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Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Study in Revenge by Kieran Shields

A Study in Revenge is an uncorrected ebook from NetGalley, and the second in a relatively new historical mystery series set in Portland, Maine in 1893.  Deputy Archie Lean and criminologist Percival Grey find themselves investigating the strange murder, burial, and apparent second murder of the same man.

I might have liked Archie Lean and Percival Grey, but they just didn't quite materialize into real people for me.  The plot had a lot of occult elements, making me think of Alistair Crowley, but without a feeling of real suspense, and the plot felt tedious and plodding much of the time.

Overall, it felt rather like skimming the surface of elements that had potential, but that never had depth.

publication date - Jan. 8, 2013
Crown Publishers

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Another NetGalley read, The Tutor's Daughter is a little bit mystery, a little bit Regency, and a little bit romance.

A perfectly good example of escapist literature, the novel is set in Cornwall and has a few Jane Eyre-ish elements.  Emma Smallwood's father has lost his interest in his boarding school for boys after the death of his wife, and Emma has gradually undertaken more and more responsibility.  When the opportunity arises, for the father and daughter to leave the school and privately tutor the half-brothers of two former students, Emma is surprised that her father assents to the move.

Emma has some serious doubts, for although she really liked one of the Weston brothers, the other brother was not such a pleasant experience.
When they finally do arrive at the mansion in Cornwall, it appears that the Westons are unprepared and the Smallwoods unexpected.  Something has been going on that has distracted the entire family from the arrival of Emma and her father.  While Sir Giles is apologetic and welcoming, his wife is much less so.

Mysterious noises, unexplained events, family secrets.

There is a very pedantic Christian message that occurs fairly close to the end.  Although it occurs late in the book, it is heavy-handed and actually defeats its purpose.  Makes you think of the "show, don't tell" rule.  If you can't get the message across by behaviors, don't ruin it with wordiness.  The novel was fine up until the closing chapters which seemed less well-thought out and a bit rushed.

Baker Publishing Group.
publication date - Jan. 1, 2013

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Crow Road by Iain Banks

Not long ago, I was lucky enough to receive Banks' Stone Mouth from Net Galley and really liked both the writing and the story. So I  decided to check out one of Banks' previous works and decided on The Crow Road.  Excellent choice!  I could hardly put it down.

This novel has an opening line that will probably be forever identified with it:  "It was the day my grandmother exploded."

Prentice McHoan has returned from his studies in Glasgow to the small Scottish town of Gallenach for his grandmother's funeral.  He introduces us, briefly, to the main characters as he looks around and notes the friends and family members in attendance.

As full of witty repartee as Stone Mouth, The Crow Road tells a different story of a creative and unusual family with the love and conflict that most families have to some degree.  The story shifts back and forth in time in a stream-of-consciousness style, as one event or situation reminds Prentice of another in the past.

Touching moments, adolescent angst, mystery, and a growing understanding of events past and present lead Prentice to some revelations about himself and his family...and about the disappearance of his Uncle Rory, the traveler, author, and magician.

I loved everything about this book.  One of my favorite character is Ken, Prentice's father, and the flashbacks to his relationship with his younger brother Rory (the young Rory's confiding his limited knowledge about masturbation to his older brother is so funny), to Ken's first meeting with Prentice's mother (the most unusual introduction imaginable), to his imaginative story-telling to the young Prentice and his cousins--wonderful.  The dialogue is witty, smart, and always sounds pitch-perfect.

The characters are lovable and pig-headed, eccentric and normal all at the same time.  So as the story develops through Prentice's unrequited love for Verity Walker, his jealousy of his older brother, his friendship with Ashley Watts, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that Rory's disappearance begins to fascinate Prentice and lead to some serious questions.  When you are completely involved with the family/friend relationships, there comes the possibility of a darker secret waiting to be discovered.

I imagine this one will remain a favorite for years to come, and yes, I'll be checking out more of Iain Banks, but not for a while.  I'm afraid they won't be able to measure up.

In Banks' own words, the novel is about  “about Death, Sex, Faith, cars, Scotland, and drink.”   But it is so much more!

Fiction.  Contemporary Lit.  1992/2008.  501 pages.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ruby Red and Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Geir, Anthea Bell (trans.)

Ruby Red is the first in Kerstin Geir's trilogy, a young adult series about time travel.

Gwyneth is a likable teenager, suitably average in some ways, and yet fiercely loyal and distinctly different in others.  Gwyneth and her friend Leslie are typical teenagers, but their friendship is the kind that most people want, but aren't always lucky to have. Gwyneth's family, though, is anything but typical.

Her cousin Charlotte has been trained since infancy to join the exclusive and secretive society of time travelers because she is thought to have the inherited gene (gift or curse) that enables time travel.  Ahhh, but of course, while Charlotte has been carefully trained, and Gwyneth has not, it turns out that Gwyneth is the inheritor of said gene.  Jealous Charlotte and Unhappy Gwyneth must now re-adjust their situations.

Add a handsome fellow time traveler in Gideon, some unpleasant members of the society, a previous time-traveling young couple who decamped with one of the two Chronographs, Gwyneth's ability to see and converse with ghosts...and you have an interesting adventure in the making.  Light, but kind of fun.

One element that caught my eye was the inclusion of Count St. Germain as a character.  I'd always thought of Count St. Germain as fictional, but when I Googled him, I discovered that he was a real person, and a strange and mysterious one, at that.

Sapphire Blue continues the time-travel adventures of Gwyneth and Gideon.  Gwyneth's relationship with Gideon is hot and cold; she finds his behavior toward her unpredictable.  Duh.

While Gideon is handsome and appeals to Gwyneth in spite of his on again, off again behavior, he is an annoying character who accepts the precepts of The Guardians without question.  Gwyneth, on the other hand, questions many things, including the worshipful attitude toward St. Germain and the society's anger at the rogue Lucy and Paul.

Overall, this book is probably best suited to the lower end of young adult readers.  The third installment (the English translation, that is) should be available in 2013.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Second Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay

I was quite excited to be offered The Second Rule of Ten by Wiley Saichek of The Book Report, as I received The First Rule of Ten from Net Galley a while back and really enjoyed it! (reviewed here)

Hendricks and Lindsay collaborate well in these novels about Tenzing Norbu, a former Tibetan monk who grew up partly in Paris with his mother and partly in Dharamshala with his father, one of the head abbots in a small monastery.

 An unusual mixture of cultures, the young Ten Norbu dreamed of becoming a detective as he read the forbidden stories of Sherlock Holmes at night and practiced the principles of Buddhism under the rigid supervision of his father by day.

At eighteen, circumstances sent Ten to Los Angeles, and in time, into the police department--quite a physical and spiritual journey from the monastery.  In the first novel, Ten is making a new transition, leaving the police department and achieving his goal of becoming a private detective.

The Second Rule of Ten begins with Ten's failure to communicate with his two best friends at the monastery during meditation; his letters, too, have been returned to sender.  The two friends, who remained in the monastery, help keep Ten grounded, and he is disturbed to find communication cut off.

He is also interested in a case of his former partner's, the death of a well-known, although not well-loved, Hollywood mogul.  His interest is partly due to his having found Marv Rudolph's runaway daughter some months earlier.

Ten's second rule:  " challenge my old, limited models of thinking.  To be willing to release them."

He finds that the second rule figures largely in the Marv Rudolph case and in his poor relationship with his father, the abbot.

I really enjoyed both of these novels.  They offer an unusual approach to the mystery genre, a little zen, a little mystery.

An Advanced Reader's Copy from Hay House Publications.

Mystery.  345 pages.  2013.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester

"Jennifer Kloester, Heyer's official biographer, spent ten years researching Georgette Heyer, during which time she had unlimited access to Heyer's notebooks, private papers and family records. Engaging and authoritative, this comprehensive, official biography offers new insights into the life and writing of a remarkable and ferociously private woman."  

The above quote is from Net Galley, and this biography was an uncorrected advanced copy from the same source.

Kloester had access to never before released sources from the Heyer estate, and her meticulous research is evident.  Georgette Heyer was notoriously opposed to personal publicity (although she wanted her novels well publicized and frequently took her agents and publishers to task if her books were not sufficiently promoted); her reclusive personality, however, disdained personal interviews and photographs for promotion. 

 Kloester's ten year journey began with extensive research for her PhD thesis, and eventually landed her with the generous permission of Georgette's son Sir Richard Rougier to access and quote from Georgette's private letters and notebooks.  

Interesting, too, is the generosity of Jane Aiken Hodge, Georgette's first biographer, who provided her entire research library, friendship, and advice.  Many others shared letters from Georgette, photographs, and personal information from their own experiences.  

The result is an entirely readable biography that gives a great deal of insight into the  retiring (at least on the publicity front) "Queen of the Regency Romance."  Yet to dismiss Heyer as a "romance author" would be a mistake, as her research was impeccable; she had a huge library relating to the period, the clothing, the slang, the manners, the types of carriages, and the entertainments of the period.  

Whatever may be thought of the quality of the plots (and opinions vary), the novels continue to seize the interest, and sometimes the lasting love, of Heyer's fans for her characters and plots.  Those introduced to her novels when young maintain a fervent love for them.

And there were plenty of them--fifty two, in fact.  The first written when she was seventeen and published when she was nineteen.  

If you are a fan of the Regency period, and/or of Georgette Heyer, you will find this biography interesting and informative.  Perhaps, like myself, you will be reading or re-reading Georgette's novels upon finishing Kloester's work.

The book will be available Jan. 1, 2013 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

published by Sourcebooks, Inc.
received from NetGalley