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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:


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.

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.

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.