Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2016

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Unquiet Dead is both Ausma Zehanat Khan's debut novel and the first book in a series starring Sgt. Rachel Getty and Inspector Esa Khattak of Canada's Community Policing Section.  In this installment Getty is much more the star; the reader is privy to her thoughts, family drama, etc. and the story is largely told from her third person perspective.  While this story is both an engrossing and disturbing read that becomes a page turner, the characters and overarching story itself isn't one that will pull me back for the next installments.

When a man named Christopher Drayton falls to his death from the bluffs by his house, Khattak is asked by a friend at the Department of Justice to ascertain whether or not the man's death was indeed an accident.  For Drayton is not who he says he is, and the first order of business in the investigation is to prove the man's true identity.  Drayton, a Serbian war criminal living in hiding in Canada under an assumed name, was a man…

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living is Louise Miller's debut novel.  A few weeks ago I was in need of a book to read, and I really wanted to read this one, but my library's copy was out.  So was the other book I really wanted to read so I had to borrow other books while I waited for this one to come in.  Sometimes I just want to read what I want to read when I want to read it, ya know?  And it's hard when that one book you want to read right now is not available.  #bookwormproblems

When Olivia nearly burns down the Emerson Club (at which she is head chef) thanks to the traditional baked Alaska her married lover and president of the club insists upon for the club's anniversary celebration, she decides it's time for a change.  So she packs up her clothes and her dog and flees Boston in the middle of the night for rural Vermont without further notice.  She's heading for the comfort of her best friend but ends up finding a place to call home and people to …

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

While Eight Hundred Grapes is Laura Dave's fourth novel, this is the first novel by Dave that I've read.  I've had my eye on this novel ever since one of the libraries acquired it.  It's a quick read, but there are secret-y secrets that no one wants to talk about.  After nearly an entire book of everyone avoiding the issues that they don't want to talk about and watching those issues fester, well, it gets frustrating.  However, it is an engrossing read because you want to know how everything turns out for these people for whom the world is pretty much falling apart.

Seven days before her wedding Georgia literally stumbles across the secret her fiance, Ben, has been keeping for months: the four and a half year old daughter that he found out (FIVE MONTHS PREVIOUSLY) he shares with his glamorous movie star ex.  So Georgia packs a suitcase, gets out of dodge, and drives home to her family's vineyard in northern California.  When she arrives she finds her family un…

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

Miss Shayne returns with another review for the blog!

In this story, we get to view the world through the eyes of a troubled teen who cannot speak. Instead, he writes everything down. This is both his main form of communication and his hobby.  Because of his journaling, he is very introspective and observant. He also enjoys telling stories and spending time alone or stealing things from people in hotels. This is how our story begins.

Once Parker meets Zelda in a hotel (after trying to steal from her), he is immediately drawn to her because her eyes convey what he calls “prefect sadness.” For someone who looks so young, how can this be? After a conversation with her, Parker discovers that Zelda is planning on jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge once she spends all of her money. She offers to spend it on Parker if he “treats her like a teenager.” Parker is tasked with devising typical teenager activities for Zelda, not because he wants her money, but because he needs to find out why she …

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

The Madwoman Upstairs is Catherine Lowell's debut novel.

When Samantha Whipple, the world famous, last known descendant of the Bronte (yes, those Brontes) clan, matriculates at Oxford University, she receives an odd inheritance from her long deceased father.  While the literary world obsesses over the contents of a long rumored, long lost Bronte estate, Samantha knows that such an estate is just that--a rumor--and does not exist.  At Oxford Samantha finds herself assigned to a demanding, inscrutable tutor and then suddenly immersed in the mysteries of her father's past when the Bronte novels that should have burned up with her father in his library begin appearing one by one in her isolated tower room dorm.  Now Samantha must solve the dual mysteries of who is leaving the books for her and why and what they mean in terms of her past.

When Samantha discovers that the math tutor that she long thought dead is instead alive and well and teaching maths at Oxford, she believes she …

Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Storms is the conclusion of the Winter Street trilogy.  You can read the review for Winter Streethere and the one for Winter Strollhere.

It's several months after the previous installment when this novel picks up with the Quinn family's trials, dramas, and tribulations.  Rather than cover several days in December as the previous novels did, this installment picks up in the Spring and then takes us through the Summer, Fall, and into the Winter holiday with the Quinn family.  And while the family will eventually be reunited and put back together, life (and death) have a way of undoing this.  So without much further ado, let's dive back into the Quinn family drama.

Finally Patrick is released from prison much to the relief of Jennifer, their boys, and the whole family.  However, now the family must deal with Jennifer's pill addiction which was fortunately stumbled upon by Kevin and Patrick.  Unfortunately Jennifer's drug dealer was Norah, Kevin's toxic ex-…

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

The Accident Season is Moira Fowley-Doyle's debut novel.  Her next novel will be released next year.  Fowley-Doyle lives and writes in Ireland where her novels are set.

Every October brings the accident season down on the Morris family during which its members suffer inexplicable accidents that usually cause bodily harm or worse.  Some years are worse than others; there was the accident season that claimed Cara's father and the one in which her uncle Seth died.  Despite the family's extra precautions every accident season, such as adding extra layers of clothing, padding to sharp edges around the house, or replacing the gas range with an electric one, Cara and her mother, sister, Alice, and ex-stepbrother, Sam, suffer cuts, scrapes, bruises and broken bones.  And according to Cara's best friend Bea's tarot cards, this accident season is going to be the worst of them all.  Because this accident season won't just tear skin and break bone, it will reveal dark and …

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Arrowood is the second novel by Laura McHugh; however, it is the first one that I've read.  This novel is described as Gothic on its cover.  And it is Gothic indeed with its setting and dark portrayal of a dysfunctional family destroyed by a dark tragedy.

After her father dies, Arden Arrowood inherits the family's stately, old house in Keokuk, Iowa, that bears her family's name.  At Arrowood she hopes to forge a life, make a home, and find some closure regarding a family tragedy that occurred during her childhood.  But Keokuk is itself decaying as are most of its stately, old homes, and Arden herself is marked by the tragedy that destroyed her family and uprooted her from the only home she'd ever known.

Arden has been haunted all her life by her twin sisters' disappearance from the family's front yard two decades ago.  The last one to see them before they disappeared, she is one of two witnesses to have seen a mysterious gold car driving away from the scene of …

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Stroll is the second installment of Elin Hilderbrand's Winter Street trilogy.  I reviewed the first installment previously on the blog, and you can click here to read it.  Winter Stroll was released last year, and I'm just now getting around to reading it.  Which is fine because the third and final book in the trilogy was released this fall, so I can read that soon.  Keep an eye out for that review because it will be coming up in a few weeks.  
I have been reading and reading and reading some more.  I only have one class this semester, so there is more time for my own reading.  As it stands, I'm about three books behind in my review writing (sorry).  And since we're coming up on the end of the year in a couple months, we'll have to start thinking about staff picks from the past year around here.  The 2016 Staff Picks will run starting after the first of the year.  So just a little programming notes for you to look forward to.
Back to Winter Stroll.  I was in…

As Sure As The Sun by Anna McPartlin

As Sure As The Sun is Anna McPartlin's third novel.  And I am only reading it now.  I don't know how this happened, but back when the library first got this novel, I never read it!  I couldn't believe it!  I've read all of McPartlin's other novels and reviewed them here on the blog.  If you want to read those reviews, you can click on the Anna McPartlin tag at the bottom of this post to find them.

When Harri faints (again) the morning of her (second attempt at) wedding her fiance and love of her life, James, he leaves her because he can't deal.  Then Harri's parents reluctantly drop a bomb of a family secret tragedy on Harri and her twin brother, George: they're not her parents and George isn't her twin brother.  When George's twin sister died at birth, Harri was 'adopted' six weeks later.  By 'adopted', I mean, Harri's parents basically subbed in the younger baby girl for their own baby girl and, no, pretty sure this was not…

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible: A modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice is Curtis Sittenfeld's fifth novel; however, it is the first Sittenfeld novel that I've read.  Eligible is part of a series of modern re-tellings of Jane Austen's works; previously Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey have all been updated and re-told by such well known authors as Alexander McCall Smith and Val McDermid.  I haven't read any of the other modern re-tellings--but I may give them a try.  Of all the Jane Austen adaptations, Pride and Prejudice is the one I love best and with which I'm most familiar.  By now you all know of my fondness for Jane Austen adaptations and British period dramas.

For various reasons from the first chapter I was not sure whether I would finish this novel or not.  But at some point a switch flipped, and I was all in with the story.  It's a fast read due to short (sometimes very short) chapters.  The story has been transplanted from the English countryside to Ci…

The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

Last week I reviewed What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault.  This week I'm reviewing the same author's fifth novel, The Evening Spider.  I've read and reviewed all of the authors novels so far, and there's a sixth coming next year.  This novel has some supernatural overtones which is a departure from her previous novels.

Initially I was really on the fence with this one. Its depiction of a 'hysterical woman,' who is really a woman who doesn't conform to the contemporary social norms of her time, and as a result is committed to an asylum in the 1880's for the convenience of her husband, is a story that is disturbing and difficult for me to read.  This story line is coupled with the foreboding and foreshadowing in the present time story line that implies that the modern day woman may be headed the same way.  However, as it turns out the former woman is committed for far more sinister reasons than her non-conformity to social norms of the day.

In 1885…

What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault

I'm catching up on some of my reading.  I caught up on Anna McPartlin's novels, and now I'm catching up on Emily Arsenault's novels.  What Strange Creatures is the fourth novel by Emily Arsenault, and I have reviewed her three previous novels on the blog here, here, and here.  I really enjoyed the tone and narrator character of this novel.  What Strange Creatures seems a little wittier and grittier than Arsenault's previous novels.  It was a quick read, and it was hard to put down.

When Theresa's brother Jeff's girlfriend Kim fails to return after a weekend away, Theresa begins a bumbling investigation, tracking down the woman's roommate, ex-boyfriend, and former professor to suss out leads regarding Kim's whereabouts.  Initially Theresa's primary motivation is find out when Kim will return because Theresa would 'like to be relieved of dog sitting duties' after agreeing to dog sit Kim's dog for the weekend.  Subsequently Theresa'…

Somewhere Inside of Happy by Anna McPartlin

Somewhere Inside of Happy is the seventh novel by Anna McPartlin (I think).  And I've read and reviewed almost all of her novels on the blog.  While this novel was a page turner and an engrossing read, it was missing the spark that some of her others possess.  This one was more of a slow burn in part because we know from the blurb on the back of the book that the main character's son goes missing and that something 'dreadful' happens to him.  So we have that hanging over our heads even before the book starts.  And the first chapter/epilogue of the book reveals that the son is indeed dead (spoiler alert?).  The majority of the book takes place in the past as we flashback to the hours leading up the son's disappearance and then takes us through the days of his disappearance as we hurtle to the inevitably bleak conclusion.  I was really dreading finding out how the son dies, and while it is incredibly tragic, heart breaking, and sad, it was not as bad/terrible as I or…

Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins by James Runcie

This is the fourth installment in the Grantchester Mysteries series by James Runcie.  I've reviewed the previous three installments on the blog as well as the second season of the British TV series adaptation of the books.  In this installment the Chambers family deals with a move precipitated by a promotion for Sidney to archdeacon of Ely.

In these mysteries Sidney and Geordie must solve the disappearance of a concert cellist.  Sidney assists his dear friend Amanda in sussing out whether one of her aristocratic friends is the victim of domestic violence.  And when a piano (yes, a piano) drops on a friend's head, Hildegard intuits that the seemingly freak accident may not be an accident after all.  Sidney must assist Amanda again when the latter receives threatening letters as well as falls victim to other odd, unnerving incidents, all of which occurs as Amanda is finally approaching marriage.  As always Sidney's reputation for sussing out the truth in complicated situati…

Grantchester season 2

Grantchester stars James Norton and Robson Green and is adapted from The Grantchester Mysteries series by James Runcie.  I have previously reviewed the first three books of the series on the blog, and I'm currently reading the fourth book.  A fifth one was released this summer.  I didn't review the first season of Grantchester.  But now I'm reviewing the second season of Grantchester because I have things to say.

You can view the series without reading the books.  I think they are far enough apart to be considered separate entities essentially.  The TV series largely diverges from the books in both story/plot line and character story.  As with the first series, the second one does use some of the mysteries from the second book.  However, they change a lot in the mystery and the story.

There's a season long story arc in which a murder investigation, trial, and subsequent execution is followed that strains Sidney's friendships with both D. I. Geordie Keating and Aman…

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James

Lost Among the Living is the fifth novel by Simone St. James.  I reviewed her four preceding novels on this blog: The Haunting of Maddy Clare, An Inquiry into Love and Death, Silence For the Dead, and The Other Side of Midnight.  Click the titles to read those reviews.  St. James' next novel, The Lost Girls, is set to be released next year.  I really enjoy the mix of suspense, supernatural, and mystery in St. James' novels.  Set in post-World War I England, they're a perfect blend of historical novel, mystery, and horror.  Lost Among the Living is creepy and atmospheric, and St. James is expert at spinning a good, old fashioned ghost story.

Jo Manders, a grieving widow, accepts a position with her husband's aunt, a difficult mistress, as the woman's paid companion.  However, from the moment Jo arrives at Wych Elm House, it is clear that things are not right either in the house or in the family.  Phantom footsteps follow Jo around the house, phantom leaves and peopl…

Pride + Prejudice + Zombies

By now you know I love all things Jane Austen.  And I also enjoy a good horror movie.   So it's really no surprise that I wanted to see this horror mash up, Pride + Prejudice + Zombies, an adaptation of the book of the same title by Seth Grahame-Smith.  I have not read the book, but I borrowed it from the library and have it at home.  However, having seen the movie, I'm not sure that I will read the book.  I spent the first hour or so of the movie debating whether or not I really wanted to watch the whole movie, and then I got to the end of the movie was thisclose to declaring it bullshit because, well, I'll get to that issue in a moment.

The simplest way to summarize this movie's plot is to say that it is Pride and Prejudice with a zombie apocalypse happening in the middle of Regency England.  And the humans appear to be losing the war thanks to the arrival of the zombie Anti-Christ (?) [or something; I didn't really understand that part].  I don't know, you …

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

I have read every Anna McPartlin novel.  Or at least I think I have except for the most recent one released after The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes.  When I was perusing the blog for those reviews to link to, I couldn't find a review for As Sure As The Sun, and I don't remember the plot.  So I will have to investigate that one to make sure that I've read it.  I know I have read four other McPartlin novels: Pack Up the Moon, Apart from the Crowd, The Space Between Us, and  Alexandra, Gone because there are reviews for those on the blog.  Click on the book title to read the review.  And then go read the books if you haven't already.  Or read them again if you already have because they're that good.  I love McPartlin's novels and after I read Somewhere Inside of Happy, I will be all caught up with her novels.  I read on the author's Facebook page that there will be a follow up novel featuring the Hayes family either next year or the year after.   Can't wait t…

The Name Therapist by Duana Taha

In addition to British period drama, I also enjoy following celebrity and entertainment gossip.  Years ago I discovered the celebrity gossip blog,, and I've been reading it ever since.    Duana Taha, in addition to screenwriting for TV, also writes a column for in which she offers advice for prospective new parents in naming their children.  Taha has been writing this column for a very long time, and I've been reading it for (probably) as long as she's been writing it.

Like Taha, I too am a name nerd.  When I was in middle school I received a book of baby names from one of my aunts for Christmas one year because she knew I liked names.  I read that book cover to cover (and I still have it).  When this same aunt was pregnant with her first child I may have given her lists of names for girls and boys, and when her second child was a boy, I think his middle name came from one of the lists I gave her during her first pregnancy.  While I stil…

Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil is the third installment in the Grantchester Mysteries series.  I reviewed the first two books of the series on the blog here and here.  This installment brings some major life changes as Sidney and his new wife Hildegard enjoy their first year of marriage.

In the first mystery Sidney contemplates the problem of evil in the form of a serial killer targeting clergy.  Each killing is preceded by an avian warning, and the ever irritating, intrepid reporter Helen Randall returns and, troublingly, entices Inspector Keating.  In another mystery Sidney is a material witness to the theft of a painting from a Cambridge gallery in which a nude woman singing a French tune creates a diversion.

In a later mystery Sidney is reluctantly roped in to portraying a priest in a local film production when he witnesses an accidental drowning.  However, something about the whole incident does not sit right with Sidney (of course) and after some inquiries, he discove…

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night is the second novel in the Grantchester Mysteries written by James Runcie.  It's also a British TV series that airs on PBS, the second season of which aired earlier this year.  Although I haven't yet seen the second series, I can say that as far as the characters' lives and timeline that the two have diverged.

The second novel's timeline is hard to follow because it picks up in 1955, the year after the close of the first novel.  However, Perils of the Night covers over five years (!) concluding literally on the eve of the construction of the Berlin Wall.  The first novel was reviewed here on the blog.  In this installation Sidney is caught up in many mysteries and adventures, two of which are connected to his alma mater University of Cambridge.

In 1955 when a research fellow falls to his death in the middle of a forbidden midnight climb on King's College Chapel towers, Sidney is enlisted to ascertain that it was in fact …

Happy Valley: season 1 (DVD)

Happy Valley is a British TV series that stars Sarah Lancashire as a police sergeant upholding the law in a West Yorkshire town that is losing the battle with drugs.  The series may be called Happy Valley, but no one is happy.  And several people become downright miserable throughout the course of events depicted in these six episodes.

Kevin Weatherill, blindly indignant when his boss Nevison Gallagher rebuffs his request for a raise, hatches a plot to kidnap Ann, Nevison's daughter, in order to pocket the ransom money.  You know because kidnap for ransom is an excellent way to raise the money needed to send your daughter to an elite school.  In a fit of ill-advised shock, Kevin enlists the local druglord, Ashley, to run the scheme.  And now there is no turning back from this very slippery slope to hell.

Unfortunately for Kevin and just about everyone else involved but mostly for Ann, Ashley in turn enlists his local hired lads, Louis and Tommy Lee Royce, to 'help'.  Louis…

Death of a Bachelor by Panic! at the Disco

Death of a Bachelor, released in January of this year,is the first album by Panic! at the Disco since the band members left the band. Brendon Urie is the sole remaining member of the band. He played most of the instruments in this album himself but received the help of several musicians.
For this album, Urie stepped away from his traditional sounds slightly and mimicked the sounds of both Queen and Frank Sinatra, two of his biggest influences. The music still sounds like Panic! At the Disco, but the new sounds are easily noticeable. The songs on this album sound similar to Panic! At the Disco’s old music just evolved. However, this isn’t a bad thing. Urie has found a new sound that works.
This album includes playful lyrics with some introspective analyses that outline Urie’s life both as a party boy and a married man. Though, like many of their songs, some of the lyrics just sound like nonsense. Many songs on this album quickly became my favorites. I listen to “Don’t Threaten Me with…

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Miss Shayne returns this week with a new review of a YA title!

“This has a bizarre cover,” I thought as I looked for something to read before I got my hands on the next book in the series I am currently invested in. As I paged through this book, I thought, “it doesn’t look like a long read, either. Lemme check it out.” Let this be a warning to book cover-judgers everywhere: don’t make the same mistake I did!
This story is about the complicated relationship between Wink, Poppy, and Midnight. They are all connected somehow, whether they show it or not. Wink is the imaginative girl who lives beside Midnight. Midnight is the awkward boy who is quiet and analytical. Poppy is the pretty blonde bully. Their lives converge, and their interactions lead up to an event that alters the lives of all three and uncovers some truths in the process.
What I like about this book was how introspective the characters are. Poppy in particular realizes the error of her ways and goes off to be happy by hers…

Notorious RBG: The life and times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

The book Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik is the literary extension of the internet sensation #NotoriousRBG that celebrates Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.  The internet movement was spawned by Ginsburg's impassioned dissents that followed the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and left Ginsburg as the sole female justice until the appointment of Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  There's a tumblr, merchandise, hashtags across multiple social media platforms, and now a book.  
Carmon and Knizhnik put forth a well researched book that includes photographs and interviews with Ginsburg herself as well as her family and friends.  In addition to following Ginsburg's life, the book also illuminates the justice's career, including her work with the ACLU prior to her appointments to the D.C. circuit Court of Appeals and subsequently the …

Reader, I Married Him edited by Tracy Chevalier

I mentioned this short story collection in my previous review of Fall of Poppies.  Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre is edited by Tracy Chevalier and features stories written by many of today's popular authors, such as Audrey Niffenegger, Francine Prose, Emma Donoghue, and others.  All of the stories are inspired by the British classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, specifically by one of the most famous lines in English literature: "reader, I married him."  While most of the authors have read Jane Eyre, at least one or two had never read the novel before penning the short story for this collection, which I thought was interesting.

I have also never read Jane Eyre; however, I have seen the 2011 adaptation that starred Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender (you know, because British period drama).  I'm not as familiar with the story as I am with Jane Austen's novels (via the film adaptations; we all know I'm a Jane Austen fan), but I though…

Fall of Poppies (No author)

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War is a short story collection to which multiple popular authors, such as Jessica Brockmole, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and others, have contributed stories.  It is an engrossing read that I think anyone who enjoys historical fiction and/or love stories will enjoy.  The title itself is pretty much self explanatory regarding the common threads connecting all the stories: they are all love stories set against the backdrop of World War I.  Many of them are tied to the end of the war and/or Armistice Day.

I enjoyed this short story collection more than the previous one I read (and will review next); however, I was reminded why I'm usually not a short story reader while I was reading Fall of Poppies.  Generally short story collections do not keep my interest because of the brevity of the stories and, for me, reading story after story gets tedious after a while.  At one point in the middle of this collection, I was thisclose to losin…

Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Miss Shayne returns with a review of the first book of the Endgame trilogy.  Stay tuned for her reviews of the rest of the trilogy later this summer!
This is the first book in the Endgame trilogy. Years ago aliens enslaved humanity and left them with a message: one day, they will return, and the world will end, and only one of the original 12 bloodlines will survive. In the present day, twelve people from the ages of 13-20 compete in a worldwide scavenger hunt by solving riddles in order to find three keys. The winner of the scavenger hunt will save their bloodline, and everyone else on the planet will die.  
Because the premise of this book sounds ridiculously close to The Hunger Games, people have refused to read it. This book has taken a lot of heat from people who haven’t even read it, which makes me sad. Though there are minor similarities, this book is completely different from The Hunger Games. It is different from most of the other books that I’ve read because it follows the i…