Friday, October 25, 2019

This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman

From the publisher: Introducing the Bow Street Bachelors—men who work undercover for London’s first official police force—and the women they serve to protect. . .and wed?

An enjoyable first in a historical romance series from Kate Bateman. The initial premise is a bit far-fetched – a rich heiress chooses to wed a prisoner to escape from her greedy lecherous cousin – but the relationship between beautiful and feisty Georgiana and gorgeous undercover ex-soldier Benedict is sweet and satisfying. I also liked the humor in the side characters of Georgiana’s sister and her besotted poet suitor.

One thing I did not like was the spoiler title. Benedict is not an earl until the last chapter (I don’t consider that a spoiler from me since it is in the title!). He is the second son of an earl and brother to the impoverished current earl, and I spent the whole book wondering if his brother was going to die so he could become earl. There surely were dozens of alternate titles that could have been used. Not sure why publishers think every historical romance must have earl, duke, viscount, or marquess in the title.

I read an advance reader copy of This Earl of Mine. It will be published in late October and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Absinthe Earl by Sharon Lynn Fisher

From the publisher: The Irish lord Edward Donoghue, Earl of Meath, consumes absinthe to stave off his sleepwalking, but the liquor has the unintended consequence of causing fairy hallucinations. When he meets Ada Quicksilver, a Celtic mythology scholar from London's Lovelace Academy for Promising Young Women, he begins to entertain the possibility these visions may be due to the overlapping of the living world with the world of Faery. One of these visions seems to herald the young woman's death, so Edward joins Ada in her scholarly exploration of his country in hopes of protecting her. Together they uncover a plot for the takeover of Ireland by the enemies of its most ancient people, the Tuatha De Danaan. In the process, they discover their own connections to a Danaan hero and heroine who want more than anything to use their bodies for a reunion that's been centuries in the making.

The Absinthe Earl has everything a reader of paranormal historical romance could want – a handsome, brooding, and gentlemanly earl, a beautiful, spunky, and independent scholar, and a mystery surrounding Ireland, Faery and absinthe. If you are a fan of Irish mythology and legend, you will relish the appearance of every creature, hero, heroine, and rogue you ever heard of.

I read an advance reader copy of The Absinthe Earl from Netgalley; it will be published on October 15 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber

Kathleen Barber’s new thriller Follow Me does a fabulous job of capturing the shallow self-absorption of the average “social media influencer.” Audrey cares only about her latest insta and her followers. Her new apartment is a mess – but in one corner is a perfectly staged table that looked amazing in a photo enhanced by one of Audrey’s special filters.

I was intrigued from page 1 – and I loved the use of the familiar magnifying glass “search” symbol luring me on from page to page. Follow Me is sharper than Barber’s first book – which I also enjoyed – and the title is a perfect fit.

Not since Gone Girl have I so disliked every single major character in a book. For this reason I did not find Follow Me “unputdownable.” I just could not stand to spend that much time with those people. But the narrative is well written - it flows smoothly from section to section. It’s a good read, with nice touches like a morbid art exhibit that mirrors Audrey’s life. It’s clear the author is familiar with the New York and Washington D.C. settings.

You do have to set aside a certain amount of skepticism with psychological thrillers, but a few of the plot twists strained my credulity. I found Follow Me a little slow toward the end, like something else needed to happen before the big climax.

What Barber does best is capture the self-focused narcissism of those who want to be social media stars and who think everyone in the world is interested in every little thing they do. I believed in Audrey as a real person 100%. Some of the other characters felt a little flat.

Recommended for fans of psychological thrillers and mysteries. I read an advance reader copy of Follow Me, which comes out on February 25, 2020. It will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in print and as an ebook. 

The Galesburg Public Library is planning to host the author sometime around the date the book comes out. Watch our Facebook page or newsletter for details!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine

From the publisher: A beautifully told and intriguing mystery about two generations of Scottish women united by blood, an obsession with the past, and a long-hidden body.

A Viking legend. A family story. And the excavation of an ancient mound amid the family drama of a storied mansion. These three timelines are woven together to form the plot of Sarah Maine’s Women of the Dunes.

Libby Snow is an archaeologist with a particular family interest in the legend of Ulla, a woman running from one brother and in love with another over 1000 years ago. Libby gets permission to excavate Viking ruins on Sturrock land in Ullaness off the coast of Scotland. Stern but attractive Rodri Sturrock manages the estate for his absent brother Hector. Libby keeps secret her family’s connection to Ullaness – her grandmother’s grandmother had moved to North America from this part of Scotland, carrying an ancient cross with her.

The story weaves together tales of star-crossed lovers. Excavation reveals the bones from more than one body, from more than one time period. The setting on the coast of Scotland is breathtaking. The plot takes some predictable turns, foreshadowed by the legend of the past, but surprised me at times as well. And I was happy when one villainous character proved not to be “foaming at the mouth stark raving mad,” as happens so often (too often) in mysteries, but a narcissist who acts entirely true to their spiteful nature.

Women of the Dunes is even better in my opinion than Maine’s first book, The House Between Tides. The characters are well developed, and humor is done with a light touch. My favorite scene happens in Chapter 13, when Libby’s pretentious boss comes to visit the manor house and Rodri and his housekeeper Alice put on a lordly homeowner/simpering servant act for him.

Women of the Dunes is a definite recommend from me for anyone who enjoys a historical mystery/romance and the wilds of ScotlandWomen of the Dunes is available for checkout at the Galesburg Public Library, as is The House Between Tides.

Monday, July 22, 2019

What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

From the publisher: Rose Dennis wakes up in a hospital gown, her brain in a fog, only to discover that she's been committed to an Alzheimer's Unit in a nursing home. With no memory of how she ended up in this position, Rose is sure that something is very wrong. With the help of her computer hacker/recluse sister Marion, thirteen-year old granddaughter Mel, and Mel's friend Royal, Rose begins to gather her strength and fight back—to find out who is after her and take back control of her own life. But someone out there is still determined to kill Rose, and they're holding all the cards.

I love Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon books – they are one of the mystery series I recommend the most when people ask me for suggestions. Barr really has a gift for putting you where her characters are (in Anna’s case, left behind in a cave, sheltering in a fire tent during a raging wildfire, trapped in a sunken wreck and running out of air). What Rose Forgot is a standalone title.

I found it a little slow starting but very enjoyable once it got going. I did have to remind myself a few times that the main character of Rose isn’t Anna Pigeon, as she has a very Anna-Pigeon-like personality and a sister she turns to for advice and support.

Rose has a sweet relationship with her granddaughter-by-marriage and is a strong and capable woman at age 68, despite dealing with the issues of middle age. Parts of the mystery surprised me and parts of it did not, but the real fun is in the characters and their sometimes surprising interactions. I also enjoyed the use of technology and the fact that Rose does her sleuthing using Lyft drivers. This is a super fast read and would be great on the beach or a plane.

If you enjoy oddball mysteries with unusual protagonists, you may enjoy What Rose Forgot. I read an advance reader copy; it is scheduled to be published in September and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in multiple formats.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Warehouse by Rob Hart

Imagine a world ravaged by gun violence and environmental damage, where a huge corporation that sells everything to everyone and delivers the items by drone limits the choices of where you can live and work. In Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, the giant company Cloud has put other retailers out of business and become the only place to work. Paxton and Zinnia pass the test and start their jobs. Paxton ends up in security;  Zinnia works long days racing against the clock, picking items to mail to customers. They work at Cloud. They eat at Cloud. They sleep at Cloud. Zinnia puts up with sexual harassment from a manager; Paxton competes against others for the approval of his boss.

But neither Zinnia nor Paxton is who they seem. Each is keeping secrets, and each has an agenda. However, it’s not easy to stand up for yourself when you are a tiny cog in the Cloud.

The Warehouse is likely to be this year’s big, almost-there dystopian novel. And it all feels like it could come true next week.

Rob Hart dedicated his book to Maria Fernandes, a woman who worked part-time at several Dunkin’Donuts to make ends meet and who died from gas fumes while taking a nap in her car. In the meantime, Dunkin’ CEO Nigel Travis earned $10.2 million the year she died. The Warehouse is not a perfect book, but it will make you think hard about the relationship between corporations and their employees and about income inequality.

I read an advance reader copy of The Warehouse, which comes out on August 20. The Galesburg Public Library will have it in print and as an ebook.

Monday, May 27, 2019

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson

This novel is about a 17-year old girl named Stella who is headstrong, reckless, athletic and possibly a bit of a sociopath. She has only one friend, her best friend Amina, and they've been friends since they were six years old. She lives with her parents - her dad is a pastor in the Swedish church and her mother is a criminal defense attorney. The story unfolds with her father standing outside a courtroom where he has to go in and testify as to whether or not his only daughter has committed a brutal murder of a man who was 15 years older than her. A man nobody in the family knew she was even dating. It is obvious that Stella's parents have absolutely no idea what she does in her free time and because her dad is a pastor, a lot of things they discover have to be kept hidden from everyone. Lots of secrets in this family, which makes them all suspicious and a little shady. This novel is written from three different perspectives, and will make you wonder just how far each of these people will go to protect the ones they love. This the first novel published in the United States for this Swedish author, and he has three previous novels and two books for young readers in Sweden. If you like a psychological legal thriller, than this novel is for you!