Friday, December 30, 2011

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

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The Man in the Brown Suit
by Agatha Christie

ISBN: 0-553-35077-3
Hardcover: 242 pages
Publisher: A Bantam Book
Released: 1924, 1988

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Anne Beddingfeld longs for adventure, like the heroines in her favorite novels. When a stranger falls to his death, she realizes that the man who says he's a doctor is actually riffling through the dead man's pockets...and, as he hurries away, he accidentally drops a cryptic note. The death is ruled an accident, but Anne decides to investigate in hopes of finding her adventure.

The note indicates that something is going to happen on a certain cruise ship that is sailing to South Africa, so she buys a ticket and joins the cruise. Her sea-sickness doesn't suit her idea of a heroine, and she decides being tied up is rather uncomfortable, but she gets more adventure--and suspects--than she bargained for.

My Review:
The Man in the Brown Suit is a historical mystery. It pokes fun at the heroine adventure stories of the time and is meant to be funny, though not overly so.

The story was written as a contemporary mystery, so it's not heavy on the historical detail though there's enough detail to visualize and understand what's going on. The characters were varied and engaging. The suspense was mainly created by wondering whodunit since the heroine never seemed overly concerned even when she was facing physical danger.

The mystery was interesting. Whodunit was guessable--we're given a vital clue at the end, very near to the big reveal. However, the clue wasn't obvious and I suspect few people catch that clue.

There were no sex scenes. There was a minor amount of explicit bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this engaging, entertaining mystery.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Forever Rumpole by John Mortimer

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Forever Rumpole:
The Best of the Rumpole Stories
by John Mortimer

ISBN-13: 9780670023066
Hardcover: 526 pages
Publisher: Penguin Group USA, Inc
Released: November 10, 2011

Source: Unrequested review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, modified from the Cover:
While still a practicing barrister, Mortimer took up the pen and wrote stories featuring the cigar-chomping, cheap-wine-tippling Rumpole and his wife, Hilda (aka "She Who Must Be Obeyed"). Forever Rumpole brings together fourteen of Rumpole's most entertaining adventures, together with a fragment of a new story.

My Review:
Forever Rumpole is described as a mystery, but it's more a court drama or literary fiction. This book is a collection of short stories that feature Rumpole as their main character.

In the Author's Introduction, he writes, "I wanted a sort of detective, who could be the hero of a number of stories but whose personality and approach to life were more important than the crimes with which he was concerned." This describes the stories well. Rumpole's life and opinions were more the focus of the stories than his figuring out how to win his cases. While the other characters viewed him as comical, he seemed a sad sort of person to me. He wins his cases, but he losses at life.

Apparently, Rumpole is a famous character, though I've never heard of him. While the stories were well-written, I wasn't that interested in the stories because the "bad guy" wasn't brought to justice, innocence wasn't saved, and our hero wasn't even happy with the outcomes. But if you like more realistic, life-focused crime fiction, you might enjoy these stories.

I didn't read all of the short stories, but in the stories I read, there was no sex and only a minor amount of explicit bad language.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Rose and the Ring by M.A. Titmarsh

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The Rose and the Ring
by M.A. Titmarsh

Hardcover: 212 pages
Publisher: MacMillan Company
Released: 1923

Source: Inherited from my grandmother.

Book Description, my take:
Fairy Blackstick decides that giving the normal fairy-tale fairy gifts doesn't really benefit the one it's given to or their kingdom, so she decides to give the babies of two neighboring kingdoms the gift of a little misfortune. Both reigning families are deposed: the princess goes missing and is thought dead (though she isn't) while the prince is kept on the sidelines by his usurping uncle. When the prince and princess of the usurping kings meet, thanks to a magic rose and a magic ring, they look very beautiful and clever to each other--as long as they have the rose and ring. Silliness happens on the way to the rightful prince and princess learning to be good people, regaining their kingdoms, and marrying.

My Review:
The Rose and the Ring is a fairy tale that pokes fun at fairy tales. It was written for children, but adults will also enjoy it. It's written in the style of someone explaining a pantomime (with black-and-white drawn pictures replacing the actors in the book). It's a funny story, and the whole thing is meant to be on the ridiculous side. There is no bad language and no sex.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

FREE EBOOK: You can read the whole book here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Traitors by Andrew Snaden

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by Andrew Snaden

ISBN-13: 9781593101459
Trade Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Released: November 1, 2004

Source: Bought in a local library book sale.

Book Description from Back Cover:
FBI Agent Sam Perkins and his partner, Ali Marcoli, are putting their lives on the line to crack a dangerous drug and human smuggling cartel--one involving both the Russian and Chinese mafias. The stakes increase when a sniper shoots a key witness--and Perkins believes an FBI leak is the reason.

In a complicated cat-and-mouse game connecting terrorists and criminals on three continents, Perkins and retired CIA agent Jonathan Corrigan work to piece together the truth. And both are praying for results before the unimaginable becomes reality.

My Review:
Traitors is a Christian suspense novel. It appears to be the second novel in a series, though enough background information is provided in this one that you don't need to read the first one. However, this novel does spoil the suspense elements of the first one.

The story had two unrelated suspense stories occurring that briefly cross (though are not directly connected) at the end. One of these stories was wrapped up in the end, but the other turned out to be a very long prelude for the next book in the series--one which still hasn't been written, so probably won't be. On the last page, I turned the page seriously expecting another chapter--but there wasn't one.

The action was non-stop, and the suspense was high throughout. The suspense was created mainly by the physical danger to various witnesses critical to making a case against the crime lord they wanted to stop. The characters were varied and interesting, though I didn't feel like I really got to know any of them very well.

There was a Christian element--various Christian characters prayed ("he prayed") and there was an occasional mention of God (as in, "why would God allow this?" and the sufferer's answer). The Christian elements seemed to flow as a natural action of the characters and didn't come across as preachy.

There were no sex scenes or bad language. Overall, the book was suspenseful and a page-turner, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it since the book ends with one plot unresolved and apparently no sequel to wrap it up.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Thursday, July 4

Yuri Davidov peered at his cards through a cloud of cigarette smoke. Queens full of aces--a full house. He looked over his cards at Tony Heng, a skinny Asian gangster whose uncanny string of luck had just run out. Yuri tossed a packet of money to the center of the table. "That's your thousand plus two. Want to count it?"

One of Heng's bodyguards reached for the money, but Tony waved him off.

"I trust you, my Russian friend. After all, according to my uncle we're business partners now, aren't we?" Heng's thin lips spread into a toothy grin.

Davidov narrowed his eyes. "So I've been told."

Heng touched his chin and pondered the cash in the center of the table. "Such a large bet. Perhaps I should fold?"

"I'd expect as much from you."

Heng grinned. "Ah, a taunt. Is it because you have a strong hand or because you're bluffing? Russians like to bluff, don't they?"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tahn by L.A. Kelly

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by L.A. Kelly

ISBN-13: 9780800759995
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell
Released: January 1, 2005

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
Tahn Dorn is trapped in the middle of a looming conflict between two noble families. Trained in his youth to be a mercenary but troubled by the deeds of his past, Tahn must now choose between the commanders of a master and the urgings of his own good conscience. When his latest orders instruct him to kidnap Lady Netta of the House of Trillet, Tahn realizes that following his conscience won't be easy, especially with the lives of his young students at stake.

As Tahn's struggle continues, neither he nor Lady Netta can foretell the series of events that will unfold and change both their lives forever. Wrestling to understand Netta's God, Tahn is filled with doubt, and Netta herself wonders how such a man is willing to risk his life for a ragtag band of little children.

My Review:
Tahn is Christian fiction. I was thinking of calling it a fantasy, but it's more historical (European medieval). Though the country doesn't really exist, the story had things like Christian priests rather than magic, fantasy races, or other traditional fantasy elements. The setting detail brought the story alive in my imagination, but that detail was more generic medieval than a specific time period.

The characters were complex and acted in realistic ways. I found all of the characters interesting and engaging. The story pulled me in, and I didn't want to stop reading to do other things. The suspense was created mainly by physical danger and wondering what would happen next.

There was a strong Christian element (praying, reading the Bible, etc.), but it flowed very naturally as a part of the story. There was no bad language and no sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written, engaging novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Michal by Jill Eileen Smith

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by Jill Eileen Smith

ISBN-13: 9780800733209
Trade Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Revell
Released: March 1, 2009

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
The daughter of King Saul, Michal lives a life of privilege—but one that is haunted by her father's unpredictable moods and competition from her beautiful older sister. As a girl, Michal quickly falls for the handsome young harpist David. But soon after their romance begins, David must flee for his life, leaving Michal at her father's mercy in the prison that is King Saul's palace.

Will Michal ever be reunited with David? Or is she doomed to remain separated from him forever?

Against the backdrop of opulent palace life, raging war, and daring desert escapes, Jill Eileen Smith takes you on an emotional journey as Michal deals with love, loss, and personal transformation as the first wife of King David.

My Review:
Michal is Biblical fiction about David and Michal. It covered a lot of time--most of their lives--so the relationships came off as somewhat superficial. I thought that their initial falling in love was supposed to be superficial (Michal wanting to be his future queen and to be protected from her father, and David lusting after her beauty). However, later, after years apart and married to other people that they loved, they hardly even acted awkward around each other. Michal forgets her second husband--whom we're told she did come to love--like he never even existed.

The historical details were handled nicely. There wasn't a lot of day-to-day details, but there was enough to create a mental image of what was going on. The author stayed true to the information (and words) given in the Bible. I didn't quite envision things playing out the way the did in this novel, but that's true of most Biblical fiction. And I thought I tended to be harder on David than most people, but this author went even further than me: David only has a few moments of heroic faith and action in this story.

There were no graphic sex scenes, and there was no bad language. Overall, it was an interesting story, and I appreciate that it stayed true to what was given in the Bible.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Book Lovers Holiday Hop. Including Twitter entries, we had 44 entries. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

who won Hickory Smoked Homicide by Riley Adams

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of these books from your favorite bookstore or see if they have them at your local library.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Play of Heresy by Margaret Frazer

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A Play of Heresy
by Margaret Frazer

ISBN-13: 9780425243473
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: December 6, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
In the early summer of 1438, Joliffe and his fellow players have arrived in Coventry for the theatrical and religious festival of Corpus Christi. Employed by several of the city's rich and powerful merchant guilds, they plan to present two of the many plays extravagantly depicting all of God's story with pomp and pageantry.

But even as his fellows prepare to perform the Nativity, Joliffe may be called on to play a wise man off the stage as well. When the merchant Master Kydwa goes missing and is found dead, another agent of the cunning Bishop Beaufort calls on Joliffe's skills as a spy to uncover if this murder was an attempt to prevent a warning about a possible Lollard rebellion from reaching them. But when their favorite suspect turns up dead, they have to re-evaluate what's going on.

My Review:
A Play of Heresy is a historical mystery set in 1438 in England. This is the seventh book in this series, but you can understand it without needing to read the previous books, and it doesn't spoil the mysteries in the previous novels.

While the mystery was enjoyable, I found the historical information extremely interesting. The author clearly did her research, but I never felt like I was being lectured to or given information not relevant to the story. The rich historical detail brought the story alive in my imagination and included how plays were run, how official murder investigations were done, and information about the Lollard's beliefs.

The "whodunit" element was guessable, though there weren't many clues. It's more like how a real murder would be solved than a clever puzzle-mystery. The characters were varied and had just enough of a human element to make them interesting even though we didn't get to deeply know them. The suspense was created by the mystery of whodunit and wondering if they'd be able to pull off a play that was poorly written and had few good or experienced players in it.

Though Lollards were viewed as suspect, Joliffe was not highly critical of their beliefs. (As in, people who share some of the Lollard's views aren't going to feel alienated by the storyline though it stays true to the beliefs of the time.) There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of explicit bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this interesting and enjoyable novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
The day was dove gray, soft under low clouds, with the rain mist-gentle on Joliffe's face and beading silver on his horse's dark mane. His cloak was a long way yet from soaking through nor had he troubled to pull up his hood; the rain felt good against his face. Too, he judged by the blue patches of sky showing in the east that clearing weather was on the way and there would likely be sun enough to dry his hair and cloak well before he came to Coventry, especially since he was making no hurry of his going.

After a month of doing much, he was enjoying just now not having to do anything in particular. He would get to Coventry when he got to Coventry. There he would soon be doing much and more, and so was content in this while to be simply riding, with England at peace and in plenty around him. For such as worked the land, these were the year's gentle days. The spring's hard work of plowing and planting was past; the summer's hard work of haying and sheep-shearing yet to come.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Lover's Holiday Hop

Book Lover's Holiday Hop

As a part of the Book Lover's Holiday Hop, I'm holding a giveaway for your choice of one of the following two books:

book coverHickory Smoked Homicide by Riley Adams is a cozy mystery. You can read my review here.

No one likes Tristan Pembroke, a snooty beauty pageant coach with a mean streak longer than the line outside Aunt Pat's barbeque restaurant--family run and located in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee. When Lulu finds Tristan's body during a crowded art auction fundraiser, the police suspect Lulu's daughter-in-law who publicly had a huge fight with Tristan over trying to sell a portrait of Tristan that Tristan had refused to pay for. Though a lot of people showed up at that fundraiser who hated Tristan, the police are having as much trouble as Lulu in tracking down who had the opportunity.

book coverAnd a second chance to win:

A Deadly Penance by Maureen Ash is a historical mystery set in 1203 in England. You can read my review here.

When a member of the retinue of Lady Nicolaa de la Haye's sister is killed on the castle ramparts during a feast, it initially looks like a husband may have discovered the dead man dallying with his wife. But then Lady Nicolaa is told that the dead man fancied himself a bastard of royal blood, and he was determined to find his birth mother to prove his royal parentage. Lady Nicolaa asks Templar knight Bascot de Marins to help her solve the murder.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for [give the book name and author's name]."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and naming which book you'd like to win. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement. I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

This giveaway ends on December 6, 2011 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on December 7, 2011 on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Book Lover's Holiday Hop: