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


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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

 

January Micro-Reviews


956CB410-2B16-4E46-A846-46296A0499F1The Black Painting by Neil Olson – Can paintings be possessed? The family at the center of this story thinks so. They’ve been haunted by a Goya painting for years, and blame it for the horrible things that have happened in their lives. Goya’s work *is* startling in its rawness (Saturn Devouring His Son is pictured here) but it’s the evil perpetrated by the living that startles me the most. Good book….

Published by Harlequin/Hanover Square, January 2018. Mysteries & Thrillers. Literary Fiction.

93103035-7177-40E3-B1F7-E4CFC9654173Magical Match by Juliet Blackwell – Juliet Blackwell’s Lily Ivory is back in another delightfully witchy adventure, along with all the colorful characters we have come to expect from this series. Blackwell’s breezy, engaging writing and twisted, intriguing plotting create the atmosphere fans have fallen in love with in previous entries. Here, we learn more about Lily’s past, get to meet her amazing grandmother, and wring our hands over her “will they/won’t they” relationship with Sailor. If you haven’t read the Lily Ivory books, get them all out of the library and binge-read them on a cold, snowy day. It will be the best day of the year, I bet! Highly recommended.

Published by Berkley, May 2018. Mysteries & Thrillers.

90FCB44E-B2B9-47F5-ADF1-5706EF2330E3Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle – Tuttle offers a new adventure featuring Jesperson & Lane, the crackerjack investigation team that includes a well-heeled young man and an outspoken young woman. They are dropped headfirst into their new case when a man pounds on their door in the middle of the night, proclaims he is pursued by witches, and drops dead in their front hall. Their investigation takes them from London to the country, where they encounter an unusual collection of “cunning” men and women, pious preachers, curious scholars, and even “little people.”

While the plot is interesting, with a variety of twists & turns, it’s bloated. A bit more than halfway through, I found myself losing interest. Jesperson’s annoying habit of assuming Lane knows what he’s thinking, causing her to drag every bit of information out of him got old really fast. They never seemed to click for me as a pair of investigators, or as a couple, or whatever they are supposed to be to each other. I did enjoy Miss Lane’s character, however. She reminded me of a young Amelia Peabody. While this is far from the worst thing I’ve read lately, it’s also not nearly the best. The text needs editing, and I found the whole subplot around the stolen baby to be completely unnecessary. I will probably pick up another in this series when looking for a quick, easy read, just to see if Jesperson & Lane find success in their investigative business.

Published by Random House-Hydra, October 2017. Mysteries & Thrillers; Sci-Fi & Fantasy

6A72661D-37B9-4BB6-B5E5-643A21EBBD59Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano – This is a pleasant enough story. The lead character, Aurelie, is likable and plucky, the “leading man” is mysterious but kind-hearted, and the relatives are appropriately boorish. The basic story is familiar – disadvantaged girl gets shipped off to unknown wealthy relatives after father’s death, meets handsome but mysterious man, uncovers devastating family secret – all in a grand manor house in the English countryside. What makes this stand out is the action around Aurelie becoming a writer, which is wonderful. What made this less enjoyable for me was the heavy-handed religious overtones, making this highly reminiscent of 19th century gothic romance pedantic style. All in all, a pleasant enough story but not one that I will remember.

Published by Revell, October 2017. Historical fiction.

F097E807-9118-49E4-9788-ECF16AF22F57Ludlow Lost by Kate Robinson Dunne – What a refreshing change! A book about fairies that isn’t dripping with with wide-eyed sweetness! Ludlow and Harry make a dynamic duo for the ages. Their unexpected (and unwanted) friendship becomes the anchor in this witty tale of kidnapping, betrayal, and revenge. I was reminded a bit of the Artemis Fowl books, but just a bit. This is new, fresh, and just plain fun.

Published by Two Pigeons Press, March 2018. Middle grade fantasy.

3B06A232-5038-4D11-8FF4-E44BB31AE3FABook of Pearl by Timothee de Fombelle – I’m sorry to say, I did not get past the second chapter of this confusing, muddled story. The description intrigued me, but the two opening chapters were so unconnected and rambling that I could not connect. This is a translation of a French book that has received high praise, and Goodreads reviews are mixed.

Published by Candlewick Press, February 2018. YA fantasy.

Thanks to NetGalley for review copies of all these titles.

Micro-Reviews, December


I’ve been reading a lot, but not finding much time to write full-on reviews. So, here are some micro-reviews, all for books that are either just published, or coming out in the next few months.

8703F7E4-AA98-463F-9179-F2CB1EB0CEA1Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins – New fantasy series get started all the time; some are better than others. This one, my friends, is going to be EPIC! There is nothing here not to love, from the gorgeous cover to the big, fat, luscious story that features women in non-traditional roles (well, at least one of them!) The power held by the women in this story is remarkable, even if some of the characters aren’t always likable. Bluebell is a character to remember. Is there anyone like her in literature today (I haven’t read Game of Thrones, so maybe there is…). Even so, she is the alpha and omega here, the male and female, hero and antihero, and oh, how I love her! Highly recommended.
Publication Date: March 2018

 

2A530BA3-E296-46CF-A7B5-6FF5B4FD18BBChord of Evil by Sarah Rayne – Sarah Rayne has become a go-to author for me – I eagerly read anything she writes, and I constantly recommend her to people in the library and friends in my Reader world. Rayne has a remarkable ability to weave history, horror, mystery, and a little bit of romance into can’t-put-it-down books. She succeeds again with Chord of Evil, the second in her Phineas Fox series. Not every author can pull off a parallel narrative with one set of characters in the present day and another in the past. Rayne has mastered this technique in previous books, and uses it again here as we learn the present day story and how it entwines with the past. If I have one issue with this book, it’s Phin’s reaction to actually meeting the fabulous Arabella in person. He’s disappointed? Are you freaking kidding me? At that moment, Phin is pretty much a jerk, but he comes around. Despite this one issue, this is a winner.
Publication Date: December 2017

72ADCE41-784A-46A7-BC38-AE7768839B2EThe Darkling Bride by Laura Anderson – This transported me back to the 1970s, when I would spend hours browsing the Gothics section of bookstore and library shelves. Everything I loved about Gothics is here – the spunky heroine with a tragedy in her past, the brooding but ridiculously handsome “lord of the manor,” his disagreeable sibling, and the forbidding matriarch – all squished up together in a remote castle or manor with a mystery and maybe a few ghosts. If you love Irish folklore, you will love this book. The story here is original and well developed, the characters appealing, and the outcome satisfying. I had a hard time putting this one down. Recommended for lovers of mysteries & family drama, and for the YA audience.
Publication Date: March 2018

400E1E62-1235-4258-B8FD-77893114B8EADemon Crown by James Rollins – James Rollins delivers another pulse-pounding, action-packed, roller-coaster ride of a story. Once again, we’re dropped down into the world of Sigma Force, and are carried along with the action as Gray and the team race against time to stop a deadly enemy from ending the world. There’s no question about Rollins’ writing ability. He *knows* how to write in a way that grips you by the throat and doesn’t let you go until the very last moment, when you need to breathe more than anything in the world. And that definitely happened here. I’m still having dreams about those effing bees! There are a lot of authors writing action-adventure like Rollins, but where he draws ahead of the pack is in his ability to weave non-fiction elements into whatever global disaster he’s cooked up. In Demon Crown, we learn about bees, a little bit about Imperial Japan, and about amber. Pair that with likable, kickass characters, and there’s no way this one won’t shoot to the top of the charts. Highly recommended.
Publication Date: December 2017