Tag Archives: review

Reading: The Bone Tree, by Greg Iles

the-bone-tree-cover
The Bone Tree, by Greg Iles
What is it about?
Former prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancée, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters, have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi’s most powerful men. But the real danger has only begun as FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn’t the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who actually controls the terrorist group is a man far more fearsome: the chief of the state police’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox.

The only way Penn can save his father, Dr. Tom Cage—who is fleeing a murder charge as well as corrupt cops bent on killing him—is either to make a devil’s bargain with Knox or destroy him. While Penn desperately pursues both options, Caitlin uncovers the real story behind a series of unsolved civil rights murders that may hold the key to the Double Eagles’ downfall. The trail leads her deep into the past, into the black backwaters of the Mississippi River, to a secret killing ground used by slave owners and the Klan for over two hundred years . . . a place of terrifying evil known only as “the bone tree.”

My thoughts so far:
There’s nothing like getting behind when reading an epic series like the Natchez Burning trilogy–the books are long and I’ve been feeling a bit behind ever since I started (what am I saying? I have been a bit behind ever since I started!). So here I am, again only part way through the current read, only this time around it’s book two in the trilogy, The Bone Tree. Here are my thoughts so far:
  • There’s a certain privilege in being able to read books in a series back to back: there’s no wait time between the tomes and you slip easily from one book to the other. I loved that The Bone Tree, after a prologue which provided a catching up, started right where things ended in Natchez Burning. Going straight from one book to the other felt smooth, nothing disjointed there. The story continued, period.
  • As mentioned, there’s a nice prologue that does a good job of getting you caught up if you haven’t read the first book (and probably acts as a good reminder if you’d read the first book a while back), but seriously, if you haven’t read Natchez Burning yet, you really should start from there. And as a bonus, you’d have that luxury of slipping smoothly from book one straight into book two.
  • As with the first book, at times the tension and suspense in The Bone Tree gets almost too much for me. And, as with the first book, I find myself having to skip ahead to the end of a chapter so I can calm down a little and go back to reading the chapter the way it should be read.
  • There’s an added plot line in this book about the JFK assassination that I’m still not too sure about. On the one hand, I’m finding this plot line quite interesting. On the other hand, I’m still uncertain whether it’s a good fit with the main plot line surrounding the unsolved civil rights movement murders.
  • The writing in this second book is like the writing in the first book: the language is evocative and succeeds in pulling you into the hot languidness of the Deep South.
  • Like the first book, the violence is brutal, and all the more chilling because of its factual foundations. There is a seamless melding of fiction with history and despite the thrilleresque aspect of the plot, those facts, that history, is something you just don’t forget as you’re reading.
  • And the bad guy? He is so, so, so Evil.
  • I guess my main criticism so far is that sometimes some of the main characters do some pretty stupid things, things that make you want to take them by the shoulders and yell, “What on earth are you thinking? Stop it, and do the smart thing!”

Again, a huge thanks to TLC Book Tours, as I’ve been wanting to read this series for ages now, and the opportunity to participate in this readalong/book tour gave me the push I needed.

And now for the critical linking bit!

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon Barnes & Noble
 
Author Links: WebsiteTwitter, and Facebook

 

The Read List: Do Your Om Thing, by Rebecca Pacheco

Do Your Om Thing

Do Your Om Thingby Rebecca Pacheco:

YOGA, MEET LIFE.

Sometimes an hour-long yoga class is the only chance we get to connect meaningfully with our bodies and our minds during an otherwise hectic week. For a brief moment we’re able to let our worries melt away and feel relaxed, centered, and fully ourselves. Have you ever wondered how it would feel to bring that experience out of the yoga studio and into your everyday life?

In Do Your Om Thing, master yoga teacher and creator of the popular blog OmGal.com Rebecca Pacheco shows us how to do just that. The true practice of yoga, she says, goes deeper than achieving the perfect headstand—it is about bringing awareness and intention to every part of our lives. In her warm, personal, and often hilarious prose, Rebecca translates yogic philosophy for its twenty-first-century devotees, making ancient principles feel accessible, relatable, and genuinely rooted in the world in which we live today.

Quotable: 

What I have to say about meditation boils down to this: it never hurts. It always helps. It costs nothing, and it improves everything. There are so few things on earth of which this can be said.

My thoughts, in list format:

  • Do Your Om Thing wasn’t quite what I expected. I think I expected more of a memoir-like book, which this really isn’t. And really, now that I’ve reread the synopsis, I’m not sure why I drew that conclusion in the first place!
  • I’m new to yoga myself, and there is a ton of stuff in here that’s really interesting. And there are pictures! In black and white, but still quite helpful.
  • My favourite chapter? The Chakras: Feeling Light from the Inside Out. It feels comprehensive without being too overwhelming, and each chakra is accompanied by an “essentials” box that I’ll definitely be turning to over and over again.
  • I probably would have enjoyed a more me-to-you style, but there’s so much information in here and I think the author’s teacher to student style works well overall. There is a lot to take in, but I never found it dry or boring.
  • The book’s subtitle is “Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life Style”, and scattered throughout are suggestions on how to do exactly that. In the chapter on yoga philosophy, for example, there are sections throughout on how to do your om thing, with practice tips and thoughtful questions to ask yourself.
  • This isn’t a book to read through just once. There’s a lot in here, and I think to truly get the benefit of the book you have to commit to really incorporating all these things into your life.

Overall, an interesting book for someone interested in going beyond attending a few yoga classes a week.

Thank you, once again, to the fabulous Trish and TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to investigate this book!

Reading: Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles

natchez-burning

Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles

Raised in the southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor has been accused of murdering the African American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Once a crusading prosecutor, Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses even to speak in his own defense.

Penn’s quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past, where a sexually charged secret lies. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only one thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez’s oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles’ crosshairs.

With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth?

I confess, I’m supposed to be finished Natchez Burning today, for a TLC Book Tour, but I’m only about halfway through. But that has nothing to do with the book, and everything to do with life getting in the way of reading, as it has a tendency to do occasionally. I’ve had a ton of exciting things happen in the past month, not least of which has been landing a freelance contract with Scholastic Books in the U.S.–yay! It’s been a fun ride so far, but in the meantime, I haven’t had much time left for reading.

Which does make me sad. But I WILL finish Natchez Burning, and not just because I’m scheduled to write about The Bone Tree, book two of the trilogy, next month. Natchez Burning is a great read, and it’s a book I need to finish. I want to find out what happens!

Here, in list form, are my thoughts so far:

  • This is one intense read. From the very start, I could feel my heart beating faster, my entire body tensing up as I read.
  • It’s a good novel to read in these times. It’s given me much needed insight into the roots of the racial conflict we see today, and a better understanding of how it is, after all our years of progress, we still really aren’t very much further than we were in the 1960s when it comes to racial inequality.
  • It has been, at times, a gut-wrenchingly difficult read for me. Brutal violence washes through the pages, and when I sit back to take a breath, it brings me to tears to know that it’s a violence that’s not fantasy, not made up, but rather, solidly rooted in facts. Iles doesn’t hold anything back; there’s no sugar coating anything. To say it brings history alive is an understatement. I’ve also spent a lot of time while reading this book reflecting on man’s inhumanity to man.
  • Despite being a difficult read in that way, it’s also magnetic, pulling me through its pages.
  • And the suspense! It’s so suspenseful, for quite a few of its chapters, I’ve had to quickly flip to the end of the chapter to see how it ends, and then go back to the beginning of the chapter and find out how things got to that end. It’s a little bit of cheating, I know, but there’s no other way I can handle the suspense. Yes, it’s that good.

I have no doubt this will be a book that will stay with me for days when it’s done–weeks, probably. It has so many things going for it: it’s intense, it’s a thriller, it has such an epic sweep, it’s a multi-generational saga, it weaves history throughout its more contemporary timeline in an effortless way … I could go on and on. And that’s just based on what I’ve read so far!

The Read List: The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne

thehatinggame

The Hating Gameby Sally Thorne

What Is The Hating Game about?

Lucy and Joshua are executive assistants to co-CEOs of a new publishing company formed as the result of a corporate merger. And they hate each other. And I mean, really-really-really hate each other. Their hate has evolved into a game–the hating game–and Lucy is determined she will not lose. Then she learns they are both competing for a position that she really wants. And things get very tense between them. But what kind of tension is it? And does Lucy really hate Joshua?

Quotable

He should be miniaturized and sold in toy stores for violent little boys.

List #1: What I Liked 

  • I don’t really read a lot of romances these days, but for some reason when I read the synopsis for this one, I really wanted to read it.
  • I hate to say it, because I know how, when you’re tiny and short, “cute” can have quite the sting to it, but Lucy is just so cute. Cute, and quirky and downright funny.
  • I have never been one for big, muscular men, but Sally Thorne’s Joshua might have just changed my mind a little. Wowsa!
  • In other words, Joshua is really hot.
  • And as his character was revealed to me, I liked him even more.
  • Actually, I liked a lot of things about this book. Like the fact that both Lucy and Joshua are executive assistants. They start out on an equal level and that never changes throughout. I found that very refreshing. The year I was 13, I binged on Harlequin romances; I would go regularly to the used book store and buy armloads of the books. I read them everywhere, including in science class, propped within the protective cover of my science textbook. (My science teacher that year was very strange and didn’t notice a lot of things that went on in the classroom; she also believed in the full moon, and I’m not talking about the science behind the pull of the moon and tides, either.) Anyway, none of the main characters in those Harlequin romances were ever on an equal footing. Not a chance. So yes, this was very refreshing.
  • Also, there’s no big stupid miscommunication thing that breaks them apart and causes a lot of heartache even though it could have easily been solved by them actually, you know, communicating. (This is one of my pet peeves and the main thing that stops me from reading more romances.) Instead, Lucy and Joshua do communicate, so even when it starts looking like there’s going to be a big stupid miscommunication thing that will cause a lot of heartache, it doesn’t happen because they end up talking things through. You know, like the adults they are.
  • This is also quite a funny book. It made me smile. A lot.
  • Great ending. And a great lead-up to a great ending.

List #2: What Was So-So

  • I didn’t like the way Lucy flinched when he reached up to touch her face after the elevator scene. Somehow, it didn’t feel right, that she thought he was going to be violent.
  • To be honest, I didn’t actually see WHY Lucy hated him so much, right from the start like that–it didn’t seem to fit her personality. But on the other hand, the story was so good and the relationship between them throughout was just so enjoyable, I didn’t care all that much about why, or that it felt odd that she did hate him like that.
  • This is probably just me, but I didn’t quite get the idea of the Or Something game. Exactly what did it mean? Not friends, since they weren’t friends, so it couldn’t be friends with benefits. Right? (Or maybe I’m wrong …) Anyway, I didn’t quite get the whole idea of Or Something. But see my point above (good, enjoyable story, so did I really care that I didn’t quite get this one thing? Nope.)

Final Thoughts

I still don’t know what it was about the synopsis that made me say yes to this book, but I’m very glad I did. If you like fun and quirky, a protagonist you feel you could be friends with and a hero-type who is hot and a bit quirky himself (oh, and did I mention muscles? I did mention muscles, right?), I think you’ll enjoy this read. Even if you don’t normally like romance, I say, go for it. I did, and I’m very glad I did.

And of course, a big thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with the opportunity to read The Hating Game.

The Read List: City of the Lost, by Kelley Armstrong

city of the lost

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret: when she was in college, she killed a man. She was never caught, but he was the grandson of a mobster and she knows that someday this crime will catch up to her. Casey’s best friend, Diana, is on the run from a violent, abusive ex-husband. When Diana’s husband finds her, and Casey herself is attacked shortly after, Casey knows it’s time for the two of them to disappear again.

Diana has heard of a town made for people like her, a town that takes in people on the run who want to shed their old lives. You must apply to live in Rockton and if you’re accepted, it means walking away entirely from your old life, and living off the grid in the wilds of Canada: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. As a murderer, Casey isn’t a good candidate, but she has something they want: She’s a homicide detective, and Rockton has just had its first real murder. She and Diana are in. However, soon after arriving, Casey realizes that the identity of a murderer isn’t the only secret Rockton is hiding?in fact, she starts to wonder if she and Diana might be in even more danger in Rockton than they were in their old lives.

My thoughts on City of the Lost:

I adore Kelley Armstrong’s work. She’s an amazing writer and even more amazing in person. If you’ve been following her writing recently, you’ll have noticed she’s started doing a lot more non-urban fantasy books. The new books are more on the thriller or mystery side, and they are good!

  1. I actually came to Kelley’s works through her Nadia Stafford series, so in a way I got to know her through her non-fantasy works to begin with. (In case you’re not familiar with them, the Nadia Stafford series is about a female assassin–and they are very good reads.) So City of the Lost was right up my alley.
  2. Kelley has such a way with atmosphere, and she’s as brilliant as ever with building atmosphere here. Even though I knew this wasn’t an urban fantasy, I kept thinking something paranormal or supernatural would show up. But I wasn’t disappointed in my anticipation; the things that did happen, while not paranormal, were very creepy and eerie and in total sync with the atmosphere.
  3. Did I say creepy? I need to say it again. Creepy. Eerie. In a good way.
  4. I really liked Casey Duncan. Strong, independent, a self-thinker. Her flaws added strength to the story. Also, she’s half Asian, and it’s so nice to see an Asian protagonist in a book. And perhaps what I like most about her being half-Asian is that Kelley doesn’t make it into some big deal. It’s just who Casey is.
  5. There’s a romance. I’ve never been big on romances in my thrillers (I tend to prefer them in my romances, you know?), but this romance felt so natural and didn’t detract from the story events at all.
  6. Rockton–such an interesting concept for a town!
  7. Dalton, the sheriff, is an interesting character, and the more I read, the more interesting he got. Talk about a backstory!
  8. And as for the ending, I definitely didn’t see it coming.

My verdict: a very good read indeed.

 

The Read List: The Memory Painter, by Gwendolyn Womack

memorypainter

Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist, whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to Bryan’s success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. Bryan believes these dreams are really recollections?possibly even flashback from another life?and he has always hoped that his art will lead him to an answer. And when he meets Linz Jacobs, a neurogenticist who recognizes a recurring childhood nightmare in one Bryan’s paintings, he is convinced she holds the key.

Their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet?visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago. As his visions intensify, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

My Thoughts on The Memory Painter:

  1. When I finished this, I basically said, “Wow.”
  2. It’s time travel. Or reincarnation. Or both. I vote for both, because it feels like time travel but I guess it’s really about reincarnation. (The subtitle is kind of a giveaway: “A novel of love and reincarnation”.)
  3. It had me riveted right from the very beginning. And once this book got its claws into me, it didn’t let go. Highly readable, but with great pacing. Little by little, things are revealed to us, but with perfect timing.
  4. It all made sense. Very credible. I could see this actually  happening (well, okay, maybe not really happening, but you know what I mean. Suspension of disbelief? Not difficult at all.)
  5. I won’t go all spoilerish, but I’ll say this: there was a point where I was like, “Hey, why does Bryan get all the juicy reincarnations?” And then the ending hit, and I was like, “Yay, Linz!”
  6. And that ending? Really good. Great twist.
  7. Did I just say twists? This book has such an interesting, complex plot. So really, lots of twists. Without making you lose that suspension of disbelief. Riveting is the word that comes to mind (yes, I know I’ve already used it. Because it fits.).
  8. I’m looking forward to the sequel. Because there’s definitely going to be a sequel. But–and I am very grateful for this–NOT because this ends on a cliffhanger. No cliffhanger, but lots of promise to come. I love books that end like this.
  9. If you like thrillers, if you like time travel, if you like a good read … grab a copy of The Memory Painter. You won’t regret it.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for another great read.

 

The Read List: Death at Breakfast, by Beth Gutcheon

deathatbreakfastI hate to say this, but Death at Breakfast just didn’t work for me. When TLC Book Tours sent me their list of upcoming books going on tour, I read the synopsis for this book and loved the sound of the two main protagonists:

Indulging their pleasure in travel and new experiences, recently retired private school head Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, socialite Hope Babbin, are heading to Maine. The trip—to attend a weeklong master cooking class at the picturesque Victorian-era Oquossoc Mountain Inn—is an experiment to test their compatibility for future expeditions.

Hope and Maggie have barely finished their first aperitifs when the inn’s tranquility is shattered by the arrival of Alexander and Lisa Antippas and Lisa’s actress sister, Glory. Imperious and rude, these Hollywood one-percenters quickly turn the inn upside-down with their demanding behavior, igniting a flurry of speculation and gossip among staff and guests alike.

But the disruption soon turns deadly. After a suspicious late-night fire is brought under control, Alex’s charred body is found in the ashes. Enter the town’s deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, Hope’s long-estranged son and Maggie’s former student. A man who’s finally found his footing in life, Buster needs a win. But he’s quickly pushed aside by the “big boys,” senior law enforcement and high-powered state’s attorneys who swoop in to make a quick arrest.

Maggie knows that Buster has his deficits and his strengths. She also knows that justice does not always prevail—and that the difference between conviction and exoneration too often depends on lazy police work and the ambitions of prosecutors. She knows too, after a lifetime of observing human nature, that you have a great advantage in doing the right thing if you don’t care who gets the credit or whom you annoy.

Feeling that justice could use a helping hand–as could the deputy sheriff—Maggie and Hope decide that two women of experience equipped with healthy curiosity, plenty of common sense, and a cheerfully cynical sense of humor have a useful role to play in uncovering the truth.

Don’t Maggie and Hope sound just lovely? I think the mystery world is really really ready for a pair of middle aged sleuths like them. So as I settled in to read, I was all set to cheer for Maggie and Hope, and ride along as they set out on their first mysterious adventure. Only … it didn’t turn out that way, because I didn’t really get a chance to get a sense of who Maggie and Hope are.

Unfortunately, it takes a good long while before the murder in this murder mystery actually happens, and in the scenes leading up to it, we get into Maggie’s or Hope’s POV just a few times. Now, the murder itself doesn’t have to happen quickly in order for a murder mystery to be good; Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley mysteries come to mind as an example of long build-ups to the murders themselves that work well. But George is also a master of characterization, and good characterization is something I found Death at Breakfast lacked.

A lot of the scenes in the book are scattered among an astonishing number of secondary characters. At first I’d start reading a new scene, be confused about who this particular character was, flip back to find out, then start back on the scene again. After a while, though, I got tired of doing that, so I just kept plodding on, on the assumption that sooner or later it would dawn on me who this person was. But having to do that just doesn’t add up to very enjoyable reading for me.

The writing itself is fine, with a nice turn of phrase here and there. But without solidly fleshed out characters and a better developed plot, I wasn’t really drawn into the story itself. It’s a little bizarre, but I found the character I liked best, in that I was intrigued by her and actually wanted to learn more about her, was Artemis, a celebrity pop star who never physically shows up in the book.

When I finished reading, I headed over to Amazon and Goodreads to see some of its reviews; I like to do this when a book doesn’t work for me because there’s always the chance I missed something that could have made a difference. But after reading through the reviews, it occurred to me that Death at Breakfast would probably be enjoyed by the reader of general fiction, but perhaps not so much by mystery aficionados.

And on a side note, it was interesting to see one reviewer had actually counted the number of secondary characters who make an appearance in the book: there were twenty-three of them! That’s a lot of secondary characters, and with several of them getting their own scenes in the book, it was all too confusing and unwieldy for me.

Depending on your reading tastes, your mileage with this one may be different, though.

 

The Read List: Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell

Witches of Lychford

What it’s about:

Traveler, Cleric, Witch.

The villagers in the sleepy hamlet of Lychford are divided. A supermarket wants to build a major branch on their border. Some welcome the employment opportunities, while some object to the modernization of the local environment.

Judith Mawson (local crank) knows the truth — that Lychford lies on the boundary between two worlds, and that the destruction of the border will open wide the gateways to malevolent beings beyond imagination.

But if she is to have her voice heard, she’s going to need the assistance of some unlikely allies…

I picked up Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford after I read an excerpt of it on the Tor website (actually, I pre-ordered it right after reading it, as it wasn’t released yet — and I don’t normally place pre-orders, so the excerpt definitely grabbed me). 

Then the ebook was released and sent to my Kindle … and like lots of other ebooks on my Kindle (and my Kobo), it ended up sitting on my Kindle for a while. But then I remembered it, and decided to pick up where I’d left off.

And I’m really glad I did. Even though this is a short book (it’s novella-length), Cornell has no problems building a believable world where magic is worked within the nicks and corners of the normal, magic-less every day.

Set in a small English village, the story pulls in the workings of local politics and is quite epic in scope. The rest of the story turned out to be just as good as the excerpt that had pulled me in, and when I finished, I found myself hoping Cornell would continue to set more stories in this world he’s created.

I had read Cornell’s London Falling a while back and enjoyed it, so reading the Witches of Lychford has reminded me how much I wanted to read his The Severed Streets, too.