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review 2018-10-06 14:51
Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart for Terrifying Women
Locked Doors - Mary Roberts Rinehart

Woo hoo. I love getting lost in a doorstopper, but it takes a skilled writer to squeeze the right emotions out in a shorter work. Roberts Rinehart got mad skills. And a truly modern feel. Hard to believe this was first published more than 100 years ago.

 

We get a quick and dirty set up: Miss Adams is a trained nurse who investgates for the cops from the inside. She packs her gun and a suitcase and is on the scene in a big family home trying to find out what the family is hiding, what happened to the nanny, and what freaked out the last nurse so badly. 

 

I am delighted to say I never predicted that solution. Happily there are plenty of stories available in the public domain. Collect them all.

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review 2018-10-04 23:59
Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield  for Deadlands
Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

[10/05/18  Edited to add: I managed to upload a bad picture of my bingo card.]

 

This is such a good book I want to be a better writer to do it justice in my review. Waiting longer for inspiration is just not on though: my memory will let the details blur and the experience fade. 

 

Setterfield is a writer who's greatest flaw is not being prolific. Actually, that may be the only flaw. She has once again crafted a work of fiction that has a convincing Victorian setting with a modern sensibility directing the reader's attention to characters and incidents that a true Victorian wouldn't, but logic suggests that they are all valid. She manages to tell quite a few stories and examples of the craft of storytelling within a greater story of amazing events. While many writers succeed at making a house a character within their fiction, Setterfield has made part of the Thames a character, nor was she stinting in permitting this character moods. Okay, on the winter solstice the usual group are sitting around drinking in the Swan, an inn distinguished by the storytelling within. The door opens, a man, his face a bloody mess staggers in clutching a large doll in his hands.

 

Over the course of one year we watch the repercussions of that moment: how it affects characters major and minor and also, this is the tricksy bit, we watch how those events become stories. Yes, many stories dependent on point of view, and skill, stories becoming more stories as that one event is observed (or not), in light of new events, and then, still later developments. The metaphor is well served: there is an attempt to trace the roots of the story back to the beginning, which you can't do any more than you can trace a river back, fractally there are always more branches feeding in.

 

There is so much: there are clever half-starved orphans, prosperous farmers, the family of innkeepers, the town midwife, the minister, servants and animals, wealthy distillery owners, thieves and blackguards, despite the extensive cast one never feels that the author is coasting by with stereotypes or with every character having the same voice. There is plot and pathos enough for Dickens, and despite the 21st century sensibility there's none of that business of giving a character clearly modern ideas.

 

There is, of course, a supernatural element as well as a few mysteries, dreadful crimes and moments of grace. Everything is here, told my a humanist in the Pratchett vein, but without the jokes and footnotes. It is a lovely, suspenseful book that I couldn't bear to put down in order to post updates. Read it soon: give it to yourself or someone you really like as a gift for one of the several solstice-adjacent holidays. Just the thing for long winter nights by the fire.

 

ARC from publisher

 

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review 2018-09-20 05:22
The Lemonade Crime (audiobook) by Jacqueline Davies, narrated by Stina Nielson
The Lemonade Crime: Lemonade Series, Book 2 (MP3 Book) - Jacqueline Davies,Suzy Jackson

Evan and his little sister Jessie are both in the fourth grade, not because they're twins, but rather because Jessie skipped a grade. Jessie is particularly good at math, very focused, feels strongly that things should be fair, and believes that rules are meant to be followed.

When one of their classmates, Scott, announces that he now owns a fancy new Xbox 2020, Evan sees red. He knows exactly where Scott got the money for it - Scott stole that money, over two hundred dollars, from Evan's shorts when they were swimming at a friend's house. Evan doesn't have any proof that Scott did it, but it's the only explanation. Then Jessie comes up with a plan: she's going to bring the truth to light in a court of law created by her and her classmates.

I checked this out from my library's Overdrive without realizing that the library owned the first book in audio as well, or I'd have started with the first book instead. It looks like I'll be listening to this series out of order.

And I do plan on listening to the first book. I enjoyed this second book in the series more than I expected to, considering that Middle Grade fiction usually reads too young for me (yes, I know that's the point - I'm not the intended audience for these books and I realize that). Jessie and Evan were great characters, both flawed in their own ways but still good kids.

Jessie didn't quite feel like she fit in. I sympathized with her trouble figuring out where to hang out during recess (or was it lunch? I can't remember). The way she really got into her courtroom plan reminded me a bit of myself. I could imagine her tossing and turning in bed, unable to stop thinking about all the things she still needed to do before the trial. She'd taken on the responsibility of both setting up as realistic a trial as possible and acting as Evan's lawyer.

Evan was really into basketball and had a bit of a crush on one of his classmates, Megan, who was also his sister's friend. I hated the way Evan acted in one particular scene, but the good thing was that he hated how he'd acted too, once it was all over, and took the time to try to do something about it.

This ended in a way that was more peaceful and friendly than I expected, and I liked the layers it added to the characters.

The peeks at Scott's home life hinted at his motives, even if Evan couldn't see them, and I'm looking forward to finding out character information I missed by skipping the first book.

(spoiler show)


One nice detail: each chapter began with a definition of a term or phrase relating to courtroom proceedings (for example, "perjury"). Usually it was something illustrated by a character's words or actions in that particular chapter.

 

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

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review 2018-09-14 21:11
Truly Madly Stupidly
Truly Madly Guilty - Liane Moriarty

This book made me want to stab something. 

 

Nobody in it was likeable except Tiffany the former stripper and her husband Vid, who spoke like Gru. Everyone else acted like elementary schoolers. The passive aggressiveness, the snide comments, the two-faced behavior. Nothing spoke of adults. And the children were monsters, with the exception of Dakota who didn't have much of a personality at all.

 

The plot was so transparent I could see my hand through it. I had it figured out within about 50 pages. Nothing makes me angrier than a short story that was stuffed to make a novel. This was a prime example. Too much cliche plot filler, too much fluff, too much everything. And none of it was even good. This should have been a novella of max 40 pages. Not 400. Your eyes just glaze after a while. And with the audiobook, it JUST. KEPT. GOING. Every time I thought it was done, it pulled a Return of the King, and popped back up. God. 

 

Yes, this was a overhyped popular book with little substance, one-dimensional characters and a plot any middle grade could see.

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review 2018-09-02 14:10
The Last Hours - Minette Walters 
The Last Hours - Minette Walters

The first outbreaks of the Black Death in Dorset. There is crime and secrets and lies, but this is counterbalanced by great kindness and cooperation and thought. You wouldn't think it could be a hopeful kind of book, but even as the plague strikes so swiftly with such high mortality, it does free up all the wealth and power that was gathered into so few hands.

 

Now I just have to wait for the story to be continued.

 

It's situations like this that make me reluctant to start a series until it's all written

 

Library copy

 

Edited to add, 9/2/18:  I often give authors of fiction about plagues a hard time for giving their imagined diseases an easy transmission, an incredibly high mortality rate, and a very brief latency: these three ratios all being very high means an infection will burn out in a population too quickly to spread. Even the worst plagues in naive populations don't score high on all three. They also tend to avoid people getting ill and recovering, which some portion of the population usually does. Most fiction wrlters avoid the importance of hygiene and sanitation and supportive care: they have everyone dying from the primary disease directly rather than address indirect mortality. I've encountered more than a few books that use 99.99% in order to decrease the surplus population. I mention this because I can only think of two writers who don't cheat that way: Connie Willis and now Minette Walters. If you want realistic plagues, these are the women to read.

 

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