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Barbara M. - Reviews

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Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make It Right
Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make It Right
Author: Jim Dwyer, Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 3/9/2020


Finished this book a couple weeks back. I'm an attorney although I haven't done criminal defense. But, I know that many prisoners have been exonerated by DNA, some after 20 years in prison. I found the stories compelling. I think there were a few places where I found my attention wandering (I should have done the review right after finishing it so I could be more succinct) which is why I'm giving it four stars instead of five.


Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
Author: Steven Callahan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 30
Review Date: 4/13/2022


I got this book through paperbackswap.com. It had been on someone's recommended reading list. It was a somewhat slow read. I'm sure I'm not the only reader of this book who doesn't have a background in sailing. It would have been helpful if the author had an index that listed many of the nautical terms used and their definitions.

The author also went into great detail about various pieces of equipment--including drawings--which (for me) added nothing of interest. I didn't read these.

Except for the sometimes challenging weather, there wasn't much that happened. There were numerous yawn-inducing day-after-day descriptions of the fish bumping the bottom of the raft and the author's attempts at spearing fish. I was on day 52 and realized I couldn't read about one more attempt to spear a fish or make a repair to the raft. I skipped ahead 60+ pages to Day 71 and then finished the book.

The author has some writing skill. I think the book would have been a lot better had he cut out a lot of the detailed descriptions of his repetitive attempts at fishing, boat repairs, etc.


The Affliction: A Novel
The Affliction: A Novel
Author: Beth Gutcheon
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 10/1/2019


I first came across Beth Gutcheon a couple years ago when I bought her book "Five Fortunes" at a garage sale. That book was not a murder mystery but rather a story of women who met at a spa and the book then followed their lives for a period of time after they left the spa. I enjoyed the book so decided to read more. I got "Death At Breakfast" and "The Affliction" from the library. Gutcheon apparently decided to delve into mystery writing, featuring a pair of older women friends as a sleuthing duo. "Death" is the first book in the series.

This book was simply OK. I don't particularly care for the Hope character. She's an overbearing busybody. Also, I found it highly unlikely that the police would be so willing to share information with Hope and Maggie. In real life, police are usually very careful with what they share and with whom, and they generally don't want to encourage amateur sleuths to meddle in their investigation.

As some Amazon reviewers have mentioned, there were story arcs that didn't add anything to the story--Christina (the school head) had issues with her mother frequently calling because of a family matter; there was the lesbian couple who was fearful of someone, and the person and reason were hinted at but not resolved; there was Lily's apparent meltdown during a dive demo (just to name a few things).

There was an interesting twist at the end but the ending was still unsatisfying.

I think Gutcheon should forget about writing mysteries and stick to writing about people and their lives as she did in "Five Fortunes."


Alligator Candy: A Memoir
Alligator Candy: A Memoir
Author: David Kushner
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 4/3/2019


I got this book for $.25 from a library that had withdrawn the book from circulation. The title was what grabbed my eye. I generally don't read memoirs but thought this sounded interesting. It's a slim book--243 pages--which I read in about three days. When I got to about the last 60-70 pages, I found myself getting annoyed and impatient for it to end. As others--from one-star to five-star reviews (on Amazon)--have noted, there is some repetition in the book. I felt dissatisfied when I finished the book--can't exactly put my finger on why.

Perhaps this book is more interesting and meaningful to those who have children or those who have lost a child or loved one, especially to violence. I've been fortunate enough not to have experienced a loss like that.


The Art of Floating
The Art of Floating
Author: Kristin Bair O'Keeffe
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 6/7/2021


Picked this book up from the library's give-away rack. Sounded interesting. First book I've read by this author. The book starts out promising enough--Sia (the protagonist) finds a drenched man on the beach. He doesn't speak. She takes him home. Then the news media gets wind of this "silent man" and he becomes a worldwide media sensation. So, the reader is drawn into the mystery of wondering who this guy is. There is also the mystery of what happened to Sia's husband, Jackson, who mysteriously disappeared about a year early.

However, the book (in my opinion) went off on a strange path with all kinds of oddball things. M, Sia's mom, would regularly sit up in a tree across from Sia's, write messages on a white board and hold them out, hoping Sia would see them (this was after Jackson disappeared and Sia had closed herself off to others--M could have put the white board in front of Sia's window each day but that wouldn't have been as interesting as having M sitting up in a tree). The silent man had a strange "injury" behind each ear with the suggestion that they could be gills. Sia's "floppy fish" in her abdomen and her "floating" are two other things that are a little off the wall. The "floppy fish" happens when Sia comes into contact with someone who seems to have a strong emotion at the time (i.e., sadness). Sia apparently is an "empath"--which, per Google, is a real but rare phenomenom. So, perhaps empaths have a visceral reaction (i.e., "floppy fish" in the abdomen) when in contact with someone experiencing strong emotions. Sia's floating above her body and whizzing around the community is really out there. There are numerous accounts of people who are near death who tell of out-of-body experiences where they are above their bodies looking down. However, it rarely occurs in other circumstances.

The story included Sia's flashbacks of her life with Jackson. This included several instances of "foreplay" which really didn't add anything crucial to the story. There were also "chapters" (some only one page) of children singing a rhyme about Sia; several about plovers (a plover beach ended up being an essential part of the story but all the little chapters--including one that was a page-long definition of "fledge"--really added nothing to the story); Sia's writing lists. I wondered if the author had an obligation to write a certain number of pages so added these to meet her quota.

I didn't particularly like Sia or Jillian, her best pal and editor/agent. Jillian seemed rather silly for a woman in her 30s. The "Dogcatcher" actually turned out to be a rather interesting character and I would have liked to learn more about her.

The author has some writing talent which is why I'm giving this book two stars instead of one. However, I doubt if I'll read any of her other books.


At Swim, Two Boys
At Swim, Two Boys
Author: Jamie O'Neill
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 2/12/2019


This book is set in Ireland during WWI. The writing style is very hard to follow. I've never read any of Jamie O'Neill's books so don't know if that is how he always writes (if so, I will not read another of his books) or if he chose this particular style because that was popular in the early 1900s.

The book is 562 pages. I'm at the start of Chapter 11 (page 250) and have decided to give up. I can often read a 500-page book in a week or less if the book is engaging. This book is not. I started it at least a month ago. I don't recall ever not finishing a book in my 60+ years of reading. There's a part of me that would still like to finish the book but I don't have the energy to spend another month or so slogging through it. There is too much "stream of consciousness" (or as I call it, "brain vomit") writing that adds nothing to the story and, if eliminated, would shorten the book considerably.


Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan, Bk 1)
Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan, Bk 1)
Author: Laura Lippman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 193
Review Date: 10/30/2019


When I started reading, I realized I had read this book years ago. However, I didn't remember most of it, including "who dunnit." The story itself wasn't bad and the ending was interesting. The reason I'm giving it three stars (I would have given it 3.5 if that was possible) is because Tess, the protagonist, was not particularly likeable.

Tess had been a reporter for one of the local newspapers but lost her job when the paper folded. I don't recall if the book stated how long it had been since the paper closed. Tess came across as someone with no ambition and not much in the way of "standards." She didn't appear to be diligently looking for other employment. Instead, she worked in her Aunt Kitty's bookstore (also lived above it) and occasionally did tasks for an uncle who was a government employee. Neither of these jobs seemed to satisfy her yet she didn't seem to take any steps to change her situation. She had an on-again/off-again relationship with Jonathan, a former colleague. Tess had no qualms about hopping into bed with him whenever he showed up at her place, never mind the fact that he had a fiance.

In spite of the fact that I found the central character unlikeable, I will read the next book in the series. Maybe she'll mature.


The Better Sister
The Better Sister
Author: Alafair Burke
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 11/1/2022


I got this book through paperbackswap.com after seeing it on some recommended reading list. Never heard of this author before. It started out well but by the time I was about halfway through, I couldn't stand Chloe, the protagonist/narrator. Her husband, who was her former brother-in-law, was murdered in their summer house.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS: We learn that everything wasn't all wonderful in Chloe's household. We are supposed to believe that a year or two before the murder, Chloe's husband Adam would sometimes completely lose it and would scream at Chloe and his son (Chloe's nephew/stepson) Ethan and would physically abuse Chloe. The way the abuse story was written just didn't seem believable to me. Then when the murderer is revealed, Chloe decides to plant evidence in the house of someone she considered a friend and then figures out a way to alert the police to other things with the hope that the police would search the person's house. END OF SPOILERS

Chloe was a very successful person but she was lacking in morals and ultimately was someone who deserved no respect. Just not a very satisfying read. I won't be reading any more of Burke's books.


Black Rabbit Hall
Black Rabbit Hall
Author: Eve Chase
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 8/21/2022


I had previously read "Foxcote Manor" by Eve Chase. That book and "Black Rabbit Hall" were loaned to me by a friend. My friend must be an Eve Chase fan as she also loaned me "The Wildling Sisters" which I have yet to read. I read a lot of the reviews on GoodReads and concur with those who weren't fans of the author's over-the-top descriptions of everything! I made a comment about that in my review of "Foxcote Manor." "Foxcote" followed the same formula as "Black Rabbit"--jumping back and forth between the present and 30-40 years earlier. Same scenario--old English manor and someone making a connection to it. As I was reading "Black Rabbit," I knew there would be a connection between Lorna, the present day protagonist, and Amber, the teen from 1969.

I found Lorna to be dull and lacking sense when she fixated on having her wedding at Black Rabbit Hall--especially once she had a tour of the place and saw what poor condition it was in. Caroline was the stereotypical evil stepmother.

The book was far too long. I was about halfway through and was annoyed that I had another 200 or so pages to read.

After reading "Foxcote," in spite of its flaws, I said I would read another Eve Chase book. In spite of "Black Rabbit's" shortcomings, I plan to read "The Wildling Sisters" since I already have it in hand. However, if it's not any better than "Black Rabbit," I probably won't read any more of Eve Chase's books.


The Book That Matters Most
The Book That Matters Most
Author: Ann Hood
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 12/31/2021


Surprised there are no reviews for this on paperbackswap. A friend had read this book and liked it so I added it to my paperbackswap wish list and received it a few weeks back. I just finished it yesterday. It's 358 pages and took me 3-4 days to read so I found it engaging (the last book I read was the 359 page "Lord Grizzly," which took me about two months to read).

If half stars were allowed I would have given this book 3.5 stars. It is not (in my opinion) a four-star book so I downgraded to three stars. The two main characters are Ava, who is in her 40s, and her 20-something daugher Maggie. Neither is very likeable. It's been a year since Ava's husband of 20+ years dumped her for another woman. Ava has been depressed since then. She and hubs are divorcing. Ava finally decides to join her friend Cate's book club.

The book club in this novel comes across as stuffy and elitist when it comes to the books members choose. The choices for the upcoming year were (if I recall correctly) all classics (i.e., "The Great Gatsby," "Anna Karenina," "Catcher in the Rye," "To Kill a Mockingbird," etc.) except for Ava's choice. The members came from different backgrounds and a wide range of ages so I find it rather unbelievable that everyone would pick from the classics.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS: The fling between Luke, a book club member, and Ava, who was at least 10 years older, didn't ring true. Maggie was a hard core drug addict who eventually started injecting heroin. She OD'd and, according to the docs who treated her, would have died had not an acquaintance called for help. Maggie spent a week in the hospital going through horrible withdrawal. Yet, once released she apparently had no cravings for drugs and stayed clean without any assistance (i.e., addiction support group).

SPOILERS (cont.): When Maggie is thought to be missing, Ava contacts Jim, her soon-to-be ex. At one point he asks if she would consider reconciling. That didn't seem genuine considering that he left Ava and there was nothing indicating there were cracks in his new relationship. About 20-30 pages from the end I figured out who owned the Ganymede bookshop in Paris. The author made it pretty obvious. The real topper, though, was the ending which was completely unbelievable and too tidy. END OF SPOILERS

Although I wasn't impressed with this book, I will give Ann Hood another try--I've put "The Obituary Writer" on my paperbackswap.com wish list.


The Brethren
The Brethren
Author: John Grisham
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 368
Review Date: 1/24/2020


I read The Partner a couple years back and enjoyed that. A friend loaned me The Brethren. Part of the suspense of the book was wondering how and when the two storylines (the scam and the presidential candidate) would intersect. However, once that occurred, the story seemed to fall apart.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS: Trevor, the attorney/courier for the Brethren in the scam, was murdered by the CIA, apparently because he knew "too much." I found that hard to believe because Trevor really wasn't that involved with the actual scam--he delivered and sent mail and deposited money in an offshore account. The Brethren all were given early release from prison on the condition that they leave the U.S. for a specified period of time. Oh, and they were also each given $2 million. This was all engineered by the CIA. We're also supposed to believe that squeaky clean senator (and eventual presidential candidate) Lake suddenly decided to go to the "dark side" and respond to a gay lonely-hearts club ad. Then, while campaigning for the nomination, Lake makes a foolish and uncharacteristic mistake that reveals his identity to the Brethren. END OF SPOILERS

Book started out interesting but fizzled out.


Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad, Bk 4)
Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad, Bk 4)
Author: Tana French
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 70
Review Date: 9/7/2020


I first discovered Tana French when I bought âIn the Woodsâ for about $.50 at a 2017 garage sale. This was the first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. Rob Ryan, a homicide detective in his 30s, is assigned to a case in which a young girl has been murdered. And, just coincidentally, the recent murder is in the same area where Rob grew up and had an unsettling incident âin the woodsâ when he was 12. He has no memory of the incident (then or since) in which two of his friends disappeared and were (to date) never found. The book was a page turner. There were two mysteriesâ(1) the homicide and (2) what happened to Rob's two friends and would he now remember? The murder was solved but the incident involving young Rob was simply left with no answers. Very disappointing.

Since the book was the first in a series, I thought the author had perhaps deliberately left readers hanging so they would buy the second book in the series. SPOILER ALERT: Not only was the disappearance left unresolved, but the Rob character was shelved. END OF SPOILER

Cassie Maddox, Rob's partner in Book 1, was the main character in Book 2 (âThe Likenessâ) and her partner in that book became the main character in Book 3 (âFaithful Placeâ). I was disappointed in Books 2 and 3 (luckily, I got them through paperbackswap.com so only had to pay a $.49 swap fee per book). In a review of one of those, I stated Tana French was a good writer but NOT a good storyteller. I still stand by that statement.

Scorcher was the secondary character in Book 3 so I expected (following French's pattern) that he would be the lead character in Book 4, âBroken Harbor.â Speaking of the author's patterns, in âBroken Harborâ Scorcher is made the lead detective on a homicide that happens at what was once called âBroken Harborâ but now has a more appealing name. And, like Rob in âIn the Woods,â Scorcher as a child lived through a tragic incident at coincidentally the same place where his new murder case is. What are the odds that two detectives in the same squad would both be lead detectives on cases at locations where they each experienced trauma as a child?

âBroken Harborâ was a retired library book that I picked up in 2019 for about $.50 at my local library. Took me about a week or so to get through this book. The critter in the attic theme was a page turnerâas the investigation went on, I doubted the existence of a real animal and even wondered if Jenny, the wife, was âgaslightingâ her husband, Pat. I found that more interesting than discovering who did the murders. If not for the critter mystery, I would be giving this book one star.

As other Amazon reviewers have noted, the book was far too longâat least 100 pages, in my opinion. Some of the conversations Scorcher had (be it with his partner, his sister, etc.) were so long and boring that there were times I wanted to throw the book across the room.

Also, as others have noted, Scorcher was not a very likeable character. Neither was his mentally ill sister, Dina, who dropped in and out of his life. Although Dina was mentally ill (don't recall if a diagnosis was ever stated), she was also skilled at manipulating her brother into taking her in whenever she appeared on his doorstep. And, Scorcher, a 20-year police veteran, was stupid enough to fall for it every time. Dina stole from her own family and was planning to set Scorcher's apartment on fire because she was mad at him. She was definitely dangerous to others and likely herself, yet Scorcher never sought to have Dina committed.

Richie, Scorcher's new partner, was brand new to homicide. He seemed likeable enough initially but toward the end, the reader learns that he did something colossally stupid that could have completely screwed the case up. It pointed to the identity of the killer. Richie held that info back because he felt sorry for the person. The holding back of the info and his reason for doing so was completely unbelievable.

SPOILER ALERT: So, it turns out that there were no critters in the atticâit was all Pat's descent into madness. I found that to be unrealistic. Yes, he lost his job and wasn't having any luck on finding another one. But, he apparently had been a well-adjusted individual prior to that (no history of depression or mental illness for him or any of his family) so it seems ludicrous that he would have so completely lost his mind after a few months of unemployment. Jenny became alarmed when Pat's mental health went off the deep end but she didn't seek any kind of helpâfor Pat or herself and the kids. Her explanation that she didn't want friends and family to find out that they were struggling financially seemed ludicrous, particularly because neither she nor Pat seemed to be that class conscious when they were growing up or when they got married. And, to top it off, Jenny completely loses her mind as well--two well-adjusted people both end up becoming psychotic at about the same time. What are the odds? END OF SPOILERS

There are two more books in this seriesââThe Secret Placeâ and âThe Trespasser.â Right after finishing "Broken Harbor" I was on the fence as to whether I wanted to read the final two books. However, after reading some of the Amazon reviews for those books, I've decided I'm done with Tana French.


The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Gamache, Bk 5)
The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Gamache, Bk 5)
Author: Louise Penny
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 47
Review Date: 12/12/2019


I have been reading this series in order. Penny is a good writer but I thought it was about 100 pages too long. I found myself becoming impatient to get to the end--not because I was really into the book and wanted to see how it wrapped up; rather, I was sick of reading it because it seemed to drag on. I also found some things either implausible or not really adding to the story. The whole idea of the terrifying myth seemed a stretch. I finally started skipping over the italicized segments which was the tale that apparently terrified the hermit so much. Then when the carvings were discovered, they also portrayed certain emotions, including fear. Since the people in the carvings were described as being "tiny," I am skeptical that the faces could portray much emotion.

As a long-time horse owner (45 years), I also thought the vet's advice about the malnourished horses that Dominique had bought (oh, they just need to be ridden and they'll be fine) was ludicrous. It was clear that Penny didn't bother consulting with a vet to learn what is the recommeended course of treatment for emaciated horses. Malnourished horses need to be medically evaluated and treated and they need a nutritious diet to get them back to a healthy weight. THEN they can be ridden.

As some Amazon reviewers have mentioned, the whole thing with "woo" also seemed farfetched. Ditto for Gamache's trip to the Charlotte Islands. I was skeptical that no one had ever come across the hermit's cabin before, either. He supposedly lived about a 30-minute or so hike from the village and had been there for several years. The Peter character has become unlikeable (his true character started to show in one of the previous books) and I wish he'd get bumped off or that Clara would dump him. Speaking of Clara, I get tired of hearing about all the food that ends up in her wild hair.
At one point she had toast in her hair! I can understand crumbs in a moustache or a smear of catsup or mustard on someone's lip but toast (or any other food) in someone's hair would be only believable if a person had been in a food fight. The revelation of who was the murderer also was unsatisfying.

I will continue to read the series and hope the next book is better. Since I get them through paperbackswap.com, I don't have to pay for them.


Bury Your Dead (Chief Inspector Gamache, Bk 6)
Bury Your Dead (Chief Inspector Gamache, Bk 6)
Author: Louise Penny
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 65
Review Date: 10/19/2020


I first heard of Louise Penny 4-5 years ago when "60 Minutes" or the CBS "Sunday Morning" show did a segment on her. She apparently had quite a following amongst mystery book fans. I decided to read her books in order and got the first five via paperbackswap.com; "Bury Your Dead," the sixth in the series, I got through the local library. I'm amazed at all the 4- and 5-star reviews her books have received. I have written reviews on the first five and gave one 4 stars, one 2 stars, and the other three got 3 stars.

I found this book confusing. First, there are three storylines in this book--the murder of the Hermit in book 5 for which Olivier (one of the main characters in Three Pines) was found guilty; a terrorism plot involving Gamache's unit and which is told via Gamache's flashbacks; and, the murder of a rogue archaeologist who was searching for the remains of Champlain, the acknowledged founder of Quebec.

POSSIBLE SPOILER: Some of the other 1 and 2 star reviewers (Amazon) for this book mentioned that they thought Penny's fans were probably upset that Olivier was convicted of the Hermit's murder in the previous book so Penny decided to reopen the case in this book and have a different perpetrator identified. I think that's possible. END OF SPOILER.

The terrorism plot in which several officers were killed or injured is told in flashbacks. It would have been helpful if these remembrances were italicized so readers immediately know that there is a change in the timeframe. The flashbacks continue all the way to the end of the book and although readers learn finally what happened, I suspect that this storyline will continue in the next book.

The story about Champlain and the archaeologist who was murdered wasn't that interesting to me. Perhaps it's more engaging for Canadians, particularly those living in Quebec, to learn of Champlain's role. Also, the identity of the murderer and the reason given for the murder was unbelievable. Likewise when the Hermit's murderer was revealed--although there was a very interesting twist on who the Hermit actually was.

I will likely continue reading the series even though I haven't been overly impressed thus far.


Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters
Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters
Author: Robert Gordon
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 2/17/2022


This book was on someone's list of good books so I added it to my paperbackswap.com wish list. Received it sometime in the last year or so and finally cracked it open about 2-3 months ago. I generally am a regular reader--not necessarily every day but at least a couple times a week I'll go somewhere for coffee and will read. If a book really engages me, I can easily finish a 500-pager in a week. After 2-3 months with this book, I'm only up to page 85. At least a month ago I set it aside, read a 300+ thriller in less than a week, and started another book. I can't muster any enthusiasm to finish this book. It's not a bad book but I think it would be more interesting to blues afficionodos and/or Muddy Waters' fans.


Caramelo
Caramelo
Author: Sandra Cisneros
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 66
Review Date: 12/19/2020


Got this book through paperbackswap.com after seeing it on someone's list of good books. The story takes a very long time to get interesting--I was around page 80 and had decided that if the book hadn't become more engaging by page 100, I would likely quit reading. I read a lot of books and can only think of 1-2 times where I've actually gave up on a book.

I think it was a little after 100 that things started to pick up a bit. An Amazon reviewer described the book as "character driven" and I would agree with that. The central character is a young girl so the story is told mainly through her eyes. The author frequently describes (in great length) streets, rooms, etc. I found these long descriptions overdone--the author used this technique so often that I started scanning or skipping those paragraphs.

The author doesn't use the standard method of writing in which quotation marks signify when a character is speaking. Instead, she uses a long dash at the beginning of the sentence to indicate someone is talking. When there's a back and forth exchange between two characters, it is sometimes difficult to know who is speaking, unless the speaker calls the other person by name.

I didn't find any of the main characters to be particularly likable. The story often goes back in time and it sometimes isn't clear right away that the story is no longer in the present. The most interesting parts of the book were when the story went into the past of some of the characters.

This is the first book I've ready by Cisneros. Some Amazon reviewers commented that this is not her best book but I don't plan to read any others.


Carved in Bone (Body Farm, Bk 1)
Carved in Bone (Body Farm, Bk 1)
Author: Jefferson Bass
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 252
Review Date: 12/12/2019


This is the first book in this series and the first I've read by this author (which is actually two people). I thought it was a cut above some other mystery series (i.e., "Monkeewrench" by P.J. Tracy and the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman). Some of the one- and two-star reviews described the book as practically pornographic because of the "crude sexual talk" and the "uncalled for. . .sex scenes"; another stated the author was "embarrassingly sexist" and a "creepy, dirty old man." I'm fairly straight laced and I didn't find there were any overt "sex scenes." There was an instance where one of Dr. Brockton's students came onto him but what transpired was pretty tame, only involving a kiss. I didn't find anything remotely racy in that scenario.

Some of the descriptions of procedures were too long and uninteresting to me. I also found the Dr. Brockton character somewhat unlikeable; however, his wife had died a couple years earlier and he seemed unable to move forward from that. By the end of the book, the doc finally seemed to be taking the next step in the grief process. So, I will read the book #2 in the series.


Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, Bk 1)
Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, Bk 1)
Author: Kate Atkinson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 566
Review Date: 6/13/2019


I wasn't sure how to rate this book. I had read reviews of a book by a different author and one of the reviewers mentioned she thought Kate Atkinson's books were better. So, I put the first three books of the Jackson Brodie series on my paperbackswap.com wishlist and within about two weeks had gotten all three. After finishing the first chapter of this book (Book 1 in the series), I was confused when the second chapter was not related in any way to the first one. Same with chapter three. Jackson didn't make an appearance until chapter four.

Well, it turns out that none of the three stories are related other than someone from each contacts Jackson about their cases. This isn't a mystery so much as a character study. The author spends a lot of time getting in the heads of the characters and what each is thinking. Sometimes the characters are thinking in the present and other times they drift back to when the "big event" happened in their lives. Consequently, it can be confusing. I wasn't really all that interested in their random thoughts on life in the present. I don't feel those added much to the story.

None of the characters (except Theo, the father of a murdered girl) is very likable. The resolutions to the cases are all quickly wrapped up at the end--almost as if the author didn't want to spend much time on that part of the book. I also found it somewhat ludicrous that Theo, the despicable sisters (Amelia and Julia), and Jackson all happened to cross paths (at different times) with a homeless girl in a park. She's described as having custard yellow hair. I've never been to Edinburgh, where the story takes place, but the population is nearly 500,000 so it must cover a lot of territory yet most of the action in this story seems to take place within a very small geographic area. The sisters lived elsewhere but had returned to their childhood home after the death of their father. It's unclear if the homestead is anywhere near the park. Ditto with Theo and Jackson.

About 2/3 of the way through the book, I figured out who the homeless girl was. She had a tie to one of the cases that Jackson had taken which is just too coincidental. It also was quite convenient that one of Jackson's longtime clients lived right behind one of Jackson's new clients. And, the longtime client never talked to the new clients so she didn't refer them to Jackson.

There are also a couple attempts on Jackson's life which aren't described in much detail--almost like the author didn't want to bother with that.

The author has some skill at writing but the storyline seemed disjointed to me and wrapped up too neatly. Hopefully, Books 2 and 3 are better.


The Cases That Haunt Us
The Cases That Haunt Us
Author: John Douglas, Mark Olshaker
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 84
Review Date: 3/10/2022


Got this book through paperbackswap.com on the recommendation of someone else. Thought this book was OK but not a great read. I have read other books and seen TV shows about Jack the Ripper so I didn't think Douglas' analysis of the case offered much new, other than naming a couple folks who fit his profile of the culprit. I had some knowledge of all the other cases in the book. Douglas' reviews of some didn't really add much.

The JonBenet Ramsey case review was the longest at 98 pages and was the only one in which Douglas was involved. He clearly was not impartial and concluded that the Ramseys had no involvement in the murder of JonBenet. Clearly, there were mistakes made by the local PD and the DA's office but I don't think that absolves the Ramseys.

I read many of the Amazon reviews after finishing the book (I usually have an idea of how I'm going to rate a book when I'm done with it but like to read the reviews at that point to see what others thought of it) and many of them noted that Douglas seemed to have a pretty high opinion of himself. I agree. This was particularly obvious in the Ramsey chapter.


A Cat Abroad: The Further Adventures of Norton, the Cat Who Went to Paris, and His Human (Norton the Cat, Bk 2)
Review Date: 1/24/2020


I have all three of the Norton series (via paperbackswap.com) and am reading them in order. I gave the first book three stars--liked the cat (although skeptical about all the amazing things he did) but disliked Gethers. I also thought the author was an irresponsible cat owner. This book seemed to be more a travelogue with Norton sometimes added as an afterthought. The book would have probably been 122 pages instead of 243 if the author hadn't added so much "padding" to the narrative. He gave lengthy descriptions of the scenery, what foods they ate, being stuck in traffic, a load of wood being erroneously delivered to their abode, etc., etc., etc. It really added nothing to the story other than length.


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