Sunday, March 9, 2008


1. A MISCHIEF IN THE SNOW by Margaret Miles. Fourth, and seemingly final book in the Bracebridge historical mystery series set in 1770’s Massachusetts. This book centers on Boar Island, an isolated island in the river that locals claim has been haunted for many years. Charlotte Willette, the series’ heroine, is drawn into the mystery when she is ice skating one frigid winter day and falls through the ice; the house on Boar Island is the closest so she goes there seeking shelter and to get dried out. The mistress of the house and her servant are both very odd women, and Charlotte can’t get away from the house fast enough to suit her! But she is drawn further into the mystery of the place when the only person who visits Boar Island regularly as a messenger and delivery man is brutally murdered. Was someone at the house responsible? I had a really hard time getting into this book—though it appears first on my list because I actually started it on the last day of February, I finished several others below this first as I read this in “nibbles.” LOL I’m kind of glad this is the last in the series, as I doubt I would read further on, though I don’t think it was a planned ending as there were things left unresolved—and the back flyleaf says the author is working on another in the series, but this one was published in 2001, and there’s been no more forthcoming. It’s never good to leave a story unfinished or tied up, I don’t think, but I’m glad to leave it here. This one just didn’t have the same feeling as the first three in the series, which I mostly enjoyed. C-.

2. GIRL, INTERRUPTED by Susanna Kaysen. Another of my TBR Challenge books that’s been on my TBR shelf for a long time. I’ve not seen the movie so have nothing to compare to. It’s the autobiographical story of a teenage girl who went for a counseling session with a psychiatrist in the late 1960’s and ended up in a mental institution for 2 years! A rather quick read, and interesting—and familiar, to a certain extent, since I have worked as an inpatient mental health nurse, though things are a bit different now than they were then. Diagnosed as “borderline personality disorder,” I have to say that the author’s voice at this point in her life doesn’t sound like any BPD patient I’ve ever come across, but then again I tended to see patients when they were in crisis, in hospital—not when they were doing well and adapting to life ‘on the outside.' The book was a bit disjointed and I didn’t feel like there was a lot of resolution…I am finding it hard to figure out where they got enough substance to make a movie, to be honest! (It must have been *majorly* adapted. LOL) Not as good as I expected, but certainly passable. B-.

3. SILVER’S SPELLS FOR ABUNDANCE by Silver RavenWolf. A book of different pagan spells and rituals that concentrate on prosperity and abundance—primarily monetary and physical abundance, but spiritual abundance as well. Like most of the Pagan reference books on my shelf, I do an initial read-through rather quickly and then go back and read those things that particularly interest me or are pertinent more slowly, sometimes taking notes and copying spells into my own BOS and going back to read it again and ruminate a bit on parts of it. There were definitely a few good bits in this book, and as it’s the first of this author’s books I’ve read, I enjoyed reading her beliefs and traditions and practice. This one is staying on my shelf—never know when it may come in handy again! B+

4. THE SAMURAI’S DAUGHTER by Sujata Massey. Sixth in the Rei Shimura mystery series, featuring a half American/half Japanese amateur sleuth who is also an antiques dealer. Rei lives in Tokyo, but the beginning of this story takes place in San Francisco where the story opens with Rei celebrating Christmas with her parents there. Rei’s on-again, off-again beau, Scottish lawyer Hugh Glendinning has proposed and Rei’s accepted, much to her mother’s delight. Her father is a bit more reticent about things, though, and when Hugh and Rei are drawn into a murder mystery that centers around two clients of Hugh’s—one in Tokyo, one in San Francisco--things get even more uncomfortable. To top it off, an old flame of Rei’s from high school days ends up as a translator working with Hugh on his case, and he’s not someone Rei enjoys spending time with at all. In fact, Rei begins to wonder if Eric might be involved with the big business that Hugh’s case is going to be opposing—did they hire someone to shut up the old folks Hugh and Rei had interviewed? Rei is also investigating her family’s history and discovers that her father had sold a family scroll from Emperor Hirohito, and further learns that her great-grandfather was actually one of Hirohito’s tutors. I do enjoy this series, especially the immersion into Japanese culture and history—something that I’d never been particularly interested in until I started this series, actually. This one wasn’t as good as some others in the series but still felt like a nice visit with old friends. B+.

5. A CHARMED DEATH by Madelyn Alt. Second in the "Bewitching" paranormal mystery series featuring Maggie O’Neill and set in small-town Indiana. When a local high school prom-queen type is murdered, Maggie is drawn into the case because Amanda had been in to Enchantments the day she disappeared to buy a Christmas present for her mother, a very expensive antique clock. Where did she get the money? When evidence that Maggie stumbles upon comes to light that Amanda was not quite what she seemed to be on the surface, suspects start crawling out of the woodwork—was the person who trashed Maggie’s apartment looking for that evidence or had they meant to harm Maggie? I had another of those instinctive whispers in my ear early on about the bad guy, but no evidence to back it up until later. I enjoyed this book, though there is something ever-so-slightly “off” that bugs me about the author’s writing style—I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it was enough of a something that while I can say I liked the book, I didn’t like enough to rave about it. I have the third (and so far latest) in the series already on my TBR so I will most certainly read that one. Hopefully the annoying buzz, whatever it is, won’t get any louder! Maybe it is the “dual love interest” thing—another Stephanie Plum-esque triangle in the offing, perhaps? I thought the “witchy” aspects of this book were quite well done and Felicity’s character reminds me very much of someone I know in real life, albeit without the accent. LOL B.

6. THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS by Colin Dexter. #10 Inspector Morse mysteries in which Morse goes on holiday to Lyme Regis, Dorset only to continue ‘working’ by following a year-old case in the Times, resurrected by a letter/poem about the vanished Swedish student which was thought to be from either the girl herself or her abductor/killer. Strange attempts to entice Morse home early but Morse is determined to take his holiday—though he does return a few days early and he and Lewis are once again on the trail of the killer. One of my very favorite series, all of which I’ve read before, but it’s been many years, and that in no way dampened my enjoyment of the book. Morse and Lewis are balm for my soul! A.

7. PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks. Another one of those books that combines modern-day with historical times, tracking an ancient book, the Sarajevo Haggadah backwards in time. Salvaged by a Muslim museum curator during the Sarajevo war, the book has now come to light and the museum has asked Hannah Heath, an expert in the field of ancient texts, to examine and restore the book. She finds four items within the binding and pages of the books—and each item is featured in a chapter back in time, explaining how it came to be there, and essentially to tell the book’s story. These chapters are interspersed with Hannah’s own story, and she herself is a very interesting and compelling character. Absolutely wonderful book! I love this type of story and this one was very well-done. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and had to slow myself down so I could savor it. Highly recommended! A+

8. GOBLIN HERO by Jim C. Hines. Second in the “Jig the Goblin” fantasy series, featuring the reluctant hero, runty, nearsighted Jig the Dragonslayer. I like this series because it’s different—Goblins aren’t usually a fantasy race that you think of being the hero of a story, but the author pulls it off very well, baldly admitting to the faults of the goblin race in general and Jig in particular, but using those foibles to make Jig all the more endearing. Jig once again has to set out on a dangerous mission at the behest of Kralk, the new goblin chief. He takes with him just a few cohorts—Grell, an ancient goblin who has been in charge of the nursery, Braf, a big and especially stupid warrior, and Veka, a wanna-be heroine and wizard who is jealous of Jig’s notoriety. Along the way, they meet other characters of other races who feature in the story, too. A humorous and well-told story, Goblin Hero manages to dispel that ‘second book curse’ in which the middle book of a trilogy often fares poorly and ends up being a rather ho-hum setup for the finale. This book stands on its own very well, and I enjoyed it just as much if not more than the first in series. Looking forward to Goblin War! A.

9. THE DRAMATIST by Ken Bruen. Fourth Jack Taylor mystery set in Galway, Ireland. Jack is off the drugs and booze and has almost given up the smokes, too. But he feels listless, wandering aimlessly through his days and not feeling very alive even though he is physically quite well. When his friend Cathy says that his old drug dealer, Stewart (now incarcerated—the real reason for Jack’s kicking the coke habit) wants to see him about something, he’s dreading it—but he goes. Stewart wants Jack to look into his younger sister’s death, which was deemed an accident when she slipped down the stairs. But oddly, there was a book tucked beneath her with an inscription from ‘the dramatist’ in it. Other things crop up—Jack’s mother’s ill health, a new lady friend, rumors of a secret vigilante group forming within the guards—and Jack nearly forgets about it until a second girl dies the same way. The book has a heartbreaking ending that I saw coming about halfway through—that didn’t make it any less painful, though! I love Bruen’s work; it’s raw, gritty and honest, and Jack Taylor, with all his maddening foibles, is one of my favorite characters. Despite the ending, I liked this book better than the last one. This series is not for those who prefer cozies and happy-ever-after endings. A.

10. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac MacCarthy. (audio) Another violent and somewhat depressing book, this one was read to me by an excellent reader while I spent the weekend doing some spring cleaning. I was hooked right from the beginning lines and actually prolonged my cleaning activities for long stretches so I wouldn’t have to do anything that required ‘thinking’ which meant I’d have to stop the book. LOL This is the story, told from several points of view, of a Texas sheriff, a soulless killer, and a pretty much everyday joe who stumbles onto a drug deal gone bad, finds a bag of money and whose life spirals out of control from that point on. It’s a horrifying and bloody story, and yet it raises some very basic questions about our humanity or lack of it. The ending was a bit anti-climactic, but after thinking about that a bit, I think that most of what passes for life here on Earth is, indeed, pretty much anticlimactic. Can’t say much more without giving things away, so I won’t. But if you don’t mind a bit of blood and guts, I’d highly recommend listening to (or maybe even just reading) this book, and remembering to look beyond the blood and guts to the heart of it all. A+

11. DEATH OF A DENTIST by M.C. Beaton. Hamish MacBeth #13 set in the Scottish highlands in the fictional village of Lochdubh. Hamish wakes up with a toothache—owwwwww!—and makes an appointment with a dentist in a village a few miles away rather than drive all the way to Strathbane. He ends up canceling the appointment because it feels better later in the day after a shot of antibiotic and some aspirin from the local doctor, but when the pain returns he reschedules it despite hearing some unsettling rumors about the dentist. However, when he arrives at the dentist’s office, he finds Dr. Gilchrist dead in his own dentist’s chair, almost certainly murdered, and as usual, suspects start crawling out of the woodwork. I really really enjoyed this installment of Hamish, maybe because I had taken several months off from reading one. Or maybe because the cozy, cup-o-tea and scones read was just what I needed after reading/listening to two rather violent and bleak books! At any rate, it was one of those reads you finish and give a big sigh of contentment, even knowing that, yeah—it’s rather cheesy and not a very realistic rendition of life. A.

12. CELEBRATE THE EARTH: A YEAR OF HOLIDAYS IN THE PAGAN TRADITION by Laurie Cabot. I started out reading this book in the middle, searching for ideas about the upcoming Ostara sabbat (Spring Equinox) and then read through to the end and back to the beginning. Weird, I know, but it worked. LOL Actually, I didn’t read this book very carefully, mostly skimmed it, as I found the author’s writing rather stilted and the rituals too formal and stylized. Plus the rituals and celebrations were primarily designed for a coven or group of people, not for a solitary person such as I am. But (as I always say) there are things to be gleaned from almost every text and while they were few and far between for me, this one was no exception. It won’t be staying on my bookshelf, though, and has gone into the weed-out pile. C.

13. DRAGONFLIGHT by Anne McCaffrey. (audio) First in the Dragonriders of Pern epic fantasy series in which we meet Lessa, a scullery maid at Ruath Hold, secretly a high-born young woman biding her time to seek revenge and overthrow Fax, the overlord of the manor who killed her family ten years previously. That time comes when the Dragonriders go on search and show up at Ruath, looking for weyr-women, highborn women of the blood, who will compete to be imprinted and bound to the new queen dragon of Pern. The old queen and her weyr-woman are dying and the queen egg is due to hatch soon. But finding suitable women to vy for the honor is proving difficult for F’lar and F’nor, Bronze riders assigned to the task. Lessa reveals herself inadvertently by using her power, however, and F’lar ends up dispensing with Fax in the process, and soon Lessa is on her way to Benden Hold to meet the egg of the new queen. I quite enjoyed this book, though there were parts that were kind of—I don’t know, cheesy? LOL Maybe ‘cliched’ is the word I’m looking for, but it WAS written 40 years ago, so I guess books that are written in its image would be the cliched ones! It took awhile for me to get the gist of what was going on, as the terminology for things is somewhat different on Pern and without a visual reference to the words it wasn’t as easy. The reader was ‘okay’ but sometimes it really sounded like he had a bad case of cottonmouth and I could picture him developing bits of that nasty sticky white goo that forms at the edges of people’s lips when they’re talking too much without adequate hydration. You know how that goes—once you see that, it’s hard not to stare at it as you will the person to take a drink or wipe their mouth! Ewwwwwwwww! LOL I will be reading (or maybe, listening) on in the series, at any rate. B+

14. ENDANGERED SPECIES by Nevada Barr. #5 Anna Pigeon, national park ranger mystery series, in which Anna is on the ‘fire watch’ team on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia. Unlike the previous book, Firestorm, however, there’s really no fire action, except for a small blaze triggered by a small plane crash—and this crash sets the entire mystery. The pilot flew drug interdiction patrols for the park service, and the other was the chief ranger on the island, though that wasn’t discovered immediately—someone else was supposed to be flying with the pilot. When it’s discovered that the plane was tampered with, causing a deliberate crash, this complicates figuring out who was intended to die and who had motive. As usual, Barr sets the scene brilliantly by putting you out in the middle of the wilderness and you end up learning a bit, too. A side thread through the book has to do with loggerhead turtles and their mating/egg laying rituals, which I quite enjoyed. I liked this book in the series very much, almost as much as Firestorm, the previous entry. I’ve found this to be a sort of ‘hit or miss’ series, but with two hits in a row, I’m eager to move on ahead. Well-written, and with a mystery that I didn’t figure out totally til the very end, also very suspenseful. I enjoy Anna’s laid-back personality and humor. Well done! A.

15. EMBRACING THE MOON by Yasmine Galenorn. Another book pulled from my Pagan shelves—I seem to be delving into these at a pretty good clip lately, partly just to start ‘weeding’ my Pagan library out so that I can dispense of books that aren’t going to be useful to me. This book does NOT fall into that category! So far of all the Pagan authors I’ve read, I think Yasmine Galenorn seems to come closest to my own beliefs and has presented things that I found to be very useful and interesting. In fact, I had a hard time putting this book down. One thing I like is that while she gives suggestions, there are very few pre-packaged rituals here—she presents the theory and reasoning behind various things, gives a basic formula and lists of possibilities for components and then says, ‘you need to adapt this so that it fits YOU.’ I’ve never been a proponent of ‘one size fits all’ religion or ritual so this sits very well with me—but oddly enough, since she seems to float in roughly the same belief circles as I do, many of her own rituals would probably suit me quite well without much adaptation at all. Definitely one for the Keeper Shelf, and one that I suspect will become well-thumbed with use over time. A.

16. HEX MARKS THE SPOT by Madelyn Alt. #3 Maggie O’Neill paranormal mystery, latest in the so-called “Bewitching” mysteries. Wanted to get just one more series completed this month, and this one is wishlisted by a ton of folks at paperbackswap so decided to read it and move it along to the next on the list. I enjoyed this book more than the last one—not sure why, really. I like Maggie’s character, though I think she might be heading into Stephanie Plum territory—torn between two men and all that, which would be mightily annoying to me. I hope the author decides to pick one or another and get on with it and doesn’t further degrade the series by making it a romance in the guise of a mystery. ::sigh:: In this book, an Amish man is murdered brutally, and at first seems to be part of a growing trend of violence against the area’s Amish. But further investigation indicates that this was a personal attack against Luc, and that is borne out as Maggie works with her sometime-boyfriend Tom, a policeman, as well as the members of N.I.G.H.T.S., the local ‘ghostbusters.’ Once again, I have to say the ‘witchy bits’ are done well and I'm hoping the author is continuing the series--I don't see any word of a new one yet. A-

17. HERE BE DRAGONS by Sharon Kay Penman. Historical fiction, one of my TBR Challenge "alternate" selections. This is the first in her Welsh trilogy that begins in 1183 just over the Welsh border in Shropshire and is told from the point of view of several different characters over about 50 years’ time. One of the most notable for much of the book was King John’s bastard daughter Joanna, whom he arranged a marriage for with Llewelyn ap Iorweth, an up and coming leader of several Welsh counties and wanna-be ruler of all Wales. While Joanna initially dreads the marriage—she was only 14 to Llewelyn’s thirty-something after all—they do grow to love one another and of course this leads to stormy days ahead as King John and Llewelyn never really trust one another and take turns giving offense to the other, putting Joanna squarely in the middle. But she manages to survive and even enjoy much of her life, never quite forgetting that despite her humble beginnings, she *is* the granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine! The story carries on past John’s death and the rise of King Henry, John’s son and Joanna’s half-brother, to power, and the saga of Joanna and Llewelyn’s marriage. The book certainly read ‘quicker’ than I thought it would—Penman has a knack for taking real historical figures and what information is known about them and embellishing it to turn them into real, fully-fleshed people. Who knows how accurate her guesses are? Who cares? LOL With my admittedly limited knowledge, her story seems to be historically accurate as far as the major details go, and she’s woven them into a wonderful story, that’s all I know! A+.

18. DEAD OF THE DAY by Karen E. Olson. #3 and most recent Annie Seymour mystery. Annie is working on a profile of the new New Haven police chief for her paper when he is unceremoniously gunned down in front of a local theatre before she even has the article finished. He had seemed like a very ‘benign’ fellow, and Annie is puzzled as to who would want him dead, so of course must begin to dig deeper. Annie and her new boyfriend Vinnie are on the outs, but why is Vinnie’s brother Rocco hanging around trying to get them back together? And what is his connection to a mysterious Hispanic girl who also seems tied in some way to a body that was found in the river—and to another body that is found in the trunk of Annie’s beloved Civic? Lots of questions, but Annie’s a reporter and finding answers is what she does. Oh, and if you remember in my previous reviews of this series I mentioned the ‘animal’ theme—the first book featured cows, the second one chickens? No pigs were found in this book…the theme animal here was…BEES! No, I’m not kidding. LOL This series has quickly become one of my favorites; I love Annie’s character and the secondary characters are also interesting, although Annie’s menfolk don’t seem to have much depth of character—all they seem to do is smile enigmatically and kiss energetically and arrive in time to ask, “Are you all right?” There’s definitely room for growth there. Heh. There is a ‘torn between two lovers’ element to this book, but for some reason it doesn’t ‘bug’ me as it does with some other books—and it SEEMS to be resolved at the end of the book. But then again, I thought it was resolved at the end of the last one too! LOL I enjoyed this entry in the series—and I’m waiting eagerly for November and the release of the next in series, so get writing, Karen! A

19. MURDER ON THE PROWL by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown. (audio) #6 of the Mrs. Murphy mysteries set in North Carolina, featuring Mary Minor Haristeen (aka “Harry”) and her menagerie of pets—Mrs. Murphy the tiger-striped cat, Tucker the Welsh Corgi and Pewter, the fat cat formerly from the store next door. A cruel joke—two of Crozet’s citizens have an obituary published when they aren’t dead—is followed by murder as those same two men are killed. But why? Is it the same killer—and in which case, what ties the two men together?—or are the killings unrelated? Harry and the critters, from their base of operations at the Post Office, hear about almost everything going on in the small town. Still, it takes some sleuthing by the animals and a few pointed clues left for their human before the truth comes to light. I figured it out ahead of time, too, but still enjoyed this story a lot. It’s been years since I read one of these (in print) and I don’t know why I remembered the series as ‘cozy’ when they really aren’t. The reader did a wonderful job and while I’m not a big fan in general of mysteries laden with pets as main characters, I do like this series. This was a great re-introduction to the series for me and I hope to be able to find more of these in audio. A.

DNF: BLIND DESCENT by Nevada Barr. #6 Anna Pigeon mystery. (audio) I had planned to do a double dip after enjoying the previous book so much only to find that this entry in the series was missing from my TBR stacks. I have several of the later ones but not this one. Not wanting to wait for it to be delivered from PBS or order it from the library, I downloaded it (painstakingly, in fits and starts, using my choppy borrowed wireless connection, over a almost an hour—normally it would take about 3 minutes with my cable connection!) in audio from the library. Nearly gave up a couple of times, so I was really hoping it would be worth it! Well…it wasn’t! LOL I listened to about a half-hour of it, and the reader drove me bonkers—she had some real annoying affectations and just didn’t sound like Anna, to me. I just couldn’t listen any longer. I decided to scrap it and just order the print version from PBS and read it later.