To Go: 50
41. Rising Tides — Nora Roberts
42. Inner Harbour — Nora Roberts
43. Slow Heat in Heaven — Sandra Brown
44. Seducing Ingrid Bergman — Chris Greenhalgh
45. The Bat — Jo Nesbø
46. Paris to Die For — Maxine Kenneth
47. Starbucked — Taylor Clark
48. The Ice Princess — Camilla Läckberg
49. Me Before You — JoJo Moyes
50. The Accident — Linwood Barclay
In order to try to catch up on my terribly delayed book reviews, I’m going to do mega posts of mini-reviews. Here are the reviews on books 44-50.
Finished reading: July 26, 2013
Seducing Ingrid Bergman is a fictionalized account of the affair between Swedish-born film star Ingrid Bergman and war photographer Robert Capa, during her marriage to Petter Lindström. The novel follows their torrid romantic entanglement from the pair’s first meeting in Paris, post-WWII, until Capa’s death in Vietnam.
Seducing Ingrid Bergman had me reaching for the tissues (well, metaphorically, since I am a robot who does not cry). Greenhalgh’s imagining of the affair between Bergman and Capa was beautiful and heartbreaking, particularly so in its final chapter. (P.S. Did you know Isabella Rossellini is Ingrid Bergman’s daughter? I didn’t!)
Finished reading: July 28, 2013
In The Bat, the first of the Harry Hole series, the Norwegian detective hops on a plane to Australia to assist with the murder investigation of a young Norwegian transplant, Inger Holter. Though initially sidelined by the local police, Harry becomes integral to the team when they begin to notice Holter’s murder has similarities to other rapes and murders across the country. With no obvious suspect, and two new murders that appear related, Harry and the Australian police have little time to catch the serial killer.
I really enjoy reading mysteries and thrillers based in other countries, and Harry Hole (pronounced hoo-leh) holds a certain appeal for me as a character, but based on The Bat, Jo Nesbø doesn’t really do it for me. This is mainly, as I remember, because Nesbø refused to let his readers into Harry’s head—Harry would come to conclusions or hunches that were impossible to follow, because his thought process would never be made clear to the reader. Also interesting (though not bad) was Nesbø’s choice to introduce his Norwegian-based series by sending his main character to a different country in the first book: usually there’s some familiarity between the character and the reader established before sending said character out of his element.
Finished reading: July 31, 2013
In Paris to Die For, Jacqueline Bouvier is desperate for a little adventure—so when a family friend, an agent for the CIA, asks her to take a quick trip to Paris to help a high-ranking Russian defect, she jumps at the chance. But what initially seems like a simple mission becomes much more dangerous when Jacqueline finds the Russian man murdered in a shabby apartment—and she inadvertently becomes his assassin’s next target. Enter Jacques Rivage, a French photographer and freelance CIA agent, who steps in to help her evade the killer—and make her heart skip a beat.
Paris to Die For was a light, fun read, and the fictionalized Jackie Bouvier makes a fantastic spy; she doesn’t have the know-how that her partner, Jacques, does, but she’s able to get herself out of some tough situations anyway. There’s a second book coming out, which features a fictionalized JFK, and I’m pretty excited to read it.
Finished reading: August 3, 2013
Starbucked is a look at the coffeehouse movement through one of its biggest success stories, Starbucks—the coffee chain that can set up two stores not a block away from each other and have each be successful. Clark also touches on gentrification and fair trade coffee growing, and how Starbucks is able to create an incredibly loyal customer base.
Near the end of the summer I was overcome by this urge to read more books about cultural studies (urban planning, politics, and gender) and started trolling that area of Chapters religiously. The first time I did, I came upon Starbucked, and couldn’t resist buying it—I’m a Starbucks afficionado myself, and I figured if I was going to have an addiction, I should at least understand why. Starbucked was an interesting, intelligent read that’s full of laughs, and is presented quite objectively: Clark doesn’t idolize the coffee behemoth, but he also does present compelling arguments that Starbucks isn’t quite the coffee monolith that critics have made it out to be—somewhat surprisingly, it has done some good for independent coffee shops.
(Side note: I’m disappointed with myself that I couldn’t think of any coffee puns to include in this review.)
Finished reading: August 6, 2013
In The Ice Princess, acclaimed biographer Erica Falck returns to her hometown of Fjällbacka after her parents’ funeral. Soon after she moves into her old family home, her childhood friend Alex is found dead in her home, her wrists slashed and her body submerged in an ice-cold bath. It appears that she has taken her own life. Erica considers writing a memoir about the beautiful but remote Alex, to answer questions about their long-ago lost friendship. Meanwhile, Detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own hunch, that there is something off about Alex’s apparent suicide. When they begin to work together, they uncover a deeply disturbing secret from Alex’s childhood.
The Ice Princess is Camilla Läckberg’s first novel in the Fjällbacka series, which I of course read out of order. Having read two other books in the series I was of course familiar with Patrik and Erica, but it was nice to read their “origin story” of sorts. They’re one of my favourite fictional couples, and a fantastic crime-solving duo. And on the mystery front, Läckberg delivered as always with a complex, fascinating crime.
Finished reading: August 10, 2013
After losing her job at a tea shop in town, Lou Clark gets lucky when she finds a position as a caretaker for Will Traynor, a man who was in a devastating motorcycle accident that rendered him paraplegic and took away his desire to live. Will is surly and bad-tempered, but soon Lou is able to break through the gloom, and their friendship changes both of them for good.
If I were to recommend only one book from this year’s hundred, it would be Me Before You. It’s a beautiful, poignant story that has stuck with me months after I finished it. Will and Lou, and their beautiful relationship, broke my heart in the best way. I find it challenging to write about books I adored, but trust me when I say it was amazing, and a must-read.
Finished reading: August 11, 2013
When Glen Garber’s wife, Sheila, doesn’t come home on time from her night school business class, he’s concerned and goes out to search for her. His worst fears are confirmed when he comes across a devastating car crash on the side of the road, in which Sheila and two others were killed. To make matters worse, the police claim Sheila, driving intoxicated, was to blame. But something doesn’t add up: Sheila rarely drank, and she never drove drunk. As Glen starts to investigate, he uncovers corruption and illegal activity under the surface of his quiet suburb, and is pursued by mysterious killers.
After I started reading The Accident, on loan from a friend, I couldn’t put it down and finished it within a day. It’s a pretty wild ride, with a conclusion that—to use a cliche—I never could’ve seen coming. If I remember correctly (it’s been a while) The Accident has quite a few separate stories going on at the time, but none of them felt neglected or out of place. Barclay’s a master of suspense, and I’m excited to read more from him. (I have another loaner that I’ll likely be reading in the new year.)