Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Innocence of Father Brown, by G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton was a contemporary of Arthur Conan Doyle, and Father Brown and Sherlock Holmes use similar methods, though their characters couldn't be  more different.  Father Brown is a Roman Catholic priest with keen observational skills and a deep understanding of human motivation.  In these stories, the first of the 51 written by Chesterton, Brown is found pitting his wits against Hercule Flambeau, an eventually redeemed thief (and murderer), and, Valentin, a famous detective (and murderer).

Venetia, by Georgette Heyer

Venetia and her brothers spent their childhood making up stories about their rarely seen neighbor, the Wicked Baron, but when they meet him in person, he turns out to have a sharp mind and good heart.  Family secrets, an abrasive in-law, tiresome suitors, and quarrelsome and bible-quoting retainers add humor and spice to the story.  The audio abridgement was a travesty.

Close to the Broken Hearted, by Michael Hiebert

The story is solid, both suspenseful and humorous, but the two best buddies, Abe and Dewey, seem like anachronisms in action and speech. Their 12-year old selves might be more at home in the 1930s or 1940s than the 21st century. Abe's mother, Leah Teal, is a widow and police detective in Alvin, Alabama, and the only member of the Alvin police force willing to take the frightened calls of Sylvie Carson at all seriously. When the preacher who accidentally shot Sylvie's baby brother to death is released from prison, Sylvie's fears become more justified.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

Moriarty is great.  She writes with humor and unconventional insight about contemporary issues, in this case, divorce and parenting after divorce, domestic violence, and school bullying.  The novel's structure is also clever, bringing the reader closer and closer to the school trivia night, where something dreadful occurred. Quotes from parents and police introduce each chapter and offer clues about what happened and why it might have happened.  In contrast to What Alice Forgot, Big Little Lies paints with a broader brush, but is still enjoyable and effective.

Murder on Bamboo Lane, by Naomi Hirahara

My first book club book!   This is the first in Hirahara's Ellie Rush series, about a rookie bicycle cop in downtown Los Angeles.  Ellie has problems with her love life, work life, and family life.  Hirahara has problems with dialogue, character development, and plotting.  All in all I think it's a series I'll forego.  I didn't care about Ellie, and didn't like the writing.  But I might read one of Hirahara's Mas Arai books, as they draw from Hirahara's father to flesh out the Japanese-American gardener hero.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls

Walls took all of the stories she could find about her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, and cobbled together a narrative that is no more than the sum of its parts.  Lily was quite a character, but she never really comes to life.  Perhaps her granddaughter wasn't the right person to understand how a woman of her time (she was born in 1901 in West Texas) came to be a mustang breaker, horse racer, schoolteacher, pilot, rancher, driver, college graduate, wife and mother of two.  Lily's daughter Rosemary was Lily's sidekick in a number of her adventures, but Rosemary and Lily never really seemed to understand each other either.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher

Chicago's ghosts are in a tizzy, and the border with the Nevernever is very tenuous. Harry is called in to exorcise a ghost who is sucking the breath out of newborns, and is subsequently drawn into conflicts with ghosts, vampires, and faeries galore as he tries to discover the root of the problems with the supernaturals.  Everybody he is close to is in danger.  If Harry weren't funny from time to time, I would give this Picaresque series up.