Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Book Info:
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
Author Extras: Website, Facebook
Publisher:  Harper Collins, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 4/5

Summary from the Publisher:

Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life with her successful husband and children, thirteen-year-old Iso and eight-year-old Albie. But her tranquillity is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects—or wants—to hear from: Walter Bowman. There was your photo, in a magazine. Of course, you are older now. Still, I'd know you anywhere.

In the summer of 1985, when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter and held hostage for almost six weeks. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition as his execution nears. Though Eliza wants nothing to do with him, she's never forgotten that Walter was most unpredictable when ignored. Desperate to shelter her children from this undisclosed trauma in her past, she cautiously makes contact with Walter. She's always wondered why Walter let her live, and perhaps now he'll tell her—and share the truth about his other victims.


The first time I picked up a Laura Lippman book I expected a mystery, with creepy serial killers, some blood and guts, and a crazy twist at the end of the book.  And since that wasn't what I got, I came away from the book disappointed.  Going into my second Lippman book I revised my expectations about what type of book I was getting, and this time it worked perfectly for me.

Lippman tells a captivating story, but her characters are really what stand out for me.  She is able to perfectly capture a sullen teenager in Iso, a distant sister in Vonnie, and a conflicted mother in Eliza.  And while I may not have always agreed with Eliza's decisions, I always understood why she did things.  Understandably the story focused on Eliza and Walter, but I did wish some minor characters (like Eliza's husband, Peter) had played a slightly larger role.

The psychological thriller side of I'd Know You Anywhere had me hooked right from the beginning, and I think it would be a good choice for book clubs.  I can imagine discussions around the central ethical issue of the death penalty as well as the character's motivations and actions. 4 stars, very good

About Laura Lippman:

Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned to her hometown in 1989 to work as a journalist. After writing seven books while still a full-time reporter, she left the Baltimore Sun to focus on fiction. The author of two New York Times bestsellers, What the Dead Know and Another Thing to Fall, she has won numerous awards for her work, including the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity.

I’d Know You Anywhere is Laura Lippman’s 18th book.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory and *Giveaway*

Book Info:
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Simon and Shuster; (August 3, 2010)
ISBN: 9781416563723
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher for review
Rating: 3.5/5

Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin Henry VI fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales.

Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy.

The Red Queen is the second book in The Cousins' War trilogy and while it covers roughly the same events as The White Queen, it is told from a very different perspective.  Margaret Beaufort claims to be a religious women and believes that it is God's will that her son rule England.  However, I found her words and her actions to be at odds with each other.  I didn't mind her scheming ways, in fact I expect that from people clawing their way to power, but it didn't lend any credibility to her assertion that she is following God's will.  She is vain, pompous and self-righteous.  In other words, terribly unlikable.

While I was not a fan of Margaret Beaufort, that didn't mean that the whole book was a bust.  I have only read a few of Philippa Gregory's books, but I've always enjoyed them  The pacing is, as usual, wonderful.  I never feel like I am being buried in information, but instead am able to follow the often confusing events easily.  I'm not an expert on the events of the time period though, so I can't say if they are accurate or not.

If you are new to historical fiction, or just new to the time period, I would recommend Gregory's books.  She has quite a knack for bringing history alive.  I didn't like The Red Queen quite as much as The White Queen, but that was primarily because Margaret was so infuriating.  I am still anxiously awaiting the final book in the trilogy.  3.5 stars


Thanks to the publisher I have 1 copy of The Red Queen to share with you.  This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents.  Entries will be taken through August 30th at midnight, with the winner announced on August 31st.  Please fill out the form below to enter.  While I'd still love your comments on the review, you must complete the form to be entered in the giveaway.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Book Info:
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (July 6, 2010)
ISBN-13: 9780312595678
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: Publisher for Review
Rating: 3.5/5

On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a thirty-two year old Realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever- patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor of the day pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.

Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent captive of a sadistic psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist, is a second narrative recounting events following her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered spirit back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.

Still Missing first caught my attention when Trish featured it in a Peeing My Pants in Book Anticipation post.  I started seeing it mentioned more and more, and I broke down and read a little about the book, which I don't usually do.  And then I was hooked too.  The format of the book, the story of Annie's abduction as she tells it to her therapist, was perfect right from the start.  Obviously, she got away, but the slow unfolding of the story, right from Annie herself, was fresh and original.

While I loved the way the story was set up, I didn't really love Annie.  Yes, she had been through a terrible ordeal, but I found her unlikable.  I tried to connect with her, but she'd constructed such a wall around herself, that all I really felt was pity.  As the story went on, I felt more sympathy toward her, but I couldn't get over my initial feelings toward her. 

The one downfall of the book for me was the ending.  It wasn't terrible, but I found it a little flat.  I was completely caught up in the story until the last quarter or so of the book.  Then, it seemed as if Stevens just didn't know how to end the book, and it lost momentum. While I didn't connect with Annie, Still Missing was a solid debut, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a gripping mystery. 3.5 stars