Quick Reviews

I’m in the middle of making dinner, but I have a few minutes to check in with you all. I thought I would add some mini reviews here.

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Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean

Written by a former WWII sailor, this one has a group of British secret service agents fly into Switzerland disguised as Alpenkorps soldiers and infiltrate a Nazi stronghold. This is a reread and while it was fun, I think this time around I was really struck by how theatrical it all was. Not surprising, since this was written for a movie coming out starring the author’s friend, Richard Burton. Very macho (read: sexist) stuff, but very suspenseful. Not worth another reread but it was fun.

 

sto The Storyspinner (Keeper’s Chronicles #1) by Becky Wallace

“Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.”

This one has a complex plot that’s tough to summarize, but I really enjoyed the characters and the story in this one. First in a duology, and I can’t wait to read the sequel. It ends on a cliffhanger, so if you pick it up, be prepared with book 2. This is a YA book but I think it would be fun for younger and older readers as well.

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Glimpse by Jonathan Maberry

A stand alone horror. Rain, a former junkie now 3 years sober, puts on a borrowed pair of glasses and catches a glimpse of a young boy. Or did she? She becomes haunted by shadowy images, all revolving around her image of the son she gave up for adoption 10 years ago. Time is running out if she wants to find her way to him and save him from the horrible monsters that want to destroy him. I couldn’t help comparing this one to NOS4A2 by Joe Hill which I read recently. I liked this one so much better.  There was plenty of menace but not as much gore. The threat is implied rather than described, and all the more compelling.

 

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Encore Review

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

I read this one a while back, but I haven’t shared this review before.

Title:

Synopsis:
Lara McClintoch owns a Toronto antiquities store and is obsessed with finding rare artifacts. The murder of an expert in Mayan history brings Lara to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula where mysteries from the Mayan past and Mexico’s present political problems lure Lara on a perilous journey.
Review:
I liked this mystery, but as late as halfway through I was still unclear about the date until it specifically says that it’s set in the 1990s. I think that was because of the prevalent “Had I But Known” vibe that was almost overpowering the book. For those who don’t know, that was a technique common to mysteries in the 1930s by authors like Mary Roberts Rinehart and then the 1980s in Gothic mysteries by Phyllis A. Whitney and E. X. Ferrars. It features lots of foreshadowing, a heroine in trouble, and two romantic rivals. The heroine almost always picks the wrong one right up until the last minute.
Come to think of it, I’ve basically given you the whole plot of the book right there. Lara is recovering from a divorce, heads off to visit a former colleague, and gets caught up in political intrigue and theft. It was still kind of fun, but you have to be in the right mood for it. 2.5 stars

Don’t Look Back: A Book Review

Don’t Look Back: Konrad Sejer #2

By Karin Fossum

Synopsis:

Meet Inspector Sejer: smart and enigmatic, tough but fair. At the foot of the imposing Kollen Mountain lies a small, idyllic village, where neighbors know neighbors and children play happily in the streets. But when the body of a teenage girl is found by the lake at the mountaintop, the town’s tranquility is shattered forever. Annie was strong, intelligent, and loved by everyone. What went so terribly wrong? Doggedly, yet subtly, Inspector Sejer uncovers layer upon layer of distrust and lies beneath the town’s seemingly perfect façade.

Critically acclaimed across Europe, Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer novels are masterfully constructed, psychologically convincing, and compulsively readable. They evoke a world that is at once profoundly disturbing and terrifyingly familiar.

My thoughts:

I’m a little confused. Goodreads lists this as #2 in the series, but from the synopsis, it sounds like this is the first one in the series. Maybe there’s a prequel that was released earlier or something, I’m not sure.

In any case, the book features detectives Sejer and Skarre looking into the murder of a teenage girl. In this little town, everyone knows each other and everyone loved the dead girl. In fact, no one has anything bad to say about her, so who could want her dead?

I liked this book. I just found it at the library and decided to give it a try. I liked the Norwegian setting a lot. The characters were well drawn and I especially liked the detectives. I would definitely read another book in the series. However, the whole tone of the book was quite sad. I wouldn’t say there was a need for any trigger warnings, but there was definitely some unpleasant stuff sort of hanging in the background.

Sejer’s a widower, but he’s not the sad sack alcoholic detective with tons of baggage. That is far too common in Scandinavian mysteries. Very refreshing, IMO. 3.5 stars out of 5.

 

Lamarck’s Revenge : A Review

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Title: Lamarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics is Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present

Author: Peter Ward

I was very pleased to receive this one for review. I am a big science nerd, and learning about epigenetics sounded fascinating. Unfortunately, the writing was not as good as the concept. Much of the data was repetitive, and the book was organized in a very strange way. It wasn’t until I was almost 1/3 of the way through that the book got down to specific examples of epigenetics in action that it really became interesting for me. If you are really interested in the subject, this might appeal to you, but I would bet there are better books out there.

Thanks you to Library Thing and the publisher for giving the me the chance to read this one. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My opinions remain my own.

Murder at the Mill: a review

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Iris Grey needs a quiet place to work on her art and decide what to do about her failing marriage. She finds just what she needs in Mill Cottage, deep in Hampshire and even featuring a picturesque stream nearby. Things are going pretty well until Christmas time. That’s when the neighbors plan a big holiday party that ends with a body being found floating in the previously mentioned stream.

Iris is right in the middle of events. She was present at the holiday party and has been drawn deep into the neighbors secrets. Now she has to figure out what’s going on before she dies too.

I liked this mystery, but from the description I was imagining a 1930s style house party with servants and sleuths and all. However, this is set in present day. The overall feel of the book is quite different as well. I think the description was rather misleading. I did enjoy this story and I quite like Iris. However the mystery wasn’t all that hard to solve and I’m not sure I would feel compelled to read another in this series.

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.*

The Bird King: A Review

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. My views remain my own.

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The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Synopsis:

From award-winning author G. Willow Wilson, The Bird King is an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.

G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel Alif the Unseen was an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. Now she delivers The Bird King, a stunning new novel that tells the story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker.

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

My review:

I was drawn to this one because I have enjoyed some of Wilson’s previous books. This one sounded intriguing, both for the historical aspect and the fantastical element. It took me a little while, but it wasn’t long before I was truly hooked.  I feel like I learned so much from this book. I don’t know much about medieval Spain. This has got the beginning of the Inquisition, and the threat to both our main characters is truly terrifying.

The strongest part of the book is definitely the characters. Both Fatima and Hassan were clearly drawn, fully dimensional characters with believable motives and flaws. I loved their relationship. Then there was the jinn. I liked that he was so untrustworthy, and yet so appealing.

If there was one thing that made this a little bit hard to stick with I think it was the pacing. It seemed a little uneven. But I would recommend it for those who want to try a mix of historical fiction and magical realism.

 

 

To Catch the Conscience of the King: a Review

Disclaimer: I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My views,  however, remain my own.
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To Catch the Conscience of the King: A Novel by Martin White

Trigger Warning: sexual assault and torture.

Synopsis:

“To Catch the Conscience of the King” is set against the background of King Edward II’s downfall and is told from the perspective of Brother Stephen, who, as the king’s confessor, sets out to save the royal soul, but instead places his own in jeopardy.

Set just after the downfall of Edward of Carnarvon in 1327, this story centers around young Brother Stephen who is caught up in the final days of the former king. Brother Stephen witnesses the execution of the king’s reputed lover, Hugh de Spencer. Reeling from the violent spectacle, Brother Stephen becomes ill and is slowly nursed back to health by a lay brother named Jerome.  When Jerome becomes a little obsessive, the abbot decides a separation is the best idea and send Stephen off on a secret mission. Stephen becomes confessor to the imprisoned former king. It’s his job to save the king’s soul.

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Edward II receiving the crown

Review:

I had a hard time getting into this book. It starts with a crowd awaiting the execution of Hugh DeSpencer and then goes into excruciating detail on being assaulted by a crowd, mutilated, then hung until unconscious, disembowelled, and finally pulled apart. It is beyond gruesome, but having gone that far, I decided to finish the book. The story moves at a brisk pace at first. I was a little confused about who was who and what they wanted, but I’m familiar enough with English history to have a basic idea of what’s going on. It felt like so much to keep track of though.

At its heart, this is really a story about the tension between romantic love and love of God. Like Edward, whose doomed love affairs with two young men turned England and the Church against him, Brother Stephen is a homosexual. He has repented and wants to bring the former king the same peace. But Edward refuses to tell the whole story. This tension between the two of the goes on for quite some time in the book.

Although the book wasn’t perfect, I did enjoy it – until it came to the very ending. And that’s when the the book took an unexpected turn that I didn’t expect and didn’t really like. Of course, I can’t tell you more without spoiling it, and it didn’t ruin the book, but I felt it weakened the story quite a bit.

I’m not sure who I would recommend this book for. I did enjoy it, but the complex historical details are not for everyone. This is a debut by this author and I’m curious to see if he writes more.

Limelight: a review

Limelight by Emily Organ (Penny Green #1)

Synopsis

How did an actress die twice?

London, 1883. Actress Lizzie Dixie drowned in the River Thames, so how was she murdered five years later in Highgate Cemetery?

Intrepid Fleet Street reporter Penny Green was a friend of Lizzie’s and Scotland Yard needs her help. Does Penny unwittingly hold clues to Lizzie’s mysterious death? Penny must work with Inspector James Blakely to investigate the worlds of theatre, showmen and politicians in search of the truth.

But who is following her? And who is sending her threatening letters?

Penny is about to discover that Lizzie’s life was more complicated, and dangerous, than she could ever have imagined.

Review

I finished this one yesterday and found myself trying to figure out how I felt about the book. I mean, I didn’t HATE it, but I didn’t like it either. Penny, our MC, has an interesting back story, but I still thought her actions didn’t make a lot of sense.

In the end, I think it was just that writing was pretty – well, average. We only got to really know 2 characters in the book, and they were still a little flat. The pacing was off, all the action occurs in the beginning and the very end. There was a lot of telling, a lot of dialogue, but not much to hint at what characters were actually feeling.

I do enjoy this time period, and I admit to being intrigued by the female reporter angle. But really, there are better Victorian era mysteries out there. I would not recommend this one and I don’t plan on reading more by this author. However, it is a first novel, so it’s possible the series gets better as it goes on. I won’t be bothered to find out.

Burning Ridge – a review

Burning Ridge, Timber Creek K9 #4

By Margaret Mizushima

Mattie Cobb is a police detective with a K9 partner working on a small town in Colorado. Her latest case turns out to have a very personal connection and her past will hold the answers she needs to solve the crime.

This is the 4th book in the series, but I didn’t feel lost for long. I really liked Maggie’s relationship with her dog, Robo. That was the best part of the book. I would definitely read more in this series.

The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Review

12786118 The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of the Moving Pictures

by Edward Ball

Synopsis: From the National Book Award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, a riveting true life/true crime narrative of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.

Review:

I am a sucker for historic true crime. I love reading about crime, detection, and the law from the past. This one sounded pretty interesting. I really liked the movie aspect of the story, more about the early days of film.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t really work for me. It’s a joint biography of two men in the 19th century, inventor Eadweard Muybridge and rail tycoon Leland Stanford. I liked the story about the building of the railroad – and the many references to Utah in there – and the story of the inventor/photographer was pretty interesting too. But together, they didn’t make any sense. The only connection, as far as I could tell, was that that had a brief business connection. But I’m sure that millionaire Stanford had lots of business dealing with a lot of people.

But the author chose to drop plenty of hints about the murder and then drop it for another chapter about the plight of Chinese workers on the railroad. Honestly, I finally just got bored and let it go. I need a better book about the the building of the railroad. This one just didn’t work for me.