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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.

Reviews

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.

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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!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Searching...

I have not had much success so far in discovering a good book for the R.I.P. Challenge.  I've started three that were billed as Gothic Mysteries, but they turned out to be simplistic romances.  What I want is something like Wilkie Collins or the Bronte novels--something dense and a little out-of-time or something really frightening with a Gothic atmosphere.

What I don't want is a romance or a cozy or a suspenseful mystery (I read plenty of suspenseful mysteries :p).  I want ghosts or mediums and seances or haunted manor houses or a good Dracula pastiche. While I don't want a cozy, I'm not opposed to a humorous take on any of the above.  Library here I come....

I did find this, however, on the History Girls blog, an article by Katherine Clements about Top Withins, the inspiration for Wuthering Heights!  Very interesting!
source

Monday, September 12, 2016

Library Books

I really want to see this!


--------------

When the Music's Over by Peter Robinson has DS Alan Banks dealing with a case of sexual abuse by a beloved celebrity.  The problem is that the abuse of underage girls took place over 50 years ago.  Given the success of similar cases in Operation Yewtree, accusers of Danny Caxton have begun to come forward and the most promising case involves a famous poet who was raped by Caxton when she was fourteen.  

(The real Operation Yewtree opened the door for similar cases with convictions of many celebrities in the UK.  In 2012, Operation Yewtree examined allegations from 1959 through the 1980's and set a precedent.  Many celebrities were convicted of crimes that were decades old.  Can't help but make connections to the current charges against Bill Cosby.)

While Banks is in charge of the case against Danny Caxton, DI Annie Cabot pursues an investigation into the brutal death of a young girl.  Cabot's case, too, draws on real life and the insidious practice of grooming young girls.

Robinson, as usual, creates believable characters, both the familiar ones like Allan Banks, Annie Cabot, and Winsome Jackman and the new characters that develop each plot.

I'm not as fond of Robinson's musical allusions as I once was and wish the author would tone that element down a bit, but Robinson loves his music and many readers also enjoy the many musical references.  What I loved in this one is that Banks is beginning to enjoy poetry and there are allusions to some of my favorite poems by Archibald MacLeish, John Donne, and W.H. Auden.  

The books in this series can all function as stand-alones, although it is fun to read them in order to watch the lives of the characters develop.

Library copy.  Read in Aug.; blog review scheduled for 9/12/16.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2016.  419 pages.



Lisa Gardner's Find Her is a tense psychological thriller in which a victim of a terrible crime has become a survivor, but the experience has changed Flora Dane in ways that make reconnecting with her beloved mother and brother difficult. 

 In the five years since her rescue, Flora has made every attempt to make sure she won't ever be a victim again, but she still struggles against the circumstances of her captivity.

When D.D. Warren first meets Flora, she has a suspicion that Flora has become a vigilante.  The plot moves from present to past and back as details are revealed about Flora's 472 days of captivity.

Dark and chilling, the book is difficult to put down.

Library copy.

Read in Aug.; blog review scheduled for 9/12/16.

Psychological Thriller.  2016.  400 pages.

The Sixth Idea by P.J. Tracy continues the adventures of the Monkeewrench gang of 4 computer geeks and two Minnesota policemen.  In order to full appreciate this series, I think the books should be read in order.   The character development is essential in these novels and having the background of each character makes all the difference.  I noticed it more in this installment because without the background of the previous novels in the series, I wouldn't have had the same sense of commitment to the characters.  

For some reason, this was not my favorite of the Monkeewrench books--maybe because the gang was split up with Annie and Roadrunner off stage throughout most of the book.

Nevertheless, I'm fond of these characters that I always enjoy seeing what they are up to.

Library copy.

Read in Aug.; blog review scheduled for 9/12/16.

Crime/Mystery.  2016.  315 pages.  

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Reviewed in June and Nearing Publication

The following books were all from NetGalley 

Revenge in a Cold River by Anne Perry is now published.  This series featuring William Monk and Hester Latterly is my favorite of Perry's several series!  My review.










The Authentic William James - I want to read more in this series.
  My review.








The Facefaker's Game will be released Sept. 30.  My review.



I really liked all three of these books!



-----------Just for fun   
Since I always enjoyed reading Green Eggs and Ham to my children, I found the following interesting:

Dr. Seuss wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” on a bet that he couldn’t write a book with fifty or fewer distinct words.
The bet was made in 1960 with Bennett Cerf, the co-founder of Random House, and was for $50 (about $382 today).  Despite Dr. Seuss, a.k.a. Theodore Geisel, winning the bet by producing one of his most popular works Green Eggs and Ham using exactly 50 unique words, Cerf never paid up.   Green Eggs and Ham went on to be Geisel’s best selling work, so he made out on it anyways. (source)

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

R.I.P Challenge

It is time for Carl's annual R.I.P. Challenge, and I'm going to be creating a list of possible books to read.

One of the scariest books I ever read was Peter Straub's Ghost Story.  That was decades ago, and I'm considering a reread, but don't want to be disappointed.

In the first few R.I.P. challenges, I reread several books by Wilkie Collins and was delighted to find that I loved The Woman in White as much, if not more, than the first time.  I enjoyed The Moonstone, but love The Woman in White.

One year for the challenge, I read Sax Rohmer's The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu--and a few others by Rohmer.  These stories are a hoot!

For the 2007 challenge, I read Renfield: Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambly.  Wow--was it worth it!  The original Dracula by Stoker and many pastiches have always called to me.    Hambly's James Asher series is also very good if you like vampires.

In 2011, I made a list of some of the books I'd since 2006 for Carl's challenge, and I might want to reread one or two.  I should make a list of the books I've read since 2011.

The first few years of the challenges, I tried to read or reread classics in the genre, as well as more contemporary works like The Thirteenth Tale.  I really like a Gothic element to my R.I.P. reads.  :)

My thanks to Carl for the encouragement to read the spooky, ghostly, eerie, and mysterious!
And once again, a wonderful image for the challenge.  This one is by Abigail Larson.

And so it begins...

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Sharon Bolton's latest stand-alone novel Daisy in Chains is gripping.  It tackles some interesting subjects: fat-shaming, women who fall in love with convicted murderers, and lawyers who specialize in over-turning convictions, concerned less with guilt or innocence and more with technical flaws in the case.

The handsome and arrogant Hamish Wolfe has been convicted of murdering three women. He continues to maintain his innocence, but the evidence against him was solid, and the hope of over-turning his conviction is bleak.  

Hamish has been in prison for two years, but he believes that if he can persuade Maggie Rose, a lawyer who has successfully overturned several convictions, to take his case--he has a chance or returning to his previous life as a  respected doctor.

Maggie turns down letters requesting a visit, turns down his mother's appeal to her, and refuses to visit him in prison.  When DI Peter Weston, the detective responsible for convicting Hamish, approaches her and tries to discourage her from any further interest in Wolfe, the effort appears to have unintended consequences.  Maggie becomes more intrigued with the case.

In spite of having different goals, Weston and Maggie develop a kind of friendship.  When someone enters her home--rearranging things just enough to let her know someone has been there--and begins leaving threatening text messages on her phone, Weston is concerned and protective.

Maggie's fame as a lawyer and true-crime writer, her reclusive life-style, and her blue hair all seem to be at odds, but her intelligence is never in question.  

Hamish woos her.  Maggie's curiosity about the case grows.

Throughout most of the novel, I was riveted.  The way Weston and Maggie worked together fascinated me.  Maggie's intense interest in Hamish made me uneasy.

While clues about Hamish's shameful student behavior, his "love affair" through letters with one of the women writing him, Maggie's efforts at uncovering the truth, engrossed me...I was uncertain about whom to trust.  Bolton keeps you off-balance through most of the novel, and you will wonder who is being manipulated.

Unfortunately, the conclusion (for me) was too far-fetched.  I had picked up on some of the clues early, but was still surprised at the elaborate and complicated methodology of the set-up which is unraveled at the end.  At that point, I was unable to suspend my disbelief.

I've read almost all of Bolton's books and this one has all of the anxiety and apprehension of previous books.  However, the extravagant complexity of the conclusion spoiled my pleasure in the earlier chapters.  I was not surprised by the solution, toward the end Bolton leaves plenty of clues, but I was disappointed that I was unable to believe in the charade of earlier incidents.  

Nevertheless, this book will be a winner with all of Bolton's fans.  The middle of the book is worth it for its suspenseful tension and for the way Bolton pulls you into the lives of DI Pete Weston, Maggie Rose, and Hamish Wolfe.  

Read in August.  Blog review scheduled for Sept. 9.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/Suspense.  Sept. 20, 2016.  Print length:  352 pages.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

September Stirrings

I  had Mila and Max visiting for the past week.  The schools in Baton Rouge won't reopen until after Labor Day, so M & M came for a visit.  Board games, a trip to the trampoline park, and electronic devices  helped keep things busy around here.  Erin and Brandon came up for Labor Day Weekend and are staying at the camp.  We go down during the day and come back at night.  


My snail mail and mail art obsession continues, 
and I have fun creating envelopes and postcards.  


postcard


postcard



Hard to believe this long, hot summer is over.  Although it remains hot, the light and shadows have changed, and fall is on the way.  Our seasons here in the South are less defined than they are in cooler climates, but we still appreciate the small changes that indicate the changes from one season to another.  Right now our temperatures are in the low 90's--and much appreciated.  

I've zipped through some great historical novels lately by Ann Swinfen--The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez.  The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez, the first in the series, involves The Babington Plot that led to Mary, Queen of Scots' downfall.   All of the books were available through Kindle Unlimited, and I greedily made my way through the series.  I thoroughtly enjoyed the way Swinfen was able to make me feel as if  I were there with Christoval (or Kit), a young physician with secrets, trying to negotiate the intricacies of Sir Francis Walsingham's intelligence service.  

The books all involve Kit's desire to continue work as a physician, intertwined with the important events that occur during the latter part of Elizabeth's reign.   While it is fascinating to read about the real people and events in these well-researched books, Swinfen also throws in many little known facts and oddities throughout the series.   For example, there is a reference to "Winchester geese" that I wondered about and after Googling it discovered that it was a term for prostitutes.  

Stalking Ground by Margaret Mizushima

The Stalking Ground by Margaret Mizushima surprised me by how much I enjoyed it.  Now, I will have to look for the first book in the series.

What I liked:  

-Mattie Cobb and her K-9 police dog Robo  (hard not to fall in love with Robo)
-the setting in the small Colorado mountain town of Timber Creek
-the character of Cole Walker, local veterinarian, who is trying his best to raise two daughters as a single father

Maybe the villain was a little too obvious, and there are perhaps too many domestic issues for one novel, but the author's ability to generate the connection between Mattie and Robo feels so right--not overly sentimental or saccharine--that I find myself eager to continue this series.

I have a friend who has trained many search and rescue dogs, and my admiration both for Beth and for her ability to work with these remarkable animals may be one reason I enjoyed the book so much.

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

NetGalley/Crooked Lane Books

Mystery/Crime.  Sept. 13, 2016.  Print length:  320 pages.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

The Ferryman Institute  It took me a while to get interested in this one, but I did enjoy elements of it.  Charlie Dawson is the most important of the Ferrymen who encourage the dead to depart for their afterlife--'cause you know not everyone is ready to go.  He has done this for centuries and has become exhausted with the ramifications of the job.  The Institute finds him too valuable to let him retire, but Charlie can't continue much longer.

Suddenly, he is given the opportunity to save a life rather than simply help the individual to move on.  

Comparisons have been made to both Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde.  I'm not a fan of Fforde's style--but I did love Moore's Lamb.  

A lot of readers will probably appreciate The Ferryman Institute more than I did, but I did find it entertaining.  Moderately.  I did kind of like the allusions to Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.

Read in June.  Blog review scheduled for Sept. 3, 2016.

NetGalley/Gallery Books

Fiction.  Sept. 27, 2016.  Print length: 432 pages.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

God of Internet by Lynn Lipinski

We all know how vulnerable we are, as individuals and as a nation, as a result of our dependence on the internet.  G0d_of_Internet is the title of the novel and the chosen epithet of the cyber terrorist who releases a worm that will impact millions of people.  The Islamic Crusade claims responsibility, and the good guys are scrambling to prevent future attacks.

White hat hackers and Homeland Security scramble to unravel the code and create a defense against the worm that has been unleashed into thousands of computers and continues to proliferate, contaminating computers worldwide.  

The first evidence appears in the water supplies of cities like Los Angeles and Dallas.  Then come the problems with power and light.  The first attacks are instigated, then corrected, because the attacks are threats intended to prove what the worm is capable of doing to the nation's infrastructure.  And worse is yet to come if the demands are not met.

The name of the terrorist who wrote the code is not given immediately, but it is not difficult to figure out--the author is not really trying hide the perpetrator from the reader.  

In addition to the cyber attacks, the family life of Juliana and her husband Mahaz is deteriorating.  Juliana suspects her husband's infidelity, a problem she must set aside as she deals with her seventeen-year-old son's too frequent life-threatening complications from hydrocephalus.    

 G0d_of_Internet does a good job of keeping the reader riveted to a fast-moving plot that echoes the fears of those who are doing their best to prevent this kind of attack from happening.  The romance feels false, but the tension of the novel is genuine and thought-provoking.

NetGalley

Suspense.  Aug. 16, 2016.  Print length:  245 pages.