Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Sherlock Holmes is back and better than ever with the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate's authorization of the novel. London, 1890. 221B Baker Street. Dr. John Watson narrates as he and Sherlock Holmes submerge into a new world in this action packed adventure. An art dealer visits the famous duo — he is being terrorized by a wanted criminal in a flat cap. Sure enough, his family is attacked and the first murder occurs…
From London to the streets of Boston, this newly discovered international criminal conspiracy holds Watson and Holmes captive. They find themselves being drawn ever deeper into a plot where they hear "the House of Silk" What is it? Who is it?

I greatly enjoyed reading The House ofSilk and thought Anthony Horowitz did a very creditable job of bringing Holmes and Watson back to life! When I finished reading, I just wanted more. Since it had been quite a while since I had read any of the original Holmes stories, I downloaded several public domain eBooks and after re-reading "The Redheaded League," "The Copper Beeches" and other stories, was even more convinced that the portrayal of Holmes and Watson in The House of Silk was well done, the plotting intriguing and the detection convincing. It also held true to the “double mystery” that so many Sherlock Holmes novels contain. The crime they uncover put me in mind of one of contemporary writer Anne Perry's dark Victorian mysteries set in a London rife with hypocrisy and exploitation.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson is the director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. EJI’s mission is to help people on death row, incarcerated children, and those without a voice. Just Mercy tells the stories of the people who have been wrongly accused, those who can’t speak for themselves, and those who are affected by our broken justice system.

This is the best book I read all year. Bryan Stevenson is a wonderful storyteller, and I often forgot that this is nonfiction. He is obviously passionate about what he does and is trying to make a difference. Just Mercy was an inspiring read.

If you like this book, you might also like The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. 


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Consumed by David Cronenberg

Have you ever watched one of filmmaker David Cronenberg’s newer movies, such as A Dangerous Method or Eastern Promises, and wished he would go back to making movies more like his older, weirder films? Okay, while you probably haven’t, I definitely have. But while I don’t necessarily dislike his newer stuff, I do prefer his earlier, weirder titles such as eXistenZ, The Brood, and Scanners. So I was anxious to see what Cronenberg would come up with when he made his debut as a novelist with Consumed.

This book leans heavily toward the strange. Consumed’s plot revolves around the radical French philosophers Celestine and Aristide Arosteguy. Celestine was recently found murdered and the French police believe Aristide, her husband, murdered and then ate some of her before disappearing. One of Consumed’s main characters, freelance reporter Naomi, tries to locate Aristide in hopes of scoring a big article on the murder. It might actually get weirder from there, but I won’t give any more away.

Consumed is an impressive debut for Cronenberg. The bizarre plots come together in a surprisingly neat manner, and it’s definitely not a book where you spend much time thinking, “Well, I knew that was coming.” I do think it would have made for a better movie, but it’s definitely a novel that will appeal to Cronenberg fans, fans of weird horror, and readers who just want something weird.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Love and Summer by William Trevor

Ellie, a convent-raised orphan, was sent to serve as housekeeper to Dillahan, a widower who tragically lost his wife and child. She ultimately married him and has a routine-driven life with him on their farm. She rides her bicycle from their farmhouse to the fictitious Irish town of Rathmoye once a week to deliver eggs and pick up necessities, and connect with the town’s locals. When a young photographer, Florian Kilderry, makes her acquaintance, love arrives quietly but inevitably. “…it was silly, all she had to do was to think of something else when he came into her mind. But now, when she tried to, she couldn’t.” (pg. 52) In prose as lyric as his native tongue, Trevor guides the reader through familiar emotions such as passion and disappointment. He creates verbal portraits with minute details - the old bowl for gathering eggs and the decaying wall where messages could be hidden - during one delicately evoked summer.

The other characters are gently but clearly defined and their stories not only move the main plot along, but add a depth and richness that is part of Trevor’s great talent. Strangely, I found myself harking back to a similar plot line: a decent but dull husband, an unconsciously discontented wife, an intriguing wayfaring stranger, and the heat of summer. But believe me, Love and Summer is as far from The Bridges of Madison County as the Mona Lisa is from my old refrigerator art. 


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith

Mark is an unhappy 11-year old who has just moved from London to Brighton with his sick mother and hated stepfather. Missing his father and sad over the destruction of their family, he gets to know the old lady who lives in the basement apartment of the house. She shows Mark the servant’s quarters that remain under the house where the servants are seemingly going about their usual duties as if it’s still the early 1900’s. At first this order is reassuring to Mark with all the chaos of his real world above, but he comes to see that things are going wrong below stairs as well.

This book was easy to read and follow, and I loved the way Michael Marshall Smith captured Mark’s rage. I was able to sympathize with his character while still understanding that the situation was not quite the way it seemed. As the book progressed I became aware that Mark’s interactions with the old woman and servant’s quarters helped him to grow from a young child with selfish needs to one who could step outside of his comfort zone and understand that people and events from the past are always part of the present. The Servants is both a coming of age novel and a ghost story all wrapped together. I am not a science fiction reader, generally speaking, but this was more about believable interactions and characters and was a truly enjoyable experience.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

    It's all in the details! And it has been a long time since I have read a novel that could have turned out to be a boring Dickensian novel instead of a creepy, gothic, historical, mysterious, OUTSTANDING read.

The first thing you need to know is the meaning of the title Fingersmith. According to Wikipedia (because I could not find the definition in The American Heritage College Dictionary or The Oxford English Dictionary) a fingersmith is a petty thief.

Set in Victorian London, this is the story of Sue, who is seventeen years old and was orphaned as a baby. She is growing up in a home that is not only owned by a baby seller but is frequented by the absolute bottom feeders of society. There is always a new scam, a new deal, a new forgery. This is Sue's world and all she knows.

And that is really all I can say without spoiling this unbelievably engrossing book. Oh, except that it is really, really long (511 pages) but so worth it!


Read-alike: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Same feel and pace, although very different storylines.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Things have been going downhill for A.J. Fikry ever since his wife died unexpectedly in a car accident. They ran Island Books together, the sole bookstore on Alice Island. Since her death, A.J. has taken to drinking too much (though he insists he’s not an alcoholic) and not being particularly nice to Island Books’ customers or his friends and family.

Things change when A.J. returns to the bookstore one night to find that someone has left a baby in the children’s book section. Much to the surprise of everyone on Alice Island, and somewhat to A.J.’s surprise as well, he ends up adopting the baby and embarking on a crash course in parenting.

I’ll admit that I considered returning The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry when the baby mysteriously showed up. It seemed a little too cute for my tastes. But I enjoyed previous books by Gabrielle Zevin enough that I stuck with it. I definitely made the right choice.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a heartwarming and clever read, and consistently strong characters save the book from Hallmark Movie territory.