Friday, March 9, 2012

Two Reviews, Because I'm Tired of Staring at the Ceiling...Started Early, Took My Dog (Atkinson) and The Winter Sea (Kearsley)

I confess....I'm not doing well at all.  My back pain is really spent the past week and a half in bed bad.  I've never been bed-ridden before, not even the weeks right after surgery.  I haven't been on any pain meds and the pain is overwhelming.  If I stay perfectly still, it's a 6 of 10 but trying to even just go to the bathroom can knock it up to an 8.  The pain is simply times I can't even focus on stupid daytime TV and I've spent hours just staring at the ceiling.  I had to hand off my ghost writing posts this week which makes me feel really useless.

These were written in pieces but I stubbornly want to get two reviews done.  I've largely read in fifteen minutes snatches recently...that's about my attention span.  Won't be my "deepest" reviews but I feel a need to get them done.  Then I shall go back to examining the ceiling fan.

I don't read many detective stories but an online friend introduced me to Atkinson's series of Jackson Brodie books.  They revolve around a private detective with a messy personal life and each one includes several different stories that inevitably meet in some fashion.  Started Early is the latest in the series and includes stories related to a woman seeking the truth about her identity, an old cover-up, an aging actress, and a mysterious young girl that a former cop buys (that's not a euphemism) from a prostitute. 
I enjoyed the book, although I definitely felt some of the storylines dragged a bit.  I like that Atkinson builds interesting, imperfect characters and particularly enjoyed the story of the former cop and the little girl.  I was less interested in the parts about the aging actress...they bored me a bit and I wasn't invested in them.  Still, it was a fun read.  A bit on the mind candy side for me but that's good in the right dose.  3.5 stars, rounded up because it simply did what I expected it to was an enjoyable read and I liked visiting it each night but didn't get or expect anything deeper.

I've become a big fan of books that have books within them and that's what drew me to this one.  Carrie is an author who focuses on historical fiction and finds she writes best when she is in the setting of her novel.  Her work on a book about a failed attempt by in 1708 Scotland to take back its independence and return the country's own King to the throne.  Her novel is embedded and is largely a romance but has a lot of (heavily researched) history and politics.  Carrie finds her writing often matches historical facts that she hadn't known about and she ponders whether she has "genetic memory" and is recalling events that happened to an ancestor.  She also has her own love story.

This simply wasn't what I'd hoped for when I bought it.  I like what I term "literary mysteries" where the embedded stories help develop a mystery storyline and this just wasn't that sort of book.  It is a historical romance and those have limited appeal for me.  I think people who like sweeping romances with a large dose of history would enjoy this but it only hits three stars for me.  I'd felt a bit bad by how much my own bias was impacting my rating, I do think she does her genre well, but I strongly disliked the way the book (esp the embedded novel) ended so feel firmer in my rating.  Recommended for lovers of historical romance...just stop reading about 40 pages from the end and you'll like it!

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