Tag Archives: NetGalley

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie

8th May 2012

* I received an egalley of this book from the publisher Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley.

I really love when the cover of a book fits it so perfectly, and I’d have to say that James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death does just that. It’s so idyllic and peaceful – blue skies with puffy clouds, green grass, and the beautiful church in the background…but with a dark shadow encroaching.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is a series of five longer stories, about 100 pages each, set in the late 40s and early 50s. Sidney Chambers is a veteran of the second world war, and often the people he meets assume he did not serve until he quietly corrects them. Sidney is unassuming and introspective, yet he still manages to surprise the town of Grantchester: though he is a priest, he enjoys jazz and has a pint every Thursday with his friend Inspector Keating during which they play backgammon.

Because of his position as clergyman, the town has very particular expectations of him, so when he is approached after a man’s funeral by the man’s mistress, he is taken aback but willing to help. The woman believes her lover has been murdered but does not want to destroy her own reputation or that of her dead lover, so she comes to Sidney because he is in a perfect position to converse with those in the man’s life without coming under question himself. The other investigations come to him in similar ways: Sidney is a priest; therefore, he’s ideal for unbiased judgment and confession. Though at times, he resents this unwanted duty, he also desires to see the truth and help those he can. Along the way, Sidney explores his own psyche and faith as he investigates the various crimes, and with one exception, the crimes are solved relatively quickly and without much additional violence.

The recurring cast of characters includes his sister Jennifer who dates Johnny Johnson, the son of a former cat thief; Inspector Keating who reminds Sidney who the investigator is but still listens and encourages his friend; and Amanda Killen, friend and possible enamorada, as Sidney cares for Amanda but also thinks she wants more than a life as the wife of a priest.

Though this book is obviously part of a series, The Grantchester Mysteries, this is more a pastoral collection of tales with the added element of mystery. Quaint and charming, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is reminiscent of James Herriot. Herriot’s tales, though deemed “animal stories,” illuminate much more than pastoral life in Yorkshire as do the tales James Runcie sets forth in Grantchester, exposing the reader to a way of life that is most certainly foreign but appealing to many of us.

Buy your copy from Indiebound or for your Nook.

Author Website: James Runcie

Getting Lucky by DC Brod

19th December 2011

*I received an egalley through NetGalley from Tyrus Books. Buy it here from Indiebound. Buy the first in the series, Getting Sassy, here.

Robyn Guthrie is 40-something, caring for her ailing but sharp-tongued mother and stumbling through the complexities of a relationship on the brink of ruin. Her one solace? Her dog Bix and her job. As a freelance reporter, Robyn has a fair amount of autonomy until Claire, a reporter at the Fowler News and Record, is killed by a hit-and-run driver. Robyn feels a kinship with Claire because Claire was a dog owner as well and was actually killed while out walking her pup. Everyone else thinks the accident was a random hit and run, but Robyn is curious… Claire was working on a story about a community of eco-built homes in Cedar Ridge, and Robyn retraces her steps to figure out just what was going on in the development.

The last time I browsed NetGalley, I saw this book and grabbed it up mostly because of the cover and description. I kept reading because DC Brod wrote an intelligent, odd little mystery with a sense of humor that is more than a run-of-the-mill whodunit. Instead, it’s a novel of relationships. Robyn’s mother wants them to buy a home together, while Robyn is trying to figure out whether her boyfriend is ok with her desire not to have children. Robyn knows what she wants, but voicing it isn’t always easy, even for such a strong-willed woman. The mystery is not an afterthought, however, and Robyn’s journalistic investigation reminded me how much fun books with good reporters in them can be. This is most definitely a series you want to keep an eye on.

Read this: if you aren’t a huge mystery lover but want to give one a try. For you mystery lovers: grab it. You won’t regret it.

P.S. Sorry for going MIA last week. I was out of town for work with no Internet connection. Plus, the end of the semester is always a bit harried, even without a trip out of town. Hope all is well in your worlds!

The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen

17th November 2011

*I read this book through Netgalley, courtesy of Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown.

Premise: Current time is somewheres about where we are now, and it is about to hit the fan and civilization will be semi-wiped out. Dude from future (which is perfect) is sent back in time to stop other dudes from future from messing with stuff, yo. Two different factions exist: one intent on leaving the end of modern civilization as it is and the other determined to avert disaster.

 I’m not big on time travel in books. It worked in Outlander. That’s about the extent of my time travel love. BUT. After I started The Revisionists, I would read a bit more and a bit more until I didn’t want to do anything else.

Which is why what I’m about to say will sound so strange:

I love the title. I love the cover. I did not love this book. I know it’s getting all sorts of crazy love out there, but I had the hardest time keeping track of the characters. There’s Zed who is from Present Perfect where everything is hunky dory, and the problems of the world have gone away in an ultra-controlled environ. Then there’s Leo, a spy, who for half of the book I thought was Zed because well, I just thought the characterization wasn’t great. There is also a whole host of other characters who play into the novel: Sari, a housekeeper for the Korean diplomat, Tasha, a young attorney whose brother was killed in war, as well as a young activist whose actions may lead to the end of the modern world.

Once I finally got into this book, as I said, I enjoyed it. Even so, the characterization and some of the plot twists felt rushed and ill conceived, so it wasn’t a total win for me.

This is a case, though, where almost everyone but me raves about this book. Maybe it just wasn’t for me? What do you think?

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

18th October 2011

* I received an egalley of this book through NetGalley by the publisher Delacorte. Buy a copy from Indiebound.

Today in my ESL classes, we did an exercise using their vocabulary journals (when they run across a new word, they write it down to define it). They had to take ten words and write sentences using the words correctly. Then we hashed out the meanings and usages to correct any problems. One student used the word neglect, and as I wrote the different uses, I stopped to really look at the word. It’s suddenly looked strange and foreign to me. I’ve always done this. Some words, when you really look at them or think about them, are very odd, and The Broken Teaglass takes that strangeness to a whole new level.

Billy goes to work for the Samuelson Dictionary company, and it’s as eccentric a place as you can imagine. The first day he is set to read the front matter of the dictionary and listens as the man next to him answers phone calls from old women and an occasional blowhard who wants to be proven right about a particular word. The atmosphere is oppressive in its silence and in the words that are, literally, everywhere. To verify definitions, pronunciations, and usage, each editor must consult the cits, citations gathered from books, magazines, and newspapers.

Mona, another editor, finds one cit very different from the others. It’s longer and seems to describe Samuelson itself, and it has a hint of violence in it. She’s intrigued but cannot find the book listed anywhere. When she runs across another with a darker tinge to it, she enlists Billy’s help, and the two begin a journey to put together the story of the broken teaglass.

This is a strange little book, as there is no mystery in the traditional sense – no dead body with a murderer or murderess to hunt down. As citations are gathered, both Billy and Mona, as well as the reader, have a fairly good idea of why the citations are there, as a sort of hushed Catholic confessional. However, the story amid the story has an emotional charge that really struck me, and I really loved that Billy and Mona piece together the story for themselves, not altogether sure what they’ll find or why they must find it.

Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth

1st October 2011

*I received an e-galley of this book from Open Road Media through NetGalley. Buy the ebook from Barnes and Noble.

Dear Open Road Media:

As a reader I know I cannot possibly discover and read all the fantastic books out there. If I allowed that thought to bog me down, I would be one depressed lady. That said, you have introduced me to my newest obsession – Miss Silver – and I cannot believe I have lived 30 years without her.

What do I love about Miss Silver? First, she’s a quiet character. Grey Mask doesn’t revolve around her but the other characters in the story.  She appears, almost inconspicuously, at the proper times to give aid. She is insightful and intelligent, humble but confident.

Wentworth’s storytelling is fun and intriguing, and for the first time in a long while, I was really sad to near the end of a book. When I discovered there were more Miss Silver books, I was thrilled.

I love mysteries. I love a good series. To discover a fresh series, particularly a vintage one, with over 30 books… well, it’s a singular pleasure. Thanks for making such great content available.


The Picky Girl

So…what’s all the fuss about? I requested Grey Mask from NetGalley and fell hopelessly in love. Grey Mask is the start of this series, written by Wentworth in 1928. Charles Moray leaves home after being jilted by Margaret Langton on the eve of their wedding and returns four years later to find his home open and a strange meeting taking place. Watching through a childhood hideout, he sees a man in a grey mask talking to several different people – calling each by a number. When Charles hears them discussing “removing” a girl if a “certificate” is found, he is shocked. He is even more shocked when he recognizes one of the agents – his former fiancee.

When he reads about Margot Standing, whose millionaire father dies leaving her inheritance in the balance because of a missing marriage certificate, he puts two and two together and approaches Miss Silver, a private investigator with a high success rate in missing jewelry. He is skeptical until Miss Silver astutely guesses he will not go to the police because of his former love.

This book is so fantastic, and I really urge you to pick it up for your e-reader, or see if your library has a copy. You will not be disappointed.