REVIEW: The Molly Murphy Series by Rhys Bowen

So – I’ve been a little quiet on the book front. That’s because I’ve been reading all of Rhys Bowen’s books that I can find in the library. (I figured you didn’t need a review of each and every one!) I had posted about her “royal spyness” books – and I read the rest of the series lately. I really enjoy these cozies about a penniless royal (34th from the throne) who solves mysteries in her spare time.  Lady Georgie is a funny and strong young woman, and the books are peopled with interesting characters.

Then I discovered her Molly Murphy series, centering on a spunky, young Irish immigrant in turn of the century New York City who solves mysteries (actually she starts her own detective agency). I’ve really enjoyed reading this series as well – as much as the royal spyness books or perhaps even more. As a descendent of Irish immigrants, I always find reading about their experience appealing. I also love historical mysteries. And I love reading about places like NYC in the past (for instance, one of the books centered on female factory workers and their quest for better working conditions).

I see Ms. Bowen has a “Constable Evans” series of cozies, too. I’ll have to check them out.

In the meantime, I highly recommend these enjoyable, well-written, and well-plotted cozy mysteries to those who like this genre!

Trying to Listen to The Lacuna…

I love Barbara Kingsolver’s novels. I’ve read them all. Well – all except her latest: The Lacuna. I saw it in the library on CD and thought that would be a great way to experience it. However, that was a bad choice for me.

Let me start by saying that this book must be very long as it transferred to something like 16 CD’s. However, Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible – my favorite by her – was lengthy and I had no problem getting through it. Kingsolver is a beautiful writer. Her work is certainly not a quick beach read – or at least it’s not for me – it is literature. That said, it was not a good choice for me to listen to as I listen to books in the car. I kept losing track of what was happening. When this happens while reading, I just look back and re-read, double-check things, etc.  This wasn’t an option. I’ll be totally honest when I say: I was lost.  This is a book I should definitely read in print.

So – until that day – this review remains open!

Audiobook Review: Cross by James Patterson

As you might already know, I just love James Patterson’s books. I thought that listening to one in the car might be a good idea as it would hold my attention and I enjoy the short chapters.

Cross focuses on Alex Cross – his protagonist in many of his books – as he experiences the death of his wife (generally referred to as a past event in his books) and then crosses paths with the killer and hunts him down.

This book moved quickly. As is typical in Patterson’s books, there were over 100 chapters, most of them short (which was great for listening to in the car!). It held my attention but was “light listening” – again great while driving.

I listened to this book on CD, which I got from the library, but I can imagine enjoying reading it in print as well.

I’d give it 4 Stars!

Audiobook Review: Dinotopia: The World Beneath

When the ZBS Foundation sent us Dinotopia to listen to (see earlier review), they also sent the sequel: Dinotopia: The World Beneath. This story continues the adventures of Arthur and Will on the island of Dinotopia. In this installment, they are seeking caves with gemstones of power in them. There is mystery and adventure and a few new characters.

Like the first story, my children loved listening to this and asked for it daily. It is an “audio adventure” with a full cast and sound effects, which makes the dinosaurs come to life! We loved it. The story kept our attention (though at some points I felt the dialogue went very quickly).  Listening to these audiobooks made my children want to find the picture book at our local library — the ultimate compliment!

I give these CD’s 5 Stars! And thank you again to the ZBS Foundation for sending them to us!

REVIEW: The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley

The last “birthday book” that I bought and read in April was The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley. It is the next book in the series he writes about the unstoppable child genius, Flavia de Luce, who lives in her family’s crumbling English estate in the 1950’s. I had loved his first novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which I read and reviewed last year, and was greatly looking forward to this one, too!

In this story, Flavia befriends a travelling puppet show host and his girlfriend. She suspects that their lives are more complicated than they first appear. When the lead man ends up electrocuted during the finale of the puppet show, Flavia believes it’s murder and seeks to find the guilty party.

As I’ve already said, I loved the first book about Flavia so much that I could hardly wait to read this one. I think that Bradley’s portrayal of character is so strong and his books are peopled with memorable and unique individuals. This book continued that, with Flavia and her sisters, her absent-minded father, strong-willed aunt, and beloved household help. However, the story did not work for me this time. What follows are some SPOILERS – so please skip to the final paragraph if you don’t want to read them!

First of all, I had some difficulty with the whole murder scene in trying to picture it accurately to understand how the murder occurred. Then I found I had to “reach” to find some things believable — namely how the murderer just happened to come across the murder weapon (bicycle clip) on the floor and decided to use it to commit an intricate murder, how the police kept missing things, how Flavia – genius at chemistry though she is – concocted a quick antidote to the poison using pigeon poo, but most of all: how the adult murderer was running around dressed in the clothes and shoes of a five-year-old. That was just beyond the stretch of my imagination and it made me feel that the plot was contrived.

Bradley’s characters are so wonderful, and he’s at work on his next installment in this series, so I hope that one doesn’t disappoint me in terms of plot and the intricacies of the crime.

REVIEW: The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

If you know me, you know I love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. My husband surprised me with the latest one for my birthday in April (I didn’t know it was out yet – I must have been sleeping on the job around here!).

The Double Comfort Safari Club continues the story of Precious Ramotswe and her assistant detective Grace Makutsi in their adventures in solving crime and dilemmas in Botswana. In this installment (#12 in the series,) Grace’s fiancée, Phuti, has suffered a serious accident and is being cared for by his overbearing and overprotective aunt. Precious is trying to find a safari guide who is the beneficiary of a wealthy American woman’s bequest, while dealing with a couple who both think the other is cheating on them. The familiar faces are all present – such the apprentices, Mr. J L B Matekoni, and even Grace’s nemesis, Violet.

I just love this series. I’ve read them all – in order – but I think you could read one on its own if you so chose (they do refer to earlier instances within the novels). I love the language of the characters, the setting, and the fact that I never seem to get tired of reading about these people. HBO had a run of some of these stories (which I rented from Netflix as I don’t have HBO) and I thought it was so well done; I’m sorry that at the moment they don’t seem to be continuing with the series.

Regardless, I highly recommend the books for people who want a light and positive read.

I give this series 5 Stars!

REVIEW: The Shadow of your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark

Well – once again I’m behind on my blogging – this time because I’ve been READING! I have three reviews coming up in the next few days for you.

For starters, I read The Shadow of your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark – a birthday book for me. I think I’ve mentioned before that I like a quick and easy read from her and that I’ve read all her books. I tend to buy them as there is usually 350 people ahead of me on the library waiting list. I picked this one up at Border’s in the new releases. This story centers on Monica Farrell – a pediatrician in NYC – whose patient has been cured of an incurable brain tumor and who is asked to testify in the Catholic Church’s investigation of possibly sainthood for a deceased nun to whom the family prayed. Monica has links to the nun, Sister Catherine, and she has no idea – but a relative seeks  to tell her, and is murdered. Add into the plot some unscrupulous businessmen, a lot of greedy people out for themselves, two star-crossed lovers, a former stalker, a hit man, a “good guy”, and your average hard-working detective, and you have a typical MHC plot.

Now I have to say – I generally enjoy these books and sit down and read them cover to cover. This one took me 4 or 5 days as I just couldn’t get overly motivated to continue reading it. Not sure why — perhaps because there were so many characters that I had trouble keeping track of them? Or maybe because the killers acted in real time so I wasn’t busy figuring out who was bad and who was good as much as I usually am in her books? Or perhaps because the whole thing seemed a bit far-fetched? Whatever the case – this wasn’t my favorite MHC – but it was a fun read.

If you’re a fan, I suggest you pick it up — (but I’d say at the library).

I give it 3 1/2 Stars.