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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Beyond Belief by Helen Smith

Beyond Belief is part of the Emily Castles series.  While it doesn't fit all of the elements of the cozy genre, it is mystery light with some comic aspects.

When Perspicacious Peg (how about that for a psychic's name) has a premonition that someone will die at the upcoming conference for The Royal Society for the Exploration of Science and Culture  in the seaside town of Torquay, Emily Castle is recruited to investigate.

Psychics, a magician, philosophers, theologians--are all present at the conference that deals with belief, and the magician has set a prize of 50,000 pounds if anyone can prove the existence of the paranormal.  

The book is light, the characters are light, the narrative is light.  Every aspect seems to glide along a surface that prevents true engagement in the story.  Even murder is murder light; no one truly seems to care.  Characters display a peculiar lack of affect about the murder itself.

Obviously, this is only my opinion, has anyone else read any of the Emily Castle series by Helen Smith?  What do you think?

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer.

Mystery.  Jan. 8, 2014.  Print length:  230 pages,

Monday, December 23, 2013

Lake of Tears by Mary Logue

Mary Logue has an interesting repertoire:  she writes mysteries, nonfiction, poetry, and children's books.  She has won a Caldecott Honor and been nominated for an Edgar and has written for the New York Times and the Village Voice.  

Lake of Tears is part of Logue's Claire Watkins mystery series.  Claire is a Deputy Sheriff in Fort St. Antoine in Wisconsin and a level-headed and efficient woman.

Sheriff Talbot, Claire's boss, has a heart attack, and Claire becomes acting sheriff.  The day after a replica Viking longboat is burned at the autumnal equinox, a charred skeleton is discovered in the remains, and Claire becomes responsible for the investigation of this bizarre murder.

To make the situation even more difficult, Andrew Stickler, the latest deputy hire, is a recently returned Afghanistan veteran who is dating Claire's daughter--and all of the evidence appears to be pointing towards Andrew.

Logue makes a statement about war and the psychological effects war has on veterans.  Andrew would like to move on from his war experiences, but a particular episode from his last tour continues to haunt him.

I liked the characters, especially Claire's partner Rich, whose role is minimal, but who obviously maintains a solid support system for both Claire and Meg.

NetGalley/F+W/Adams Media

Mystery.  Jan. 18, 2014.  Print version:  210 pages.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


I recently reviewed The Emperor's Blades which I loved.  If you like fantasy with intriguing characters, you can check out the first seven chapters free from Tor!  Check this link and download to your reader.  If you like it, you can pre-order.

Here is what Goodreads' readers have to say.  I'm not the only one who fell for this fantasy!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Death Never Sleeps by E.J. Simon

Death Never Sleeps is...a mystery, science fiction, action, suspense all tossed, shaken, and served up with relish.  I must admit that this novel is original.  Virtual death or virtual life?

When Michael Nicholas' brother is murdered, he must once again contemplate the differences between them.  Alex was a bookie; Michael, a corporate CEO.  Alex associates with some pretty unsavory characters, has had 3 marriages and several mistresses, is described by friends as scary, but with a tender heart.  Michael is a respected CEO with a sound marriage, who loved his brother, but who has not been close to him in years.

The police are at a dead-end in the investigation, and Michael must step in to help manage Alex's affairs and try to discover who wanted Alex dead.  

When Michael finally finds Alex's secret laptop which has been uploaded with a host of futuristic programs, he is shocked and disbelieving to discover that Alex now has a virtual life and will help in recovering his missing millions.  And, as it turns out, in protecting Michael and Samantha whose lives are threatened.

Michael's life begins to change in ways he could never have imagined, and he discovers that he has a lot more in common with his brother than he ever thought possible.


An awful lot about dining in famous restaurants which will appeal to some.  Maybe a few too many dining experiences for me.

Portions of the novel read quickly, while others drag a bit.

The best of the novel has to do with the skill the author employs in making the reader believe in Alex's virtual life; an outside-of-the-box premise that Simon skillfully utilizes.

E.J. Simon was the CEO of GMAC Global Relocation Services (a division of GM) and the managing director of Douglas Elliman, the largest real estate company in New York. He is a consultant to many leading private equity firms and has held senior-level positions at prominent financial services companies. He is a world traveler, food enthusiast and lives in Connecticut. DEATH NEVER SLEEPS is his first novel.

Check out this interesting interview with E.J. Simon.

excerpt from interview:  

EJS: The artificial intelligence technology responsible for the reappearance of the main character is not a stretch of my imagination. Both Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking have recently stated that — through artificial intelligence — computers will become conscious and that we will soon be able to copy ourselves onto a computer. Like the car in your rear view mirror, it's closer than it appears.

Now that is scary.


Mystery/Thriller.  2013.  Print version:  293 pages.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

Dead Beautiful is the first in a YA series received from NetGalley in anticipation of the latest addition to the series to be released in January.

Just a few notes:

*The figure on the cover does not match anything from the book.

*Another boarding school setting--all mysterious, yet, heavy on the implications.  Gottfried Academy is not Hogwarts, however.  The teachers and courses are just as weird, but in the Harry Potter realm, you know it is a school for magic.  Most students at the Gottfried Academy do not have any reason to suspect that they are not attending a normal school, yet they adjust, with few qualms, to the strange rules and stranger curriculum.

*Bee-u-tee-ful boy.  Breathtaking. Stunning.  Brilliant.  Great physique.  You know the drill.

*Renee, our heroine, loves to talk.  She spills everything while considering herself discreet.  "I think I'll keep this a secret.  After a tell Annie, and Evelyn, and Nathaniel, there anyone else who will listen?"

*Insta-love.  Well, after the obligatory, "He's so aloof and annoying, but why am I so attracted?"  

*A debut novel...will the next in the series be better?

*I did not hate it, but neither was I impressed or riveted.  Mostly derivative.
I am SO behind in reviews and my reading.  Yesterday, I did get my iPad back, but I'm loving my Kindle Fire HDX (although I'm just using it as a reader and haven't even attempted anything else, as I try to catch up on my reading).

NetGalley/Disney Hyperion

YA/Paranormal.  2010.  Print version:  465 pages.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Emperor's Blades by Brian Stavely

The Emperor's Blades

I love fantasy, but prefer a certain kind of fantasy, high or epic fantasy with well-developed characters and intricate (lengthy)  story lines.

Favorite authors include:  Kate Elliot, Robin Hobb, George R. R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Tolkien.  Long and involved novels with great world-building, characters who breathe, and plenty of adventure draw me into another world.

(I like other authors and fantasy genres as well, including a number of YA Fantasy writers who are excellent, but the longer and more complex the fantasy, the better I like it.)

On to the review.

The Emperor of Annur had two sons and one daughter.  According to tradition, when the boys were old enough, Kaden, the eldest and heir to the throne, was sent to a monastery to train with the monks, and Valyn, his slightly younger brother, was sent to train with an elite and deadly branch of the military, the Kettral.

Their older sister Adare  remained in the palace, but received an education in the ways of the court, and by watching her father, Adare  learned much about palace politics and governance.  As it turns out, Adare will need to control her temper and use all of her knowledge and skill to keep the throne for Kaden.

The story moves back and forth from Valyn and his training, to Kaden and the monastery, and to Adare in the Dawn Palace, although Adare's chapters are less frequent.  

Kaden, busy with menial chores and hard labor, wonders what he is supposed to be learning besides making pottery, tending goats, and disciplining his mind.  He worries that he is not learning about how to govern an empire and that he cannot achieve the Vaniate.

After eight years isolated from the palace,  Valyn learns that his father suspects a conspiracy and that the men his father has sent to secure Valyn's safety have all been murdered. 

Shortly thereafter, the news of his father's death arrives, and Valyn realizes that both he and Kaden are also targets for the unknown enemy.

Valyn has passed his final trial and become a Kettral, that elite and deadly group of soldiers, but Kaden has not quite completed his training with the monks and has yet to become aware of the importance of all he has learned.  

Determined to rescue Kaden from the distant monastery in the largely uncharted Bone Mountains, Valyn and his recalcitrant wing crew must find a way to work together to succeed.  

Their enemies have other plans for the empire, and they do not include Kaden or Valyn.

Staveley's world building allows the reader to become immersed in the discipline in the mountain monastery, the danger of Kettral training, and the disquieting disorder of the palace after the emperor is murdered.

The characters, even minor characters, are developed and believable;  the plot involves plenty of action and suspense; the stakes are high, and the characters must make choices that are neither easy nor appealing.  

The protagonists are not perfect, and they make mistakes, but they keep trying to do the right thing.  They are products of their culture and their environment, not just their parents.  Thus we have three children born to the same parents, but whose upbringing and environment have greatly differed, resulting in three individuals uniquely suited to battle the evil that threatens their empire.  

I didn't want this one to end and eagerly await the next in this series.

Highly recommended.


High Fantasy.  Jan. 15, 2014.  Print length:  480 pages.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd

The Poisoned Island combines a mystery, history, and the supernatural.  Set mainly in 1811 in London, the place and time move back and forth to preview the incidents that lead to the series of murders plaguing  the crew of the ship Solander which has recently docked in London.

Several characters are real;  Joseph Banks was famous as a naturalist and botanist and accompanied Cook on his first voyage to the South Pacific, including the island of Tahiti.  Banks later funded William Bligh's voyage to Tahiti to gather and transplant breadfruit trees to the Caribbean Islands.  Daniel Solander, the Swedish naturalist, and Banks were friends, and Banks was an adviser to George III on the Royal Botanic Gardens.  These historical figures and situations figure into the mystery.

Thames Magistrate, John Harriott and River Police officer Charles Horton were also real people, and in the novel pursue a killer who has been murdering  members of the crew of the fictitious Solander.  The purpose of the Solander's voyage was to gather new and exotic plants; included in the cargo is the unique (and supernatural) example of a breadfruit tree that is unlike any of the others on the island.  The crew members that are being murdered are associated, but the motive for the murders is unknown.  Horton is charged with the investigation, which he diligently pursues.  

(Harriott and Horton also featured in Shepherd's first novel The English Monster based on the infamous Ratcliffe Highway Murders.)

The novel is atmospheric and depicts a London that is scientifically advanced and socially squalid.  It is a serious novel that contains no humor; the language and style work well with the period of the early 1800's, and the narrative moves back and forth in time and from one character to another.  One important theme is concerned with the way European ships and their crews poisoned many of the places they visited.  The physical and mental health of the population, the social system, the religious system, and the environment of Tahiti -- all poisoned.

My interest in historical detail frequently sent me to Google to discover which characters were real,  what was accurate concerning historic characters, more about Captain Bligh and the Bounty, more about the Kew Gardens, etc.  I learned a great deal about events and incidents of which I previously had only a vague knowledge.

The supernatural element was a negative for me, and I found it distracting and a bit irritating, but Thames River Police, Magistrate Harriott, and officer Charles Horton were interesting.  All of the characters, however, have a distance, an impersonal aspect.  The only two characters (and they are extremely minor) with a real sense of presence or warmth, are the wife of the Solander's captain and Abigail, the wife of Charles Horton.

In a way, I found the novel both impressive and tedious.  
Although I am writing this in August, I will schedule the post for a month before release.

NetGalley/Washington Square Press

Historical Mystery/Supernatural.  Jan. 14, 2014.  Print Version:  432 pages.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke

Where Monsters Dwell is another dark Scandanavian crime novel.  I almost abandoned this one because the beginning was both violent and disjointed, moving back and forth from past to present, from country to country, and from character to character feeling interrupted again and again.

Before I abandoned it, however, I checked some reviews and saw that many readers commented that the book got better and picked up speed.

Glad I checked, because there was, indeed, an improvement when the story settled in Norway.  From that point, the characterization developed and the murder investigation became more cohesive.  

Nevertheless, some of the violence falls into that "what can be more shocking than a simple murder?" zone.  Part of the graphic violence is necessary to the basic plot, I admit, but I do hope this author will refrain from this kind of unnecessary shock effect in the future because he does have the ability to create interesting characters and to tell a good story after he settles down to the current murder investigation.  The bits thrown in to meet certain current expectations of sensational crime novels (over-the-top murders and sexual content) are more distracting than compelling.

His best success lies in the characterization of the Norwegian detective Odd Singsaker and suspect Jon Vatten.  These two characters pretty much steal the show.  He also succeeds in the addition of literary elements including rare book collections and libraries.  Well, of course, authors, books, and libraries are always a high point for me.

The role of American detective Felicia Stone feels somewhat incidental.  Her purpose is to unite the two countries in their investigation of two sensational murders, but she never comes fully realized as a character.  The bit about her personal background is one of those elements that is digressive, unpleasant, and distracting.

Something I really liked is the development of detective Odd Singsaker; he is, despite a recent brain tumor, separation from his wife, and a job that can be depressing, not a Harry Hole.  In fact, one of my favorite parts is the reference to a drunken detective who solved a serial murder case in Australia.  Always fun to see authors acknowledge other authors and characters.

One event especially bothered me and felt dropped in and unresolved.  The suicide of the book conservator....  Noted, not really explained and in no way developed the plot.

Final evaluation:  After a poor and violent beginning, the novel began to move swiftly and my interest increased, and I felt more involved with both characters and plot.  

Where Monsters Dwell has also been published under the title Where Evil Lies.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Crime/Police Procedural.  Feb. 11, 2014.  Print version:  368 pages.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Aurora: Pegasus by Amanda Bridgeman

I thoroughly enjoyed Aurora: Darwin and was thrilled to receive
Aurora: Pegasus from NetGalley.  Whoa!  Even more action as the Aurora crew is faced with their new mission-- attempting to tie up loose threads (and killers) from the previous mission.  

Quickly drawn in as Captain Saul Harris begins gathering his team, along with new recruits to replace the men lost on Darwin,  I read raced through this one, completely engrossed.  

At first, I was a bit horrified with the decision to use Corporal Carrie Welles as bait.  In Aurora: Darwin, the three women the UNF forced Captain Harris to include in his crew were, without Harris' knowledge, intended as "incubators" in a genetic experiment taking place on Darwin.  Bridgeman's characterization is so good, that my fears for Welles were upsetting...with good cause.

If you decide to read this, begin with Aurora: Darwin; the original mission lays the groundwork for this second mission.

Once again, great characterization and great action.  Now, waiting for the next book is driving me crazy.

My only niggling complaint is the repetition of the word "deadpan."  Other than that, the Aurora novels are in my list of favorite science fiction.

If you like this genre, do look at Bridgeman's series.  Highly recommended.

NetGalley/Momentum Books.

Science Fiction/Action.  Dec. 1, 2013.  Print version:  660 pages. 
 (??? 660 pages?  Can't believe that, I raced through this one, and it never felt long enough!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What's Up

Oh, lovely overload of books!  I can't read fast enough.

NetGalley ARCs

With my new Kindle Fire, I finished Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke and have reviewed and scheduled it.  Scandinavian crime with gruesome murders and some interesting characters; if you read Scandinavian crime novels, you have a good idea of what I mean.

Finished The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, but have not yet reviewed it.  Great title--who wouldn't want to know what an unseemly education involves in a YA novel; however, the plot did not quite work for me.   At the conclusion, I realized it was part of a series, but I don't know if I will continue reading.
Reading Aurora:  Pegasus, a science fiction book by Amanda Bridgeman.  I really enjoyed Aurora: Darwin, and am eagerly following the adventures of the Aurora crew as their new mission takes them in pursuit of old enemies.

Also reading The Arnifour Affair, but I'm not sure if I will finish this one. 

In the que of titles on my Kindle that I look forward to reading:

  1.  The Two Mrs. Abbots by D.E. Stevenson
  2.  The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
  3. The Lost Boys by Lilliam Carmine
  4.  I Have a Bad Feeling About This by Jeff Strang
  5. Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson

There are others in the que, but the above are the ones that seem to calling me.

In the Mail:

Two new ARCs (oooh, real pages!) in the mail are also looking good.  
juvenile fiction, a while back and really enjoyed it, 
I jumped at the opportunity.  

 Another offer that I gladly accepted is The Trickster's Hat by Nick Bantock. 
 Loved the Griffin and Sabine books with their beautiful illustrations.  
I have started it, but it will be a slow read
--short chapter by short chapter--
as Bantock is writing about creativity and has plenty of exercises
 (and some more wonderful illustrations, though not as many).


What else is going on?  I'm doing some embroidery and making new dolls.  They were supposed to be kind of Christmas-y, but as usual are taking off in their own directions.

Also making plans for the grandkids and the holidays.  Amelia has designated Camp Jen McDowell Mullen, and we've been sharing ideas for activities to keep the grands busy while we are down at the camp for Christmas.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

While my iPad is still awaiting a battery transplant, I started reading Fee's copy of Sycamore Row.  This novel takes place about three years after the events in A Time to Kill, and Jake Brigance once again finds himself with a big case.

Seth Hubbard, in the last days of terminal cancer, makes a new and controversial holographic will, which he mails to Jake and tells him to ward off any attempt to have the will thrown out.  Seth then drives into the country and hangs himself from a sycamore tree.

The new will cuts out Seth's children and leaves 90% of his large estate to his black housekeeper Lettie Lang.  Naturally, the will be contested.  

Was Seth in such pain and under such heavy medication that the will could be considered invalid?  Was he unduly influenced by the housekeeper?  Why would a man who had a perfectly normal will in tact (that protected his estate from 50% taxation) make a new will that would give an additional 3 million dollars to the IRS?  Especially an astute businessman like Seth Hubbard.

In a poor Mississippi county in the 1980's an estate of upwards of twenty million dollars was simply astounding.  Lawyers and relatives are coming out of the woodwork.  The scene is set for a highly anticipated court battle with everyone in the county offering opinions and preparing to be entertained with some high drama.  

The book is a little slow, especially at the beginning, but that doesn't mean it is uninteresting.  Tensions mount, race is involved, sex implied, greed rules, and lawyers are determined to get as much as they can from the estate.

I have not read Grisham in years and years, but Sycamore Row certainly held my attention. the surprise twist at the end isn't really a surprise if you've noted a couple of throw-away sentences, yet it carries an impact.

Courtroom Drama.  2013.  466 pages.


I demonstrated impressive self-control when I went by to check to see if my iPad was ready.  They had not called on Friday or Saturday, but thinking the bad weather across the nation might have caused a delay, I wasn't especially concerned.  ARCs were arriving in the mail, and I was finding books in my stacks that had been shelved and forgotten.

However, when I got there and asked if my iPad was ready, my name wasn't even in the system, and they couldn't, initially, find my iPad--well, my patience began to erode.  

This was not the young man who had helped me on previous occasions or the woman who took my name and phone number and said she would order the battery.  It wasn't his fault.

They finally found my iPad, but of course, the battery had not even been ordered.  I was devastated.  

Now for the good part:  When Fee came home, he gave me an early Christmas gift, a Kindle Fire HDX.  I immediately registered and all of my books appeared!  Love that man!

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

 I've mentioned that I've read a couple of early books by Shreve that I liked, but didn't love.  When I was offered this ARC, my expectations were not really that high, but perhaps because this is set in a period that has long interested me, I was pleasantly surprised with Stella Bain.

My interest in WWI began in adolescence when I fell in love with the poets of the time, especially Sigfried Sassoon, e e cummings, and Wilfred Owen.  Owen definitively captured the horror of that particular war and the obscenity of mustard gas, and his Dulce et Decorum Est is, for me, the ultimate description of the abomination and waste of trench warfare.

I have also enjoyed the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd and the Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear that cover not only the appalling loss of a generation of young men, but the terrible aftermath on both soldiers and civilians.  Both series have focused on the effects of shell shock, the disfiguring injuries, and the emotional burdens of soldiers, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers....

The total number of British killed and wounded in the Great War:  2,367, 000 --from a country about the size of one of our states.
The total number of U.S. killed and wounded:  321,000(via Casualties of World War I)

So...on to the review.  Enough of the digressions.  

Stella Bain  is a novel of WWI and of a woman's attempt to gain control of her life. When an injured VAD is brought to a field hospital in France without any identification, her uniform reveals that she is a nurse.  The woman, however, has lost her memory and has no recollection of the circumstances of her former posting, her injury, her name, or her past.  

She decides her name is Stella Bain, but she isn't certain.  Her accent is American.  After her recovery in her new location, Stella's duties as nurse and ambulance driver resume, these activities she has implicit memory of performing, even if conscious memory fails to return.

In her search for herself, she returns to England on leave with an obsessive desire to visit the Admiralty.  She believes that the answer to her identity lies there, but she has no knowledge of how or why.

Exhausted and ill, Stella is discovered in a park by Lily Bridge, whose compassion compels her to bring the physically and mentally overtaxed woman into her home.  Stella's illness develops into pneumonia, a deadly threat in 1916, and her convalescence is slow.

Augustus Bridge, Lily's husband, is a cranial surgeon, and he begins to take an interest in Stella's loss of memory and her determination to discover who she really is.  After discussing her case with psychiatrists, he decides to implement talk therapy.  Stella is a talented artist, and her drawings are part of her therapy as she seeks to understand what the drawings mean. Fascinated by the drawings, Bridge becomes even more invested in Stella's recovery.

I found myself deeply immersed in the story and the twists and turns of Stella's memory. Anita Shreve covers the horror of the field hospitals, the terrible injuries, the effects of shell shock in a graphic, yet compassionate manner.

After Stella's memory returns, the trail leads back to America.  Stella confronts much of what led her to volunteer in the war and works to regain her life in full.

For me, the best aspects of the novel are those dealing with the effects of the Great War; I'm less sure of the custody case in America.    

After reading some reviews, it appears that Shreve's fans are divided about this book.  I thought it was a layered and compelling work.

This was an ARC from Tandem Literary Publicity & Marketing.

Historical Fiction.  2013.  272 pages.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Red 1-2-3 by John Katzenbach

Red 1-2-3 

From the book description:  Three women. They have nothing in common. They are different ages, come from different background, and lead drastically different lives. The only thing that binds them together is their red hair--and that each of them has been targeted for murder.

How does a novelist who writes murder mysteries develop his plots?  In this case, he commits murders and, with a little adaptation, writes about them.  Although as murderer and novelist, the man has been inactive for years, he makes a decision to write one more murder mystery,  a spectacular last fling in his dual role as author/killer.

Taking hints from the original and more frightening version of Little Red Riding Hood (definitely not the Disney version) in which the woodsman does not save Little Red, the killer sends letters to the three women telling each that she has been selected to die, using the Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood as metaphors.

He has studied the three women for months and believes he knows how each will react to his letters.  Amusing himself by predicting each one's behavior in a variety of circumstances, he delights in his ability to taunt and terrify "his" Reds.   

The Reds, however, don't always react according to his predictions.  As frightened and despairing as Karen, Sarah, and Jordan become, each one discovers a component to her personality that has not been previously needed.  And they find each other.

Not only are there incidents that the Big Bad Wolf doesn't predict, there are quite a few that kept me unsure.    These are small turns of events, but they change the game plan, and they prevented me from feeling certain of the outcome.  A good thing in a mystery.

Although there were several little details that niggled, indulging in this alternate version of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf is a puzzle with several surprises, and a villain whose predatory and egotistical nature is disguised by his bland appearance.  The wolf in grandma's clothing.  

Katzenbach has combined two neat plot devices and produced an intriguing mystery.  Think I'll look for more by this author.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press

Mystery.  Jan. 7, 2014.  Print version:  400 pages.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Strong Spirits by Alice Duncan

Strong Spirits   is the first in in the Daisy Gumm Majesty mystery series, originally published in 2003, and recently republished as an e-book.

Set in the 1920's, the book provides an interesting look at an earlier time when the Spiritualism movement was still going strong.  

The beginning was slow (too large of an information dump) that established the background for Daisy Gumm and her foray into her life as a popular local medium.

Daisy knows that she has no connection to the spirit world, but views her profession as a spiritualist as bringing solace to those who attend her seances. 

Daisy must support her family, especially since her young husband Billy Majesty has returned from the war a victim of mustard gas.  Billy, however, doesn't approve of Daisy's profession.  Daisy does her best to keep upbeat, but her life with Billy has many difficulties.  

A wheelchair-bound husband and a nineteen-year-old bride affords an imaginative glimpse of what life was like for young married couples after devastating injuries in a horrific war. Daisy manages to handle the situation with a combination of gumption, despair, resilience, compassion, frustration, and understanding.  

When her Mrs. Kincaid, Daisy's best client, has difficulties, she depends on Daisy to see her through.  When the story begins, Mrs. Kincaid and her family have several emergencies, and Daisy gets caught up in all of them.  She intensely dislikes Mr. Kincaid and the spoiled Kincaid daughter, but is grateful to the generous Mrs. Kincaid, and quite fond of Harold Kincaid, the son with an alternative life style.

Then with the theft of bank bearer bonds and a disappearance that might be murder, Daisy finds herself sparring with the detective in charge.

Have to admit that after a doubtful beginning, I found myself gradually pulled in to the story because of the characters.  I like the spunky Daisy, but my favorite character is, again, a secondary character.  Harold wins Daisy respect and gratitude, and as her fondness (not romantic) for Harold grew, so did mine.  

There really isn't much mystery, but I enjoyed the novel, and will read the next in the series--hoping that much of the information dump will have disappeared.

By the way I got this e-book from Amazon for free.  I do love free books.

Historical Mystery.  2003; 2013.  Print version:  274 pages.


Thursday, December 05, 2013


My iPad, which has my Kindle,  had to go to the i Doctor.  Worse, the necessary battery had to  be ordered.  In the middle of two books that I can't read, with several more in line that have been eagerly calling me, I was most vexed.  Fortunately, a real book was available, Stella Bain by Anita Shreve, an ARC that has managed to captivate me so far.  

I've read a couple of books by Shreve that I liked, but did not love, so finding myself so quickly immersed in this story set during WWI has been a nice surprise.  Still, I feel bereft with the temporary loss of my iPad and books in progress.

Bad weather moving this way.  From 79 degrees yesterday to 43 degrees and dropping today.   Rain, sleet, ice predicted.  Hope nothing interferes with my iPad being returned tomorrow!  That is my major concern.  I'm so petty, so trivial, but I NEED my books.

The Mile Marker Murders by C. W. Saari

The Mile Marker Murders  follows Ty Bannister an FBI agent in two story lines.  In the first, a friend of Bannister's, a CIA agent, disappears and there are questions about concerning the possibility of defection.  Bannister insists Caleb Williamson would never betray his country.

The other story line has to do with the threat of a biological weapon being released if extortion demands are not met.  

There are parts of the FBI investigation scenes that feel real and authentic, and these are the best part of the novel.

What detracted from an interesting plot was the lack of a believable motive, the implausible behavior of the villain, and an unconvincing love story.   

NetGalley/BQB Publishing

Suspense.  2013.  Print version:  302 pages.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Witchfinder by Ruth Warburton

Witchfinder  is a captivating YA novel set in Victorian London.   

Luke's parents were murdered by a witch, and when he reaches eighteen, he is ready for his initiation into the Malleus Maleficarum,  a secret organization whose goal is the elimination of witches.

Luke passes his first two tests, but his third test will give him problems he never expected.    

Rosa Greenwood, daughter of a witch family that has suffered financial hardship, is being strongly "encouraged" to marry for money that would help restore the family fortune.

Simon Knyvet, handsome, rich and powerful, and interested in Rosa.  

The characters have personality and the plot moves quickly, yet does not feel rushed.  The budding romance has an innocence at odds with the danger and cruelty of parts of the story.  The mystery aspect of who killed Luke's parents and why is an underlying current that is occasionally hinted at, but not given prominence is this book.  

Since this is meant to be a trilogy, the idea that, among the many problems the young people will face in the next novel, the mystery of Luke's parents will be developed.
Title page of the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century guide to witch hunting and detection. This book was a major influence on A Witch in Love
Found on the author's Pinterest page.
Via Wikipedia

The Malleus Maleficarum was written in 1486 and was a treatise on the identification and prosecution of witches.  It provides Warburton with a perfect title for the secret society whose goal is to kill witches. 

I liked the pace of the novel; it kept me involved and interested, but still managed to give a good deal of information that helped establish the locations and societal customs.

NetGalley/Hatchette Children's Books

Fantasy.  Jan. 2, 2014.  Print Length:  384 pages.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Deadline by John Dunning

Deadline was originally published in 1995, and this recent edition contains an interesting preface detailing how and why Dunning came to write the novel.  I won't go into it, but it really is a glimpse into the background of the novel and why Dunning was able to write it so quickly.

Deadline is a stand alone novel and not part of the Cliff Janeway series, which I have enjoyed for years, but it a fascinating mystery nonetheless.  

Dalton Walker is an investigative reporter whose work won a Pulitzer, and even years later, his presence on a newspaper staff is considered a coup.  He has just begun a new job at a local paper.

Assigned what appears to be a fluff piece about an Amish girl who left her home and religious strictures behind to become a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall, Walker is not particularly pleased.  Walker is only one of several reporters who has tried to get an interview with Dianne Yoder, and when he, too, is turned down, he plans to abandon the piece.  His interest in Dianne Yoder, however, he pursues on a personal level.

The story that he is chasing on his own time involves an eight-year-old child who died in a fire at a circus.  Walker happened to be on hand at the time, and when no one claims the child's body his interest becomes overpowering.  Who would take a child to a circus and then not claim her body?

His interest in the case continues to compel him, and eventually, he does discover a clue to the child's mother.  His investigation leads to the FBI becoming involved, and then to a journey that may cost him more than his career.

Dunning is whetting his talent in this novel, and many don't feel that it compares to the Janeway novels, but I have to admit that I enjoyed it very much and that the preface about the unique way he created the outline for the novel is fascinating.

NetGalley/Open Road Media

Mystery.  1995 & 2013.  Print version:  224 pages.