08 September 2013

August Book Report

August was a big reading month for me, and now when I think back on it, it seemed that I somehow had much more available time to read.  That may not be the case, but I do remember that for whatever reason, I'd read even if I knew I only had 10 minutes to do so.  A lot of the time, I'll think that it's not worth it if I can't get into the book again for a while, but apparently that wasn't the case last month!

Here are the things that kept me entertained.

Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson.  In my opinion, this book was neither bad nor good.  It was OK.  Jackson Brodie, a newly-minted private detective with issues with his ex-wife and her new fiancee, takes on three cases that turn out to be interrelated in small ways.  The reader is provided with background, and as Brodie investigates, more and more information comes to light.

Interesting, but not my favorite book ever.

A Three Dog Life, by Abigail Thomas.  Abigail Thomas' life changed irrevocably the night that her husband ran into traffic on Riverside Drive in New York City in order to save their dog whose leash had broken.  The dog was fine, but her husband suffers a traumatic brain injury.  This is her story of everyone's survival.

A man who had been intelligent, articulate, and engaged in the world around him has suddenly become someone prone to rages, occasional suspicions, and with no short-term memory.  She remains in love with him and devoted to him.  She lives her life the best say that she is able to, and depends on her dogs (eventually three of them) to give her a reason to continue.  They become her friends, her confidants, and her teachers.  She and her husband have a different relationship, but she is no less devoted to him.  And she does everything she can to maintain a routine and to be involved with him.

I found this book to be incredibly interesting.  Abigail Thomas may have felt sorry for herself, frustrated with what became of her and her husband's lives, and simply wanted to quit, but the stories that she tells are poignant, determined, and sometimes humorous.  I admire her for her bluntness about what happens to the person she knew and the person changed by the accident.  She realizes that she needs to continue with her life, even if her husband's is now severely limited.

This is a quick read, but worthwhile.

Broken Harbor, by Tana French.  Another good one from Tana French.  This one is different in some ways, but her depiction of time, place, and the way that memory can intrude on the present are there, strong as ever.

Detective Mike Kennedy and his rookie partner, Detective Richie Curran, are called to investigate a grisly murder of a family in an area formerly known as Broken Harbor.  Since Kennedy's childhood days, when it was a place where his family vacationed, it has been purchased by a developer who had plans to turn it into a new community.  Then the recession hit, and now many of the homes are half-built, and the developer has abandoned the project altogether, without paying back those who purchased homes.  The family that was murdered moved there as part of their dream to have a place of their own to raise their young children.

The father and the two young children have died, but the mother survives.  While detectives wait for her to be in a condition where they can interview her about what happened that night, they look at other friends and acquaintances to see what might turn up.

Besides all of this, Kennedy is dealing with his youngest sister, who is mentally unstable.  He can't walk away from the case, but his sister is clearly not well.

The way the stories intertwine is both fascinating and tragic, and the relationship between Kennedy and his new partner seems hopeful until something causes it to break.  I for one was surprised at the way things worked out in the end.

Kneading to Die, by Liz Mugavero.  Kristan ("Stan") Connor has recently moved from New York City, where she was fired from her high-level public relations job, to a small Connecticut town, while she tries to figure out the rest of her life.  The local veterinarian introduces herself, and insists that Stan bring her cat, Nutty, for an introductory visit.  The morning of the visit, Stan and Nutty arrive, only to discover the vet dead on the floor of her clinic, with a needle sticking out of her neck.

Though the vet was not terribly popular, the townspeople are shocked, and since Stan discovered the body, she is under suspicion for the murder, especially since she is such a newcomer.  In the meantime, Stan has had time to cook special food for her cat, who has irritable bowel syndrome, as well as try some of the recipes she has for pet treats.  The treats are a  big hit with the local pets, but when some appear to suffer from symptoms of poisoning, Stan looks more suspicious than ever.

At the same time, her boyfriend is ignoring her (he doesn't really approve of her move), and her best friend, who runs an animal rescue organization, starts acting oddly as well.  Stan begins to wonder if it was all just a big mistake.

In the end, the murderer is uncovered, Stan and her boyfriend are no longer a couple, and she has decided to start her own business, making and selling pet treats.  After such a shaky start, things are looking up!

This was an entertaining book, and the discover of the murderer of the town vet was pretty surprising, at least to me.

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith.  I actually thought this was a pretty good book.  Not groudbreaking or anything, but a good murder mystery with enough twists and changes to make it worth getting to the end.

Cormoran Strike is a private detective who is currently down on his luck - so much so that he is living in his office.  When the temp agency sends a secretary, he realizes that he forgot to cancel it, and figures he'll keep the woman for a week and then say he doesn't need her anymore.  The temp, Robin, is engaged to be married and looking for a full-time job, but has always thought that being a private detective would be exciting.

When the brother of a famous supermodel comes in and asks strike to prove that his sister was murdered, and did not voluntarily jump to her death from her apartment balcony, Strike takes the case to make some money, and figures it won't really turn into much, since even all official inquiries resulted in the death being ruled a suicide.

As Strike and Robin get used to each other, and the case moves along, it begins to seem that things may not be as cut and dried as everyone believed.

Strike is an unusual and interesting character, and he and Robin make a good team.  I liked the story and the main characters were well-enough written that you felt you could picture them pretty clearly in your mind.

I read this even once J.K. Rowling was "outed" as the author; I hadn't read her other adult book, so I can't comment on that at all, but I thought she did a good job with this one.

Defending Jacob, by William Landay.  This book freaked me out.  Whenever I hear about a murder, I always think about the victim's family, but seldom do I consider the family of the murderer.  This book does just that.

Andy Barber is an assistant DA in a Massachusetts town.  He is married to Laurie, a psychologist, and they have a teen-age son, Jacob.   One of Jacob's classmates is found murdered in a park where all of the local kids walk to school.  Andy's office begins an investigation, but soon it starts to look like Jacob may have killed the classmate.

And the book continues from here, through Jacob's trial, Andy's meeting with is long-estranged father, the seeming dissolution of his marriage, all of it.  There is a sense of impending dread, of the other shoe waiting to drop, but things keep changing, and there are surprises along the way.

I for one was not prepared for the ending.

A good, very readable book that makes you realize how people treat each other, and relate to their families as well as to their own communities.


I read each of these on my Nook, so I can't offer them to any of you if you think they sound interesting.  But your public library should have them, or be able to borrow them for you through interlibrary loan.  Let me know what you think if you read any of them!


Lorraine said...

Bridget- I have read a number of early Kate Atkinson's fiction books- they are slightly strange, but interesting.

Thanks for the reviews-

SissySees said...

I always appreciate your reviews. I was rolling my eyes when my normally ... cerebral book club went with "Cuckoo" this month, but the medical research scientist who seems to be my reading twin assured me I'd get sucked in even if I didn't want to.

She was right. I'm looking forward to the discussing tonight.

I'm going to look up Kneading too.

elns said...

My husband is a fan of the Tara French. He said it was good, but not as good as the others. I don't know why, but I'm more inclined to read what other people do, than him. Is that weird? (shrug, meh)

I love your reading review -- not that I don't enjoy your other posts as well! Thanks for sharing your effort and time. Totally making me mull over what to read next!

kathy b said...

I'll recommend a THree Dog LIFe to my reader buddy Linda . THANKS for the reviews. Im reading Homer 's Odyssey about a blind cat . IM skipping parts of The Hemingses of Monticello..its too etherial....
but I am interested

CarrieK said...

Broken Harbour was really good, I was surprised at the ending myself. I love Tana French.

I'm reading Wednesday Sisters right now, so far I'm enjoying it but I've barely gotten past the five of them first meeting.