Saturday, April 3, 2021

Four for the Price of One!

Four short reviews today ... keeping it quick and clean and moving on!

This book was recommended to me by a friend, so I just got it without even knowing what it was really about. Then I read a few reviews by people who really didn't care for it. They all seemed to have the same objection to the book: the characters were unlikable. I don't actually find that a valid reason to dislike a book. I don't "like" Fagin, or Bill Sykes or Mr. Bumble, but that doesn't mean I don't like the book Oliver Twist ... and I don't plan on having anybody like Scarlett O'Hara be my best friend, but that doesn't keep me from reading Gone With the Wind every couple of years! I don't need to best friends with the characters, as long as it's a good story and told honestly and unpretentiously (a little wit and humor never hurt either!).

So, that being said, I loved this book! You are forewarned about what you're getting into from the very first sentence: "Ivy Lin was a thief but you would never know it to look at her." Right off the bat, you are thrown off balance. There are many different kinds of thieves: from bank robbers to con artists to international secret spies to shoplifters. What kind is Ivy? I'm not telling you. If you're intrigued enough to find out, as indeed I hope you are!, you may be surprised. And at much more beyond. Ivy is a multi-faceted, many-layered, paradoxically lazy and industrious woman with an agenda. I will admit, there were things she was willing to do to achieve her agenda that surprised - even shocked - me. Yet, somehow, I was never turned off from reading her story - I wanted to know how it played out ... if she would succeed and if so, how. And, for some bizarre reason, this very unlikable woman got under my skin and I rooted for her to win - though what the prize was going to be I never really knew.

The writing is clear, clean, with original uses of descriptions and a vision of a Chinese-American born to Chinese immigrants that we don't often read about or see in media.

Go ahead - give Ivy a try. She's worth the effort!


This was a delightful little surprise. A quick one-day read, thoroughly entertaining, this is a modern version of a period Agatha Christie murder mystery. It takes place in the roaring 20's - always good for period music, fashion, fads and political descriptions - at a posh Egyptian hotel almost at the foot of the Great Pyramids. The leading 'detective' is, of course, an amateur sleuth, who is daring and clever and amusing - oh, and a beautiful single woman. There is the usual assortment of supporting characters, villainous, virtuous, friend and foe. It's a fairly fast paced tale, told by the leading lady who is witty and judgemental and a quite good narrator. As I have read dozens (and dozens) of these murder mysteries I was sure I had it all figured out. Naturally, I was completely off the mark, and the guilty culprit was as much of a shock to me as it was to the detective!

If you like a good, almost-innocent, fun, fast murder mystery read, I heartily recommend this one.


Some of the most intriguing mystery/thrillers and complex characters I've read in the past few years have come from Scandanavia ... from the Dragon Tattoo series to the Nordic-noirs of Ragnar Jonasson and Kjell Eriksson. The Return of the Dancing Master by Henning Mankell is another to add to the ever-growing list of authors being translated for English readers.

I found this one particularly interesting as the horrible murder and the bizarre mystery that follows is based on a neoNazi group. It's very different reading about the descendants of the people who grew up in the Nazi 'neighborhood' written by a European, rather than by what American authors feel about it. Granted, it's not the main focus of this book, but the difference in the way the characters are written is quite evident.

The well-established tropes in modern Scandinavian crime writing are all in play here. A blood-splattered crime scene tells a seemingly simple story of a crime of passion, but the acute, gruesome details illuminate a richer, thornier backstory. And it requires the appropriately downtrodden loner detective (this time recently diagnosed with tongue cancer - tongue cancer?!) to decipher all the minutiae of clues, both direct and circumstantial.

The bleak winter landscape of rural Sweden is written about in stark, bleak language which brings it to life; reading about the cold in this book makes you shiver. The blistering torment of the inner monologue we're privy to in Detective Stefan Lindman's mind is in direct counterpoint to the quiet, reserved, reticent manner of his social discourse.

The only reason I couldn't give this book four ☆☆☆☆ is I truly believe it's about 50 pages too long. At almost 400 pages, it could have been shortened. Of course, this could be entirely the result of the translation and perhaps the original book wasn't quite this wordy - but, whatever - this is the one we're given to read. And it's really only an issue right towards the end. I was completely engrossed in the book until just about the last hundred pages, and almost as if a switch was flipped, I was waiting for it to wrap up.

I actually spent three nights reading this one. I took my time with it. It's not a fast read. But, it's a good one.

This had to be the most disappointing book I've read in a good long while. I (like everybody) have heard so much about it; read so many glowing reviews; read and watched so much discussion about the film, that I was quite anxious to dig into it. sigh. Dig is right. What a gully to slog through. First and foremost: a thoroughly unpleasant and self-interested and self-involved group of people. And this is not a short book, so we are with these people for a good chunk of time. Second, it's written in the first person (by one of the aforementioned unpleasant and thoroughly self-involved people), so there is no other point of view to be gained at any junction of the journey.

I did give it three stars instead of two because admittedly the final shocker(s) in the last several dozen pages was definitely a head spinner.

This was absolutely a case of my letting reviews get to me. If I hadn't known that this was a top NYTimes bestseller with glowing reviews from everywhere and that it was getting a glossy film adaptation starring Tilda (one of my favorite actors!) Swinton, I would have abandoned it within the first third of the book. I thought it was obnoxiously repetitious. I can't say too much about what was repetitious because it would be spoiling the plot for anybody who is crazy enough to pick this one up LOL. And, I know that a lot of people will. The subject matter is too controversial, the concept is too juicy, and the reviews are too splendid not to be intrigued. I get it. I fell for it. But, don't frown when I tell you that I told you so!

 That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by ... I hope you found something that sounds intriguing that you will read!

And ... have a lovely holiday weekend!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan




Jeanie said...

I always appreciate book reviews so thanks for these -- all new titles to me. Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

I too appreciate a review. Thanks for these and have a lovely day!

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