18 April 2013

Thursday's Review: A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee

Although I would not class A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee as one of the best books I have read, I did enjoy it. The problem is, I can't quite decide what it is about the book that drew me in. The item in the book that sets the story in motion is a glaringly bad decision made by Ben Armstead, a middle aged lawyer in the midst of a mid life crisis. When Ben decides to have a fling with a summer intern in his office, not only does his whole life start to unravel, but so do the lives of his wife, Helen, and daughter, Sarah. Dee spends the rest of the book detailing how these three characters work to get their lives back on track. 

Eventually Helen becomes aware that she is going to have to go to work, and surprisingly, lands a job at a one-man PR firm in Manhattan. It is in the pursuit of doing her job that Helen comes into her own, counseling clients that a sincere apology can do a lot more for your image than trying to hide from the truth will. I have to admit, I found this idea of taking responsibility for your actions and living up to your commitments refreshing. It is probably the best thing about this book, and something that I feel is sorely lacking in large portions of our current society. The more respect and success that Helen garnered by promoting this idea, the more I liked the book. I also liked the contrast that the author presented during the one crisis when Helen deviates from this approach. It is the inclusion of this crisis and what it highlights about business as usual in today's society that really made the book for me. 

Another plus was the straightforward method of telling the story that the author used. This is not a complex and twisted story of what motivates people and drives them to make the choices that they make. If it were, I may have given it 5 stars. As it is, I enjoyed the straightforward method that he used in telling his story, and again, found it refreshing. 

The characters in the book were certainly not it's strongest draw. I can only think of one character who did not come across as mostly weak and ineffectual. That character was Helen's first boss and he did not have a very large role in the book. That is not to say that the other characters did not have short moments of brilliance, but they were just too few and far between for me. They were, though, somewhat redeeming and the things that kept me reading. 

In the published description of the book the overlying theme of the book is stated as "what do we really want when we ask for forgiveness?" I felt it was more along the line of, "what are we really looking for when we realize that we have made a mistake?", but all in all, I felt the question raised was worth exploring and that Jonathan Dee did a reasonable, although not exceptional, job of exploring it.  As such, I am giving the book 3 stars, but it is probably more like a 3.5 star book.  

I would like to thank both Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.  

16 April 2013

Tuesday's review: Now You See Me by S. J. Bolton

Since I have started reviewing books on a regular basis, I find that I am reading a lot of books by both new authors and "new to me" authors.  I am beginning to feel like I start all of my reviews with the phrase. "[book title here] is my first book by [author name]".   Once again, I have a book to review by an author that I have never read before.  Now You See Me by British mystery writer S.J. Bolton falls in the second category, and is one of the best thrillers that I have read in quite a while. In my opinion, there are a few things that all of the best thrillers have in common; a plot that takes me in in such a way that I am compelled to read, intriguing characters, and the author's ability to craft a story in such a way that by the end I feel both satisfied and wrung out. Now You See Me has all of that and more. 

As far as being a compelling read, this book hit the trifecta. First, from the beginning, when a dying women falls into the arms of the main character, to the very end, this book is filled with the kind of "edge of your seat" suspense that kept me reading far into the night. Secondly, the twists and turns were so well done that the author was able to keep me guessing, even to the very end. Above populating the story with these great twists and turns, the third piece of the trifecta was the author's ability to actually make me question what I thought I knew about the story. There were times when I actually caught myself wondering whether that events as I thought I understood them were real, or just imagined. 

Add to the above the way the author wove the mythology and lore of Jack the Ripper into the story, and I was hooked. True crime has always fascinated me, and I have spent many reading hours on stories about the most famous, or infamous, criminals throughout history, especially cases where the crimes were never solved. You can see, then, why a book where Jack the Ripper facts and lore feature prominently would be to my liking. I appreciated the care with which the author did her research on Jack the Ripper, and the intriguing way that she wove that information into the story at large. 

As for great characters, this book certainly fits the bill there. Lacy Flint, the main character is a strong, independent woman with a nebulous background. As the story unfold, we are continually given little pieces of her background that cements the intrigue of her character. The male interest in this story, one Mark Joesbury, appears to have a bit of a questionable past himself, as do many other of the minor characters. I am hoping to see and learn more about Mark, Lacy, and Detective Inspector Dana Tulloch as the series unfolds. 

By the time I finished reading this book, I couldn't help but feel that I had gotten my time's worth. I enjoyed every minute that I spent reading it. Part of that enjoyment was wrapped aroung the feeling that I had of having been through a surreal esperience and being around to tell about it. My feelings were so strong, in fact, that I immediately went out and bought the novella that comes after the book, and ordered the second book of the series from my local library.

I would like to thank both Netgalley and the author for giving me the chance to read this book for a review.