Monday, July 19, 2021

Book Review: The Gilded Hour, by Sara Donati

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati book cover and review
I read Where the Light Enters and really enjoyed it. Only at the end of the book did I realize that it was the second book in a series. So The Gilded Hour went on my list, and I saw it on Libro.fm so I decided to purchase it. I ended up a bit disappointed. I'll not give much of a summary, you can click on the link to see the publisher's description.

The first problem is that The Gilded Hour is very bloated. At 742 pages it is very (very) descriptive and somewhat repetitious. I listened to this one in chunks, breaking it up with other books in between. I listen to audiobooks while exercising, and this one just couldn't get me through a workout.

Secondly, nothing is resolved after all that time. You have to wait for the second book to get closure about the orphans, the murdering of women, and the fate of Sophie and her husband. I feel like you can read the second book and get everything you need. The first book is just a very long introduction to several plots, and as I said in my review of Where the Light Enters, it isn't clear what the central plot of the story is.

I did enjoy the romance of Anna and Jack. It was nice to see how they ended up together. And you find out how the orphans came into their lives. But I can't honestly say this is worth over 700 pages of information.

I'm sure I wouldn't have finished The Gilded Hour if I were reading it. I tend to be very patient with audiobooks, especially those that I have paid for! So I was determined to finish it eventually. I'll let you decide whether you need the complete story, or whether the conclusion (Where the Light Enters) is good enough.

Published by Berkley, 2015
Audiobook obtained from Libro.fm
742 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Book Review: The Great Santini, by Pat Conroy

The Great Santini by Pat Conroy book cover and review
My sister-in-law has read a couple of Conroy's books and recommended him, so I found The Great Santini at the library and decided to give it a go. Loved the writing, not so much the story.

Basically, it's a story of the life of Colonel Bull Meecham, or The Great Santini, a name he has given himself. He's a Marine pilot with a wife and three kids. This takes place in the '60s, and the family is once again moving to a new place because Bull has been reassigned. He's a jerk. And the book goes through example after example of his physical and mental abuse. He's not nice to his family or his Marines. 

We see his son's struggles on the basketball team, and myriad other problems his kids have. There isn't really an overall story arc, something I found lacking. The story just meanders through Bull's life. There is a life-threatening event towards the end of the story. And then the dramatic ending. But that all happens very quickly.

The redeeming quality of The Great Santini is the writing. Conroy uses sophisticated vocabulary. I found myself having to look up a few words, which given my vocabulary, doesn't happen very often when I'm reading fiction.

The Great Santini has been made into a movie, which I haven't seen but may check out. Conroy has written many other bestsellers, and I may eventually give another one of his a go.

Published by Random House, 1976
eBook obtained from the library
512 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Book Review: The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs

The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs book cover and review
As is usually the case with any Temperance Brennan novel, I really enjoyed The Bone Code.

This time it is a case of some bodies in a barrel that washed up on the beach. The weird thing is that Tempe worked on a similar case many years ago in Canada.

The investigation is interesting and I really liked that fiance Ryan was around for a lot of the book and helped with the investigation. The South Carolina setting was different and added some interest.

It seems like there is a lot going on at the beginning with some additional issues being introduced, but eventually, it all becomes clear. I love the brisk pace of these investigations and am always surprised by the twists.

If you are a fan, you shouldn't miss this one. And if you aren't, you can jump in anywhere--each book is its own story. However, some characters have quite a history that can be enjoyed if you start at the beginning.

Published by Scribner, July 6, 2021
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Friday, July 2, 2021

Book Review: The Perfect Guests by Emma Roux

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous book cover and review
The Perfect Guests kept my interest but didn't blow me away.

Our first point of view is Beth in 1988, who can't believe her good fortune when her aunt takes her from the children's home where she resides since the death of her parents to live with the Averells at Raven Hall. The Averells have a daughter, Nina, and she and Beth become fast friends. But Beth wonders why she is there, and if this situation will end at any minute if she does something wrong. Is it all just too good to be true? Well, perhaps it is...

The second point of view is Sadie in 2019. She is a struggling actress and when she gets hired, without even an audition, to participate in a murder mystery game at the abandoned Raven Hall, she is thrilled. They send her clothes and a script and a driver to take her. Raven Hall is fascinating and Sadie enjoys the role -- at first. But things start turning weird as the night goes on, and then things turn deadly.

There is a third point of view, but we don't know who it is. It is in italics; no year given. The reader eventually figures it out, but I thought these sections were superfluous and didn't add much.

The end is very twisty, almost unbelievably so. I was very invested to see how all these people were related and it turns out is it somewhat complex. I enjoyed my time with The Perfect Guests, but given the plethora of dramatic thrillers, it didn't stand out. Recommended if you are intrigued by the premise.

Published by Berkley, January 12, 2021
eBook obtained from the library
304 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, May 31, 2021

Book Review: The American by Nadia Dalbuono

The American by Nadia Dalbuono book cover and review
The American is a detective novel that is intriguing.

Detective Scamarcio is called to a suicide, close to the Vatican, where an American man has hung himself off a bridge. Soon a Cardinal who works at the Vatican is also killed, and the suicide doesn't seem like a suicide anymore. There are things that Scamarcia is troubled by. Things that don't make sense. But the more he pries into the circumstances, the more he is threatened by American men who appear to be CIA? FBI? He isn't sure, but they definitely want him off the case. But he can't give up,  and that gets him in trouble.

Scamarcio has his own personal issues, involving a romance the gets even more complicated because of this case. It makes him human and personal issues are helpful to become attached to characters in a series of books. The American is the second in the series and not having read the first did not seem to impact my enjoyment of this one, although things like his relationships carry over from the first novel.

There are a lot of characters, and it would have helped if I had read this book more quickly (which never seems to happen anymore.) The American is a bit more complex than some who-done-its that I read, and I don't mean that as a negative. The ending had a surprise that I didn't see coming which added even more to my positive opinion.

If you enjoy police procedurals with a lot of intrigue and guessing, I think you will like The American. I may go back and read the first book, The Few There are currently a total of five books in the series.

Published by Scribe, 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Book Review: The Fountains of Silence, by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys, book cover and review
I enjoyed The Fountains of Silence, especially the ending, but it wasn't my favorite Sepetys book.

Most of The Fountains of Silence takes place in 1957 in Madrid. The setting was vivid, and one of my favorite aspects. This was the time when Franco was the supreme dictator of Spain, but the United States was beginning to establish more of a positive relationship with that country. Daniel is from Texas, visiting Madrid with his mother and father while his dad tries to make oil deals with Spain. Ana is a maid at the hotel where they are staying.

Daniel and Ana begin a relationship that, while charming, has all the makings of a disaster. Daniel is a photographer and meets some people who can help him with his goal to win a prize to attend journalism school. He takes pictures, some controversial, of Madrid. There are secrets that Ana wants to keep from Daniel, in particular how destitute her family is. But Daniel manages to crack the facade and dig into her real life.

The story brings to light the plight of those in Spain who fought against Franco. It has come to light (fairly recently) that thousands of children were taken from their Republican parents after birth and given up for adoption. The parents were told their babies had died. The Fountains of Silence tells this story in a way that young people can relate to. The author includes helpful factual information at the end of the book.

At over 500 pages, I thought The Fountains of Silence moved really slowly. This may partly be because I listened to the audiobook, and only in small bits at a time. The narrator's (Maite J√°uregui) Spanish heritage lent authenticity to the story, and she was easy to understand, even if I found the emphasis of some words and phrases to be off.

Sepetys' trademark is finding obscure but very interesting bits of history and weaving interesting people and settings around that theme. She has accomplished this in The Fountains of Silence.

Published by Philomel, 2019
Audiobook purchased from Libro.fm
512 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Book Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir book cover and review
Finally! A book that I loved. (My reading slump continues and wasn't helped by the fact that prior to this one, I quit on a book that I had read 50%. Ugghhh. I'm so frustrated!) But...I couldn't put Project Hail Mary down. If you enjoyed The Martian, then you will want to read Weir's latest.

The main character wakes up, after what seems to be a very long sleep, and is alone. He soon realizes he's on a spaceship. Why is he here? What is he supposed to be doing? Why is he alone? And...what is his name?

Weir is so creative in his ideas about survival in what seems to be an unsurvivable situation--much like The Martian. The main character has a unique and entertaining voice, although different than The Martian. I really love how he uses his characters to tell the story -- even though they are alone and most of the "dialog" is just their thoughts. It is unique, and I can't get enough. 

I don't want to say any more about what happens. It's wonderful -- it will get you thinking. And you won't believe what he comes up with this time! My husband is reading it now, and I can't wait to discuss it with him. Project Hail Mary is highly recommended.


Published by Ballentine, May 4, 2021
eARC obtained from NetGalley
496 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Book Review: The WIfe Upstairs, by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins book cover and review
I was easily drawn into The Wife Upstairs and pleasantly surprised by a twisted ending.

Jane has found a pretty good job walking dogs for several people in a wealthy subdivision in Birmingham, Alabama. She has secrets -- but no one needs to know what her life in foster homes was like, or what she is running from.

She doesn't make enough money to pay her sleazy housemate his rent, but the rich women she works for don't notice when they lose an earring or some other bobble once in a while. 

She runs into Eddie, whose wife has recently died in a boating accident. Eddie becomes interested in Jane, and before she knows it a serious relationship is beginning, and she is moving in with him. All of a sudden the women who she has worked for must try to accept her as one of them. Jane has never known such luxuries and can't believe her good fortune. She even feels comfortable telling Eddie a little bit about her past.
 
We get a few morsels from the POV of Bea, the "Wife Upstairs," who Eddie has locked up so she can't tell anyone what happened on the boat. And then Bea's death is determined a homicide, not an accident, and the police are asking questions.

 That's pretty much all you are going to get. There are a lot of details about Jane's life - past and present - and the lives of others in this neighborhood that add to the intrigue. And like I said, I loved the twisted ending. If you've enjoyed Hawkins' other books, or enjoy these popular twisty domestic mysteries, put The Wife Upstairs on your list.

Published by St. Martin's Press, January 5, 2021
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
304 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Book Review: The Engineer's Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood

The Engineer's Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood book cover and review 

The Engineer's Wife is an interesting historical fiction, based in truth, about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The building of this amazing structure was no small feat, taking decades to construct. It was also a very dangerous undertaking, causing many permanent injuries and even several deaths. The men had to spend much time in an underwater enclosure and were subject to the bends due to the pressure. Of course, in the 1800s, no one knew anything about this condition and subjecting themselves to this day after day caused many men to be permanently affected.

Washington Roebling was one of these men. And he was in charge of building the bridge. When he became so ill that he could no longer be at the building site, he sent his wife, Emily, with instructions and decisions about how to proceed. Emily took it upon herself to become knowledgeable about the design and engineering of the bridge so she could make decisions on her own.

The book starts out with Emily's and Washington's courtship and marriage. Washington's illness also caused a huge rift in their relationship, and Emily became friends with and eventually fell in love with P.T. Barnum.  Many other famous people make appearances in the novel.

Many of the descriptions of the building of the bridge were difficult for me to understand without pictures. These served to heighten my interest rather than frustrate me as a reader. I now intend to watch Ken Burns' documentary about the building of the bridge so I can better understand what the book was trying to describe.

It was an interesting story, however, it took me many weeks to get through it. Part of that was just because I didn't feel like reading, but maybe I didn't feel like reading because the book was a bit slow-paced.

Emily's feats are fascinating, and of course, she got little credit for her essential part in the completion of the bridge.

If you are interested in the subject, The Engineer's Wife won't disappoint.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, 2020
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
356 pages

Rating: 4/5





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