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review 2019-10-23 22:44
The Book of Speculation / Erika Swyler
The Book of Speculation - Erika Swyler

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.

One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon's grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand.



I read this book to fill the Relics & Curiosities square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

This reading experience definitely suffered from my own fit of ennui, a mini-reading-slump that marred my life during mid-October. I was half way through this book and really enjoying it when I suddenly just bumped to a halt and had an extremely difficult time getting rolling again. That said, this book should have been right up my alley--the main character is a librarian, the relic in question is a wonderful old handwritten book, and the exploration of the main character’s genealogy is a major part of the plot. All of those factors are usually like catnip to me, a retired special collections library cataloguer. I can’t explain the waning of interest, but I know that it was more about me than about the book.

If you’ve enjoyed this book, I would suggest that you also check out Robertson Davies’ Deptford Trilogy, including Fifth BusinessThe Manticore, and World of Wonders. This series also includes a relic (a stone which was originally wrapped in a snowball & thrown) and circus elements. I am inordinately fond of these three novels and in the spirit of fairness, I may try The Book of Speculations again in the future to see if I like it better when I’m in a more receptive mood.

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review 2019-10-15 22:45
Sorcery of Thorns / Margaret Rogerson
Sorcery of Thorns - Margaret Rogerson

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.


I was really looking forward to this second YA novel from Rogerson, having fallen hard for her first book, An Enchantment of Ravens. Perhaps I was expecting too much, because I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much.

There were obviously romantic aspects to both books and I knew early on in each which couple was destined to wind up together. However, I thought that Rogerson managed the relationship’s development with more skill in the first book. In this one, Elisabeth and Nathaniel get set up much more obviously, detracting from the romantic suspense, at least for me.

However, there were definitely elements that I loved: the Great Libraries, the sentient Grimoires, the secret passages that Elisabeth has rediscovered, her aspirations to become a Warden of the Library. Undoubtedly there were some Harry Potter elements to the story, what with all the evil adults that Elisabeth (and eventually Nathaniel) must defeat so that the Library can remain true to its purpose.

This is listed currently as a stand-alone book. But with this ending, a delightfully ambiguous final page, there is definitely a possibility of a second volume. I will be interested to see what this author produces next!

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text 2019-10-11 20:46
Reading progress update: I've read 228 out of 456 pages.
Sorcery of Thorns - Margaret Rogerson


I'm in a bit of a reading slump, but I started this one yesterday.  I'm not enjoying it quite as much as her first book, but it's still pretty good.


I'm especially fond of the library full of cranky grimoires that must be chained down or caged.  



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review 2019-09-15 00:03
Sword and Pen / Rachel Caine
Sword and Pen - Rachel Caine

With the future of the Great Library in doubt, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone must decide if it's worth saving in this thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The corrupt leadership of the Great Library has fallen. But with the Archivist plotting his return to power, and the Library under siege from outside empires and kingdoms, its future is uncertain. Jess Brightwell and his friends must come together as never before, to forge a new future for the Great Library . . . or see everything it stood for crumble.


Fabulous! This is going out with a bang, rather than a whimper! I am not sure what it says about me that I adore dark fantasy, with plenty of battles, plots, backstabby treacherousness, and ingenious weapons. And don’t forget the Great Library! Having worked my whole career in libraries, they are near and dear to my heart.

This volume reduced me to emotional tatters by its end. I shed plenty of tears and just sat staring into space for a while after I finished it. What a ride!

Ms. Caine, you have certainly figured out how to make me into a happy reader. Between this series, the Stillhouse Lake series and the Honors series, I am overwhelmed with good choices for future reading. Long may you write!

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review 2019-05-30 22:04
Death Overdue / Mary Lou Kirwin
Death Overdue - Mary Lou Kirwin

Spunky librarian Karen Nash is back in London and planning to open a bookstore with her beau, Caldwell Perkins, who owns a B&B. Unexpectedly, Sally, Caldwell’s tall, gorgeous, and blonde ex-girlfriend shows up—possibly to reclaim the B&B—and just maybe Caldwell, too. Sally’s current boyfriend, Alfredo, joins her, and they take a room.

That night, Karen is awakened by a horrible crash. Caldwell isn’t in bed with her. She rushes out to the hall to find him standing in the doorway of the inn’s library with a look of horror on his face. Inside the room all Karen can see is a woman’s hand sticking out from under a massive pile of pages and wood. While Sally’s death appears an accident, Karen finds it hard to believe. How did the heavy oak bookshelf topple over? Karen fears Sally has been murdered. The detective on the case comes to the same conclusion and decides Caldwell is the most likely suspect.

In order to save her boyfriend, Karen must figure out what Sally was looking for in the library and what Caldwell was doing up in the middle of the night. A story of intrigue and revenge, Death Overdue is a page-turning mystery featuring a loveable heroine who loves books almost as much as she loves her man.


While this is a good cozy mystery, it really doesn’t live up to the charm of the first volume. Perhaps part of the problem is that Karen and Caldwell seem to have settled in as a couple, removing that source of tension from the plot. Add to that the fact that this plot seems to be a mere inversion of the plot of the previous book--in Killer Librarian, it was Karen who was under suspicion of killing her ex-boyfriend, Dave the plumber. This time around, Caldwell’s former woman pops back up in their B&B, accompanied by her Italian fiance, and ends up dead under a tipped-over bookcase. 

Kirwin gives a tip of the hat to Agatha Christie, as she has Karen assemble all those involved in a Poirot-like reveal at the end of the book, but there is little time given to the book-love that brought Karen to London in the first place and cemented her relationship with Caldwell. The first volume also was somewhat amusing, with Karen’s pursuit of her cheating ex and a pair of eccentric sisters also staying in the B&B. That humour was missing from this volume and it suffered a bit from that lack. 

I have to also say that although Karen & Caldwell are sharing a bed and are considering spending life together, the reader never observes them do more than kiss. Not that it’s necessary, but I just found it odd that their physical relationship received such short shrift. 

Cozy mysteries really aren’t my thing--I prefer darker mysteries, preferably with forensics involved. I am always willing, however, to read a book featuring a library or librarian, so I had to give it a try. Although I can see where there is potential for future volumes involving Karen Nash, I am also unsurprised that there hasn’t been another volume published since 2013. 

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