Monday, April 30, 2012

The Drop by Michael Connelly

In The Drop, Harry Bosch is near forced retirement. He has three years left and wants to go out with a bang. He's now working on the Cold Case Squad and picks up two cases in one day. The first case deals with a rape and murder from 1989. There's been a recent DNA match, however, it matches a rapist who was just 8-years-old at the time. The second case is a new one that involves a body dropped from a window in a glamorous hotel. It's not just any body, either. It belongs to the son of a Councilman Irvin Irving, Harry's old nemesis. With two high-profile cases on the go, Harry uncovers some nasty secrets that go back decades.

I really enjoyed this book. It's more of a police procedural and not that action packed. However, it was exciting nevertheless. The story didn't go as I surmised from the book jacket description, but that just made it that much better. I love being surprised by the direction of the story. The book contained two great main storylines, as well as a more personal one with Harry's daughter.

This book is Connelly's 17th book with this character (24th novel overall), but the first one that I've read. I didn't feel like I missed much, but I'm sure reading the other books would have helped me understand Harry and his motivations better. I still think this book can be read as a standalone book.

Bosch is such a great character. His motto, Everybody counts or nobody counts, makes him a great detective, who sees that justice is served for everyone. His investigations lead him where others fear to go because of this.

I have a number of Connelly's books on my bookshelf that I picked up at a used book sale after hearing how great they are. However, I've only read two of them. The Poet (before I had a blog) and The Scarecrow (my review). I really enjoyed them both. Both of these feature Jack McEvoy. I really must get to the other books on my shelf.

Highly recommended. I can't wait for the next book to come out. Since I haven't read the others in the series, I have lots to catch up on in the meantime.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Hachette's website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Michael Connelly's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group for this review copy.

The Drop by Michael Connelly, Little, Brown and Company, ©2011. ISBN 9780316069410(Hardcover), 388p.

The Legacy by Katherine Webb

In The Legacy, Erica and her sister Beth have returned to Storton Manor after the death of their grandmother. It's their job to clean out the house and put things in order. As they sift through the family heirlooms and their grandmother's belongings, the sisters are haunted by childhood memories. The one memory that is especially troubling involves the disappearance of their cousin, Henry. In trying to find out what happened to him, Erica uncovers some family secrets that past generations have tried hard to keep buried. In this novel filled with secrets, memories, love, and betrayal, the sisters have to sort out what really happened and deal with the heartbreaking legacy previous generations have left behind.

I adored this book. It starts off with an incredible prologue and drew me in immediately. I didn't want to put it down. Every time I picked up the book, I was instantaneously transported to that place and time in the story and got totally caught up with the characters once again. Overall, the story was sad, but didn't bring me to tears.

The story is complex, but wonderfully written and packed with details. Part of that complexity comes from the structure of the story. It jumps around in time quite a bit, from present to the early 1900s. I just love the way it's done. The story is also presented from different viewpoints: Erica and Beth as adults, Erica and Beth as children with Meredith (grandmother) and Caroline (great grandmother), Caroline with Corin. This makes the book a little hard to follow at times, but it's so worth the effort.

The book contained some wonderful characters. Besides the main ones, there were so many minor characters that I resorted to keeping a list of who everyone was. Of the two main ones, I preferred Erica. She was determined to find out the truth and not scared of what she might find. Perhaps her naivety made her more brave. Beth was so moody and evasive, it was hard to like her. As I got further into the book, I learned why that was, but it still didn't make her endearing. I really didn't like Dinny and couldn't fathom why Erica was attracted to him. My favourite character was definitely Caroline. I just loved reading about her life. She was so out of her element on the ranch that I couldn't help but feel sorry for her.

One thing I didn't like about the book was that the present day chapters are numbered, while past chapters are named. I've seen this before and I'm not terribly fond of it. In this case, though, it didn't bother me that much as it did other times.

New Words:
servile (page 8): too obedient
trug (page 65): shallow basket made of strips of wood
secateurs (page 65): pruning clippers
vertiginously (page 214): revolving or whirling
timorous (page 259): Showing or suffering from nervousness
aver (page 282): declare
conkers (page 326): seed of the horse chestnut

I loved this book so much it's definitely going to be on my "best of" list for 2012.

Highly recommended. When the publisher offered Webb's next book The Unseen up for review, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I can't wait to read it.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Legacy by Katherine Webb, HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9780062077301(Trade paperback), 464p.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Red Door by Charles Todd

In The Red Door, Inspector Ian Rutledge becomes involved in two cases. In one, a woman is found at home bludgeoned to death. Rutledge must figure out who the killer is as well as figure out what happened to the woman's husband a few years earlier. The other case involves an ill man who goes missing then suddenly reappears without warning or any sign of his illness. As Rutledge works the cases, he finds some disturbing details that might suggest the cases are bizarrely related.

This book is the twelfth in the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries series. It's the first one I read, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It was just wonderful! It's a post WWI British mystery with a terrific storyline. I generally don't read books set around either of the World Wars because that time period and details of the fighting don't interest me that much. However, this one focused on the mysteries and had very little to do with the war itself. That was fine by me.

Anyway, the different storylines were interesting and kept me going until the very end. The characters were great, too. There were lots of them, though, so after awhile I started writing them down to better keep track. I especially loved Inspector Rutledge. The more I read, the more I wanted to know about him. Even his flaws were intriguing as was his relationship with Catherine. I'm anxiously awaiting the next book considering how his one ended with them.

The ending brought a few surprises to the book. I was so caught up in who the killer was that after the identification was made I forgot that there were a bunch of loose ends to tie up. I'm glad the author didn't forget and found a great ending to tie it all together.

Despite not having read any of the others in the series, I only felt lost a few times. For example, I couldn't figure out how old Rutledge was. At times he felt middle aged, other times he seemed younger. I also wasn't quite sure about Hamish, the voice Rutledge seemed to be carrying around from the war. Those missing things made me want to start at the beginning of the series and get that background information I missed. Other than those few things, the book could stand on its own.

New words:
cadged (page 46): beg something from somebody
anathema (page 55): abhorrence
costermonger (page 57): fruit and vegetable seller from a stall in the street (UK)
bruited (page 129): rumored
subaltern (page 180): junior officer
sonorous (page 297): loud
providential (page 311): lucky
ululation (page 323): howl

Highly Recommended.  There are a number of Inspector Rutledge mysteries on Todd's backlist. I hope to read some of the earlier ones to get a more thorough picture of the Inspector himself.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

Charles Todd is actually the nom de plume of Charles and Caroline Todd. They are a mother and son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. For more information about them and their other books, please visit the Charles Todd website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy. Sorry it took me so long to get to it.

The Red Door by Charles Todd, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2010. ISBN 9780061726163(Hardcover), 344p.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bathroom Makeover

I just posted some photos of our bathroom makeovers over on my photography blog.   If you want to see the before and after photos, click here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

See Mix Drink by Brian D. Murphy

See Mix Drink offers a refreshing and simple take on mixing the most popular cocktails. It uses annotated illustrations and straight forward instructions that will make even the most novice bartender feel like a master mixologist.

I loved this book. It's wonderfully presented and very easy to follow. Each two pages spread features tons of information: an annotated illustration, pictorial list of ingredients and/or equipment needed, drink description, best occasion for the drink (like there's a bad time?), time required, proportions of the ingredients, a photo of the finished drink and finally directions for making the drink, in both words and illustrations.

I'm very much a visual learner, so the colourful well-labelled illustrations were a huge plus for me. They are also what makes this book unique. Besides the illustrations I especially enjoyed the drink descriptions that talked about the history of where/how it is was created. A little bar/libation trivia never hurt anyone.

There's also an introduction that features sections on how to use this book, bar essentials (including glasses and barware) and the spirits themselves: brandy, champagne, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, and liqueurs.

I loved that the book not only has directions for some of my favourite cocktails: Zombie, Black Russian, Martini, to name a few, but also has directions for ones I haven't heard of: Painkiller, Godmother, Vesper and lots of others I want to try.

The book also has a basic table of contents as well as two indexes. One sorted by name, the other sorted by calories per drink. While the second index is interesting (96 calories for a Black Velvet and 446 for a Long Island Iced Tea) I probably won't use it that much. The information might be useful to some readers, though.

Highly recommended. Summer time is a great time for cocktails. I'm going to stock up the bar, flip to a page and get mixing...and drinking, of course.

For more information about this book, please visit Hachette's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group for this review copy.

See Mix Drink by Brian D. Murphy, Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ©2011. ISBN 9780316176712(Hardcover), 232p.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine is the "definitive account" of the school shooting and attempted bombing of Columbine High School near Littleton, Colorado on Tuesday, April 20, 1999. The book is the result of 10 years of research by journalist Dave Cullen. In it, he relates what he's learned about the killers, the victims, the motives, the survivors and the school after pouring over the related documents and interviewing those close to the case.

I should start by saying that I'm not going to comment on whether I believe Cullen's conclusions or not. I'm not sure anyone is ever going to know the whole story. Those who held those truths are gone. Instead, I'm going to concentrate on how the information is presented and organized.

I was really looking forward to this book. I followed this event and the aftermath closely on CNN for days. It was really unbelievable. Unfortunately, everything I know about it comes from CNN and other media outlets. Since the media skews everything they get their hands on, "everything I know" probably doesn't amount to much. You can't believe everything you see/hear/read from them. When I saw this book in the book store, I wanted to read it and get another view of everything that happened.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed with this book. The extensive coverage on TV back when it happened was basically the last time I heard anything about the event. Since it took place over 10 years ago and my memory of the events was sketchy, I was relying on the author to help me remember what happened. However, that happen easily. The whole book was convoluted and written in such a way it was hard to know what was happening or who the people were. In some cases, this non-linear approach is very effective. Not here, though. I could see that Cullen wanted to build suspense and leave some details (for example, the timeline of the shootings) until the very end, but for me it didn't work. It left me frustrated at not knowing the basic details of the shooting or the people involved. It wasn't until the second half of the book that the number of dead was mentioned. I'm sure a lot of people remembered. I'm sorry, but I didn't.

Besides the confusing construction, the book also had too many duplicated sections. At one point I got to a section and thought "Didn't I just read this". I thought it was my imagination or that my bookmark fell out and got put back in the wrong place. I flipped back to check. Nope, it was neither of those. It was some previously presented material, even down to the same words. I'm not sure if it was like that for emphasis (unlikely) or poor editing (more likely), but whatever the reason, I didn't like it.

I appreciated the inclusion of the items in the appendices, but unfortunately they didn't translate well here. Journal pages from both Harris and Klebold were hard to make out; partially because of the handwriting, partially because of the way they were written. The map of the school and surrounding area was clear and good to have. It's too bad part of it, the most vital and most talked about locations, were partially swallowed up by the spine of the book.

Having said all that, I did learn some new things about Columbine and the events that happened there that day. I won't go into them here, but I very much appreciated the fact that Cullen presented some new information and straightened out some misinformation.

Even though I didn't like the way this book was written or organized, Cullen does deserve a lot of credit for spending 10 years on researching and writing this book. It really is an incredible body of work.

There are a number of other books on Columbine out there. Maybe one day I'll have some time or desire to read more about this. I'm open to recommendations.

For more information about this book, please visit Twelve's website.

For more information about the author, please visit Dave Cullen's website.

For online content, including photos, maps, autopsy reports, and lots of other stuff, please visit the Columbine Online portion of Cullen's website.

Columbine by Dave Cullen, Twelve (Hachette Book Group), ©2009. ISBN 9780446546935(Trade Paperback), 443p.