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Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.

Paperback: 460 pages
Publisher: Vintage;(September 26, 1995)
ISBN-10: 067976402X

 

San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies.  But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder.  In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man’s guilt. For on San Pedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries–memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo’s wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched.  Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense– one that leaves us shaken and changed.

This book was more than I thought it would be.  To be honest I think I picked it up at a thrift shop because it mentioned World War II on the back of the book.  So it surprised me to find it was a Japanese fisherman on trial for the murder of another fisherman. 

Like some murder mysteries you might see on television it begins with part of the trial and then goes back and introduces you to the characters, their lives and how things came to be a murder trial.   During the time period this occurs WWII, Pearl Harbor happens and San Piedro Island is not exempt from "rounding up all the American Japanese" and putting them in internment camps.  After the war some of the young people come home but with war injuries.  One in particular now has a missing arm.   The main character on trial Kabuo Miyamoto goes to war and serves the United States against his own people.  But prejudices run deep.  And so the story reminds us that some things have not changed, while others have.  This includes use of language that might offend some, but it was proper to use for the story being told.

Quite a good book and reminder of things  we may choose to not think about all the time.

The Winter People

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon.

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Doubleday;(February 11, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0385538499

From Booklist

*Starred Review* After a night of partying, 19-year-old Ruthie awakens to a world of impossibilities: her mother, an off-the-grid hippie who rarely leaves their Vermont farm, is missing, and Ruthie is left to care for her young sister. Ruthie desperately searches their old farmhouse for clues and uncovers a hidden compartment in her mother’s room filled with frightening artifacts: a pair of strangers’ wallets, a loaded gun, and a book entitled Visitors from the Other Side: The Secret Diary of Sara Harrison Shea. The diary reveals a 100-year-old mystery lending credence to the campfire tales about their farm, the nearby Devils’ Hand rock formation, locals who have gone missing, and her mother’s warnings that bad things happen in their woods. Ruthie begins tracking her mother with the information in the wallets and soon finds links between the diary’s horrors and her mother’s disappearance. McMahon has developed a subgenre of psychological mysteries that pit female characters with humanizing strengths and vulnerabilities against old secrets posing present dangers, forcing them to confront mystery and legend in creepily seductive settings. This mystery-horror crossover is haunting, evocative, and horrifically beautiful

When I heard about this book it sounded like a good mystery.  After all a 100 yr. old diary is found which contained a mystery!  Hey what’s not to like?   However, I am not into "living dead" or "zombie"  books and this had some of the "living dead" in it.  That did not thrill me, and the fact that it covered 100 yrs was a bit confusing to me.

But… (there’s always a but, right?).. the mystery was a good one and a number of twists and turns, right up to the very end,  all contributed to my not setting the book aside.  I will say, I liked it.  Not something I will read over again, but a change from my usual reading and obviously interesting and written well enough for me to read the entire book.

I think to most who don’t mind a bit of living dead (and I know there are many out there) that this would be a really good read for you.

With this book it brought my count of books read in February to 7 !  Last month and this month were good reading months for me.  I doubt this will keep up but as long as I am reading something it’s a good thing!

February…

10..Death of a Chimney Sweep…………M.C. Beaton……..(247 pgs)

11..The Pale Blue Eye……………….Louis Bayard…………(448 pgs)

12..The Black Tower…………………Louis Bayard…………(352 pgs)

13..The River of No Return…………..Bee Ridgway……….(452 pgs)

14..Touchstone……………………..Laurie R King…………(560 pgs)

15..Risking it All………………….Ann Granger…………….(314 pgs)

16..The Winter People……………….Jennifer McMahon…(336 pgs)

I think of the books read this month my favorite was Risking it all by Ann Granger.. however, Touchstone is right up there with it!

Risking it All

Risking it All by Ann Granger. (A Fran Varady Crime Novel)

Series: A Fran Varady Crime Novel
Hardcover: 314 pages
Publisher: Headine; First Edition edition (2001)
ISBN-10: 0747274746

Ann Granger’s Fran Varady novels take us to the streets of today’s London where Fran, a young woman who is constantly struggling to find employment and a place to live, rubs shoulders with friends and foes, tramps, con men, cops, shopowners – and in this case also her dying mother.
This is a shock because her mom walked out on Fran and her dad 14 years before, when Fran was 7 years old, and hadn’t been heard from since. Now a sleazy PI finds Fran at her mom’s request – and another shock follows when Fran gets to the hospice: Fran has a young half sister. And mom has a dying wish…
Yes, this plunges Fran into a round of encounters with strangers all over town, and a dead body on her doorstep, and worse. Except for the fact that Fran is to her residences roughly what Janet Evanovich’s protagonist Stephanie Plum is to her cars (a jinx to put it mildly), this was a satisfying and interesting book.

This is my third crime novel by Ann Granger, featuring Fran Varady as the main protagonist. 

I have to say that I have enjoyed all 3 books, but I think this is my favorite of the three! 

From the beginning Ann Granger seems to tell a simple story (involving crime solving of course), using simple words, but still manages to turn tables and have surprises while reading.

I think I connected with her character of Fran Varady.  Not because I ever want to be a detective, or her so called wish to be an actor.. but because her mother left her when she was very young. (my father did the same, I don’t have a single memory of him) .  Her life was not easy, neither was mine with my mother supporting 2 kids alone.  And so there are levels I feel like I know where she coming from.  These facts keep anyone rooting for her to go on and yet afraid something bad could happen.

This story would have been my dream come true, because in this book, the mother who ran out and never saw her again, found her before she died.  She got to meet her mother again.  Something I never had the chance to do with my father.  It makes me wonder at times, how some of these authors come up with their material.

Anyway… The 3 books I’ve read are: Rattling the Bones, Mixing with Murder, and Risking it All.   Good main character, good recurring side characters, easy reading and good stories.. can’t ask for much more.

Touchstone

Touchstone by Laurie R King.

Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Bantam;(December 30, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0553586661

Hailed for her rich and powerful works of psychological suspense as well as her New York Times bestselling mysteries, Laurie R. King now takes us to a remote cottage in Cornwall where a gripping tale of intrigue, terrorism, and explosive passions begins with a visit to a recluse upon whom the fate of an entire nation may rest—a man code-named . . .

It’s eight years after the Great War shattered Bennett Grey’s life, leaving him with an excruciating sensitivity to the potential of human violence, and making social contact all but impossible. Once studied by British intelligence for his unique abilities, Grey has withdrawn from a rapidly changing world—until an American Bureau of Investigation agent comes to investigate for himself Grey’s potential as a weapon in a vicious new kind of warfare. Agent Harris Stuyvesant desperately needs Grey’s help entering a world where the rich and the radical exist side by side—a heady mix of the powerful and the celebrated, among whom lurks an enemy ready to strike a deadly blow at democracy on both sides of the Atlantic.
Here, among a titled family whose servants dress in whimsical costumes and whose daughter conducts an open affair with a man who wants to bring down the government, Stuyvesant finds himself dangerously seduced by one woman and—even more dangerously—falling in love with another. And as he sifts through secrets divulged and kept, he uncovers the target of a horrifying conspiracy, and wonders if he can trust his touchstone, Grey, to reveal the most dangerous player of all ….
Building to an astounding climax on an ancient English estate, Touchstone is both a harrowing thriller by a master of the genre and a thought-provoking exploration of the forces that drive history—and human destinies.

I decided to do a reread of a book I haven’t read since 2007!.. that’s when I received and advance reading copy of the book Touchstone by Laurie R King.  The very same author  who writes all the Mary Russell (Holmes) books!  After I read this the first time.. I saved it.  That means I knew I’d want to reread it one day… and it finally happened!  And I enjoyed it as much as the first time.  When I began the book I quickly remember it had political overtones.. yuck.. the only political books I enjoy  are not fiction!.. hmmm, but I saved the book.. so .. I continued to read.  And it wasn’t long until I was hooked once again!

Although Harris Stuyvesant is the investigator, and main character,  my heart instantly went out to Bennett Grey. Not only was he heart-wrenching, he was a living time bomb waiting to explode! (there’s a pun in there, but you’ll have to read the book to understand it!)

Stuyvesant is an American working for the government, who travels to England to find a man he suspects has set off a number of bombs in America, one of them all but killed his brother, and this was a personal matter. He has come at a turbulent time in England with miners striking and Unions ready to wage war.

He is led to a man named Major Aldous Carstairs.. whom you will dislike immediately! And not without reason!.. With Carstairs "help" he is introduced to Bennett Grey (who will steal your heart in one way or another). With Grey’s help Stuyvesant believes he can infiltrate the group of people surrounding a man named Brunson, who he believes is the bomber. Grey introduces him to his sister Sarah, (a noticed beauty to Harris), who in turn introduces him to Laura Hurleigh, daughter of a Duke, mistress to Brunsen, and a very highly intelligent and political person herself.

I can’t begin to tell you all the different turns this story takes! The homework Laurie King must have done to describe every moment in England and every detail of the House of Hurleigh must have been horrendous, because, trust me on this.. you think you are there!

I won’t even mention the twists and turns that happen at the end of this book! I highly doubt you will figure it out along the way! If you are even remotely interested in suspense thrillers, this book is for you!

The River of No Return

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway.

Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Plume;(March 25, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0142180831

From Booklist

In her stellar debut, Ridgeway manages the permutations of the time-travel trope with originality and aplomb. Lord Nick Falcott was an early nineteenth-century aristocrat, until he unexpectedly “jumped” into the twenty-first century while engaged in bloody battle. He then discovers the powerful, secret Guild that keeps a watchful eye on time shenanigans while it shepherds its bewildered new members through their futuristic lives. Nick is prepared to live in contemporary ease in America and willfully ignore the echoes of his past, but the Guild has other plans for him. They send him back to 1815 England to discover the nefarious plans of a shadowy nemesis who seeks a talisman that controls time. Also in 1815 exists Julia Percy, whose grandfather played with time and managed to pass on his legacy to Julia without her being completely aware of it. The juxtaposition between rather foppish yet deeply wounded Nick and spunky, highly intelligent Julia keeps the pages turning, while the entire premise and plot capture unwavering attention. Recommend this engaging, nuanced read to fans of A Discovery of Witches (2011) and Regency romances. –Julie Trevelyan

Hmmm, well.. I have to say I am not fond of "time travel" books.  Having said that I was glad this was more "about being able to" rather than each chapter being in a different time!  Ninety percent of the book was kept in the 1815 time period. (which, of course, suits me just fine!)

Time travel to me is sci-fi and as much as I am a sci-fi fan of movies,  I am not a fan of reading it. (unless it’s kept to a minimum).  So I am not sure what it was that kept me reading this book.. up and to 100 pages I was thinking that this book would not be read by me, but something made me wonder where it was going, I guess, and so I read on.

There was also a romance in the story.. though not much was done with it until the last quarter of the book. (once again, that was fine with me). 

I will say that the second half of the book moved faster and decidedly was more interesting. (regardless of the romance).  I did like the character of Lord  Nick.  An important someone in his time, but not nearly as important in the future time. I think his maturing and way of thinking of people in general (common vs aristocrat ) and of woman and their part in the world when he returned to 1815, gave good thought to his character.

I liked the book.  Not one that I’d read a second time.. and it was "different" for me.  But it didn’t change my mind about liking to read time travel stories!

So I hope the Amazon review tells you enough to know if it is something you might want to read !  There were other reviews on the page if you think you want to know more about the book.

The Black Tower

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard.

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (August 26, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0061173509

 

Book Description:

Vidocq! Master of disguise and chief of a newly created plainclothes police force, Vidocq is a man whose name sends terror rippling through the Parisian underworld of 1818—and the inconsequential life of Hector Carpentier is violently shaken when Vidocq storms into it. A former medical student living in his mother’s Latin Quarter boardinghouse, Hector finds himself dragged into a dangerous mystery surrounding the fate of the dauphin, the ten-year-old son of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette presumed to have suffered a cruel death years earlier in Paris’s dreaded Temple. But the truth of what happened may be even more shocking—and it will fall to an aimless young man and the most feared detective in Paris to see justice done for a frightened little boy in a black tower . . . no matter what the cost.

This is my 3rd book by Louis Bayard.  And I have enjoyed all three of them!  A lot of historical History has gone into his books: The Tower, The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy.

This one begins with a murder.  In the dead man’s hand is a note that simply states a name, Dr. Carpentier.  It turns out Dr Carpentier does not know this murdered man, but subsequently is dragged along by the detective, Vidocq, while he continues to track down the murderer.

Bayard takes us back to the time of King Louis XVI, and asks what happened to the apparent heir to the throne.   Supposedly he was held in a tower until his death.  Or was he?  How was Carpentier involved in this?  Was the boy dead or alive?  And how could they tell if what they suspect is true or not?

Toss in another murder or two, question who you trust or don’t trust and Bayard has given us yet another very good historical fiction book to read!

I know I don’t write much of a review, I leave that to the reviews from Amazon, but what I can say is that it was an easy read, and an interesting read.  It kept me picking it up each time I sat down and to me… that’s an enjoyable read!

The Pale Blue Eye

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard.

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks;(June 12, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0060733985

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bayard follows Mr. Timothy (2003), which brilliantly imagined the adult life of Dickens’s Tiny Tim, with another tour-de-force, an intense and gripping novel set during Edgar Allan Poe’s brief time as a West Point cadet. In 1830, retired New York City detective Gus Landor is living a quiet life at his Hudson Valley cottage, tormented by an unspecified personal sorrow, when Superintendent Thayer summons him to West Point to investigate the hanging and subsequent mutilation of a cadet. Poe aids Landor by serving as an inside source into the closed world of the academy, though Poe’s personal involvement with a suspect’s sister complicates their work. But the pair find themselves helpless to prevent further outrages; the removal of the victims’ hearts suggests that a satanic cult might be at work. This beautifully crafted thriller stands head and shoulders above other recent efforts to fictionalize Poe.

This is my second book by Louis Bayard.  The other I read by him is called Mr. Timothy.

I have to say I surprised myself by how quickly I read this book.  Mainly because the print was on the small side! Sheer horror for me!

The Pale Blue Eye managed to grab me right away.  I liked the way the author put the history of the West Point Academy into the book, circa 1830.  He researched enough to know that Edgar Allan Poe truly did go to West Point for a time and so incorporated as the cadet he chooses to help him solve the crime.

Small hints are dropped here and there but I have to admit that I could not figure out who the murder was!  And then at the end when the whole story comes out it takes yet another twist  which you really don’t have a clue is coming!

I liked this book a lot, as I also had enjoyed his book of Mr Timothy, which is about the adult "Tiny Tim" of Christmas Carole fame.

The retired detective, Gus Landor, was a very good character.  You don’t actually know much about him but he is such a thorough detective that you find his work more intriguing than he is! (rare for me, I am character driven).   As for Poe, I will only say that one of his more famous poems comes to mind over and over again as you read this book.. but you will have to read it for yourself and see if you come up with the same (thought) poem.

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