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Mystery Monday Audiobook Review – Edinburgh Twilight

Monday, January 28th, 2019

 

Edinburgh Twilight by Carole Lawrence
Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton is humble, troubled, caring, and determined; the author Carole Lawrence combines these traits to create a detective who is thoughtful and thorough in his pursuit of justice. At first glance he may seem like the typical troubled protagonist, but as the book progressed, Ian came across as less stereotypical than I first thought.

Edinburgh Twilight sheds light on the dark underbelly of Edinburgh in the 1880s. In the Old Town, criminals and prostitutes are around every corner. When a young man is found dead, Detective Inspector Hamilton believes it is murder. He makes his case to his superior and is granted some leeway to pursue the case, along with the assistance of one young officer. As the story develops, they realize they have stumbled onto a serial killer who becomes known in Edinburgh as the Holyrood Strangler.

Ian is dogged in his pursuit of the killer and crosses paths with others who assist him in piecing together the truth about the killer. The cast of characters includes Ian’s aunt, a clingy librarian and a street kid…there are others but mentioning them here gives away a little too much in terms of plot and surprises.

I’ll cover my positives first. I thought the storyline was clear and the pieces came together nicely. The various characters each brought something new to the storyline. Ian was a great protagonist and hero in the novel. The author reveals a lot about Ian as the novel progresses to help the reader understand his motivations and personality. Additionally, the supporting cast of characters was well-balanced and purposeful in their place in the story. Now for the negatives. The narrator seemed a bit over the top. He did a great job of creating different voices, but some voices were exaggerated to the point of being a bit off-putting. Some of the language seemed like it was a bit too contemporary for the turn of the century. I am not as much of a stickler for this, but I know if I noticed it, a reader who looks for purist historical fiction may have a real issue. Despite the negatives, I would still recommend Edinburgh Twilight, but I am going to be reading, rather than listening, to book two Edinburgh Dusk.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – My Sister’s Grave

Monday, January 21st, 2019

My Sister's Grave (Tracy Crosswhite, Bk 1)

My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

Tracy Crosswhite has carried guilt related to her sister Sarah’s death for a long time.  Almost 20 years ago, Tracy attended an event with her sister and rather than returning home with Sarah afterwards, Tracy went to dinner with her boyfriend.  On her way home, Sarah went missing and was presumed murdered, although her body was never found.  A suspect was arrested and imprisoned for the crime, but Tracy was always consumed with uncertainty due to her questions about certain facts of the case.

Now, years later, Sarah’s body has been discovered and Tracy begins a quest to discover the truth about Sarah’s death.  Tracy pursues her questions and moves closer to finding out the truth; however, there are people who don’t want her digging up old memories and old cases.  Tracy’s efforts are discouraged and the people she can trust are very few.

In Dugoni’s first Crosswhite novel, the reader really gets to know the complexity of Tracy’s emotions surrounding her family and the loss of her sister.  Tracy initially became a teacher, but her desire to seek justice for her sister drove her to become a homicide detective for the Seattle police.  Tracy’s grief and questions are all-consuming, and it impacts her relationships or inhibits her from even having relationships.  While Tracy’s character is complex (and I expect even further developed in upcoming novels in the Crosswhite series), the secondary characters are not dismissed.  Dugoni creates secondary characters who made me laugh, smile, cringe, and shake my head.  These characters add depth and personality to a novel that could otherwise have been taken to a very dark place by Tracy’s obsession with her sister’s murder.

I thought this was a well thought out crime novel, and while Sarah’s mystery is solved by the end, there is a crime Tracy is investigating as a Seattle homicide detective that plays out in the background of the novel. That crime is not solved and I hope it gets carried into book two of the series.  I do plan on continuing with the Tracy Crosswhite series and recommend the series to my fellow mystery buffs out there!

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction Review – The Rose Garden

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I have read a few Kearsley novels and I never know how to label them.  Fiction? Supernatural? Romance? Historical Fiction?  Kearsley’s novels seem to have a bit of everything and The Rose Garden was no exception.

Eva and her sister Katrina had a very close relationship.  When Katrina dies, her husband asks Eva to take Katrina’s ashes to a place Katrina loved and where she felt like she belonged.  Eva settles on Cornwall, where she and Katrina spent their childhood summers and shared many happy moments.

Eva hasn’t been to Cornwall in many years, but when she arrives at Trelowarth House it was like she had never been gone.  Her friends embraced her, and she was able to say her final goodbye to her sister Katrina.  But one morning she hears voices in an adjoining room, only there is no one there.  Not long after, Eva finds herself slipping through some sort of time shift and she is taken back to the eighteenth century at Trelowarth House.  She meets Daniel Butler, his brother Jack, and Fergal O’Cleary and in her shifts back and forth between the present and past, Eva gets to know these men and becomes a part of their lives.  When she realizes she has fallen in love with Daniel she is at a loss of how they can possibly have a life together.  What Kearsley develops is a story with connections from the past that impact the family who lives at Trelowarth House in the present. With the help of a trusted confidant, Eva comes to understand her place in both of those times.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I am unsure of how to label this novel.  There are elements of several genres and Kearsley finds a way to merge them all together to create a novel that has a little of everything without it seeming unfocused.  Additionally, the characters are likeable and as the reader I wanted them to be happy.  While I did enjoy The Rose Garden, I don’t think it felt as streamlined as some of Kearsley’s other novels.  When the mystery of how Eva is able to shift through time is answered, it’s not covered as deftly as I would have expected based on other Kearsley novels I’ve read; however, I still think the story was lovely and worth a read.

 

 

 

 

 

Young Adult Fiction Review – Paper Towns

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Paper Towns by John Green

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

Paper Towns won the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery, was number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and was written by the same author who gave us The Fault in Our Stars.  I had very high expectations.

Meet Quentin and Margo, neighbors who were close as children, but who have grown apart as teenagers.  They have had very little to do with one another until Margo climbs into Quentin’s window one night during their senior year of high school.  Margo takes Quentin on a reckless ‘adventure’. Margo dishes out some teenage justice to those who have wronged her and Quentin lets go of some of his ‘good boy’ personality for a few hours.  And then Margo is gone.  Did she run away or did something more malevolent happen to her?  Thus, begins a quest to find Margo.

There were a couple of things I really liked about this book.  One, Quentin’s friendship with Ben and Radar and two, the dialogue between the characters. Ben and Radar reminded me of those fabulous friendships where you can say almost anything to one another and still be loved.  They provided the brutal honesty and constant ribbing perfect for any situation or for any emotion.  Ben and Radar provided the levity that was much-needed in the more complex, difficult to understand mentality of Margo.  And Green did not disappoint with the dialogue between the characters.  Witty and quick-paced, it read like a natural conversation and had me smiling or laughing out loud at times.

While there were things I liked about the book, I did feel it was a bit of a letdown in the end.  In my opinion, the character of Margo and her perceived complexities came off as artificial and forced. I thought the other characters were much stronger, so having the character I considered the weakest at the center of the story made it a bit harder to truly appreciate the novel as a whole.

Overall, I think the premise was a good one but the lack of character in Margo impacted the result in the end, so I give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend The Fault in Our Stars more heartily than Paper Towns.  You can also read my review of The Fault in Our Stars on the PaperBackSwap.com blog.

 

 

 

Fiction Review – Beautiful Day

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

I have read numerous books by Elin Hilderbrand and what I enjoy most is that she can transport me to Nantucket with her vivid descriptions.  Beautiful Day is no exception to this, but I don’t think the other areas of the novel delivered quite as I hoped.

The novel begins with a wedding invitation.  Jenna Carmichael and Stuart Graham are getting married in Nantucket.  Almost every detail of the wedding has come from The Notebook, a guide written by her mother Beth before her death to help Jenna with the planning of her wedding.  Margot, Jenna’s sister, is dealing her own problems and dreading the entire wedding weekend. She has been at her sister’s side and followed almost every direction in The Notebook.  Beth has given direction on flowers, colors, location, music, food…everything.  The pressure to have the wedding Beth envisioned is a pressure that has weighed heavily on Jenna, Margot, and their father Doug.  Friends and family descend on Nantucket, but The Notebook doesn’t include guidance on what to do when there are doubts and cold feet, thus the perfect summer wedding may now be called off.

In true Hilderbrand style, Nantucket and the Carmichael island home (even the tree in the backyard) are characters in this novel.  As Hilderbrand does best, her locations become characters themselves and the reader can almost feel the salty breezes.

I think my main issue with this book was The Notebook itself.  I understand that Hilderbrand wanted it to be an outpouring of love from mother to daughter, but to me it came off as overbearing and manipulative. The entries in The Notebook irritated me and, even with all the praise for Beth from other characters, came across as a power play with the impression that Jenna would be a disappointment to her mother if Jenna didn’t follow every word. This seemed to overshadow the entire novel since excerpts from The Notebook are dispersed throughout the novel.

I think Hilderbrand’s position as queen of the beach read is probably safe, but I hope her next book that I read leaves a better impression on me.  And I will read another of her novels, that is of no doubt. Hilderbrand offers a type of escapism that typically is very satisfying for me.  Even though Beautiful Day didn’t leave me with a beautiful feeling, I still recommend Hilderbrand’s novels.  If you’re interested, check out my review of Hilderbrand’s Winter Street previously posted in the PaperBackSwap.com Blog.

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Review – The Courtier’s Secret

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

The Courtier’s Secret by Donna Russo Morin

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

The Courtier’s Secret was my first official novel of summer.  I found it to be the perfect action adventure/love story to read by the pool (or on my pool float) while sipping a cool beverage. I was transported from sunny Florida to France in the 1600s.

Louis XIV is reigning over a court of opulence and deception.  Many courtiers love the grandeur that is Versailles, while others feel suffocated by the pressure of performing every day to the whims of the King.  Jeanne du Bois is newly returned to court and under the oppressive thumb of her abusive father, Gaston.  His only use for his daughter is to marry her off to a gentleman of the court who can improve her family’s standing before the King.

Jeanne is not the pliable daughter Gaston desires. Jeanne doesn’t want to be a pawn in his schemes and even through fierce, violent arguments and beatings, Jeanne will not bow to her father’s will. Her uncle secretly gives her fencing lessons and Jeanne feels most free when she is using a sword, independent and strong. Jeanne rebels against being the submissive and accommodating courtier that she is expected to be.

One day at the end of her secret lessons, Jeanne and her uncle jump into the fray to assist the Musketeers in an unexpected breach at the castle.  This one act takes Jeanne on an adventure with the Musketeers and she becomes a part of their efforts to foil a plot to assassinate the Queen.  In the process of building friendships with the Musketeers, Jeanne meets Henri who has his own family secrets that could change the course of Jeanne’s life and save the Queen.

I found The Courtier’s Secret to be very entertaining and would highly recommend it for those who enjoy historical fiction.  I thought the characters were varied and interesting, even if I found some of them to be despicable. I think the key for reading this book is to remember it is historical fiction and was meant to be entertaining, not a history lesson.  In the Acknowledgements, the author lists other books and resources for readers who want to learn about the time period.

 

 

 

Science Fiction Review – The Legend Trilogy

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

     

 

The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

After doing some research last year around the holidays, I purchased the Legend trilogy for my niece.  Yes, I’m the aunt who always gives books for gifts and I do a little research each time to determine the best books for her age group.  She is nearly 13. When I found this series I thought, ‘heck, this looks good for me, too!’ so here I am now.

Now, typically when I read a trilogy or other series I read a different book or two not from the series in between to break things up so I don’t get bored with the characters or story line.  This didn’t happen with Legend.  So, what started out as a potential recommendation and review for Legend (book 1), ended up including Prodigy (book 2) and Champion (book 3) because I couldn’t stop reading!

Marie Lu imagines the United States many years in the future when it’s no longer the United States, it is divided into the Republic and the Colonies.  We don’t know at first what caused this fracture because we only see things from the perspective of people in the Republic.  We are quickly introduced to June (prodigy of the Republic) and Day (public enemy of the Republic).  Their lives are vastly different; June has lived among the elite being groomed for a top position with the military and Day has been on the streets for years fighting the injustices of the Republic.  They are thrown together due a set of circumstances that pits them against one another, but they come to work together when they uncover secrets that have tragically impacted both of their lives.

When the Elector of the Republic dies, his young son takes over and chaos threatens a fragile country that has worn a mask of strength and prosperity to their people. The new Elector is threatened with assassination and his politicians are trying to manipulate the young leader.  And it turns out the Colonies aren’t struggling as the Republic has convinced its people- it is a thriving country run by corporations and has the Republic in a very difficult position.  In the war between the Republic and the Colonies that has waged for many years, who will be the victor?  When June and Day join forces, will they back the right nation?  Will their relationship survive the doubts of their allegiances? These questions and more are answered in a trilogy that is well thought out and delivered.

I found myself thoroughly engrossed in this series.  The characters were heroes yet had flaws that made them more realistic.  There was the undercurrent of a warning to all readers that if we aren’t careful in how we make decisions for ourselves and our government that we could end up in a broken United States. So, in addition to this being a science fiction, dystopian series, Lu’s series can also be a forewarning of the damage that humans can do a country if leaders are left unchecked.  I think readers who enjoyed other dystopian series (I’m thinking of The Hunger Games or Divergent series…both of which I would recommend highly) will see similar themes in the Legend trilogy but also some aspects of the dystopian world that are new creations.  I am giving the series 5 stars for, among other reasons, its readability, character development, plot, and originality.  And as a bonus I can now talk about the series with my niece!