Tag Archives: Louise Penny

Rambling About Reading

I’d kicked July off with a migraine (my first since I was 16!), followed by a two-week long tension headache. It’s kind of funny, but once I realized it was all due to tension, I relaxed, got a massage, and the whole thing went away.

There’s one thing that’s very difficult to do when you’re caught in the throes of a headache or a migraine – read! So when I started feeling better, it was like my mind was starved for books. Really really starved. In the last four weeks, it feels like all I’ve been doing is reading, and reading, and more reading. I was getting through books so fast, I didn’t have time to Pin them, or even add them to Goodreads.

So today I’m sitting here, trying to remember what-all I’ve read over the past four weeks. I’m probably missing some reads, but here’s the list so far:

Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy: The Summoning, The Awakening and The Reckoning

     

I enjoyed this series, and I’m very glad that I came to it late, since I really really hate cliffhangers – but guess what? When you have all three books of the trilogy in your hot little hands, it’s like having one lovely, long absolutely thrilling book to read. You can say things like, cliffhangers? What cliffhangers?

Book One of Kelley Armstrong’s Darkness Rising trilogy, The Gathering

I enjoyed The Gathering even more than the Darkest Powers trilogy. And I was more than a little bummed out because I got the ebook copy of The Calling, the second book in the series, from the library – and I accidentally deleted and returned it!  So yes, I’m now back on hold for it. Sigh.

And from Daniel Suarez:

First, I decided to use up some of my Audible credits, and after browsing around, decided on Kill Decision. I enjoyed it, and remembered that some of the reviewers at Audible mentioned that Suarez’s Daemon/Freedom ™ books were even better, so I decided to give Daemon a try.

I LOVED Daemon! It was on-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting – I devoured it in a day. I’m now at the start of the sequel, Freedom ™.

   

Mind Game, by Christine Feehan

I also read one of the books from Christine Feehan’s GhostWalkers series, Mind Game. And this is what I discovered about myself (well, okay, I already knew this) – I’m not really cut out for the romantic thriller/paranormal types of reads.  Reading Mind Game, I loved the story, I loved the characters, and all I really wanted to know was – what’s going to happen next?

The book would have been a page-turner for me, but all the love scenes got in the way. The first love scene was great, in that it was very credible. Actually all of the love scenes were very credible – they happen at reasonable times, and not in the middle of a suspenseful bit of plot.

I’ve always disliked books where the male and female protagonists are hiding out, people are hunting them, they are basically facing death around every corner – and they somehow find the time to have mind blowing sex in the middle of it all.  I mean, really, if your options are A. have ground-shaking fireworks-driven sex or B. survive to see tomorrow, what would you choose?

And even if you did choose option A, seriously, would you really be able to keep your mind on the moment? Wouldn’t you have some pesky, worrisome thoughts lurking at the back of your mind, like Wait! What was that I just heard? My God, it sounds like footsteps coming our way. I’m really glad he’s enjoying this, but I wish he’d keep the moans down to an almost inaudible level. What if the killer hears us?

Anyway, Feehan wrote that first love scene very credibly, and that first scene was all quite enjoyable. But I ended up quickly flipping through all the remaining love scenes, because what I really wanted to know was, what’s going to happen?

So, no, romantic suspense/paranormals just aren’t really my cup of tea.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I’m in the middle of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter right now, and it’s been quite an interesting read so far. I like the way Grahame-Smith weaves fictitious journal entries into the narrative. The whole thing reads rather like nonfiction – fun stuff!

A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin

Yes! I finally got around to picking up this series! I got the audiobook version of A Game of Thrones, and enjoyed it so much in audio, when I saw the boxed set containing Books 1-4 at Costco last week, I couldn’t resist. I’ll probably end up reading them all in print first, and then going back to the audio versions for a re-read – there are so many characters, I suspect I’ll find it a little less confusing if I tackle the series in print first.

Power Play, by Joseph Finder

I’ve had Power Play in my TBR stacks for a long time now. We don’t really have much space for my TBR piles in the condo, so I stash them all in my bedroom closet, along the narrow shelves that run along the top. We’ve also managed to squeeze our dressers into the closet, the surface of which provides additional TBR room. I happened to wander into the closet one day, thinking vaguely about changing out of my PJs, and saw Power Play on the top of the stack sitting on my dresser. I grabbed it, started reading, and didn’t stop until I was finished. Definitely a page-turner. It’s the sort of book that you finish and think to yourself, this would make a great movie.

The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

This mystery from Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen has a nice touch of humour to lighten up what would otherwise be quite a grim plot. It was an interesting, quick read, and I’d like to read more in this series about detective Carl Mørck, not so much because Mørck is that absorbing a character, but because I want to find out more about his quirky assistant, Assad!

Hotwire, by Alex Kava

This is the first Maggie O’Dell book I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be reading more in the series. I would have preferred more of a blockbuster, justice for all kind of ending, but I guess when you’re talking about government and bureaucracy, it’s not really such a credible thing. Still, I found O’Dell interesting, and have put several more of the titles in the series on my TBR list.

The Vanessa Michael Monroe series, by Taylor Stevens

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Informationist, by Taylor Stevens. Munroe is a wonderfully strong protagonist, and Stevens delivers a thrilling, suspenseful read. As soon as I finished The Informationist, I grabbed a copy of The Innocent, the second book in the series. While The Innocent was a good read, it didn’t have quite the flare of The Informationist. But I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

And the coming attractions:

So all in all, it’s been quite a good four weeks for me, reading-wise! I suspect the rest of August will serve up more of the same, as I’ve got some great-sounding books on hold at the library, as well as some coming-soon attractions that I can hardly wait to get my hands on:

The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny

What about you? What good books have you read lately?

Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny

imageI learned my lesson last year when I reviewed the previous Chief Inspector Gamache book by Louise Penny, The Brutal Telling.

You see, I loved The Brutal Telling and quite literally gushed about it.

But I’d written the review from my perspective as a reader who had started with book one in the series; I came to The Brutal Telling with a fully developed love of the characters.

This makes a difference. I know, because some other wonderful bloggers I know picked up The Brutal Telling as their first introduction to the series, and the book wasn’t nearly as wonderful for them as it was for me.

So, I’ve now read the latest installment in the series: Bury Your Dead. And yes, I’m going to gush about it. Because Bury Your Dead is so very, very good.

There are two mysteries involved, plus a little bit of a historical mystery thrown in for good measure.

Those of you who’ve read the previous books in the series: you’re in for a treat.

Those of you who haven’t read the previous books in the series: I’m smarter this time around. I’m going to suggest you start with Still Life, the first book in the series, and read your way through to Bury Your Dead.

(And I envy you, because you’re in for such a glorious ride; yes, the Inspector Gamache books are that good.)

If you’ve read most of the series, but haven’t read The Brutal Telling yet, don’t read Bury Your Dead until you’ve read The Brutal Telling, because Bury Your Dead contains a massive spoiler.

And finally, if (or perhaps, when) you’re fully involved in the series, and have read all the previous books, then, like me, you might:

  • find yourself tearing up already by page 18, when you still don’t have a clue what’s happened to Gamache and his team, but you already know how Gamache is feeling about it, and it’s making you feel just awful.
  • find yourself riding an emotional roller coaster ride, until it becomes more clear what probably did happen, at which point you will be very sad.
  • hope against hope that perhaps it isn’t as bad as what you’re thinking, even right up to the bitter end, with the result that you’ll end the book with tears in your eyes.

Aside from this emotional backstory, the mysteries themselves are very good, too. The ending to one of the mystery threads made me feel very glad indeed. Although, as with all of the previous Gamache mysteries, the murderers are not “bad guys”, not people you love to hate, but rather real people, with both good and bad sides to them. So as always, the denouements are rather bittersweet.

And from a writer’s perspective, you’ll love the way Penny has incorporated flashbacks into the story. There are some things that stretch your credulity somewhat, but I am quite willing to put up with a bit of stretching when it comes to Gamache.

This is a very good read indeed. I made the mistake of grabbing the book at 1:30 am, when I was about 2/3rds of the way through it, with the intention of just reading “a few more chapters”. I finished reading at 3:30 am and as a result, am very tired today! But it was well worth it.

The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny

The Brutal TellingIn Louise Penny’s fifth Chief Inspector Gamache book, The Brutal Telling, the village of Three Pines is once again witness to murder. And perhaps “witness” is too light a word, because the body of the victim is found on the floor of the bistro owned by Olivier and Gabri, the bistro that is very much the heart and soul of the Three Pines community.

I’ve always thought that Louise Penny set a new standard for the traditional mystery when she came out with the first novel in the Armand Gamache series, Still Life, and as with the previous books in the series, The Brutal Telling explores the broader themes arising from the murder that lies at the heart of the mystery.

And there is more to the mystery in this book than the identity of the killer and the victim. This is a story about lies, myths and secrets, about greed and human nature, about what we treasure and what we learn to treasure. How do we know what is real, how do we discern the the truth?

“Who’s Vincent Gilbert, sir? You seemed to know him.”

“He’s a saint.”

Beauvoir laughed, but seeing Gamache’s serious face he stopped. “What do you mean?”

“There’re some people who believe that.”

“Seemed like an asshole to me.”

“The hardest part of the process. Telling them apart.”

I have grown to love and know all the recurring characters so well: Gamache, kind, just, with a quiet but powerful inner strength; Beauvoir and Lacoste, his investigative team, diligent and filled with the utmost respect and love for their superior officer; Clara, Peter, Myrna, Olivier, Gabri, all former outsiders who had stumbled onto the secret that was the village of Three Pines and made it their home; the mad, Governor-General award-winning poet, Ruth; and Three Pines itself, which is more of a character in my mind than simply a place.

And so I found The Brutal Telling to be a more intense read than any of the previous books, because in The Brutul Telling, we must watch as Three Pines is torn apart.

In addition to the mystery, I enjoyed the continuation of a number of smaller storylines, too: the progress of Clara’s artwork and Peter’s jealousy, Rosa, the duck who as a hatchling had impressed herself on Ruth, the transformation of the bleak, old and evil Hadley house.

I was not completely satisfied with the ending; the motivation didn’t feel as concrete to me as I would have liked. I don’t know, however, how much of this was due to my past relationship with the series; a reader who has read the series from the start is likely, I think, to find herself standing rather uncomfortably in Gamache’s shoes in the end.

For me, this wasn’t a book to race through; it was one I savored, taking the time to get re-acquainted with old friends once again. I closed The Brutal Telling with sadness, but I took away with me an end note of hope, too.

An aside: I also enjoyed a small side plot that found a bewildered Inspector Beauvoir showered with snippets of poetry by resident poet Ruth Zardo. Beauvoir has a bit of a macho flair to him, greatly dislikes poetry and is repulsed by Ruth; it was fun to watch him piece together the lines, and see Ruth’s poetic perception revealed as the poem emerges: “and lick you clean of fever,/and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neck/and caress you into darkness and paradise.”

I’m not very good at things like this, so I might be very wrong, but I think this is a reference to something that happened to Beauvoir in the previous book, A Rule Against Murder (I just can’t see “Maddening, passionate, full of life” referring to Beauvoir’s wife Enid). If so, it was a soft, sweet thing to remember. If you’ve read both A Rule Against Murder and The Brutal Telling, what do you think? Am I on the right track?

(Note: Ruth’s poetry is actually that of Margaret Atwood, Ralph Hodgson and Mike Freeman, used with permission of the authors; the lines in this instance are from Atwood’s “Sekhmet, the Lion-headed Goddess of War”).

Another note: While I’ve given my review of this book from the standpoint of someone who’s very familiar with the series, The Brutal Telling definitely does also work as a standalone. It doesn’t contain spoilers about the previous books and you won’t need to have read the previous four books in order to understand the mystery in this book.

Another update: I might have been wrong in my assessment that this book works as a standalone, as I’ve read some reviews now where people unfamiliar with the series and the characters were somewhat disappointed with The Brutal Telling. The good thing is that it doesn’t give any spoilers, so you’ll have no trouble going back to the earlier books in the series. But if you do get the chance, it’s a very good idea to read them in order, beginning with Still Life.

Where to buy The Brutal Telling:

U.S. (Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Minotaur Books, 2009, ARC provided by publisher, 372 pages

The Moody Reader: Decisions, Decisions!

I’m supposed to be writing and I think I probably will, once the little guy is in bed later tonight, so in the meantime, I’m trying to decide what book to read while I curl up next to him on the sofa (he’ll be watching The Backyardigans).

I’ve just finished up two excellent middle grade mysteries: The Mask on the Cruise Ship and Shadows on the Train, both by Melanie Johnson. I’ll be reviewing each of these shortly, so I’ll just say right now that these are superb mysteries, and if you’re like me, you’ll feel highly entertained, very involved and deep in the story – for me, classic signs of a very good read, regardless of the age of target audience.

So anyway, I’ve been pondering (and procrastinating, but you all knew that. I haven’t been particularly stellar when it comes to my writing lately). Should I continue along the middle grade mystery path? Along these lines, I have The Horizontal Man, by Michael Dahl in my TBR.

Or should I switch genres completely and plunge into a bit of children’s fantasy? (I’ve been on a children’s books kick lately). I have Hatching Magic, by Ann Downer and The Anybodies, by N.E. Bode here, too. Then there’s Hannah’s Winter, by Kierin Meehan, which sounds like an absolutely delightful read.

To complicate matters, there are the two adult mysteries I’ve started reading – only a few pages of each, so it’s not like I’ve gotten very far into them. Louise Penny’s The Brutal Telling beckons; I love the world of Three Pines and Inspector Gamache very much.

And there’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson – which I’ve been hesitant to pick up right now because I’ve just realized via someone’s tweet on Twitter that it’s about a rather dark subject, and I’m not sure if I’m really in the mood for a whole lot of graphic details right now. (I have emails out to two bloggers I respect highly who’ve read the book, to see exactly how graphic it is; I know. I’m such a wuss.) Update: both of them say great read, definitely dark, not-to-be-missed and yes, I should be able to skim over anything too graphic. Very helpful, and now I’m leaning toward Louse Penny until I’m more ready for something darker.

Decisions, decisions! I’m definitely a moody reader, and it’s always such a challenge when I can’t quite determine what mood I’m in.

Review: The Murder Stone (A Rule Against Murder), by Louise Penny

The Murder Stone (A Rule Against Murder)In Louise Penny’s latest Inspector Armand Gamache mystery, The Murder Stone (A Rule Against Murder in the U.S.), Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are on holiday at Manoir Bellechasse, a luxury Québec chateau at which they stay annually. This year, though, they find themselves sharing the chateau with the wealthy Finney family, who have come to pay tribute to their father. All is not as it seems, however; tensions run high among family members and soon Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is knee deep in a murder inquiry.

I enjoyed this fourth book in the Gamache series immensely. Gone is the side plot that was explored in the first three books of the series; it was a side plot that actually took away a bit of my enjoyment of the novels (especially when it reached its crescendo in the third novel), so I was delighted with this fourth book, with its intricate mystery and a new side plot that develops Gamache’s character further.

Penny writes in the British mystery tradition of P.D. James and Elizabeth George; Gamache has been a strongly developed character from the moment he first saw life in Still Life. In The Murder Stone we see a more personal side of him in his relationship with his wife, Reine-Marie. In the following passage, Gamache is thinking about the first time he brought his wife to Manoir Bellechasse, over thirty years ago:

And so they’d lain together for the first time, the sweet scent of the forest and kitchen thyme and lilac drifting almost visible through the screened window. But the loveliest scent of all was her, fresh and warm in his strong arms. He’d written a love note to her that night. He’d covered her softly with their simple white sheet, then, sitting in the cramped rocking chair, not daring to actually rock in case he whacked the wall behind or barked his shins on the bed in front, disturbing Reine-Marie, he’d watched her breathe. Then on Manoir Bellechasse notepaper he’d written. My love knows no –

How can a man contain such –

My heart and soul have come alive –

My love for you –

All night he wrote, and next morning, taped to the bathroom mirror, Reine-Marie found the note.

I love you.

We also learn something about his past that gives us great insight into Gamache the man. Armand Gamache is a complex, intricate character: strong, kind, moral, just and like each of us, imperfect. The suspects themselves aren’t flat, hollow characters, either; Penny brings them to life as deftly as she does all the continuing characters. We come to know them, and understand more their goals, their motivations, the reasons why they are the way they are.

One of the wonderful features of the first three novels in this series is the setting of Three Pines; I’d wondered in the past how Penny would be able to continue to credibly set mysteries in Three Pines, which has been as much of a character in the series as any of the human characters. What I’ve discovered with The Murder Stone is that Gamache is strong enough to carry a storyline all on his own; the setting of Three Pines plays a minor role in the novel but this doesn’t hurt the book at all.

If you love character-driven mysteries with complex plots, you’ll find The Murder Stone a very satisfying read indeed. For those new to the series, it’s fully capable of standing on its own, although you’re likely to find yourself searching out the first three mysteries in the series once you’ve finished this one.

For fans of the series, The Murder Stone is pure delight. Gamache is a wonderful character – the author notes in the acknowledgments that she has discovered she’s modelled him after her husband. Armand Gamache is one of my favorite detectives, and I’m eagerly waiting the next book in the series, which is due out this fall.

Related Links and Fun Stuff

Louise Penny’s blog

The Murder Stone has been nominated in the category of best novel in this year’s Arthur Ellis Awards. The Arthur Ellis Awards are presented for excellence in crime writing. Winners will be announced on June 4, 2009.

Louise Penny talks about The Murder Stone:

Where to buy:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Headline, 2008, Hardcover, 320 pages

Still Reading …

It’s been quite a whirlwind around the MsBookish household – we seem to have plunged right into spring cleaning/home renovations fever, and if that sounds chaotic … it is!

But I’m still reading. I think it’s the only way to stay sane during a renovation. The main problem is that I don’t have much time for reviewing. I’m toying with posting mini-reviews – maybe call them “In A Nutshell” or something like that, to distinguish them from my regular full-length reviews.

I’ve been having a good time, though, renovations and all. Here’s a list of the books I’ve finished the last four weeks (I may be missing some that have gone back to the library – I forgot to keep a “master list”):

The Victoria Vanishes, by Christopher Fowler

Ten Second Staircase, by Christopher Fowler

Jinx, by Meg Cabot

Missing You (1-800-Where-R-You, Book 5), by Meg Cabot

Bones, by Jonathan Kellerman

Pictures of Perfection, by Reginald Hill

Ruling Passion, by Reginald Hill

A Pinch of Snuff, by Reginald Hill

The Third Degree, by Norah McClintock

Over the Edge, by Norah McClintock

Double Cross, by Norah McClintock

A Rule Against Murder, by Louise Penny (called The Murder Stone in Canada)

The Case of the Left-handed Lady, by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets, by Nancy Springer

As you can probably see, there’s a definite mystery “theme” going on in my life right now. I’m pretty sure I’m missing some titles as well, but I’ll update the list if/when the missing titles come back to me.

In the course of renovating, and moving furniture around, I’ve also been going through my bookshelves. It’s so difficult, weeding my book collection, but it must be done – we simply don’t have enough space for all my books. I must admit, my heart cries a little with each box of books that leaves this house, headed toward charity book sales! But on the bright side, I’ve been finding a ton of books that I either (1) haven’t read yet or (2) want very much to re-read.

So yes, I’m still reading …!

Review: The Cruellest Month, by Louise Penny

I was bitten by the book review bug earlier this year when I started writing some guest reviews at my friend Ann-Kat’s blog, Today I Read. Now that I have my own book review blog (thank you to all the book bloggers I’ve been reading for their inspiration, and Ann-Kat for her encouragement), I thought I’d link to the reviews I wrote at Today I Read, so there’s a sort of continuity.

I’m a big fan of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels. Here’s a “Snapshot Review” of The Cruellest Month:

The Snapshot Review

What I Liked: Well written mystery; the Three Pines setting is wonderful as always; enjoyed meeting all the old familiar characters again; Gamache remains as likeable as ever.

Disliked: The entire Arnot subplot. It really strained my credibility; I couldn’t see the crimes involving Arnot happening without national outrage and the initiation of a full-scale government inquiry, making the attacks on Gamache’s reputation difficult.

Ms. Bookish’s Very Quick Take: Read the two previous Gamache mysteries first (Still Life and A Fatal Grace) so you’ll fall in love with the setting, the characters and Penny’s writing. If you’re already a fan, the book is still good read.

As you can see, it wasn’t my favourite out of the three Inspector Gamache novels; the background plot just didn’t work at all for me. Aboriginal rights and issues fall within federal jurisdiction in Canada, and given the extent of the crimes involved in the subplot, it was difficult for me to believe the whole case wouldn’t have resulted in a formal federal inquiry. Despite this, I still enjoyed the mystery part of the novel, and am looking forward to new Inspector Gamache mysteries from Louise Penny. Ms. Bookish’s Rating: B: Good Read ?

Click here to read my full review at Today I Read.