Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Troubled Bones

Troubled Bones: A Medieval Noir
Jeri Westerson
Minotaur Books
October 11, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-62163-6
304 pages

In the year of 1385, Crispin Guest has a new assignment in Canterbury, England protecting the bones of Thomas a Beckett from being stolen and destroyed. Unfortunately, one of the first people he meets there is his old former friend, Geoffrey Chaucer. Obviously, the two forfeited their former friendship and now Crispin visibly shows animosity around Chaucer.

Almost immediately, a prioress is murdered in the exact spot where Beckett was assassinated nearly two-hundred years earlier. Added to that, Beckett’s bones are missing and another unrelated murder occurs. Were Beckett’s bones missing before Crispin came to Canterbury?

With Crispin is Jack Tucker, his young companion and apprentice, who falls in love immediately with a young nun, the one who witnessed the prioress’s murder. Meanwhile, Chaucer is imprisoned by the archbishop who plans to execute him if is Crispin does not discover the real murderer.

The story parallels much of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in this medieval setting. Jeri Westerson excels in placing the reader back into this time period with the problems of the times being the Franklin thought versus the Lancaster. Basically, this controversy was over the idea that the bones of a saint could possibly heal or work miracles. What would people then do if the bones were destroyed?
Also revealed was the reality of the author Chaucer, who really was a spy for Lancaster. The issue of loyalty and the results of supporting the wrong brother in the royal family also demonstrated the actuality of the time. Many of the characters were based on real events and people of the time period.

Troubled Bones is the fourth book in this series featuring Crispin Guest. Veil of Lies is the first novel in this series with Serpent in the Thorns and The Demon’s Parchment following. Without having read the first three novels, this enthralling mystery superbly can be read as a standalone. Obviously, the reader will have more insight to character development if they read the first three novels to truly understand Crispin and Jack.

While reading this short mystery, I was impressed by how well the author knew the time period and people’s thoughts and reactions. Troubled Bones succeeded in having me travel to another time and place through the masterful author, Jeri Westerson.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The House of Silk

The House of Silk
Anthony Horowitz
Mulholland Books
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-19699-4
304 pages
$ 27.99

The House of Silk was commissioned by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate to create a new Sherlock Holmes novel. Anthony Horowitz was selected to be the author of this new series after writing the preteen series Alex Rider, Power of Five, and The Diamond Brothers. He has also written the PBS’s Foyle’s War series, Collision, and Injustice along with numerous other television and film productions.

When an American woman marries an affluent art dealer, naturally, his family will be somewhat suspicious of her. They think that she might be after his money. When his mother is discovered dead due to a gas leak, there are questions about was it a suicide, an accident, or murder.

This particular art dealer, Edmund Carstairs initially contacts Sherlock Holmes regarding a man who seems to be watching their house wearing a flat cap. With his business recently, there had been a tremendous theft of many pieces of art while they were in transit. The believed thieves also wore these caps, and one of them was killed in the U.S. However, the twin brother of one of the thieves seems to have disappeared.

This story is logical with unpredictable connections weaving the story together. The characters closely follow the traditional Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Although not quite as brilliant as Doyle with the word choices or enticement, the story still is enthralling. The reader is constantly wondering about how this will all fit together or what will be the next twist in the story. The characters are believable and definitely reflect the worst of humanity.

One warning, even though this author is well-known to the preteen audience, this is definitely not a book for a preteen. There is definitely a subject matter that would not be appropriate for this age group.

The House of Silk is a quick and involved mystery. Anthony Horowitz is an outstanding preteen author who is now successfully entering the world of adult fiction.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Home Front

Home Front
Kristin Hannah
St. Martin’s Press
January 31, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9
400 pages
$ 27.99

Frequently, a book surprises you. This is the book home front.

When her parents died in a car accident, Jolene discovered a new family, the Army National Guard. This group molded her to develop into a confident adult. As she made friends she developed skills such as becoming a helicopter pilot. Eventually, this self-reliant woman met the love of her life, Michael, who was a lawyer and was enthralled with Jolene. The two became the parents of two daughters and established their home.

Anytime the traditional role of husband and wife are reversed, many people have difficulty with it.
This is the situation for Jolene and Michael. Michael works as a successful lawyer heading his family firm while Jolene works as a housewife and mother of two daughters. There’s nothing unusual there except that Jolene is also in the Army National Guard as a helicopter pilot. Now, she has orders to go to Iraq.

Obviously, this turns into chaos for her family. Michael expects the family to accommodate his work demands but is resentful of being placed in the situation of being a single parent for a year. He also is not accepting of Jolene’s Guard family and refuses to interact with them. Jolene realizes that she has two choices. She either goes to Iraq or to jail. That isn’t much of a choice. Before Jolene deploys, Michael’s last words to her hurtful is that he no longer loves her.

Isn’t that a great way to leave your family and to enter a war zone?

Although this novel is skirting the edge of a romance novel, it really belongs in women’s fiction. This novel encompasses more though. The dramas regarding the homecoming of any soldier returning after being involved in a war zone is a realistic and problematic situation that this country tends to not recognize. Whether it is labeled PTSD, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or battle fatigue, or shell shock, as our military suffers from these, we have a responsibility to them and to their families. This novel has one perspective of this.

Personally, I found the annoying twelve-year-old daughter to be very realistic. All the characters were superbly described and developed. My only concern was the tendency to almost being a romance novel.

I was surprised at the strength of the characters especially Michael and Betsy, the tween-aged daughter. Choosing the military life with the complexity with the realistic problems of the military returning home and their readjustment is the underlying theme. This problem could easily have been a novel that would have interested both male and female readers, rather than basically being a novel for women’s fiction.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One of Our Thursdays is Missing

Jasper Forde
ISBN: 978-0-670-02252-6
384 pages

“The circumstances of your confusion will be your path to enlightenment.”

That is the advice for Thursday Next, the written one, to find the missing Thursday Next, the real one.
The written Thursday Next has to enter the real world to search for the real Thursday Next but not
before she finds a replacement for the readers of the Thursday Next books. Confused yet?

For those who have not read any of these books, please read the first one, The Eyre Affair, before
attempting to enter the Book World through any other book, even this one. Being that this is the sixth Thursday Next series, this continues the adventures with the mild-mannered written Thursday trying to think and act as the real Thursday. With the written Thursday being a much less adventurous personality than the real one, this places the written Thursday in some difficult situations.

What makes this novel interesting is the perspective from the written Thursday. This delves into the daily challenges of being read and the “tricks of the trade” from the Book World. The character of Sprocket is introduced as the extremely efficient and caring robotic butler. Also, the reader this time has a window into the everyday life of the real Thursday’s life without much of the adventure, but her role as a wife and mother.

Being reacquainted with the previous characters in the series was like meeting old friends. You still feel the affection or at least the empathy for the book characters, even those you might have viewed as evil or despicable.

Reading Jasper Fforde’s novels is always enjoyable as you never know what to expect. I thoroughly enjoy this unique world with wonderfully developed characters in this literary world.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

and she was

and she was
Alison Gaylin
Harper Collins Publisher
February 28, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-187820-6
384 pages
$ 7.99

Brenna Spector has an unusual ability that she views as a condition, almost a handicap. She truly remembers every incident that has ever happened in her life since the trauma of her sister, Clea, disappeared and becoming a missing person. From trivial incidents such as what she ate for breakfast to every word every person spoke, she remembers it all and attempts to be attentive to the present without having the past memories overwhelm her thoughts.

Hyperthymestic syndrome has only been recognized by the medical community since 2006. This is the condition where the person has perfect autobiographical memory and remembers everything detected by her senses for every moment of their past. This condition has recently been popularized by the current television program, Unforgettable featuring Poppy Montgomery. It makes a normal life near impossible with the past memories always interfering with the daily life.

In as she was, Brenna works as a private investigator that obviously has no need for taking any notes. She has always been curious about a disappearance over a decade ago of six-year-old Iris Neff, who possibly was last seen entering a blue car, just like Clea, Brenna’s sister, when she disappeared forever.

Now Brenna has been hired to investigate Carol Wentz who was one of the last people who saw Iris Neff alive and she is currently missing. However, when she begins to investigate, she is haunted with memories of her past . Logically, Carol’s husband is the obvious suspect but he seems to be keeping secrets of his own. She also develops a professional respect for Detective Morasco who is also working through his own personal guilt.

and she is an enthralling page turner. The pacing races through each page with believable, realistic characters. There is never a dull sentence. The story rapidly flows into an unpredictable but logical conclusion.

as she was featuring Brenna Spector in this first of Alison Gaylin’s new series. Recently, she has written Hide Your Eyes which was nominated for an Edgar. She has also written You Kill Me, Trashed, and Heartless.

Brenna Spector is a wonderful protagonist who attempts to balance her daily life of being a single parent while being a private investigator. Her daughter, Maya, is gifted at manipulating Brenna who also has to deal with moving on from her former husband. Fortunately, she employs Trent who has numerous personal identity issues but is brilliant with a computer.

I look forward to the sequel to and she was.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Queen Elizabeth in the Garden

Trea Martyn
Blue Bridge
United Tribes Media
January 30, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-933-34636-6
$ 22.95
336 pages

There have been numerous novels about the Queen Elizabeth I but none have ever considered the
the style of gardens that hold her name and how those gardens affected her decisions in ruling her

Most of this book revolves around the creation of these magnificent gardens by two of her advisors,
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicaster and William Cecil, Lord Burghley, her chief minister. These two
constantly competed to be Elizabeth’s favorite and sought her attention by the constant
expansion and creation of artistic masterpieces in their gardens to the point of almost bankrupting

Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire was Robert Dudley’s home and Cecil lived at Theobalds Palace in
Hertfordshire. Influenced greatly by artists in Italy and France, these two elaborate places rose to a
decorating Renaissance height that has seldom been achieved in history.

It is amazing to think about those magnificent gardens with the mazes, labyrinths, decorative hedges,
herbs, and the rivalries of Elizabeth’s many advisors to each vie for her favored attention.

For us to go back in time and think about the numerous influential people who owned, tended, or were
guests in these magnificent creations, this book allows the reader to see through the eyes of a visitor
who might have personally known Shakespeare or to witness even the discussion of executing Mary,
Queen of Scots.

QUEEN ELIZABETH IN THE GARDEN is Trea Martyn’s believable account of what likely happened in the 1500s. Martyn excells at understanding how the development and continual expansion as well as perfecting of these gardens influenced history. Dudley was considered to be a possible suitor for Elizabeth, but frequently she enjoyed both men’s efforts to please her at extravagant costs.

This perspective of historical fiction was fascinating and frequently shocking at the lengths and expense both men would go to for Elizabeth’s pleasure. The events seemed believable and were well-researched.

I was amazed at how enthralling the novel seemed as the characters, real historical people, became real in the writing. I look forward to Trea Martyn’s next novel project.