Burning Soul by John Connolly

the burning soul

Hardcover:  410 pages
Published: September 1, 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton

My mystery group selected this book, and I was excited to read it because John Connolly has been on my list to read for quite a while. I just never got around to it. It is the 10th book in the Charlie Parker series.

The book begins when a lawyer, Amy, comes to private detective Charlie Parker to investigate her client. A young teenage girl in the small Maine community has disappeared and her client, Robert Haight, is worried that he will be accused in the disappearance. Haight is worried because he and a friend were accused of murdering a girl when he was fourteen. He now resides as a recluse in the town under a new identity. He is worried now, though, because he has been receiving anonymous letters that indicate someone knows about his past.

This book has a lot going on. In addition to investigating Haight, the investigation goes in many different directions involving a group of mobsters, the FBI, and the Chief of Police. The story is predominantly told through Charlie Parker’s voice and a third-party voice. Occasionally, a couple of other characters voice their version of events. Some member of the mystery group thought the book had too many characters and skipped too much from one thread to another. Usually, that would probably have bothered me, too, but I’ve been reading so many uncomplicated books lately, that I found that refreshing. I did think the book was well-written and excellently plotted, especially with all the different threads going on. I did not know this, but apparently Connolly also typically has a strong supernatural element to his books. That was not a prominent feature in this book. Had it been, I probably wouldn’t have liked the book as much because that just isn’t for me. So even though I enjoyed this one, for that reason, I may not reread him. We’ll see.

My Rating:  4 Stars

 

 

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

the friend zone

Ebook:  384 pages
Published:  June 11, 2019 by Forever Romance

Continuing my summer of romance books, I chose the Friend Zone based on a recommendation by a colleague who compared it to The Flatshare, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m not sure where she got the comparison beyond they involve a romance. This once started out similar to a typical Hallmark type of romance where two people meet under less than ideal circumstances and instantly don’t like each other. They end up thrown together rand eventually a romance develops.

Kristen is going to be the maid of honor in her best friend, Sloan’s, upcoming wedding. Sloan’s fiancee, Ben, has loaned Kristen his new truck to run an errand. Along the way, Kristen slams on the brakes and is hit by Josh. She is furious with him and doesn’t realize he is the best friend and best man for Ben. They are thrown together where an attraction begins to develop. Kristen is a tell it like it is, take me as I am, and very sarcastic kind of gal. She’s not the type to try to win someone over, and Josh finds that refreshing. Josh is a hunk who is exceptionally kind. Although he begins to be attracted to Kristen, he stays hands-off so to speak because she has a fiance deployed in the military.

The thing that makes this deeper than a typical, light romance is that Kristen is facing fertility issues and planning on a hysterectomy after the wedding. Although she finds herself being drawn to Josh, she has a fiance and also realizes Josh is hoping for a large family while the fiance does not want children. I really expected to like this book more than I did, and am disappointed that I didn’t. Although I realize why Kristen was reluctant to be honest with Josh, I found the way she treated him to be mean. I am a let’s talk about it kind of person, and I felt she should have just talked to him rather than always giving him mixed signals by sleeping with him one minute, regretting it, then not speaking to him for days afterward, so the poor guy had no clue what was going on. Josh was close to a saint, and I can’t believe he held in there as long as he did. By the end of the book, I did enjoy it a little more. I did ask my friend what drew her in more than me, and she was drawn in by the fertility issues and thought that was unique.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:  3 Stars

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

the sentence is death

Kindle Edition: 384 pages
Published: November 1, 2018 by Cornerstone Digital

This is the second in the Hawthorne series, following the series debut Murder is the Word (previously reviewed). This is a fabulous series that I hope goes on for quite a while.

Hawthorne is a private detective who is frequently called in by the police to help solve difficult cases. In the first book, Anthony Horowitz is asked by his publisher to follow Hawthorne around so he can write a biography about him. Once again, Hawthorne is called in to solve another case. This time the case involves the murder of a divorce attorney, and Hawthorne once again wants Horowitz to write another book about him and this case.

First of all, I just love the way that Horowitz has written himself into these mysteries. He is such a creative and gifted writer. It is interesting to me how he describes what is going on as he is writing and involved with the filming of Foyles War or writing his Sherlock Holmes books during the investigation. My husband has watched and thoroughly enjoyed the Foyles War series, so I know that will be in my future. Hawthorne is such an odd character, too. He is so mysterious and withholds so much for a man who wants a biography written about him. It was also fun reading about how Horowitz was determined to solve this mystery on his own before Hawthorne, creating a bit of competition. DI Cara Crenshaw’s character also added dimension to the book. Along with this great crime-solving duo, the plotting of the mysteries is very well done. If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it.

Thank you to Edelweiss for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:  4 Stars

Much Ado About Maggody by Joan Hess

much ado in magody jpeg

Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
Published: September 3, 1991 by Onyx (first published 1989)
Book Blurb:

 

There’s trouble in Maggody Arkansas, again, and Chief of Police Arly Hanks has her hands full. The trouble’s name is Brandon Bernswallow, the local bank president’s playboy son, who became the new head teller and bumped long-time employee Johnna Mae Nookim right down to minimum wage. The fighting-mad women of Maggody are over in Ruby Bee’s Bar and Grill planning a sex discrimination protest and a scheme to give the male chauvinists their comeuppance. But they are just as appalled as the men folk when the bank–and Bernswallow–go up in flames. Preacher Verber is sure it’s the devil’s handiwork. Mayor Jim Bob blames the Commies. But Arly is determined to sift through the ashes … and discover who cooked up this case of downhome murder.

 

My Thoughts:

I’ve read several other books in the Maggody series, and they can be counted on for a fun mystery with lots of laughs. This book is no exception. One of the appeal factors for me is the small-town setting. The books are set in fictitious Maggody, Arkansas, population 770, where you feel everybody knows everybody else. The mystery has a full cast of unique and outlandish characters, but there is an element of reality in each of them. Although their characteristics are exaggerated, I think we all know someone like those depicted in the book. What I also enjoyed about this book, in particular, is the satire about how women are treated in the workforce. Although this book was initially written in 1989, some of the issues are unfortunately still around today.

My Rating:  4 Stars

 

 

 

 

The Maltese Falcon by Dashell Hammett

the maltese falcon

Paperback: 217 pages
Published: July 17, 1989 by Vintage Crime / Black Lizard (first published 1930)

 

Cover Blurb:

“Sam Spade is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderley to track down her sister, who has eloped with a louse called Floyd Thursby. But Miss Wonderley is in fact the beautiful and treacherous Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and when Spade’s partner Miles Archer is shot while on Thursby’s trail, Spade finds himself both hunter and hunted: can he track down the jewel-encrusted bird, a treasure worth killing for, before the Fat Man finds him?”

My Thoughts:

I have seen the movie based on this book starring Humphry Bogart, but I don’t think I had previously read the book. It is one that my Mystery Book Group selected. I must admit, when I started reading it, I was picturing the actors in the film even though they didn’t necessarily fit the descriptions in the book, especially Humphry Bogart as Sam Spade. It is a quick, easy read, and the mystery moves along, keeping one guessing as to what is really going on and wondering if anyone is telling the truth. I did learn in our book discussion that this was a breakout in establishing the noir mystery genre. All in all, I enjoyed it well enough, but noir really isn’t to my taste for reading. I’d rather watch a movie in this genre instead. Most of the group, however, thoroughly enjoyed it.

My Rating:  3 Stars

 

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

the music shop

Hardcover: 306 pages
Published: January 2, 2018 Random House Publishers (first published July 13th 2017)
Cover blurb:

“From the author of the world-wide bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a new novel about learning how to listen and how to feel; and about second chances and choosing to be brave despite the odds. Because in the end, music can save us all.”

My Thoughts:

It is 1988, and the rest of the world is gravitating toward listening to music on CDs, while Frank, the owner of a quaint music shop, holds on to vinyl with a vengeance. His specialty as a shop owner is matching people to music. Frank introduces them to music they might not otherwise have chosen and teaches them how to really listen to music. His reluctance to add CDs to his shop proves to be a financial mistake causing him to struggle to keep the shop open. He is set in his ways and feels life is fine until one day when Isle walks into his shop. Suddenly his world is shaken.

Rachel Joyce has a talent for writing character-driven books about interesting characters and depicting them in such a way I feel I really know them. I loved watching the relationship between Frank and Isle develop, as well as Frank’s growth. Even though I love listening to music, I would love to meet someone like Frank, who could teach me how to really listen to music and get more out of it. The sense of community is outstanding as well in this book. This heart-warming book gave me the same feeling some of my favorite British movies that have charming, quirky characters and a strong sense of community. If you are a music lover, the music references are a bonus.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

the island of sea women

Hardcover:  374 pages
Published:  March 5, 2019 by Scribner
If you love historical fiction and are tired of all the World War II books right now, pick this one up. The Island of Sea Women is about a little known group of women, the Haenyeo, who were divers in Jeju, South Korea. The book takes place over the years of the 1930s until the present day. It centers around two girls who are best friends even though they are from very different backgrounds, and they begin diving together. Young-sook comes from a long line of diving women, and her mother is the leader of the group when the book starts.  Mi-ya’s father was a Japanese Collaborator, so she was marked with his sins.

There was a lot for me to like in this book. I’ll try not to give away too much of the information I learned so that I won’t spoil the book for you. But that is what I liked so much. I learned a lot. The history of the divers was fascinating; It is remarkable what the women were able to do. I love the strong female characters and how they supported each other. I also realized that I didn’t know anything about the Korean War, so that has inspired me to find out more about it. Learning something new is always a good thing.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

ellie and the harpmaker

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (August 6, 2019)

 

Ellie is along on her daily walk when she discovers a barn she has never noticed before.  Inside she finds Dan and a barn full of beautiful harps that he has made.   Ellie appears sad to Dan, so he gives her one of his harps.  When she brings it home, though, her husband won’t let her keep it.  So when she returns it, Dan keeps it for her in his barn and tells her she can come to play it there.  Soon they build an understanding of each other and a friendship both need.

This is another charming book with a quirky, loveable character along the lines of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or The Rosie Project.  Dan lives happily on his own in the barn but appears autistic and not in tune with the rest of the world.  He is just a good guy with a heart of gold.  Ellie thinks she is in love with her controlling husband, but in fact, is missing the love and connection a good marriage provides, leaving her unfulfilled.  I loved the way Hazel Prior developed this heartwarming story where we saw life through the eyes of the main characters.  It allowed us to see how each was perceiving his/her world and watching as they grew in their understanding. The way these two grew together was delightful.  This book also made me want to take up playing the harp.

Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:  4.5 Stars

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

the bookish life of nina hill

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (July 9, 2019)

 

I must admit that for some reason, when I started this, I had a hard time getting into it, so I put it aside.  It was surprising to me that I couldn’t get into it because it’s about someone who loves books and works in a bookstore. Someone whose opinion I respect and who likes a lot of the same things as I mentioned how much she enjoyed it, so I picked it back up.  I’m happy I did.  Looking back, I’m not sure why it didn’t click at first.  It was probably just a mood I was in at the time.

Nina Hill grew up as an only child to a single mom who was frequently away with her work. As a result, Nina was practically raised by her nanny, and she never knew who her Dad was.  She loves to read, so as an adult, she has her dream job working in an independent bookstore. Nina is smart, socially awkward, anxious, and a compulsive planner.  She doesn’t like to be spontaneous, which would take her away from her scheduled trivia tournaments and book groups, and she enjoys living alone with her cat, Phil.  Her life turns upside down one day, though, when she finds out her Dad has died, she has been named in the will, and now she has an extensive family who is at odds with each other.  It’s because her Dad had three different families.

This book has a delightful cast of characters.  Nina is surrounded by supportive co-workers and trivia team members, and the supporting characters are as captivating as  Nina.   I also enjoyed watching Nina’s development as she struggles to deal with the new family and a potential love interest. She gradually manages to start taking steps outside her comfortable, structured life.  I also loved the trivia aspect.  We used to play a lot of trivia, and my daughter and her husband are still on a regular trivia team.  It was fun reading all the bits of trivia mentioned throughout the book.  Recommended for book lovers and people who like books with interesting characters and humor sprinkled throughout.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for an advanced copy for an honest review.

My Rating:  4 Stars

 

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

the bride test

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (May 7, 2019)

 

I had read The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (previously reviewed) and thought this was a sequel to that romance.  It is not.  The two main characters from her first book do appear in this book but only briefly.

This book also has a main character who is autistic.  Khai Diep is a Vietnamese American accountant who dresses entirely in black, loves tax law, doesn’t like being around people, and thinks he is defective because he doesn’t have strong emotions like everyone else.  He doesn’t understand social complexities.  Thus, he has never dated, and his mom is worried that he’ll never get married.  So his mom goes to Vietnam looking for a girl to marry Michael.  After eliminating all the girls she considers, she stumbles across Esme who is working as a maid.  Esme is a poor single mother trying to earn enough money to support herself and her child.  Michael’s mother approaches her about moving to the US for the summer to see if she can win over Michael and get a marriage proposal.  Her offer entices Esme because she can earn more money to support her daughter, and she’ll be able to try to track down her unknown father who is a US citizen.

I must say that I did not enjoy this book as much as the first one. Even though I knew why Michael was portrayed the way he was, I just found him totally unlikable in the beginning so it took me a bit to invest in the story.  My view of him did change over the course of the book, though.  I did like the character Esme and was rooting for her to find her father and a good life for her and her daughter.  Forewarning -There is a lot of focus on sex in this book and at times is very steamy.  So if that’s not for you, you might want to skip this one.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book for review.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars