Sunday, November 3, 2013


by Lisa Scottoline, St. Martin's Press, October 2013

...a cozy mystery with a great cast of characters

In Accused Lisa Scottoline returns to her roots with the familiar and likeable cast of Rosato and Associates. These women and their friends and family have been featured in Scottoline's most successful and enjoyable book. (Legal Tender, The Vendetta Defense).  In this mystery Mary DiNunzio a newly minted partner in the firm takes on an unusual client, a 13 year old.  This young girl, a now only child from a famously wealthy family, is convinced that the wrong man has been convicted and jailed for her sister's murder. DiNunzio leads the investigation and is often at odds with the girl's parents and members of her own law firm.   The story wanders around Philadelphia both downtown and other neighborhoods, with spot on descriptions that bring the city to life.  This cozy mystery is a light, fun read with a cast of characters that are entertaining.  Among my favorites are Mary's uncles, all named Tony -so South Philly! 

 Scottoline is back in great form with this mystery, here's hoping she sticks with the girls at the law firm and we see lots more of these stories.

I read and reviewed a copy of this book provided by the publisher.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Giveaway - Me Before You Giveaway Closed

The publisher has offered a copy of this JoJo Moyes novel for giveaway.  This was a great story, one of my favorites this year.  See my review here.  To enter the giveaway just follow the rules that are in the right column next to this post.  Giveaway ends September 3.
The winner of the giveaway is mheffernan245.  Thanks to all who entered.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Giveaway - The Girl You Left Behind -Giveaway Closed

The publisher has kindly offered a copy of JoJo Moyes new novel that releases later this month for giveaway to readers of this blog.  I just finished it and really enjoyed it.  Read my review here.

Giveaway rules are simple and are stated in the column to the right of this post.  The giveaway will close on August 17, 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013

German Villains!

The Girl You Left Behind 
by JoJo Moyes
Pamela Dorman Books, August 2013

The Light in the Ruins 
by Chris Bohjalian,
Doubleday, July 2013

What would the today’s writers  do for villains without the German army invading European countries in the first half of the twentieth century.  German soldiers are the most likely evildoers in more than half of the novels that I read.  I just finished two books where this was true so I thought I might review them together.  The talented writer JoJo Moyes (Me Before You) has penned The Girl You Left Behind, a novel of the German occupation of France in WWI.  Chris Bojhalian (The Double Bind, Midwives) has just released Light in the Ruins a story centered on the German occupation of Italy in WWII.  While very different in tone these stories have a lot in common -the villains  the loathsome Germans - the moral dilemmas people face in dealing with an occupying enemy  - the heart wrenching losses that people suffer during war and lastly the fact that both books alternate between past and present events.

Light in the Ruins  like so many of Bojhalian’s books is hard to characterize.  It is part murder mystery, part historical drama , and part romance and  has a decidedly dark tone to it.  The protagonist is Serafina who served with the Italian partisans during the German occupation.  Ten years after the end of the war Serafina is  a police detective in Florence investigating the murder of an Italian woman whose husband and two children were killed by the Germans.  Serafina was badly burned in the waning days of the occupation and has dim memories of those days.  As the investigation continues Serafina comes to realize that she has crossed paths with the murder victim during the war.   When another family member is killed all signs point to events that occurred during the war driving the killer.  The wartime story is interspersed with the murder investigation.  This story is very well plotted with characters that are strong and real.  There are no happy endings here but this is an absorbing story.

The Girl You Left Behind has a lighter tone to it.  The first half of the book tells of the French woman Sophie Leferve who runs a hotel/restaurant with her sister in 1916.  Her beloved husband Edouard, an artist is fighting at the Front.  The Germans occupy the town and the Kommandant takes an interest in Sophie and a painting of Sophie that her husband did.   The narrative describes the hardships and cruelties inflicted on the French people during this occupation  In order to save her husband who is now a POW Sophie contemplates giving in to the Kommandant’s sexual demands to gain his release.  The story abruptly shifts to modern day about half way through the book.  A young widow Liv, now owns Sophie’s painting and sees it as her most valued possession because it was a gift from her late husband.  The Leferve family is claiming that the artwork was looted during war and it is rightfully their property. As Liv comes to know and investigate Sophie’s life she grows attached to her.  Throughout this part of the story Liv is slowly falling in love with Paul, an investigator working for the Lefevre family.   In the court contest over the painting the rest of Sophie’s story is told.  I liked this book and I fear I have not done a very good job in the plot summary.  While the story is complicated, it is engrossing, well written and a great read!  The ending is somewhat fanciful but who doesn’t like a love story that turns out well every now and then. Both books are highly recommended!

I read a copy of The Girl You Left Behind provided by the publisher. I read a copy of The Light in the Ruins that I borrowed from The Free Library of Philadelphia

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Son

by Philipp Meyer, Ecco, May 2013

... a real Western without the romanticism of Louis L'Amour or Zane Grey

This is a novel of the American West set in Texas.  It follows one family - the McCullough’s - thru the history of the state.  The patriarch, Colonel Eli McCullough, was the first white child born in Texas in 1836. Eli lives for 100 years so he carries the story forward well into the twentieth century.   He is the larger than life character that dominates this story.  The other two storylines are interspersed between Eli’s narrative.  Eli’s  son Peter is a brooding intellectual type who lives through the pre WWI conflict with Mexico and is forever changed when his Mexican neighbors are massacred by his family.  Lastly Eli’s  great granddaughter Jeanne Anne is a talented woman trying to make her way in the male dominated world of big oil.    

This is really an epic saga about the settling and growth  of Texas.  Through Eli’s experiences we read of family massacres, Comanche Indians who kidnap and use white settlers,  Texas Rangers who enforce a frontier type of law.  Through Peter’s story we see the conflicts between the white Texans and the Hispanic settlers who were the original landowners in the area. All of the corruption that marks the relations between a victorious conqueror and the losing side  is here to behold.  Peter also tells the story of the movement from cattle ranching to oil drilling in the big ranches in Texas.  Jeanne Anne’s experiences show the grow of big oil in the state and the uphill battle a woman faced in being successful in this state.  

This story flies along and is filled with action.  I particularly liked the ending which was somewhat unexpected and definitely satisfying.  I was left with two impressions after reading it.  One if anyone wonders where the gun culture in the US comes from, read this story.  Almost from the first settlers in the West, the gun was used to ensure white superiority.  All disputes were settled with guns and loss of life was the norm not the exception and this story illustrates that in spades.  My second impression was that this story so close to truth was profoundly depressing and grim  in that the behavior of the white Texans to the Native Americans and the Mexicans was extremely brutal.  Probably not that much different from other conquering nations but depressing nonetheless.  The author does not sugarcoat any of it.  So if you want to read a real Western story with none of the romanticism of Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey read this.  Sure to be one of the best books of the year.

I read a copy of this novel provided by the publisher

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan, Doubleday, June 2013

... a definite beach read!

This is a fun book on it’s way no doubt to becoming a fun movie. American born Chinese girl unknowingly becomes romantically involved with a colleague who is the scion of an incredibly rich Chinese family living in Singapore.  The story flits from New York to London to Paris to Hong Kong to Singapore.  The author has some familiarity with the lifestyles of the upper echelons of the incredibly rich Chinese and uses this information to skewer them in a hilarious fashion.  

Rachel Chu is a successful college professor who falls in love with Nick Young a fellow prof at NYU.  Nick invites her to his family home in Singpore without telling her much about the extensive wealth of his family.  As you might imagine this girl from modest circumstances is not welcomed by the haughty family.  Nick’s childhood friend is marrying and an outrageously expensive wedding provides the backdrop for most of this story.  Rachel is immediately uncomfortable in this world and is rescued only by Nick’s cousin Astrid.  Astrid’s relationship with her husband provides one of the subplots for the book.  Events proceed in a rather predictable way but the story is rescued by the writing style of the author - he makes it all fun - an entertaining soap opera with multiple characters acting in just enough of an outrageous manner to make the whole story fly along.  A definite beach read!

I read a copy of this novel provided by the publisher.