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

 

 

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

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CE60DF93-14E4-472B-9DBA-F9CA6948A502My introduction to Greek history and mythology happened in 4th grade, and I was immediately hooked on the stories of gods and heroes. I clearly remember borrowing D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths from the library over and over, reading about Ariadne, Theseus, Hercules, Jason, and Athena. Then I discovered The Odyssey a few years later and was entranced by Polyphemus the Cyclops, the Sirens, Calypso, and Circe, Witch of Aiaia.

While I can’t say Circe was a favorite character in my adolescent myth reading, she has been mentioned in some books I’ve read over the years as the “source of power” in lines of women who practice the healing arts, so I was intrigued when I heard about this book.

Miller presents Circe as a complicated character here, a lesser god by birth – daughter of the Titan Helios and the nymph Perse – but the object of ridicule and subject to what can only be described as low self-esteem. She lives in hope of being noticed and praised by her father and craves basic kindness and love, but at the same time refuses to be cowed by the cruelty shown by her brothers and sister.

In her quest for love, she concocts a potion using flowers born from the blood of gods to turn a human into his true, godly self. Unfortunately, once he becomes a god, he does not choose Circe for his mate. Consumed with jealousy, she brews more of the potion and succeeds in turning the object of his affection into the monstrous Scylla.

As punishment for this act, Circe is banished to the island of Aiaia for all eternity. Her use of a potion to create a monster is feared by the gods, who foresee that “witchcraft” can harm them. On the island, Circe makes a home for herself among the wild animals, teaching herself about herbs and witchcraft. Centuries pass, and Circe learns more and more about mortals and gods, until she meets Odysseus who transfixes her with his stories and adventures. Circe’s relationship with Odysseus comes full circle when his wife and son, Penelope and Telemachus, arrive on Aiaia, forcing Circe to examine her own life and consider her future.

The most striking thing about this story is the humanness of Circe and how the self-centered ways of the gods are misguided, dangerous, and hurtful. She is let down again and again by her father, her uncles and grandmothers, her brother, her sister, Odysseus, and, finally, by her son but she still is willing to offer second (and third and fourth) chances for people to be good to her.

Admittedly, her willingness to let people take advantage of her or treat her badly can wear on the reader, but her final confrontation with her father makes it all worthwhile. Circe’s weakness, in the eyes of the gods, is that she loves too much and she wants to be loved in return. By the end of the book, she has stopped apologizing for that and embraced that as a strength.

Miller’s writing is engaging and lyrical. She is true to the Greek myths and epics, and sprinkles heroes and gods like salt throughout the story. It’s refreshing to examine the Greek myths from a woman’s point of view, and Miller is not always kind to our male heroes. Theseus and Jason fare particularly badly at her hands.

This would make a really interesting “buddy read” with The Odyssey. It would certainly spark some lively discussion about the roles and situations of women in history. I can’t decide if it’s empowering or infuriating to read about a female “god” who is treated badly because she’s not beautiful or clever. At its core, Circe is about a woman finding her own power and taking control of her own life, which is what makes this such a satisfying read.

Highly recommended.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

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37756654Read, remember, think.” These three words capture the very basic premise of Kate Morton’s newest story, and are especially important to two of our protagonists – Elodie the archivist and Lucy the Reader/Teacher/Collector/Thinker. The reading, remembering, and thinking these two do throughout this enchanting story are the Yin to the Yang of Birdie, the Clockmaker’s Daughter who narrates much of the story.

Morton is especially adept at time slip stories that feature multiple voices which, in less capable hands, can muddle the story. Here she tells the story of a fateful summer month in 1862 which touched multiple lives over the next 150 years, eventually coming to light at the hands of a 21st century archivist enchanted by a photo of an enigmatic beauty and a sketch of a house that she knows from a childhood story. That archivist, Elodie, is one of several narrators. Others include Birdie, the titular “Clockmaker’s Daughter” who truly is the heart of the story; Lucy, witness to the tragic events of 1862; Juliet, a journalist and young mother widowed during World War II; Leonard, a soldier haunted by war who first gives voice to Birdie; and Ada, a fiery young girl who will not give in to bullying. Morton swirls all of these voices together into a whirlpool of laughter, love, deception, and betrayal all centering on the house, Birchwood Manor.

It is Birchwood Manor that gathers the multiple story strands, beginning with the fateful summer of 1862 when artist Edward Radcliffe assembled a group of artists known as The Magenta Brotherhood to spend a glorious month creating art at the remote manor house.    In attendance is Radcliffe’s muse and model, with whom he intends to run away to America and marry. Over the course of a few hours, all their plans unravel, leaving one woman dead and another disappeared. The events of that day carry forward through generations, until Elodie discovers the photo of Birdie/Lily and Edward’s sketchbook, leading her to unravel the story.

Morton has a knack for bringing her characters to life, developing them in such a way that the reader laughs, cries, sighs, and grumbles through the story, feeling the feelings as deeply as the characters themselves. All of Morton’s books contains characters and stories like that, and she succeeds again here, building a story that you will remember for a long time.

My only complaint Here, and it’s a small one, happens midway through, when we get to a jarring, climactic scene with Ada which is never fully resolved or explained, at least not to my satisfaction. Despite this one issue, I found The Clockmaker’s Daughter to be just as lovely as Morton’s earlier work and highly recommend it.

Publication Date: September 9, 2018
Publisher: Atria Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Author Spotlight – Kate Morton


mortonDo you like secrets? Author Kate Morton is a master at telling tales that revolve around secrets. I found my way to Morton’s work with her second novel, The Forgotten Garden, which is one of those books that just transfixes you and everything else fades to gray while you read. After that, I went back and read her debut, The House at Riverton, and was just as enthralled; that experience has been repeated with each new book she’s published. Morton is set to publish her sixth book this year – September/October in Australia & New Zealand, and October in the U.S. I just got my hands on an advanced reading copy of that new book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, and thought I’d share my fondness for the author here.

On her website, Morton writes:

“I started writing because I wanted to recapture the joy of reading as a child. As soon as I learned that the black marks on white pages were doorways, and that it was within my power to go through them (and the back of a wardrobe) whenever I chose to, I was hooked. I read everything that I could get my hands on and could usually be found hiding in the bough of one of the avocado trees in our garden, book in hand. I’m still chasing that feeling of complete immersion, which makes the real world disappear.”

It seems Morton’s reading experiences as a child have informed her writing as an adult, given the addictive nature of her books. Storytelling is an art, and Kate Morton’s work is a masterful example of the art form at its best. Much of her work reminds me, in its basest form, of the Gothic novels I read when I was a child – Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, for example – but Morton has taken the form to a new level. Her stories are typically told across time and in multiple voices, with meticulously researched history, and memorable character development. I encourage you to add one of Morton’s books to your summer reading list.

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The House at Riverton – Fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy this debut novel set in England after the First World War. The “war to end all wars” signaled a major change in the lives of England’s aristocracy, and Morton chronicles the trials and tribulations of one family buffeted and bound by secrets, tragedy, and misunderstanding.

 

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The Forgotten Garden – The first Morton book that hooked me on the author. A young woman comes into an unexpected and shocking inheritance from her beloved grandmother, and travels across the world to discover long-buried secrets that will change her life forever.

 

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The Distant Hours – A compelling story featuring a decaying manor in the English countryside, the trio of odd sisters who live there, and (of course) secrets from the past better left buried. This includes a fascinating look into the era when children were sent to the country from London to keep them safe from bombings during World War II.

 

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The Secret Keeper
– A young girl witness an unexplained act of violence involving her mother, which becomes a distant memory as she grows up. As an adult, that memory begins to haunt her as the family celebrates her mother’s 90th birthday.

 

 
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The Lake House
– Heartbreak and tragedy destroy a family in the early 1930s, then 70 years later, a burned out police inspector on a forced holiday picks up on a cold case and re-opens old wounds.

 

 

37756654
The Clockmaker’s Daughter
– Scheduled for publication in the U.S. in October 2018. Murder, intrigue, art, tragedy – all these things coalesce during a heady summer in 1862, observed by the clockmaker’s daughter, whose voice carries over the decades to be heard once again by an archivist.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

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silverThere are dozens of books out there that re-work traditional fairy and folk tales, but few take the kernel of the story and pop it into something completely different. Novik has done that here and produced what will surely be the hit of the summer with fans of fantasy and fairytales.

She has taken the bones from multiple folk and fairy tales and built them into a wholly original and compelling story that is told from several perspectives. Typically in a story with so many protagonists, a couple of them suffer from poor characterization and neglect. No so here. Every character has a role to play, whether it’s our “Queens” Mirayem and Irina, or little Stepon or old Magreta, they all provide the threads that Novik weaves into a luscious, fascinating tapestry of a story.

The base story of Rumpelstiltskin where a maiden must turn straw (in this case, silver) to gold is the foundation of the tale, but Novik weaves in elements of European folktales all over the place: the mountain of glass, the never-ending battle between fire and ice/summer and winter, even the “moneylender” from Shakespeare has a role. Oddly enough, the archetype that kept coming to mind towards the end was of the holiday cartoon characters Heat Miser and Cold Miser, but Novik’s characters are definitely *not* cartoony! The last few chapters could have been that cartoon reworked as an action/adventure movie.

It is the women in this story, though, that you will remember. Mirayem. Irina. Wanda. Magreta. You will cheer them on and take comfort in their strength and cleverness, and you will remember them long after you have finished the book.

While the story is remarkable, this is a loooonnngggg book.  Around 80% through, I admit I started skimming through to the end. Some of the build up to Mirayem’s turning the massive amounts of silver to gold could be trimmed, as could some parts of the early and later chapters. The real action happens in the last quarter, which is where I started to get impatient with the pace of the story. However, story always wins, so this is sure to be on all the “Best of” lists for 2018. Very well done and recommended.

Keep the Midnight Out by Alex Gray

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On Tour May 7 – June 8, 2018

 

Synopsis:

Keep the Midnight by Alex Gray

When the body of a red-haired young man is washed up on the shore of the beautiful Isle of Mull, Detective Superintendent Lorimer’s tranquil holiday away from the gritty streets of Glasgow is rudely interrupted. The body has been bound with twine in a ghoulishly unnatural position and strongly reminds Lorimer of another murder: a twenty year old Glasgow case that he failed to solve as a newly fledged detective constable and which has haunted him ever since.

As local cop DI Stevie Crozier takes charge of the island murder investigation, Lorimer tries to avoid stepping on her toes. But as the similarities between the young man’s death and his cold case grow more obvious, Lorimer realises that there could be a serial killer on the loose after all these years. As the action switches dramatically between the Mull murder and the Glasgow cold case twenty years earlier, Lorimer tries desperately to catch a cold-hearted killer. Has someone got away with murder for decades?

This is the second DS Lorimer novel I’ve read recently and found it just as compelling and clever as the first. In this, we learn more about Lorimer’s early days as Glasgow police and the early, tragic days of his marriage. Gray does a fine job of filling out the reader’s view of Lorimer and his wife, and handles the heartbreak of lost babies and infertility with sensitivity. The mystery is well-plotted and paced, and thoroughly engaging. Recommended.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Witness Impulse

Publication Date: May 8th 2018

Number of Pages: 368

ISBN: 9780062659286

Series: A DCI Lorimer Novel, #12 (Stand Alone)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble; | HarperCollins | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

They called it ‘the splash’; though the boat that crept silently, oars dipping lightly in and out of the water creating myriad bubbles of phosphorescence, made little sound at all. It was vital to keep quiet; the time for frightening the fish would not come until the net was properly laid across the mouth of the burn. After that the oars would be raised high and brought down with force, driving the sea trout from their shadowy lairs straight into the trap. It was illegal, of course, had been for decades, but that did not stop more intrepid poachers sneaking in at dead of night and lying in wait for the fish.

Unfair, unsporting, the fishery bodies claimed, though most folk here, on the island of Mull, recognised the thrill of rowing under the stars and risking some wrath from the law enforcers.

Ewan Angus Munro glanced back over his shoulder to see his son playing out the last of the splash net; the ancient cork floats now in a perfect arc across this narrow neck of water.

Young Ewan looked towards his father and nodded; the first part of the deed was done and now all that remained was to ensure that the fish would be scared out from their hiding places by the sudden noise of oars thrashing on the surface so that they would rush towards the net.

The old man turned the boat with an expertise that came from many years of practice, then headed back towards the shallow channel. He raised the oars, resting them in the rowlocks, water dripping like molten rain from their blades. The small craft was allowed to drift a little before Ewan Angus turned to his son again, the eye contact and nod a definite signal to begin the second stage of their night’s work.

Young Ewan Angus stood, legs apart, perfectly balanced in the centre of the boat, one oar raised high above his shoulder as the older man watched him, eyes full of approval. The boy had been given more than just his father’s names: his flair for the splash, too, had been passed down from father to son.

Across the marshy strand full of bog cotton and sweet-smelling myrtle sat a small white cottage. A swift glance showed him that there was no light on anywhere; the holiday folk were doubtless sound asleep, oblivious to the small drama being played out yards from their front door.

The sound of the splash seemed magnified as it disrupted the stillness, echoing over the bay. The young man heaved the oar again and again, each whack making his body stiffen with fear and a sort of bravado. If they were caught they’d lose both the net and the boat, a heavy price to pay for a night of fun and a good catch of sea trout, fish that fetched a decent price at the back doors of the best hotel kitchens.

Several times the boat was rowed up and down, followed by a series of splashes until the old man raised his callused hand to call a halt. Now it was time to wait and see if the fish had indeed been scared witless enough to swim towards their doom.

Once more the old man rowed along the line of corks, his son lifting the net to see if anything lingered below.

‘A beauty,’ the boy whispered, raising the net to reveal a good-sized sea trout struggling in the brown mesh.

‘Ten pounder at least!’ he went on, freeing the huge fish where its gills had caught and hurling it into a wooden box below his feet.

‘Be-wheesht and get the net up,’ his father hissed, though the grin on his face showed how pleased he was with their first catch of the night. The old man bent towards the struggling fish, his fist around the priest, a wooden club that had been in the family for generations. One swift blow and the fish lay lifeless in the box, its silvery scales gleaming in the night.

One by one, others joined the fated sea trout as the two men made their laborious way along the edge of the net.

‘My, a grand haul, the night, Faither,’ Young Ewan Angus exclaimed, his voice still hushed for fear of any sound carrying over the water.

‘Aye, no’ bad,’ his father agreed, a contented smile on his face. One of the middling fish would be wrapped in layers of bracken and left in the porch of Calum Mhor, the police sergeant. A wee thank you for turning his continual blind eye to the nocturnal activities taking place down the road from Craignure. Mrs Calum had guests staying and she’d be fair pleased to serve them a fresh sea trout for their dinner. It was universally acknowledged here on the island that the pink fish was far superior in flavour to the coarser salmon, particularly those that had been farmed.

‘My, here’s a big one!’

The young man staggered as he tried to haul in the final part of the splash net. ‘I can hardly lift it!’ he exclaimed.

‘Must be caught on a rock,’ the old man grumbled, his mouth twisting in a moue of disgust. If they had to tear the net to release it then it would take hours of work to mend, but the operation depended on being in and out of these waters as quickly as they could manage. Hanging about was not an option in case the Men from the Revenue had decided on a little night-time excursion of their own.

Suddenly the young man bent down in the boat, hands gripping the gunwales as he peered into the depths below.

His brow furrowed at the rounded mass swaying beneath the surface, rags of bladderwrack shifting back and forwards with the motion of the waves. Then, as his eyes focused on the ascending shape, Ewan Angus Munro saw pale tendrils that had once been fingers of flesh and one thin arm floating upwards.

He screamed, and covered his mouth as the sickness rose in his throat, then stumbled backwards. The boy flung out his arms, desperate to grasp hold of something solid to break his fall but all he felt under his hands were the wet bodies of slithering fish.

‘What the . ⁠. ⁠. ⁠?’ Ewan Angus turned, an oath dying on his lips as the boat rocked violently, small waves dashing over the bow.

Wordlessly, his son pointed to the waters below. Then, as the old man peered over the side of the boat, he saw the body rising to the surface, its passage out to sea impeded by their net.

***

Excerpt from Keep the Midnight Out by Alex Gray. Copyright © 2018 by Alex Gray. Reprinted by permission of Witness Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Alex Gray

Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the Department of Health, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English.

Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles, and commissions for BBC radio programs. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.

A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, she is the author of thirteen DCI Lorimer novels. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.

Catch Up With Alex Gray On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, & Twitter 🔗!

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alex Gray and Witness Impulse. There will be 3 winners of one (1) print copy of Alex Gray’s THE SILENT GAMES. The giveaway begins on May 7, 2018 and runs through June 10, 2018. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

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The Great American Read…Or Not


EAC32B51-3A10-4BFE-8B22-C370ED286BC5A couple weeks ago, I posted here about the just-released list of 100 books that comprise “The Great American Read,” a new series on PBS that will examine the books that supposedly define America.

Since that list came out, there has been considerable buzz online and in real life about what’s included. The discussions I’ve heard personally have included:

  • “Fifty Shades of Grey?” You have GOT to be kidding! (I’ve heard this one consistently from all my reader friends.)
  • There aren’t enough women.
  • There aren’t enough People of Color.
  • There are too many kids books.
  • There aren’t enough kids books.
  • “I thought this was just American authors!”
  • There isn’t enough diversity – “America is the original Melting Pot, right?”
  • “These are all the books you’re supposed to read in school but instead get by with Spark Notes.”
  • “I lost all respect for this list when I saw the Left-Behind series included.”

While the list isn’t perfect by any means, I think it has already started what PBS hoped for – intense discussion about books and stories, about how reading has changed our lives. And that’s a good thing.

People are thinking deeply about this from all perspectives – how they love or hate some of the titles included, what books they’d recommend instead of the ones on the list, which authors deserve a second look, and so on.

I’ve seen some good alternate lists pop up in my news feeds that have served to plump up my TBR (To Be Read) list. For example, this one shared by Tate DeCaro today – Twenty-One Books You Don’t Have to Read contains some really fascinating suggestions to the books “everyone has read.”

You might not be impressed with The Great American Read list, and that’s just fine. It means you have an opinion about books and reading and you’re talking about it. And that is never a bad thing!

Reader Profile – Bob Scheffel

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5A88318B-204C-486D-8011-ACF5C9543FCA

Bob Scheffel has worked in just about every department in the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County for over 36 years; he currently works in the Reynolds Media Center happily selecting movies and music. He also was the host of the Spotlight Review on WBER 90.5 from 1989 to 2017, and still maintains its Facebook page as a musical diary. He lives in Spencerport with his patient wife, stepson, two cats, and a ridiculous amount of books.

Write a one-sentence description of yourself as a Reader – 

I tend to read “hyperlinked.” An author I admire will write an intro to an autobiography which will lead me to that author’s poetry which will lead me to his influences which will….and so on down the rabbit hole.

What are you reading right now?

These are circling the end of the couch at the moment:

The desert island question – What 5 books would you have to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

  1. The Bible (King James or earlier)
  2. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  3. John Crowley – Little, Big
  4. Ursula LeGuin – The Books of Earthsea (omnibus coming in October as she preferred)
  5. Either Moby Dick or Paradise Lost, two I haven’t read but hope to get thoroughly immersed in endlessly

Are you a finisher? In other words, are you compelled to finish a book even if you hate it? What are some books that you’ve had to force yourself to finish, or which you’ve bailed on?  

A cliché: “life is too short to read shitty books.” This will probably earn me a boo, but I never finished the first Harry Potter book.

Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not? 

Absolutely no, it’s all about the surprise. I even avoid flap copy.

What is at the top of your To Be Read pile?

Leslie Jamison – The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath

Who is your go-to author when someone asks you for a recommendation?

For non-fiction, Greil Marcus. For fiction, Kelly Link. Both unique voices.

Is there a genre or type that you are over and wish would just go away?

The endless series: when I look at the list of new books in Locus and see “third in the series” or “sequel to”, my chest tightens up and my eyes glaze over.

Describe your favorite place to read.

In bed,  next to my wife,  during a thunderstorm. That said, I remember with fondness a tree on Cobbs Hill…

What is your preferred format? Hardcover, paperback, digital, audio, doesn’t matter?

Hardcover all the way, paperback for convenience, and the rest absolutely only if no other format exists (or a Kindle version is staggeringly cheaper).

If you were to get a bookish tattoo, what would it be?

No tattoos, please. Needles are involved.

Share a favorite quote from a book you’ve read. Why is it meaningful to you?

John Crowley — ‘The further in you go, the bigger it gets.’ From Little, Big.  Just like a book.

What book are you recommending that everyone read right now?

Every year since 1979, I send my friend Patty in Buffalo a book for her birthday. This year it was John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester.

Is there a book you feel is highly overrated?

See my answer to not finishing books above.

Are there any  books that marked milestones in your life?

Crowley’s Little, Big and LeGuin’s Earthsea, both books that showed me the perfection that fantasy literature can be.

Why do you read?

I am a book reader and a book collector. There is no twelve-step.

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

 

 

 

 

White Witch by Larry Thompson

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White Witch by Larry D Thompson Tour Banner

White Witch

by Larry D Thompson

on Tour March 5 – May 5, 2018

Synopsis:

White Witch by Larry D Thompson

When a ruthless American aluminum company plans to strip mine the Jamaican rainforest, they send former Navy SEAL Will Taylor to Montego Bay to deal with local resistance. But he’s unaware that the British had signed a treaty deeding it to the Jamaican Maroons, descendants of escaped slaves, over 300 years ago. The Maroons fought and died for their land then, and are willing to do so now. Upon Will’s arrival, a series of inexplicable murders begin, some carried out with deadly snake daggers that were owned and used by Annie Palmer, a voodoo priestess better known as the White Witch. She was killed 200 years prior, but is said to still haunt the island.

Forced into the middle of it, Will is finally convinced to join the Maroons, headed by Vertise Broderick, a Maroon who resigned from the New York Times to return to Jamaica to save the rainforest. To stop the mining, they hire a Jamaican attorney to prove that the Maroon/British treaty is still valid, and they take it upon themselves to solve the White Witch murders, because the legend of the White Witch can’t possibly be true…

 

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller

Published by: Story Merchant Press

Publication Date: March 5, 2018

Number of Pages: 307

ISBN: 978-0-991621-5-6

Don’t forget to get your copy of White Witch from Amazon, Barnes & Noble & add it to your Goodreads List!!

 

Read an excerpt:

from Chapter 19…

When Will got to Rose Hall, he turned onto the road they had just come down the evening before. At the top of the hill he could see the mansion, now well lighted. He dodged tree limbs and utility wires and parked among several other vehicles. Police cars were positioned so that their headlights focused on the steps of the mansion where Will could see the yellow police crime scene tape. He
walked up a path from the parking lot between the police cars that faced the mansion to the yellow tape where an officer stood watch. The officer came to attention as Will approached.

“Sorry, mon. I can’t let you past here. We’re investigating a murder.”

Will kept his voice even but controlling. “I know, officer. That’s why I’m here. Name’s William Taylor. I’m head of security for Global American Metals.

Here’s my identification.” Will tried to hand him an ID. The officer just shook his head. “Officer, the dead man is one of Global’s employees. Can you get someone in authority to let me up there?”

Before the officer could reply, Miles Harper, the St. James Parish Chief of Detectives, approached. Harper was a lean, fit man with a shaved head and a nononsense manner. He was dressed in a brown suit, yellow shirt, and matching tie. He looked like he just stepped out of GQ Magazine, even at three in the morning.

“Mr. Taylor, I’m Miles Harper, Chief of Detectives in this parish. I was told by your company to expect you.”

Will extended his right hand. Harper ignored it. Instead, he nodded at the officer and motioned for Will to follow him. Harper went up a dozen steps and turned to Will as he stood beside Kaven’s body, sprawled on his back with a dagger in his chest. Will bent over for a closer look and found that the handle of the dagger was in the shape of a snake. At the top of the handle was the snake’s head. The snake’s eyes were two bright rubies.

“Shit,” Will muttered, “He was almost killed because of one snake on the road today and now someone finished the job with a, what would you call this, a snake dagger?”

“That’s as good a name as any, Mr. Taylor. My officers reported what went on up in Accompong and the incident with the boa.”

Will continued to study the body. “Looks like he’s been dead a couple of hours. I last saw him about ten last night. Who found him?”

“The hotel has a security guard that roams the mansion grounds and up to the club house in a golf cart. He spotted the body.”

“Where’s your coroner?”

“He’s a local Justice of the Peace, not a medical doctor. He won’t set foot on these steps until morning. My men here won’t go past the tape either. They believe the White Witch did it.”

Will shook his head in disbelief. “Come on, Chief, this is the twenty-first century.”

“Old beliefs die hard, Mr. Taylor. Come on. Let me show you something.”

Harper stepped around the body and climbed the steps with Will behind him. Entering the ballroom, Will said, “I was just in this room yesterday evening during the storm.”

Harper turned to study Will. “Would you care to explain?”

Will covered the details of the previous day and their time in the mansion while they waited out the storm. “You know a woman named Vertise?”

Harper nodded his head. “She’s a local. Works for the paper and tends bar for the hotel. Since you were in this room a few hours ago, come over here.”

Harper led Will to a glass display against one wall with pictures of two snake daggers above it along with the history of the daggers. The glass had been broken and the daggers were gone.

“You see this case when you were up here?”

Will studied it and thought back to the day before. “Can’t say I did, Chief.

It was pretty dark in here, lit only by candles since the storm knocked out power. I wandered around the room but never glanced toward this case. And I don’t believe anyone else mentioned it. Now that I think about it, Vertise told us the legend of Annie Palmer and her using a snake dagger to kill an overseer.

Surprising that she didn’t show us these daggers when she was telling the story.”

“Interesting,” mused Harper. “You have any idea why your man would come up here in the middle of the night?”

“Not a clue. Have you checked his cell phone? He always carried it.”

“Yeah. The last calls were with you yesterday afternoon and one with Ms. Pritchard later in the evening.”

Will nodded. “He called me from Accompong, warning me of trouble up there. I should have gone with him.”

Harper shook his head. “Whether you were there or not wouldn’t have made any difference. Just would have been one more person that was in my police car that rolled, assuming, of course, you didn’t take a bullet up on the mountain.”

“Understood.”

“How did you get in the mansion?”

“Vertise said she knew where a key was hidden and let us in.”

“Strange that she could get into the locked mansion. It was my understanding that only the manager of Rose Hall had a key. He locked it and left when the storm was hitting. The hotel spent a fortune on period pieces to recreate how it looked two hundred years ago. One of his jobs is to make sure they are not stolen.”

“Any signs of a break-in?” Will asked.

“This is not for publication, you understand, but when I got here the mansion was locked and the lights were off.”

“So, you’re saying that someone got into the mansion, stole two daggers, let themselves back out, killed Kaven, and left no trace.” Will paused to absorb all that he had just said. “Wait a minute. If someone wanted to kill Kaven, why not just use a gun? Why go to all the trouble of getting that dagger to do it?”

“I’ve been wrestling with that very question,” Harper said. “It’s illegal for a private citizen to own a gun in Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean they are not available if you know the right people. My working hypothesis is that the killer or killers wanted the public to think voodoo was involved, or maybe even the White Witch. The only other possibility that comes to mind is that the Maroons are trying to send a message to Global. They tried to kill Tillman in Accompong and failed. Maybe the message is that they finish what they start. Either way, someone is trying to make trouble for your company. I have another problem that may not be apparent.”

Will looked quizzically at the detective.

“As you can see, there were two snake daggers in this case. One’s accounted for out on the steps. The other is gone. Nearly everyone around here thinks that they are voodoo daggers with magical powers. They were found in an overseer’s grave during the restoration of the mansion thirty years ago.”

“Does ‘everyone’ include you? Looks to me like the killer or killers are just trying to mess with the minds of my co-workers, maybe keep some locals from hiring on with us.”

Harper stuck his hands in his pockets. “Not up to me to decide if they’re magic or not. I’ve got a murder with one of those daggers. My job is to solve the murder and along the way, find that other dagger before someone uses it.”

Will’s eyes searched the room in a futile effort to see any clues to the crime.

Then he focused on the chief. “Look, I’m going to need a gun. My company is obviously under attack. I’m licensed to carry back home.”

“No way, Mr. Taylor,” Harper exploded. “Foreigners are not permitted to have guns in Jamaica. For that matter, as I just told you, neither are Jamaicans.

And I want you to stay the hell out of my investigation. We don’t need your help. Understand?”

“Yeah, I understand. You know that each of our mines on this island is permitted a certain number of guns for our guards. I’ll just get one of those.”

“The hell you will. Don’t you dare go behind my back. Those guns never leave mine property. I have an officer that inventories them. If one turns up missing, I’ll confiscate every damn weapon that Global has and put you under house arrest. Clear, Mr. Taylor?”

Will clinched his fists and tried to hold back the anger that was apparent in his face. Without another word, he turned and stormed out of the mansion, pausing only to gaze at Kaven and say a prayer for him and his family. At the bottom of the steps, he got in his car and glanced toward the mansion. The lights from his car somehow caught the ruby eyes of the snake, making them appear briefly to be alive. Will shook his head, put the car in reverse, and returned to the hotel.

***

Excerpt from White Witch by Larry D Thompson. Copyright © 2018 by Larry D Thompson. Reproduced with permission from Larry D Thompson. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Larry D Thompson

After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Larry spent the first half of his professional life as a trial lawyer. He tried well over 300 cases and won more than 95% of them. Although he had not taken a writing class since freshman English (back when they wrote on stone tablets), he figured that he had read enough novels and knew enough about trials, lawyers, judges, and courtrooms that he could do it. Besides, his late, older brother, Thomas Thompson, was one of the best true crime writers to ever set a pen to paper; so, just maybe, there was something in the Thompson gene pool that would be guide him into this new career. He started writing his first novel about a dozen years ago and published it a couple of years thereafter. He has now written five highly acclaimed legal thrillers. White Witch is number six with many more to come.

Larry is married to his wife, Vicki. He has three children scattered from Colorado to Austin to Boca Raton, and four grandchildren. He has been trying to retire from the law practice to devote full time to writing. Hopefully, that will occur by the end of 2018. He still lives in Houston, but spends his summers in Vail CO, high on a mountain where he is inspired by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Catch Up With Larry on larrydthompson.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook
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