Category Archives: historical

Mini-reviews: Mysteries

Warning: Some of these reviews contain spoilers.

leaving everything most lovedLeaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (March 2013, Harper), 352 pages

I loved the color and spices of India that infused this novel, the tenth in the Maisie Dobbs series.

I felt a little manipulated by Winspear. I wondered if she was delaying a decision on Maisie’s relationship with James just to prolong the series (ugh!). On the one hand, I just want to see them together. I think they’ll work well, and I want to see that. But on the other, I think Maisie still acted within her very independent nature. So mostly I’m just sitting here wishing and hoping. And a little sad.

Another great installment in one of my favorite historical mystery series.

doors openDoors Open by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur (Little Brown), 2010), 368 pages

I’d heard lots of great things about Ian Rankin’s books, so I was glad to get the chance to pull this one from its lingering spot on the TBR shelf. Mostly, though, I was disappointed by this one. If I hadn’t heard such great things, I probably would have put it down mid-read (and I maybe should have abandoned it regardless).

I did enjoy the Edinburgh setting, though.

I plan to give Rankin another try, starting with book one of his Inspector Rebus series, Knots and Crosses.

missing fileThe Missing File by D.A. Mishani (Harper, March 2013), 304 pages

This is another one that didn’t really live up to my expectations. Again, I enjoyed the setting (Israel this time). But most of the book really plodded. The protagonist’s low self-esteem seemed to pervade the book. We have this supposedly great detective, who doesn’t do or learn anything really. It’s like he’s living in an allergy fog like those commercials, except we’re given no explanation for his inaction.

The twist at the end is pretty great, though, I thought. And how the main points are never really, truly, nailed down.

red herring without mustardA Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (Bantam, 2011), 432 pages

This third Flavia de Luce mystery was the needed rebound after the sophomore slump that was The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (my review). Our precocious protag is back at it, and I quite enjoyed this one. I hope it’s not too long until I can return to the series (I think I’ve got books four and five on my shelves waiting patiently).

I received some of these books from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I loved, loved, loved The Shadow of the Wind, so it’s no surprise that I jumped on the chance to read Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Prisoner of Heaven nearly as soon as it was released.

This is the third book (of four, I believe) in this collection (they’re not exactly chronological, so I’m not going to call it a series) of gothic novels. Set in Barcelona, it takes place primarily in 1957, but some sections are set a couple decades earlier.

Lots of readers were put off by the second book, The Angel’s Game. They found it too convoluted or too vague. I didn’t mind the ambiguity; the twists and turns and lack of one singular reality was apropos to me. Still, I didn’t like it nearly as well as I did The Shadow of the Wind. I didn’t hate it, either. It was just OK.

This one falls somewhere in between OK and all-out love for me. It’s not nearly as complex (practically entirely straightforward) as I remember either of the other two being, which might be good for those who disliked The Angel’s Game, but I was almost disappointed by the lack of levels. The Cemetery of Forgotten Books experience in this book isn’t nearly as magical. In fact, this may be the least magical book of the three (as in, most of this story can be explained by rules of the natural world).

This volume also had a decided lack of female presence, which was disappointing to me.

What I like: It’s very atmospheric and the sense of place is strong. The writing is fun to read.

Not that I exactly know, since I have nothing to compare it to, but I get the feeling that Lucia Graves’ translation is outstanding.

Here are my reviews of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game.

3.5 stars (out of 5)

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.
Alison’s Book Marks
Untitled*United

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Book Spotlight: The Hope of Shridula by Kay Marshall Strom

About the book:
India, 1946. For 48 years, Ashish and his family have labored as slaves in fields owned by the high-caste Lal family, all because of one small debt. At age 54, Ashish is old and worn out, every day an effort to survive for his family, including his only daughter. His wife named her Shridula — Blessings. “Perhaps the name will bring you more fortune than it brought me,” Ashish told his daughter. His words proved prophetic.

Read an interview with Kay Marshall Strom, author of The Hope of Shridula, book 2 in the Blessings in India series.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

Word Lily review

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs book 9 (Harper, March 27, 2012), 352 pages

Summary
It’s the spring of 1933, and the costermongers Maisie grew up with come to her for help. They’re convinced that a guy from their neighborhood was murdered, that his death was not an accident. Eddie was a gentle soul, more boy than man. Most of the neighborhood looked out for him with kindness. And when a horse needed calmed? He was the one to call.

Thoughts
Note: This review may contain spoilers of previous books in the series.

In Elegy for Eddie Maisie continues to walk somewhat blindly through life, confident when it comes to her cases but not so clear in her personal life and relationships. Her life has changed drastically, and while she thinks she has come to terms with that, she’s still working it out.

More than a note of sadness pervades this book, as instead of recovering from World War I the global perspective shifts to preparing for World War II.

The state of her relationship with James in this book was frustrating to me, most of the way through (if not all the way). I kept thinking, *if they would just sit down and talk to each other, they’re more on the same page than either of them thinks they are.* I know I sometimes live with slights, imagined or otherwise, rather than addressing them immediately, but so many things could be solved by just a little communication!

I did like how this case took her back to the part of London where she grew up. This dovetailed nicely (as I’ve come to expect from Winspear) with the conflict Maisie’s feeling presently about her place in society.

At this point in the series, my affection for any particular title is greatly influenced by the state of Maisie’s relationship with her beau. And I was pretty unsettled, disgruntled, annoyed by how this was handled in this book. It reminds me of how I felt about Bones last year. It felt like, to drag the series out, they had Brennan reverting to old behavior, like she’d forgotten everything she’d learned, all the ways she’d grown over the past several years. Maisie seemed to be acting like Brennan — not as the person we’ve come to know her to be, but as the person she grew beyond already. That comparison might be a little unfair, but it’s how I felt while reading.

Maisie Dobbs books

1. Maisie Dobbs [my review]
2. Birds of a Feather [my review]
3. Pardonable Lies [my review]
4. Messenger of Truth [my review]
5. An Incomplete Revenge [my review]
6. Among the Mad [my review]
7. The Mapping of Love and Death [my review]
8. A Lesson in Secrets
9. Elegy for Eddie

Rating: 3.75 stars

About the author
Jacqueline Winspear (Facebook) quit her day job for her writing when she saw the tour schedule for Birds of a Feather. She lives in California, after leaving England in 1990. She finally has a blog.

Other reviews
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I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Book Spotlight: The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer

About the book:
Bandit troubles intensify as Caleb Bender’s family attempts to settle into their new life in 1920s Paradise Valley. When El Pantera kidnaps Rachel and leaves her brother Aaron for dead, Jake Weaver and Domingo pursue the bandit leader to his mountain stronghold in a hopeless rescue attempt.

Read an excerpt of The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer.

I received this book from the publisher as part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Book Spotlight: A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander

About the book:
Claire Laurent’s greatest desire as an artist is to create something that will last. It’s also her biggest weakness. When her fraud of a father deals her an unexpected hand, Claire is forced to flee New Orleans to Nashville, only a year after the War Between the States has ended. Her path intersects with Sutton Monroe’s, and she considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But when they meet again and he refuses to help her, she realizes she’s misjudged him. Trading an unwanted destiny for an unknown future, she finds herself in the middle of Nashville’s elite society and believes her dream of creating a lasting impression in the world of art may finally be within reach.

Read an excerpt of A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander, a Belmont Mansion novel.

I’ve heard such good things about Alexander’s books; I look forward to digging into this one.

I received this book from the publisher as part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Book Spotlight: Maggie’s Journey by Lena Nelson Dooley

About the book:
Near her eighteenth birthday, Margaret Caine finds a chest in the attic holding proof she’s adopted. Having grown up the spoiled daughter of wealthy merchants in Seattle, she feels betrayed by her biological parents and by those who raised her. But mystery surrounds her new discovery, and when she discovers another family secret, she loses all sense of identity. Leaving her home, Maggie heads out to find her destiny.

Read an excerpt of Maggie’s Journey by Lena Nelson Dooley (book 1 of the McKenna’s Daughters Series).

I received this book from the publisher as part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Book Spotlight: Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

About the book:
Alice Ripley lives with her nose in a book. But the happily-ever-after life she’s planned on falls apart when Gordon breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction rather than the real world. Then, Alice loses her job at the library because of Great Depression cutbacks. So, she flees to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the library in the tiny village of Acorn. Dropped off by relatives, Alice volunteers to stay for two weeks to help the librarian, Leslie McDougal.

Read an excerpt of Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin.

I received this book from the publisher as part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.