The list got long, so I split it into two posts, with the first six months of 2017’s books posted here. Without further ado, here are the books I read during the second six months of 2017.
- From Sand and Ash, by Amy Harmon. This was a lovely, painful, beautiful story of a Catholic boy and a Jewish girl who grew up together and whose lives were then torn apart by the Nazis. I kept wanting the sadly realistic story to end, but I also desperately wanted it to continue on, because I liked the characters so much. I’ve been reading about WWII my entire life, so I know the all-too-painful reality of Nazi atrocities, but I think maybe that made this book more real for me. It’s fiction, but it is also so real. Stories like this are the reason I have a “Never Forget” medallion on my key chain, a memento from the Holocaust Museum. People like Eva and Angelo lived beautiful lives in the midst of horror, and we must not let such horror return.
- A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. A grump old man has no reason left to live, and then his new neighbors crash into his mailbox and won’t leave him alone. I debated between four and five stars for this one, but I ultimately took the generous option because the writing was good and the story kept me interested, even though it wasn’t full of action and cliff hangers. I think that says something about an author and a story.
- Nancy Wake, by Peter FitzSimons. In my years of WWII reading, I’d never heard of Nancy Wake until I stumbled across this audio book on sale. Nancy grew up in Australia and left for Europe as soon as she could. She loved Europe, and fought to defeat the Nazis in any way possible — from smuggling documents to parachuting into France to leading troops. It’s a remarkable true story, and Nancy sounds like one of those people who left a permanent impression of awe everywhere she went. Note: Some reviewers didn’t think the writing was good enough for more than three stars, but I listened to the audio version and loved every minute of it. (Also, her favorite book was Anne of Green Gables. Bonus points in my opinion.)
- Absolute Power, by David Baldacci. Last year I plowed through this author’s “King and Maxwell” series, and I decided to read this one because it was the author’s first book and possibly his best known. To clarify, this was the audio version, and I really enjoyed the pace and the plot. It’s the story of a burglar who witnesses a crime involving the president, and the subsequent cover-up. I really did not like one of the characters (the president’s chief of staff), and I know she wasn’t supposed to be liked, but it was a bit more than that for me. For that, I would give the book three stars, but the audio version was more of a five, so I cut the difference and settled on four stars.
- The Black Box, by Michael Connelly. This book involved places in California’s Central Valley, where I spent eight years as a newspaper reporter covering crime, so I’m being generous and giving it four stars. In this one, Detective Harry Bosch revives a 20-year-old unsolved case of a Danish reporter who was murdered during the Los Angeles riots. It takes him to Modesto, Manteca and briefly Stockton, and involves one of the county sheriffs. While some of this book seems far-fetched, I actually know first-hand about some of the Central Valley’s law enforcement corruption, and that part of the book is believable. One side note: I listened to this book, and the narrator butchered the pronunciation of Manteca and Salida (at least he got Lodi right).
- Two Kinds of the Truth, by Michael Connelly. Uh oh, I finished catching up on the Harry Bosch series — now what will I listen to?! That may be why I was generous with the stars on this one, though I did like the mix of crime procedure and the return of courtroom drama by Mickey Haller, Bosch’s brother. Haller comes in to defend Bosch, who’s accused of fabricating evidence in a case where the convict has spent 30 years in prison. This means his entire life work is on the line, and he’s going to fight it. Meanwhile, he has another murder case to solve, and it sends him undercover. Unrealistic? Yep. Fun? Yep.
- The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling. This is the story of a private investigator who is hired to look into the suicide of a model — yes, another in that genre. This one happens to be written by the Harry Potter author, who wanted some anonymity so the book could be judged on its own, though I don’t think that anonymity lasted very long. I admire Rowling for wanting to do that, though. Anyway, the main characters were likable and the writing certainly warranted four stars, but the plot and its absurd twists were more on the two-star level.
- Lost Light, by Michael Connelly. Harry Bosch has retired as an LAPD detective, but he can’t really leave the work behind him. Soon he’s looking into one of the old homicide cases that haunted him, and then homeland security gets involved. This book was told in first-person by Bosch, and while I’m not always a fan of first-person, it actually worked.
- The Narrows, by Michael Connelly. The “Poet” has returned from an earlier book, to which I gave four stars. He’s a conniving killer who betrayed a bunch of people, and now he’s back for more. It was kind of far-fetched so I was tempted to give it two stars, but I admit to plowing through it and waiting to see what happened, and having fun in the process.
- The Closers, by Michael Connelly. Harry Bosch has returned to the LAPD, working on cold cases, and he’s partnered again with Kiz Rider. They start off on a DNA hit from an old case, and Bosch’s old nemesis, Capt. Irving, pops up to make things interesting. I almost gave this four stars because the characters were good, but maybe I’m just on a three-star streak?
- The Body Reader, by Anne Frasier. The heroine is a police detective who was kidnapped and held captive for three years before escaping and getting her job back. The book goes back and forth between that time and present day, as she and her new partner hunt down a serial killer. I was impressed by how the author managed to switch from past to present without making it confusing or jumpy, but the storyline itself was a little too far-fetched for me.
- The Sound of Glass, by Karen White. This is the story of a southern family with secrets, ranging from a plane crash to domestic violence to illness, that all come back full-circle. I would have easily given it four stars if the crash part hadn’t been so far-fetched, but when that also came around full-circle, I rolled my eyes.
- All the Winters After, by Sere Prince Halverson. Ah, Alaska, a state I really want to visit again and explore more — but until then, I’ll just have to settle for stumbling across books set there. This is the tale of a guy who left home a decade ago after tragedy and returns now, expecting the family home to be in ruins. However, a woman escaping a harsh religious sect has been keeping the place in shape. Commence romance and a bad guy, that I knew from the beginning was THE bad guy. It just became too contrived, which was disappointing because it had potential to be a really great book.
- The Brass Verdict, by Michael Connelly. Defense attorney Mickey Haller hasn’t been practicing law for a year, until a lawyer is murdered and Mickey inherits his cases, including a high profile murder defendant. Detective Harry Bosch is investigating the lawyer’s murder, so their paths cross. I like the characters and would give this 3.5 stars if that were an option, but some of it was just a bit too far-fetched for me.
- Murder in an Irish Village, by Carlene O’Connor. A book set in Ireland! An audio book with an Irish reader! Yes, it was another murder mystery, which I seem to be reading in droves lately (then again, I always have veered toward the genre). The main character is trying to care for her five siblings and run the family business, but then a murder victim turns up at said business, and then she sets out to solve the crime while also getting into some romance. That was all formulaic, so it only gets three stars.
- Nine Dragons, by Michael Connelly. I’m feeling generous today, so I rounded up from what I think was more like 2.5 stars. This book started out with a murder that Detective Harry Bosch is sent to investigate, but then the book becomes this unbelievable caper that goes to Hong Kong, involves his daughter, has someone being trapped in a ship, kills off a recurring character in the Bosch books, and it just keeps being ridiculous. And yet, I still really like that Harry Bosch character.
- Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From the Madness, by Suzy Favor Hamilton with Sarah Tomlinson. Suzy Favor Hamilton was a three-time Olympian, attracting plenty of attention as a speedy runner with a blonde ponytail. Then, as she says in this book, she wasn’t getting enough thrills to combat her increasing but undiagnosed bipolarism, so she found new levels of highs and risks by spending nearly a year as an escort in Las Vegas. Her last Olympics were in 2000, about five years before I got interested in running, so when the Smoking Gun website outed her in 2012, I didn’t know anything about her. I remember thinking, “That’s weird” and, “Huh, her husband is standing by her,” and then she left my mind. So when I took a walk through a local library for the first time and, out of pure coincidence, turned down an aisle that had running books, I stopped and skimmed the selections. And I took this one home. You would think, after such a long preamble and a subject I love, I would give this book five stars. It really was a fascinating story, and a topic we should all pay more attention to so we can try to help those with mental health troubles. But the writing was just really sub-par. Words were repetitive, sentences were choppy when they didn’t need to be, and it needed several more rounds of editing. It was a fast read and I would love to see Favor Hamilton speak about surviving, but it’s not a book I would buy.
- The Reversal, by Michael Connelly. This one would be closer to four stars, if fractions of stars were allowed, because it combines courtroom procedure with the crime novel stuff — and I’m a sucker for both. Defense attorney Mickey Haller is back, which is fun, this time as a special prosecutor in a case that was thrown out after the suspect spent 24 years in prison. He gets Harry Bosch as the lead investigator who’s challenged with decades-old evidence and witnesses. It was really well done until the end, which was rushed and a let-down, and the reason I didn’t seriously consider giving it four stars.
- The Drop, by Michael Connelly. Detective Harry Bosch is given a cold murder case in which blood evidence is checked for a DNA match and comes back with a hit — but it’s linked to a guy who was only 8 years old at the time of the crime. And then Irvin Irving, who was a thorn in Bosch’s side during years of senior management in the LAPD, asks that he investigate his son’s apparent suicide. Some of the Amazon show “Bosch” was taken from this book, so that was cool to bring things back around for me. The insider politics were frustrating but I know they’re sadly realistic. The other case was definitely unique, though it went a bit over the top into “really?!” land.
- The Burning Room, by Michael Connelly. Another cold case for Detective Harry Bosch, this time one that comes about because a guy dies with a bullet that’s been in him for 10 years. This one was rather forgettable, though I liked his latest partner, LAPD Detective Lucia Soto, who wants to solve an old arson homicide case that changed her life as a child.
- The Crossing, by Michael Connelly. Harry Bosch can’t stay retired, so he agrees to work on a case for his half brother, though he has a hard time being on the defense side. I liked the mix of cop and courtroom procedural.
- The Wrong Side of Goodbye, by Michael Connelly. This one was close to four stars, because I liked the story behind a case that now-private investigator Harry Bosch takes on — looking for an old man’s possible heir. Meanwhile, he becomes a volunteer detective for a different police department, goes to work on a serial rapist investigation, and that just feels a bit too contrived to warrant four stars.
- The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly. I ran out of Harry Bosch books, so I read this one, involving his defense attorney brother, Mickey Haller. This one definitely deserves another half a star, but I guess I’m feeling miserly today. Anyway, this one is about a new client Haller takes on, one with money and an alibi. It seems like a great case with a great payout, until Haller learns some awful truths and finds himself stuck in the attorney-client-privilege quandry.
- My Sister’s Grave, by Robert Dugoni. This was a cheap Audible sale book, and not bad for easy listening. But the whole plot was unrealistic, and some of the characters were very inconsistent. It’s about a homicide detective whose sister disappeared 20 years earlier, and she restarts her own investigation when the body is found. It’s just all really not plausible, and I rolled my eyes through the whole story.
- The Overlook, by Michael Connelly. My Harry Bosch devouring continued into this one, which dipped into terrorism and thus seemed kind of cliche. A stash of cesium goes missing, a doctor turns up dead, cops start fighting over who gets the case, and it just didn’t really do it for me.
- Private, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. This was a free Audible book so I figured I’d try it out and see if it was good adventure/crime/mystery listening while driving and working out. It was not. I made myself get through two hours of it before I gave up, and I just could not handle the choppy storyline that moved from good guy to bad guy and everywhere in between. I still don’t know really know what it was about, except that it involved a hit man.