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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Shattered Tree and The Twilight Wife

The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd is the 8th book in the Bess Crawford series by the mother and son team who write as Charles Todd.

Set in 1918 in the last throes of WWI, Bess Crawford, a nursing sister, overhears a wounded French soldier make an outburst in perfect German.  When Bess questions this, it is suggested that the soldier may have been raised in Alsace Lorraine, annexed by the Germans in 1870, which would mean that speaking German would have become a necessity.  

When Bess is injured by a sniper, she is sent to Paris to convalesce and coincidentally catches a glimpse of the soldier dressed in an American uniform.  Her curiosity is again aroused, and she decides to investigate.  What is the man's story?  Is he a German spy--the one all of Paris has been searching for?  

Hampered by her injury and a lack of her usual resources, Bess nevertheless proceeds in her own investigation (with quite a few subplots).   Sort of hampered.  Bess sure gets around after being shot, treated, then operated on for an infection caused by a portion of a button that was not removed during the first treatment.  Tougher than many of the injured soldiers, our Bess.

The Todds write two series that have their beginnings in WWI, the original series features Inspector Ian Rutledge; later they added the Bess Crawford series.  

The content and style of the two series differ, and I've always preferred the original series, which is darker and more psychological.  DI Ian Rutledge is a victim of shell-shock and must struggle with his hallucinations of Hamish, who functions as a kind of Greek chorus.  The earlier novels in the series deal with some of the most detrimental effects of WWI on both soldiers and society at large.  The Inspector Rutledge novels are complex and intricately plotted--well-rounded characters and atmospheric settings.

The Bess Crawford series is more mystery and less psychological with more complicated, but less complex plots.  They come across as intense cozy mysteries--still dealing with the casualties of war, but as sidelines to the mystery plots.

Library copy.

Historic Mystery.  2016.  304 pages.

The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner is yet another woman with amnesia story, but a rather predictable one that doesn't feel realistic.  While it does begin with interest, the middle and the conclusion lose the sense of genuine suspense.  Wrapped up nicely and tied with a bow.

The premise is interesting, if difficult to believe, but the characters had no real depth.

The novel was readable, but the comparison to Sharon Bolton is far-fetched.  This is just my personal view of the book.  There are many positive reviews.


Mystery.  Dec. 27, 2016.  Print length:  304 pages.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October and Edward Gorey

I'd love to visit the Edward Gorey House !  His illustrations are so charming, and I loved the way PBS's Mystery incorporated them into their introduction.  Gorey also illustrated T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

No question that the man loved cats.

Years ago, my daughter gave me one of his cat pins.  
It just exudes joy!  
This little fellow is my favorite pin of all time.  :)

The Gorey House has an annual envelope contest
and you can find the 2015 winners here.
one of the 2015 winners

You can download the 2016 entry form here. 
What a fun and creative challenge for kids.  :)

I've been putting out all of my Eccentric figures for Halloween, sorting out witches and goblins and ghosts and various monsters.  

I've begun one new creature to send to my daughter Erin, who is excited about giving a Halloween party in her new house.  They moved in after Halloween last year, so this is there first spooky October.  Her boyfriend teased her about trying to create a school carnival, but school carnivals are so much fun!  The kids are very involved in the planning, so bobbing for apples may or may not be part of the activities--might be bad for costumes and makeup.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier may or may not be the last in this series.  Originally planned as a trilogy, the characters of Blackthorn & Grim have reached a satisfying conclusion, and yet many readers are not ready for the series to end.

I liked Den of Wolves much more Tower of ThornsThe characters of Blackthorn and Grim have more depth and variety in this latest adventure, and again, Marillier melds plot, folklore, and myth in an intriguing way.  

Grim separated from Blackthorn more than he would like when he undertakes the job of helping the crippled Bardan build the heartwood house for Tolas, the master of Wolf Glen and Cara's father.  Grim takes pity on Bardan and is unhappy with the way he is treated by everyone at Wolf Glen.  Grim, big of body and huge of heart, cannot leave Bardan unprotected. 

Blackthorn is asked to befriend Cara, the child-woman who tells stories to trees while birds perch on her shoulders; who loves her father, but is more comfortable with Gorman, the forester who taught her to carve; who is sent away from her beloved Wolf Glen without understanding why; and who eventually reveals great strength under apparent fragility.

Mathuin, the Laois chieftan, remains a specter throughout the first of the novel, and while Blackthorn continues to fear that he has spies who will discover her whereabouts--the secrets of Wolf Glen dominate most of the story.

Near the end, however, the connection to Mathuin is renewed.  

If Marillier chooses to let Blackthorn and Grim go for a while, Cuan and Segan and the rest of the Swan Island Warriors would make a fitting diversion.  I would happily see these characters develop and have no doubt that the author would find fitting plots for them.

Read in Aug.; blog review scheduled for Oct. 17

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing Group

Fantasy/Myth.  Nov. 1, 2016.  Print length:  448 pages.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Beneath the Ashes and The Next

Beneath the Ashes by Jane Isaacs is the second in the DI Will Jackman series.  I read the first, Before Its Too Late, last year.  Jackman's wife suffers from locked in syndrome after a car crash, and while there is less about this aspect of his life than in the first novel, Jackman is still grieving and feeling guilty about his wife's condition.

brief description:  Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.  (source:  NetGalley description)

And then there is the body in the barn.  Jackman needs to solve the case before something happens to Nancy.

NetGalley/Legend Press

Police procedural.  Nov. 1, 2016.  Print length:  280 pages.

The Next by Stephanie Gangi came in the mail.  A lot of the advanced reader copies that arrive in my mailbox now are cozy mysteries or are books that I've already read from NetGalley.    

The Next was certainly different.  It starts out with a dying Johanna and her grown daughters who disagree about what should be done in Johanna's final days.  This part is sad, but interesting.

However, the novel then proceeds into a long section about Johanna's anger at her abandonment by her much younger lover who has moved on to a rich younger woman who is now pregnant with his child.  When Johanna dies, she finds herself as a ghostly spirit who has the ability to influence events in the earthly plane.  

Things get sticky here as ghostly Johanna's focus is on a combination of sexual frustration and revenge.  I found this portion unattractive and just as I was about to stop reading, the story switches to a final section--which was interesting and diverges from the content in previous sections.

The book has a split personality:  a serious and sad and short first section; the unpleasant middle, full of a lustful, vengeful ghost; and the sweet and sentimental conclusion.  The ingredients didn't blend well for me.

Reviews are mixed and many are extremely positive, but almost all of them seem a bit uncomfortable with the obsessive, lascivious ghost (maybe not in so many words) before Johanna moves into the light.  Spoiler:  with her dog.

Conclusion:  interesting, and if the sexual component had been missing, I might have liked it better, but I found that frenetic compulsion unpleasant.

Favorite character:  Tom, the faithful dog.

Supernatural?  2016.  309 pages.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Rage of Plum Blossoms by Christine M. Whitehead

The Rage of Plum Blossoms by Christine M. Whitehead was so much fun!  

When Quinn Jones learns her beloved husband Jordan Chang is dead, she is devastated--even more so because the police have ruled Jordan's death a suicide, something Quinn can not accept.  

It takes months for Quinn to pull herself out of a deep depression and decide to prove that her husband was murdered.  

Since all of their friends have accepted the suicide conclusion, Quinn inadvertently begins building her own team through accidental encounters.  It is here that the book begins to shine with sensitive characterization and humor.

As a murder mystery there are weaknesses, but as a novel about people, The Rage of Plum Blossoms beguiles.  The motley crew Quinn assembles through chance meetings imparts charm and humor to the plot.  Diverse as Bernie, Sam, and Ryan are, each contributes not only expertise, but genuine support for Quinn's quest to find who murdered her husband and why.

I loved the characters and enjoyed the lively and entertaining escapades of Quinn and her team of allies.  

NetGalley/Kindle Press

Mystery.  Sept. 27, 2016.  Print length:  273 pages.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Inheritance by Charles Finch

The Inheritance by Charles Finch is set in Victorian England and continues this historical mystery series that I've enjoyed for several years.

When private investigator Charles Lennox receives a message from Gerald Leigh, an old school friend, he is eager to see him, but when Lennox tries to get in touch with his friend, he finds that he has disappeared.  After finally locating  Leigh, Lennox learns that the reason for his friend's disappearance is that someone has tried to kill him. 

The novel contains many reminisces of Lennox and Leigh's friendship as adolescents at Harrow and the mystery the two tried--and failed--to solve about who was funding Leigh's expensive education.  

Leigh, now a prominent scientist, has returned to England, summoned by a lawyer who is handling a large, anonymous bequest left to Leigh.  Lennox and Leigh want to discover if this is the same benefactor who paid for Leigh's schooling at Harrow and what the inheritance has to do with someone trying to murder him.

read in July; blog review scheduled for Oct. 10

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Historic Mystery.  Nov. 1, 2016.  Print length:  304 pages.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Evan Currie's Scourwind Legacy: Heirs of Empire and

Heirs of Empire by Evan Currie is the first in his new series The Scourwind Legacy. Although it does not compare to the Currie's Odyssey One series, I enjoyed this lighter scifi/fantasy mix.  

There is a backstory here that is only touched on briefly, but the book begins with the escape of General Corian, a traitor responsible for thousands of deaths.  Although Corian's escape is ultimately successful, the damage inflicted by Cadrewoman Mira Delsol is severe.  The General's forces manage to take the capital, and the emperor and his eldest son are killed; however, Lydia and Brennan, the emperor's younger children manage to escape.

Lots of action and futuristic weapons, interesting characters without a lot of character development, but this first book's purpose is mainly to set up future books.

It is quite different from the Odyssey books that I'm so fond of and has more of a YA novel feel, but it is fast-paced and fun.  Mira Delsol's role as the kick-ass cadrewoman keeps things moving.

(I received and read An Empire Asunder from NetGalley before finding Heirs of Empire, the first in the series.)

Kindle Unlimited

Space Opera.  2015.  Print version:  352 pages.

An Empire Asunder continues the battle between General Corian and the Scourwind heirs and their supporters.

The back story on General Corian's original attempt at a coup remains a blank, and although he sees his rebellion as an effort to save the Empire, the threat that motivates Corian is still unclear.  And he is a bit obsessive.  Obviously, if he must destroy thousands of lives and entire cities to save the Empire...the end justifies the means, and he is just the man for the job.

Lydia, as the older twin and heir to the throne, has assumed her role as empress, and Brennan trains for the cadre. However,  Corian and his allies are not finished yet.  There are traitors embedded everywhere who intend to do their best to see Corian succeed.  The Empire is, indeed, split asunder.

Former cadrewoman Mira Delsol has unfinished business with Corian, but as usual things go awry, and Brennan is left to warn the Empire--if he can escape in time to do it.

Like Heirs of Empire, An Empire Asunder is fun and suspenseful.  The characters have continued to develop, but they are still the archetypal roles typical of this kind of good/vs evil format.  While Lydia has a very small role in this one, I expect the next book will give her more attention.  It is Mira Delsol and Brennan, however, who keep the action going.

Scifi-lite but lively and entertaining.  

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for 10/8/16

NetGalley/47 North

Space Opera.  Nov. 15, 2016.  Print length:  334 pages.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Murder Game by Catherine McKenzie Writing as Julie Apple

The Murder Game by Julie Apple (or Catherine McKenzie) sets up a an usual murder plot that takes years to come to fruition.  Yes, as several reviewers have mentioned, there is definitely a The Secret History vibe to the book, but TMG moves at a faster pace and doesn't get bogged down with all of the erudition of TSH.  

A combination of psychological thriller and legal drama, The Murder Game pulls the reader into the lives of four friends who were close-knit in law school, but have largely gone their separate ways since.   Apple/McKenzie quickly establishes that atmosphere of slight unease that continues to increase. 

Alternating chapters switch back and forth from the present to a decade or more earlier during the law school years, giving the reader some necessary background about personalities and situations. Was it just a game at the time of its conception? Julie's account obviously omits certain information that leaves both past and present somewhat ambiguous.   

The characters remain sort of clinical despite the details given to "warm them up," and yet that is precisely what is required in this type novel--a since of distance.

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Oct.

NetGalley/Lawsome Books

Mystery/Suspense/Legal Thriller.   Nov.1, 2016.  Print length:  303 pages.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Murderer's Son by Joy Ellis

Thanks to NetGalley, I discovered Joy Ellis' Nikki Galena series set in the Lincolnshire Fens.  The Murderer's Son, a stand alone, is set in the Saltern-Le-Fen constabulary and introduces a new cast of intriguing characters. 

The prologue relates the details of a vicious murder that took place in 1993.  In 2015,  DCI Rowan Jackman and  DS Marie Evans are confronted with another murder that has some similarities to the 1993 case.

Daniel Kinder walks into the station and confesses to the murder, but neither Jackman nor Evans are convinced that he is responsible.

Daniel suffers from fugue states and believes that he is the son of the "blonde butcher" who was convicted of 1993 murders.  

As in the Nikki Galena series, Ellis creates a framework of characters and setting that feels authentic.  I liked the way the various members of the constabulary worked together and the possibility of getting to know them better in future novels.  Ellis also keeps you left-footed about the murderer.  

This stand alone is every bit as good as the Galena series, and I hope to read more about DCI Jackman and DS Marie Evans.  And Orac. 

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Oct. 4

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery/Police Procedural.  2016.  Print length:  283 pages. 

Monday, October 03, 2016

R.I.P. Reads: End of Watch and The Obsidian Chamber

End of Watch by Stephen King is the final book in a trilogy--something I didn't realize when I pulled it from the shelf at the library. I wish I'd read Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers first, and yet the novel functioned well as a stand-alone, and I had no trouble quickly engaging with the characters.  In fact, my biggest complaint about the book is that there will be no more adventures for Bill and Holly.  King wrapped the series up and tied the knot.   

A crime thriller with a supernatural component, End of Watch has characters who are a little off the beaten path of the typical crime novel formula.  Although the first two books evidently did not include the supernatural element, it is just that paranormal aspect which makes it a great R.I.P. choice, and King makes it work in a chilling way.

Taut and suspenseful, I was on edge throughout.  The more I think about it, the more I want of Holly.  I don't want her character to just disappear into the ether.  

Library copy.  Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Oct. 3.

Detective Fiction/Paranormal.  2016.  469 pages.  

The Obsidian Chamber by Preston and Childs is the 16th book in this long-running series. The series would make a great graphic novel because Agent Pendergast would translate beautifully to an illustration and the plots could easily be depicted in story boards.

Why did this particular installment not appeal to me as much?  Probably because Pendergast is mostly absent, and I'm not sure how I feel about the way Constance's character is developing.  Also, the opening chase scenes, which were far too long, felt like page fillers.  (And what happened to the second woman on the plane?)  The usual headlong pace of these novels was off here in many ways.  As much as I've enjoyed these novels--in which logic and reason play little part--this entry was...strangely boring.  

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Oct. 3.

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Mystery/Suspense.  Oct. 18, 2016.  Print length:  416 pages.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is yet another dystopian novel.  Acknowledged or not, the fear of a catastrophic event (whatever the cause--war, EMP, plague, climate disaster, zombies, etc.) appears to linger in the collective subconscious.

In this case a plague that kills quickly and with a greater preponderance of women changes the world in a frightening way.  Women become commodities.  This is not the first dystopian book with the premise of very few women and the struggles to possess them.  

Told mostly through journal entries by the unnamed midwife, the story follows the midwife as she quickly realizes the few women who have survived have become prey and dons men's clothing, builds her strength, and searches for safety in a world that has lost its civilized behavior.  She appears to be the only bright light in a world gone dark.  Now that IS frightening.

The first of the book was more interesting than the latter portion and the journal entries were pretty simplistic for an educated woman.  Men are almost completely without honor, integrity, or intelligence.  While certainly this primitive aspect of human beings would be a problem in such a situation, the dearth of men with any foresight or sense of humanity was a problem for me.  Not only did the plague take a disproportionately large number of women (even the women who survived tended to die in childbirth and initially, no babies survived), but it also took a disproportionately large number of men with brains, commonsense, or compassion.  I hate to think that the only men who survive would be so deprived of humanity.

First published in 2014, the book is scheduled for re-release in October, and the author is apparently working on a sequel.

Read in Aug.; review scheduled for Sept. 29

NetGalley/47 North

Dystopian.  2014; Oct. 11, 2016.  Print length:  300 pages.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez by Ann Swinfen

There are seven books so far in this historical series that takes place in Elizabethan England.   

The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez, the first book in the series, deals with Christoval's inadvertent involvement in the Babington Plot.  

Brief description:  It is the year 1586. England is awash with traitors, plotting to assassinate the Queen and bring about a foreign invasion. The young physician Christoval Alvarez, a refugee from the horrors of the Portuguese Inquisition, is coerced into becoming a code-breaker and spy in Sir Francis Walsingham’s espionage service. In the race to thwart the plot, who will triumph – the ruthless conspirators or the equally ruthless State?

Many famous characters make an appearance:  Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen's Spymaster;  Anthony Babington, known for the plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and put the Scottish Queen Mary on the throne of England; Thomas Phelippes, cryptographer and intelligencer for Walsingham; and Arthur Gregory, who created and repaired seals for intercepted letters.  Lesser know names are those of Robert Poley, John Ballard, and Chidiock Tichborne.

(Chidiock Tichborne, one of the conspirators, is only alluded to in the novel.  The reason I'm mentioning him is because of his elegy which I read many years ago and which represents a sad comment on political gambits in the 16th c.  He was only twenty-three at the time he wrote that sad little poem and was shortly thereafter executed.)

I sped through this series in late August, reading one right after the other, and becoming more intrigued with each one.  Christoval, more often known as Kit, has a wide variety of friends, both high and low.   The historical events and characters are well-researched, and both the historical and fictional characters have richness and depth.

Although I enjoyed the first book, it is not the best in the series--each book gained in verisimilitude making me feel I was a part of Kit's world.

The reviews below are brief and deal only with the historical events that our character lives through and the Elizabethan world to which she belongs--because in addition to being Portugese and Jewish, Kit is a girl disguised as a boy.  In the first book, she is only 16, but Kit grows up during the last of Elizabeth's reign.  The historical events are compelling, but even more fascinating are Kit's personal friends and adventures.  

Book 2 
 The Enterprise of England  finds Kit, still guarding her secret, on a mission to the Netherlands.  The novel also covers the Spanish Armada and the attempted invasion of England.  Sir Francis Drake does not come off well, which is historically accurate, but often forgotten.

Book 3 
The Portugese Affair is a sad and tawdry account of the English Expedition, an attempt to drive the Spanish out of Portugal and place Dom Antonio of Aviz on the throne.  Sir Francis Drake once again proves that his own arrogance and greed are paramount.

Book 4
Bartholomew Fair covers the event in 1589 when the soldiers from the English Expedition, who were dismissed without pay, attempt to get recompense, but there is also a more secretive plot in play.

Book 5
In Suffer the Little Children, the author makes clear the fate of street children and orphans in 16th c. London.    Sir Francis Walsingham is dying, and there is another plot against Queen Elizabeth.

Book 6
Voyage to Muscovy has Kit on a secret mission to Russia in an effort to find a missing agent.  The historical details of Russia at this time and of actual historical characters are fascinating.

Book 7
The Play's the Thing deals with Kit's return from Muscovy and her post at St. Thomas' Hospital has been given to another.  Kit takes work as a copyist with Jame Burbage's company, but plays of both Will Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe go missing.

Such brief descriptions of such engrossing novels!  If you enjoy historical fiction and characters that grow and transform throughout a series, you might want to give The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez a try.


Friday, September 23, 2016

The Lost Girls by Heather Young and Murder on the Quai by Cara Black

The Lost Girls by Heather Young is a debut novel and a fine one.  Told in two time periods and from two points of view, the novel examines the effects the past can have on the present.  

In 1935, several families make their annual sojourn to their lake houses. The Evans girls (Lilith, 13, Lucy 11, and Emily 6) are excited about this intermission from their normal lives.  The fathers stay in town and work during the week, then join their families on the weekend.  For most of the children, the summers at the lake are full of fun and adventure and have the added benefit of being less closely supervised than during the school year.

This particular summer, however, will be different for the Evans girls.  Lilith is growing up and leaving her sister Lucy behind.  Emily, the youngest, is not much appreciated by the older girls and is tightly bound to her mother.  By the end of the summer, Emily has disappeared and things will never be the same for the Evans family.

Sixty years later, Lucy, the last of the Evans sisters,  finds one of her old notebooks and decides to record the events of the summer in 1935:

"I hold secrets that don't belong to me; secrets that would blacken the names of the defenseless dead.  People I once loved.  Better to let it be, I tell myself.

But this notebook reminds me it's not so simple as that.  I owe other debts.  I made other promises.  And not all the defenseless dead, loved or not, are virtuous."

When Lucy dies, she leaves the lake house to her grand-niece, Justine.  The journal is intended for Justine as well.

When Justine learns from Lucy's lawyer about her inheritance, it occurs to her that the house provides an opportunity to escape a relationship she hasn't completely acknowledged as oppressive.  Impulsively and wasting no time, she packs up her daughters and treks from San Diego to the small Minnesota town and the isolated lake house.

Told from alternating points of view and encompassing two time periods, the story of what happened that summer is gradually revealed.  

In the present, Justine struggles with her own problems--worries about her daughters, a dilapidated house that is not really winterized for the freezing Minnesota winters, a shortage of money, and concerns that the controlling boyfriend will follow.

Lucy's chapters attempt to truthfully relate the events of that summer in 1935.  

Beautifully written, The Lost Girls kept me engaged from start to finish.  Sometimes the characters frustrated me, but Young tells the story with enough background that even when you know characters are making the wrong decisions, you have an understanding of why.

I really liked both the prose and the story, and I'm hoping to hear more from Heather Young.

Library copy.

2016.  369 pages.

Murder on the Quai by Cara Black is actually a prequel to her series featuring Aimee Leduc.  I have only read a couple of the books in this series, but I liked them.   

"The world knows Aimée Leduc, heroine of 15 mysteries in thisNew York Times bestselling series, as a très chic, no-nonsense private investigator—the toughest and most relentless in Paris. Now author Cara Black dips back in time to reveal how Aimée first became a detective . . ."

Not all prequels are satisfactory, but I enjoyed finding out how Aimee met her partner Rene and acquired Miles Davis, her dog.  It was also interesting to examine an earlier time in which technology like cell phones and computers were larger and less convenient.  

Library copy. 

Mystery/Crime.  2016.  328 pages. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest (R.I.P.)

Maplecroft, the first in The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest is a re-imagining of Lizzie Borden's life. Is there anyone who hasn't heard the tale of Lizzie Borden? Although she was acquitted of the murders, most people believed she was guilty.

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

 However, what if Lizzie did commit the murders, but there was a good reason?  What if Lizzie had to continue watching --and trying to contain--an evil that threatened to overtake the entire town of Fall River...and maybe much more?  Therein lies the tale that Priest develops.  The book fits into the horror genre and does, as several reviewers mention, have a Lovecraftian aura about it.  

What I liked:

-the style of writing which mimics an older style yet allows a more current application

-the use of diary entries, various personal accounts of developing situations,  and personal  correspondence.  These elements give insight into several characters. 

-the concept of Lizzie, not as a murderess, but an unexpected hero.  After all, she was 
  acquitted of the murders, and the premise of the novel is that Lizzie's life is devoted to
  battling monsters.

What bothered me:

-If the author was going to alter history so drastically, I would have been happier if she had 
  simply taken the basic idea and created her own characters.  Spoiler: The inclusion of 
  Nance bothered me.  The two didn't meet until 1904, and Nance lived a long life.  I could
  not let the these facts go, so all the Nance scenes interrupted ability to believe. 

-The "evil" that threatens the town is--well, amorphous, pun intended.  It is never            satisfactorily explained in origin or purpose, and even has some contradictory elements.

-The book is too long and the suspense suffers because portions drag.

-Inspector Wolf held such possibilities and was neglected to the point that it was hardly    
  worth including him.

-the conclusion, or lack, thereof.

R.I.P. Challenge

Library copy.

Horror.  2014.  435 pages.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Wonder by Emma Donnoghue

The Wonder

I found the book interesting, but was not nearly as impressed as many reviewers.  The religious phenomenon of individuals who claimed to be surviving on nothing more than a little water was evidently a big media draw during the Victorian era  (Fasting Girls).  Donoghue's story involves a young Irish girl and the attempt to discover whether or not Anna was actually existing without food.   

Blurb:  In Emma Donoghue's latest masterpiece, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.
Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

 Soooo....yes, it was interesting to see the rather smug and supercilious Lib Wright attempting to discover how Anna was being fed.  And it was frustrating to see the religious mania of those individuals who were certain that it was a miracle and hopeful of Anna being made a saint--allowing, actually celebrating, a young girl in the process of killing herself through starvation.  But I did not see it as a thriller, although it was definitely an example of a psychological aberration, and the romance and the "neatly" wrapped up conclusion felt awkward.  

Read in Aug.; blog review scheduled for 9/19/16

NetGalley/Little, Brown

Historical Fiction.  Sept. 20, 2016.  Print length:  304 pages.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book of the Night by Oliver Potzsch is a YA novel set in the midst of the Thirty Years War, a series of wars in Central Europe that became one of the longest and most devastating conflicts in European history.  

Lukas' thirteenth birthday is the last he spends with his family.  The next day, his father is murdered, his mother arrested as a witch, and his nine-year-old sister Elsa is taken by the wicked inquisitor.  Only Lukas manages to escape.

Lukas has promised his sister that he will find her and protect her, but in a country ripped apart by terrible armies, his task is not an easy one.

Eventually, he meets some traveling performers, improves his skill with the sword, and makes three fast friends who join him on his journey.  The four catch up with the Kaiser's army and attach themselves to the famous Black Musketeers.  

When the Inquisitor realizes that Elsa alone cannot help him find the Book of Night, a powerful grimoire, he begins his search for Lukas.  He needs both children to find the grimoire which would give him even more magical powers.  

read in July; blog review scheduled for Sept. 16, 2016.

YA/Historical Fiction.  Oct. 4, 2016.  Print length:  306 pages.

Is anyone else displeased with NetGalley's new format?  My page shows books that I sent notes to the publishers about, but did not review.  You know..."Thanks for the opportunity, but this one is not working for me" sort of thing.  I don't want them on my new titles list.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Intasar's Give Away and Two Reviews

Attention school librarians:  Intasar Khanani is having a give-away for high school libraries.  She is offering five sets of books (Thorne & Sunbolt),  Both are excellent, and I have reviewed them here  and here.  

The give-away is only for high school librarians who will be able to share the books with students.  If you are a high school librarian, you can enter here: Library Love Giveaway.


French Rhapsody  (translated by Emily Boyce) is the third book I've read by Antoine Laurain.  I loved The President's Hat and enjoyed The Red Notebook.   

I thought I was going to love this one as well, but alas, not so.  It started out so well, but around half way I felt like I was plodding through it.  The premise is excellent and I enjoyed much of the first half of the book, but then...I started skimming certain sections (too much about Lapelle and the Bubble and Vaughn).  I was still interested in JBM, but  the other characters--not so much.

NetGalley/Gallic Books

Satire.  Oct. 11, 2016.  Print length:  232 pages.

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves has D.I. Vera Stanhope and associates (D.S. Joe Ashworth and D.C. Holly Lawson) investigate first one murder...and then another.  What connects the two victims in a way that merits murder?

As usual, Cleeves makes great use of secondary characters. This ability to bring the secondary characters to life is what, for me at least, separates Cleeves' novels from many others in the same genre.  

A community of retirees, all with secrets, provide Vera with the opportunity to satisfy both her own innate curiosity and to unravel the circumstances behind the two related murders. Vera, unlike Joe and Holly, loves to observe people, to indulge her inquisitive nature; her ability to sit down and talk to people on a personal level often yields just the information she needs to put the puzzle together.

Vera, unattractive and overweight, is a fascinating character who makes nosiness an art form.  I thought there were too many disagreeable descriptions of Vera in this installment, but otherwise, another fine addition to the series.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Police Procedural.  Oct. 4, 2016.  Print length:  400 pages.

I'm still having great fun with my snail mail.  Have been creating some autumn/Halloween envelopes and making a huge mess in my studio.  October will see quite a few Halloween letters and postcards going out.  And each day, I look forward to seeing what might be in my mailbox!