Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: Pope Bob by Bill Dodds

I own both a Kindle and a Nook, and it's very rare that I don't have one or the other with me so that I always have something to read in case I get stuck in a line, or the doctor's running late, or I arrive early for a meeting, etc.

Last month, while I was waiting in an unusually long line at the grocery store, I reached for my Nook - I was in the middle of a great new book and wanted to continue with it - only to discover that I had picked up the Kindle by mistake.  I have distinctly different covers for both, but somehow had mixed them up.  I don't have as many books on this one, but did have a huge group of Amazon's daily "freebies" which I often download just to see if I might be interested.  If I don't like them, I delete them.  The title of this one had obviously grabbed me back in 2012 when I got it, so I decided to take a quick look.

This is a delightful book.  On the surface, it appears to be the story of an American priest who is one of those alcoholics who holds his liquor well and is a charming dinner companion.  As such, he makes his way up the ecclesiastical ladder, finds himself doing duty in Rome, and somehow ends up being chosen as the pope.  Here's where the story gets interesting.  He realizes he's in way over his head, but can't seem to figure out how to retire so he can just hug his bottle and go off into his foggy drunk dreamland.

So, while on a papal trip to Canada, he evades his keepers one morning as he sneaks out in search of a "little something" to clear his seriously hungover brain, goes off on a toot, and never returns.  This could have turned into a tongue-in-cheek satire but instead, the author takes the reader on a serious journey through the hell of recovering alcoholics, shows us a hopeful story about the 12 step program, a serious look at social and religious practices, a slight mystery, and introduces us to some of the most loveable (if disreputable) characters to inhabit the pages of a book in quite a while.  Ultimately it's a story of sin, sorrow, forgiveness, redemption, and conversion.

Although it certainly sings of Catholicism, it paints a clear picture of the church, its clergy and all their warts.  Dodds is a writer who is able to give us real people, who are real sinners, real friends, and who are willing to allow themselves to experience the grace they preach to others. A little gem.

Title: Pope Bob
Author: Bill Dodds
Publisher:Bill Dodds (2010), Amazon Digital Edition, 332 pages
Genre: fiction
Subject: alcoholism, papacy, catholicism
Setting: Washington state
Source: Amazon Kindle daily deal
Why did I read this book now? It was free and I liked the title.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel by Helene Wecker

Fantasy and magic are not topics I normally enjoy. But this is a marvelous story about a golem (a clay figure brought to life through some ancient Jewish spell) and a jinni (a magical fire figure of Arabian fairy tale fame - think Aladdin) who meet in New York in the 1890's after having been brought to life by their various masters and spell binders. Their relationship blossoms as they come to realize that each recognizes the other's true composition.  They come to depend on each other even as they distrust the world at large.

The Golem was programmed by her master (now dead) to be able to read thoughts of others around her, and to be a wife but there doesn't seem to be a husband available since the master is dead.  A wise old Rabbi deduces her true identify, takes her in and tries to help her acclimate to society.

The Jinni has been trapped for over 1000 years in a metal flask and is released when a New York tinsmith rubs the vessel which has been brought to him to repair.  The tinsmith is Catholic, and there are wonderful religious discussions that take place in this area of New York where little Syria abuts the Jewish ghetto, and members of each community interact, adding another layer of richness to the story.

Helene Wecker deftly weaves Jewish and Syrian folklore, present and past incidents, historical period settings, exquisite descriptions of human emotion and religious traditions, into a story of love, promises made and broken, and makes the reader believe that this magical tale of loneliness, love, longing to belong, failure to assimilate and ultimately respect for diversity is something that actually might have happened....or could happen....or should have happened.

The reader easily slips into believing in the humaness of these characters, rooting for them to overcome the limitations of their construction - golems don't need to sleep for instance, and find eating rather boring and almost painful. Jinnis must avoid the rain, or their inner fire will be doused. The scene of the jinni trying to carry an umbrella whilst walking with the Golem is priceless.

Make no mistake, this is no simple fairy tale. There are fantastic characters who change identities and forms over the centuries and keep the reader (and the other characters) guessing as to their true identify and intentions. There are scenes from past lives in the Arabian desert.  These interactions with humans are even more interesting, as are the predicaments that constantly threaten to end the current existence(s) of the Golem and the Jinni.

A five out of five star read.  This is a praiseworthy debut work.  I can't wait to see what Ms. Wecker produces next.

Many thanks to Harper for the review copy in connection with the Maine Readers Choice award.

Title: The Golem and the Jinni
Author: Helene Wecker
Publisher: Harper (2013), Hardcover, 496 pages
Genre: Magical fantasy; historical fiction
Subject: Religious and folklore traditions
Setting: New York, Arabia
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book now? It's being considered for the 2013 Maine Readers Choice Award

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: Transatlantic by Colum Mccann

A wonderfully satisfying read for a number of reasons:
  •  Connected short stories to form a larger story are a favorite genre. 
  • The underlying setting - Ireland - is one I'm interested in but had not taken time to learn more about.
  • The three main characters, Frederick O. Douglas, the flying team of Alcock and Brown, who flew across the Atlantic before Charles Lindbergh, and finally George Mitchell, the U.S. emissary whose flights between the US and Ireland helped cement the Good Friday accords are fascinating to read about.
Each character's story is told individually, but then McCann weaves in the lives of "smaller" but more important players - a fictional generational story of women whose relationships with the main characters (or their missions) ties the episodes together. The women make the story what it is. This is a sub-genre of fiction that works well in skilled hands like McCann.  The ability to weave together seemingly disparate lives, missions, outcomes and intentions is done brilliantly.  For awhile, the reader is left wondering  Apart from the interesting fictionalized accounts of each of the three main stories, is there a point?  But as the second part of the book unwinds, and the other characters begin to intertwine, the reader is treated to a surprising epiphany of McCann's thesis which appears to be that the US was very involved for centuries with Ireland: their people, their politics, their "troubles" with the English.

It certainly is a different format that takes a bit of work on the part of the reader, but McCann's prose is so clear and unfrilly that subtle meanings emerge almost subliminally.  This is going to be a talked-about and popular book because of the subject matter, but ultimately, it's the writing that should draw the highest praise.

Title: Transatlantic
Author: Colum McCann
Publisher:Random House (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Subject: Irish rebellion and "troubles"
Setting: US, Missouri, Newfoundland, Ireland
Source: Review copy from publisher
Why did I read this book now? Consideration for Maine Readers Choice 2014 longlist

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: The One-Way Bridge by Cathie Pelletier

Cathie Pelletier knows her subject matter. She has captured the dialect, the life-style, the scenery, and the personalities of the fiercely independent population of Mattagash, "the last town in the middle of the northern Maine wilderness." The cover illustration opens the book as about-to-retire postman Orville Craft is confronted with the Moose mailbox of town resident and Vietnam vet Harry Plunkett. Plunkett has turned the mailbox so that Orville must insert the mail into the "$%X"end of the giant mammal container. Orville is convinced that Plunkett has it in for him.

The one -way bridge probably exists in many towns. In Mattagash, the unwritten rule states that when two vehicles approach the bridge from opposite ends, the car whose wheels enter the bridge first has the right-of-way. The other must back off and wait. This rule will eventually become central to the story.

But in addition to Orville and Harry, there's small time, homeless, jobless thug Billy Thunder. He's actually not homeless...he can sleep in his vintage Mustang convertible, except that the top won't go up, and winter is coming. And he's not actually jobless - he's a "salesman" of sorts and it's just that his suppliers (the thugs one step up in the food chain) are refusing to send him any more "supplies" until he pays what he owes. His resorting to selling faux goods of a slightly different composition nets him funds for a short time only. 

There are an assortment of other lovable, laughable characters, each one symbolic of a specific social ill, whether it's boredom, unemployment, divorce, empty nests, unfulfilled fantasies, or post traumatic stress. Pelletier has painted a picture of a town that is trying, of a citizenry that still has a can-do attitude, and of a way of life that seems at once surreal and actual. The dialect is spot on. The scenery is painted with a broad brush enhanced with subtle shadings.

Without spoilers, this is not just a fun or funny book. The life issues of a variety of inhabitants are addressed with empathy, compassion and well-researched knowledge of cause and effect. The drama that develops as Orville and Harry's feud escalates serves to highlight a myriad of problems residents would rather not contemplate. It's a deep book, and one that would make an excellent choice for book discussion groups.

If you want eccentric but credible characters, beautiful scenery, and poignant emotional situations, this one's for you.

Title: The One-Way Bridge
Author: Cathy Pelletier
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (2013), Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre:  literary fiction
Subject: retirement, loneliness, boredom, unemployement - small town life
Setting: fictional town of Mattagash Maine
Source: E review copy from publisher through Net Galley
Why did I read this book now? The author and the subject appealed to me.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TBRs and Net Galley

Many of you are familiar with Net Galley - that marvelous group who bring us downloadable electronic versions of coming books to add to our groaning virtual piles of books that look exciting.

For many years my husband has accused me of having "eyes bigger than stomach" disease, but since I've been keeping my eating habits under better control, that propensity to bite off more than I can handle seems to have shifted to accumulating books whether of the print, audio or "e" variety, most especially the "e" variety.  They don't seem so daunting when they're out of sight on a Nook or a Kindle, instead of tumbling off the nightstand when the cat tries to jump up.  Recently, I decided it was time to get real - at least with all those e-galleys, so I took some time to clean up my Nook and Kindle.
The cleanup fell into three piles:
  • Those that had alas-already expired, so I made a note if there were any that still caught my fancy.  I actually found only one that I sought out in real print (I actually bought it for my library) because I'd started it and wanted to see how it ended. You can see my review of The One-Way Bridge by Cathie Pelletier here tomorrow.
  • Those that will not expire - several publishers do not attach an expiration file to their galleys (sorta like the paper ARC that arrives and sits forever on your shelf - long past the pub date anyway).  I culled through those and earmarked several that I still want to get to, even though I may not want to read the whole thing. 
    • The Catholic Church -by John Allen. I know this writer and am interested in the topic so this one I'll definitely page through, at least a chapter at a time.
    • A Murder in Passing by Mark de Castrique.  Another author I've read before and enjoyed. Definitely want to get to this one.
  • Those that I still need to read before they expire.  These are the ones that I'm thinking I can get to in time (at least I'd like to try.)
      • The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan- fascinating subject -secretive project involving women from across the US who built the atomic bomb in Oak Ridge Tenn during WWII.
      • Cold Tuscan Sun - by David P. Wagner.  A new author - new series? A protagonist portrayed as transplanted Yank in Rome certainly intrigues me enough to want to give this one a look.
      • The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna - looking like one that may make it onto the long list for Maine Readers Choice - definitely want to read this one.
      • AND.. several others not due for publication until late September or October.  More on those as time permits.
     At least it feels good to have the list culled, some of the feedback entered and sent, and the teetering virtual TBR mountain somewhat organized.

    Now....If I could just keep it that way.

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

    Set in the Netherlands, this is not a book about food, but it is a book that highlights human kind's historical rite of gathering around a meal to enhance personal relationships. Presented in a series of chapters based on the courses of a formal dinner at a posh restaurant, the story concerns the families of two brothers who obviously have deep seated unresolved sibling jealousies.  Their wives and sons are central characters to the unfolding tale.  Each group has its own set of rivalries and problems.

    While the story is framed as a chronicle of family rivalries, it is much more:  a dark tale of ethical dilemnas unearthed as each course is served, as the brothers and their wives make and receive cell phone calls, while outside, uninvited off-spring are running loose on the unsuspecting populace.

    Briefly, without spoilers, the story is told by the younger brother Paul, who along with his wife Clare, does not want to be at this dinner.  He resents his older brother Serge - a successful politician who is poised to become the next prime minister. He feels Serge's son is the one responsible for all the trouble that nobody wants to talk about.  He resents Serge's success and notoriety, his pushing for this posh restaurant to show off, rather than going to a simple coffee-shop that he and Clare would have preferred.  Paul especially detests the sycophantic staff and their fawning over his brother.  Serge's wife Babette is alternately annoying, insightful, and cloying-- a thoroughly nasty piece of work.  The brothers are both aware of criminal activity on the part of their sons, but neither wants to admit to their suspicions.  The dance around the unspoken truth permeates the entire dinner.

    How they negotiate the choices each parent faces as they try to view themselves as moral beings, as they think about their futures and the impact their choices will have on their individual families, the extended family, and ultimately even the country is a tightly drawn narrative.  By limiting the structure to a single dinner, and by having the agony of making menu choices and dealing with officious waiters a way of drawing out the dinner long enough to provide some space for back fill, the author has written an incredibly complex story in the guise of a simple tale of a dinner with its menu and accompanying conversation.

    This is a book to be read again, and discussed with a group.  The many choices of both the characters and the author in how he chose to portray those characters is a tour-de-force.They are nasty, scary and altogether unlikable. Koch's ability to string the reader along this slippery slope is a tribute to his writing skills.   This is definitely one of my nominees for the best of the year.  The translation from the Dutch is superb.

    Go find it. Read it.  Schedule it for your book group.

    Title: The Dinner
    Author: Herman Koch, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett
    Publisher: Hogarth (2013), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover, 304 pages
    Genre: Literary fiction, social satire
    Subject: family relations, moral decisions
    Setting: Netherlands
    Source: Review copy from publisher
    Why did I read this book now? It's being considered for the long list for the 2014 Maine Reader's Choice Award for literary fiction.

    Monday, August 19, 2013

    Monday Maibox -- Review copies galore.

    As a member of the selection panel for the Maine Readers Choice Awards, I get to peruse some really interesting books. This  past week, I had two huge boxes of wonderful literary fiction deposited for my reading enjoyment. Below are just a few. I also of course have several still waiting on the e-readers, and my MP3 has been sadly neglected for the past month or so since I haven't had much free time to get to the pool.

    Here's only a partial look at what's been arriving:

    The Woman Upstairs - Claire Messud
    The Lowland - Jhumpa Lahiri
    A Constellation of Vital Phenomena - Anthony Marra
    The Daughters of Mars - Thomas Keneally
    Americanah by Chimammanda Ngozi Adichie
    The Light in the Ruins - Chris Bohjalian
    The Silence and the Roar by Nihad Sirees

    In addition to the books for MRCA reading, I received two I'd asked for from the Atria Galley Grab -
    The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly and

    Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield.

    Both of these authors impressed me with their previous work, so I'm anxious to see what these newest have to offer

    And finally,  I won another book from Bookin' with BINGO : the delightful Steamed to Death, the second in the Gourmet De-Lite mystery series by Peg Cochran.  These are always fun to have on hand when your brain just will not accept another 700 pager.  Cozies are always a welcome addition to my library.

    So light or heavy, new author or well loved favorite, my mailbox had something to offer for any desire this week.

    Sunday, August 18, 2013

    Sunday Sound - Computers??? Who needs them???

    Merriam Webster: 
     Sound off: to voice one's opinions freely with force;
    Synonyms: pipe up, shoot, sound off, speak out, spout (off), talk up 
    Related Words:  bawl, bay, bellow, call, cry, holler, roar, shout, sing (out), thunder, vociferate, yell; articulate, enunciate

    Welcome to Sunday Sound-Off, a periodic posting about my reading life, my other than reading life, and life in general in Maine. I also encourage you to drop a comment sounding off about your week, your gripes, your reading life, etc.

    I should probably call this a rant rather than a sound off.   Last month, hubbie and I hosted a huge family reunion in central California.  We had people from Washington State, Oregon, several cities in California, Virginia, New York,Texas and of course Maine, at the party.  We had them from 4 months old to 95+.  It was a wonderful, wonderful party, and we we thrilled that we had the opportunity to do what everyone should do..get people together when there's not a funeral attached. The next day, there was a wedding, and that was even more fun.  Each event had its own day, we had glorious weather, great food, and an all around good time.

    Now comes the rant....  My four-five year old laptop had been acting very squirrely, and I had a 150 count slide show to project on the wall during the reunion with everything from baby pictures to old tintypes from the Azores, etc.  I could NOT afford to have this bomb.  So being proactive, I decided to treat myself to a late birthday present and bought a new laptop the week before we left.  I had four days scheduled at my sister Cheli's in Maryland before we left for California and I figured I'd have plenty of time to transfer the needed files to the new laptop.  RIGHT?  WRONG

    Like a complete fool, I got a machine running Windows 8, and didn't realize there was a huge (as in very HUGE) learning curve.  To top things off, I locked myself out of the new machine (don't ask) and had to wait to come home to Maine to grab recovery discs to fix that problem. I did manage to hobble through the trip with the old one, and the slide show was a huge hit.  When I returned to town, not only did I have to configure the new machine, keep the old one hanging on while doing that, but I was faced with a very sick circulation desk computer at our little library.  We switched out the unit with one of our Public Access machines, quickly reconfigured a couple items, and sent the sicko to the shop. When it returned with a new hard drive, I then had to do a bunch of reloading drivers, and more cleanup.  A job that took an entire day.

    In the meantime, I'm still learning Windows 8, Office 2013, a new "look" for, and a new G-mail configuration.  Why can't the powers that be leave things alone when they're working?  This old lady can certainly learn new tricks, but not all at once!!!   All I can say is that if you're thinking of buying a new computer and are a windows user,  unless you are a social media freak and plan to use your computer for everything except office work, then try to get one without Windows 8!
    I've been a windows user since 1990.  I've used every version of Windows since 3.0.  I NEVER had any trouble learning new versions (it sometimes took a couple days) but this new system is SO different, SO exasperating, and SO un-useful, that, if I had the money, I'd take this machine out to the bridge and drop it overboard and then go home and order one with Windows 7 - and pay a bazillion $$$ if I had to.  Obviously, that ain't happening, so I have to be patient, swallow my medicine, and act like a big girl.

    OK....rant over.  Weather is gorgeous, we have lots of friends and family in town, the blueberry festival is next week, hubbie's book is selling well ( ) and except for computers, life is good.  Sunday is going to be a marathon reading day.....I hope to get back to a regular reviewing schedule this coming week, but I have 3 books I want to finish first. I'm at least 1/2 done on all of them.

    Have a glorious summer week.

    Sunday, August 11, 2013

    STRIKE FROM THE DEEP by Bob Branco

    This could be sub-titled THE WORLD OF SELF-PUBLISHING. My prior prejudices against self-published books are being turned upside down.  We all know because we read all the time, about the turmoil in the publishing industry caused by the introduction of Print on Demand, ebooks, e-readers, and availability of various online self-publishing programs.. For the past year, I've watched the self-pub process unfold up close and personal.  Last week Bob Branco (aka Mr. Tutu) signed the contract and sent his baby to be published.  The book, STRIKE FROM THE DEEP,  will be available by the end of the month and like most authors, he is excited, exhausted and anxious.  (As is his wife!)

    I'm not going to be doing a review on this one. I've read, re-read, commented, re-commented, and no way can I be seen as an objective person, but I will, once we get them in our hands, be doing a giveaway here on the blog - probably sometime the first week in September. The official launch will be at the "big" library downtown on September 26th.

    This experience has been a learning one for both of us.  I've certainly gotten an insight into the writing and publishing world, and I will give a huge SHOUT OUT for the wonderful staff at Maine Authors Publishing (MAP) right here in Rockland Maine. I have reviewed a couple of their books in the past year, and find they do a quality job helping unknown authors produce readable material. Not only are they responsible for putting out some quality books, but I suspect they've probably saved a few marriages along the way.  Their insistence on professional editing and composition helps the self-publisher from the get go.  Bob had a marvelous editor who worked with him to make this so much better than it might have been had it been left on its own, or simply thrown into an automated online producer. Somehow the MAP folks always found a nice way of saying "maybe you should consider x or y instead of z."

    And another big SHOUT OUT to our wonderful friend Pete Mansel, webmaster extraordinaire.  He's  been a humongous help with the book's web page here at

    If you're a fan of current political thrillers, you're going to enjoy this one, if I say so myself.  I'm very proud of the hard work Bob's done to make this IMHO a better than average page-turner.  I might even get my own autographed copy.

    Saturday, August 10, 2013

    Review : Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

    Barbara Delinsky's books have always appealed to me. Her newest, Sweet Salt Air is much more than just a perfect summer read. The Maine setting is of course gorgeous, but the character development here is special. Two friends reunite after 10 years at the home where they summered together growing up.  One has a very famous doctor husband suffering from Multiple Schlerosis, the other has a secret.  There's a handsome loner with an attitude in residence at the other end of the island. These ingredients would be enough for most storytellers. But here, Delinsky adds a choice for the characters that makes keeping the 10 year old secret a moral dilemma. When the characters are faced with the quandry of whether to reveal the secret, the festering impasse becomes a matter of life and death.

    This is way more than a beach read. It is a well-developed character study with the added features of romance and that beautiful Maine Island setting. The medical research forming the backbone of the story was presented in such a way as to avoid taking sides on some of the modern legal and ethical issues of stem-cell treatment and research, and yet was written to underscore many of the choices facing patients today as they decide whether to participate in trials, undergo new and untested treatments, etc.

    I think it's one of Delinsky's best. Be sure to grab a copy. It's on the shelves now, so indulge yourself in a late summer treat.

    Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for making a review copy available.

    Title: Sweet Salt air
    Author: Barbara Delinsky
    Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2013, 416 pages
    Genre: fiction, romance,
    Subject: multiple schlerosis, stem-cell treatments, privacy 
    Setting: island off the coast of Maine
    Source: ARC from the publisher
    Why did I read this book now? The setting and the subject matter interested me.

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    Happy Book Lover's Day

    Aha!!...the perfect excuse to kick off a summer weekend of reading. Enjoy. I certainly plan to.

    Book Lovers Day
    Illustration by Ghergich & Co.

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Review: The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared

    This one was way too much fun. An absolute gem of a farce. As the title suggests, Allan Karlsson cannot face another mushy meal pulverized for old folks, nor does he wish to be surrounded by doddering, drooling old fools to help him celebrate his 100th birthday in the old folks home, so he climbs out the window of his room before the birthday luncheon, and sets off on an adventure. At the bus station, he is asked by a young man to "watch the suitcase" while the youngun goes to the rest room. The bus comes, Allan picks up the suitcase, thinking its owner is on the way, and embarks on a life of crime, mayhem and memory reflection that often begs our belief.  The suitcase's owner misses the bus, and Allan finds himself in possession of ......  well I don't want to spoil this one, but suffice it to say that Allan finds himself hiding out from the authorities, and not just because he doesn't want to go back to the home.

    There is a trio of criminals reminiscent of the Three Stooges, a retired elephant who comes to reside with Allan's new "family", guest appearances by practically every world leader who graced the planet during Allan's 100 years, incompetent police, and a winding plot that keeps the reader laughing even while saying "that can't possibly have happened." A total package of characters, settings, and plot twists. Something for everyone.

    Author: Jonas Jonasson
    Publisher: Hyperion 2012, paperback, 400 pages
    Genre: Fiction, farce, comedy
    Subject: crime, old age, world history
    Setting: Sweden, Spain, Arizona, Pacific Islands, Russia
    Source: Public Library
    Why did I read this book now? It was recommended by a library patron.

    Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    Review: How the Light Gets in - Louise Penny

    Louise Penny is so good that I now get scared when she publishes a new book in this series. I find myself worrying that at last she may have stumbled and, as is the case with so many writers of series, she might be losing her touch. FEAR NOT. The latest installment of the exciting, fascinating, and spectacular Chief Inspector Gamache series, How the Light Gets in, is every bit as good as any of the early entries. In fact, in my humble opinion, it's the best one yet. Penny just keeps getting better.

    At the end of the previous book The Beautiful Mystery, the reader could be excused for thinking that poor Armand was probably on his way out. Certainly, the carefully built relationships with his team were in shreds, his family devastated, his reputation crumbling. How the Light Gets In picks right up with those issues and expands them. Gamache is actually questioning his own abilities. Has he become impotent against the evil forces at large in his world? Can he no longer be sure that his homicide unit is the best in the country? Do his friends and family still respect him? Will he ever find the answers to the current mystery?

    Called to the village of Three Pines to help friends cope with a mysterious death, Armand Gamache soon finds himself involved in another of Penny's twisted plots. Along the way, he continues to act as if none of his troubles exist: he is polite, urbane, studious, thoughtful, and ever the gentleman, all the while he is grieving for his lost friend Jean Guy Beauvoir, his lost reputation, and his unit's lost agents (who have been sent elsewhere in the bureaucracy of the Surète and force fed a story of his demise and degradation.) Gamache is introspective, respectful of everyone he investigates, and takes his time carefully putting all the puzzle pieces together, always aware of when a piece is missing.

    Penny does an exquisite job of contrasting goodness with evil, black with white, dark with light and hope with despair. Just when the reader is ready to dissolve into overwhelming grief at the end of a beloved character or the dashing of a hope, Penny takes a turn in the road to lead the story down another path.

    This is storytelling at its best.

    These are characters so real one expects to walk into a bar or library and find them waiting to share a story or a drink.

    Three Pines is a village so well described that when the MMA rail company's runaway trains crashed, exploded and burned the town of Lac-Meguntic in the eastern suburbs of Quebec last month, I immediately saw in those headlines the village of Three Pines going up in flames.

    How the Light Gets In is so well written that I had to force myself to hide the book when I finished so I didn't immediately turn back to the beginning to start reading it again. And I will read it again, and again.

    Publication date is August 27th, and pre-orders have already pushed this one into its second printing. Don't hesitate--Grab it as soon as it comes out. Many thanks to Louise Penny for the advance copy and opportunity to review it. I wonder if there's a next one?

    Title: How the Light Gets In
    Author: Louise Penny
    Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2013, ARC 406 pages
    Genre: Mystery - police procedural
    Subject: murder investigation, police corruption
    Setting: fictional village of Three Pines - eastern Canada
    Series: Chief Inspector Gamache novels
    Source: ARC from the author
    Why did I read this book now? Louise Penny sent it to me for a review. Who could resist?

    Thursday, August 1, 2013

    Review : A Cold White Sun by Vicki Delaney

    A Cold White Sun by Vicki Delaney

    I loved the setting of this one - it was a perfect read during an unexpectedly hot spell we had in Maine 
    It’s the end of March and Trafalgar, British Columbia, is preparing for the last influx of skiers for the season.
    Constable Molly Smith becomes involved in assisting the homicide unit in solving the murder of a young teacher who was gunned down by a sniper while out on her normal walk early one morning.  No witnesses, but some tracks, a few pieces of forensic evidence, and several suspects.  There's a hapless husband, some hyper in-laws, two children left motherless, and the dog who was there when it happened. 

    Was the victim stalking someone?  Is that person the killer? Who else could possibly want her dead.  She was a school teacher, a model mother, a young devoted wife.  Or was she?

    While all this is happening, Molly begins questioning her own long-term relationship with a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when she meets a handsome stranger on the ski slopes.  Surely this handsome fellow can provide more excitement than she's been used to up to now.

    As with earlier books in this series, Vicki Delaney gives us good characters with motivations that drive the story, an excellent plot that produces many suspects but leaves us guessing until the end, and the exquisite setting of the Canadian ski slopes of British Columbia.  A lover of mysteries can't ask for much more.

    Many thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for making an e-galley available through Net Galley.  Publication date is August 6th.