Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Annotation 2 - Mystery

Mum’s the Word by Kate Collins

As the first book of the Flower Shop Mysteries, Mum’s the Word is a character-driven cozy mystery story following the “sleuthing” of Abby Knight, a spunky town meddler and owner of the local flower shop Bloomers. As a law school dropout and the daughter of a police officer, Abby feels compelled to help bring people to justice as she tries to solve town mysteries as well as other people’s problems. When her yellow Corvette is banged up in a hit and run shortly after someone is murdered nearby, Abby decides the incidents are connected and she must find out who the real culprit is. Marco Salvare, a good-looking ex-cop, new owner of the local bar, and a private investigator on the side, decides to help Abby find who hit her car. However, Abby doesn’t stop here. Despite Marco and other friends telling her to stop, Abby keeps searching for clues. Receiving multiple wrongful parking tickets and nearly being hit off the road does not stop Abby from trying to discover the truth and bring everyone at fault to justice. I am sure that this book is funny, suspenseful, and engaging to the right audience, such as someone who enjoys cozy mysteries.

I really didn’t like this book. This was the first book I have read that is classified as a mystery. While I was reading, I was so bored I had to fight the urge to skim for plot. The book was so predictable! Busybody pushes her nose into EVERYONE’s business and tries to figure out everything or fix everyone’s problems. She acts like a strong character, but turns out to be weak and frightened when she is in danger. Abby pretended to be super smart and on top of it, but turned out to be ridiculously clueless when it came to the most obvious evidence. If I was involved with researching into a murder of a crack addict, I might be really suspicious if I purchased “fertilizer” from his old boss and it was a box of 3 small baggies of white, odorless powder that was not fertilizer. Hmmm. That’s a tough one.

Also, Abby very quickly figures out all the suspects for her mystery, and what a surprise, it turns out to be all of them! To lighten the mood, she has a semi-attraction to cute looking alpha male flat character that helps her. She ends up loving him when he saves her life, which is actually a known problem. People tend to fall for their saviors. Then the book ends in a happy party at the bar where everyone she knows comes to hug her, congratulate her, and give her a slight smack on the hand for meddling. The ending reminded me of the annoying movies that end with a random dance party. Overall, this book was not for me, and I think the mystery genre might not be my thing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kirkus Style Review

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

A beautiful, hauntingly sad tale demonstrates the endurance of hard truths through stunning scenery, unforgettable characters, and beautiful writing.

The Thorn Birds follows three generations of the Cleary family. When the book opens, the family is destitute and living in New Zealand. The mother, Fiona, was from a higher class and was married off to Paddy after she became pregnant from an affair with a politician. She favors her one child from the affair over her many other legitimate children. Paddy’s rich older sister moves them to Australia to work her large ranch. Meggie, their only daughter, immediately becomes attached to Father Ralph, who favors her. Father Ralph is an ambitious priest hoping to one day to be at the Vatican. Meanwhile, Meggie’s family endures hardships from the land – drought, fire, rain, dust – and struggles among themselves with father son and mother daughter tensions. When Meggie is older, Ralph’s feelings for her become a passion he cannot control. This passion is his one struggle, for he cannot love her and be a priest. Rejected by Father Ralph, Meggie marries Luke, who only loves his work and his money. The family saga follows the Cleary family through war, forbidden love and tragic death to the third generation, where Meggie’s daughter Justine struggles to find a life for herself outside of Australia.

Despite the promise of sorrow in the opening words, The Thorn Birds enticing storytelling makes it impossible to put down.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Annotation 1 - Romantic Suspense

Homeport by Nora Roberts

Dr. Miranda Jones, an expert on authenticating Italian Renaissance bronzes, has the opportunity of a lifetime. She is called to Italy by her mother to authenticate a 15th century bronze, The Dark Lady, but her trip is delayed when she is mugged outside her house. After testing the bronze, Miranda is certain that it is an undiscovered work of a young Michelangelo, but this information is leaked to the press and she is fired. Later the bronze is discovered to be a fake, and her reputation is ruined. Shortly after the Renaissance bronze David is stolen from Miranda’s Institute, Miranda is forcibly woken in the night by the professional art thief, Ryan, who is furious that the stolen bronze was a fake. Miranda is certain she could not have been wrong, so she makes a deal with Ryan – they will work to find the real bronzes together. Their trip to Italy turns romantic, as each realizes their attraction, until the death of a co-worker sends them back to Maine. Mysterious deaths of people who worked with the bronzes, as well as threatening anonymous faxes sent to Miranda, set the uneasy tone of the book. A side story about Miranda’s brother Andrew’s drinking problem, recent divorce, and attempt to pull his life together flows nicely into the plot. The Jones’ curse, the inability for a Jones to ever have a successful relationship, stands between Miranda and Ryan. While some parts of the story are predictable, the ending is unexpected. This suspenseful page-turner of art, family and romance gets harder to put down the longer you read.

I found I enjoyed Homeport more than I expected. At first, I thought it was boring and hard to get in to. The main character was mugged at the very beginning, and I found it difficult to figure out why I cared about that or how that was an engaging beginning when it made no sense. The fact that no other events like that happened for awhile made it seem stranger. After the story was done beginning (100 pages or so), the fast pacing set in, the sexy art thief showed up, and the book began to get interesting. I was shocked that sex scenes didn’t occur until after halfway through the book. It didn’t seem like too much sex, like I thought it might be, but the amount did increase as the book continued. By the end of the book, the suspenseful fast-pacing was almost annoying, and I found I kept checking how many pages left until resolution.

While I was quickly able to predict what went wrong in the book, I had no idea who the anonymous threat was. I was shocked at the end, but the shock quickly wore off due to the ridiculous story as to why this character did everything. I know I’m vague, but I prefer not to add a spoiler. At the very least, I find it difficult to believe anyone could be so jealous as to commit murders. Homeport is not one of my favorite books, but I do not regret reading it. My final impression is that the book is okay, which gives it a 2 on Goodreads.

Appeals: Fast Pacing, Suspenseful Tone, Romantic

Read-alike Books
Blue Smoke and Murder by Elizabeth Lowell
Lost and Found by Jayne Ann Krentz

Read-alike authors
Sandra Brown
Iris Johansen
Jayne Ann Krentz
J. D. Robb

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Secret Shopper

I went to the Kokomo Howard County Public Library downtown branch. They remodeled recently, so it felt new to me. The reference desk was located upstairs (with no signage as where to go) and was called “Information.” The librarian working was getting up and helping other people, so she was easy enough to approach.

I told her I was looking for a good book to read, and she asked me what kind of books I enjoyed reading. I responded by telling her I read all over the place. She then asked for something I had read lately, and I told her The Thorn Birds.

She asked me to come around the desk so she could show me how to do a search. She did a title search for The Thorn Birds in her catalog, and then showed me to look at the right side of the page for similar books and authors. There was a list of suggested books and suggested authors. I later discovered this list was created from Novelist. She asked if I saw any I’d like to read, but the descriptions were too small for me to read from where I was standing, so I instead asked her if she knew any of the authors. She said no, because she normally reads nonfiction. However, she chose one she’d heard of and asked if I wanted help finding it, and then took me in the stacks. The book wasn’t there. As we walked, she clarified that I liked classic epic family sagas. When we went back empty handed to the desk, she asked her fellow librarian for suggestions based on the idea of “classic epic family sagas,” not the book I read. She explained to me that the other librarian read more fiction. This librarian immediately said, Pillars of the Earth, and then continued to ignore us. The librarian took me to get Pillars of the Earth, and we went back to the desk because she remembered that the first author was probably shelved in Romance. She asked me if that was okay (without any description of what that entailed), and I said probably. She also mentioned that she normally read Evanovich, but that would be less literary / well written and I probably wouldn’t enjoy it.

When she was double-checking the location of the first author, we talked a little more about what I liked in the Thorn Birds. I said a lot of my favorite books had sad endings, and she responded by mentioning that I’d probably like the Bronte sisters, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, but she bet I’d already read them. I said I’d loved those books, and she nodded. She took me to Romance to grab the first author suggested. Then she wrote down the other titles and authors listed in the catalog and said, “I hope you find something you enjoy reading.”

I walked out with Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (suggested by librarian 2) and This Calder Range by Janet Daily, the first in a long series, and two lists of author names.

It turns out that This Calder Range is the sequel to This Calder Sky, although the plot line takes place before This Calder Sky. The appeal terms are all great for this book; it’s a character-drive family saga with a dramatic and romantic tone. I might like it. On the other hand, the second librarian’s sort of random suggestion of Pillars of the Earth is way off. This book is characterized as plot-drive, fast-paced historical fiction, and from the description is not what I was looking for.

Other than I felt like I walked around a bit more than I expected, I kind of enjoyed this interaction. The librarian who helped me was smiling and friendly. I could tell she honestly wanted to help me. However, our brief encounter with librarian 2 shows just how bad my experience could have been if I had interrupted the person who was working busily on the computer instead of waiting for the librarian who was helping everyone. I was kind of surprised the librarian only used one tool and didn’t modify her search when she discovered other titles I enjoyed. From my experience with NoveList, its suggestions can sometimes bit a bit off. However, I think I left with an okay book, but I’m not sure it was exactly what I was hoping for. It may lean more to the romance side and farther from the dramatic family saga, but I wouldn’t really know until I read it. However, the cover is a bit telling that I probably wouldn't like it. So despite the fact it was a fun experience, I don't think it was a success.