Genre: Science Fiction
Red Rising – Pierce Brown
Appeal Factors: Fast-paced; story – character-driven; language – compelling; tone – suspenseful; frame – Mars, future
Read via NetGalley; publication 2/2014. In the future Mars is a pioneer colony being terraformed to support human life. Darrow and his family, reds for several generations, have lived below the surface mining for helium used in taming the planet. Their lives are harsh; the rules inflexible. Punishments are harsh and not open to negotiation or clemency. Darrow’s father died for an infraction; Darrow, a helldiver (toughest of the miners), pays a terrible penalty for his.
Darrow joins the rebellion and discovers that the game is fixed; the surface holds a luxurious civilization enjoyed by the higher colors while reds are gulled into being slaves. Surgery, forged identity, and training allow him to pass as a gold and enter a competition for future position and power. Unfortunately this game is lethal.
Red Rising has surprising characters, friendship, enmity, plots, battles and strategy. It should appeal to readers who enjoyed Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy and especially Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. Here’s hoping that Red Rising will be the beginning of a trilogy as well.
Girls of Summer – Barbara Bretton
Appeal Factors: Pace – fast; Characterizations – familiar and well-developed, good secondary ensemble; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – heartwarming; Frame – Shelter Rock Cove Maine, contemporary.
Having moved from Manhattan to Maine, OBGYN Ellen O’Brien Markowitz is a solitary woman. Emotionally stunned at age 14 when she discovered that her father was not her father and that she was to be thrown into a family of half-sisters very different from herself, she has isolated herself from close relationships – until after a christening she sleeps with her colleague and boss, her half-sister shows up on her doorstep with a giant stray dog, and her birth father returns from Ireland with a serious illness. This romance explores what it means to be family and the dangers and pleasures of learning to open your life and heart to others. An engaging and charming read.
- Similar authors: Robyn Carr, Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, Susan Elizabeth PhilllipsName: Jan Resnick
Genre: Regency Romance
Don’t Tempt Me – Loretta Chase
Appeal Factors: Pace – fast; Characterizations – well-developed within genre
stereotypes; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – witty, sensual; Frame – London, 1818.
As a 12-year-old, Zoe Octavia is kidnapped and sold into a Cairo harem. At 24, in the confusion following the Pasha’s son’s death, she escapes and runs to the British quarter. Upon returning to London, integration of ‘the harem girl’ into society requires the help of a powerful sponsor, the Duke of Marchmont, a childhood friend. HEA is in process when the new duchess discovers fraud and theft on the part of the house steward and the housekeeper. Deposed servants can be very dangerous. Clever and entertaining.
- Similar authors: Mary Balogh, Catherine Coulter, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Amanda Quick
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Out of the Mist – JoAnn Ross
Appeal Factors: Pace – fast; Characterizations – well-developed within genre stereotypes; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – atmospheric, sensual; Frame – Smokey Mountains, NC & TN.
The Smokey Mountains host communities of Scots, and the summer’s Highland Games is a combination celebration reenactment. Lily Stewart, the family’s fixer, is organizing the games and repairing everyone’s relationships. Ian MacKenzie is considering the games as a subject for one of his award-winning documentaries while plotting to steal an historic brooch to please his grandfather. Centuries of clan warfare, ‘who’s got the brooch,’ and romance between Lily and Ian make up this first in the Stewart Sisters trilogy.
- Similar authors: Jennifer Crusie, Lisa Kleypas, Robyn Carr, Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Genre: Women’s lives and relationships
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. – Nicole Bernier
Appeal Factors: Pace – relaxed, compelling; Characterizations – historical, resourceful everyday characters; Language – engaging, compelling; Story – intricately plotted; Tone – suspenseful; Frame – Great Rock Island MA – contemporary.
Elizabeth died a year ago, before 9/11, and left her diaries to her best friend Kate with instructions to start reading at the beginning and to decide the eventual disposition of the journals. Kate learns many things about Elizabeth that she never suspected. What does this disclose about Kate’s awareness as a friend? Kate also begins to question her own life decisions and her relationship with her husband. The diaries revelations and the fact that Elizabeth left them and their fate to Kate rather than to Dave, E’s husband, also create tension and may sever the bond between the two families. Introspective; good for discussion.
- Similar authors: Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve, Suzanne Strempek Shea, Sue Miller – The Senator’s Wife, Juliette Faye
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Out of the Blue – JoAnn Ross
Appeal Factors: Pace – fast; Characterizations –genre stereotypes; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – suspenseful, sensual; Frame – New Orleans & Smokey Mountains, NC.
Lark Stewart, country music star, is found wandering the streets of New Orleans, bloody and with no memory of what happened. Someone tried to shoot her and did shoot her friend and band member Danny. Childhood sweetheart and ex-FBI sniper Lucas McCloud is recruited to protect her. To add to her problems a stalker fan, jailed for attacking her before, is on the loose and her manipulative threatening ex-husband has also returned. She still manages HEA. This is the second in the Stewart Sisters trilogy.
- Similar authors: Suzanne Brockmann, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, Jayne Ann Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell
Beyond the Bridge – Tom MacDonald
Appeal Factors: Pace: fast Characters: well developed for the genre Story: intricately plotted Language: Engaging Tone: Strong sense of place, suspenseful Frame: Boston, contemporary
Somebody is crucifying priests in Boston. At first, the deadly link seems to be pedophile priests, but Blackie Barboza swears his brother was not a pedophile and asks Dermot Sparhawk to clear his brother’s name. Dermot was a high profile football player for Boston College, a local hero until he blew out his knee. Now he works in a parish food pantry in Charlestown. His alcoholism, a subtheme in the story, does not diminish the respect he is shown in the local community. As more priests are killed, Dermot worries out clues and connections and Bishop Downey, also a potential target of the killer, asks for his help. The Bishop’s support gives Dermot access to more information and people. As the story progresses and the kill count increases, Dermot worries that he may be leading the killer to his prey. How to find him? How to stop him? Beyond the Bridge is readable; the plot complex. The Boston setting is detailed and includes travels to the Cape and the Berkshires. ‘Bridge’ has a very high body count. Who dunnit and how gets explained. The why of the bloody rampage is less clear. Prequel to The Charlestown Connection.
- Red flags: Ritual killings of pedophile priests, Dermot’s alcoholism & blackouts.
- Similar authors: Tom MacDonald, Dennis Lehane, Philip R. Craig, William G. Tapply Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Pharaoh – David Gibbins
Appeal Factors: Pace: fast; Characters: Some fictional, some historical; Story: Intricately plotted; Language: engaging, compelling; Tone: suspenseful; Frame: Nubia 1351 b.c., Spain/Sudan/Cornwall/Giza present day, Sudan December 1884
The twin fascinations of Ancient Egyptian secrets and noble rescue attempts are themes in Pharaoh that sweep the reader along. At first, in the current day, the book feels like a derivative of a Clive Cussler adventure, but when the storyline moves to the rescue attempt to save General Gordon and the siege of Khartoum in 1884, the story is riveting – snipers, suspense, political intrigue, political endgames, and fascinating characters. Readers who enjoy historical fiction will learn a lot about this period and the more modern roots of the conflict with Islam.
When we return to modern day, the ancient and 19th century archeological clues are pulled together leading to a vast treasure, but the ending leaves the heroes in jeopardy and the story just stops. This is a departure from the rest of the novel, and it left me frustrated and irritated. I would find it hard to recommend Pharaoh to readers because of this unresolved ending. In the author’s lengthy afterword, there is no mention of a sequel to complete the story, although according to reader notes on Amazon, Pharaoh will be followed by Pyramid which advances the story.
- #7 in the Jack Howard series.
- Red flags: battle descriptions very gory
- Similar authors: Wilbur A. Smith, Hammond Innes, William Dietrich, Barbara Wood historicals, Max Allan Collins, Philippa Gregory, Robert Harris
Genre: Cozy Mysteries
The Body in the Bog – Katherine Hall Page
Appeal Factors: Leisurely-paced; story – character-driven; Characters are well-developed and likeable; language – engaging; tone – heartwarming;frame – Aleford MA, contemporary.A controversial housing development results in the death of an ecologist protestor.
During Aleford’s major annual festival, Patriot’s Day, Faith looks for the killer and becomes a target herself. +recipes
- #7 in the Faith Fairchild series (excluding the prequel which would make it #8)
- Similar authors: Page, Ada Madison, Jane Haddam, Joanne Fluke
Genre: Science Fiction
Victory Conditions – Elizabeth Moon
Appeal Factors: Fast-paced; story – character-driven, world building; Characters are well-developed with lots of backstory; language – engaging, compelling; tone – suspenseful; frame – space colonies with different cultures and the politics and warfare of the future.
Several star systems ally under the youthful space commander Kylara Vatta to protect themselves against ruthless space pirate Gammis Turek. After generations of relative peace, this conflict exacerbates the chinks in the colonies’ armor due to neglect or outright corruption. The Vatta’s have a history as successful merchants and entrepreneurs; the family was almost wiped out a few years before in a concerted political and economic assassination campaign. Ky took command of a family ship with a Letter of Marque to rebuild the family’s fortunes. Her experiences and abilities uniquely qualify her to command a defensive force although older military leaders use Ky’s possible motives and youth as excuses to drag their feet joining a defensive coalition. Government officers in the pay of Turek or corrupt merchants also delay proper defense.
This is a great story arc where characters and relationships grow and evolve as do the colony interactions. This is supposedly the last of the series, but I hope this series continues.
- #5 in the Ky Vatta series; Most enjoyed if read in order.
- Similar authors: Lois McMaster Bujold, David Weber, Moon, Catherine Asaro, David Drake
The Wedding Challenge – Candace Camp
Appeal Factors: Pace – fast; Characterizations – well-developed within genre stereotypes, likeable; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – witty, sensual; Frame – London, Regency.
Rochford and his sister Calandra are devoted to one another which doesn’t mean his over-protectiveness is not overbearing. When he demands that Callie stay away from Bromwell with no explanation, she arranges to manage her own life. History and conflict result in HEA, but the backstory is interesting. Entertaining romance read.
- Matchmaker #3
- Similar authors: Mary Balogh, Elizabeth Boyle, Candace Camp, Catherine Coulter, Suzanne Enoch, Lisa Kleypas, Stephanie Laurens, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Amanda Quick
Caught! – Lori Foster
Appeal Factors: Pace – fast; Characterizations –likeable, not complex; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – mildly steamy; Frame – Taken (c1998), Delaport City OH; Say Yes (c2000), suburbia, contemporary to copyright.
Two short novels. Taken: Dillon’s brother is accused of embezzling and Kelsey is pregnant. Dillon gets a job with the firm as security chief and kidnaps Virginia to gain access to her files to see who is framing Wade. Wade marries Kelsey; Dillon marries Virginia. HEA all around. Say Yes: Gavin and Sara have recently broken up with their less than monogamous partners. That’s fine with Gavin. He was just waiting until Sara was free. He builds upon the friendship they had before ‘the incident’ (when Sara, in an uncharacteristic temper chased Gavin’s ex out of her fiancé’s bed in her own home! A nurturing and funny relationship grows into HEA. Charming characters, but not as evolved as more complex romances. Entertaining light romance read.
- Similar authors: Sandra Brown, Jennifer Crusie, Rachel Gibson, Lisa Kleypas, Sherrilyn Kenyon
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Hotshot – Julie Garwood
Appeal Factors: Pace: fast; Characters: likable; Story: character-driven; Language: engaging; Tone: suspenseful, steamy Frame: Contemporary, Brentwood TX, Dalton MN, Bishop’s Cove FL
NetGalley, pub. date 8/6/13. Finn MacBain and Peyton Lockhart were neighbors growing up in Texas. Finn was a screw-up and, with his brothers, was a hyper-active accident waiting to happen. In spite of this, he managed to grow up to be an Olympic swimmer, a lawyer and an FBI agent; he even saved Peyton from drowning in her pool when she was 5. He was her hero, her Hotshot. After college and a culinary internship in France, Peyton came home to reality – to find a job. She didn’t find a job in a restaurant, but she did score a job as food critic for a nationally renowned dining publication. After only a few days, she realized that she got the job, not because of skills or aptitude, but because she was pretty, female and expected to come across to the Editor’s son-in-law, a sexual predator who had harassed and abused any number of assistants. She taped his threats and left town. Before she got very far, he found out about the tape and his henchman tried to drive her off the road in a snowstorm.
While looking for another job, Peyton’s uncle offers her the opportunity to redesign and upgrade his Florida resort. The work progresses, but accidents happen. Finn hears about them, checks them out and realizes there are bullet holes in Peyton’s ratty old car. He sets out to protect Peyton and find the villain: there is more than one possibility. The plot and characters are multidimensional. The secondary characters are good and have interesting back stories. Hotshot is a good romantic suspense that deserves a wide audience.
- Similar authors, titles: Julie Garwood; Linda Howard – Up close and dangerous; Elizabeth Lowell – Blue Smoke Murder; Stella Cameron; Linda Castillo; Karen Rose; Judith McNaught; Lori Foster; J.D. Robb; Karen Robards
Going Home – Nora Roberts
Appeal Factors: Fast paced; Characters – likeable; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – steamy; Frame – contemporary to copyright, Hyattown MD, Hawaii, Newport Beach CA
Three short novels bundled into one: Unfinished Business (c1992), Island of Flowers (1982), Mind Over Matter (c1987). All have aged relatively well. In Unfinished Business concert pianist Vanessa Sexton comes home after her manager father’s death to find out why her mother has abandoned her. In Island of Flowers Laine wonders why her father let her go without a word after her parents divorced, leaving her in a convent boarding school while her frivolous mother lived a flashy life in France. Mind Over Matter has a different slant; A.J. Fields is close to her mother Clarissa DeBasse, noted psychic. She manages her career and helps protect her from the demands of needy supplicants. All three women meet men who are good matches. Smoking is the only thing that seems to date the two older novellas, but not enough to put most readers off. It’s been a while since I’ve read Nora Roberts; these stories were enjoyable. Her characters and plots are well developed.
- Similar authors: Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Mystery; Romantic Suspense
Judgment in Death – J.D. Robb
Appeal Factors: Fast-paced; Characterization – well-developed w/in genre stereotypes; Language – engaging, gritty; Story – character-driven; Tone – suspenseful; Frame – New York City, 2059
Someone is executing cops with rage and vengeance leaving a bloody badge and 30 silver credit chips with the body. Dallas catches the case and Roarke has links to the background instigator.
- #11 in the ‘In Death’ series
- Similar authors: Sandra Brown, J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts, John Sandford, Elizabeth Lowell
Red Sparrow – Jason Matthews
Appeal Factors: Character/Plot/Pace
Jason Matthews’ 33 years as a CIA field operative enriches his first novel, “Red Sparrow,” with startling details, from griping about meddling, deskbound bureaucrats at Langley to the flat statement that in Putin’s Russia, “nothing has changed since Stalin.” That sense of authenticity, along with vividly drawn characters, detailed spycraft, and an appropriately convoluted plot that centers on moles in both the SVR (once the KGB) and the US government make this a compelling and propulsive tale of spy-versus-spy. Matthews’ characters are variously fascinating, eccentric, and truly odious, including a beautiful Russian woman with the gift of synesthesia (She sees colors for feelings.) forced into “sparrow school” to learn espionage through seduction; a brilliant and flamboyantly odd head of CIA counterintelligence, and a “poisonous” dwarf whose reveries always return to torture and murder. Locales including Moscow, Helsinki, Rome, and Athens come alive. The author’s CIA background and the smart dialogue make this an entertaining tale for spy-novel enthusiasts waiting for the next Daniel Silva. It is currently on my list of Top 10 Fiction books for 2013. I have not read something this good in the Espionage Thriller genre for a really long time.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Telling the Bees – Peggy Hesketh
Appeal Factors: Character/Tone/Language
Peggy Hesketh’s “Telling the Bees” is a luminous story that may appeal to those of you who enjoy Kent Haruf or Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead.” Hesketh explores family secrets and end-of-life reflections. Albert, a third-generation beekeeper who relates better to his bees than most people, must come to terms with the loss of his long-time friend, Claire, who was killed during a burglary gone awry. The author’s exceptional storytelling skills allow us not only to understand Albert’s feelings but to experience those emotions right along with him. Readers in search of a heartfelt, thought-provoking novel will find what they are looking for in this journey through the life of an unassuming apiarist who knows more about his reclusive neighbors than anyone could guess. Richly detailed, nostalgic and sparsely populated, Hesketh’s novel relies on Albert’s depth of first person narration and an enlightening amount of beekeeping lore. One of those novels that stays with you and makes you think about your life and those in your life and why there are.
Genre: Literary Fiction
The Death of Bees – Lisa O’Donnell
Appeal Factors: Character/Voice&Tone/Pace
Dark and a bit distressing, Lisa O’Donnell’s “The Death of Bees” is nevertheless a compelling story and mostly because of the variety of voices. Two adolescent sisters and their next door neighbor narrate alternating chapters, moving the story along at a fast clip. Trying to keep the death of their parents a secret, Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own until several residents in their Glasgow housing estate suspect that something is not right. The ending suggests that the sisters’ resilience may bring hope into their blighted lives. Quirky characters with distinct voices enliven this sometimes grim and often funny coming-of-age story in the vein of Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia!” O’Donnell’s debut is sure to be a winner with adults and young adults alike especially those that enjoy the Scottish noir crime writers like Val McDermid and Denise Mina.
The Hard Bounce – Todd Robinson
Appeal Factors: Character/Pace/Frame
Sent to our library by its publisher (Tyrus), I read it before putting it on the shelf which I often do if I have no other review sources and it looks promising. It is also set in Boston and written by a Boston guy so I was pleasantly surprised when I devoured it quickly. The story revolves around Boo Malone, a bouncer for a Kenmore Sq club who also runs a security business with his best friend Junior. Boo is approached by a classy, lovely woman named Kelly who asks him to look for the runaway teenage daughter of her unnamed employer. He eventually accepts, gets involved with Kelly, and tangles with the Boston underworld. Authentic characters in a hard, seedy world as well as an authentic Boston that does not romanticize the street life of drugs, homelessness, and sexual predators. Red flags would be the profanity, crude sexuality, and nasty violence. Not for someone who dies not want starkly realistic. The banter between Boo & Junior reminded me of Parker’s Spenser (although far more vulgar). As Boo & Junior look for the girl–you slowly get some of their background at St. Gabriel’s Home for Boys and wanting to know why Boo is who he is also compels you to turn the pages as much as the plot (which faked me out at least once). I’d read another one if this is a series. And it could be.
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Grave Mercy – Robin LaFevers
Appeal Factors: Tone/Characters/Setting
Delivered from the hands of an abusive husband to the convent of Saint Mortain, Ismae takes a vow to serve Death himself, and is trained to eliminate those who’ve been marqued for death due to betrayal or treachery. After the success of her first mission, she is given another, this one with much higher stakes that will lead her to question what she was taught and told at the convent. A mission that will force her to confront a man unlike any other she’d ever known.
Vibrant writing, attention to detail and a strong sense of intrigue make this an immensely enjoyable, smart historical fiction novel for readers who enjoy any one of those aforementioned qualities. Ismae initially left me cold, but how I warmed to her! And best not get me started on Duval, that man like no other, or Beast, a secondary character who should have had far more pages under his belt than he did. This book paves the way for two more, collectively known as the His Fair Assassin trilogy. Before finishing Grave Mercy, I had Dark Triumph on hand, knowing I’d be eager to get to the sequel as soon as possible.
Genre: Contemporary/Historical Mystery
Bristol House – Beverly Swerling
Appeal Factors: Plot/Character/Pace
Architectural historian Annie Kendall is hired to validate the existence of a man known as the Jew of Holborn, who was thought to have lived and passed along ancient artifacts during the reign of Henry VIII. The deeper she digs, the more she comes to believe she’s been misled by her employer. With the help of a handsome news reporter – and the ghost of a Carthusian Monk, long dead and awaiting judgement – Annie will solve a very old, game changing puzzle.
This mystery weaves in supernatrual elements, which are used to convey episodes from the past that, in turn, fuel the events Annie is living in the here-and-now. The plot is fairly intricate, with a great number of threads to hold and weave together, and the characters are likeable. The publisher included the term “dual-period narrative” in the book’s summary, which I think is misleading: the ghost – and “the Waiting Place,” which I believe essentially amounts to purgatory or another term for limbo – are plot devices, driving the Tudor period storyline. I found those snippets a bit jarring, honestly, and unfortunately contrived.
Genre: Graphic Novel
Slaine the King – Pat Mills (author), Mick McMahon (art), Glenn Fabry (art)
Appeal Factors: Tone; Character
According to the slip jacket, Mills’ graphic novel Slaine the King is a classic. First introduced in 2000 AD, a British comic anthology produced weekly since the late 1970’s, Slaine Mac Roth is an ancient and powerful Celtic warrior, banished from his tribe. Slaine the King was published in 1983 and reissued in 2002, and is ostensibly split in two halves, the first of which briefly explains Slaine’s younger years and subsequent banishment, and follows his exploits years later as he journeys back home. With his snarky dwarf sidekick, Ukko, tagging along, Slaine becomes the unwilling bodyguard of a renegade Drune, battling raging Norsemen and sundry others. The half that follows reunites Slaine with the woman at the center of his banishment, and sees him pitted against the Fomorians, a bloodthirsty race intent on collecting, of all things, taxes. Overall, the story benefits from Slaine and Ukko’s waspish banter, and the outrageous, larger than life antics in each chapter easily carries the reader along for the ride.
As for the art…Well. It’s black and white, first off, and your enjoyment of it will depend entirely on your sense of aesthetics. I much prefer Glenn Fabry’s work, which brings the second half of the graphic novel to visual life. Fabry’s art is more detailed than McMahon’s and clearer to the eye.
Just how well known is Slaine? I’m not sure, but for mythology buffs or a reader in the market for a story reminiscent of Conan and Red Sonja, Slaine the King would be a good fit.
Meant To Be – Terri Osburn
Appeal Factors: unhurried pacing, protagonist develops over the course of the book, homespun, sweet, romantic, island setting important to plot, island residents have their own backstories, lovely HEA
First in a series of contemporary romances and published after a successful fun as an ebook (seems to be happening more and more!). Beth has spent her whole life pleasing others, including her career-driven fiance Lucas, for whom she is on a ferry to his family’s home on Anchor Island. During her panic she meets a sexy, funny stranger who helps her get through the boat ride. Of course, he’s Beth’s fiance’s brother! Both fall in love and are unwilling to hurt Lucas. Lucas is not what Beth wants and needs in a partner and she slowly begins to put her own needs first. A rich cast of secondary characters make this book more than a typical romance. There are 2 others in the series, the 2nd of which finds love for Lucas. I enjoyed this book and will read the second (and probably third), but I’ll borrow them from the Library instead of buying them personally.
Genre: Narrative Nonfiction
Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice – Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy
Appeal Factors: True crime, steady pacing, well written, while focus is on Whitey other characters and events are important and well documented, coherent and journalist writing made this a pleasant read even as the subject is repugnant, carefully collected footnotes and some photos, a well rounded portait of Whitey that includes relevant contemporary Boston history
Cullen and Murphy create a full portrait of legendary criminal and FBI informant James “Whitey” Bulger, the Boston of his era, and shockingly appalling government malfeasance in this well written and documented book. This, perhaps once it is updated with current information, is the definitive history of this murderous man from Southie. Also of interest, Whitey’s role in the Boston Busing Crisis, the extent and depth of FBI corruption, and briefly examines the relationship between Billy and Whitey. While I did not like the subject of the book and some of the content was disturbing, I would recommend the book as not a salacious retelling of Whitey’s crimes, but as a well written documentary of his life and times.
Still Life – Louise Penny
Appeal Factors: leisurely and steady pacing, appealing protagonist and memorable secondary characters who are slowly developed, quirky and likeable, language is rich with details, lyrical and some Quebec dialect and French phrases, gentle humor and atmospheric tone, traditional mystery with detailed settings and portrayal of small town life, very tightly plotted with an Agatha Christie feel–the clue is in plain sight but revealed in at the end.
Can I live in Three Pines??? I would if there weren’t so many murders taking place there! Still life is the first in a series of mysteries starring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. In a small town in Quebec–Three Pines–a woman adored by the community is found in the woods, murdered. CI Gamache and his crack team, look for clues and puzzle out this mystery of who killed her. There are many subplots and characters that enrich the story and that set up many more mysteries.
The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker
Appeal Factors: deliberate and engrossing pacing, accurate portrayal of adolescence, secondary characters are there to reflect the protagonist’s experiences, 1st person looking back as an adult to her adolescence, elegant, haunting language, melacholoic mood, thought provoking, character driven tale told as a remembrance
Literary fiction crossed with speculative fiction in a coming of age tale set in the near future. The rotation of the earth has begun to slow and the environment, and people’s experiences, are thrown into disarray. Julia is losing friends and experiencing first love–the normal teen life experiences–in addition to coping with her parents’ different reactions to this environmental event. She worries about what might become of her, her family and her world. This is a haunting, compelling coming of age story of what happens when the world literally slows down. The first person narration makes the story personal to the reader, and although the reader knows that the story is being recalled, the important points are Julia’s experience, not whether or not she makes it. Very good and touching storytelling. This could easily be an adult book for young adults and is recommended for teens as well as adults looking for an inward look at an ecological crisis.
Shadow on the Crown – Patricia Bracewell
Appeal Factors: engrossing, easy to read, protagonist grows and changes, large cast of characters some of whom we don’t know much about, glossary and map are helpful, but not necessary, patterns of speech seem authentic, descriptive. suspenseful, foreboding mood, grim but also romantic with a flavor of the historic time period, takes place in England before the Norman Conquest, a character and plot centered story with 2 sequels planned
Centers around 15 year-old Emma of Normandy, who is to wed King Athlered of England in order to forestall invading Danes. Emma, who has some Danish ancestry, must defend herself against her enemies (including her demanding and paranoid husband) and bear a son to secure her status in this foreign land. England at this time is continually threatened by Viking invasions and Athelred is haunted by the death of his brother–who may have been murdered by their mother to secure the crown for him.
This is an engrossing story with plenty of historic details, political intrigue and romance. I look forward to reading more about this couple.