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Christy’s Review of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I may be the lone voice on this one, but I loved J.K. Rowling’s new novel, The Casual Vacancy.  I was prepared to dislike it because I have such affection for the Harry Potter series, and I usually hate it when writers change genres.  However, I found the novel to be highly entertaining, with rich complex characters and a plot that surprises until the end.  The story begins in the town of Pagford, England with the death of a beloved council member and follows the treachery that ensues during the election of his replacement.  Rowling shows a unique talent for bringing characters to life and surely draws on her own experiences to illuminate the class warfare that is being waged under the surface of Pagford.  If you like action-packed, mind-twisting mysteries, then this book is not for you.   It is a story about the inner workings of the lives of “muggles,” if you will—you could picture the Dursleys from the Harry Potter series fitting into the little town of Pagford quite easily—but the real magic is in the details of the mundane lives of its citizens.  The themes are timely, the writing is excellent, and I highly recommend this book.

 

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Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

What an incredible thriller! I absolutely loved this book. I’ve read two other Barclay book, but Trust Your Eyes was by far my favorite. I wholeheartedly agree with what Stephen King had to say: “The best Barclay so far, a tale Hitchcock would have loved….Riveting, frequently scary, occasionally funny, and surprisingly, wonderfully tender….Great entertainment from a suspense master.” If you’re looking for movie comparisons to get a sense of this book, this book was a bit of “Rainman” mixed with “Rear Window”. Two adult  brothers, Ray and Thomas Kilbride, are unexpectedly find themselves living  together after the accidental death of their father. This is a tough enough situation already as Thomas is schizophrenic. Their relationship is reminiscent of “Rainman”. Then Thomas and Ray are further drawn into a murder mystery in New York City based on an image Thomas found on the fictional website Whirl360 (similar to Google street view). This is the “Rear Window” aspect of Trust Your Eyes. Does Ray dare believe Thomas’ wild theories? Suffice to say that you do not want to pick up  this book if you have anything else to do for the next 24-36 hours because you will not be able to put it down.

 

 

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The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

I have just finished reading an interesting book titled The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen Carter. This book was recommended to me by my friend Anne Burton. It is a historical fiction of “what ifs”. What if President Lincoln survived the assassination attempt? What might have happened during Reconstruction period of United States history? Impeachment? The President’s own party members are not happy with him about the way things are progressing  in the South. The author has done a remarkable job weaving this thriller. It is also a story of Abigail Canner, a young black woman graduated from college and working for the firm that is defending President Lincoln. Abigail hopes to become a lawyer one day but being black and female there are obstacles in her way and even her own law firm is neglecting her. There are some fictional and historical characters in the novel. This is the time when United States was being united under one flag and south was being reconstructed. The author has done a great job and I give 3.5 out 5 to this book.

 

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Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer  Disney Hyperion Books 2001.

Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl tells the familiar story of an ambitious criminal’s effort to acquire stolen wealth in spite of opposition from the authorities; however, in this case the criminal is a twelve year old boy genius and he is opposed by a spunky fairy named Holly Short who is a top flight (pun intended) LEPrecon agent.  Colfer’s Artemis is a wealthy mastermind who uses a wide array of scientific gadgets and the help of a lethal butler …named Butler…. to kidnap a fairy and then extort a ton of gold from her colleagues.  This Young Adult book will appear to readers of all ages and the tone features a nice mixture of irony and straight adventure.  The book spawned several sequels and the Walt Disney Company has licensed them for possible adaptation as feature films.

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An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos

An Echo Through the Snow attempts to weave past and present into a single tapestry utilizing the lives of two women trapped by fate and circumstances, one determined to set herself free and the other literally dragged into pursuing a better life. Told in alternating chapters, we are presented with the lives of Jeaantaa and Rosalie, two women living more than half a century apart whose lives are mystically connected via the Siberian Huskies (Guardians) they both love. This is a must read book even if you do not like dogs. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

 

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Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

When the world ends, will it be with a whimper or a bang?  In Age of Miracles, a novel by Karen Thompson Walker, the earth simply slows on its axis, creating havoc in nature and widespread panic in the populace.  The story is told from the point of view of ten-year-old Julia, a suburban girl who is navigating the first stages of adolescence—bras, boys, and betrayal of friendships—while watching her family and the world around her fall into a strange orbit.  Walker’s description of society’s breakdown is chillingly realistic, but shows many people continuing to follow the path of their daily lives—school, work, birthday parties—in an effort to preserve some semblance of normalcy.  Julia finds that she must create a new kind of normal in order to survive in this new world.  This is Walker’s first novel, and I can’t wait for the next.

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Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken Harbor is the thrilling fourth novel of the Dublin Murder Squad by New York Times bestselling author Tana French.  All of her books (of which I am a fan!) are psychological thrillers, not fast-paced, not action-packed, but slow-moving and interrogation-heavy. Broken Harbor sticks to the same format. I found it to be an excellent and compelling read. In most crime novels, good cops and decent people court tragedy by disobeying the rules of society. But the stories French tells reflect our own uncivilized times: the real trouble starts when you play fair and do exactly as you’re told.  In this book, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy (first introduced in 2010’s Faithful Place) takes on a grim case wherein four members of one family have been brutally attacked in their own locked home, part of an upscale housing development.  There’s a slim chance that the mother might survive her injuries, but her husband has died of multiple stab wounds and their two small children have been smothered in their beds. Nothing about the case makes sense. Added to the challenge is Detective Kennedy’s own painful past in Broken Harbor, the former name of this upscale development. This review is intentionally vague, so as not to reveal any spoilers.  Suffice it to say this is an outstanding book about life, loss, shattered dreams, and efforts we take save public face.

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