Reviews

Honor Roll

I’m certainly not one to declare the book review dead (says the person who wrote a stellar Agatha Christie review that I’m pretty sure no one read), but I do think it’s the type of post that’s less engaging, less likely to be clicked on, less likely to be read… You get the idea. And, dear readers, I’m secure enough in my insecurity to admit I do want people to read what I write, if only to continue to share my love of whatever wonderful/quirky/clever/delightful/daunting/terrible book I just read. I’ve had a stellar reading year, with more than a few great books. These are a few that made my honor roll, and here are the ones I don’t think you should miss*.

The Library at Mount Char // Scott Hawkins. This absolutely deserves a post of its own, but I am pretty sure it would start out with “I have no idea what I just read, but it was very, very good.” A group of librarians search for their missing, all powerful father. That’s the simplest way I can put it, but it doesn’t even touch the heart of the novel. The Library at Mount Char is a hilarious, heartbreaking novel about what it means to be human, even when you’re not.

The Rules of Magic // Alice Hoffman. I listened to this one on audio and the narrator was wonderful. Possibly too wonderful, as I ended up sobbing at my desk. This prequel to Practical Magic revisits the Owens family curse, and it’s just as fun and touching and tragic as the first time I did.

Everybody’s Fool // Richard Russo. I’m convinced Richard Russo cannot write a bad novel. Everybody’s Fool is the follow up to Nobody’s Fool, checking in with Sully and the town of Bath a decade later. Hijinks ensue.

The Summer Wives // Beatriz Williams. Beatriz Williams is my favorite writer of “summer” fiction. Her books are light, but not without substance, and easily read, without watered down prose. Miranda Schuyler’s mother marries a wealthy aristocrat, exposing Miranda to the upper crust inhabitants of Winthrop Island. The summer after she finishes high school will change her life in ways she can’t imagine.

All These Beautiful Strangers // Elizabeth Klehfoth. The cover of this novel encompasses what I believe is the perfect summer day, which is why I picked it up. Boarding school, secret societies, and buried secrets made this a nice addition to the small number of YA books I read each year.

Often the more I read, the less I review, and the more I love a book, the harder time I have talking about it. Anyone else suffer from this? Or have you read any good books this summer?

*Although it’s quite possible I am the only one who missed them in the first place, as I wouldn’t exactly label these as under the radar.

Image found here.

Reviews

And Then There Were None // Agatha Christie

“Be sure thy sins will find thee out.”

Agatha Christie was not verbose, and And Then There Were None may well be one of her most spare, yet it may also be one of her most compelling. The novel is relentlessly paced and unsentimental, as it hurdles from one disaster to the next.

Tick, tick, tick, and another one bites the dust.

However, the novel is not just a murder mystery, although it certainly is that (and one that keeps you guessing until the end), it’s a meditation on guilt. Each of the 10 people brought to the island has a hidden, murderous past. Or so it seems. Are the events on Soldier Island an absurd form of justice? Or is someone using past accidents as an excuse to revel in their own insanity? The casual discovery of nearly everyone’s misdeeds is one of the highlights of the novel, often revealing why they act and react the way they do. They provide the motive and misdirection needed to keep the pages turning on what is essentially the bland, systematic murder of an entire cast of characters. It’s effective, creating the atmosphere of a dark fairy tale. It would not be out of place for Christie to have written “one dark and stormy night on a lonely island, the victims meet their fate…”

Make no mistake, the premise is ludicrous and the writing plain, but it’s a masterful page turner nonetheless.

(Interested in imbibing peril with RIPXIII? Join here.)

Lists

This Fall’s Best Fiction (2018)

I admit that this post’s title is a little misleading. I can’t say this will be the BEST fiction released this autumn, but it is what I am most excited to read on my own to be read list. Below is a mix of genre, young adult, and literary fiction, all of which look promising. So here’s to the *best reading season of the year. In no particular order:

10. Elevation by Stephen King. A return to Castle Rock!

09. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. Kate hasn’t let me down yet.

08. Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey. Love, loss, and a mysterious, isolated town in Canada.

07. Melmoth by Sarah Perry. Set in Prague, this novel features a dark legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore. Sold.

06. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas. It feels like I have been waiting so long for this one!

05. The Lost Country by William Gay. I worry a bit about posthumous books, but there’s a one-armed conman named Roosterfish, so I think it’ll be alright.

04. Golden State by Lydia Keasling. “Keenly observed, bristling with humor, and set against the beauty of a little-known part of California, The Golden State is about class and cultural breakdowns, and desperate attempts to bridge old and new worlds. But more than anything, it is about motherhood: its voracious worry, frequent tedium, and enthralling, wondrous love.”

03. The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox. It’s almost October and it’s a novel with ties to the Salem Witch Trials – the perfect pairing.

02. Scribe by Alyson Hagy. Traditional folktale mixed with post-apocalyptic Appalachia and the power of written word.

01. Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness. Although parts are problematic, I can’t get enough of the world of All Souls. Vampires, witches, and….doctors, oh my.

What are you excited to read this autumn? For more lists, go here.

*Is it just me, or is reading just THAT much better when it gets a little colder, a little darker, and there are pumpkin muffins present?

(Delightful photo found here.)

Reviews

The Lost Queen // Signe Pike

A powerful queen and one of the most influential women in early medieval Scotland, Languoreth has been largely forgotten. Her twin brother Lailoken, also known as Myrrdin, likely became the man that inspired the legend of Merlin. Signe Pike’s debut novel, The Lost Queen, fictionalizes their lives.

Primarily following the life of Languoreth – first as a girl who loses her mother, then as a political bargaining chip, and finally as a wife and mother  – The Lost Queen is the first in a trilogy about early Arthurian legend. Although I was intrigued by its description as a cross between Outlander and The Mists of Avalon, the novel more than holds its own. It is a tale of forbidden love, familial duty, and embracing a destiny that you long to fight against.

Pike illuminates the lives of her characters with rich details, everything from their tragedies and their triumphs, to the smells, sights, and sounds of medieval Scotland. As the druid way of life competes with the newly arrived Christianity, Languoreth knows she must defend her family’s heritage if she has any hope of preserving it. She is a fierce heroine who fights for her family, even when she knows it could cost her everything.

We may not always have the choice we would like. But we always have a choice.

The Lost Queen* depicts Scotland at a tumultuous point in history. Pike’s novel shows how far and fast the ripples of change can alter lives near and far, and I could not put it down. Truly, it’s historical fiction at its finest.

Is anyone else fascinated by Arthurian legends? I have been since I watched The Sword in the Stone as a child!

*I received a review copy of this novel courtesy of Netgalley.

Miscellanea

Readers Imbibing Peril

RIP 13I am so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers*.

Said Anne, but I am happy to say it too. Although I enjoy aspects of all seasons, autumn has my heart. Colorful, crunchy leaves and cooler temperatures make for wonderful days and the early sunset makes for perfect evenings for watching/reading/listening to everything perilous. Add in pumpkins, boots, and the return of wool and there’s just so much to look forward to.

Not the least of which is the return of my favorite fall event: Readers Imbibing Peril. It’s the 13th season of it, which seems auspicious for an event rooted in the mysterious. I plan to participate in peril the first (four books, or more!) and peril of the screen.

My reading plan:

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett. “Some places are too good to be true.

Under a pink moon, there is a perfect little town not found on any map. In that town, there are quiet streets lined with pretty houses, houses that conceal the strangest things. After a couple years of hard traveling, ex-cop Mona Bright inherits her long-dead mother’s home in Wink, New Mexico. And the closer Mona gets to her mother’s past, the more she understands that the people of Wink are very, very different…”

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox. “Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.”

Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. A missing God. A library with the secrets to the universe. A woman too busy to notice her heart slipping away…

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. “First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.”

And whatever else strikes my fancy (or comes in from my hold list)! I’d like to choose one horror novels, but I don’t know which yet. I am open to suggestions. It should be a good reading season. Care to join? You should, really.

*It may not be October yet, but in the spirit of an autumnal reading challenge, I’m going to pretend it is.

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