Sunday, October 15, 2017

Glass Houses: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel) –by Louise Penny

Fiction / Mystery
376 pages / 3776 KB
4 Stars

I believe I've read all of the Gamache books (this is #13 in the series), and have never been let down. Picking up one of these books is like going home for a visit with old friends. Ruth and Rosa are still together, Clara is getting ready to show what her friends think are "unfinished" paintings, Armand is now head of the Surete, and Reine-Marie finds a body in the church cellar. Oh, my.

Penny has brought in a cobrador del frac for a new twist. Armand must decide between perjury in the high court or the greater good and a possible prison sentence.

The crime takes place in November, with cold and snow. The trial takes place in the summer, when it's hot and humid. There is a lot of backing and forthing and it took me a minute the first few times to get my bearings when I went from snow and sleet to sweltering heat.  File that bit of information away (forewarned is forearmed) and read the book. It's a great read. And be sure to read the Author's note at the end when she tells us what's true and what isn't.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dead Stop (Sydney Rose Parnell Series Book 2) –by Barbara Nickless

Fiction / Thriller
400 pages / 2575 KB
5 Stars

Bad news first: Book 3 isn't out, yet.

Although I think one can read this as a stand-alone book, by starting with Blood on the Tracks, the first in the series, one will get a much better, and deeper understanding of who Sydney Rose Parnell and Clyde are.

If you want a well-researched and excellently crafted book, this is the one for you. I found myself laughing in a couple of places, and crying in a couple of places, and there was one sequence where I had to read with my eyes closed! Do you have any idea how difficult that is?

Sydney, our heroine, is damaged. She is an "ex" Marine, with her tours in the Mortuary Services in Iraq. Yeah, you'd be damaged, too. Clyde, her faithful K9 companion, is also an "ex" Marine and Iraq war veteran. He's not quite as damaged as she is.

I'm not sure if this book is a little darker than Blood on the Tracks, or if it's because I forced myself to read it more slowly, instead of inhaling it in one sitting, therefore getting more of the story. It is very intense, gritty. And oh-so-hard to put down.

Sydney is still collecting and living with her ghosts, is in therapy at the VA, and finds herself embroiled in another murder on her tracks, and a race against time to find the murderer and save a missing child. There is murder and mayhem, though it's germane to the story, not gratuitous. In fact, much is left to your own imagination.

We get more of Sydney's thoughts from her journal entries, many of which appear as epigraphs to each chapter. She is dealing with her PTSD, but it costs her.

Personally, I love having a heroine that I can actually believe in. She isn't perfect. She isn't the Ice Woman. She's a veteran with issues she must learn to live with, and she is learning. If you, or someone you know, have PTSD, this might be a helpful book. Yes, it may bring up flashbacks, but you may learn a bit from how Sydney handles hers. And, if you are a vet, thank you for your service.

The ending of this book leaves it wide open for Book 3. Which will not be available soon enough to suit me. I think it highly unfair that even though I took my time reading this book, it still takes her longer to write one than for me to read it.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Lake Silence --by Anne Bishop

Fiction / Urban Fantasy

5 Stars

NOTE: This book is not yet available, but will be soon. Very soon. Pre-order it so when it is available, you won't miss it.

DISCLAIMER: I had the marvelous opportunity to read an early, unpublished version of Lake Silence for review, it may not be quite the same as the one currently for sale, though I seriously doubt the basic story will change. Some of the plot points may shift.

When I read Etched in Bone, the last of the series about the Others, I was truly sad. I enjoy that world and was delighted when I heard rumors there were two more stand-alone books coming. The same world--new characters. (I do understand why an author wants to move on from a world. There are so many new worlds out there to create and visit, but there is something about this world that resonates with me more than most.)

Imagine being married to a real scumbag, who hangs around with lowlifes in high places. Imagine being divorced, and for your part of the settlement, he 'gives' you his great grandmother's old home and "resort" called The Jumble out on a remote lake, by a tiny village, controlled like the rest of the world by The Others. The Jumble in disrepair, it has a private beach, and your ex generously 'gives' you just enough cash to repair the old place and writes something in the divorce decree that if it isn't all done within a specified period of time, he gets it back. You are two weeks over the time limit.

Now, imagine you get things going, have a tenant in one of your cabins, a member of the Crowgard (a crow/human shapeshifter), and murder happens and you are suspected, and arrested and a most yummy, delicious man you've never met walks into the jail and announces he is your lawyer. He is obviously rich, well-heeled, and you haven't a clue who he is or why he's there. Those crows aren't stupid, y'know? Oh, and did I mention that your new and yummy lawyer is a Vampire, and controls the land on which both the village and the The Jumble sit. And he likes you, and he doesn't like the low-lifes trying to take The Jumble away from you.

This is a stand-alone novel, and I don't think you need to read the series first, though it wouldn't hurt (read in order, by the way). Doing so will give you a better idea of the world; however, it isn't necessary, you'll quickly pick it up. Also, and this is really, truly important, don't start at bedtime. This is not a book to give you nightmares, but it is a book designed to keep you reading until the dawn and The End come together.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Ladies of Missalonghi --by Colleen McCullough

Fiction / Woman's Lit
189 Pages
5 Stars

This may be one of the shortest novels McCullough ever wrote. In fact, it is part of the Harper Short Novel Series. Personally, I found this utterly delightful. Brain candy of the highest flavor and lowest (none) calories!

It takes place in the Blue Mountains of Australia, outside of Sydney shortly before WWI in a time when men controlled the world, and kept their women in total submission. Not just their wives and daughters, but their widowed or maiden sisters and nieces. Men controlled the money and the country. Women controlled the house. And had their husband's permission to say so.

Missy grew up in the town of Byron in genteel poverty. She lived in a world of brown. Brown was a good color, it did not show the dirt, was never out of (or into) fashion. Raised by her widowed mother and maiden aunt, she grew up as submissive as the rest of the women in town. Byron was a family town, literally owned and controlled by the Hurlingford family—fair, blonde, and far better off than Missy and her family who were also Hurlingford's. Missy grew up a brown submissive mouse.

Beauty was not one of Missy's strong suits, and has never turned the eye of an eligible man, and both she and the town have given up. After all, who would want a brown mouse? Especially when beauty, fair and light, was all around the town? Who was the cousin who came to help in the library and saw to it Missy had novels to read? Novels of strong young women. Novels of romance.

When the stranger came to town, claiming ownership of the valley just beyond Missalonghi, Missy's home, Missy developed heart trouble. And she grew a spine! And she wanted romance. With the stranger, before she died.

As I said, this is pure brain candy, and it was great fun. If you're looking for a book as complex as, say, The Thorn Birds, then this isn't for you. But if you're looking for a fun book to read, perhaps in bed before you turn out the light as I did, this is perfect.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Prism: The Color Alchemist Book One –by Nina Walker

Fiction / YA Fantasy
338 pages / 2953 KB
4 Stars

LEGALITIES FIRST: I received a free eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

According to the Source of all Knowledge (ie, the world wide web), the age range of young adult books varies between 12-18 or 15-20s. Keeping those ages in mind, I agree this is a YA novel, on the younger side of the continuum. The heroine, Jessa is just 16, while the hero, Lucas, is 18. While many adults read YA books, I think this will appeal far more to the teenybopper crowd. (Did I just date myself?)

As an adult reader, I could have done with a little less angst and a lot more explanation of the color alchemy. As a teen reader, it is probably perfect. The use of color is an intriguing concept, and that alone makes it worth the read.

Jessa comes into her powers considerably later than most, and is accused of hiding them. Actually, she thought they belonged to her kid sister, Lacey, and did try to hide them, as she did not want Lacey taken from the home and trained; never to be seen or heard of again. Instead, Jessa, whose only dream is to dance ballet, and is finally dancing a solo in front of a huge audience, including the King Richard and Prince Lucas, becomes so enraptured with her dance, she inadvertently shows the whole world her powers. Fortunately, no one was injured, and instead of Lacey being taken, Jessa is. To no good end, we may rest assured. She is too old to buy into the usual brainwashing, and or be trained as a child. Her powers are also dangerous.

King Richard wants to control her, and her magic, to control his subjects. Prince Lucas just wants her—he's in love with her, and he neither loves nor respects his father. The Resistance just wants to eliminate the Royals and return to a democracy. Oh, yes, there is lots of conflict and some mystery to go along with all that angst.

The story is told in alternating chapters, by either Jessa or Lucas. It is a book I think the younger teen girls will enjoy no end.  And many adults will read as brain candy. (Think chocolate and no calories.) A solid 4 Star debut novel. Job well done, Ms. Walker!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 –by Salman Rushdie

Nonfiction / Essays
439 pages / 1485 KB
5 Stars

I am not sure when, or where, I found my copy of this book. I do not know how long it sat, ignored, on my bookshelf. What I do know is, when I needed it, it was there, and literally fell into my hands. Of course I knew of Mr. Rushdie, but had never read anything by him. My education has begun.

Most of these 75 or so essays are short, some just a couple of pages, but all of them require thought while reading them, and several require thought after reading them; at least for me. As one reviewer noted, this is not a book to take to the gym. His insights on colonialism are fascinating. His insights on the Ghandis, Pakistan, cultures I knew little-to-nothing about were spell-binding. The articles about contemporary authors were not only interesting, but often humorous, and always enlightening.

But the articles in the last section were, for me, the most eye-opening. These were the ones where he discussed the fatwa against him, what he meant when he wrote The Satanic Verses, and the duplicity of the imams even when they agreed with him, shook his hand, said they would help reverse the fatwa, and didn't. What is a human life worth? What is a man's word worth? What is a friend worth?

The writing in these essays is often lyrical. It is always clear, and easily read and understood. I highly recommend this book for anyone with a curiosity about how our world, and those who inhabit it, think and work. Beautiful writing, and I can hardly wait for my copy of Step Across This Line... to arrive.