Friday, November 21, 2014

Review | Airport by Arthur Hailey

Title: Airport
Author: Arthur Hailey
Publication Date: 1968
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
When a terrifying crisis erupts--stranding a snowbound airport in a blizzard of pressure, passion and peril--the key to life and death rests in the hands of one of four people: a tough troubleshooter, an arrogant pilot, a beautiful stewardess, or a brilliant airport manager. 

Airport was one of my favorites books this month, maybe even this year. It had suspense, thrill, and complex characters that created a deep, fascinating story that drew me in. 

The value of human life has a strong focus in this story - from the captain's romance to the airline's passengers to the side plot of Meadowood, Hailey focuses on the importance of life itself. As I read today, I found myself wishing I had read this book while I was in college; Captain Demerest's perspective on life is just ripe for critical analysis!

Each character offered a perspective on life, ranging from abortion to the elderly, that makes not only the story come alive, but their own personalities. I loved the depth and variation of personalities, their strengths and secrets, that hid in Airport. Mel Bakersfield, the airport manager, alone struggles with issues in every element of his life. His brother Keith, an air traffic controller, is dealing with a past tragedy in his life. There was no shallow character, none left intentionally one-dimensional. 

As much as I enjoyed the narration, there was an element of propaganda in the novel. Hailey's own background as a pilot shines through in his story - there are moments when he steps completely outside of the novel to give the reader a lesson on aviation, the struggle of pilots, or how planes work. While these were (for the most part) really interesting, I wish they had been incorporated into the story instead of an aside. 

Airport is perfect for aviation fans, suspense lovers, and those who like deep, intense characters and situations. I adored reading this book - this was one of my quickest reads this month!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review | The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

Title: The Bourne Identity
Author: Robert Ludlum
Publication Date: January 1980
Publisher: Orion
Series: Jason Bourne {Book 1}
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Who is Jason Bourne? Is he an assassin, a terrorist, a thief? Why has he got four million dollars in a Swiss bank account? Why has someone tried to murder him?...

Jason Bourne does not know the answer to any of these questions. Suffering from amnesia, he does not even know that he is Jason Bourne. What manner of man is he? What are his secrets? Who has he killed?

The Jason Bourne movie adaptions are some of my dad's favorites, so when I found this version of The Bourne Identity on the shelf, it was a sign. This first installment of Ludlum's popular series was both a hit and a miss for me.

The hits: 

Bourne is such a strong, complex character that it is nearly impossible to not be drawn into his story. I loved how he is constantly questioning himself, searching for the answer, for his true identity. For me, the real highlights were his cleverness and ability to think on his feet - I loved the scenes that showcased his nickname, "the chameleon". 

The miss: 


Oh my, Marie.

She was horrible. There was little to no character development for Jason's "love" interest. Her sudden and deep devotion to a man who essentially kidnapped her stalled all future character progress and created a woman who blindly followed her lover's orders, becomes completely dependent on him, and makes him her entire world. I know nothing about Marie's past, what she left behind in Canada, her favorite color...nothing. It irritated me to no end. 

The plot was okay - I didn't consider it a hit because, to be honest, this book was a slog at times. As much as I enjoyed Jason's story, the vast amount of info made it hard to keep current with what was going on in the story all the time. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Newbie's Guide to Mystery

Mystery is one of those genres that you either adore or detest (I don't personally know anyone who hates mystery, but there might be someone out there...). Mystery itself is a genre that reaches into every part of literature, from kids' Scooby Doo books to the popular legal thriller author, John Grisham. It delves deep into the human need to know, to wonder, to discover. 

There is nothing better in my mind than a roaring fire, hot cup of tea, and a good mystery on a rainy day. The fall weather here is starting to turn to cold, crisp, wintery mornings, making me wish for a long, lazy morning and a good mystery. Are you ready?

Like romance, mystery is a far-reaching genre. From the tamer (less violent) cozy mysteries to the dark realms of noir, there is a mystery book to suit every taste. 

For those who enjoy something light hearted:
Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series has been one of my favorites for years!
Sue Grafton's wildly popular Kinsey Milhouse series has been at the top for a long time.
Jess Lourey's Murder by Month series has a fun, small town vibe. 

For those with a taste for the criminal:
J.D. Robb's In Death series is a guilty pleasure. Eve's dark history, her lighter present all mix together to make a fascinating series.
The Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith is one of my most often recommended series. 
Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl explores not only the criminal, but the psychological.

For those who long for the classics:
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a must for any mystery fan.
Any Agatha Christie book, Seriously. She will knock your socks off.
The Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardener is a great mix of classics and whodunit. 

For those who are looking for something on the dark side
Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files is perfect for those who want a little extra paranormal in their noir.
Dashiell Hammett: The King of Noir (particularly lovely for San Francisco fans).
Stephen King elevates his horror to the dark(er) side. 

I hope this has inspired you to find the perfect mystery subgenre for you! What are your favorite history books? Are there any that I missed?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fall Reading Challenge | The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig

Title: The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
Author: Lauren Willig
Publication Date: January 2009
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Series: Pink Carnation {Book 5}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
After years abroad, Robert, Duke of Dovedale, has returned to England to avenge the murder of his mentor. To uncover the murderer's identity, he must infiltrate the infamous, secret Hellfire Club. But the Duke has no idea that an even more difficult challenge awaits him-in a mistaken, romantic-minded young lady.

Charlotte Lansdowne wistfully remembers the Robert of her childhood as a valiant hero among men. Too aware of his own flaws, Robert tries to dissuade Charlotte from her delusions, even as he finds himself drawn to her. When Charlotte takes up a bit of espionage-investigating a plot to kidnap the King-Robert soon realizes that she is more than the perfect partner in crime.

Caught in a dangerous game full of deadly spies and secret rites, Robert and Charlotte must work together to reveal the villain...and confront their true love. 

I have deeply mixed feelings about The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. I loved Charlotte's character - her innocence mixed with a spine of steel made a great read - but I had trouble making the characters come alive.

Robert, Duke of Dovedale, returns to his childhood home on a mission of revenge in the beginning of Temptation. As much as I like Robert's character, I didn't quite understand the revenge plot until later in the book, almost to the point where I didn't care anymore. Without fleshing out his drive for revenge, Robert couldn't take shape and come alive. 

The romance was cute and sweet, but didn't have the glory to take the main role in the story. Instead, it felt like the story of two minor characters falling in love instead of the heroes of the story. There were moments of "oh!", but for the most part, I felt bad for Charlotte. All four previous stories had such strong, sweeping romances, and hers classifies as "cute". Although the jam tart part got me, I admit.

It feels at this point in the series, Willig is trying to pair off her characters instead of furthering the Pink Carnation storyline. While I enjoyed Charlotte and Robert's story, Jane didn't even play a role. The Pink Carnation is mentioned only in passing once or twice. Eloise, the modern counterpart of the series, barely mentions Charlotte's life and doesn't talk about the League of the Pink Carnation at all. For me, this was the biggest fault of Temptation. As a standalone story, it's a good piece of historical romance (and a good trial book to see if you would like Willig's writing style). However, it does not further the series plot at all, something I had been looking forward to.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The 140 Challenge | The Adventure of the Red Headed League by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: The Adventure of the Red Headed League 
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Publication Date: 1891
Publisher: Strand Magazine
Series: Sherlock Holmes
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

We spend our time squeezing our lives into 140 character tweets, so why not a review? Sherlock is such a well-known character and some of the short stories are so, well, short, I thought I'd give it a try!

Sherlock Holmes and "The Adventure of the Red Headed League" in 140 characters:

"The Adventure of the Red Headed League proves two things: sometimes it's just that simple & if it's too good to be true - well, you know it."

Intrigued? Let me know! Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review | The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Title: The Red Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory {website}
Publication Date: August 2010
Publisher: Touchstone Books
Series: The Cousins' War {Book 2}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
The second book in Philippa's stunning new trilogy, The Cousins War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series - The White Queen - but who now takes centre stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses. 

The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. 

Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty.

I have to admit it: I really did not like Margaret Beaufort. She was arrogant, conniving, and entirely confident that her path was God's. Her quick-to-judge character was blind to her own faults, and her single-minded determination to be called My Lady the King's Mother was astounding. 

She made a fascinating heroine.

It's been a long time since I've read a character quite like Margaret. Gregory introduces her to the reader at a young age (possibly six or seven) when she becomes enamored with the story of Joan of Arc. Joan becomes her childhood idol, her saint, her goal - essentially, if Joan could do it, why couldn't she? This same theme stuck with her as she grew, creating a somewhat temperamental, determined young woman that gave birth to the Tudor royal line. Her single-minded determination to see her Lancaster son of the throne of England wasn't identifiable, but admirable. 

I struggled with identifying with Margaret throughout the book, but that didn't dim my fascination with this character or her story. Margaret's world was harder one than her peer, the Queen Elizabeth from The White Queen. Instead of a support system like the Rivers family, Margaret was on her own. It created an entirely different experience in the same world. 

What really caught my attention was how Gregory created her world. I love the writing, the flow of Margaret's thoughts, the attention to detail, and the connection to The White Queen. Reading Margaret's alternative POV from Elizabeth Grey's was fascinating and kept me thinking about this book long after I put it down.