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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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Authors & publishers:
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:


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.

April 2014: Book notices

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Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

I'd been hearing about this book for a while, had a sample downloaded on my Kindle for an equally long while. I'm glad I finally started reading, because once I did, I was hooked. It's been a long time--maybe years--since I've sat down and read for any decent length of time, uninterrupted, immersed in a book. Through some wonderful combination of forces--nothing imminent on the radar, access to comfortable seating, and a book worthy of the time--I was able to do just that with Gone Girl, and I was joined by my daughter, who was immersed in her own can't-put-it-down read. One of the best afternoons of my life. As for the book, it's a wonderfully complex story about a woman's disappearance and the case that quickly builds against her husband. I can't say I bought the final twists of the story, but I enjoyed the experience of reading the book so much that I can't possibly hold that against it.

Veronica Roth, Divergent

This is another book that my twelve-year-old compelled me to read. But so far, she has good taste. This was a fast read of the Hunger Games/Twilight ilk: action and just enough light romance to get tween girls swooning. The problem was resolved quite quickly at the end, I thought, but then again there are more books to go in the series, so all is not settled.

March 2014: Book notices

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J.R. Rain, Silent Echo

J.R. Rain's Silent Echo is kind of a strange read. On the one hand, it's very repetitive. A few facts are drummed into the reader's head: the protagonist, Jim Booker, is dying from AIDS-related cancer (though he's not gay); he's being cared for by an almost saintly friend, Numi, a Nigerian who is gay; Jim needs Numi's help but is uncomfortable about being the recipient of his ministrations because Numi's a gay male. On the other hand, despite the repetition, Silent Echo winds up being highly readable. Perhaps this is because it's pretty short (though it arguably should have been shorter). Perhaps the repetitive bits just make the story go down easily because you don't have to think about them much. The story, by the way, is that Jim is a private eye specializing in lost persons cases--or at least he was before his illness debilitated him. In Silent Echo he winds up investigating a series of murders, a case which, if he solves it, could bring him some closure before death: he's been burdened by guilt related to one of the murders for more than twenty years. So, not a bad read, all in all. It makes me a bit curious to see how Rain's other novels compare.

Richard Bach, Illusions II

Not really a sequel to the original Illusions, which I loved back in the day (but read decades ago). Illusions II is strange, brief account of the author's recovery (and his seaplane's recovery) from a near-fatal crash in 2012. Disappointing, really, though I hate to say it.

Rysa Walker, Timebound

I enjoyed this YA book about a teenager, Kate, who finds out from her grandmother that she has the ability to travel through time. Turns out she's the only one who can save the world as it is from nefarious elements bent on changing the timeline to their advantage. She winds up time-hopping back to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 to set things right. If you've read your Devil in the White City you'll remember that the Chicago Exposition was the hunting ground of serial killer H.H. Holmes, so it wasn't a particularly safe place to be....

John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

John Green's story about two teens with cancer who find true love in a support group is pretty much a perfect book. The subject matter is the sort of thing I would normally run from: there's enough sadness in the world that I don't normally want to subject myself to it in fiction. But while the book is sad, it is not primarily so, I don't think. Certainly one can revel in the love story Green's characters get to enjoy, whatever the confinements and brevity of their lives. I was, at any rate, forced to read the book by my twelve-year-old daughter. Having finished it she collapsed in some kind of swoon on the floor of my study. Upon reviving, she pressed the book into my hands, opened it to the first page, and commanded me to begin.

February 2014: Book notices

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Lee Goldberg, The Walk

Lee Goldberg's The Walk tells the story of network exec Marty Slack's multi-day walk home from downtown L.A. after a massive earthquake levels a huge swath of California. He has adventures along the way--near-death experiences and acts of heroism, much of it in the company of a likable if two-dimensional bounty hunter named Buck. The plot line seems the sort of thing many television series are made of. A wandering man passes through the lives of the various characters he meets on his journey--think Bill Bixby's David Banner or, mutatis mutandis, Michael Landon's character on Highway to Heaven, or Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap. Except that Marty's walk can't last more than a few days, so, no series. At any rate, I really enjoyed this. The only thing that would have made it better is a map detailing Marty's travels, since I found the geography hard to visualize.

Joseph T. Hallinan, Why We Make Mistakes

It's been about a week since I finished this book. Usually I jot down my thoughts immediately after finishing a book, but this time I kept forgetting to do so. Maybe that's fitting in this case, because I found the book itself to be pretty forgettable. It was enjoyable in the reading, I know, but a week on now I would have to go back and read a summary of it to describe any of the contents. Probably this is just me, in my reading slump still, reading a book that didn't quite fit my needs at the moment, rather than any failing on the part of the author

Hy Conrad, Mr. Monk Gets on Board

The Monk books tend to offer readers some combination of three elements: pathos, usually related to revelations about the depth of Monk and Natalie's relationship; humor, usually proceeding from the dialogue between Monk and Natalie; and storyline. In this latest installment I'd say that humor and pathos are all but lacking, while the storyline is quite good. The book is certainly a good read, but I do hope that the author makes with the funny next time. (I note that I found Hy Conrad's first installment in the series lacking in humor and pathos as well, so this is a disturbing trend.)

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.