The Girl Who Chased the Moon

The Girl Who Chased the MoonThe Girl Who Chased the Moon
by Sarah Addison Allen
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781444706628
Publication Date: January 1, 2010
Pages: 273
Genre: Magical Realism
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother's life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realises that mysteries aren't solved in Mullaby, they're a way of life. Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbour, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, offering them to satisfy the town's sweet tooth - but also in the hope of rekindling a love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily's backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

I bought this one on the strength of how much I enjoyed Garden Spells and I think I ended up liking this one even more.

The story centers primarily on two women:  Emily, a teen-ager (who doesn’t act like one) who moves to Mullaby North Carolina to live with her grandfather after the death of her mother.  She’s determined to learn about her mother’s history and finds a lot more than she bargained for.  Julia Winterson has a plan; one that involves not being in Mullaby, but she has 6 more months of saving, scrimping, and avoiding Sawyer and her teen-age past before she can enact her plan.

I love the towns Sarah Addison Allen creates in her books; they’re small, magical, quirky and nobody thinks they’re odd.  Living in Mullaby sounds like fun.  In Garden Spells, I had a hard time liking or sympathising with the characters, but there wasn’t a character in this book I didn’t immediately like (at least none of the living ones).

The plot might not have been the most climatic one I’ve read, but I just lost myself in it and stayed up last night long after the point of reading comprehension because I just didn’t want it to end.  It was a magical surprise.

Behind the Shattered Glass (Lady Emily, #8)

Behind the Shattered GlassBehind the Shattered Glass
by Tasha Alexander
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9781250024701
Series: Lady Emily Mystery #8
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Pages: 288
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books

This was one of the better ones, story wise, in the series.  Emily and Colin are back on their home turf, and for some reason, I just prefer the home-ground settings.  More of the characters a reader has become used to, I suppose.

I deducted 1/2 a star for two reasons:  some of the plotting was just weak and loose;  characters would lie about their whereabouts and when confronted with reports proving they lied, continue to lie about it and insist upon their story, only to off-handedly admit to lying later on.  The second reason was the revelation of the killer – it could have been brilliant (the motivation was well thought out and strong) but the build up to the denouement blatantly manipulated the reader, leaving at least this reader feeling like I’d been tricked and deceived.

This is the last book in the series that I own.  As far as I know there are at least two more recent ones, and I’ll probably pick them up if I find a good deal on them used, but I don’t feel compelled to search out the 9th book.

Eighth Grave After Dark (Charley Davidson, #8)

Eighth Grave After DarkEighth Grave After Dark
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781250045652
Series: Charlie Davidson #8
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Pages: 293
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Charley Davidson has enough going on without having to worry about twelve hellhounds hot on her trail. She is, after all, incredibly pregnant and feeling like she could pop at any moment. But, just her luck, twelve deadly beasts from hell have chosen this time to escape onto our plane, and they've made Charley their target. And so she takes refuge at the only place she thinks they can't get to her: the grounds of an abandoned convent. Of course, if hellhounds aren't enough, Charley also has a new case to hold her attention: the decades-old murder of a newly-vowed nun she keeps seeing in the shadows of the convent.

Add to that the still unsolved murder of her father, the strange behavior of her husband, and Charley's tendency to attract the, shall we say, undead, and she has her hands full...but also tied.

I knew (sort of) how this one ended and had put off starting it until the release of the ninth book was closer, but actually it’s not quite as cliff-hanging an ending as I was expecting.

I love this series; I love the humour, the snark, and the inclusion of a lot of old Christian mythology.  I like the way the author conveys the horror of bad things happening without making the reader wallow in it.

Eighth Grave After Dark is both the culmination and the deepening of the overall story arc.  We have the ultimate family reunion in addition to the cold and hot cases Charley is trying to solve.  Reyes becomes a bit more human too, if you’ll excuse the expression.  The author’s depiction of hell brought to mind scenes from Constantine and were incredibly effective.

The ending is … ok.  It’s a neat and tidy way of getting around what might have proven problematic in future plots, but it works for me.  I’m very much looking forward to the ninth book.

The Haunting of Maddy Clarie

The Haunting of Maddy ClareThe Haunting of Maddy Clare
by Simone St. James
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 9780451235688
Publication Date: March 6, 2012
Pages: 330
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: NAL / New American Library


I put this book on my ‘maybe’ list well over a year ago and then promptly overlooked it for ages.  I even gave up and removed it from my lists altogether because I figured if I hadn’t bought it yet, I wasn’t really interested.

A recent review here on BL highly rating it brought it back to my attention at the same time I received a coupon from my favorite online bookseller so I just ordered it.

Jeez am I glad I did.  I loved this book.  This book hit all the right buttons for me: it was scary without being terrifying; it had great sexual tension (I am not going to call it ‘romance’ because there wasn’t any romancing going on, but it was intense); it had a great plot and interesting characters and it was well-written.  The writing style reminded me of authors of the past, particularly Phyllis Whitney.

My only complaint is now I’m suffering from a book hangover – right before I leave for a long weekend at the beach.

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1)

A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning
by Deanna Raybourn
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780451476012
Series: Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 339
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: NAL / New American Library

What can I say?  I really liked this one, it’s an excellent start to what I hope will be many equally interesting adventures.  Ms. Raybourn nailed the characters, imo: Ms. Speedwell is my personal historical heroine; I love her history and the way she owns her choices, and Stoker is Sebastian Gage, v2.0.  He’s still fiery, vitriolic, dark, mysterious – but he’s not a disrespectful jackass.

As a few of my friends have said before me, I could have done without the traveling circus and not missed it; I get that the author needed a setting, a motivation, an excuse to give Stoker and Speedwell the chance to learn more about each other and some of their secretive pasts, but the circus thing just doesn’t interest me and that’s the only reason this book ‘only’ got 4 stars instead of 4.5.

The ending was bold.  Really bold.  Ms. Raybourn truly made Veronica the most dangerous person to the UK in a subtle, glorious and inspired way.  I’m a little disappointed that it seems we’re going to be subjected to an over-arcing villain in the series, but I suppose I can’t have everything.  I can’t wait until book 2 comes out to see what happens next.

NB: I’d have taken the money.  😉

Death in the Floating City (Lady Emily, #7)

Death in the Floating CityDeath in the Floating City
by Tasha Alexander
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780312661762
Series: Lady Emily Mystery #7
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Pages: 309
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books

I’m giving this 4 stars but really, it’s probably closer to 3.5 but it held my interest in a way few books have recently.

The story takes place in Venice and the author did a fantastic job with setting the scene, but still, for some reason, I was missing something that gave me that sense that I was there.  Lady Emily is feeling rather self-important about her role as an investigator in this one too and that rather got on my nerves.

The book used a dual time-line plot between ‘present’ day (Victorian era) and the 1600’s, with alternating chapters; I normally detest these and I started reading with a certain amount of hostility about it.  By the middle I was reading it with dread but completely immersed in the story and by the end I was looking up at the ceiling blinking rapidly and trying to get the tears to go back where they came from. The Victorian era plot was only just so-so and the big reveal about the murderer relied on hidden knowledge not shared with the reader.  It’s truly the 17th century story that elevates this book an extra star.

The Dark Enquiry (Lady Julia, #5)

I finished this on Sunday, but sort of forgot to follow up with a review; I’ve since read another book and I’m in the middle of one, neither of which are historical and the details from The Dark Enquiry have all gone a little fuzzy.

I liked it; better than The Dark Road to Darjeeling, but it wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped it would be.  From the synopsis I rather figured the paranormal aspect would be more central to the plot and it wasn’t central at all.  Brisbane is still keeping secrets from Julia, but at least Julia has more or less stopped running around trying to solve mysteries behind his back; they reach a state of mutual respect for each other that was sorely lacking in the last book.

The plot was weird and the murderer came out of nowhere – at no time was the reader given the information needed to identify the culprit, until the denouement scene with Julia. It made for an exciting ending though.

A Study in Death (Lady Darby Mystery, #4)

A Study in DeathA Study in Death
by Anna Lee Huber
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780425277522
Series: A Lady Darby Mystery #4
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Pages: 323
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

I started off confused; for some reason I had it in my head that this book was going to take place in London and centre around Lord Gage (Kiera’s soon to be father-in-law), so when the story opens in Edinburgh and Lord Gage was nowhere to be found it felt like I picked up the wrong book.

Once I got past that and settled into the story, I enjoyed it, although I had concerns the author was writing herself into a corner: Lord Gage does appear about a third of the way through and boy is he an ass.  Certifiable, no redeeming qualities ass and he doesn’t like Kiera at all.  This set-up felt like a trite attempt at creating a crise de cœur between Kiera and Gage at best, and at worst, a totally unrealistic set-up for Kiera to ‘win-over’ and redeem her future father-in-law.  Either of these scenarios was going to disappoint me after the quality of the story-telling in the first three books.

I should have had more faith; Ms. Huber takes neither of these paths and instead makes the hero more heroic and Kiera’s future more realistic, if less HEA.  Sometimes, you have to take the ass to get the prince.

As to the actual mystery – I liked it a lot!  The author presented several viable suspects and an ingenious method of poison delivery, as well as quite a few red-herrings that didn’t look like red-herrings.  I didn’t sort it out until just before Kiera did and it was someone I never gave a thought to suspecting.  I love it when that happens!

I love this series and of the four published so far there hasn’t been a bad one yet.  It’ll be a long year of waiting to see what happens next.

Silent on the Moor (Lady Julia Grey, #3)

Silent on the MoorSilent on the Moor
by Deanna Raybourn
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780778326144
Series: Lady Julia Grey #3
Publication Date: January 1, 2009
Pages: 492
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Mira

Not as good as the first two, but only marginally less so, and really only because it took awhile before any of the plot really got moving.  This made the book feel LONG.

Saying that, I don’t know if I’d actually go so far as to claim it would improve with heavy editing.  Perhaps.  But the bulk of the first half of the book does do a very good job of setting the atmosphere, which is bleak and oppressive (does anything cheerful EVER take place on the moors?) and something-is-definitely-not-right-here.

And boy howdy is something not right at Grimsgrave.  Once the story got moving, so did my pulse rate.  The conclusion of the plot left me feeling like I might never be clean again; the author manages to vividly convey a diabolical depravity without celebrating it or wallowing in it, making it possible for people like myself (with a low threshold for such things) to read it without screaming.

Less humor in this one, although the dry wit is still to be found.  Lady Julia is really rather putting it all on the line in this book, and when Brisbane isn’t acting like an arrogant ass, he’s actually acting quite a bit more human, albeit oftentimes I wanted to tell him to get over himself.  His ‘gift’ continues to be a burden that is avoided at all costs and never used; given the times and the cost, this actually makes sense.  Julia’s sister Portia is here too and her life changes rather dramatically during the course of the book.  Brother Valerius reappears but is mostly background.

The ending is all wrapped up rather neatly with a HEA for almost everyone.  I enjoyed it thoroughly and I look forward to starting the next one (although I am taking a break from the series to avoid burnout).

Silent in the Sanctuary (Lady Julia Grey, #2)

Silent in the SanctuarySilent in the Sanctuary
by Deanna Raybourn
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780778324928
Series: Lady Julia Grey #2
Publication Date: December 26, 2007
Pages: 552
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Mira

After the longest, driest reading month of my life it was wonderful to fall into this book and lose myself in the story.  I had read Silent in the Grave before leaving for holiday back in May and enjoyed it so much I searched out and ordered the rest of the books in the series, but none of them arrived before I left, leaving me with a feeling of unmet anticipation. Luckily, the sense of anticipation prevailed upon my return.  More fortunately, the story held up and didn’t disappoint.

Lady Julia, after recovering from events in the first book by spending 6 months in Italy with her brothers, is summoned home for Christmas by her father; ostensibly because one of those brothers married without permission.  Of course that had nothing to do with why they were all summoned home, but it does get the story moving.

I loved Julia’s eccentric, dry-witted family from the moment I met them in Silent in the Grave, so I was thrilled this one took place in the bosom of the family asylum, so to speak.  Almost all the key players from book 1 are here, including Brisbane of course, dragging behind him his own contribution to the story’s drama.  The humor in these books is never central to the writing, but it’s subtly woven through the dialogue and often sneaks up on me.  Lady Julia feels (to me, so take this with a grain of salt) appropriate to the time period while being just a little bit shocking, too.  Brisbane is often an ass, but Julia get’s his goat often enough that I don’t hate him.

More than a couple of plots in this one, most of which don’t get sorted out until 2/3 of the way through and I think each was rather competently done – the murder itself included quite a twist that delightfully surprised me.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one and immediately started reading the 3rd book, Silent on the Moor.