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review 2017-08-17 16:25
Review of "Within the Hollow Crown" by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Within the Hollow Crown - Margaret Campbell Barnes

The subtitle for this book is "A Valiant King's Struggle to Save His Country, His Dynasty and His Love."

And valiant he is. The author is setting forth a clearly heroic tale. Interesting times making potentially for a good story.  I am feeling kinda force-fed what a valiant -- if naive -- young man he is. Author doesn't need to try quite so hard.

 

Overall, a decent tale of a little covered period of history that I would have liked much better if less sappy and slanted.  And if more atmospheric of the period -- meaning some very modern viewpoints crept in, not that I had major issues with the history or historical details.

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review 2017-08-17 15:43
Knitting Needles, Brains, and Burglary (by Proxy)
Grey Mask - Patricia Wentworth

This book marks Miss Silver's entrance into the annals of Golden Age crime fiction, and it's certainly an enjoyable one.

 

I'd read other Miss Silver mysteries before: This doesn't strike me as a series one absolutely has to read strictly in order; even though it is worthwhile noting that Wentworth also created several other fictional detectives, who even when appearing without Miss Silver clearly operate in the same fictional universe, and they do repeatedly show up in her cases as well.  Most, if not all of these other detectives are former pupils of Miss Silver, who once upon a time used to be a governess, and wherever they do appear alongside her, the ultimate honors of solving the case invariably go to her in the end.  So I guess the one aspect to be aware of is which one (if any) of her fellow sleuths is featured in a given book, and where in the sequence of their collaboration with Miss Silver the book in question is placed. -- For those interested, I've found a very neat overview on this on a blog called The Passing Tramp.

 

Anyway, having read other books featuring Miss Silver, I was interested to see how she had initially been introduced, so when there was talk of a Grey Mask buddy read, I jumped at the idea.  And I'm glad I did! 

 

We get to see more of Miss Silver's (on occasion quite formidable) ex-governess side in the later books, but even in this first venture -- where none of the aforementioned other detectives appears -- we see her treating a recalcitrant client essentially like the ten-year-olds she used to tutor, and most of her trademark features are already in place: the "gentle cough" that invariably precedes any statement of import; her knitting needles (not the only feature she shares with Agatha Christie's Miss Marple -- both ladies also have a certain penchant for primness, even if both of them are equally capable of taking it with a certain pinch of salt), her neat and capacious handbag, and most importantly, her razor-sharp brain, which easily puts her on a level with Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot ... and, again, Miss Marple, about whom none less than (ex-)CID Chief Sir Henry Clithering says in The Body in the Library, and not without reason, that she is "better at [solving crimes] than I am at it":

 

"Downstairs in the lounge ... there sits an old lady with a sweet, placid spinsterish face, and a mind that has plumbed the depths of human iniquity and taken it as all in the day's work." 

 

The same thing might just as well be said about Miss Silver -- who however, like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, leaves the reader (and the other party to the conversation) in no doubt as to the size of her brains and her capacity of logical thought, whereas Miss Marple outwardly is all flutter and modesty, while nevertheless surreptitiously manipulating others into doing just what she needs them to do ... while Miss Silver can be downright facetiously open about it:

 

"Miss Silver tapped with her pencil.

'Are you suggesting that we should apply for a search warrant?'

'No, I'm not.  I'm suggestin' doin' a little job of breakin' and enterin'.  Look here, Miss Silver, are you game? [...]'

'I've my reputation to consider,' said Miss Silver. She coughed. 'If I were walking along [that particular] Street and were to ring [that house's] bell --' she paused and gazed at him mildly.  'If you opened the door to me, it really would not be any business of mine how you got in.'"

 

And a while later:

 

"Miss Silver turned her torch down, picked up a metal bar, and put it into [his] hand.

'What is it?'

'Well,' said Miss Silver -- she gave a slight cough -- 'I believe it is called a jemmy -- an instrument in use amongst burglars.  I, of course, have my reputation to consider. But if you --' She coughed again. 'It really seems quite providential -- doesn't it?'

'Heaven helps those who help themselves, in fact,' [he] responded.

Miss Silver proceeded to give him expert advice as to lock-breaking."

 

I'm not sure that we'd ever see quite that sort of scene with Miss Marple (Holmes and Poirot are, of course, a different matter; they've both been known to burgle the odd building in the interests of higher justice), though Miss Marple would almost certainly have, amid a great deal of flutter, pinpointed the exact location to look for inside the house in question in advance, to within a few inches at most; probably after having gotten the vicar's wife to unearth for her precisely the same (published) source that had inspired the present owner of the house to make use of that very location in the first place.

 

Unlike Holmes and Poirot (and, for that matter, Miss Marple), who at least in the Final Reveal typically give a full account of their methods and thought processes, we are not given that sort of access here, and if anything, it is this that makes Miss Silver seem decidedly more ethereal than in the later books -- which, at least the ones I've read, do feature a traditional Final Reveal; warts and all: Not only does Miss Silver seem in this, her first venture, however, to appear out of nothing in her client's and the other protagonists' vista and vicinity on more than one occasion; she also has to do all her own research, since she does not have an assistant, which would have had to involve quite a substantial amount of interviews, visits to libraries, and other "legwork", all of which at times left me wondering how she could possibly have fitted all that activity into the time frame available ... while at the same time keeping exact tabs on her client's and his protegée's, as well as pretty much all the other major characters' whereabouts.

 

Patricia Wentworth had published several romance novels before turning to crime fiction, and this is not the only one of her books on which that writerly history has left an undelible mark.  (It's also not the only one of her books where the various emotional conflicts are "resolved" in rather a rushed way at the end.)  As for the book's major characters (besides Miss Silver), they fall nicely into the categories and types that had already been coined by other mystery authors at the time, and to a large extent made up the stock whose representatives would continue to populate the better part of Golden Age mysteries up to the eve of World War II and beyond.  Still, like the other Miss Silver mysteries I've read, this proved to be a quick, entertaining and deceptively lightly-written read, and I'll happily continue to sprinkle books from this series in among my reading pleasure.

 

*************

 

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review 2017-08-16 19:06
The Well by Marie Sexton
The Well - Marie Sexton

The Well is a perfectly creepy, atmospheric little read for those of you who don’t like their horror all up in your face. I’m not going to say it scared me, because books rarely do, but it did build up a dastardly little mystery that did make my skin crawl a time or two.

It’s told in two timelines.

 

Twelve years ago Haven is goaded into staying the night at a rumored haunted house by his cousin Elise. It didn’t take a lot of goading though because Haven’s crush, Pierce, was also attending. He knew nothing was likely to happen either ghostly-wise or with Pierce but off he goes with Elise, Pierce and a few other teens for a night of spooky fun. When Elise decides to throw a séance things take a sinister turn and later Elise disappears.

 

The other timeline is set in the present day. Since that fateful night, Haven has been haunted by the loss of his favorite cousin Elise and spent most of his youth believing one of the teens present that night committed murder and has distanced himself from them. He’s become a horror writer to excise those demons but hasn’t kept in touch with his old group of friends – until now. Pierce, now a tv ghost hunter, has returned to town to do a segment on the vacant house and he wants Haven to participate. Old lusts are reignited as well as old suspicions . . .

 

There is a little romance here so if you don’t like that sort of thing invading your horror fiction you have been warned. Mostly this book is a slow burning murder-mystery with a side helping of ghostliness. I enjoyed watching it all unfold and especially loved the ghost-busting segment where scary sh*t actually happened! It kept me guessing and had just the right mix of thrills, atmosphere and engaging characters.

 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley courtesy of author Marie Sexton.

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review 2017-08-15 20:13
So just add me to the list...
Illegal Contact - Santino Hassell

What list you may wonder why the list of people who loved this book of course...yeah, that list.

 

First off let me just say I'm not much of  a fan of football, sorry I am Canadian the hockey arena is more than likely where you'll find me if sports are involved, but for me, when it comes to books it's the story that matters and the subject doesn't always have to be a favorite topic of mine. Santino Hassell is one of those authors whose name on the cover takes precedence over what the story is about...in other words a good book, is a good book, is a good book and I've learned that there are certain authors who I can rely on to deliver a good book no matter what they're writing about. Santino Hassell's name is on that list for me.

 

ICoS was my first reading experience with this author and he and Ais totally blew me out of the water with that series. So much so that after reading it I was compelled to buy the Director's Cut copies for Evanfall. I own the e-book copy or I own the book I don't make it a habit to own both and if  you know me than you know that doing so speaks to how incredibly much I enjoyed them. Next I discovered the awesomeness that is his 'Five Boroughs' series and enjoyed these as audiobooks and now this author has again shown his diversity with 'Illegal Contact' the first book in his latest series 'The Barons' again...mind blown! I have yet to enjoy his paranormal story 'Stygian' and his other new series 'The Community' but trust me, I have them all waiting for me on my e-reader...it will happen.

 

Gavin Brawley has it all the successful football career, the money, the huge house that you can get lost in, fame, success...so it begs the question 'Why is someone with all this so unhappy?'

 

Noah Monroe is a college grad, he's buried in debt, lives with his dad who is jobless after being on the wrong side of his employer's latest downsizing efforts and yet, in many ways he's happier than Gavin and would be even happier if he could just find a job that allowed him to earn enough money to pay his bills. 

 

Thankfully Gavin's misfortune is about to become Noah's golden opportunity. When the successful football player ends up under house arrest and needing a Personal Assistant. 

 

This one's a slow burn to be sure. There may be a bit of lust at first sight but Gavin and Noah have more of an oil and water mix going on at the beginning. Watching these two maneuver their way around each other as they slowly work their way past the barriers each of them have built is more than a little entertaining. 

 

As Gavin and Noah spend time together Noah begins to see past the gruff and rude exterior that Gavin has put up to the man...the man that no one but Gavin's friends and teammates, Simeon and Marcus, ever see and even they don't get to see the person that Noah ultimately uncovers. 

Noah’s lips stretched into a smile, and his eyes twinkled behind his glasses. “I feel like four and a half months ago those words would never have come out of your mouth.”

 

“Heh. Maybe. Four and a half months ago I didn’t see a need to not drive people away.”

So much of Gavin and Noah's story feels real, like maybe we could have read this in the tabloids. There's a lot of unvarnished truth in the story we're being given and much of it is a sad commentary on how we...and by we, I mean society in general, view celebrities. Whether they're actors, singers or sports figures...if they're in the limelight we tend to feel that their private lives are meant for public viewing and this is the issue that drives Gavin's actions both at the beginning of the book and at the end and how Gavin deals with the circumstances during both events shows his growth as an individual and how much Noah has influenced his life, which for me was definitely in a positive way. 

 

The secondary characters in this story as always were given enough depth and dimension to make them feel real...some of them were totally likable, such as Jasmine. Noah's best friend who calls him on his BS and isn't afraid to keep it real as well as Simeon and Marcus who do the same for Gavin. There was also Gavin's agent Mel, a tough, no non-sense businesswoman but then there was Joe Carmichael, Gavin's manager who was admittedly not very likable but he truly cared about Gavin and had his best interest at heart...likable but not. But when it came to secondary characters my personal favorite was Case the guy from the autoshop who befriended Noah. I totally want a story for him...please? There must be a quarterback or a linebacker somewhere in need of an awesome, sexy and genuinely nice guy to work on his care and maybe him? Just offering that one up for the powers that be to consider.

 

As for the sexy times in this one...well all I'm going to say is 'good things come to he or she who waits and this pair are so worth the wait...Gavin and Noah are seriously hot...I'm pretty sure that some circuits got scorched in my Kobo, but hey, don't take my word for it. There are lots of other awesome reviews you can read or better yet just read the book.

 

********************

An ARC of 'Illegal Contact' was graciously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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review 2017-08-15 14:52
Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (2015) by V.E. Schwab
A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel - V. E. Schwab

I have a fascination on the many worlds concepts both in theoretical physics and in fictional worlds. With the goal of reading recently released paperback books (I just usually buy used books released years ago), I picked up A Darker Shade of Magic. I wanted to know how the concept of parallel worlds used in a fantasy setting. Previously, I just read fantasy stories that only have two worlds, the mundane and the magical. Now I get to read four worlds in one.

A Darker Shade of Magic is the first of a trilogy written by V.E. Schwab. This is my first book from her. This book was first released in 2015.

This is the story of Kell, one of the few remaining Antari. They are magicians that can traverse in between worlds. There are four worlds with one thing in common, all have a city that is named London. These Londons are designated by color, Gray, Red, White, and Black. Kell is from Red London. Here he grew up with the royal family but not a part of it. He consider Prince Rhy his brother. Officially, Kell is the ambassador to the White and Gray London. (Traveling to the Black London is forbidden.) Unofficially, he is a smuggler for items only found in other Londons. One day he came across with a dangerous artifact that in the wrong hand can be used to destroy the walls separating the London. He cross paths with Lila the pickpocket from Gray London and together they set things the right way.

Kell is the best written character. Other characters, including the antagonists, not as much. I liked how the differences of the Londons were written. I, as the reader, can easy tell which London is which. The plot lines are tied in the end. I can end reading now or pick up the next books.

I recommend this book for those who like to mix and match their genres. I haven’t read the blurbs of the next books but I will pick them up but not anytime soon.

 

Next in Shades of Magic series:

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