Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Death in the Small Hours

A Death in the Small Hours (Charles Lenox Mysteries, #6)

I read a library copy and listened to the library's audiobook copy obtained through Overdrive. Having both options allows me to complete the book even when I am busy doing other things such as driving or cross-stitching.

From Charles Finch, the critically acclaimed author of A Beautiful Blue Death and A Burial at Sea, comes A Death in the Small Hours--an intriguing new mystery in what The New York Times calls "a beguiling series"
Charles Lenox is at the pinnacle of his political career and is a delighted new father. His days of regularly investigating the crimes of Victorian London now some years behind him, he plans a trip to his uncle's estate, Somerset, in the expectation of a few calm weeks to write an important speech. When he arrives in the quiet village of Plumley, however, what greets him is a series of strange vandalisms upon the local shops: broken windows, minor thefts, threatening scrawls.
Only when a far more serious crime is committed does he begin to understand the great stakes of those events, and the complex and sinister mind that is wreaking fear and suspicion in Plumley. Now, with his protege, John Dallington, at his side, the race is on for Lenox to find the culprit before he strikes again. And this time his victim may be someone that Lenox loves.

 I enjoy reading this old-fashioned mystery series set in Victorian England. It seems like something that would have been written decades ago. What is so nice about it being current is that there are still new books in the series being written. Joy! 

You must start with the first book though. All series must be read in order or you spoil the whole thing. The first book is "A Beautiful Blue Death". Even if your local library does not have it, have your librarian find a copy for you. (It's okay, it's a librarian's job to do so and they quite often enjoy the search.)

For those of you who may be wondering, this is my cross-stitch WIP (work in progress):

After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, A Daughter's Search

After the Eclipse by Sarah    Perry

I read this with the Kindle app on my phone. It is a library copy
 obtained through Overdrive. Technology is wonderful!
A fierce memoir of a mother’s murder, a daughter’s coming-of-age in the wake of immense loss, and her mission to know the woman who gave her life.
When Sarah Perry was twelve, she saw a partial eclipse of the sun, an event she took as a sign of good fortune for her and her mother, Crystal. But that brief moment of darkness ultimately foreshadowed a much larger one: two days later, Crystal was murdered in their home in rural Maine, just a few feet from Sarah’s bedroom. The killer escaped unseen; it would take the police twelve years to find him, time in which Sarah grew into adulthood, struggling with abandonment, police interrogations, and the effort of rebuilding her life when so much had been lost. Through it all she would dream of the eventual trial, a conviction—all her questions finally answered. But after the trial, Sarah’s questions only grew. She wanted to understand her mother’s life, not just her final hours, and so she began a personal investigation, one that drew her back to Maine, taking her deep into the abiding darkness of a small American town. Told in searing prose, After the Eclipse is a luminous memoir of uncomfortable truth and terrible beauty, an exquisite memorial for a mother stolen from her daughter, and a blazingly successful attempt to cast light on her life once more.

I found this memoir on a list of recommendations and was quite surprised to find that it takes place in the little town in Maine where we have a vacation home. The shops and streets and the Italian restaurant that figures largely on the night of the murder are all so familiar.

I would have found the story compelling even without the familiarity of the setting. It is told by a woman whose young, beautiful mother is brutally murdered while her 12-year-old self hides in the next room. She tells of her family background, marked by violence and dysfunction, as well as her struggles to make a better life for herself, a life very different from her mother's and one that her mother would want for her.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie

*I received this book as an ARC.  The review, and my opinions, are all my own.*

The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie is definitely not a fluffy beach-read.  It is a book that demands to be savored slowly and thoughtfully with its lushly-written descriptions and gradually-evolving plot.  Neither is it a book that can be fully appreciated the first time it is read.  The reader may even feel a little frustrated with how slowly the plot progresses but when you get to the end, you want to read it again in order to appreciate all the nuances and subtle hints that were missed in the first reading.

The book begins with Maddie in California, waiting for her fiance to arrive from England until she is told that he has died in a car accident.  She grieves for him and for the marriage that will never take place.  She continues to work and live her life but feels isolated and lonely until her Italian grandmother sends her to Tuscany.  In Tuscany she begins to feel alive again and becomes interested in the story of a centuries-old villa. 
Interspersed with the story of Maddie is another story that takes place in 14th century Tuscany.  It tells the story of the inhabitants of the villa that Maddie finds so intriguing, although it isn't until well into the book that the connection is made. It is about Mia, a mute young woman who lives with her aunt Jacquetta in 1347 Tuscany.  She has reason to grieve as well as do some of the patrons of the wayside inn run by her aunt. 
It is while staying in Tuscany and discovering the history of the villa that Maddie is able to make peace with the empty space in her life that was supposed to be her first year of marriage.  She is able to find her life again and fill it with other people and interests.  Her visit to Italy has become a pilgimage where she feels the lines blurring between the ancient and modern worlds and where she can imagine a better and happier life for herself, one in which she can be whole.  "Something was allowing her to be touched by the world around her again" when before she "felt emotionally torn between two worlds."  The weather figures in the story in a mystical sort of way, as do birds.  There is also a sort of mysticism and a feeling of destiny in Maddie's life.  All in all, it is an interesting book that lingers with you when you finish it so that you have to go back and read bits and pieces again and again.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I really enjoyed this futuristic Cinderella story! Cinder is a cyborg due to an accident many years before which meant that her foot and hand were amputated and replaced by robotic parts. She was brought home by a man who promptly died after extracting a promise from his wife to care for Cinder. In New Beijing, cyborgs are considered outcasts and Cinder's adoptive mother never lets her forget that. Cinder is an amazing mechanic and the family, her mother and 2 sisters, live off the income Cinder makes. Her reputation is so good that Prince Kai brings his robot to her to be fixed. Naturally he is smitten by her but is also unaware that she is a cyborg. Add in a plague and an evil queen from another planet who wants the Prince to marry her to avert war and it all adds up to be a fun and new take on an old story.        

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

I got this book, as usual, from my local public library.

Another Flavia de Luce novel and I think it's my favorite so far.  I say so far because all indications are that Mr. Bradley will continue to write these wonderful books, thank goodness.  I love Flavia and her sleuthing!

Flavia de Luce is a precocious, Chemistry-loving, mystery-solving, 11-year-old girl living in rural 1950's England in a big old drafty mansion that her father cannot afford since her mother, the inheritor, passed away without a will.  He gives in to the necessity of allowing a movie to be filmed in the home.  Flavia and her sisters are thrilled and even put aside their bickering when the crew arrives just before Christmas.  Flavia has conjured up a super-sticky glue which she slathers inside the chimney in order to catch Father Christmas but even that is forgotten when a murder occurs.

What I loved about it:  Flavia, of course, but even secondary characters are well-described.  Dogger is one of my favorites.  I also love that all of Feely suitors end up at the house at the same time.  Oh, and I love that Flavia still believes in Father Christmas as smart as she is.

What I didn't like:  Hmm, can't think of anything.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I found this book
 at my local public library, as usual.

Alice, after passing out and hitting her head, forgot the last ten years of her life.  Alice thinks she is 29 instead of 39 and doesn't remember the births of her children, etc.  More than that, apparently Alice has become a very different person, one she isn't so sure she likes.  Alice's friends and loved ones are taken aback by this "new" Alice and their reactions to her are the best parts of the book, as well as her discoveries about her "new" self.
It's a fun and quick read (I had it done in a day) and I love a lot of the characters in the book although you want to smack some of them.  I found Alice's assumptions about some of the changes very interesting (I'm trying not to give too much away which is why this sentence is so wimpy).

I had to wonder "what if I lost the last ten years of my life?"  Hmm, the birth of my last child, 3 moves one of which was across country, a major injury with multiple surgeries, 3 daughters getting married, my mother's passing away, the birth of my grandson...a lot of life has gone on in those ten years.  Going back would find a more innocent and less experienced me.  Some of those experiences I wish I could forget although all of them are things that have made me who I am.  Alice discovers this same thing.  The "new" Alice has changed because of her experiences although seeing them through the younger, more innocent Alice's eyes helps her to reevaluate what effect those experiences will have on her.  Loved it!

What I liked about it:  I loved going through the process with Alice, finding out about those lost ten years right along with her and seeing the differences in the new and old Alice.

What I didn't like:  I didn't really like the whole "boyfriend" part. 

Was it clean?:  No, not really.  Too many incidences of that hated word although most of the book was pretty clean-no sexually explicit anythings and not much language overall but probably 10-15 f-words.  Really unnecessary.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

In this sequel to Shanghai Girls, Lisa See tells the story of Joy, a 19 year old girl of Chinese heritage living in 1950's Los Angeles.  (If you have not read Shanghai Girls, I strongly suggest that you do before reading this review.  There will be spoilers!)
Joy, upset and furious with Pearl and May after learning the truth about her parentage and blaming herself for Sam's death, decides to go to China to find her birth father.  She became enamoured of Communism and the New China while in college and feels that her place is there with her father.  She impulsively leaves for China, leaving behind only a letter to let anyone know what she has done.  Pearl decides to follow her in order to talk her into returning with her to California.  The problem is that getting in to China is not especially difficult, getting out is nearly impossible.
Joy ends up on a commune in the country and learns that communism is not the ideal she thought it was.  Pearl returns to her home city of Shanghai, to her old home, and finds that the city has changed drastically in the 20 years she has been gone.  Pearl says: 
 Old Shanghai, my Shanghai, had plenty of sin on the surface but was shored up by the respectability of banking and mercantile wealth underneath.  Now I see the so-called respectability of communism on the surface and decay underneath.  They can sweep, strip, and cart away all they want, but there's no changing the fact that my home city is decomposing, rotting away, and turning into a skeleton.
Pearl tries to persuade Joy to return home but Joy is caught up in her new life.  It isn't until a nationwide disaster occurs, a famine brought on by the ill-conceived policies of the communist regime, that Joy finally sees the reality of the New China.

What I like about the book:  Too much to write about here!  Mostly I loved the descriptions of China, especially the Chinese country life, as experienced by the peasants.  Naturally, those who had the least control over their lives suffered the most for the idiocies of those in charge. 

What I didn't like:  I liked pretty much everything but I would have like to have more about the changing relationships- especially between Joy and Pearl, and Joy and Tao.

Was is clean?  That depends.  For adults, yes it was pretty clean however there were definitely some things that would not be appropriate for children or even younger teens.  There is not any profanity, but some sex, and then just some situations that would be disturbing to most people, especially during the famine.