Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky

Indemnity Only
V.I. Warshawski is a private investigator in Chicago. Late one night, a man comes to her office asking her to find two people, Anita Hill and Peter Thayer. However, it turns out that this man isn't who he says he is, and Warshawski isn't just looking for a missing person. This case becomes a race to find a killer in order to prevent more deaths from happening.

Indemnity Only keeps you turning the pages as one clue leads to the next. There never is a dull moment in Warshawski's investigation. One chapter builds on the next without need to digress or distract with unnecessary details. If you get caught up in Warshawski's sleuthing skills, then you can carry one with more of her investigations as Indemnity Only is the start of the seventeenth book in the "V.I. Warshawski" series so far. That said, the investigation in the story is nicely wrapped up by the end of this quick read.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How the Duke Was Won by Lenora Bell

How the Duke Was Won
The unacknowledged daughter of a wealthy earl, Charlene Beckett assists her mother managing a debt-ridden bawdy house and watches over her young and innocent half-sister. When Charlene is offered a large sum of money able to raise her family out of debt and on the path to a respectable life, she must pose as her legitimate half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and compete for the hand of a duke. James, the Duke of Harland, invites four of London society's most proper ladies to be considered for his wife. James is looking for a simple business arrangement, one that will recover his tattered reputation, but he is drawn to Lady Dorothea, despite her displaying the mos risqué behavior. Likewise, Charlene falls hard for the duke and debates giving up her charade and the money that goes with it to disclose her true identity.

Verdict Bell's talented debut is full of characters whose antics, from the clever to the ridiculous, will have readers laughing out loud. Charlene is smart and tough and easily steals the show with her gutsy nonconformity. Regency romance fans will delight in this expert start to a fun new series.

This review was originally published in Library Journal Xpress Reviews: Fiction, April 14, 2016.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The BFG by Roald Dahl

The BFG
When you are young and little, the idea of a giant is an awesome conception, something even beyond words. That's where a good author makes a difference. One little girl, several extraordinary giants, and the magic of words all have roles in Roald Dahl's The BFG.

Sophie is a little girl who has been kidnapped by a giant and taken far away into a land of giants. Her kidnapper is a good giant. He is the BFG, the Big Friendly Giant.  He goes among neighborhoods at night, unseen, blowing dreams into the bedrooms of sleeping children. Unfortunately, Sophie has spotted him at work and he must now protect his secret, but in this land of giants there are others who would eat, and do eat, little children. Sophie, with the aid of the BFG, hatches a plan of action.

Dahl, who began writing children's books late in life, has an uncanny, unsentimental way of capturing the imaginations of young readers. He creates unique characters and situations, all in an environment that is fantasy and yet totally believable. Who wouldn't enjoy a story with a little girl among giants who fearlessly becomes a heroine? Who wouldn't care about a friendly giant who had no schoolin' and uses words like kidsnatched (kidnapped), human beans (human beings), and chiddlers (children)?

The BFG, first published in 1982, has taken its place among Roald Dahl's many other masterworks. It has even captured the imagination of that most remarkable of big screen dream weavers, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg's film version of The BFG will be released in the summer of 2016.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton may be the least known among our country's founding fathers. The two familiar facts of his reputation may be his presence on the ten dollar bill and the sad fact that he perished in a famous duel in 1804. Hamilton was born out of wedlock in the West Indies. There is uncertainty as to the identity of his father. Penniless, he migrated to New York, alone, in his mid-teens. Yet by the age of twenty-two he was the chief of staff to Washington during the American Revolution. He became an essential interpreter and promoter of the US Constitution in the first years of the republic. He was not only founder of the Federalist Party, the US Coast Guard and the New York Post, but as the first Treasury Secretary he implemented financial reforms and programs that secured the future of his young country.

Ron Chernow's biography is considered by many to be the best account of Hamilton's life. It is long and dense but, in the words of one critic, it is that happy rarity, "a popular biography that should also delight scholars." Hamilton's brilliance and foresight shine with dazzling effect in Chernow's storytelling and analyses. If we think that politics and the press are poisoned in our own time, we learn that the modern era may pale beside the vitriol of early America. It was not just reputations that were contested in such contentious times. The founding fathers argued over the direction of the country. There were fundamental differences over executive authority, the implied clause in the constitution, and federal precedence over states' rights  In short time, the two party system would emerge and dominate the politics of American culture. It is this background that leads to the fatal encounter between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in July of 1804.

In 2015, Chernow's biography became the inspiration for Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda's blockbuster hip hop musical. Miranda read the book while on vacation in 2008. Seven years later, 700 people waited in line for lottery tickets for the opening night preview of his musical on Hamilton's life. While they waited they could have read the book.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

City of the Lost
Casey Duncan is a successful detective hiding a terrible secret. She shot and killed a boyfriend, the grandson of a mobster, years ago, after he left her for dead with a gang of thugs. Her friend, Diana, seems to have trouble bouncing around in accounting jobs but far worse trouble is her abusive ex. He finds her again despite Casey and Diana frequently moving to throw him off their trail. On the same night as Diana's attack by her ex, Casey is threatened by one of the mobster's hired goons. Both women need to get lost and stay lost to keep their lives. They flee to a hidden, self-sustaining town in the Canadian Yukon. Both women are allowed in because the town is desperate for a detective. There have been too many mysterious deaths of late, deaths not attributable to the dangerous wilderness surrounding the town.

An excellent mystery series opener by Armstrong, City of the Lost is placed in a truly unique setting where technology is minimal and the town's civilians must rely on each other to survive. Armstrong's writing shines by building complex, damaged characters who struggle with intimate relationships, romantic and platonic, but she is also able to render taut, exciting action scenes that will keep the reader turning the pages to the end. This book will be published mid-May. While you are waiting, check out Armstrong's other mystery series with folklore elements called, "Cainsville."

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
Stranded on Mars after a severe dust storm forces his team to evacuate, Mark Watney realizes he's going to die and quick, unless he can manage to survive until another Mars mission arrives in several years. Fortunately for Mark, he was his team's handyman and a botanist to boot, so he's got plenty of ingenious tricks up this sleeve to keep himself alive and kicking. Fortunately for us, Mark has a hefty sense of humor which keeps the story upbeat and exciting rather than depressing as he tackles the never ending catastrophes Mars throws his way. Back on Earth, NASA eventually realizes Mark is alive and desperately tries come up with a rescue plan before it's too late.

The humor and suspense keep the pages turning, making this a book for every reader and not just science fiction fans. And even though there is a lot of science, math, and technological jargon, Mark's matter-of-fact journals parse out the essentials, so it's easy to keep up. Conceptualizing everything Mark describes might be another matter, but the movie version of the The Martian has fantastic visuals so be sure to check that out as well as the book! 

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Common Scandal by Amanda Weaver

A Common Scandal
Growing up the daughter of a self-made tradesman, Amelia Wheeler spends most of her time at the Portsmouth harbor with her best friend, Natty Smythe, before he heads off to sea to support his penniless family. Years later, after completing Lady Grantham's finishing school, Amelia must act the perfect lady to nab a titled husband, fulfilling her dying mother's wish. Hoping to encourage a future earl, Amelia accepts an invitation to an extended house party. Meanwhile, Natty, who now owns a wealthy shipping business and goes by Nate, also attends the party to pursue the daughter of a powerful shipping magnate. Nate and Amelia continually provoke each other in public and in private, but their passion is far from the only secret able to ruin their plans.
Verdict Weaver (A Duchess in Name) expertly drafts a compelling history for these childhood friends, and readers will be immediately invested in the pair's affection and future outcomes. Nate and Amelia's chemistry smolders; their heat is kindled from a shared past rather than instant attraction, which makes their reckless bid for happiness truly believable. This series tale stands well on its own and is certainly one to savor.

This review was originally published in Library Journal Xpress Reviews: E-Originals, March 3, 2016.