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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier

 The Parisian Lawyer.  Catherine Monsigny is an ambitious young lawyer who lobbies for a high profile case involving the marriage of a young black immigrant to a much older Frenchman.  Tucked away in a tiny, tight-knit village, the man's death is initially assumed to be natural, but when a bottle of cyanide is discovered in the kitchen, the young woman is accused of murder.  Whether the small village is racist or xenophobic, the trial is sure to cause attention, and Catherine hopes it will be a boost to her career.

In the meantime, Catherine has taken a lover, and between the lover and preparation for the trial, she finds herself frequently drifting into thoughts of her mother and of her mother's murder.  Neither the pace nor the plot move steadily forward, but move from memory and thought and back to actual events in past and present.

Catherine is not a particularly admirable character, but the information we are provided over the course of the novel allows the reader to gain insight into the events that have shaped her.

The book is well-written, but maintains a distance.  This is perhaps the best way to present the various situations since forming a sense of relationship with any of the characters is impossible.  We see too much, know too much, and while understanding, and occasionally sympathizing....liking any of the characters is difficult.

Psychological suspense.

NetGalley/Le French Book Pub.  (Anne Trager, trans.)

Legal Thriller.  2012. Print version:  316 pages.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Running the Gamut

I've been at the cabin this week where internet is spotty and slow at best.  Nonexistent, at times.  "No longer connected..." is a hateful phrase.  But then, I'm busy with the the garden:  weeding and watering and fighting stinkbugs and grasshoppers and tomato horn-worms.  Trying to keep it organic is a chore!

I need to get a few more reviews marked off the list.

Letters from Skye  by Jessica Brockmole.  It is a shame in many ways that letter-writing is a dying art.  Even before email, the habit of ink to page had declined because of the ease of actually speaking to someone via phone--no waiting involved for a letter to wend its way through the vagaries of the postal system.  

Although completely unable to write a decent letter myself, I've always loved stories told through letters, as well as reading the letters saved from previous generations of my family and those wonderful literary letters written by famous people.

Letters from Skye is a story told through letters, although the voices of the letter-writers didn't feel genuine to me. The love story between Davy and Elspeth and their "knowledge" of one another based on their exchanged something that quite escaped me.  And if their love story seemed a little thin, maybe it was because the characters seemed a little thin, lacking in meat and bone.

Not a bad way to while away the hours, but insubstantial fare.  Great cover, though!

NetGalley/Random House, Ballantine.

Historical? Chic Lit?  2013.  Print version:  304 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0345542606

The Suicide Shop by Jean Teule (trans. Sue Dyson) posits a world in which global warming and environmental devastation have left the populace so depressed that the Tuvache family feels good about their avocation as the current generation to operate a family business offering methods of suicide for every pocketbook.  

The Tuvaches go about their business satisfied that they are filling a necessary societal niche;  until the arrival of their third child, who upsets the apple cart in a big way.   Described as a quirky black comedy, I had difficulty maintaining interest despite the fact that the book is very, very short.

Gallic Books.
Black Comedy.  2013.  169 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1906040095

Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo is another post-apocalyptic zombie adventure.  Weak characters in an action-filled plot.  

Biggest problem:  a thirteen-year-old girl with no previous combat experience out-doing adult men with lots of experience in special forces and the marines, carting around 40-60 lbs. of equipment and being the best zombie killer.  EVER.  Hard to swallow that scenario.  

Oh, and the fact that the conclusion of Part I is like an inadvertent farce with adults going to dinner and a concert (and taking Faith (13) and Sophia (15) into a zombie-filled city where people are being killed and eaten with zest.  Yes, New York dining at its best.  Duh.  Go parents and Uncle Tommy!   
Naturally, they escape, make it to their boat and head for the high seas.  Part II all action.  Conclusion...none, to be continued.  Nope.

NetGalley/Baen Books.

Post-apocalyptic.  Sept. 2013.  Print version:  384 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1451639198

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

The Silent Wife is told from alternating points of view.  First Her, then Him.  The reader knows from the outset what is going to happen, and yet following each account provides a fascinating glimpse at the underlying dynamics of the twenty year journey of this couple.

Book Description:  A psychotherapist with a small private practice, 
Jodi likes things orderly and predictable, mapped out well in advance. 

Jodi’s husband Todd, a thriving entrepreneur, is intuitive, 
spontaneous, and fond of taking risks.

The emotional distance of the omniscient narrator--who deftly examines Jodi's version of events and then Todd's, without judgement--is key to the success of this novel.  Nothing is sensationalized or over-dramatized, yet the small details of the way the two of them have managed their lives, together and apart, accumulate to present a bigger picture that belies the assessment of each character.  How Jodi and Todd judge their relationship and the reader's opinion will differ substantially.

Jodi has developed a method of dealing with Todd's infidelities by ignoring them and avoiding confrontation, and instead, employing small passive aggressive guerrilla attacks.  She misplaces small items leaving Todd confused, but willing to believe it was his fault; he is a laid-back kind of guy.  Since Jodi has been using these tactics for years, her own assessment of their life together as comfortable and pleasurable--is deliberate self-delusion.

Todd's delusion is that his "discreet" infidelities don't hurt Jodi or their relationship;  Jodi's willing complicity helps foster Todd's confidence that he is a great partner.

When Todd makes the great mistake of falling for Natasha, the daughter of Dean, his oldest friend, and she turns up pregnant and pushing for marriage, the house of cards begins to fall.  As much as Todd loves the way Jodi keeps his life comfortable, he is easily and apprehensively pushed into Natasha's schemes for marriage.  He can't understand why his oldest friendship disintegrates or why Jodi doesn't see that he has no choice.

(Big question for me is why Natasha would want Todd;  there are some interesting possibilities that may be implied, but are never really clarified.)

While we can marvel at the way each character fails to take responsibility for his or her actions, none of the characters are evil.  Nor are they likable.  We are not called upon to become fond of them, only to examine the way each character contributes to the inevitable destruction of a "marriage," a love affair, a friendship.  Jodi, Todd, Natasha, and Dean all collude in the events that transpire.

Provocative, thought-provoking, The Silent Wife left me pondering all of the elements that led to Jodi's decision to kill Todd.  Even that was a passive decision and passive deed.  A novel that raises a lot of questions and avoids judgement per se, leaving the reader to wander in the wasteland of several lives.  Recommended.

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Psychological. 2013. Print version:  336 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0143123238

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag

The Ninth Girl is a suspenseful thriller and my first book by Tami Hoag.   

 When the driver of a limousine sees the body of a girl pop out of a trunk right into his path, he can't avoid hitting her.  The horror of seeing (and crushing) the body of the terribly disfigured body is a dreadful end to a New Year's Eve for everyone involved. 

Sam Kovacs and Nikki Liska catch the case and although the pair have seen some appalling things in their careers, the body of the girl labeled Zombie Doe by the media  shocks even the experienced investigators.   

Nikki Liska's son went to school with the girl, which adds additional complications for the single mother.  From Kyle's perspective, the detectives learn about the vicious bullying that had gone on shortly before the girl disappeared.  

Is this the 9th victim of Doc Holiday, a serial killer who has been leaving the bodies of women across the Midwest?  Or does the grisly murder have a local connection?

The detectives are human and flawed, yet have a sense of honest values that have managed to see them through years of dealing with homicides.  Liska and Kovacs make a likable team, and I was "turning the pages" as quickly as I could, unable to to definitively determine the guilty party.

The emphasis on parental neglect, abuse, and bullying present a not so subtle criticism of an egocentric society that often fails in compassion to its fellow human beings.  Not that these things are anything new....

Compelling and suspenseful.

NetGalley/Penguin Group, Dutton

Mystery.  2013.  Print version:  416 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0525952977

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

The Bookman's Tale is an interesting mixture of mystery, romance, antiquarian books and booksellers, and forgery.  

Peter Byerly, a grieving widower, is trying to get on with his life by returning to his career and passion as an antiquarian bookseller.  In a small bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, tucked in an antique book a small watercolor is a watercolor that looks like his late wife. The portrait, however, is Victorian and signed only by initials.

In efforts to ascertain more information about the artist, he finds himself gradually more interested in his chosen field as well.  The small watercolor initiates a search that leads Peter back to books and their provenance...and to Shakespearean forgeries.

The novel has time shifts that illuminate Peter's background, especially his relationship with his wife; the Victorian period and the artist and model of the watercolor; and the provenance of a book that dates from Shakespeare's time and travels through one bookseller and book collector to another all the way to the present.

Interesting details:  
1)  Peter has a social anxiety that requires medication and still often curtails his ability to          mix easily with people.  
2  )The information about rare books and book preservation and book forgeries.

A perfect mystery for a booklover!

NetGalley/Penguin Group, Viking.

Mystery/Historical.  2013.  Print Version:  368 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0670026476

Friday, June 21, 2013

Three to Go

Indelible by Dawn Metcalf is a YA fantasy.  

Book Description:   Some things are permanent. Indelible. And they cannot be changed back. 
Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room—right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. 
Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world—a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep and a life that will never be the same.  
Of course, a love story develops between Joy and Indelible Ink, and a friendship of sorts with his sister and others from his world.  As a result of the wound, Joy becomes Indelible Ink's assistant, and a conspiracy is uncovered that could mean the end of the human world.  First in a series that young people should enjoy.

NetGalley/Harlequin Teen.

Fantasy.  July 30, 2013.  Print version:  384 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0373210736

Into the Raging Mountains by Caroline Gill is a fantasy that could have benefited from extensive editing.  Emphasis on extensive.  Nice cover.

Book Description:  When gods intervene in minutiae, even
the jaded take notice. Into the Raging Mountains is an extraordinary tale in which a town baker, a gifted fence, and innocent children are caught up in a secret struggle to control the future of the world.

Characters are thin, the plot(s) a bit confused, and way too long.  

NetGalley/St. Helena Press.

Fantasy.  June 2013.  ebook.

A Clockwork Heart by Liesel Schwarz  is a YA steampunk fantasy.  Steampunk is a difficult genre to pull off. Too many authors spent more time on the accouterments and paraphernalia than on characters or plot.

  A Clockwork Heart is the second in a series, but it stands alone.  If it stands at all.  Actually,  the book stumbles, falls, and fails to draw breath.  DOA.  Elle Chance and Hugh Marsh are cardboard characters and the dialogue fails to make them more human. 

 Cassandra Clare's  Clockwork Angel (the first in her Infernal Devices trilogy) is infinitely better.

NetGalley/Random House, Del Ray Spectra.

Steampunk/Fantasy.  2013.  Print version:  304 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0345545087

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Up, Back, and Away by K. Velk

Up, Back, and Away is the result of a link from Nan's blog, Letters from a Hill Farm.  Thanks, Nan!

I've mentioned before that although I continue to read time-travel books, I usually find them disappointing.  One reason is that many authors try too hard to explain all the ins and outs of the process, and the more explanations, rules, and criteria that are given, the more impossible it is not to nitpick--and the harder it is (for me) to just sink into the novel and enjoy it.

The first few pages had me wondering if I would really like the book, but quickly I found myself drawn in by fifteen-year-old  Miles McTavish and his mission to 1928 and the small English village of Tipton, England.  

Miles has quite a bit of cultural navigating to do.  A teenager from a wealthy family in 2012 would have a difficult time adjusting to the sensibilities of an England between wars:  the living conditions, customs, manners, etc.,  frequently bring Miles to a state of uncertainty and confusion.  Originally, a shy, unassuming boy lacking in confidence, Miles is forced to confront some strange situations in his search for a girl "born out of her time,"  and each situation, concerning friend or foe, strengthens Miles' confidence and his ability to adapt.

Characters are well-rounded and believable.  The plot kept me entertained, and  I had a great time reading this novel and enjoying the story without being snarky about the time-travel.

Up, Back, and Away uses a portal that connects the U.S. and Great Britain in space and time.  No lengthy explanations, no attempts to make it logical, and very few rules;  the portal has more of magic than science.  I could "suspend my disbelief" and simply enjoy the ride.

I would certainly recommend this as a YA novel, but as with all good novels, it appeals to all ages whether the protagonist is fifteen or older.  An entertaining novel with lots of good social and cultural history thrown in with the adventure.

An Amazon ebook (and free, thanks to Nan).

Time-travel, Adventure.  2013.  344 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1481873474

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Square of Revenge by Pieter Aspe

The Square of Revenge is the first in a long series of novels by  Belgian author Pieter Aspe featuring Inspector Van In (originally published in 1995).  This is the first of his novels to be translated to English and, interestingly enough, given the penchant for beginning translations in the middle of a series, this translation begins with the first in the series.

I enjoyed the characters and the setting in Bruges.  Hannelore Martens, a newly appointed magistrate, is young, enthusiastic, and pretty.  She takes to Van In, a fortyish, shy fellow with lots of bad habits, and she insinuates herself into the investigation of a bizarre break in of a jewelry store.  The store is owned by a member of a prominent and influential family, and robbery is not the motive; instead, all of the priceless jewelry is destroyed in aqua regis, an acid mixture which can dissolve gold.  A brief message is left and a Templar's square.

Van In and his team, including Hannelore, believe that revenge is the motive.  They also believe that there will be more incidents.  And, indeed, there are.  Corruption and power accompany the DeGroof family, and Van In, after initially being told to drop the case, is then asked to return when the DeGroof grandson is kidnapped.  Secrets abound.

As this is the first in the series, I look forward to more in which the characters' relationships continue to develop and the time frame moves from the 1990's to the twenty-first century.

NetGalley/Open Road Media.

Police Procedural.  June 2013 (translation).  Print version:  336 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1605984469

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lexicon by Max Barry


From Book Description:   Lexicon is a brilliant thriller that explores language, power, identity, and our capacity to love—whatever the cost.

I'm not sure about the novel actually exploring language--in spite of the book's premise.  Language/Lexicon is only explored in the sense of the power words can yield, but not in any particular detail.  Nor can I truly get into the power of nonsense words that aren't magic.  That distinction is emphasized but not really clarified.  Frrrrkkkiki.  Or whatever.

These nonsense words are so powerful that speaking them can hypnotize the victims, making them totally amenable to the power of suggestion and manipulation, even to the point of suicide.  Just accept it.  Oh, and no ethical element at the Academy or after graduation.  Just follow the rules and carry out your mission.

The background of the Academy is never given.  The graduating students are given the names of poets and then...well, never clearly explained to the reader (or to the graduates as far as I could tell), sent off to help the head of the American branch of poets prepare to rule the world?

I had looked forward to this novel with incorrect expectations, and the first few pages were very promising.  (Another unexplained detail--the eyeball thing).  I read with a kind of detached interest, but ultimately was disappointed.  I know there will be some who adore this book, but it didn't work for me.

High body count.  

NetGalley/Penguin Press, HC

SciFi/Fantasy?  June 18, 2013.  Print version:  400 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1594205388

Monday, June 17, 2013

Categorically Speaking

Who knows exactly what makes a book a 5 out of 5 star book?
And a 5 out of 5 book for me may not even make your radar.
It is also true that there isn't a gold standard
even in a personal evaluation,
no confirmed paradigm that makes a book awesome for me.

Among my 5 out of 5 books:
A Secret Garden,
Heart of Darkness,
The Hobbit,
Pride and Prejudice,
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,
Megan Whalen Turner's The King's Thief series,
Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy,
Anne of Green Gables,
David Weber's Honor Harrington series,
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,
The Sound and the Fury.

What a strange conglomeration.
And I could continue with others 
that fit no pattern other than that they made me laugh,
or cry or think or all of these.
They are classic, fantasy, YA, juvenile, science fiction, mystery,
funny, or serious.

Yesterday, I added another one to my favorites.

The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain.
Thanks to  Meryl Zegarek P.R. and Gallic Books
for sending me this one!

I received this in the mail the other day,
and left it on the snack bar because I have so many books to read.
Yesterday, I picked it up and finished in a whirlwind of smiles.

Sometimes it is fun to slip some books into different categories. 
 I've finished all of the following, but some posts are scheduled 
and some are in draft form.

Featuring Paris or France:
The Bones of Paris by Kathy Reichs (scheduled)
The Three Lives of Tomomi Ishakawa  by Benjamin Constable 
Mission to Paris by Alan Furst
Death in the Vines by M.L. Longworth  
The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain

Featuring cults:
Gated by Amy Christine Parker (draft)
Always Watching by Chevy Stevens  


Gated (draft)
The Scourge 
Gameboard of the Gods 
Viral Nation  
There Comes a Prophet  

Featuring Magicians:
The Ambitious Card (scheduled)
Now You See It (scheduled)

Imaginary Animals:
The Three Lives of Tomomi Ishakawa 
Foreign Affairs 

Circle of Shadows 
The Red Queen Dies (draft)
I've had 2 books lately use the word anomie.  I rarely run across a word that is entirely new to me, and to have it in two books within a couple of days was interesting.

What is going on in your world of books?
Any recent reads that go beyond good or really good
and make it into your awesome category?

Or books that you had high hopes for but disappointed?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann

Claws of the Cat  is set in 16th century Japan and features Hiro, a Ninja detective, and Father Mateo, a Portuguese Catholic  priest.  It is the first in a new series, and I look forward to more.

Hiro has been sworn to protect Father Mateo, who is not always familiar with cultural norms and occasionally makes egregious social errors.

A young entertainer at a local teahouse requests Father Mateo's aid when she is discovered beside the body of a murdered samurai.   Hiro doesn't want to get involved, but Father Mateo's attempts to aid the young woman end up with the pair required to find the real murderer within three days, or the young woman, Father Mateo, and Hiro will all be subject to the revenge of the dead man's son.

An atmospheric mystery with plenty of suspects, intriguing glimpses of Japanese culture, and interesting, likable protagonists.

Do you have a favorite Asian mystery/detective series?

Net Galley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books.  Will be released in July.

Historic Mystery.  July 16, 2013.  Print version 288 pages.
 ISBN-10: 1250027020

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie

Foreign Affairs--oh, what a wonderful discovery!  This is my first book by Alison Lurie, and it won the 1984 National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1985. 

First Line:  On a cold blowy February day a woman is boarding the ten A.M. flight to London, followed by an invisible dog.

I loved this book.  It is witty and serious, a light sauce over a rich dessert full of complex flavors.  

I loved the characters and their gradual enlightenment:  Fred, the handsome young professor, recently separated from his wife and finding his research in London a lonely proposition;  Vinnie, in her fifties, small and plain, but a determined Anglophile whose research grant gives her five months in England.  Vinnie and Fred are colleagues from the same American university, but their age difference and divergent interests mean they are acquaintances, not friends.  Lurie keeps their stories separate for the most part, but she does intend for the reader to note the contrasts in all manner of ways.  

Vinnie surprised me.  She undergoes a genuine transformation in her world view.  Her way of dealing with difficulties in her life amused me, and I found her, with all of her flaws, delightful.

Highly recommended!

NetGalley/Open Road Integrated Media.

Literary Fiction.  1984; 2013.  Print version:  304 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0812976312

Friday, June 14, 2013

Data Runner by Sam A. Patel

Data Runner is a fast-paced YA debut novel by Sam A. Patel.  Data runners are couriers who transmit information securely by means of chips implanted in their arms.  The job is risky as interceptors or destructors are often after that same sensitive information.  

Jack Nil needs money to clear his father's debt and decides to take  an offer from a company that runs data.  Jack's parkour skills and keen intelligence are the reason he has been recruited, and he will need those qualities in this hazardous new job.

The characters could have been better developed, the plot more realistic, and the world building better clarified, but the action keeps this novel going.  The novel feels as if the author was rushing to get his ideas down, but skimped some areas that would have added depth.  

The use of parkour is an innovative addition to a familiar theme; I was unfamiliar with parkour, but found the sport fascinating.

From Wikipedia:  Parkour (French pronunciation: ​[paʁˈkuʁ]) (abbreviated PK) is a holistic training discipline using movement that developed out of military obstacle course training.[1][2][3] Practitioners aim to move quickly and efficiently through their environment using only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves, negotiating obstacles in between. They try to maintain as much momentum as possible without being unsafe. Parkour can include running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, quadrupedal movement and more, if they are the most suitable movements for the situation.[4][5][6]

You can get a better idea from the videos below.


NetGalley/Diversion Books

Science Fiction/Dystopian/YA.  June 25, 2013. Print version:  320 pages.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Three Lives of Tomomi Ishakawa by Benjamin Constable

The Three Lives of Tomomi Ishakawa  

Book Description:  What writer Benjamin Constable needs is a real-life adventure wilder than his rampant imagination. And who better to shake up his comfortable Englishman-in-Paris routine than the enigmatic Tomomi “Butterfly” Ishikawa, who has just sent a cryptic suicide note?
She’s planted a slew of clues—in the pages of her journal, on the hard drive of her computer, tucked away in public places, under flowerpots, and behind statues. Heartbroken, confused, and accompanied by an imaginary cat, Ben embarks upon a scavenger hunt leading to charming and unexpected spaces, from the hidden alleys of Paris to the cobblestone streets of New York City.

I thought I'd love this one, the book description sounds so intriguing.  The first few pages charmed me, and I liked the idea of the clues, but somehow even those didn't quite measure up.  I wanted to like Butterfly, but even though her voice was alluring, the content of the clues, journal pages, notebooks became less and less pleasant.  Benjamin Constable was not particularly likable, either.  Sometimes he simply grated on my nerves.  By the conclusion, I really didn't care what happened to either of them or whether any of it was real.

Pros:  The cover is beautiful.  The concept was interesting.  Cat was my favorite character, and Cat was definitely imaginary.

Cons:  Too clever by half.  Like cotton candy--pretty to look at, not very filling.

NetGalley/Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books.

Fiction.  2013.  Print version:  352 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 1451667264

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson

Another interesting escapade featuring Harriet Westerman and her friend Gabriel Crowther the anatomist.  Circle of Shadows is set in Maulberg, a fictitious dukedom in Germany, in 1784.  When a strange and apparently senseless murder occurs in Maulberg, Daniel Clode, Harriet's brother-in-law is arrested,  as Daniel was found with the body, incoherent and bleeding.  Given the circumstances, few doubt his guilt, and unless the guilty party can be found, Daniel will be executed.  Fortunately, connections in England that affect Maulberg's finances allow for delay, and the English contingent rushes to Maulberg to see if they can discover the real murderer and save Daniel's life.

I like Harriet and Crowther a great deal, but in this novel other characters play larger roles as well.  The infamous castrato  Manzerotti appears at court, causing Harriet much personal distress, but his character is fascinating.  I liked District Officer Krall, Jacob Pegel (the young man employed and mentored by Manzerotti in his spy operation), and the brothers who produce the marvelous automata for the Duke and other wealthy clients.  A series featuring Manzerotti and Pegel would be interesting.

The plot is a little fantastic, but the characters carry the show. This is the 4th novel in this series, but I missed the second one and will be checking my library.  It is not necessary to begin this series with the first novel; each novel can stand on its own.  That said, my favorite is Instruments of Darkness, the first novel, that establishes the relationship between Harriet and the reserved and antisocial Gabriel Crowther.

The Westerman/Crowther Series in Order:
Instruments of Darkness
Anatomy of a Murder (TBR)
Island of Bones
Circle of Shadows

NetGalley/Penguin Group, Viking.

Mystery/Historical fiction.  June 13, 2013.  Print version:  384 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0143120409

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scheduled and a Freebie

I have eight reviews scheduled for the next four months 
so that they will be closer to their release dates:

Now You See It by Jane Tesh - mystery
A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway - mystery, steampunk
Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs -mystery, crime
A Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd - historical mystery 
The Ambitious Card by John Gaspard - mystery
The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King -mystery
The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen - magical realism
Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann -historical mystery

I also have six reviews (in various stages of completion) in draft form.
Gotta' get'em done!

Just saw on Cayenne Lit that you can get a free download 
of Saffron Dreams until June 14.

I read and reviewed it in 2009.  Excellent.  You won't regret reading this one.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Strange Bird by Anna Jansson

Strange Bird  is an ARC sent by Meryl Zegarek.  The book is the first in Jansson's series featuring detective Maria Wern to be translated to English.  (Translation by Paul Norlen.)  

I'm already a great fan of Scandinavian crime novels, and more than happy to add a new author to my list.

Opening lines:
"Ruben Nilsson stepped into the summer twilight to tap his pipe out against the railing of the porch.  If he had known how few hours he had left to live, perhaps his priorities would have been different."

Gotland, Sweden's largest island, is about to feel the effects of a pandemic.  Ruben Nilsson raises homing pigeons and has been preparing for an upcoming race, but when he discovers a strange pigeon, Ruben includes it in his flock.

Bird flu has found its way onto the island and the deaths will begin to mount.  Ruben's neighbor is a cook at a soccer camp, soon the children and their coach will be at risk.  A friend of Ruben's is a taxi driver--and a busy one.  The threat expands.  

In addition to the panic inspired by the flu, Maria has a murder case to pursue.  Both the effects of bird flu on the island and the murder investigation are riveting.  The book is certainly a suspenseful page turner.

The characters are well-rounded and believable.  The plot has implications for both national and local governments concerning the possibility of a flu pandemic of any kind.  The Spanish flu of 1918 infected 500 million people world wide and killed 50-100 million of them; it is considered one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. In a world where travel is so easy and so frequent, a flu virus would have easy access to world populations.  And flu viruses mutate so vaccines present a problem.

I found this quote one a crime website:   
"It is well written, well thought out and unpleasantly believable. One of my favorite Swedish crime novels."     Dagens Nyheter

That pretty much sums up my feelings.  Highly recommended!

Scandinavian Crime.  Sept. 10, 2013.  334 pages.
ISBN-10: 9187173956

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgeway

The River of No Return was an ARC published by Dutton.

Book Description:  “You are now a member of the Guild. There is no return.” Two hundred years after he was about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield, Nick Falcott, soldier and aristocrat, wakes up in a hospital bed in modern London. The Guild, an entity that controls time travel, showers him with life's advantages. But Nick yearns for home and for one brown-eyed girl, lost now down the centuries. Then the Guild asks him to break its own rule. It needs Nick to go back to 1815 to fight the Guild’s enemies and to find something called the Talisman.

In 1815, Julia Percy mourns the death of her beloved grandfather, an earl who could play with time. On his deathbed he whispers in her ear: “Pretend!” Pretend what? When Nick returns home as if from the dead, older than he should be and battle scarred, Julia begins to suspect that her very life depends upon the secrets Grandfather never told her. Soon enough Julia and Nick are caught up in an adventure that stretches up and down the river of time. As their knowledge of the Guild and their feelings for each other grow, the fate of the future itself is hanging in the balance.

Part time travel, part romance, part historical fiction, The River of No Return did not work well for me.  I've tried a number of time travel novels, but for some reason, most simply don't deliver a scenario that makes any kind of sense, and although I'm not opposed to a little romance in a novel, I don't really care for romance novels. 

While the book will appeal to many readers, it was a bit ho-hum for me.  When I finished the 464 pages and discovered it was the first in another trilogy (aren't there a lot of those out there?), I knew it was not one that I would pursue.  It isn't that I don't like long books, I love them.  Or that I don't like trilogies, I do.  This particular one simply didn't interest me enough to seek future installments.

Time Travel.  2013.  464 pages. 
  • ISBN-10: 0525953868

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Meade

The Gameboard of the Gods

Book Description:  In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). 

Evidently, Richelle Meade has a large following of devoted readers, but this is the first book of I've read, and I've wondered how to review it...

I wasn't enchanted with either of the main characters, Justin March and Mae Koskinen.  Justin, a former religious sect inspector, uses alcohol, drugs, and sex to reduce tension.  Mae is a genetically enhanced RUNA soldier.

The world that Meade creates was never quite clear to me; it felt incomplete and confusing.  Although religious conflict and a deadly virus are given as reasons for the contemporary government, political, and social environment, the reasoning is vague and so is the resulting society.  

I usually enjoy the incorporation of mythic references, but the presence of all of the gods in this futuristic world is disconcerting.  Religions are closely monitored and frequently disbanded, and yet all kinds of gods from every culture (and some amalgams of traditional gods) all capable of interfering with human activities.   

And there is a serial killer.

Reviews appear to be about evenly divided.  Some love the book; others are disappointed.
I find myself in the second category.

Dutton Publishing

Science Fiction/Dystopian.  June 2013.  464 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 052595368X

Friday, June 07, 2013

Always Watching by Chevy Stevens

Always WatchingAlways Watching is the first book I've read by Stevens, but she has written two previous books with the character Nadine Lavoie, a psychiatrist who initially had a private practice, but has moved to Vancouver and taken a position in a psychiatric hospital.

When a young woman who attempted suicide is admitted to the hospital, Nadine discovers that the young woman and her husband have recently left a commune whose name and leader Nadine recognizes.  The name Aaron Quinn evokes memories from Nadine's childhood and the time her disturbed mother whisked Nadine and her brother to the same commune for eight months. 

When a young woman who attempted suicide is admitted to the hospital, Nadine discovers that the young woman and her husband  have recently left a commune whose leader Nadine recognizes.  The name Aaron Quinn evokes memories from Nadine's childhood and about her disturbed mother's whisking Nadine and her brother Robbie to the same commune for eight months nearly 40 years ago.  

As these memories begin to work their way to the forefront of her consciousness, Nadine realizes that there are also a number of things which she is still unable to remember, and she believes there may be a connection to her claustrophobia.  When she questions her mother and brother, neither seem to be interested, but Nadine is persistent and she tracks down some former members of the commune.

Will Nadine's persistence in the uncovering the past put her in present danger?

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press.

Psychological Thriller.  June 18, 2013.  Print version:  352 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0312595697

The Scourge by A.G. Henley

The Scourge is a YA dystopian novel set in a world where the inhabitants are divided into Groundlings, who live on the ground, and Lofties, who live in the trees.  An interesting idea, but not sufficiently developed.  Apparently, the Lofties depend on the Groundlings only for water, and although agricultural activities are not discussed for either group, surely the Lofties need more than water.  The Groundlings depend on the Lofties for protection from the scourge, zombie-like creatures who terrify both groups.  From the safety of the trees, the Lofties can fire their arrows at the creatures, but the Groundlings have to retreat to a cave because the Lofties won't let them into the trees.

The balance seems exceptionally uneven; the only explanation given is tradition, which doesn't really clear up the details of why their living arrangements are not more cooperative and codependent in areas other than water and protection. So...while I liked the idea of two different societies divided by their dwelling places, the relationship between them felt sketchy and indefinite.

Plot:  Fennel is a sightless Groundling, the Water Bearer, who is the only one able to move among the creatures safely.  Her "Keeper" is  a Loftie named Peree, who shoots any creature that may become threatening as the blind girl hauls water for both groups.  Why only one Loftie  as a protector?  Shouldn't all the Lofties be active in defense of the Water Bearer who provides water to sustain both societies during times when the scourge are present?

The first part of the novel was intriguing, and I liked the building of trust between Fennel and Peree.  The latter part of the novel didn't interest me as much, but does give the explanation of the scourge. The concluding chapters also unravel some of unusual relationships among families and other secrets among both Groundlings and Lofties, but ending feels abrupt.

I think YA readers will enjoy the novel, especially the relationship that develops between the Water Bearer and her Keeper.

Finalist for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award (YA Category)


YA/Dystopian.  2012.  Print version:  243 pages.