02 July 2015

2015 Second Quarter Book Report

Well, 2015 is halfway over, and that just seems weird to me.  Not for any particular reason, more that I hadn't given it a lot of thought until now.  This has been a weird time, this quarter.  Very stressful, but also very fun.  I have been all over the place mentally, but it's not like I'm being graded, so I'm not worried about it.

I did read a few things though, and so here are my reads from April, May, and June.

Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman.  Brigid Quinn is a decommissioned FBI agent living in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and their dogs.  She is starting a new life, having been let go from the agency after shooting a perp in the back.  Her husband doesn't have any idea of any details of her background, and how she worked on homicide.  One of the cases that still haunts her is the Route 66 killer, a serial killer whose last victim was a young female agent trained by Brigid.

When she hears that authorities have located a person of interest after all of these years, she gets back in touch he contacts.  They are happy for her interest, as they know of her past work on the case.  But when the young female agent working the case shows Brigid evidence that could prove they have arrested the wrong person, things begin to get complicated.  Suddenly, Brigid feels that she is being stalked, and just when the young agent she is helping seems to have found something to help the case, she disappears.

I don't want to say much more due to the complicated nature of the story, and because I don't want to give anyone spoilers if they decide to read this.  But I found the story really interesting, and Brigid to be a fascinating character, if not someone you could immediately warm up to.  The details of the serial killings are presented for informational purposes without being gratuitous or even as awful as they could be, so they carry along the story, allowing it to be more of a character study.

I would definitely give other books by this author a look, as I liked this one.

Carsick, by John Waters.  I gave this two stars because there were places where this made me laugh out loud.  But I also have to admit that I didn't finish it.  I like John Waters, but apparently in small doses. Plus, I am just really really really tired of the "f" word, and it is used SO much here, I just got tired of the whole thing.

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins.  To be honest, I read the first 80 pages, and decided that I didn't like or care about any of the characters.  So I skimmed the rest, to see if it got any more interesting to me.  It didn't, and I liked the characters even less.  The mystery was interesting I guess, but feeling how I did about the people, I just didn't care in the end what happened to any of them.

Oh well.  On to the next book ...

Hotel du Lac, by Anita Brookner.  This is the first of Anita Brookner's books I have read, and I decided to try it after reading on someone's blog that they found her to be evocative of Barbara Pym.  You may or may not know I truly love Barbara Pym.

Anyway, this is the story of Edith Hope, who writes romance novels under a pseudonym (in the book, her pseudonym is described as a "more thrusting" name, which I LOVE).  She has - at least in the eyes of her friends - disgraced herself  in a relationship, and they convince her to travel to Switzerland to recover and regroup. She seems somewhat unwilling, but ends up at the Hotel du Lac.  It's the end of the tourist season, so only a few guests - mainly regulars - are there.  Edith finds that she is still surrounded by romance, intrigue, and gossip.  The other guests are a mix of different types, all of whom Edith observes through her own experiences and feelings.

I think Brookner's story here is evocative of Barbara Pym, and I did like the book.  I'm curious to read another one or two to see if she becomes one of my favorites.

Little Girl Lost, by Brian McGilloway.  This was the first book in a series featuring DS Lucy Black, a police officer who has returned home to Derry, Northern Ireland to care for her father who is suffering from Alzheimers Disease.  Lucy's parents were both police officers, though their marriage did not survive an attack on their home during The Troubles.

Lucy receives a call from one of the other detectives saying that a young girl wearing only pajamas was spotted by a passing truck driver in the woods near where Lucy lives.  They want her to head out immediately, since it will take them some time to get there in the blizzard conditions of that day.  Lucy finds the young girl, whom everyone suspected/hoped was a local girl who had been kidnapped.  Except this girl is not that girl.  But it turns out that she is a key piece in locating the kidnapped girl.

As things unfold, Lucy deals with family issues, learning more about what may have led to the attack on her childhood home, and how impossible it is for things to tie themselves up neatly with a bow.

I liked Lucy, and found this story interesting.  There were some very disturbing things as well as some sad events, but all within the framework of Lucy's experiences.  I will definitely read the next book in this series.

The Awakening of Miss Prim, by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera.  I really wanted to like this book, and I did finish reading it, but I can't say I liked it.  The story is about Prudencia Prim, a librarian (of course, with that name) who moves to a small European town to become a librarian for a prominent citizen, cataloging his library.  He has custody of a niece and a nephew, and also educates other children in the town in classical languages and literature.

The townspeople are all outcasts from the "modern" world by choice, and the place goes along at its own pace.  Upon Prudencia's arrival, a group of local women determine that they need to help her find a husband, and frankly, I felt that I knew how this would all end.

Disappointing at best.

The Shepherd's Life : A Tale of the Lake District, by James Rebanks.  So good, so informative, and so entertaining to a non-country person like me.  This book makes you realize the hard work that is involved in keeping sheep in a world that is no longer primarily agricultural, but also consumer-oriented.  It's also a story of a family, and how a life that had sustained them for so many years is forced to adapt to the world as it is today.

I see that this author has other books and I will definitely read those.

This was an audiobook that I listened to, and I think in some ways that made it seem more personal and immediate.  I recommend this to anyone who is interested in animals, farming, and the lives of others.

File M for Murder, by Miranda James.  I had just read a book that I didn't like, and was having a stressful week, so I decided I needed something that I would enjoy but that would not be heavy and "meaningful."  This book fit the bill.

In this installment of the series, Charlie Harris is thrilled when his daughter comes home to teach at Athena College for a semester - he seldom sees her now that she lives in California.  It turns out that her boyfriend, a famous playwright, is also teaching there for the semester.  When he is murdered, things get complicated for Charlie, Laura, and their entire family.  It's up to all of them - including Diesel, the Maine Coon cat - to try and find out what happened before one of them is hurt, or something worse.

I enjoyed this book.  It had enough going on to be entertaining, the mystery did not seem immediately solvable (at least not to me).  And of course, I like that Charlie is a librarian who gets to take his cat to work with him!  :-)

Friends in High Places, by Marne Davis Kellogg.  Kick Keswick is enjoying her life in Provence, a quiet and content existence, when she learns that there is trouble brewing at the auction house in London where she used to work.  When her husband Thomas is called away to investigate something for Scotland Yard, she returns to London to see what is going on.  From there, she is thrown back into the world of high end auctions and in this case, a set of particular jeweled Madonnas and a cursed ruby necklace.

Kick investigates as only she can, with her ability to change her looks and identity, her knowledge of gems and history, and her amazing lifestyle.  As usual, the book is a fun read, with exotic locales, amazing food and drink, and adventures that you know will turn out OK, but you are not sure how it will happen.

I enjoy this series, and hadn't read one for a while. I enjoyed hanging out with an old friend again.

Some Luck, by Jane Smiley.  I tried, I really did.  I read to page 86.  But I am not finishing this one.  I can't feel any kind of connection with any of the characters, and then I got to the part where the father in the story shot a dog and her puppies, because she was a stray and he and his wife were afraid they carried disease.

Yes, this happened in the 1920s, on a farm, etc., etc., but since I just wasn't feeling the love for this, that part sealed the deal.

This is the only Jane Smiley book I have ever picked up to read, and it was disappointing.  She has such a wonderful reputation and so many people love her work, I was looking forward to this.

Anyway, not happening - on to the next book.

Landline, by Rainbow Rowell.  Georgie McCool and her friend and writing partner Seth are finally getting the chance to pitch the sitcom they have been developing since college to a network.  They have just a few days to get four episodes ready to present to network brass, and it's their dream come true.  Both have been working on another show as writers, but doing their own thing has always been their dream.

The problem is, this is all happening right before Christmas, and Georgie, her husband Neal, and their two young daughters are supposed to be flying to Omaha to spend the holiday with Neal's mother and family.  Georgie is sure that Neal will understand her situation, and decide they should all stay in California.  The surprise is when Neal and the girls go to Omaha anyway.

At this point, Georgie is at a loss, and begins staying at her mother's house.  One night, using a yellow landline phone from her former teenage bedroom, she manages to get in touch with Neal (he finally picks up instead of his cell going right to voicemail), and they have a wonderful conversation.  Except Georgie becomes convinced that the phone is magic, connecting her to the past when she and Neal first got together.   She decides that if they can talk on that phone, they can avoid their future issues.

The book goes along with Georgie trying to fix things with Neal, decide if phone conversations are real or imagined, trying to work with Seth on their big break, and trying to convince her mother and younger sister that she is not getting a divorce.

This was a good book, and really entertaining in some spots.  It was good at pointing out the way that couples are around one another after they have been married for many years, and how sometimes something drastic needs to happen in order for them to remember why they are together in the first place.

I enjoyed the book, though I didn't love it.  But - I didn't hate it either.  It was worth the time spent reading.

Killer Hair, by Ellen Byerrum.  This is one of those books that was exactly what I needed when I read it.  Life was stressful, and I wanted to read something but nothing that required tons of attention and concentration.  This filled the bill and was entertaining as well.

Lacey Smithsonian (her grandfather changed the name from simply Smith) writes a fashion column for a relatively unknown Washington DC newspaper.  When a stylist at the salon she goes to is found dead, the police are content to think it's suicide, but Lacey's stylist Stella feels sure that the girl was murdered. She knows Lacey has some contacts, and asks her to investigate. Though reluctant at first, she starts to get more involved and pretty soon she discovers some interesting things going on with some of the people involved with the salon and its owners.

When another woman is killed in the same way, Lacey finds herself deeper into the mystery and the investigation.  She gets closer and closer to finding the killer, at great risk to herself.

I enjoyed this book, not just because it was an entertaining mystery, but because of the observations about life in DC and the people who live there.  I lived in DC for seven years, and knew exactly the types she was talking about, as well as the locations she described, even if they had fictional names.

If you want a quick, enjoyable read, you might enjoy this one.


So there you have it.  Have you read any of these?   What are your thoughts?  Let me know, and feel free to leave any recommendations in the comments.


elns said...

Book Report by Bridget, YESSSS!

You know, I love these posts. I really like how you describe not just what you read, but what you were looking for or the why. This helps me relate all the more.

I haven't really been reading. Everyone keeps pointing me at Girl On a Train, and I probably will like it, despite the insufferable characters but maybe all the pushing is making me push back?

I think I'll pick up Hotel du Lac, it seems like just what I need this summer.

Thanks for the reviews. They are much loved.

Araignee said...

I just read (listened to) Girl on a Train and I agree that it was hard to like any of the characters. I kept at it because it's what I do but it wasn't very memorable in spite of all the great reviews.
Strangely enough, I just listened to a podcast interview with Jane Smiley today and was tempted to go get that book. Thanks for warning me off. You just saved my monthly Audible credit.

Caffeine Girl said...

The only one I've read is Girl on a Train, and I loved it. I agree that the characters were not very likeable, but the plot kept me going.

I am definitely going to do the Shepherd book via audio. I'd been wondering if it was as good as the reviews said. Thanks!

Lorraine said...

Bridget- I have read some schmaltz that I forgot the name of. Some authors that I am looking at are Louise Penny and Kate Atkinson.

I did read "The Improbable Shepherd" by Sylvia Jorrin and I can recommend that. I loved her first book.

Linda said...

Girl On the Train... Glad I finally found someone who feels the way I did about this book! I liked the premise and it sort of started off with a bang for me, but then blam, it dropped me and I didn't care to spend any more time on it - read the ending and called it done! The Awakening of Miss Prim. Again, it sounded right up my alley, but after a chapter or two - I realized I didn't like it or care to finish it.
On your list of other books, I've jotted down some to check out! Rage Against The Dying; Little Girl Lost; and Killer Hair!

Linda in VA (who has way too many books going and just started more today)!!