Wednesday, December 31, 2014

a cozy winter read

Gigi Pandian The Accidental Alchemist
This is a rather charming, cosy read, perfect for a winter's afternoon (to be published January 2015). It has quirky characters and could be classified as urban fantasy, perhaps YA, cosy mystery, or a paranormal romp. It's a quick light read.
Gigi Pandian previously has written the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery (ongoing) series. Her debut novel Artifact (2012),  won the William F Deeck Malice Domestic award. This  series includes Pirate Visnhu (2014), with Quicksand to be published March 2015. A short story The Hindi Houdini was shortlisted for both Agatha and Macavity awards.
Midnight Ink publishes this tale of a 300 year old herbalist/witch/alchemist Zoe Faust who specializes in spagyrics- plant alchemy which extracts the healing property's of herbs.  She is finally ready to settle down (Portland Oregon), buys and old house, starts to unpack, when all sorts of things happen. 1) The most wonderful character of the book shows up: an impish gargoyle who stowed away in her belongings from France and who desperately needs her help if he is to 'stay' alive (he's turning back into stone). But he is a master French chef and would be my new best friend if he'd just come live with me. I love his charm and name (Dorian Robert Houdin). 2) Handsome detective Max Liu, who is investigating a body that presented itself on her doorstep (thus preventing her house repairs). I hope the continuing series will develop their friendship/relationship. (The only two people in Portland who don't like coffee?!) And 3) the three adolescents (Brixton, Veronica and Ethan) who provide quite some comic relief while being relevant and real. I found them very predictable (except for the green smoothies!) but became so attached to Dorian I sped read through the book. I love that Dorian's father Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin was a French stage magician and clockmaker and the father of modern magic (a master showman and illusionist, 1805-1871).
Pandian is a breast cancer survivor who has learned carpe diem, and eating good food. It's easy to recommend The Accidental Alchemist just for the food- yes, I read the mouth watering descriptions and ever the skeptic (teenagers drinking green goo?? And loving it??!) that I tried several and definitely enjoyed them (I prefer chocolate colour, so used the cocoa instead; adult version?). Visit the website too.
Suspend disbelief, enjoy an imaginative little mysterious gem as a distraction on a chilly afternoon.

Read on
If you like Elizabeth Peters, Agatha Christie or John Dickson Carr
3.5 stars
Read as an ARC ebook from Netgalley

"Did I mention that when I was born in Massachusetts, it was 1676?"
"The gray creature looked similar to the famous "thinker" gargoyle with short horns and folded wings. The main difference was that this gargoyle held an old leather-bound book in his arms."
"I have control of myself now, I simply do not understand why anyone would leave France?!"
"I do not think things make much sense when one has left France."
"Life is too short to eat inedible food because it is healthy."
"A false answer is often easier than a complicated truth."
"One of the very few positive things about living so long was getting to read so many books."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pictures from an Institution

Julie Schumacher Dear Committee Members

Dear Reader,
Buy the book, give it as a gift, loan out your copy, order it from the library. This epistolary novel is a laugh out loud tale not just for academics, but all walks of life. You may spend an enjoyable afternoon reading, but I preferred short bits, perhaps 4 or five letters at a time. (It's only 200 pages, but best if not digested all at once).  If you have any connection to the Ivory Towers you will recognize the biting satire, social criticism, and frustrating quagmire of politics and funding. It could easily be a diary.
The letters are quite clever, and reveal much about the writer, as an academic, as a husband, lover, teacher, at once observant while equally oblivious, generous but also petty, happy but unfulfilled.  One third of the letters are letters of recommendation, which in and of themselves reveal a great deal of society and expectations today. Sadly. It kept me reading to see how much damage he could do.... As a whole, it has a bitter edge, is a rather lacerating commentary on academic life but also full of human foibles, entertaining yet poignant. And lost. No one writes letters anymore, we have several generations that cannot compose an email let alone a letter. In retrospect, it was funny while I was reading it.
But I hope you will pick up this book and enjoy this lighthearted but thought provoking read.

A Gentle Reader

3.5 stars (note- this book also doesn't work well as an audio book- I barely glanced at who they were addressed to, but the addresses are properly read out, delaying the amusement of the letter.)

Read on:
For other epistolary novels: Jonathan Miles Dear American Airlines (2008), Maria Semple Where'd you go Bernadette? (2012) Joey Corneau Overqualified (2009).
Fans of David Foster Wallace should like this.
Reminiscent (campus, academic, literary lives) of Richard Russo Straight Man(1997, who also favorably reviewed Miles), Sam Lipsyte HomeLand (2004), Jincy Willet's Winner of the National Book Award (2002, recommended by Nancy Pearl).

Read as an ARC ebook from NETGALLY

Holiday short story

Deanna Raybourn Bonfire Night
This is a short story, the last in the traditional English holidays series (silent night, midsummer night, twelfth night and now bonfire night). At 56 pp it is not even a novella, and depends upon reading the previous stories, which are also greater appreciated if you have read the full novels, also in order. What a treat if you haven't discovered this author though! I read this as an ARC as well as purchased the ebook.
It is autumn 1890, amateur sleuth Victorian Lady Julia and her detective husband Brisbane have inherited a country property Thorncross in Narrow Wibberly. It is of course haunted but Brisbane has no difficulty solving this mystery. There is the usual witty banter, the eccentricity and mayhem we have come to appreciate and expect, and a warm family feeling completing a holiday book. This is perfect for an afternoon read, a satisfying story to occupy a train (or plane) journey or just a short break in your day.

4 stars for familiar short cosy mystery

Read on:
To the Amelia Peabody series of Elizabeth Peters.

"I cursed him inwardly. Plum had only ever been third favourite amongst my brothers, and I was reminded why."
"...and besides, strange solicitors showing up at odd hours speaks to an intrigue."
"In my experience," Brisbane said seriously, "gift horses are usually the ones with the most dangerous bite."
"The house was built of grey stone in a haphazard style and betrayed a certain originality of design."
"The woman is mad enough to be related to us."
"I've only just realised. Little Jack is the first Christmas present my father has ever given me," he said. "And he has given me the only thing of his I could possibly want."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Back into the Dark Ages

Alys Clare  Blood of the South
Alys Clare is the pseudonym of Elizabeth Harris, who is well known for her Hawkenlye medieval novels and the Norman novels of the Aelf Fen series. She lives in the region and understands the ecology/ environment well, which coupled with her understanding of human nature and descriptive writing make her novels excellent reading.
This is the sixth novel, closely following the 2013 Land of the Silver Dragons. Indeed I highly recommend reading them in order if you are not familiar with this author. The character development and overarching plots are more interesting, and greater appreciated, although the individual novels can stand alone. I especially enjoyed Music of a Distant Star, read excitedly through Land of a Silver Dragon, and looked forward to the continuation of the story. Her novels can be long (800 pgs) as they are full of evocative description and peopled with fascinating (often interrelated) characters of their times.

Blood of the South follows two stories in Norman (1093) England, that of Lassair, an apprentice healer which takes place in East Anglia, in the fens between Ely and the Wash, and her partner, Rollo, a Norseman who is on a mission for King William (II) to Constantinople.
Lassair is young, but very insightful, learning to understand her healing gift, while growing into her magic under the tutelage of Gurdyman. Her kindness involves her with a stranger and her child. And Jack Chevestrier, Norman lawman, enters her life. Together they are compelled to uncover the mystery surrounding the child, a body ravaged in the severe flooding (torrential rain complicated by tidal conditions, which was all too appropriate this year in the massive flooding in England). This complicated tale is connected through the Mediterranean journey and political intrigues of Rollo. I enjoyed the alternating, complimenting stories equally.
4 stars

Read on:
If you like Susanna Gregory, SJ Ransom, Bernard Cornwell, Ariana Franklin, or Ellis Peters.

The opening line: "There is a collective evil that comes over a crowd of people intent on bullying someone."
"Gurdyman is the wisest of the wise; my teacher, my mentor, my companion and my friend. In addition, he is a wizard-..."
"Rollo Guisars, who is my one and only lover; the man who stays in my heart although he is usually far away and we are together only rarely."
"The seriousness of the moment struck home: beeswax candles are fearfully costly, and Gurdyman had just lit four. Somewhere close by, incense was burning; sniffing, I detected the strong heady smell of frankincense; another very expensive commodity. In addition I smelt cumin, dill and garlic. All four substances are used for protection."
"You'd be amazed how many folk don't know not to vomit into the wind."

Read as an ARC ebook from NETGALLY

Italian murder!

When is an accident a murder?
When the victim has had a pedicure...
Andrea Camilleri The Fourth Secret
This is a novella, (168 pages), which is part of a larger body of work: 16+ novels and countless short stories, which have evolved into a 9 season television series (26 episodes, with Luca Zingaretti as Montalbano).  Beware the translator, he is an Italian author, and those translated by Stephen Sartarelli are far better (Camelleri was awarded a 2012 crime writers international dagger for Potters Field, translated by Sartarelli). Sadly, this novella was translated by G Arizona and D Siracusa and often feels like a farce. There are also unforgivable spelling mistakes (eg here instead of hear).
The detective series (begun in 1994) features Inspector Montalbano (homage to a Spanish writer Montalban and his fictional detective Pepe Carvalho) who is a famous Sicilian detective in the Italian police force. Montalbano is a complex character, always clever, but often offputting to me as he can be very macho, mercurial, selfish. Yet I have continued to read the series, as each book is quite different. I also appreciate the European writing, which can be dramatic while stark, emotional while sparse. Do not start with this novella or you won't continue the series. Begin with The Shape of Water. I read them out of order, as I found them which might have lead to some confusion of character development. I intend to start with the television series as I have heard very good things about it.

Read on:
to Simeon (Maigret), Donna Leon (Italian detective).
If you like food to play a part in your novel.
If you like quaint police procedurals a la Agatha Christie.

"Certainly it was quite the situation, but the Inspector couldn't help but notice that Cadarella had a nice voice. ...ah, sir, you should know that when I sing, I do damage. I'm so out of tune that dogs start barking as soon as they hear me."
"Nine lines, including the title, at the bottom of the last column in the right. The page exuded complete indifference toward that unfortunate death, ..."
"And so the plot thickened and thinned at the same time."

3 stars

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Seasonal Hope and Joy

Birds of Pandemonium
(life among the exotic and endangered)
by Michele Raffin (2014)
What started as a rescue operation over 15 years ago, is now a premier breeding facility and conservation program in California: Pandemonium Avaries, now a non profit organization with a volunteer staff of 63. Raffin has a masters from Stanford Business School, and won a gold medal at the 2011 Pan America Olympic Games.
From a wisdom of owls, a murder of crows, an kindness of ravens, an ascension of larks, a parliament of rooks, a lamentation of swans, an ostentation of peacocks, a pandemonium of parrots. How appropriate.
She fell in love with birds, they returned the favor. Many breed here and no where else! There are over 360 birds, from 34 species, 6 nearly extinct. This is a remarkable story that doesn't require an ornithology degree, is full of humor and perfect for the holidays. There are many lovely colour photos full of the characters! Her husband and children were  strong supporters, and now the birds are helping her cope with the dissolution of her marriage.
NB: She has done a fascinating TED talk, not to be missed.
NPR recommended. Don't miss it, especially for your non fiction Christmas readers.
4 stars
Buy the book and help her cause.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A picture is worth....

A picture is worth...
Nina Siegal The Anatomy Lesson
At least 290 moving pages of this stunning novel. It took Siegal  6 years to write, and I am so glad she persevered. It is a fascinating account of the history behind Rembrandt's first painting to give him international fame (and the first he signed using only Rembrandt, no initials). The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicholis Tulp, was commissioned by Amsterdam's Surgeons' Guild 1632. The novel has an intriguing cast of characters in the painting, each voiced in alternating chapters, each very distinctive and true to the period.

There is Aris, (the body), the one handed coat thief, who becomes the corpse of the painting. Flora (the heart) is pregnant with his child, and knows he didn't commit the crime and presents this information to Rembrandt. Jan Fetchet (the mouth) is a curio collector who also acquires medical cadavers. Dr Tulp (the hands) is a prominent surgeon, intent on debunking William Harvey's new circulation theory while harkening back to roman Galen. He does one public dissection a year, on an executed criminal. Rene Descartes (the mind) is a foreigner who attends the dissection to understand where the human soul resides. Pia (the story/narrator/discoverer) is a 21st century contemporary art conservator examining the painting, and making astonishing discoveries in the paint.

Rembrandt (the eyes) here is an unknown, in Amsterdam, an outsider and indentured, here because he impressed some burghers with biblical paintings. But he speaks in colour and texture, with humour and insight, and finally, painting/living with truth and justice. After hearing Flora "I want to make him whole again." he changes the initial painting, covering the scars and restoring the severed hand! He did not want the painting to glorify man's cruelty, brutality. Instead it is filled with the emotion of loss, while the book describes the power of love. I have seen a copy (unknown artist) in the University of Edinburgh's Fine Art Museum which shows an extraordinary, ambitious painting. Someday perhaps a journey to see the original.
This will appeal to any one interested in the history of medicine, art history or historical fiction.

"Some sons are easier to love than others."
"We are working in allegory my dear."
"He will go on painting until he gets it all right."
“She had loved him, Fetchet bought him, Dr. Tulp had claimed him for science, and I had wanted him for art. All of us sought his flesh. All of us have wanted to make something of this man’s body. But he did not belong to any of us. He was only Aris the thief.”
“This, I thought, was a portrait of human cruelty. It told of how men ravage one another in search of truth. How they carve each other up in the name of justice, and how they fail to see their own brutality.”

Read On
Vanora Bennett Portrait of an Unknown Woman
Elizabeth Kostova The Swan Thieves
Donna Tartt The Goldfinch
Cathy Marie Buchanan Painted Girls
See also WG Sebald 1999 The Rings of Saturn
Laird Hunt 2006 The Exquisite
Siegal has also written A Little Trouble with the Facts (2008)
4 stars
I felt the ending was very rushed, but perhaps I just wanted more. Particularly the voice of Rembrandt. Fetchet also had some wonderful lines. It was also immediately evident that it was of the Iowa Writers workshop ilk.
RPL has a copy, reserve now!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mystery series for Autumn

I confess I read so many books, and many many mysteries, that it is hard to write prompt reviews. So here are several recently read  all available in the library!

1) Susanna Gregory 2013 Death In St James's Park
This is the 8th book in the Thomas Chaloner series that takes place in the 1600s London. She also writes the Matthew Bartholomew series in medieval Cambridge (I adore the series for the titles alone, e.g. A Plague on both your Houses). Interestingly she was a Leeds police officer before changing careers to become an environmental consultant with field work in polar regions (seals, whales, walruses). As an academic she also taught comparative anatomy and biological anthropology. She has a vivid eye for detail and a strong research bent, which makes for great (but perhaps dense) historical mysteries. Aka Elizabeth Cruwys (Cambridge academic) and aka Simon Beaufort (Author).

Thomas Chaloner is "spy to Earl of Clarendon or intelligencer to The Lord Chancellor" (and given the title of gentleman usher as his disguise). It is 1665 and an explosion at the General Letter Office (PO!) leads to an enquiry.  Thomas is something of an inept spy and leads a rather dreary existence, but then Gregory accurately portrays the harsh realities of everyday life. He's already sent off to Russia on his next assignment at the end of this book.  Most of her characters are real people doing their "jobs" which makes for fascinating reading. You'll be glad of central heating.
4 stars for excellent historical drama.
Read on to CJ Sansom Shardlake series.
Noted similarities to Cadfael, by Ellis Peters/Ellis Pargeter
I prefer the Mistress of the Art of Death series (Diana Norman, Ariana Franklin) and wait for it!!!! Norman's daughter has continued the series!

2) Silent Murders 2014 Mary Miley
This is the second book in the not to be missed series (The Impersonator 2012 won Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers First Crime Novel Award).
25 year old Leah Randall, now Jessie Beckett (after impersonating Jessie Carr, book one) is now in the silent film industry after a lifetime in Vaudeville (first with her mother) working in the Pickford/Fairbanks studio. She's reinventing herself while using past skills to investigate an increasing body count. She's quirky, plucky, intelligent, fun loving, plucky jack (Jill) of all trades.
This has a who's who in early film stars feel! Movie buffs will enjoy this.
(Myrna Loy is her new friend, roommate and a friend of hers is Gary Cooper!)
And as Hollywood, there's starlets, booze, drugs  and genuinely lovely people. This is really the roaring twenties, fabulous Jazz Age and the Silver Screen era. It is also well researched, providing a great escape into a period piece. I look forward to the continuation of this cozy series.
4 stars
Read On
Mary Miley Theobald 2012 Death by Petticoat: American history myths debunked
Reminds me of the spunky heroine Phryne Fisher (Kerry Greenwood) novels, without the money!

3) Blood on the Water  2014 by Anne Perry
This is the 20th Inspector Monk mystery, but it feels like yesterday to me. I love the period detail and the character development (can Scruff really be 15?). It is 1865 and Victorian London is still seething with politics, class and empire. Beloved characters are struggling to balance their ideals with actual human behaviour, which still resonates today. But we enjoy living with Monk, Hester, Scruff and Oliver for 309 short pages.
Monk and Orme witnessed an explosion on a private water craft which caused the death of 200 people. His investigation is particularly gruesome and chilling, literally and figuratively with politics quickly coming into action. The first part of the book concerns the criminal investigation, while the latter is primarily courtroom drama and discovery of motivation, which of course is what finally determines the true killer. It is often the insight of Hester, with help from Scruff that provides import at information to the case. But Rathbone also has a vast understanding of the law, as well as a moral code. Perry is a master in this era, and particularly with these characters, and delivers another outstanding historical novel. I particularly liked the insight noting the fallibility of eyewitness accounts and testimony, and what we chose to see and hear. Many thought provoking moments.
4.5 stars

4) The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (2014)
10 Short stories
I am exhausted from reading these tales, and not sure I would have survived if they had been novellas or full length novels. They are penetrating, unsettling, unnerving, unpredictable, ingenious, fascinating and revealing.  There are fractured dysfunctional families, yet dreams in every one.  I also feel like I have just had a college English class - intense descriptive yet sparse,  short stories, beautifully written, evocative, scary to terrifying, full of the unknown, reeling from the passage of time.
5 stars
In Audio books, Jane Carr's brilliant reading truly rewards the ears. And adds dimension if possible (I listened to most of the stories, after reading them!).
Hilary Mantel is the only woman to win two Man Booker prizes for her amazing novels a out Thomas Cromwell and Tudor England. The third book of the trilogy will be some time but eagerly awaited by all her fans. Don't miss this stunning collection.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Celtic mysteries continue

Tana French The Secret Place (2014) 518 p
This is the latest edition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.
French is a master of complex Irish/Celtic whodunits. This is atmospheric literary fiction, with great use of language and dialogue, with deep insight into complex twisted characters. Numerous characters (18) with 8 perspectives and two timelines make for an intricate, elaborate plot. I found there were too many teen voices, but perhaps it was just the lying, destructive behavior, babble, which also seemed unfathomable to the detectives. French's descriptive writing has a keen sense of drama which  provides an indepth analysis of teen culture while creating tension as they have less than a day to find the killer.
Teen Holly Mackey (2010 Faithful Place, daughter of a favourite detective Frank Mackey, who still has the best lines) brings a note detective Stephen Moran claiming to know who killed a boy from the neighboring school St Colm's. He has been waiting to get onto the squad even it it means working the cold case with detective Antoinette Conway, who is angry defensive and bitter mostly, justifiably, at the old boys police network. Two rival cliques in the posh St Kilda's school portray the bitter, secretive and ruthlessness of spoiled teens. I found it very disturbing in many ways.
Themes of bullying, loyalty, emotional maturity, trust, mysticism, old traditions and current situations.
Insp. Moran's voice alternates with the flashbacks of several girls, including Holly-
 of rapidly changing teenage angst and psyche, Americanized language of adolescents.
Holly is the odd one out in this school as all the rest are from wealthy families. I can see her becoming an important character in the continuing series (and will be disappointed if this doesn't happen!)
As usual French's keen sense of detail creates an intense suspenseful thriller. I love her proper use of language, descriptive sentence structure. This is also a great audio book read by Lara Hutchinson and Stephen Hogan with lovely lilting Irish accents.
Read On
If you like Donna Tartt, Muriel Spark, Declan Hughes, Brian McGilloway, Arlene Hunt.
Do not read of you haven't read her previous books. Or if you are tired of teenage drama (in any culture).
Conway wasn't going to want me. She was getting me anyway.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fabulous Non-Fiction

In the Kingdom of Ice
Hampton Sides 2014
Subtitle : The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
I opened Kingdom of Ice and could not believe seeing the Bradford painting I had raved about viewing at MMAM this summer: Icebergs in the Arctic, 1882. It was a remarkable faceplate, but the original was so much more sublime. This book concerns a US naval voyage undertaken in 1879 by Cpt George DeLong to get to the North Pole. People were obsessed with finding the North Pole, the last unmapped unknown of the globe, with the seemingly insurmountable fortress of ice rimming the arctic seas.  He had had previous arctic experience, having rescued members of the Polaris in 1873, off Greenland. He caught arctic fever (pagophile, ice loving) and prepared meticulously and  arduously for this expedition. His wife was an avid supporter and considered joining the voyage.   The first third of the book explores the people, politics,  and the scientific times (1874-1879), intriguing characters/vignettes from the generous funder, James Gordon Bennett jr, eccentric wealthy owner of the NY Herald who was looking for another sensational story to sell newspapers, after his previous success with dispatching Stanley to find Dr Livingston in Africa, to German mapmaker Petermann, and  the arc lamp inventions of Thomas Edison.
The expedition started from San Francisco July 8, 1879  north for a voyage through the Bering straits, to an expected open, warm polar sea.  This was a late start, further delayed searching for another missing explorer.  Boats are seldom renamed: Jeannette was previously, perhaps more appropriately,  the HMS Pandora. They were soon trapped in the ice and spent two years being moved at will (see maps!). Eventually, the hull was breached and quickly sank, leaving the crew of 33 men in 3 open boats, 1000 miles north of Siberia. Theirs was a march across frozen seas and wasteland against terrible odds, with staggering commradarie. The last third of the book details the horrific journey of the remaining two crews, separated in storm and then deposited distantly on the unforgiving Lena delta. Melville was fortunate to find natives, and have an enforced rest til the ice further froze, making travel easier.  But, on learning that DeLong might be alive, his rescue efforts were immensely satisfying, haunting and fascinating.  It will take some time to warm the bone deep chill of the hellish Arctic.
There are very good photos and drawings, although I wished for more to illustrate this incredible voyage. This was well researched and very educational about the era and ideas, providing nuanced profiles of major players, while propelling the story energetically along.  The letters and journal entries of Emma DeLong and their daughter Sylvia contributed greatly to the poignant story. There are also so many other stories contained in this book, notably, John Muir who was haunted by the St Lawrence Island deaths of 1000 natives through starvation and whisky (The extinction of the walrus the previous decade by the whaling industry, noting that the American presence was a disaster and the entire wilderness ecosystem was vulnerable.) Muir's book The Cruise of the Corwin, about his search of the Jeannnete is considered a classic of Arctic literature.
The epilogue is particularly striking. Emma DeLong recognizing her role as the public face of the Jeannette expedition, and that she would be the 'Explorer's Wife' for the rest of her life. She went to live with her parents in NYC (father was Captain James Wotton). One of her letters to her husband was discovered in a remote Greenland hut, unopened,  years later by explorer Robert Peary during one is his polar attempts (finally 1909). She wrote a book Explorer's Wife (1938).
Rear Admiral George Melville (engineer on the expedition) provided great support through the difficult years ahead and wrote a popular book In the Lena, defending De Long. He was involved in additional exploration and rescue (notably the Greely expedition 1884). The George Melville Award is the navy's highest honor for nautical engineering.

If you have read Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott, read on.
If you liked Jennifer Niven's books on the 1913 Polar Voyage of the Karluk, read on.
Don't forget Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea or Caroline Alexander's The Endurance.
This would be a perfect Christmas gift for your nonfiction reader.
4.5 stars

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Not to be missed non fiction

Alexander McCall Smith
What WH Auden can do for you
2013 by Princeton University Press 137 p.
Part of Writers on Writers (I previously reviewed the Dirda On Conan Doyle. Now I must look up CK Williams On Whitman.)

This book is a a personal enthusiasm or appreciation for the English poet. This contains 12 short essays/chapters, not a critique of the poet, but more a way to link poetry to everyday life. AMS is no literary slouch and a prolific writer of popular mysteries. Any talk or lecture is worth driving 100 miles out of your way. I have even contemplated plane tickets home to Edinburgh to hear him.  I love that his "worms" aren't catchy songs hummed repeatedly but lines of poetry that appear in his everyday life. More often than not Auden. This is also an introduction to Auden, which will make you recognize how much of his work is actually already in your everyday life. "The Funeral Blues" recited in Four Weddings and a Funeral, the poem "September 1, 1939" which was faxed around the world after 9/11, quotes in any number of mysteries (see Poetic Justice by Amanda Cross and of course all the Sunday Philosophy Club books by AMS).

This book has a conversational writing style and feels like an intimate chat, not a lecture. I felt that this book was equally about AMS as we learn many of his thoughts and private details. It gives you a chance to explore Auden's poetry;  while it has only a few of his better known stanzas, lines of his poems may trigger your own memories or send you in search of his poetry.   I expect more people will be reading poetry and Auden simply because AMS has written this book.

"There may be no book on the mothers of poets, or artists in general, but it might one day be written and would be, I think, an enlightening read."
AMS writes about the moment that Auden died and his emptiness of loss was exactly my feelings this summer with the death of Jean Redpath. "One has lost a friend one never really had a chance to have." Years aren't enough.

I loved learning that there is an Edinburgh fellowship set up by AMS  in the name of Isabel Dalhousie, who often quotes Auden as she is a devotee of his work. Not surprisingly Edward Mendelsohn was the first speaker.
Recommend reading 
Selected works / collected poems of WA  Auden (Ed. Edward Mendelsohn)
Early Auden (1981), Later Auden (1999) by Edward Mendelsohn, friend and current literary executor of Auden's works.

Posted 2014 Celtreads, Friends of Rochester Public Library blog and facebook, goodreads, amazon

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Eventually, Love, Actually

Trapped at the Altar by Jane Feather
3.5 stars
Read as a NetGalley arc, as background for other period historical romances.

Jane Feather (née Robotham) is a best selling British American author of historical romance with over 45 novels, translated into many languages. Trapped at the Altar is the start of a new series (her books are often grouped in trilogies). Many of her protagonists are interesting intelligent females, with strong, dominant but caring males. Here we have Ariadne Daunt, granddaughter and heiress to a  Catholic fortune and Ivor Chalfont, heir to a Protestant fortune. They shared a childhood in which she was a willful spoiled girl, living in a secluded valley away from the political intrigues of Royal court. With her grandfathers death, her independent life is wrenched away and she is forced to marry Ivor. He has always loved her and is hoping she will move past her youthful infatuation (a poet). Prepare to be charmed. Although you have to put up with a great deal of spoiled child who remains self entered until nearly the last page.

If you are a Feather fan, you will enjoy this book, as her characters are complex, and historical details (late 1600 England of Charles II) include court intrigue and religious drama. There is little humour and some sensual romance, with gritty everyday life. Infused with misunderstandings, realistic struggles of the time period (which also conflicts with Ari's silliness). I had a harder than usual time liking the heroine which decreased my enjoyment of the book and hope it is not just feeling my age (ancient compared with the immediacy of youth, anger, mistrust, love, life and death).

The ending is rushed, but redeems much of the story.
The cover draws you in, but it was hard to get past the protagonist's selfishness.
Perhaps it is more realistic than most romance readers want too.
Also I couldn't tell the characters of the next book.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past
Sharyn McCrumb
A Ballad Novella (160pgs) published Sept 2014

It feels like Christmas whenever McCrumb writes about Miz Bonesteel. I look forward to her books and any mention of her in the other McCrumb Ballad mysteries which are rich with folklore and tradition. Part of it is the welcoming Scottish roots in Appalachia (hello the house, the comforts of so many Scottish customs and phrases). Some of it is the deep affection and respect I feel for Nora Bonesteel (and yes even after so many years, I would never be so forward as to address her as Nora). This time her story was tinged with more than a little melancholy as Miz Bonesteel is getting older and I worry about what will become of her, and if the Sight will be lost with her passing. She is a tough intriguing character and represents so much history and tradition, especially in this book where the second homeowners are transforming the landscape.
There are two parallel stories, each with favourite characters on this Christmas Eve. Sheriff Spencer Atwood and deputy Joe LeDoone are heading to the holler to bring in a man who dented the Mercedes of a senator. The senator won't be getting their vote. even after the tables are turned and they have become angels. You will be charmed.
And then Miz Bonesteel visits the old Honeycutt house where a spirit is disrupting Christmas. An artificial Florida tree seems even more hideous and incongruent in the restored house. And Nora Bonesteel wanders into the past and understands. You will need a box of tissues.
This is a wonderful holiday book and a lovely addition to her ballad stories. A perfect gift for McCrumb fans. Please don't label this a Christian novel or southern writer,  either.  I wouldn't have read it. It is instead a gentle story, with depth of time and place about the meaning of Christmas and traditional historical values.  And there are timeless messages for any season regarding those chestnut trees: what will be missing from our children's environment and traditions?  I hate starting Christmas early, but I couldn't wait any longer to read and wasn't disappointed (except for its length). But then I never want her books to end.

If you missed her full length historical novel King's Mountain, don't hesitate to get this. It is also a Ballad novel, but occurs during the Revolutionary War.
And in writing this review I discovered that Nora Bonesteel is based on a real person!

I swear that part of the country is only in the map two days a week.
Miz Bonesteel was known to have the greenest thumb in the community. People said she could grow roses in the middle of the interstate....
She is as independent as a hog on ice.
He gave the benefit of the doubt to no one.
No good deed goes unpunished. (This seems more ominous than usual)
The wind feels like a chainsaw. (and it's only 38??!)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall back to a good western!

Painted Horses
Malcolm Brooks
This is a debut historical novel of an extraordinary, talented writer. I am sorry it has taken me so long to write this review, although I have mentioned this book to everyone I know this past month! I had an early ARC copy, but found it difficult to read, and yet I loved the evocative feeling of place and emotion, the lyrical prose. It wasn't until I got a hard copy edition that I understood my problem: while it is not stream of consciousness, it is a distinctive grammatical style that I can't characterize. Once I had my defined pages, the story leapt off the page at a breathtaking pace.
There's a great sense of place and time/era. This is the 1950's American West, in all it's grandeur, it's last gasp of wilderness and cowboys, before urbanization and habitat /ecological destruction.
An easterner, a young archeologist Catherine Lemay,  who has trained in London, working with the Smithsonian, is sent to Montana in 1956 to catalogue/document a canyon slated in a few weeks for the construction of a hydroelectric dam. She is out of her depth but gathers a sense of the west, the loss of ancient sacred native sites, and tries to find evidence that will prevent the dam being built. She is being manipulated and becomes angry, frustrated, and digs in. She has found her life's cause.
She meets John, a veteran of the US Army Calvary WWII struggling with the horrors of war while rescuing mustangs. He also is an amazing artist who captures their elusive, untamed spirit. I seriously want one of his paintings.
This is a complex tale, sprawling saga in fine American tradition, that makes you weep for what has been lost. This is a powerful love story a la Hemingway, of the people, but more of the land.  It is well researched, rich in detail (and accurate botany and geology!), poignant, memorable historical detail, with a penetrating message currently relevant.

If you like westerns, the west, the old west, horses, Americana, read on.
If you like the novels of John D. McDonald, Cormac McCarthy, Jim Harrison or Annie Proulx, read on.
If you live in the west, don't hesitate to read this.
4 stars
Digital ARC from NetGalley

Fall Into a Good Book!

David Liss. Day of Atonement 2014
I look forward to reading the books of David Liss - I learn a great deal about an historical period and savor the rich detail and tapestry of his plots. Often I met old friends, and greatly enjoyed finding Benjamin Weaver as the formative mentor to Sebastian Foxx.  For ten years Sebastian learns his trade of thief taker/bounty hunter, while the desire for justice and retribution hone his skills. He abruptly departs London for Lisbon in 1755 seeking revenge for the deaths of his parents and the profound loss of his love/youth/ innocence. He understands the game and the stakes and is a dangerous match for the Inquisition. Although that makes it sound quite melodramatic, and indeed this would work on the big screen, with fast action, danger, natural disasters, love, betrayal and redemption. The great earthquake which leveled Lisbon (and killed 90,000 people) provides a convenient escape, but adds another historical element.

I was exhausted when I finished breathtaking read. I lived through atrocities, bore the weight of judgment, and travelled both in time and culture.  Many passages were underlined highlighting gems of wonderful writing and human moments.
It has humor which lighten some of the despair and betrayal and make it all too real, a story you are experiencing not just reading.

I closed the book with a sigh and a sense of well done. Well written, well researched, well developed characters. A most enjoyable read, as expected given his other similar novels, usually classified as historical mystery or historical thrillers (he does have one contemporary thriller Ethical Assassin). Don't miss any of them; start with  A Conspiracy of Paper, which won the 2001 Edgar for best first novel. I might even try his comic books.

4.5 stars
Digital ARC from NetGalley (thank you!)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hot Historical Romance!

Fall into a good book!
A friend of a friend is a friend.
A friend of a friend who likes books is a good friend.
A friend of a friend who shares books is a great friend.
And a friend of a friend who is also a regency writer, is a friend-in-waiting!?

Recently, I discovered a new award winning author Jess Russell - and I am delighted to comment on her debut Regency romance novel The Dressmaker's Duke.
Jess Russell has created a fascinating historical romance novel full of London high society, fashion, courtesans, village life, with complex characters. There are also interesting embedded stories which provide depth  that include passion for painting, fashion and dressmaking (the author is also an accomplished seamstress!), the use of all our senses so accurately described which contribute to the story.
This is not your standard debut novel. It is a well written and crafted combination of historical detail and rollicking romance. It showcases everyday life, primarily of the English aristocracy but has also some steamy intimate details characteristic of the new regency historical novel (now I understand there are even more regency categories: traditional, regency historical, sensual, paranormal (including Victorian steam punk) and Christian regency romance). This is well researched; you will find many familiar people and locations (Jackson's, Mr Crup's, Mrs Radcliffe's novels, Mrs Siddons).
Mr Rhys Alistair James Merrick, 6th Duke of Royden aka The Monk
Mrs Olivia Weston (née Olivia Jayne Ballard, father Earl of Stokesly, Mr Angus Allen Hartner)
Her companion Egg (Mrs Eglantine Wiggens who has a flirtation with Merrick's Uncle Betram)
Daria Battersby, courtesan
Lord Oscar Biden, scoundrel

The story takes place over the year of 1810. It is rather intricate, somewhat convoluted, with the usual melodrama and secrets. They each have past traumas that are slowly revealed, adding both dimension and substance to their relationship, while preventing straightforward courtship.  I haven't recovered fully from the visual of the main character being described as an onion  with many layers. But perhaps that was also due to all of the senses so well described in this novel: the gutter smells and intoxicating fragrances, stunning scenery, gorgeous dresses and feel of the materials, champagne bubbles and sensual trysts, with incessant rain, cobblestone street traffic and droning matron voices.
The mistress was slightly caricatured. Imagine being a hag at 35?
There are no spoilers here, remember this IS a regency romance, with which I automatically have predictable expectations. But it has fun dialogue, interesting back stories, familiar territory with accurate descriptions, and a most satisfactory ending.

It is a pleasant distraction for an autumn afternoon. I have no recollection of the flight from Florida to Vermont as I was engrossed in this tale, marking hysterical comments and notes to share.
4 stars - open the champagne and celebrate this new author.
Received as an e- ARC  from the author.
Publisher Wild Rose Press
Author Jess Russell lives in New York (and not only loves power tools, but knows how to use them. I have found a kindred spirit who appreciated the gift of a chainsaw!). Her passions include dressmaking and batik.

The Dressmaker's Duke came in first in the Fool for Love contest, Golden Apple Awards' Secret Craving contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest, and finaled in the Great Beginnings, Emerald City opener, and Lone Star contests.
Read on:
If you like Mary Jo Putney, Mary Balogh, Jo Beverly, Marion Chesney, Georgette Heyer, Lisa Kleypas, Stephanie Laurens, Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick, Christina Dodd or Madeline Hunter.

Favourite quotes 
"This particular shop was not for the faint of heart. Mr Crup specialised in the macabre."
"Rhys raised an eyebrow, one of his surest weapons, and gave the man his most ducal look."
"But the four full suits of armor, Sir Mutton, Sir Haggis, Sir Dunce-a-lot and last but not least, Sir Portly- she had named them all in the last hour- gave up no secrets."
"Rhys waited and then raised an eyebrow ever so slightly. Wilcove (his secretary) used to reading volumes in the mere quiver of Rhys's nostril, rushed on."
"Please don't resurrect that atrocity (a costume dress). Good lord, we need a patron not an arrest."
"The ton had called her ruined. Ruined. What an odd word to associate with a human being, as if she were broken and no longer useful, something to be thrown away."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer Fun

A Field Guide to Little Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America. Ben and Cathryn Sill (a parody)

NPR comes through again.
This was recommended to me awhile ago, and I snapped it up on a NetGalley, now learning there is volume two (Another Field.....) which you won't want to miss either. This is actually the 25th anniversary edition of an earlier publication but still perfect. It is a charming little book, that is presented in guide format any birder would be familiar with. It looks just like the real thing with superb illustrations. The species however are another story! I am sure birders have been searching for these birds all their lives!! It is silly, witty, clever, light hearted and vastly entertaining. I love the calls (semi-adled chaff chaff), advice (if you live within this tern's range, it is advised to purchase reinforced feeders) and nonsense (the seed eating tern is the only tern that has been able to qualify for "authentic vegan" certificate).
I would be hard pressed to say which bird I liked best! (Middle and least yellowlegs?! Long range target duck?!) As a student I provided driving skills while the avid birders concentrated on their life list, and discovered then their amazing senses of humor. I need to buy dozens of copies of this book. Christmas is coming and this is a perfect, delightful gift.

If you have a sense of humor, if you need a gift for a birder or naturalist in your life, if you need a hostess gift or stocking stuffer, buy multiple copies of this book. If you like puns, buy this book. Send book editions to friends who need a little uplift now and then.

We are not too proud to admit that mistakes made in the first edition were the editor's fault.
Let it be known that we have been hard at work to stay ahead of the birding frontier.
...when their data did not agree with our opinions we deleted them.

4.5 stars
ARC from NetGalley

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Only the names have been changed?

Gregory Harris has started a new Sherlock Holmes series, beginning with The Arnifour Affair, current story the Bellingham Bloodbath and the next, The Connicle Curse. He has an obvious sense of the melodramatic, and the entire book (series) reeks of overstatement: Dreadful, dark, dank, fog shrouded London, profound derring do, oh my!! Oh! the pain, rocketing around London, and more dramatic phrases. The story was interesting, an afternoon at the beach read. I did finish the novel although I rolled my eyes too many times.  It is without the historical accuracy, compelling characters, tight plot or evocative writing found in the original canon, and some subsequent Holmes stories (see The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr, Larry Millett's Minnesota Sherlock,  as well as A Study in Sherlock, the short stories edited by Laurie R King and Leslie S Klinger and to be published Nov In the Company of Sherlock Holmes).

Harris spent 20 years in film and television before turning to fiction, I suspect I didn't watch much of his programming, altho it could have been mainstream. I like my heroes less caricatures and arrogant, and not quite so much of a romp. Perhaps I am envisaging Benedict Cumberbatch. Still, there are more fascinating (to me) series including (Mrs Sherlock Holmes) Mary Russell by Laurie R King and (if Sherlock were female/child)  Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley.

If you are a fan of  Sherlock Holmes, if you like Victorian mysteries, and if you like your Sherlock gay, this is for you. (I am not sure what this new twist to the genre has to do with the story, and consider this g-rated/cosy rather than suspense or graphic).
"Yer usin' too many words."
"Tell that to your Mr Wilde."
"That man tries to thwart me at every turn!"

2.5 stars
ARC Ebook supplied by Netgalley

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hello August!

Good reads all summer long!
Summer is a time for indulgence - a time to get away from it all.
You don't have to travel, skip the trip and get lost in a good book! It's called a staycation, and there's still time!  Enjoy the forbidden pleasures of reading  by the pool, in the shade, in a hammock, on the beach and don't forget to read to your child, a grandchild, or any child!

Sarah Jio. Goodnight June.
I have recommended several of her books before: I simply loved her first novel  The Violets of March (which also won a library journal best book of 2011 award, and especially Blackberry Winter and The Last Camellia (still my favourite). Her books take place in a variety of places, from NYC to PNW to England to the Pacific and are often historical love stories/mysteries. I think they are perfect summer reads, for escapes in time, place with fascinating characters and interesting historical events.
Once again she has written a lovely tale, this time about one of our favourite childhood stories Goodnight Moon, (Margaret Wise Brown 1947) because no one knows what inspired her to write this story.
This is a delightful heartwarming  story that will make you wish you had a bookstore. It is an important story about installing a love of reading in children (and grandchildren). There are a number of mysteries and secrets that are uncovered mostly through letters between Aunt Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown. Don't miss this tender story, foremost of family and the importance of being there, forgiveness and second chances.

"When you are looking for something, it is right where you find it."
"We didn't have much, but we always had books."

4 stars (only because, while charming, it was predictable. And disbelief with Bill Gates.)
Popular with book clubs
This is a Penguin publication, always a good literary read.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Scottish Summers

Scotia, darling Scotia

I have missed Scotland, after a planned trip was cancelled. I wouldn't have read Diana Gabaldon's new book if I hadn't been going over soon (even though the Scots are in America now, fighting in the revolution). I am in Vermont where I am often reminded of the Scottish hills/Bonnie braes and Highlands albeit without the heather. A delightful summer tea at the Perennial Gardens had Scottish breakfast tea on the menu (and described as a brisk broken leaf tea with spine stiffening qualities; really, how could I resist?) Pipes are often heard as there is a long heritage here. The hieland coos grazing in local pastures. Recent guy dreich weather (stormy, rainy, cloudy, chilly) has felt like northern Scotland. And then a wee trip to my library brought home an old friend, the latest in a Scottish mystery series by AD Scott. Beneath the Abbey Wall and then an ARC copy of The Low Road, are the fourth and fifth installment of this saga set in the 1950s in the Great Glen. It is easily recognisable to me (not that different from my 1980s, but rapid change in the last 20 years makes this a reminisce).
I find these to be detailed mysteries dependent on character, personality development and sense of place. There is a wonderful use of language (vocabulary, colloquialisms, and proverbs) which I miss (thrawn, dwam, dreich, corrie, neb, teuchtar) characteristic of local authors (and Scott is from the Highlands, although she now lives in Vietnam and Australia). Her books explore the transformation of rural Scotland, the restrictions of small town life, with a common thread of loyalty. You will be immersed in another culture and another time.
There are many characters in this town and these stories. I am delighted to be reacquainted with them as  we follow their growth, changes, challenges and trials. Murder never brings out the best, but life in the Highlands has always been full of strife, never forgotten. In Abbey Wall, Mrs Archibald Smart was murdered (née Joyce Mackenzie) and it is her story that is the mystery that once again involves the Tinkers (especially a favourite character of mine,  Jenny McPhee). Joyce was the incomparable office manager of the Highland Gazette (and yet we know hardly anything about her, from the previous novels). McAllister is the newspaper editor who is trying to make changes to the local paper while also favouring a new reporter Joanne Ross (we met her earlier, moving on from an abusive marriage; acceptable now, impossible then). Neil Stewart provides a stark contrast as a young Canadian over to do research, but also in search of his birth mother. I haven't quite recovered from the urban depiction of desolate Glasgow slums in The Low Road, but adored McAllister's mum, a 'guidwife'. And I should have known from the title that the deaths in The Low Road would be haunting. This is an excellent depiction of the contrast between the highlands and city life, both of which have changed tremendously since these novels. Or not, if you read current crime novels. But this is an authentic voice with remarkable insight. I am very much looking forward to the continuation of this series.

If you like Ian Rankin, PD James, or Peter Robinson mysteries, you will like these.
4 stars with the continuing story line (and the next installment is being written). And don't forget to read Clifford Hanley's Scottish fiction.

Book Quotes for Beneath the Abbey Wall:
The opening line:
"Ten past nine on a mid-September night. Everything in the town was tight shut. Including the sky. It must have known it was the Sabbath."

"But this Sunday, winter gave advance notice with a gray drench-damp cold shroud, covering the town and mountains spiced up with a steady nor'easterly straight off the North Sea that sent even the seagulls inland. It seemed a fitting day to end in death."
"She had never met a man who was not Scottish."
"GlenFarclas 110 proof, a whisky he called the Lazarus cure."
"In order to borrow two books of fiction, two books of nonfiction had to be checked out."

The Low Road was read as a Net Galley ARC.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Medieval Strife

I know not how the world is went. (John Gower)

I love it when scholars turn their hand to historical novels. Their fiction can breath new life into characters we know remarkably little about. Or indeed some we think we know quite a bit about.  For example, Hilary Mantel (Pulitzer prizes: Wolf Hall, Bringing up the Bodies) Deborah Harkness (Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, Book of Life), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander series).
And now
Bruce Holsinger with A Burnable Book. He is an award medieval literary scholar (University of Virginia) whose debut fiction immerses you immediately into medieval London (1385). This is the world of Chaucer, whom we all recognize for his historical significance if you haven't actually read his Canterbury tales (and really, don't miss them, in almost any translation!). He has been vividly brought to life within these pages, and yet this book is about another poet John Gower and their complex interwoven lives and political intrigues of Richard IIs England. There is a missing manuscript which prophesizes the death of the kings of England.
This is a riveting tale of poets, princes and politics with London as a central character. It is actually three cities, the walled city of London, and Outside: Southwark and Westminster. Several voices from these locations reveal the intricate layers of the story. The time is after the Black Death and the portrayal of medieval life from the slums and stews to clergy and castles is fascinating.  It was also a pivotal year for the aristocratic classes. Holsinger's use of unusual documents to create characters based on actual historical figures makes for a very compelling read.  This is a clever, entertaining literary mystery full of period detail which intrigues you while forcibly repelling you. I have zero desire to live in Chaucer's England. But I had to investigate more on who Gower was, and what he wrote.

"Agnes ....suspects the import of what she holds. A woman has just died for it, a man has just killed.
For what? ....
A cloth, a book, a snatch of verse.
Which was worth dying for?"
"If you build your own life around the secret lives of others, if you erect your house on the corrupt foundations of theirs, you soon come to regard all useful knowledge as your due. Information becomes your entitlement. You pay handsomely for it, you use it selectively and well. If you are not exactly trusted in certain circles, you are respected, and your name carries a certain weight. You are rarely surprised, and never deceived. Yet there may come a time when your knowledge will betray you."
"London often treats the passing of winter into spring with cold indifference. That year was no different. February had been an unforgiving month, March worse, and as the city scraped along towards April the air seemed to grow only more bitter, the sky more grey, the rain more penetrating as it lifted every hint of warmth from surfaces of timber and stone."
"However innocent on its face, no request from Chaucer was ever straightforward."

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Definitely a summer read!

The Collector of Lost Things (2013) by Jeremy Page
My next new British author - I must immediately find his first two books, Salt and Sea Change. Page is also a great photographer and screenwriter. He grew up on the north Norfolk coast where half of his world was the sea. The first book has biographical elements and this book he says he always had an interest in the Arctic. The meticulous research creates a wonderfully vivid prose, while his poetic language transports you to the place and time: the desolate, freezing, dangerous beauty of the Victorian Arctic. A young researcher/ naturalist Eliot Saxby joins an 1845 arctic expedition to find the mythical possibly extinct (1844) Great Auk. But he's on a trading (hunting) ship The Amethyst with a dubious motley crew. It used to be a slave ship, which also provides a sense of foreboding. There are excellent seafaring details and life on board: oil lamps. Sheep's head clocks, canvas sinks, lime washed shiplapped wood of his  tight quarters, mizzensail, masts (14 sails) and salt. You are in the middle of the icy, grey weather, the frigid relentless cold, and the devastating isolation in which you are easily lost. In a sea of madmen, how could it get worse? It does. Don't read this in winter.

The Collector of Lost Things is a dark gothic tale  filled with haunting mystery, obsession and doom. The use of the claustrophobic ship in an isolated harsh environment with an uneven, barbaric crew feels like a descent into madness at times. There is a building tension between the moral sensibilities and commercial motivation, with  questionable sanity, violence and cruelty.  But here is also the possibility of love, wonder of nature, and hope that creates a thrilling tale.

The Collector is an engaging historical novel which was inspired by true stories by European explorers / traders, who exploited the marine environment. It is a rather brutal telling of profit  especially for the last known specimens which were sold to museums and collectors. That this happens to be particularly relevant to our own times with the destruction of the environment, and specifically the Arctic and Antarctic, is depressing.  The  graphic description of slaughter and animal cruelty was an horrific reality then, worse, it is still happening.  The detailed butchery of seals, walrus, seagulls, anything in its wake can make for difficult but still essential reading. This is a complex but ultimately rewarding tale.

"It felt as though the ship was a tree among a forest of trees, further hidden by a thicket of thorns and climbers,  rigging growing over her and the ships moored alongside, purposefully disguised....I couldn't see the ship and perhaps I never saw it for what it was."
"These things move towards us from the horizons, whether we set sail for them or not."
..."I worried that I might not be able to cope with his enthusiasms, in such confined quarters."
"It was an unknown environment with its own rules."
"The worlds of ocean and ice were meeting in a frontier of rage, as if the earth had torn in two along this line."
"We have filled the hull of this ship with dead things. It is the weight of their souls that has caused us all to suffer."
"Perhaps one day, man will save the Arctic in all it's multitude of extraordinary life, but perhaps by then man will be too late, as he always seems to be."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Reads

The Way of All Fish by Martha Grimes

Martha Grimes is a superb mystery writer, official Grand Master, known for a number of series (the proper British Richard Jury/Melrose Plant, the teenage amnesiac Andi Oliver who battles animal abuse, and the literary mysteries of 12 year old sleuth  Emma Graham).  I highly recommend her poetry and short stories/novellas.
In 2003 after Grimes was "let go" from her long time publisher Knopf, she published a wickedly funny satire on the publishing industry, Foul Matter. Now in a sequel The Way of All Fish, we meet again Candy and Karl, the two literary hit men with conscience. This time they can't take out the target (a literary agent) because they want to protect the writer Cindy Sella. She would become the prime suspect as the agent has a nuisance suit against her. Instead, they develop a zany rather convoluted plot, with a motley crew to harass him, and succeed admirably! There are many laugh out loud moments during the literary ride from NYC, to the Florida Everglades to Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh to a Pennsylvanian monastery. There are many clever literary allusions to classical mystery writers which you will enjoy. I am still laughing a few months later over some of the Monty Pythonesque moments and their amateur literary critiques/ opinions, and thought this would be a good beach read. It is more romp than mystery but very entertaining. I would like to see Candy and Karl again in another mystery.
I just saw it on display at Barnes and Noble and know the library has her mysteries.  Altho not necessary, I would recommend reading Foul Matter first (to be familiar with many of the characters who reappear).
"Oddly, given all the cordite misting the air like cheap champagne, the customers (of the Clownfish Cafe)  didn't get shot; it was the owner's aquarium...that exploded."
(40 fish flopped around, 1/3 clownfish and were rescued by customers to water pitchers and wine glasses in the opening sequence!)
"They holstered their weapons as efficiently as they'd drawn them, like the cops they were not......the book business is like rolling around Afghanistan on skateboards" ....
"Books had added a new dimension to their lives. Books were to die for. would they have ever guessed that the publishing world was so shot through with acrimony that they'd just as soon kill you as publish you?"
“Lawyers to the right of her, lawyers to the left, lawyers in front, lawyers behind,” one person remarks. “Is there a vision of hell, even in Dante, that could possibly compete with that?”

If you liked Tina Fey's Bossy Pants (humour) or Richard Condon's hit man Prizzi, you will like this. I would also suggest the Thomas Perry mystery series featuring another hit man, beginning with The Butcher's Boy (1982). These are not for the feint of heart, but are tremendous reads.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Time Abroad is Never Wasted

The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch.
Given the title and the name of the author I thought "Oh! Another Victorian mystery, but set in Oxford!" As in the gentlemen detective Charles Lennox in 7 erudite mysteries, with the 8th to be published this year The Laws of Murder. This book, however, is contemporary literary fiction, with more than a twist of memoir I suspect. It is also a well written, readable, interesting thought provoking novel. The privileged WASP protagonist is in his mid twenties, somewhat immature, naive and untempered, feeling adrift with the political campaign loss. He decides to take a hiatus/sabbatical (i.e graduate studies in literature) at Oxford. It is an older coming of age story, concerning a contemporary generation and gender I am somewhat removed from. I thought Will was a cad with unusual remarkable American charm, but still a bounder. That you like him and sympathize with his interior life is due primarily to excellent writing, clever plotting and intriguing host of characters which are integral to the story. Certainly an interesting perspective of the younger generation, with literary twists.

The atmosphere is spot on, with wonderful descriptions of British academia and Oxford. The title is a relevant, haunting Mathew Arnold quote from his Essays in Criticism (1865): "Oxford whispering from her towers the last enchantments of the Middle Age . . . Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties!"

Thoughts of this book lingered over several discussions concerning the themes of this book. Who are the speech writers of campaigns, how young is idealism, what differences in American and British universities, cultural differences in generation and privilege (the phrase American pet irks), noting marriage is no longer the next step on graduating (either high school or college), men's behaviour vs women's, teenage to adult angst - while I am also hunting for the greater good and personal responsibility.  I understand a sense of greater freedom, perhaps more potential, but those aren't irrevocably lost by aging.

"When you're finally grown-up, one of the things you find is that there are no grown-ups."

You will like this if you are a reader (great literary references), an English major (including former degrees!), an expat, anyone who loves the magic of Oxford (as the town plays a central character) or an academic (without having to experience office politics). I am ready to go back to his Victorian era any time too!

Marry in Haste....

The dog days of August have arrived, with humid, lazy hours. Perhaps summer reads should be books that delight you. Heaven knows we have plenty of books to read for work, research, education and even for peer pressure (while I read Harry potter to join the discussion, not even a paragraph of 50 shades would get me). Recently, I have been admonished to read more romance by various authors, including Susanna Kearsley, Eloisa James and Christina Skye.  
Mary Jo Putney (as recommended by Cathy Maxwell) The Lost Lords series:  Loving a Lost Lord (2009, Adam Lawford, Duke of Ashton), Never Less than a Lady (2010, Major Alexander Randall), Nowhere near Respectable (2011, Damian Mackenzie), No Longer a Gentleman (2012, Grey Sommers), Sometimes a Rogue (2013, Rob Carmichael, Mariah, twin to Sarah, Duchess of Ashton). Not Quite A Wife (to be published August 26, 2014, Lord James Kirkland)
Putney is an award winning, best selling author (30+) primarily known for her traditional regency romances, but she has also written YA fantasy romance and romantic fantasy as MJ Putney. She has degrees in English literature and Industrial Design and ran her own freelance graphic design company until the success of her books meant she could write full time. Her heroes are not typical of many regency novels, having more psychological depth and unusual subject matter (alcoholism, death, domestic abuse). Her plots are well researched and her descriptive writing style suits the period.
The Lost Lords concerns a group of boys taken in by Lady Agnes Westerfield (a Duke's daughter) when she formed a school for wayward children of the aristocracy, giving her life purpose as well as saving theirs. Her unconventional ways (never told to the parents) were to learn what the child hated and promising he'd never have to do that, and what the child most wanted and giving him that. In exchange they would learn the game of society and study hard. Needless to say they all did well.   The new novel in the series Not Quite a Wife,  takes place in 1812, and concerns one of the enigmatic young nobles who has featured in some of the previous stories, James, Lord Kirkland. He is a shipping magnate and also spymaster, who fell in love with the young sister of one of his close schoolmates (Daniel Herbert). Their whirlwind affair/marriage ended when she witnesses him killing a man. She, however, is thrown out by her family, and moves in with her brother who defies them by becoming a doctor. The two have set up a practice in Bristol. You need to suspend belief for a bit as to how black and white Laurel views things (and young), and how he just lets her go. A chance encounter brings them back together, older, wiser and perhaps ready to cope with life (which seems full of adventure and derring do). There are lovely descriptive passages of how important music is to both of them (Laurel is a gifted pianist).
 Every series often has a favourite character that attracts me to continuing the story. I have always liked Lady Agnes and enjoy all encounters with her. She is magnificently eccentric and remains steadfast friends with her early charges. That they have some of her characteristics is a credit to them. Her pithy comments and observations are often the highlight for me. I am also looking forward to visiting with another old friend Nora  Bonesteel  from the Sharyn McCrumb series as I have another book to review.
If you like Anne Perry's or Cathy Maxwell's historical regency novels, you will like the Lost Lords series. These novels are often compared to other period romances including Stephanie Laurens (The Bastion Club) and Mary Balogh (Survivors Club). These are not of the Georgette Heyer style as they have a strong component of passion and sensuality.  Next (7th) installment Not  a Saint (2015) which will be the story of Laurel's brother Daniel Herbert, who was sent to Westerfield Academy because he was too much of a paragon, unlike the others!
Read as NetGalley ARC ebook
3.5 stars (too predictable)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer reads

Midnight Crossing by Charlaine Harris
This is the first of a trilogy, in a new urban fantasy, cosy mystery series. I was a fan of the Harper Connolly series which had elements of supernatural but realistic stories, more so than Sookie and so this book appealed to me (although vampires are still involved). There are characters that have appeared in her other books, in fact two major ones, Bobo and Manfred, who were youngsters with unrequited love. They have moved on in a sense, but moved here?

Midnight, Texas is an unusual western town at best, peculiar to say the least, but completely interesting. I enjoyed the descriptive style which unveils secrets and character development layer by layer.... Each character has secrets, and even knowing the back stories of some,  there are twists and turns and revelations.

There is a charming witch (with an hysterical cat, Mr Snuggles) who's interested in the owner of the pawn shop who's depressed after his girlfriend left him, but her corpse becomes the mystery but only part of the plot. The band of quirky misfits also include  an ominous minister, a possible assassin, the online psychic and a dangerous religious gang.
You will have to figure out who the serial killer is.
However, you will also still be curious about the continued stories and the expected character development and can't wait to discover what else that cat can do.

Available in all my libraries.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer reading

This is a fun reading season known for books that are impossible to put down. Not necessarily literary masterpieces, but often more than pulp fiction. But really it is whatever suits your mood, day, location. A book for the beach is different from the book for the hammock; the book for the rainy day doesn't always fit the summer afternoon. What's in the NYTimes best seller list isn't what calls you from the library shelves. And sometimes only a classic will do. And heaven knows what you will find at the library book sales or the yard sales at this time of year!

After a few crazy, gripping, exhausting, compelling books, I was delighted to have a gentle paced, absorbing read by Canadian author Susanna Kearsley Season of Storms. This would have been perfect for a Sunday afternoon in a hammock, if I'd had one. I love this author, and applauded her recent awards for The Firebird. I am hard pressed to chose a favourite, and recommend all: perhaps it is best to read them in order if you can find them! Mariana (1994), Spendour Falls (1995), Shadowy Horses (1997), Named of the Dragon (1998), Season of storms (2001), Winter Sea (2008), Rose Garden (2011), Firebird (2013). (A Desperate Fortune is expected 2015). I truly enjoy her Scottish characters in her most recent books, and her well researched historical details. Her historical novels often have paranormal elements, with a gentle love story.  She has also written classic style thrillers as Emma Cole (Every Secret Thing, 2006).  Season of Storms is soon to be (re?) released August /September 2014.

This book, Season of Storms,  takes place primarily in the villa Il Piacere, near Lake Garda, Italy, and is modeled after the grand home Il Vittoriale of the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio.  I loved the brief but historical details of London and Venice which set the stage for the drama that was to unfold. I enjoyed the foray into the theatre world, for the accurate portrayal of stars, old and new, the staging descriptions, the hard work involved in finding the character and the intriguing personalities, politics, and egos of the cast. There is a nice balance of family, again old and new, each contributing clues to the slowly revealing story (the mystery is always backseat in this plot). In addition, the historical elements of the mystery surrounding the first play 70 years prior add to the overall story.

This is not a fast paced mystery / thriller.
This is not necessarily a page turner, thrilling read.
This is not similar to her most recent paranormal historical books.
But it is a lovely, well written, atmospheric novel that will provide you with a strong sense of place, both of romantic Italy and the theatre world. This novel reminded me of Mary Stewart, My Brother Michael and Madam will you Talk. This is a wonderful thing as I sincerely miss her writing (and if it's any indication by the number of individuals and book clubs to which I have recommended Kearsley, many people miss Stewart and have leapt at a new author!). If you like this gothic suspense style, read on!
I hope the popularity of this author makes people more aware of other, earlier novelists: Anya Seton, Daphine du Maurier, Barbara Erskine, Barbara Michaels, Rosemary Sutcliffe and Elizabeth Harris.
It's a new book if you haven't read it!

NetGalley ARC
4 stars (five because it perfectly suited my mood/day)

Summer Reads

And then I was asked what was on my to be read pile.
Susanna Calkins From the Charred Remains
Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See
Martha Grimes Vertigo 42
Susan Elia Macneal Prime Minister's Secret Agent
Carol McCleary No Job for a Lady
Lauren Owen The Quick
Jill Paton Walsh The Late Scholar
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter The Long Mars

Non fiction
Tim McGrath Give Me A Fast Ship

But I dropped everything as soon as Deborah Harkness' The Book of Life was in my hands. I finished it in the middle of the night, was bereft that the story had ended (especially as I want to know more about several characters: Gallowglass where are you!?), then went back and reread it savoring every word. That helped me let the story go, become a book again, instead of what I was living through. I also bought the hardcover book to read again after a friend finishes it and we discuss it. And yes, I will probably read the entire series again.

Several ARC books have arrived
Robin Hobb Fools Assassin
Susanna Kearsley Season of Storms
David Liss Atonement

Book Quote:
"It is the despair of book- lovers that they cannot read all the good books and it is their delight constantly to discover new ones. " Burton Rascoe

What's ahead?
Hysterically a Benedict Cumberbatch calendar is available on September 1st! Followed shortly by a Bio by Justin Lewis.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Farseer Rabbit Hole

How did I never read Robin Hobb? Recently I fell down the Farseer rabbit hole and disappeared for several days, because once I understood this was a continuation, I had to read ALL of those books. GRR Martin recommended, and I agree.
I was thumbing through the NetGalley ARCs and was drawn to this cover. Knowing none of the prehistory I was immediately cast into this well written, thought provoking story. I often wondered what a rich and varied past led this intricate man to this point in his life. To discover there was a trilogy was like discovering Terry Pratchett for the first time. I am not sorry I started at the end, with Fitz a grown man as the early tales have a lot of teen angst and messy life choices (sometimes I think girls are just smarter!).  I can't wait to read the next two installments because yes, there are cliff hangers. She loves these characters.

Robin Hobb is the second pen name for Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden (also Megan Lindholm). (If your in London in August she will be sharing a stage, in conversation with GRR Martin!) She has been writing tremendous, imaginative, award winning science fiction and fantasy for over twenty years. In addition to the Farseer trilogy, there are the Liveship  Traders trilogy and the Rain Wilds chronicles. She has a wonderful imagination and clear, detailed writing which captures your attention. There is action, drama, torment, love, family, dragons, magic, and new worlds to explore. I have warned you that you will lose a few days reading!

Fitz (FitzChivalry) is a royal bastard, former King's assassin now living a quieter life as Tom Badgerlock, with the love of his life Molly. But Tom/Fitz has the Wit, the dangerous ability to touch minds. His previous world collides with his new life and the adventure begins anew. I was delighted with the addition of his new daughter, watching her character develop and slowly reveal secrets.  She is definitely her father's daughter.  There is a rich cast with diverse characters, more so with the history of the earlier trilogy. Concepts of loyalty and honour, steadfast love and friendship bonds, good and evil provide counterpoint. Not every battle is won, but they are bravely fought (or not with wisdom). And you discover what matters in life. The story is well paced, richly detailed, multi-layered and full of developing characters. This promises to be a satisfying and unforgettable serious fantasy series.

If you like Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik, Kristin Cashore, GRR Martin, Terry Goodkind: You will love this series. Her early work is especially suitable for teenagers (YA). There's still a lot of summer reading left!
Received as a NetGalley ARC
4.5 stars
Not a full fifth star because I like stories in series that are complete in themselves. People often read slower as they get to the end of a book because they don't want the fantastic story to end. I felt it couldn't end. And no doubt I have to wait until the end of the trilogy. I had not read Hobb before but she is now on my favourite list.

Summer mysteries

I love a good mystery, and many of my favourite authors have extended series. Three recent books are interesting page turners which keep you guessing. I have to caution you to read these in order though, so if you don't know these great authors, you're in for a treat (and a lot of summer reading!) These also have some brutal moments not for the faint of heart.

Field of Prey by John Sandford is the 24th installment of the Lucas Davenport series. It's all there, the same cast, the same plot, still in Minnesota, but the same scary suspense that keeps you reading to the end. It won't disappoint his loyal following, but some days I am glad I no longer live in Minnesota.  This time the violence was a bit over the top for me and there were a few glaring holes/oddities. While I enjoyed the character development of Letty, his daughter, (to the point where I suspect she will be the main character?!) it was hard to believe she was allowed on site. I didn't find many moments of comic relief and a more than a few odd details (really Lucas? Karma?).  I enjoy the Flowers series more, even with similar depressingly accurate criminal tendencies. This felt like watching the new Fargo: too real and too unpleasant. But hundreds of five star reviews on amazon.

And why aren't there hundreds of five star reviews for Christopher Brookmyre mysteries?! His intense police procedurals take place in Glasgow Scotland with two principle characters: DS Catherine McLeod and PI Jasmine Sharp. The third in the series Bred in the Bone has just been published (read Where the Bodies are Buried and When the Devil Dances!) and is an excellent, clever and intelligent mystery, well researched, perfect portrayal of Glasgow criminal underworld (not as dark as Denise Mina's mysteries) and has a fine sense of black comedy/humor. The Glasgow patter/slang may confuse you a bit, but it is an accurate, insightful portrayal mixing social commentary, politics and riveting action.  I find the complex plots rewarding, but the character development also makes reading them in order important. "This is Glasgow, we don't do subtle." I love the writing and language, at home with blether, craich, wee dram, jakey, polis, dodgems, and the places (Dunfermline's Alhambra, Crammond, spooky woods and the steamie).
 "...Beware the vengeance of a patient man."
"When you're living in a jungle, it helps if you have friends among the predators."
If you like Ian Rankin or Val McDermid, both top notch Scottish crime writers, you will enjoy this. And he has written a number of other books (I love his titles too- e.g Quite Ugly One Morning).

And then there are series that have made the move to television.   The 8th Walt Longmire mystery is also now in bookstores, and season 3 is on A&E. And while I am addicted to the program, I love the books. I think Any Other Name is Craig Johnson's best yet. Really. BUT with the character development and overlapping cases, you should read this series in order. This time he is helping his crusty old boss (still with pistol in hand) Lucian Connally solve a suicide of a friend/colleague, but he has a crucial deadline to solve it before the birth of his first grandchild. I love Walt's idiosyncrasies, the deadpan humor, the walking encyclopedia, and Dog. And while bad things happen, there is a warmth and sense of humanity that made this a great reading experience. And it is much better than the tv.
Walt is the stuff of Wyoming legend and this book doesn't disappoint on any page.

When did Dog become part dire wolf? Is everyone reading game of thrones? He's also a pet Kodiak (-and Smokey's evil twin, at least when eating ham). "They say dogs have a vocabulary of about 20 words, and I was pretty sure seventeen of  Dog's were ham."

"You're the first one to still be standing after that." (Cast waffle iron to to the head)
"I shrugged down the rest of my iced tea like Phillip Marlowe."
"She was worse when she had all her teeth."
"Every time you lie to me, I get the urge to finish writing this ticket."
Don't you think scars make better stories than tattoos? If that.s he case the  I've got a whole library on me. I've read it and I really liked the ending."
"She reached over and took a piece of my bacon, along with a little bit of my heart."
"Did I just see you imitate a buffalo? Don't quit your day job."
"You will stand and see the bad. The dead will rise and the blind will see."
"He was a hit man- not exactly somebody you'd find in Craigslist."

2013 reading list

It's a new book it you haven't read it!

Several people have reminded me I have been remiss in not publishing my book list for 2013, especially as they are catching up on summer reading. So for their records (printed out and stored in book journals) here it is. I was surprised to see how many books I had read as I felt it was far fewer than previous years with moving states and other journeys. I was not surprised to see how many are continuations by favorite authors. And I am still waiting for several installments (Rothfuss and Martin especially, but there are only a few days to go til Deborah Harkness' Book of Life!).
* denote special reading pleasures for me in an attempt to provide "the top 10 only please."

Books 2013.
Emily Cory Barker Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
Alison Bechdel Fun House
Jaques Bonnet Phantoms of the Bookshelves
C. Alan Bradley Ms Sherlock
Daniel James Brown Boys in the Boat
Gordon Campbell The Hermit in the Garden
Mark Edmonson Why Read
Tim Federle Tequila Mockingbird
**AA Gill To America with Love
Josh Hanagarne The World's Strongest Librarian
Tracy Kiddder Richard Todd Good Prose
*Verlyn Klinkenborg Several Short Sentences on Writing
Bill McKibbon Wandering home
William Least Heat Moon Here, There, Elsewhere
Charlie leDuff Detroit, an Autopsy
*Doris Kearns Goodwin The Bully Pulpit
Rachel Maddox Drift
Solomon Northup 12 Years a Slave
Bobby Orr Orr: My Story
Michael Palin The Truth
James Pennebaker The Secret Lives of Pronouns
Nathaniel Philbrick Bunker Hill
*Tom Reiss The Black Count
*Mary Roach Gulp
Callum Roberts Unnatural History of the Sea
David Shields How Literature Saved my Life
**Amy Stewart Drunken Botanist, The Last Bookstore In America
EO Wilson Letters to a Young Scientist
Kate Atkinson Life After Life
Jo Baker Longbourn
Patricia Bracewell The Midwife's Tale
Paula Brackston Winter Witch, Witches of the Blue Well, Witch's Daughter
Caleb Carr Legend of Broken
Jon Cohen The Man in the Window (Nancy Pearl)
Lynn Cullen Mrs Poe
PS Duffy The Cartographer of No Mans Land
Tatiana deRosnay The House I Loved
Terry Fallis Best Laid Plans, High Road, Up and Down
Margaret Fox A Dark Heart
Lee Fulbright The Angry Woman Suite
**Neil Gaiman Ocean at the End of the Lane
Tracy Guzeman The Gravity of Birds
Benjamin Hale The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
Mark Helprin In Sunlight and Shadow
*Susanna Kearsley Firebird, Shadowy Horses
Brian Kimberling Snapper
Jill Lepore Book of Ages
Jennifer McMahon The Winter People
Colum McCann Transatlantic
Adam McOmber The White Forest
Suzanne Rindell The Other Typist
James Salter All That Is, Last Night
Mary Sharratt Illiminations
Kathleen Shoop After the Fog
AMSmith Unusual uses of Olive Oil
ML Stedman The Light between the Oceans
Donna Tartt The Goldfinch
Kathleen Tessaro The Perfume Collector
Nancy Bilyeau The Crown, The Chalice
Chris Bohjalran The Light in the Ruins
Kristen Callihan Darkest London series
Ruth Downie Semper Fidelis
Dan Fesperman The Double Game
Felix Francis Refusal
Charles Finch The Old Betrayal, Death in Small Hours
Christopher Fowler The Invisible Code
Alex Grecian The Black Country
Barbara Hamilton Abigail Adams series
CS Harris What Darkness Brings
Tessa Harris Silkstone mysteries
John Harwood The Asylum
Craig Johnson A Serpents Tooth, Spirit of Steamboat
Emma Jameson Something blue
**Sarah Jio Morning Glory, the Last Camellia, Violets of Winter
**Laurie King Bones of Paris
Anna Lee Huber Mortal Arts
Charlie Lovett The Bookman's Tale
Stuart McBride Flesh House
*Susan Elia MacNeal His Majesty's Hope
Michaela MacCole Prisoners of the Palace
Becky Masterman A Rage against Dying
Oliver Patzsch The Beggar King
Anne Perry Blind Justice, The Scroll
Thomas Perry The Boyfriend
Jutta Profijt Morgue Drawer (series)
Deanna Raybourn Far in the Winds
Kathy Reichs Bones Of the Lost
Imogen Robertson Island of Bones, Paris Winter
MJ Rose The Book of Lost Fragrances
John Sandford Storm Front
AMSmith Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
Anthony Neil Smith All The Young Warriors
Olen Stenhauer
Charles Todd Question of Honor, Proof of Guilt
**Jacqueline Winspear Leaving Everything Most Loved
Novella/ short stories
Diane Chamberlain The First Lie
John Connolly Wanderer in Unknown Realms
Karen Russell Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Jessica Brockmole Letters from Skye
Amy Sackville Ornkey
**Ian Rankin Standing in Another Man's Grave
AD Scott A Double Death on the Black Isle
AMSmith Trains and Lovers
Kate DiCamillo Flora and Ulysses
***Rachel Hartman Seraphina
Naomi Novik Blood of Tyrants
Lemony Snickett All the Wrong Questions, the Dark
Sherwood Smith Crown Duel, prequels
John Connolly The Creeps
Kathy Reichs Shift
Cynthia Voigt Mister Max
Shelly Adina Lady of Devices
Anne Bishop Black Jewels
Book quote:
The books we think we ought to read are poky, dull, and dry;
The books that we would like to read we are ashamed to buy;
The books that people talk about we never can recall;
And the books that people give us, oh, they're the worst of all. Carolyn Wells