Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

I'll start by saying that I loved Rachel Joyce's earlier and companion book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and so was looking forward to this one.

I found Queenie's side of the story somewhat difficult to get into, but once I did, I was enchanted by the beauty of the philosophy espoused. It's a story that doesn't bear telling in a review because the reader needs to experience the feelings, the memories, the regret and the love.

I do think these two books are best read in tandem a fairly close time frame - I think I'd like to go back and read them together since I seem to have forgotten several scenes from the first. That said, I think Joyce has done a fabulous job writing this one as a stand alone. If I'd never read Harold Fry, this still would have been a credible read.

I received a review copy of this one through the Early Reviewer program.

Title: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy
Author: Rachel Joyce
Publisher: Random House (2015), ARC, 384 pages
Genre: Fiction
Subject: Unrequited love
Setting: England
Source: ARC from publisher via's Early Reviewer program
Why did I read this book now?  I'd read the earlier story and wanted the other side.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Mystery Series - My favorite genre

Whenever I'm asked about comfort food, I can come up with an entire list of goodies that automatically make me relax, feel better about life, and mellow out. There's macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, pasta with grilled veggies, strawberry yogurt, cappuchino, anisette toast, hob-nobs, Lady Grey tea, etc.

But food isn't the only comfort goodie in my life. I can mellow out quite easily with a good fire in the fireplace, a cat in my lap, a comfy chair and a good mystery. I'm especially fond of mystery series where we get to meet the detective, private eye, civilian snoop, hero/heroine in the first book, and watch their character, motivation and interpersonal relationships develop as they solve an ever more exciting series of crimes (mostly, but not always murders). This year I resolved to give up doing lots of "hot off the presses" reviews for publishers, pulling back to spend my reading time catching up on some well-loved series and some other personal reading (e.g. the President's Biography challenge), so I haven't been blogging quite as much, but I certainly have been reading and enjoying it.

Mysteries have certainly been taking up the majority of my time, especially Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley/Barbara Havers series. I had read the first three years ago, and a few sporadically here and there since then. Last year I had such a wonderful experience re-reading Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series (capped off by a trip to Quebec to take the Bury Your Dead tour). Then I followed up last fall by reading Deborah Crombie's Duncan KinKaid/Gemma James series set in London.

So now I'm following Lynley/Havers around merry olde England. I started at the beginning, and just finished #7 Playing for the Ashes. Each of these books gives the reader not just a good mystery, and delightful, sometimes quirky characters, but they also manage to portray scenery, history, food, and ambiance. The juxtaposition of aristocratic Thomas (Earl of Asherton) Lynley and the street smart, hightop wearing, disheveled Sergeant Barbara Havers is the meat of the series.  I really can't wait to see what happens in their lives next.  But then I'm also  really getting excited to visit my daughter in London later this year to see some of these venues up close.

In addition to these, I'm sprinkling the European settings with mysteries of the American Southwest, both Ann and Tony Hillerman stories, and the Wind River Reservation series by Margaret Coel {Shadow Dancing and Killing Raven).

And finally, I went back to a mystery I read back in August 2009, the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Our bookclub is reading this one for this week's meeting. Back in 09 I decided that while it was a "cute" book, I wasn't sure I could stand an entire series. My re-read this past week has convinced me to go look up the second one. I think Flavia is a character who is going to grow on me.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: Inside the Obriens by Lisa Genova

The publisher says:
"From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s."... Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure."
 Lisa Genova is a special scientist.   She has the  gift of being able to explain intricate and complicated diseases in language and concepts understood by non-scientific laymen. She is also able to write incredible descriptive fiction to give us  the details in a stark and compelling story that tells us what this disease feels like both to the patient and to family members who must live with the patient. 

In this case,  Joe Obrien, a 44 year old Irish Catholic policemen with four children, must now face the end of his career, and the fact that each of his children has a 50% chance of having inherited the disease. Each child now must face not only watching Joe die, but also must decide whether to undergo the testing that will tell them whether or not they too carry the gene and will all too soon begin to exhibit the same symptoms their father has.

Throughout the story, set in Boston, Genova shows us well drawn characters who struggle with real life issues as they wrestle with the pros and cons of knowing the future.  It's a powerful book, beautifully written and one that will certainly provide many thoughtful discussions among its readers.

Many thanks to publisher Gallery Books for providing an e-galley review copy through Net Galley.