what I’m reading: memory man by david baldacci.

Memory Man was my book club’s latest pick. Everyone loved the book; it was a great read.

After being violently injured in a football game, Amos Decker was left with an unbelievable side effect – a photographic memory that ensures he will never forget anything. It’s that memory that made him a great police detective, and it’s that memory that hasn’t let him forget the tragic murder of his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law. Since that horrific night, Amos left his job and his home and ekes out a simple living as a private investigator, living out of a motel. More than a year later, Amos is pulled back into the police world when a horrific event occurs that becomes linked to the murder of his family. In order to find out the truth of what happened, Amos must revisit that night and brave the memories he cannot forget.

I really enjoyed this book. The character of Amos Decker is an interesting and complex character. I loved that he is flawed and not a typical protagonist – he is overweight and out of shape, he has no tact, and doesn’t care what most people think. His memory makes him incredibly brilliant, as he is able to rewind and replay any event he has experienced since his football collision. He’s extremely curt and blunt and it takes a while to warm up to Amos, but I enjoyed the character.

I found this book to be a quick read, as I could not stop turning the pages. I found myself reading at random times because I would get sucked in. I would read on the bus to work and then would get angry when I was at my stop because I had to stop reading and I wanted to know what happened. I was constantly on the edge of my seat.

Memory Man is the first in a series and sets the basis for an interesting series. Without a doubt, I will be continuing reading.

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what I’m reading: white bodies by jane robins.

From a young age, Callie has been obsessed with her twin sister Tilda. Callie spends her time watching and observing as Tilda grows up to be an actress while Callie spends her days working in a bookstore. When Tilda invites Callie over to meet her new boyfriend Felix, Callie is struck by how neat, tidy, and domineering Felix is. Callie watches as Tilda seems to stop eating, stop acting, and does everything that Felix tells her.

Callie becomes even more worried when Tilda shows up with bruises on her arms. Convinced that Felix is hurting Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for controlling men where she becomes friends with some of the anonymous women posting on the forum. But when one of the women is killed by an abusive man and then Felix turns up dead, Callie begins to doubt herself and soon starts to wonder if Felix was murdered.

I’m sitting here, thinking of what I want to say about this book. On the one hand, I didn’t like any of the characters and I didn’t connect to anyone in this book. The characters were unreliable, creepy, and I didn’t understand anyone’s motivation. The central premise of the book revolves around Tilda and Callie’s strange twin/sister relationship. Callie is odd and a bit too obsessed with her sister. I found myself cringing at most of the things she did and conclusions she would jump to. We don’t learn much about Tilda, as we only see her through Callie’s eyes and how she interacts and speaks with Callie. Tilda’s motivations were always unclear and I didn’t really understand either her or Callie.

On the other hand, I thought the overall plot was creative and it kept me reading, despite the lack of character development. There’s a nod to “Strangers on a Train” and I felt that the mystery surrounding Felix’s death was really intriguing.

I would have liked a longer ending. I think that if there were more explanation, the characters would have seemed more real. Additionally, although the mystery was solved at the end, there were a couple of minor plot points that weren’t resolved which bothered me. This book may have been just a little too peculiar for me.

what I’m reading: nightblind by ragnar jónasson.

Nightblind is the next book in the Dark Iceland series and takes place 5 years after the events of Snowblind. Ari Thór Arason is a policeman in the town of Siglufjörður, a remote fishing village in Northern Iceland. His old partner has since moved south to Reykjavik and a new policeman has taken his place. When the new policeman is murdered during a routine patrol, Ari Thór worries that he could be next.

The Dark Iceland series consists of six books, all of them published in Icelandic. While Nightblind is not technically the 2nd book in the series, it is the 2nd book to be translated into English. Since the events in the first book, Snowblind, a lot has happened to Ari Thór. His girlfriend has moved to the city and they have a son together. He is no longer the new guy in town and is more confident of himself and as a police officer.

This book had a bit of a different tone than the last. The Arctic winter is closing in but there wasn’t that since of darkness and isolation that I felt in Snowblind. Unfortunately, I also wasn’t as invested in the murder. There were a couple of subplots about some of the other characters that I felt were way more interesting.

Additionally, the story is interspersed with journal entries from a psychiatric ward patient. It’s not clear until the end who the patient is or what connection they have to the story, but I was definitely more interested in that sub plot than in figuring out who killed the other policeman.

This book was fairly short, a little more than 200 pages, which surprised me. I am enjoying reading about this northern Icelandic village.

what I’m reading: jane and the twelve days of christmas by stephanie barron.

This is the 12th book in a series where Jane is an amateur sleuth. This book takes place in the later years of Jane’s life when she is about 39. Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park have all been published.

It’s the Christmas of 1814 and Jane, her sister Cassandra, and their mother are traveling to their brother James’ home for Christmas. On their way, their wagon has an accident and they are rescued by a Mr. West. When they arrived at James’ home, which we learn is Jane’s childhood home, they find his wife Mary who is prone to “megrims” and has a sense of melancholy about her (she seems likes a bit of a hypochondriac).

The Austen’s are invited the next day to join a Christmas celebration at The Vyne, home of William and Elizabeth Chute, an old friend of Jane’s. When they arrive, they discover other visitors including their rescuer from the day before, Mr. West, and the Gambiers. A snowstorm hits and the party becomes stranded at The Vyne for the next several days. A courier arrives bearing important political papers for Mr. Chute. However, after he departs, the courier is thrown from his horse and dies in what appears to be an accident. Jane however, is suspicious, and suspects he was murdered. Soon, one of the other party guests is found dead in an apparent accidental overdose. Jane is suspicious again and believes the young woman was murdered as well. Jane comes to the conclusion that someone at The Vyne must be the killer.

Narrated by Jane, this book is full of English customs and celebrations including a Yule log and a twelfth night celebration. I enjoyed all the little details about 19th century food and presents, especially Jane and Cassandra gifting their niece with a new doll outfit on each of the twelve days.

I thought this was a fun little cozy mystery. Because it is narrated by Jane, the book uses time period spelling for some of the words, which honestly I could have done without. It actually sometimes took me away from the story because I had to think about what the word was. I did think the mystery was interesting and I definitely didn’t know who the culprit was. Some of the conclusions and deductions made by Jane went over my head, but I guess that’s why I’m not an amateur sleuth.

what I’m reading: twelve days of christmas by debbie macomber.

It’s not Christmas until you read a Debbie Macomber holiday romance.

Julia’s neighbor Cain is the biggest Grinch. He’s grumpy, never smiles, and asks Julia to keep it down when she is singing Christmas carols. And to top it off, he has the nerve to steal her newspaper. Julia decides, that in the twelve days leading up to Christmas, to kill her neighbor with kindness in the hopes that she can change his Scrooge-like behavior. Julia starts blogging about her efforts and soon her blog goes viral.

What a fun and quick holiday read. This book was super short, about 200 pages, and the print seemed a bit large in the version I was reading. It was a typical Debbie Macomber book that contained all the elements of a holiday romance – a meet-cute in the elevator, Christmas cookies, a walk in the snow, Christmas carols. There was a grumpy boy and a sweet girl, with miscommunication between the two characters and a secret that could have been cleared up had they just been honest with one another.

The book does take place over 12 days, so some of the story lines seemed a bit rushed. I really liked some of the ways that Julia tried to win Cain over including baking him cookies, buying him coffee, delivering his newspaper to him personally, and bringing him soup when he gets the flu. Julia’s blog “posts” that detailed her endeavors and Cain’s reactions to them all were amusing and made me laugh. Of course, everything works out as it wouldn’t be a romance novel without a happy ending.

I did enjoy the message this book has of being nice to others and spreading kindness. Another entertaining Christmas read!

what I’m reading: chasing christmas eve by jill shalvis.

chasing christmas eve book coverIt’s December, and during the month of December, I like to read holiday themed novels.

Chasing Christmas Eve is the fourth book in Jill Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay series. I’ve adored this series since reading the first book last year. The cast of characters is so enjoyable and the neighborhood they inhabit in San Francisco is charming.

Colbie Albright is a bestselling young adult author who has a bad case of writer’s block. All the stress from her family and work has overwhelmed her so she decides to get away and takes a trip to San Francisco. She ends up literally running into Spencer Baldwin and falls into the fountain of the courtyard of the building Spence owns. The two hit it off but since Colbie is only in town for 2 weeks, just until Christmas, can they find a way to make a relationship work?

I really enjoyed this light and fun holiday romance. Many characters from the other books in the series made an appearance, but this book can also be read as a stand-alone. There is no real need to know the backstory of all the secondary characters in order to enjoy the book.

This is an amusing and quaint story and it was the perfect start to my holiday reading.

what I’m reading: snowblind by ragnar jónasson.

snowblind book coverAri Thór Arason is a rookie policeman who has taken his first job in Siglufjörður, a remote fishing village in Northern Iceland. When an elderly man falls to his death down a flight of stairs and then a young woman is found bleeding and unconscious lying in the snow, the town wonders if there is a killer loose in their midst.

This is a slow moving whodunit, in a town where anyone can be a suspect. The town is so close knit that everyone knows everyone and none of the townspeople want to believe that a person they’ve known since they were young can be a killer.

I picked this book up because it takes place in Iceland and I love reading about Iceland. That said, Iceland and the city of Siglufjörður are one of the main characters in this book. The story takes place during January so there is not a lot of sunlight to be seen. The snow and the darkness and the fishing village history play such a part and by the end you feel as if you are right in Iceland with Ari Thór. As the book goes on and bodies are found, an avalanche cuts off the only road in and out of Siglufjörður. The sense of darkness and claustrophobia builds tension in the town until Ari Thór is not sure he can take the stress.

I have to confess this book was a bit hard to read because I couldn’t pronounce all of the Icelandic names. As a result, I ended up skipping over many person’s names which made it hard for me to remember who was who.

This book is the first in a series of Icelandic novels translated into English and I am curious to find out what happens next to Ari Thór.