02 May 2012

March and April Book Report

March and April were weird months for me, as far as reading goes.  For a little while, I just felt out of it and didn't even want to read.  Then I started feeling like reading, but spent most of my time on magazines that had piled up.  (After which I decided many of them will not be renewed, which is a good thing, and a kind of cleaning up on its own.)  Then I got frustrated with a couple of health issues, and though they had nothing to do with being able to read, I obsessed over them to the point of not doing much else.  But in the end, I got back on track with myself, so I'm hoping I can keep up with that.

But you really didn't care about or need to know that, did you?  If you are reading this, it's likely because you are just curious to know what I actually did read.  So here you go.

An Irish Country Girl, by Patrick Taylor.  Another installment in the Irish Country series.  In this one, the housekeeper for Doctors O'Flahertie and Laverty, "Kinky" Kincaid, fills us in on her life before she came to Ballybucklebo.   She is recalling her life on the same Christmas Day that ended the previous book.  Home on her own to prepare the holiday dinner, she is reminded of the past, growing up in County Cork, which is like another country to her current home.

We meet a young Maureen O'Hanlon, growing up on a farm with her parents, sisters, and brother, and realizing that she has "the sight" at a young age.  Maureen is a happy young woman, but also one who longs for more in her life than just marriage and motherhood.  More specifically, she wants to become a teacher.  Not a big deal for those of us reading the book today, but in Ireland during the late 1920s, a married woman who worked outside the home was not just unusual, but an embarrassment to her husband.

I found the description of life in Ireland during this time period really interesting.  Young Maureen's hopes and dreams seem very reasonable today, but back then, it was shocking - not just because married women generally didn't work outside the home, but because she is afraid that as a farmer's daughter wanting to become a teacher, people will think that she is putting on airs above her station.  

Another interesting thing is that when you really think about it, the 1920s were not that long ago, in the span of time.  Yet life is so much more basic, slower, and even harder, it could be centuries ago compared to what we are used to today.

The Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz.  I was looking forward to reading this first installment in "The Spellman Files" series after reading reviews of the latest book.

Izzy Spellman has always worked for her parents in the family business, private investigation.  In this book, she decides to try and quit the PI business, and live a "normal" life.  Her parents negotiate with her to take one last case, a twelve yaer old missing persons case.  It's this case, an introduction to all of the Spellmans, and another chapter of Izzy's love life that constitutes this book.

An enjoyable read, but I was not dying for more.  It was neither as funny nor as interesting as I'd hoped.  Not bad, but also not a book that makes you want to drop everything else and finish reading others in the series.

Mr. Dixon Disappears, by Ian Sansom.  I read the first book in this series a couple of years ago, and though it was amusing enough, I didn't go out of my way to find any others.  When I came across this one, I thought well I'd give it a try.  It was an enjoyable read.  

London-born Israel Armstrong is still in the small Northern Ireland town where he is the librarian, and responsible for the mobile library (bookmobiles, in the U.S.).  When this book begins, Israel is looking forward to putting up his display of the history of Dixon's Department Store during their celebration.  He arrives early on the day the event is supposed to kick off, so that he can take his time getting things just perfect before the store opens.   However, one of the store employees runs to him and says that someone must have broken in because the store safe is wide open and empty, and Mr. Dixon has completely disappeared!  When the police arrive, they assume that since Israel seems to know so much about the crime and the store, he must be the perpetrator!

The story follows Israel's attempts to clear his name, and deal with the townspeople who are now suspicious of anything and everything he says or ever has said or done.  The parts that amused me the most would be those where close friends or family would find out he was under suspicion, and they would say, "But you're a librarian!"  

Israel's plight is told in an amusing and fast-paced manner, and it's a fun way to spend a few hours.  

Come Home, by Lisa Scottoline.  I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.  I am a fan of Lisa Scottoline, and have read most of her books.   In this story, a woman with a young daughter and a fiance suddenly gets sucked back into the affairs of her ex-husband, when he dies, and one of his daughters contacts the woman, Jill, to let her know and also to ask for her help proving that her father was murdered.  The former stepdaughter, Abby, shows up one night drunk to give Jill the news, and from that point on, she is involved with Abby and looking into her ex-husband's death.  

This is happening at a time when she is also concerned about one of her patients (Jill is a pediatrician), a baby who keeps getting sick, and whose mother thinks he just needs tubes place in his ears because her family members have convinced her that will take care of it.  Meanwhile, at home, Megan - Jill's young daugher - and Jill's fiance, Sam, are facing their own challenges.  Sam in particular tries to convince Jill to leave things alone and pay more attention to her own daughter, rather than two stepdaughters from a previous marriage where her husband walked out on her with the stepdaughers. As the story goes on, Jill and Sam grow apart, Abby's sister Victoria tries to keep Jill out of their lives, and Jill begins to have serious problems with her office manager at work.  Towards the end of the book, the FBI even shows up!

I liked this book well enough, but not as much as I have liked some of Lisa Scottoline's other work.   I did find the relationship between Jill and her former stepdaughters to be interesting, though, since they did have feelings for each other.  

The book is well-written, and the characters are interesting and entertaining enough, but it just didn't have the appeal for me that a lot of the others have had.

The Cove, by Ron Rash,  I had an Advance Reader's Edition of this book, and just got around to reading it in the past week.  I had read a couple of very brief reviews of it, and wasn't sure if I'd like it.  But here it was, and it was worth trying.

I enjoyed the story very much.  It tells of Laurel Shelton and her brother Hank, who live in the family cabin in a cove that is supposedly cursed.  Hank has returned from WWII after losing an arm, and he is more accepted by the people in the nearby town.  Laurel, though, has a large purple birthmark which the townspeople claim makes her a witch, so she is either avoided altogether or made fun of by others.

One day while doing laundry by the river, Laurel hears beautiful music, and sees from a hiding place a poorly dressed, dirty man, who she would think was a bum if he didn't have such a gorgeous silver flute.  She returns to the spot a couple of times, and when she finds him dying, takes him back to the cabin to save his life.  He survives, and hands her a card saying that he is a mute.  Laurel, and eventually Hank, bring him back to health, and he begins working with Hank on the small family farm.  Laurel becomes increasingly fond of him.  The mute - named Walter - has written a story telling them that he was on his way to NYC to become a musician.

The story develops further, and we eventually learn the truth about Walter.  Woven into the backstory of soldiers from the town returning from war, and the feeling of the townspeople about foreigners in general and Germans in particular, a series of events changes the lives of everyone involved.  I don't want to go into detail here, because I do think the book is worth a read, but I have to say that it kept me reading, and the ending was not what I was expecting.

I would recommend it if you enjoy books evocative of time and place.  

So there you have it.  The only book I have to offer anyone interested is The Cove,  as the others were either books I read on my Nook, or that I've already given away to a co-worker who was interested.  But it you are interested in The Cove, let me know in the comments by the end of the day on Saturday, May 5.  If more than one person is interested, I'll pick names out of a hat, or something similar, yet random.

Now, I just have to decide what I want to read next ...


Carrie K said...

Sounds like a pretty good reading month or two to me! I've either read Ian Sansom or I remember your earlier review.

Bob & Phyllis said...

I would be interested in the Cove, so please enter me in the drawing.

DH LOVES the Patrick Taylor Series. It's some of the few books we own in Hardback (LL Modesitt's SF books are the others). I've read them and found them enjoyable, but they don't strike me as they do him.