Friday, June 3, 2011

Middle Sister's May 2011 Books

I had more time for fun reading in May after school let out. Several of these were galleys read for NetGalley, although one is actually a reissue of an OOP title. All in all, a successful month as I enjoyed most of these. But there were two major disappointments.

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum My book club is discussing this book this month, which I had never read. It was a short and fast read, and I was surprised by how vastly different the book is from the Hollywood movie. And better, in my opinion, without the saccharine overlay of the movie. I had no idea there were so many Oz books in the series until I went to get this one. I may try some of the later titles in the future; hearsay is that they are grimmer. Our book club discussion: was Baum telling the truth when he said it was just a childrens story, or are all the characters representations of the political and economic world of the late 19th century?
  • Died in the Wool by Elizabeth Ludwig and Janelle Mowery Do not read this book. I do not make such proclamations lightly, but this book was terrible. I had such high hopes--murder in a library. I love libraries! I love books! It read as if the two authors had independently written their chapters after only agreeing that any individual chapter would contain certain minimal information and no proof-reading of each other's chapters. The main character acted one way in one chapter, and very differently in another, was very immature, and acted inconsistently in the story, except for her consistently juvenile behavior. Although I don't remember reading her age, she must be in her early 20s and acts as if she's in middle school (e.g., the jealousy she exhibited to any woman that even talked to her boyfriend was so over the top I thought I was reading Sweet Valley High Twins Unmask a Murderer; or her reaction to the murder--sick to her stomach and then in the next paragraph eager, no hopeful, to see the murder scene again; and couldn't she ask the policeman to let the trapped bird out of the library rather than stand there and essentially think,' too bad.'). The policeman boyfriend takes her on an official interview? Have the authors never watched any police procedurals on television? And I know this is a Christian publisher, but no one would think her virtue compromised if she talked to a man in her office with the door closed, even though he is her boyfriend, who was there on official police business. I won't go into the odd vocabulary choices (bobbed her eyebrows? What does that mean? Waggled?), the horrible Kindle formatting issues, WHERE RANDOM parts of sentences would be CAPITALIZED in their OWN paragraph. My biggest gripe--no librarian would ever release the names of patrons to a policeman without a court order (in fact, M works in the library and they have had to deal with this exact situation, so I can assure you they don't just hand this information out as Monah did). The details of the murder seemed beyond improbable, but I honestly didn't care by the time I reached the end of the book. Had I not been reviewing this for NetGalley I'd never have finished this book.
  • Successful Dog Adoption by Sue Sternberg Decent book on adopting a dog from a shelter. The book is no help if you are adopting from a rescue organization, with different organizational structure. I also disagree with some of Sternberg's training tips. But in general an okay book to read if you are preparing to adopt your first dog or the first dog in a long time. I'd recommend Pat Miller or Ian Dunbar over this book, though.
  • A Lesson In Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear I usually like Maisie Dobbs, but not in this story. She seems to have gravitated away from the strong, independent Maisie to a love-sick Maisie. I enjoyed the setting (Cambridge, England, where I briefly lived; and a university setting anywhere would guarantee my interest), and Ms. Winspear writes as well as always. The hints of what life in early 1930 England was like are always a treat and underscore how much research Ms. Winspear has undertaken to recreate so faithfully this period. The mystery itself was predictable, but handled well. I hope the romance focus will not carry through in future stories. All in all, a good way to cleanse my palette after Died in the Wool (Blech! See above).
  • Mystery at Blackbeard's Cove by Audrey Penn Somewhat confusing in the early chapters, this YA book switches point of view, and from the natural to supernatural planes, a great deal, to the detriment of the plot at first. YA readers will enjoy the real danger the kids encounter, none of which is sugarcoated, and with pirates and supernatural stuff so popular these days, the topic of the book would seem to be a guaranteed seller. From an adult reader's perspective, although there's little character development (they area kids, after all), the setting is superb, and I really felt I was on Ocracoke Island, in the middle of a storm, or in a lost tunnel. The illustrations are excellent.
  • Lie Down in Green Pastures by Debbie Viguie Third in the series; I've read No. 1 and now No. 3, and I won't read another. Is he Superman? Rambo? No, Jeremiah is SuperRabbi!  Watch him swing through trees and kill three men using a several hundred pound mountain lion and his hand as weapons. Clearly he's a former Mossad agent, although that's never named, because otherwise why would he be able to do what he does in the last third of the book (which, by the way, was way too much time to spend on this part)? And will Cindy ever grow up? She should have made progress with her jealousy of her brother and her inability to deal as an adult with her mother after the horrifying murders she's been through in three books now, but I suspect she won't as the author seems to be wedded to having Cindy throw darts at her brother's photo and winge that her family doesn't care about her. But then Cindy doesn't tell them what she's been through, so I guess she expects her family to be psychic. While Jeremiah was the more interesting of the two characters in the first book, the caricature he became in this book was disappointing. The reason for the murders seemed a little over the top and excessive, even in a day and age where we like to blame greedy corporations. The murders in this supposedly cosy series are anything but cosy, so don't be mislead that a series with a church secretary and a rabbi will be gentle--these are gruesome murders. No more for me. I like my cosies cosy.

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