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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Krug Benjamin


The Anatomy of Dreams

Book Description:  It’s 1998, and Sylvie Patterson, a bookish student at a Northern California boarding school, falls in love with a spirited, elusive classmate named Gabe. Their headmaster, Dr. Adrian Keller, is a charismatic medical researcher who has staked his career on the therapeutic potential of lucid dreaming: By teaching his patients to become conscious during sleep, he helps them to relieve stress and heal from trauma. Over the next six years, Sylvie and Gabe become consumed by Keller’s work, following him from the redwood forests of Eureka, California, to the enchanting New England coast.

But when an opportunity brings the trio to the Midwest, Sylvie and Gabe stumble into a tangled relationship with their mysterious neighbors—and Sylvie begins to doubt the ethics of Keller’s research, recognizing the harm that can be wrought under the guise of progress. As she navigates the hazy, permeable boundaries between what is real and what isn’t, who can be trusted and who cannot, Sylvie also faces surprising developments in herself: an unexpected infatuation, growing paranoia, and a new sense of rebellion.

In the last year or so, there have been a lot of novels featuring dreams, sleep, and/or sleeplessness.  A fascinating subject for most of us, but this one end up being in the "not so much" category.  

This is a book that I wanted to like, yet as it turned out, was not.  Although there are parts where you intuitively know where it is going, it doesn't go exactly there.  Or it does, but in a way that I found unfortunate.  I can't discuss my quibbles without spoilers; you will have to decide for yourself whether or not the book will satisfy your expectations.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Science Fiction? Psychological?  Sept. 16, 2014.  Print length:  320 pages.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Time for RIP IX !

Time for Carl's RIP Challenge

The first challenge was in 2006 (that hardly seems possible), and that year I read:

 The House on the Borderland, a short novel by William Hope Hodgson, written in 1908.  I chose it because Hodgson was an influence on H.P. Lovecraft, who called Hodgson's work "cosmic horror."  I didn't like it all that much, in spite of all of the Gothic elements, but I'm glad I read it.

Lolly Willows or The Loving Huntsman by Sylvia Townsend.  This was actually The Book of the Month Club's first selection...in 1926.  My main interest was in the way Townsend rearranged The Wild Hunt myth.

The Wyvern Mystery by Sheridan J. Le Fanu, who cannot hold a candle to Wilkie Collins in any way, but remains a classic in the genre.

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins--not his best and written near the end of his life,   THH is very short.  But  Collins at his worst still beats Le Fanu.  At his best, Collins is Mr. Gothic for me.  The Woman in White by Collins remains one of my favorite books of all times.  I read it in high school (along with The Moonstone), then reread for a later RIP challenge and was delighted to find it still kept me engrossed, beginning to end.

The Keep by Jennifer Egan, a much more contemporary choice, but unlike the majority of readers, I didn't much care for it.

Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside was a pleasure to read.  Has some similarities to Lolly Willows with a theme of a woman's quest for independence from a domineering male, but for me this story was eminently more readable.  Part I deals with Diana Pollexfen's acquittal of her husband's murder.  Part II moves to the days preceding his death, and Part III moves forward sixty years when Diana's grand-niece and heir finds Diana's diaries.

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris is the first in the Harper Connelly series.  Harper can find dead people.  Got a missing body?  Harper might be able to help you locate it.  I've read a couple in this series since then.  While not a fan of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Harris (please don't hate me),  I have thoroughly enjoyed the Harper Connelly series.

*****

I'm starting this year's Challenge with The Carpathian Assignment.  Initially, I got a garbled version from NetGalley, but when I mentioned that I was interested in the book, just couldn't decipher the e-manuscript, the publisher sent me an ARC in the mail.  Started it yesterday! 

You guessed it, Dracula and Transylvania.  

Visit Stainless Steel Droppings if you'd like to join the fun!  You can choose to read or watch films or television or combine the two.

I'm watching The Night Watchman's Journal, can't wait for the  next episodes to be released.  Another good Kdrama for this Challenge is Arang and the Magistrate.



My Eccentric figures for Halloween continue to take shape.
Marigold the Hedge Witch likes to be prepared.




Brief Reviews of Some September Releases

The Caller by Juliet Marillier concludes the trilogy that began with Shadowfell and continued with Raven Flight.   I really enjoyed the first novel where more time was spent with Neryn and Flint; the second and final novels are much slower.  Neryn's visits to the Guardians are the slowest sections, and much of the final novel is spent on the visit to the White Lady.

I had difficulty understanding the willingness of the general populace and the court to accept the untenable cruelty of the King.  I suppose it bothers me more because in real life it happens all too often--past and present.

The events slowly advance toward the planned confrontation at Summerfort; Flint barely manages to continue his role as the King's Enforcer, hating himself for what he must do, but determined to give the rebels the best effort he can; Neryn's plan to visit all of the Guardians is derailed after the her stay with the White Lady.

When the king and the court arrive at Summerfort earlier than planned, will Neryn, Flint, the rebels, and the Good Folk make a successful bid for freedom?

NetGalley/Alfred A. Knopf BFYR

YA Fantasy.  Sept. 9, 2014.  Print length:  450 pages.  



The Girl and the Clockwork Cat by Nikki McCormack is also a YA novel, but perhaps for younger readers.  Maekko is a young thief in a Steampunk version of London.  On her own for years, the only stability in her life is provided by Chaff, head of a group of street rats--abandoned children who, like Maekko, steal to survive.

When Maekko and Chaff are interrupted during a robbery, the two split up; Maekko barely manages to escape the Literati officers, but finds temporary shelter and a cat with a clockwork leg.  The cat, whose missing leg has been replaced with a marvelous clockwork prosthetic, enchants Maekko.  Maekko's security doesn't last very long as someone tips the Literati, and she is carted off to jail.

Naturally, we can't have our heroine remain in jail, but her escape leads to much worse than the threat of being sent to an orphanage: a killer's threat, two dead bodies, and Ash, the son of the chief suspect.  Maekko and Ash make an unlikely team, and initially there is a lot of sparring, but gradually they begin to appreciate each other's good qualities--which is a good thing if they want to stay alive.

A debut novel that I think young readers will enjoy.  OK.  I did, too.  

YA/Steampunk/Fantasy.  Sept. 2, 2014.  Print length:  224 pages.




The Thief Taker engaged me initially, but then lost me.  I did read the entire book because I wanted to know what happened, but the intriguing beginning became a much less intriguing follow through.

Book Description:  The year is 1665. Black Death ravages London. A killer stalks the streets in a plague doctor’s hood and mask...

When a girl is gruesomely murdered, thief taker Charlie Tuesday reluctantly agrees to take on the case. But the horrific remains tell him this is no isolated death. The killer’s mad appetites are part of a master plan that could destroy London – and reveal the dark secrets of Charlie’s own past.

--------
I like this period and am usually interested in stories about the plague and the time period in which Samuel Pepys is writing his diaries about politics, London life, the Great Fire, and even executions.   

However, the characters in the novel failed to engage me and the bizarre murders seemed pointlessly gruesome. Plot:  capture, escape, capture, escape, etc.


NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Historic Mystery.  Sept. 9, 2014.  Print length:  432. pages.  
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

The Hawley Book of the Dead  tells the story of Reve Dyer, who comes from a family in which all of the women have magical powers, some mundane, some rather exotic.

Reve and her husband are illusionists with a very successful show in Las Vegas, but when someone substitutes a real bullet in a prop gun,  Reve shoots and kills her husband.

Devastated, Reve must go on; she has three daughters, and although Reve grieves, she must do her best for her girls.

When it is apparent that whoever switched the bullets is also stalking their family and leaving photographs as proof, Reve does everything she can to "vanish," leaving no trace of where she and her girls have gone.

They go to Hawley Five Corners, a family estate, hoping they have escaped the intruder's reach.  But there are other strange events, past and present, waiting in the house.  When Reve finds the Hawley Book of the Dead, she must discover what is necessary to save her family.

The novel has been compared to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and A Discovery of Witches.   Since I didn't care for The Physick Book, I'll accept that comparison, but since I really liked A Discovery of Witches, I'm going to suggest that the only thing Discovery and The Hawley Book have in common is a supernatural element.

It was OK; it passed the time, but it didn't truly engage me.

read in June; blog review scheduled for Aug. 

NetGalley/Random House-Ballentine

Supernatural/Mystery.  Sept. 23, 2014.  Print length:  352 pages.



Friday, August 29, 2014

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Tabula Rasa, a YA novel that begins with a young girl in a hospital undergoing treatments to remove some of her memories.  She doesn't remember who she was or what she did to need to have those memories removed and to have a second chance at life.

During her current operation, several strange things happen:   she sees a familiar and hated figure, but doesn't remember who she is or why she arouses such hatred, the power fails, she receives a note and some pills that are handed to her in the dark.

From then on the novel picks up speed until it is absolutely racing from one incident to another.  Intense and satisfying in the beginning, eventually events become too difficult to swallow.  Too many coincidences.  

What began as a thrilling action/adventure tale,  floundered and devolved into an unsatisfactory wrapping up.  

The novel will appeal to its intended audience, but unfortunately, it doesn't give its audience enough credit.

Read in March; blog review scheduled for Aug.


NetGalley/Egmont USA

YA.  Sept.  22, 2014.  Print version:  352 pages.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Studio Time

I have a lot of reviews scheduled (thank goodness!)   That is especially good since I have not been keeping up with writing reviews lately.

Most of my time is spent in the studio working on more Halloween figures and the Spell Book ...than on reviewing.  Playing with the Spell Book pages is like an obsessive compulsive disorder or like that old advertising saw "bet you can't eat just one"--with book pages, it is difficult to stop playing and experimenting.  
The pocket on the above page is a collage with wax paper.  
I'm not sure what will go in the pocket, but I stuck in a scrap to show the possibility.
Somewhere, I'll find a spell to put at the top of the page.

Below is another incomplete page with two pockets.

All of these pages are tip-ins.
Some pages have not been detached,
and I work on them right in the book.

Another tip-in.
Experimented with using the
paper towels I use for brush and paint clean-up.

I have a stack of tip-in pages
I've been working on,
a bunch of tags in progress,
assorted items that I might be able to include,
page lay-outs in the book itself.

Altered book stuff is a new thing for me,
so there is a lot of experimenting,
and a lot of failures,
but playing with paste, paint, and scissors is fun!

---------
I finally finished Frank-N-Stein, although he is actually Victor Frankenstein's monster, he adapted Victor's last name for his own benefit.  I let this fellow sit for a long time while working on other creatures, but I now have a deadline to meet-- so all of the creatures are now getting worked on.  Moving from Goblin to Troll to a witch who doesn't look too classically witchy to Frank to Spell Book and back again.  Not to mention the difficulty of drafting multiple patterns for clothing and creating odd little familiars to attend the magical beings....

The worst part is making mistakes and miscalculations that have to be corrected.  If I ever learn to think through things first, I will save a great deal of time on corrections.   

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

Although I'm not keeping up with reviews, I'm still reading.  Frustration in the studio is a frequent occurrence and sends me straight to a book.  I've started a dozen books lately that haven't caught my attention.  Fortunately, some occasionally excellent and frequently adequately entertaining books soothe my feathers.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Murder at the Brightwell  is set in the 1930's and is a cozy mystery with elements of The Golden Age of Detective Fiction.  

Amory Ames is not happy in her marriage.  Her handsome husband Milo has just returned from a stay in Monte Carlo, and Amory has reached a point of dissatisfaction with his frequent absences and the gossip that accompanies them.

When Gil Trent, the man to whom she was engaged before meeting Milo, arrives unexpectedly and asks a favor, Amory is in the mood to go along with it.  Gil is concerned about the intentions of Rupert Howe, the man his sister Emmeline is engaged to marry, and he wants Amory to try to persuade her to give the marriage more thought.

In order to talk to Emmeline, Amory must accompany Gil to the Brightwell Hotel.  Aware that this excursion will create gossip, Amory's unhappiness with her husband motivates her to tell her husband that their marriage is foundering and to pack a bag and board the train to Brightwell.  She is tired of being the retiring wife, waiting at home while her husband provides fodder for the gossip columns.

Amory immediately likes the Brightwell, a posh sea side resort, but is a little put off by some of the other members of the party, friends of Emmeline or Rupert.  When Rupert Howe is murdered, Amory begins engaging in a little amateur sleuthing.  Knowing Gil Trent's animosity toward Howe, she wants to be sure he is not accused of the murder.

Oh, and Milo arrives.  Perhaps Amory's opinion of the marriage difficulties are one-sided.  Why else would Milo postpone his own trip and travel to the Brightwell instead?  

Although I saw mention of a comparison to Jacqueline Winspear, that comparison doesn't really work (aside from the tasteful cover).  This novel is much lighter than Winspear's novels and more in line with the works of Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, or Dorothy Sayers.

It is a debut novel and is not perfect, but I quite liked it and believe it shows great promise for a fun new series for those who enjoy the style of Allingham or Sayers.  

Read in April; blog review scheduled for Aug. 25.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Mystery/Detective Fiction.  Oct. 14, 2014.  Print version:  336 pages.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is a dystopian novel, but one with an important theme that I have not seen in the many other dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels I've read.  And the theme is what resonates most with me, setting the novel apart from others in the genre:  "Because survival is insufficient."

The quote comes from a Star Trek: Voyager episode and is adopted by Kirstin, an actress with the Traveling Symphony troupe that travels from outpost to outpost taking Shakespeare and music to the survivors.  A child when the Georgia Flu epidemic hit and decimated the world's population, Kirstin has the quote tattooed on her arm--a reminder that there is more to life than simply managing to survive the devastation and chaos caused by the collapse of society and the infrastructure that supported it.  

The little band of actors and musicians bring the beauty of art and culture to the settlements that have arisen in the fifteen years since the collapse.  It is a dangerous world,  one without hospitals and medicine, with violent bands of marauders and unfriendly settlements, where any mishap can lead to death.  Yet the troupe members feel compelled to practice their arts and to share them whenever possible. Because survival is insufficient -- there must be more to feed the soul, the heart, the mind.  The players and the audience both need the reminders of music and art.

So...how does all of this begin?  With Arthur Leander, an actor playing King Lear; an audience member who sees a situation and jumps on the stage to give aid; a child actor to whom Arthur has been kind; an ex-wife and graphic novelist; and the onset of the Georgia Flu which floods the hospitals which are helpless and unable to stem the rising death toll.

The stories are revealed piecemeal as the book moves back and forth in time:  before the pandemic, the onset that sets our players in motion, and the aftermath, fifteen years later. Mandel manages all of these stories and their backgrounds seamlessly, connecting and inter-connecting them.  An interesting element in the novel involves what people remember from "the time before," what they miss; how old a survivor was at the time of the collapse is important, and the youngest survivors have limited memories, unsure of even those.

And Station Eleven?  Station Eleven is a limited edition graphic novel that plays an important role in several lives and provides its own parallel story.  Art, music, drama, literature, story telling...how important are they in what we consider civilization?

Recommended.

NetGalley/Knopf/Doubleday

Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic.  Sept. 9, 2014.  Print length:  352 pages




Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cast in Flame by Michele Sagara

Cast in Flame is part of a long series (this is book 11), and I quickly realized that I was unable to make proper sense of it without having some background.  I ordered The Chronicles of Elantra bundle that includes the first three books in the series and read them before going back to Cast in Flame.

book descriptions of the first 3 books in the bundle:

Cast in Shadows:  "Seven years ago Kaylin fled the crime-riddled streets of Nightshade, knowing that something was after her. Children were being murdered-- and all had the same odd markings that mysteriously appeared on her own skin....
Since then, she's learned to read, she's learned to fight and she's become one of the vaunted Hawks who patrol and police the City of Elantra. Alongside the winged Aerians and the immortal Barrani, she's made a place for herself, far from the mean streets of her birth.
But children are once again dying, and a dark and familiar pattern is emerging. Kaylin is ordered back into Nightshade with a partner she knows she can't trust, a Dragon lord for a companion and a device to contain her powers-- powers that no other human has. Her task is simple-- find the killer, stop the murders...and survive the attentions of those who claim to be her allies!"

Cast in Courtlight:  In Elantra, a job well done is rewarded with a more dangerous task. So after defeating a dark evil, Kaylin Neya goes before the Barrani High Court, where a misspoken word brings sure death. Kaylin's never been known for her grace or manners, but the High Lord's heir is suspiciously ill, and Kaylin's healing magic is the only shot at saving him--if she can dodge the traps laid for her....

Cast in Secret: Still avoiding magic whenever possible, Private Kaylin Neya relished investigating a run-of-the-mill theft. Until she found out the mysterious stolen box had been taken from Elani Street, where the mages and charlatans mingled, and it was sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two. And since the box was ancient, without a keyhole, and held tremendous darkness inside, Kaylin knew unknown forces were again playing with her destiny--and her life....

OK--interesting world building, unusual and frequently endearing characters, and an emphasis on words, symbols, and communication.  

The three books in the beginning of the series take place in a short space of time, so Kaylin's character growth is very gradual.  And although I skipped the 7 intervening books, even the latest book has not put much chronological distance from the first books.

I enjoyed the first three books; Sagara has well-developed characters and enough action to keep the novels exciting.  However, I could not have gotten much out of Cast in Flame if I had not read The Elantra Bundle; this is definitely not a series that allows you to begin with the later books.  Even with the first three books under my belt, I had obviously missed a great deal of action and several new characters, but at least I had some familiar characters, history, and world-building embedded when I tackled this latest addition to the Chronicles of Elantra.

It is a little hard to review Cast in Flame fairly because I missed the characters and events from the previous book, and Cast in Flame is a more of a continuation from the previous book  (the plots in the first 3 books were complete in themselves).  I've also seen Cast in Flame referred to as both book 10 and book eleven, which is confusing.

Chronologically, it has taken either 10 or 11 books to move Kaylin from twenty to twenty-one-years old.  I guess that explains the lack of character development, but boy, that is certainly a lot of action in the space of a year or a little more.

I didn't enjoy Cast in Flame as much as I did the three-book-bundle I read in order to make sense of this one--and not just because I had to adjust to new situations and new characters.  The two story lines of C of F felt awkwardly juxtaposed even though they are related.  The first deals with Nightshade's sentient castle getting unruly, and the second with the attack of one of the ancients (and Kaylin's search for a place for herself and Bellelusdeo to live away from the Emperor).

NetGalley/Harlequin 

Science Fiction/Fantasy.  2014.  Print length:  496 pages.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien


The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien.  

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I didn't expect much from this novel when I first requested it, but I needed something to read, and I really liked the cover.  Oh, yes, cover art is more influential than we like to acknowledge.  Certainly, most bloggers often like to mention the cover art and will admit to some influence,  but cover art can make or break a book for me. There are some excellent books that I've never read because I didn't like the cover.  And the opposite is also true.

Surprise!  I found myself engrossed in The Vault of Dreamers almost immediately and literally had to force myself to put it down because my eyes were too tired to read anymore.  

Of course, for every reader the experience is different, but one of the miracles of story-telling occurs when the author catapults you into the world they've created, and you just accept whatever is going on regardless of how impossible, unreal, or fantastic. 


From the book description:   The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. 
Hmmm, I thought when I read that.  Sounds like a familiar plot line to me.  Another YA novel that will be predictable.

Of course, there is some predictability, I mean "there's nothing new under the sun" and any popular trope is going to used again and again.

Nevertheless, the author quickly engaged my interest in the characters and the more I read, the more I wanted to know.  Classes, lunch, the entire campus--everything except bathrooms and the sleeping/dressing rooms is on camera.  Every activity, every conversation.  Privacy is next to impossible.  How much is behavior influenced by the cameras?  

Rosie is a great little protagonist; her talent at this school for the talented involves film, and she frequently thinks in terms of movie scripts, solving problems based on films she has seen or that she wants to create. From a family with no money to spare, attending an arts school like The Forge is an amazing opportunity, and perhaps her only one if she wants a career in film.

Unfortunately, there will be a cut and students who don't make the cut will be sent home.  The cut is determined much like on other reality shows--audience interest.  In this case, the audience can choose to follow any students they find interesting.  Rosie's "blip scores" aren't nearly good enough, and she pretty much accepts her fate.  Like it or not, she expects to be sent home.

Of course, you know what will happen:  her blip scores will increase drastically (but why?), and Rosie will stay at the school (but is that a good thing or is it terribly dangerous?).

Nothing in the NetGalley description indicated that this was not a stand-alone, but I should have realized that the trend to trilogies/series is really pretty much a fait accompli.  I bet the statistics would show that more fiction is written as series than as stand-alones--at least in fantasy, science fiction, and YA novels.

The frustration of a novel that you have raced through--only to end in a cliff-hanger!   Ms. O'Brien, please write quickly...!

I haven't read O'Brien's Birthmarked trilogy, but it is now on my radar.

Read in June; blog review scheduled for Aug. 20, 2014.

 NetGalley/Macmillan's Children's Publ./Roaring Brook Press

Science Fiction/Fantasy.  Sept. 16, 2014.  Print version:  432 pages.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place     

I could not resist starting this one as soon as I received it from NetGalley.  Then I couldn't put it down.  Enthralled from the very beginning (not that unusual, since this is Tana French), I loved the language, the atmosphere, the sense of being on the edge of something with disaster on the other side, the way the book moved from character to character and present to past and back again--easily, with a finesse that avoids confusion.  The shifts alternate between the unfolding involvement of Detective Stephen Moran and the events that led up to the unsolved murder of a young man on the grounds of the exclusive St. Kilda's private school.

When Holly Mackey brings Detective Stephen Moran a photo of Chris Harper with the words:  "I know who killed him" pasted on it, Moran believes this may be his chance of getting a spot on the Murder Squad.  He gets permission to take it to the Detective who headed the as yet unsolved case. 

 Detective Antoinette Conway is not popular with the lads in the Murder Squad and agrees to let Moran accompany her to the school, but lets him know right away that she can kick him off at any time.  Moran has the advantage of already knowing Holly from when she was a witness when she was ten, but that association cuts both ways because Detective Frank Mackey is her father, and Conway is leery of his relationship with Mackey and believes Moran has a soft spot for Holly.  

Moran is determined to get along with the touchy Conway.  If he can, and if they can solve Chris Harper's murder, his dream of a place on the Murder Squad may actually happen.  Although both detectives come from hard-scrabble backgrounds, Conway resents the rich and privileged while Moran longs for those privileges.  He is impressed with the beauty of St. Kilda's; Conway is offended by it.

Nevertheless, the two eventually find they work well together, and Moran's ability to adapt himself to the people he interviews proves helpful to Conway, whose manner is much more aggressive.  

Dense with detail, layer on layer of possibilities--the plot unwinds slowly over the course of a single day as Moran and Conway interview the students, adding gradually to their information and keeping them just off balance with changing perspectives.  

About 1/3 of the way in, something is revealed that changes the outlook.  I'm not going to reveal what it is, but if you read it, you might be a bit taken aback.  I'm still not sure about this section because it sort of ...dissipates;  its purpose may be connected to something that occurs near the end, but it still puzzles me.

And about 3/4 of the way through, the tension ratchets up to the point, that I'd have to read a little, realize I was skimming, and have to go back and read again--or put it down and walk away.  No matter how French cranks up your emotions, you can't afford to go too fast looking for a release of tension.  The increase in tension has nothing to do with violence; it has to do with concern for the characters.

French is a master at characterization and suspense, and The Secret Place kept me enthralled.  Recommended!

I had missed Broken Harbor for some reason, and as soon as I finished The Secret Place, I ordered and read Broken Harbor.  Which, of course, was also excellent!  Will review soon.

NetGalley/Penguin Group/Viking

Mystery/Police Procedural.  Sept. 2, 2014.  Print length:  464 pages.





Monday, August 18, 2014

Two French Novels (Wolf Hunt and The Man with the Lead Stomach)

I received ARCs from these two authors last year and was happy to receive two more, although I've certainly delayed reviewing them.  Last year, I liked Cabasson's The Officer's Prey better than Parot's The Chatelet Apprentice, but this time I preferred Parot's novel.

Wolf Hunt           trans.  Isabel Reid

Armand Cabasson is a French psychiatrist and novelist, and Wolf Hunt is the first in this series about Quentin Margont, an officer in the Napoleonic Wars.  While I'm not sure where The Officer's Prey is chronologically in the series, I thought it more accessible than Wolf Hunt.

In Wolf Hunt, someone is killing orphans, and Margont is asked by a beautiful woman to find the killer.  Luckily(?), he is able to team up with Lukas Relmyer, who managed to escape the killer years ago.

The killer is now operating under the cover of war, hoping to evade capture.

Unfortunately, the characters refused to take any real dimension, and the plot didn't feel reasonable to me; the pace was plodding--especially, in places such as when searching Austrian documents for clues about the murderer.

The Officer's Prey, however, showed much improvement over this first novel.  These may be the only two so far to translated.

ARC from Gallic Books.

Historic Mystery.  reprint 2014.  298 pages.

The Man with the Lead Stomach   trans. Michael Glencross

This is the second novel in the series featuring Nicholas Le Floch, newly appointed police commissioner.  I liked this one better than The Chatelet Apprentice, which was the first in the series.

Again, Parot shows a great ability to create the atmosphere of Paris in 1761, a complex mixture of the shimmer of wealth, the filth of Paris streets and lack of sanitation, intrigue and betrayal, and the seeds of revolution.

The characterization of Le Flock and his friends is better than in the first book; they seem more human, more interesting.  The author has abandoned some of the distance with which he presented them in the first novel.

The plot involves the death of a courtier's son, a locked room, and a bizarre murder, the means of which is only established later.  Charles-Henri Sanson, the famous executioner, again plays a role in this novel.

ARC from Gallic Books.

Historic Mystery.  reprint 2014.  338 pages.  






Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Two Fantasies (Beneath and Sorrow)

  Beneath   

Book description:  "Jess has heard the rumors, old folk tales of creatures that live beneath the water—dangerous shapeshifters with a taste for human children. She's dismissed them as crazy stories...until her best friend is stolen and Jess discovers all the legends are true."

This is a YA fairy tale with a romantic angle that doesn't work out as you might expect.  The problems with formatting in the ebook ARC were a little distracting, but I managed to stay in the story well enough, and the problems will be eliminated before publication-- although I couldn't find a link to a place to purchase.

I think a "tween" might enjoy this one, and there were some interesting elements, but overall, it didn't meet my expectations.

NetGalley/Floris Books
Ya/Fairy Tale/Supernatural.  July 1, 2014.
  
Sorrow is the third book in the Witch Ember series, but I've not read the previous novels.  Nor am I so inclined after finishing this one.  The prologue nearly lost me entirely in its boring detail.  The next problem was deciding who the heck was the protagonist.  I wasn't especially taken with the first character introduced, Phindol, but as it turned out, he wasn't really the protagonist, anyway.  Neither was Lord Ash.  OK - the book description did reveal that the protagonist was Faina, but it took long enough to get her in the story.  

I also found the made-up words annoying, they didn't flow naturally, and I found them distracting, rather than contributing to any sense of time or place. 

Faina was pitiful, unaware of how she was being used as an assassin-- and much too young at 14-15 for the connections with Lord Ash and Phindol and other sexual implications.   I really couldn't develop any genuine concern for the characters, not even Faina.   

Again, I couldn't find a link for purchasing.
NetGalley/Dragonwell Books
Science Fiction/Fantasy.  2009; Sept. 30, 2014.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Blood on the Water by Anne Perry

I started reading Anne Perry years ago; she has several series, but my favorite is the one featuring Monk & Hester.  Although it has been a long time since I've read any of Perry's novels, when NetGalley offered a new book with Monk & Hester, I jumped on it.

William Monk is now commander of the River Police and is on the water when an explosion sinks a pleasure boat full of revelers.  The explosion sinks the boat within minutes, and Monk and Orme are immediately pressed into rescuing survivors.  

Of some 200 people aboard the Princess Mary, only a few survive, and the event sends shock waves that reverberate throughout England.  Monk vows to discover who was responsible, but very quickly, to his great frustration, the River Police are removed from the investigation.  

A conspiracy to cover up is evidently in place, and it isn't clear how far up the corruption extends.  An Egyptian man is caught, tried, and convicted, but there are obvious flaws in the investigation that fail to place the man on the Princess Mary.  When some of the problems with the conviction surface, the investigation is handed back to Monk and the River Police, but by then all of the evidence and witness testimony is contaminated, and Monk and his team seem to be set up for failure.  The motivation for the bombing is still unclear, and it is the motivation that will eventually reveal who is responsible.  

Characters from previous novels are back in play, and Perry is so good at giving life to secondary characters that it is always a pleasure to see them again.  I missed the novel preceding this one, so I'm curious about the circumstances surrounding Sir Oliver Rathbone and Scuff (Scuff was new to me, but Sir Oliver has been in most of this series).  

The second trial is sometimes a bit tedious and repetitious. And the involvement of several of the individuals who are so determined to impede justice doesn't feel adequately explained.  I was surprised at the ultimate cause of the cover up, however.   

Even if the section concerning the second trial was a bit slow, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Monk and Hester in action again.  Once again, Perry effectively develops her characters and immerses the reader in a Victorian England that feels authentic.

Read in July; blog post scheduled for Aug. 12, 2014.

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine

Historic Fiction/Mystery.  Sept. 9, 2014.  Print length:  320 pages.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Deadly Bonds and Game of Fear

Deadly Bonds  by L. J. Sellers is part of a series featuring Detective Wade Jackson.  I wasn't familiar with this series of mystery/suspense novels, but I enjoyed it very much.  Detective Jackson is an ordinary, middle-aged man, with plenty of problems of his own, but who has a commitment to doing the right thing.

When investigating the death of a young woman, he discovers a hidden five-year-old boy.  The boy attaches himself to Jackson, and Jackson feels the bond developing between them, but will it compromise his ability to solve the case.

In the meantime, Detective Evans, his protege, is reassigned to another case involving the death of a football player, that may be a simple heart attack.  Jackson's team is understaffed her talents are missed.  Especially since Jackson fears that the boy may be a target as well.

Jackson is a likable and fallible protagonist, working hard to do the right thing and sometimes unsure what that is.  Well-written and compelling mystery.  I may look for the first in the series;  I liked Jackson and the plot that much.

Read in June.  Review scheduled for Aug.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Police Procedural.  Aug. 26.  Print length:  320 pages.


Game of Fear by Robin Perini

When Deb Lansing's younger sister goes missing, Deb has trouble getting anyone to believe her.  Gabe Montgomery does, but partly because Gabe's father had a case with similarities that was never solved and partly because Gabe has a bit of a crush on Deb.

What they discover is that missing teen's who were highly gifted have gone missing over the years in numbers that certainly should have caused interest.  Except that often a note was left indicating that the disappearance was voluntary, or there was a romance involved persuaded the police that the teenagers had run away together.

The disappearances are not, however, voluntary, and Deb and Gabe find themselves knee-deep in a conspiracy that will change the world as they know it.

The premise was interesting, but the way the plot played out didn't allow me to suspend my disbelief.   Not a bad summer read, but for me, not terribly memorable.  

NetGalley

Suspense.  Aug. 28, 2014.  Print length:  372 pages.

Personal by Lee Child

I read my first Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child in 2010 and immediately checked out everything the library had to offer. Below is a list of the novels in the series; I've marked through the ones I've read.

The Jack Reacher novels:
___ #1 Killing Floor (1997)
___ #2 Die Trying (1998)
___ #3 Tripwire (1999)
___ #4 Running Blind: US title/The Visitor: UK title (2000)
___ #5 Echo Burning (2001)
___ #6 Without Fail (2002)
___ #7 Persuader (2003)
___ #8 The Enemy (2004) Prequel set eight years before Killing Floor.
___ #9 One Shot (2005)
___ #10 The Hard Way (2006)
___ #11 Bad Luck and Trouble (2007)
___ #12 Nothing to Lose (2008)
___ #13 Gone Tomorrow (2009)
___ #14 61 Hours (Spring 2010)
___ #15 Worth Dying For (Fall 2010)
___ #16 The Affair (2011) This is another prequel set just before Killing Floor.
___ #17 A Wanted Man (2012)
___ #18 Never Go Back (2013)
___#19 Personal (2014)

I've just finished Personal, so I have to go back and pick up the three I haven't read.  Since I've reviewed all of the ones I've read, I'll just add a bit about Jack Reacher's background.

Reacher is 6'5 inches tall; his father was military, his mother was French; he is a retired Army MP; he uses physics when he fights or plans; he can tell time without a watch.  He owns nothing but the clothes he wears and a toothbrush.  He is constantly on the move, and of course, always there to defend the right.  He is just plain remarkable.  (I wouldn't watch the film with little Tom Cruise playing the 6'5" Reacher...for several reasons.)

Personal has Reacher pulled back into service...unofficially.  A sniper has taken a shot at the President of France; a shot that only the most elite snipers in the world could make.  The possibilities for the shooter are down to three.  One of the snipers in the running is a man Reacher arrested years ago, and the thought is that perhaps he can do it again.  At least that is what the State Department and the CIA hope.

Teamed with Casey Nice, Reacher ends up in London ready to do battle with local mobsters who have teamed up with the suspect.

I'm including some of the praise for this series (which I love):

“Welcome to the relentless world of Jack Reacher and his impressive tendency to be in the wrong place at the right time. . . . Child has created an iconic character that other thriller writers try to emulate but don’t come close to matching.”—Associated Press

“The Reacher novels are easily the best thriller series going.”—NPR

“Child is a superb craftsman of suspense.”—Entertainment Weekly

NetGalley/Random House/Delacorte Press

Thriller/Action.  Sept. 2, 2014.  Print Length:  368 pages.




Sunday, August 10, 2014

Waiting for Fall

I finally finished this fella'.
He went through a couple of incarnations.
My Halloween Eccentrics
have had a good run this summer.
Still have a couple in progress from early July.
When I run out of ideas,
and they have personality issues,
I leave them alone until they 
decide who they want to be.

My Goblin and Frank-N-Stein
have been stalled for a while.
And the witch that I abandoned 
along with them also needs attention.
--------
I just finished Tana French's
latest book:  The Secret Place!
Is there anyone better 
at creating atmosphere?
I loved it and will review it soon.
I do love NetGalley.

I'm still adding to my R.I.P. challenge list, 
and eagerly awaiting the date I can begin reading.

Have you thought of good choices 
for Carl's challenge?
I'm eager to add to my list.