Sunday, October 21, 2018

Some Early Autumn Reviews

Ahh, an autumnal reminder of all that goes on at Hogwarts and around the literary world as the days grow shorter and the leaves shift colors and the stars grow brighter in the cool night air...

I love autumn...more even than spring because autumn brings the promise of cooler days and cold nights. It's nearly time to change the regular sheets for flannel ones, and I've put away the cotton capris of summer in favor of fleecy pants of coming winter. I can't wait for fires in the woodstove, heating the house and warming our hearts.

So here are some of my late-summer and early-autumn reviews of books I've been reading--and guess what? There's not an Austenesque book in the bunch!! I hope you'll enjoy my thoughts and perhaps find a title or two to add to your own reading lists...

I've Got My Eyes on You I've Got My Eyes on You by Mary Higgins Clark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been reading Mary Higgin Clark since high school in the early '80s, and I always enjoy them. I found her first dozen or so books to be absolutely compelling; I quite remember staying up all night reading A Cry in the Night and then reading it every spare moment that morning before school: at the breakfast table, as I brushed my teeth, as I put on my makeup. And then I did the unthinkable for this "good girl/excellent student": in my high school Algebra II class, I tucked the paperback between my textbook and my lap and continued reading, for who could possibly leave such a tale of psychological terror a mere thirty pages from the end?

But after a while, Mary Higgins Clark's books became fairly predictable, and although I still read them, I was quickly bored. I could pick out the murderer/stalker within the first half-dozen chapters and the same with the "love interest." Then the last few books before this one were much more interesting; in fact, they got almost twisty-turny again, and I didn't figure them out until close to the end. So with her latest track record in mind, I looked very much forward to this newest offering by a long-time author-friend, expecting more twists and turns and surprises along the journey.

Sigh. Not so with this one. I had the culprit pretty much figured out in the first quarter of the book. There were some nice red herrings along the way, but nothing that really put me off the track for long. It didn't help that the obvious murderer was eliminated from the get-go, and the rest of the story was interesting but not compelling. The characters felt "stock"--I wasn't really interested in any of them. I didn't really care about them at all, even the ones dealing with the grief of a murdered family member. It all felt stilted and cardboard-y.

So while I enjoyed the book, I didn't find it nearly as gripping as the last few before this one. I wish I had.

Buried in Books Buried in Books by Kate Carlisle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To quote River Song..."SPOILERS!" So this will be a short review because I don't want to give away much at all, despite my opening caveat. ;)

This is the big one...the Bibliophile mystery in which Brooklyn and Derek get married!! But trouble it always does for Brooklyn. Her mother invited Brooklyn's her two college roommates to the bridal shower, but these two hadn't spoken to each other in years because one ran off with the other's boyfriend. Both arrive, and it's fireworks for a bit. Both of them give Brooklyn gorgeous rare first edition books as gifts, but when one of them is murdered, one of the books is found to be to be a forgery.

It's a wonderful adventure, as all Bibliophile books are, and I absolutely LOVED it!! A delightful series, and definitely a delightful wedding!

Horribly Haunted in Hillbilly Hollow Horribly Haunted in Hillbilly Hollow by Blythe Baker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a cute paranormal mystery in which Emma Hooper returns from the big city to recover from a traumatic brain injury at her grandparents' home in the Ozarks where she was raised after the deaths of her parents. She feels guilty for not making it home more often, and she doesn't even tell them about her being hit by a taxi when crossing a street.

But the real problem is that after the accident, Emma can see spirits. And when the town's pastor is murdered nearby, seeing his ghost doesn't help her to believe that all of this spirit-stuff will just go away as her brain heals--which is her hope, one that wanes the longer she's in Hillbilly Hollow.

Emma quickly picks up her high school of which may become "more than a friend." And she also adopts a "dog" (actually a goat) named "Snowball" who follows her around the farm and even inside the farmhouse. And while her grandparents seem hale and hearty at first, there are some problems with her grandmother that make Emma want to stick around for a while. Emma keeps nosing around, and it's only with the help of Preacher Jacob's ghost that the murderer is captured and brought to justice.

This was a cute cozy mystery with the right amount of humor and paranormal without being creepy. I think that the series will continue to develop well. I definitely enjoyed it.

Flowers and Foul Play Flowers and Foul Play by Amanda Flower
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun first book in the Magic Garden Mystery series: Fiona flies to Scotland with her "tail between her legs": her fiance ran off with the cake decorator and her flower business failed, all within the same month. So when her beloved Scottish godfather dies and leaves her his cottage, Duncreigan--with a possibly magic garden adjoining--she flies to Scotland almost without thought.

Fiona and Hamish, her godfather's caretaker, go to explore the garden which seems "mostly dead" yet is coming back to life, apparently, from the moment she stepped foot in Scotland. But an unwelcome surprise meets them in a corner of the garden: a dead body who turns out to be the lawyer she's supposed to see about her inheritance. She is immediately questioned by Chief Inspector Neil Craig, who is decidedly handsome, but who is also closed-mouthed about the murder investigation.

So Fiona begins to nose around herself and finds that her lawyer was in the middle of a huge land dispute in the small Scottish village nearby. But each question she asks puts Fiona in more and more danger, with Neil trying to save her from herself and from those who have high stakes in the land deal.

This was the first of this series, and I could have cried--I want another book in this series right away!! I really enjoy Amanda Flower's book series, but she seems to be spread a little thin, writing the first and second books of several series rather than concentrating on establishing one series for a bit before starting another (and another). Well, I sincerely hope that she will continue to add to both the Magic Garden series and the Magic Bookstore series...and that she writes FAST!!

What Remains of Heaven What Remains of Heaven by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After his and Hero Jarvis' near-death experience at the end of the fourth book, Sebastian St. Cyr is called in by his aunt and the Archbishop of Canterbury, one of her dear friends, to solve the murder of the Bishop of London in an ancient crypt in a village outside of London.

The mysterious part? The Bishop's body lies atop another body, an unidentified man apparently murdered 20+ years previously in the same crypt which had been sealed up about the time of the unidentified man's murder.

But Hero Jarvis has been seeing the Bishop, also a friend of hers, on a very important mission: to find a home for her unborn child, fathered by Sebastian when they both thought they were dying together.

Sebastian has almost too many suspects to choose from, including the son of Benjamin Franklin and a butcher from the slums of London whose brother has sworn to kill Sebastian after they served together on the Continent. Then an ugly family truth is revealed that may bring Sebastian's ruin...and his ultimate happiness with his beloved Kat Boleyn after all.

A Morbid Taste for Bones A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With my love for all things medieval, I've long wanted to read this series set in the 1130s, and I found it as wonderful as I thought I would. Brother Cadfael is likable although not too terribly religious (more human than religious, if such a thing may be written), with an expansive understanding of human nature and an insightful intellect that solves many a problem, even a gritty murder such as the one that occurs when Brother Cadfael accompanies a group of monks from Shrewsbury Abbey to his native Wales where they wish to co-opt the body of Saint Winifred for their own. Naturally, the Welsh people don't really want to give up the saint's body although her grave has been sorely neglected.

When the Welshman most opposed to moving Saint Winifred away from her native Wales to English soil is murdered, it's down to Brother Cadfael to solve the crime. Much is not as it seems, with one brother's ecstatic visions telling one story and a secret romance telling quite another. Brother Cadfael sets several traps and manages to reveal the killer and also keep the peace with the Welsh village where Saint Winifred was laid to rest.

I like Cadfael--the way his mind works, and the way his heart works. He may not be the most pious monk, but he is indeed "wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove," especially in preventing further bloodshed from occurring among the warlike Welsh and the pompous, superior English contingent.

I'm definitely going to continue with the series...and then and only then will I watch the 1990s TV series with Derek Jacobi, one of my favorite Shakespearean actors.

The Case Is Closed The Case Is Closed by Patricia Wentworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second Miss Silver mystery, set in the late 1930s, features a woman whose husband, Geoffrey Grey, has been convicted and imprisoned for the murder of his uncle, yet he swears his innocence, and his wife believes him as does his wife's cousin, Hilary.

But when Hilary starts nosing around the uncle's house and interviews some of the former staff employed by Geoff's uncle, she finds herself the victim of attempted murder. At this point, Hilary's former fiance steps in to help, wisely employing the unflappable Miss Silver to assist. It was a wonderful mystery, so 1930s in dialog and dress, yet exciting; I found myself on the edge of my seat more than once, especially when Hilary was being chased by men trying to murder her in the dark fields of the English countryside.

I am ordering the third book in the series as soon as I can; this one was available only as an electronic resource since the series has been republished as e-books, but I'd rather than a hold-in-the-hands book for this series!

Gone Girl Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As River Song says: SPOILERS...and seriously, there are some complete SPOILERS here, so take warning!

I had tried to read this book previously (a couple of times, actually), and just couldn't. I loved the writing style, but something about the first section of the book really bugged me, and rather than putting down the book again and sending it back to the library unread once more, I admit to skipping about half of the first section. Maybe more than half of the first section. It was clear as day that Nick wasn't guilty of killing his wife, Amy, yet he looked so, so terribly guilty, with so, so much evidence mounting against him. I liked the woman revealed by the diary entries, but she seemed so perfect. So smart. Maybe too smart. I could tell something wasn't right, but I didn't know what.

When I skipped forward to the second section, it all became clear, and I was both thrilled and repulsed. And I couldn't stop reading. I kept hoping that they would catch her, but she really is a "psychopathic bitch" as Nick calls his wife when she finally returns after committing murder that she calls "self-defense." She's a long-term planner, and she does her research, and she has no conscience whatsoever. She calls it "discipline" to kill the man who had protected her (rather smotheringly, yes, but he did protect her), to cut his jugular with a single stroke of a butcher's knife before "escaping" and coming home.

One of the police officers believes Nick's story that Amy set him up for her murder and that she did actually murder her "protector," along with Nick's twin sister, Margo, but they had no evidence. Just he said, she said, despite Amy's confession in the shower with the water on full-blast so that no recording devices could be used. And then she every so neatly traps him...and it's utterly maddening. When I finished, I both loved and hated the book. I so admired the way the author manipulated the readers, but I also hated being manipulated.

It's a tough book...and I stayed up way too late to read it the last three nights once I skipped forward. It was utterly fascinating and compelling, but the whole time it left such a bitter taste in my mouth...and in my spirit. How can people act this way? It was maddening. I wanted to drown the book right there in the jacuzzi. Seriously. It deserved it.

* * * * *

So there we are...eight books and not an Austenesque book among them! Pretty much all mysteries and suspense, which is exactly how I finished the summer and headed into autumn, happily reading "whodunnits" Not a bad way to end a season and begin the new one, to my way of thinking, anyway. 

Happy reading! 

1 comment:

Reina M. Williams said...

Thanks for sharing more of your reviews--I'm down to yours and Meredith's from Austenesque Reviews as my go-tos. I also enjoy mysteries in the autumn, and am waiting for the latest in the Darling Dahlias series. Cadfael is a favorite too--I hope you enjoy! (Though I did stop reading about halfway through the series.) Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver sounds like a treat--thanks!


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