June 22, 2015

Confessions of a Key West Cabby by Michael Suib

Confessions of a Key West Cabby; there has got to be some great stories in this one!  Well, sort of.  In fact, there really wasn't anything that exciting or notable in these quick vignettes from Michael Suib.  Sure, they were charming, but not all were relevant and the ones that really engaged me were far and few between.

Michael Suib, disenchanted with his life as a businessman, packs up and moves south with his wife to Key West.  Among many odd jobs, he takes a job driving a cab in Key West.  It's through this job that he encounters all sorts of characters, both locals and tourists.  He gathers his stories into a few different sections such as "Love" (guess what these stories are about?), "Southernmost Homeless" (about the key's inhabitants who don't have a roof over their head), and others.

Suib definitely encounters some characters.  Or at least, he describes them as such.  I found the tourists to be some of the brashest.  The homeless residents seemed to be like homeless people everywhere, and didn't have any defining characteristics that made them stand out or of note above the sad state that they are in.  The tourists on the other hand could be quite horrible.  And they definitely follow the rule that people act worse away from home.  Luckily Suib had a no-nonsense approach to offensive customers and promptly would eject them from his cab.

The little stories were entertaining, and easy to read in small bits.  But most of them weren't that interesting and I found myself questioning why they were in there.  Some I didn't even really understand.  Such as the lady who was looking for a decent meal for her nephew/grandson/whatever he was.  Maybe I missed something but I didn't understand that story at all.  Others were good, such as the offensive or racist people that he removed from his cab.  It gave you a sense of justice.

Just ok, nothing special.  I really don't feel like I know Key West any better.  These stories could have happened at any tourist destination and weren't unique to the locale.

Confessions of a Key West Cabby
Copyright 2003
197 pages

June 21, 2015

Maiden Voyages by Mary Morris

There have always been women travelers, but they haven't been as prominent in the media's eyes and their works have perhaps garnered less attention than they should have.  This book compiles the letters, short excerpts of novels of several women travelers over the past couple centuries. 

Starting in the late 1600's, collections of writings from women traveler's have been compiled in this book and they span until the late 1900's.  Some tell of adventures they took with their husbands.  Others are solitary travelers and were only able to travel after they were relieved from taking care of their family.  Some traveled just for fun while others went with a specific purpose in mind, like hunting butterflies.

Each of the writer's had their own style.  Some gave great detail, while others were more focused on the reasoning behind the travels and the emotions evoked while traveling.  Because of this, there were some stories that I enjoyed and some that I found myself just briefly flipping through as I didn't care for the description or subject matter.  I did enjoy the story of the two girls traveling down the river.  It was unique and an adventure that not many can say they have done.  Because there are so many stories, it is easy to just pick up this book randomly and only read one or two at a time, there's no need to read the book in one sitting.

This was an interesting collection of writings.  If you like travel or women's studies,  it would probably be right up your alley.

Maiden Voyages
Copyright 1993
438 pages

June 14, 2015

Roast Mortem by Cleo Coyle

So I made the mistake of not realizing this was the 9th book in a series.  I don't blame myself too much.  There was nothing on the cover to indicate it and I just picked it up in the free box at a local bookstore (which should have told me something).  I like cozy mysteries, but this one just didn't have authentic characters or believable dialogue.

Clare Cosi is the manager of a coffee shop and it's more than work, at this point it is her life.  She has a grown daughter, a detective boyfriend, and a coffee buyer ex-husband who she is still on friendly terms with.  When she and her ex-mother in law go to visit a friend to pick up some machinery, they don't expect to get caught in a blast and subsequent fire when his coffee shop goes up in flames.  And Clare doesn't think that it's an accident, she thinks its arson.  Especially when other fires start breaking out and she finds herself in the middle of the mystery.

None of the characters in this had authentic voices.  Maybe it's because I haven't read the others, but calling your ex-mother in law "Madame" (and every other character calling her that too, was just plain weird to me).  Then you have the chief firefighter using a bazillion pck up lines as well and it just seems unbelievable.  And that's how a lot of the conversations went in the first half of the book.  Thankfully it seemed to tone out a bit as the book went on and the dialogue sounded how people actually talk in real life.  Although he didn't stop hitting on her despite being told to leave her alone, not really a great guy.  Add in a somewhat controlling boyfriend (although the author is careful to point out that Clare is not apologizing while she's explaining herself) and I can't say I liked any of the main males in this book.  Clare herself is hard to keep up with as she's very sporadic in her actions.

There were a lot of different mysteries going on in this book.  Like the story of the feud between her boyfriend and the fire chief (convoluted beyond what was necessary and no good reason for not sharing the whole truth).  The arsons, the deaths, and a few other things as well.  And it wasn't a simple story either.  In fact, too much going on and too many players in the game.  Maybe that reflects real life, but it seemed too coincidental to me.  And some of the clues that were really pertinent weren't given until the last few pages so you couldn't really try to solve the mystery ahead of time, which may disappoint some people.  I did enjoy all the descriptions of food in the book though, and appreciated that there were recipes at the end of the book.  To me, that's the best part of the book.  Can never go wrong with tasty food.

Not for me.  I can't say I'll be looking up any others in the series anytime soon.

Roast Mortem
Copyright 2010
350 pages

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

I'd have to say, that out of the three books in this series, I found this one the strongest.  It had plenty of plot twists, the best pacing out of all of them, and complex characters.  And being that it's a trilogy you definitely have to at least read the second book before this one (the first has its own storyline and isn't quite as important).  And that being said, I will be including details from the 2nd book in this review, so if you haven't read it, you're about to find out key plot elements if you continue reading.

Lisbeth is in the hospital after being shot in the head and buried alive by her father and brother.  Because she is wanted by the police, she has to remain there even as her health slowly improves because one she leaves, she'll be transferred to prison.  While she heals, Mikael, her journalist friend, is searching desperately for all the key evidence that will prove her innocence, and gearing up for a big expose of his own in which several key government officials will have much to worry about.  The problem is that there's someone trying to shut him down before he can destroy an organization that has long been hidden in the shadows.

Lisbeth was more likable this time around.  She's still strange, but she shows a little more humanity in this book and it makes you start to sympathize with her even more.  She also does what she wants though, and is very independent.  Mikael I liked at about the same level, which is to say not much at all.  I find him too "perfect" and his ease of getting women into bed unbelievable.  It kind of detracts from the story honestly (not the sex scenes, just the fact that he's in them).  Yes he is a good guy, just not one that I like very much.  Erica featured a little more in this story, and I was glad to have more information on her, because I find her character interesting, albeit a  little strange.

The pacing was much better in this book.  Sure there's still more detail than you really need, but its more condensed and the story moves along at a moderate pace.  It wasn't as hard to drag yourself through the first half of the book (like you had to with the others).  I also liked that it tied up the loose ends, yet was still exciting and had you at the edge of your seat for most of it.  I found myself getting frustrated with the bad guys, which is a good emotion to have when you're reading a book, it means it's written well. 

This was definitely a strong conclusion and my favorite book out of the three.  If you haven't tried this series and like suspenseful books with maybe just a tad too much detail, this is definitely one to check out.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Copyright 2007
658 pages

June 11, 2015

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

I've become a fan of this series since reading them all.  Which is why it pains me to give this book only three stars.  But if I'm being honest,  I was utterly bored for the first half of this book.  Which is exactly the same way I felt about the first book as well.  And as good as the 2nd half is, well, if only half a book is riveting...

This book is the second in a trilogy, however, I do think it could be read independently of the first book.   They are completely different storylines and you wouldn't lose much detail.  However, the third book you have to read after this one, and it could not be read before.  Lisbeth is in trouble.  Despite her being socially off, she did not commit some murders that the police are pinning on her.  Even though all the evidence points to her.  She has to evade the police while trying to figure out what happened and only has a few friends she can count on.  Namely a journalist who she had helped in the past but decided to cut ties with, and her old employer.  The truth is out there, but Lisbeth has a lot of odds stacked against her and a ton of people looking for her.

Lisbeth is an odd character.  She certainly isn't likable, but because of all the injustices against her you can't help but root for her.  She's also incredibly smart, so much so that things that are difficult for most come easy to her.  And it's why she can survive when it seems like everyone is out to get her.  Mikael, the reporter, I find too much of a ladies man.  His relationships never seem authentic.  And while he's a kind person, he just doesn't hold a lot of appeal to me.  It was the side characters that really made the story this time.  Great officers, both good and bad, with detailed personalities.  It was like you were interacting with real people.  And the characters are where the strength of this book is.  Without them, it would simply be an action story.

The level of detail in this book is astounding.  And I think that is what made the first half of the book so slow and hard to get through.  I really didn't care about every single piece of furniture that Lisbeth bought for her apartment, down to the exact name from Ikea.  Or what precise shade of clothing everyone was wearing.  I just wanted it to get to the dialogue and the story.  Sometimes too much of a good thing makes it bad.  But that being said, the second half of the book was exceptionally engaging.  I couldn't put it down and stayed up way too late on a work night to find out what happened.  Only to have a surprise at the end that made me want to immiedately start the next book in the series.  Larsson definitely redeemed himself and kept me wanting more.

Slow to start but a powerful finish, if you liked the first book or any books about intrigues, this is probably going to be a hit.

The Girl Who Played With Fire
Copyright 2006
724 pages