Sunday HM Book Review x2: Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb and Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

Release Date:  September 12, 2017

Publisher: Atria

The Unquiet Grave is a retelling of a folk story about a ghost who appeared as a witness at the trial of the man who murdered her, through her husband.  The narrative is broken up, as far as the timeline and point of view, between the mother’s present in 1897 and the lawyer’s assistant in a 1930s asylum.  It’s based on real life and though at times I felt impatient with the various characters involved with the trial, it’s the mother, Mary Jane, and the details of her life in West Virginia and her pursuit for justice that had me engrossed.  The big story question, did she make up the part about seeing her daughter’s ghost? is not quite resolved, though her gut instincts about the murderer help to get the killer prosecuted. A truly fascinating study of domestic violence.

I’d forgotten what a powerful and compelling storyteller the author is, and I’m ready to go back to her backlist to see what I’ve missed.

 

 Release Date:  March 2, 2017

Publisher: Hutchison

The Birdcage Walk surprised me in a good way—I wasn’t completely sure how it would all play out, as the mystery is introduced in the present by a lonely man walking his new dog in an old cemetery. But then the story begins to unfold in the past, starting with the murder, then switching to the first person point of view of Lizzie and stays that way through the story. I found this very effective in setting up the feeling of encroaching doom.

The original story question—who is Julia Elizabeth Fawkes? is answered in unexpected ways. I couldn’t put this down. Daily life in 1790s Bristol was rendered in fascinating detail, along with the details of a land and building developer’s life against the backdrop of the revolution in France. Lizzie is eminently likable as she struggles to keep and shore up the balance of her life. I highly recommend this novel of historical and domestic mystery/suspense.  I’ll definitely be reading more of this author’s work.

 

WWW Wednesday at coffee and ink #8

Sam at Taking on a World of Words is the host of WWW Wednesday.  To participate, all you have to do is answer the three W questions and post in the comments section at Sam’s blog:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

I’m on the fence about this one.    I love the writing and the characters, and though the plot is a little on the slow side, I want to keep reading. I thought maybe it would be a little Dean Koontz-like but with much better writing. But there are few things that throw me out of the story: Up until I saw this is also in the Christian/Inspirational category, I was there. Also, the various churches and religions in town exist in a harmony that, to me, clashes with the era. I realize it’s part of the supernatural historical fantasy, but it doesn’t go down well.  It felt like modern wishful thinking and the seams are showing. I’m going to keep reading, though.

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What did you recently finish reading?

From NetGalley:

Doing what she does best, a haunting story based on an old Appalachian folktale and rendered into a murder mystery.  I haven’t read Sharyn McCrumb in oh so long, and I have a lot to catch up on.  When a new bride dies in an accidental fall, her mother knows who did it and works to get justice for her daughter.  Deceptively simple and haunting prose…I’m halfway through and have trouble putting it down! edit: wonderful! Review to come!

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From NetGalley:

Another 5 star winner! Wow, this historical suspense blew me away. I’ll be looking for more from this author.  Review to come!

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I’m always looking for good vivid Victorian mysteries, and this series is perfect.  I listened to the audiobook on my morning walks around the horsetrack in town and finally finished. I don’t usually listen to audiobooks, but this story got me out of bed and lacing up the sneakers, so I’m definitely moving on to the next audiobook in the series 🙂 Review to come.

Blurb:

An atmospheric debut novel set on the gritty streets of Victorian London, Some Danger Involved introduces detective Cyrus Barker and his apprentice, Thomas Llewelyn, as they work to solve the gruesome murder of a young scholar.

When a student bearing a striking resemblance to artists’ renderings of Jesus Christ is found murdered — by crucifixion — in London’s Jewish ghetto, 19th-century private detective Barker must hire an assistant to help him solve the sinister case. Out of all who answer an ad for a position with “some danger involved,” the eccentric and enigmatic Barker chooses downtrodden Llewelyn, a gutsy young man whose murky past includes recent stints at both an Oxford college and an Oxford prison.
As Llewelyn learns the ropes of his position, he is drawn deeper and deeper into Barker’s peculiar world of vigilante detective work, as well as the dark heart of London’s teeming underworld. Together they pass through chophouses, stables, and clandestine tea rooms, tangling with the early Italian mafia, a mad professor of eugenics, and other shadowy figures, inching ever closer to the shocking truth behind the murder.

Not from NetGalley, either. I love Megan Chance and this was on sale a few days ago, oh look, it still is! https://www.amazon.com/Spiritualist-Novel-Megan-Chance-ebook/dp/B0019O6IXY/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Exactly what I expected and love about Megan Chance!!

Blurb:

Sometimes truth is the greatest illusion of all.

In a cold January morning in 1856, Evelyn Atherton’s husband is found murdered after attending an exclusive séance. Having “married up” into New York society, Evie herself is the immediate suspect. Ostracized and vulnerable, she knows that to clear her name she must retrace her husband’s last steps. And so, joining forces with her husband’s best friend–and the only Manhattan lawyer who will accept her case–Evie dives into the mysterious underworld of the occult.

Before long, the trail brings them to a charismatic medium, Michel Jourdain. Evie’s instincts tell her the smooth-talking Jourdain is a charlatan–and her only hope for exoneration. But getting close to Jourdain means embracing a seductive and hypnotic world where clues to murder come through the voices of the dead.

Caught in a perilous game in which she is equal player and pawn, predator and victim, Evie finds there is no one to trust, perhaps not even herself. As her powerful in-laws build a case against her, and with time running out, Evie must face the real ghosts of her past if she is to have any hope of avoiding the hangman

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m not sure, but these are my choices:

I picked up an Isabel Allende novel Island Beneath the Sea in a Bookbub deal. Another author I’ve lost track of. I loved Fortune’s Daughter, but that was published quite a while ago.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8149392-island-beneath-the-sea

And three gay romances from my favorite authors:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35561986-the-bones-of-our-fathers?from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32600210-the-ruin-of-a-rake?from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35118935-spectred-isle?ac=1&from_search=true

Sunday Book Review: The Library of Light and Shadow by MJ Rose

Publisher:  Atria Publishing

Release date: July 18, 2017

This novel has a long and complex plot that, coupled with the evocative descriptions, kept me reading.  Set in the overindulgent 1920s of New York City and the shadow of the Belle Epoque in southern France, Delphine, a painter who has the magical ability to paint her sitter’s deepest secrets, reveals a secret that ends in tragedy and sends her into a spiraling depression. The back story and subplot are woven in well and flow right along with the major plot which becomes the search for an alchemical book that holds the secret of immortality.

Delphine doesn’t always understand what she sees and paints.  She struggles to resolve her inner turmoil brought on by her secret knowledge because of the consequences—she lost the love of her life because of a vision she had of the future.  If she doesn’t work out what her gift is telling her now, she knows, at least, that the consequences may very well be deadly. 

I really liked this story—though the prose felt a little heavy-handed at times. I wanted to cut out an extra sentence here and there. Overall, entertaining and engrossing, and highly recommended. It’s the third in a series, but I didn’t feel left out of what had already happened.  I’m definitely going to read more MJ Rose.

WWW Wednesday at coffee and ink #7

Sam at Taking on a World of Words is the host of WWW Wednesday.  To participate, all you have to do is answer the three W questions and post in the comments section at Sam’s blog:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

From NetGalley:

Doing what she does best, a haunting story based on an old Appalachian folktale and rendered into a murder mystery.  I haven’t read Sharyn McCrumb in oh so long, and I have a lot to catch up on.  When a new bride dies in an accidental fall, her mother knows who did it and works to get justice for her daughter.  Deceptively simple and haunting prose…I’m halfway through and have trouble putting it down!

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Again for NetGalley and again an author I used to read and lost track of.

Review will post August 13, on next Sunday.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Both from NetGalley:

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Sunday Book Review: Christopher Wild by Kathe Koja #X04

 

Author:  Kathe Koja

Publisher: Roadswell Editions

Release Date: 08/08/2017

Genre: Literary

I found this novel a riveting, transporting read, taking me from the streets of Elizabethan England to an early fascist America, and on to a near-future dystopia. With each incarnation of Kit Marlowe, the entourage and ensemble of his first life follow him to work out their karmic destiny—to betray, bear witness, or save him.  

Kit’s love of words, tobacco, and men; his wit, genius, and exasperating tendency to gravitate toward subversion and trouble through a heartbreaking triptych of lives are captured in a rush of raw, brilliant, riotously gritty prose that nailed me to the page.

I can’t wait to re-read this 😀

 

Sunday Book Review: Amazon Wisdom Keeper by Lorraine Y. Van Tuyl

 

Author: Lorraine Y Van Tuyl

Publisher: She Writes Press

Release Date:  October 24, 2017

Genre: Memoir, Psychology, Spirituality

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, but I’m glad I took the chance to read and review it.  The spiritual memoir isn’t my usual fare, at least not recently. I read many spiritual awakening memoirs in the 90s, so at least I had those to compare. 

I enjoyed very much reading about the author’s childhood on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, in Suriname.  The family had to move, and once she was separated from her beloved home, it feels as if she was always trying to get back to what she had lost.

I don’t truly feel the author had anything new to say, though her experience is unique and a compelling story. I loved the part of her trying to develop a multicultural dynamic to aid her thoroughly western education in psychology and psychotherapy; her dedication, despite a growing sense of isolation, is impressive. 

I think the big lesson for me was a reminder, as a creative person, of the need to not only trust intuition and deeper feelings, but to continue to develop them until we can rely on them, until they’re second nature, to trust that the intuitions and dreams aren’t just a symptom or sign of a delusional psychosis.  As a psychologist, though, the author had to struggle with the fear of hurting someone inadvertently, as illustrated by her interactions with Paloma.

There are gems of insight in the author’s prose, though I don’t think she meant this memoir as a “teaching” guide or system of belief, as she studied many of them in her quest to integrate native wisdom with psychology.  I highly recommend this if you like spiritual memoirs.

 

Hot Topic: Got Manuscript? Pitch Wars is Nigh!

Update:  The new website for Pitch Wars is pitchwars.org but they seem to be having a little trouble with the new site. Check out #pitchwars for more info 😀

I’m not ready for this year’s Pitch War, but it’s given me a goal for next year…I went to Brenda Drake’s site with the intention of cutting and pasting the info here for you all, but the site is undergoing a bit of maintenance at the moment.  Here’s a link to a Writer’s Digest post about why you should find out more if you are looking for an agent/editorial feedback on your finished manuscript, query letters and synopses…I’ll check back later and update the post…

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/6-reasons-why-every-writer-should-enter-pitch-wars-next-year

WWW Wednesday at coffee and ink #6

Sam at Taking on a World of Words is the host of WWW Wednesday.  To participate, all you have to do is answer the three W questions and post in the comments section at Sam’s blog:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

I got this one from Net Galley and holy smokes, it’s so good! I can’t wait to find out what she does with the story, and the prose rocks.

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I’m still working on this–there’s a lot of information about the connections to the murder victim, and I feel hampered by the page size of my Kindle. Is that weird? I think I’ll find a paperback copy and keep reading that one.  So it won’t show up here again until I actually finish it.

I’m still working on this one, too:

From Net Galley, a nonfiction book about the Amazon.  I read a bunch of books related to some research for a novel about the history of South America and the Amazon–gruesome and gorgeous reading, so when I saw this, I picked it up to continue my queries, as the novel hit a snag and sits in a drawer at this moment. My research made me curious for more.

What did you recently finish reading?

The only book I’ve finished is A Sea of Straw by Julia Sutton, and the review is here: https://coffeeandink.blog/2017/07/23/sunday-book-review-a-sea-of-straw-by-julia-sutton/

What do you think you’ll read next?

So many started and yet to finish.  The trouble with summer is that work in the garden must be done, the job is always busiest in the summer, and we came under malware attack a few weeks ago, which put us behind even further, so much of my extra time is spent there.  Not to mention the time I need to write slipping further and further away (Saturday afternoon on the porch with a beer and letting the words flow–glorious!).  So I’m going to make a pledge to finish what I started and add more reviews to this blog next week. I’m waiting for edits on a novel and that’s going to keep me out of the loop until those get done.

Maybe making yet another list will keep me focused 😉

 

 

 

Sunday Book Review: A Sea of Straw by Julia Sutton

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Title:  Sea of Straw

Author: Julia Sutton

Publisher: Cheyne Walk

Release Date:  2016

Genre: Literary, Historical, Romance

Setting: Portugal, UK

 Julia Sutton’s debut novel is a gem. The author, also an artist, paints a word portrait with gorgeous yet earthy language, evoking a time and place long past, but still within reach.

 While on holiday in Portugal, a chance encounter with a stranger leads the unhappily married Jody into an affair with the enigmatic painter Ze.  The first half of the novel is Jody’s point of view.  The lovers are recently parted as the story opens, yet Jody had hoped for one last glimpse of Ze before she leaves. She knows he’s afraid, but she’s not sure what of except in the shadow of the civil war with Spain, the secret police are watching everyone.

She returns home to a life that is too tight, too constricted to contain her now.  Her unpleasant husband and their families and friends are watching her carefully, too, a smaller reflection of Ze’s life. She struggles to re-acclimate herself to dark, cold Lancashire after long sun-drenched days with Ze.

Jody’s narrative moves forward in time from the start, broken up by her memories of Ze, his friends and family, and his love of culture and of her.  The stifling morality of the time, before women’s lib got to Lancashire, reveals itself in the behavior of her family ands some of her friends. Jody re-examines her life and what the future will be like if she doesn’t get back to her real life with Ze.

The second half of the novel is Ze’s narrative.  Both lovers conspire to return to the other on the opposite side of the Atlantic, a nearly impossible feat. While Jody is trapped by society’s idea of whom she should be, Ze begins the harrowing and dangerous process of freeing himself to be with her.

 A Sea of Straw is a literary love story filled with adventure in the shadow of fascist Europe.  Unexpected twists and turns keep me turning the pages, as did the author’s portraits of Portugal and Lisbon. I highly recommend this novel.

On a personal note, I love Lisbon and have ambled about the Alfama and wandered through the castle on the hill while a musician played John Dowland on his lute.

 

WWW Wednesday at coffee and ink #5

Sam at Taking on a World of Words is the host of WWW Wednesday.  To participate, all you have to do is answer the three W questions and post in the comments section at Sam’s blog:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

From Net Galley, a nonfiction book about the Amazon.  I read a bunch of books related to some research for a novel about the history of South America and the Amazon–gruesome and gorgeous reading, so when I saw this, I picked it up to continue my queries, as the novel hit a snag and sits in a drawer at this moment. My research made me curious for more.

I’m really hoping it’s more like Wade Davis and less like Lynn V. Andrews…update:  Nothing at all like Lynn V Andrews (Medicine Woman, et al), thank goodness, and a fascinating memoir so far…not like Wade Davis, either, though I love Wade Davis’s work.

 

The next in the Regency Mystery series by Tracy Grant…update: just got back to this…

What did you recently finish reading?

From the UK publisher Cheyne Walk, which published “The Way Back to Florence.” Review to come on this. I loved this book!

From Amazon: Set in the 1960s, the story of Jody, her little daughter Anna, and Zé, veers between an unhappy marriage in the North of England and a journey to find love amid the vivid landscapes of Portugal, while exposing the darkest shadows of Europe’s longest-running dictatorship. A Sea of Straw is a haunting debut that will linger in the memory.

From Net Galley, and it’s release isn’t until October 3, so watch this space for a release day review.  I love KJ Charles’ gay historical romances–she is the queen of the genre, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve read every story she’s written (Except for Last Stop Tokyo, which I really must get to!) This series, Sins of the City, revolves around an inheritance, secret births, and more than one murder.  The first novel is An Unseen Attraction and the second An Unnatural Vice.

What do you think you’ll read next?

 

I’ve got to finish the Tracy Grant in order to move on in the series.  I’ve got a list longer than I-don’t-know-what to check out.  From Net Galley, I’ve got this to look forward to:

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