Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Couple of Random Reviews

I've got a couple of reviews for books that came to me in similar fashion.  One is Haven's Wake, by Ladette Randolph, and the other is The Missing File, by D.A. Mishani.

I got Haven's Wake from Mary Bisbee-Beek, who is the publicist for Rayme Waters.  She sent me 2 books.  This is the 2nd one.  The 1st one, The Tree of Forgetfulness, was one I would just as soon have forgotten.  But Mary assured me that I would like Haven's Wake better.  Is she right?  Actually, she is.  I do like this book.  It's not great, but it's a solid 2.5.

The story is not very complicated.  Haven and Elsa Grebel, in their early 80's, live on a farm in a Mennonite community in rural Nebraska.  At the beginning of the story (no spoiler alert here), Haven has an accident and is killed by a tractor.  The rest of the book, which takes place over 4 days, basically centers on Haven's and Elsa's family.  Their kids, grandkids, and siblings all come for the funeral, of course, and bring their dysfunction, quirks, and oddities with them.

Various authors have recommended Haven's Wake.  They have said it's a "tale of love and loyalty;" "...the story of the restorative power of family and tradition;" it "traces the finest of lines between what counts as betrayal and what counts as fidelity in a family;" and "A song of a story - uplifting, tender, heart-shattering."  Call me an insensitive troglodyte (if you don't know this word, look it up - it's a very cool word), but I don't really get any of that.  For me, it is a nicely written story about the death of a patriarch and the odd assortment of family members that every family has.  But would I recommend it?  Yes, I would - and do.

As for D.A. Mishani's book, it came to me from HarperCollins.  Every few months, HC (I hope I don't get in trouble for using an illegal acronym!) sends out a short list of ARC's, both fiction and non-, for bloggers to choose from.  It's up to us to pick what looks interesting.  In this case, I thought The Missing File would be interesting.  I was only half right (2 out of 4).  The book was written in Hebrew and translated into English (obviously).  The book is about a policeman in a city outside of Tel Aviv called Holon.  A 16-year old boy turns up missing, and the police investigator in charge of the investigation, Avraham Avraham (I'm not making this up), starts working on the  case.

I wasn't bored, but I wasn't engaged either.  I didn't really care very much.  The auxiliary characters - the boy's parents, Avi's boss and 2 co-detectives, the weird neighbor downstairs from the family - are just not very interesting.  In fact, the book really picks up in the last 2 pages! - I kid you not!  I will say that I find it interesting that the last 3 words in the book are TO BE CONTINUED.  You don't see that very often.  Normally, it's just understood that the next in the series (The Missing File is book one in the Detective Avraham series - in fact, this is Mishani'a 1st book, period) picks up where the previous one leaves off.  Maybe it's more honest to actually state that.

I don't blame HarperCollins for this.  I was the one who chose the book.  And as my 8-year old (as of yesterday) granddaughter says:  "You made a bad choice."  It's better than bad, but not good enough to recommend or read book 2.

NOTE OF BEFUDDLEMENT:  There are about a dozen places in Haven's Wake that substitute 2 or 3 overlapping capital letters, in boldface, for words.  Could they be typos?  The book, after all, is an ARC.  If that's not the case, then I have no idea what they mean.  I guess I could have tried to find out before writing the blog - but I didn't.  So, sue me.  I will ask Mary and try to remember to let you all know in a future blog.  No promises, though.


  1. When I've read a book that's been translated, I often wonder if I missed something by not reading it in it's original language - I wonder if that's the case with The Missing File.

  2. I definitely agree with you. When I read Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I actually commented in the blog about what a great job I thought the interpreter did. In this case, though, I think the interpretation is fine. It's just the book that didn't grab.

  3. It's hard to accept free books and then 1. have to read/finish them even if you don't want to and 2. feel like you should like them because they were given to you for publicity. I've scaled back on accepting books over the years and don't accept from authors directly (I've broken this rule this month by accepting the newest book from an author I adore as a writer and person, sue me :))
    ARCs often have typos so that's probably what it was.

  4. The only publisher that I work with regularly is HarperCollins. They send a list of books to choose from every 3 months. I normally take 1, or 2 at the most. I don't mind working through something I don't much care for as long as I get plenty of opportunities to read what I do like. And, you're right, the typos can be distracting.