Tag Archives: mystery

Book Review: The Specimen by Martha Lea

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From Goodreads:
The year is 1866. Edward Scales is a businessman, a butterfly collector, a respectable man. He is the man Gwen Carrick fell in love with seven years before. Now he is dead and Gwen is on trial for his murder.

From country house drawing rooms to the rainforests of Brazil, The Specimen explores the price one independent young woman might pay for wanting an unorthodox life.

Set in a Victorian world battling between the forces of spiritualism and Darwinism, polite society and the call of clandestine love, Gwen and Edward’s tale is a gripping melodrama, a romance and a murder mystery that will compel readers to its final thrilling page.

A sweeping drama with a Victorian backdrop, The Specimen is a book worth examining.

The Specimen has so many interesting characters. Gwen and Effie, two sister who are the complete opposite of one another become the bane of each others existence. Mr. Scales, the womanizing doctor, betrays his wife with various affairs that help to weave a web of deceit. All three are tangled together into a drama that ultimately leads to murder.

The chapters alternate between the present year, 1866, which finds Gwen on trial for the murder of Mr. Scales, and the past, the years leading up to the murder itself.

Gwen and Effie have inherited their father’s estate in Cornwall. Being polar opposites, their relationship is anything but smooth. Gwen seizes the opportunity for escape when she falls in love with Edward Scales and is invited along to Brazil as an assistant helping Edward collect and catalog specimens.

Gwen soon finds that the man she fell in love with during those fleeting moments of lust repulses her in the light of day. She endures the journey, through all sorts of conditions, only to find that she has been betrayed beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

There are many twists and turns in this murder mystery. The author allows the reader to come to some their own conclusions and doesn’t feel the need to bog us down with details but allows our imagination to fill in some of the plot. I really liked this style of writing. Some pieces of the puzzle were given out of order, which at first made me feel like I must have missed something. But, smartly, the answer becomes known later in the story.

Martha Lea has created such a wonderful Victorian setting for this book, making a unique reading experience. The changes in locale made the story interesting and reflected what was transpiring among the characters. I was surprised to find a little humor and had to laugh at some of the quips made by some of the minor characters.

If you enjoy unconventional murder mystery that makes you think outside the box like The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax or Mistress of the Art of Death, you’ll enjoy this book.

This book was provided for review by Netgally.

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Short Stories/Short Reviews:The 7th Month by Lisa Gardner and The B-Team by John Scalzi

Both of these short titles were offered free for members by Audible.com. I love when they offer these freebies. It’s a great way to try a new author or a genre you don’t normally read without having to commit $$ or a large chunk of time.

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The 7th Month by Lisa Gardner

From Goodreads:
In her seventh month of pregnancy, D.D. should be taking it easy. Instead, she accepts a small consulting role on the set of a serial killer film shooting in Boston. D.D. figures she’ll be useful to someone for at least one night, serving as a police expert and making a little extra money in the bargain.

It seems like a simple task—until the previous film consultant, a former Boston cop, is found beaten to death. Suddenly D.D.’s date with Hollywood gets serious. Extremely pregnant, on the trail of a killer, and surrounded by a hundred and four murder suspects in the middle of a graveyard, D.D. must quickly unravel a tangled web of lies. As another cast member is attacked, D.D. realizes that like it or not, her priorities have changed—and her last desperate hope is that she can catch a killer before she and her unborn baby face mortal danger.

This was my first Lisa Gardner story and I really loved D.D. She’s funny, independent and says what she thinks. This is number 5.5 in this series but I had no problem keeping up with this mini murder mystery. I love that the author could get enough of D.D.’s past across to make the story make sense without having to go into elaborate details that would have dragged the story down. It did what it was supposed to do; get you to read the series. It’s inspired me to add this series to my TBR list.

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The B-Team by John Scalzi

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From Goodreads:
The opening episode of The Human Division, John Scalzi’s new thirteen-episode novel in the world of his bestselling Old Man’s War. Beginning on January 15, 2013, a new episode of The Human Division will appear in e-book form every Tuesday. Colonial Union Ambassador Ode Abumwe and her team are used to life on the lower end of the diplomatic ladder. But when a high-profile diplomat goes missing, Abumwe and her team are last minute replacements on a mission critical to the Colonial Unions future. As the team works to pull off their task, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson discovers theres more to the story of the missing diplomats than anyone expected…a secret that could spell war for humanity.

I was a little apprehensive about this title since it’s outside my normal reading comfort zone. It’s sci-fi in its truest sense. There are lots of characters to keep up with and lots of action going on. It was very well written and the attention to detail that went into creating this outer space mission is amazing. Highly entertaining with a mix of Star Wars like characters, Space Odyssey like missions and unique and exciting story line.

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Book Review: Kiss River by Diane Chamberlain

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From Goodreads:
In the anticipated sequel to KEEPER OF THE LIGHT, award-winning author Diane Chamberlain takes fans back to the sea-swept place called KISS RIVER. Ten years ago, a hurricane caused the upper half of the Kiss River lighthouse to crumble into the sea. Deemed beyond repair, the remaining 100-foot brick shell of the lighthouse and its spiral staircase have been cordoned off and left for nature to finish the demolition job. Sister and brother Lacey and Clay O’Neill live in the keeper’s house next to the Kiss River lighthouse. When stranger Gina Higgins arrives in the area, she joins them in their bid to restore the decrepit beacon. But all three are hiding secrets from their past, and Gina’s arrival puts in motion a chain of events sure to change their lives forever.

This title is the second in Diane Chamberlain’s Kiss River trilogy. I had not read the previous title, Keeper of the Light, but when I saw Kiss River at the used bookstore, being a big fan of Diane Chamberlain, I decided to pick it up.

I had no trouble diving right in and, although this is part of a trilogy, it made a great stand alone story. Ms. Chamberlain’s books always get me hooked. She creates great drama with a hint of mystery and her characters are always down to earth and realistic. They’re characters you can invest in. Kiss River has a great cast of characters.

The main drama of the story comes from Gina Higgins, a teacher on summer break, who has headed east for the sole purpose of getting an up-close look at the Kiss River lighthouse. She soon befriends a brother and sister duo, Lacey and Clay, who live and are currently restoring the keeper’s house. Gina hides her true purpose under the pretense of being a lighthouse fanatic who is intent on preserving the Kiss River lighthouse beacon. What Lacey and Clay don’t know are that Gina has more than one motive and the lighthouse mean more to Gina than they could ever have imagined.

The best parts of this book lies with a more subtle drama brought to light through diary entries made by the daughter of the lighthouse Keeper during WWII. I loved these parts of the book! The two stories, past and present, come together in a surprising way.

Parts mystery, drama, romance and historical fiction, this book offers something for everyone.

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All Hail the Return of Robert Langdon

Titans and other giants are imprisoned in Hell...

Today, Dan Brown announced his long-awaited new novel, Inferno, which will be published on May 14th. If you recall, back in May, I posted a link to an article which mentioned that Mr. Brown was hard at work on the then unnamed book.

Inferno will center around Dante’s Inferno and will again feature one of my most beloved characters of all time, Robert Langdon.

You can read the official press release on Dan Brown’s website. It’s also available for preorder on Amazon.com or iBooks.

Let the count down begin!


Coming to a TV Near You: Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

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Sworn to Silence, the starter for a great book series written by Linda Castillo, has been adapted as a Lifetime movie, An Amish Murder, and airs this Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 9 pm.

Neve Campbell plays the strong shunned Amish woman turned cop, Kate Burkholder.

This is a very well written murder mystery series. Living near an Amish community, books relating to the Amish have always interested me. However, most are so syrupy, if that’s the right word, and many are geared more toward Christian fiction. What I like about this series is that it shows the other side. The grittier side, the murdering side. Without holding back things like language, sex and the content of the murder scenes, this series tells a much more interesting story for fiction lovers.

I’m not usually a made-for-tv movie girl, but I may give this one a try just because I love the series so much.

You can visit Lifetime’s site for more info, to read the first chapter of the book for free and to enter a contest to win a copy of the book.

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A Year of Reading Recap – 2012

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What would the New Year be without a look back at the old one? Here’s a recap of my year of reading 2012.

I’ve had the opportunity to read so many wonderful books this year. I surpassed my reading goal of 75 and reached an all time high of 117. 1Q84 was the longest book I read, 945 pages. I think that made the all-time high also. I gave mostly 3 and 4 stars with only 14 making the 5 star distinction, which makes me think I’m a bit too picky and hard to please. I had two books that were so terrible I couldn’t finish them and I’m still cursing about wasting my time on them.

I read more memoirs this year than ever. People are truly interesting and in some cases their stories are stranger than fiction. I cried more this year than ever too. Some of the stories were just so heartbreaking. I’m pretty sure I blubbered through more of The Art of Racing in the Rain than I’m willing to fess up to. Dogs dying in books seemed to be a common theme this year. I seriously cannot take anymore of that!

I had a zombie run and it was a great one. Zombies are the new vampires. Super cool! If I were giving an award for best cover it would go to My Life as a White Trash Zombie. As Steven Martin said in Father of the Bride, “Bitchin!” That cover earns the Bitchin award. (if there were such a thing) Patrick Ness is my favorite author of 2012. Reading his book has inspired both my children and me.

Historical fiction is still my favorite genre. Mixing fiction in with a history lesson makes learning fun even at my age.

Out of the 117 books I’ve read this year, here’s my top 10 favorites:

1. Wilderness: A Novel by Lance Weller
2. Chaos Walking: A Trilogy by Patrick Ness
3. The Wild Girl by Jim Fergus
4. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
5. Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo
6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
9. The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court by by Michelle Moran
10. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My goals for 2013 are much the same. I’m upping my reading goal to 100. I think I can manage it without feeling too pressured. I’m going to do my best not to purchase books this year. I have probably 75 on my bookshelf waiting to be read and they deserve my love and attention. “Try” is the main word here.

I’m going to give a State Challenge a go and will be book blogging my way through the US. I hope you’ll join me along the way! Every book is an adventure and it’s so much more fun when you’re along!

I wish each of you a New Year filled with joy, happiness and many, many great books!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!


Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

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Rip-roaring 20’s style is what stands out in this lengthy novel by Libba Bray.

From Goodreads:

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

Not having much luck with my first Libba Bray book, Beauty Queens, I decided to give this popular author another try with her newest novel. Set in the 20’s, Bray has obviously done her homework. She succeeds in creating a world that feels like it’s surrounding you as you read. The visual descriptions and catchy slang make the 20’s come to life.

Her main characters are strong and likable. Evie is so much fun and her youthful exuberance is infectious. All the introduced characters are truly mesmerizing.

Having said that, there are a few things that kept me from loving this book. My main gripe is that the book is too long and too slow. Many things seem to be repeated. A little editing could have gone a long way to making this book something special. To much time is spent on introduction and characters rehashing their inner feelings over and over. It’s just too much. I actually stopped reading it for a while and read a few other books before starting it up again. It felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere which leads to boredom. Cut this down 100-200 pages and it would have been much more enjoyable.

There are too many loose ends making some of the introduced characters seem out-of-place and had me wondering what their purpose is. I know this is a series but I need something to tie these characters to the story in a meaningful way. Hopefully the next installment will shed some light and fit these puzzle piece characters together.

Overall, if you have the time to devote and can overlook repetition, this book is sure to charm you with nostalgia alone.

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Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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More involved and complicated than the synopsis suggests, The Raven Boys combines magic, mythology and ghostly tales to weave a web of intrigue surrounding characters as complex as their plight.

From Goodreads:
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

It took me a good third of this book to get to the point where I didn’t want to put it down. That first third introduces us to the complex characters who are unique and separate yet form a unit made of strong bonds and a sense of rightness. They are supposed to be here, in this place, at this time, together. Although sometimes tedious, this extensive introduction is needed so that we can understand each of them, where their coming from and what draws them together. Blue is a strong female character and her “family” is full of quirky personalities. Gansey and his friend all attend the same elite school but are each haunted by their own demons and are fighting to find more than just what lies on the ley lines.

Parts of this book gave me chills to read. Maggie Stiefvater is an impressive storyteller and her writing shines in this book. It’s haunting in parts. It delves into social status and how it can separate even the best of friends without them wanting it to. Those that have money and privilege feel like that’s all anyone sees in them and those without feel inferior. It’s a bridge that’s hard to cross. Gansey, most of all, is taking on the responsibility of trying to save everyone which isn’t always welcomed the way he hopes.

I was expecting more of a star-crossed love story but it’s more focused on brotherly love. One things for sure, these teen are driven more so than I think boys this age would be. But they’re not normal boys, their Aglionby boys, which is wholly different.

Now that the stage is set, I look forward to reading the next book in the series. There is still a lot more mystery and magic to uncover and based on the last sentence in the book, things are about to get even more interesting!

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Listen to NPR’s interview with Maggie Stiefvater.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley.


Book Review: Counting on You by Lisa Bork

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Equal parts family drama and murder mystery, Counting on You is a light read with a few twists.

From Goodreads:
Truth is stranger than fiction. No one knows that more than storyteller Julia Locke, who travels to the Marshall Islands in order to attend her birthfather’s memorial service and watch his cremains be launched into space. Julia’s real mission is to meet her half-brother and ask him to be tested as a potential donor before kidney disease claims her life. But she stumbles on a dead body the morning of the launch, makes the wrong choice, and ends up discredited when she later tries to alibi her half-brother, who’s under arrest for murder. Now, with her health declining and her mission in jeopardy, Julia must sort through the Islands’ bad blood with the U.S. military, unravel the tall tales everyone else is telling, find the missing ashes of her birthfather and a famous starlet, and identify the real killer before her time runs out.

Review:
I can sum up this novel in one word: “nice”. The writing is meticulous, clean, crisp and well thought out.

Julia, who comes to the island to meet her half-brother, Matt, and his mother Lynn, needs a kidney and her health is quickly diminishing. When another guest at her hotel is murdered, she makes a choice that causes her to weave lies but she soon finds she’s not the only one withholding the truth. To cover up for themselves and each other, these three characters tell some tall tales. I sometimes felt a distance between reader and characters. There wasn’t enough background information to form any opinion on who they really were. On the island, the choices they make are made under duress which made it hard to feel any real emotion one way or the other.

There’s no action or thrill ride. The story is more drama then anything. The plot is a tad predictable but there are enough twists to keep it interesting. Some secondary characters were a little “off” and a few of the side stories were a bit far-fetched but those are really irrelevant to the main story. The author did a nice job of putting in some history of the Islands’.

A nice light mystery that would make a great beach read.

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Short Stories/Short Reviews – Legion by Brandon Sanderson and Recalculating by Jennifer Weiner

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Legion by Brandon Sanderson

From Goodreads:
Stephen Leeds, AKA “Legion,” is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his “aspects” are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society. The action ranges from the familiar environs of America to the ancient, divided city of Jerusalem. Along the way, Sanderson touches on a formidable assortment of complex questions: the nature of time, the mysteries of the human mind, the potential uses of technology, and the volatile connection between politics and faith.

Review:
This one was really interesting! Leeds’ multiple personalities are complicated and diverse but never hard to keep track of. The author creates this complex mental condition and quickly shows us how Leeds’ mind works as he works out the mystery he’s been commissioned to solve. The premise of the mystery, the camera that takes pictures of the past, is a truly unique story line. Extremely enjoyable to read! You can pick this one up for free on iTunes Audiobooks or at audible.com.

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Recalculating by Jennifer Weiner

From Goodreads:
After Maureen’s husband dies, she imagines that the years of abuse are over, but while looking for the Halloween decorations in the attic, Maureen finds a gift-wrapped GPS with her name on the box: an early birthday present from her late husband. When the voice from the machine starts giving her sinister directions, she learns that sometimes the dead are restless . . . and she’s locked in a battle not just for her life but for her soul.

Review:
Wow, this one was creepy! Maureen never quite gets out from under her abusive husband’s spell. She’s really wishy-washy and I had a hard time relating to her as the abuse brought on by her husband bordered on the absurd. So did the demon GPS. She had many chances to take control of the situation and chose to remain passive and sometimes a bit clueless. However, the creepiness of the story kept me reading until the end. A good story for this time of year, but not the best of Jennifer Weiner.

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