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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

I've been reading Top Ten Tuesday posts and have decided to play.


  1. An Exaggerated Murder by Josh Cook.  Saw this one on Iliana's list and loved the description.
  2. White Cat (Curse  Workers series) by Holly Black
  3. Jackaby by William Ritter
  4. Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
  5. The Impersonator by Mary Miley
  6. A Thousand Shards of Glass: There Is Another America by Michael Katakis
  7. A Spy by Nature by Charles Cummings.  Saw this one this morning on Shelf Love.
  8. Quilt as You Go Made Modern by Jera Branvig
  9. The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
  10. The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu (via Lynn's Book Blog)









I continue working on fidget quilts and am doing a lot of experimenting with technique and concepts.  Thought I might give "quilt as you go" a try.
------------
What I'm reading now...

Actually, I have several books started, but when I began reading Stray (which was free, by the way), I became so involved that all others went pretty much by the wayside.  As soon as I finished, I ordered Lab Rat One, the second in the series, and on finishing that one this morning, ordered Caszandra.  

O.K. -- so the covers are a little lacking in originality.  The books are not.  Lacking, that is.  And although the covers look the same at a glance, there are differences. Will review soon, but I already know that I will be reading more by Andrea K. Host.




Stray was recommended by Intisar Khanani.
I've read Thorn and Sunbolt by Intisar,
and loved them both.
They would be perfect for Once Upon a Time reading.



Monday, March 30, 2015

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler (Once Upon a Time)

The Thousand Names is the first in the Shadow Campaigns series.  It is a military fantasy (or a flintlock fantasy---new term for me), and since I have a tendency to like military strategy in science fiction, reading a military fantasy kept me engaged.

But it isn't all about battles and strategy, The Thousand Names has well-realized characters, gender-bending, intrigue, and magic, too.  

The prologue at the beginning seems a little out of place and a kind of misdirection, but once I got to Part One and Winter's pov, I became more and more involved with this epic fantasy.  

I liked both Winter and Captain Marcus d'Ivoire's characters and especially liked the information they provide about the third major character--Colonel Janus bet Vahlnick, the strange, brilliant, and enigmatic new arrival who takes command.  Marcus, who has more direct contact with Janus, is disconcerted and puzzled by the man, and no one expects the direction in which Janus takes the Colonials.

Secondary characters are also well-developed, and I especially liked a couple of these, but won't tell you which ones because they are important in several ways and figuring this out is part of the fun.

I was engrossed throughout and can't wait to see if the library has the second book, but must warn prospective readers that this will appeal mostly to those who enjoy military fiction.  Even if you don't, however, this book may change your mind.

Once Upon a Time Challenge

Library copy.

Military Fantasy.  2013.  528 pages.




Sunday, March 29, 2015

There Is No Path

Traveler, there is no path.  Paths are made by walking. 
--Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

True, if you think about Heraclitus and the "same river twice" concept.  Also true that we don't read the same book twice and that no two people can read exactly the same book.  We all bring our own vision, feelings, experiences, and circumstances to each situation in which we might find ourselves.


In a sense, everything is new to us if we really look, 
if we pay attention--
even things we see over and over again.

So..."there is no path" since every step creates the path anew, no matter how many have traveled in the same direction.  No matter how many times we have done the same thing or how many times we have seen a person.  If you are happy and paying attention or sad and paying attention  some inner self is always adjusting,
 making slight alterations (positive or negative) to the inner self and to the way you view things--at this moment.

I operate on automatic pilot so much of the time.  I don't see what is right in front of me.  You know how you suddenly notice something on the shelf that has been there forever, and you've not seen it for months?  My powers of observation and attention need work.  I need to pay closer attention to what I read or sew or what is going on around me and give greater consideration to the path I'm walking and creating as I go.

Machado's quote has stayed with me for days.  I need consistent reminders....  

Friday, March 27, 2015

Mish Mash

I've been receiving more ARCs in the mail lately.  For a while this slowed down as most ARCs offered were e galleys.  Here are some of the recent arrivals:


Fidget quilts #3 and #4 (for AD and dementia patients) are finished.  Although my goal was to keep from buying anything new and to use only what I have in my fabric stash, I picked up a couple of items at Dollar Tree that will provide added texture to future quilts.
#4

Ears, arms, and legs are loose; butterflies are dimensional; a little soft minky fabric with button and gathered fabric for texture.  This one was a lot of fun, and I'll make more like this.

I noticed that I have a number of books from a while back that I haven't reviewed, so here are two brief reviews of those neglected books:

Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham -- This review kept being put off because it is the first book by Robotham that I didn't really care for.  I'm a great fan of most of his books, but this one...well, just didn't appeal as much.  It is the 4th book in the Joe O'Loughlin series, and O'Loughlin needs to figure out if a friend of his daughter has killed her father.  Lots of twists, of course.  I'm not sure why this one didn't feel equal to the others I've read by Robotham, but maybe it is because of the continuing saga of O'Loughlin's disintegrating marriage and the fact that his wife annoys me.

Read in Jan.  Library copy.

Mystery/Suspense.  2012.  423 pages.



Lewis Carroll:  The Man and His Circle by Edward Wakeling.    The delay on this one is because there was such a wealth of fascinating material.  I highlighted so much and couldn't decide what to include and what to eliminate.   The dilemma of too much of interest was overwhelming.

Charles Lutwitdge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was a fascinating man with an equally fascinating circle of friends and acquaintances.   Anyone interested in the Victorian period would benefit from reading this book.  

The background on Carroll as mathematician, the illustrators of Alice in Wonderland (and how Carroll worked with the illustrators), publishers and publication, his friends among artists, playwrights, and actors, a historical look at his photography--and more, much more.  The primary sources are extensive.

A brilliant man with wide-ranging interests, Lewis Carroll has a dedicated biographer in Wakeling.  The book does not follow the pattern of most biographies, but is a compelling experience and informative experience.  

Read in January      

NetGalley/  I.B. Taurus

Biography/Nonfiction.  2015.  Print length:  480 pages.                                 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Aurora: Centralis by Amanda Bridgeman

Aurora: Centralis by Amanda Bridgeman       

I've reviewed the previous books in this series here:

Aurora: Darwin

Aurora:  Pegasus

Aurora:  Meridian            

I was not about to pass up NetGalley's offer for the latest in the Aurora series.

Carrie's situation has become even more dangerous, and Sharley wants her back.  Not only is Carrie of major importance to his project, but he has an obsessive interest in her personally.  The Aurora crew must protect her against attempts by Sharley to recapture her, and Carrie must endure endless medical observation.

Saul's dreams and the role he is to play become more evident.  But boy, has he been slow in reading the purple book.  I wanted to swat him, put him in a corner with the book in his hands, and refuse to let him leave until he finished.

McKinley is unhappy with the situation.  What situation?  That would be a spoiler, unless you read the previous book.  He finds himself unwillingly tied to circumstances that he didn't initiate and with which he is truly uncomfortable.

Doc is loyal and true.  Loves Carrie.  Steps up to the plate over and over.

The reasons behind the initial plan to create Jumbo soldiers is revealed.  And there will be another book after this one that will follow that concept.

I do love the characters, but found this installment frequently slow.  From what I can tell, however, the next book should pick up the pace again.  Minus a favorite character.

NetGalley/Momentum Books

Science Fiction.  March 26, 2015.  Print length:  617 pages.  (I knew this one seemed much longer!  Even though I love long books, this one could have/should have been edited to cut some of the slower parts.)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Making Fidget Quilts--Not Reviewing

I am behind in reviewing because I've been back in the studio after a long hiatus.  

I'm making small fidget quilts for AD/dementia patients.  Dementia patients tend to have restless hands, and the quilts are very tactile, giving a place for hands to feel texture and tactile elements.  I wish I'd known about them when my father's hands appeared to be sorting papers, as if he were still in the office.
The butterfly is dimensional, the prairie points can be fidgeted with,
 the same with the loops, 
and the embroidery adds another textural element 
for fingers to linger over.


 So far, I'm using all kinds of scraps and odds and ends 
that I've made or collected that sit around waiting for a purpose.

F.Q. #2

More loops, prairie points, buttons, some fabric flowers, etc.

They have been through the washing machine and dryer,
so that I know how they will stand up.


I'm almost finished with the third one.
They are keeping me busy,
and away from my reviewing,
but they are so much fun.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Circle of Stones by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew


Circle of Stones    

I'm still not certain how I feel about this novel.  I found it hard to feel attached to many of the characters, whose lives seemed suspended or disconnected, as if their personalities were in abeyance or underdeveloped.  The main characters are college students, but what is described is not the lack of depth one typically expects of college students wrapped up in new experiences and still searching for deeper meanings in their first experiences living away from home. It felt more like a refusal to engage. 

Now that may sound strange since Nik was totally engaged with his art and Jennifer with her dance.  The title is apt--in addition to the physical circle of stone, the story is circular. Continuing the stone metaphor, think of the ripples caused by a stone tossed in the water.

Nik is an art student desperately in love with Jennifer, who is as committed to dance as Nik is to his painting.  When Jennifer disappears, Nik eventually goes in search of her, and as Nik travels across Canada following clues that may lead him to Jennifer, he encounters a number of other characters who share a brief moment in the spotlight.  All of the characters have tenuous connections; a gauzy sort of spider web of connections in the six degrees of separation vein.

My favorite character was the grandmother, not Nik or Jennifer or Tim or any of the other characters encountered throughout the journey.  In fact, the grandmother is the only character who felt grounded and substantial. 

Is the novel a parable of contemporary life, illustrating the feelings of isolation and disengagement that so many people experience?  I'm not sure what I was supposed to get from the book.  I liked the writing, but the story didn't fully engage my interest and the pace was slow, perhaps appropriately so.  Nik and Jennifer felt more like illusive ideas than real people. The love story is a strange one, and not only in the way Nik always painted pieces of Jennifer rather than the whole.

Read in Oct.; blog post scheduled for March 16

NetGalley/Dundurn

Contemporary Fiction.  March 28, 2015.  print length:  272 pages.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cry Wolf

Cry Wolf

I like the cover, the setting (the Sybilline Mountains National Park in Italy), and the fact that it is a new series featuring a park ranger.

That said, I hoped the plot would include more about wolves and less about organized crime.  I usually avoid books that are heavy on mafia-like organizations, but the park ranger and the wolves led me give this one a try.

My favorite character was a minor one;  a kleptomaniac. If you enjoy reading about organized crime, you will probably like this better than I did. 

Read in December.  Blog post scheduled for March 14.


NetGalley/Severn House

Mystery/Crime.  April 1, 2015.  192 pages.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Deeper Than The Dead by Tami Hoag

Last year, I discovered Tami Hoag's mystery/crime novels and read everything available in the Sam Kovac & Nikki Liska series.  Many readers also recommended the Oak Knoll series, so after checking at the library, Deeper Than The Dead came home with me.

There is a fascinating Author's Note that precedes the novel about the cultural phenomena and the lack of forensic science and technology.  Computers were not readily available to every police department; mobile phones, large and bulky, were also rare--nothing like the cell phones in the hands of nearly every citizen of today; matching fingerprints was still done by the naked eye; DNA was first used as evidence in 1987 and controversial; and profiling was a fledgling science.  So many things to consider when setting a novel in the 1980's.

In a small California town in 1985, four children literally stumble over a female body, partially buried, and intended for someone to discover.  Anne Navarre, their teacher, is shocked and saddened that these children will be forever altered by their gruesome discovery.

While the Author's Note provides an interesting reminder of how quickly we have learned to take technology and forensic science for granted, I found the repeated references within the novel to future technology distracting.  The "romance" between Anne Navarre and the FBI profiler Vince Leone didn't feel real and was certainly too fast--more sexual attraction than anything else.  

On the other hand, Hoag was able to present several good suspects and to keep the reader off-center about the real killer.  The uncertainty about who the killer might be kept me engaged and frequently changing my mind.

I much prefer the Kovac/Liska novels, which have better character development and are more skillfully plotted, but I will read the next one (Secrets to the Grave) if the library has a copy because Tami Hoag has the ability to engage readers and there aren't any more Kovac & Liska novels available yet. 

Library copy.

Mystery/Suspense.  2008.  421 pages.





Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spectras Arise Trilogy by Tammy Salyer

I received the Spectras Arise Trilogy from NetGalley as an Omnibus Edition containing all three novels.  I'm a devoted fan of good military science fiction, and Spectras is an excellent example of the genre. 

I was unfamiliar with Tammy Salyer and am delighted to add her to my list of favorite science fiction writers.  The Omnibus Edition has just been released, but I will review the three novels that it contains separately.   






Contract of Defiance  

When their smuggling mission goes wrong, Aly Erickson's brother David surrender's himself to the Corps in order to give Aly the opportunity to escape.  Despite David's sacrifice, Aly's escape is derailed when she is kidnapped by members of the Sphynx, who are unexpectedly on the scene.   Vitruzzi and her crew have one important thing in common with Aly:  they both want to rescue someone from the Admin's Fortress, a combination prison and biological warfare research facility that most have only heard rumors about.  And the rumors that they have heard are pretty terrifying.

In order to have any chance of saving her brother from becoming one of the human experiments at the Fortress, Aly must join Vitruzzi's crew, but things go a bit haywire when her former boss gets thrown into the mix.

Exciting, fast-paced, and eminently readable, Contract of Defiance features capable and tenacious female characters in Aly and Eleanor Vitruzzi.

 Contract of Betrayal continues in the same vein as the previous novel.  Characters grow, new characters are introduced, and the fight against the Admin totalitarian government continues.

Aly is now living on Spectra 6 as a part of Vitruzzi's team and the 125 settlers of Agate Beach.  She has developed a relationship with Strayhan and enjoys the new network of friends and colleagues, working with them to help make their lives more sustainable despite the Admin's efforts to the contrary.  

When a transport contractor arrives on Spectra 6, Aly and David are surprised to see Rob Cross, one of their former Corps mates, who is just as surprised to see them.  But the Admin has not forgotten the destruction of the Fortress and have closed off Obal air space to all non-citizens, and Rob warns them of more difficulties to come.

Before the team has much time to digest this information, Admin forces land, and although the basic crew manages to escape, the colony's settlers are captured and transferred to Keum Libre.  In order to try to persuade/blackmail the evil T'Kai to return the settlers, her friends make an unexpected alliance that angers Aly, and she is faced with a dilemma.

Contract of War begins differently, and in my opinion, not as favorably.  It opens with an entry of Vitruzzi's thoughts. The shift from Aly's point of view at this stage is disorienting, even if brief.  The second thing that distracted me is the fact that the narratives shifts from the present to the recent past--the war against the Admin.  The inclusion of the war episodes has a purpose, but I was uncomfortable with the shifting back and forth.  The flashbacks and one other episode felt like fillers more than plot advancement.

Nevertheless, a suspenseful finale to this series. An exciting adventure on other worlds with plenty of action, sympathetic characters, and some remorseless villains.

The characters were not all equally well-drawn, but I liked that Aly and Vitruzzi were the most important and in such different ways.  Both women have courage and determination, but their very different skills and personalities complement each other.  Secondary characters receive much less development, but still feel important.

I'm glad I was able to read all three of these together in the Omnibus edition.  Even if you are not a fan of science fiction, Salyer's characters and plot will overcome your reservations, and you will be glad you came along for the ride.  You can read each one separately or get the Omnibus edition that contains all three.

NetGalley

Science Fiction.  Omnibus Edition, Feb. 4, 2015.  Print version:  724 pages.

Monday, March 09, 2015

King of Thieves by Evan Currie

King of Thieves is a science fiction novel set in a future that finds the earth struggling after an alien invasion.  The Drasin invasion forced the countries and cultures of earth to end their own wars  as the survivors of different nations realized the necessity of uniting to defeat the alien threat.

This is an action novel, not a character driven one.  The characters form an ensemble cast--you learn to care about the various individuals involved, but you get little background or character development.  No one character takes the lead, reminiscent of action films with plenty of stars making appearances; you almost find yourself debating who would be cast in the different roles.

The Autoclytus is a Rogue class destroyer on a reconnaissance mission.  What Captain Morgan Passer and his crew discover is a previously unimaginable threat.  

An interesting example of military science fiction, the novel begins slowly, but turns into flat-out action as the crew struggles to understand and survive what they've encountered.  

Currie is the author of the Odyssey One series, which I have not read.  While King of Thieves is set in the same universe, it functions fine as a stand-alone.  Although this is evidently a new cast, those who have read the Odyssey One series will probably enjoy the return of Dr. Palin, the annoyingly brilliant linguist.

Not everyone enjoys this kind of military science fiction, but for those who do, I can recommend it.  David Webber remains my favorite author of military scifi/space opera, but I am intrigued enough to want to give Currie's Odyssey One series a try.

(The title King of Thieves is derived from the name of the ship and originates from the tale of Sisyphus and Autoclytus, the notorious thief.  Shakespeare also uses the name of Autoclytus as the "silly cheat" in A Winter's Tale.)

Read in February.  Blog post scheduled for March 9, 2015.

NetGalley/47North

Science Fiction.  March 31, 2015.  Print length:  352 pages.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill

In 2009, I read The Risk of Darkness, a Simon Serrailler mystery by Hill.  I intended to read more in this series, but somehow never did.  Recently on Kay's blog, I was reminded that I wanted to read more about DCI Serrailler, so on the next library visit, I checked to see what was available.  The first in the series (The Various Haunts of Men) wasn't on the shelf, but The Pure in Heart, the second in the series was.     So I'm reading the first three books in the series backward and will get to the first one soon.  Then I can proceed to the rest.


The Various Haunts of Men(2004)
The Pure in Heart(2005)
The Risk of Darkness(2006)
The Vows of Silence(2008)
The Shadows in the Street(2010)
The Betrayal of Trust(2011)
A Question of Identity(2012)
A Breach of Security(2014)
The Soul of Discretion(2015)
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailer is a sympathetic, but flawed protagonist.  The novel is as much about relationships (especially those in Serrailer's family and among their friends) as about the plot.  I enjoy this kind of novel that doesn't give secondary characters short-shrift, but allows them to develop personally so that they become much more than place-holders or plot-pawns.  

Some plots and sub-plots:

A nine-year-old boy is abducted; a family grieves in different ways; and Simon and his force are hopelessly devoid of clues.  

A young prisoner is released, but finds fitting back into civilian life difficult, and after failing to find a decent job, is tempted to take an offer that he knows he should refuse.  (Now I want to re-read The Risk of Darkness to see if Andy was in that novel.  That was 6 years and hundreds of books ago--I don't remember if he was included or not.)

A severely disabled young woman, whose mental defects are so severe that she is unable to even feed herself, and who must be cared for like a newborn.  Makes me think of Tennyson's line, "As though to breathe were life!"

Simon also struggles with the death of a colleague that he cared for and with a relationship that he no longer has an interest in.

This novel doesn't follow the typical dictates of detective fiction, but I find the characters keep me interested.

Read in February.

Library copy.

Mystery/Crime.  2005.  370 pages.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Death Falls by Todd Ritter

Death Falls (previously published as Bad Moon)

Portion of Book Description:  On the same night that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, nine-year-old Charlie Olmstead jumped on his bike to see if he could get a better look. It was the last anyone ever saw of him.

Kat Campbell, police chief of Perry Hollow, and Nick Donnelly, formerly of the State Police and now a cold case private investigator, combine forces once again in this second book in the series.  I haven't read the first one, but the case is referred to on several occasions.

Eric Olmstead, Charlie's younger brother, has hired Nick to find out what happened to Charlie.  The disappearance occurred in 1969--definitely a cold case.  Kat's father was chief of police at the time, and Kat is concerned about some of the discrepancies in the official report.

The Positive:  I did want to find out what happened to Charlie.  When the disappearance of several other boys during other Appollo missions is discovered, the case takes an even more serious turn.  Who would take (and presumably kill) young boys only when someone landed on the moon?

The Negative:  The moon thing.   Although the author coordinated the murders with actual Apollo missions, this connection struck me as...well, looney.  There are two possible suspects that have a "moon connection"--a Vietnam veteran who converted to a religion that worships the moon and a former astronaut, but there are also plenty of other secrets that have been kept by others over the years.  

The most interesting thing to me was the depiction of Centralia, Pennsylvania.  I Googled it and discovered the tragic history of the town.  


http://webecoist.momtastic.com/

http://bashapedia.pbworks.com/w/page/13960253/Centralia,%20Pennsylvania

I'd never heard of Centralia before, but you can find plenty online to explain and illustrate the tragedy.  

This is one of those crime/mystery books that make you curious about what happened and that misleads you several times.  Mostly, I found it forced.

Read in February.  Blog post scheduled for March 6.

NetGalley/HarperCollins/Maze

Mystery/Crime.  2011; March 19, 2015.  Print length:  368 pages.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Skewed by Anne McAneny

Skewed

Janie and Jack Perkins made the news when they were born because their brain dead mother had been kept alive in a coma until after their birth.  Their biological father admitted firing the shot that ultimately killed their mother, but claimed that it was an accident in the midst of an attack by the Haiku Killer, whose murders had been headline news for some time.  

Janie never bought her father's claims, but her twin brother Jack has come to believe in their father's innocence.  It is thirty years later, and their father is due to be released.

What if he were innocent?  What if the Haiku Killer actually got away with his crimes?

Janie is a crime scene photographer and knows the importance of photographic evidence, so when she receives photos in the mail that may offer a different view of her mother's murder, she delves into the past in hopes of discovering what really happened that night.

Janie's research into the case turns up a number of possible suspects for the Haiku Killer and allows for the possibility of her father's innocence.  But she may be putting herself in danger as she seeks the truth.

The book is told from different perspectives and alternates between past and present, so the reader's perception is skewed as well.

My favorite character is another minor character (I seem to keep finding minor characters that I think should have their own books)...Sophie Andricola.   "She does loopy stuff with photos, computer forensics, and random clues.  Like an idot savant or something."  Sophie would make a great (quirky) protagonist.

Read in February.  Blog post scheduled for March 5, 2015.  

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Crime/Mystery.  March 5, 2014; March 24, 2015.  Print length:  334 pages.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

As Red as Blood by Sally Simukka

As Red as Blood isn't the typical YA suspense novel, and in spite of the protagonist's name (Lummika-which means Snow White in Finnish), it isn't a fairy tale re-telling, although there are plenty of references to Snow White and other fairy tales.  This is the first in a trilogy, referred to as the Snow White Trilogy, Bk. 1 in some places and as Lummika Andersson, Bk. 1 in others.

From the book description:  "In the midst of the freezing Arctic winter, seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson walks into her school’s dark room and finds a stash of wet, crimson-colored money. Thousands of Euros left to dry—splattered with someone’s blood."

I'm unsure about how to describe this novel because there are scenes that are a little confusing or not fully explained, and there is a back story that is frequently referred to, but kept deliberately vague.  Part of this vagueness may be a result of the translation, but I'm not certain if this is the case or if it is simply the author's style.

 Lummika is an interesting character; some readers have seen a Liz Salander connection and found her character imitative.  Lummika, however, is much younger than Salander, her past is not nearly as dark, and her personality, while reserved and wary, does not approach the hostile and asocial elements of Salander's.  Salander is often violent, has no feelings of guilt, and  certainly has some emotional disorders.  (Don't get me wrong; I love Salander's character and all of the books in Steig Larsson's trilogy-- I just don't think the comparison is apt.)

Lummika has learned to be cautious in her dealings with people.  She prefers to be invisible, and although she is often critical of others, she is also aware that some of those people whose behavior she criticizes are wearing masks to help them fit in.  Lummika feels no need to fit in with the crowd.  She has her own personal goals and is determined to move through her life in a way that suits her personality.  When she discovers the blood-spattered money in the school's dark room, she finds herself in a dilemma.  She feels that the authorities (the principal?  the police?) should know, but she does not want to be personally connected to the situation.  She debates her options.  

When she sees one of the school's popular boys leaving the dark room with the money, Lummika is curious and follows him.  She doesn't like the boy, but wants to know more about the origin of the money before making a decision about what to do.  What evolves, however, is that in spite of her desire to keep free of entanglements, Lummika ends up feeling pity for Elisa, one of the three teens who found the blood money.

Although the story has many flaws, whether as a result of the author or the translator, the novel holds promise.  I liked Lummika's character.  If the plot and back story had holes that bothered me, it still intrigued me enough to want to read the next installment.

Read in February.  Blog post scheduled for March 4, 2015.

NetGalley


YA/Mystery.  2014.  Print version:  274 pages.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

Inspector of the Dead is Morrell's second book featuring Thomas De Quincy, whose Confessions of an Opium Eater was sensational when published.  His acquaintances included Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lamb, and others;  Edgar Allan Poe, Baudelaire, and Gogol were all influenced by his writings.

The dedication to Judith Flanders intrigued me immediately, as I had just read A Murder of Magpies by Flanders (read and reviewed in February).  Morrell's appreciation was directed at Flanders' nonfiction works about the Victorian period. 

I haven't read the first book in Morrell's series, Murder as a Fine Art, but I have it on my list.  The title is based on De Quincy's three-part essay, "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts."

The setting for Inspector of the Dead is London in 1855, as the incompetence of the Crimean War causes the fall of the government.  Aside from De Quincy, there are several other characters from real life, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and William Howard Russell, considered one of the first modern war correspondents.  All are treated fictionally, of course, but I found William Howard Russell a fascinating character based on Wikipedia information.  De Quincey's daughter Emily is also a character, and an engaging one.  Her fictional character is independent, intelligent, and always concerned about her father's health and dependence on the laudanum that is his constant companion.

Ryan and Becker of Scotland Yard were involved in the first book and play an important role in this one.  Merging fiction and reality, Morrell's plot revolves around the many attempts on Victoria's life, connecting all with a revenge motive.  

The murders are (in my opinion) unnecessarily gruesome, too plentiful, and too graphic, and yet I remained absorbed from first to last.  I especially enjoyed the way Morrell was able to weave fact and fiction, creating an atmospheric glimpse into the Victorian era.

About the Author:  "David Morrell is an Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity nominee and recipient of the prestigious career-achievement Thriller Master award from the International Thriller Writers organization. He has written twenty-nine works of fiction and been translated into thirty languages. He is a former literature professor at the University of Iowa and received his PhD from Pennsylvania State University."

Read in February.  Blog post scheduled for March 3, 2015.

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Historic Mystery.  March 24, 2015.  Print length:  352 pages.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Wounded Prey by Sean Lynch

Wounded Prey

Vicious crimes.  Too blood-thirsty for my taste.  

You know how books seem to come in various cycles?  Sometimes you will read three or more books in a short span of time that have a similar theme or plot?  I've read three books lately with vigilantes.  

This one has a retired detective and a rookie cop teamed up to put an end to the crimes of an psychopathic killer.  And "by put an end to," I mean they intend to kill him, not capture him.  Not that you feel any sympathy for the killer--his crimes are horrendous.

OK, I did like Farrell and Kearns, the protagonists, but I think this one is a little too dark for me.  This is the first in a series featuring the two protagonists, but in spite of liking them, I don't know that I'll continue the series.

NetGalley

Crime.  2013; March 24, 2015.  Print version:  384 pages.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Asylum by Jeannette de Beauvoir

Asylum   

How does a PR director for the Mayor of Montreal become involved in the investigation of four murdered women? The police believe the murders to be the work of a sexually motivated serial killer, but the women vary in age and in appearance and there is no way to predict how the killer is choosing his victims.

The mayor, afraid that the murders will affect the tourist industry, assigns Martine leDuc, his PR director, as a liaison with the police department.  Martine is paired with Julian Fletcher, who has serious doubts about the direction of the investigation.  Without intending to do so, Martine joins Julian in investigating whether the murders are a result of more than sexual psychopath.  What if there is another reason for targeting these specific women, and if so, what could be the connection that ties these women, so different in age, appearance, and lifestyle, together?

What the two eventually unearth is a secret that lies in the past.  Martine, the protagonist, has depth and complexity:  happily married, but occasionally frustrated by her stepchildren; good at her job, but without much respect for her boss; initially reluctant to involve herself in Julian's digressive investigation, but compelled to see it through as they begin to uncover the connections among the victims.

It is the connection to the past and the dark secrets about the Duplessis orphans that proves most frightening and most fascinating.  Of course, as soon as the orphans were mentioned, I began researching online.  I knew I'd read or seen something about this horrific injustice somewhere before, but couldn't remember if it was fact or fiction.  You can Google Duplessis Orphans and find a wealth of material. When I finished the book, I found that the author had also included much information and source material.

Here is the weird part: the murder mystery may seem fantastic, but the truth behind what went on in Canadian orphanages is more unbelievable, more tragic, and more dreadful.
"Truth is stranger than fiction" applies in this appalling historic episode.  How the Church, the Government, and the Medical Profession could ever excuse or justify what happened is beyond understanding.  Although this happened in Canada, there is a disturbing U.S. connection, as well.

Fiction often highlights events that many would prefer to forget, makes human what is often served up as dry statistics.  

I found myself quickly engrossed in Asylum, and I am so pleased to have received it from NetGalley.  The only complaint I have is that the portion that resolves the contemporary murders doesn't work as well as the rest of the book.  Yet as bizarre as this resolution to the mystery might seem, what actually occurred with these orphans almost beggars belief.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Crime/Mystery.  March 10, 2015.  320 pages.




march 10