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By Debra Hamel

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By Debra Hamel

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By Debra Hamel

Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

By Debra Hamel

paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

By Debra Hamel

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

By Debra Hamel

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

By Debra Hamel

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them. The blog, however, will continue, and if you've got a good first line to share for TwitterLit please do so here.

From a random review:


September 2014: Book notices

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Joel Dicker, The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair

Joel Dicker's much ballyhooed The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair is a very long book. Reading it, one has a lot of time to think about whether jumping into a 650-odd page tome was a good idea. I'm still not sure. There was a lot I didn't like about it. A litany of complaints: I'm pretty sure a lot of the book could have been lopped off to good effect. I found much of the story implausible. The too-precious chapter openings--in which Harry gives Marcus advice about writing--are often nauseating. Marcus' mother--a minor character, thank you, Jesus--is a ludicrous caricature of a Jewish mother. Everyone was supposed to love the fifteen-year-old Nola--whose disappearance in 1975 is the book's great mystery--but the persona she presented to people, as described in the book, was not particularly likable in my opinion. And the book within a book, Harry Quebert's alleged masterpiece, well, it reads like schlock in the snippets that punctuate this book. Towards the end, my interest in the story increased as we finally found out whodunit. And there is indeed a decent mystery buried in these pages. But there are so many twists and turns in the last couple chapters that I wound up not really caring by the end of it what had really happened to Nola.

Shane Kuhn, The Intern's Handbook

Well this was a fun read. Shane Kuhn's The Intern's Handbook purports to be a text written by an unusually successful assassin for the benefit of new recruits at his organization. At 25, he's about to retire from the biz. He's been working since he was a kid for a company that inserts assassins, posing as interns, into business settings to get access to high-profile targets. Anyway, there's a lot of assassin-y advice, and we hear about the principal's tortured past, and the story winds up having unexpected twists that work pretty well. Our narrator's tone and jokes and movie references get a little tiresome, but it's not unbearable. Not the height of literature, perhaps, but reasonably enjoyable.

August 2014: Book notices

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Deborah Blum, Angel Killer

Deborah Blum's Kindle Single Angel Killer is a very readable and interesting account of a series of unusually gruesome crimes, Albert Fish's string of child abductions and murders in the 1920s. A great, quick read--a perfect example of the Single format--but if you're faint of heart, some of the details may give you nightmares.

Peter Ross Range, Murder in the Yoga Store

In his Kindle Single Murder in the Yoga Store Peter Ross Range details the 2011 murder of a young woman working at a Lululemon store in an upscale part of Bethesda, Maryland. The book covers the murder itself and the backgrounds of those involved, the police investigation and trial and verdict. It's an interesting read that holds one's interest--another good use of the Single format, which I'm liking more and more. Given how vicious this crime was, I almost hesitate to say that the book is a good read, but it was, and it's appropriate to say it. I don't want to sound like the idiot on Amazon who gave this one a one-star review because the story, unlike Agatha Christie novels, is violent.

July 2014: Book notices

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Hy Conrad, Mr. Monk is in Business

I suppose I have to resign myself to the fact that we're living in a new age. Hy Conrad's Monk books are not going to be the same as Lee Goldberg's, and I shouldn't expect them to be. So far, Conrad's stories are not as funny or as poignant as those of his predecessor--the series' main selling point, in my opinion--but they're still  good and worth reading. This time out there's a pair of mysteries--thematically related, it ultimately turns out. One of them I had mostly figured out early on, the other not at all. I'm not usually very adept at solving these things before the principals do, so I have to assume Conrad telegraphed the solution more than is customary. 

Jonathan Stone, Moving Day

A plot summary of this one would suggest that what you're getting into is an edge-of-your-seat thriller: seventy-something Stanley Peke is conned out of a lifetime of possessions in a sophisticated moving truck scam and decides to get his own back. But what the author delivers is both less thrilling and more thoughtful than you might expect. Stanley, in the tense hours he passes in the book, has a lot of time to think about his past, and he and the reader explore how being a survivor of the Holocaust has impacted his life. And that turns out to be not as straightforward as you'd expect. An interesting book.

Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore, The Shield

Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore have brought retired OSI agent Maxine Decker back in this follow-up to The Blade. This time Maxine is pulled out of retirement to track down some pieces of extraterrestrial tech that enemies of the U.S. are attempting to weaponize. It's been a while since I read The Blade, but I'm pretty sure I enjoyed this book more. I think the storyline involving alien tech was just more interesting to me than the religious fanatic who wanted to level Las Vegas in book one. Turns out that Maxine Decker inhabits the same universe as Cotten Stone, the protagonist of the authors' previous series. References to Stone in this book were a bit jarring as they pulled me out of the narrative, but readers unfamiliar with the Cotten Stone books won't notice anything odd.

June 2014: Book notices

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Nancy Atherton, Aunt Dimity's Death

So I stumbled on this charming cozy from the early 90's. Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity's Death is the first in a series that is apparently still going strong. The 19th Aunt Dimity book, Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well, was just released about a month ago. With the arrival of a letter Lori Shepherd, who's temping to barely make ends meet when the book begins, soon finds herself whisked into, well, lots of stuff: a world of privilege, romance, mystery, and the supernatural. Her transition from struggling American divorcée to refined, tea-serving American expat in England seems a little abrupt, as do some of the revelations (romantic and supernatural) that come along. But all in all I liked it. I'm not sure that I'd read all nineteen novels, but I wouldn't rule out another one.

Joseph Finder, Suspicion

Joseph Finder's stand-alone thriller Suspicon is simply a great read. Finder starts backing his everyman protagonist into a corner pretty much from page one, and the tension never lets up. When the book opens, widowed father Danny Goodman is trying to figure out how, given his depleted finances, he can send his daughter on a school trip to Italy. The answer presents itself pretty quickly, a stroke of fortune in the person of the father of his daughter's new friend, but accepting money from the guy turns out to have dire consequences....

Veronica Roth, Insurgent

The Divergent series is huge deal with tweens at the moment, and my own tween has required that I jump on the bandwagon. I like that we're reading buddies, so I jump when told. The book's not bad, but I have trouble keeping the various secondary characters straight, which suggests that I'm not paying as close attention as I should. It's very difficult to accept that the society Roth has created could actually exist, but there are hints--maybe something stronger than hints--that it didn't spring up organically. I'll be able to accept the story better if it turns out they're all living in a big social experiment. 

May 2014: Book notices

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Chris Pavone, The Expats

The story told in Chris Pavone's The Expats is an interesting one, and just the sort of thing I like: Kate Moore, a former CIA agent who is now retired with her husband and kids in Luxembourg, becomes suspicious of another expat couple and, ultimately, of her husband. It's a very cerebral story. Not much happens, really. There's just a lot of Kate figuring things out. That the book holds one's interest despite the lack of action is impressive. On the other hand, the author takes a very long time to tell the story. He throws in a lot of description at times when you wish he'd really just get on with it. It took me forever to read. The story is also confusing because there's a lot of jumping around in the timeline, and it's sometimes hard to follow. This may have to do with my reading the book on a Kindle, however: books in hard copy are better able to signal such leaps visually. So, in short, it's a very putdownable book, but not so putdownable that I didn't want to pick it up again. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll bother reading the book's sequel, which is a shame, because there's a lot to like here.

About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


The Sunday by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.