The Hook - An unreliable narrator, narrative crime fiction that reads like a true crime case, short-listed for The Man Booker Prize 2016 and many accoThe Hook - An unreliable narrator, narrative crime fiction that reads like a true crime case, short-listed for The Man Booker Prize 2016 and many accolades from both professional reviewers and the reading public led me to His Bloody Project.
The Line(s) - “The purpose of the window is, I imagine, less to afford the occupant of the cell a view than to allow a little air to circulate. Nevertheless, in the absence of other diversions, it is surprising how much entertainment can be gleaned from watching the slow alterations in a small patch of sky.”
The Sinker - I’m not a fan gal, rarely rushing to read prizewinners or those making their shortlists. However, I am a fan of crime fiction so it was inevitable that Man Booker Prize status or not, His Bloody Project would make my TBR list. The potential to deliver on plot elements as mentioned in “The Hook” along with additional possibilities of a historical thriller and a complex courtroom drama finally did the trick. It helped that this book just happened to be staring me in the face when I visited our library.
Often, a book with as much hype as His Bloody Project disappoints. Not in this case. His Bloody Project is an all out winner. Presented in a format of documents, testimony and first person narrative, this fictional story of the murder of three persons, two who are just children really, by seventeen year old Roderick John Macrae rivals any real murder case I’ve ever read. Macrae confesses his guilt but the question becomes a matter of just where lies his guilt and his mental state. Thriller may give the wrong impression, as this is a moody, literary, intricate tale, not fast paced but certainly one that provides a willingness to keep reading. Taking place in nineteenth century Scotland allows for a style of writing that would not be possible in a modern story. Graeme Macrae Burne, through the eyes of Roderick Macrae, constructs a desolate landscape and brings to life the tenants of a Scottish croft.
Published in 2016, His Bloody Project, is bound to be one of my favorite reads of 2017. My only regret in this is that I wasn’t able to vote for it in any 2016 best books polls.
Chicken Soup for the Soul, fill in the blank for your choice of subtitle, in this case Christmas Treasury. You know the drill. Eight titles publishedChicken Soup for the Soul, fill in the blank for your choice of subtitle, in this case Christmas Treasury. You know the drill. Eight titles published each year, at one time always 101 stories (don’t know if that’s true any longer) that are sometimes joyful, often poignant, and always inspiring for me. I’ve said it before; “I’m a sucker for Chicken Soup”.
This collection was published in 2001 and I’ve had it for many years dipping into it a bit each Christmas season when I felt the need to lift my spirits or to remind myself what it’s all about. This year I picked the book up mid-December and began right on page one and read through all the stories, sometimes one a day, sometimes more. I finished this morning. Yes, it’s past Christmas but it felt right to continue this time round right through January. I haven’t decided whether I’ll keep this volume (usually I set them free) as it is one of my favorites and I certainly would enjoy a re-read next December.
There are always standouts stories that can change with mood or timing and certainly would be different for each reader. Sharing at least one with you has always been my modus operandi when reviewing any of the series so here goes.
The very last entry in Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas Treasury: Holiday Stories to Warm the Heart was penned by Jane Eppinga and is entitled Charity’s Gift. In this piece Eppinga shares with us the story behind Dr. Clement Clarke Moore’s inspiration for An account of a Visit by St. Nicholas or more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas, with or without the Twas. The reading of this poem has always been a Christmas Eve tradition in our home and even now when it is an empty nest, I maintain the tradition. I frequently purchase this book in one of its many renditions but always with the complete words of Clement Moore for newborn babes. Perhaps you already know how this poem came about. You can probably find the why elsewhere but I enjoyed reading Eppinga’s piece and is one I could easily share with a child.
I smiled, I laughed, I cried, I even sobbed. Chicken Soup always tangos with my emotions. This one was no exception.
Note: There has been controversy about the authorship of this famous poem. I choose to believe it is the work of Dr. Moore. ...more
Webster’s Dictionary (at least the one sitting on my desk) defines Hillbilly as (often derog.) n. a backwoods mountaineer, adj. (esp. of music) in theWebster’s Dictionary (at least the one sitting on my desk) defines Hillbilly as (often derog.) n. a backwoods mountaineer, adj. (esp. of music) in the style of mountain folk song.
You want a laugh? When I was a kid I used to think the word hillbilly meant a mountain goat. Truth! Continuing to be a naïve soul I didn’t realize how controversial and political Hillbilly Elegy would become.
I read Hillbilly Elegy as I thought it was a plain and simple memoir of growing up in Appalachia. On the surface it does provide a coming of age story, the first half, the author’s formative years, the second, what he has become, fulfilling the American dream of a poor mountain boy eventually graduating from Yale as a lawyer. Without apology I liked it. It was entertaining when I got past the f_ _ ckers and the violence in his family and just embraced the loyalty and love.
There are many fine reviews of Hillbilly Elegy and rather than try to improve on any of these, I’d rather chat about one noticeable thing to me.
J.D Vance spends a great deal of time telling us about the limitations of his mother. He is virtually brought up by his Mamaw and Pawpaw (until his death) and clearly loves them despite their flaws. They appear to give him unconditional love, particularly his Mamaw. Not to criticize Vance’s attitude of “there for the grace of Mamaw go I”, I have to wonder why there isn’t more rationalization that his grandmother is not the mother his own mother lived with? If his Mamaw is responsible for the best in him, might his mother be cut some slack due to her own upbringing? Understand that I am not saying that Mamaw is responsible for J.D.’s success or should be faulted for his mother’s drug addiction but that Vance doesn’t weigh in on this.
Internet definition of elegy An elegy is a sad poem, usually written to praise and express sorrow for someone who is dead. Although a speech at a funeral is a eulogy, you might later compose an elegy to someone you have loved and lost to the grave.
Rather than calling this Hillbilly Elegy, I’d called it Mamaw’s Elegy and leave it at that.
The Audio CD edition is published by Harper Collins and narrated by J.D. Vance. This is one case where an author reading his own book works quite well. ...more
The Hook - The Author Ann Cleeves has been highly recommended to me by many crime reading friends. Of her four series The Vera Stanhope was of the mosThe Hook - The Author Ann Cleeves has been highly recommended to me by many crime reading friends. Of her four series The Vera Stanhope was of the most interest but the first in the series seems to be missing at our library. I read reviews regarding The Shetland Series featuring Jimmy Perez and decided to give this a try.
The Line - ”The devil makes works for idle hands.”
The Sinker - This is definitely not a fast paced mystery but a slow burn that interested me just enough to consider continuing with the series. I particularly liked the measured pacing and revealing of the character of both Perez and The Shetland Island locale. The metaphorical use of blacks and whites in plot structure gave the whole a brooding feel which added to my enjoyment. There is plenty of room for Perez to be fleshed out. I’m looking forward to learning more about The Shetland Islands, unfamiliar to me. A solid beginning to a continuing series.
Ann Cleeves won a Duncan Lawrie Dagger (now known as Crime Writers Association International Dagger) for best crime novel in 2006 for Raven Black.
Shetland, a series produced by the BBC follows the cases of Jimmy Perez. I’m going to look for these....more
”Men go out into the void spaces of the world for various reasons,” Sir Ernest Shackleton declared.
Is the quote above enough rationalization for the”Men go out into the void spaces of the world for various reasons,” Sir Ernest Shackleton declared.
Is the quote above enough rationalization for the enduring quest of Shackleton for polar exploration? Perhaps not for this woman who deplores the cold and thinks ice is only useful in a drink on a 90-degree day.
Shackleton’s first venture to the Antarctic interior left he and his men trapped for almost a year and rocketed him to heroism. This story has been captured on paper in many fine books about the Endurance. For all that went wrong in that journey, this second little known outing was even worse, ill planned and seemingly doomed to fail from the start.
”This is hell.” to say the least, not only for the men of The Ross Party who were charged with establishing supply depots for the dogs that were to pull their sleds. It’s amazing anyone lives (three men died) which attests to the strong spirit of these men to survive.
A book group pick, I’m glad we read it, as I might not have picked it up on my own. One voyage to this region, that of the Endurance, might have been enough for me. ...more
The Hook - Trilogy – a group of three related novels*
The Line - “End of watch is what they call it, but Hodges himself has found it impossible to giveThe Hook - Trilogy – a group of three related novels*
The Line - “End of watch is what they call it, but Hodges himself has found it impossible to give up watching.”
The Sinker - * Wished this trilogy had been a duology, diology, an unfinished trilogy, or just a plain old sequel. I feared this would happen. Many GR reviewers liked the first, or the second, but not both of the first two in the trilogy. Most really liked the third. Go figure. I really liked both Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers. I was right to worry that three would not be the charm. Confirmed. Bill Hodges’ end of watch did not resonate with me.
Note about the audio performance: The character Holly Gibney certainly came into her own throughout the three books. She was a complicated and integral part of the whole. Will Patton’s female narration, particularly that of Holly did not appeal to me. I noticed it much more in End of Watch where Holly has much to say. Other than this small quibble, the audio version was good. ...more
One of the greatest joys of GoodReads is stumbling on a book due to a friends review. Though humor is subjective and there isn't really much I can sayOne of the greatest joys of GoodReads is stumbling on a book due to a friends review. Though humor is subjective and there isn't really much I can say about All My Friends Are Dead other than it is hysterical, I owe my laughter to Matthew. This was my favorite though I loved them all and really liked how the whole book came together. Simple, fast and fun.
The e-galley of I Love You with All My Butt was generously provided by Netgalley, Author Martin Bruckner and will be published by Workman Publishing CThe e-galley of I Love You with All My Butt was generously provided by Netgalley, Author Martin Bruckner and will be published by Workman Publishing Company April 4, 2017. Thank you Deanna, my GR friend, for recommending this title. Don’t miss it, its delightful.
Bruckner’s artistic talent brings a whole new dimension to the idiom “out of the mouth of babes”. The compilation of his children Michelle & Harper’s witty chatter transposed in an illustrated format for his wife on Mother’s Day soon became the idea for a book. Often hilarious and frequently filled with wisdom, I Love You with All My Butt, is a charming perspective on love and living through the eyes of a child and the creative artwork by Bruckner. ...more
With sincere appreciation to Netgalley, Permament Press and Author, Jacob M. Appel for the opportunity to read this e-galley due to be published MarchWith sincere appreciation to Netgalley, Permament Press and Author, Jacob M. Appel for the opportunity to read this e-galley due to be published March 31, 2017. It intrigued me to read a book about a sociopath written by a New York psychiatrist.
The Line - ”People trusted doctors.”
The Sinker - Sociopath or psychopath, it doesn’t matter. All you need to know is Dr. Jeremy Balint is one sick mother-you know what. Author Jacob M. Appel, a practicing psychiatrist takes his shot at creating a fictional depiction of what he has seen in his career, that there are those around us who are incapable of empathy or compassion and who exhibit violent behavior without remorse.
When Balint unexpectedly learns his wife is cheating on him with a colleague, Dr. Warren Sugarman, his outrage manifests in a devious plan to eliminate his rival. Worried that just killing Sugarman would seem a targeted murder, Balint plots a series of random killings by strangulation, leaving a green ribbon tied to the victim’s neck. When the police and media realize they have a serial killer on their hands, they dub him The Emerald Choker, quite appropriate. Balint considers the murder of these strangers collateral damage, just a means to an end.
Appel’s insider look into sociopath behavior seems realistic. I’m reluctant to admit I was mesmerized by Balint’s almost gleeful killing spree. Chilling, but somehow fascinating just the same. Good, though not perfect, this psychological read is certain to churn up some discussion....more
Kristina Ann Stahl, 25, a wonderful and gifted daughter of William K. and Karin (Arentzen) Stahl, died suddenly on Wednesday, (SepteKristina Ann Stahl
Kristina Ann Stahl, 25, a wonderful and gifted daughter of William K. and Karin (Arentzen) Stahl, died suddenly on Wednesday, (September 11, 2002) at her home in Farmington. Kristina Stahl's Obituary at Legacy.com
When I read that a Connecticut woman, Karin Stahl, was doing a book talk about her recently self-published memoir regarding the suicide death of her beloved daughter, Kristina, I wanted to attend. Prior commitments kept me from that appearance but I knew I wanted to read The Option: A Memoir of Suicide, Mystery, and Finding Our Way and purchased it for our library.
“There’s no time period for grief. Regardless of society’s expectations that one year about does it, in reality that’s not the case.”
There are sometimes similarities, but rarely do we grieve the same way and certainly not in the same amount of time. Loss is complex and healing even more so, linked with our personalities and core nature. We tread this grief road at different speeds.”
This is such a personal narrative, one that readers will experience in their own way. It is a book that you must read yourself and take from it what you will. Though it was heartbreaking to read Karin’s intimate thoughts of the day her daughter committed suicide, and the days and then years following Kristina Stahl’s death, it was also uplifting to get to know, to see, this young woman through her mother’s eyes. Powerful.
“Not until almost two years after Kristina’s died do I find the book, A Broken Heart Still Beats, edited by Anne McCracken and Mary Semed. They compiled more than two hundred writings of loss, pain and solace by well-known authors and public persons whose children died. The literature is stunning and haunting. How little I knew about these famous writers who were parents too, some from centuries ago. How incredibly they write of their despair and heartbreak, using experience to inform their art, leaving the world a better place thanks to their writing. Their accounts are gifts. I sob with their words and realize for the first time, it could have bee worse.”
I think about that last sentence. I think how could it possibly be worse? I wonder about the people I know who attempted suicide and lived. I wonder if they are still in pain, keeping their suffering to themselves. I’m not suggesting that it would be better to let them go, but I do wonder how they survive and at what cost?
“Nine mothers visit Farmington Library on a book tour for Beyond Tears: Living After Losing a Child. They talk about surviving the death of their children. I wasn’t sure I could handle being in the same room with that much loss, so I go alone just in case I need to leave. I find they are warm and compassionate, sad and brave, and very helpful by sharing perspectives they gained from the “loss club”. I don’t want the evening to end”
Suddenly, unexpectedly, a life is gone. I see these words in obituaries quite frequently. I don’t know the circumstances of most of these deaths but I can feel the pain and question of why. If writing this memoir brings some comfort to Karin Stahl, then I hope that it also brings the same to others who have experienced the sudden loss of a child. ...more
The Hook - Book #1 was good. Would Book #2 hold my interest?
The Line - ”He had time to kill”. It’s all how you interpret this one, either banal or eviThe Hook - Book #1 was good. Would Book #2 hold my interest?
The Line - ”He had time to kill”. It’s all how you interpret this one, either banal or evil.
The Sinker - Could Robert Dugoni pull it off again? Would his character, Tracy Crosswhite continue to entice me? Series crime fiction is a pleasure and a curse. There’s the thrill of meeting a new crime fighter be it woman or man. In each outing you gain a better understanding of their psyche, what makes them tick. There is risk also. Perhaps the character doesn’t grow, becomes weak, the story line is dull and we just don’t care anymore. It takes commitment to read a series and it takes expertise to continue to write sequels that can continue to engage the reader.
Her Final Breath is only the second in the Tracy Crosswhite series. I’m just getting to know her but have decided she’s worth my time. I like her spunky spirit, the people she surrounds herself with, the Seattle landscape, her dedication to her career, and her determination to bring killers to justice and provide a sense of closure to a victim’s family. She’s a bit of a bulldog not letting a bone go. I like that.
Seattle exotic dancers are being killed left and right. Their bodies are found hogtied with a noose around their neck with a specific type of knot, therefore given the killer is given the alias, The Cowboy. His nickname is sensational and his murders are tortuous and brutal. Detective Crosswhite believes there is a tie between these recent deaths to a cold case in which a man has been accused and is serving time in prison. The chase is on.
Dugoni has written a character driven story, a character I admire. I’ll be reading book #3 as soon as it returns to my library. ...more