Tag Archives: heart

Robert Olen Butler — Late City

Historical novels are not my favorite, but Late City is more about how our experiences shape our view of others, our morality, our choices in life. Sam Cunningham, as he lies dying at age 115, reviews the first half of his life (nothing about his later years after the death of his wife) in conversation with GOD.

The story covers his youth in Louisiana, growing up with a brutal father. He hates his father and disagrees with his beliefs and ideas but carries many of them into his own life. Specifically what it means to be a “man.” We spend time with Sam as a sniper in the trenches of WWI, meet his wife and son, follow his career as a Chicago newspaper man.

There is far too much to cover in the complicated story. Two things that stood out for me. One was the underlying theme of people’s acceptance of evil, from Hitler to Al Capone to Trump and others. The second was Sam’s obliviousness to the feelings of the people around him (which the author points out specifically at the end of the book). Sam is all about the facts, not just in his news reporting but in life. He neglects to connect.

Excellent writing kept me engaged from beginning to end.

William Kent Krueger — Lightning Strike

Krueger takes us into the north country of Minnesota in the 1960s. I can feel, see, hear, and smell Iron Lake and the woods around it. Twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor lives in a small town next to an Indian reservation.

Cork and his closest friends, Billy and Jorge, find Big John hanging from a tree. To Cork’s father, County Sheriff Liam O’Connor, it appears to be a suicide. But people’s opinions keep him looking more closely and he makes another assumption about who murdered Big John. Due to politics and the fact that his suspect was the most powerful and wealthy “white man” in town, Liam is unable to arrest him. There are more twists (and deaths) before we find out who really killed Big John.

Woven into the plot is the relationship between the Ojibwe and the whites who have invaded their territory plus the intermixed families. There are friendships and hatreds between the two groups. The story is also about the connection between father and son as they work together and separately to solve the crime.

A good story with and interesting underlying theme, good plot, likeable characters, and captivating setting that kept my interest from beginning to end.

Laura Dave — London is the Best City in America

The back of this book says it’s a romance novel, but I would call it an anti-romance. People have a tendency to stick with a relationship on expectations of what they want it to be. This is a story of ending those relationships and getting on with life. It was somewhat humorous, a little too repetitive, and for some strange reason divided into five parts. If you read it with your sense of humor in tact, it’s enjoyable.

The characters were likeable. The brother sister relationship was believable. Emmy finally got out of her rut in the end.

I read this book because I recently read Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me, which captured me.

Laura Dave — The Last Thing He Told Me

Great writing. Excellent story-telling. Characters that captured my heart.

This novel was a welcome change from a lot of books I’ve read recently. I’m tired of reading about characters who are drunks and/or totally screwed up psychologically. Hannah is a strong intelligent woman who loves her husband and stepdaughter. When husband Owen goes missing she wants to find him and to know why he left, not only for herself but for step-daughter Bailey. Bailey is a believable teenager. The contentious but growing relationship between them is a big part of the story. I liked all the characters including Owen who doesn’t actually appear in the story. But we know him from Hannah and Bailey’s hearts.

The story is unusual and the ending unexpected. It was a pleasure to read a story without lots of gratuitous violence. Hannah follows the threads of Owen’s life to find out who he is and where he came from.

Some reviewers mentioned bad editing. As an editor, I sometimes get turned off by a book with questionable editing. But I was so involved in the story that I didn’t notice any errors if they were there.

I will look for more books by Laura Dave.

Maggie O’Farrell — Hamnet

I opened this book with trepidation since I’m not a great fan of historical fiction, but the exceptional writing captured me and kept my attention throughout the story. Some reviewers criticize the writing as too flowery, but I found the lyrical style suitable to the story. O’Farrell captured my heart and mind with her poetic descriptions of people and places. She made me grieve with Agnes over the loss of her son. She brought me into the world of late 1500s England–the sights, sounds, smells, and the attitudes of the people.

This is Agnes’s story, of her love, her marriage, her children, her talents (which she feels have deserted her after Hamnet’s death). It’s also the story of complex family ties and the effects the death of a child can have in a marriage.

I would have rated this 5 stars except I had unanswered questions, minor items that were mentioned but not followed up. What was the story with the hidden sheep skins? How did Agnes get comfortable with the A shaped house? Did the apples spoil after being knocked around in the apple store? Did Hamnet’s injury have anything to do with his illness? And I wanted more about Agnes and her kestrel.

Overall a great read!

Martha Wells — Fugitive Telemetry

Murderbot Diary #6 follows an almost standard closed room (an isolated section of Preservation Station) murder mystery plot line. Muderbot works as a consulting independent private investigator (SecUnit or security bot) working with the police (security system and space station personnel). But the imaginative SF setting and the grumpy, paranoid, snarky, and protective personality of Murderbot set the story steps above a normal murder mystery.

The story starts with an unidentified victim with unknown who done it, how, why, and even where was the murder committed. Murderbot is limited in his investigation because of an agreement he’s made not to hack the station’s systems.

As always, I’m fascinated with Murderbot, the SecUnit who wants to spend its time absorbed in media and is disgusted by humans but can’t overcome his urge to protect them. Wells is extremely creative with characterization (mainly with Murderbot but also with other characters) and her world-building settings are definitely “out of this world.”

Great SF series. Martha Wells has a terrific imagination. She creates a cyborg character who is more human than some people I know. She’s good at world-building, plotting, characterization, and keeps my attention throughout. She writes with the three H’s — head, heart, and humor.

Having read #1 through #6, I’m looking forward to more. I understand that Wells has at least three more Murderbot books in the pipeline.

Lee Child and Andrew Child — The Sentinel

Browsing through reviews of The Sentinel, I see a number of readers think Reacher has lost some of his personality being co-authored by Lee Child and his brother Andrew. I didn’t feel that way. Reacher might be a little older, a little mellower, but he’s still the same loner with a wanderlust that keeps him traveling throughout the country. He’s still a magnet for people in trouble and can’t resist jumping in to help. He continues to have the unbelievable ability to win every fight no matter how many opponents he faces. And he still travels with only a toothbrush. He did have a phone for a short time in this story, but he gave it back in the end.

I like Reacher’s personality—positive and upbeat, helpful in the extreme, no greed, no depression, no guilt. The two Child brothers have maintained that temperament. And I see humor in the exaggeration of character traits, especially the villains, and in Reacher’s deadpan dialog. It’s not laugh-out-loud humor, but it’s there.

I will keep reading more Reacher books as long as they keep publishing.

Lisa Gardner — Right Behind You

Lisa Gardner is one of my favorite authors. She writes intriguing psychological thrillers with fascinating characters that keep me involved. Right Behind You is no exception. Gardner gives us an in-depth look at thirteen-year-old Sharlah and her seventeen-year-old brother Telly, foster kids living with two different families. They were split up eight years earlier after Telly killed their father to protect them.

There are other interesting characters as well—Sheriff Shelly, Tracker Cal, and of course Quincy and Rainy—all of them working together searching for Telly who they suspect of a “spree” murder of four people, beginning with his foster parents. Besides working with the sheriff, Quincy and Rainy are Sharlah’s foster parents.

Strangely enough, two dead characters also caught my imagination—Telly’s foster mother Sandra, killed along with her husband Frank, and Sandra’s mob boss father who died of cancer. Sandra and her father hadn’t spoken in thirty years until shortly before he died.

Even though I figured out an important plot point early in the book, there were enough twists and turns to keep me involved, and enough unanswered questions to keep me reading.

An underlying theme of this story is family—what makes it work and what tears it apart. Although the parents of both foster kids were idealized to the point they were hard to believe.

Overall a great read.

Martha Wells — Network Effect

I read this as a stand-alone, not having read the first 4 Murderbot novellas. Maybe if I’d read them, I would have given it 5 stars instead of 4, because I was a little confused from time to time.

I love SecUnit Murderbot and the transport AI ART and their quirky “relationship,” full of the dreaded “emotions.” Lots of humor there. Murderbot attempting to learn to be a person while despising humans always gave me a laugh.

Martha Wells writes very well, but her use of parentheses drove me crazy until after a few chapters I learned to ignore them.

Great read. Maybe I’ll read Murderbot 1 through 4 (and then 6?).

Jude Deveraux — A Willing Murder

This novel is a cozy murder mystery with a dash of chick flick, some romance, some humor, some family saga, and a lot of small town gossip and rumor. Realtor Kate Medlar moves to Lachlan, Florida and stays in an old mansion with her aunt Sara Medlar, romance novelist, and Sara’s friend Jake Wyatt, builder. When a tree falls over in the back yard of a house Jake is remodeling, the unlikely trio of sleuths find the bones of two women in the roots of the tree.

I did figure out the villains in the story long before the end. And I could see that Deveraux left relationships to be explored in the next book.

The novel is a well-written, quick and easy read with believable, lively characters and small town dynamics.