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Monday, September 30, 2013

Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

I loved Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale (2006) and have looked forward to another one of her books.  When NetGalley offered Bellman and Black, I jumped at the chance to read  her second novel. 

I can see why it took so long for this book; the writing is impressive, graceful, and full of detail about rooks, mills, cloth, mourning accessories, and accounting.  It is lovingly written.

So why didn't I like it?  It started out well, full of atmosphere and a hint of mystery.  I kept waiting for the story line to develop--you know, the rising action, the meat of the story.  Finally, a bit of an inciting incident.  Then... more details of the mill and Bellman's total immersion in his new business, with quotes about rooks thrown in at intervals to keep the reader mindful of the opening situation.

It took me forever to finish, and I read at least 10 books during the time I was reading B & B.  When I would return to the book, I'd read awhile, then stop and pick up another book.

If the events in the book are a punishment for a child killing a rook with a slingshot, it seems totally out of proportion since young William never thought he could make the shot at such a distance.  On the other hand, sympathy for the adult William ends shortly after the fever that hit the town passes.

The characters?  The mill, the Bellman and Black mourning emporium, and maybe the rooks.  William, Dora, and Lizzie become ciphers.  I can see the theme, but by the end of the book (hard to call it a resolution), I simply was not concerned about the the characters--animate or inanimate.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Historical novel.  Nov. 5, 2013.  Print version:  336 pages.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Study in Darkness by Emma Jane Holloway

A Study in Darkness:  
Book Two in the Baskerville Affair

I thoroughly enjoyed A Study in Silks by Holloway and was pleased to have the opportunity to read more about Evelina Cooper, niece of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes and her adventures.  

I enjoyed this one as well, but in my review of Silks, I mentioned I'd like more of Imogene and Bucky, secondary characters who added greatly to the first novel.  Unfortunately, there was much less of these two characters in Darkness.  

The title is appropriate; there is less humor in this second installment.  The focus is more exclusive on Emma and on Nick.  Emma is caught in a compromising situation that leads to forced compliance to the steam baron known as the Gold King and leading her to an area of London full of crime and poverty. 

Nick has taken to air piracy, with some sympathy for the rebel contingent.  Tobias is unhappily engaged to the Gold King's daughter.  Both men are still in love with Emma.  Magnus and his automatons have a place in one of several conspiracies.  Sherlock and Mycroft have plans of their own.

This second version loses some of its appeal with a more serious tone, but is still a fun steam-punk mystery/thriller.

NetGalley/Random House, Del Rey Spectra

Steampunk/Mystery.  Oct. 29, 2013.  Print version:  544 pages.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Contrition by Lee Strauss

Contrition is the third and final installment of the Perception Trilogy.

Book Description: 
Zoe, Noah and the other plane crash survivors are stranded in the Arizona desert.They all have secrets,and reasons to hide.But they’re not alone.Cyborg soldiers.War.Humans and humanoids.Who can be trusted?

Hmmm.  I've read and reviewed the previous two in this series, but unlike many reviewers who found the series improved with each book.  I felt less interested with each one.

The first in the series presented an interesting premise, but the second and third books were more about jumping from one plot device to another and felt more as if the purpose was to prolong the series than to develop characters or plot.

NetGalley/All Night Reads

YA/Dystopian.  2013.  Print version:  319 pages.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Identical by Scott Turow


A story about identical twins, one of whom has confessed to the murder of his girlfriend, Dita.  Twenty-five years later, Paul is running for mayor, and Cass is about to be released from prison.  

Dita's billionaire brother Hal has harbored a hatred of the twins for years and the combination of Paul's running for mayor and Cass' release from prison drives him to launch a series of ads against Paul accusing him of having had a hand in Dita's murder.

The novel is well-written; Scott Turow can certainly make the sentences flow.  With lots of Greek mythology, including the references to Castor and Pollux, Turow spins a complex narrative that leads the reader to certain conclusions, and then throws a spanner in the works.  

I was able to figure out some aspects of the mystery involving the murder, and then to doubt myself.  To conjecture, then to find that I was partially right, and then to discover a new twist in the narrative.

This is a novel of unraveling, picking out the knots, and unraveling some more.  Turow's prose is deceptively effortless and graceful, moving the reader in a labyrinthine plot that at times seems obvious, and then takes an unexpected turn just as the reader expects to see the exit.

Thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing.

Mystery.  Oct. 15, 2013.  Print version:  384 pages.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Montana by Gwen Florio

Montana by Gwen Florio tells the story of foreign correspondent Lola Wicks, who has been ordered to return from Kabul and told that her paper will not be returning her overseas.

In a forced vacation, Lola decides to visit her friend Mary Alice in Montana, but when she arrives, she finds her friend dead.

Determined to discover why Mary Alice was murdered, Lola begins looking at the stories Mary Alice had been researching.
Unable to give up, Lola finds her own life in danger.

NetGalley/The Permanent Press

Mystery.  Oct. 25, 2013.  Print version:  208 pages.

  • ISBN-10: 1579623360

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Curse of Malenfer Manor by Ian McChesley

   The Curse of Malenfer Manor                
I was  expecting a Gothic novel, of course, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was so much more.

Dermot Ward survived the Great War, but not without scars, both physical and emotional.  Following the end of the war, Dermot is in Paris trying to drink away the horrors he has experienced, when he sees his friend Arthur Malenfer walk by.  Stunned and confused, Dermot leaves his drink and runs after the man he knew died in the war.

When Dermot catches up with Arthur, it takes him a while to understand that Arthur is, indeed, dead, but has been searching for Dermot because he has a favor to ask that only the living can accomplish.  Dermot can't refuse Arthur, and the two journey to Malenfer Manor so Dermot can do what Arthur has asked of him.

At Malenfer Manor, Dermot and Arthur must do what they can to defeat the Curse, but there is more to the mystery than the curse.  A ghost story, a war story, a story of revenge, a story of greed....

McChesney creates a diverse ensemble of characters that all fit into the Gothic motif.  Dermot and Arthur are interesting characters in and of themselves, but also because of their experiences in a horrific war.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this book on several levels.  This is another one that would have been perfect for Carl's RIP Challenge.  Should have participated this year.  If you are taking part in the challenge, I recommend this one.  Or mark it down for next year.

NetGalley/Wayzgoose Press

Supernatural/Mystery/Historic Novel.  Oct. 1, 2013.  Print version:  264 pages.  


Monday, September 23, 2013

Cross and Burn by Val McDermid

Cross and Burn is the follow-up to Retribution and features Tony Hill and Carol Jordan (even if you haven't read McDermid's series featuring psychologist Tony Hill and detective Carol Jordan, you may know them from the BBC series Wire in the Blood ).

I have not read Retribution, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment of Cross and Burn.  

In Retribution, the pursuit of Jacko Vance led to the deaths of Carol's brother and the woman he loved and the blinding and disfigurement of one their colleagues.  Carol, in her grief, blames Tony for not being able to foresee the danger and predict the actions of Vance.

McDermid makes all of this clear so having read the previous book is not necessary.  Taking up where Retribution left off, Carol has resigned from the force and cut Tony completely out of her life.  She directs her grief and frustration into renovating the old barn where her brother had lived and been murdered.

Tony, an emotional cripple with great empathy, lacks the ability to connect to people in his personal life and is devastated by the loss of Carol's companionship. He feels guilty for not having been able to prevent the events that left them both guilty and grieving.

Paula McIntyre has been promoted and is now serving under the narrow-minded DCI Fielding when she becomes personally involved in a missing persons case.  In addition to McIntyre's efforts to locate Bev, DCI Fielding's team is investigating a brutal murder.  Off the record, she consults Tony.

When Bev turns up brutally murdered in the same manner as the case they are investigating, it appears that a killer is targeting women with several characteristics in common:  similar body type, quiet, professional, and blonde.  Carol Jordan happens to fit this description.

McDermid is a master of character, pacing, and plot.  I dashed through this one, enjoying every minute.  I've read several books by McDermid over the years, although not in this series.  She rarely disappoints.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic

Police Procedural/Crime.  Oct. 22, 2013.  Print version: 416 pages.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Frozen by Melissa De L Cruz & Michael Johnston

Frozen:  Heart of Dread is the first in a YA dystopian fantasy trilogy set in a world that has been so damaged that the landscape is a frozen tundra and the oceans are toxic.  Natasha Kestal escaped from a government facility that used its magically gifted inmates for sinister operations.

After escaping, Nat finds herself dealing blackjack in a casino in New Vegas, but she is still in danger, just a different kind.  She decides to become a "runner" and make the perilous and expensive journey to the Blue, which may be only a pipe dream of a land with clean air and water.

She hires Ryan Wesson and his crew to get her there, but doesn't trust him.  Wes may or may not be willing to turn her in and get his money without the danger.  He can't decide.  Nat, Wes, and his crew are all societal throw-aways that manage the best way they can in a jaded, corrupt society.

OK - the book feels like a sketch, an outline hastily filled in with thin characters, vaguely annoying romance, and skimpy adventures.

All of the characters had potential, but they never made it into a full-fledged, believable people.  They remained undeveloped with just a cursory effort to flesh them out.   The dialogue seemed to be trying for witty repartee, but felt stilted.

It also felt like the book just wandered around looking for an appropriate adventure, becoming less interesting rather than more interesting.  

ARC from Goldberg McDuffie Communications/Putnam Juvenile

YA/post-apocalyptic/dystopian/fantasy.  2013.  336 pages.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Snake Agent by Liz Williams

Snake Agent was originally published in 2006 and is the first in a continuing series.  It is being republished this month and is another ARC offering from NetGalley.  

 Set in the future in the city Singapore Three, the novel introduces Detective Inspector Chen, a forty-something detective who is involved in supernatural investigations. This alone separates Chen from his colleagues and the general public, who either know or sense his connections to Hell and try to avoid him.  And then there is Chen's wife Inari and a badger/teapot....

Chen's current case concerns the missing soul of young Pearl, a fourteen-year-old whose soul, after death, failed to arrive in Heaven.  Pearl's mother seeks Chen's help in finding the ghostly Pearl and sending her on her way to the correct destination.

But there is more to the case than just one missing soul, and the denizens of Hell are also concerned.  Enter Seneschal Zhu Irzh, a young vice detective and a demon, who has been sent to collect Pearl's soul.  Chen  and Zhu Irzh have a pointed disagreement about the destiny of Pearl's soul, but when other events overtake them, the two must work together.

A surprisingly refreshing supernatural mystery, Snake Agent has both a human and a demon detective, an exorcist, a contrary goddess, a trip to Hell, and a particularly nasty Minister of Epidemics.  Great fun!

NetGalley/Open Road Media

Supernatural/Mystery.  Sept. 17, 2013.  Print Version:  410 pages.

Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George

Just One Evil Act is the most recent in the Inspector Lynley series.

When Barbara Havers' friend and neighbor tells her that his (only recently returned) wife Angelina has taken their daughter Hadiyyah and disappeared again, Barbara is determined to help.

Unfortunately, some of the help Barbara instigates has less than satisfactory results.  Then Azhar's wife re-appears in London outraged, accusing Azhar of stealing their daughter from her.

Azhar tries to convince Angelina that he has not taken Hadiyyah and returns to Italy to aid in the search for their kidnapped daughter.  Although Havers cannot get permission to go to Italy as liaison,  she does manage to get a rather reluctant Inspector Lynley assigned to the position.

Lynley and Italian detective Inspectorre Salvatore Lo Bianco hit it off and work together quite well.  I liked Salvatorre so much that I'd love to see George give him his own series!   

After George's sneaky treatment of Helen in an earlier book, I find I can't trust her at all, which makes the search for Hadiyyah pretty nerve-wracking.  The kidnapping, surprisingly, is resolved about mid-book, which throws another kink in the ability to predict where Elizabeth George will take the story.  And, indeed, off we go on another puzzling mystery.

Some events, I could predict, but not all.  Also there was an awful lot of the private investigator sections that could easily been left out.  There was also a good bit of repetition that could have been cut for a sleeker effect (and besides we don't have to hear a person's reasoning multiple times).

Predictably, Barbara Havers acts impulsively, although with loyalty and a good heart.  It is painful to watch her screw up, to see the enmity John Stewart directs toward, to fear for her job, and to find Lynley begin to have doubts about her.

A bit of a twisty tale, but typical Elizabeth George and a fine mystery to keep you occupied.

Again, I like Inspectorre Lo Bianco and would really like more of him.

NetGalley/Penguin Group/Dutton

Mystery/Police Procedural.  Oct.  15, 2013.  Print version:  736 pages.

Friday, September 13, 2013

What Up? Reading!

Aside from reading like a madwoman, I have been working off and on more clay figures, many are assemblage with found objects.  

And again, off and on, with experiments in weaving. Those experiments are on my craft & miscellaneous blog.  My latest interest is spinning with a drop spindle.  I ordered Respect the Spindle almost a year ago, but got so busy with other things that I forgot about it.  When the interest in spinning re-emerged, I found the book and am reading it a little at a time.  

I've also ordered Learning to Weave that I'm looking forward to reading.  Doing the branch weaving was particularly fun because the pieces were small, and I could use both my fine pearl cotton and various yarns both.

I'm not interested in a big loom; I'll happily stick with hand weaving.  Maybe after reading Respect the Spindle, I'll be ready to order a spindle (I've plenty of wool fiber that I use for felting) and make an attempt at spinning my own yarn.  

Several other nonfiction books are in progress, but I'm only able to digest a little at a time.  Especially ones with instructions.  I've also neglected my biographical book about Vera Atkins and the SOE.

The fiction I'm reading at the moment is a most delightful supernatural mystery involving Detective Inspector Wei Chen.  It is tongue-in-cheek funny and suspenseful at the same time.   Snake Agent is the first in the Detective Chen novels, but if continues to be this much fun, I will certainly be looking for the rest in the series.  

I'm sorry that I didn't sign up for the RIP Challenge this year because I've read so many books in the last two months that would be perfect.

Snake Agent
A Study in Ashes
A Study in Darkness
Bellman & Black
The Thin Space
Delia's Shadow
The Cheesemaker's House
Two of the Wayward Pines series
Disenchanted & Co

Some I've already reviewed and some are scheduled closer to their release dates because they are ARCs from NetGalley.

Returner's Wealth (Book 1 in the Wyrmeweald Trilogy)

Returner's Wealth  (by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell) introduces a well-built fantasy world in Wyrmeweald and a congenial and goodhearted protagonist in Micah.  Initially, I thought it would be a great adventure for ages 10-12, but the further I read, it became evident that an older audience would be better.  In spite of the occasional violence, Stewart has created a grand adventure.

Weald in Old English has two meanings:  1) forest and 2) power, authority.  Wyrm or wyrme in Old English can mean dragon or snake; the warrior Beowulf battles a wyrm and becomes the first dragon-slayer.  Stewart's use of these terms indicates a fondness for the epic poem Beowulf and /or a fondness for Tolkien's works.  I share this weakness for both Beowulf and Tolkien.

Another feature (and dip into OE) that I  enjoyed was Stewart's use of kennings, imaginative and poetic compound words:  two-hides, festercrags, rockscape, wyrmehost, hackdagger, tooth-tugged, stoppertight, and limbwithered, for example. 

On to the plot--

Micah decides to visit the Wyrmweald, a harsh, dangerous, and mountainous landscape, in search of wealth that might help him win the heart of the girl he loves.  He quickly discovers that the hostile landscape alone can kill--but there are other things that are even more frightening.

At the wrong place at the wrong time, Micah is seriously wounded by a wyrmkin. Fortunately, Micah meets Eli Half-Winter, who takes him to a healer and saves his life. Rather reluctantly, Eli takes Micah under his wing, but soon realizes the benefit of Micah's company.  

Together, they unite with Thrace, a wyrmkin, and the three of them will do their best to defeat the evil kith who deal in the death and destruction of the wyrms.

An exciting adventure with a bit of romance. 

NetGalley/Open Road Media

YA/Fantasy.  originally publ. in 2010; republ. Sept. 2014.  Print version:  374 pages

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thin Space by Jody Casella

Thin Space refers to a belief in Celtic spirituality  that there are places where the boundaries between heaven and earth are especially thin. 

 This idea is taken farther when an old woman tells twins Austin and Marsh that she was able to find a thin space and visit with her father after his death.  Mrs. Hansel is in hospice care at home, and the boys have been doing chores for her as she prepares to close out her life.  They listen to her stories and take her information about thin spaces with a grain of salt.

After a car accident kills his identical twin, Marsh faces survivor's guilt big time.  Marsh was driving, and even though the accident was caused by a drunk driver, Marsh can't forgive himself and without his brother, he feels bereft and incomplete.  

Marsh's guilt has deeper causes that he reveals a little at a time, and the possibility of a thin space becomes an obsession, a compulsion that leads to strange behavior.  He cuts himself off from friends and family.  Initially, they recognize his need to grieve, to come to terms in his own way; however, as his strange behavior and isolation continues for months, his parents worry.  They are going through their own grief and despair at the loss of a beloved son, and now the other seems at risk.

When a new family moves into Mrs. Hansel's house, Marsh's attempts to search for a thin space within the house are frustrated, but Marsh uses the opportunity provided by friendly Maddie, a girl about his own age, to get in the house.  

This is a fine debut novel by Casella; a thoughtful narrative that examines grief and guilt and secrets, with a bit of myth and the  supernatural.

Thin Space will appeal to the YA audience, and I enjoyed it, too.  It is an interesting story with sympathetic characters that have to confront their own circumstances and then move on as best they can. It is easy to empathize with Marsh and Maddie, both have secrets that are painful, but they form a bond and provide each other with support.

NetGalley/Beyond Words Publishing

YA.  2013.  Print version:  256 pages.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Volition by Lee Strauss

Volition continues the adventures of Zoe and Noah from Perception, the first novel in the series.  The two are on the run from Zoe's grandfather and his evil henchmen and/or "henchborgs."

The pacing is relatively slow, but episodes of fast-paced action are interspersed every so often as Zoe and Noah seek a place of safety. 

 When Zoe's grandfather becomes the president, their efforts at anonymity become more difficult.  President Vanderveen introduces more and more laws that make surviving a risky endeavor.

The religious overtones are there, but toned down, which makes the novel seem less didactic. I like that Noah has faith, but in this book Strauss lets it become an integral part of his personality and doesn't dwell on it.  

The GAPs (genetically altered persons) vs Normals dilemma remains, but is also downplayed a bit as the additional dangers of Cyborgs and Humanoids gains prominence.

Ends with a cliff hanger.

Again, young audiences will probably enjoy the adventure and love triangle.  

On the other hand, the novel can't compare to the John Marsden series Tomorrow When the War Began in depth of character or logic.  Of course, there is a difference in the kind of war the young people are fighting, but Marsden excels in his ability create believable characters and situations.

Speculative Fiction/YA.  2013.  219 pages.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Officer's Prey by Armand Cabasson

The Officer's Prey by Armand Cabasson and translated by Michael Glencross is not only a good historical mystery, but managed to engage my interest in the Napoleonic Wars.  About all I knew about Napoleon's disastrous Russian invasion was that the Russians practiced a scorched earth policy and that Napoleon's retreating troops were caught by the frigid Russian winter.

Reading this novel, however, the effects of the scorched earth policy were made unequivocally clear.  Lack of food for humans or horses, disease, injuries, casualties, and desertion took their toll even before the final dreadful winter retreat which garnered even more lives.

Cabasson, psychiatrist, novelist, and Napoleonic specialist, says that 400,000 of the French Allied Army marched into Russia and that 300,000 were killed or captured.  I checked on some figures that agreed and some that were higher.  Regardless of which set of numbers you apply, how devastating to an army those losses would have been, and Cabasson makes the reader understand the circumstances on an individual as well as general basis.  Another thing that shocked me was the estimated 200,000 horses lost on the campaign.

There are few things I enjoy more than to approach history through fiction, and thankfully, I no longer have to take notes and go to the encyclopedia and to the library for confirmation or more detail.  (Google, I love you.)  Events in history that I've passed over with little interest become fascinating when reading fictional accounts that personalize what could be just dry facts and figures.

OK -- The mystery.  A Polish woman is brutally murdered and Prince Eugene, Napoleon's adopted son and head of the IV Corps, sends for Captain Quentin Margont.  In a discreet manner, Margont is to find the murderer, and he is quite sure that Prince Eugene has not told him all he knows.  Margont is further constricted by the fact that the murderer is most likely a colonel and that the investigation must be kept secret as the army continues its calamitous advance into Russia.

Will this mystery appeal to everyone?  I suspect not--because so much attention is given to the detail of the campaign.  For me, however, the historic information and Cabosson's ability to make the characters and events vivid was an added pleasure, not a distraction.

This was an ARC from Meryl Zegarek P.R., Inc.  and Gallic Books.

Historic Fiction/Mystery.  This translation will be available Oct. 15, 2013.  417 pages.

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Bleiberg Project

The Bleiberg Project by David Khara and translated by Simon John.  

Book Description:  Self-pitying golden boy trader Jay Novacek is having a bad week. He finds out his long-lost father is dead, he discovers his boss's real identity, and he ends up boarding a plane to Zurich under his real name Jeremy Corbin. He has a  Nazi medallion in his pocket, a hot CIA body guard next to him, and a clearly dangerous Mossad agent on his tail. What was his father investigating? Why was his mother assasinated? Why are unknown sides fighting over him with automatic weapons? 

A bit of alternate history dating from the Holocaust and Mengele-like genetic experiments with lots of action thrown in.

The book reads quickly after a rather slow beginning.  None of the characters are more than caricatures, slightly annoying, but reasonably likable.  My favorite character is Mossad assassin Eytan Morg, and he is the only one that I'd like to know more about.  I did find Jay/Jeremy's interior monologues about Jackie amusing, though.

Regardless of the superficial characters, the book is a fast-paced thriller and an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

NetGalley/Le French Book

Alt. History/Thriller.  2013.  Print version:  202 pages.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Now You See It by Jane Tesh

Now You See It: A Grace Street Mystery is a cozy mystery featuring private investigator David Randall.  Randall lives with an eccentric group of people in a house on Grace Street.

Contacted by magician Lucas Finch to find a missing box (which may have belonged to Houdini), what Randall discovers instead is Taft Finch's body inside a locked trunk at the magic club where the twin brothers performed.  Suspects abound:  the owner of the club, her two assistants, and other magicians.

A quick, light read.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery.  Oct. 8, 2013.  Print version:  250 pages.
ISBN-10: 1464201986

Saturday, September 07, 2013

This House Is Haunted

This House Is Haunted was curiously flat.  I looked forward to a Gothic tale, but found bits lifted from Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, and The Fall of the House of Usher without any of the suspense, without the chilling, disturbing sense of the preternatural.

Diane Setterfield paid homage to Gothic writers in her excellent Gothic novel The Thirteenth Tale, but I'm not sure what Boyne's reasoning was.  

Entirely predictable, the novel failed to encourage anything but exasperation that I could feel little for any of the characters aside from amazement at their obtuse behavior.  
Six governesses within a year and four of them have died and one has escaped precipitously?  The sixth governess has a number of unexplained "accidents."  No one finds that questionable?

The conclusion is supposed to be a shocking twist, but you can see it coming from the get go.

NetGalley/Other Press

Supernatural Mystery?  Oct. 8, 2013.  Print version:  304 pages.  

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Rainy Day Killer and Blood Passage by Michael J. McCann

    The Rainy Day Killer 

A killer with a superiority complex scouts his victims, then waits for a rainy day and approaches in a suit and carrying an umbrella.  His victims go with him willingly.  When this killer arrives in Glendale, Hank Donaghue and Karen Stainer catch the case. 

The characters are all well done, both the two protagonists and the minor characters.  The writing and characterization drew me in at once.  Although the murders are grisly, the characters carry the show.  Hank Donaghue, with several degrees before entering law enforcement, and Karen Stainer, hot-headed, aggressive, and extremely capable, show the crime scene photos to Karen's fiance, an FBI agent.

When Sandy Alexander sees the photos, he realizes that the Rainy Day Killer has now arrived in Glendale.  FBI profiler Ed Griffin has been following the RDK and is called in to assist; he predicts that the killer will make direct contact with Hank, the lead investigator.

In the midst of this investigation, Karen and Sandy are putting the finishing touches on their wedding plans and an annoying Lt. Helen Cassion has moved in as acting captain.  Cassion is abrasive, opinionated, and inexperienced; she is determined to make everyone uncomfortable and add difficulties.  

Two members of the Glendale PD fit the description of the RDK's preferred victims, and one of them is Karen Stainer.

OK--in spite of the grisly serial killer paradigm, this is an excellent crime novel with compelling characters.  After reading this NetGalley ARC, I immediately ordered the first in the Donaghue and Stainer series, Blood Passage, and have interrupted my TBR que to begin reading it. 

NetGalley/The Plaid Raccoon Press

Police Procedural/Crime.  Oct. 1, 2013.  Print Version:  304 pages.  

Update:  I finished Blood Passage and am tacking it on to the above already scheduled review.

Excellent.  Even better than The Rainy Day Killer.  More information about the characters and the Glendale, MD police department combined with a fascinating plot make this a riveting read.

The reincarnation element that initiates the re-opening of a cold case creates interest very early.  Taylor Chan is only three and a half, and when he begins talking about people and events he couldn't possibly know about, his parents take him to a psychiatrist at a university with a department for studying children who seem to have memories of a past life.

When a young man from the university begins to investigate the claims that Taylor was, in a past life, Martin Liu, the young investigator finds himself savagely beaten for asking questions.

What makes this book so interesting is the past life aspect and the information concerning Chinese Triads.  McCann has done his homework on both and his sources are listed.  The University of Virginia has done extensive study of the past life phenomenon, and McCann lists Dr. Jim Tucker's book Life Before Life:  A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives as his inspiration for the story.

I'm delighted to have had the opportunity through NetGalley to read The Rainy Day Killer, the latest in McCann's series--which led to my seeking out the first in the series.

Have you read any of this series?

NetGalley/Crown Publishing

Police Procedural/Crime.  2011.  Print version:  250 pages.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Last year I was enchanted by Stiefvater's The Raven Boys, and I was delighted to move on to The Dream Thieves and continue the mysterious adventures of Blue Sergeant, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah.  Mystery, psychics, ley lines, living dreams, ghosts, and the fabled Owen Glendower all create a successful mix in Stiefvater's  Raven Cycle.

Usually, I have no difficulty moving into a sequel, even if it has been several years since I read the first in the series.  I admit, however, that The Dream Thieves didn't gel as quickly as I thought it might.  (I should have stopped at that point and re-read The Raven Boys before continuing, but I have little self-discipline and could not resist persevering AND THEN going back to re-read the first book.)

  The Raven Boys becomes darker toward the end, and that sense darkness continues in The Dream Thieves.  The search for Glendower is still on, but in the meantime, Cabeswater has disappeared, and other difficulties continue to manifest.

Ronan's role is larger in this book, and the background of the Lynch family is more important than the first book revealed.  Ronan has a power that frightens him (and you know with Ronan that takes some doing).  Ronan conveys such a strong sense of self: the implied threat that his very presence gives and the grief he carries from the terrible events his family has suffered have great impact.  (Hard to be clear and avoid spoilers.)

Who else is looking for Glendower and/or the Greywaren?  More than one villain surfaces with selfish and evil intent.  Stiefvater manipulates our emotions concerning the Grey Man and the way he is received by the psychics in an intriguing way.  His character is a fine addition to the cast.

This, for me, is YA fiction at its best.  Good writing, a plot that is interesting on more than one level, characters who live and breathe (flawed and fabulous and human), moral dilemmas and ambiguous situations--not a sop to young readers, but a book that respects the intelligence of readers young or old.

Although I liked The Raven Boys better, I thoroughly enjoyed The Dream Thieves and hate having to wait for the next book!

Don't read The Dream Thieves as a stand-alone.  Be sure to read The Raven Boys first!

The following awards are for The Raven Boys:
    Awards & Accolades
    New York Times Bestseller
    USA Today Bestseller
    ABA Bestseller
    Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2012
    TIME Magazine Season’s Most Anticipated Reads
    Amazon Books Editors’ Selection: Fall Favorites
    2013 YALSA Top 10 Best Fiction for YA
    Autumn 2012 Kids’ Indie Next List Pick
    Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

NetGalley/Scholastic Press.

YA/Paranormal.  Sept. 17, 2013.  Print version:  416 pages.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Academy--Introductions and First Days

The Academy--Introductions by C. L. Stone.

Well, talk about a teen-age girls fantasy.  Seven hunks and all of them nice guys.  With abs.

Not much plot, as this is a lead-in to a series, but with one girl and seven guys as the main characters an introduction is gonna' take time.  A silly, far-fetched fantasy.  Yep.

So why did I want to know what happens next enough to read the next in the series.

This one was free through Net/Galley, but I actually purchased the next one.  (Oh, the ebook is also free on Amazon.)

NetGalley/Arcato Publishing

YA.  1st edition 2012; 2nd Dec. 2013.  Print Version:  277 pages.

The Academy--First Days

OK, school starts for Sang Sorenson and her cortege of seven merry (and beautiful) young men.  The school is a bit rough and tumble, so why are the seven Academy boys attending? The Academy is obviously an elite school, and the public school has plenty of dangers.  Why are some of the Academy teachers on loan to the school along with the boys?And what the heck IS the Academy?

Just as silly and just as addictive as the first book.  Sheer indulgence.  I think I need the third book.

YA.  April 2013.  Print Version:  280 pages.

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

When The Husband's Secret arrived in the mail, I hesitated because it looked like chic lit.  Finally, I picked it up and started reading. Hmmmm, it had wit and humor.  Then, abruptly, the novel turned into much more. 

 Much more.  This is a book that will stay with you; your thoughts will return to it again and again. Moriarty has taken the tropes from chic lit and turned them on their heads.

Cecilia Fitzpatrick is the woman we both admire and disparage.  She has a handsome,loving husband and great kids; everything in her life is efficiently organized; she doesn't procrastinate, she achieves; she is kind and thoughtful and always willing to help.  While looking for something in the attic, she finds a letter from her husband to be opened on the event of his death, Cecilia does not intend to read it.  When she mentions it to her husband, he asks her not to open it.  Of course, she does..and her life begins to unravel.  

The secret has the potential to affect other lives as well.  Morally, ethically...what should Cecilia do?

This is one of those books that requires judicious consideration when writing a review.  The strength of the book is the uncertainty throughout and the other "secrets" revealed in the final pages.  Human frailties, decisions and indecisions, consequences, possibilities, assessment of guilt, love, regret, and the surprising number of things we don't know as we go about our daily lives--Liane Moriarty gives us insight that we will never really achieve in our own lives, but that will give us pause as we consider all of possibilities involved "between the taking of toast and tea."

Highly recommended!  I will definitely be reading more of Liane Moriarty.

My thanks to Penquin Group for sending this ARC.

Contemporary Fiction.  2013.  Print version:  416 pages.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Chatelet Apprentice by Jean-Francois Parot

The Chatelet Apprentice by Jean-Francois Parot (translated by Michael Glencross) is set in Paris in 1761, some 30 years before the Revolution.  Signs of the discontent, and the obvious reasons for the discontent, are obvious.  The strict hierarchy and class conflicts, extreme poverty, the costs of the Seven Years War with Britain were already in place long before events began to escalate in the 1780's.

This Paris of 1761 that Jean-Francois Parot describes in sometimes excruciating detail is a dominant character in the novel.  The contrast of the filth, the smells, and the poverty at one end of the spectrum and the wealth, exclusivity, and privilege of the the elite is deftly rendered. 

Nicolas le Floch is a young detective who has been housed with one of his superiors for the unstated purpose of determining his loyalty.  When Commissionaire Lardin disappears, Nicolas is charged with the investigation.  

Nicolas is a pleasant and intelligent young man who believes in the tenets of the Enlightenment and seeks evidence through investigation.  He refuses to take things at face value and looks beyond the external appearances in his attempts to determine the truth.

I also liked Bordeaux, an associate Nicolas requested to aid him in his investigation, but perhaps the most interesting character, although he makes only a few appearances, is the executioner Charles-Henri Sanson.  Sanson did not want to be an executioner and had studied medicine, but when his father died, he was persuaded to take up the family business. Parot's depiction of Sanson seems to be consistent with historical information.  Sanson was the official executioner for forty years, but in the novel, he is young and at the beginning of his long career (which includes the execution of King Louis XVI).

The style of the book is a bit stilted with very short sentences that often give an awkwardness and stiffness to both narrative and dialogue.  This may be a result of the translation.  At any rate, it is noticeable and a little irritating, but didn't prevent my interest in the story.

From Gallic Books: "The Chatelet Apprentice is the first in a ten-book series of French historical crime novels called The Nicolas Le Floch Investigations.  They are a phenomenon in France, with nearly one million copies sold and two successful television series based on them."

I enjoyed the novel for the characters, the mystery, and the historical information.  This is a series I would not mind continuing, and I will look for more English translations.

ARC from Gallic Books and Meryl Zegarek PR, Inc.

Historical Mystery.  Oct. 13, 2013.  401 pages.