Wednesday, April 26, 2017

To Listen or to Read?

Do you like to spend time in your yard, fixing up your house, house work, tinker on the car or how about knitting?  My husband used to tease me and tell me some day I would figure out how to read, crochet and watch the baseball game all at the same time.  I did.  It was actually a surprise discovery. My sojourn in to audiobooks was very limited as I love the process of reading the printed word.  I had listened to a few audios but not many.  Then I volunteered to serve on the AAYA (Amazing Audios for Young Adults) Committee which reviews and critiques audios for teen and young adult librarians.  The committee did not issue any awards for the audios but created a list of thirty to fifty audios with the top ten starred.  Members of the committee would receive between 250 to 500 titles.  We did a LOT of listening.  I served on the committee for three years.  I can’t believe how many books I was able to listen to while doing practically everything.  Plus, the joy a good narrator and editor can really bring a story and its characters to the forefront.  My favorite example of this is Jayne Entwistle’s narrations of the Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley.  The personality she infuses into the characters defines each one distinctly.  I have enjoyed everything she has narrated.  She has also won awards for her narrations.  Another favorite of mine is Kirby Heyborne.  Heyborne records from his home.  He has recorded so many titles from children’s novels to adult. He is a natural when it comes to narrations.  You would think that an author would be the perfect narrator for their book.  Not so.  I can only think of two that I can personally recommend.  One is Neal Gaiman.  He truly reflects the personalities of his characters and knows what atmosphere to submerge his narration to bring to the forefront the characteristics of his work.  Another is Libba Bray who will have you rolling on the floor with her narration of Beauty Queens. Bray doesn’t narrate all her work.  The very talented January LaVoy narrates her Diviners series. If you are interested in trying out some audiobooks but don’t want to listen to teen or young adult titles, I would suggest looking up the Odyssey award for audios or when you search for a title, look at where the reviews of the audio come from.  Is it a professional journal, website or is it a personal review?  I would take a personal review lightly.  If you are apprehensive and there is no professional review, some sales sites will allow you a sound bite to listen to the narration.  Another good place to find out about audio titles, your library.  Many librarians don’t have time to sit and read and will listen on their commute. I would also recommend listening as a family.  Car trips are a perfect time to enjoy a book together and have great discussions. I hope you’ll give listening a try. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Word About ARCs

Please do not sell or purchase these from booksellers.  If you are lucky enough to have a printed Advanced Reader’s Copy sent to you from the publisher, please don’t abuse this privilege by selling it. I understand why many of the publishers are relying on electronic ARCs as the print is costly and often winds up on some bookseller’s shelf.  I personally prefer the printed ARCs.  I tend to get more into the story with a printed volume than the electronic one. I prefer a bound book and will take breaks reading on my reader.  I realize many bloggers, authors and librarians get a lot of printed ARCs.  I know we did at the library.  We used them for prizes, reading programs, and reviews. When I was working with teens, we used them for our book club.  Often we use them as incentives to get kids reading. I get upset when I see booksellers selling these on Abebooks and other sites.  Please don’t purchase them.  If you don’t want to keep the copy, give it to a neighbor, a local library (they don’t add them to the collection) or a local shelter. Shelters can always use books. Be sure to advise them that the book is not to be sold.  If push comes to shove, recycle it. Perhaps it will become another ARC. 
Though This Be Madness

by Penny Richards

Lilly Long strives to prove herself at the Pinkerton Detective Agency.  Her acting background has been beneficial but posing as a married working couple with Cade McShane is not the direction she was hoping for.  Since McShane is on thin ice with his employers, he doesn’t express his displeasure being paired with the former actress.  However, the two soon put their differences aside to figure out why the matriarch of the wealthy Fortenot family suspects her granddaughter’s husband is up to no good.  As the pair go about their day-to-day duties, they begin to piece together a dark picture of voodoo, infidelity, and deceit.

Richards creates a realistic look at the power men held over women, well into the late 19th century and the deep seated traditions that drove the south.  Into the ugly realism of fabricated illness she adds the hierarchy the privileged held over the less fortunate in their employ. To spice up the story and break the intensity, Richards tosses in a little added spice of romantic tension and adolescent shenanigans that bring this second installment of the Lilly Long series to a nice simmer.  A good one to put on your To Read list.

ISBN:  978161496706041     Pub: Kensington                Pub Date:  Apr. 25, 2017
What the Dead Leave Behind

by Rosemary Simpson

Prudence McKenzie is no weak, shrinking violet even though the death of her father left her grief stricken. Now with the death of her fiancé she should be devastated but she is more concerned with her stepmother’s attempts to ply her with laudanum. Prudence knows Victoria’s after her father’s money but at what cost?  What disturbs her more, is why her father married Victoria in the first place?  An event as big as a blizzard and as small as a playing card will be the turning point which will seal the path that young Prudence will set out on. With help from her deceased fiancée’s friend and a beloved family friend, Prudence hopes to bring Victoria’s true face to the society Victoria covets.  

The practice of caregivers overstepping their bounds is a well-known fact that is often told in tales of the late 19th, early 20th centuries and let’s face it, 21st too.   Women often found themselves the victims to be legally removed from the picture by schemers.  Simpson takes the theme and turns it around by giving Prudence a mind and steely disposition to take matters into her own hands.  Filled with plot twists, nasty characters and a few heroes this book has some surprising turns that many mystery lovers will not be able to predict. I was often surprised by the direction Simpson took her story and was pleasantly surprised to find myself thinking about this story. I hope we get to read more of Prudence’s adventures. 

I wish to thank the publisher for their generosity of providing an advanced reader’s copy for my honest review.

ISBN: 9781496709080           Pub: Kensington         Pub Date: Apr. 25, 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017


by Christopher Golden

An earthquake uncovers a cave on Ararat. Visible within that cave are the remains of what many believe to be Noah’s ark. Meryam and Adam are determined to be the first team in the cave regardless of the horrid conditions on the mountain.  As they begin the excavations they are not prepared for what they find and soon discover they are not alone on the mountain.

Don’t start this late at night or during a blizzard. If you want to be up all night, ignore this warning.  Golden has given us a white-knuckle ride complete with a fully defined, diverse cast.   This is a quick read because you just can’t put it down. Leave yourself plenty of time, not only to read but to reflect on what happens on that mountain.

ISBN: 9781250117052           Publisher: St Martins                 Pub Date:  April 18, 2017
Sherlock, anyone?

I know there are many fans of the traditional adventures of Sherlock.  However, one of my favorite contemporary authors of the much beloved character is Laurie R. King. However, bringing up Sherlock is a little misleading.  The books are actually about someone else with Sherlock as a secondary character. She starts her series of books with The Beekeeper's Apprentice, and a happily retired Sherlock. King introduces us to young Mary Russell. A very bright, inquisitive young woman who is living with relatives after her parents have been killed. King's novels actually are a study of young Mary and her tutorship conducted by Sherlock and look a their building relationship.  King takes great care in her research and each novel has something different to offer. Never believe that since Sherlock is older and retired and a secondary character that he is slowing down.  Their adventures are exciting and dangerous.  King's novels will delight and entertain.  She allows us to accompany Mary and Sherlock all around the world in disguise and as known. Her latest installment gives us a little background on dear Mrs. Hudson. For me, The Murder of Mary Russell allows us a better look into the beloved housekeeper and how she came to be such an important mainstay in their lives.  As with all series, I have  favorite titles and not so favorites.  I encourage anyone who loves good literary novels that include a little suspense to please pick up these books. I don't think you will be disappointed.
Tightening the Threads

by Lea Wait

Sarah Byrne has asked her friend, Angie Curtis, to help at a family gathering at the home of her friend and newly discovered uncle, Ted Lawrence. The moral support will be much needed when Ted announces to the family changes he has made to his will with inclusion of his new niece. Tempers rise faster than the tide and so does the body count. Angie has her hands full when she is approached by one of the suspects to investigate.

There are some series that feel comfortable from the first installment. That is the way I felt when I read Twisted Threads, the first in this series.  Wait’s characters are a delight and could be neighbors or family, all members of the Mainely Needelpoint group, you are able to quickly bond with them making you care about their well-being.  She gives each one a rich back story from the author of erotica to the high school teacher with the poison garden. The storylines are suspenseful and well plotted. This is the fifth in the series and it just gets stronger and more intriguing.  Each installment has been a delight and this one doesn’t disappoint.

I thank the publisher for generously providing an Advanced Reader’s Copy for my honest review.

ISBN:  9781496706287   Pub: Kensington Books                 Pub Date:  03/28/2017

Kale to the Queen 

by Nell Hampton

Suffering from jetlag, Chef Carrie Ann Cole begins her second day as personal family chef to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor a bit early.  Already on edge from moving to a different country, leaving her boyfriend of six years, and working for the royal family, Chef Cole’s life is about to get more challenging when she discovers a body in the greenhouse.  Chef Cole is about to be tested beyond her cooking skills.

Though not personally familiar with the workings of the royal residence, this book feels well researched and authentic.  Hampton has created a likeable protagonist in Chef Cole and you easily sympathize with the challenges she faces as she makes her way in a new job, in a new country. Carrie Ann’s efforts to succeed and to fit in will be embraced by readers.  The other characters are together likable and dislikable.  The addition of a few recipes at the end is a bonus. This is a delightful first installment and I, as well as many others, will be waiting for the next one.  Well done!

I wish to thank the generosity of the publisher for providing an Advanced Reader’s Copy for my honest review.

ISBN: 9781683311041     PUB:  Crooked Lane Books    PUB DATE:  April 11, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mister Memory 
by Marcus Sedgwick

At the heart of this marvelous tale we are introduced to Marcel Després. Marcel remembers every detail of every day of his life. Every detail. So why are the details of the murder of his wife different than the details of the police reports? After all, he should remember, he was the shooter.  Why did the Prefect have Marcel moved to the asylum? He admitted to the shooting. He should be going to the guillotine or at least to one of the prison islands to spend his life doing ‘hard time’ and die there.

Wow! This is a very complex tapestry using many threads to complete the whole story. Often you may wonder where each thread is leading.  As you wonder about these threads, you suddenly realize they have wrapped you up so tightly you cannot put the book down until you can stand back and see the entire tapestry his words have created. This novel is a literary wonder of suspense that will take you back to the bawdy, wild days of Paris at the turn of the 19th century.  I would highly recommend this book to any reader who loves a deep detailed suspense.  Sedgwick has authored several titles for teens.  He is the winner of YALSA’s 2014 Printz Award for Midwinterblood.  This title would be appropriate for the older teens or New Adult. If you have teens who are more mature and tend to read up this might just fit the bill for them.  There is a reason this is for adult readers.   
Genre:  Mystery
 I want to thank the publishers for generously providing this title through NetGalley and Edelweiss for my honest review.

ISBN: 9781681773407       PUB: Pegasus Books         Book BD: 03/07/20

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Word About Seth Grahame-Smith

Any of you out there actually read Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer or Pride Prejudice and Zombies?  I’m not talking about seeing the movies.  Everyone knows that if there was a book before the movie, the book is better.  Now granted, many die hard Jane Austen fans were a bit putout with Grahame-Smith’s mash up of Pride and Prejudice.  However, if you read the book, you know he stayed true to Austen’s novel and just moved a few things around to fit in the zombies.  He does a wonderful job of mixing in the elements of supernatural into the realistic realm.  These elements are not aggrandized nor take over the story.  They are artfully woven into the story and blend in as if these events happened, these beings actually existed.  As you read about the life of Abraham Lincoln, the way Grahame-Smith weaves in the paranormal elements into Lincoln’s life you begin to feel that perhaps this could have happened.  In his newest venture in the life of the vampires, his latest tells Henry Sturges’s story. I like Henry.  He is a vampire with a heart and morals. Odd mix for a monster. The Last American Vampire is an artful look at how these supernatural creatures could be an asset to a government. It is a very interesting look at history as Grahame-Smith writes it. I recommend picking them up. 
Genre: Historical/Supernatural

Friday, April 14, 2017

Book Talkin'

Readers know what they like and most know how to get it.  However, there are times when you are talking with friends or strangers that a possible new discovery can surface. Whether it is a great stand alone or a possible, yet undiscovered series, I am always ready for a recommended title. I always appreciate finding a series with characters I can relate to and become interested. I really miss sitting outside the library’s story time room and talking with the moms.  I have discovered some great reads in the weekly exchange of book talks.  As it happens, often we read and have read many of the same titles and spend the thirty minutes having a great time talking about the story, protagonist, and author.  One of my favorite recommendations from a mom is the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries by C. S. Harris.  The first title in the series is What Angels Fear. The setting is during Regency England and Sebastian is the unlikely heir of the St. Cyr family.  He is, of course, a bit of a rogue but he is extremely intelligent and quick witted.  As a rule, I don’t usually read books that delve into the politics of court or governments. However, I have found that Harris is amazingly talented in weaving the politics around a more detailed plot which, at its heart, is more important. Harris is one of those authors not afraid of throwing a wrench in the works and shuffling the cards.  I am never disappointed in the additions to this series and look forward to each installment.  This series certainly does not fit into the cozy genre of mysteries. 

Harris is releasing a new stand alone on December 1st.  Good Time Coming is a coming of age story, of loss and survival and the hardships the women and children suffered when left alone during the hardships of the Civil War.  It touches on the good and evil that is within us all and often shows itself when we are put dire situations.  I haven’t read this yet.  At my age I have difficulty reading about man’s inhumanity to man. We see so much of it on television and read about it in the newspaper that when it comes to me sitting down to read I often want something softer. (I know, murder mysteries? Right?)  From the reviews I have read, Harris does a great job telling this story. At some point, I will make myself pick it up.  If you’ve read it, let me know.  I would like to hear what you think of it.