JoAnn G. (bookwoman28) - Reviews

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44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street, Bk 1)
44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street, Bk 1)
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 205
Review Date: 12/27/2005
Helpful Score: 7


This is the full length publication of a serialized novel that Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith wrote for his local paper in Edinburgh. There is, or will be, a sequel. The story line follows the interconnected lives of the occupants of the title address, and their various friends, through relationships, jobs, personal problems, and the like. There is narcissistic Bruce and his roommate Pat, a young woman taking her second year off from university to work in an art gallery; the lively older woman Domenica who knows everybody; and little Bertie, a five-year-old whose Mum is pushing him right past childhood into Italian lessons and the saxophone. This is charming, as all Smith's work is, and a light, easy read.


Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham (Agatha Raisin, Bk 8)
Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham (Agatha Raisin, Bk 8)
Author: M. C. Beaton
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 78
Review Date: 1/30/2006


To quote from the St. Petersburg Times review, "Agatha is a glorious cross between Miss Marple, Auntie Mame, and Lucille Ball with a tad of pit bull tossed in. She's wonderful." In this one, Agatha falls for the new hairdresser in town, but then when he is murdered, finds out he wasn't the Mr. McDreamy she had thought.


Alibi
Alibi
Author: Joseph Kanon
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 27
Review Date: 6/10/2006
Helpful Score: 1


A disturbing story of post-War Venice; an American serviceman's visit to his widowed mother, a socialite who has returned to the city and resumed a relationship with an old beau, turns into a nightmare of old war crimes, cover-ups, an almost-accidental murder, and an intense, doomed lovestory of the young American and a concentration camp survivor.


American Dream : Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare
Review Date: 1/27/2007


Winner of the 2005 NY Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism.
The true stories of three Milwaukee families transitioning off the welfare rolls.


Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Author: Ian McEwan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 177
Review Date: 3/1/2006
Helpful Score: 1


Winner of the Booker Prize, this darkly comic novel garnered rave reviews. The story concerns two old friends who meet again after the death of a mutual mistress, and make a pact, with disastrous consequences that neither could foresee.


Angela's Ashes
Angela's Ashes
Author: Frank McCourt
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 546
Review Date: 1/15/2007
Helpful Score: 8


This was a wonderful book in many ways - whose story I need not describe here since it has become so well known - but personally I became more and more disturbed by Frank's father and his utter failure in his role as protector and provider for his family. What he allowed to happen to his family, because of his own weaknesses, was unforgiveable, and Frank's hopeful attempts to see the best when his father would come 'round again were heartbreaking.


Anja The Liar
Anja The Liar
Author: Thomas Moran
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 2/18/2006
Helpful Score: 1


This story, set in the aftermath of WWII in Europe, made the New York Times Notable Book list. Two people, each with his and her own burden of remorse and guilt, seek to build a life together, despite the secrets they feel they can never confess. Brilliantly captures the capacity for "good and evil, betrayal and sacrifice" that lives within each of us.


Atonement
Atonement
Author: Ian McEwan
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 107
Review Date: 3/26/2007


McEwan is a master; the Economist review: "Atonement is a work of astonishing depth and humanity...worthy of the Booker." This is the story of a family, and three young people, caught up as victims of a young girl's scheming imagination.


The Awakening
The Awakening
Author: Kate Chopin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 214
Review Date: 3/1/2006
Helpful Score: 2


First published in 1899, this novel broke new ground in its depiction of women's passions and moral relativism. Scandalous in its day, the story is another of those whose authors seemed unable to imagine that a woman might break with her husband and society's expectations and yet find a happier life. As usual, she ends badly.


Back to Bologna (Aurelio Zen Mystery)
Back to Bologna (Aurelio Zen Mystery)
Author: Michael Dibdin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 9/28/2006


I really enjoy mysteries set in foreign locations and this was no exception. The central character is senior police investigator Aurelio Zen, around whom the author has written a number of successful books. In this one, the police are faced with two shootings connected to the same gun, but whose victims seem to have nothing in common. How are the university students, the private investigator, the illegal alien, and the football team owner all part of the same mystery?


Back When We Were Grownups
Back When We Were Grownups
Author: Anne Tyler
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 253
Review Date: 7/5/2005


Another highly acclaimed book by Pulitzer prize winning author Anne Tyler. Here a middle aged woman looks back on her life with some puzzlement, and decides to explore the roads not taken.


Bangkok Tattoo (Sonchai Jitpleecheep, Bk 2)
Bangkok Tattoo (Sonchai Jitpleecheep, Bk 2)
Author: John Burdett
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 57
Review Date: 3/15/2007
Helpful Score: 6


This imaginative thriller got great reviews from all the big names, not just from me. You've never met a police detective quite like Bangkok's Songchai Jitpleecheep, Buddhist, brothel owner (with his retired mother as mamasan) and - in a stream of asides to the reader -revealer of Thai wisdom and life truths. A murdered farang (foreigner) turns out to be CIA and also connected romantically to Songchai's beautiful, talented, and most profit-making "girl." Post-9/11, Songchai and his boss, the severely bent Colonel Vikorn, know that other Americans are sure to come looking for their associate and for signs of the crime being terrorist-related. The resulting cover-ups, bribes, misinformation, and strange alliances add to the Alice in Wonderland feeling.


Before You Know Kindness
Before You Know Kindness
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 270
Review Date: 7/12/2006
Helpful Score: 7


Another of Bohjalian's skillful blendings of family dynamics and timely social issues. A difficult, opinionated animal rights activist is seriously wounded by a shot fired from a gun owned by his brother-in-law, who has recently - and quietly - taken up hunting as a sport. Bad enough, but the gun was fired by the activist's own adolescent daughter - and no one is being entirely honest about the circumstances.


Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Author: Kate Atkinson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 154
Review Date: 1/25/2007
Helpful Score: 10


A terrific book by hot British writer Kate Atkinson, author of "Case Histories." This one was a Whitbread Book of the Year, and on the NY Times "Notable Books of the Year" list.
Alternating between a first person account of the young life of Ruby Lennox, and a series of chapter-long 'footnotes' that give insight into the backstory of Ruby's extended family, the book is darkly comic, sometimes tragic, wise, and very original.


Bethlehem Road Murder (Michael Ohayon)
Bethlehem Road Murder (Michael Ohayon)
Author: Batya Gur
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 11/5/2006


Although at least half a dozen books precede this one in the series, this is my first experience with Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon, whose career as a homicide detective takes place in Jerusalem. A young woman found brutally beaten and murdered in an empty apartment has no known men friends and is active in her Yemenite community. Tensions between families in her neighborhood reflect societal tensions between different factions of Jews, and between Jews and Arabs. A lonely, unhappy little girl may be able to provide clues to the secrets held by the people around her, and Ohayon may have a chance to reconnect with an old love.
I enjoyed the insight into modern day Israel, and the history lessons that became part of the plot. But the character of Danny Balilty, of the police intelligence division, just about drove me crazy. I can't imagine why anyone would listen to his nebbischy monologues or his racist remarks, and I couldn't fathom why on earth Ohayon would put up with all the unasked-for advice about his personal life. So for me his appearances slowed down the development of the plot and worked against the believability of the characters. Or maybe it's just more insight into a tendency in other cultures for everyone to criticize and mind everyone else's business in a way that would normally not be tolerated in the US.
The author gets strong reviews both in the US and internationally, however, and I enjoyed the book and the look into Israeli society enough that I will probably seek out and read others in the series.


The Black Book
The Black Book
Author: Orhan Pamuk
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 1/27/2007


I first read the author's later book, "Snow" and loved being immersed in the exotic complexities of modern Istanbul culture. The Times Literary Supplement called this one "Pamuk's masterpiece," and inasmuch as he is an internationally acclaimed and award winning author, I decided to try this one, too. This was a more challenging read, an unconventional mystery, and a "provacative meditation on identity." In it, the wife of a lawyer living in Istanbul has disappeared, and mysteriously, so has her ex-husband, a popular newspaper columnist. Keeping his wife's disappearance a secret, the lawyer - trying to determine for himself what has happened - gradually takes on the identity of the ex-husband, wearing his clothes, even writing his columns. But answers remain elusive, just out of his grasp, in a changing and fluid situation. A cult novel in Turkey, this has been newly translated for US reader, and has been widely acclaimed here.


Blue Rodeo
Blue Rodeo
Author: Jo-Ann Mapson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 9
Review Date: 8/28/2005


Struggling to cope with a deaf son, a failed marriage, and a faltering career in the arts, a woman relocates to New Mexico and learns to heal family bonds.


The Book of Daniel
The Book of Daniel
Author: E.L. Doctorow
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 1/15/2007
Helpful Score: 1


The astonishing novel about a young man whose parents were executed for espionage by the US government - and about the America he struggles to understand.. "Every scene is perfectly realized and every part feeds into the whole - the themes and symbols echoing and reverberating." (Newsweek)


Breathing Lessons
Breathing Lessons
Author: Anne Tyler
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 273
Review Date: 3/7/2006
Helpful Score: 2


Pulitzer prize winning author Anne Tyler's story of a couple who get reacquainted with one another during a long automobile trip to a friend's funeral. The reviewers loved this one, with good reason.


By A Spider's Thread (Tess Monaghan, Bk 8)
By A Spider's Thread (Tess Monaghan, Bk 8)
Author: Laura Lippman
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 141
Review Date: 12/11/2005


P.I. Tess Monaghan is hired to help a wealthy Orthodox Jew find his young wife who has vanished, taking their three children. He believes her to have been a devoted wife and mother, but who is she on the run with, and why? And will he believe the secrets that Tess has begun to uncover?


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