Book Review: Wilde Lake

wilde-lake-by-laura-lippman-0062083473The Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I frequently lament mysteries, thrillers, or suspense novels that I figure out ahead of time.  It’s not that I am so smart, but that many of the plots are formulaic in nature — therefore it is easy to come to a conclusion before it is revealed in the narrative.  Wilde Lake is not easy to figure out.  Laura Lippman has one plot twist after another, and before you know it you’ve been reading and the novel took a turn you didn’t expect.  It was easy to give this book a four-heart rating.

Wilde Lake weaves back and forth between two different time periods and does this effortlessly.  One part of the story is Lu Brant’s personal account of her childhood in Columbia (planned as an inclusive utopian community), where she and her brother AJ grew up and attended Wilde Lake High School.  The story opens with her memories of AJ’s attendance at a graduation party which was marred by a suspicious death.

The other half of the story is contemporary and recounts Lu’s life as a single parent and prosecutor.  Lu’s first case is the murder of a local woman, Mary McNally, who didn’t report to work after a week-long vacation.  It is quickly determined that the murderer is Rudy Drysdale, a local misfit and former classmate of Lu’s brother AJ.

Wilde Lake is an engrossing read — hard to put down.  Just when you think you have it all figured out, Lippman throws in another plot twist.  The end wraps up nicely though, and the book keeps you guessing.  My only fault with the novel is that some of the story just doesn’t seem entirely plausible, but I wouldn’t let that get in the way of an entertaining read.

Book Details:  Published by William Morrow (May 3, 2016), 368 Pages, ISBN: 978-0062083456.

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Book Review: City of Blades

City of BladesThe Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The best book I read in 2014 was Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs.  I wasn’t in the habit of reading fantasy, but had heard an interesting review of the book on NPR and thought that I would check it out.  The book was outstanding — a definite five hearts!

When City of Blades came out early this year, I couldn’t wait to read it as well.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Bennett has included all of the characters which I grew to love in  City of Stairs.  This is important.  Bennett’s characters are well-developed and he imbues them with qualities that endear them to the reader.  Very often, you just can’t identify with the characters making the story difficult to read.  Not so with General Mulaghesh, Sigrud, etc.

The story begins with a messenger coming to see the novel’s protagonist General Turyin Mulaghesh, in a bid to bring her out of retirement and get her aid in solving the disappearance of a Saypuri operative.  She accepts the mission. During her search General Mulaghesh, rumored war criminal and hero of the Battle of Bulikov, uncovers evidence of the divine in Voortyashtan, only this divinity is the goddess of war and death.

This second installment in Bennett’s Divine Cities series is as good as the first novel City of Stairs.  At this point, I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to Justin Cronin’s third installment in The Passage Trilogy or Robert Jackson Bennett’s third installment in The Divine Cities series.  What a wonderful dilemma for a reader to have!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Details:  Published by Broadway Books (January 26, 2016), 498 Pages, ISBN:  978-0553419719.

Book Review: The Silkworm

jk-rowling-cuckoos-calling-sequel-cover-fullThe Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

One thing I dislike intensely is the London Tube.  It is crowded, hot and subterranean.  I don’t like it at all.  Once in a while you meet someone nice and it is tolerable for a bit.  Having said that I am so glad that I am not riding the Tube this week.

The London Tube is oft-mentioned in The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith’s second novel featuring private dectective Cormoran Strike.  It is a wonderfully-written crime novel.

The novel opens as novelist Owen Quine goes missing and his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.  But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows.

If you are a fan of Tana French or Kate Atkinson, then you will enjoy this book immensely.  Galbraith will surely take his place among the best of the British crime novelists in due time.

Book Details:  Published by Mulholland Books (June 19, 2014), 464 pages, ISBN: 0316206873.

Book Review: Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed

Finding MeThe Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

For 11 years, Michelle Knight was held captive by a man who kidnapped her and two other women in Cleveland.

A year after her headline-making rescue, Knight has written a memoir, Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed.  Written with Michelle Burford, the book describes the torture Knight endured at the hands of her captor and goes into detail about the shocking life she lived before he kidnapped her.  Knight’s terrible childhood began early with getting molested beginning at age five, never having enough food, and finally ending up on the streets as a young teenager. She moved in with a drug dealer after a time on the streets and after his arrest, she again became homeless. Michelle later gave birth to a son Joey, who was the center of her world, but was placed in foster care after her mother’s boyfriend got drunk and broke the boy’s leg.

Michelle was on her way to a hearing to regain custody of her son when she was kidnapped by Ariel Castro.  Castro was the father of one of her friends and she was glad to get a ride from him when the ride she was supposed to get from a family member fell through.  That fateful decision to accept Castro’s offer led to a life of horror for many years.

The most shocking aspect of Michelle Knight’s story was the fact that her childhood placed her in the direct path of her kidnapper.  She was a victim before her abduction and this victimhood put her in even greater peril.  Her life is a testament to survivorship, resilience, and bravery.  My greatest hope for her is that at some point she can get to know the son Ariel Castro took from her.  He stole much more than most people know and her story is worth reading as warning to us all to be aware that someone may be in peril and we may be the one who can help.  Definitely a memoir worth reading and this from a booklover who doesn’t typically favor memoirs.  At 280 pages, this is a riveting read.

Book Details:  Published by Weinstein Books (May 6, 2014), 280 pages, ISBN: 1602862567.

Book Review: Summer House With Swimming Pool

Summer HouseThe Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Herman Koch’s bestselling novel “The Dinner” had been on my to-read list since it first came out in 2013, so it was thrilling when a copy of “Summer House With Swimming Pool” landed in my hands.  The main character of “Summer House With Swimming Pool” is Dr. Marc Schlosser, a physician whose patients disgust him.   Into Dr. Schlosser’s office walks Ralph Meier, a big star, who finds Dr. Schlosser to be accommodating in writing whatever prescriptions he requests.

Marc Schlosser and Ralph Meier are not the only ones who hit it off.  At an evening out Ralph gives Caroline, Marc’s wife, lecherous looks just as Marc is sizing up Ralph’s wife, Judith. This little episode doesn’t amount to much at first, but things heat up when the Meiers invite the Schlosser family to visit their summer house with a swimming pool somewhere on the Mediterranean coast.   At the summer house are any number of men (young and old) with mean streaks who could commit violence.

“Summer House With Swimming Pool” reveals at the start that Ralph is dead and that Marc’s medical techniques contributed to his demise. If you are looking for an ideal book to dive into next to the beach (pun intended!) then this would be my pick for your next summer read.

Book Details:  Published by Hogarth (June 3, 2014), 387 pages, ISBN: 0804138818.

Book Review: A Burnable Book

A Burnable BookThe Booklover’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, although there hasn’t been much time to fit many of the books of this genre or any other in my schedule lately.  A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger is definitely worth making time for and it is difficult for me to believe that this is a debut novel.  The story is well told.

The story begins with a young woman’s murder on the moorfields.  Just before the young woman is attacked, she hands a book over to a maudlyn (a prostitute).   Thus begins Holsinger’s wonderful weaving of the lives of the low-born and the high-born in London, 1385.

King Richard II is surrounded by ruthless courtiers–including his powerful uncle,  John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s artful mistress, Katherine Swynford.  Across London, songs are heard from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings, with the final prophesy being young King Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low. Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen  into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews–and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to the king (William Morrow, 2014).

Bruce Holsinger, a medieval scholar, has written a wonderful first novel that seems to place you directly in London centuries ago (the book left me feeling a little nostalgic for the pace of life in 1385 London).  You should definitely turn to the back of the book before beginning and read Mr. Holsinger’s notes and familiarize yourself with the cast of characters.  It is a little tricky to sort everyone and every place at the beginning, but keep going.  A Burnable Book is a fabulous read.  Now to add Ian Mortimer’s book Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England to the “to-read” list.  The early life and customs of England can be quite fascinating!

Book Details:  Published by William Morrow (February18, 2014), 464 pages, ISBN: 0062240323.

Book Review: After I’m Gone

The BookloLippmanver’s Rating:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was the first book I’ve read since finishing The Goldfinch by Donna Tarte.  I can honestly say I prefer After I’m Gone.  I know you’re thinking “How can you compare the two books?”  Well, let’s start with the characters.  Theo Decker in  The Goldfinch is just not likeable and neither are any of the other characters in the book.  On the other hand, After I’m Gone has a few likeable characters beginning with the former police doing the investigating.  You can actually sympathize with the characters in Laura Lippman’s book, not so much with the characters in The Goldfinch.

The book begins with the flight of Felix Brewer, a family man facing a ten-year prison term for gambling and racketeering.  He is helped in his escape by his mistress and her sister.  Ten years later to the day, the mistress, Julie also disappears.  Eventually Julie’s remains are found, but the investigation into her death becomes a cold case.

Twenty-six years after Julie’s disappearance, Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash, begins investigating her murder. What he discovers is a tangled web stretching over three decades that connects Felix Brewer’s wife, three daughters, and his dead mistressSomewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past and present, Sandy works to find the truth.

Just like any booklover, I have my favorite authors and Laura Lippman is one of those favorites for me.  If you are a Tess Monagham fan, don’t despair, she makes a brief appearance in Afer I’m Gone and I have to say that Laura Lippman handles it beautifully.  You definitely need to read this novel.  It is a perfect diversion from the everyday and you will grow to care about Bambi and her daughters, they seem so much like some of the people you may know.

Book Details:  Published by William Morrow (February 11, 2014), 352 pages, ISBN: 0062083392.