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review 2019-08-10 15:49
Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) - Kerri Maniscalco
Stalking Jack the Ripper - Kerri Maniscalco

It looks like my quest for a good book continues.Stalking Jack the Ripper is just the latest in a line of bad books. I understand that this book was written for a Young Adult audience. However, this book is a prime example of why I avoid Young Adult books. Even when I was a Young Adult, I avoided Young Adult books. I went straight from the Babysitter Club books in the basement of the public library to Anne Rice upstairs. There was never an in-between stage for me. I'm not saying that there isn't good Young Adult literature out there. This just isn't an example of it.


First of all, I think the author could have easily avoided using the Jack the Ripper story line. She could have easily told her story as something separate from Jack the Ripper. If you read her author notes at the end, you'll find she more or less told her story separate from Jack the Ripper. The notes were full of things like "I know this happened like this but it didn't fit my story so I changed it" and "I didn't mention this person, even though they were kind of a big deal because it didn't fit my story". Then tell a different story. Plenty of books exist dealing with the mythology of Jack the Ripper without actually being about Jack the Ripper.


If she would have told this story with different characters it would have been even better. I will preface this by saying I finished Anne Perry's A Breach of Promise right before starting this book. One of my biggest problems with that book was the lecturing about feminism during Victorian England. I don't want to be preached at. I understand that women were poorly treated. I understand sexism still exists. I'm raising three girls. I get it. Anyway. I knew this book wasn't going to be about a Victorian teenage girl who falls into the expected societal roles. The blurb tells you she helps her uncle perform autopsies. That's fine. I have no issues with that. What I do have issue with is a character who has to constantly remind everyone around her (and the reader) that she's not just a stupid girl. However, at the same time, don't tell her she's not a lady. She may like dead bodies but she also really likes pretty things. She's complicated like that. More than solving the mystery of Jack the Ripper, our protagonist Audrey Rose, sets out to answer the question "Can I be taken seriously in the science world if I still wear make up and pretty dresses?" Again, I have zero issues with the feminism at work here. My problem is the way the author continues to hammer it home. I get it. She's unconventional. I get it. She's in a man's world and she has to prove herself. Tell me who Jack the Ripper is already.


The other main character, Thomas, was just as irritating as Audrey Rose. We get it. You like her. You've done everything put push her off the playground swings and pull her hair. The author set out to make Thomas, a younger, more dashing, and significantly more handsome (we are constantly reminded how handsome Thomas is) Sherlock Holmes. It didn't work. Part of the wonder of Sherlock Holmes is how he figures things out first and the reader has to figure out how he figured it out. This kid was trying to be Sherlock Holmes hosting a cooking show. The reader had to be told everything he was doing as he was doing it. Not a fan. 


I think it's kind of obvious at this point that this book didn't work for me. Let me assure you, it wasn't just the characters. Again, I realize this was a Young Adult book. I was promised a huge plot twist. I did not get a huge plot twist. I had the "who" figured out about 20 pages in. Spoiler alert, I was right. The "why" was a little bit of a surprise but once I thought about it, the clues were there the whole time. It is possible I was just so annoyed with the main characters, I glossed over a few things. I think it does a little disservice to young adults to assume they can't handle a plot any more complex than what this book offers. 


It's safe to say, I won't be picking up any of the other books in this series. It's also safe to say, I won't be recommending any of these books to my girls either. 

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review 2019-07-24 18:30
The Pericles Commission (The Athenian Mysteries #1) - Gary Corby
The Pericles Commission - Gary Corby

The Democrats and the Conservatives are fighting. I guess democracy has had the same problem since the beginning of its time. Maybe we need a Nicolaos instead of a Mueller? 


I've immediately gone ahead and ordered the next three books in this series. It is pretty rare for me to like a first book in a series as much as I liked this one. I usually find them clunky, full of random back stories, and full of characters who lack personality. This book did have clunky parts. However, I found the cast of characters to be charming and funny. 


Nicolaos is to Ancient Greece what Gordianus the Finder is to Ancient Rome. The similiarties are striking both in character and story. The difference is in the setting. Much like Saylor does for Rome, Corby makes Greece come to life. You can almost taste the watered wine and smell the back alleys. Also as noted above, Nicolaos' supporting cast is wonderful. It's a big larger and more eclectic than Gordianus' which adds a fun element to these novels that I don't associate with the others. 

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review 2018-01-12 15:44
Prince of Darkness (Justin de Quincy #4)- Sharon Kay Penman
Prince of Darkness (Justin de Quincy ,#4) - Sharon Kay Penman

I really wanted to savor this novel. Knowing that when I finished, there were no more Justin de Quincy books, was kind of a bummer. I didn't want to rush through only to be sad at the end. You know what they say about the best laid plans.........


I couldn't take this book slowly. I was hooked from the beginning. The pairing of Justin and Durand was brilliant. I know they have worked "together" in previous novels but never really have they had to make it obvious they are on the same side. If that doesn't make sense, read the books. I promise you won't be disappointed. Anyway, I loved the Justin and Durand pairing. It was medieval good cop/bad cop. I would love to read more books featuring that dynamic.


It's unfortunate Penman has never had the opportunity to really wrap this series up. The end certainly left an opening for future books. However, Penman has said on several occasions that her publisher won't release any more de Quincy books. *Sigh* I guess I will just have to settle for the other Penman novels I have not yet read. 

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text 2017-07-24 20:03
Past Crimes: A Compendium of Historical Mysteries by Ashley Garner

Any fans of historical mysteries here? Ashley Gardner is a pseudonym for author Jennifer Ashley. Ashley is the author of the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series and the newly released the Leonidas Gladiator mystery series. She also writes the Kat Holloway Victorian (Below Stairs) Mysteries as Jennifer Ashley. And if you like historical and paranormal romances like me, you probably know she's also the author of the Mackenzies series and Unbound Shifters series.



Step into the past through three historical mysteries that reach from Imperial Rome to Victorian London.


A Soupçon of Poison
(Kat Holloway Victorian Mysteries)

Kat Holloway, a young cook who is highly sought after by the wealthy of Victorian London, becomes embroiled in murder and must clear her name. Only the mysterious Daniel McAdam, who is much more than he seems, can come to her aid.

Blood Debts
(Leonidas the Gladiator Mysteries)

Leonidas, freedman, once the most popular gladiator in Rome and champion of the games, now must fight for his life outside the arena. A man who owed him money was murdered, and Leonidas is a prime suspect. With the assistance of Cassia, daughter of a Greek scribe who has been bestowed upon him as his slave, Leonidas fights for justice in the back lanes of Imperial Rome.

The Necklace Affair
(Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries)

Captain Lacey agrees to help a society matron discover what has become of her cherished diamond necklace and to clear her maid, who has been arrested for its theft. Lacey quickly becomes enmeshed in scandal and past secrets, and finds himself competing with the underworld criminal, James Denis, for the necklace's retrieval.

This collection includes three previously released novellas of about 25,000-30,000 words each.


Buy Links: 


Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/ydfgjkue
Nook: http://tinyurl.com/yafj5ryz
iBooks: http://tinyurl.com/y8usdhp6
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/ya7hy68e
Google: http://tinyurl.com/yavq3k8t
Paperback Amzn: http://tinyurl.com/y9syx5aa
Paperback B&N: http://tinyurl.com/yboukudv

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text 2015-07-25 13:00
Sense of Time -- Sense of Place

A novel's pronounced sense of time and place can determine, sometimes even singlehandedly, whether it sinks or swims for me: Lack of such a sense will almost certainly take away from my reading experience, whereas I'll often find a novel that makes its setting literally stand up and become a character in its own right the greater for that element alone.  In two of my favorite genres in particular -- historical fiction and mysteries / crime fiction --, as well as in their hybrid child (historical mysteries), "nailing" the setting is absolutely crucial to my appreciation of the story; similar to the importance of imaginative world building in fantasy.  But I'm also a particular fan of literary fiction and classic novels that draw substantially on the atmosphere, society and circumstances of their respective setting.




So, what are your favorite novels that gain for having a strong sense of time and / or place?  Here are some of mine:



* Hilary Mantel: The Cromwell trilogy (Tudor England) and A Place of Greater Safety (Revolutionary Paris / France from the POV of Danton, Robespierre & Desmoulins)

* Sharon Kay Penman: The Plantagenet and Welsh Princes series (medieval England and Wales)

* Robert Graves: I, Claudius and Claudius the God (imperial Rome)

* Iain Pears: An Instance of the Fingerpost (17th century Oxford), and The Dream of Scipio (Provence in the late 4th century, in the Middle Ages, and in the Vichy Era)

* Barry Unsworth: Morality Play (14th century England)

* Louis de Bernières: Birds Without Wings (early 20th century / WWI Turkey)

* Victor Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (15th century Paris) and Les Misérables (early 19th century France)

* Alexandre Dumas (16th - 18th century France)

* Emmuska Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel (France under the Terror)

* Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose (14th century Italy) and Baudolino (3d and 4th Crusade)

* Walter Scott (Scotland -- various historic periods)

* Robert Louis Stevenson: Kidnapped (18th century Scotland, just after the Jacobite Uprising)

* Margaret Mitchell: Gone With the Wind (Civil War Atlanta)

* Colleen McCullough: The Thorn Birds (early 20th century Australia)

* Mary Novik: Conceit (17th century London / John Donne)

* Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables (17th and 19th century Massachusetts)

* Boris Pasternak: Doctor Zhivago (Russia before, during and after the 1917 Revolution)

* Giuseppe Tomasi die Lampedusa: The Leopard (late 19th century Sicily)

* Lion Feuchtwanger: Raquel, the Jewess of Toledo (late 12th century Spain), Jew Süss (18th century Germany), and Goya (18th century Spain)

* Frank Baer: Die Brücke von Alcántara (11th century Spain; not translated into English)

* Michael Chabon: Gentlemen of the Road (Caucasus, 10th century)

* Shūsaku Endō: Silence (17th century Japan)

* Amy Tan: The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife (early 20th century China / contemporary San Francisco)







* Ian Rankin: The Inspector Rebus series (contemporary Edinburgh)

* Michael Connelly: The Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer series (contemporary Los Angeles)

* Raymond Chandler: The Philip Marlowe series (1940s Los Angeles)

* George Pelecanos: various series and stand-alones set in Washington, D.C. (from the 1960s until now)

* Dennis Lehane: various series and stand-alones set in Boston (from the 1930s until now)

* Tony Hillerman: Navajo Country (from the 1970s until now)

* Colin Dexter: The Inspector Morse series (1970s - 1990s Oxford)

* Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes canon (Victorian and Edwardian London)

* Dorothy L. Sayers: The Lord Peter Wimsey series (1920s and '30s London)


Historical Mysteries

* C.J. Sansom: The Shardlake series (Tudor England)

* Ellis Peters: The Brother Cadfael series (Medieval England)

* Walter Mosley: The Easy Rawlins series (Los Angeles, from 1948 onwards)

* Robert van Gulik: The Judge Dee series (Tang Dynasty China)






* Jane Austen (Regency England)

* The Brontë Sisters (Victorian Yorkshire)

* Elizabeth Gaskell (industrial Victorian England)

* Charles Dickens (Victorian London, and England generally)

* Thomas Hardy (19th century "Wessex")

* E.M. Forster (England and Englishmen/ -women in the Edwardian Age)

* Thomas Mann: Buddenbrooks (19th century Lübeck) and The Magic Mountain (pre-WWI Europe -- the Swiss setting is largely symbolic)

* Heinrich Mann: Der Untertan (The Loyal Subject) and Professor Unrat (The Blue Angel) (pre-WWI Germany)

* Klaus Mann: Mephisto (Nazi Germany)

* Theodor Storm: Der Schimmelreiter (The Dykemaster) (Northern Frisia)

* Günter Grass: Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) (Danzig before and during WWII)

* Mark Twain: Late 19th / early 20th century Mississippi

* Henry James: Washington Square, The Europeans (late 19th century New York and Boston)

* Edith Wharton (late 19th / early 20th century New York)

* F. Scott Fitzgerald (Jazz Age New York)

* The "Holy Trinity" of 20th century Southern writers: William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Connor

* John Steinbeck (mid-20th century California)

* Wallace Stegner (19th and 20th century Western U.S.)

* Émile Zola (19th century France)

* Honoré de Balzac (19th century France)

* Fyodor Dostoevsky (19th century Russia)

* Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt, from the pharaohs to the 20th century)

* Salman Rushdie (India and Pakistan, chiefly in the 20th century)

* Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner (Afghanistan pre-, during and post-Taliban rule)

* Sharon Maas (20th century / contemporary India and Guyana)

* Roddy Doyle (20th century / contemporary Ireland)

* Dermot Bolger (20th century / contemporary Ireland)

* Edna O'Brien (20th century / contemporary Ireland)



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