September 25, 2017

Book Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Book Store by Matthew Sullivan

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu and will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Think that book stores are safe havens for bookworms?  Not in this novel. Here it is the chilling scene of a suicide. Sullivan sets up the scene superbly in the first chapter, and the sound of falling books have lost their innocence for me. From then on, it is a mystery within a mystery. How is Joey's suicide connected with Lydia's terrible past? Some of the clues leading up to the unfolding of secrets seem too elaborate. However, they're bookish clues so I was hooked nevertheless.

September 18, 2017

Book Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.

He must live for more.

I'm just going to go straight to it -Golden Son is the best book of the trilogy and is so far in my top 5 reads of 2017. Golden Son suffers none of the ills of the dreaded middle  - in fact is better than the phenomenal first book. Brown addressed some of the problems of Red Rising and made this installment a jaw-dropping, twist-laden, make-sure-you-have-the-next-book-ready ride. Just when you think that Darrow's reached the summit, he falls lower and harder than before and I just wanted to devour every minute of him clawing his way back to the top, then beyond. Complex characters, loyalty, ideals, friendship and not to mention a phenomenal plot. Loved it, loved it, loved it!

September 11, 2017

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

When Henrietta Howel is forced to reveal her unique power—the ability to control flames—to save a friend, she fears she will be executed. Instead, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers and declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.

As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves? 

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess is an inventive and delightful fantasy set in alternate London. Its world reminded me somewhat of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell - full of stuffy male sorcerers who cling to outdated tradition and rituals.  Henrietta is the spitfire would-be sorceress prophesied to be "the one" who enters their ranks and by book's end, turns everything upside down. I quite enjoyed Henrietta's rebellious and witty personality; however, I was confused about the magical heirarchies of this world.  I was never sure what the difference was between a sorcerer and a magician, the distinction being a being significant plot point in the book. Nevertheless, this feminist magical YA gets a solid recommendation from me.

"At the Brimthorne School for Girls, we try to curb female waywardness and insolence."

"It struck me as odd that most sorcerer women belonged solely to antiquity, as if the glory of female magic were some crumbling myth to be debated by scholars."

"Because I've seen how a woman is treated when she dares to step outside her domain."

September 4, 2017

Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

I'll admit that I wasn't too keen with the beginning chapters of this book. Too many points of view. Too many characters. It was difficult for me to see how they would all tie together and why the author chose this disorienting style of unfolding the narrative. However, around the 100-page mark, I began to be truly invested in the characters and the sinister mystery of women, girls ending up drowned in the river. Is there a serial killer or killers over the course of many years? Is the river itself a supernatural, evil entity? With every twist my guess as to who was responsible changed -floundering in the dark eddies of the plot. I'm glad I persevered through to the confusing start to get to the powerful later chapters.