Monday, December 28, 2015


Tana French

            I recently grabbed an unknown audiobook from a library shelf – The Secret Place, by Tana French – not knowing that it was the most recent of French’s five book Dublin Murder Squad series. I absolutely loved the book, see review October 11, 2015 So, standing in front of that same shelf weeks later, I grabbed the only other audiobook from the series that was available, Faithful Place, the third book in French’s series.

            To my delight, I discovered that the centerpiece of Faithful Place is Detective Frank Mackey and also involves his daughter, Holly Mackey, and Detective Stephen Moran. All three are characters I had met in The Secret Place.

            In Faithful Place, we learn Frank’s backstory. He grew up in a poor, dysfunctional family, one of five kids. When he was 19 years old, he planned to run away to London with his girlfriend, Rosie Daly. When Rosie failed to show, Frank concluded that she had dumped him. He left home alone and later joined the Guard.

            Twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase was found. Frank finally discovers what really happened that night, what happened to Rosie, and much more. The discoveries hit close to home and upend Frank’s life. French gives new meaning to “you can’t go home again.”

            Faithful Place is very well written. Tana French is not only insightful, concerning the human psyche, but she is a master of conveying that insight through her character development. She can capture complexities in a manner that is rare for many writers.

            And, I am actually happy that I read The Secret Place before reading Faithful Place. I think that knowing what later transpires between these characters helped me better appreciate the nuances of the backstories and how they engender the later events.

            French is a true literary master – and, I cannot wait to read the rest of the Dublin Murder Squad series!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

BURNED by Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning

            Mac is back! Okay, so that may not be original, but it truly was one of my first reactions to Burned, the latest installment in Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. I had a problem with the last installment, Iced – I like Dani, but I am not so much a Dani fan to want to read a Dani book. I am a Mac-and-JZB fan, and I was thrilled to be sitting down with another Mac book. It was so nice to be back in Mac’s world. When I finished Burned, I immediately restarted the book so that I could remain in her world a little while longer.

            Nonetheless, the book was disappointing. There did not seem to be much of a plot. The book included more of the same that we have experienced with Mac, and there did not seem to be much to move the story along. The book involves the continued pursuit of Christian, the question of Dani’s whereabouts, and Mac’s continued angst about Dani. We do learn some more about the players, but other than this character development, the book felt like a sort of picture of the status quo.

            I was surprised at the number of excerpts I had previously read that were included in Burned. Certainly, I expected to see the parts or chapters that Moning had released early as “teasers”; other parts, however, surprised me. For example, I had thought that the “sex scene” with Mac and Barrons was a sort of internet only “present” for fans; I was astonished to find it in Burned. Even though Moning did a decent job of working it into the plot, Burned felt pieced together or choppy – as if Moning were trying to take these previously written parts and smooth them together into a cohesive plot.

            One thing that I really liked about Burned was Moning’s increased mix of the Highlander and Fever series. I am a fan of both. However, what she did to one of my “favorites” felt unforgiveable – and, I might have quit on her had I not suspected the ending. Moning included a lengthy guide, at the end of the book, entitled “People, Places, and Things”. The guide is very impressive and nice to have.

            In general, Burned is not very well written. For example, there are references to people “that” (instead of people “who”….), there are typos, and there are questionable grammatical structures (such as “me and _____”). I understand that some of these writing faux pas might have been intentional on Moning’s part, for a certain character, but the prevalence of these writing gaffes led me to wonder about the editors.

            Burned is not going to win any awards for its literary prowess – so, if you are looking for a high quality literary fiction, this is not the book. Nonetheless, as a devoted fan, I devoured this book. Despite its shortcomings, I will read it again, and, along with the other devotees, I impatiently await Moning’s next release in her Fever series. I cannot wait for Mac to come back again!


Saturday, December 19, 2015

THE TAPESTRY by Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau

            The Tapestry is Bilyeau’s final installment in her Joanna Stafford trilogy. The first book, The Crown, was published in 2012; the second, The Chalice, in 2013. When I began reading The Tapestry, published in 2015, I found that I had forgotten a great deal of the trilogy that took place in these prior books.

            Joanna Stafford had been a Dominican novice at the priory in Dartford before it was closed by her cousin, King Henry VIII. She subsequently remained in Dartford, intent on living a quiet life weaving tapestries.

            Her quiet existence was cut short, however, when the king summoned her to Whitehall Palace. While she was at Whitehall, the king appointed Joanna to be “the permanent Tapestry Mistress of the court, to oversee, maintain, and add to our collection, which is the finest in all of Christendom.” (p. 124).

While at Whitehall, Joanna discovered that someone was trying to kill her – but who and why? Her friend, Constable Geoffrey Scovill, helped to protect her and to discover who was behind the attempts on Joanna’s life.

            The Tapestry is a work of historical fiction. Bilyeau introduces us to some interesting historical figures, it is a decent plot, and the writing is good. However, the book did not “grab” me. It is possible that I would have appreciated this book much more if I had reread the first two installments in the trilogy prior to reading it.

But, I was also left wondering about the book’s historical accuracy. It is a personal pet peeve, but in general, I dislike historical fiction with low historicity. Overall, however, I am glad that I read this book.


Friday, October 23, 2015

DIARY by Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk

            Chuck Palahniuk’s Diary is an interesting book. It’s a real downer – but, it is intriguing, weird, and, well, very interesting. Although I listened to the audio book, in my opinion, Diary is a “good read”.

            Misty met Peter at art school. They eventually married and returned to his home to live, on Waytansea Island, where she worked as a waitress and he as a contractor. As a child, Misty had been drawing fancy houses and other scenes from Waytansea Island, although she had never been there. This is just another oddity in this plot – just like the diary – just like the odd phone calls about disappearing rooms – just like Misty’s return to her art. The twists and turns that are revealed as the plot unfolds are intriguing.

            This is my first experience with Palahniuk, and I love his writing – from the book’s “weather reports” to his “creative” phraseology, such as “Bermuda Triangulated”. The writing shifts as the plot progresses: for example, Misty begins with “take a drink”; as the plot develops, she switches to “take a pill”. There are also shifts during the same time: for example, Misty might mention “Peter’s body”; then, she will repeat her comment, substituting “your body” and directing it to Peter.

            Diary includes interesting detail about art school – for example, how everyone wants to do something “new”, such as a teddy bear filled with poop. Palahniuk includes detail about the human musculature, facial features, and the like that art students learn early on. The relevance of this information becomes clear as the plot unfolds – and “unfolding” – or unfurling – is precisely how it feels as we experience this plot.

            I wish I had read Diary, instead of listening to the book. Although I enjoyed the audio, there are so many clever nuances and subtleties in Palahniuk’s writing that I wish I could go back and capture precisely some of his cleverness.

            This is a great book. Intriguing plot. Clever writing. Interesting characters. I am so glad that I discovered Palahniuk and look forward to reading his other work. I love Diary!




M. J. Rose

            Believing that her husband killed her beloved father, Sandrine Salome runs to her grandmother in Paris. Her grandmother, “one of Paris’s celebrated courtesans” (p. 4), owns an amazing home that Sandrine remembers from childhood, Maison de la Lune, a “four-story mid-eighteenth-century stone house….” (p. 3). But, she did not find her grandmother at the house; rather, her grandmother was living in an apartment, as the house was “under renovation”.

            Nonetheless, Sandrine kept feeling pulled by the house. While responding to this pull, she met Julien Duplessi, an architect working at the house. With Julien’s assistance, Sandrine “sneaks” into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where, disguised as a man, she becomes an award winning painting student of Gustave Morean. As the book progresses, we see the changes that Sandrine undergoes as she encounters the spirit of La Lune.

            The Witch Of Painted Sorrows is well written and a good read. It is, essentially, historical fiction, with a touch of the supernatural or paranormal. In this way, it reminds me of the works of two of my favorite authors, Deborah Harkness and Susanna Kearsley; however, whereas their works are historical with some paranormal that seems “normal”, the combination feels a little out of place in Rose’s book. The two genres just do not seem to “mesh” smoothly.

            Although I generally enjoyed The Witch Of Painted Sorrows, I did not understand the ending. After completing the novel, I had a “huh? I don’t get it” moment. Nonetheless, as a whole, it was an engaging novel.