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Reviews by Lynn

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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
by David McCullough
How France influenced America (12/27/2011)
Take some of the most important American authors, artists, doctors, and other historical figures that lived in France for some period of time during the mid-1800's to early 1900's, and you have a really remarkable book about how France influenced America -- for the better. First of all, I am a huge fan of David McCullough. I didn't know that this book would be so interesting and full of fascinating history. I particularly enjoyed the stories involving James Fenimore Cooper and John Singer Sargent. But this book has so much more. I recommend it highly.
Pray for Silence: A Kate Burkholder Thriller (Series #2)
by Linda Castillo
Not a good follow-up novel (7/29/2011)
I enjoyed the first book in this series and was looking forward to reading this one, but it just isn't very good. The mystery had potential, but the story line is very obvious. I could give more stars for that, but the writing wasn't well executed in this book. It is OK to remind the readers that the female police chief was formerly Amish with a traumatic past history, but you don't need to bring it up every chapter. A smart reader won't forget those details. The crime was especially hard to read and brutal, but the author goes on and on with how angry Kate is as she uncovers every clue. It would have been much more interesting to have that anger developed in the character and actions of Kate rather than just repeating it over and over again. I need to be convinced that there is improvement in the writing before I would pick up the third book in the series. I hope that is the case.
The Snowman: A Novel
by Jo Nesbo
Loved this book! (7/14/2011)
If you love the Stieg Larrson books, Michael Connelly, Lee Child and that mystery / thriller genre, you must add Jo Nesbo to your list of authors. I have been telling all my friends and family to run to the bookstore and grab this book and start reading immediately. Unfortunately, I started this book on a Monday so I spent a week trying to do my work, but thinking about getting home so I could read some more. The book is thrilling, full of interesting characters and great twists and turns. By the way, I know I will be very nervous the next time I see a Snowman.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
by Stieg Larsson
Brilliant (9/5/2010)
How did he do this series so well? It was so complicated, yet very compelling. Larsson completely closed up all the open issues in the end. This book did start off with some complex reading about the Swedish government and Sapo, but it all made sense in the end. I try to describe this series to friends, but it is so original that I can't seem to describe it completely. The loss of Stieg Larsson is tragic. I will miss his brilliant story-telling and I will so so miss Lisbeth Salander.
The Girl Who Played with Fire
by Stieg Larsson
Better than the first book in the series (8/15/2010)
I just love Lisbeth Salander! I am actually sad that there will only be 3 books with her as a character. This 2nd book of the series was non-stop action and suspense. I loved it as a follow-up to the excellent "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo". We got to spend more time with Lisbeth and her history on this one. Stieg Larrson has written a masterpiece. I can't wait for the next book.
The Master Butchers Singing Club
by Louise Erdrich
Just Average Book (8/15/2010)
The good news is that Louise Erdrich is an excellent storyteller and you will see parts of that throughout the book. There wasn't enough of the story written from Fidelis' point of view. Maybe, it was my fault, but I though this would be about a Singing Club, but that part was so minor in the book. I did like parts of the book such as many of the characters and the setting, but I disliked others -- actually had nightmares about a story about the cellar. It was one of those books that took a long time to get through some of the story, but the ending was too fast and incomplete.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel
by Helen Simonson
Very entertaining and charming (7/6/2010)
It may not happen immediately, but well before you finish this book, you will love Major Pettigrew. I love how the author was able to incorporate the Major's thoughts as well as his actions into a great character. This is such a funny and charming book. The feel of the story will remind you of the charm of the Mitford series of several years ago. I was somewhat aware of the prejudices of economic class and Pakistani immigrants, but this book really turned it into an enlightening part of the story. There has to be a sequel. I will buy it the first day it is available.
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Deadliest Epidemic - and How It Changed the Way We Think about Disease, Cities, Science, and the Modern World
by Steven Johnson
Science that reads like a thriller (7/6/2010)
I really surprised myself by finding this book to be so readable. I tried to imagine the fear of the times to contract a disease that you were fully aware would kill you within a day of coming down with the symptoms. It was so easy for the incurious experts to determine the cause of the disease would also put all the blame on the poor and their environment. Once the curious of scientific and care-taking minds got involved, the obvious answer was found with an easy solution to save thousands. It still took another devastating outbreak and decades before people got behind the correct cause and solution. I enjoyed reading about the people involved and felt that the book kept my interest up from beginning to . . . almost end. I did not find the last chapter to be as well written as the rest of the book.
Among the Mad: A Maisie Dobbs Novel
by Jacqueline Winspear
Not the best in the series (2/8/2010)
I have been a huge fan of the Maisie Dobbs series of books, but this one did not interest me very much. I compliment Jacqueline Winspear for the attention to detail for the period of the story, but the topic was too dark and gloomy for me this time. I realize the author wanted to capture the depression of the time and how the war devastated anentire generation of men, but there was no lightness in the book at all. Where were some of the lighter stories that make up previous books. I was counting the pages until the book was over and I really didn't care much about the resolution of the case. I do recommend the earlier Maisie Dobb books though.
South of Broad
by Pat Conroy
Beautifully written (2/5/2010)
Pat Conroy is such an outstanding writer. There isn't a published word by him that I have not read. However, I believe I was a little let down by this book. It isn't fair to judge every book he writes by the great books of "The Great Santini", "The Prince of Tides" and "The Lords of Discipline". This book could not hold up to that standard. What was wonderful about this book is the way Mr. Conroy describes a scene. No one does it better. I felt like I was in the middle of Charleston while I was reading this book. I reread so many passages as I could not think of anyway they could have been written any better. The major flaw to me were the conversations among the well crafted friends of the main character, Leo King. While the conversations were witty and fun, I don't believe anyone really talks like that on a regular basis in real life. It just didn't ring true to me. However, Leo King was a wonderful character -- but probably too much of a saint overall to be believable. His only flaw was that he was not the most attractive person. On the other hand, Leo's mother's had only one favorable attribute -- she was intelligent in a book way, not in an emotional way. I do want Pat Conroy to start writing again so that we don't have to wait so long for the next book. I will be in the bookstore the day it comes out. What a great writer!!
That Old Cape Magic
by Richard Russo
I love Richard Russo books! (2/5/2010)
I literally run to the bookstore the day a new book by Richard Russo comes out. I especially loved his books "Empire Falls" and "The Straight Man". This is not Mr. Russo's best book, but still a very enjoyable read. Mr. Russo writes with such humor and warmth, and nobody writes a better group of characters. In this book, the main character, Griffin, will remind you of the type of person you would love to have as a friend. The reason I gave it 4 stars is that I really didn't think the story was his best, but you will find the 2nd wedding in the book very enjoyable. Now those scenes were fun to read and something I will remember for a long time after the book is finished.
Stitches: A Memoir
by David Small
Wow -- what an experience! (2/5/2010)
I pick up a graphic novel every couple years when I find one that sounds interesting. I always enjoy them, but normally read standard books forms. I had read a review about this graphic memoir and wanted to see what it was all about. When I arrived home from the bookstore on a very cold, rainy night, I pulled out the book immediately and started reading. An hour later, I still had my wet raincoat on as I couldn't even stop reading long enough to get comfortable. The art work was amazing. I constantly had to stop and study a particular frame. The few words used in this story seemed unnecessary because the artwork was so vivid and conveyed the tale so well to the reader. The story is really sad and even terrifying at times, but I feel that David Small is a remarkable person to survive his childhood and make a successful life for himself. You will be cheering for David Small to have a really great life from this point forward.
The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel
by Yoko Ogawa
A wonderful story (12/27/2009)
I loved this book for its spare and loving language deep with meaning. The 3 characters were so authentic and full of compassion. The story really moved at a great pace -- I never wanted to stop reading and finished it in 2 sittings. The professor's life had to be so difficult with his short term memory, but his mind was so beautiful. I loved the math discussions and even found myself in the internet looking up more math details. Only a remarkable book would have made that happen. A great question that comes out of this book for discussions - "What is more important - current experiences or past memories?". I will read this book again and recommend to all my book loving friends.
Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout
Wonderful stories (12/17/2009)
I always read the Pulitzer Prize winners, but rarely seem to enjoy them. This was an exception. I loved this collection of 11 short stories. Depending on the story, Olive Kitteridge was sometimes the main subject, sometimes she was only mentioned in passing, and sometimes she was the secondary character. As each story goes by, you feel a different emotion for Olive, but overall, I really liked her, flaws and all. Each story had an ending where the reader could imagine many different alternate endings. I thought that would put me off, but I found the author made the stories more powerful that way. This would be an excellent choice for a book club wanting a great discussion on a variety of topics in the same book.
Catching Fire: The Second Book of the Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
Better than the First Book (12/17/2009)
I thought the first book in the series, The Hunger Games, could not be surpassed, but this book was so great. I really loved how the story and characters are progressing in this new book. Katniss and Peeta are back home, but life is very unsettled even though they no longer have to worry about food or money. They are beginning to get evidence that other districts are beginning to rebel. That is where the story takes off. I don't want to give anything away, but the story develops in a very thoughtful way that is just as suspenseful and scary as the first book. I hope I don't have to wait too long for the next book. Suzanne Collins has put together two very remarkable books.
A Reliable Wife
by Robert Goolrick
A stunning book (11/13/2009)
This book has it all. Well defined characters, interesting time and place, suspense, and finally, a dramatic build up to a stunning ending. I am still thinking about the ending of this story a week after I finished the book. Even though the main characters have major baggage and are not what they seem, I found them sympathetic. At different points in the story, I was switching from being "for" one character and "against" the other. Now, there are 2 items I need to bring to your attention. First, while I am no prude, there was a great deal of sex in this book. Most of it was "thinking about sex", but it was a constant theme throughout the story. Second, I think I have heard a version of this story before. Not sure if that is my imagination or if this is a revision of a previous story line. Anyway, I was still surprised at the several plot twists--and there were lots of them.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
by Erik Larson
Good vs. Evil (11/11/2009)
Erik Larson did a great job of weaving two completely different stories together for a fascinating look at the building of the Chicago World's Fair and the first documented American serial killer in the same city at the same time. The history was fascinating and I was constantly on the internet searching for more information and photographs (my only complaint that this book should have had more photographs of the people and events covered). I loved both parts of the story equally which is a great credit to the abilities of this author. I highly recommend this book.
Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)
by Stephenie Meyer
Great book and series (11/5/2009)
I read serious literature, but I loved this "young adult" series. I don't know whether to be embarrassed or to gush about how great the book was from beginning to end. I didn't even want to enjoy this book. I read it as part of a book club. I loved the characters and so got into the vampire / werewolf theme. I normally drop a book back into the stack if it even mentions romance in the description, but I fell in love with Edward Cullen. I guess I should stop before I get embarrassing. Read this series, it is wonderful.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley
Couldn't finish it (11/5/2009)
I wanted to enjoy this book. The description sounded really good and I read lots of good reviews. It is possible, I just wasn't in the right mood for it, but after 100 pages, I put it down and did not finish it. It was just a little too silly for me at the time I tried to read it.
When Will There Be Good News?: A Novel
by Kate Atkinson
Love Kate Atkinson, but not this book (11/5/2009)
I absolutely loved the books "Case Histories" and "One Good Turn" by Kate Atkinson and could not wait for the 3rd book in the series. Unfortunately, I just did not find it as interesting. Kate continues an write the best characters in the mystery genre, especially Jackson Brodie, but the story just wasn't as good as she normally writes. However, an average book by Kate Atkinson is going to be so much better than other books in this genre. Kate has great humor and has a knack for writing things you think about during a certain even but never say out loud. I love that and look forward to her next book. Hope it comes out soon.
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