Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Celebrating its 335th anniversary, The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan is an allegory about the difficulty for a 17th century Christian to enter heaven. Christian is accompanied Faithful and Hopeful. Throughout the journey Christian is misled and distracted by an large array of disreputable characters. A few being: Talkative, Envy, Superstition, Flatterer, and Ignorance.

Much of the book is a cautionary tale of false roads to salvation:
...unless I could obtain the righteousness of  Man that never had sinned, neither mine own, not all the righteousness in the World could save me.
 This is a dismal view of the requirements of a righteous life, but a great example of allegory.

*The edition I read is from my library: The Riverside Literature Series, Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, Edited, with Introduction and Notes, by William Vaughn Moody, 1896. This copy has annotations from 1933 by Abraham Klein. It appears to have been later sold to Cynthia Feingold of Scarsdale, NY.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Clean Burn by Karen Sandler ****

Horror-romance mystery. Clean Burn by Karen Sandler has something for everyone: romance, mystery, arson, self harm, child abuse, and insanity.

Janelle Watkins is private detective trying to specialize in infidelity, but being drawn to other cases by her twin compulsions for fire and missing children. The story starts with two missing children and a strings of small fires and eventually leads her to her small hometown in the hills outside Sacramento, and coincidentally Ken Heinz. Ken is now the sheriff, but was formerly her "partner" when both were in the SFPD.

The mystery unfolds in the small town of Janelle's childhood and parallel histories of child abuse are shared by Janelle and the perpetrator.

As mysteries with female detectives go, this one is much darker than anything offered Sue Grafton or Alexander McCall Smith or the many other excellent writers of light mysteries.

I can recommend this to anyone looking for a darker take on mystery.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on July 9, 2014.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Last Shuttle by Tom Glover *

The Last Shuttle by Tom Glover is a 70-page, first-contact novella with as pretty good "amateur manually lands the Space Shuttle" sequence.

Awarded the Sci Fi Parsec Award in honor Han Solo's claim that he "made the Kessel Run in under twelve parsecs." This small story qualified twice: once on the first page for a "geosynchronous orbit 1,000 miles above the earth's surface." The calculation of the correct altitude is a high-school physics problem or available from Wikipedia. And later with the undistinguished assertion, "By 32, he earned his doctorate ... distinguishing himself within the scientific ranks of NASA." This is a bottom-half-of-the-class record, since the median age is closer to 31.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith ****

Daniel received two phones calls. The first from his dad said that his mother has gone crazy. The second from his mom that his dad was part of a vast conspiracy to commit her. Thus, The Farm by Tom Rob Smith sets up the question: Who should be believed?

Previously, Daniel's parents had moved to a farm in Sweden, his mother's country of birth. His mom arrives back in England first, so the majority of the book is her detailed presentation of her case.The story revolves around accusations of conspiracy, murder, child abuse, incest, and deceit.

Like any good mystery, in the end the truth is revealed and everything falls in place. However the story has a horrific undercurrent (from the jacket) "enhanced by the author's admission that his own family faced a similar experience."

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on May 19, 2014. I received my copy on June 13, 2014.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hidden Star by Nora Roberts **

Stars: Hidden Star/ Captive Star by Nora Roberts combines two novels. This review only covers the first novel: Hidden Star.

Hidden Star is a combination mystery and romance. This was not the ideal book as I am not a fan of either romance or omniscient point-of-view.

The novel openswith Bailey entering Cade Parris' sad Private Investigator office. In spite of the run-down shape of Cade's office, he is very rich. In spite of Bailey's amnesia, she does have an enormous (as in priceless) diamond and over $1 million in cash. Of course, both a good looking.

The mystery is where did the diamond come from and who is Bailey.

This is a romance, so the first thing PI Parris figures out is that Bailey was a virgin (was).

Not my cup of tea, but you may love it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Judgment Call by J A Jance *****

Joanna Brady is the sheriff outside the small Arizona town of Bisbee. Judgment Call by J A Jance opens with the murder of the high school principal, Debra Highsmith. After some preliminary investigation, it is clear the Debra is not who she claims to be. From there suspects accumulate from angry students, to jilted lovers, to Russian spies. In classic mystery style, the killer is finally identified as another person with an assumed identity.

There is also a second mystery involving the death of Joanna's father, and former sheriff, around twenty years ago. This mystery also involves another assumed identity.

As the body counts grows both in the present and the past, Joanna deftly unravels the mysteries while dealing with a number of difficult women. This is a book of many and varied women, from strong to weak and good to evil.

In what might be a modern novel of the 21st century, there was one surprise: a high school girl presented as totally lacking agency and sense, the stereotypical victim of hormones and infatuation available to be used by an older boy with interest in little more that easy sex. A girl who cannot be reasoned with, who requires rescue, without any consultation or notice, only a smug comment that she will understand when she get older.

A fabulous mystery - a fast and fascinating read.