Showing posts from August, 2015

book review: City of Echoes by Robert Ellis

The backstory: Robert Ellis is one of my favorite mystery writers. His Lena Gamble series (City of Fire, The Lost Witness, and Murder Season) is extraordinarily good and criminally underappreciated. I've also enjoyed his earlier stand-alone novels Access to Power and The Murder Room (read before this blog, which means a long time ago.)

The basics: City of Echoes is the first in a new series featuring Los Angeles police detective Matt Jones, who catches a big case on his first night as a homicide detective.

My thoughts: Sometimes I have a hard time reviewing mysteries because so many things are not as they seem that by the end, I struggle to remember where I entered the story as a reader. City of Echoes is one of those mysteries. I read it while my in-laws were visiting (for the nomadbaby's first birthday), and I promptly asked my mother-in-law to read it. I'd given her copies of Ellis's earlier novels for holidays over the years, and she was excited to see he had a new o…

book review: A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd

The backstory: A Pattern of Lies is the seventh mystery featuring World War I nurse Bess Crawford. My reviews of the first six: A Duty to the Dead, An Impartial Witness, A Bitter Truth, An Unmarked Grave, A Question of Honor, and An Unwilling Accomplice.

The basics: The action in A Pattern of Lies centers on the small Kent village of Cranbourne, where a gun powder mill exploded two years ago. More than one hundred men died in the explosion. The truth, never certain, has yielded to the titular patterns of lies and accusations in a town still reeling from tragedy, all are looking for someone to blame, as Bess tries to figure out the truth.

My thoughts: A Pattern of Lies is darker and presents dangerous situations (aside from the war itself) than most books in this series. It's set in 1918, and as readers know, World War I is nearly over. I'm quite curious to see where the series goes beyond the war. But in A Pattern of Lies, the War remains an increasing source of pain and despair…

book review: Doodle Diary of a New Mom by Lucy Scott

The basics: As the title indicates, Doodle Diary of a New Mom is a book of single-pane comics about the first year of motherhood.

My thoughts: Hawthorne turned one yesterday(!) I picked this book up at the library awhile ago after hearing about, and while I don't have a lot of things to say, I do have a few. This book wasn't quite what I expected, but that isn't the book's fault. I expected it to be more of a memoir than it was. In hindsight, I don't know why.

This book is a ridiculously quick read. I read it from cover to cover in about half an hour. Each page is a single illustration with a caption. Some are hilarious. Some are almost tragic. Some aligned with my experience so perfectly I want to frame them. Some were so different from I experience I marveled at how different motherhood is for everyone.

The verdict: Doodle Diary of a New Mom is an entertaining collection of comics. I would have enjoyed more exposition and reflection, but I think new moms struggling…

book review: Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg

The basics: Bill Clegg was a successful literary agent who spiraled downward with a devastating crack addiction. Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man is a glimpse into what crack addiction looks like for a privileged white man in New York City.

My thoughts: I have an odd fascination with drug memoirs. I appreciate them for providing a window into a world I don't want to visit in real life, but I'm critical of them for attempting to recall facts and events that may not be clearly remembered. In Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, Bill Clegg intertwines two stories: his childhood and his crack addiction. He writes about his childhood in the third person, which I found awkward. While I came to understand the importance these childhood scenes played in his life, they were my least favorite part of the book.

The first half (approximately) is sensationalist reading. Clegg still has a leg in his normal life, even as he seems to be slipping into the phase of only caring about crack. …

book review: Lila by Marilynne Robinson

The backstory: Lila is the third novel in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead trilogy. I did not like Gilead (my review), which won the Pulitzer Prize. So far, Lila has won the National Book Critics Circle award, been shortlisted for the National Book Award, longlisted for the Booker Prize, and named a New York Times Notable book.

The basics: Lila is the story of Ames's wife Lila, from her troubled girlhood to her unlikely marriage to the much older pastor. Readers will find the characters and many of the events familiar.

*spoiler* unpopular opinion ahead!

My thoughts: Despite not liking Gilead, I was somewhat excited to read Lila. One of the biggest issues I took with Gilead was the believability of the marriage of Lila and Ames. I hoped seeing things from Lila's perspective would even make me appreciate Gilead more.

Near the end of this novel there is what I presume is intended to be a poignant religious scene, yet I rolled my eyes. The story of Lila should be something I enjoy. If…

book review: Blackout by Sarah Hepola

The backstory: I've been reading Sarah Hepola's work for years on the Internet, thanks to one of my oldest and best friends, Kathleen, who introduced me to her writing on The Morning News in the (very) early 2000's. I greeted the publication of her first memoir with delight.

The basics: Blackout chronicles Sarah Hepola's complicated relationship with alcohol from childhood to the present, when she is happily sober.

My thoughts: I've been saying Sarah Hepola is one of my favorite writers for more than ten years, and I had just about stopped saying it because I was starting to dread the typical follow-up question about what books she's written when the asker has no desire to read a slew of Internet links. Now I can hand them a book. Blackout is one of those books that makes me pause when I try to describe it. It is absolutely about drinking heavily, blacking out, and Hepola's road to sobriety. That description wouldn't have made me pick it up, and it doesn&…

book review: Devil's Bridge by Linda Fairstein

The backstory: Devil's Bridge is Linda Fairstein's seventeenth mystery to feature New York City sex crimes ADA Alexandra Cooper. I discovered this series early in 2003, when The Bone Vault, the fifth book was released. I quickly read all five, and since then, I've eagerly awaited the publication of each book. Alexandra Cooper has been in my life longer than Mr. Nomadreader has.

This review will contain minor spoilers from earlier books, particularly Terminal Cityand where Alex's romantic life stood at the end of that novel.

The basics: Devil's Bridge opens up a few weeks after Terminal City. Mike and Alex are slowly feeling their way into a relationship that's new, even if they've been close friends for many years, and they're fielding questions most people get to avoid in the early weeks of new relationships. Early in the book, (minor spoiler) Alex is kidnapped, and Mike begins narrating the search for her.

My thoughts: I didn't know I was yearning fo…