Friday, December 31, 2010


Pages: 374
Date: 31/12/2010
Grade: 5+
Details: no. 5 Armand Gamache

What a great book to finish the year with.
This is the fifth Chief  Inspector Armand Gamache mystery by Louise Penny, and everyone of them has been a triumph.
Her characters are interesting and very real to life. No such thing as black and white distinctions in these books. Everybody in the books has their good and their bad sides, and that's one of the reasons these books are so fascinating.
Another reason is that the mystery is always well plotted and the solution always makes sense.

This book starts with two men talking quietly in the middle of the night in a secluded cabin in a forest. Before the night is over, one of them will be dead, but is the other the murderer?
Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called to the quiet and secluded little town of Three Pines when the body of a man is found in the Bistro belonging to Olivier and Gabri. Nobody seems to know who the man is, where he came from or how his corpse ended up in the Bistro.
Discovering where the man lived should have answered at least a few questions, but instead the contents of his secluded cabin only throw up more questions. Soon Gamache and his team are not only trying to solve a murder, but also trying to figure out where all the treasures came from, and trying to decipher a secret code. And as some of the answers slowly emerge, they lead the team to discoveries that leave the idyllic town shell-shocked.

I truly enjoyed the reading experience this book gave me. Penny tells the story at a sedate pace with a lot of eye for detail and never in a hurry to get from one revelation to another. Yet, the revelations are there for the reader who is paying attention. 
While this is not a traditional page-turner, it is a book that I could only put down with great difficulty. 
Now to find the next book in the series, I hope I'll find it soon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Pages: 376
Date: 29/12/2010
Grade: 4-
Details: no. 1 Looking Glass Wars
            Young Adult

Alice in Wonderland as you've never known or imagined it. 
Not a cozy children's story, but a rather brutal world filled with lots of wonders as well as violence, hate and wars.
Alyss Heart is crown princess of Wonderland, and celebrating her seventh birthday when the Queendom is attacked, her parents killed and she barely manages to escape her evil aunt, Redd.
With help of Hatter Madigan, Alyss escapes Wonderland and certain death through the Pool of Tears and almost immediately finds herself in Victorian London, alone.
Nobody believes the stories Alyss tells about her own world and her past, and over time and after she's been adopted by Liddell family, Alyss slowly lets go of her memories and her past, emerging herself into her new life and even letting go of her given name for the more conventional Alice.
She did tell her story one final time though, to a man who based a children's book on it and called Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. And it's through the book and it's author that Hatter finds Alyss again, and Alyss can be returned to her own world.
Wonderland is in turmoil though, suffering under Redd's tyranny and viciousness. And with Alyss only barely able to remember her early life there, and not in touch with her powers anymore, does she have any chance of defeating evil and taking her rightful place as queen of Wonderland?
This was a wonderful story, a magical and grown up version of Wonderland. All the magic is still there, but the cuddliness has gone.
I enjoyed getting caught up in Alyss' struggle both in Victorian England, where she's forced to deny her real self, and back in Wonderland, where she has to rediscover who and what she really is. 
The story is fast and eventful and kept me turning the pages. However, I did feel the story was a bit more superficial than it needed to be. I would have loved more insight into thoughts, emotions and feelings. I never really felt I got to know the characters well. At times it felt as if the characters were little more than an afterthought. Necessary to progress the story, but not allowed to take up too much of its content.
Which is why I mark this book a 4-. I'm intrigued enough to read the second book in the series soon, but can't help hoping that the sequel will allow me to get to know the characters and their inner lives better.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Pages: 670
Date: 27/12/2010
Grade: 5++

This is one wonderful Gothic novel.
It's 1992 when Edie Burchill's mother receives a letter that has been lost for 50 years. A letter that clearly upsets her. Edie and her mother aren't close though, and that prevents Edie from just asking what is wrong.
She does notice that the return address on the letter is Milderhurst Castle in Kent.
Over the next few months, Edie finds herself finding out more about her mother and about Milderhurst Castle.
She discovers that her mother was evacuated out of London during the first part of WW II. In Kent she was chosen by Juniper Blythe to come and live with her and her family in Milderhurst Castle. And Edie's mom had been happy there with Juniper, her two older twin sisters and even with their scary and mostly absent father, Raymond Blythe, the author of the children's classic, The True History of the Mud Man.
But even then Milderhurst Castle was hiding secrets, and more secrets are to be added. Secrets that 50 years later will be unraveled by Edie. Secrets that cover up a shocking and disturbing history.

This was a fascinating book and a wonderful but rather strange reading experience.
While reading this book it felt as if the story was moving slowly, taking it's time to reveal not a whole lot, or so it would appear. Yet, I couldn't put the book down. Was completely gripped in the story and compelled to keep on reading. On several occasions I thought I knew what the solution to the secrets was, only for the ending of the book to take me by surprise while making perfect sense as well.
Even the one event in the book I did see coming a mile off and thought would dampen my enthusiasm for the story couldn't make me love the book any less. It was the only thing that could have happened at that point in the story, that would have made any sense and therefore it was right, predictable or not.
This is the third book I've read by Kate Morton. This is also the third time she's managed to completely captivate me and wrap me up in her world. There is little as wonderful as having a book living up to or even exceeding your expectations. This book certainly did that.

Two quotes: 

"After all, it's the librarian's sworn purpose to bring books together with their one true reader." (page 31)

"She says there are stories everywhere, and that people who wait for the right one to come along before setting pen to paper end up with very empty pages."
(page 462)

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Pages: 328
Date: 25/12/2010
Grade: 4
Details: no. 2 Valentine
           Also published as Brava Valentine

This is the second Valentine book by Trigiani, and because it has been a while since I read the first one, it took me a little while to get back to knowing and recognizing all the characters.
The book starts with Valentine's gram's getting married in Italy, where she will stay with her new husband.
Italy is also where Valentine reconnects with Gianluca, the man who obviously loves her. The man she can't get out of her head or heart, but can't quite commit too either.
Back in New York, Valentine finds herself now in charge of the shoemaking business, a responsibility she's forced to share with her brother Albert. This is a partnership more likely to go wrong then work well, but because they don't have a choice the two siblings try to make the best of it.
Then Valentine discovers an old family secret which takes her to Buenos Aires where she finds family she never knew she had as well as business associates. It is also where she runs into real trouble with Gianluca.
Back at home, trouble seems to be everywhere. Marital problems and the death of a loved one force Valentine and the rest of her family to face reality and behave like the grown-ups they are. But even if the midst of trouble and heartache, family loyalty and love shine through.
This is a book about love, betrayal, family, friendship,loyalty and loss. It is funny, sad, deep and light-hearted. I always enjoy my visits with Trigiani's characters, and this book was no exception. I can't wait to find out what happens to Valentine next.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Pages: 338
Date: 19/12/2010
Grade: 4
Details: no. 17 Lord Peter Wimsey mystery

The mysteries written by Dorothy Sayers were the second English language series I discovered, after Agatha Christie. It was also a series suggested to me by my mother, who owned a few of he books and happily provided me with the ones she didn't have.
The fact that they came so highly recommended by my mother, is only one of the reasons I like the books and the characters so much. Another reason is that Mrs. Sayers wrote good mysteries, with characters who interested me and I found easy to like.
And, I'm still enjoying spending time with Lord Peter, his wife Harriet, his servant and friend Bunter and all the other characters.
This books is set after WW II in 1951. Lord Peter and Harriet have three sons, Bunter is married and has a son of his own, and the world is in the middle of huge changes as far as the aristocratic lifestyle is concerned.
Lord Peter tells his wife about his very first case, one he conducted  in 1921 while he was still suffering the effects of the first world war and which concerned the disappearance of The Attenbury Emeralds.
Shortly after, the new Lord Attenbury comes to the Wimsey's asking for help, again with regard to the Attenbury Emeralds. Somebody is claiming that the Emerald kept by Attenbury's bank, is not actually his emerald, and he needs Lord Peter to find out if this is true, and if it is, what happened to the original Emerald.
Lord Peter, with the assistance of the very reliable Bunter and Harriet has to investigate events which happened over the past 30 years and discovers that the Emerald seems to have left a trail of misfortune, death and destruction in its wake. He also has to deal with a personal tragedy and major upheaval in his own life.
I enjoyed another visit with these characters. I'm not sure that Mrs. Walsh is quite as good at presenting Wimsey and his world as I remember Sayer's being, but she is more than good enough to make me a happy reader. What's more, I'm seriously thinking of reading all the books in the series again. It's been a very long time since I read one of the originals by Sayers.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Pages: 379
Date: 17/12/2010
Grade: 4
Details: one book with three stories

Romance and Christmas, what's not to like?
This book contains three separate stories, each of them just over 120 pages long.
Daniel McGregor is 90 years old and the patriarch of a rich and powerful family. And when he decides that it's time for his grand daughters to get married, he's is not one to sit back and hope for the best. He makes the girls single status his project and starting with Laura, introduces, what he considers to be, the prefect men into their lives. 

Laura, Gwen and Julia each think they don't have time for love or a serious relationship, but the men Daniel McGregor sends their way are just perfect for them. And although the girls don't like the idea of their grandfather interfering in their love lives and try to defy him, they soon discover that there is no defying their feelings and that resistance is indeed futile.
This is vintage Nora Roberts, so the stories are predictable, the outcome certain and the relationships sexy. This was also a very comfortable and easy read, with characters it's hard not to like. Sometimes it's so nice to just relax into a story and switch the brain of.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Pages: 420
Date: 11/12/2010
Grade: 4
Details: Stand-alone

A stand-alone thriller by Jeffrey Deaver, set in the world of protection officers.
A lifter is a professional who can be hired to find people, get information from them by any means, and kill them and anybody they have to go through to get to their target.
Henry Loving, is such a lifter and has targeted the family of police detective Ryan Kessler. Appointed to protect Kessler and his family is protection officer Corte, who had to listen powerlessly six year ago while Loving tortured and killed his colleague and mentor.
Corte now has several goals. He needs to protect the Kesslers, find out why someone has set Loving on them, stop Loving and discover who hired Loving.
Corte is a true professional, dedicated to his job of protecting those targeted and finding those who want them. He is also a man on a mission, determined to not only stop Loving but to capture him as well. Corte is a man who doesn't smile, doesn't get personally involved with those he protects, and appears to have no private life.
But, Corte has a problem since it is not clear why the Kessler family is being targeted, or even which member of the family is the one with knowledge that could be harmful to someone. And while Corte is good at playing the protection game and staying one step ahead of his opponents, Loving is just as good. With the personal history between Loving and Corte, the stakes in this game are even higher than they normally are.
This is not a mystery in the strict sense of the word since it's clear from the start that Loving is the man who must be stopped. The mystery here is who Loving is actually after, and why. Once that has been established, the rest will fall into place.
This was a good thriller; I don't think Deaver is capable of writing a bad thriller. But, although I liked the story, I didn't feel any attachment to it or the characters while I was reading the book. I also found the book surprisingly easy to put down and ignore at times. Still, it's not so much that there is anything wrong with this book, but rather that it isn't quite as good as the Lincoln Ryhme or Kathryn Dance books.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Pages: 360
Date: 05/12/2010
Grade: 3.5
Details: no. 1 The Lorien Nine / YA

John Smith is not like any other teenager. In fact, John Smith is not his name. He's had countless names over the past 10 years, and has lived in an endless variety of places all over the US.
Ten years ago he was one of nine children who were shipped away from the planet Lorien to Earth while his home was being destroyed by the Mogadorians. Now the Mogadorians are on Earth, trying to find the nine now teenagers. The kids have to be killed in order. John is number four and the first tree have already died.
John and his guardian Henry move to Paradise, Ohio, and for the first time since arriving on Earth John is feeling at home in a community. He is also growing into his special powers, legacies, which makes the Mogadorians even more desperate to kill him. The smart thing would be to move away again, but John is tired of running from place to place. His decision to stay in Paradise will have far reaching consequences.
Well, what can I say about this book. It is not a very original story idea, the good few with special powers up against the many evil with their own powers.
The main person in the book slowly growing into his powers and facing the fight rather than run away as he and his guardian have done in the past.
A love interest, a rival who turns out to be good after all.
In short, this was a rather predictable story. It was also fairly supervisual. There wasn't any real character development. In fact, I didn't feel like I was getting to know any of the characters at all. This story was basically about the thrills and adventure, with the characters almost a burden, needed to keep the action going but without any value of their own to bring to the story.
From what I read about this book, I understand that it was written as part of a sort of workshop, especially created to bring about a series of successful young adult novels. And, that's what it reads like, something manufactured rather then lovingly written.
Having said that, it was an easy story to read and I did keep on turning the pages and can even see myself reading a sequel. So it wasn't all bad.
Apparently a movie based on this book is to be released soon.I just hope that the actors who get to play these characters in the upcoming movie manage to give some depth to the persons they portray. But either way, I can see this story being converted into a successful movie. This is the sort of story that probably works better on the big screen than on the pages of a book.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Pages: 468
Date: 05/12/2010
Grade: 5
Details: Large Print Edition

A beautiful, shocking and disturbing story, which only slowly reveals what exactly is going on.
This book raises some ethical questions that it is worth thinking about and for which easy answers don't exist.
It is also next to impossible to describe the story without giving to much away.
The story is told by Kathy, who aged 31, looks back on her childhood spend at Hailsham, a boarding school where she and other kids live for the first 16 years of their lives. Life at the school is mostly good and what you would expect of a private school, except that the reader soon discovers that there are subtle differences. None of the kids appear to have or ever have had parents and there is little or no contact with the outside world. Their contacts with adults is mostly limited to their teachers, who are called Guardians. The kids are aware that they are being prepared for something and that there is a lot they are not being told.
In this otherworldly atmosphere some things are very recognizable though, like the friendships the kids develop and the ups and downs these relationships go through, the jealousies, fights and reconciliations.
Kathy hasn't really thought about her past at the school for years when she is reunited with her old friends, Ruth and Tommy. But then it all comes back to her and as she shares her memories of how she went from innocent to semi understanding, the true horror of the story reveals itself to the reader. But it is in Kathy's present that both she and the reader get a real insight into the horror of her and her friend's lives.
The ease with which I read this story is in stark contrast to the subject matter, but that is one of the reasons this book is so special.It was only after I finished the book and thought about it for a while that the shocking truth of the story hit me fully.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Pages: 473
Date: 02/12/2010
Grade: 4.5
Details: no. 9 Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes

I do adore this series featuring Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. And it had been way too long since I'd last read a story about them.
This book almost made up for the long wait though, since it lived up to all my expectations. Beautifully written, well plotted and exciting without depending on thrills, this was a fascinating read.
Mary and Holmes return home after a long journey to find Damian Adler waiting for them there. Damian is the son of Holmes and "that woman", the one who got away. He is also a young man Holmes didn't know existed until a few years previously. A young man who appeared uninterested in any contact with his father.
Now he's looking for help though. Damian's wife and young daughter have disappeared, and he needs his father to find them. Holmes immediately agrees to help and the two men set of to London.
Mary stays at home where she keeps herself busy trying to figure out why one of Holmes' bee hives has swarmed, but she can't keep her mind of Damian and the mystery he brought to her home. Before long, Mary finds herself in London too, lodging with Mycroft and delving into an obscure religion and blood sacrifices in various ancient locations, taking a variety of forms.
When Damian disappears and his wife turns up murdered, Mary has to wonder not only if Damian might be a coldblooded killer, but also if her husband may for once have abandoned his famous objectivity and reasoning.
Years ago I marvelled at how well Mrs. King partnered the young Mary Russell with the much older Sherlock Holmes, and that sense of wonder is still with me. The relationship works. Their cooperation during investigations is effective, with the two of them being equals when it comes to detection and nicely complementing each other when necessary.
Something occurred to me while reading this book though. Wouldn't it be great if Mary Russell could meet Maisie Dobbs (from the books by Jacqueline Winspear). After all they do operate during the same era. I can't help thinking it would make for a marvelous story if they ever did.