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Sunday, November 09, 2014

Four Brief Reviews

I think this about finishes the catch-up reviews from September and October. Computer problems plagued much of October and early November (had to have our friendly tech guy out again to see where I was picking up the Malware). Third time's the charm?  

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear 

WWI setting; static characters; abrupt ending.    

This is not a Maisie Dobbs novel, although it does cover some of the same WWI issues that were significant in the first Maisie Dobbs books and those of Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge mysteries.  What is missing is a genuine sense of plot.

Library copy; HarperCollins

Historic Fiction.  Jan. 1, 2014.  336 pages.            

Skin Hunger:  A Resurrection of Magic by Kathleen Duey

Two connected stories, centuries apart.  

I don't remember where I saw this one mentioned, but I ordered the first two books in the trilogy.  A finalist for the National Book Award, Skin Hunger is a dark YA fantasy.

A compelling novel that hooks you, but ends with a cliff hanger. I was glad I had ordered the second book as well.  The narrative switches from the early story in which Sadima, a young girl who can communicate with animals ends up as housekeeper for two wannabe magicians.  Somiss and Franklin want to resurrect magic.  

In the alternating story, Somiss has been successful in establishing an Academy for Wizrds, but don't think Hogwart's.  Pretty much the opposite--this academy is  unrelenting in the mistreatment and abuse of the boys admitted.  

Purchased.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Fantasy.  2007.  368 pages.

Sacred Scars:  A Resurrection of Magic (bk. 2)-Kathleen Duey

I was glad to have the second book in the trilogy since the first one ended in such a cliff hanger.

The two alternating stories continue.  When I finished I was sorry that the third book has not yet been published.  

After a week or so, however, that compulsion to continue reading lessened as I considered the two books together.  Not much good ever happens.  Somiss is evil; Franklin is co-dependent, unable to function as an individual, and therefore, an accomplice in evil he doesn't condone; after Sadima's memories are taken by Somiss, she doesn't remember anything about the past; and Hahp (the boy protagonist in the Academy section) continues to survive the tests of the academy.

OK - the above is an oversimplification, but after giving the books a rest for a couple of weeks, that was what it boiled down to for me.  If  the third installment had been published, I would have dived right into it immediately, but is more of a maybe.

Purchased.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Fantasy.  2009.  560 pages.

The Carpathian Assignment by Chip Wagar

I read this in September for the R.I.P. challenge, but then ended up going on vacation and letting this ARC get buried in a pile of books.

It was a great choice for the R.I.P. challenge and for folks who love Bram Stoker's Dracula and analogs of the original Dracula.  The Carpathian Assignment is the story from a different perspective--that of Kálváry Istvan, a retired Hungarian calvary colonel, who accepts an assignment as chief of police in Bistritz, in the province of Transylvania.

Almost as soon as he arrives at his new assignment, Istvan learns that his predecessor disappeared.  It isn't long before he realizes that he is involved in a complicated and frightening hunt for a serial killer.

The viewpoint is entirely different from the original.  Instead of the very English pov provided by Jonathan Harker and his friends, The Carpathian Assignment examines the case from the Austrian-Hungarian perspective.  The most important characters are part of the police force, the Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie, the Roma, and various inhabitants of isolated villages in the region.

In many ways, the book follows the original, but there are specific and interesting differences in the way Jonathan Harker tells the tale and what transpires in Istvan's version. 

A great book for  for those who enjoy Gothic novels written in nineteenth century style.  

The e galley was too difficult to read, so Lynn Coppotelli of Smith Publicity kindly sent me a physical review copy, and I'm sorry it has taken me so long to review it.

Gothic Novel.  2014.  324 pages.


  1. All sounds interesting, but my main focus will he The Carpathian Assignment. I love a good, dark Gothic novel anytime. :)

  2. I wish I'd reviewed it for the R.I.P. challenge--it was perfect. :)

  3. I hope your computer problems are over now, Jenclair. :-( I'm sorry you have had to deal with so many.

    That's too bad about Winspear's book. I haven't read her work yet, but I have the first book in her Maisie Dobbs series.

    Skin Hunger sounds interesting. As does the second book, Sacred Scars. They sound very dark. It's good to know too that the books are connected. I prefer to be prepared when I come up against cliff hangers. It's too bad the third book isn't out yet.

    Carpathian Assignment sounds like something I would really like.

  4. Shame about the Winspear book! I was thinking of picking that one up -- the Maisie Dobbs books sound fun, but I'm a little daunted by how many of them there are!

  5. Wendy - I really liked the first few novels in the Maisie Dobbs series; the last ones I've liked less well. I will probably read the last one in the Skin Hunger series, but I'm not chomping at the bit like I was at first. :)

    Jenny - The first ones in the Maisie Dobbs series, I really enjoyed. It is a time period that fascinates--dealing with the aftermath of WWI and its effect on such a small country.