Friday, June 21, 2013

If you are suffering CALL THE MIDWIFE withdrawal....

I ran across this blog post from the Penguin USA Blog by Julie Schaeffer about the book on which the hit PBS series "Call the Midwife" is based and wanted to share it with you. Call the Midwife is one of my favorite PBS shows ever. I think that it even surpasses Downton for me, as each episode packs a real emotional punch. I have been leery of the books (there are actually 2 memoirs) since I love the show so much. After reading this post both books are going on my summer reading list! 

Staff Picks: Call the Midwife, by Julie Schaeffer | Penguin USA Blog:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Raven Flight (Shadowfell #2)

RAVEN FLIGHT (Shadowfell #2)
Juliet Marillier
Knopf Books for Young Readers
July 9, 2013

Juliet Marilier's Shadowfell Trilogy continues with Raven Flight, second in the trilogy. Neryn is safe at Shadowfell with the rebels and training to gain strength after three years of flight from King Keldric's Enforcers and an arduous journey to the rebel stronghold. Flint, the hooded man who rescued Neryn has been revealed not only as a trusted member of Keldric's court, but a double agent for the rebels. As he continues his dangerous game of deception at court, Neryn prepares to set off on another journey to reach the Guardians and continue her training as a Caller. It becomes more and more critical that she can hone her skills quickly and enlist the aid of the "Good Folk" in the fight to overthrow the King.

Tali, the rebel leader's trusted female bodyguard, is not happy with the assignment. Despite working with Neryn, Tali does not entirely trust her and definitely does not want to leave Regan's safety in the hands of someone else. Tali also considers Neryn's love for Flint a weakness and a danger to the cause. As the two women set off to find the Hag of the Sea and face many dangers and tests, they have to learn to trust each other. Meanwhile, Flint is facing questions about his loyalty from the king; questions which lead to a confrontation which exposes Keldric as not only power mad, but deranged. At the end of the novel all the rebel's plans must be changed in a twist I could not have imagined.

I found Raven Flight very slow moving in spots but a good follow-up to Shadowfell, a book I really loved. Both Neryn and Tali are terrific fantasy heroines; Tali, the unparalleled warrior and Neryn, steadfast in her convictions. It is a relationship that I enjoyed watching develop. I wish there had been more of Flint but expect him to be much more present in the next book. I would recommend the Shadowfell Trilogy to both adult and young adult fantasy fans. Deeply rooted in Celtic mythology, Juliet Marillier's novels are always a treat. Many thanks to Knopf and for a digital copy in return for a free and fair review.

RATING- 4 stars

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Murder and Mayhem in an English Country Village

INTO THE SHADOWS (Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham #1)
Shirley Wells
C and R Crime

Forensic psychologist Jill Kennedy has recently moved to the village of Kelton Bridge, having quit police work after a case went wrong. A man arrested as a serial killer based on Jill's profile committed suicide in jail. He was not guilty and after another woman turns up murdered, everyone knows that the killer,"Valentine", is still at large.  Valentine is a particularly vicious killer who carves hearts into the flesh of his victims. The pressure of what Jill perceives as her failure and the infidelity of her policeman lover drives her into a new career writing books. However, both Valentine and DCI Max Trentham have different plans for Jill. When the vicar's wife is murdered, Jill is drawn inexorably into the investigation and back into Max's life.

Into the Shadows is a very well constructed mix of the English village mystery and police procedural. Max and Jill are strong characters, both likable and fallible. The supporting cast of villagers and suspects are equally memorable. Valentine is suitably creepy and Wells kept me guessing until the end. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this five book series.

The Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham Mysteries were published several years ago in England and are now available in kindle editions in the US. I am a fan of her Dylan Scott Mysteries so I was delighted that I was finally able to read this earlier series.  

RATING- 4 Hearts

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lavender Garden

Lucinda Riley
Atria Books
June 2013

The Lavender Garden opens with the death of Emilie de la Martinières' cold, neglectful, beautiful mother, leaving Emilie sole heir to her family's magnificent and historical chateau in the south of France. Emilie's kind but distant father had died some years before, leaving his wife to fritter away the family's fortune. Emilie has land and property but it soon becomes clear that she will have to either sell out or sell many assets to pay off creditors and restore the chateau. As Emilie has very few happy memories of her childhood in the the chateau and no confidence in her ability to manage a large estate, she thinks that selling the chateau is the best course. Enter a handsome and charming Englishman named Sebastian Carruthers who claims a connection to the de la Martinières through his maternal grandmother, Constance, who lived at the chateau for a time during World War II. As Emilie falls in love and marries Sebastian she begins to learn more about her father, Edouard, who was a Reistance hero but lost everyone he loved in the war. She also learns more about herself and the man she has married. Sebastian is not at all what he appears to be.

The Lavender Garden has many of the attributes that I most enjoy in a novel; family secrets, a sweeping saga that skips back to an era that I find fascinating. However, The Lavender Garden misses the mark for me. Sebastian and his motivations were clear to me from the beginning and I found the characters, with a few notable exceptions, two-dimensional. I wanted to like the novel much more than I actually did in the end.

Thanks to Atria Books for an advance copy in return for a free and fair review.

RATING- 2.5 Stars

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why do Vampires Never go out of Fashion?

Margot Adler
Kindle Single
June 2013

NPR Correspondent and author Margot Adler read over 260 vampire novels in the two years following her husband's death- from the earliest to the most recent, both adult and young adult, along with scholarly works on the genre and histories. Now I have read my share of vampire novels, even though never Bram Stoker's Dracula in it's entirety. I have often wondered  why the genre keeps so many people enthralled. Vampire stories and novels wax and wane in popularity but since the publication of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire have exploded- never dying out completely just like the vampires themselves.

OUT FOR BLOOD is a wide ranging and thought-provoking meditation on the nature of life and death, power, politics, identity, sexuality, religious belief and even ecology. It is well worth reading and I'm sure I will reread it. According to Ms Adler, the vampire novel reflects the anxieties of the age in which it is produced and she presents a very convincing case. OUT FOR BLOOD  is only available as a Kindle Single.

RATING- 4 Stakes

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Summer Reading List, Part the First

There are, as always, LOTS of books I am looking forward to for Summer Vacation reading. Some of the new releases coming up on my list are:

Shirley Wells
Carroll and Graf
June 2013

Forensic Psychologist Jill Kennedy has moved to a quiet village and retired from police work after a traumatic experience- she hopes. But when the vicar's wife is murdered, she is called upon by DCI Max Trentham for her professional expertise. Shirley Wells is a favorite author of mine and has written the Dylan Scott Mysteries for Carina Press. This is an earlier series, finally available in kindle editions in the US. Into the Shadows is the first in the Jill Kennedy series and one that I have been waiting for a long time.

Ben Aaronovitch
July 25, 2013

It seems like a very long time since the last Police Constable Grant and Inspector Nightingale adventure through the seen and unseen parts of London. This time they are off to Elephant and Castle in pursuit of a murderer. The city itself is almost a character in this clever paranormal series because Aaronovitch has an encyclopedic knowledge of the city's ways and by-ways and obviously loves his subject. Sometimes the UK editions have different titles and covers but so far this is the only edition showing on amazon. It's a must read, no matter what.

Lucinda Riley
Atria Books
June 2013

Lucinda Riley is a new author to me but came highly recommended by a Swedish bookseller I was chatting with in line at Book Expo. She said that if I liked Kate Morton I would also like Lucinda Riley. All the elements seem to be there; a legendary chateau, deep family secrets and a timeline that switches between Paris in 1944 and the chateau in the South of France in 1998.  I'm looking forward to giving it a try in the very near future.

RAVEN FLIGHT (Shadowfell #2)
Juliet Marillier
Knopf Books for Young Readers
July 2013

Raven Flight is one of the books I am most looking forward to. Juliet Marillier is a favorite author through her Sevenwaters books and Bridei Chronicles for adults. I read the first in the Shadowfell Trilogy, written for Young Adults, but equally attractive to adults last year. Marillier's fantasy stories are deeply rooted in Celtic Mythology. The Shadowfell Trilogy combines a growing up story and the fight to overthrow an evil King. 

Fans of Juliet Marillier will be glad to know that Audible is producing audio downloads for the Sevenwaters books and Bridei. I've been hoping for that since I read my first Sevenwaters  so I'm thrilled.

More to come........

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth

A SERPENT'S TOOTH (Walt Longmire #9)
Craig Johnson
June 3013

Early in A Serpent's Tooth, Walt Longmire's under sheriff, Vic Moretti, poses the question, "Do you think there are more crazy people in our county than anywhere else?" It certainly seems so when one of Walt's constituents tells him about an angel who is doing home repair for her. She has never seen this angel but she leaves a list for him when she goes out on errands and the chores are done when she returns. This angel likes her fried chicken and sometimes takes a shower, but always cleans up after himself. When Walt and Vic investigate they discover a skinny 15 year-old named Cord Lynear. Cord is a Mormon "lost boy", one supposedly kicked out of his community for undesirable behavior. Cord is dangerously naive and amazingly slippery. He also comes equipped with a "bodyguard", an old man who claims to be 200 year-old Orrin Porter Rockwell, legendary enforcer of the early Mormon Church.

Walt was unaware of any Mormon settlements in the area and sets out to find the boy's mother. When he arrives at the compound he does not find the mother but discovers a polygamous cult, armed to the teeth, run by 400 pound Roy Lynear. Lynear reminded me of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, possessing just that sort of charismatic menace. Walt knows there is much more going on in the compound and it looks like Big Oil and even the CIA might be involved. As usual nothing will stop Walt in his pursuit of the the truth.

While I always enjoy the Longmire books, A Serpent's Tooth is a welcome return to the Absaroka County of earlier books. Henry Standing Bear, Walt's steadfast Cheyenne best friend and unpaid back-up plays a much larger part in A Serpent's Tooth than in recent books. Vic, Ruby, Ferg, Saizarbitoria and all the other local characters that make the series so memorable are present as well. Craig Johnson's signature dry humor is back and Walt is always at his best when he interacts with those people he has sworn to protect.

I highly recommend the entire Walt Longmire series, starting with The Cold Dish. Few writers can draw such indelible characters with such spare and elegant prose. A&E's Longmire series is well worth watching (and I do) but can't hold a candle to the richness and complexity of the books.

RATING- 4.5 Sheriff's Badges

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Firebird is Another Winner from Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley
June 2013

Susanna Kearsley is one of my favorite authors. I have read almost all her books and while I like some more than others I have never been disappointed. In The Firebird she brings back two favorite characters; a grown-up Robbie MacMorran from The Shadowy Horses and Anna Moray, daughter of John and Sophia Moray from The Winter Sea.

Nicola Marter works for an art dealer in London and has an unusual psychic gift. She can touch an object and see visions about it's origins. She is very uncomfortable about her gift as she was raised by her Russian grandfather who also has the gift and suffered torture in the former Soviet regime. Naturally he cautions Nicola to keep her gift a secret. The only time she ever deviated was by participating in a parapsychology study while doing graduate work in Edinburgh. It was during the study that she met the extraordinarily gifted "seer" Robbie. Nicola breaks with the study and Robbie two years before The Firebird begins. A woman comes to the gallery with a small wooden statue of a firebird; one that she says belonged to the Empress Catherine I of Russia and was given to an ancestor named Anna.  When Nicola handles the statue she knows this is true but has no way of proving it without exposing her gift and being considered a freak. She is touched however by the woman, who is desperate to sell for her own reasons and calls on Robbie for help. Robbie has the ability to see into both the past and the future and can include Nicola in his visions when she is in physical contact with him.

The story takes us from present day St. Petersburg to the St. Petersburg of Peter the Great in the early 18th century. Robbie and Nicola follow Anna though St. Petersburg, where she is now the ward of a Vice-Admiral in the Tsar's service. Russia has a highly placed group of Jacobite ex-pats, of whom Anna is an active member. She, like the others is a loyal advocate for "the king across the water" and plots are afoot to get Russia more actively involved in the Jacobite cause. Susanna Kearsley's research allows her to blend the stories of both actual historical figures and fictional ones into a seamless whole. I particularly enjoyed the glimpses of St. Petersburg since I have visited the city twice and could clearly visualize many of the places Rob and Nicola visit.

The Firebird is a lush, romantic read; one that is very hard to put down. It has to be one of Susanna Kearsley's best novels. The only reason that I don't give it a full five star rating is that it didn't quite pack the same emotional wallop as The Winter Sea, at least not for me. It does however bring that story full circle in a very satisfactory manner. I highly recommend it to any lover of historical fiction. 

RATING- 4.5 Stars

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Witty Debut Mystery Mash-Up

Erica Obey
Five Star Books
February 2013

Laura Converse is a romance writer living in New York City, suffering through a massive case of writer's block and post-divorce blues. She is offered a gig ghost-writing the memoirs of Bliss Falco, self-proclaimed lover of everyone from Casanova to Hubert Humphrey in her various remembered reincarnations. Laura takes the job because she needs the cash. Laura is sure that Bliss is certifiable and when she finds out her sleazy ex, Rimes, arranged the job she knows she is in for big trouble. Rimes is a globe trotting tabloid reporter who, despite his genius IQ has no ethics and actually believes that he is pursuing serious journalism.

Laura is to meet Bliss in New Age mecca Woodstock NY, and settle into writing the memoirs. Thrown into the mix are a cast of very quirky characters including various aging hippie denizens of Woodstock, a drink and drug- addled music promoter and a very attractive gardener who just might be a warlock. The central mystery revolves around the disappearance of Patti Moran, up and coming rock star who disappeared fifteen years earlier in Woodstock, to whom Laura bears a strong resemblance. Back to the Garden is a very entertaining and witty mix of mystery, romance and the paranormal, liberally studded with pop culture references and a dash of Celtic Mythology. It could have been a mess, but Erica Obey manages to pull all the disparate elements together into a fun, fast read.

I picked up Back to the Garden at Book Expo and had no real idea what the book was about, but Ms. Obey graciously autographed a copy for me. I'm glad that I was able to read this debut novel and found it very engaging.

RATING- 3.5-4 Stars

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Affinity Bridge eBook is now on sale for $2.99 | Tor/Forge's Blog

The Affinity Bridge eBook is now on sale for $2.99 | Tor/Forge's Blog: The Newbury and Hobbes Series by George Mann is one of my  favorite Steampunk series and I'm delighted to see that the first book is on sale in ebook form. If you are looking for a new series and have an interest in Steampunk, this is the one for you. The fourth adventure, The Executioner's Heart, is coming July 9 from Tor/Forge after what seems like a very long wait.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The 7th Woman

Frederique Molay
Le French Book
February 2013

A serial killer is loose in Paris with the intention of killing seven women in seven days. It falls to the elite squad of investigators, "La Crim", headed by Nico Sirsky. Nico is a rising star and as the investigation continues and the bodies pile up, it becomes apparent that the killer also has Nico in his sights. False clues are laid, incriminating and targeting his family.

The 7th Woman is very suspenseful and fast moving. Mme. Molay does a great job of getting us inside the mind of the killer, but not so much those of  Nico and the other characters. I don't know whether this is a translation problem but I never had a real sense of Nico, other that he is a likable sort with a lot of integrity. His immediate attraction to Caroline seems overdone and somewhat unbelievable.

On the whole, I think The 7th Woman is a fascinating look at the methods of investigation in France and one that would appeal to many readers. The 7th Woman won multiple crime writing prizes in Europe when it was  first published in 2006 and has become a series. Personally, the level of violence was way out of my comfort zone. I admit to skimming over all the killings after the first three deaths. I would give the book 2.5 stars tending towards 3 but it was not a book for me, no matter how well executed.

Thanks to and Le French Book for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

RATING- 2.5-3 Stars

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Expo America 2013

Book Expo America
May 28- June 1, 2013
Javits Center
New York City

Book Expo was another great experience among the book people. I attended on Thursday and Friday, meeting a lot of authors, some new to me and some old favorites. I picked up lots of "swag", both Advance Reader's Copies and finished books. So I have a lot of new fodder for the blog over the next few months. Standing in line to meet and have copies signed by authors is always tiring, but I find there are always interesting and nice people to chat with. Some of the authors I met are: Alafair Burke, Allan Gurganus, Chris Pavone, Laura Lippman, Daniel Woodrell, Cathie Pelletier, Lee Smith, Rick Atkinson and Hilary Davidson. I am most excited about getting my hands on an ARC for Seven for a Secret, the follow up to last year's spectacular Gods of Gotham (reviewed here in April 2012). I did my best not to go all "fangirl" in Lindsay Faye but I am not sure I was entirely successful! Judging from the length of the line and the level of excitement Seven for a Secret will be a very big book in September. 

The overall atmosphere at BEA was positive, both among attendees and exhibitors. The feeling is that the business is stabilizing somewhat after several years of challenge and upheaval. One can only hope that the trend continues. Many of the events are available for viewing at 

Now my only problem is what to read first!