The Immortal Gene by Jonas Saul

Title: The Immortal Gene, Author: Jonas Saul  The Immortal Gene. Finished 8-14-18, rating 3.5/5, fiction, 319 pages, pub. 2018

From my earlier thoughts…

I’m scheduled to post about The Immortal Gene today for a TLC tour so here I am providing you with half review and half life update.

I’m over half way done with the book and really like it. The story is good, even if the bad guy really sickened me last night when I was reading before bed.  It runs along two main storylines, Jake the detective and Jeffery the serial killer.  There’s a mysterious shadowy group that has something to do with why Jake was in a coma for two years and why he now appears to be something more than a man.  I like the writing and the story and look forward to finishing and telling you more, hopefully next week.  (original post)

Okay, I liked this one, but the first half worked a little bit better for me. When I referenced Jake turning into more than a man, well,  that went full scale reptile in the second half and it was both interesting and a bit too much for me.  I do think it will appeal to many sci-fi readers, especially since the basis is rooting in reality.  This is the beginning of a series and I may read the next one to see what happens since there was a lot left unsettled at the end.

 

 

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Title: Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike Series #3), Author: Robert GalbraithCareer of Evil. Finished audio 7-5-18, 3.5/5 stars, mystery, pub. 2015

Cormoran Strike #3  (1-The Cuckoo’s Calling, 2-The Silkworm)

Unabridged audio read by Robert Glenister. 17 hours

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them….  from Goodreads

Let me start by saying that I love Cormoran and Robin and their relationship, which is a good thing since the book was full of the twists and turns of their working turned personal life.  Cormoran is involved and Robin is planning her upcoming wedding but the tension and intimacy are there to complicate things.  Will the marriage happen?  You find out at the end.

The mystery was good, but since I was listening in the car I had a problem keeping the three suspects separate in my mind.  They often lumped together.  I thought they would differentiate themselves eventually, but some of the enjoyment was lost because of how long it took.  But I did learn a lot about the creepy obsession people have for losing limbs.  Not really a world I enjoyed too much.

If you like this series you’ll like this book, but I don’t think this would be a great one to read without having read at least one of the first two.

Robert Galbraith is JK Rowling for those who have forgotten 🙂

Heartbroken by Lisa Unger

Title: Heartbroken, Author: Lisa UngerHeartbroken. Finished 7-19-18, 3.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2012

Kate has written a novel based on a tragic love story from her family’s past. Emily is a struggling waitress whose toxic relationship with the wrong man has led her to make a horrible, life-altering decision.

Without knowing each other, and with lives that couldn’t be more different, they head to the same point on the map: Heart Island. It’s an idyllic place in the middle of an Adirondack lake, and home to harsh and unyielding matriarch Birdie Burke. These three women find themselves on a heart-wrenching collision course–with dark memories, restless ghosts, and one another. And unbeknownst to them all, Heart Island has a terrifying history of its own.

Heartbroken is a tense, mesmerizing novel about the limits of dysfunctional families, of an island haunted by dark memories, and of the all-too-real demons we must battle.    from Goodreads

Sometimes when I’m listening to a book in the car I’m willing to put up with a slower story since I’m only half listening anyway 🙂  This book with the storylines from three women, Birdie, her daughter Kate, and young Emily who seems to make all the bad choices started slow and its pace never really picked up until the end. Birdie was a tough one to like, but fit perfectly on Heart Island, a remote place that had been passed down from generations ago.  Kate, seemed to be a in perfect place in her life, so having to deal with Birdie issues made her more interesting.  Emily was the outlier.  The reader knows she’s connected but sure exactly how. As much as Birdie was cold, Emily was at least that much confused and because of that confusing.  I wanted to like her but really couldn’t.

I liked it. Heart Island was a character all of its own and the atmosphere was perfect for the messed up family dynamics.  There was a mystery of sorts on top of trying to figure out how Emily fit into the story.  For a thriller it was slower than I prefer, but since it was a car listen it worked just fine.

Finer Things by Brenda Joyce

Title: The Finer Things, Author: Brenda JoyceThe Finer Things. Finished 6-15-18, rating 3.5/5, historical romance, 375 pages, pub. 1997

The Pretender
An orphan from London’s East End, a fugitive from the poorhouse, Violet Cooper was tired of sleeping on stoops and being hungry and cold. But she dared to enter a world forbidden to her and her kind. Even marriage to a gentle, elderly knight and the title Lady Goodwin could not open closed doors, stop the cold stares, or hush the shadowy rumors of murder.

The Aristocrat
He was a man of the world. The rules of Victorian society did not interest him, nor could a gauche pretender with a Cockney accent possibly turn his head. Yet Theodore Blake, second son of the Earl of Harding, was immediately compelled by Violet—and soon found himself defending the vulnerable young widow in the face of a murder investigation. But wedding vows were the only way to save her from a certain hanging.

The Finer Things
Two people from different worlds were brought together by passion, bound together by whispered accusations, and torn apart by scandal and misfortune  from Goodreads

I love Brenda Joyce’s historical romances.  They have a richness that I find missing from many other authors.  This was no exception although I did feel that it had some weak spots.  The heroine was a little too much for at times, but there were unexpected twists that made the story make up for some of those feelings.  I liked this one, but not one of my favorites by her.

April & Oliver by Tess Callahan

Title: April & Oliver: A Novel, Author: Tess CallahanApril & Oliver. Finished 6-6-18, 3.5/5 stars, fiction, 326 pages, pub. 2009

Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April’s brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April – and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to “save” his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own–secrets he hasn’t shared with anyone, even his fiancee. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April’s life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral…towards salvation.  from Goodreads

I very much disliked April and this book for about 100 pages.  The only reason I continued is that I remembered so many fellow book bloggers loving it when it came out.  I thought I must be missing something, only that’s not quite right.  I don’t think I was supposed to like April for a while.  This young woman was a complete mess and I didn’t really understand her on any level.  So, what changed?

The book begins as April’s brother dies in a car crash.  April grieves, hides the death from her grandmother, and is beyond prickly with her remaining relatives.  She also has one of a string of abusive boyfriends in the picture.  But, as scenes with Oliver, her childhood best friend who comes back to the area with his fiancée, flesh out more of the younger April, the characters start to grow on me and all of the sudden I am looking forward to seeing where their chemistry takes them.

This is not a sunny, beach reach kind of book.  This is a rainy day read that will ultimately satisfy.  I’m glad I stuck it out.

 

The Bleak and Empty Sea: The Tristram and Isolde Story by Jay Ruud

Title: The Bleak and Empty Sea: The Tristram and Isolde Story, Author: Jay Ruud

The Bleak and Empty Sea. Finished 2-19-18, 3.5/5 stars, mystery, 216 pages, pub. 2017

Book 3 in the Merlin Mysteries

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. They take ship to Brittany to investigate, and find themselves stymied by the uncooperative attitudes of Tristram’s close friend Kaherdin, lord of the city; his sister and Tristram’s wife Isolde of the White Hands; and Brangwen, La Belle Isolde’s faithful lady-in-waiting.

The case is complicated by the facts that King Mark of Cornwall is Gildas’s own liege lord, and that Duke Hoel, Lord of Brittany, is King Arthur’s close ally and father of the lady Rosemounde, who urges Gildas to clear the name of her half-sister, Isolde of the White hands, whom gossip has implicated in Tristram’s untimely death. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.  from Goodreads

I am not a King Arthur or his Knights of the Round Table expert but I’m a sucker for a good love story so I thought I’d check out this mystery of Tristram and Isolde.  I admit that the first quarter or so of the book was a bit confusing for me since I wasn’t familiar with so many of the names and their relationships to each other, but I don’t think someone who had knowledge of the legends of the period would have any problem.  But as I was prepared to skim as necessary, the story evened out and I was able to get into the mystery.

The story was solid. I loved the Merlin and squire Gildas combo as they were sent to find out the truth of these lovers’ deaths.  The mystery was good and I learned a lot about the period since this series of books are written by a retired Medieval Literature professor.  This was a short book packed with so many entertaining stories of the period that it made the mystery much more layered that it might have been.  I ended up liking this story quite a bit.

Recommended for fans of King Arthur legends or historical mysteries.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

Title: Ashley Bell: A Novel, Author: Dean KoontzAshley Bell.  Finished 2-4-19, rating 3.5, scifi/fantasy, pub. 2015

Unabridged audio read by Suzy Jackson.  17 hours 15 minutes.

At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea. Searching for Ashley Bell, ricocheting through a southern California landscape that proves strange and malevolent in the extreme, Bibi is plunged into a world of crime and conspiracy, following a trail of mysteries that become more sinister and tangled with every twisting turn.

Unprecedented in scope, infinite in heart, Ashley Bell is a magnificent achievement that will capture lovers of dark psychological suspense, literary thrillers, and modern classics of mystery and adventure. Beautifully written, at once lyrical and as fast as a bullet, here is the most irresistible novel of the decade.    from Goodreads

I have at least one Koontz book on my Top 100, but I’m not a regular reader of his books.  It’s been a while.  But I was headed back home for a funeral by myself and didn’t have anything to listen to (hard to believe I know) so Jason gave me the first several cds of this one telling me he was listening to it and I would really like it.  Well, the first two cds were about Bibi finding out that she had incurable brain cancer and by the time I arrived – to go directly to calling hours – I was pretty sad.  I hadn’t read the description so I didn’t have any idea that she would be cured (but that is somewhat misleading).  I may have sent Jason a text telling him that the story choice was not appropriate for a funeral.

Okay, now for the story.  I really liked the first half of the book, even the sad parts.  Bibi was a gifted writer and she had a Navy Seal fiancé and loving parents.  When the diagnosis comes she reacts with disbelief and then fight.  I hesitate to say anymore.  At the halfway-ish mark it lost Jason (although he finished it) but I was okay with the twists and turns.  It was interesting.  My main issue is that I think it could have been shorter.  By the last of the cds (14!) I was grumbling that it needed to finish up 🙂  It was both exciting and slow, so it was a mixed bag for me.

If you like Koontz you’ll probably like this one, but this one is just average Koontz, for me.

 

Yes Please! by Amy Poehler & Something New by Lucy Knisley

Two memoir catch ups!  How did I get so behind?!

Yes Please! Finished 9-27-17, rating 4/5, memoir, pub. 2014

Unabridged audio read by Amy Poehler.  7 hours 30 minutes.

Do you want to get to know the woman we first came to love on Comedy Central’s Upright Citizens Brigade? Do you want to spend some time with the lady who made you howl with laughter on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Baby Mama, Blades of Glory, and They Came Together? Do you find yourself daydreaming about hanging out with the actor behind the brilliant Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation? Did you wish you were in the audience at the last two Golden Globes ceremonies, so you could bask in the hilarity of Amy’s one-liners?

If your answer to these questions is “Yes Please!” then you are in luck. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.   from Goodreads

Amy read it along with a few friends helping along the way: Kathleen Turner, Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett, her parents, and probably one or two more that I forgot about.
I liked it, but for me, I felt like she was trying too hard.  Maybe that’s just part of her charm, because I know she’s funny.  I laughed and learned that she’d been at this comedy thing longer than I thought.  I was impressed to learn about the Upright Citizens’ Brigade that she helped form, less impressed with her sex tips. She is accomplished and successful and full of energy.  I LOVE Parks and Recreation and might have loved a book written by the great Leslie Knope even better.


Something New: Tales from a Makeshift BrideSomething New. Finished 9-29-17, rating 3.5/5, graphic memoir, 292 pages, pub. 2016

A funny and whip-smart new book about the institution of marriage in America told through the lens of her recent engagement and wedding…. The graphic novel tackles the all-too-common wedding issues that go along with being a modern woman: feminism, expectations, getting knocked over the head with gender stereotypes, family drama, and overall wedding chaos and confusion.    from Goodreads

This is my third book by the talented graphic artist and author and this fell between the first two for me.  I liked it and loved her drawings, but I was also bored.  Wedding planning is a wonderful and tedious business and it is probably most interesting to the people who know you or are going through the same process.  I do think this would be a perfect gift for the newly engaged.

 

Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell

Title: Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship, Author: Gail CaldwellLet’s Take the Long Way Home. Finished 9-11-17, rating 3.75/5, memoir, pub. 2010

Unabridged audio read by Joyce Bean. 5 hours.

They met over their dogs. Both writers, Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp, author of Drinking: A Love Story, became best friends, talking about everything from their shared history of a struggle with alcohol, to their relationships with men and colleagues, to their love of books. They walked the woods of New England and rowed on the Charles River, and the miles they logged on land and water became a measure of the interior ground they covered. From disparate backgrounds but with striking emotional similarities, these two private, fiercely self-reliant women created an attachment more profound than either of them could ever have foreseen.

The friendship helped them define the ordinary moments of life as the ones worth cherishing. Then, several years into this remarkable connection, Knapp was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.    From Goodreads

The first line, “It’s an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too.”  Just beautiful.  Caldwell is a Pulitzer Prize winner and this story of her friendship with author Caroline Knapp is so moving.  These two women shared such a bond and to have it broken at such an early age, Knapp was in her early 40’s, was heartbreaking.  The most moving to me was how Caldwell shared her own struggles with alcohol, something that she and Knapp shared.  It was a beautiful tribute to an enviable friendship.

Monday mini-reviews

There were a few books that I can easily group together from last month’s book a day challenge, so I’m trying to get those out of the way first.  These three books were all written by women writers and for the most part I had similar feelings about them.

Title: The Writing Life, Author: Annie DillardThe Writing Life. Finished 9-25-17, rating 3.5/5, memoir, 111 pages, pub. 1989

Annie Dillard has written eleven books, including the memoir of her parents, An American Childhood; the Northwest pioneer epic The Living; and the nonfiction narrative Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. A gregarious recluse, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.    from Goodreads

I admit that I picked this up at a book sale because it was short and  I’m so glad that I made the impulsive choice.  I’d never read Annie Dillard before, but found her writing beautiful.  She doesn’t make the writing life sound like very much fun, but I loved the honesty and the insight into how a mind can go a little nutty while writing.  If you are a writer or even just want an inside look into the writing  life I think this slim book is worth reading.

Title: A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman, Author: Joan AndersonA Year By the Sea. Finished 9-14-17, rating 3.5/5, memoir, 190 pages, pub. 1999

During the years Joan Anderson was a loving wife and supportive mother, she had slowly and unconsciously replaced her own dreams with the needs of her family. With her sons grown, however, she realized that the family no longer centered on the home she provided, and her relationship with her husband had become stagnant. Like many women in her situation, Joan realized that she had neglected to nurture herself and, worse, to envision fulfilling goals for her future. As her husband received a wonderful job opportunity out-of-state, it seemed that the best part of her own life was finished. Shocking both of them, she refused to follow him to his new job and decided to retreat to a family cottage on Cape Cod.   from Goodreads

I really connected with this woman who was feeling out of sorts in her life.  Her sons were on their own and her husband came home and said that he had taken a job that would force them to move.  I got her.  I was rooting for her when she embraced new challenges on her own.  I’ve never lived on my own, always having a roommate, so I was living vicariously.  It started strong, but she did lose me a little halfway through.  I liked then ending so, all in all, I’m glad I read it.

Title: Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, Author: Dani ShapiroHourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage.  Finished 9-29-17, rating 3/5, memoir, 145 pages, pub. 2017

Hourglass is an inquiry into how marriage is transformed by time–abraded, strengthened, shaped in miraculous and sometimes terrifying ways by accident and experience. With courage and relentless honesty, Dani Shapiro opens the door to her house, her marriage, and her heart, and invites us to witness her own marital reckoning–a reckoning in which she confronts both the life she dreamed of and the life she made, and struggles to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she has become.   from Goodreads

This slight memoir flitting around her marriage from before to beginning to present with little vignettes about things that happened over the years of their 18 year marriage.  The writing was beautiful and some of it was thought provoking, although I had expected it to go a bit deeper.  I enjoyed the writing so I’ve to added some of Shapiro’s fiction to my reading list.