Book Talk Tuesday: Ballroom!

I picked this one up from the library as research for my work-in-progress. It’s written by a former competitive dance champion named Sharon Savoy. She starts with her own background and journey through the world of dance, but also gives lots of background and insider information.

ballroomI learned lots of good stuff that may not make it into the book, but just knowing that process of dressing and styling is referred to as grooming is helpful. It’s the kind of little detail that adds verisimilitude to the story.

My rough draft is done, but as I go back and begin the rewrite and polish, these details are just what I need.

The book is well-written, although occasionally a bit stilted. The pictures are an album of 1990s hair and costume styles.

It’s worth every penny I’ll have to pay when I return it, overdue, to the library tomorrow.

Book Talk Tuesday: UNBROKEN

I bought this book for Stud Muffin for Christmas a couple of years ago. He loved it and couldn’t put it down.

I put it on my TBR pile and then ignored it. I knew it would be one of those books that lives in the mind long after you turn the final page, but I needed a little space in my own brain just then.

When the movie adaptation was announced, I knew I had to read it.

UNBROKEN
UNBROKEN

I started it last spring. Then I set it aside.

It was too intense. I knew the story (a WWII soldier crashes, drifts in a life raft for 47 days, then is taken prisoner by the Japanese). I also knew once I got to the part of the story where he crashes, I wouldn’t be able to put down the book. So I set it down before I got to that part.

I’m back into it now though, so I can see the movie next week. I’m not quite finished with it, but I’m far enough that I’m past the most harrowing stories of brutality. Japan has just surrendered and the POWs are being rescued.

it’s an incredible story movingly told. Laura Hillenbrand is arguably the queen of creative non-fiction. She wrote the bestseller SEABISCUIT and UNBROKEN is her follow-up book. Louis Zamperini, the unbreakable subject, passed away last summer. What a blessing that he got to talk to Hillenbrand and was still alive to see the impact his story has had.

Even when I’m finished, this one will go on the keeper shelf.

Did you read it? What did you think?

Book Talk Tuesday: THE DEEP END

THE DEEP END is the debut mystery novel by Julie Mulhern. (Julie is a fellow 2014 Golden Heart® finalist and I received a free copy of her book from her publisher Henery Press.)

TDEIt’s 1974 in Kansas City. Ellison Russell, an artist, heads to her country club for her customary early morning swim. She never expected to find the body of her husband’s dead mistress floating in the pool.

Life gets not just complicated but messy and confusing for Ellison and her daughter Grace. Henry, Ellison’s husband has disappeared and not one but two more mistresses show up. Add in a kinky dominatrix, blackmail, an overbearing mother, and an attractive (and kind) police detective and poor Ellison is toast.

THE DEEP END is a classic “fair play” mystery with clues and red herrings sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed this one a lot (and not just because I kinda sorta know the author or because I got a free copy of the book).

The hard part of reviewing mysteries is not giving away any spoilers. So, I’ll say just a few more things:

  • The murderer is nicely foreshadowed.
  • Henry is vile and fully deserves the fate Mulhern gave him.
  • The secondary characters are fully-fleshed out and add to the story.
  • Ellison’s rationale for not telling the police everything she knows makes sense and didn’t make me roll my eyes or say, “Oh, please,” even once. This is a chronic pitfall of amateur sleuth stories, since often the whole thing could be wrapped up at the end of Chapter Five if the protagonist just trusted the police to do their job. Not so with THE DEEP END.

To prove that I’m not just gushing heedlessly, I did have one teeny tiny issue with THE DEEP END that I’ll mention.

Ellison felt just a tad too stoic to me. In some places I felt like she was too detached from what was going on around her. I would have liked a bit more emotion from her in a few places. Sometimes over the top is called for and I felt Mulhern kept her reined in too tightly.

But that didn’t detract from my enjoyment and my ability to heartily recommend THE DEEP END.

The cover declares that THE DEEP END is one of The Country Club Murders. I’m eager to read the next book in the series. Mulhern has laid the groundwork for an ongoing series, much like Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott, Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Schlutz, or Earlene Fowler’s Benni Harper. I think Ellison Russell will be a worthy addition to the roster of amateur sleuths alongside Deborah, Goldy, and Benni.

Who’s your favorite amateur sleuth in mystery novels? Besides the ones I mentioned above, I also love Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and Donna Parker. Oh, and Reverend Claire Ferguson in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s novels.

Book Talk Tuesday: Duchess

Duchess, the final book in Susan May Warren’s historical trilogy is a satisfying end to the series.

We started with Heiress, the story of the Esme and Jinx Price and different paths in life. Baroness followed their daughters, Rosie and Lilly in their quests to belong.

DuchessDuchess is all Rosie, bringing the family full circle.

I reviewed several of Warren’s other books and it’s no secret I’m a big fan.

Duchess lives up the Warren’s standards. The writing is lyrical without the poetry of the words distracting from the story.

I had a small quibble with Baroness. I didn’t feel Rosie’s motivation to pursue a career on stage had been given enough plausible set up. But that was dealt with a bit more in Duchess. Enough that I’m okay with it now.

In Baroness we left Rosie as she made a deal with Dash: she’d act in motion pictures and he’d make her a star.

We start Duchess with Rosie living her dream. Her new movie has just premiered. She’s married (although secretly) to Dash and they are partners in their fledging studio. She hates being considered a property though and rebels when she’s loaned out to another studio for a World War I epic. She and a stunt pilot named Rafe renew their acquaintance and it helps pass the time on location.

We follow Rosie through several pictures and heartbreak when she loses both a child and her husband. Then she discovers that her stunt pilot friend isn’t who she thought he was.

A few years pass. Hitler is stirring up things in Europe. Rafe returns and offers her a chance to reignite her movie career with a film he’s producing in Austria and Belgium. Rose agrees and is soon caught up in world events.

I appreciated how Warren tied up all the loose ends in the Price/Worth family. I loved the story, the inside glimpses of life in Hollywood in the 1930s and ‘40s. I was born in the same hospital that Rosie lost her baby in. Many of the sites mentioned are familiar to me as a California native. I liked that Warren did her research and got it right.

All in all, I loved Duchess and I enthusiastically recommend it.

Book Talk Tuesday: Broken Harbor

Wow. This is how a mystery is supposed to be written.

Tana French’s novel, Broken Harbor, is suspenseful, gripping, and beautifully written. Her words flow, creating word pictures that resonate. The story’s not bad either.

Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is the ace detective on Dublin’s murder squad. He’s back to work after bungling a case and is ready to prove himself up to the task again.

Broken Harbor US

He partners with novice Richie Curran and the pair head outside of Dublin to Brianstown. Mick spent his childhood and teen vacations there when it was called Broken Harbor. The town has changed but Mick’s memories of his last summer there pierce him and his sister.

A new subdivision of “luxury” homes has been half built then abandoned. A family of four is found in their home. The two children have been smothered and their parents stabbed. The father is dead and the mother clings to life.

As Mick and Richie dig into the family’s life, they discover more about the case, themselves, and each other, than they could ever foresee.

French does a great job doling out the story. Just when I thought I had all the puzzle pieces, a new fact would emerge that fit into the bigger picture.

The characters are believable and real. Even the less-than-likeable ones. The ending is emotionally satisfying.

They say a good ending doesn’t sell your book, it sells your next book. I agree. The next Tana French book that I come across I will definitely pick up.