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review 2017-10-06 12:39
Unseemly Pursuits by K.B. Owen
Unseemly Pursuits: A Concordia Wells Mystery - K.B. Owen

Concordia Wells is back for another year of teaching and trying to keep mischievous students’ pranks to a minimum. Hartford Women’s College has a new lady principal, Olivia Grant, who already has a reputation for being overly strict and who seems to hate Concordia in particular. Then there’s Madame Durand, a spirit medium who has started a “Spirit Club” on campus and who Concordia worries is taking advantage of her mother’s grief over the death of Concordia’s sister.

Everything takes a turn for the worse when an Egyptian amulet donated to the college is stolen and the man who donated it, Colonel Adams, is murdered. His daughter and Concordia’s best friend, Sophia Adams, confesses to the murder, but Concordia is convinced she didn’t do it. Finding the real killer will involve finding the amulet and learning more about her own father’s unexpected past as an Egyptologist.

I read the first book in this series almost 3 years ago. Although I didn’t love it and generally thought its mysteries were too obvious, it was a smooth and appealing read that made me want to continue on with the series. I feel much the same about this second book. Concordia was still an enjoyable character, and I liked the historical details, although I wondered whether Lady Principal Grant would really have had the power to confine Concordia, an adult and professor, to the campus the way she did. The women’s college setting continued to be fun and interesting, even though I found myself wishing that it went beyond the occasional mention of student pranks and grading papers. It would have been nice if Concordia had had more on-page conversations with individual students.

After finishing the first book, I was interested in seeing how Concordia’s familial and romantic relationships turned out. This book gave me a lot of the former and not much of the latter. A large portion of Unseemly Pursuits was focused on Concordia’s rocky relationship with her mother, who didn’t approve of her decision to become a professor, and her relationship with her late father. I loved Concordia’s gradual realization that she’d possibly put her father too much on a pedestal. I was less thrilled with the easy way Concordia’s years worth of issues with her mother seemed to resolve themselves in the end. Hopefully the next book makes it clear that it isn’t quite as simple as Concordia and her mother having a few heart-to-hearts.

I’m somewhat wary of Concordia’s romantic subplot, due to my worry that any sort of more serious relationship might lead to Concordia having to quit her job. However, even I was taken aback by the complete lack of mention of David, Concordia’s most likely love interest, for much of the beginning of the book. Him not being around campus was one thing, but she didn’t even idly think about him from time to time. His appearances in this book were few and mostly unmemorable, although there were a couple developments that make me think the romantic subplot might become more prominent (and awkward?) in the next book.

One character who was around more than David: Lieutenant Capshaw. I honestly can’t remember what he was like in the first book, but I really liked him in this one, and David’s general absence made me wonder if the author was planning on shifting Concordia to a new love interest. David seemed like a nice enough guy, but Capshaw could spend the series scowling at Concordia’s amateur sleuthing, doing his best to keep her out of harm’s way, and falling in love with her over the course of several books’ worth of encounters. Sadly, his interest lay elsewhere.

As in the first book, Unseemly Pursuits’ mysteries were a bit too obvious at times. Thankfully, Concordia seemed to catch onto things a little more quickly this time around - I usually only had to wait a page or two for her to realize things I’d already figured out myself. The biggest exception involved a character whose sudden change in behavior somehow didn't clue Concordia into that character's likely involvement in the overall mystery.

While I did enjoy seeing how all of the book’s seemingly unrelated mysteries fit together, there was so much going on that the story tended to feel a bit cluttered. That said, I liked it overall and will probably be continuing on with the series.

Additional Comments:

I noticed one or two continuity errors. The one I’m most sure about involved Dean Pierce. At one point he brushed his hair out of his eyes. However, earlier on he was described as being bald. I don’t think there was enough time between those two parts for him to grow hair long enough to get into his eyes.

The one I’m less sure about: Madame Durand was initially described by one character as having an odd accent, somewhat like that of a Romance language speaker but with occasional Slavic language speaker aspects. Concordia thought of her accent as “exotic.” However, later on Madame Durand’s dialogue was peppered with French words and seemed more specifically French. I thought it might be a sign Madame Durand was slipping up, but Concordia never noted a shift in her accent.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-03-09 17:55
The Witch of Napoli
The Witch of Napoli - Michael Schmicker

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review. Thank you

 

A young reporter named Tomasso publishes a convincing photo of an Italian medium, Alexandra Poverelli, levitating a table, and it causes such a stir that the scientist/psychiatrist Professor Camillo Lombardi comes all the way to Naples to investigate the claim. To his astonishment, she proves she can do far more than simply levitate tables.

 

Result? She and the young reporter, Tomasso, who has fallen in love with her, are taken on a tour, first of Italy and then of the capitals of Europe, by the wealthy Professor Lombardi. Many are convinced by her. Others are either sceptical or fanatically against her – including the representative of an English society which investigates mediums, a repulsive character bent on engineering Alexandra's downfall.

 

The novel is based on the life of Eusapia Palladino, who is dismissed in Wikipedia as a fraud (but then so is homeopathy!). However, in this story her powers are certainly genuine. That she can and does accomplish seemingly supernatural feats is not in doubt. The only question is how. Is she really in communication with the dead, or is there some other quite different explanation?

 

An interesting point is that this (the whole "medium" thing) is often seen and presented – especially in its late 19th-century context – as part of the supposed war between science and religion. In fact the Church is quite as much her enemy as the scientific establishment. More so. Many scientists did – and do – have an open mind (and so they should, for that after all is the scientific method), her sponsor, Professor Camillo Lombardi, being such a one, whereas no one from the Church (as represented in this novel, at least) showed any sign of an open mind.

 

It is an enthralling story, and it was a brilliant decision to use young Tomasso as the narrator, to watch it all unfold through his eyes, the eyes of one who loved the much-abused but still tempestuous Alexandra for who she was and not what she could do.

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review 2014-12-28 20:40
Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery by K.B. Owen
Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery - K.B. Owen

If I remember correctly, this made it onto my radar when I spotted one of the newer books in the series on Smashwords (although the author needs to do a bit of cleanup – Smashwords lists books 2 and 3 on one K.B. Owen page and book 1 on another). The cover intrigued me, I liked the excerpt, and the price wasn't bad.

Miss Concordia Wells is a junior instructor at Hartford Women's College in 1896. The college is going through some bad financial times, so it's not entirely a shock when the bursar is found dead, an apparent suicide. Her death turns out to be just the start of a very hard year, however. The president and lady principal of the college become targets of threatening notes and pranks. Also, Concordia learns that her sister is suffering from a mysterious illness. Concordia's personal life is further complicated by her attraction to Julian Reynolds, who occasionally teaches at the college.

The things I liked most about this book were Owen's writing and the fabulous sense of time and place. There were tons of historical details. Sometimes I felt like Owen was being too obvious about her research, as if she was cramming in every interesting detail she'd learned, but I enjoyed it enough that it mostly didn't matter.

There were two main mysteries: Concordia's sister's illness and the possible misuse of funds at the college. Unfortunately, Owen wasn't always very subtle about dropping hints. For example, when it was mentioned that a door had a tendency to stick, I knew that someone would soon find themselves trapped in the room. I figured out most of the book's “revelations” well before the ending, so I spent a good deal of time waiting to see if there would be any surprise twists (there were, but only a few).

It took ages for Concordia to figure some things out. I realized what was wrong with Mary, her sister, after two very important details were revealed, but Concordia didn't learn the truth until nearly the end of the book. It was frustrating when Owen dragged things out further by not allowing readers in on the conversation that made everything clear to her, especially since there weren't really any additional twists to warrant it.

Some of the details of the primary mystery, the stuff going on at the college, were a surprise to me, but, after a few things were settled, I figured the rest out fairly easily. Again, Concordia took a bit longer than I did to put everything together. That's the main reason why I didn't like this mystery more – I felt like I was constantly waiting for characters to realize the obvious.

I had the same reaction to Concordia's possible romances. She constantly fretted over her attraction to Julian Reynolds, even while he did things that upset her, like being too open about his interest in her after she'd already told him that he needed to stop because it could hurt her reputation. David Bradley, on the other hand, was never anything other than gallant, kind, and easy to talk to, and there were moments when she clearly felt physically attracted to him. Even so, she insisted she only saw him as a friend and continued to tremble over Julian. The two attempts to make David look bad were weak, at best.

Although I felt that the book's mysteries were generally too obvious, and I sometimes had trouble remembering who all of the many characters were, I liked the setting and Owen's writing enough that I might continue with this series. I'd like to see how the college manages to recover from the events of this book, and it'd be nice to see how Concordia's familial and romantic relationships turn out.

 

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2014-05-27 16:27
"The Picture Of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde - 5/5
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde,Jeffrey Eugenides

I am a great lover of Oscar Wilde, I am wearing a fan t-shirt right now and I love all of his works. To be honest, the Picture is not even my favourite of his works. But not because it's bad, but because his other stuff is so dang good :)

 

I really love his writing style. It's so very simple, almost biblical but still very effective. In his other works (especially in his fairy tales and poems in prose) maybe more than here, but it's also in the Picture very beautiful.

 

It's a classic. A modern classic, but still a classic. But it isn't dusty or old, it's fresh and not modern, but simply timeless. People will always read it and always adore it. 

 

The charactersare interesting. I like Basil most, of course. I like Henry to some pits and agree with him at some points. I love/hate Dorian, just as I was supposed to.

 

The storyline is well known, so I don't have to say a lot about it. And I don't want to spoiler (in case someone doesn't know)

 

I know, many people love it, but just as many hate it. It's not a book for everyone.

 

But I recommend it.

 

My rating

five stars out of five

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review 2014-05-25 17:23
"The Phantom Of The Opera" by Gaston Leroux 5/5
The Phantom of the Opera - Gaston Leroux,Alexander Teixeira de Mattos

I am sure you have heard of that book. The musical is legendary, the character has been used for so many stories, everyone has heard about "The Phantom Of The Opera" - even if it's because of the Animaniacs or the Duck Tales or Sherlock Holmes. 

 

But have you read the book? 
Yes? Fine! Did you like it? I guess...

 

No? Then read it! No matter if you like the musical or not - I love both but many people like only one of them. 

 

Do you like to read on long afternoons or evening, watching the storm, rain or snow on the other side of the window, drinking tea, coffee, hot chocolate or wine and eating bisquits or other treats? Well, I personally do, so that book is just perfect for me.

 

It is interesting. It shoes happenings (both fact and fiction) from different points of view. Most of the characters are a little silly, yet still lovable. Christine is kind of my idol. The persian is fascinating. And Erik, poor, poor Erik...

 

I know, I should hate him, but I can't. I have mixed feelings about him in the musical (depending on the actor, mostly), but I mainly like him there. But book Erik... oh my poor, Erik. He is even a bit more evil there - but he is a thousand times more pitiful! I'm not like "Aaaah, Gerard Butler is so smexy, Erik is kewl", not at all (by the way, I can't stand the 2004 movie),. I like him as a character. 

 

 

Characters: Really good. It's an old novel, so don't expect the trendy, modern [insert random number here] dimensionality, you might be used to. But the characters are not flat at all. 

Writing style: Very beautiful. Very rational at some points, pretending it was real. At other points very flowery and poetic. 

Lenght: Not a big book, but also not thin. Long enough, but not too long. Between 300 and 400 pages, I think. 

Plot: Well, we know most of it right? But it's rather different from the musical and has some unexpected twists. Not many, but they are there.

 

It will follow you. Some bits of it are actually unforgettable.

 

And it has some unbelievably lovely quotes. I won't tell them - I don't want to spoiler. And I only have a German copy of it, I don't want to search all of the English quotes on the internet.

 

My rating:

five stars out of five.

 

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