Five Mini Reviews for June
The Judge's List #2 by John Grisham
Genre: Legal Thriller
Published October 2021, 357 pages
I didn't read #1, but doubt it made any difference to the enjoyment of this book. It reads perfectly fine as a standalone. The plot is that a female lawyer has worked for years for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. An anonymous tip comes in that a sitting judge is guilty of murder, not just one, but several murders. As you can imagine, that is not the usual type of allegation made against judges. Naturally, her investigation had to be very secretive - but secrets and danger abound.
Overall, I feel like this is a very average story, average characters, mildly interesting plot that somehow never really grabbed me. I listened to it and the narration was okay but not much effort was given to separation of voices. There really wasn't much action until a single chapter toward the end and the end was sort of anticlimactic. Overall, disappointing, as I find most current Grisham books to be.
The Nature of the Beast #11 by Louise Penny
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published 2015, 376 pages
Another solid story - what I like about Penny's books is that even though there are some characters that show up in most of them, we always learn something new about them, adding even more depth. And, most of the murders are very unique. I guess the murder itself isn't particularly unique, it's the setting and the reason for the murder. She provides such well researched variation in the circumstances around the murder that solving the puzzle is always a surprise.
This time, though the murder takes place in the village of Three Pines (and it's a child who is killed, which may be a trigger for some), the originating cause is due to events from 30 years ago and weapons development/sales. Very different from the one set in a monastery or the one in Quebec where a historian is killed and we readers learn so much history and background about Quebec. She's a master at that.
Even though Gamache is still in retirement, he, of course, becomes thoroughly involved in the case because the little boy who was killed had attempted to tell him what he found in the woods - but, he was a little boy known for a fanciful imagination and so wasn't believed. Also moving the story forward, Gamache finds himself presented with several job opportunities - so where will the next book take him?
A Great Reckoning #12 by Louise Penny
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Awards: Agatha, Barry, and Anthony for best novel
Published 2016, 389 pages
Continuing my Louise Penny journey, #13 is an award winning book and with good reason. Gamache is back, retired from murder investigations but taking a job as head of the Surete academy where he hopes to root out the corruption and improve the training of the cadets. He fires many professors but keeps a couple that he knows are crooked so he can keep an eye on them. Of course one is killed and the who-dunnit begins.
It's a complicated intertwining of stories - an old map Gamache is gifted (we learn about orienteering), 4 cadets who were close to the murdered man and what has happened to them, suspicion falls on Gamache because his prints are on the gun and evidence is manipulated to implicate him, etc. In addition to the curiosity of the old map and the murder, there's a third thread that winds thru the story - one of the cadets seems to have a secret connection to Gamache and we're left hanging until the very last page! In typical fashion, Penny constructs a tangled web and it isn't till the very end that threads start breaking and we discover the answer to all the questions.
I listened to this story and once again appreciated the French pronunciations throughout the story. Well narrated. Highly recommended.
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2022, 369 pages
This book was entertaining and a decent read, but it's not going to be at the top of any "best" lists. As a debut novel, I feel it shows a lot of promise and I'll read her next book, whatever it is....
The premise of college students banding together to steal Chinese art got me immediately and the whole idea of returning stolen art to it's origin country (China) could be a great motivation for the heists. It's a decent heist story with the obligatory characters needed to cover the parts - a lock picker, a conman (woman), a planner, a speedster get-away driver, and of course a computer whiz. All college students. All Chinese. All struggling with their place in the world, what they're going to do after graduation, their internal conflicts about American/Chinese culture and parents and.... so on.
A heist story at its very core requires a suspension of belief and this one is no different. Are the heist setups believable? Not really, but do they need to be? Not really. Because ultimately I don't feel like the point of this story is the thefts. It's the vehicle used to talk about different aspects of Chinese diaspora.
There was lots of reflections on how to be Chinese in America by the various characters - some were born in China and are first year immigrants, some have grandparents that were the first immigrants....is one or the other more American than another? There's so much discussion and thought about how the various characters feel about their families, their roles, their responsibilities, etc. that it becomes a bit repetitive, which makes it lose some of the impact. It has a tidy finish that wraps everything up very well - kind of like at the end of movies where each character is shown 6 months or a year later living the high life.
All in all an enjoyable read with characters I liked (mostly) and action that was entertaining.
Modern Magick #1 by R. J. Johnson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published May 2022, no page count
This may be a self-published book since one isn't listed on Goodreads and I didn't find any author information. It is definitely written for a young YA audience, which I wasn't expecting. The writing style is simplistic and plot developments are expected and common. There's not much new here.
The bad guys had zero depth. The mixed bag of good guys were an interesting mix, but again, not much depth to the characters - a woman doctor, a elderly male professor, a female college student & former Olympic gold archer, a male reporter, and a male ex-Marine. Pretty much covers the bases of what you'd need to defeat a magical demon, right? The demon got short play, the magic action scenes were ..... okay. This book would have benefited from a bit stronger editing in terms of sentence structure and repetitiveness, but it was readable and good for teens looking for a magical tale.
Thanks to #booksirens for the free copy of the book - the opinions are my own.
Have you read any of these books? Did your opinion differ from mine? Leave me a note and let's talk!