SERENITY FOUND/ed. by Jane Espenson/B
As the subtitle says, these are more unauthorized essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly universe. Some are definitely on the geeky side, but Orson Scott Card writes a wonderful essay comparing and contrasting Firefly to other sci-fi worlds and my hands-down favorite was "I, Nathan" by Nathan Fillion who played Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Recommended for fans of the show, although I preferred FINDING SERENITY, the first collection of essays.
THE DARK MONK/Oliver Potzsch/B+
The second in a mystery series featuring 17th-century Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl. A priest is murdered in his church, revealing a trail of riddles that may lead to a hidden Templar treasure. Jakob's daughter and her erstwhile lover, the town doctor, are caught in varying investigations that may lead to their deaths--especially with the mysterious dark monks of the title on their trail. I liked it well enough to look for the next one in the series.
THE LAST CHILD/John Hart/A-
One year ago, Johnny Merrimon's twin sister vanished. Now the 13-year-old cares for his mother, who is sunk into alcoholism and an abusive relationship after her husband walked out in the aftermath of grief. Johnny's convinced his sister is still alive and spends his days scouring the surrounding landscape grid by grid. Detective Clyde Hunt has never given up the case, either, but he's determined not to let Johnny get hurt. But when Johnny watches a man die, he is thrown into the heart of danger. Dark and eerily moving.
THE FIERY CROSS/Diana Gabaldon/A-
In volume five of the Outlander series, Jamie and Clare Fraser are the mainstays of their new mountain community in the colony of North Carolina. It's 1771 and, thanks to Clare's time-traveler status, they both know war is coming quickly. Gabaldon's novels are long and rich and, yes, I occasionally skim long passages of description. But her characters are complicated and the story epic. I highly recommend OUTLANDER and it's always fun to return to that world.
CONVERSATIONS WITH JOSS WHEDON/ed. by Lavery & Burkhead/B+
A collection of interviews with and essays about the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse--who also directed this year's hit film The Avengers. Considering how many of the questions asked are repetitive, Whedon remains refreshingly witty and honest throughout. Recommended for those who love the master storyteller.
DEATH OF THE MANTIS/Michael Stanley/B+
The third in the series featuring Botswana detective David Bengu (known as Kubu) opens with three bushmen arrested for murder. Kubu is asked to investigate by an old friend who believes the charge is racially motivated. But more bizarre murders follow, and Kubu faces the threats of the desert head on in his search for truth. A very good series.
PRISONER OF HEAVEN/Carlos Ruis Zafon/A-
A continuation of Zafon's series that centers around Barcelona and its Cemetery of Forgotten Books. In the late 1950s, Daniel Sempere has much to enjoy with his wife and new son. But his father's bookstore is struggling and his old friend, Fermin, is threatened by the return of a man from his past. Much of the book is Fermin's backstory, set during the early years of Franco's reign when men vanished into prisons and were highly lucky to ever come out of them. Zafon is creating a complicated series of interconnected books and I definitely need to re-read them all to understand better. Atmospheric and gothic and just a little bit paranormal.
The second book in Condie's MATCHED trilogy opens with Cassia trying desperately to find Ky, while alternating chapters in Ky's point of view detail his time as a military decoy and his eventual escape. When Cassia also manages to get out of the reach of the Society, she's thrown into a landscape of survival and threat she's never imagined. Will it be enough for her to find Ky, or is there a larger battle to fight?
THE CROSSING PLACES/Elly Griffiths/A
Archaeologist Ruth Galloway loves her home on the edge of the Saltmarsh in Norfolk. When a child's bones are discovered on the marsh, Ruth dates them as being two thousand years old--a disappointment to Detective Harry Nelson, who's been hoping to put an end to the case of a girl who disappeared ten years ago. When a second girl vanishes, Ruth is drawn into the case in unexpected ways--and the danger to her is very personal. A great first novel in a series I'm delighted to find.