February Micro-Reviews


2ED6F538-8B91-493B-9F3B-DEC5DB1984D6The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick – There have been so many books out lately that revolve around things that are lost and found and I didn’t expect a much different story here. Silly me. Phaedra Patrick has given us a story about a middle-aged woman who never says no…until she does. What happens next is one of the most poignant stories I’ve read in a long time.

Martha’s whole life has been shaped by a single incident from her childhood which she knew nothing about, until a mysterious book full of her own childhood stories, with a dedication written by her grandmother, shows up out of the blue at her library. That the stories are her own, written as a child, is one thing, but the dedication is dated three years *after* her grandmother supposedly died. This mystery sets off a string of explosions in Martha’s life, leading her on an unforgettable and sometimes painful journey.

Somewhat reminiscent of a favorite from last year (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine) this one will leave you with a bunch of crumpled tissues and stuffy nose, but also a soaring spirit. Book clubs, take note. This is a sure hit for your monthly meetings.

Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Publisher: Harlequin
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

13896A93-B0D4-441A-B853-CC6334F53416Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe – Howe’s Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was a favorite of mine in 2009 so I was thrilled to get this ARC, which continues the story of Connie Goodwin and her search for truth in her past. Howe’s writing is wonderful as usual, and the story is as captivating as I’ve come to expect from the author. The primary plot line is somewhat reminiscent of Practical Magic, but Connie’s relationships with both the past and present make this one well worth reading. Howe writes with an engaging style that makes the reader feel as though you know the characters. As I read, I could feel Connie’s rising panic about her child and Sam. Her drive to safeguard her family forces her to reopen old wounds and the scene with her former mentor Manning Chilton was chilling.

I was delighted to see Connie’s mother, Grace, play a larger role here and develop into a very interesting character. The Dane lineage becomes much clearer here, and Grace becomes a more well-rounded figure of power. New character Esperanza is also a welcome addition, bringing yet another strand of “women’s work” to the bigger story of cunning women.

Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

839B253E-B026-455D-9D02-CC129100BDB2A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn – Raybourn has delivered another rollicking good mystery in the Veronica Speedwell series. The flirtatious relationship between Veronica and Stoker continues and moves into serious territory, all the while they are working to solve a clever and villainous mystery in a spooky castle on an island off the Cornish coast, complete with a poison garden and a raft of prevaricating people. Really, all you need for a few hours of fun reading! With the popularity of Victorian era TV shows, I think this one would make an excellent show!

Publication Date: March 12, 2019
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

89B3A1FD-7C09-4939-BFC5-62D927132855Rough Music by Robin Blake – Coming into a series not previously read can be difficult, but that is not the case here. Like Anne Perry’s mysteries, this one stands alone while featuring characters that have appeared in previous novels. The writing and plot here are what you’d expect for a story set in this time period – it’s rough and sometimes shocking. I admit that the prologue, which featured a husband and wife being publicly humiliated on a “stang ride,” was graphic enough that I put the book away for a few days and debated whether to finish. However, I did go back and finish and found an interesting and clever plot and very appealing main characters. I enjoyed Titus Cragg very much, and would recommend this for libraries in which Blake’s previous Cragg stories have been popular.

Publication Date: April 1, 2019
Publisher: Severn House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

9EFD418D-AEAE-4D84-ADE4-B8AFF26179FABlack Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James – Overall, not my cup of tea, but I recognize skillful writing and storytelling when I see it. This will be a welcome addition to library collections and will appeal to adults who enjoy a blend of fantasy and mystery with a good dose of mythology. However, it is not for the faint-hearted.

Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Penguin Group, Riverhead Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

January Micro-Reviews

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devouringThe Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman – This creepy, eerie, and imaginative story grabbed me by the back of the neck and held on from first to last page. The plot is a refreshing take on the “monster in the woods” trope and features some sassy, kick-ass characters. The premise of four founding families (shades of Hogwarts, anyone?) isn’t new, but the relationship of the families to the monster and to the town they protect is pretty darn original. The author does a good job of making teens sound like teens, although the adults are portrayed as bullies or dopes. The plot flowed easily and kept my attention. It looks like this will be the beginning of a series, which makes me happy. It would also make a helluva TV series in the vein of Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Recommended.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Published By: Disney-Hyperion
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

prosperThe Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken – How did I miss this book when it first came out? It has everything I love about middle grade fantasy – hip and likable characters, clever humor, a multi-faceted villain, a surprise twist at the end, and a superb story. Here, the likable characters are Prosper and Nell and the villain (one of them!) is Alastor, a fiend who has waited hundreds of years for revenge on the family that bound him. The competing themes of revenge & betrayal and friendship & love can lead to some interesting discussions about relationships. The nods to some of my favorite classic stories (The Crucible and Doctor Faustus) only made this more enjoyable. Bracken successfully delivers what appears to be a prologue to some serious world-building, as she prepares to publish the sequel to this in February. The twist at the end was one of the best I can remember and set up the sequel beautifully.

lastThe Last by Hanna Jameson – This title has been sitting in my To Be Read queue for months and I finally opened it last night out of guilt. Holy smokes! I read it in one sitting, resulting in a foggy day spent at work today! I am not, as a rule, a fan of dystopian fiction which is probably why it took me so long to open this one. However, when dystopian fiction is blended with a tautly plotted, inventive mystery it becomes a book I cannot put down. The author has done everything right here – good dialog, evocative description, memorable characters, and an unusual plot. I’ll be recommending this a lot in the coming months.
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Published By: Atria Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

arloArlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon by John August – I am late to the Arlo Finch party, having missed the first in the series. However, this second-in-the-series stands pretty sturdily on its own. August explains enough about the Long Woods and the Rangers so a reader new to the series can follow along, although the characters are cool enough that I will definitely go back and read the first in the series. Here, Arlo and his fellow Rangers Wu and Indra, along with other Rangers, find themselves facing some really weird experiences as they head into their two weeks of camp. There are the usual suspects – the trio of friends who overcome great evil, the obligatory bully, the hip adults, and the scary monsters – all stirred up into a stew of steady action and hair-raising adventures. Kids who enjoy imaginative adventures will thoroughly enjoy Arlo Finch, in all his books. Recommended for middle grade readers.

Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Published By: Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

September Micro-Reviews


2686AB76-18BB-4C05-B351-3D3D38698006Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose

A tragic heroine with a dark secret paired with mysterious, sometimes villanous men, and a fascinating look into the art world – all things we’ve come to expect from M.J. Rose and all things that play a part in this lovely new story. Rose has a skillful ability to blend mystery, romance, and history into readable, un-put-downable stories and she has succeeded admirably here.

The peek into the world of Louis Comfort Tiffany is an extra treat here, and Rose captures the heady atmosphere of creating art in New York City in the early decades of the 20th century with color and panache. The characters range from appealing to repulsive, the action suspenseful, and the outcome deliciously romantic. And has there been a better named character than Minx Deering? I don’t think so! Recommended.

Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Published by Simon & Schuster Atria Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

B01FF0E0-18D7-4147-8C90-637270FEE18BGolden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

There isn’t another series of which I am aware that does such a masterful job of growing a protagonist from child to teen to (eventually) adult. Flavia de Luce has engaged readers since her first appearance in Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and continues to do so throughout the series. Initially a precocious, brilliant but still vulnerable child, we have traveled with Flavia as she has become a (still) brilliant and cheeky teen tempered by tragedy and change. Her insatiable desire to know the world, coupled with her tender regard for Dogger and need for acceptance by the Hewitts has made Flavia into a classic.

In this new entry in the series, we find Flavia and Dogger tackling a new case, precipitated by a gruesome discovery in sister Daphne’s wedding cake. The relationship between Dogger and Flavia continues to develop as they grow their detecting business, and provides a vehicle for the author to demonstrate Flavia’s maturity. Absent both her parents, Flavia looks to Dogger to guide her through difficult situations.

As we have come to expect, Bradley delivers a clever and funny story that keeps the reader guessing. Fans of the series will eat this up. Recommended.

Publication Date: January 22, 2019
Publisher: Penguin/Random House Delacorte Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

2FDE50A8-07FC-4BE9-9741-70C8387B159FLouisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

With every new story, I am more certain that Kate DiCamillo must be acknowledged as one of the most talented authors of this generation. In this newest offering, DiCamillo tells the story of Louisiana Elefante and how she came to live with Betty and Burke Allen in Georgia. Fans of DiCamillo will remember Louisiana from Raymie Nightingale and will be at once delighted and crushed as they follow her adventures from Florida to Georgia.

As DiCamillo writes here, there is a “great deal of power in writing things down,” and it is true that her stories always contain power, and gentleness, love, and heartbreak. Additionally, they also contain some of the most inventive and memorable dialog and description out there. For instance, there’s this gem:

It occurred to me that the Georgia sun was different from the Florida sun. I knew that it was the same sun —of course I did. There is only one sun, no matter where you go on this infinitesimally spinning earth. That is a fact. But there are facts and there are facts. And one fact is that it is the same sun, and another fact is that if you are far from home, and you don’t know who you are, it is a very different sun.

Any child (or adult) struggling with figuring out their place in the world will surely identify with Louisiana and find comfort and strength in her story. Highly recommended for middle grade readers.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Penguin/Random House Candlewick Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

BB19610D-1E20-4D37-95AD-BF6404841117Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey

In this age of immediate gratification and super-multi-tasking, it’s inevitable that a book like Chris Bailey’s would surface. There are dozens of books out there that are intended to help you focus, but few that explore the science behind attention and focus in the chatty, informative way that Hyperfocus offers. The information provided here actually works and has helped me change the way I work and organize myself. Recommended.

Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Published by: Penguin Group Viking
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

 

August Micro-Reviews


whiskeyWhiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison

Just finished this gorgeous, heartbreaking book and am still trying to process it. All I can say is get your hands on a copy when it’s published in August. Reminiscent of the best coming of age westerns, this one blows them all away. It’s News of the World meets The Sisters Brothers meets McCabe & Mrs. Miller meets Butch Cassidy, with a little bit of Peace Like a River thrown in. One of the best of the year.

Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Publisher: Viking
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

 

songSong of the Damned by Sarah Rayne

Coincidences and pure luck abound in Sarah Rayne’s “Phineas Fox” series, which helps create a satisfying and ulta-readable mystery. Phin always seems to be in the right place at the right time, to pick up exactly the book he needs in whatever library he’s exploring, or visit the right person at exactly the right time. All those lucky discoveries might annoy some readers, but I love this about the series. All the loose ends get neatly knitted up while Rayne focuses on telling an absorbing, inventive mystery. It’s the story that counts in this series, and Phin and the other characters are just pawns used to convey love, betrayal, grief, joy, and heartbreak. It helps that Rayne incorporates meticulous historical research that she blends into a narrative featuring truly likable or truly horrible characters. It was also a treat here getting to know more about the perspicacious Arabella and her budding relationship with Phin. Recommended.

Publication Date: November 1, 2018
Publisher: Severn House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

awesomeFind Your Awesome by Judith Clement Wall

Everything about this book makes you feel like there are endless possibilities to be happy and productive and…awesome! Wall has assembled a collection of perky, optimistic, self-affirming activities that will help you become more aware of yourself and the people and things around you. The list and calendar format provide fun and appealing starting points for turning your attitude around, and will appeal especially to the bullet journal crowd.

Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: HCI Books
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

 

0EEE1908-A35B-42CB-A9CC-CD0E93678E3CA Moment in Crime by Amanda Allen

Fans of cozy mysteries will enjoy this offering from Amanda Allen which focuses on Madeline Vaughn Alwyn, a member of the illustrious Astor family. The story, set in 1920s Santa Fe NM, follows Madeline as she is pulled into the exciting and glamourous world of movie-making by her cousin Gwen. Maddie has retreated to Santa Fe after losing her husband in WWI. She’s found her paradise, where she can paint and live outside the drama of her family back in New York. She has a gentle and comfortable love interest and rounds out her household with a spunky and capable housekeeper and her twin daughters. Maddie’s keen mind and curious nature has gotten her into trouble before, and she is inexorably drawn into the fray when an odious movie producer/director is murdered and all fingers point to cousin Gwen.

Allen is a capable and clever writer, successfully delivering a captivating and puzzling mystery peopled with engaging characters. Second in a series that promises to be every bit as fun and exhilarating as other Jazz Age mysteries out there, A Moment in Crime offers you several tempting and enjoyable hours away from real life. I suggest you take it! Recommended.

Publication Date: December 21, 2018
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

885DED75-06FB-4035-9D33-D66EAAA243FC

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Anyone who longs to go back and live in the past, read this and count your blessings that you live in the 21st century.

The Black Macrae’s could have been my McDonald family. Thank god they had the sense to cross the Atlantic when they did.

 

 

 

 

C8883077-2145-4541-B925-431106217244

Thieves on the Fens by Joy Ellis

Really clever plot overshadowed by clumsy writing. Seriously, how many people refer to their friends and colleagues, in normal conversation, by their first and last names? This is the 8th in a series, so the author has been writing for awhile. Unfortunately, the clunky phrasing and dialogue will keep me from checking out the earlier books.

July Micro-Reviews


9DC3B5DD-077C-4400-8F8A-6105B5419731
Hocus Pocus: the Sequel by A.W. Jantha
Hocus Pocus (the movie) is a cult classic, and continues to be a family favorite in my house. This sequel does a smashing job of bringing the Sanderson Sisters, along with Max, Alison, and Dani, into the 21st century. The storyline is appealing, with Max and Alison now “Mr. and Mrs. Dennison” and their daughter Poppy taking center stage. The Sisters are as ghastly and hilarious as ever, and Salem just as colorful.

As a fan of the movie, I found the re-telling of the original story (the first half of the book) unnecessary and repetitive. I confess, I skipped much of the original story and went right to the present day. The new story is fun, quirky, and has just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek scariness. Total fun for Hocus Pocus fans.

Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Published by: Disney
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

E5E6DF37-8155-4137-8A03-458DA31ADCB1Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes
Another in the “Rick Riordan Presents” series, this explores Mayan mythology. I really love that Riordan is helping authors explore world mythology, but I wish there was a little more originality in this story. There are so many similarities to both the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books that I stopped keeping track. There’s nothing really wrong with the story – it’s fun and fast and very engaging – but it’s been told before. That’s my “adult” review.

That said, this is aimed at kids, and many of them may not have read the older books. They will find this a wild ride, with a cool new character who is pretty relatable even as he discovers his powers. Other characters will definitely appeal to kids – Hondo, the pro-wrestler fanatical uncle; the pretty, mysterious girl who can turn ito a hawk; and the laid-back, surfer-dude troll are just a few of the fun characters here. The plot is well-developed, everything gets tied up at the end, and the good guys win. Recommended.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Published by: Penguin/Random House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

2EBF5C32-434F-440D-899C-95FD15C72652Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan
The Raggedy Witches are my absolute new favorites! I love how they glitter, and I adore Mup and her love of color. Stories about witches and goblins and other fantastical creatures abound in juvenile (and adult) literature these days. Celine Kiernan, who has been described as “Ireland’s J.K. Rowling”) has succeeded in creating a new type of witch and a new world that is reminiscent of some magical lands (I was actually most reminded of The Hazelwood), but full of lovely, imaginative details all her own. I adored the dance and vocal magic concepts, and even the “curse” of speaking in rhyme. The absolute best thing about this book, though, is Mup. She is a character to remember, and one who I hope to see in future stories. Mam is also a character to watch. She seems to waver between the “good” of The Duchess and the “bad” of The Queen, so her development in future stories could be quite entertaining. Recommended for middle grade fantasy readers.

Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Published by: Penguin/Random House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

May Micro-Reviews


445D17F0-2560-4C5E-A733-139FE248408ABellewether by Susanna Kearsley – Similar to Kearsley’s previous stories, this one again features a blend of storylines from the past and present. One nice change is the location, which is Long Island, New York. As we have come to expect from Kearsley, there is meticulously researched history here, as well as laid-back romance. Her writing is lovely, with just the right blend of description and action. This is recomended for Kearsley fans as well as fans of Kate Morton.

Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Sourcebooks Landmark
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

41D21F7A-0F0A-4EB4-8855-5D2F221E8F69World of All Souls by Deborah Harkness – Deborah Harkness has created a whole mythology in her All Souls trilogy which is dependent on the fairly complicated genealogies of the Bishop and Clairmont families, plus associated characters. And there are A LOT of characters. The World of All Souls is a handy guide to that cast of characters where all the disparate tidbits of information Harkness wove into the trilogy are gathered in one place and expanded upon. As I read this book, I felt like I had both a peephole into Deborah Harkness’ imagination and a peek at her writing notes. This is a must for fans of the trilogy. Recommended.

Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Viking
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

484412CB-A37B-4AF6-9BBE-15F57C66A4FFSins of the Father by Stephen Weeks – This isn’t *terrible* in that it’s fairly well written, with some instances of true wit, but the characters and story are fairly shallow and uninteresting. It’s a light, quick read, but not something I’ll remember.

Publication Date: May 2, 2018
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

 

 

03C12724-FA8C-4042-BF8C-8F91FB1C61D9Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston – Paula Brackston has produced an intriguing time slip mystery here, which is not exactly what I was expecting. The story is interesting and somewhat unusual. I cannot recall many other time slip stories where the person from the present is forced into the past by a ghost as menacing as Mistress Merton. The characters are appealing, and the relationship between Xanthe and her Mum is heartwarming. I thought the whole drug back story was a little odd, but it didn’t detract from the story. All in all, this book provides a pleasant escape for a couple hours.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

206BA534-56F6-4B8E-8102-51E4519AD351The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell – As a fan of Blackwell’s Lily Ivory series, I was excited to try out something different from her. I enjoy Blackwell’s breezy writing style and quirky characters, and was not disappointed in this sweet, captivating story. At first, I found Cady a little jarring, but she grew on me as the story progressed. I love stories featuring strong women who have overcome difficult circumstances, and Blackwell certainly delivered on that account. Blend that with a truly interesting story of carousel carving and you have a winner.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Berkeley
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

 

 

May Micro-Reviews


28A02E25-07BA-4CBD-B1E0-6AEE24541D0DThe Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser – The Vanderbeeker kids are back in another charming story about generosity, being a good neighbor, and growing up. This is one of those gentle, feel-good stories where nothing much happens, except real life. The kids witness a beloved neighbor having a stroke, they struggle with their own emotions, and they learn that even kids who appear to have it all often don’t. The Vanderbeekers are definitely “free range” kids, and their adventures in their Harlem neighborhood are the stuff of dreams. The kids are all written beautifully and the family dynamics are definitely something to emulate. This is not a particularly special story in that it’s something “new” but it will be enjoyed by early to middle grade readers who just like to read about other kids.

Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

657A0259-7343-412B-A674-DF6D9DD31EA2In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey – Bailey checks all the boxes in this supernatural, psychological thriller of a book: a couple whose marriage is in trouble, a dead child, a mysterious English manor house, a spooky forest, intimidating & creepy manor staff, a past tragedy…and more. Charles, Erin & Lissa are the seemingly perfect family whose life is turned upside down by a truly horrible accident. The psychological strain of that experience coupled with the gothic-horror experience of Hollow House makes for a top-notch, nail-biting, check-under-the-bed thrilling novel. For fans of English folklore, horror, and suspense. Recommended.

Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

994C1041-BFDE-4E07-9D99-917BC0590A95Bluecrowne by Kate Milford – As a diehard Greenglass House fan, I eagerly anticipated this prequel to the series, and I am not disappointed. Kate Milford introduces us to a whole new cast of colorful characters who are every bit as entertaining, clever, and quirky as Milo and company. Lucy Bluecrowne is a character for the ages, and I look forward to following her adventures as she grows up. Liao and Xianming are also so intriguing that they deserve another book as well. Milford is well on her way to creating a world in Nagspeake that is every bit as magical and real as J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts. Her writing is full of lovely descriptions, clever and thoughtful dialogue, and plenty of mystery, suspense, action, adventure, and magic. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Childrens Books Group; Clarion Books
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

97EB1610-2008-4809-8637-BEB706E2DBEF Secret History of the Jersey Devil: How Quakers, Hucksters, and Benjamin Franklin Created a Monster by Brian Regan – It seems that creating monsters to distract people from real issues is not something unique to 21st century politics. As a longtime but amateur student of cryptozoology, I am always open to reading new accounts of legends and monsters, so I was eager to learn more about the infamous Jersey Devil. The origin story of Mother Leeds giving birth to an evil, horrifying “monster” that flew up the chimney certainly has its roots in European folklore and fairytales. Those tales were often created to make people do things – e.g. Peg Powler and Jenny Greenteeth were invented to keep children away from rivers and streams, thereby keeping them safe from drowning. In this book, Regal and Esposito take the Jersey Devil out of the New Jersey Pine Barrens and link it to political intrigue and opinion-shaping. What better way to get people to do what you want than to scare the crap out of them? I suppose it’s somewhat comforting to know that such political maneuvering has been going on for hundreds of years without the world ending, which suggests that the current version of the Jersey Devil (immigrants/Muslims) will eventually be replaced with something else. This is not light reading, however, so I will recommend for those who enjoy non-fiction related to politics and history.

Publication Date: March 1, 2018
Published by: Johns Hopkins University Press
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

06FD49B1-679B-46B2-80F7-D50D936D72F1Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson – Leonardo da Vinci has always fascinated me, so this new biography of possibly one of the greatest humans ever to live was something I had to read.  Isaacson delivers a well-crafted look not only into da Vinci’s life but into the culture of the time which certainly shaped his world view and supported his curiosity. It was da Vinci’s insatiable curiosity about everything that first attracted me to him so many years ago, and Isaacson provides a laser view into the mind that envisioned flight, surgery, and so much more. Highly readable, well written, and meticulously researched, this is very much recommended.

Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

 

 

 

 

April Micro-Reviews


unforgotten

The Unforgotten by Laura Powell – What a ride! This is a book that forces you to pay attention, which really isn’t a problem because you will want to keep turning those pages. The story begins with Betty Broadbent, a young girl who suddenly finds her quiet life in a small Cornish village turned upside down by a series of grisly murders. The local hotel run by Betty’s mother becomes de facto headquarters for the journalists who descend on the town, and that’s where Betty meets Gallagher. The two fall into an unlikely and unpredictable relationship/friendship as the search for the “Cornish Cleaver” goes on. While I expected a tightly written mystery, I got that plus a really well-crafted story about obsession, madness, and guilt. I found the characters charming at first, then a little irritating, then a little scary and suspicious. The author does a good job of blending past and present, and skillfully demonstrates how the past never really leaves you. I’m not often surprised by endings, but this one had me gobsmacked. Really, really good.

Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Published By: Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

islandIsland of the Mad by Laurie King – I’ve been a fan of Laurie King’s Mary Russell series for years, but the last couple felt a little played out. This one, unfortunately, continued that trend. Here, Mary is contacted by an old, dear friend whose beloved Aunt Vivian has disappeared. Vivian, who has been a resident of an asylum for years, was visiting family when she disappeared along with some jewels and other items from her brother’s safe. Russell is called upon to find the Lady Vivian and recover both the lady and the jewels. This involves an undercover stay in Bedlam (the asylum where Vivian lived for years), fascism in Britain and Italy, and Cole Porter. While the story was entertaining enough, it didn’t spark like previous books. The younger Russell would have twigged on the reason for Lady Vivian’s “madness” long before this Mary Russell figured it out. I found myself shaking my head at her thickness by chapter 4. I think it’s time to move on.

Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Published By: Random House Group/Ballantine/Bantam
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

darkangelDark Angel by Elly Griffiths – I’ve loved Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series from the first, and was eagerly anticipating this next entry in the series. “Was” is the keyword in that last sentence. Griffiths has gone from writing top-notch mysteries focusing primarily on Ruth’s role as a forensic anthropologist to writing sappy relationship novels that focus on Ruth as the “other woman” in a love triangle, successfully reducing her to a cliché. Why do writers do that? Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series suffered from the same issue, but Winspear is finally bringing Maisie back around to detecting. Griffiths needs to do the same. Ruth Galloway is so much more than Nelson and Kate. Bring her back! Please!

Publication Date: May 13, 2018
Published By: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

168987AA-65EE-4C22-828E-3AD4FE97BFE7The Fairies of Sadieville by Alex Bledsoe – Another highly anticipated series entry from Alex Bledsoe that more than lived up to the anticipation. Begun with the Hum & the Shiver and concluded here, Bledsoe’s Tufa series is one of the most creative and well-written modern fairy tales out there. Bledsoe beautifully wraps up the story arc of an exiled tribe of Tuatha de Danaan living in Tennessee, providing closure to a number of stories included in the earlier books. We finally learn the one story that Bledsoe has never told – the origin story of the Tufa – and it’s fascinating, especially the little nugget of info from the King of Fairyland regarding the bet that landed the Tufa in Tennessee.  While I am sad that this is the last in the series, I am very much looking forward to the tales Bledsoe will spin next. I highly recommend the entire series.

Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Published By: MacMillan/Tor-Forge
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

westawayDeath of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware – Ruth Ware has done it again. The Death of Mrs. Westaway is an un-put-downable tale of family turmoil, long-buried secrets, and deception that will keep you up at night, reading just one more chapter…until you’ve devoured the whole thing in one sitting. Harriet “Hal” Westaway is a young woman making her living as a tarot reader on the Brighton Pier. She’s all alone in the world, having lost her mother in an unexpected accident when she was 18. Not only is she alone, but she’s also in debt. So when she receives a letter from an attorney informing her that she is a beneficiary in the will of  her grandmother Hester Westaway, she packs up her few belongings and heads to Cornwall, even though she believes the letter was sent in error. Her arrival sets in motion a chain of events begun decades earlier and brought to a grim conclusion here. Ware gives us an appealing protagonist, shifty characters, a questionable will, and the de rigeur treacherous housekeeper all wrapped up in a brooding Cornish mansion right out of Agatha Christie. One of the best I’ve read this year. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: May 29, 2018
Published By: Simon & Schuster/Gallery/Scout Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Micro-Reviews


Philosophers FlightThe Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller – Imagine a world where the patriarchy is flipped. Where women who have unusual skills (think those traditionally associated with “witches” like flying, healing, and magic) have shaped the world and women have the power. Now imagine that the son of one of the most decorated “Philosophers” wants to join what seems to be the equivalent of the Air Force, but to do so he must graduate from the Philosopher program at Radcliffe, where he one of only 3 men. At the same time, the Philosophers are threatened by the “Trenchers” who believe the skills possessed by the Philosophers are evil.

And that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Miller has built a world that is at once familiar and topsy-turvy, and made that world a whole lot of fun. There’s unbounded humor and imagination here along with plenty of breathtaking excitement. Highly recommended.

Edna LewisEdna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original – If you pick up this book expecting it to be a cookbook, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re looking for a highly readable collection of essays about a remarkable woman, this is your book.

Yes, there are some recipes, but they are superfluous to the story told here. Edna Lewis is the star, and food her supporting actors. This collection of essays and reminiscences about Lewis, who passed away in 2006 after decades of holding court as the Queen of Southern Cooking, is a beautiful testament to a woman who successfully introduced real Southern Cooking to the masses. Cooking in a time when food was “complicated,” Lewis made her mark and built her audience by staying true to simple recipes using the freshest ingredients. Along the way, she influenced countless chefs and cooks. This book collects their stories, each one unique and interesting. Recommended for curious cooks.

Well Timed MurderA Well-Timed Murder by Tracee de Hahn – I stumbled upon de Hahn’s first Agnes Luthi book, Swiss Vendetta, quite by accident while browsing in a book store one day. I took it over to a comfortable chair to read a few pages and was hooked after the first chapter. I’ve waited for this, her second in the series, with much anticipation and I was not disappointed.

Agnes returns with the same quiet, sturdy, wry spirit, despite the injuries she sustained at the end of Swiss Vendetta. We learn more about Agnes and her family here, as well as about Julian Vallotton, as the two investigate the death of a master watchmaker. I have a fondness for mysteries that include well-researched information about unusual topics; in this case, de Hahn delivers some fascinating information about the Swiss and international watch industry.

The author skillfully develops key characters, and crafts a tricky and surprising plot which fully engages the reader. Tracee de Hahn is quickly becoming a new favorite author and Agnes Luthi a favorite character. Highly recommended.

March Micro-Reviews


B3E3A2C5-0519-43D8-B4ED-A873A61490E8The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

This has to be one of the cleverest stories I’ve read in years. It’s a little slow to start, but once it takes off, it’s OFF! Imagine you wake up in someone else’s body and discover you are trapped into living the same day over for 8 days and in 8 different bodies until you can solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. If you can’t solve it in 8 days, you’re doomed to live those 8 days over and over. The deft writing and imaginative, complicated plot make this a surefire hit with those who enjoy a little challenge with their mystery. Ultimately, the plot reminded me of Dante’s Circles of Hell. Blackheath would be one of them.

It’s scheduled for U.S. release in September 2018. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced copy

17D05D96-42C4-4068-8FE4-DC6128B070FEThe Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Cornick has delivered another fascinating blend of history, mystery, romance, and time-travel, this time bridging the present time to Elizabethan England. As usual, her research lends an accurate-as-possible element to the story upon which she builds a multi-layered, human-centered tale that captivates the reader straight through. Cornick has a knack for bringing historical characters to life and imagining their daily lives – their routines, their friendships and rivalries, their heartbreak. This story especially brought attention to the restrictive lives led by women, who were less than nothing in the hierarchy of family, friends, and society, which makes this an excellent selection for book clubs. Recommended.

Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Publisher: Graydon House
Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy

660FA8CC-E23D-422E-832D-E1668457F7B5Voices From the Rust Belt by Anne Trubek

Having lived most of my life on the edge of what this book calls the “Rust Belt,” I found these stories at once poignant, heartbreaking, hopeful, and personal. The disappearance of well-paying manufacturing jobs has decimated once thriving cities, towns, and villages and scarred generations of men and women who thought they could achieve the American Dream by working hard and staying loyal. They were wrong. Anne Trubek has done a masterful job of giving voice to people who lost their voices when they were sold out by Big Business and, in my husband’s case, Unions. This was a hard book to read because so many of these stories are similar to those of my family and friends. Recommended.

Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Picador
Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy