It’s Been a While…

I haven’t posted in a while. It’s been one thing after another in my life. And now I’m in the process of doing a long-distance move, heading back to Colorado. So writing review–and even doing much reading–has taken a backseat to other activities. (Like madly cleaning out my house since December to be able to downsize!)

I also came across an article posted on BookRiot about reader burnout. Yup, I have to admit this spoke to me loud and clear. While I did have a lot going on since the holidays that took up much of my time and energy, I also suffered a bit from reading “overload”. It made me not want to read anything. I’m sure there are others of you out there who can relate.

I am a big fan of audiobooks and that has helped me through this period of reader’s slump. Books read by a friendly voice are great distractions from whatever I’m currently obsessing about as I lie awake in the night. I’m currently listening to the Spellmonger series by Terry Mancour. I’m on book number 2 and am loving the series so far.

I have started doing some reading again — familiar authors and series — the equivalent of book “comfort food” and it feels good to be getting into the reading groove again. I am currently reading the 4th installment of the Amos Decker series, The Fallen by David Baldacci. The Fallen Baldacci

The movers come Monday. I expect March will be a blur. And I’m moving into a very different lifestyle which hopefully will “upgrade” my life. But, I’m starting to feel that readers’/blogger’s itch again, so I do plan to post reviews soon again–just perhaps at a slower pace. See you soon in The Brown Bookoft, Readers!

The Tea Rose series by Jennifer Donnelly

The three books in this series, The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose make up a marvelously engrossing family saga series. The series spans three generations of a couple of families during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although most of the series takes place in and around London, particularly London’s East End, some of the characters travel to America, Africa and Asia.the Winter Rose

The characters are rich and full of life. They experience despair and joy. They find love, lose it and find it again. I found myself really wanting things to come out all right for them. Usually it did, but sometimes it didn’t.

I listened to the Audible.com version of all three novels, narrated by Jill Tanner. While continuing to recover from my broken foot (still healing), I found myself subject to bouts of insomnia. These books kept me company and I cared more about the troubles of the characters than my own.

Highly Recommended for fans of General Fiction, Family Sagas and Romantic Historical Fiction.

Wild rose

tea rose

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

Chief Inspector Gamache series, #9. Publication Date: August 2013 by MacMillan Audio (Audible.com). Other editions available.

Brief Summary: There are two story lines in this novel. One follows the murder of Myrna’s friend, Constance; the other works to shine a light on the reasons behind the warehouse incident (from a previous book) and the apparent downfall of Inspector Gamache. While the stories don’t really intertwine, they do provide interest that neither alone could quite make work. How the Light Gets In

Comments: I love the lyrical, descriptive writing in this series as well as the incredibly deep, perceptive insights into the characters. Sometimes I find the plotting a bit muddy, but the writing is what keeps me coming back. I thoroughly enjoy listening to the narration by Ralph Cosham.

I was prepared to give How the Light Gets In a 4-star review until I got toward the end and edged my rating upwards. There were things that happened that made me sit up and take notice – some incidents I found incredibly poignant. I don’t think someone unfamiliar with the series would react the way I did, but for those who have come to know and love the residents of Three Pines, I think you won’t come away untouched.

Highly recommended for readers of the Inspector Gamache series. Those looking to read this mystery series full of depth and insight should start with the first book, Still Life.

 

Brief Mentions

I’m a bit off-schedule. I broke my foot and had surgery just over a month ago. Doc ended up putting a wire in my foot. For about 2-3 weeks, I was pretty much confined to my bed or the recliner, with my foot elevated. This meant I initially did a lot of reading and I did manage to put up a flurry of book reviews. Doing nothing but reading and screen time on my iPad/iPhone gave me eye strain. Once I became just a tad more mobile –I’m on one of those knee scooters– I really had to catch up on other things and get away from reading for a while to let my eyes rest.

I’m still on the knee scooter and unable to walk on my left foot. Doc will remove the wire in a couple of weeks and I can then start baby-stepping into a bit more normalcy. Healing is a long, slow process!

I did listen to some older-title books on audio or my kindle, where I could crank the font up.

1. The Last Mile by David Baldacci. (Amos Decker #2). Publication date: April 2016.

Brief summary : Decker helps a man who got a last-second reprieve on death row for the murder of his parents. Someone else confessed to the crime, but it soon becomes apparent that there is more to the story.  Comments: I really enjoyed reading this book. I’ve been a Baldacci fan for over 20 years. He knows how to spin a good yarn. Unlike many other writers with dozens of best-selling books, he hasn’t rested on his laurels. He has honed his craft over the years and hasn’t lowered his standards. I’m looking forward to the next 2 books in the Amos Decker series (The Fix (2017) and The Fallen (2018).

2. The Forgotten by Faye Kellerman. (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus # 13). Publication Date: August 2001.

Brief Summary: Rina and Peter’s shul is vandalized. The damage is extensive and the anti-Semitic messages and photos are appalling. While Rina works to clean up the mess, Peter investigates the crime and learns that his step-son, Jacob, has connections to the perpetrator. Comments: Reading this series is like visiting old friends. I love learning more about the familiar characters. There aren’t any surprises here, but I think fans of the series will enjoy this one.

 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Publication Info: Audible.com audio edition published April 2016. Other editions available.

Summary: Lilac Girls is primarily the story of three women during World War II and is told from their varying points of view.  The first is Kasia Kuzmerick , a young polish girl who was caught running an errand for the resistance, arrested and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. The second is Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor who after struggling to find a job, takes a position as camp doctor at Ravensbrück. And finally,  Caroline Ferriday, a wealthy American woman who works tirelessly for victims both during and after the war.Lilac Girls

Comments: I found the varying points of view to be interesting and enlightening. I also found the author’s “Afterward Notes” astonishing. This is much more than a work of fiction. While I knew of many of the German atrocities and medical experiments, I’d never heard of Ravensbrück and the group of women known as the “rabbits”. 74 young, healthy women, mostly Polish, were subjected to medical experiments that left them maimed and crippled. That 63 survived the surgery and the camp was nothing short of a miracle. Herta Oberheuser participated in these experiments under the direction of Dr. Karl Gebhardt. She was the only female doctor convicted at Nuremberg. Caroline Ferriday was also a real person who worked to help war orphans and the “rabbits”.

Highly recommended for historical fiction readers.

Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy

Publication Date:March 19th 2014 by Henery Press

Summary: Zoe Chambers was at the town council meeting on a snowy night because her EMS partner Earl enjoyed witnessing town politics.  The crowded space, filled to capacity with town residents, was in an uproar. The chairman, Jerry McBirney, was making various demands like an angry despot and his cronies supported him. But when McBirney demanded that grandmotherly Sylvia Bassi be arrested for the theft of an old computer, the townspeople were appalled. Zoe’s friend, police chief Pete Adams, stepped in to try to settle the issue. Sylvia was the the police department’s secretary.Circle of Influence

Sylvia’s son, Ted, her daughter-in-law, Rose and her teenaged grandchildren Logan and Allison, all witnessed McBirney’s tirade against Mrs. Bassi. Zoe did what she could for Sylvia, too, as Rose was her best friend. Pete wondered why McBirney was in such an uproar over a computer that had been abandoned for a long time.

Shortly after this incident, Ted Bassi was found murdered in Jerry McBirney’s car. Initial evidence pointed to McBirney as the killer, but as Pete and Zoe dug deeper, the conclusions became murkier. Another body is soon found and another member of the Bassi family disappears. Someone is determined to see that Zoe doesn’t discover the truth.

Comments:  I discovered Circle of Influence on a list of finalists for the Agatha Award for First Novel.  When I started reading it, I expected a high-end cozy–in part because of the cover art. I was pleasantly surprised that there was much more to it. Although some of the characters were too predictable, not all were, and the book was well plotted. I look forward to reading more in the Zoe Chambers series.

Recommended for general mystery readers.

 

Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold by Christopher Peter Grey

Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold by Christopher Peter Grey

Publication Date: April 21, 2018 (Kindle Edition)

Summary: Set in Bologna, Italy at the end of the 15th century, this book is an historical-fantasy coming of age story. The protagonist, seventeen-year-old Orlando Novi, suspects his recently deceased father didn’t commit suicide, but rather, was murdered. He vows to find out who murdered him and avenge his death.Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold

While mourning at his father’s grave, Orlando encounters a mysterious alchemist. The alchemist digs something out of a very old grave, leaving behind a sinister looking cross. Orlando picks this up and very quickly his life becomes entangled in intrigue, danger and political uprisings. Young and inexperienced in the evils of the world, Orlando struggles to find his path and the truth.

Comments: I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway. It is only available on Kindle.

I enjoyed reading it. The book moves along and has excitement at every turn. Primarily, it is an historical mystery, but the alchemy adds a bit of a magical touch.

There are some historical inaccuracies—the book would have benefited from a bit more research (such as a tomato in a sandwich in 1492; tomatoes didn’t appear in Europe until the 16th century (http://www.tomato-cages.com/tomato-history.html). But these didn’t detract from the sheer swashbuckling fun of the book.

Recommended for those who like to read historical fantasy and/or discover new authors.