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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Three for the Weekend

Falling on the Bright Side 

Larry Whitten is haunted by the death of his brother many years ago and the resulting effects on his family--his parent's divorce and the feeling of being abandoned by his father.  At the beginning of the novel, Larry is suffering from depression and a sense of ineffectiveness.  His career goals seem unattainable, and he is distancing himself from his job (and unpleasant boss) and from his family. 

In many ways, the book feels like a parable or exemplum.  Sometimes it slips into the overly sentimental and mawkish;  sometimes it pulls itself back.  Larry is often an annoying protagonist, but that is not to say that he doesn't ring true, especially in his passive states.  I did find the messages about the way society warehouses the elderly and the disabled addresses concerns we all have.  And the author does have experience in the field.

From the author:  My new novel, Falling on the Bright Side, draws directly on my experience working with the disabled. Falling tells the story of people who have been shelved in nursing home warehouses who have lost their value to society, and explores how the human dimension continues to shine in these human beings.--Michael Gray

NetGalley/ABQ Press

Contemporary Fiction.  2014.  Print length:  305 pages.

The Fires of Alexandria

An interesting alternate history involving Heron of Alexandria, the remarkable genius also known as Hero of Alexandria and about whom little is really known other than his legacy in mathematics, physics, pneumatics, and mechanics.  The fact that so little is known of Heron's personal life allows the author to be quite inventive.

A little slow in the beginning, the story eventually picked up the pace, and I was quite fascinated with some of the mysteries of the narrative and with the real details about life in Alexandria, Egypt.

Adventure, history, and alternate history all mixed into one. I'm interested in the next in the series.

This one was free from Amazon.

Alternate History.  2011.  340 pages.

The Spiritglass Charade:  A Stoker & Holmes Novel

Not Bram and Sherlock, but Bram's sister Evelina and Sherlock's niece and Mycroft's daughter, Mina.  And Irene Adler, "the Woman," as Holmes referred to her.  What fun!  

A YA novel that involves a Victorian setting in London, steampunk, two very different female protagonists, spiritualism, and vampires!

This is the second in the series, but it works independently in spite of references to their previous case.  Evidently, there were questions about whether the first case was wrapped up correctly and the possibility that it will be re-visited, but it doesn't interfere with the the current mystery that has Princess Alexandria worried.

The novel isn't perfect.  The switching from Mina's POV to Evalina's POV doesn't work as well as it could; the two voices are not different enough.  The only way (other than chapter headings) to tell the difference between the two is the content.  Another slight distraction for me is that steampunk details can easily be overdone and are mostly superfluous to the story. I enjoy a few steampunk details, but prefer that they are minimal.  I did like the term "cognoggin" that replaces  the more common term of "gear head"-- it was an amusing replacement that made me smile.

The Spiritglass Charade was light reading and definitely aimed at a YA audience, but it was entertaining, and the historical details concerning Alexandra, Princess of Wales (yes, I looked up Albert Edward and Alexandra) were small, but accurate.   Gleason used those tiny genuine details to enlarge Alexandra's character, even though she only appears at the beginning of the novel.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and think this is a series that will improve as it continues.   This one was one of those bargains from one of the following: BookBub, Books that Buzz, and Early Bird Books.  

YA/Steampunk/Paranormal/Mystery.  2014.  Print length:  362 pages.


  1. I read Gleason's first novel with Evelina and Mina and really enjoyed it; didn't know I'd fallen so far behind in the series. What have I been reading? :) Thanks for the heads up ... maybe next trip to the library I'll try to catch up.

    1. I really enjoyed The Spiritglass Charade and have ordered the first in the series!

  2. The of Alexandria seemed interesting so I checked it out on Amazon. A review there commented on numerous grammatical errors, but you didn't mention that so I'm curious. Is that something you overlook?

    1. I have to admit that while I've read many books where the grammar and/or syntax have bothered me, I didn't remember being disturbed by The Fires of Alexandria.I went to the Amazon site and checked the review you mention and found (among the comments) that the author had taken the reviewer's advice to heart and had the errors corrected. :) I guess my version was the edited one.

    2. I'm glad to hear that. This book intrigues me but I didn't want to buy it and then be put off by the errors. I guess I'm a grammar snob.

    3. Editing and proofreading would improve a number of books!

  3. I saw Gleason's series but didn't pick them up. I think it's the steampunk element since I'm not a huge fan of it (just like sci-fi) but her other adult vampire series are quite good.

    1. I'm not really a fan of steampunk either, but I did enjoy this frothy YA adventure. A Victorian romp with spunky young protagonists. :)

  4. The Spiritglass Charade sounds like a fun read. It's too bad the characters didn't stand out more from one another. I don't mind books written in multiple perspectives, but each character having a different voice is an important part in making such a narrative work for me. Still, I'm curious about the series and think I might check it out.

    1. The Spiritglass Charade was a fun read, and I enjoyed in spite of wishing the two voices had been more differentiated!