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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Book Is Like a Garden Carried in the Pocket

Portable entertainment, portable knowledge, books can take you anywhere and, in another sense, travel anywhere with you.  So many of us have a garden of books that we can appreciate at home or on the road, and now with an e-reader, we can carry our gardens "in our pockets" with ease.  

When I go to our garden in the country, I carry (in one form or another) a garden of books with me.  I already need a bookcase for the physical books at the cabin, and my Kindle travels back and forth with me providing more. There are physical books and physical gardens, and virtual books and virtual gardens.

The Physical Garden:

In spite of the threat of severe weather, I did go down to the cabin on Friday and returned on Monday afternoon.   Friday and Saturday proved heavy with the threat of imminent rain and wind, but it wasn't until Saturday evening that the downpour  arrived, and we lucky not to be among those who received the worst of the storms.

 Broccoli galore and the roses are blooming.

An apple blossom and peas and vetch that have 
reseeded in abundantly weed filled pastures.

More wildflowers.  Had to lighten the pics because of the overcast skies.

Sunday morning was fine, and I was able to get the front fence bed lined with rocks and more weeding done.

The Pretty Much Picasso petunias have spread themselves around their little rock bed.

The Virtual Garden:

From Friday through Monday, I finished more books.  I work until I can't stand the heat and humidity and then rest and read.  A lot.  And in the afternoon, sometimes my rest & read periods last longer than my work periods.

Still to review: Rapscallion,  Samurai Summer, The Dark Water, and Dead Little Dolly.  Currently reading Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik, the latest in the Temeraire series.  Sadly, I've missed several in this series after reading the first two, but I'm enjoying this one.

Monday morning in the garden reminded me a Gothic novel.


There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack is a YA/dystopian fantasy.  While I felt the characters to be less than fully developed and the world building more a facade than a real world, the essential plot was interesting.

Nathaniel, Orah, and Thomas, three young people from Little Pond, have been friends forever, but when the vicars choose Thomas for a teaching, a ritual that is meant to fortify the vicars' control of the population, they have made a mistake.

When a broken and shamed Thomas returns, his friends are devastated.  When Orah is taken for a teaching in the next quarter, Nathaniel sets out to offer himself in her place, unable bear to have Orah suffer what Thomas has suffered.  From the error of choosing Thomas, the vicars' hold on the three friends begins to unravel.  In ways the vicars could not have imagined, the loyalty of the three young people will have dramatic effects.

While Nathaniel is imprisoned awaiting a decision on his offer, the prisoner in the next cell communicates with him.  The old man is a Keeper and needs to pass his information along before he dies...

Light read, pretty standard fare.

From Net Galley/Double Dragon Publishing.

YA/Fantasy/Dystopian.  2012.  Print version 266 pages.
   ISBN-10: 1771150149

The Last Academy by Anne Applegate is also a YA novel.  At first I was confused.  Young Camden is sent to a boarding school, the Lethe Academy, but the title of the book is The Last Academy.  Lethe comes from Greek mythology, one of the rivers of Hades, and means forgetfulness.  With the introduction of a mysterious and  somewhat sinister character named Barnabas Charon, I concluded that the Lethe Academy was not a misprint, but a connection meaning that this boarding school was the last academy its students would attend.

Camden makes friends, but is also thrown curve balls by other academy students who have secrets and motives she doesn't understand.  Students disappear, and Camden and her friend Nora attempt to discover the importance of gold coins that some students and teachers have received.

The conclusion didn't come as a surprise, enough allusions have been tossed out to the reader to get the idea;  truthfully, however, the intended audience for the book probably wouldn't  get the allusions and would welcome the explanation at the end of the book.  And the allusions leave the possibility of different outcomes.

Not sure of what I think about the book.  The suggested age range of 12 and up would probably appreciate the book much more than older YA readers, but Camden Fisher is an enjoyable protagonist.

Net Galley/Scholastic Inc.

YA/Mystery.  April 30, 2013.  Print version 320 pages.
ISBN-10: 0545502047

Monday, April 29, 2013

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon (alternate history?) establishes a world in which Lycans have been present since the 7th century, and have even established a homeland, The Lycan Republic.  Yet Lycans have also continued to live among "humans" in the U.S. (and I suppose, all over the world) although they must be registered, take the Volpexx drug to prevent transformation, and take regular blood tests.

If, however, most Lycans live normal, peaceful, and productive lives, a growing contingent have joined the Resistance that fight against the discrimination against their kind and that have resorted to horrible and violent terrorist attacks against unlucky innocents.

When Patrick Gamble's father, a member of the National Guard, must leave and return to the Lupine Republic for a 12 month deployment, Patrick must go live with his mother in Oregon.  On the plane, a Lycan terrorist transforms and kills all of the passengers except Patrick,hidden under a victim's body.  Three planes were hijacked for this terrorist operation, the country is horrified.  (hmm, making connections?)

In Minnesota, a peaceful Lycan community is stormed in retaliation, and Claire's family is killed, her neighbors taken in.  Prejudice against Lycans grows, both political and social revenge is acted out all over the country.

A political and social allegory that involves violence both by the Lycans and against them.  Told mainly through the viewpoints of both Claire and Patrick, these two provide the only attempts to come to terms with a complex situation.

The bad guys (on both sides) are one-dimensional, and this book is mostly about bad guys.  Comparisons to current problems in the real world feel blatant and  simplistic, boiled down, in most cases, to black and white/good and evil --with little room for the complexity of society, individuals, or government.

Although I don't usually mind switches in pov, this book is long and the switches frequent.  The ones that most annoyed me were the ones for Chase and Augustus, two stereotypical political-villain caricatures.

Just looked at Amazon and the book has garnered lots of blurbs from good sources indicating that I am in the minority in my view.

Net Galley/Grand Central Publishing.

SciFi/Fantasy/Alt. History.  May 7, 2013.  544 pages.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The ALA Shortlist

The ALA shortlist has The Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: the Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis listed in the nonfiction category.  I read and reviewed this one, and I'm delighted to see it made the short list!

I have not read any of the other listings in either the fiction or nonfiction categories, but Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic sounds both fascinating and frightening in the nonfiction.

This is How You Lose Her - Junot Diaz
The Round House - Louise Erdrich
Canada - Richard Ford

 The Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher - Timothy Egan
The Mansion of Happiness:  The History of Life and Death - Jill Lepore
Spillover - David Quammen

Have you read any of these?

The rain has continued to interfere with work in our garden in the country.  As soon as things begin to dry out, it rains again.  Last weekend, was nothing but mowing and weeding and mulching.  I didn't even go down during the week.

I was all packed and ready to go down this morning, but predictions of rain, high winds, and possible hail are making me hesitate.  As I wait, undecided, my latest issue of Organic Gardening is keeping me occupied.
This is the first year since its inception that I've failed to join in on Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge.  Although I always read plenty of books for the challenge, I was never very good about keeping up with posting on the site.  This year, while still reading plenty of fantasy, I just didn't get around to signing up.

I've had good luck with many of Net Galley's offerings this year.  Of course, there have been some mediocre reads, some duds, and some DNFs, but some have been really, really good.  A great way to keep up with what is being published and, of course, I love free books...even ebooks.

Slowly, I'm still making my way through Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, one of my purchased items because I wanted a book that I could lay my hands on, highlight, and use for reference.  It is more political than I expected, but in ways that are of concern to me, especially concerning the abhorrence of GMOs and CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), and my interest in environmentally responsible food and sustainability.  Some good recipes, too.

From Rodale:  7 Things You Should Know About GMOs.
Recent information about Roundup.
New genetically modified wheat and potential effects.

Mostly, though, I devour mysteries, police procedural, science fiction, and fantasy.  Finishing about a book a day since my gardening efforts are being thwarted by rain.  I read an ebook whole, than nibble at Kingsolver's nonfiction, then another escapist read, then back to the nonfiction.

Looking at the threatening sky and frustrated that the plants I bought yesterday will have to wait, I'm wondering whether to read or watch episodes of IRIS II on Drama Fever while I pout.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Stranger by Camilla Lackberg

The Stranger (originally published as The Gallows Bird) is the 4th in Lackberg's Patrik Hedstrom series, and the third in this series that I've read.  Lackberg is a Swedish crime writer whose works have been translated into 33 languages.

When a local shop owner is discovered dead in a one car accident, the smell of alcohol is overwhelming.  Patrik senses something amiss, although new recruit Hannah sees a standard drunk driving situation.

 As Patrik attempts to follow up on the anomalies in the car accident, a memory he can't quite place is triggered.  The victim didn't drink, but died from alcohol poisoning rather than the crash, and there are unexplained injuries around her mouth.  His instincts are correct, the case is a homicide.

A  Big Brother type reality show has located in the small Swedish town of Fjallbacka with the usual combination of contestants eager for any kind of attention and the willingness to be obnoxious for camera time.  When one of the contestants is found murdered, pressure from the media transfers attention and manpower to the more publicized death.

The Ice Princess has Erica Falck as the main character, but The Stonecutter and The Stranger have Patrik taking the lead, and the series is called the Patrik Hedstrom mysteries.  I hope the next one will pull Erica back into the limelight.

I was glad to see the subplot with Erica's sister Anna (which has run through the previous books) resolved, but on the whole, I don't think The Stranger was quite as good as the previous novels.  The series of apparently accidental deaths of men and women of different ages and circumstances in different cities and the reason behind the murders seemed too convenient a device and too forced.  It wasn't difficult to guess the murderer fairly early on, and you wonder why the intuitive Patrik failed to pick up on what seemed obvious to the reader about the rumors.

In spite of the drawbacks, I did enjoy the novel.  I need to pick up the The Preacher, which somehow I've missed.

The 6 Lackberg novels that have been translated to English:

The Ice Princess (2002)
The Preacher (2004)
The Stonecutter (2005)
The Stranger (The Gallows Bird) (2006)
The Hidden Child (2007)
The Drowning (2008)
The Lost Boy (2013)

The Fjällbacka Murders, based on Camilla Läckberg’s universe and characters, is intended to be produced as ten 90-minute TV-films and two cinematic feature films.

Have you read any of this series?  

From Net Galley/Open Road Media/Pegasus Books.
Publication date:  May 7, 2013

Mystery/Police Procedural.  2013.  Print version 384 pages.
ISBN-10: 1605984256

14 by Peter Clines

14 is a strange combination of a book:  the beginning is reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby, it then slides into a kind of Friends detective group, and it concludes in the manner of Lovecraftian science fiction.

I liked the initial strangeness of the apartment building with secrets.  I liked the way the apartment dwellers eventually unite to unravel some of the strangeness of the building's architecture and many other unusual situations like the padlocked door of apartment 14, so I was carried along with this flow...

until the Lovecraftian elements began to appear.  I appreciate H.P. Lovecraft's influence on horror and science fiction and have enjoyed the works of several authors influenced by him, but I'm unable to really love the genre.  Kind of like the fact that I appreciate the skill involved in operatic performances, but don't really enjoy them.

Are you a fan of Lovecraft's cosmic horror?  If so, you will probably enjoy this one!  Sadly, for me, I liked the first half much more than the second.

Net Galley/Permuted Press.  Chosen by as the best science fiction novel of 2012.

Science Fiction/Horror.  2012.  Print version 370 pages.  
ISBN-10: 1618680528

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In the Company of Wolves by James Michael Larranaga

In the Company of Wolves: Thinning the Herd is another advanced review copy from Net Galley.

Book Description:  Quin Lighthorn was released from a mental institution in order to help the FBI with an undercover operation—or so he thought. As part of Lighthorn’s undercover job, he becomes an intern at Safe Haven, a firm that pays out a portion of a life insurance plan to a terminally ill person so long as that person makes the firm the insurance policy’s beneficiary. Within minutes of his first day on the job, Lighthorn witnesses a murder. From there, the plot begins to unravel…

Well...from the beginning the novel seemed a bit off.  Quin wasn't really believable, and the strange set up of Safe Haven, the company that provides accelerated benefits for the terminally ill, wasn't in the least believable.  Now, while it is certainly possible to receive accelerated benefits if your policy provides for it (and there are viatical or life settlement companies that buy policies),  Safe Haven from the beginning is obviously a criminal enterprise that buys the policy, then collects on the death of the policy owner.  And Safe Haven has no intention of waiting very long, as Quin realizes on his first day on the job.

Note:  Quin's lack of believability is somewhat explained later in the book.

I'm pretty good at suspending disbelief, but only if the writing and the plot are good enough to provide enjoyment and if I don't interrupt my reading with constant "Say, what???" thoughts.  Not the case with In the Company of Wolves....

It did interest me that in the end, there was a promise of another novel.
This plot was wrapped up, more or less, but another adventure for the nebulous Quin is indicated.  Could the series improve?  I'm not sure if that is possible, but perhaps getting the weirdness of Quin out of the way in the first novel may leave an opening.

After searching for a link to the novel on various sites, I finally realized that Createspace is a self-publishing company.

Mystery.  Sept. 2013.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Changeling was originally published in 1970 and republished in Dec. of 2012.  When my children were young, we read Snyder's The Egypt Game, which  remains one of my favorite juvenile books.

The Changeling won a Newbery Honor Book Award, the Christopher Medal, and was named an outstanding book for young people by the Junior Library Guild.

This is a YA novel about growing up, friendship, imagination, and trust.  When seven-year-old Martha Abbot, a little overweight and shy, meets Ivy Carson, a friendship blossoms that saves both girls from their very different outcast states.

Ivy's family has a terrible reputation (drinking, vandalism, debt), and regardless of how different Ivy is--she is labeled a Carson.  Martha, who doesn't fit in with her accomplished family (or anywhere else) finds the perfect companion in Ivy to help her brave the world.

In self-defense, Ivy has decided that she is a changeling, and Martha has no real difficulty excepting this fact.  For the next eight years,  the Carson's move in and out of Martha's life, as they pack up and leave for a year or two (escaping whatever trouble they've gotten themselves into) and then return.

Although a hint of the darkness of Ivy's home life hangs in the air, the girls' friendship keeps both girls a bit removed from the fray of everyday life...until an act of vandalism leaves Ivy and Martha accused of the crime.

I loved this book.  Highly recommended.

Net Galley/Open Road Young Readers.

YA.  1970 and 2012.  Print version 226 pages.  ISBN-10: 0595321801

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carol Jess-Cooke

The Boy Who Could See Demons is one of those books that deliver much more than expected, and the novel quickly captivated me.

Alex, a sensitive and extremely bright boy, began seeing demons shortly after his father's death.  One in particular, Ruen, becomes his friend and companion.  His mother loves Alex, but suffers from depression, and after a suicide attempt (not the first), she is hospitalized, and Alex begins seeing Anya, a child psychiatrist.  Anya suspects early-onset schizophrenia and has very personal experience with this illness.

The story is told through Alex's journal and through Anya's professional evaluation of Alex and various situations.  Anya's insight begins to unravel some threads, and yet, Alex, through Ruen, appears to have knowledge of Anya's life for which there is no logical explanation.  Is Alex suffering from hallucinations...or is Ruen real?

It is hard not to fall in love with Alex.  He is quirky, intelligent, empathetic, and loyal to his mother.  The pace of the novel felt right to me, I was always curious about what would happen next, how Anya would uncover hidden circumstances, and whether or not Ruen was real or an imaginary figment with whom Alex has a love/hate relationship.

The novel has such warmth and compassion and deals not only with Alex's problems and with mental illness and care, but also with the lingering effects of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Jess-Cooke reveals information slowly, letting the reader gradually understand what is not stated, to read between the lines, to notice that what is assumed to be true is just that, an assumption.  So...there were things I saw coming, but there was one important thing that I did not, a twist that took me by surprise.

I really loved this book.  Highly recommended.

The Boy Who Could See Demons was published in the UK in 2012, and the US version will be released Aug. 13, 2013.

From Net Galley/Random House/Delacorte Press.

Literary Fiction.  Aug. 13, 2013.  Print version 288 pages.
 ISBN-10: 0345536533

Friday, April 19, 2013

In the Blood by Steve Robinson

 In the Blood  (Genealogical Crime Mysteries, No.1) was a 99 cent Amazon Kindle purchase and had a 4 star rating.  I know, Amazon ratings are a tricky thing, but for the price, I decided to give it a try.

Jefferson Tayte, an American genealogist, must suck it up and fly to England despite his phobia about flying.  Way too much time spent on this as it really had no influence on the plot.

The plot was convoluted.  Not too convoluted to follow, but too convoluted to feel real.   A lot of far-fetched coincidences and situations that felt as if the author was forcing both characters and plot to conform.

It turned out to be a kind of "hmmm" book.  I like the idea of a genealogical mystery, but even though this is the first in a series, I doubt I'll follow it up.

Mystery.  2011.  Print version 312 pages.   ISBN: 1908603941

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lichgates by S.M. Boyce

Lichgates: Book One of the Grimoire Trilogy is a fantasy, and although not classified as YA, fits that genre as well.

Kara Magari stumbles through a Lichgate while hiking and discovers the Grimoire,which can answer questions asked of it--at least concerning the strange world of Ourea she finds herself in.  Finding the book puts her in danger as the Grimoire's power is desired by almost everyone in this world.

 Kara's first meeting in Ourea is Braeden Drakonin, who has been searching for the Grimoire in order to free himself from his heritage.  Both are taken prisoner, but Braeden decides to stick with Kara, hoping to eventually use the Grimoire.  The leaders of each of the Five Kingdoms want access to the powerful book, and Kara finds herself in one threatening situation after another.  Braeden, who also has an agenda, becomes her protector.

When I looked at Amazon to get the book pic, I noticed that there were no reviews.  That is unusual, especially since there were reviews of the next book in the series (very positive reviews), so I went to Goodreads and found mostly 5 star reviews of Lichgates.

I enjoyed the book, but certainly not to that standard.  The world-building that others found so convincing failed to persuade me.  The characters and plot are pretty typical of fantasy, but Braeden's ability to change form is an interesting device, not the typical shape-shifter trope.  Although the protagonists are likable, they  don't feel fully dimensional.

So...while I liked the book, it did not impress me as much as it did other readers.  I'm in the minority in my opinion, though, so if you are interested in reading Lichgates, you can get the Kindle version for free on Amazon.   Then you can decide if you want to continue with this popular series.

I received this ebook from Net Galley/Immortal Ink Publishing.

Fantasy/YA.  2011.  Print version 334 pages.  ISBN-10: 1939997062

The Ophelia Cut by John Lescroart

The Ophelia Cut is the latest of Lescroart's Dismas Hardy series.  I finished it a couple of weeks ago, and although I always enjoy catching up with these characters.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the back story, the event that no one wants uncovered is from six years previously and covered in Lescroart's The First Law.

When Dismas' niece is raped and her assailant murdered, suspicion falls on his brother-in-law Moses McGuire.  Dismas must defend him and keep him from talking too much, possibly revealing old secrets that could destroy several lives.

Everyone has something to lose if Moses, an alcoholic, talks out of turn. Moses insists he is innocent, but as the evidence continues to point to him, a moral dilemma arises. Also, a bit of ambiguity in the conclusion may indicate that some events may be revisited in a future novel.

The plus:  Always good see how the various characters who have become so familiar in previous books are doing.  Lescroart reads quickly and easily, a master at building suspense, leaving questions open, letting his characters behave in keeping with their personas.

The minus:  Brittany does not have the same fullness of character as most of Lescroart's creations.  Maybe she isn't even supposed to, she certainly seems shallow.  And...something about the conclusion just bothers me.

Lescroart has written 15 novels featuring Dismas, Abe, and other friends and colleagues (I've read most, if not all, of them), and even if this one isn't a favorite, it is still a good read.  Ignore the cover--this is the worst one ever.

From Net Galley/Atria Books.

Mystery/Legal Thriller.  Publ. May 7, 2013.  Print version 432 pages.
ISBN-10: 1476709157

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Second Death by Lydia Cooper

My Second Death is a strange book, and although I almost stopped reading on the first page, I held on until I was enthralled.

Book description:  "In Lydia Cooper’s wry and absorbing debut novel, we are introduced to Mickey Brandeis, a brilliant twenty-eight year old doctoral candidate in medieval literature who is part Lisbeth Salander and part Dexter."

Yes, the book is creepy, and Mickey is described as a sociopath and/or having antisocial personality disorder.  However, after getting over the first few pages and gradually entering Mickey's life and her attempts to behave normally, I found myself invested in Mickey's everyday difficulties and the the way she deals with the horrible murder someone has sent her to discover.

As more information comes to light about Mickey's childhood, I couldn't help but wonder if the various diagnoses that she received were correct.  Mickey is a seriously damaged individual, but was she born with these abnormal tendencies or were they reinforced in her childhood?

Here are links to the diagnoses, and while in some ways Mickey's personality fits, in other important ways, it doesn't.  The more I read, the more sympathetic I found her character.

Profile of a Sociopath  and Antisocial Personality Disorder

An ARC from Net Galley/Adams Media/Tyrus Books.

This one is definitely not for everyone, but it is definitely an intriguing glimpse into a disturbed personality trying to overcome her own deficiencies.

Psychological Thriller.  2013.  Print version 336 pages.  ISBN-10: 144056129X

Dirty Harriet by Miriam Auerbach

Dirty Harriet   didn't work for me.  The transition from "Boca Babe" in Boca Raton's wealthiest society to  Harley-riding-detective with all of the language that might seem appropriate for a Harley-riding-detective did not ring true for me.  Harriet was educated at one of the "prissy" women's colleges on the East Coast (one reason the transition to H-r-d didn't work for me), her husband was a Yale grad, big-time lawyer with a coke habit.

Until, that is, Harriet blew him away.  She moves from high society to swamp society as soon as the shooting is ruled self-defense.  From then on, she is happy with her Harley, her cabin in the Glades, and a mouthful of one liners that quickly got on my nerves.

The solution to the mystery of two deaths of young illegal aliens from Peru, involves an experimental surgery and "donation" of organs that has not yet gone mainstream.

Overall, this one is not my kind of mystery.

from Net Galley/Belle Bridge Books

Mystery.  original publ. 2oo6; repub.  March 2013.  Print version 304 pages.  ISBN-10: 0373880901

Friday, April 12, 2013

The After Girls by Leah Konen

The After Girls deals with the grief and guilt felt by survivors when a friend or loved one commits suicide.  Ella, Astrid, and Sydney have been best friends for years, but soon after their high school graduation, Astrid commits suicide.

Stunned, Ella and Sydney manage their grief differently, but both girls wonder why they didn't know anything was wrong and wonder if they could have done something to prevent Astrid's death.

Then Ella gets a message from Astrid on her computer.  Since the message disappears, Ella can't prove it existed and after some other strange experiences, she finds her friends, especially Sydney, think she is unstable.  Is Ella really receiving messages from beyond the grave?

I'm not entirely certain how I feel about this book, although I read with interest.  As long as Ella and Sydney knew Astrid, it feels a little strange that they were so self-involved that they were totally unaware of recent changes.  The guilt emerges as they think back and realize that there were times they could have questioned Astrid's remarks or moods.

The After Girls is Leah Konen's first novel, and I suspect she will become a popular author in the YA genre.  In fact, on Goodreads the reviews were generally very positive.

If you've read The After Girls, what did you think?

This was an ebook from Net Galley/ Merit Press/Adams Media, and there were some editing problems in this version.

YA. April 18, 2013.  print version 304 pages.
ISBN-10: 1440561087

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Tell-Tale Start by Gordon McAlpine

The Tell-Tale Start is the first in a new series featuring Edgar and Allan Poe, the great-great-great-great-grandnephews of Edgar Allan Poe.  Written for young readers, the book features twelve-year-old twins whose IQ's are in the genius category, but whose sense of humor remains a bit...well, puerile.

Proud of their relationship to the Edgar Allan Poe, the boys love codes and mysterious messages and are quick to solve problems using E.A. Poe's stories.  Their cat is even named Roderick Usher.

The plot involves a nefarious quantum physicist, messages from beyond, and information which is revealed to the reader through letters, etc., and to which the twins do not have access.  "What the boys don't know is....."

Both boys and girls in the 8-12 age range should enjoy this.  It is a much slighter book than Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves  and can be read in a short time.  

Illustrations by Sam Zuppard.  Minimal, but cute.

An ebook from Net Galley/Penguin Young Readers Group.

Juv.  2013.  print version 224 pages.
ISBN-10: 0670784915

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves by James Matlack Raney

Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves was a pleasant surprise and will be a great read for kids in the 8-12 range, or possibly even younger if parents enjoy reading to them.   It would make a terrific "chapter-a-night" book for both parents and kids. But the fact that it was written for young readers doesn't exclude older readers (such as my ancient self) from thoroughly enjoying the novel.

The spoiled little rich boy story is a familiar one, but Lord James Morgan is one eleven-year-old brat who goes on to have some excellent adventures.  At first there is a section describing the enfant terrible that gave me pause, but soon James finds himself in danger, on the run, and in impoverished circumstances-- and the fun begins.

There are betrayals, a murder, pirates, a gypsy's magic spell, a talking raven (Cornelius Darkfeather), street urchins/thieves, an obsessed King of Thieves, a magic amulet, and so on.  While certainly written for younger readers, it is not condescending (although there is certainly a moral or two pressed home) and is better written than a few adult novels I've read lately.

This was  a Net Galley ebook, and I will purchase the print version for my grandchildren who should love the way a selfish brat learns about friendship through some swashbuckling adventures.  What fun!

Action/Adventure.  2012.  print version 282 pages.

ISBN-10: 0985835907

Did Not Finish

I've added to more titles to the DNF list.

The Fat Chef  by Fred Nath has an interesting premise, and I made it half-way through before deciding that the writing style grated on me, overwhelming my urge to discover what happened in the rest of the book.  In spite of being curious about how they disposed of Schiller, if Natalie was saved, what happened to the Jews hiding in the wine cellar, I just couldn't read anymore because I found myself distracted and annoyed by the simplistic style.  The sentences and dialogue often read like an elementary school reader, complete with repetition of key points much too often, as if the author wasn't sure we were capable of understanding or remembering.

Without reading nearly as far, Swimming with Sharks by Nele Neuhous made the DNF list.  Reasons:  didn't really like any of the characters, not that interested in either high finance or mafia figures, and possibly, the translation.  Perhaps the book reads better in German, but my indifference to both characters and plot relegated it to DNF.  I'd planned to read Neuhous'
Snow White Must Die, but am less eager now.

Both were from Net Galley.  I was having such a string of luck with Net Galley that it is a shame to have two in a row that I couldn't finish.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Books and Words

I was lucky enough to get a Net Galley ARC of John Lescroart's latest book, which I can't review yet, but as usual I loved catching up with Dismas and Abe.  The Ophelia Cut also references an event that took place six years earlier in Lescroart's The First Law.  The long-kept secret of that event becomes a threat when an article in the news brings attention to it once more.  Have to note that the cover featured on the Amazon site is the worst Lescroart cover--ever.  Someone needs to rethink that concept.

Right now, I'm reading The Fat Chef by Fredrik Nath (mystery set in Paris during WWII) and Animal, Vegetable, Mineral:  A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (I love Kingsolver's writing, don't know why I delayed so long on getting this one).

Still reading my gardening books, and on occasion, I dip back into the Elizabethan world of spy-craft and read about Walsingham's vendetta against Catholics in The Queen's Agent by John Cooper.  I will finish this one, and I do find it interesting, but since there is so little information available about Walsingham, the book is more about his crusade against Catholicism.   I would not have wanted to be a Catholic priest in England during Elizabeth's reign and within Walsingham's purview.  No.
My husband heard about this study on NPR:  Mining Books to Map Emotions.  Knowing that I'd be interested, he told me to check it out online.  Which, of course, I did.  You might be interested in the way this study panned out, too.  Can you chart the historic mood of a country by checking on the emotional words that appear...or don't appear.

I had already saved a draft of this post when I saw another reference to it over at Read in a Single Sitting.  Her link was to this article in the Telegraph.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Burning Air by Erin Kelley

The Burning Air (Net Galley/Penguin Group ARC) has a little of Gone Girl's appeal, but with more sympathetic characters.  Deceit, revenge, secrets, suspense are all packed in with great skill.  Reminds me of Ruth Rendell's psychological mysteries, which I have always enjoyed.

Told from several viewpoints, the story is unpredictable in a number of ways.  An absorbing tale that surprised me.  Sometimes what I assumed was not at all the case.  You know what I mean--when certain facts are revealed, and you, the reader, take those facts to mean one thing, but later realize that it was not what you thought.  Not a red herring, but the power of suggestive circumstances.

If you've read this one, you may know of one instance in which the author lets you assume something by leaving out specifics.  When the specifics are later filled in, you realize how and why you were wrong.

I'm impressed with Kelly, who has written two other psychological thrillers:  The Dark Rose and The Poison Tree.

Mystery/Suspense.  Feb. 2012.  print version 336 pages.
ISBN-10: 0670026727

Monday, April 01, 2013


Still gardening.  Still reading gardening books.  And mysteries, naturally.

 Some days have been ten hours or more, and we've been working since the end of January...more than two months.  I've done the paths and the rock beds, Fee's done the wood raised beds, the fence, etc.

Mostly weekends or after work for Fee, but I sometimes stay at the cabin even when he can't come so I can get up and get right to work.
I'm reading my garden books when I rest (which, as a day progress, becomes more and more frequent).  Checking my highlights and marginalia in my older garden books and flagging, highlighting, and writing in my most recent acquisitions.  After dinner, on to the fiction!

More here.

Recently finished:

The Burning Air by Erin Kelly
The Ophelia Cut by John Lescroart
 Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann
--all ARCs from Net Galley, all good!

Still in progress, even if slow:  

The Queen's Agent:  Sir Francis Walsingham and the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England by John Cooper.  Boy, the Protestant/Catholic situation was a deadly affair.  When we think of religious persecution, Bloody Mary comes to mind, but Henry VII and Elizabeth (usually pressured by Walsingham) certainly added bodies to the pile.

Some of the newer garden books I'm reading:

Creating a Forest Garden:  Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops by Martin Crawford
Newspapers, Pennies, Cardboard, and Eggs by Roger Epsen
Easy Garden Projects to Make, Build, and Grow by Barbara Pleasant