Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

The Other Woman joins the genre of relationship thrillers that started with Gone Girl. This one has a twist, however:the dread of every woman who meets her boyfriend's parents: a mother who doesn't like you.  

Emily meets Adam in the bar of a London hotel after attending a work conference. She's  reluctantly attracted to the tall, dark, handsome Adam after he rudely jumps in line ahead of her for drinks. He charms her, and soon they are dating. Emily quickly falls for Adam, and a few months go by before he agrees that it's time to meet his mother. Emily is really looking forward to it, but oh boy, she is in for a surprise. 

Pammie (this name just drove me nuts!) certainly seems like a lovely woman, and her sons Adam and James fuss over her. But she's not very welcoming to Emily-and only Emily sees it. Criticism masquerading as compliments, deliberate miscommunication, "accidental" texts sent to Emily that are critical. Emily feels like she can't win, and Adam won't hear anything bad about his mother. As their relationship moves along, Emily starts getting pissed, and determined to defeat Pammie. But oh, Pammie is pretty good at throwing chaos into Emily's big moments: passing out at Adam's birthday party as he proposes to Emily; making a dramatic announcement at Emily and Adam's rehearsal dinner the night before their wedding. You can't help but wonder what the heck Pammie is doing, and why she dislikes Emily so much. 

Of course, Adam is a bit of a jerk, and the whole time I'm reading this, I'm thinking Emily is a bit of a ding-dong for putting up with his crap. At what point does a woman let go of the dream and face the reality that the man she's with just isn't quite the one?

It wasn't hard to figure out what Pammie was up to, but the end was still a bit unexpected, and really good. I have to say I was annoyed at Emily during most of the novel. I felt that she was ignoring pretty big signs that maybe this wasn't the best relationship, and her desire to win the game over Pammie took over common sense and blinded her to everything else. 

The Other Woman  will be available on August 21, 2018 in hardcover, audio, and ebook. Perfect vacation read!

Rating:  4/6 for a different kind of thriller. Pammie has no shame doing her best to keep Emily and Adam apart. 

Thank you to Minotaur/St. Martin's Press for the review copy. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer Reading Halfway Through: What I Read, What I Still Want to Read

Well as usual, once we hit July, the summer seems to be moving at lightning speed towards September. It's been so muggy and hot in Iowa this summer I've got my A/C on permanently. But, there have been some glorious mornings where I can sit out on my deck and read for a few hours in my peaceful, bird chirping back yard. It's my favorite new reading spot. 

Books are coming at me left and right, and I'm reading whatever appeals to me at the moment. I've managed to get back to my usual reading style of 4-5 books at a time. I start one, get about 50-75 pages in, then pick up another one, and so on, and so on. I much prefer this than reading one book at a time. Keeps me from getting impatient or bored when I hit a spot in a story that seems to slow me down. I've read a few graphic novels--the Lumberjanes, which are wonderful middle school/young adult stories about a girl's camp surrounded by some supernatural shenanigans. They're all about friendship, girl power, and working together. I can see why they're so popular!

I just started The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel last night. It's the non-fiction story of Michael Knight, who lived in the woods by himself with no human contact for 27 years. The Other Woman by Sandie Jones is a publisher review read, and I've got to really dig into it. A woman's budding relationship with a new man is complicated by his mother. I can't decide if it's supposed to be campy or a serious thriller. I like the heroine.  

Another book I'm halfway through is The Hunger by Alma Katsu. I saw it at Barnes and Noble, but didn't buy it in hardcover. The next week, I was working at the library and it came across my desk. Bingo! It's a supernatural take on the Donner Tragedy. Holy heck. It's creepy, for sure. Knowing what eventually happens to the Donner Party gives it an extra dreadful feel. I'll be reviewing it soon. 

I've still got plenty of reads waiting in the wings: Jenny Colgan, Michelle Noble, Charles Frazier, and that big tome about Leonardo DaVinci. As it is, I'm enjoying my summer of reading.  I'll post some quick videos to my Facebook page about some of the other books and I'm reading, and you can also find me on Instagram under @Supersue66. 

Happy reading!  

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris

This was one of the most unusual mysteries I've read, and a definite stand out in my reading list this year. 

The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder is centered around Jasper Wishart, a thirteen year old  autistic boy who also has synesthesia: he sees sounds--voices, birds chirping, cars, you name it--as colors. Each sound and person has their own particular color. Jasper's world is an amazing rainbow of never ending colors, and the only way he can cope is by painting what he sees. His big issue is his inability to recognize and remember faces-this is where remembering the color of a voice helps him recognize people. His mother is dead, and he lives with his father, who struggles to understand his complex child, and navigate raising a special needs son on his own. 

Jasper believe's he's murdered the next door neighbor, Bee Larkham, and that his Dad is involved. The police have been looking for Bee, and she never answers her door. Jasper's beloved parakeets, who like to stop at the feeders in Bee's yard, are not coming around much since Jasper has run out of bird seed to feed them. He spends hours with his binoculars watching the birds, making notes. He also has watched Bee and the people coming to her house when she plays very loud music late into the night. Their friendship evolves into something dangerous for Jasper, until the night he believes he stabs her in her kitchen. His father has cautioned Jasper not to say anything--to stick to the story they've rehearsed, but Jasper is ready to burst and wants to confess.

This was really a great thriller, as you slowly unravel Jasper's tangled thoughts and colorful memories of the days leading up to Bee's death. Everything--and I mean everything--is awash in so many vivid colors it is hard to imagine living everyday with this gift. Author Sarah Harris does an amazing job describing just what difficulties Jasper encounters trying to live his life in a world where no one seems to understand what he sees or feels. Jasper copes by routines, counting, painting, and sometimes, screaming and vomiting out his feelings. He's so darn smart, but no one sees that; they just see he's different. His grief over losing his mother, and his feeling that his father doesn't love him both play a part in his guilt over Bee's death. Can you imagine only being able to remember people by the color of their voice? What if the color changed?

So the questions are: did Jasper kill Bee? Is she really dead? Will we ever know what happened? Yes. Yes you will. And it's pretty darn good, too. Twists galore!

Rating: 5/6 for a thriller told through the eyes of a young boy gifted with synesthesia. His world makes the mystery that much more interesting, and difficult to tell who did what and when. Do you trust what Jasper sees, or is there more? A pretty good plot, and just when you think you've got all the answers, more comes out of left field. You will need to slow your pace on this one, as reading what happens from Jasper's point of view requires patience and attention. 

Available in hardcover, audio, and ebook. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Revisiting Childhood Favorites: Author John Bellairs

A recent challenge on Facebook had me posting my favorite reads, and that got me thinking about John Bellairs. I didn't have very many books as a child, but I remember very clearly having the first two Lewis Barnavelt stories in paperback. I have no idea where they are now; I'm hoping in a box somewhere in my basement. I was lucky enough to find Barnes and Noble had put together the first three in one hardcover volume for the incredible price of $9.95 years ago and snagged it, along with another volume of his Johnny Dixon mysteries. They've sat on my bookshelf for years. Friday night, I decided I needed to re-read John Bellairs. I managed to read the first two of the three this weekend. 

There is a movie coming out in September for TheHouse with a Clock in its Walls starring Jack Black as Uncle Jonathan, and Cate Blanchett as Mrs.           Zimmerman. I watched the trailer, and it's of course 
vastly different than the book--a whole lot more magic fantastical stuff.  I think kids will love it! I will certainly see it in the theater. 

I read the first two novels of the Lewis Barnavelt series. I believe there are at least 10 of them; some finished after John Bellairs died in his early fifties in 1991. I'm still crushed he didn't have more time to write more novels for young kids. They are wonderful. 

So a quick recap: Lewis Barnavelt has lost his parents in a car accident, and he's sent to live with his eccentric Uncle Jonathan in New Zebedee, Michigan.  Set in 1948, life was a bit simpler, of course, but no less full of magic, both good and bad. Uncle Johnathan is a magician of sorts, and a wizard, who lives in a mansion on a hill. His next door neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, is a witch, who makes the best chocolate chip cookies and hot cocoa, and waffles for breakfast.  Lewis realizes his first night at Uncle Jonathan's home that he's in a wonderful place, where stained glass windows change scenes, and the mirror near the front door shows scenes from history-or sometimes just shows your reflection. He's got a fireplace in his room, and plays poker with his Uncle and Mrs. Zimmerman on a regular basis. While all seems well, Lewis faces bullying at school because of his size and his inability to play any kind of sport. He cries easily, and dreads lunchtime at school. I really felt for Lewis; seems bullying has been around for generations. He's called fatty, fatso, lardo; picked last for the baseball games, then told to go home because they don't want him to play. Thankfully, he's got a wonderful place to go home to-but a home with a strange clock ticking in the walls. 

The mansion was the home of the evil Isaac Izard and his wife, both into dark magic. Now both dead and resting in a mausoleum in the local cemetery, they started something in the house that could mean doomsday for everyone if Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman don't figure it out. Lewis' desire to keep a friendship with a popular boy has him casting a spell on Halloween night to raise the dead (he has no idea what he's doing, but is desperate to impress his friend)--and boy howdy, does he succeed. Who does he raise, and what does it mean for the house, the ticking clock, and the town of New Zebedee? 

In the second novel, The Figure in the Shadows, Lewis is still being bullied at school, and has just lost his beloved Sherlock Holmes hat to the biggest bully in class. He's made a new friend: Rose Rita, a tomboy who is tough and prefers jeans to skirts. Hoping to cheer Lewis up, Uncle Jonathan opens up Grandpa Barnavelt's old trunk, and inside Lewis finds an old amulet his Grandpa won on a bet the night before a big Civil War battle. Mrs. Zimmerman says there's no magic to it, but Lewis thinks otherwise. He wears it on a chain around his neck, and suddenly has all sorts of vivid dreams about battles, fighting, and revenge. And then there's the mysterious postcard that arrives at midnight, with one word: Venio. "I come." Gulp. Lewis is too afraid to confess to Uncle Jonathan he's been messing with magic again, so what is he going to do? 

The first novel was illustrated by Edward Gorey, and I have always had a soft spot for his illustrations. They are perfect for John Bellairs novels. The second novel is illustrated by Mercer Mayer, and while it is charming, it doesn't hold a candle to Edward Gorey. I believe most of Bellairs' early novels were graced with Edward Gorey illustrations, so I'm not sure why Mercer Mayer illustrated the second Lewis Barnavelt novel. Maybe a later edition?

There is something completely engaging about John Bellairs' writing, and I was just as thrilled to read them today as I was decades ago. I think they stand the test of time, certainly. They are a perfect example of good vs. evil, the many ways we create families, and the effect bullying can have on us as children. I'm craving some chocolate chip cookies, thanks to Mrs. Zimmerman! 

I'd recommend these books to any young reader who likes magic, ghosts, the unknown, and suspense. I'm hoping more will return to print with the release of the movie in September. As for now, it looks like most are available as ebooks. 

I'll keep reading more as I find them, and smile the whole time. 

Rating for both novels: 5/6 for delightful writing, lovable characters, and oooh, the evil-doers! Just the kind of novels I would have loved to write myself. 

Used copies, paperbacks, and ebooks are available. Get to it! 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern

I continue my quest to read novels set in libraries and bookstores with Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern. I've worked hard this week to dive into this novel, and I'm kind of "meh" on it, which is a big surprise to me; but then again, the novel wasn't what I expected, either. This seems to be my theme this summer-reading books that surprise me. 

The novel starts off with Kit talking about how she met her husband, Cal in college. This completely threw me for a loop, and I kept putting the book down, not really very interested in her relationship with Cal. What does this have to do with a library, I wondered? But I kept going. Mostly Kit's backstory explains why she is a librarian in little Riverton, NH--a place far from where she comes from. 

Aha! The library. Set in the small dying industrial town of Riverton, NH, the Carnegie library is one of the few places left in town that is actually open. There is a core group of faithful patrons, a pitiful budget, and a need for more of everything in the library. Kit is the reference librarian, and she's very good at her job. Sunny, a 14 year old, is caught stealing a dictionary from a bookstore. She's sentenced to work 40 hours a week at the library for the summer. Probably the best thing that's happened to her. Her parents, Willow and Steve, are the type of parents who provide no structure to their child-they "no school" her (not even homeschool, just let her figure stuff out on her own), are perpetually broke, and move around a lot. They live off the grid and do a great job avoiding authority. 

Rusty, who is a minor character for part of the book, takes a bigger role about half-way through. He's an ex-Wall Street executive, broke, homeless, and using the only computer the library has for public use every day, all day. He's a mystery until Sunny and Kit get to know him. 

The library in Riverton is a refuge for all who are wounded by life, frustrated by life, or just weary. It has a gently worn feeling; comfy and cozy, but still needing a lot of attention. Kit's love of books reminded me of myself in a weird way. It took her a few library jobs in science and academic libraries before she realized it wasn't the library life that she loved, but the books that she loved--libraries were the place where she could be surrounded by what she loved. 

Back to the story! I liked the characters: Kit, Sunny, and Rusty. I was not fond of the marriage back story, which took up a large chunk of the book, and spun out too slowly. When I finally got to the point of finding out just what had happened in Kit's marriage to Cal, I thought it was kind of ridiculous and over the top. Sunny didn't have much choice in her life; but growing into her teen years she's becoming more adamant about living a normal life: going to school, staying in one place, eating candy. In their attempts to show Sunny a life of freedom, they've actually closed her off to so much of life. 

Rusty was a good shot in the arm for the novel. He was necessary; just having the unfolding friendship between Sunny and Kit would have led to nowhere. Adding Rusty into the mix--with his honesty and cheerfulness, was one of the better aspects of the novel. 

I guess I thought there would be more of a big plot point in this novel about a library in a small town. But instead it was a quiet unfolding of three lives, their growing friendship, and healing from past wounds. My feeling still stands as a "meh". 

Rating:  3/6 for a novel about people starting over, or just beginning--depends on how you look at it. I'd love to know what happens to Sunny, Kit, and Rusty after the final page. Not a bad read--character driven and not a whole lot of action. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland

I'm always a sucker for a book that takes place in a bookshop or a library. Words like "witty" and "charming" were used to describe this novel, and I thought I was in for a lovely, summery, light read.  

It wasn't quite like that, although I did like the novel. It was certainly slower in pace and more solemn that I expected. Loveday Cardew is a young woman working in a second-hand bookshop. It is her refuge from a past that left her living in foster homes and being on her own for most of her life. She's very private, and no one knows her past as a happy little girl with two loving parents, before it all went horribly wrong when she was ten years old. Now 25, she's found her small slice of contentment, and a family with the shop's owner, Archie, a delightfully charming man who seems to know everyone and has done everything. 

Enter Nathan, who stops in the bookshop after losing his book of poetry near the bus stop. Loveday found it, and posted a note about it on the community board in the bookshop. Nathan is a magician, a poet, and knows how to give Loveday her space, while at the same time edging her towards a relationship. Rob, an ex-boyfriend of Loveday's, is a creep. He's stalking her, and won't leave her alone. As the story progresses, Loveday's relationship with Nathan slowly moves forward, as we get the history of her short relationship with Rob, and the background of her life in Whitby, a seaside town where she lived happily with her parents.  Until happily ever after came crashing down in a horribly tragic moment.

I wasn't sure what to make of this novel. Loveday is pretty prickly and withdrawn, and Nathan really is a gem: he knows when to push, and when to stand back. He's exactly what Loveday needs, and I was so relieved that she had enough sense to realize that, even if she felt she wasn't worthy of a good relationship. Her growing confidence in reading her poetry during poetry nights at the local pub, along with her unfolding relationship with Nathan, are the two plot points that keep the story moving forward. Also, I was curious as to what exactly happened to Loveday's family. It wasn't hard to figure out, but I had to wait until 3/4 of the way through the novel to finally get the full story. I also appreciated Loveday standing up to Rob, after realizing she played right into his hands. Jerk. Physical abuse is a big part of the novel; and Loveday's thoughtful insight into her experience with it explains the mindset of women who don't always leave at the first slap, and find a way to explain it away. But is also shows that sometimes, that abuser won't leave, even when a woman does stand up to them and take back their power. 

I can't say this was a charming novel. It wasn't. It was thoughtful, and a bit dark, and, for me, a bit sad. I'll leave it to you to read and discover Loveday's journey, and the role books play in her life. The ending will satisfy all who are cheering Loveday on in her journey. 

Rating: 4/6 for a novel that surprised me with themes of domestic abuse, stalking, and bullying; what they do to us as adults, and how we cope. The power of books to provide comfort, and remind us of the best things in life, are the backbone of this novel. I liked the story, but had hoped for a frothier read! Not the fault of the author, but of my expectations. Would make a good book club selection. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dreams of Falling by Karen White

I've had a discussion with a number of people in the past few weeks about how I don't seem to have the time I used to for reading, and how it bothers me a lot.  They've all said the same thing: I just have more stuff going on day to day, and it leaves less time for reading. 

BUT I DON'T WANT IT TO. Dang it. I've eagerly awaited Karen White's latest novel, and was excited to check it out at the library last week before I took a few days off for a family visit and party. I was happy thinking I could read this book in just a few days, in the quiet of my home. 

Nope. That didn't happen. Instead, I was so busy with family, the only time I had to read was when I went to bed at night, and that lasted just a few minutes before my eyes were drifting shut.  It took me much longer to read Dreams of Falling that I expected or wanted to take. I finally finished it today when I got home from work. Phew. 

You probably know I'm a big fan of Karen White, in particular her paranormal series that started with The House on Tradd Street. But, I also love her stand-alone novels.  They usually mix a contemporary issue rooted in a story that is either one or two generations behind. Add in a Southern setting, and I'm all in for an enjoyable read. I've never been disappointed, and that includes her latest, set in South Carolina. 

Larkin Lanier is from Georgetown, SC. She's been living in New York City for the past nine years, fleeing after high school graduation; angry at her parents, her best friends, and pretty much everyone. Beautiful and loved by many, Larkin was raised to believe she could be anything, do anything she wanted-she was special, and a star. A humiliating incident with her high school crush ruined her friendship with her best friends, twins Mabry and Bennett. Now she's been called back, as her mother Ivy has gone missing, and everyone is frantic to find her. 

Once back in Georgetown, Ivy is found, badly injured and unconscious at the ruins of her family's once stately plantation, Carrowmore. In the hospital, in a coma, we listen to Ivy's thoughts, as she struggles to find peace and forgiveness before she can leave her family behind. We also have Larkin's point of view, as she tries to figure out why her mother was at Carrowmore, and what she wanted to tell Larkin about her past. Ceecee and Bitty, two old friends of Larkin's grandmother Margaret, have practically raised Larkin, and before her, her mother Ivy. The fire at Carrowmore, fifty years before, killed her grandmother, and no one knows what happened. All of these things keep Ivy tied to her comatose body, and she can't leave until not only she finds peace, but Larkin figures out all of the secrets that Bitty and Ceecee have been holding since 1951. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and I wish I could have read it much faster. It's the kind of story I like to sink into, and devote large chunks of time to reading it. I couldn't wait to get back to it everyday. I thought the use of Ivy's perspective, given that she was in a coma and dying, was pretty interesting, and helped me, the reader, understand her a little better. The dynamics between Larkin and Bennett, her childhood friend turned hottie, and her strained relationship with her father helped balance the big chunk of time devoted to the back story regarding Ceecee and Bitty; their relationship with Margaret in 1951, and how they fit into both Ivy and Larkin's lives. It's definitely an interesting family dynamic-one that is not made of blood, but friendship and promises written on ribbons and tucked into a tree. 

Fans of Karen White won't be disappointed. I certainly wasn't, and darn it all, now I have to wait another year for her next novel. 

Rating:  4/6 for an intriguing family tale that spans decades. Larkin learns that never asking questions can leave you with a hollow space that should be filled with family history, and a sense of knowing where you're from and who came before you. Larkin is a bit prickly, but I warmed up to her, and you will, too. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

School for Psychics by K. C. Archer

I had high hopes for this beginning to a new series, and I have mixed feelings. I'm not sure if I really enjoyed this, or was just underwhelmed, but not so underwhelmed that I loathed it. 

I was caught up pretty quickly in the opening chapter, when Teddy Cannon, a young woman with a gift for gambling, enters the Bellagio in disguise to try her big chance at poker. She's been banned from all the casinos in Las Vegas, because she's got a pretty interesting gift: she can tell when people are bluffing. No cheating, just very good at it. But casinos don't like to lose big bucks, so she's on the outs. Unfortunately, she owes a lot of money to a local mobster, who will hurt her and her parents if she doesn't pay him back. 

Teddy's run at the table ends in disaster, and resigned to what will probably be a painful meet up with the mobster, she instead is stopped by a man who claims to have the answer for her troubles. Clint, a former police officer, claims that Teddy's gift is actually psychic in nature, and she's just the kind of person he would like to send to a special school for young psychics. He'll take care of her debt to the mobster, and she will spend the next three years in a school near San Francisco. 

Teddy is taken aback at the thought that the talent that has gotten her into so much trouble her whole life could actually be as simple as being psychically gifted. All her failures weren't failures, but a gift she didn't know about, and therefore didn't know how to control. 

Teddy is smart enough to pack a bag and head to the Whitfield Institute, where, if she survives training in psychic skills, investigative techniques, and SWAT tactics, she will graduate and work for the government. Meeting other young people who also have an assortment of gifts, Teddy realizes she's not alone in her awkward life experiences. There's the usual drinking, and a little bit of sleeping around, but nothing that really detracted from the story. Of course, there is more to the Whitfield Institute than Teddy and her fellow students realize, and it has a lot to do with the mysterious Sector Three, and Teddy's birth parents, who disappeared just after Teddy's birth. Yes, they were psychics, too. And Clint...just what is his role in all of this?

I read reviews on Goodreads, and all people could say was that it was, yawn, "Harry Potter-esque". I disagree. People also said it was a YA novel.  I disagree about that, too. I thought Teddy and her cohorts were firmly in adulthood, even if they were in their early 20's. I didn't think they were juvenile at all. Teddy makes some dumb mistakes, but hey, who didn't in their younger years? It's all part of growing up. Honestly, I get very tired of people comparing every novel that takes place at a school, and involves young people with magical or psychic gifts to Harry Potter. Let's decide here and now there are enough talented writers out there who can also write about magic and schools and make them individual enough that they stand on their own. Stop comparing everything to Harry Potter!

Anyway, I was interested enough in the novel to finish it, and I probably would read the second in the series to see where it goes. I'm not sure what I was hoping for; maybe something with a bit more action, and I was hoping Teddy would be a bit better at making decisions and seeing through the obvious weird behavior of some of her cohorts.  I kept getting muddled on trying to figure out which side was the bad side, and which side was the good side, and why. 

Rating: 3/6 for a series beginning that could possibly become much more intriguing as it continues. Not a bad start, but it has some weak spots. Supporting characters were interesting in their quirky talents, and I have hope that Teddy will mature and become a stronger woman as she faces what are surely going to be darker situations as the story progresses. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio book. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

It's been a long time since I've read a Mary Kay Andrews novel, and I'm happy to report her latest, The High Tide Club was just as entertaining as her previous novels. 

Set on an island off the coast of Georgia, The High Tide Club centers around Josephine Bettendorf Warrick, a 99 year old woman who is dying of cancer, and wants to make amends with friends before she dies. Brooke Trappnell, a young lawyer in the small town St. Anne, is called in to help Josephine with her requests. Living in a crumbling pink mansion on the island of Talisa, Josephine wants to reconnect with the ladies of the High Tide Club: Ruth, Varina, and Millie. Unfortunately, only Varina still lives, but she's a fragile 91 year old. Brooke quickly realizes there's more to Josephine's story--she's quite the sassy, bossy, and tough lady, even in her last days. 

Woven throughout the contemporary plot is the story of the High Tide Club, and a momentous evening in 1941, as Millie's engagement party takes place at Shellhaven, the Bettendorf mansion on Talisa Island. Engaged to a cruel man in order to provide for her mother, Millie is miserable, and the night of her party is a turning point for not only her, but all the girls. Russell Strickland, Millie's finance, is missing the next morning. What happened to him, and what do the friends know? How is Brooke connected to Talisa Island, and Josephine's family? Who will inherit the house and island after Josephine dies? 

I very happily settled into this novel. There were a few little twists that I wasn't expecting, and I was disappointed in the weak storyline regarding Henry, Brooke's three year old son. Brooke's reconnection with Henry's father seemed like an afterthought, and could have used more attention in the novel. But overall, I loved the characters, the plot, and the setting. A satisfying read all around. It's got me itching to read more of Mary Kay Andrews' backlist. I've missed a few over the years. 

Rating:  4/6 for an enjoyable summer read about the power of friendship, the power of money, family, and some good old scandals. Friendships between women old and young; friendships that span decades and some that are new,  built from shared experiences and connections. Pack your beach bag with this novel!

Available in hardcover, audio, and ebook.  

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

In my quest to read more books off my shelves at home, I pulled Not a Sound off a shelf the other day. I have met Heather Gudenkauf at a few book signings at my local B&N (she's an Iowa author) and I've read a few of her novels. They're all set in Iowa, and are thrillers. I have to say this is by far my favorite, and in my opinion, her best yet. She definitely stepped it up.

Quick synopsis: Amelia Winn was a victim of a hit and run which left her profoundly deaf.  It also cost her a career as an emergency room nurse; she became an alcoholic to cope with it all and lost her marriage as a result. Still married, but separated from her doctor husband and step-daughter, Amelia is sober and living in a cabin in the woods. She has learned to lip read and has learned sign language, but is still coping with her deafness and living with her service dog, Stitch. She spends a lot of time kayaking, paddle boarding, and running. One morning she's out paddle boarding, enjoying the peace. She stumbles upon a body in the water. Horrified, she recognizes the body as a fellow nurse that she worked with at the hospital. Amelia's childhood friend Jake, a local detective, arrives at the scene and comforts Amelia. He's the one who took her to AA and taught her sign language, and their friendship is what has kept Amelia sober and straight for the past few years.  

Amelia gets deeply involved in the murder of her friend Gwen, and is determined to figure out why she was murdered and who did it. Amelia's new job, working part time scanning patient files at a prominent oncologist's office leads to clues that something big is going on, if only Amelia can piece it all together. 

Wow. I was sucked into this novel very quickly. Amelia is such a strong character. The author's descriptions of Amelia's world of silence are so well written, you get a very good sense of what it is like to live with no sound all. How isolating it can be, how frustrating it can be. I can't imagine suddenly losing my hearing; how do you cope with that? How do you grieve that loss? One day you're a professional nurse, doing good work, living a happy life; the next you're profoundly deaf and have lost your career and life has changed completely. How do you rebuild your life? Just goes to show the kind of character Amelia is-she's human, and has her weaknesses, but she is one tough woman. 

I thought the mystery was fantastic, and how Amelia figured it out was through hard work and paying attention with all of her other senses. The last fifty pages were a thrill, and I was on the edge of my seat. Amelia is the first deaf main character I've encountered in a novel, and she is pretty impressive. 

If you like Jodi Picoult, I would recommend Heather Gudenkauf. She centers her novels around contemporary issues that are making headlines; one of her strengths is her ability to write about these issues in a small town setting--people face crime, ethical issues, and family issues in every walk of life. Her novels are a quick read and hard to put down. 

Rating:  5/6 for one of the most compelling characters I've come across in a long time. Gudenkauf's heroine is likeable, strong, and introduced me to a world of silence. Great plot, action, and really hard to put down. 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine

This novel came into my reading life in a roundabout way.  I had purchased The Confectioner's Tale by the same author, and started reading it.  Not quite 100 pages in, I got restless (my usual MO). I looked to see if she had written anything else, and Where the Wild Cherries Grow popped up, and not only that, my library had it available.  Bingo! And thus began my summer reading with a lovely novel and a new author. 

Sometimes an unexpected book comes along that is a delightful surprise. That's how I feel about this novel, and author Laura Madeleine. It was a refreshing read full of crisp smells, the tang of the ocean, the heat of the sun, and oh! the food!  

Where the Wild Cherries Grow is the story of a young woman who runs away from home to the South of France, and 50 years later, the young legal clerk who is assigned the task of finding out what happened to her. It's 1919, Emeline Vane has suffered too much loss in her short life: two older brothers have died in World War I; her mother, unable to recover from the loss, has died. Emeline, suffering overwhelming grief, is unable to cope and her Uncle Andrew pushes her to sell the family home and send her young brother Timothy off to relatives to live. Emeline is sent to France, on her way to a psychiatric hospital in Switzerland, when she has a brief moment of realization, and jumps off the train. Where does she go, and is she still alive in 1969?

Forward to 1969, and London. Bill Perch, a young solicitor still living with his parents and working for a cheesy law firm, is given the task of confirming that Emeline is dead. Her relatives want to sell the family home to a development company, and since her mother left the home equally to Emeline and Timothy, she must be declared dead for the deal to move forward. Timothy has been ill, unable to communicate with his children, and in the hospital. He is convinced Emeline is still alive, and refuses to declare her dead. 

Bill Perch is a character that I just grew to like more and more. A young man in 1969, he's unsure of himself, awkward, and seems removed from the tumultuous time he lives in.  His transformation to a determined, living by the seat of his pants kind of person is one of the best parts of the novel. I kept cheering him on every time he took a chance and went with what he felt was right. He becomes Emeline's champion against those who would dismiss her. Both Bill and Emeline change from sheltered young people, restricted by family expectations, into who they are both meant to be.  The setting in the small seaside town of Cerebre felt magical and timeless. Bill's experience at Emeline's family home is another magical place, another timeless place that of course would generate change in anyone who was restless and ready for new experiences. 

I loved both Bill and Emeline's stories, and they dovetail together nicely.  Oh, so good!  This novel engages all your senses, and while it had a bit of sadness, I think of it as a bright, happy novel about finding your true self, and in doing so, finding happiness.  Sometimes taking chances can lead to wonderful people, places, and opportunities. 

This is a perfect armchair travel novel, and one you'll want to read while sipping a refreshing drink and nibbling on bread, cheese, and fruit. 

Rating:  5/6 for a delightful historical novel that captured me from the first chapter. Loved everything about it!

Available in hardcover and ebook. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Summer Reading! YAY!!!

Oh Summer, I'm so glad you're hear.  Except for the sudden hike in humidity, temperatures (It was 97 degrees here on Sunday), and those damn gnats. Sitting on the deck? Yes! Sipping moscow mules while sitting on the deck? Yes!
Grilling? Yes! Summer reading?  YEESSSSSSS.

I am, as always, ambitious in the many books I want to finish this summer. Big surprise, right? I'm going to carve out time every day for reading. I try to do this 365 days a year, but I'm making a conscious effort starting today. I always tell myself "If you clean the bathroom, and do the dishes, you can read afterwards." Only problem is there's no one but me to hold myself to it, so of course half the time I just read anyway and leave the house a bit, ahem, messy. 

I posted a video on my Facebook page ( search @Bookaliciousbabe on FB) highlighting a few of the books I plan on reading and reviewing this summer.  Check it out! I welcome comments.  Just know I will video when I get the chance, and I am not the least bit worried if my hair is a mess and I look goofy.  But those books aren't the only ones I'm reading this summer.  Here are some of the books I mentioned in no particular order, as well as a few more on my list for Summer 2018:

There's my rough list.  There will be other books, of course. 

 What are you going to read this summer?
I'd love to know! 

I'll be posting random videos, giving quick reviews or talking about books I've discovered.  
They will appear on my Facebook page, and I'll attempt to load them here, too. 

Happy Summer!  Get reading!

The Bookalicious Babe

Sunday, May 27, 2018

White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes

I've read plenty of novels set in exotic locations, characters who live the lush life and think nothing of it.  Anita Hughes novels are all about that, and I've read three of her novels. I find myself rolling my eyes and being annoyed at the characters, the writing, and pretty much the whole story. Every. Single. Time. 

I picked White Sand, Blue Sea because I thought I'd give her another chance, and it looked like a fun read. I have a book group meeting in June that has the theme of "reading something that we consider a guilty pleasure".  A fun, frolicky, summer novel was perfect, and I knew Anita Hughes would write about a lifestyle that is completely foreign to me.  Fun stuff. 

Ugh. This took me way longer than it should have, and mostly because I was annoyed a lot of the time.  A quick recap:  Olivia Miller is almost 25; she's beautiful, in love, and her boyfriend will be proposing to her on her birthday.  She's in St. Bart's, staying with her mother and step-father in the family villa. They spend time there every summer and at Christmas. One day, there's a knock on the door.  It's Olivia's father, Sebastian, whom Olivia hasn't seen in 20 years.  A semi-famous artist, he's spent his whole adult life traveling the world, painting. Now he's come to help celebrate Olivia's 25th birthday.  Surprise!

Sebastian stirs up trouble, of course, when he questions Olivia's relatively boring, staid life. She only goes to the best restaurants in NYC and spends the weekends in the Hamptons. Poor Olivia. Her engagement to Finn may be in trouble if she follows her father's advice to travel and see the world before marriage.  Hadley, Olivia's mother, is furious at Sebastian for potentially ruining what was supposed to be a wonderful time at St. Bart's.  Present day and the past mingle at Hadley remembers key times in her marriage to Sebastian, as they traveled the world, living in guest houses, hotel suites, and wherever else hosts would put them up while Sebastian painted.  The marriage ended when Sebastian refused to return to the U.S. to settle down in New York City so Olivia could go to school. 

Here's what annoyed me about this novel. EVERYTHING.  Sebastian couldn't have a conversation without saying "this reminds me of the time I climbed a tree to save myself from a tiger", or "I spent three months in Tibet in a monastic retreat not speaking to anyone", or...well, you get my drift. I kept waiting for someone other than me to shriek "Shut up about your stupid travels!" 

And Olivia! She was so damn annoying. She's either slightly peeved she hasn't seen her father for 20 years, or defending him.  Here's a passage from the novel that I found stupefying: 

" I know I should be angry that he missed my whole childhood, but artists are wired differently," Olivia continued. "Can you imagine Cezanne getting a job in a factory, or Matisse working in La Bon Marche? They have to roam the world of where would they get the inspiration to paint?"

What?!  The whole novel was like this! My take on Olivia: very immature. Her excitement over her birthday seemed very childish to me, and not the way an adult would act at all. She came across as very shallow and dumb. 

So. I know I'm not usually so harsh on books I review, but this one was just too much.  This is escapism on a high level, if you can overlook the shallow characters. The only thing I got out of this was a desire to see St. Bart's sometime. Sounds like a beautiful place. 

Rating:  2/6 for poorly developed characters who didn't appreciate what they had, made excuses for bad behavior, and were just, ugh. If you want to read a pure fantasy summer read, this is it. But if you're like me, your eyes will roll. 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Plaid and Plagiarism: The Highland Bookshop Mystery Series, Book 1 by Molly MacRae

I had high hopes for this mystery series, but unfortunately I was disappointed. 

Set in the Scottish town of Inversgail, four women have purchased the local bookstore Yon Bonnie Books, with additional plans to open a tea shop next door, and have rooms upstairs for overnight guests.  Janet and her daughter, Tallie, have moved from Illinois. Janet's tie to Inversgail is a vacation home she and her now ex-husband bought and used for years before their divorce. It will now be Janet's permanent home. Janet's friend Christine, and Tallie's friend Summer have also moved to Inversgail to help run the tea shop and bookstore.  It's a fresh start for all the women--but murder and mayhem quickly make an appearance. 

The local advice columnist and reporter is found murdered in the shed behind Janet's home. An unpleasant woman, Una is the local font of all gossip, and sticks her nose in everyone's business, while remaining secretive about hers. There are a number of suspects in Una's death. But who had the biggest motive?

I completely expected to fall in love with this series, the characters, the town, and, of course, the bookstore. I didn't.  The story felt clunky; the supporting cast of characters felt one dimensional; Janet--who I thought for sure I'd love, given her previous job as a librarian and lover of all things books--well, Janet and Christine, along with Tallie and Summer, felt wooden to me. I didn't get the vibe of a warm, long friendship with Janet and Christine. Usually when I read a cozy mystery, the author spends some time building up the characters, and the setting, inviting you in to stay awhile. I didn't get that from this mystery. I always felt like I was missing part of the story.  

There is a second book in the series: Scones and Scoundrels,which takes place four months after Plaid and Plagiarism.  I may read it, and see if I change my mind. The person I suspected as the murderer was correct; the motive behind Una's murder was the only interesting part of the plot. But otherwise, I felt like I had to wade through a lot of disjointed story before I got to the big reveal. 

Rating: 2/6 for a mystery that could have been so much more.  I felt completely disconnected to the four main characters; the town didn't feel very cozy, and overall, the mystery just wasn't that interesting. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: A DNF that I Finally Finished

May has been a month where I've skipped the fun and frothy books and instead dove straight into the tough reads. I can't lie; reading too many in a short time frame tends to bring me down. 

That is part of the reason why I tried reading Homegoing before, and just couldn't do it. I definitely believe in books not only reflecting your mood, but affecting your mood. Homegoing was a tough read for me; I picked it for my book group's May read because it would push me to read it. We meet on Tuesday, and I'm looking forward to the discussion we'll have about this thought provoking novel. 

Homegoing  is about eight generations of people who come from two half-sisters who don't realize the other exists. One sister, Effia, stays in Ghana and is married to a white British officer there to help with the slave trade in the late 1700's--when British interests in acquiring and selling slaves was huge. Unbeknownst to Effia for most of her young life, she has a half-sister, Esi, who was also raised in Ghana, but in a different village and a different tribe. The cruelty of slavery and tribal affiliations begin early with Effia and Esi, as Esi is captured by raiders and sent to the dungeons at the Castle, the very place where Effia is living with her British husband. Esi is shipped off to the United States, to become a slave and begin the chain of events that will shape her descendants into the 20th century. 

Effia doesn't have it all good, either. Despised by her step-mother, caught between two worlds, unhappy with her life, her descendants remain in Ghana for generations, until Yaw, disfigured by an accident as a baby, moves to the United States to teach. Finally, the two branches meet in San Francisco as Yaw's daughter Marjorie and Esi's great-great-great-great-great (I think?!) grandson Marcus travel back to Ghana in a very moving final chapter. 

There are so many stories, and each is heartbreaking. No one in this novel has a happy life. The issue of slavery is so prevalent for both sides that it is soaked into the fiber of their being. Seeing the chain of generations, and reading their stories, it is very clear why, even today, events that took place hundreds of years ago keep thundering through our lives and our nation.  The women in this novel are extraordinary; fierce, strong, and survivors of enormously horrible situations. Sprinkled through the generations, there are also men who stand out. 

The story that I most connected to was H's story. Born into slavery (his mother's story is so sad I can't even think about it!), freed after the Civil War, and sent to work in coal mines as punishment for not being able to pay bail, H is such a strong character through every trial that comes his way. His journey was probably my favorite part of the novel. So, so good. 

Homegoing is a very emotional novel, and that is what makes it hard to read quickly, or in one sitting. You have to sit with it, think about each generation as they tell their story, and follow the chain of history down through the generations. Family history, world history, magic, spiritual belief, ancestor respect-all are a part of this novel, along with the all too often whims of fate.  People sometimes don't understand how something that happened 200 years ago can affect our present day; this novel shows that very thing over and over again, and for that, this is a novel that everyone should read. High schoolers and college age students should read this and discuss it together. 

I am very glad I returned to this DNF and finished it. Not many books have the power to deeply move me; Yaa Gyasi's astounding novel joins that list. 

Rating:  5/6 for a novel that is not an easy read-not because of writing style, or plot, but because of the powerful characters who live, love, dream, and survive tragedy after tragedy through the generations. I highly recommend this for book groups, high school and college students, and anyone interested in history. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Hardscrabble by Sandra Dallas

After reading In Cold Blood and The Hazel Wood, I needed something a little lighter! Enter Sandra Dallas' Hardscrabble, a children's novel about homesteading in 1910 Colorado.  Sandra is one of my favorite authors, and her new adult novel, The Patchwork Bride, is due out in early June.  I simply can't wait!

Here's what I love about Sandra Dallas.  She writes about pioneers, homesteaders, and folks who lived hard lives in the settling of the West and Mid-West. Her main characters are always women, and they're women you would love to know. Strong, loyal, hardworking women who just want the best life they can manage--often times, at the end of a long, rough road.  

Hardscrabble is no different, but it's softened for a younger audience. It centers on the Martin family, who travel to Mingo, Colorado after their farm fails in Iowa.  Belle, her mother and six siblings meet her father at the train station, and soon approach their new home: a sod house.  It's a long way from the beautiful farmhouse they left in Iowa, but they're starting over on a homestead. Neighbors include Lizzie, a single woman living on her own claim, determined to prove up and have her own farm. Two characters from Dallas' adult novel The Diary of Mattie Spencer also live nearby, and I was happy to see them all these years later, thriving and enjoying the rewards of their hard work.  

The novel moves through nearly a year on the homestead, and of course life is not easy, and filled with bad weather, threats to crops, and tragedy. It's nothing we haven't read about in other novels set in the homesteading years of the United States, but Dallas writes from Belle's viewpoint, and that makes it all simply told, with a bit of sass and humor thrown in-just as a young girl would be today.  Certainly fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder will eat this one up.  

This was a quick read, but a lovely, quiet one. It helped reset my internal reading clock a bit.  If I read too many dark themed novels in a row, I get bummed out.  While not everything is smooth sailing for the Martin family, the obvious love in the family, the cheerful attitudes, and the strong presence of Beck Martin, their father, help keep things moving along and light even in sad times. Lizzie's presence as a strong woman on her own, fixing wagons, planting crops, baking, and raising chickens is a bright spot, and a glimpse at the changing world in 1910.  She doesn't want to get married and have to give up her homestead before it's proven to be hers, and she can own it free and clear. 

All in all, a delightful, quick read on one of my favorite subjects: pioneering.  

Rating:  4/6 for a sweet story about the Martin family starting all over again in Mingo, Colorado in 1910. Good times and bad make this a novel about sticking together, working through problems, and loving each other. 

Available in hardcover and ebook. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

After reading In Cold Blood, I wanted something completely different; something "fairy tale-ish".  Well, I got fairy tales, just not the light, fluffy tales I was looking for to brighten my reading mood.

I bought this book a few months ago after hearing the buzz about it. The cover, of course, was a big push towards picking up the book.  The cover art is great. I can pick out parts of the story looking at that cover. I am, however, still a bit puzzled as to what exactly I read, and my slight feelings of disappointment/perplextion haven't lessened in the hours since I turned the last page.

Short synopsis: Alice and her mother, Ella, have never stayed in one place for long, in all her seventeen years. Constantly on the move, it seems that bad luck follows them everywhere they go. Finally settling in New York City, Ella does the unthinkable: she gets married. Alice's grandmother, the famous, reclusive author of a book of dark fairy tales, has died, and Ella thinks they are finally free.

But they aren't. Ella is kidnapped--by creatures who populate those dark fairy tales. Those tales aren't tales at all, but in actuality, a place called the Hinterland, and the Hazel Wood is the estate where Alice's grandmother secluded herself and raised Ella. Ella's warning words of never going to the Hazel Wood are ignored by Alice, who sees it as the only chance to find her mother. Alone in the world, she takes a chance and befriends a fellow student, Ellery Finch, who has not only has read the fairy tales, but is an avid fan. As Alice and Ellery realize the Hinterland is bleeding into modern day New York City, the two worlds become more and more entangled, and the line between what is real and what is fairy tale is blurred. 

Alice is a tough character; she's rude, distrustful, and pretty angry. I would be, too, if I never had the chance to settle and have a normal life. Part of her anger stems from feeling rejected by the grandmother she never met, and now never will. The bad luck that seems to follow Alice and her mother is never ending. Ella's unwillingness to discuss her mother, the fairy tales, or the Hazel Wood have left Alice with a lot of dead ends and unanswered questions that can only be answered if she finds Hazel Wood. Is it a real place, or a fairy tale place? Are the fairy tales: dark, cruel, and, quite frankly, murderous, real? 

I was pretty interested in this tale for about 3/4 of the novel. The sense of always being watched; seeing odd ball characters, strange portents that come out of nowhere; these kept me reading. I loved the building of tension, and the wondering, along with Alice of just what the hell was going on. But once Alice arrives at the Hazel Wood, it seemed like a mishmash of absolute nonsense and wild feverish imaginings. I felt like I was wading through, looking for anything to make sense. I couldn't figure out if the Hinterland was trying to kill Alice, or welcome her. And Ellery, well, you'll just have to visit the Hinterland to see where his story goes. 

It's a good book, but I felt it was disjointed, and maybe the author wanted the reader to feel all topsy-turvy and confused. I myself am not a fan of that-especially when I leave the fun house and am still wondering just what the heck that was all about. 

Rating:  2/6 for a novel about very dark fairy tales, and what happens when you mess with them. Also a novel about a young girl who has to grow up, become stronger than she imagines she can be, and finding her place in the world.

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Reading a Classic: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I've realized for me, reading classics pretty much came to a halt after college. So many new titles to read, I just didn't have time for "the old stuff". Twenty-four years later, I still don't read classics. Shame on me. While high school was full of the usual suspects: The Scarlet Letter, Huck Finn, Pride & Prejudice, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451; college added a few: Frankenstein, Beloved...it seemed to be more of a movement away from older classics and a move towards new writers and what at the time weren't classics, but now after 20 odd years, are classics. I just didn't get to read everything I should have, and would have liked to read. 

I hope to change that going forward, and make more of an effort to look back at what I've missed and add a classic into my reading choices every once in awhile. In Cold Blood is in this month's read simply because I had to read a novel that was written the year I was born for a book group.  It was a toss up between this and Valley of the Dolls.  I did buy both, and I plan on reading VOD this summer. I was born in the middle of the 1960's; when Vietnam was raging, the Beatles were famous, and people were either protesting or, like my parents, raising kids and living a very middle class life in the burbs. I don't remember any of it, and only vaguely recall Nixon as President. I was busy playing outside and looking at National Geographic magazines at  home (I think pretty much every middle-class family had a subscription to Nat Geo!).  Loved the pictures, couldn't read just yet. 

So onto In Cold Blood. It's a book I handled hundreds of times while I worked at the bookstore; shelving it, putting it on summer reading tables; finding it for customers. I knew the basic story, but it was always "one day I'll get to it". Never intrigued enough to actually read it. 

My first night starting the book, I was hearing Truman Capote in my head. As I got closer to the night of the murders, I put it down and went to bed. Up again in the wee hours of the morning, I had to search the internet and find more about the Clutter family and why Capote wrote the novel. It is, after all, a true crime story; so why not a non-fiction book?  Simply because, while it is based on a true incident, there are enough speculative conversations and what is clearly a fictional scene at the end to make it fiction.  So if you're looking for this book in a bookstore, or in a library, it will be in fiction. 

What I found in my short spurt of research made the book that much more interesting to me.  Capote spent years on this, interviewing everyone in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas; interviewing the two suspects: Richard "Dick" Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, and even spending time in the Clutter home. It became an obsession for him, and caused a sensation when it was published.  

Here are the bones of the story: On November 15, 1959, the Clutter family: Herb, his wife Bonnie, and his teenage children Nancy and Kenyon were bound, gagged, and brutally shot to death in their home. Herb, a rancher, had not only been shot, but his throat slit. An outstanding community member, Herb had no enemies and no one could figure out why anyone would harm the Clutter family. The phone line had been cut, and it looked like robbery was the motive. Everyone in Holcomb knew Herb never had cash on him; he paid for everything with checks. A prosperous rancher, he put everything back in to the ranch, and lived simply. 

The only clues left were bootprints-one in Herb's blood. Police had little to go on, and it looked like this might end up being an unsolvable murder. It's hard to remember this was a time before the advances in forensics we have today, so I had to cringe when folks burned the blood stained mattresses and couch ONE DAY AFTER THE MURDERS. What?!

Dick and Perry, however, take up most of the novel. Leaving Holcomb, they end up driving to Mexico, and then wind their way back through Miami, Kansas, and Las Vegas in the six weeks after the murders. The two of them are ex-cons, out on parole. You don't know what exactly happened that night until both men are arrested in Las Vegas, and Perry confesses on the ride back to Kansas. Four people murdered, for $40, a radio, and binoculars. But who did the shooting? Perry confesses to killing Herb and Kenyon, but claims Dick shot Nancy and Bonnie. They had heard about the Clutter ranch, and that Herb kept $10,000 in a safe at home, and decided they were going to rob it, and leave no witnesses. They came prepared to kill. The complete lack of emotion and regret is astounding. Yet while reading about these two criminals, I was struck by Capote's attempts to make them pitiful and sympathetic. They became the focus of the novel, and the Clutters, I felt, were quickly relegated to the background.  We never get to know the Clutter family much at all; and for that reason, I can see why the two surviving Clutter daughters (neither lived at home) were so upset by this work, and to this day, have not granted interviews and do not discuss their family tragedy. 

Capote's writing is, however, masterful. His spare, unemotional writing reflects the coldness of the murderers, and the Kansas winter; wind sweeping over the plains, and cold, quiet nights. He sees the unwinding of a small town, as people move away, become less trustful, and absorb the enormity of the murders. 

I'm interesting in watching the movie Capote, which takes place during the In Cold Blood years. There is a new documentary about the Clutter murders, produced in 2017 called Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders.  I haven't been able to find it to watch it, but I will! 

So, what did I really think of this novel? It took me over a week to read it, because I was filled with dread in the first 25 pages.  I just didn't want to read about the murders. I put it down, then picked it up again and read it through. Dick and Perry are cold blooded, unfeeling killers, and no bad childhood or mental diagnosis will ever make me feel differently about them. It was an interesting crime novel, and I'm glad I read it. I loved Capote's writing style, and now I understand just what lies in between the covers of a book I've held in my hands so many times.  I think it would make a good book group discussion, and I'm sure it has, many times. For crime fiction or non-fiction crime fans, this is considered the first fictional non-fiction crime novel, and set a standard for the genre. 

Rating:  4/6 for the suspense of the novel, and the writing of Truman Capote. I felt the Clutter family were mostly ignored, and Capote's obsession with the two killers was foremost in the novel. I'm not telling you how the two were finally caught and arrested. Read it and see. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.