Marlene’s October Book Reviews

img_1005Brenner and God by Wolf Haas.  This author came as a recommendation from a pen pal.  Thanks for the introduction!  It is a very clever mystery and a unique way of telling it.  It is a little gruesome with the mounting body count revelations but a charming detective and a humorous viewpoint of the narrator will entertain you.  A RECOMMEND

When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe.  Since we will be traveling to the Philippines later this year, I wanted to read some authors from the country.  Whew!   Yes, you get a flavor for the Philippines with great descriptions of food, places and the resilience of the people but what horrors are revealed in the telling of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in WWII.  You will have to overlook some quirks like translating as part of the conversation when everyone there speaks the language and some problems with geography (how can Alejandra walk 25 miles a day). Holthe bases her story on the experiences of her father who was a young boy at that time.  I kept thinking that things would get better but oh the pain and suffering was hard to read about.  Holthe  handles a difficult situation well and weaves myths and legends within the telling of the story.   A family and neighbors are in hiding from the Japanese and these stories are to keep their minds off the reality of their situation but also helps the reader stay with the telling of the atrocities of the elephants (Japanese and Americans) trampling on the people.  The culture shines through and I am looking forward to experiencing it.  A RECOMMEND

The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter.  I was an avid fan of PBS mystery series with Inspector Morse so  it was a delight to read one of the books by Dexter.  The show did portray the characters through the author’s eyes and the convolutions of the detective’s thinking has continued to be entertaining as well as the interplay between Morse and Lewis.  For mystery buffs, a RECOMMEND

Call Me Dead Again by Ann Granger.  Thanks to the person who turned me on to this writer. This is part of a series featuring a  real detective, Inspector Alan Markby, and his love interest, Meredith Mitchell,  who is also a “detective” in the sense of astute observations and wily methods of investigation.  It’s a light read even though there is a grisly death.  So enjoy a delightful first-rate English mystery.  A RECOMMEND

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.  Another winner from this very talented writer.  Again, the theme of families is foremost and you will become immersed in the day-to-day dealings with characters who will invite you to keep reading.  Oh yes, some of them you will love and others you will want to lecture but they will all interest you as that is Tyler’s magic.  She brings her characters to life.  There is an interesting interview at the end of the book that was revealing. Her secret to natural dialogue?  She reads it aloud. There are other tidbits in that interview that new writers might find helpful.  But back to the novel:  A RECOMMEND

Philippines’ 2 Millennium History by Luzano Pancho Canlas who received high praise for this “handy reference” for readers to know a country.  Bah!  I have to find another source!  Yes, there is information and a general gist of the history of this fine nation but Canlas does it a disservice (1) for the blatant errors and omissions and (2) reiterating his sources rather than compiling the information into concise logical paragraphs.  He often repeats information in a slightly different way as he appears to want to quote more than one source without the work of melding the information.  So, if you want a quick overview of the timeline of Philippine History, thumb through the book but I am off to find a better history.  NOT A RECOMMEND

The life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  Kondo leads the reader to the “Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” with a methodical but ruthless set of tasks and yes, let’s do it all in one fell swoop.  The magic is a feeling for each object you decide to keep:  “Does it give you joy?”  After years of studying this idea of tidying up, Kondo feels she has not only found the once-only way to tidy up but expounds on how your life will be improved once you complete the task.  She believes objects have an emotional sense and she does carry on conversations with them.  She debunks many of the methods that have been touted through the years and is quite convincing she has the key.  I haven’t bought into it entirely but it does give me pause.  ON YOUR OWN HERE

Colorless Tsukuru Taazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.  Whew, this author delivers another thought-provoking story.  We are taken into the thought processes of dear Tsukuru and while one might want to see him rise above his self-deprecating thoughts, he does work his way into affection.  This is not with Murakami “magic realism” as many of his other books are but still there is Tsukura’s conflicts with dreams and reality.  There seems to be a simple story being told but true to Murakami’s books, there is much underneath for later thoughts and analysis. It’s a book that will come back to you time and again.  A RECOMMEND

AUDIO

The Associate by John Grisham.  Oh I want to throw the book at Grisham.  I was intrigued enough to stick with the story and was anticipating a cool conclusion.  BAH!  What a lame ending!    Overall the book lacks the usual Grisham flair.  The story trudges along letting us know how big firms badly treat their associates but the characters are never developed and the potential for a good storyline is lost.  NOT A RECOMMEND

Treasure Hunt by Andrea Camilleri.  Another Inspector Montalbano from Italy leads us through a maze of hints but this time they seem rather obvious to me. This might be from just editing some stories of an author friend where I was asked to pick up inconsistencies.  It  turns out is this story that the inconsistencies are the clues to the murderer!  I still enjoyed the machinations of the unusual mind of Montalbano (though he is quite humorous when dealing with his lady love!) and the ongoing development of his colleagues.  I did find it a bit disconcerting for the Brooklyn accent of Catarella but maybe they talk like that in Sicily?  It’s not a block buster but definite light entertainment for mystery fans.  Now that I have written that I am reminded that Camilleri does such a great job with description that the gruesome parts are making me wince.  A RECOMMEND for mystery/detective fans.

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco.   I wasn’t going to include this in the reviews as I did not finish it, nor did I want to.  Eco is a master at dense prose, intense narration and character development.  While it might be interesting to take in all the historical background the story is told from the point of view of a psychotic racist and it became too much of a chore to listen to his hate-filled ranting.   You are on your own here as for me NOT A RECOMMEND

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs.  This author has been highly praised and a pen pal loves her stories.  I didn’t like the first one I read but decided to give this author another try.  Alas, it will be the last.  It is an interesting mystery and there is plenty of drama but the author wants to show off her forensic knowledge and that gets tedious, if not terribly grisly. She also uses conversations to lecture us.  While her stance on issues is quite admirable and I totally agree, the discourses irritated me.   Many times the characters’ behavior is used to move the story a certain way without making sense for the character.  Perhaps I wasn’t in a good mood while listening to this book (I have a bad cold) but I can’t in good conscience advise your spending time on it. Too many better books out there.  NOT A RECOMMEND.

Marlene