Tag Archives: Viking Books

Review: Aunt Dimity & the Lost Prince

30th April 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher, Viking Books, in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve heard it said that when the poet T.S. Eliot was writing The Wasteland, he chose February as the cruelest month, then changed it to April in revisions. If you ask me, he got it right the first time. As far as I’m concerned, February’s only redeeming feature is its brevity. If it were any longer, I would tear it from my calendar in protest.

Lori Shepherd is in mom hell. Her husband is in sunny Majorca, and she’s stuck inside with eight-year-old twin boys. Bad weather has shut down school, and the only thing keeping her sane is her neighbor, Bree Pym. Seeking refuge from paint fumes at her own home, Bree helps keep the boys entertained by suggesting a trip to Skeaping Manor.

Full of ghoulish exhibits, Skeaping Manor is…unique, and Lori leaves the boys to ogle shrunken heads with Bree and heads up to visit the silver only to find an enigmatic little girl in a pink puffy coat looking at a silver salt cellar. When the little girl, Daisy, tells Lori about the origin of the salt cellar and a lost Russian prince, Lori is struck by the little girl’s poise and sadness. So when she finds a pink coat like the little girl was wearing with a silver salt cellar in the pocket the next day at a charity shop, Lori thinks maybe Daisy was telling the truth. She’s even more curious when she finds out Daisy and her mother have left town without a trace.

With Aunt Dimity’s supernatural wisdom comforting her, Lori strikes out with Bree by her side, learning a little something about herself and the “lost prince” they seek.

This is my first go round with Aunt Dimity, and it certainly won’t be my last. I had no idea Aunt Dimity was otherworldly – she doesn’t quite seem to be a ghost – but I was a bit skeptical. No fear! Aunt Dimity & the Lost Prince was absolutely one of the most fun cozy mysteries I’ve read in a while, and I’ve already scoped out the ebook prices to see how many I can buy on payday. 🙂

Add it to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French

8th April 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review.

After the traumatic events in Blue Monday, Frieda Klein is nearly back to normal until she’s called on the carpet for delving into a client’s mind in order to help the police. Frieda herself questions her motives but ultimately knows she did what she had to in order to locate a kidnapped child, even if the results were less than ideal. The case still haunts her, particularly as she’s not sure it’s quite over…

Meanwhile, DCI Karlsson is in a bit of a quandary. A social worker visits a mentally ill patient only to discover a decomposing corpse covered in flies whom the patient has faithfully served tea. Unable to get a sense of what happened from the withdrawn woman, Karlsson calls again on Frieda, but she hesitates, unsure if police involvement is something she should be doing or even wants to do.

Ultimately, though, she cannot resist the draw of this patient who so obviously needs help. Plus, the victim is unidentified, and Frieda hunts down a clue the police have missed, leading to identification. But even with a name, this victim, Robert Poole, seems unknowable. Intelligent and perceptive, Poole was a con man, changing himself to suit the situation. The problem is, most of his con victims have no idea they’re being conned, or they’ve enjoyed his company so much they don’t seem to mind.

The more Karlsson and Frieda discover, the more they question who didn’t have a motive for killing Poole, and Frieda wonders at the similarities between herself and the victim, a man whom everyone seemed to be able to talk to easily.

Along with the suspense in Tuesday’s Gone, I really like the choice to very slowly reveal Frieda to the reader. In a way, the series seems to be less about the threads left over from the previous case and more about the exploration of Frieda’s own psyche. I like her; she’s introspective and cautious, but she also cannot resist helping once she’s begun, caring far too much about the people who could ultimately harm her. A good description of her, discussing a breakup over a year ago:

She suspected that Harry would think fourteen months was a long time; most people would. How do you measure absence? There had been minutes that had become hours, days dull and deadened as lead, and whole weeks when she’d had to force herself forward, inch by inch, across their expanse. How do you know when your heart is ready once more? Perhaps, for someone like her, the heart was never ready and had to be forced open.

Still enigmatic and quiet, Frieda nonetheless seems much more vulnerable in Tuesday’s Gone, and the tension left over from the outcome of Blue Monday follows her everywhere, making for an increasingly taut read.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde & Giveaway

29th October 2012

Via Goodreads

*I received this book from the publisher Viking in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday Next lives in a world…slightly different than ours. Librarians are highly respected and well paid. The punishment for overdue library books is a bit stiffer than a quarter-per-day fine, and then there’s Bookworld, where the characters and places in books actually exist. After being injured in the line of duty as a literary detective, Thursday Next is recuperating. But that doesn’t mean the world is perfect. A mindworm has left her with memories of a daughter she doesn’t have and a tattoo on her wrist as a reminder. The Global Standard Deity is planning a smiting, and Thursday’s genius daughter, Tuesday, hasn’t quite figured out an anti-smiting technology. Thursday’s son, Friday, has problems of his own. The time engines have shut down, and the career he would have had has been replaced. Now he’s slated to murder someone in less than a week, and he feels powerless to stop it. Thursday has been instated as Chief Librarian, but she comes up against her enemy, Goliath and faces a 100% budget cut.

If that sounds like a lot, it is. In fact, it had been long enough since I read a Fforde, that, in the beginning, I felt like I was reading a very fun but very different language. Partly, though, that’s because Thursday and her family are confused. One day she wakes up with cuts and bruises and doesn’t know how she got them. Then, the mindworm with the memory of Jenny, the fake daughter, switches to Thursday’s husband. Her children wake up with signs of fights but can’t recall how they got them, either. What’s going on?

The Woman Who Died A Lot is so enjoyable. In many ways, Fforde’s writing feels much older than it is and in fact reminded me of a book I read when I was young, Rivets and Sprockets (though I don’t remember much about it). The sci-fi feel along with the humor and a touch of mystery is perfect, and I can’t wait to go back and re-read The Eyre Affair and pick up the other books in the series.

Courtesy of Viking, you get a chance to join in the fun. Just leave me a comment, and I’ll pick a winner by next Sunday at midnight (CST).

Check out other reviews or add this to your shelf on Goodreads.

**Congrats to Rebecca at Love at First Book who won a copy of The Woman Who Died A Lot!

Broken Harbor by Tana French

7th August 2012

*I received this book from the publisher Viking Books in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing we ever did, when we started turning into humans, was draw a line across the cave door and say: “Wild stays out.” What I do is what the first men did. They built walls to keep back the sea. They fought the wolves for the hearth fire.

Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy likes order. It’s his job, but it’s also his life. The second he walks into the Spain residence, he realizes the safe, ordered existence was violated by something wild, and it makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. A development with only a handful of completed houses, Brianstown was left in the middle of construction, unconnected pipes poking up from the ground, skeletal frames fighting the sea air to stand up, construction machinery tipping over on mounds of dirt. Adjacent to the sea, Brianstown used to be Broken Harbor, a vacation spot for Dubliners, and Kennedy has his own bit of history in the forsaken spot. Now it’s the scene of a heinous crime – a family of four attacked in the middle of the night. The children, Emma and Jack, lie peacefully in their beds, covers drawn up over still chests. In the kitchen, Pat Spain lies in his own blood and that of his wife, Jenny, who is unconscious in a hospital bed.

Lights on, alarm set, and doors locked, the Spain residence seems impenetrable, leaving Kennedy and his rookie partner, Richie, to think the worst. Pat Spain was out of work, the family was broke, any man would break under the pressure. But the weapon is gone, and the computer has been wiped. Plus, Jenny has told her sister Fiona about innocuous but unsettling break-ins. Combined with the holes in the walls scattered throughout the otherwise orderly Spain house, Kennedy knows some evil has settled in this house – the only question is, from where?

The second Mick describes the hairs on the back of his neck rising, Broken Harbor distinguishes itself from other crime fiction in its realistic exploration of the psyche. Something is broken in the Spain’s world, and the more Mick and Richie search, the more they glimpse the madness of it all. The holes in the wall, the obsessiveness of them, was disturbing and became more so as the reasons for them were slowly revealed, until I was questioning myself as well as the Spains. Was there an animal in the wall? Or was someone playing tricks on the Spains?

Using the unsettling backdrop of an unsettling economy, Tana French has, with Broken Harbor, penned one of the most interesting and definitely the most solid novel in her Dublin Murder Squad series. Though the original idea of using different bit characters in the previous novel as the focus of the next is unique, the novels after In the Woods were, I thought, mediocre. Kennedy’s story, however, and its focus on obsession and reality is easily the strongest crime fiction novel I’ve read this year. I look forward to the next book in this interesting series.

Check out other opinions or add this to your TBR shelf on Goodreads.

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman (& 2 Giveaways!)

19th July 2012

*This book was sent to me by the publisher Viking in exchange for an honest review.

In 1663 New Amsterdam, life is fragile. Attacks by Native Americans are a constant threat, as is attack from the British government or the competing companies. Orphans are a commodity, bought and sold by the orphanmaster for the best price. Blandine van Couvering escaped that fate. Orphaned at 15, she took over her father’s trade business with the help of a large African who, saved from the hangman’s noose, guards Blandine. Edward Drummond is a British spy, there to seek out the colony’s weaknesses. When orphans start to go missing, Blandine and Edward seem to be the only two who care, or at least, the only rational two. Witika fever has terrified the colony – the witika is the demon of the natives who can make a man desire human flesh, and when orphans turn up dead with witika masks and symbols near the bodies, New Amsterdam panics.

The Orphanmaster is an ambitious historical novel that, though incredibly spooky and suspenseful, suffers at times from information overload. Many chapters begin with information dumps about the history and geography of the area, which is interesting but definitely slows an otherwise tense novel. The Orphanmaster isn’t a traditional mystery in that it’s fairly evident who the devilish murderer is, but the aspect of adventure is enticing, as is the 17th-century colony and its inhabitants. The narration flips between telling the stories of Blandine and Edward to the story of the killer and a Native American under the influence of the witika.

Though slow in the beginning, The Orphanmaster thoroughly unsettled me and made me want to read more about New York and its origins. (Thankfully, I’ve got just the book for that…)

Curious? Leave a comment below, and you could win the hardcover book or the audiobook thanks to the generous people at Viking Books.

Psst! Click on the title to see if you won the giveaway for Shadow of Night or The Truth of All Things.