Tuesday, November 27, 2012

October Books

WHAT LIES BENEATH/Sarah Rayne/B+
I tend to read Sarah Rayne's gothic, ghostly novels in multiples when I'm feeling the need for her brand of atmospheric, slightly creepy-in-a-delicious-way storytelling. In this story, a village that was closed off fifty years ago for chemical weapons testing is being reopened and long buried secrets are about to wield violent effects. Why are there two bodies in the vicinity of Cadence Manor, and how do Ella's childhood memories intersect with the last members of a family who suffered greatly during WWI? I preferred the backstory sections to the contemporary characters, but still a great way to lose a few hours.

NAME OF THE WIND/Patrick Rothfus/A-
The first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles, the story opens with supernatural visitors to a remote village and a reserved innkeeper who is more than he seems. Most of the story is Kvothe recounting his past to Chronicler, which took me a while to get used to, but the story itself is sound. Kvothe grew up in a troupe of traveling entertainers until tragedy sent him alone into the world. Through trickery, magic, and sheer force of will he reaches the university in order to satisfy his two great desires: the magic of naming, and the knowledge of the Chandrian demons who murdered his family. Because of the structure, the reader knows that Kvothe grew up into a legendary figure and that knowledge combined with his current solitary state lends tension to the story.

GARMENT OF SHADOWS/Laurie R. King/A-
The newest in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, this one picks up just after the end of the last novel in Morocco. A woman we know is Mary wakes up in a room, injured and without any memory of how she got there--or who she is. For the first third of the novel, the reader follows Mary through the old town as she discovers her own unusual skill set and ponders the mysteries of her condition. Holmes is looking desperately for his wife, but once they reunite there are still plenty of political mysteries afoot. The French colonials are being challenged by rebels from the mountains and one carefully-planned murder could tip the balance of power. Engaging, but I'll confess I'm looking forward to returning Holmes and Russell to England.

GHOST SONG/Sarah Rayne/A
Another wonderful multi-period gothic by Rayne, this one centered around the Tarleton Music Hall, once one of London's most brilliant theaters. But when owner/songwriter Toby Chance disappeared in 1914, the Tarleton has sat empty. Until now. Robert Fallon is hired to survey the theater in anticipation of its finally being reopened, but a mysterious brick wall in the basement leads to a startling discovery. Throw in singing ghosts, twisted desire and revenge, and a highly unstable managing director of the present-day Tarleton and this is an outstanding novel of family secrets, wartime plots, and the lengths to which we'll go for love.

THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY/Louise Penny/A+
In the wilderness of Quebec lies a mysterious community of monks, brought to the world's attention by the recordings of their Gregorian chants. No outsider has ever been admitted to the monastery--until murder is done within its walls. Chief Inspector Gamache and his partner Jean-Guy Beauvoir take up residence in the monastery in order to solve the crime. There are tensions aplenty among the small group of monks, and when Gamache's superior officer arrives things get rapidly worse. My favorite part of Penny's novels are the human beings and this book is no exception. Every time I review one of her books I tell you the same thing--get STILL LIFE and start at the beginning.

MATCHED/Ally Condie/B+
The first in Condie's dystopian YA trilogy, this is the story of Cassia Reyes who is finally old enough to receiver her Match from The Society. She is delighted to be Matched with her childhood best friend, Xander, but for just a moment another face appears on her match card. Why did Ky Markham show up briefly? Could The Society have made a mistake? And how is Cassia supposed to know what's right when she's given the possibility of a choice she never knew existed? A good beginning :)

THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER/Oliver Potzsch/B
At the end of the Thirty Year's War, Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl lives in a world where he is needed but despised. Only the son of the local doctor respects him, and they have to work together when a midwife is accused of witchcraft. Knowing that he is the one who will have to torture the woman into confession--and then kill her--Kuisl, the doctor's son, and his daughter, Magdalena, work together to find out who is killing the children of the town before the town can dissolve into hysteria. Dark and brooding, but an intriguing story of a time and place I don't know well.

FINALE/Becca Fitzpatrick/A-
Patch and Nora are coming to the end of their time together--perhaps literally. In this conclusion to their story, Nora is faced with new powers, new responsibilities, and decisions that could mean life and death for far more than just herself. Patch's unwavering goal is to keep her alive, but some things Nora has to do for herself. Betrayal and guilt and mistakes abound, but friendship and love might be enough to pull them through.

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