14 August 2011

Book Review: The Pilgrim Glass

The Pilgrim Glass by Julie K. Rose
ISBN:  9780557810741

The Pilgrim GlassA piece of 12-th century stained glass is found in the crypt of a medieval cathedral in France. Jonas, a high-skilled and troubled stained glass artist, is hired to restore it. Once he arrives in Vezelay, he meets several locals, including ex-pat Meredith, whom he falls for. She, however, begins to have strange experiences related to this piece of glass. Jonas, Meredith, and others must piece together the mystery surrounding this glass and Meredith's experiences.

This is a finely written and researched novel. The author has a gift for capturing small details, such as how Jonas works on the glass, which add immensely to the novel. The scenes in France are richly detailed, leaving the reader with a clear impression of the French village, for example. The historical references are accurate and unobtrusive. The characters are interesting, mainly because they are all flawed with common problems. For example, Jonas had a troubling childhood which he is trying desperately to escape. The plot builds to an interesting and, to me, unexpected climax. While there is some channeling of a 12th-century pilgrim, which could have easily been over the top, it is done in a subtle and suitable manner which seems natural for this story.

My main complaint is that occasionally the story moved too fast and I had to re-read small sections (one or two sentences) to be sure I understood what exactly was happening. Another minor complaint is that I would have liked a bit more narrative. Not only would it have helped with clarifying the situation in spots, but I greatly enjoyed the author's attention to details and wanted more!

Overall, I was very happy to have read this and will gladly recommend it to others. More importantly, I will be looking for the next novel by Julie K. Rose!  )

05 August 2011

Book Review: Death Before Swine

Death Before Swine: Ben Hart Mysteries #1 by V. K. Scott

Death Before Swine (Ben Hart Mysteries #1)I received this book through the Member Giveaway at LibraryThing.com.

Ben Hart was a science teacher in a small town when his classroom was bombed, his friend nearly was killed, and another teacher was killed. To top it off, he was fired. So, now unemployed, he turns his curiosity in to why things happen into an investigation of the murder, which leads to more trouble than he bargained for.

This book was a fine, light mystery. The characters, such as Ben Hart, were made more interesting because of their flaws. The dialog was crisp, with enough non-dialog included to follow the conversations. The plot had many interesting turns and subplots to hold a reader's attention. And the mystery's solution was actually a surprise to me. As a former teacher myself, it was interesting to see how a teacher was portrayed in writing.

Having said that, I did find the book either lacking or too much. I would say lacking in that there needed to be more development of some of the characters and explanations of their behavior. The transition from teacher to detective was a missed opportunity to explore Hart's personality. The narrative and descriptive sections were too brief -- only 2-3 sentences per paragraph in many areas -- and could have provided a lot more details. The too much would be concerning the plot, which I found to be too complicated to believable at times. Each time I felt the story was heading towards a conclusion, a new wrinkle in the story popped up. After about the third one, I began to wonder if any of this would ever be resolved, and some of them weren't. The plot felt very contrived.

Overall, while I did enjoy reading the book -- I like a light mystery now and then -- I won't re-read it. The author has potential and I would consider looking at a second book. (This was a first novel.)  )

04 August 2011

Book Review: Shadow Cats

Shadow Cats:  Tales from New York City's Animal Underground by Janet Jensen
ISBN:  1580627528

Shadow Cats: Tales from New York City's Animal UndergroundThis book chronicles the journey of its author from someone concerned about stray cats to manager of feral cat colonies. Along the way, she rescues and cares for many cats, while learning many lessons. Many of the stories in the book are humorous, some very tragic.

The passion of the author and of other rescuers comes through clearly in this book. I found it very heartwarming that in a city like New York, known for its toughness, there are networks of people dedicated (sometimes to extremes) to save cats which will never be pets to anyone. For people outside cat rescue groups, this book is a fine introduction to what it takes to rescue cats, both financially and emotionally.

My biggest complaints with this book are the overall writing and organization. In many places, the writing could be more clear, more descriptive, more detailed. She missed many opportunities to elaborate on humorous situations or to explain why certain actions were more appropriate. The book is generally told in chronological order, but this is not always adhered to. Some chapters seem almost to have been inserted later, to fill out the book. Maybe it was her passion and her emotional connection to the subject that led the author astray, but I would have liked the book more had it been better edited.  A minor complaint is that I wished she had included more details on handling these cats -- taming a feral cat -- so that I could learn something useful when dealing with my traumatized shelter cats.

Overall, this is a good book. Someone had recommended it to me and I'm not displeased that I bought and read it.  I probably will not read it again, because of some of the tragic stories -- stories which I take too much to heart. If, however, someone came to me and asked for a book about cat rescuing, I'd have them read this one so they understood more of what they were getting into.  )