Iron Lake

Iron Lake (Cork O'Connor, #1)Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe a 3.5. I like the literate writing, the setting, the characters, and the Native American take on things. Not a cozy, and not a police procedural. Cork is the ex-sheriff with a huge chip on his shoulder and a talent for getting into harm’s way. But he is likeable and people talk to him. He can bridge both sides of the white vs. Native American distrust. Despite his faults he does seem to have a strong moral center. A strong start to a popular series. I did think the plot was a bit convoluted and contrived. The red herrings didn’t fool me, but there were too many bodies, too many crimes and killers even though they were all connected in a way. The ending was kind of disappointing and clichéd. I enjoy learning things, but the occasional back story, history, and Native American exposition seemed dropped into the story in large chunks which was a little distracting. I was also very disappointed that he killed off a very promising character and one of my favorites. One presumes that Cork will get back together with his estranged wife in future stories, but in this one she is cold and rather unlikeable. So I don’t really care if he does or not. I am not invested enough to want to continue the series. I’ll go back and read more David Housewright first.

Book description: Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Corcoran “Cork” O’Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. Embittered by his “former” status, and the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children, Cork gets by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt. Once a cop on Chicago’s South Side, there’s not much that can shock him. But when the town’s judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on a mind-jolting case of conspiracy, corruption, and scandal.

As a lakeside blizzard buries Aurora, Cork must dig out the truth among town officials who seem dead-set on stopping his investigation in its tracks. But even Cork freezes up when faced with the harshest enemy of all: a small-town secret that hits painfully close to home.

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An Echo in the Bone

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7)An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Negative: Too long, too confusing with four different plot lines, pacing – we get bogged down with nothing happening and then everything happens at once, too many incidental characters that serve no real purpose, a number of incontinuities with previous books and even within this book (Willie and Ian, Jamie and Willie, etc.), characters in contrived situations that seem quite out of character (Claire and Lord John – seriously?), and of course four different cliff hanger endings. Well, I can wait for the next book. And in the meantime I feel as if I need to go back and reread the entire series from the beginning to try and sort everything out. This one desperately needed some serious editing.

Positive: I still love all the characters – Jamie and Claire, Roger and Bree, Jemmy and Mandy, Ian and Rachel, and Lord John. Not sure about Willie yet. And I like Lord John better in his own books. He seems a bit stiff in this one. I still love the immense period detail and descriptions of every day life. In the end, that’s all this book comes down to, because the plot arc is not resolved, but to be continued… probably in at least two more books. And I still love how Davina Porter (narrator) handles the various voices.

Book Description:
Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun.

Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles–as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.

With stunning cameos of historical characters from Benedict Arnold to Benjamin Franklin, An Echo in the Bone is a soaring masterpiece of imagination, insight, character, and adventure–a novel that echoes in the mind long after the last page is turned.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. Yes, the characters are caricatures, with exaggerated faults. Yes, the Major comes across as a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. But that all adds to the comedy of manners. The witty dialog had me laughing out loud many times over. Like a television sit-com, do not expect this to be an accurate representation of life in small-town England. I loved the upside-down take on things: older people finding love, and the more tradition-bound characters actually being more open-minded and willing to change. Along the way the author isn’t afraid to poke fun at cultural differences, the generation gap, religion, selfishness and greed. She reminds us that old people can love and grow, that good people sometimes make mistakes, and that the “quiet” things in life have value. And besides, my favorite scene takes place in Wales. This is a book that I will keep and reread. I hope there will be a sequel and perhaps a movie!

Book Description:
In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?