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Archive for March, 2019

Historical Fiction Review – The Devil’s Queen

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

The Devil's Queen

The Devil’s Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

Welcome to the complicated and tortured world of Catherine de Medici.  Jeanne Kalogridis has a knack of creating historical fiction that is based in reality but bursting with imagination. The Devil’s Queen immerses the reader in the life of Catherine de Medici from her years as a young girl being manipulated by her family to her later days where the roles have been reversed and she has become the manipulator.

Fascinated by astrology and the fate in the stars, Catherine places trust in Cosimo Ruggieri. As an astrologer, Cosimo convinces Catherine of her path and what can be done to strengthen herself and her family, sometimes through very dark practices. Catherine has a life that, truly, is fraught with trials. From being manipulated as a young woman, tortured in marriage with the affairs of her husband, and children who are spoiled and dark in their own ways. She is willing to do whatever it takes to protect those she loves, but she is in danger of losing herself and her sanity in the process.

The Devil’s Queen is a creative and intricate portrayal of Catherine’s life. The descriptions of visions are incredibly dark and expressive, graphic images of blood and suffering that haunt Catherine every day. The complexity of royal family trees and relationships is front and center in this book. For this reason, I wish a family tree would have been included for a visual reference because the plot got hard to follow at times. If you are a reader who enjoys dark historical fiction, I think you would enjoy The Devil’s Queen. My rating is 4/5 stars.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – Maigret on the Riviera

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Maigret on the Riviera by Georges Simenon

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

This 1932 mystery is also known as Liberty Bar. M.’s superiors assign him to investigate a murder on the French Riviera, so the novel is set in Antibes, Cap d’Antibes, Juan-les-Pins and Cannes.

Stabbed to death in his car is Australian William Brown, once a spy during WWI, so M. is told to tread with discretion. M. finds that Brown has come down in the world, owing to poor choices as to hard drinking and unsavory companions. M. finds out that Brown’s lifestyle frightens and disgusts his family, which deprives him of resources and pays him only a monthly minimal allowance. M. also discovers that Brown shared his life among his “four women:” first Gina, his “official” mistress and the mother of the second one, with whom he lived in his villa in Antibes, then Jaja, the owner of a bar in Cannes, where the young Sylvie, the fourth and a prostitute, also lives.

Despite this sordid backdrop, M. feels a connection with the victim because they resemble each other in looks, an uncompromising attitude, and a love for a quiet drink. Also, among the lush tropical flora, garish colors, and tanned beach bunnies, for a brief moment while wearing his usual heavy coat, M. himself better understands why a man on the Riviera for the first time might turn to extreme slacking.

He takes himself in hand, however, and explores two different settings, high and low, to find the culprit. The sadness and the squalor are balanced in the last when M. and his wife have a wonderful conversation in the last couple of pages. In this 17th Maigret novel, written in 1932, Simenon starts to use the existential themes that we meet in his “hard novels.”

 

 

 

 

 

Free Book Friday Winner!

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

 

The Winner of the Brand New Copy of

Wild by Sophie Jordan is:

 

Miriam S.

 

Congratulations! Your Book will be on the way to you soon!

Thank you to everyone who entered!

 

Free Book Friday – Wild

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

 

Wild by Sophie Jordan

Months after her boyfriend dumped her, Georgia can still hear the insults he hurled at her. Boring. Predictable. Tame. Tired of feeling bad, she’s ready to change her image and go a little wild. What better way to prove her ex wrong than a hot night of adventure at the secret campus kink club? — In the shadowy den of the club, she unexpectedly runs into Logan Mulvaney, her friend’s little brother. A player extraordinaire too hot for his own good, he may be younger, but the guy is light-years ahead when it comes to the opposite sex. Now he’s telling her to go home — “good girls” don’t belong there!

Georgia is tired of having others define her. She’s going to teach Logan a lesson he won’t forget — one white-hot, mind-wrecking kiss…that leads to another… and another… and… Realizing she’s in way over her head, Georgia runs.

Only Logan won’t let her go. Everywhere she goes he’s there, making her want every inch of him. Making her forget who she is. Who he is. And just how wrong they are for each other.

 

ISBN 9780062279910, Paperback

1 lucky member will win a brand-new copy.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this Blog post. You must be a PaperBackSwap member in good standing to win.

We will choose 1 winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.

You have until Sunday, March 24, 2019 at 12 noon EDT, to leave a comment.

Good Luck to everyone!

 

Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!

 

 

 

Fiction Review – The Brightest Star in the Sky

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

The Brightest Star in the Sky

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

A ‘spirit’ is visiting a town house in Dublin in The Brightest Star in the Sky.  What is this ‘spirit’, does it have good or bad intentions, what is it doing in Dublin, and why does it care about the residents in this town house?

The Dublin town house at the center of this novel has a variety of residents and the reader gets a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective into everyone’s lives through the perspective of the ‘spirit’. Through celebrating birthdays, navigating relationships, and dealing with family and roommate challenges, the reader gets to know each resident and the ups and downs of what the residents go through.  Keyes brings them all together in different ways and doesn’t reveal the identity of the ‘spirit’ until the end of the book.

I have enjoyed novels by Marian Keys in the past.  She is a witty author who blends humor with realistic and serious situations.  The characters in The Brightest Star in the Sky are a combination of angry, calm, young, old, oblivious, passionate, sad, happy, and all kinds of mixed up and confused.  The reader can tell there are things going unsaid that have characters teetering on the edge of different precipices.

I am giving The Brightest Star in the Sky 4/5 stars. As a reader, I liked having a subjective view of the characters.  The ‘spirit’ sees things the characters probably want to go unseen and this view provides great insight into their true selves.  I felt that in the middle things seems to hit a few bumps that slowed down the momentum of the story and I found my mind wandering a little while reading.  I had the identity of the ‘spirit’ wrong throughout the whole book but thought things came together rather nicely in the end.  In addition to The Brightest Star in the Sky, I would also recommend the following by Marian Keyes: Sushi for Beginners, The Other Side of the Story, and Cracks in My Foundation.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – The Seven of Calvary

Monday, March 18th, 2019

The Seven of Calvary by Anthony Boucher 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

This 1937 mystery fits the criteria for genre of academic mystery: set at a university, professor as detective, international cast, cultured dialogue, learned digressions, and mild gibes at profs’ manners and ways.

Though this was the author’s first mystery, he takes pleasure is satirizing the conventions of the Golden Age mystery. For instance, the professor-detective, like Nero Wolfe, never stirs out of this room to investigate the crime. In fact, he has a graduate student be his Archie Goodwin, getting out and talking to persons of interest. The grad student narrates the story in an arch and faux-sophisticated tone, very much like Michael Innes in the Thirties. In an outrageous post-modern technique, the grad student and Boucher (rhymes with “voucher,” by the way) meet over chow to confirm with each other that fair-play has been the byword, that clues needed to solve the mystery have indeed be given to the reader.

The story moves steadily through plenty of action. Boucher misdirects too but the long-time mystery reader, while alert to being fooled, will not be cheated out of a good surprise either. It’s impressive that Boucher developed such a crackerjack story his first time out. This book well deserves its classic status. Although he did not return to a campus setting, he wrote many more mysteries and short stories. For many years he was the mystery reviewer for the New York Times. He has a convention of mystery fandom named after him, Bouchercon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – Minute for Murder

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Minute for Murder by Nicholas Blake

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Cecil Day-Lewis, poet and translator of Latin classics, added to his probably low income as a prof by writing detective novels under a pen-name. As we’d expect from a professor of classics, his writing is erudite, witty, and lucid enough to put up with the usual British whodunit machinery of red herrings, beautiful blondes, and wacky characters.

The upside of Minute for Murder (1947) is that it is probably based on Lewis’ wartime experience working in the Ministry of Information, which Orwell also satirized in 1984.

Series hero Nigel Strangeways is working at the “Ministry of Morale” in the Visual Propaganda Division. He captures the tensions among different grades of staff and the problems of supervising talented but temperamental people. The material on the human factor and red herring combine to make this rather longer than the typical old-timey whodunnit, but he’s such a charming writer that we don’t mind.