Monday, March 20, 2017

Dead Seekers by Barb and J.C. Hendee

The Dead Seekers
Mari has been on the hunt for the man who killed her entire family for years to get her vengeance, and finally received a solid lead to the “Dead’s Man.” But when she finally encounters him, he is not what she was expecting of the cold blooded murder. Rather, it is Mari herself who keeps saving his life while he helps save others at expense to his own well-being.

The idea of this story is fresh and original bringing a new spin on some of the popular fantasy aspects fantasy lovers are always on the lookout for: magic, shape-shifters, and ghosts. The story line is also quite interesting. The characters take most of the book to develop, so they are not why readers will want to continue reading but rather the new fantasy aspects to see how it will play out. Hopefully, the next book in the series will delve more in depth with the characters now that they’re built up.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

You Will Know Me
Devon Knox was born to do gymnastics—literally. In the womb, she kicked her mother, Katie, hard enough to break a rib. As a toddler, she possessed a quiet focus and a physical ability beyond her years. When teenage Devon’s gymnastics coach asks her parents how far they will go to nurture her potential—her Olympic potential—they are willing to do anything. The Knox family devotes themselves wholeheartedly to Devon’s career, spending long hours at the gym, traveling relentlessly to meets, and spending money they don’t have on coaching and equipment. When the boyfriend of one of Devon’s coaches is killed in a hit-and-run and the coach begins making bizarre threats against Devon, Katie starts looking into the young man’s death herself. With each step closer to the truth, Katie becomes less and less certain about the one thing she thought she knew best—her family.

Megan Abbott is particularly gifted at crafting characters, making even the most minor character in You Will Know Me come to life. Her writing is taut and suspenseful, and will keep readers guessing right up to the last page. Abbott also does a masterful job of bringing the claustrophobic world of competitive gymnastics to readers who don’t know a vault from a salto.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Girl in Disguise
Girl in Disguise is a fictional tale based on the real life historical figure, Kate Warne, who was the first female Pinkerton detective. Desperate for a way to support herself, Kate answers a classified job ad she knows was meant for a man, but she convinces Allan Pinkerton to hire her, as women can go where men cannot. Naturally, some of the male operatives in the Pinkerton Agency rail against working beside a female, but eventually, most of the men come to view Kate with respect, even if they still think she's having an affair with the boss. 

Most of the book recounts various cases Kate works. Two notable cases involve Abraham Lincoln; one was while he was an attorney in Springfield and then later on his trip to Washington D.C. for his inauguration. Little hints of Kate's traumatic past are sprinkled throughout until the latter quarter of the book, where Kate's history comes back to haunt her.

In reality, very little is known about Kate Warne's life, but Macallister does a fantastic job of putting the reader in the historical locales where this book takes place and tying in factual historical events to Kate's cases. Macallister also excels at imagining the small details in Kate's day to day life and the difficulties she encounters being the first female private detective. Recommended for lovers of historical fiction and/or pioneering women, as well as anyone who appreciates an author who clearly does her research. Also noteworthy is Macallister's debut novel, The Magician's Lie.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dark Night: a True Batman Story by Paul Dini

Dark Night: a True Batman Story
An exceptionally well-written memoir about a brutal beating, Dark Night recounts the traumatic recovery the author survived to overcome fear, pain, and rage. Eduardo Risso's illustrations in watercolors are phenomenal and add a complementary beauty to a truly horrific survivor's tale. Dini is unflinching in his portrayal of himself and others; he is frequently a rather unlikable person yet remains completely empathetic by baring his humanity, flaws and all. The DC comics characters and other cartoon characters periodically inserted as part of Dini's imagination and thought process might jar some readers but will feel right at home and even necessary to comic and graphic novel lovers.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend Nick, she imagines this will just be a fun summer and a great chance to meet his family and see Singapore before returning to the simple life they live in New York. But Rachel has no idea that Nick is Nicholas Young (of the Youngs, one of Singapore's most established and wealthiest families). Rachel is thrown into a storm of gossip, money, interfering relatives, family secrets, and some seriously mean girls. The bonds of love are tested, and Rachel must decide whether she can handle being with Nick and therefore being tangled up in his family.

This book is so, so much fun. Kwan's writing style is snappy and electric, fizzing across the page and leading you ever further into this vivid world of designer clothes, exquisite architecture, amazing houses, and old family drama. The characters in this book are definitely the kind that you love to hate.

There is a sequel out (China Rich Girlfriend), and a third book (Rich People Problems) is expected to come out May 2017.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian

The Soldier's Scoundrel
Former thief Jack Turner makes a living as a private investigator working for women and the poor. Oliver Rivington, a straight-laced retired army captain and the younger son of an earl, barges into Jack’s office, demanding the return of £200 spent by his sister for Jack’s dubious services. To prove his business is legitimate, Jack invites Oliver to observe his next appointment, a wealthy lady blackmailed by a former lover. Bored with no other occupation, Oliver inserts himself into Jack’s investigation, believing Jack will resort to illegal methods to resolve the case. Alternatively, Jack is deeply distrustful of the aristocracy and wants nothing to do with law-abiding Oliver. Initially drawn to each other for physical comfort, their attraction blooms into something more, but can love breach the distance between classes?

Verdict Debut author Sebastian solidly portrays the prejudice of class differences and the injustice of a flawed legal system skewed in favor of rich men. Sweetly prim Oliver and the roguish Jack will quickly win the hearts of readers, while the mysterious blackmail investigation keeps them invested to the end. An excellent choice not just for M/M romance fans but also for Regency fans with a penchant for vigilante justice.

This review was originally published in Library Journal Xpress Reviews: E-Originals, September 29, 2016.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women
Charlotte Holmes was an odd child and becomes even more unconventional as a grown woman, as a scarlet woman, tarnished according to Victorian decorum. Fortunately, her nonconformity hides a brilliant mind, one she uses to survive and thrive. When some of her family is suspected in the murders of several prominent members of Victorian society, Charlotte determines to solve the crimes and prove her loved ones innocent, but first she needs to take on an assumed name to protect her identity and to have her skills as a genius puzzle-solver taken seriously by the police and the world at large. What could be more natural than Sherlock?

The first in the "Lady Sherlock" series, A Study in Scarlet Women, is a complex mystery with multiple deaths, multiple motives, and multiple suspects. While Thomas could have made her female Sherlock impervious to doubt and secure in her supreme intellect, Charlotte Holmes is extremely vulnerable simply due to the time period and her gender, and it isn't without a great deal of luck and help from a few friends that she is able to succeed. An incredible start to a series, readers will come to love the flawed but intelligent heroine and will be eager to read more of Lady Sherlock's future adventures.