A Mystery Unearthed

This little gem came to light yesterday and generated a thrill of memory for me. This book was one of my favorites when I was young, and I would consider it a foundational influence on my reading and writing tastes.

It was probably one of my first introductions to “mystery” as a genre, and features a lot of story in its slim 80 pages. Kidnapping in the name of love! Trial by jury! Prison and escape! Vengeance and redemption! I read it countless times and I’m not sure what ever happened to the copy that lived at our house, but I’m sure glad to have one again now. 

I think I’ll curl up and read it today. :)

Review: Steam and Stratagem

Steam and Stratagem
Steam and Stratagem by Christopher Hoare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christopher Hoare presents an intriguing take on steampunk/Regency in Steam & Stratagem, one where alternate history and the relationships of the characters share center stage. I fell in love with the feisty and independent Roberta Stephenson immediately, and eagerly followed her into the world of early steamships, Napoleonic plots, and eligible gentlemen who each have their own charms to recommend them.

The pace is nicely balanced as plots and intrigue unfold, and Roberta is drawn into the world of intelligence-gathering–a world she’d frankly rather avoid–in the name of supplying her country with ships that will stand up to the newest technology employed by the enemy. It was fun to see her slyly surprising the unsuspecting men of the Navy with her intelligence and breadth of knowledge, but refreshingly, she always kept her dignity, which was part of what made her a very believable character for me.

The book does leave many questions unanswered, but the Tyche website promises another installment in Roberta’s story, Spies and Subterfuge, coming in 2015. If you are a historical/alternate history/Regency fan I highly recommend this book!

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Review: Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules

Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules
Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules by Mitchell Scott Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There was nothing inherently wrong with this book, it just turned out to be not really a good fit for me. I went into it with the wrong expectations, for one thing; for some reason when I read the blurb, I expected it to be a humorous mystery, but it didn’t have the element of comedy I was expecting. And unfortunately, I couldn’t buy into the astrology element–not through any fault of the author’s. It just didn’t work for me as something to hinge the solving of a murder mystery upon, and for me, with absolutely no knowledge of astrology, the explanations didn’t really make sense. It’s competently written and well-narrated, and the plot itself is good. Fans of astrology will likely love it! The notion of as astrologer-detective is fresh and interesting and adds a different twist that many mystery readers would probably like.

It’s interesting to think that had the main character been using *magic* instead of astrology, I could have accepted it more readily. So that part is entirely my fault. :)

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Review: The Cruelest Month

The Cruelest Month
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I intended to take a break from this series instead of listening to them one right after the other…but I weakened when the audiobook for The Cruelest Month was available from my library. Again, I was completely drawn into the characters and the mystery, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was also glad to see at least a partial resolution of the police internal strife associated with the Arnot case (spelling? One downside of audiobooks lol) as I was not enjoying that storyline as much. Not that it was not interesting or well-done, but I have a personal dislike of “false accusation” type stories, which really came to a head in this book. If you are a fan of Agatha Christie and P.D. James, I think you would find much to enjoy in the Gamache books.

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Review: Still Life

Still Life
Still Life by Louise Penny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable mystery, in a style very similar to P.D. James. However, while I often find James’ forays into side characters a bit distracting, Penny’s are always intriguing and meaningful. A wonderful cast of characters and a nicely complex mystery, perfectly narrated by Ralph Cosham for Blackstone Audio. I’ve already started listening to the next in the series!

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Review: Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story

Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story
Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story by K.M. Weiland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this a very helpful book to aid in thinking about both the larger structure of a novel, and also the internal structure of the work on a smaller scale (scene and sequel). The writer’s style is casual and engaging, and her advice is very practical. It’s a sort of checklist approach to structure that some “discovery” writers may not want to use before they’ve written a first draft, but that could be very useful in the revision process. And dedicated outliners should be able to use this method to craft a strong framework for their stories. Highly recommended if you’re planning, writing, or revising a novel.

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Review: The Diviners

The Diviners
The Diviners by Libba Bray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first thing I did when I finished this novel today was to look and see if book two was already out, and if not, when it was due to release. August! Argh!

Actually the novel achieves a nicely balanced ending–the sure knowledge that there is more to come, but the comfort of knowing that for now, things are mostly okay. It won’t be agony to wait for the next installment, but I’ll also be pleased to read it when it arrives.

I found the beginning of this book just slightly slow…a little too much history lovingly woven into the setting, perhaps, and a main character just hovering at the edge of too ditzy to be really likeable. However, once things get rolling, it’s a gripping tale with lots of twists, a large cast to be interested in, and dark edges that are pretty darn nervewracking. All in all a great read and I’d definitely recommend it for lovers of the paranormal.

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Review: Second Grave on the Left

Second Grave on the Left
Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I missed the first book in this series, it was not difficult to pick up the series and start reading from the second. I listened to the audiobook, which is perfectly narrated by Lorelei King who also narrates Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and Lizzie and Diesel series. In fact, if you enjoy Janet Evanovich, you’re likely to enjoy Darynda Jones’ style as well. A fun, light, and funny paranormal read with interesting characters and good intertwining of plots and subplots. Fast-paced and breezy with a couple of twists you don’t see coming.

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