Audiobook Review: A Trick of the Light

Why have I not read any Louise Penny before this? Wonderful, expressive writing, rich and vivid characters that are all at once charming, hilarious and interesting to spend time with. A smart mystery but with that little extra with sharp and very realistic characters.

Synopsis: ( and taken from The New York Times) In A Trick of the Light, Inspector Gamache returns to Three Pines, a village so tiny and secretive it doesn’t appear on any maps.  A dead woman in a red dress turns up in Clara Morrow’s flower garden, ruining this local artist’s moment of glory after her solo show at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montreal. When the victim is identified as an art critic and frenemy from Clara’s past, she becomes an obvious “person of interest” to the police. But with so many members of the cutthroat art community on hand to make what they will of Clara’s success, there are plenty of suspects to go around.

The narrator, of course, is an extremely important person for an audiobook. The first five minutes or so are crucial in letting me know if I can continue or I’ll be hitting eject (I’ve done that with a few but then I’ve also painfully endured through others)! At first, I wasn’t so sure about this one, but as the book progressed and Chief Inspector Gamache digs deeper in to the world of artists, art dealers, gallery owners, the stodgey, almost pompous-like voice becomes absolute listening perfection.

Such fluid beautiful writing with characters that pop off the page. I loved having this story read to me. Having Ruth, the old, ornery drunken poet, brought to life by the narrator is worth the price of admission alone. Her exchanges with Inspector Beauvoir are just awesome. The exchanges between Beauvoir and Gamache are brilliant as well.

But the beauty and feeling in her writing also made me cry when I drove to work (at the part where Gamache tells Lillian Dyson’s parents she has been murdered.) The tenderness, the emotion, in how it was written (and narrated) was done in such a way that I had trouble driving the car while blinking back the tears.

It did drag just a teeny-tad for me in the middle-to-the-end, but overall, a very enjoyable read. Her writing will most definitely draw me back for more, and in my opinion is far more satisfying than Kate Atkinson’s drab, non-descriptive style.

And…by the end I had it narrowed down to two suspects and I’m happy to say that one of my two was the actual murderer. Duh dunh dunhhh…. 🙂

Review: Sister

If you are looking for a smart page-burner, Sister is for you!  Rosamund Lupton spins an enthralling yarn about a sister who leaves her yuppie life in New York to head back home to London to find her younger sister, who has suddenly vanished.  Your heroine is Beatrice, whose determination to find her sister Tess will have you reading well into the night.  I can’t write too much about Beatrice’s search for Tess, because I don’t want to spoil anything.  I will say, however, that the more Beatrice digs into Tess’ past, the more she discovers that she didn’t know every aspect of her sister’s life, as she had always assumed.  Her sleuth work flies in the face of the police, doctors, friends, her fiancé, and even her mother.  But Beatrice carries on, because she cannot give up on Tess.  While she pushes forward to find out the truth about her beloved sister, she inadvertently winds up on a profound path of self discovery, which adds even more humanity to the story. 

The way the book is written is interesting, as it’s in the format of one long letter from Beatrice to Tess.  It took a couple of pages to get the hang of this style, but once you realize that the story will unfold this way, it takes off like a shot.  When you see everything through Beatrice’s eyes, you quickly begin to appreciate her heartfelt observations: 

“I remember word for word your seven-year-old reply to my fragmented homesickness and that your writing was invisible until I shone a torch onto the paper.  Ever since, kindness has smelled of lemons.”

“I get up and pace the room, as if I can leave my guilt behind me.  But it tracks me as I walk, an ugly shadow made by myself.”

Wonderful writing.  Impressions that leave a mark!

The book’s characters are beautifully developed, from the anguished mother of Beatrice and Tess, to the kindly neighbor who looks after Tess’ potted plants.  The story’s dark twist will have you scrambling to turn the pages, as it truly is a terrific whodunit.  4 stars, and I’ll be adding Rosamund Lupton’s Afterwards to my to-read list!

Review: Case Histories

I’m going to say 3.25 stars.

Case Histories is about three interwoven mysteries, or actually, Cold Cases. Olivia, the little girl (sister to Sylvia, Amelia and Julia) that vanished in to thin air over thirty years ago; Laura Wyre, who was mercilessly murdered at her father’s law office; and Michelle, the husband-axe-murderer.

The mysteries were really very good, however, the writing was far too bland and too straightforward and it made it seem either choppy or just matter of fact plain? The ending just ended, although it did wrap up the mysteries, but it still felt as though it did just came to an abrupt end.

These unsolved cases were really very good and interesting, but the straight up, no embellishment or extra descriptives didn’t grab me. I’m also going to take in to consideration this is Atkinson’s first “Brodie” book, and I am completely willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because I do absolutely plan on reading more from her.

What really frustrated me however about this book were the chapters with the character Amelia (sister to the missing Olivia). In my opinion, utterly useless chapters. Completely wasted chapters that went on and on and on and on about her “spinterish” personality and what we have mercilessly hammered in to our brains about her incredibly inactive sex life, her obsession with her sister, Julia, and Julia’s very opposite and active sex life, her persistent flirting with Brodie, and with anyone around her and their sex life. Completely unnecessary and in my opinion began to distract from the story and I began to question what it had to do with their missing sister, Olivia.  I found myself skipping over huge chunks of these chapters.  Because, you know…once stated in a paragraph, the reader gets it. She’s a sexually frustrated, unattractive, bitter and repressed character. Got it. Clearly. Crystal. We didn’t need for it to be repeated continuously every time Amelia is mentioned. Very, very distracting from the cold cases.

So, overall, a very enjoyable read that did have me actually laughing out loud in some instances, but had a couple of glaring flaws that doesn’t allow me to rate it any higher than the 3.25 stars.

I am absolutely however going to be tuning in to the PBS 3-part series of Case Histories, as I’ve DVRd them…I missed the first one and I started to watch while on a work-trip in the US, (can’t watch it online in Canada! Boooooo) but quickly realized that the first one was mirroring very closely the story about Olivia….I was no where near finished the book, so I didn’t want to ruin the surprise!

Book Review: Juliet

Depending on if you read the Hardcover (flower) or the Paperback (two faces) these are the editions of Juliet, by Anne Fortier. I read the hardcover version.

This is Fortier’s first novel and in my opinion she did a bang up job!

However, I’m still taking away a star because of the serious character flaws with the Modern Day Juliet. She was terribly whiny, insecure and horribly naive. The constant complaining about her twin sister Janet (or Giannozza) and second guessing of herself and her low self-esteem became far too often beyond annoying. The ending with the modern day Juliet and her Romeo also becomes quite convoluted, but I won’t say much as I don’t want to give any of the suspense or discoveries away.

But overall, this was some great historical fiction! Romance, mystery, murder, history, intrigue, Shakespeare, present day, past times, treasure hunts, forbidden lands, secret documents, forbidden love….it was a novel that grabbed a hold of me (definitely once the storyline hit on Siena, Italy in 1340) and kept me up late not wanting to leave behind Romeo and Giulietta and their struggle and their undying love for one another.

A curse on both their houses! Julie Jacobs discovers she is a descendant of the Juliet that inspired Shakespeare’s play and heads off to Siena, Italy to discover the truth behind the legendary tale, her family’s connection to the Tolomei’s and Salimbeni’s and the ancient curse that is said to follow them, and to recover a supposed treasure left behind by their deceased mother.  We are brought to modern day Siena and then swept away to 1340 Siena in alternating chapters.

The ancient Guilietta is a wonderful heroine, full of passion and spunk and her swashbuckling hero Romeo is beautifully described.  This primeval story is gorgeously told, full of passion and violent vendettas between three families. This is where I was sucked in, swept away and the parts that I never wanted to end. I was heartbroken when I reached the scene so immortalized in Shakespeare’s play, where Romeo and Juliet meet their demise. Beautifully told!

This is why I am willing to forgive Fortier for her less-than spectacular depiction of the modern day Juliet (how surprisingly different than the original Juliet! Why?) because overall this story is so wonderfully written, the writing is so beautiful and I could not wait to be swept back in time to medieval Siena. 4 stars.