Thursday, January 16, 2014

STORM FRONT by John Sandford

John Sandford

One star? Two stars? I can't decide. If I were to use a star system, I would need a 1/2 star option for this one. I did not like the book, but I like Virgil Flowers, in general, as a character.

I became disenchanted with John Sandford when he killed off one of his characters, portraying her as single and wanting a child, while in the previous book, the character already had a child. I can be unforgiving for glaring errors such as this. I read Storm Front nonetheless, as I am a fan of Sandford's character, Virgil Flowers.

And, I honestly did not like Storm Front, despite the presence of Flowers. Mossad, Hezbollah, assassins, and the like all searching for a stolen Israeli relic in Mankato, Minnesota? The plot is as confusing as it is unbelievable. Flowers' process in solving the mystery is also not credible. I found it difficult to keep the characters straight, and the ones I could get a grasp on are shells of characters, with little development at all. Even Virgil Flowers, with his interesting, well-developed back story, is portrayed without much development or depth; he does not appear as the same good looking, intelligent, un-police-officer-like police officer whom I have grown to love.

Parts of the book appear to have no purpose. For example, at one point, Flowers goes to the garage to detail the interior of his boat. For those of us who have known Virgil, it comes as no surprise that his boat would be spotless - why would he need to detail it? Those who do not know Virgil might wonder why he would need to detail his boat. There does not appear to be any relevance to the plot. Also, the snippets of conversation between Flowers and Davenport appear to be superfluous and meaningless to the story.

            Furthermore, I found the writing itself is wanting. The first line of Chapter 2 begins: "It was one of the great Minnesota summers of all time...." Elsewhere, Sandford describes the Holiday Inn, “an older building downtown, left over from the sixties or seventies, slowly failing in place….” And later in the book, we are told that Virgil, while driving, "threw them off Highway 14 and onto 390th Street to West Elysian Lake Road...."

The book was not a total disappointment. When we are told that "Virgil changed into combat gear - jeans and a T-shirt....," we catch a glimpse of the Virgil Flowers we know and love. Nonetheless, Storm Front leaves me with the impression that Sandford does not understand that his characters have developed a life of their own and that this book was put together in great haste. I remain disappointed.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

SPLENDOUR FALLS by Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley

            When I first began reading Splendour Falls, by Susanna Kearsley, I was initially disappointed, as I am wont to be, when I find that one of her books is not set in Scotland. But, there was King John and Queen Isabelle and siege and intrigue and hidden treasure. And, as with Kearsley’s other books that take place outside Scotland, I was wont to very quickly forget about Caledonia and became fully engrossed in the particular setting of this novel. With Splendour Falls, it was not long before I wanted to book travel to Chinon.

            Britisher Emily Braden, whose cousin, Harry, was a Plantagenet scholar, was persuaded by Harry to take a vacation and meet him in Chinon. However, Harry, true to form, was not very reliable.

            Despite his promise, King John did not come for Isabelle during the siege; despite his promise, Harry did not meet Emily’s train on her journey to Chinon. John, however, did send a knight to rescue Isabelle; Harry, on the other hand, simply neglected to show at the agreed upon time and place. Perhaps Emily was right: Prince Charmings no longer existed.

            But John’s young wife was not the only Isabelle of intrigue in Chinon’s history; another Isabelle, in another historical time, was also shrouded in mystery. Although Emily had known of King John and Queen Isabelle, she was unaware of all that was hidden in Chinon – hidden in its history or hidden in the many tunnels running underneath it. It did not take long, however, for her to become ensconced in the complexities and intrigues of its people and its history.

            As always, Kearsley’s characters are wonderfully developed, complex, and fascinating.  The interweaving of their lives – especially on the Chinon backdrop – is masterful. The story is very compelling; more often than not, I reached the end of a chapter and decided to read just one more – until, of course, I reached the end of that next chapter.

Chinon teems with history. And, along with that history, there is magic everywhere. Perhaps, Emily, there are Prince Charmings after all!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

GEORGE KNOWS by Mindy Mymudes

George Knows is a fabulous book about a Basset Hound (George) who works very hard to properly train his "Girlpup", a young witch-in-training.

Mymudes is a "dog person", and she definitely gets it right when writing about George!

Although this is a book written for children, it is also a great book for adults. I found it very enjoyable and look forward to reading the sequels!

Highly Recommended!