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review 2017-08-15 18:53
Will the real murderer please stand up?
The Trespasser: A Novel - Tana French

The Trespasser, Tara French, author; Hilda Fay, narrator

From the first page, the book holds the reader in thrall. Antoinette Conway is a young, angry detective working for the Dublin Murder Squad. Although she really wanted the job, she has a chip on her shoulder and a persecution complex about the way the other members of the team treat her. Still, she has the makings of a really good detective, if given a fair opportunity. She works with her partner, Steve (another newbie like she is); he is one of the few male detectives not engaged in harassing her periodically, often in heinous ways. Antoinette has a tongue that is often vicious and crude in its attacks on fellow workers, and she has a temper to go along with it that seems in desperate need of being curbed.

When a young, beautiful woman, Aislinn Murray, is discovered brutally murdered in her own home, Antoinette and Steve are assigned the task of solving the crime. They are also asked to work with a more experienced and rather arrogant detective named Breslin. He has decided it is a case of domestic violence and is dead set on solving this crime quickly so he can get back to his more important cases. Their prime suspect turns out to be the victim’s new beau, Rory Fallon, who had a dinner date with her on the night she was murdered.

As the story investigates all of the people involved, the victim, her friend and family, the suspects and their backgrounds, the methods, motives and tactics of the police and journalists play a powerful role in the process. The picture painted of them is not pretty. The one seems intent on solving the crime, regardless of innocence or guilt and the other on promoting scandalous publicity for their own personal gain. Residents and politicians scream for a quick solution so they can go back to their normal lives. They seem to care little for the lives wrecked by the investigation which often attacks and implicates innocent people. The methods used by all investigators, journalists and concerned citizens seem more like blackmail than an honest attempt to solve the crime and put the criminal away. Everyone seems to have some kind of an agenda.

I was disappointed in the way Antoinette was portrayed. I was not sure why the color of her skin was emphasized. It seemed to play no pertinent role in the story. Also, I was disappointed that she was portrayed so vehemently as such a hard-nosed woman with a filthy mouth and a chip on her shoulder that she kept challenging others to knock off. She leapt to the nastiest conclusions and was overly judgmental. Her own personality bled into every action she took, rather than her skill as a detective taking precedence. She always felt the need to prove herself and her past behavior had left ugly rumors in their wake which others judged her by, even though some were often untrue and/or exaggerated. Her overly defensive behavior lent them credence. I would love to read a book about a female without baggage, one who achieves success, regardless of her race, religion or background, because she is skilled and worthy of respect from the get-go.

The book, I thought sadly, seemed to point to a society of crooked cops that gathered round to protect, each other even when innocent victims paid the price for their fellow officer’s crimes. Those officers and citizens brave enough to give evidence against the “bent” detectives were afraid that exposing them would negatively affect their own futures. They were often threatened with harassment and persecution. They would be shunned and maybe even injured. Their careers would be over. Journalists were portrayed as bloodthirsty cretins searching for a byline at any cost to those they smeared. Judging from the way news is covered today, this depiction may be closer to the truth than fiction!

The coincidence of the detective, Antoinette, and the victim, Aislinn, having been abandoned by their fathers worked well in the story. The knowledge of that connection allowed Antoinette to see herself more honestly and perhaps to mature and deal with others, and herself, more fairly. I found it interesting to watch Antoinette morph into someone who finally showed a bit of humility and introspection at the same time as the case also went from one that jumped to conclusions to one that was more interested in the truth. The two, the detective on a personal level, and the police on the criminal level of the investigation, seemed to work out the problem of ethics and the honest search for a solution, concurrently. As the story was revealed, both the detective and the squad were faced with the same dilemma of searching for answers, not creating them. How they each approached it was what made the story most interesting to me. Instead of looking for and relying on circumstantial evidence of crimes committed against herself personally in the squad room, and the crime committed against Aislinn, Antoinette and the detectives were forced to stop taking the easy way out, jumping to conclusions, often false, and instead were forced to deal with hard facts to reach the ultimate conclusion and solve the crime.

Although the language was over the top crude, there was no gratuitous sex to titillate readers. The story itself was the total draw! Although it was a bit longer than necessary, perhaps overly detailed at times, it was an interesting study of interrogation methods, criminal behavior and society’s ills when it comes to family, values, policing, and news coverage. The affects of all these patterns was exposed and would make for interesting and thought provoking discussions in a book group.

Some book group questions

1-Because the issue between Antoinette and her missing dad are not cleared up, do you think there will be a sequel?

2-Has the author left any clues about her next book?

3-What are the similarities between Antoinette and Aislinn? (the “d” and the “vic”)

4-What are the similarities between the prime suspect and a cop on the case? (Rory and McCann)

5-How did Antoinette react to her hidden anger and pain?

6-How did Aislinn react to her hidden anger and pain?

7-How did Rory react when he was dumped?

8-What were some similarities between Rory and McCann when it came to self-esteem?

9-Why were Rory and McCann so surprised that someone beautiful would care about them?

10-What kinds of feelings did the book promote about the police and journalists relationships?

11-What kind of feelings did you get about the police tactics and journalist’s behavior?
12-Did you like or dislike any of the characters?

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review 2017-08-11 00:34
Favorite Kids Books
We're Going On A Bear Hunt - Vivian French,Michael Rosen,Helen Oxenbury
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - Dr. Seuss

I really only have two favorite kids books. When my kids were in preschool we read and memorized "We're going on a Bear Hunt." We would recite it in the car and while we were walking or just doing anything. My other favorite is Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." 


What brought these books to mind? As I came downstairs this morning, I was following behind one of my rescue cats and I changed the words to "I'm going on a cat hunt, I'm going to find a needy one." My youngest was with me and she joined in and we just had a little giggle over it. My husband would not have appreciated it, as he says, we have enough cats. 


The books are by far my favorites and I will always remember reading them to my girls when they were little. 

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review 2017-08-10 00:57
The Little French Bistro - Nina George

I love her books.  Marianne wants to end her life but she discovers she is more than she thought when she is stopped.  She travels to Brittany where she finds good people and many types of love.  I love Nina George's prose.  So many things in the book spoke to me.  I could imagine myself as Marianne.  What a wonderful book!

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text 2017-07-26 16:10
Comic Round Up
World of Warcraft: Legion #1 - Matt Burns,Ludo Lullabi
Ms. Marvel, #1 - G. Willow Wilson,Adrian Alphona
Murena - tome 1 - La Pourpre et l'or (French Edition) - Dufaux,Delaby
Tellos #1 - Todd DeZago,Mike Wieringo,Nathan Massengill,Rich Case,Paul Mounts,Ken Wolak
Age of Reptiles Omnibus, Vol. 1 - Ricardo Delgado,Genndy Tartakovsky
FCBD 2015: Tales of Honor - Matt Hawkins,Linda Sejic

In my last comic round up, I started with a series of comics based on a video game, so I figure I will do the same here.  The four issue World of Warcraft Legion series is apparently a set up for the video game (or part of the video game).  The series isn’t as good as Overwatch, in part because it relies a bit more on reader familiarity, but it isn’t bad.  Part of the series focuses on the relationship between fathers and daughters, in one case, a father upset that his daughter isn’t a son.  Each issue is more of a character study with some action.  The first and last issues being the best.


                To be fair to World of Warcraft, the female characters are actually drawn in ways that make sense and not as objectified as many other comic books would have done them.  Take for instance, Tellos, which has had all good markings of a good fantasy story – exciting chases, a tiger man, magic, a female pirate with intelligence – until you realize that said female pirate with the triple DDD bust size constantly spans her own waist with one of her hands.  Every Time She Puts Said Hand On Her Hip.


                I’m done.


                There are exceptions to this trend.  Marvel’s Ms. Marvel being an example.  She is nicely geeky, she tries to be a good daughter, she is nice and insecure.  She’s a Muslim.  In other words, she is everything Donald Trump would hate.  The fact that she is a normal teen and minority is a huge step forward.  She isn’t perfect.  It’s good that Marvel is finally doing something like this.  I wish they would go back and rescue some of their less known woman heroes as well.  I really want Firestar done well. 


                Ms. Marvel, however, does give me hope.  Not only in terms of the future of comics, but also that hype can be correct.


                And she is drawn realistically, and the issue passes the Bechdel test.


                Tiny Titans doesn’t, at least not entirely.  There is jokes about who has a crush on Robin, and while this might be a reference to Nightwing’s butt, it is rather annoying.   Still, the comic is a little cute, though the DC Super Hero Girls was better.


                Tales of Honor (#1 and FCBD issue) is a series based on the Honor Harrington novels by David Weber.  #1 is basically a start of Honor’s story, starting around book 6 or 7.  The FCBD issue is a standalone story.  Both have the info dumps that do tend to populate Weber’s books.  Interesting, Nimitz, Honor’s treecat is drawn differently in each, at one point so large that he would not be a shoulder perching cat, which is what he is supposed to be.  Issue #1 sexualizes Honor a bit, though not as much as some comics would have.  I have to give the edge to FCBD issue, though, the story was complete and straight forward.  It showed Honor at her best.  However, if you like Honor, you might want to check out this series.


                Murena is a graphic novel series that in some ways is the sequel to Claudius the God.  The story focuses on Nero and the bastard son of Claudius, Murena, who are friend despite being, whether they know it or no, on opposite sides.  The art work is fine, the history good, and the storytelling well done.  If you want a I Claudius again, this is the one for you.  What is interesting is the use of Nero, in particular making him an almost sympathetic character.  The first volume seems to be an indication that part of what the series is going to look is the corruptive nature of power. 


                A few years ago, I was in DC and saw the Diaghilev and Ballet Russe exhibit at the National Gallery.  It included footage from a performance of Rite of Spring.  Now, I am of the generation who knows that music thanks to Disney’s Fantasia, which means I hear it and think dinosaurs. 


                There were no dinosaurs.


                Thankfully, there is Age of Reptiles, which is about dinosaurs.  In fact, it is nothing but dinosaurs.  There is no dialogue, just dinosaurs being dinosaurs.  It is absolutely cool and enthralling.  Be warned, there is blood so if you are a parent, you might want to check it out before kiddo reads it.


                Closing note- American McGee’s Grimm #1 is a hilarious take down of the super hero comic book.

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review 2017-07-16 21:28
Nowhere near as fun or appealing as Julia Child herself.
The French Chef in America: Julia Child'... The French Chef in America: Julia Child's Second Act - Alex Prud'Homme

I was excited to read more about Child after liking 'My Life in France'. It's been quite a while since I've read it but I being disappointed there wasn't more there. But since that book was so charming it seemed like this would be a good pickup.


This book picks up after the first one, but other reviews are right. There's a lot of rehashing of Child's book (which she also co-wrote with Prud'Homme) and unfortunately his voice here alone just isn't the same. Even though it's been a long time since I read 'Life' I was really bored overall with the beginning.


From there it doesn't really get that much better. It's a retelling of her career with what basically felt like padding talking about guests and it just didn't have the humor and charm of 'Life'. It was disappointing overall and did feel like Prud'Homme might have been trying to cash in on the Child name/brand. 


I'd skip this one. If you're really interested, I'd recommend the library or a cheap bargain buy.

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