Michelle’s Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith


Michelle’s Review: The Silkworm by Robert GalbraithThe Silkworm by robert galbraith
Published by Little, Brown on 2014-06-19
Genres: Crime, Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Thrillers, Traditional
Pages: 464
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Goodreads
three-stars
Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling.When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.

I found this book as enjoyable as the first one, but perhaps a little hard to follow as an audiobook. There are so many characters that it was sometimes hard to keep up with them all without the ability to quickly flip to a previous chapter. The audiobook was well-produced and it was fun to listen to these characters…

…with perhaps the exception of Robin. She is such the eager sidekick and her drama with her fiance is simply not interesting to me. It almost felt like contrived drama and wasn’t a satisfying subplot for me.

If you’re looking for an intriguing mystery with pretty cool characters, I would recommend this book and the series. But if you get frustrated by being able to figure out the ending, or by slower paced mysteries, perhaps this wouldn’t be the pick for you. I imagine that I will be picking up any sequel as a good beach read in the future.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett


Christina’s Review: A Dangerous Fortune by Ken FollettA Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2010-07-21
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Sagas, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 576
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-half-stars
In 1866, tragedy strikes the exclusive Windfield School when a young student drowns in a mysterious accident. His death and its aftermath initiate a spiraling circle of treachery that will span three decades and entwine many lives.   From the exclusive men’s clubs and brothels that cater to every dark desire of London’s upper class to the dazzling ballrooms and mahogany-paneled suites of the manipulators of the world’s wealth, one family is splintered by a shared legacy. But greed, fed by the shocking truth of a boy’s death, must be stopped, or the dreams of a nation will die.   Praise for A Dangerous Fortune   “A terrific page-turner.”—Los Angeles Times   “Political and amorous intrigues, cold-blooded murder, and financial crises . . . old-fashioned entertainment.”—San Francisco Chronicle   “Breathlessly plotted . . . relentlessly suspenseful.”—The New York Times   “Gripping, complex plot . . . sexual intrigue . . . fascinating characters . . . You won’t be able to put down this exciting page-turner.”—Lexington Herald-LeaderFrom the Paperback edition.

Ken Follett never disappoints me… As I have repeated in numerous reviews, I love his writing style. His stories always captivate me and I feel connected to the characters. Follett’s A Dangerous Fortune was the 8th book on my “15 To-Read of 2015” list I have gotten to this year (tracking ahead of the game!) I came across this book in a library book sale and bought it because 1) It was Ken Follett and 2) It was set in Victorian England and had an intriguing synopsis.

A Dangerous Fortune began with the story of a group of boys away at school, one of whom was found dead in the nearby creek. It was unknown if the boy drowned on accident or was killed, but there were suspicions. However, the boy’s death was soon buried under the crash of a local bank and businesses associated with. An elite and powerful family looks to secure their future and prestige in the community, a boy in the family is taken in under charity by his relatives after the passing of his father… on the other side of town, another family affected by the crash as the father was laid off were separated, and a girl and boy were left to their own will as they leave to start new and separate lives.

The story continued crossing over years of time, and the wealthy Pilaster family continued to grow in prominence throughout the community. The family’s power was invested in the great Pilaster bank, one of the more powerful and stable banks in London. As their power grew, the concept of “a dangerous fortune” also grew with the control and wealth.  Follett drew the reader into a world of scandal, affairs, money, corruption, power, deception and defeat.  In the end, Follett tied together the story through a climactic finish.

One of my favorite things about Follett’s books is how he always brings the stories together so well in the end. There are no loose ends that leave my hanging, and I feel content after finishing his stories. The characters always have a purpose and are intertwined in an intricate network. There are always certain characters I end up siding with and routing for throughout the book, hoping the best will come to them. In this book, I sympathized for Hugh Pilaster and wished evil things would fall on Augusta Pilaster and Micky Miranda. At the same time, I found the manipulation and selfish doings of Augusta and Micky to be tantalizing and wanted more.

Side note on this book: A Dangerous Fortune featured a more sexual and mature environment than some of the others books of Follett’s I have read. There is scandal, adultery, brothels and more. Just a heads up for those going into this book! (Though I felt this added to the story and did not bother me)

One other side note: The edition I read needed better proofing. (Delacorte Press, hardcover, 1993) On a few different occasions, I came across sentence and grammatical errors. On at least one occasion, I also came across Augusta’s name missing the “a” in the end, spelling “August.” While this is not a big deal, it was distracting to me and I began to notice small errors like this. For example, one sentence on page 446 read:

“Edward, you cannot go the prizefight”

… missing the “to” … “Edward, you cannot go TO the prizefight.”

While this may seem nitpicky, there were a few minor errors similar to this I kept getting hung up on.

Overall, however, another great Follett book I am glad I found on the used book shelf. Whenever I start one of his books, I find it difficult to put down. At the same time, I never want to rush through them. Instead I want to take my time and picture the story playing out in my head. This book in particular would make an awesome movie.

I recommend this book for a wide-range of readers. It is great for the history lover, as well as the drama seeker. Anyone who likes George R. R. Martin will find Follett has a similar writing style and would probably enjoy his books. I recommend starting with his Pillars of the Earth series before proceeding to A Dangerous Fortune and other books of his. (Just to get you ready for his writing style and stories so you will fall in love like I did!)

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay


Michelle’s Review: Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob by William Landay
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2012-01-31
Genres: Fiction, Legal, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-stars
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star   “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press   NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERAndy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.How far would you go?Praise for Defending Jacob   “Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times   “Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post   “Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People   “The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post   “Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe   “Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment WeeklyBONUS: This edition contains excerpts from William Landay's Mission Flats and The Strangler and a Defending Jacob discussion guide.

Defending Jacob was a book club read for me. I’m not sure I would have ever heard of it or read it if it had not been nominated and then selected by my club. A legal thriller is how many people describe it and I cannot think of any better way to label it.

There were periods of dialogue, whether it was between the different mothers at the school or between Andy and Laurie that had me cringing. It felt forced or I simply didn’t agree with either party in the conversation so it grew frustrating. But I don’t think any character in this book was supposed to be exactly ‘likable’.

I particularly enjoyed the excerpts from the transcript of the grand jury hearing that is sprinkled throughout. I like when plots braid a little bit and it definitely helped build intrigue.

I barely read the description of this book before going into and certainly stayed away from reviews. There was something about it that I knew had lead up a twist at the end and I wanted to be surprised.

But even by knowing that a twist was coming made me more alert to different clues left scattered throughout the novel. Whether it was a strange past tense or reflection with some hindsight, I would highlight phrases that I thought were suspicious. I even texted a fellow club member that had already finished the book that I was pretty sure that Andy was an unreliable narrator and some of my other suspicions.

And yet, I didn’t quite guess the actual twist. I was close, but didn’t guess right. So that’s quite something, I think.

The ending just felt a little…squashed somehow. All of a sudden all the ends were being tied up but not in the right order and without a real final moment for me. I wanted just like one or two more sentences at the end with some reflection or emotional confirmation.

But I definitely look forward to discussing this with my book club! I think there are lots of layers to this story that are great for that format and it was a quick/easy enough read to make for a great club pick. No wonder that ‘book club’ is the top genre for this book on Goodreads!

Christina reviewed this too!

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay


Christina’s Review: Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob by William Landay
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2012-01-31
Genres: Fiction, Legal, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star   “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press   NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERAndy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.How far would you go?Praise for Defending Jacob   “Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times   “Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post   “Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People   “The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post   “Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe   “Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment WeeklyBONUS: This edition contains excerpts from William Landay's Mission Flats and The Strangler and a Defending Jacob discussion guide.

I had to put down one book to start Defending Jacob for book club. I was not thrilled because the book I had to put down was A Dance with Dragons, but as I read Defending Jacob I was pleasantly surprised and found myself enjoying the book throughout. The story is about a father who is a DA for a quiet town. A shocking crime takes place in this town and a little boy is dead. As the case is investigated, the evidence present points in the direction of the DA’s son, Jacob. The author, William Landay, tells the story of Jacob’s conviction and trial through the eyes of his father. This allows the reader to connect with the love of a father and his dedication to proving his son’s innocence. How could his teenage boy commit such a horrific crime? Defending Jacob was a fairly suspenseful novel depicting the trial that took the town by storm and the affects it had on a once happy family. I was anxious to get towards the end conclusion to find out what actually happened and how Jacob’s father and the jury would react.

It is shocking how you may think you know a person…but do you really? There were secrets revealed throughout the book that really tests this. How well can you truly know a person and what skeletons will come out of the closet when given the opportunity? I felt the author worked these twists in well and spaced them out throughout the book to keep the reader thinking about what turn of events may take place and how they may affect the case, if at all. For example, I found the genetic component to be new and an interesting topic of conversation in the book. For me, this set the story aside from the usual crime-solving novels. In addition, this story set itself apart from other crime novels because it followed the case of an individual once they were convicted of a crime more than the usual following of the investigation process. It was unique and added a different type of suspense.

I liked the intersecting of the conversation going out between the “Witness” (Jacob’s father) and Neal Logiudice. This conversation was a different type of break between the story Jacob’s father was telling looking back on the past and the present discussion taking place reflecting on it. Later in the story, the witness testimony and cross-examination details were interesting and allowed the reader to experience Jacob’s trial for themselves.

There were a couple of minor details I would have liked to have seen in the book. The first was the addition of a funeral for the little boy found dead. I know this sounds weird, but there was no funeral mentioned. For me, I wanted to see the reactions of the town at this event in comparison to the reactions at the school and other social scenarios. Who attended the funeral… how did they react? However, this detail was overlooked. (Which may have just made the book longer and was not what the author wanted to focus on) Another detail that held me up was in the last chapter, the last few pages. Without revealing too much or leaking any spoilers, the story up to this point was told from the father’s perspective. These last few pages were not… they were details from an event he was not present for. I felt this was unnecessary and would have preferred to finish the story from Jacob’s father’s perspective and no one else’s. This allowed for the imagination to flow and develop its own reaction to the told events.

Overall, Defending Jacob was a quick read. I found the dialogue going back-and-forth throughout allowed the story to flow well and kept the pages turning. I finished the book in less time than I anticipated, and I enjoyed it all the way through. I recommend this book for book club readers especially… I can’t wait for the discussion that will come from this book and the different perspectives I can see people developing from their interpretations of the evidence and dialogues. I also recommend this book for any general reader interested in crime novels. It was a different take to the usual murder-suspects-questioning novels, and it had a number of twists that fit the story well. I enjoyed the author’s writing style and story-line, and I am glad I took the time to read this book.

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn


Christina’s Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian FlynnSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Published by Crown Publishing Group on 2006-09-26
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-stars
FROM THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF GONE GIRLFresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

I read Gone Girl with the book club about a year ago, and let’s just say I slammed the book down when I reached the end and went into a huffy fit for a little while. It was sick, twisted, but good…real good. The book kept me thinking long after I finished it and carried the book club through such a great discussion. Because of this, I decided to nominate Gillian Flynn’s debut book Sharp Objects for our October read a year later.

First, I must say I was unexpectedly surprised when this book was not checked out from my library, so there was no wait, and I was able to dive right in! I started the book on a Sunday and finished it by Monday evening… once I got going, knowing how hooked I was with Gone Girl, I kept reading and was not disappointed. Sharp Objects follows a reporter, Camille, who travels back to her small, quiet home town to write a story on the murder of one little girl and a missing second. Flynn does a beautiful job allowing the reader to understand the emotions going through the reporter as she is forced to revisit the past she left behind and the family she had not been home to see in years. Diving deeper into the book, the reader learns the reporter has her own secrets from her past she still hides. From the outside looking in, what can appear to be the perfect family – millionaire factory owners in a big house, with beautiful daughters, a pristinely dressed and regarded mother, and a quiet father-figure – can have their secrets that will leave one squirming in their seats.

The way Flynn laid out Sharp Objects was brilliant to me. She gradually introduced new turns in events and insights into Camille’s past and relationship with her parents and self. She left breadcrumbs that built up suspense and anticipation throughout the book. The characters all seemed to have their own secrets waiting to be uncovered… In my opinion, Camille’s sister was a piece of work, as was her mother. Her father was a mysterious character..a man of few words. I kept wondering if they would have a roll in the turn of events. Reading, I was filled with hate, disgust, sorrow, skepticism, hope… I was cheering for some characters (Camille and her potential romantic encounters) and I was hoping others would “get what they deserved”…

I am excited to talk about this book with the book club and learn their reactions. I found these discussion questions online through Gillian Flynn’s site to review: http://gillian-flynn.com/sharp-objects/discussion-questions/. And this is the perfect time to read Sharp Objects and Gone Girl as we anticipate the release of the Gone Girl movie coming out in early October!

I recommend diving into this twisted world of Gillian Flynn, starting with Sharp Objects… her writing-style is unique, captivating, and leaves the reader cringing amongst a slew of emotions in the end. Her style is unique and gives the brain and heart a good workout!

pj - christina