted are facts or small stories about their families, but mostly it is Gina talking about their affair.  The one thing I will say is that the book is written in a manner that is probably true for infatuated people - whatever they say, think, or do, is somehow related to the subject of their infatuation.

I know people have affairs; I don't live in a cave somewhere.  I just didn't enjoy reading this book, because it seemed that the entire reason it was written was to provide the reader with a sympathetic view of the narrator, and her life and how it was changed.  It seemed like one big excuse.  Gina didn't seem all that sorry that her marriage had ended, or that Sean's family was broken.  She just wanted to tell us how wonderful the affair was.  At a point when she decides to/tries to end it, I think we are supposed to feel sorry for her, but I just didn't.

The book is well-written, and there are some passages with absolutely wonderful, descriptive language.  The main characters were just not two people that seemed likable or worthy of any consideration, as far as I was concerned.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.  I've had this book for a few months, and decided that around Halloween would be a good time to read it.  I was intrigued after several people mentioned to me that they had liked it, including my husband who listened to an audio version read by the author.

As  a toddler, Nobody Owens' (nicknamed Bod) parents  and sister were viciously murdered.  He was spared when he wandered out of an open door, and made his way up the hill to the local graveyard.  There, the inhabitants took him under their wing, to protect him from the murderer.  The book tells the story of Bod, his life growing up in the graveyard, and eventually we learn why his family was killed.

I really, really liked this book.  The very beginning was gruesome but still drew me in to the story.  I found the story fascinating, and Gaiman does a wonderful job creating and introducing us to the cast of characters.  I particularly liked the insertion of epitaphs when first introducing someone, and I loved it when Bod would speak to one of the cemetery inhabitants according to the time period where they had lived and died.

Though it takes place in a graveyard for the most part, this book is not a sad story.  Bod's predicament and circumstances are tragic, but you get the feeling that he has a pretty great life.  It's creepy towards the end when the murderer returns to try and finally kill Bod, but written well enough to be readable without being scary (I am easily spooked by things).

This is a book that I am really happy that I had the chance to read.  If you haven't read it, I would definitely recommend that you give it a try.

A Catered Halloween, by Isis Crawford.  Anyone who knows me, knows that one of my favorite things to do is to read a book that is seasonally appropriate, particularly during the fall/winter holidays.  So when I saw that this book was available for my Nook Color, I decided to download it.  I'd read "A Catered Thanksgiving," and though it's not great literature, enjoyed it a lot, so I thought I'd try another of Isis Crawford's mysteries featuring Libby and Bernie Simmons.

In this installment, the sisters are asked to provide the food for a new attraction in town, a haunted house.  It's in a building that was formerly the Peabody School, a successful private school until a couple of students died mysteriously.  As the new owner is showing them through the haunted house prior to opening night, they discover the dismembered head of a well-known community member who had attended the school and was always suspected of one of the students' deaths.

This was fun to read at Halloween time - ghosts, sounds, twists and turns.  The conversations between the two sisters is always fun to read, and the story is told well-enough to make you want to see how it all ends.

My only problem with these books is that, because the sisters own a cafe called A Little Taste of Heaven, there is a lot of discussion and description of food - it makes me so hungry!  However, there are always a few recipes at the end, so if I just have to know what some of the dishes taste like, I can try them on my own.  This is not, however, much consolation when reading at 9:00 in the evening ...

As of October, I've read two more books than I did in 2010.  So now I can't wait to see what I have read by the end of the year.  For whatever reason, it always makes me happy to know I've stayed at a level or read more - and it's completely my own issue, 'cause it's not like I'm getting graded on it!


Marie said...

I don't usually read creepy books, but The Graveyard Book sounds like something I might like. Thanks for the review.

SissySees said...

Ooh, I see at least three that will be must-reads for me, starting with Neil... I wonder why I haven't read that book already?

Kim said...

Briton just read The Graveyard Book, and also liked it very much. Guess it'll be going on my list!

Carrie#K said...

Neil Gaiman is pretty good.

Jacqueline Winspear spoke at a book series but I still haven't read Maisie Dobbs. They do sound really good though and JW is fabulous.