Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Wildling Girls by Eva Chase

The Wildling Girls
Eva Chase
projected release date: July 2017
3/5 stars

Teenaged Margot and her three sisters spend the summer of 1959 with their grieving aunt and uncle at Applecote Manor.  What begins as a slow, nearly boring, vacation turns into a time of trial for the close sisters, as they wrestle with their cousin's disappearance, and with the jealousy aroused by the arrival of two young men.

Fifty years later, Jesse is sure that moving to Applecote Manor will be the best thing for her rebellious teenaged stepdaughter, Bella, and toddler daughter, Romy, despite the long commute for her husband's work.  Things are not as bucolic as she had expected, and Jesse must face many facets of the past: her's, Bella's, and that of the house.

These two storylines are told in alternating chapters that eventually connect.  Chase does a nice job of switching between first person for Margot and third person for Jesse's story.  Sadly, some of the characters are static, even stereotypical.  The historical ambiance doesn't always gel, and several of the "facts" about the family aren't fully believable.  The slightly gothic atmosphere is well done, though, drawing the reader into the plot and keeping it interesting.  I found it an enjoyable, if not tremendously memorable, read.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake

The Beast Must Die
Nicholas Blake
4/5 stars

 After extension detective work, Frank Cairns discovers the man (George Rattery) behind the hit-and-run death of his son.  He plots to murder Rattery, keeping copious notes in his journal.  When Cairns fails in his plan, yet Rattery is found murdered by someone else, his journal surfaces placing all the suspicion on him.  He hires Nigel Strangeways to prove his innocence in the face of certain guilt.

This is a well-plotted, well-crafted mystery that kept me changing my mind throughout the entire book.  My only quibble with the Strangeways series is that the author (Poet Laureate Cecil Day Lewis) condescends to his readers, as though detective fiction and it's readers are slightly less intelligent than Day Lewis himself.  Overlooking that, the Strangeways novels are solid Golden Age mysteries well worth reading.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wedding Stories, edited by Diana Secker Tesdell

Wedding Stories
editor: Diana Secker Tesdell
4 Stars

This is an attractively bound collection of stories that center around weddings.  It has a lovely dust jacket and an attached ribbon bookmark.  It would make a perfect gift.

It contains a nice mix of authors, old and new, giving the reader a variety of styles to sample.  As a result, each reader should be able to find at least one story that appeals.

What I dislike about this collection is that it includes excerpts from novels as well as the short stories.  Excerpts can be hard to read, as much is missed that came before the incident being presented.  I found on three occasions that I simply could not enjoy the excerpt because I did not know what the characters already knew.  Had this book been solely short stories, it would be a 5 star collection.

(Note: I did not finish reading this collection because I did not finish reading the excerpts.)

Monday, May 1, 2017

April Wrap-Up

Another month of Bollywood bingeing means another low reading month.

Books Read:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (my review here)

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (my review here)

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (my review here)

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck (my review here)

Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell 4/5 stars
Another charming Thirkell novel filled with humor and love.  This one contained a bittersweet story, an angle I'd not seen in her books before.

Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell 4/5 stars
This Barsetshire novel takes place during the first year of WWII, dealing humorously with topics such as evacuees and blackouts, but seriously with romance during the stress of war.  It was sometimes sharply witty, but always charming, with quite an ending.

Audio Books Completed:
For the Sake of Elena by Elizabeth George 4/5 stars
This is a well-plotted and interesting mystery with good character development and a (mostly) believable plot.

The Mistletoe Murder and other stories by PD James 5/5 stars
My only quibble with this collection of short stories is that there were only four of them.  They are great examples of James' ability to tell a strong story with a good mystery.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith 5/5 stars  (my review here)

Did Not Finish:
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I really enjoyed another book by him (Britt-Marie Was Here; my review) and was excited to read this one after months on the library waiting list.  It was just too depressing for me at the beginning and I stopped 55 pages in.  I'm sure it will get better, and is probably fantastic, but right now it's just not what I wanted or needed to read.


The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm
Robert Galbraith
5/5 stars

An author is missing, and Strike is hired by his wife to locate him.  Later, he is found gruesomely murdered, exactly as described in his latest manuscript, and the wife is arrested.  Strike, convinced that she is innocent, ignores the police and does his own investigation.

Galbraith is an excellent writer (as anyone that has read the Harry Potter series can attest), and (despite my knowing the murderer early on), this was a near perfect mystery.  The character development was great, the plot was tight and interesting, and the entire story was believable.  I look forward to reading the next in this series.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

Here and Gone
Haylen Beck
expected publication date: June 2017
2/5 stars

Driving cross-country to escape an abusive husband, Audra is pulled over in Arizona and arrested for possession of marijuana.  Her children are with her when she is pulled over, but the officer says there were no children.  Audra's life descends into a nightmare as she is accused of killing her children, and can't find anyone who will listen to her side of the story.

Here and Gone starts out strong, with a great premise and a few good early chapters that seemed to lead into a suspenseful tale.  Then, the story starts to be told from several points-of-view, including that of Audra's son, Sean, and that of the arresting Sheriff.  Because of this, the reader knows what is happening with the kids--and why, and how, and where--so that the sense of suspense is lost.  It simply becomes a matter of filling the time with backstories until the conclusion. As a result, I did not find this novel gripping, thrilling, or even satisfying.  What began with great promise became a chore to finish.

Monday, April 10, 2017

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying
Karen M. McManus
anticipated publication date: May 2017
3/5 stars

In this YA mystery, five high school students attend afternoon detention, but only four leave alive. The police become convinced that it is murder and that one--or all--of the four are guilty.

One of Us Is Lying switches between the point of view of all four major characters, which was nicely done to keep the plot moving.  Sadly their voices are not well defined, due in part to the four being stereotyped YA characters, and without the heading it would often be hard to tell them apart.    As for the mystery, it was relatively easy to solve, but McManus contrived to keep the story flowing and interesting enough to make for an enjoyable read all the way to the end.  It's certainly not an outstanding novel, but it is entertaining and should be well received by the intended audience.