Quickie Book Review: The Long and Faraway Gone

Title: The Long and Faraway Gone

Author: Lou Berney

Published: 2015, William Morrow, Trade Paperback

Length: 456 pages

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime

Source: Quarterly Book Box that I purchased. #Lit06

Stars: 4.5 Stars

Synopsis:

Edgar Award-nominee Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone is a smart, fiercely compassionate crime story that explores the mysteries of memory and the impact of violence on survivors—and the lengths they will go to find the painful truth of the events that scarred their lives.

In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved.

Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives. A private investigator in Vegas, Wyatt’s latest inquiry takes him back to a past he’s tried to escape—and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead.

Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past—with the day her beautiful older sister Genevieve disappeared. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.

As Wyatt’s case becomes more complicated and dangerous, and Julianna seeks answers from a ghost, their obsessive quests not only stir memories of youth and first love, but also begin to illuminate dark secrets of the past. Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened and why they were left behind that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free–or ultimately destroy them?

This is the most melancholy story I’ve read lately. The sadness just permeates this book. I put off this review in order let that sadness dissipate, but it really took a long time. The sadness of this book just settled hard into my bones. I think it does because I was a teen and I remember what it was like to be a working class kid during those years. It’s easy to have nostalgia for the flashy stuff (see Ready Player One for nostalgia for the glossy, fun ’80’s.) But instead this book cracks open and examines what it is like to survive the ’80’s and survive violent crimes that seemed to be emblematic of that decade. And ultimately the book really asks the question How do survivors of devastating violence survive the guilt of living? And does knowing why the crime happened really help the survivors survive?

What I liked: I think what I like most about this story is that it’s not a story of triumph over a tragedy. Wyatt and Julianna have suffered as a result of the crime and this story is about how they suffer and their desire to know why this all happened to them. and sadly, the answers they get are not necessarily the answers they want or need to help them make sense of the crimes they endured. By the end of the tale we know the truth and why of what happened in August of 1986, but it isn’t a neat and tidy ending like in a TV movie.

Each and every decision they have made in their lives has been driven by that crime. And while they both chose professions that help people , Wyatt is a private detective and Julianna is a nurse, their work and personal lives area mess. It feels right that their lives are such a mess even years after those violent crimes. I also like that Berney doesn’t try to force a relationship between Wyatt and Julianna. The do meet briefly, but neither really knows who the other is. In fact many of the characters in this story do have connections to one or the other crime, but this detail doesn’t seem to intrude and knock me out of the tale.

What I didn’t so much: I’m not as fond of the Julianna. She is much more reckless and unthinking in her pursuit of why her sister disappeared all those years ago. She puts herself in situations that make me want to crawl into the book and smack some sense into her. And I’m also not as fond of Wyatt’s subplot. It serves more as a distraction from his real purpose in the story which is to find out why he survived the mass shooting.

Would I recommend: Yes. Read it when you are in the need of a sad story. If you are looking for something to cheer you up and give you faith in humanity, well, avoid this book. That said, this book is one of the best I’ve read so far this year.

Click here for Friday 56

And here for It’s Monday, What are You Reading?

Have you read this book or any others by this author? If so, can you recommend any other of his books? Or any other books that seem to be similar to this one? Let me know in the comments below, and happy reading, y’all.

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Quickie Book Review: The Masked City

Title: The Masked City

Author: Genevieve Cogman

Published: 2016 by ROC, Trade Paperback

Length: 372 pages

Genre: Fantasy

Source: A bookstore. I paid full price, too.

Stars: 4. 5 stars.

Summary:

Working in an alternate version of Victorian London, Librarian-spy Irene has settled into a routine, collecting important fiction for the mysterious Library and blending in nicely with the local culture. But when her apprentice, Kai, a dragon of royal descent, is kidnapped by the fae, her carefully crafted undercover operation begins to crumble.

Kai’s abduction could incite a conflict between the forces of chaos and order that would devastate all worlds and all dimensions. To keep humanity from getting caught in the crossfire, Irene will have to team up with a local fae leader to travel deep into a version of Venice filled with dark magic, strange coincidences, and a perpetual celebration of Carnival—and save her friend before he becomes the first casualty of a catastrophic war.

But navigating the tumultuous landscape of fae politics will take more than Irene’s book-smarts and fast-talking—to ward off Armageddon, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear…

Here is a link to my gushing review of the first book in the series.

What I Like:

Well. Everything. This book is a fast, fun adventure ride. All my favorite characters from the first book in series return: Irene, Vale, Lord Silver, and Kai. And this time we delve a bit deeper into the world of the dragons and the fae. Most of the adventure takes place in an alt world that is completely dominated by the Fae. And it’s a world of nothing but chaos. And reading about all that chaos is awfully fun. But I think the thing I really loved about this story is that it’s not just about the library, but about the creation of story and how chaotic it and the characters the writer is trying to wrangle them into a coherent story can be. I’m such a sucker for books about books.

Didn’t like as much:

I really can’t think of anything I didn’t like. But I will say that I would love to spend more time exploring the Library. I would read a book that just describes the library and everything it with Irene as a tour guide. Wouldn’t that be a fun read.

Would I recommend?:

Yes, yes, and yes. Read it right now. I’ll wait. When you come back we can gush about it together.

 

Let me know in the comments if you have read this series and recommend it. As always, Happy Reading, y’all.

Quickie Book Review: See What I Have Done

Author: Sarah Schmidt

Published: August 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press eBook

Length: 328 pages

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Thriller

Source: Public Library

My rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Synopsis:

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one
I think this rhyme is familiar to almost every school kid in America. I skipped rope while chanting this as a child almost a full continent and 80 years away from Fall River, Massachusetts. The fascination with the murders lingers on for so many, including me. So much so that I had a long wait to re-check this book out of my local library.

 

What I Like:

I love a story based on infamous murders. And this one is a crazy tale. The writer, Sarah Schmidt, is an Australian and brings an outsider perspective to this story. She explores the Borden family and it’s dynamic through the senses. The overwhelming heat of that hot August day. The sweat and odor of unwashed bodies. The spoiled mutton broth that they were all forced to eat due to Andrew Borden’s stinginess. The sickness that pervades the house due to that rotten mutton broth. The rotting pears in the yard. So, yes, this family is sick and full of decay.

I also like that there are so many 1st person perspectives for the event. We have Lizzie’s, Emma’s and Bridget the maid’s. We also have Benjamin’s, a man hired by Lizzie and Emma’s Uncle John to kill Andrew Borden. Like any mystery, we need different perspectives to get to the truth of what happened that day.

What I don’t love:

Some of the same things I like about the story, I dislike too, if that makes sense. The descriptions of the decay and sickness and rot of the family become overwhelming. I’m also not a fan of the inclusion of Benjamin in this story. I’m not sure we need his point of view of the events. At the end he causes action, but again, not sure it needs to be him that causes that event?

Would I recommend?:

Yes. Especially if you enjoy true crime that we can’t solve 100 plus years later, then I think you will enjoy this story.

**Edited to add:   After I posted this review I listened to a podcast about Lizzie Borden. Click on this link to The History Chicks see the show notes and listen to the podcast.

Have you read See What I Have Done? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

Quickie Book Review: The Girls in the Picture

The Girls in the Picture

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Published: January 16, 2018 Delacourt Press, Kindle Edition

Length: 448 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, fiction based on real people

Source: #GoodReadsGiveAway (Yes, I won it in a giveaway!)

My rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis from GoodReads:

It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone’s lips these days is “flickers”—the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you’ll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.

In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have given her the title of America’s Sweetheart. The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.

But their ambitions are challenged both by the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender—and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world’s highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.

Well, this book came out at interesting time. Female friendships and the complications of them is a part of book conversations due to the success of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. And I’m sure completely by accident, the rise of the #MeToo movement after revelations of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood. It makes me think. And one of the things I think about is the use of Girl in so many book titles lately. I hope this trend dies soon. It’s so common that I avoid books titled like this. Then why did you read this one, you may ask? Well, In this case, I didn’t buy the book I won it in a #GoodreadsGiveaway. And I’m so happy to have won and read it.

What I liked:
The setting. As you know if you read my last QBR, I love stories set in Old Hollywood. I also enjoy fiction based on real people. And this book has both. And both of the main characters are real: the famous Mary Pickford and not-so-famous Francis Marion. The book explores these two women’s long and fraught friendship over the decades. How the friendship changes with Mary’s meteoric fame and Francis’s power. How their very different marriages affected their friendship, and how Hollywood becoming a proper business changes everything for them both.

What I didn’t:
Hmm. This is a bit tougher for me to figure out. but I think I would like more in depth exploration of the friendship of the two women. sometimes it feels a bit superficial. But the story moves so quickly through the decades that sometimes it seems to be moving too quickly? There isn’t enough time to reflect on why the things that happen to the friendship happen? A term I see in movie and tv shows would work here. Things need time to breathe a bit before moving to the next part of the story.

Would I recommend: Yes! If you are a fan of silent movie era Hollywood and want to delve into how two women navigated their way together through a business that is rough on women, then read this book.

Click here to see the Friday 56 in which I featured this book.

**Edited to add:  Let me know what you think in the comments. Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Would you add this to your TBR?

QBR: The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Quickie Book Review

Author: Amanda Quick {AKA Jayne Ann Krentz}

Published: May 2017, Berkley eBook

Length: 368 pages

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Mystery

Source: Public Library

My rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Synopsis:

**When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

What I liked:  I loved the setting. The majority of the novel takes place at resort frequented by 1930’s Hollywood. And the main character is a gossip reporter. 1930’s Hollywood is my catnip. There just aren’t enough historical romances that are set in this time frame.

What I didn’t:  The title. This is such an obvious attempt to get fans of Gone Girl or Girl on the Train (both twisty thrillers) to pick up this book. Which is fine, I guess. And lately every book has Girl in the title if it is a thriller. Except this book isn’t what it implies in the title. It’s not a twisty thriller. At all. Also, not enough focus on the romance story line. I’m not sure I ever really felt the connection between Irene and Oliver.

Would I recommend to other readers:   I’m guessing that Quick intends this to be the first in a series of mystery/crime solving romantic duo similar to her Vanza series. In fact, I’ll bet this book becomes a part of that series or the Arcane Society series. So, if you are fan of either of those series, you will probably like and enjoy this book. But if you are looking for a twisty, turning thriller you may be disappointed.

I wanted  to love this book. I really did. But. Sigh.  It’s more of a reminder of why I quit reading Amanda Quick novels about ten years ago. I was a huge fan of the Regency romances she wrote under this nom de plume, but when she started the different series, I lost interest in her books. And now I want to go back and reread a few of the Regencies to see if they hold up 20+ years later.

Have you read any of Amanda Quick’s novels including this one? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below. Happy reading!

**edited to add synopsis.

Quickie Book Review: A Murder in Time (Kendra Donovan #1)

Author: Julie McElwain

Published: April 2016

Length: 320 pages, eBook

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery

Source: Library eBook

My Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

From GoodReads:

A Murder in Time (Kendra Donovan, #1)Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates.

While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place – Aldrich Castle – but in a different time: 1815, to be exact.

Mistaken for a lady’s maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a young girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there’s some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.

This is the first book in a series.

What I like: I like the premise of this novel. It checks all the boxes for my favorite stories: time travel, Regency England, strong female protagonist. I like that the bulk of the time travel story takes place at a house party. And I like the murder-y, serial killer bits. And I like that the characters we meet in Regency England seem to be good, kind people who take in our main character, Irene, and grow to accept her in their world. And I want Irene to be accepted  because she really inst in her modern world.

What I don’t like: Well. I so wanted to like this book. I checks so many boxes especially my love of the time travel novel. Click here to see my list of favorite time travel novels. But I didn’t really like it. Irene, the protagonist,  is an unpleasant character. And I really don’t have a problem with that, but she really is grating. The mashup between a crime procedural novel and a Regency in the style of Jane Austen is awkward. Irene’s motivations are clear in the modern day section, but the why of time travel for her is muddled. And Irene’s behavior is just too, too modern for the time period. She swears like a sailor constantly and the Regency characters seem to ignore it. And that brings me to the other issue. Irene is first is given a position as a lowly maid but becomes a companion of one of guests at the house party before the book ends. And it happens because she claims to be able to solve the murder. Although I’m glad she is accepted by the Duke and his family, I think she is accepted to easily, if that makes any sense. I want them to be a bit more suspicious of Irene.

Would I recommend it: Yes, but with reservations. I plan on reading the next book in the series, A Twist in Time , soon because I do want to like this story. I’ll give it 100 pages and if it doesn’t work for me……..I’ll DNF it.

Here are other blog posts in which I mentioned this book. Click here and here.

Let me know what you think. Have you read A Murder in Time? Did you like it more than I did? If so, let me know why in the comments below. Happy Reading.

 

Quickie Book Review: The Invisible Library

Author: Genevieve Cogman

Published: June 2016 by ROC

Length: 330 pages

Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Steampunk

Source: Book Riot #Bookmail Box from Book Riot, Paperback

My rating: 4 1/2 Stars

From Goodreads:

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library, #1)One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

This is the first in a series that features Irene and Kai having adventures while rescuing books from different realities. I have to say, this is a brilliant idea. There are so many possibilities for the characters to go in this world. And because Genevieve Cogman is such a skillful writer readers will want to follow her into this world she has created. Well, at least I do.

I received this book via Book Riots #bookmailbox to which I subscribe. As you can see the theme for this box is books and libraries. I assumed that like so many fantasy novels that I come across on book blogs this book would be a YA fantasy. I like YA novels, don’t get me wrong, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover it wasn’t. Adults having adult-ish adventures is a good thing too. Why should teenagers have all the fun? And because it is such a fun adventure it rates a 4 1/2 stars. Seriously, one of best reads for me so far this year.

What I Liked:

This is a library and book lovers dream. It takes place in a reality in which librarians are the heroes. And if you’ve read my post about my favorite librarian, you know I believe it to be true in this reality too. And , like many other readers, love books about books and libraries. The our hero in this story is Irene. Irene visits different realities in order to rescue copies of books that are in danger of disappearing forever. In this book she visits a steampunk London overrun with characters trying to find the book Irene is assigned to find before she does, and stop these same characters from finding the entrance to the magical, all encompassing library to which she is assigned. And this library seems amazing. It’s a place I want to visit. Irene is also training a mysterious new operative, Kai, who causes more trouble for her than she would like. But Kai isn’t the only one with a secret. There is something about Irene’s past that makes her very important to those who run the library and their enemies. All of this makes this book a fun, adventurous read.

What I didn’t like:

It’s not a perfect novel, but I really can’t think of anything that I didn’t like or thought didn’t work in the story.

Would I recommend this book for other readers:

Yes! If you love books, libraries, and hero narratives I’m positive you will enjoy this book. If you are a fan of The Sorcerer to the Crown or Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next Series, you will enjoy this novel.There are four published books in this series out right now and a fifth is scheduled for 2018. I like this book so much I think I’ll buy the next books in the series rather than check them out from my local library. Yes, that is how much I loved this book. I’m willing to buy the next in the series.

I used this book for a Friday 56. Click on this link to see that post.

If you liked this book review, here is a link to my most recent review for Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell.

Have you read The Invisible Library? If so, what did you think of it? Are you planning on reading more in the series?  If you haven’t , are you interested in reading it after reading my gushing review? Let me know in the comments below, and Happy Reading.