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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier

The Frozen Dead 

Set in the French Pyrenees in December, the story is told from two points of view.  Commandant Martin Servaz from Toulouse has been called in to investigate the grotesque display of an expensive horse, beheaded and hung in a manner intended to shock and disturb.  Servaz is the main focus, but a young psychologist who arrives at an isolated and experimental asylum for the the criminally also has a role in imparting the story.

Initially, Servaz is surprised and annoyed to be investigating the death of a horse, but since the horse belonged to a French billionaire, the powers-that-be are applying pressure.   Servaz is shocked and distressed when he sees the dead horse suspended over the valley.  What kind of mind could have dreamed up this horror?  

Because the event occurs so close to the asylum, he wonders if an inmate could have escaped, but apparently all the inmates are accounted for.  Soon enough, the first of several human murders takes place, the bodies left hanging in a similar ghastly manner.  As the case becomes more ominous and complex,  Servaz and his team struggle to find the connections.

Suspenseful and twisty.  The author kept the atmosphere dark and oppressive, but several of the characters are very likable and lighten things up a bit.  Servaz is a more believable character than Diane Berg, the young psychologist; it is interesting that Minier does not have the two interact at all until the end of the novel.  Servaz' narrative dominates, but Berg's shorter narratives are interspersed throughout.  At first, I was expecting a romantic angle between the two, but I'm glad Minier didn't succumb to that possibility.

When the crime is solved, the novel is not quite over.  Maybe it should have been.  Instead, Minier allows for a Christmas celebration and a complication for the next novel in the series.  

The novel read so smoothly, I looked for the translator.  It wasn't listed on the U.S. Amazon site, but I found Allison Anderson listed as the translator on the U.K. site.  Translators are crucial, and Anderson did an excellent job.

This is the first of Minier's novels featuring Commandant Servaz, and the French publication was in 2011.  This translation is to be released in August, 2014. 

read in May; blog review scheduled for July 21.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Crime/Police Procedural/Psychological.  Aug. 12, 2014.  Print length:  496 pages.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey

A while back, I was offered The Girl with All the Gifts, but after reading the blurb, I decided not to take them up on it.  I got the mistaken impression that the plot was something along the lines of The Bad Seed, and I wasn't in the mood for a child psychopath.

Later, I read a review that changed my mind (I wish I could remember whose blog) and realized that my interpretation of the the book blurb was incorrect.  Or that the blurb was deliberately deceptive in order to keep from revealing too much.  So I tried to find it on NetGalley with no luck.  Then a few days ago, NetGalley offered it again, and I instantly requested it.  And read it yesterday!

The Girl with All the Gifts is a dystopian novel with a ten-year-old protagonist.  Melanie is a genius and seems utterly charming, so why is she strapped into a chair at gun point each morning before being transported to class?

The other children in the class are treated the same way; each child kept in a separate cell with no communication except when in class.  Their favorite teacher is Miss Justineau, and Melanie worships her for her warmth in a place where warmth is non-existent, for her inspired and enthusiastic teaching, and for her ability to relate to the children strapped in their chairs. 

Precocious, vulnerable, inquisitive, and dangerous, Melanie remembers nothing before her arrival at this facility, a lab where the test subjects are children.  She has been there most of her young life and accepts the restraints and situation without question.  Miss Justineau and "Miss Justineau days" are the highlight of her bland existence.  

The relationship between teacher and student lies at the heart of the story, but the post-apocalyptic world that Carey has created is full of tension and plays a crucial role.  Miss Justineau is the only one who humanizes the children;  the other characters (and, given the circumstances, this is understandable--if not admirable) choose to regard them as less than human and imminently threatening.  

When an unexpected attack on the facility results in a few survivors being thrust from their safe environment into the devastated world that exists after The Breakdown, five characters with very different agendas must work together to survive.

The Girl with All the Gifts is both surprising and thought-provoking.  It is difficult to review without spoilers, but provides an intense, gripping, and provocative reading experience.

Highly recommended.

NetGalley/Hachette Book Group

Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic.  June 2014.  Print length:  408 pages.

Friday, July 18, 2014

White Rabbit by K.A. Laity

White Rabbit    

Book Description: 
Sometimes the shadows that haunt us are what lead us back to the light.

Disgraced former police detective James Draygo has sunk as low as his habit allows, working as a fake psychic despite his very real talents. When a media mogul’s trashy trophy wife gets gunned down at his tapping table he has to decide whether he can straighten up long enough to save his own skin. He may not have a choice with Essex’s loudest ghost bawling in his ear about cults, conspiracies and cut-rate drugs. Oblivion sounds better all the time…
What I liked:
  • a genuine psychic trying to deny his gift and pretending to be a fake psychic
  • Peaches - great character; great ghost
  • lots of allusions, and not only to Alice in Wonderland
  • My favorites:  "We don't want to get the details wrong.  So much depends on a red wheel barrow." and "This one came from the Fox Sisters--not those Fox Sisters, but the ones who ran the skulk in the midlands."  (The Fox Sisters were notorious American psychic fakes.)
  • Jinx - would have liked to know more about him
  • the cover
What bothered me (a lot actually):
  • a neat premise turned weird with the villain and his nefarious plans (just didn't work for me, not even with Draygo suffering the ghostly screams)
  • awkward pacing;  Draygo and the ghosts were good, but the repetition of many events in his personal life just seemed included for the purpose of taking up space;  repetition, i.e. -- caught, beaten up, released--repeat.  Didn't seem that a villain as evil as this one would release Draygo again and again.  I'm mean, given what he was doing at The Warren, would he even ponder letting Draygo live?
  • too much fairy dust
  • "between her and I"  - damn, I'm seeing this kind of thing too often.  Would you say, "Between I"?  If this is a problem too difficult for most to sort out, just say "between us," --it's shorter, more efficient, and even sounds better.
NetGalley/Fox Spirit Books

Mystery/Supernatural.  2014.  Print length:  171 pages.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Second Deadly Sin by Asa Larsson

The Second Deadly Sin   

I really like this series featuring Rebecka Martinsson, and this latest addition does not disappoint.

Prosecutor Rebecka Martinsson and Inspector Anna-Maria Mella are once again on a case when Sol-Britt Uusitalo is found murdered and her grandson missing.  

Rebecka's friend Krister Ericksson, a police dog handler, finds Marcus, but the boy is unable to provide information about what took place.  Then Rebecka is side-lined by obnoxious fellow prosecutor, Car Von Post (the Pest).

Before Rebecka is removed from the case, information about the family tragedies is discovered:  Sol-Britt's son was killed by a hit-and-run driver, her father was eaten by a bear, and her grandmother was murdered.

When Von Post takes over, he plans to use the case to enhance his career and wants a quick resolution.   An angry Rebecka is fearful for Marcus, who may also be targeted by the killer.  Angry, she may be, but even if she isn't on Sol-Britt's case, she can still investigate the unusual coincidence of so many unnatural deaths in the family.

What transpires is a division of narratives:  one covers the current investigation, the other goes back to 1914.  The novel moves back and forth between the two narratives, and Rebecka becomes convinced that the "past is prologue."  I thought the two stories flowed well and served the purpose, even if the past narrative ended up seeming a bit contrived.

As usual in Larsson's novel, the plotting is skillful, the characters are well-developed, and the setting in the remote, frigid northern-most area of Sweden is beautifully depicted.  

Inspite of being set in a small community, Larsson's books could never be called cozies--they have the Nordic darkness found in so many Scandinavian novels.  The Second Deadly Sin was somewhat lighter than the previous novels in the series, and I think it is her best to date.  It is encouraging to see a great series getting even better.

P.S.  The section on Anna-Maria Meller and her family encapsulated the drama/comedy of life with kids and made me smile.  I love the emotional support Anna-Maria's husband provides.  I'm also half in love with poor Krister, the terribly disfigured and utterly kind dog handler, who is hopelessly in love with Rebecka.


Read in May; blog post scheduled for July 16.

NetGalley/Quercus Press

Mystery.  to be re-released in e-book format in Aug., 2014.  Print version: 352 pages.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark

Guilt by Degrees  

Recently, I read my first Marcia Clark novel (The Competition) as a NetGalley ebook, and to my surprise, I liked it a lot.  I'm not sure why I was surprised--having a previous career as a high profile lawyer doesn't preclude the ability to write.

The characters and the dialogue in The Competition drew me in.  I enjoyed the camaraderie of Rachel Knight, Bailey Keller, and Toni Lacollette and liked the mix of humor that the friendships interjected in the midst of an intense investigation.

When NetGalley offered more Marcia Clark novels, I immediately requested and downloaded them.  I intended to read them in order, but goofed, so I still have to go back and read the first one.

In Guilt by Degrees, Rachel Knight is appalled at the handling of a case involving the death of a homeless man and manages to take it over.   As she and Bailey Keller attempt to determine whether or not the homeless man's death was a murder, whether he was threatening or not, and who actually killed him, the two discover connections to an old case.  What appeared a random situation turns much more complicated and dangerous.

Once again, the highlight of the novel is the way Rachel Knight and Bailey Keller work together to solve the mysteries.  The mystery is intriguing and suspenseful, but the relationship between the two women provides an essential layer to the novel.  It is also interesting (when reading a series out of order) to piece together personal backgrounds and relationships.  

Quibbles:  The prologue has a violent murder that bothered me, but after that, no more gore.  There is an awful lot of time spent on naming restaurants in L.A.  This was true in the in The Competition as well.  The local detail is probably more appealing to L.A. residents, but almost every meal has a specific restaurant. Minor quibble.  

Positives:  Great female lead with strong female supporting characters.  Interesting and often amusing dialogue.  Suspenseful plot.  Compelling style.  Clark has a talent for engaging  readers in both narrative and character.

I'm quickly becoming a fan of Marcia Clark and the inimitable Rachel Knight!  

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Police Procedural/Mystery.  2013.  Print length:  449 pages.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Crafty Summer

I've been back in my studio for a while now.  Playing with fabric and clay after a long hiatus.  All of a sudden, I have several projects in the works, and dozens more that keep popping into my mind.  

It began with a challenge to myself:  just once a day, get upstairs and make something.  It didn't matter what, and it didn't have to be useful or even finished.  Just get up there and do something.  I started with putting a pocket on one of Fee's old shirts that I use as a smock.  

I used an eco-print of leaves that I made a couple of years ago and never did anything with.

  Then I added a piece of embroidery from several years ago.
A smaller pocket.

 Then a bunch of textile brooches.
Using other scraps of stuff.
Then, step-by-step
the Hedge Witch
And Milly,
a little ghost dolly.
Things have gotten out of hand.
I'm spending at least 8 hours a the day in the studio 
working on too many projects
and having a grand time.

The latest obsession is a version of the letter game.
Remember how much I enjoyed 
Sorcery & Cece or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot?

I'm trying a version of the letter game
with my Baton Rouge grandkids.
I have all kinds of creative endeavors in mind
that I hope they will find entertaining.

Who knows if they will want to write return letters.
  They are kids--and it might not sound like fun to them.

But if they don't want to play,
I will have had the fun of planning
and imagining, and researching.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hamlet's Ghost

Hamlet's Ghost 

I haven't read anything else by Jane Tara, but this was a great light summer read complete with witches and the ghost of an actor who was dying to play Hamlet.

I'm not a regular reader of romance, in fact, I generally avoid anything that appears to be a "romance novel." On the other hand, I love mysteries, Shakespeare, witches, and ghosts...and I didn't know Jane Tara was considered a romance writer.  Which is all to the good because this is a confection of sugar and spice.

Now that my likes are listed, I'll turn to my dislike.  Oh, boy, I nearly put the novel down in the first chapter when Rhi discovers her boyfriend and best friend engaged in a new and unique yoga position.

Once that was out of the way, the book proceeds into a cozy mystery set in the tiny hamlet of Hamlet.  I'm not really trying to play on words, but can't seem to avoid it.  Witchcraft is brewing in Hamlet, and Rhi finds friends and supporters that she didn't have in New York as she tackles turning an abandoned theater into a showplace and heart-felt dream.

If you are looking for a hard-edged murder mystery, you won't find it here.  In fact, although there is a death, it was not a murder.  This is more of a ghostly mystery with mysterious relationships thrown in.

NetGalley/Momentum Books

Cozy Mystery.  July 24, 2014.  

I'm saving the first in this series, Forecast for Carl's R.I.P. Challenge.  Thinking ahead for once.

I think I'd want it based on the cover alone!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fest by Mark McCrum


An entertaining mystery about a literary festival where authors and critics gather to give talks about their books or their genre, etc.

When a famous (and often brutally cruel) critic is murdered, Francis Meadows, a crime writer, can't help but begin his own investigation.

A nice light read that provides an interesting look at the literary scene and an engaging writer/sleuth playing amateur detective.  

Who killed the critic who killed so many careers?  And who killed the young woman who had been filming and interviewing some of the people who knew him?

A cozy with a little spice.  Forget the cover pic.  Poor choice.

NetGalley/Prospero Press

Mystery.  July 2014.  279 pages.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Toto Koopman

While reading The Art Restorer by Julian Sanchez, I became interested in the Spanish muralist Jose Maria Sert, and by digressing a little, in the life of his wife, Misia.  A true muse to the literary and art world of Paris.  I've mentioned some of this in my review of the novel.

Then by accident, as I was looking at the friends and associates of both Jose and Misia, I came across another book that I want to read. 

 Misia and Coco Chanel were friends, and one of Chanel's models was Toto Koopman.  Her life is as fascinating as that of Misia's, but certainly different as Toto ended up at Ravensbruck.  The book, by Jean-Noel Liaut is The Many Lives of Miss K:  Toto Koopman--Model, Muse, Spy

Here is a link to the article that grabbed my attention: 
Tinker, Tailor, Model, Spy.  

Some lives are almost too exotic and bizarre to believe.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Art Restorer by Julian Sanchez and The Lazarus Curse by Tessa Harris

The Art Restorer  is interesting as a mystery and as an insight into the artist Jose Maria Sert, his two wives, and all of the friends who were the elite of Parisian creative life during his life time.

The plot focuses on Enrique Alonso who has returned to San Sebastian for the re-opening of the San Telmo Museum where his ex-wife is in charge of public relations.    Bety has become good friends with Craig Bruckner, the retired art restorer who has been aiding in the restorations of Sert's works.  Enrique meets him and is also impressed with the older man.

But when Bruckner, a former Olympic swimmer, is found drowned, Bety questions whether it was truly an accident.  Enrique and Bety begin doing a little investigating into the circumstances and possible motives...if indeed, Bruckner's death was not an accident.

The information they garner about Sert and his life and work may have had something to do with Bruckner's death.  There are two sides of the novel--and both are fascinating:  1) the relationship of Enrique and Bety as they follow their respective leads, and 2) the world of Paris, Sert, and the Nazi Occupation.

The writing style is a little abrupt and may be a result of translation, but you become accustomed to its rhythm.

I liked the book, the plot, and the characters, but I also found that the information about Sert and the Paris literati of the time was just as fascinating.

Serts' first wife, Misia, was pretty amazing.  Although she is not a large part of the story, I couldn't quit thinking about her influence.  I
mmortalized by Proust as Princess Yourbeleftiev; Ravel dedicated "Le Cyne" to her; friends with Coco Chanel; patron of Sergei Diahliev's Ballet Russe; her salon visited by Picasso, Paul Morand, Debussy, and every talented artist and intellectual in Paris; painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Vuillard, Valloton, and Pierre Bonnard; many photographs by Pierre Bonnard

By Toulouse-Lautrec

Links to completely different versions:

by Renoir

another by Toulouse-Lautrec 

by Bonnard

This link is about Sert's second wife's family: the Mdivani's

Read in June; blog review scheduled for July

NetGalley/Open Road Media

Mystery/Contemporary Fiction/Historical Fiction.  July 8, 2014.  Print length:  345 pages.

The Lazarus Curse   

This is part of the Dr. Thomas Silkstone series set in England in the 1780's, and the only one I've read. 

The plot has multiple threads:  1) the categorization of specimen's of flora from the West Indies at the request of Joseph Banks, 2) the treatment of slaves in England, and the attempts to challenge the law, 3) the trafficking of corpses for dissection, 4) the subjugation of women, and 5) murder.

This is the second book I've read in the last year dealing with Joseph Bank's and his financing of expeditions for the Royal Society.  

There were sections concerning abuse of slaves that were hard to read and the conclusion is a cliff hanger.  All of the murder mystery portions are solved, and the cliff hanger only involves Silkstone's personal life.  Since I've not read any of the previous novels in this series, I'm only guessing that they, too, ended in some form of cliff hanger concerning the personal life of Dr. Silkstone.  The cliff hanger angered me, not just because it was a cliff hanger, but the incident itself shocked and frustrated me.  

Overall, I'm not quite sure what I think of the series based on this one novel.  I was certainly involved while reading, and yet don't think I would go out of my way to read more.

Read in June; review scheduled for July 7.

NetGalley/Kensington Books.

Historic Mystery.   July 29, 2014.  Print length:

Sunday, July 06, 2014

This and That

I reviewed Half a King in April, and now the release date is almost here.  I just read Lynn's post about a reading and q&a session she attended featuring Joe Abercrombie.  Wish I'd been there.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Fangirl_15 by Aimee Roseland

Fangirl_15 is listed on NetGalley as New Adult/Science Fiction/Fantasy.  Is New Adult automatically romance?  Because Fan-Girl is certainly a paranormal romance with a little satire mixed in.  I think.

OK - so here is the gist of this novel:  Chloe is a fan (fanatical) of The Dark Rider series of a novels, but the author dies before finishing the penultimate novel.  The seventh novel is finished by someone else and in a manner that devastates Chloe.  Not only that, but the series is being concluded before the eighth and final book that was promised because the author's notes and projections were destroyed in the accident that killed her.

Chloe is both angry and distraught at this travesty of the author's original intentions.  She dreams of her favorite character, Lucian, the demon with a heart of gold.  Poor Lucian will be left stranded without ever finding his mate.  

Then a late-night attack in the parking lot of her office leaves Chloe unconscious, and when she awakes, she finds herself in another dimension--the world of the Dark Riders.  Unable to determine whether she is dreaming or suffering from brain damage, Chloe must navigate the world of her heroes, and she knows more about the world and the future of that world than do the characters themselves.

Determined to help Lucian find his mate, Chloe realizes that she is not only in fan-fiction-love with the demon with a forked tongue, but really loves him.  

The first part of the novel is kind of fun.  Most people at some time or another have had a crush on a character in a book or a film and will recognize Chloe's outrage and devastation when things don't go the way she hoped and expected.   And who wouldn't love the opportunity to reconfigure the story line in a more pleasing (our own) way....

In a way, the novel is a kind of manga without visuals, and Chloe is able to influence the action which is an engaging premise.

The conclusion, however, was very weak, muddled, and kind of freaky in a H.P. Lovecraftian way that didn't fit with the rest of the book.  

(My favorite character is Al, the butler; unfortunately he has the smallest role.  If I could interfere, I'd give a Al a great back-story and a bigger chunk of action.)

I'm not usually a fan of "romance novels," but I enjoyed this one and loved the premise of interfering with the plot and interacting with the characters.

Read in June;  blog post scheduled for July 5.


NA/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Fantasy/Romance.  July 8, 2014.  

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The One I Was by Eliza Graham

The One I Was intertwines past and present.  When Benny Goldberg arrived in England as part of the kindertransport in 1938, he was eleven-years-old. After Kristalnacht, England accepted Jewish children as refugees; first from Germany, then from Austria when it was occupied, and so on, until war with Germany was actually declared.  England absorbed over 10,000 children before the kindertransport was ended.  Children who most likely would not have survived otherwise.

Now old and dying of cancer, Benny meets Rosamond Hunter, the nurse who accepts the job of hospice care for Benny's final days.

The twist is that Lady Harriet Dorner, Rosamond's grandmother, and her husband are the ones who adopted Benny and five other boys.   Forty years later, when Rosamond was thirteen, Lady Harriet died and Fairfleet, the lovely country estate, eventually had to be sold.  Benny, having found safety at Fairfleet when young, bought the estate, and he and his wife lived in the there for many happy years.

Rosamond's memories of the house are both similar and vastly different.  The Jewish boys were long gone--grown and in successful careers--by the time Rosamond and her brother were born, but their adoption is part of the Fairfleet legend.  

After her beloved grandmother's death, however, several events came to a head in the house, and Rosamond's mother died in circumstances for which Rosamond feels responsible. Returning to Fairfleet some thirty years later is a matter of facing her own ghosts.  She doesn't reveal her past association with the house; but Benny senses something about her, and he has some ghosts to lay to rest as well.

The One I Was is a thoughtful story of traumatic events in the lives of two young people of two different generations; events they can neither forget nor deny, and with which each needs to come to terms.

There is a lot to appreciate here on many levels.  Recommended.

Another documentary of the kindertransport, Into the Arms of Strangers narrated by Judi Dench, won an Academy Award in 2000.  I'd really like to see this one. 

(I received the book as an ARC from NetGalley, but I notice that Amazon's current Kindle price is only 3.99, and if you have Prime, the novel is available in the lending library.)

NetGalley/Morton Street Books

Contemporary/Historic Fiction.  2014.  Print length:  334 pages.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Deadly Assets by Wendy Tyson

Deadly Assets

Allison Campbell is an image consultant with a background in psychology.  Her clients include celebrities and the rich and powerful-- individuals who want to create a better perception of themselves or to be able to manage social situations with ease.

Allison visits with her newest client, heiress Francesca Benini, who wants to improve the image of the family company.  While Allison likes Francesca, the extended family relationships are obviously tense.

Allison also takes on a young client who has great talent, but needs polishing.

When both of her clients disappear on the same day, and her friend and colleague Vaughn is the last to have seen each of them, Allison needs to find out what happened and why.  Vaughn and her own company's image are at stake, and Allison is unwavering in her search for a connection between her two clients.

Read in May; blog post scheduled for July 1

NetGalley/Henery Press

Mystery.  July 22, 2014.  Print length:  296 pages.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Wayward Pines: The Last Town by Blake Crouch

The Last Town, an ebook ARC from Thomas & Mercer, is the last in the Wayward Pines trilogy.

Since this is the final book in the trilogy, it is difficult to review it without spoilers; in fact, it was hard to review the first two books without spoilers.

Picking up in the midst of the chaos from the last complication in book 2, the plot moves quickly from one disaster to the next after the electrified fence is shut down.  

Ethan Burke unraveled the mystery portion in the previous books; now the town faces disaster and is fighting for survival.  

Discovering an unexpected bit of information, the town has to decide what is necessary to have a future in this threatening future world. The conclusion leaves an opening for possible additions to the plot.  Another book in the works, perhaps?

The series is being made into a television series which I will be sure to watch.  Mat Dillon is cast as Ethan Burke, and M. Night Shyamalan is the executive producer.  

The Wayward Pines books are weird and deliberately unsettling.  They aren't good literature, but they are addictive.   I don't know what the television series will be like--the cast does not match my images from reading the books--but I definitely want to see it.

Read in April;  blog post scheduled for June 30.

Action/Suspense/Dystopian.  July 21, 2014.  Print length:  308 pages.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dimmingwood by C. Greenwood

The Dimmingwood series is a YA fantasy series.  I enjoyed the ones I read, but each book is short (more of a novella than a novel), and then you must get the next one to continue the story.  The first in the series is a free download, and the rest aren't too expensive, but it would have nice if some of them had just been combined into longer books.

Magic of Thieves

It is dangerous to be a magicker, especially after the Praetor has ordered a cleansing to rid himself of this segment of the population.

Ilan's parents were killed in the cleansing, but the four-year-old managed to escape.  She ends up being raised among thieves and outlaws in Dimmingwood.

Ilan is a combination of strengths and weaknesses, and as an adolescent is often churlish and rude, but then she has been raised by bandits and she is an adolescent.

When Terrac, a young boy about her age, is captured, they develop a friendship in which Ilan is dominant and often brusque and ungracious.  Terrac had planned to be a priest before being taken in by the outlaw band and tries to keep a gentler attitude toward life than Ilan (which isn't difficult, as Ilan is pretty hard to take at times).

Then the bandit clan is betrayed and things begin to fall apart.

I read the next two in the series, and they were just as short.  I doubt I will continue, even though I would kind of like to know how the rest of the series goes.

YA/Fantasy.  2012.  Print length:  190 pages.

Friday, June 27, 2014


I've just finished a fascinating book by Benedict Carey.  The title is How We Learn; my blog review will be scheduled closer to the release date, but I want to share a Give Away of the book on Goodreads where 50 copies are available.

I have highlighted something on nearly every page and read the book with all the eagerness that any good novel evokes.  If I don't win a copy, I've already added it to my wish list and will order my own.  Nonfiction books deserve a place on the shelf, and I have hard copies of all my brain books, even if I read them first on my Kindle.

Like many others, I'm concerned about genetically modified/engineered foods and found Robyn O'Brien's short Ted Talk packed with information.
  • Are we really allergic to food or to what's been done to it?
  • 1997-2002 - doubling of the peanut allergy
Most of us have never been told that peanuts are treated with cancer-causing pesticides.
Nor have we been told that they are rotated in fields that contain genetically engineered cotton, a controversial crop used in our food supply that is treated with a weed killer linked to cancer and infertility.
We tend to only hear about the peanut allergy when it comes to peanuts in the news, but a deeper look into how we grow peanuts today unearths a lot of questions.
Since when did so many kids suddenly have a peanut allergy?  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich hasn’t always been a loaded weapon on a lunchroom table.
From 1997-2002, the incidence of peanut allergy doubled.  In the last fifteen years, there has been a 50% increase in the number of children with food allergies. About 1 in 20 U.S. children have food allergies — a 50 percent increase from the late 1990s, according to a recent CDC survey.
But that’s not where it stops.  (you can read more on Robyn O'Brien's blog)


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Brains and Neuroscience

I love "brain books" and neuroscience and neuroplasticity and have read quite a few books on the subject that are as fascinating as novels.  One of my favorite blog reads is The Guardian's Science:  Neuroscience.  

This article about the inimitable 84-year-old Clint Eastwood's latest accomplishment has some fascinating information about individuals whose creative talents continue to produce great work into the last decades of their lives.  

A few excerpts from the article:

  • Twenty years ago the phenomenon of long-living conductors was studied in a book by Steven Rochlitz, The Longevity Guide – Why Do Music Conductors Live into Their 90s? Rochlitz argued that because these musicians were allowed to keep working and to enjoy status late into their ninth decade or longer, they reciprocated by staying on form. Pablo Casals, for instance, lived to the age of 96, while Arturo Toscanini made it to 89 when the average life expectancy for a man was 50. The trend for leading conductors to live longer has also been put down to the upper body exercise involved, increasing circulation to the brain, and to the result of an artistic concentration on harmony.
  • Recent research also underlined flaws in previous attempts to show that older brains were less effective. The truth may be, scientists now suggest, that the elderly are simply handling more information in their neural archives.
  • Louise Bourgeois, the French experimental sculptor who died in 2010 at 98, certainly felt age helped. She made her greatest work after the age of 80 and once declared: "I am a long-distance runner. It takes me years and years and years to produce what I do." At 84 Bourgeois was asked if she could have made her work earlier in her career: "Absolutely not," she replied. "I was not sophisticated enough."                                                                                                                      
  • Crime novelist PD James, 93, has attempted to semi-retire herself and her detective Adam Dalgleish, but Fay Weldon, author of 34 novels so far at the age of 82, is still firing out imaginative and well-crafted salvos to her waiting readers.
One of my favorite brain books is The Brain that Changes Itself  by Norman Doidge.  It led me to many other books on the brain.  If you'd like to check out more of my "brain books" -- click here.  Some fiction shows up, but mostly the nonfiction books.

Mental illness can also be considered in the category of brain books, and Gin Jenny's review of Falling into the Fire recently caught my interest.  I've added it to my list.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

4 More for Once Upon a Time Fantasy Challenge

A Natural History of Dragons:
A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

A lovely cover for one of NPR's Best Books of 2013--I'm not sure why I delayed reading it.    Another perfect read for Carl's Once Upon a Time challenge, the book is the memoir of a Victorian lady (in an alternate historical setting) flouting convention in order to pursue her unladylike scientific interest in dragons.

As Lady Trent says in the preface, "...this series will contain frozen mountains, foetid swamps, hostile foreigners, hostile fellow countrymen, the occasional hostile family member, bad decisions, misadventures in orienteering, diseases of an unromantic sort, and a plenitude of mud." 

I just ordered a couple of books for my oldest granddaughter, but surely she must have this one as well?  After reading the description of the deckled pages, the chestnut brown ink, and Todd Lockwood's lovely illustrations in sepia, it seems that it will have to be the hardback version for the lovely Miss Mila.  My kindle edition allowed no such sensuous tactile or visual effects.

Fantasy/Memoir/YA.  2013.  Print length:  335 pages.

The Last Falcon and Dragon Fire by Collen Ruttan

"This kickoff to a traditional fantasy series starring feisty and independent teen heroine Erynn is both well paced and engaging. The book starts in medias res, with Erynn hiding in a cave after the dragon Krystalix attacked a group of men from her kingdom returning from a horse-buying expedition, and the raid on the recently purchased animals leaves her father dead. But Erynn got a clear look at the person who struck the fatal blow, a "fair-haired man with the limp and the jagged scars," and vows to avenge the murder. When she discovers the true identity of the fair-haired man, Erynn uncovers a conspiracy that may complicate her quest. Ruttan blends the medieval and supernatural effortlessly, ably setting up a sequel to this fun fantasy novel."
-- Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)

I know, I'm getting lazy, but I've got several reviews to get into this post, and the above review describes the situation so neatly.  

My main complaint is the sequence of caught! escaped! caught! escaped!  caught!  well, you get the idea.  Oh, and I didn't like the name grated on me each time I saw it.  Weird.  

Overall, it is a decent series and entertaining, but not in my top tier of favorite YA fantasy.

Hmmm, although I have to admit the covers are excellent and may be among my favorites for their graphic simplicity and visual atmosphere.

YA/Fantasy.  2012 and 2013.  Print length:  Falcon - 292 pages; Dragon - 341 pages.

I'm just going to mention another one that I've finished and really liked:  Animas:  The Legacy of the Claw by C.R. Grey.  This one is another NetGalley book, and I will have to hold the review until closer to the publication date, but you can pre-order it.  

It is for a younger audience, but was a great read, and I can't wait for the next in the series.  Perfect for grandson Max, who will be entering the third grade in the fall.  It would make a great book for my daughter to read aloud to both Max and Mila.  Although the target audience is for grades 3-7, I thoroughly enjoyed it! 

Middle School.  Oct. 28, 2014.  Print length:  304 pages.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Competition by Marcia Clark

The Competition        

Los Angeles prosecutor Rachel Knight makes her third appearance in The Competition.  I have not read the previous novels in this series, but this one is very good and works well without having read the previous novels.

Two masked gunmen enter a school gym during a pep ralley and, armed to the teeth, begin shooting everyone in sight.  The chaotic attack ends in the library where it appears the shooters shot each other.

Rachel Knight and LAPD detective Bailey Keller are devastated by the carnage.  It is difficult enough to acknowledge the loss of life and the grieving parents as the two interview survivors and attempt to piece together all of the available evidence, but when it appears that the two young men believed to be the suicidal shooters are victims themselves, things get even worse.  The real perpetrators are still at large.  And they aren't finished.

The relationship between Knight and Keller works well;  they understand each other and enjoy each other's company.  I liked that the two women are at the forefront and that other strong and capable women are included.

Read in April.  Post scheduled for June 23

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Police Procedural.  July 8, 2014.  Print length:  416 pages.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Someone Else's Skin by Sarah Hilary

Someone Else's Skin is a new series featuring DI Marnie Rome.  After the brutal murder of her parents, Marnie Rome uses work as a means of moving on, but still suffers guilt and grief that is physical as well as emotional.

The prologue occurs five years in the past with the discovery of her murdered parents.  Then the novel moves to the present and the current case to which Marnie and her partner DS Noah Jake are assigned.  In following up on that case, the two arrive at a women's shelter where they find a man severely wounded lying on the floor.

Was it attempted murder or self-defense by a woman who has been terribly abused?  Given what they learn about the woman's past, would it even matter?  How, with all of the precautions taken to keep women in the shelter hidden and safe, did the man find her, and how did he manage to get in?

This is a story about domestic abuse in a number of different ways and about homes in which subservience and violence are accepted, even encouraged.  It also deals with the effect past abuse can have on the victims, and the various ways the abused address their experiences and their abusers.  Many different threads are pulled together....

Well-written with complex characters, the novel pulls you in and shakes you up.  The secrets kept by individuals and by families can be deadly.  There are some explorations of abuse that may challenge your original thoughts.

NetGalley/Penguin Books

Crime/Psychological.  June 24, 2014.  Print length:  418 pages.