Book Review – The Toy Makers by Robert Dinsdale

The Toy Makers

We follow the characters in this book from 1906 to 1953 in London, England where Papa Jack’s Emporium is located.  This magic toy shop opens with the first frost of winter and closes when the first snow drop appears, usually sometime in January.  At the age of fifteen, Cathy Wray leaves home and finds a job at the Emporium where she quickly becomes family with Papa Jack and his sons, Emil and Kaspar.

This book has a little bit of everything in it – magic, historical fiction, romance, despair and disappointment, all told as we follow a more modern retelling of Cain and Abel.

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Book Review – Nevermoor – The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor

Whenever I would see a sticker on a book or a blurb that would say something like “the next Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” or “the next Harry Potter”, I wouldn’t even pick those books up because I have found that generally the hype never lives up to the expectations and that they are no where near the book(s) they are being compared to.  Until now.

The only middle grade books that I have read as an adult are the Harry Potter books and the first book in the Percy Jackson series.  I don’t think there is anything wrong in reading any type of books – personally I have just found that they can’t keep my attention because they aren’t written for adults – they are written for middle graders and therefore, they are meant to be simpler.  Until now.

I kept hearing the hype for this book and at first I just dismissed it until a book tuber that I relate to also gave it high marks and because I trust his judgment, I picked it up.  It took me a little while (probably the first third) until I really felt the story but then I realized that it was the same with the first Harry Potter.  It wasn’t until Harry got to Hogwarts that it really took off for me and I felt those exact same feelings about this book.

In this new series, Morrigan Crow is supposed to die on her 11th birthday because she is cursed.  Instead she is whisked away by a benefactor/sponsor to Nevermoor in the nick of time where she is to compete through four trials.  If she gets through each trial, then she will be awarded a spot at The Wundrous Society.

The author does a commendable job channeling the same Harry Potter feels but gives the book its own unique story.  She has also managed to write a book that doesn’t feel like it was written for middle graders and that is why, in my opinion, it is a hit with so many adults.

Book Review – The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm

A novelist goes missing and his wife hires Cormoran Strike to locate him.  That is the basic premise of this book, however, for me it was all about the growing relationship between Robin and Cormoran.  I cannot believe how much I am enjoying this series since I really had no intention of reading it and I would have missed out on such a great set of characters.  The one character I really dislike in this series is Robin’s fiancé as for most of this book Robin was trying to act and behave like someone else in order to please her fiancé rather than being true to herself.  I am hoping to see this change as I continue to work my way through this series.

Book Review – Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger

Romancing the Werewolf

This novella brings us back into the world of the Parasol Protectorate series and its characters Biffy and Randolph Lyall, both werewolves.  The novella takes place about twenty years after the Parasol series and we find out that Biffy and Lyall have been separated for all those years and that Biffy is now the Alpha of the pack.  While some of the characters such as Lord Alkadama are included in this story, we also find out what happened to other major characters such as Lord and Lady Maccon since the last book in the series.

I had held off reading this novella until the Christmas season arrived since it was touted as a Christmas story, however, Christmas plays a very small part in it.  I did, however, enjoy catching up with these characters and have come to really like Biffy and Lyall.

Book Review – Still Lives by Maria Hummel

Still Lives

I think the best description I can give of this book is that it is a mystery set in the art world of Los Angeles.

Kim Lord is an artist who has created a series of paintings that depict high profile murders of women over the decades (e.g. Nicole Brown Simpson, Chandra Levy, the Black Dahlia).  The night of the opening, Kim goes missing.

Maggie Richter’s ex-boyfriend, Greg Shaw Ferguson, has been dating Kim Lord and is the main suspect in her disappearance.  Maggie starts nosing around the museum/gallery to see if she can determine what happened to Kim.

I loved all the references to art and explanations as to how the art world works.  I also really enjoyed all the description of Los Angeles.  I have never been to LA and to this point, had never really wanted to go but after having read this book, I actually might change my mind ….

Book Review – Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Street

This is the first book in the “Winter” series featuring the Quinn family.   Kelly Quinn owns the Winter Street Inn in Nantucket.  He has three grown children with his first wife, Margaret Quinn, who is a famous television anchor for CBS and is currently married to Mitzi his second wife, with whom they have a grown son Bart who has just joined the Marines.

The story starts a couple of days before Christmas with Kelly discovering his wife in the arms of the man who has played Santa at their annual Christmas party.  Turns out that Mitzi and Santa have been having a Christmas affair for twelve years.

The remaining part of the story evolves over several days and we find out what crisis each Quinn family member is going through.

I enjoyed the book and gave it three stars but somehow was disappointed.  While the book had a lot of description about how the Inn was decorated for Christmas somehow I just didn’t get that Christmas feeling reading it.  Maybe it was all the drama that each person brought to the story.  There were certainly times that I just wanted to reach into the book and slap a couple of those Quinn children and tell them to “grow up”.

Book Review – The Adults by Caroline Hulse

The Adults

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  It will be published November 27, 2018.

Claire and Matt are divorced and they have a young daughter, Scarlett.  Matt is now partners with Alex and Claire is with Patrick but it has been suggested that for the benefit of Scarlett, they should all spend Christmas together at a cabin.  While Matt springs this news to Alex as a “done deal” at the last minute I have to say that she takes the news much better than I would have.

The book opens with a promotional brochure from Happy Forest Holiday Park, the site where the cabin has been rented for Christmas.  Next is a transcript of a 999-call reporting that someone has been shot by an archery bow.  At this point, we are not totally sure who has been shot or who the shooter is.  The story then starts its backward rewinding so we see all the events leading up to the shooting.

I will give this book credit for an unusual storyline but I was looking forward to reading this as a Christmas book but it just didn’t feel Christmassy.  If you are looking for a book that puts you in the Christmas spirit, I don’t feel you will find it here but if you are looking for a book where the characters are heading for a train derailment and you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride, then it might be the book for you.

I have to say that my favorite character in the book is Scarlett’s imaginary friend, Posey who is a about a 4’ rabbit that talks to her.  He can be very sarcastic and funny (although mean sometimes too).

Book Review – Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Rogue Protocol

This is the third novella in the “murder-bot” series and it is just as good a read as it’s predecessors.  In this outing, Murder-Bot travels to another location to gather evidence that the GrayCris corporation violated laws respecting alien remnants.  Sadly, the ART character from the second novella is not in this book but we are introduced to a new robot called Miki.  At first Murder-Bot found Miki extremely annoying but as in the other novellas, his emotions keep developing and by the end of the story, actually find things to like about Miki.  This is such a good series and I have only one novella left to read and so on one hand, would like to stretch it out but on the other, I want to devour it immediately.

Book Review – In A House of Lies by Ian Rankin

In A House of Lies

 

This is book number 22 in the long-standing Rebus series by Ian Rankin.  Several books ago, Rebus retired but, thankfully, Rankin keeps bringing him back to tell new stories.

As in the other books in the series, we get to spend time with Rebus, Siobhan Clarke, Malcolm Fox and Cafferty, the mob boss that Rebus has been trying to bring down for 22 books.

While the story line in this book is interesting – the body of a private investigator that had been missing for years is discovered; it is really the ongoing development of the characters that keeps bringing me back to this series.

I have enjoyed reading this series as a character study of John Rebus rather than a series of “cop stories”.   In the beginning of the series, Rebus was a hard drinking, smoking, and sometimes line-crossing cop.  In this current book, Rebus is retired, has quit smoking due to a COPD diagnosis and is an occasional drinker.  What I found most interesting about his character in this book is the fact that he is forced to look back at his career of being a cop where he sometimes crossed the line and did things that he shouldn’t have done.  In some series, the author would not have gotten away with tarnishing the reputation of their protagonist, but Rankin manages to pull off the magic trick of showing the reader Rebus’ faults while maintaining our goodwill towards him.

 

Book Review – The Witch Elm by Tana French

The Witch Elm

 

When I first heard that Tana French’s newest book was going to be a stand-alone and not part of her Dublin Murder Squad series, I was disappointed but I am certainly not disappointed any longer.  I just finished reading The Witch Elm late this afternoon after being immersed in it all day and I feel like I have just emerged from a fog wondering why I’m not sitting at Ivy House.

The narrator for this novel is Toby who to this point has led a rather easy life.  It seemed like he breezed through high school with none of the regular issues that most teenagers go through; he had a job that he liked and a girlfriend that he could envision marrying.  This all changes one night when he is attacked in his apartment, robbed and left with a pretty significant brain injury.  After several weeks in the hospital, he returns home to his apartment but cannot settle in despite the support of his girlfriend, Melissa.  During this time, he finds out that his uncle Hugo has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and has been told by doctors that he has about five or six months to live.

Hugo has lived in the family home (Ivy House) all his life.  He never married or had children and has led a simple, quiet and comfortable life there.  Ivy House is loved by the whole family and every Sunday without fail, all the family shows up to have lunch together and catch up on everyone’s week.  Toby and his two cousins, Leon and Susanna spent most of their childhood summers there with Hugo and everyone has great love and respect for him.

Because Toby cannot currently work due to his brain injury, his family ask that he go and stay with Hugo to help him with meals and be company for him.  At first Toby is reluctant to do so but he convinces Melissa to go with him and they are soon settled into Ivy House with Hugo.

One Sunday when everyone is gathered at Ivy House, one of Susanna’s children discovers a skull in the hollow of the Wych Elm, detectives are called in and the mystery beings.  When Tana French talks about the tree in the book, it is spelt Wych Elm – I’m not sure why she called the book The Witch Elm with the different spelling.

This is definitely a slow burn of a novel; in fact, the body isn’t found in the elm tree until page 165 (hardcover edition).  Not to worry though, all the pages leading up to the discovery is good detailed information that you will need to in order to really understand the characters.

In all the Dublin Murder Squad books by this author, the reader gets to be on the side of the detectives and “in the know” when it comes to the investigation.  We have the inside track as to who the suspects are and what leads the detectives have, etc.  One thing I found different about this book as a reader is that we are on the outside trying to look in.  We have no access to what is happening within the investigation and who the detectives really think committed the murder.  It was certainly a departure from French’s previous books but a job well done regardless.  I think it safe to say that whatever she publishes in the future, I will definitely read.