Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Honorable Mentions From My Mailbox #2

I receive more books than I can read, so sometimes I begin a book but decide not to finish it due to my limited time. These "honorable mention reviews" are initial impressions, not complete evaluations of the books mentioned.

book cover
A Curious Beginning
by Deanna Raybourn

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher.

How Far Got: 90 pages

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb. When Veronica thwarts her own abduction, she meets an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. The baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant.

My Review:
A Curious Beginning is a historical set in London in 1887. I'd have called it a historical suspense, but Veronica didn't take the danger seriously, so I found I didn't, either. It was more a series of humorous interactions, at least as far as I got. I liked the overall tone and vivid descriptions, but the heroine was a thoroughly modern feminist dropped into the past. She traveled abroad by herself, had a job to support herself, and would sleep with any intriguing foreign man. She's also manipulative, coldly calculating, and out for herself. She's very certain that She Knows Best and everyone else is a bit obtuse. I grew tired of her attitude after a bit and quit reading. As far as I got, there wasn't a sex scene. There was a fair amount of bad language of all types.

book cover
Error in Diagnosis
by Mason Lucas, M.D.

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

How Far Got: 162 pages

Book Description from Goodreads:
A mysterious illness with disturbing symptoms is plaguing women across the United States. It begins with memory loss and confusion and ends with the patient falling into a coma. Medical professionals are at a loss for the cause, but one thing remains constant: All of the victims are pregnant.

Called in to consult on the case of his best friend’s wife, neurologist Jack Wyatt has never seen anything like it. Now, with the nation on the brink of panic, Jack and his colleagues are in race against time to find a cure.

The disease they are calling Gestational Neuropathic Syndrome (GNS) is spreading. Patients are dying—and no one can guess what will happen next

My Review:
Error in Diagnosis is a medical thriller, or at least a medical politics thriller. As far as I got, most of the scenes were of meetings where people sat around talking about the disease (and getting nowhere) or scenes of political maneuvering by doctors more interested in their reputation than in cooperating with others. There were hints that the action was about to pick up and maybe some headway made on the disease diagnosis, but I had a lot of other books to review by authors I know I like, so I stopped reading this one. The hero seemed to tick off the females around him, so I doubt there will be any sex scenes. There was occasional use of bad language.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Drawing Fire by Janice Cantore

book cover
Drawing Fire
by Janice Cantore

ISBN-13: 9781414396682
Trade Paperback: 425 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Released: June 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
A possible serial killer stalking elderly women in Long Beach, California. Detective Abby Hart's best lead is Luke Murphy, a private investigator who saw a suspect flee the scene of the latest homicide. When Abby discovers that the most recent victim is related to the governor, she's anxious to talk to him about a cold case that's personal to her--one that Luke is interested in as well. As they learn more about the restaurant fire that took her parents' lives years ago, though, the more questions they have. Can Abby find peace without having all the answers?

My Review:
Drawing Fire is a Christian suspense novel. It's the first in a series. The cases were closed by the end, but where the potential romance might go is left open-ended. I liked that Abby and Luke didn't act hastily or inappropriately based on their attraction--Abby is engaged to another man. But I was glad that at least one character could understand Abby's deep desire for justice and could support her through the confusion of what they learn.

Abby and Luke were complex characters who struggled with not having justice or all the answers about a past tragedy. They reacted realistically to events, and I understood why they acted the way they did. Abby is an awesome character; she's dogged in the pursuit of justice, trusts that others can do a job well, and is willing to listen to wise advice. Luke is both a skilled fighter and a gentleman, and he also cared about justice and helping people heal.

I liked how the different cases in this book each acted as a catalyst to bring out information about the old case. The suspense was from physical danger to the characters and imperfect clues that confuse as much as expose what happened in the old case.

There was no bad language and no sex. The Christian aspect was mostly in how the characters treated others and a theme of forgiveness. Overall, I'd recommend this well-written suspense novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko

book cover
Chasing Secrets
by Gennifer Choldenko

ISBN-13: 9780375990632
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Released: August 4, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.

The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.

My Review:
Chasing Secrets is middle grade, historical novel for girls. It's set in 1900 in San Francisco. This is the type of book I enjoyed reading when I was ten (though this novel was written in present tense, which I don't enjoy.). As an adult, I felt the characters in the first half were rather simplistic. They became more developed and felt more like real people in the second half, which made the sad part of the ending even more sad.

Rumors say the plague has come to San Francisco, but the adults don't want anyone panicking as it'd hurt trade. Our heroine was confused by the adults denying the plague while taking actions to prevent getting it. Racial prejudice against the Chinese immigrants meant that many blamed them. While helping her Chinese friends, Lizzie had some dangerous adventures and finally learned that her family really does care about her.

There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to history-curious tween girls.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Gilded Grave by Shelley Freydont

book cover
The Gilded Grave
by Shelley Freydont

ISBN-13: 9780425275849
Trade Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: August 4, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
In 1895, at the height of the Gilded Age, Newport, Rhode Island, is the summer home of the social elite. During her first Newport season, Deanna Randolph attends a ball given in honor of Lord David Manchester, a Barbadian sugar magnate, and his sister, Madeline. But on the nearby cliffs, a young maid lies dead, her neck broken—and a member of one of the town’s most prestigious families was seen talking privately with her shortly before her death.

Joseph Ballard humiliated Deanna when he refused the engagement their parents' proposed. Joe may be a cad, but he was her childhood friend and Deanna doesn’t believe he’s a killer. The two must navigate a world of glittering parties to discover why their family's sugar agreement with Lord Manchester isn't a sealed deal like they expected and why someone is killing maids at the house where the Manchesters are staying.

My Review:
The Gilded Grave is a historical mystery set in 1895 in Newport, Rhode Island. The historical and setting details brought the scenes to life. It was a clue-based, puzzle mystery. The mystery was complex enough that I could guess some parts and yet not be certain exactly who did what until the end.

The characters were complex and acted in realistic ways, and they really pulled me in. I like how Deanna acted her age and was trying to find her way as an adult while missing the freedoms of her childhood. She was generally sensible and kind, yet her lack of experience still showed.

Joe was a decent character, but I didn't like him as Deanna's apparent future match. He wanted to follow his unconventional dream even if it hurt her reputation, but he didn't support her following her own interests. He still treated her like a troublesome child that needed to be kept from danger. Will would make her a better husband as he respected her and appreciated her contributions to solving the mystery. However, it's pretty clear that match will never happen. Ah, well.

There was no sex. There was occasional bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this engaging and interesting mystery.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Green Musician by Mahvash Shahegh

book cover
The Green Musician
by Mahvash Shahegh
Illustrated by Claire Ewart

ISBN-13: 9781937786427
Hardcover: 36 pages
Publisher: Wisdom Tales
Released: August 7, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Publisher's Website:
In a distant kingdom lived a young musician named Barbad. His one dream was to play before the king in the royal court. But Barbad’s way was blocked by Sarkash, a jealous rival who would do anything to stop Barbad from meeting the king. But perhaps the palace wasn’t the only place to play before the king, for he loved to walk in his garden. What if Barbad was to hide in a tree for just the right moment to play?

Find out if Barbad's dream comes true in this magical tale of patience and determination. Stunning artwork from award-winning illustrator, Claire Ewart, gently brings this whimsical story to life. Adapted from a 1,000 year old Persian story by Mahvash Shahegh, the tale of Barbad the musician is originally found in the legendary “Book of Kings” (Shahnameh), which tells the story of the mystical past of ancient Persia.

My Review:
The Green Musician is a children's picture book based on a 1,000 year old Persian story. It's for ages 6 and up. The story is a nice, fairly simple one about a talented boy who finds a way to play for the king even though a rival tries to prevent him. It's a good message about not letting obstacles keep you from your dreams.

The illustrations have the look of watercolor paintings, and they do a good job of telling the story along with the text. I enjoyed just looking at the illustrations for a bit. At the end, the author explained what happened to Barbad after the events in this story, as the tale is based on a real, historical person. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable story.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: book cover

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks

book cover
The Bones Will Speak
by Carrie Stuart Parks

ISBN-13: 9781401690458
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: August 11, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description from Back Cover:
In Copper Creek, Montana, Gwen Marcey is struggling to put together her life after cancer and divorce. When her dog retrieves a skull of a murder victim and leads her to the victim's grave, Gwen uses her forensic art ability to identify a serial killer. She is horrified to discover all the victims look like her fourteen-year-old daughter.

The murderer is a "lone wolf," a member of the terrorist group Phineas Priesthood-and he has a score to settle with Gwen. Unraveling the tangled Christian Identity movement, where race-not grace-provides salvation, Gwen is in a frantic rush against time. She must use all her skills to uncover the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her and everyone she loves.

My Review:
The Bones Will Speak is a Christian suspense novel. This is the second book in a series. This book didn't spoil the previous mystery, but I'd recommend starting with that one. I didn't always understand why Gwen and her daughter acted like they did, and the first book might have helped flesh that out.

Gwen was resourceful, but she deeply resented her ex-husband and that effected her judgment (and her driving) at times. Her best friend urged her to forgive her husband so she could heal. Gwen's daughter really confused me. At times, the 14-year-old acted like she resented her mother and was in full rebellion. She knew she was in danger, but she didn't lock the doors when told to and even refused to jump into a river because "it's cold." But then she'd act like a naive, trusting 5-year-old who just knows mommy will make things all better. She trustingly opened the door to a stranger. There was a reason to open the door, but a teen would have realized a potential flaw with that reason.

The mystery was clue-based. Whodunit deliberately left obvious clues and Gwen pointed out others, so it was easy to put together whodunit. There were two possible people for the unknown challenge-coin holder, but clues quickly cleared that mystery up, too. So the story hinged on its high level of suspense. This was a creepy story with a sick whodunit who cruelly killed many animals and people. There was danger at every turn.

Still, I had a hard time believing how easily the killer was able to find girls whose facial structure looked just like Gwen's daughter and who had a genetic disease or disfigurement. There was no sex or bad language. The crime scene gore was not graphically described.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Death of an Airman by Christopher St. John Sprigg

book cover
Death of an Airman
by Christopher St. John Sprigg

ISBN-13: 9781464204821
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Released: 1934; Aug 4, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
When an aeroplane crashes, and its pilot is killed, Edwin Marriott, the Bishop of Cootamundra in Australia, is on hand. In England on leave, the Bishop has decided to learn how to fly, but he is not convinced that the pilot's death was accidental. In due course, naturally, he is proved right. The Bishop and Inspector Bray of Scotland Yard make an appealing pair of detectives, and ultimately a cunning criminal scheme is uncovered.

My Review:
Death of an Airman is a historical mystery set in 1934 in England. It's actually a reprint of a story that was written as a contemporary mystery. It's in the style of Christie; as in, the focus is on finding the clues rather than developing characters, but the characters still come across as real people.

There were three viewpoint characters: the Bishop, the local detective, and the Scotland Yard detective. The detectives were clever. They tracked down reasonable leads, asked good questions, and would quickly realize when the various scenarios they came up with didn't match the clues. We learn the clues as each character finds them, so we have a chance to guess new scenarios before the detectives do.

It's not easy to make all the clues fit together. Like the detectives, I would guess, realize that doesn't quite work, but how about this, but no... I had a good idea of whodunit and how shortly before the detectives. They were still missing critical information that the reader knows. I like it when you can guess just before the detectives, but they're still clever fellows. Nice!

There was no sex. There was a fair amount of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this intriguing mystery.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.