“Gone Before Christmas” Book Review

36217863Gone Before Christmas
Charles Finch

I love a good mystery. My sister knows this, and in addition to the Mary Russell series she introduced me to Charles Finch’s Charles Lenox series a number of years ago. This Christmas she sent me, via Kindle, this “half-step” story called Gone Before Christmas.

Gone Before Christmas is a quick read, as half-step stories usually are, and thoroughly enjoyable. The detective, Charles Lenox, is called upon to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a Lieutenant of the Grenadier Guards in London. In the course of the story the reader draws out little details about the detective’s wife, daughter and brother – all key characters in the series.

I am an unabashed Sherlock Holmes fan. I love (almost) everything about him. What I especially enjoy, and have come to expect, are stories of detectives that are detached from the humanity of their investigations. This isn’t the case with Charles Lenox. He makes judgement calls that Sherlock would never make, as he does at the end of this story.

Still, the series is a pleasurable one, and Gone Before Christmas was a nice, short installment.

Rating: 4/5

Gone Before Christmas on Amazon (affiliate link)

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“Everything, Everything” Book Review

18692431Everything, Everything
Nicola Yoon

This summer I spent a few weeks with my siblings and their children on a lake in New Hampshire. We all live in different parts of the country, so it’s a rare luxury to have so much time together. My eldest niece was absorbed in the book Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, and this weekend I finally got around to picking it up.

Everything, Everything is young adult fiction, and tells the story of a girl named Madeline who is has grown up sequestered in her house. She has a rare disease in which she is allergic to the world at large (based on a real condition, it turns out), and has to live in a sterile environment with only her mother and a nurse for company.

Her world is turned upside down when a dashing and confident teenage boy moves in next door. They exchange messages online and then it turns into something more. Of course it does. Because this is young adult fiction.

The rest of the plot is meant to be suspenseful, so I won’t reveal more. I can see how this book would be appealing to teenagers (it would have been to me, were I still seventeen) but I was ultimately disappointed with it. It’s so close to the plot line of The Fault in Our Stars that it left me wondering if this is a genre (sick teenagers in love…is that a genre?).

I may still read Yoon’s other popular book The Sun is Also a Star, because the character development and writing style kept my attention enough to try again with a different plot line.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Everything, Everything on Amazon (affiliate link)

“Dying: A Memoir” Book Review

29894007Dying: A Memoir
Cory Taylor
Dewey Decimal Challenge

Each year when he was in office, President Obama published a list of books and music he enjoyed over the previous twelve months. He has continued this tradition, and a friend forwarded me his list for 2017. I scanned it and immediately stopped at the title Dying: A Memoir.

A death in my family impacted me when I was very young and it shapes my life every day. I am not obsessed with death, not in the slightest, but it has touched me powerfully. When I saw a glowing review for the book by a New York Times book critic that was enough for me: I picked up a copy immediately. And then read it the same day.

Dying: A Memoir is a beauty to read. Author Cory Taylor manages to talk about her death in a way that is both graceful and gritty, personal and universal. She doesn’t preach or claim exceptional knowledge, but instead focuses on how her life stretches backward and forward to the time it is allotted. She touches on the past and her short future, in eloquent and sometimes painful prose.

This is one of those books that I’ll think back to for years, if not for the rest of my life.

Rating: 5/5

Dying: A Memoir on Amazon (affiliate link)

“Mary Russell’s War: And Other Stories of Suspense” Book Review

30508247Mary Russell’s War: And Other Stories of Suspense
Laurie R. King

My sister introduced me to the Mary Russell series on Christmas day seven years ago. She knows I love mystery, and Sherlock Holmes, and so bought me a copy of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Over the last seven years I’ve read my way through all the main books in the series, and sometimes I’ll pick up one of the “half” books that author Laurie R. King publishes. This year my sister sent me, via Kindle (how handy that is!), Mary Russell’s War: And Other Stories of Suspense.

This book is a collection of short stories that reach back to Mary Russell’s childhood and forward to her in her 90’s. As always I enjoyed reading of Mary Russell, and went through these stories quite quickly.

So why the three stars? The stories were disjointed in time and space, some downright improbable (how could Sherlock Holmes, 40 years Mary’s senior, still be alive when Mary is 92?). I have always appreciated how King keeps the Mary Russell series “historically accurate,” so it’s hard for me to forgive this fantastical slip.

Still, a good set of reading for fans of the Mary Russell series while waiting for the next full length novel to publish.

Rating: 3/5

Mary Russell’s War: And other Stories of Suspense on Amazon (affiliate link)

“To the Bright Edge of the World” Book Review

27917957To the Bright Edge of the World
Eowyn Ivey

“I need a fiction,” I muttered to my husband before we pulled into the cell service dead zone that is Joshua Tree National Park. We were miles from anywhere, certainly out of reach of a bookstore, so I tapped open my home library’s ebook lending app.

The cover drew me into To the Bright Edge of the World, followed by the description about an expedition to Alaska and a woman with a love of photography. I love expeditions, and I love photography. I hit download, waited for it to finished, and away we went into the Park.

This book had me from the very beginning. It consists of a series of journal entries, letters and artifacts that span between present day and a Russian expedition to the Wolverine River in Alaska in the 1880’s. The primary set of correspondents is an American expedition leader and his wife (left behind in Washington state), and then the expedition leader’s descendant and a museum curator reading the correspondence of the former. The story is easy to follow, though I found I wanted to revisit dates and flipping forward and backward frustrates me to no end on a Kindle. I’d have preferred this book (and most books, truth be told) in physical form.

Here’s the thing: I liked reading this book so much that I doled it out in measured doses. I didn’t want to read too quickly as I enjoyed the characters, and wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them. And then…the ending. Endings are hard, and the ending on To the Bright Edge of the World was a little too buttoned up, leaving me unsatisfied and disappointed.

Still, it’s a great read. I enjoyed the journey, even if I didn’t love the destination.

Rating: 4/5

To the Bright Edge of the World on Amazon (affiliate link)