Search This Blog


Saturday, October 03, 2015

My Kindle Died

I'm still in mourning--especially as I ordered the newest version in the largest size, and neither my husband nor I could get it to connect with our WiFi.  I wasn't as charmed with the size as I thought I would be, but if I could have gotten it to work properly, it would have been fine.

As it was, in a fit of frustration, I returned it and ordered the Fire HD 8, which looks to be an updated version of my deceased Kindle.  And wait.  Again.

I had about ten ARCs that had come in the mail to read, but so many of those that arrive in the mail unsolicited don't appeal to me.  Fortunately, there were several that did, and I will be reviewing them soon.  

Some books that I read in August and September (and really liked), but have not yet reviewed because I'm waiting until closer to publication dates:

Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid; NetGalley-- December 1.  

Tony Hill & Carol Jordan; if you are familiar with Wire in the Blood, the British television series, then you know these characters. I love this series, and I like where this book is taking it.  Have to admit I have been a little concerned about Tony & Carol, especially Carol, in the last couple of books, but although this one has the same tension, both characters have  to examine themselves in more detail.  And catch a killer.  A great addition to a fine series!

Land of Shadows - by Priscilla Royal; NetGalley--due out in February, 2016.  I've read and reviewed most of the books in this series.  Historical mysteries set in the late 1200's featuring Eleanor Wynethrop, Prioress of Tyndale Priory, and Brother Thomas, a monk with a secret past.

I love the historical detail and research that goes into Royal's novels.  The first one I read (The Wine of Violence- my review) was such a great introduction to the series.  By Land of Shadows, the reader knows all the characters well and has a better grasp of the political, religious, and cultural aspects of the time, and can expect an excellent mystery (based on actual events in this case) as well.  

Unreasonable Doubt - Vicki Delaney; NetGalley--also due out in February, 2016.  I have enjoyed everything I've read in this series about Constable Molly Smith, and this one did not disappoint.  Delany delivers another well-crafted mystery with great characters.

 Our dragon boat races were canceled this year because of the Red River flooding in June, but we have sponsored a boat crewed by our son-in-law Chris and friends with great success for several years.   

I have a draft, but haven't scheduled it yet; keep this one in mind.

That's Chris in the in the front row with sunglasses.

Without my Kindle, how have I been spending my time?  Weeding.  It was too damn hot during the summer with so many days 100+.  Making more Eccentric characters for Halloween.  You can see some over at Bayou Quilts.  I'm still working on more.

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne by M.L. Longworth

The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne  

This is the fifth in the Verlaque & Bonnet series, and I love the covers.  I've only read Death in the Vines in the series, but I have to admit that I liked it better than this one.

There is a murder, a missing painting that might be a Cezanne, a mystery about who the woman in the painting is (definitely not Madame Cezanne), and a lot about Aix-en-Provence, Cezanne's home town.

I usually love novels about art, but for some reason I wasn't convinced by the way the story alternated between the portion concerning Cezanne in Aix and the contemporary setting.  

If you are a Francophile,  you will appreciate the way the author handles the setting and the characters in her contemporary Aix-en-Provence, although it might be a good idea to begin at the beginning to get a handle on all of the characters.

The following link is to an interesting article about Longworth and her Verlaque & Bonnet novels on NPR:  Mystery Writer Weaves Intricate Puzzles in Sleepy French Town .

Read in September; scheduled for October 2

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Mystery.  Sept. 10, 2015.  Print length:  320 pages.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Flight of the King (Animas 2) by C.R. Grey

Flight of the King (Animas 2)

I thoroughly enjoyed the first in this middle school series and was eager for the second installment.  Set in the prestigious Fairmount Academy  (Do we ever really get tired of this trope?  It is the easiest way to remove young people from a parental situation and provide plenty of other youngsters in a microcosm), Bailey Walker and his friends have returned from the winter break.

Of course, all is not well, and the academy awaits a visit from Viviana Melore, whose evil intentions Bailey and his friends are only to aware of.  Who is the current spy that Viviana has implanted in the academy?   What is up with the Seer's Glass?  Bailey and Hal are on one quest; Gwen and Phi on another.  A battle approaches that could decide the fate of the country and change the human/animal kinship forever.

Plenty of action in Flight of the King, but in order to have the appropriate background and familiarity with the characters, it is important to have read Legacy of the Claw (Animas 1).  I have to admit that I didn't enjoy Flight as much as Legacy, but then it has been a year since I read the first book, so it was over 100 books ago...and, uh, I am a little more mature (OK, read ancient, if you must) than the target audience.  

This series should appeal to young people, especially those who feel strong bonds with animals.  It isn't Harry Potter, but it is entertaining and has embedded themes of friendship, animal kinship, loyalty, unbridled ambition, and courage.

Read in July.  Blog post scheduled for 

NetGalley/ Disney-Hyperion

Middle School Fantasy.  Oct. 13, 2015.  Print version:  304 pages.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Kind of Grief by A.D. Scott (mystery in the Scottish Highlands)

A Kind of Grief by A.D. Scott is set in the Scottish Highlands in the late 1950's during the Cold War.  I read the first in this series in 2010 and enjoyed it.  Although I thought I would continue with the series, it didn't happen (best laid plans "gang aft agley" -- thank you, Robert Burns), and Scott's latest offering is the sixth book featuring Joanne Ross. 

 So...I have missed the four books in between, and thus was unfamiliar with some important events that are referred to in this one.  Maybe that is part of the reason I wasn't as taken with this book as I was with first one, but I also found the style a bit off-putting and don't remember feeling that way when reading  A Small Death in the Great Glen.   

What I did like is the connection to the Cambridge Five.  (I read A Kind of Grief in May, but am scheduling the review for September.  In May, I also read 3 fiction and 1 nonfiction books about espionage during WWII and later during the Cold War, so there was a nice fit in subject matter which also included watching Granite Flats, a Netflix series that also had the espionage and Cold War angle.  None of this reading/watching was deliberate, and I love it when happenstance creates a synchronicity in subject matter and/or characters.)  

I also love the setting.  The highlands fascinate me in fiction and fact, and the late 1950's are 
so removed from our current  global inter-connectedness and our technology.  The differences between the 1950's and  2015 are almost Brigadoon-ish.  

Would I read more in the series?  Yes, but I intend to check with the library to see if they have the second in the series.  I would like to catch up on at least some of what I've missed.

Read in May; Blog post scheduled for Sept. 30, 2015.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Mystery.  Oct. 6, 2015.  Print version:  368 pages.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Three Mysteries

The Last Good Place by Robin Burcell 

 Robin Burcell has worked as a cop, hostage negotiator, and as an FBI-trained, forensic artist . She’s also the author of award-winning thrillers. Now she uses that unparalleled experience to continue Carolyn Weston’s groundbreaking series of books, which were the basis for the hit TV show The Streets of San Francisco. (from NetGalley description)

Trudi Salvatori goes for a morning run...and ends up strangled.  A series of murders near important landmarks leads the investigators to suspect that the killer has added another notch in his belt.  The reader, however, has other suspicions about Trudi's death.  

Full of red herrings and intriguing twists.  (Remember Karl Malden & Michael Douglas in the television series?  This took me back, but it is definitely an updated version)

NetGalley/Brash Books

Police Procedural/Mystery.  Nov. 3, 2015.  Print length: 289 pages.

From the Cradle by Louise Voss & Mark Edwards

I reviewed The Blissfully Dead by these authors in August, but From the Cradle, a child abduction story, is the first in the series.  

Two young children have been abducted, and then Frankie Phillips is abducted from her home.  Is the same person responsible for all three abductions?

Too many twists and coincidences for me.  I liked the second novel (The Blissfully Dead) better.

What was interesting was the more detailed backstory of Patrick Lennon.  The gist of it is covered quite well in The Blissfully Dead, but From the Cradle give a fuller accounting.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Police Procedural/Mystery.  2014.  Print length:  383 pages.

The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton

Detective Stephen Lavender and his trusty sidekick Constable Woods first appeared in The Heiress of Linn Hagh, which I also enjoyed.  The novels are set in the Regency Period and in this one the Napoleonic War on the continent creates an environment in which treachery thrives.

A young woman is found dead in a derelict house, and Lavender must discover who she was and why she died.

A solid mystery in which the lovely Magdelena again appears.  My favorite part was discovering that the Sans Pareil theater really existed (it later became The Adelphi) and that Jane Scott (1779-1839), along with her father, was developer, manager, performer, and playwright.  That really is quite something for the time.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Historic mystery.  Oct. 6, 2015.  Print length:  322 pages.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Darkness on His Bones by Barbara Hambly

Darkness on His Bones          

Set in Paris before the outbreak of WWI.  When Lydia receives notice that James Asher has been found near death in Paris, she rushes to her husband's side after sending a message to Don Simon Ysidro.  War is imminent, and the Germans are preparing to take Paris, hoping to use the Paris vampire nest as a devastating weapon.  

Lydia will need Don Simon's help in keeping James safe, but the ancient vampire discovers that events from his past threaten his ability to protect Lydia and James...and himself.

I've enjoyed most of the novels in this series and reviewed them.  However, I found this one less entertaining than previous novels because it was less coherent.  My favorites were Those Who Hunt the Night, Traveling with the Dead, and The Kindred of Darkness.  If you enjoy vampire novels, Hambly has an interesting take on the vampire genre!

James Asher, Vampire Novels

Those Who Hunt the Night (Locus Award winner for Best Horror Novel in 1989)

Traveling with the Dead (Locus Award nominee 1996, winner of the Lord Ruthven Award 1996)

Blood Maidens (2010)

Magistrates of Hell (2012)

The Kindred of Darkness (March 1, 2014)

Review scheduled for Sept. 25, 2015.

  NetGalley/Severn House

Vampire/Supernatural.  Oct. 1, 2015.  Print length:  256 pages.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

The Clockwork Scarab 

I read the second in the series first, The Spiritglass Charade, and really enjoyed it, so I decided to backtrack and get the first in the series.

Irene Adler summons Mina Holmes (daughter of Mycroft, niece of Sherlock) and Evaline Stoker (sister of Bram) to the British Museum to enlist them in some detective work. Princess Alexandra is concerned about young society girls who have gone missing, and Miss Adler believes that Mina and Evaline may be able to investigate without being suspected.

Again, light, fun, and entirely appropriate for young readers, but engaging enough to entertain me, as well.  

YA/Mystery/Steampunk.  2013.  Print length:  361 pages.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Song of Shadows by John Connolly

A Song of Shadows               

After Wolf in Winter, readers were left wondering how the events in that novel would affect the next one.   Charlie Parker's injuries are grievous physically, but emotionally and spiritually, Charlie has a lot to deal with as well.  

Plot:  Charlie is recuperating in a small Maine town.  He is recovering slowly, getting physical therapy, but still in tremendous pain.  His weakness frustrates him, and he knows that both the physical and mental adjustments he must make are going to be life-changing.

Then a body washes ashore, a neighbor seems to hiding something, and events that on the surface appear to unconnected begin to coalesce into an evil that has roots in Nazi Germany.  Parker begins to take new interest in his life as he seeks to unravel the disparate threads.  

John Connolly has a unique style:  fluid writing, humor, well-drawn characters both the good and the bad (and the bad characters are truly malevolent), great dialogue, dark compelling plots, supernatural elements, and excellent pacing.  

Characters like Louis (former (?) hit-man) and Angel (burglar) provide comic relief, and their dialogue is always a pleasure.  The loyalty they feel to Charlie bolsters my enjoyment of them, and the same is true of the Fulci brothers.  Other characters like Walsh and Ross, who have a much more complicated relationship with Charlie Parker, are also intriguing.  In addition to the villains in this installment, those from previous novels also make brief appearances or are referenced.

Historic digressions into Nazi Germany and escaped war criminals are necessary to continue the plot, but also interesting in purely historic ways.  I had never heard of Grafeneck which gets a one-line mention in the novel, and looking it up led me to Action T4 and eugenics --from Francis Galton, to the American eugenic movement, to Hitler's "master race."  The plot is not about Action T4 or eugenics, but I  had never heard of Grafeneck and was curious.

The war criminal elements are, however, essential to the plot, and it is interesting to see how these old men look at their lives.  They have lived much longer as "average" people in the U.S. than they did in Germany where they were responsible for the deaths of so many. 

To balance the violence and brutality in the novels, Connolly includes the humor of Louis and Angel and the Fulcis, witty dialogue, Parker's compassion for those who need protection, and the depth of relationships with those he loves and cares for.

I've read 3 of the Charlie Parker novels:  The Whisperer (reviewed here), The Wolf in Winter (reviewed here), and A Song of Shadows and had no difficulty adjusting to events even though A Song of Shadows is the 13th in the series.  Nevertheless, I've decided I want the full background and just ordered Every Dead Thing, the first in the series.

Read in June.  Blog post scheduled for Sept. 21
Update:  I read Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow, and The Wrath of Angels right after finishing this one.  I'm going to have to admit that the books also qualify as "horror"--and the first ones are exceptionally violent.  

NetGalley/Atria Books

Mystery/Suspense/Supernatural/Horror.  Sept. 29, 2015.  Print length: 480 pages

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Recalled to Death by Priscilla Masters

Recalled to Death

A medieval ruin and a murdered homeless man presents a new puzzle for DI Alex Randall and coroner Martha Gunn. Unfortunately, neither the characters nor the plot really engaged me, the clues seemed strangely artificial, and the man's reason for being homeless didn't work for me either. 

Master's has another series featuring DI Joanna Piercy; there are at least 12 in that series, but I'm not inclined to check it out right now.  Has anyone else read either of these series?

Read in June.  Blog post scheduled for Sept. 19.

NetGalley/Severn House

Mystery/Police Procedural.  Oct. 1, 2015.  Print length:  192 pages.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Blind Shuffle

The second in a series featuring Rusty Diamond, former street magician turned Las Vegas headliner, who got into a sticky situation and retired to the Eastern Seaboard.  

The novel opens with Diamond flying to New Orleans, hoping to make amends with Prosper Lavalle, his former mentor, and Prosper's daughter.

On arrival, he discovers that Marceline has been missing for a week.  Diamond is determined to find her.

It was OK, just not exactly my kind of book. 

NetGalley/Diversion Books

Mystery/Noir.  Oct. 20, 2015.  Print version:  266 pages.


The Prettiest One 

Hot topic for novels lately:  women with amnesia.  Caitlin finds herself covered in blood and no memory of the past 7 months.  The first couple of pages had me interested, but as the novel developed, I found myself less and less able to suspend disbelief.  While I kept reading to discover which of the two men Caitlin would choose, I didn't find it all that easy to identify with any of the characters.  

Reviews of this one appear to be at the extremes, great or awful.  

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Mystery/Crime.  Oct. 1, 2015.  Print version: 402 pages

Little Girl Gone  (Remember Mia)

Poor choice of title as it only aids the comparisons to Gone Girl.  (Oh, they have changed the title!  It is still Little Girl Gone on Goodreads, but Amazon has Remember Mia, a better choice.

Brief synopsis:  When Estelle’s baby daughter is taken from her cot, she doesn’t report her missing. Days later, Estelle is found in a wrecked car, with a wound to her head and no memory.
Estelle knows she holds the key to what happened that night – but what she doesn’t know is whether she was responsible…
Another woman with amnesia!   

The good:  The book gives an interesting account of postpartum psychosis and the importance of early parental attachment.

The bad:  Way too much time on Estelle's postpartum difficulties, and the book is quite long.  It is difficult to read the details, and I had to put the book down several times.  Cutting some of this section would have given plenty of information about Estelle's mental state and moved the novel along at a better pace.

Also problematic, deciphering what is spoken aloud and what is being thought;  sometimes this is clarified by italics, but not always.  Since Estelle is so confused and has no memory of certain events, knowing the difference between what is thought and what is said becomes even more important.

And it is only around half-way through the book that you get an idea about what really happened, even if there are some clues--so you have to suffer the anxiety of reading Estelle's psychosis for way too long before even getting to the meat of the story.  Serious editing would have condensed the length, avoided reader burn-out, and resulted in a better paced story.

NetGalley/Harper Collins/Avon

Mystery/Thriller.  Sept. 24, 2015.  Print version:  400 pages

(Just checked and this was published in July and is being republished in Sept. with fewer pages--343 as opposed to 400.  It may make a big difference in the quality of the novel!  New cover as well.)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Still Waters by Viveca Sten

Still Waters  (Sandhamn Murders Book 1) by Viveca Sten is a new series for me.  The novel is mostly set on the small island of Sandham in the Swedish archipelago and conveys a vivid sense of the island community.

Police detective Thomas Andreasson is sent to Sandhamn when a body is discovered tangled in a fishing net.  The body of Krister Berggren has been in the water for months, and it is uncertain whether or not the death was an accident.  Thomas has a few questions, but can find no definite evidence of foul play.

When Krister's cousin also turns up dead on Sandhamn, however, the coincidence is too great to ignore.  

Thomas and his childhood friend Nora Linde attempt to unravel the circumstances and uncover the person responsible.  

The first 5 books in this series have been made into a television series, The Sandhamn Murders.  I would love to watch it because the island is unbelievably believable.

NetGalley/Amazon Publishing

Mystery/Police Procedural.  Oct. 1, 2015.  Print length:  387 pages.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Three for the Weekend

Falling on the Bright Side 

Larry Whitten is haunted by the death of his brother many years ago and the resulting effects on his family--his parent's divorce and the feeling of being abandoned by his father.  At the beginning of the novel, Larry is suffering from depression and a sense of ineffectiveness.  His career goals seem unattainable, and he is distancing himself from his job (and unpleasant boss) and from his family. 

In many ways, the book feels like a parable or exemplum.  Sometimes it slips into the overly sentimental and mawkish;  sometimes it pulls itself back.  Larry is often an annoying protagonist, but that is not to say that he doesn't ring true, especially in his passive states.  I did find the messages about the way society warehouses the elderly and the disabled addresses concerns we all have.  And the author does have experience in the field.

From the author:  My new novel, Falling on the Bright Side, draws directly on my experience working with the disabled. Falling tells the story of people who have been shelved in nursing home warehouses who have lost their value to society, and explores how the human dimension continues to shine in these human beings.--Michael Gray

NetGalley/ABQ Press

Contemporary Fiction.  2014.  Print length:  305 pages.

The Fires of Alexandria

An interesting alternate history involving Heron of Alexandria, the remarkable genius also known as Hero of Alexandria and about whom little is really known other than his legacy in mathematics, physics, pneumatics, and mechanics.  The fact that so little is known of Heron's personal life allows the author to be quite inventive.

A little slow in the beginning, the story eventually picked up the pace, and I was quite fascinated with some of the mysteries of the narrative and with the real details about life in Alexandria, Egypt.

Adventure, history, and alternate history all mixed into one. I'm interested in the next in the series.

This one was free from Amazon.

Alternate History.  2011.  340 pages.

The Spiritglass Charade:  A Stoker & Holmes Novel

Not Bram and Sherlock, but Bram's sister Evelina and Sherlock's niece and Mycroft's daughter, Mina.  And Irene Adler, "the Woman," as Holmes referred to her.  What fun!  

A YA novel that involves a Victorian setting in London, steampunk, two very different female protagonists, spiritualism, and vampires!

This is the second in the series, but it works independently in spite of references to their previous case.  Evidently, there were questions about whether the first case was wrapped up correctly and the possibility that it will be re-visited, but it doesn't interfere with the the current mystery that has Princess Alexandria worried.

The novel isn't perfect.  The switching from Mina's POV to Evalina's POV doesn't work as well as it could; the two voices are not different enough.  The only way (other than chapter headings) to tell the difference between the two is the content.  Another slight distraction for me is that steampunk details can easily be overdone and are mostly superfluous to the story. I enjoy a few steampunk details, but prefer that they are minimal.  I did like the term "cognoggin" that replaces  the more common term of "gear head"-- it was an amusing replacement that made me smile.

The Spiritglass Charade was light reading and definitely aimed at a YA audience, but it was entertaining, and the historical details concerning Alexandra, Princess of Wales (yes, I looked up Albert Edward and Alexandra) were small, but accurate.   Gleason used those tiny genuine details to enlarge Alexandra's character, even though she only appears at the beginning of the novel.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and think this is a series that will improve as it continues.   This one was one of those bargains from one of the following: BookBub, Books that Buzz, and Early Bird Books.  

YA/Steampunk/Paranormal/Mystery.  2014.  Print length:  362 pages.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Failing Our Brightest Kids by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Brandon L. Wright

Failing Our Brightest Kids:  The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students

Book Description:  
In this provocative volume, Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Brandon L. Wright argue that, for decades, the United States has done too little to focus on educating students to achieve at high levels. The authors identify two core problems: First, compared to other countries, the United States does not produce enough high achievers. Second, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are severely underrepresented among those high achievers. The authors describe educating students to high levels of achievement as an issue of both equity and human capital: talented students deserve appropriate resources and attention, and the nation needs to develop these students’ abilities to remain competitive in the international arena.

American Education has focused on equity for several decades--on making sure that children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds reach a minimum level of proficiency. And there has been some success in closing that gap.

On the other hand, bright and high ability children are often neglected with the assumption that they will do fine anyway.  The authors are concerned with those children for whom the minimum provides no challenge.  How have these children been served?  And how do our most capable students stand in relation with students from other countries?

In 2012, 27 of 34 countries did better than we did on the math section of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) exam.  (More information about the findings can be found here.)  And this is just one assessment that reveals our less than stellar educational results compared to other countries.

While the authors make a strong case for better opportunities for all children with high ability or who are high achievers, they are even more concerned about the neglect of high ability students from disadvantaged homes in which academics are not a priority, students whose parents are unaware of what is offered or don't have the financial means to take advantage, students who live in areas where transportation to a better school is not available or practical, and of students who speak another language at home.  Untapped and neglected potential that we cannot afford to waste.  Why are other countries doing better at reaching these students than we are?

OK--I knew this was going to be a problem.  How to review a book that has so much information and that I've highlighted perhaps over-zealously?  (I had to keep switching highlight colors to bring out important details in important passages.)  There is so much information to ponder!

In spite of the numerous acronyms for educational programs and assessments, the book is surprisingly readable.  I enjoyed reading about the way the eleven countries in the study handled the problems of trying to provide both equity and excellence, their strengths and weaknesses, and what the U.S. might learn from their efforts.

To avoid bogging down in details that I find fascinating, I'm going to direct you to reviews that might give you a better idea about the importance of the book:

NPR review

Wall Street Journal review

NetGalley/Harvard Education Press

Education Theory.   Aug. 28, 2015.  Print length:  312 pages.  

Monday, September 07, 2015

The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne

The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne

Murder mystery and espionage set in Nazi Germany.  Clara Vine, the protagonist, is an actress working in Germany and providing intelligence for the British Secret Service, but Clara is not the one who really interests the reader.

What sets the novel apart is the inclusion of Eva Braun, and Clara must get close to Eva as part of her assignment.  Although Clara moves the story along,  it is the wives and lovers of the German high command with whom she must occasionally interact that provoke a curious fascination. 

History doesn't recount much about the wives of those men whose viciousness and inhuman behavior have merited history's contempt, but Magda Goebbels, Margarete Himmler, Emmy Goering and others are also a part of what occurred.  What roles did they play?  How much or how little did they know and/or approve of or ignore? 

And while kept less visible for many reasons--Eva Braun, the girl who became Hitler's mistress and finally married him shortly before their joint suicide, is the object of much curiousity.  Of course, everyone knows a little about Hitler's mistress of twelve years, but I had never thought of her as much of an individual, more as a side note to history, and this novel made me curious.  It is amazing how many people continued to live such mundane lives as Hitler made and instituted his millions of people were sent to camps, as almost unbelievable atrocities were committed.

The novel isn't really about the what terrible things happened either in or out of the concentration camps.  It is a spy novel, but one that arouses curiosity about how the majority of Germans came to worship Hitler, to accept his ideas, and to continue to live ordinary lives while millions died in horrific ways--and curiosity about the wives and lovers of those men responsible for the most egregious of those crimes against humanity.

The Scent of Secrets is historical fiction that sent me in search of more information.  

Smithsonian documentary, In Search of Eva Braun--narrated by Leonard Nimoy 

 Eva Braun's home movies 

Read in May.  Review scheduled for Sept. 7.

NetGalley/Random House

Historical fiction/Espionage.  Sept. 15, 2015.  Print length:  448 pages.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Order by A.C. Donaubaur

The Order is one of the best fantasy books I've read, and I've read quite a few.  The world-building shines in its detailed and realistic presentation of an imaginary world that contains characters, dialogue, and situations that allow the reader to enter the world in the fullest sense.  In addition,  Donaubaur presents perhaps the best account and conception of magic I've ever run across and now ranks (in my personal high epic fantasy universe) with Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, N.K. Jemisin, Emma Bull, and Kate Elliot.  (I have another pantheon of YA fantasy, but that is for another time.)

Plot:  The book opens with Eryn at fifteen as an apprentice to her father as a healer, but the pair must always hide their magical ability.  When Eryn seeks revenge against a young man who tried to take her by force, disregarding her father's teaching, the lesson is a hard one.  After her father's death, Eryn continues for twelve years as a healer until a head injury reveals her magic abilities, and she is taken prisoner by the king's forces and brought before the Order of Magicians.  Recognizing her extraordinary magical strength, the Order harness Eryn's magical abilities and force her to train as a warrior, which is antithetical to all of her beliefs.

The characters are all well-developed and interesting, with secondary characters playing important roles in Eryn's life and in the development of the narrative.  (My favorite is Vern, the adolescent son of her combat trainer.  The relationship between young Vern and Eryn is one of the greatest strengths of the novel.)  

The pace is perfect, the dialogue is to-the-point and often amusing, and the narrative is so engrossing, I didn't want the book ever to end.

The Order is a long book, which is true of all my favorite epic fantasy, but unlike many of my other favorites, it has no truly evil villain and no war (at least so far--there are more books to come).  What it does, instead, is examine human flaws and motivation and how these human attributes and characteristics can cause conflict, misunderstandings, misguided behaviors, and unexpected problems.  The novel deals less with the good versus evil concept than is typical in high fantasy, but is deeply concerned with moral issues and choices.  And, oh, the tension and suspense that can arise from these situations that derive from personal flaws and behavior, character growth and choices, and the restraints and/or benefits of tradition!

I truly loved this book and can't wait for more.  Highly Recommended!

NetGalley/A.C. Donaubaur

Epic Fantasy.  Aug. 2, 2015.  Print version:  913 pages.

Friday, September 04, 2015


Shadow Play by Iris Johansen

I read one of this series featuring Eve Duncan some years ago.  Eve Duncan is a forensic sculptor who focuses on the reconstruction of the skulls of lost children, and I liked the idea of knowing more about this kind of reconstructive sculpting.  I don't remember which book or when I read it, but the first one was published in 1998.  For some reason, the book fell short for me, and this is the first book I've read by Johansen since then.

When the newest in the series was offered on NetGalley, I decided to give it another chance.  

Plot:  Eve is pressured by a dedicated sheriff into accepting the skull of a child for reconstruction and moving it ahead of other projects.  I have to admit that, in spite of the things that bothered me, I was involved with the story.

While Shadow Play did engage me (because I wanted to know the circumstances of Jenny's murder), my opinion changed only a little from the other book I read years ago.  Eve is more likable, but still not very believable.  Joe Quinn is too perfect, and at every opportunity the author reminds us that he is a former Navy Seal.  Once was enough; the way "Seal" worked its way into so many conversations became the equivalent of an earworm.  Eve and Joe love each other.  Again, over referenced.  Actions are often enough and repeatedly informing the reader of the depth of their love--unnecessary.  The voice of Jenny, the nine-year-old (who has evidently matured remarkably in the eight years since her death) never felt genuine.  I was OK with the other-worldly communication, but wish Jenny had actually sounded like a child.  Never figured out how they knew the child was nine-years-old and had been buried eight years ago so quickly.

A readable mystery, but not the kind I most enjoy.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/Paranormal.  Sept. 9, 2015.  Print length:  336 pages.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I was late to this one, but was not disappointed!  I skimmed the many reviews available when it first came out, planning to read it eventually.  By the time I actually got around to it, all that remained in my mind was computer game/treasure hunt, so I was able to read without any real knowledge of events to come.

In the near future, the world is a grim and unforgiving place where poverty abounds. OASIS, a virtual world of remarkable detail, offers an escape from the dreary reality they face each day.  

When James Halliday (one of the creators of OASIS) dies, his will sets off a huge treasure hunt.  Halliday's entire fortune (billions) will go to the individual who unlocks all the keys to the puzzle he leaves and discovers the Easter Egg (a secret message or item) hidden somewhere in the OASIS multi-verse.  For the first five years, no one makes the scoreboard, but then Wade Watts' avatar Parzival finds the first of three keys and opens the first of three gates...and the world goes wild.  As does the competition.

The fanboy aspect and the fascination with 80's films, books, music, etc.  play into this novel in a huge way.  The amount of 80's trivia is almost inexhaustible and will appeal to some more than others, but for those in the competition, the hope for success lies in having an encyclopedic knowledge of Halliday's 80's fascination.

There are some places where the pace slows and some of the detailed information is more enjoyable for geeks than for a novice like myself, but overall, I was fascinated by the book and the characters and had a great (and suspenseful) time reading it!


Scifi/Dystopian/Adventure.  2011.  Print length:  368 pages.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Deceptions and The Rising Dark Trilogy

Deceptions (Cainsville #3)

When the ARC of Deceptions arrived in the mail, I was thrilled.  I loved Omens.  But...Visions, not so much.  Deceptions, well, beginning to feel a little stretched. The books should be read in order, but I liked books #2 and #3 much less than the first one.


*Love triangle with Gabriel, Ricky, and Olivia continues
*Repetition of ancient myth (fate? reversal of fate?)
*More magical elements with the Fae and the Wild Hunt
*Some advancement (not always positive) in Olivia's relationship and knowledge of her birth parents

Omens was great fun with plenty of suspense, but the next two books have taken a different direction that doesn't have me turning the pages with the same excitement and anticipation.  In fact, it feels as if things are being intentionally drawn out--rather than developed, and strangely lacking in focus.

While not a fan of the love triangle, I don't mind a little tension building between two rivals.  Liv, however, prefers Gabriel and sleeps with Ricky.  Often.  And often in public settings.  Not the kind of tension I mean and not a positive element for me.  

Ricky is handsome, has a big bike (!), and although the heir apparent to a motorcycle gang, is gentle. thoughtful, intelligent, and working on his college degree.  Oh, the irony.  He is also willing to accommodate Liv in the airport, an alley, and a public park.  Such an admirable fellow, despite the illegal machinations involved in the motorcycle gang business and being used as a boy toy.   Liv's libido is awesome.  If you like that sort of thing.

Will I read the next one?  Of course, I will.  And by the way, I've looked at some other early reviews of Deceptions, and they are pretty positive.  Take my attitude with a grain of salt; others have contended that this is the best so far.  

ARC - Read in July.   Blog post scheduled for ?

Supernatural Mystery.  Aug. 18, 2015.  464 pages.

I read and reviewed Armstrong's Darkest Powers YA trilogy after reading Omens (Cainesville #1) in 2013.  After reading Deceptions (Cainesville #3), I decided to read the Darkness Rising books.

Darkness Rising Trilogy

  Set in a small research-town in Canada, the books focus on Maya Delaney and her friends.  A year previously, one of Maya's two best friends drowned, and Maya and Daniel, her other best friend, are recovering but still marked by the loss. 

Once again, the first in the series gets some interesting characters going, creates a detailed world in the small community, and establishes the basis for paranormal events.  Fast-paced and fun.

The second and third books keep things going by using the danger/escape technique over and over.  The connection to the Darkest Powers trilogy is well-established, but neither group is aware of the other.  

It is, basically, the Darkest Powers situation with a different location and different kids, but the same purpose of experimenting on the kids to develop supernatural powers.  There is a power struggle between the companies funding the research, some corporate/scientific espionage, and the efforts of each of the two cabals to control their "investments."

Truth?  I enjoyed both trilogies; they are light reading, but fun.  Both trilogies have the similar elements and the same structure, and lose something by the third book, but they are pure escapism.  Armstrong has likable characters, and that alone makes following worthwhile.

Read in July.  Blog post scheduled for Sept. ?


Monday, August 31, 2015

Back Home and The Cardinal's Sin

The N.O. trip was great fun.  I walked around or read or worked on a little embroidery while Amelia was in her conference sessions from 8:00 to 5:00.  The weather for August in N.O. was unbelievable and everyone was delighted--high 89 and lower humidity than usual. Such luck!  A little more about the trip (and good friends and delicious food) over at Bayou Quilts.  

The Cardinal's Sin by Robert Lane

Have you ever had a word that you've been familiar with most of your life, read repeatedly, and never used?  As I was reading and thinking about this novel, just such a word came to mind.  There were several times I found myself nonplussed.  A little baffled, perplexed.

Some plot background:  Jake Travis works for an undisclosed government agency and is assigned to assassinate an assassin (yep) who has been targeting the loved ones of other special ops agents.  Not the agents themselves, but parents, wives, girlfriends.  Jake is aware that the names of those he cares about could also be on the bad guy's list.  

When he confronts the assassin and kills him, something niggles at him.  His information about place and time is correct, yet something feels off.  As, indeed, it is off.  The man he kills is not the assassin masquerading as a Cardinal, but a genuine Cardinal of the Catholic Church.  Oops!  There is also a missing woman to be found, an accomplice to the assassin, and Jake's difficulties with the woman he loves.

What I liked:  I enjoyed all of the literary allusions.  The author is well-read and obviously took pleasure in inserting quotes and references to literature and the Bible.  The characters were interesting; Morgan and his dead father and their dream conversations intrigued me. Jake is also dealing with dreams of the dead Cardinal. (In fact, this is the third book in a row with a heavy emphasis on dreams and their implications. I wish I could say that my own dreams were Jungian and revelatory,, they are not.)  

What bothered me a bit:  I was often nonplussed by certain juxtapositions and references that interrupted my train of thought and felt like non sequiturs.  Maybe I was zoning out occasionally, but several times, my reading would come to an abrupt halt as I tried to fit things in.  Jake sometimes annoyed me, too, with his over eager questions to Cynthia that cut off her comments and thoughts.  

Overall, I found the novel entertaining with some aspects that really appealed to me, and although this is my first book by this author, I would certainly read more.

NetGalley/Mason Alley Publishing

Thriller/Suspense.  Aug. 4, 2015.  Print length:  368 pages.