All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr, 2014. Scribner, New York

This book, about a young blind girl and a German boy genius whose paths cross in WWII, starts a bit slow and seems a little disjointed in the beginning, but it really comes together in the end.

The author utilizes very short chapters that alternate back and forth between the blind girl and the German boy.  I found that it took a little getting used to, but this technique really adds to the overall book. 4 stars

The Children Act

by Ian McEwan, 2014, Penguin Random House, New York

This book is about a woman judge in England who must rule whether a young boy should be forced to undergo a blood transfusion to save his life, despite the religious objections of his parents and the boy himself.  The state argues that the boy has been brainwashed by his religious teaching and his parents.  The parents and the boy argue otherwise.

The author focuses on the anguish that the judge undergoes in making a decision, but the book is also about her as a person and how wrapped up she is in her work and career.  It makes for an interesting scenario, but, unfortunately, the ending of the book seems very incomplete.  I enjoyed reading it but it left me feeling very unfulfilled.3 stars

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel

by David Mitchell, audiobook narrated by Jonathan Aris and Paula Wilcox, 2010, Recorded Books

This is a story about a clerk in the employ of the Dutch East India company in about 1800 and his experiences in Dejima, Japan.  The book is very interesting as it characterizes the relationships between the Dutch merchants and the xenophobic Japanese.  It also depicts the corruption and contempt of the Europeans toward their Japanese counterparts.

The book was narrated very well and it was enjoyable to listen to. 3 1/2 stars

Wildfire

by Nelson DeMille, 2006, Warner Books, New York

This is a novel about a retired NYC police detective working for an anti-terrorist group within the FBI after 911.  His wife also works for the FBI and is officially his supervisor.  It takes place in the Adirondacks.

The plot is interesting, although somewhat of a stretch.  John Corey, the main character, is a bold, wise-cracking individual who, I think, may have a personality similar to that of DeMille.

The novel suffers a bit from a little too much dialogue with the villain, which sometimes slows down the action so that the books tends to drag in places.  While the bantering and jokes are fun, it can get a bit wearing at times.  Otherwise, the book was OK.2 1/2 stars

Into the Woods

by Tana French, 2007, Penguin Books

This is definitely a different kind of mystery.  Instead of action, the author focuses on the psychology of the detective who is also the narrator of the story.  The reader is exposed to all of his thoughts and emotions as he goes through the steps to solve this murder.

Since the detective is the primary character (i.e., hero) of the story, one would expect him to succeed not only in solving the murder, but also to receive recognition and rewards for so doing.  Don’t expect this book to come out that way in the end.

I enjoyed reading the book but it got a bit bogged down in it’s later stages.  Also, I was expecting some kind of unexpected “twist” toward the end.  Nothing like that occurred so I was a bit disappointed as I put it down.  The book was an interesting read but I certainly wouldn’t rave about it.3 stars

The Man Who Invented Florida

by Randy Wayne White, audiobook narrated by Dick Hill, book originally published 1997, Audiobook released 2010 by Tantor Audio

This is the third Doc Ford novel and not one of Randy Wayne White’s best efforts.  The plot seemed dull and the pace dragged significantly.  The ending has a bit of a twist but not enough to redeem the book.  Ordinarily White’s books are fun to listen to but this one was a bit of a chore.2 stars

A Green Journey

by Jon Hassler, 1985, Ballentine Books, New York

I picked this book up as I had run out of books to read, so I started looking around for something light to read in the bookcases in our condo in RI.  I seemed to recall that I had read something by Hassler in the distant past that I had really liked.  After looking at other books that he wrote it turned out that it was North of Hope that I had read many years ago.

It turned out that this book wasn’t much to my liking other that it was an easy read.  Hassler intersperses references to The Troubles that were occurring in Ireland into a tale about a soon to be retired school teacher and her visit to Ireland to connect with a pen-pal with whom she had been corresponding for some time.

The story was okay as were the characters, but not much more than okay.  The book just wasn’t compelling, and, as it is one book of a series, it wasn’t a complete story in and of itself.  The ending seemed as if it was just a convenient place to leave off so the reader could run out and purchase the next book to find out what the heck happened to the characters after the interlude depicted in this one.  I think the following book might be still on the shelf of the bookcase where I found this one.  Who knows?  Maybe I will find myself in the same situation in the future … roaming around looking for something to read that strikes my fancy at that particular moment and then I pick up the sequel.  Not a likely scenario at the present time, but I can’t predict the future.

Nonetheless, this book was somewhat enjoyable to read so it served its purpose.

2 1/2 stars

The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett, 1930, 1st Vintage Books Edition

This book is a selection of our men’s book club for the coming season.  It has some interesting aspects and a very involved plot but it is certainly dated.  It has the alluring fem fatale character was so popular back in those times as well as the hoodlums, a punk, and, of course the somewhat shady private eye.  This last character, Sam Shade, is the most unusual.  Hammett depicts him as a not very attractive individual with slumped shoulders, a face that probably his mother didn’t even love, and a condescending attitude to the police and every woman he encounters.  Despite his physical shortcomings and lack of manners, he seems to be a magnet for most of the women in the book.  It feels quite different from more modern adventures such as Indiana Jones where the hero is at least an attractive individual.

Hammett’s writing style is sparse but it also seems awkward at times as it often doesn’t seem to flow.  Probably the best attribute of this novel is the plot, which is convoluted and interesting even if somewhat unbelievable at times.2 1/2 stars

The Lowland

by Jhumpa Lahari, Audiobook read by Sunil Maholtra, 2013, Audible.com

This is a story about two brothers who grew up in India and the very different paths that they took in their lives.  The book attempts to tie the directions that each took to the lives of their family members, but, unfortunately, in my opinion, fails in that endeavor.  The two brothers seem so different that it is hard to reconcile their two different fates.  Also, as a warning, the book just seems to end with no resolution and without imparting any real message.

I also didn’t quite get attached to any of the characters.  They seemed to be somewhat real, but the author didn’t really provide anything that I really could grab onto.

The plot was interesting at times and I learned a lot about the politics and recent history of India that I didn’t know.  The passages referring to Rhode Island were very relevant to me as I spend five months of each year precisely in the area where the novel takes place.  Most of those passages, however, were somewhat boring as the characters seemed to plod from day to day with nothing particularly interesting or noteworthy happening.  I sometimes dreaded continuing to listen.

The references to German philosophy in some of the passages seemed shallow and actually got to the point of name dropping.  They seemed to detract from the story.

The reader did a nice job.  The accents were appropriate as was the tone.

All-in-all, it was interesting about some individuals who came to America and settled in areas that I am very familiar with, but the book certainly didn’t light my fire.2 1/2 stars

An Irish Country Girl

by Patrick Taylor, Audiobook read by Terry Donnelly, 2010, Midwest Tape, LLC, Holland, OH

This book started out pretty well with an Irish ghost story but the second part, which was consisted of the narrator’s life, was a bit dull.  The audiobook did, however, help pass some time on a long road trip vacation.2 stars