Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 Book Reviews: Water for Elephants and Death at La Fenice

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen (2 1/1 - 3 stars)

Jacob Jankowski is 93 years old and living in a nursing home. When the circus comes to town it brings back memories of his younger years, memories of a time he never has talked about, until now. When Jacob was 22 both his parents were killed in a car accident, leaving him with nothing. Completely lost and unsure of what the future holds he hops a train to get away and ends up on a circus train. He's a vet, so they take a liking to him and hire him as the circus vet.

There he meets a cast of characters: Kinko, the dwarf, and his roommate, August, the animal trainer and schizophrenic, Marlena, who is married to August and is so beautiful that Jacob is immediately in love, and Rosie the elephant and star performer.

The book follows this circus and these characters as they cross the country and deal with the ups and downs of the depression era times. I thought that the author took the reader seemlessly from 93 year old Jacob's real time situation to Jacob's memories. And while there were many endearing characters, I felt that the author skimmed the surface with this book. The storyline that she decided to tell I found weak and predictable and when I got to the end I just wasn't satisfied. There were so many interesting components and side stories to this book that I wish she had chosen to elaborate on as opposed to the ones that she did.

All in all I would say that the book was just OK and definitely overhyped.

Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon (4 stars)

In Donna Leon's first Commissario Brunetti series, Death at La Fenice, the famous conductor Helmut Wellauer is found dead in his dressing room. The cause: cyanide poisoning. Commissario Brunetti is called to action and before long the list of growing suspects is daunting. Realizing that he needs to learn more about the man before he can learn who had killed him and why, Brunetti sets out to learn as much about Wellauer's past as he can...thus, unlocking the key to the mystery.

I read this book, because as you know by now I'm trying to read books that take place in Italy, just to keep me in that place as our trip looms nearer and nearer each day! This was my 3rd Commissario Brunetti book and I have to say that this one was the most enjoyable. I felt that Leon actually developed a well thought out mystery that had me guessing until the end. While not as fast paced and thrilling as other mysteries there is something likable about Commissario Brunetti. I'll probably read more of this series in the future.

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