Monday, April 23, 2012

Dexter is Delicious [Lindsay]

Book: Dexter is Delicious [Dexter Morgan book #5]
Author: Jeff Lindsay

Review: Dexter is now a daddy! Baby Lily Anne has an unexpected effect on our favorite serial killer. He is experiencing feelings for the first time ever and vows to change his vigilante ways. His dark passenger isn't happy but Dexter is committed to a new life. Meanwhile, his brother Brian is back in town and quickly integrating himself with Dexter's family. Dexter is sure Brian has an ulterior motive, but Rita and the kids love him. Dexter and Deb are also investigating a brutal murder of a young girl eaten to death and the disappearance of her friend. Deb bullies Dexter into helping her, which includes skirting the law to help save a young girl's life.

The vampire theme in this book seemed like a rip off of the recent success of other vampire books (there were several references to Twilight) but I love Dexter's inner voice. He is absolutely hilarious and I found myself chuckling several times. Deb is extremely aggressive and reading the books reinforces how great the actress playing Deb does on the  tv show. However, her overzealous and reckless behavior seems slightly out of character but I realize her actions were necessary to set up the ending. Overall, a fun read for anyone interested in this series. 

Grade: B

The Body In The Library [Christie]

Book: The Body in the Library [Miss Marple #2]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: The body of a young woman is found strangled in the Bantry's library one morning. Who is she? Why was she killed? When she is identified as a young dancer at a local resort hotel, the police are mystified. Was a local producer, who is known for wild parties involved? What about the wealthy family the victim was close to? How about the attractive tennis pro? Mrs. Bantry calls in her good friend, elderly Miss Marple to help solve the case. 

Agatha Christie creates a great mystery novel this time around. I love how Christie writes the Miss Marple books. They are written from the perspective of the police inspectors researching the cases, some of the suspects, and Miss Marple pops up as a secondary character. Of course, our elderly heroine solves the case with her excellent ability read people and situations. This was a great read with several credible suspects and I didn't figure this one out at all. 

Grade: B+

Dead Man's Folly [Christie]

Book: Dead Man's Folly [Hercule Poirot #31]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Famous author Adriane Oliver is creating a murder mystery weekend at a remote country house. She has a feeling that something ominous is about to happen so she calls in the assistance of her friend, Hercule Poirot. Poirot isn't sure why he has been summoned and isn't thrilled to partake in the festivities. However, when the local girl who was acting the part of the victim is actually murdered and the lady of the house goes missing, Poirot is on the case.

'Dead Man's Folly' had a good cast of characters including the enigmatic, rich house owner, his stupid wife, the zealous architect, a young couple visiting, the previous house owner and a youth hostel near by. The crime was committed during a large festival so reconstructing the crime and figuring out the time table was fun as a reader. The only annoying thing was a lot of this book was written from Poirot's perspective and I prefer when he is a secondary character. 

Grade: B

Poirot Investigates [Christie]

Book: Poirot Investigates [Hercule Poirot #3]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: Another series of short stories featuring the celebrated Belgium detective, Hercule Poirot. As readers of this blog know, I am not a fan of short detective stories, they just aren't interesting to me. The cases in this book (a missing will, a missing Prime Minister, a jewel theft) were relatively easy to figure out (I admit I didn't solve them all, just most of them). Unless you are a fan of short stories, skip this one too. 

Grade: C

The Big Four [Christie]

Book: The Big Four [Hercule Poirot # 5]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: A man suddenly arrives at Poirot's office and dies. The only clue is a series of "4's" written on a piece of paper. Poirot and Hastings are quickly involved in a series of cases related to an international gang known as 'the big four.' Poirot identifies most of the key players rather quickly, but figuring out a way to bring them down is a different story. It is a battle of the little grey cells between Poirot and this intellectual group of criminals. 

This was my least favorite Poirot book to date. Although there was an underlying theme relating to the big four, this was essentially a series of boring short stories. I was not emotionally drawn into any of the stories and the ending was a cop out. Avoid this one!

Grade: C

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In Cold Blood [Capote]

Book: In Cold Blood
Author: Truman Capote

Review: In 1959, a wealthy farmer, his wife and two teenager children were shot to death in a small town in Kansas. There were few clues and no motive-the family was well liked and the killers stole less than $50. The murder shocked the small community of Holcomb, Kansas and the case gained national attention. Truman Capote, a reporter for the New Yorker, traveled to Holcomb to research the case. He interviewed everyone in the town, reviewed all the police records and had extensive interviews with the killers. His completed work, 'In Cold Blood' introduces readers to the Clutter family (the victims), Dick Hickock and Perry Smith (the killers), and follows the crime, investigation, arrest, court case and death row.  

Widely considered Capote's best work, 'In Cold Blood' is the first non-fiction crime novel. Although the Clutter's are written almost too "American pie wholesome", Capote was successful in creating sympathy for both the victims and the killers (at least Perry Smith; I did not feel sympathy for Hickock who seemed like a complete sociopath). Well written, you almost forget the story is "real" this was an engaging read. This was a good book club discussion book as it sparked good discussion regarding criminal responsibility (is a person guilty of murder if they didn't technically commit the crime?), fairness of a trial and the death penalty. If you are a fan of true crime, you will enjoy this book.

Grade: B+

The Color Purple [Walker]

Book: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker

Review: 'The Color Purple' is a series of letters written by from one sister to another over a 20 year time period. The principle voice is Celie, who is raped by her supposed father as a young teenager and bears two children by him. He takes the children away from her and then marries her off to a cold, abusive man. Celie's husband eventually moves his mistress, Shug Avery into their house and Shug helps Celie discovers what it means to have self worth, to love and to be loved. Meanwhile, Celie's sister travels to Africa as a missionary with a couple happens to be raising Celie's children. Although the sister's are separated for years and their letters do not reach each other (for the majority of the novel), we learn about both of their lives.

This is a layered book and reading about Celie's life is harrowing. This book is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of abuse (sexual, physical and emotional) but while the topics are heavy, watching Celie grow and find herself is liberating. This book would have been an A except for the sections written by her sister. They were so dry and boring it was difficult to stay awake. Luckily they were a small part of the book, but it was still annoying. A final criticism was the ending felt a little too "Hollywood." 

Grade: B+

Monday, April 2, 2012

Drink Deep [Neill]

Book: Drink Deep [Chicagoland Vampires book 5]
Author: Chloe Neill

Review: **spoiler alert** Things have changed at Cadogan House. Malik is now the Master following Ethan's untimely demise (I'll be honest-I was cheering when he bit the dust in book 4) and the GP (the ruling vampire body worldwide) has sent a representative to take control of the house. Merit is still grieving Ethan's death when Lake Michigan turns black. Merit, along with Jonah, investigate the issue introducing several new supernatural species. Merit also tries to balance her new restrictive life at Cadogan (the GP rep institutes several new rules, including blood rationing and a ban on junk food) while maintaining her friendship with Mallory, who is studying for intense magical tests. 

Once again, this book had so much potential but it just was not good at all. The writing was too juvenile, the mystery too easy to figure out, and Merit's constant grieving about Ethan wore thin quickly. Their "relationship" consisted of one night of passion followed by sarcastic remarks and ignoring each other and investigating a few vampire mysteries over the last 4 books. The guys was alive 400+ years and we are lead to believe Merit is really the one who captured his heart? I don't buy it. I also HATED the ending of this book. 

Grade: C

Hard Bitten [Neill]

Book: Hard Bitten [Chicagoland Vampires book 4]
Author: Chloe Neill

Review: A new drug is on the scene and vampires are getting out of control. Tensions between humans and vampires are on the rise and Mayor Tate tells Ethan he has a few days to resolve the issue or he will arrest Ethan. Merit has a suspicion that Celina is involved but she teams up with Jonah to figure out who is behind "V." 

This book was very boring. At several points I didn't even care who was distributing the drug. Some decisions were made in relation to Merit and Ethan's relationship (which was nice) and the ending was very good. I have  new hope for the series!

Grade: this book would have been a C but the ending was B-

Twice Bitten [Neill]

Book: Twice Bitten [Chicagoland Vampires book 3]
Author: Chloe Neill

Review: Gabriel Keene, pack leader for the North American shifters, comes in town for a conference with the other pack division leaders to discuss supernatural relations. They are currently unknown to the human population-will they remain silent or announce their presence? If the vampires go to war, will they retreat to Alaska or aid in the fight? Merit and Ethan accompany Gabriel and the other leaders to a bar for a meeting of the minds when things go terribly wrong. **spoiler alert** An assassin tries to kill Gabriel and Merit saves a shifter from serious injury. Merit and Ethan are forced to admit their feelings for each other, while Gabriel and his fellow pack leaders make a decision for their people. Also, there is still someone on the loose who has their own agenda for the shifters, can Merit figure it out before someone gets hurt?

This book was okay. I enjoyed the introduction of the shifters and learning about their world and culture. The "mystery" was easy to figure out and unfortunately for anyone reading who likes the romantic relationship, Ethan is a huge BORE. We meet a few new vampires in this book that show promise as interesting characters (Jonah!). I still have hopes for this series. It is just on the cusp of being so good, but the juvenile language and poorly developed characters hurt it. Also-there is a running theme that Merit, who loves greasy junk food, is introducing Ethan to all of the good places to eat in Chicago. I just find this amusing considering he has lived there for 100s of years!

Grade: B-

Friday Night Bites [Neill]

Book: Friday Night Bites [Chicagoland Vampires book 2]
Author: Chloe Neill

Review: It's been just under a year since vampires announced their existence to the world and they are currently enjoying a celebrity status. However, a reporter has discovered a secret some vampires don't want humans knowing about-raves where vampires feed on people. The reporter is an old family friend of Merit's, so she seeks to reconnect with her estranged, wealthy family to maintain public relations between the vampires and humans while also keeping tabs on the "story." Meanwhile, Merit is still struggling with her transition to becoming a vampire and her growing attraction to Ethan. Her best friend (and sorceress) Mallory struggles with her own newly discovered powers while Mallory's boyfriend (and Merit's trainer) Catcher Bell, moves in. To give them privacy and to better serve her house as guard and Sentinel, Merit moves into Cadogan house.

Hmm....I had high hopes for this book. Merit is written as extremely sarcastic which can be amusing, but I was hoping Neill would do a better job developing Ethan. It is rare that I am rooting for the (obviously main couple of the series) to fail. And although Merit is supposedly 27, she acts and speaks closer to 19. Cadogan house is essentially a fraternity/sorority house and almost all of the occupants (even though 100s of years old) speak slang like they are teenagers. It just did not ring true. I also feel like Merit's main friends, Mallory (sorceress) and Lindsay (vampire) are interchangeable. The way they speak is almost identical. Another gripe is that Merit is a house guard with extremely strong physical ability...but she rarely fights anyone. 

This was an okay read, but it was frustrating because this series has the potential to be so good..and it just misses the mark. 

Grade: B-/C+

Some Girls Bite [Neill]

Book: Some Girls Bite [Chicagoland Vampires book 1]
Author: Chloe Neill

Review: Walking across campus one night, 27 year old University of Chicago graduate student Merrit is attacked by a vampire. Her life is saved by 400-year old Ethan Sullivan, Master Vampire of one of Chicago's 3 vampire houses. Merit is happy to be alive...although she is decidedly unhappy about becoming a fanged one herself. She learns to adapt to coming a vampire and all of the life change, including a sensitively to sun, a newfound taste for blood, an end to her academic career and an intense attraction to Ethan. Meanwhile, Merit realizes someone is out to get her. Could it be a human who is not happy that vampires are now "out" in the world? The vampire who attacked her initially? 

'Some Girls Bite' was a fun read for someone looking for a new supernatural series. In addition to vampires, we are introduced to shifters and sorcerers which could prove promising as the books continue. While Merit is somewhat unbelievable as a former Classics graduate student (we are constantly reminded that she is studious however she appears anything but) she has potential as a lead character. I was not a fan of Ethan in this book as a main love interest as he is written extremely wooden and devoid of personality, so I hope Neill explores his characters more in future books. Overall, a decent read. 

Grade: B-