Hey hey, it’s Lightning Reviews time! If you’re new to the site, this is where we run a couple reviews at a time that are on the shorter side at around 500 words or less. Sometimes you read something and there isn’t enough to say to fill up a full review, and that’s okay!
This time, we have nonfiction and romantic suspense!
author: Laura Griffin
Miranda is a burnt-out forensic photographer who has escaped to Lost Beach to shoot photographs for a birding calendar. Lost Beach, a small island just off the coast of Texas, has a small police department staffed with capable, if stretched police officers. Joel is one of those detectives. Right off the bat, we know that something happened in San Antonio that made Miranda run, but what is it?
While out in her canoe shooting photographs at sunrise for the calendar, Miranda sees a canoe stuck in the reeds. Inside, she finds two people, wrapped up in each other’s arms. They are dead. She reports this to the police and in the aftermath, she meets Joel, who is appointed lead detective on the case.
My perfect romantic suspense has a plot that is strong enough to stand as a mystery on its own, along with some sexy tension between my hero and heroine. Chuck in some serious competence p0rn and you have me signed, sealed and delivered into reading heaven.
This book delivered. There were enough red herrings that I wasn’t able to guess the killer and did a literal gasp at the reveal. The sexual tension between Joel and Miranda is delicious! And I love love loved how competent all the characters are. Miranda, in particular, is REALLY good at her job even if she has a complicated relationship with her profession.
There are also three points of view: Joel, Miranda, and Nicole, Joel’s protege and detective-in-training. She’s smart, capable and keeps hitting walls. I expected to be frustrated with the move away from the main characters, but her perspective added depth to the book. She uncovers clues and comes up with some pretty convincing theories to explain that evidence.
Flight offers readers a terrific romantic suspense with a world of competence, sexual tension, big emotions, and outstanding mystery. I enthusiastically recommend it.
The Library Book
author: Susan Orlean
The Library Book by Susan Orlean is a gripping piece of nonfiction. Using the 1986 Los Angeles Library Fire as a framing device, Orlean explores the mystery of how and by whom the fire was started as well as the history of the Los Angeles Public Library and how libraries today are changing to meet modern needs.
Orlean goes into detail about the fire itself, which makes for agonizing, informative, and emotionally gripping reading. The story of the lead suspect, Harry Peal, is also sad, and contains an enormous amount of homophobia (expressed in interviews by Pearl’s family members).
However, overall the book is inspiring rather than depressing. I loved the stories of LA’s first librarians and their different personalities and visions for the library. The stories and lists from past librarians are funny and often gently baffling, as when Orlean shares some of the questions the Reference Department answered on one day in 1937. Questions included “Burial customs of Hawaii,” “What Romeo looked like,” and “Whether immortality can be perceived in the iris of an eye.” I’m also fond of the unorthodox use of library books as messaging systems, as in this note in a library books from 1914:
Dear Jennie, Where are you keeping yourself? I have searched three cities for you and advertised in vain. Knowing that you like books, I am writing this appeal in every library book I can get ahold of in hope that it may come to your eyes. Write to me at the old address.
This book is an interesting look at the Los Angeles Library from its first opening to the present day, with some speculation about the future. I was impressed with the structure, which kept things moving quickly while still imparting information and a gripping story. It’s not a comprehensive look at libraries in general (for that, I recommend Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles) but takes a single location and tracks it through time, which means we get the history of Los Angeles, the history of the people who work at and visit the library, and the history of the actual building. I felt a huge investment in the location by the time I finished the first couple of chapters, despite never having been there.
This book fell short for me because it included some material that I thought was unnecessary (for instance, Orlean describes setting fire to a book to see what it feels like) but not going in depth as much as I would have liked about other pieces of history. It can also be a frustrating book since it raises some questions that cannot be conclusively answered.
Overall, it’s an entertaining read. I’ll close with this passage, which describes efforts to rescue books from the library building, which was both burned and soaked with water. If any books were to be saved, then they needed to be removed from the building quickly:
The volunteers worked for the next three days around the clock. Most were strangers to each other, drawn together unexpectedly, and worked for hours, diligently and peacefully. They formed a human chain, passing books hand over hand from one person to the next, through the smoky building and out the door. It was as if, in this urgent moment, the people of Los Angeles formed a living library. They created, for a short time, a system to protect and pass along shared knowledge, to save what we know for each other, which is what libraries do every day.
– Carrie S