Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Mask, Book Review

This is the second of Ms. Taylor’s novels that I’ve had the privilege of reviewing. (Click here for my review of her novel, The Catch.) And like the previous book, I enjoyed this one very much too.

In this novel, Vanessa Michael Monroe, a polyglot who can add to her linguist abilities nearly at will, finds herself in Japan, trying to discover who framed the man she loves for murder. And, of course, it’s not straight forward, not when it involves industrial espionage, the Japanese mafia, and hostess clubs.

One of the things that I so enjoy about Ms. Taylor’s novels is that Monroe, a tough, struggling heroine, finds room to grow amidst all the action and intrigue. In fact, it is the action and intrigue that cause Monroe to discover not only who she really is but what she wants and values.

Aside from the character growth, the novel is well-paced in terms of action. The writing is deft and clean and yet never draws attention to itself in a way that detracts from the plot.

I would highly recommend this novel to any reader who enjoys action/adventure thrillers. Even though this novel is fifth in a series (plus a novella), Stevens gives the reader enough of a backstory that the novel can be read as a standalone. Highly recommended.

N.B. I received this in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bradstreet Gate,Book Review

Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman is the story of three students and a professor at Harvard University, whose lives are thrown askew by the murder of a female undergraduate. Even as time passes, the victim’s death haunts the characters and forces their lives along on trajectories they never could have imagined.

This was a wonderful novel. The writing itself was clean. The book was well-paced and engrossing—I had difficulty putting it down. And I was enthralled the moment I began the story, having lived in the New Haven area of Connecticut, which had its own Ivy League murder (the unsolved death of Suzanne Jovin) and shares many elements with this novel.

However, the conclusion of the novel frustrated me because I had the impression that this novel was a literary mystery (its genre is listed as crime mystery), so I anticipated the loose ends of the murder would be tied up in the end. They weren’t. Had it been clear to me when I started reading the book that this was not the case, I would have been less disappointed with the ending. That said, considering the novel on its own merits without the presumptions I brought to it, I thought the story was an excellent exploration of the effects on an unsolved murder on the lives of four characters. 

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

N.B.: This book does have some graphic adult situations.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Grinning Down a Bear

We live in Tennessee, the home of Davy Crockett, who was known for "grinning down a bear." When we went on vacation last week to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, little did we know that we'd be "grinning down a bear" too.

On our first day of hiking, I decided on an easy hike to test Matthew's stamina. After his grueling surgery, I didn't know how much energy he'd have. So we hiked to Laurel Falls. It was beautiful.

Me, cooling off in the mountain snow fed falls. Bliss.

Sons enjoying the hike.

In the photo below are my guys on our hike out from the falls, right before we met the bear.

Not long after the above photo, we saw a mama bear in a ravine with four cubs. But she was too far away for good pictures. So Jacob (orange shirt) suggested we go farther down the trail where the path would angle right next to the ravine. We decided to go for it.

When we finally got there, there wasn't any sign of the bears. So Jacob walked about 50 feet down a footpath and looked up the ravine. I heard the cracking of branches but didn't see anything. So I started down the footpath. Immediately, Jacob held up his arms and waved me back. Slowly, he backed up the trail as the mama bear came out of the brush less than 50 feet away. 

Here she is coming out of cover, sniffing the spot where Jake had been standing only moments before.

Checking on her cubs.

Staring us down as she began walking up the footpath toward us. We grinned and backed away slowly.
 Okay, not too slowly. But not running either, didn't want to seem like easy prey.

 The next day, I decide to try something less scary. I misread the guide. While we didn't see any critters, the hike I chose was a rock climb. Up a mountain.
At the end of the hike, the incline became almost vertical. Even steeper than it looks here. And if you slipped, there was nothing to break your fall. Until you reached the valley below. (The forestry service had posted "At your own risk" signs.)