Category Archives: Book Series

Commentary on books that are part of a series

The Rosie Project

the-rosie-project

Title:  The Rosie Project
Author:  Graeme Simsion
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Publication Date:  2013
ISBN:  978-1-4767-2909-1

Book Summary:
Genetics professor Don Tillman is what you might call a genius.  Highly intelligent and logical, he tends however to lack some basic interpersonal skills . . . okay, a lot of basic interpersonal skills.  He systematically and logically arrives at the conclusion that it is time to get married so he devises a sixteen-page questionnaire that prospective wife candidates will complete.  Scientifically designed to link Don with the most ideal mate, it is the perfectly logical solution for this socially awkward academic.  After a date or two, Don tweaks the questionnaire to fine-tune his desired outcome.

In walks Rosie Jarman.  She quickly fails the questionnaire: she smokes, she drinks more than Don’s allotted amount of daily alcohol intake, AND she is a vegetarian.  For a man who has specific meat based meals for each day of the week, this is a deal breaker.  She is all wrong for him.  However, Don becomes involved in Rosie’s life as he helps her on her quest to find her biological father.

Rosie pushes Don out of his comfort zone and grudgingly a friendship begins to develop.  From spontaneous trips to New York (they live in Australia) to moonlighting as a bartender, Don begins to spread his wings and look at the world through different glasses.  Friendships, love, and relationships don’t always follow the rules of science; sometimes, they just are.

Book Commentary:
I so loved this book!!  It made me laugh out loud while also causing me to cringe at some of the comments and actions of the characters.   A bit socially awkward myself, I could relate to Don’s discomfort; however, his complete obliviousness to the ramifications of his words and actions were truly entertaining.

The author does a fantastic job at showing Don’s growth as both a person and a human through his interaction with others.  The book could have gone with a very stereo-typical character, but instead there is depth and layer to who Don is.  His relationship with his family and friends, his status among his colleagues, his perception of his students and who they see him to be all grow and develop independently of one another while building on the character that he is.

Rosie is a delight herself but her own growth is seen through Don’s changing perception of her.  I am not sure if she actually changes herself, but his view of her makes it seem as though her own character evolves.

The fact that the author is a former IT consultant and author of two non-fiction books on database design adds a completely separate dimension to the story-telling.  I think that the author might be able to well relate to Don.  And it is quite admirable that at age 50, he decides to try his hand at fiction and the book is the result.

Who might like this book:
If you are a fan of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory or love Zach Addy from Bones, I guarantee you will love Don Tillman.  Very intelligent, very nerdy, and very enduring.  Readers will find themselves rooting for Don while cringing at his mistakes.  The second book in the series, The Rosie Effect, is also available . . . and happens to be sitting in my Amazon shopping cart.

 

 

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The Inheritance

the-inheritance

Title:  The Inheritance (Charles Lenox Mystery 10)
Author:  Charles Finch
Publisher:  Minotaur
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-1-250-07042-5

Book Summary:
After a quiet holiday in the country with his family, Charles Lenox returns home early when he receives a cryptic note from an old friend.  Gerald Leigh and Charles were unlikely friends at Harrow; Charles was a fairly “by-the-book” student while Gerald scoffed at the rules and eventually left school early.  Charles was from a well-to-do family; Gerald’s attendance at Harrow was paid for by a mysterious benefactor.  Although different, the two boys found common interests and deep, respective friendship, and the search for the identity of Gerald’s mysterious benefactor was Charles’ first, albeit unsuccessful, foray into detecting.

Gerald’s note is choppy and distracted, but Charles feels compelled to help.  His intent for assistance turns into alarm when Gerald fails to appear to meet as promised.  Charles deduces some potential places that he may be hiding out and when he finds Gerald, he is discovers two shocking things.  One, Gerald has been bequeathed another, more substantial bequest, and someone is trying to kill him.

Committed to helping keep his friend safe and finally solving his first case, Charles plunges into the scientific world of the Royal Society.  In the years since he left Harrow, Gerald has established a name for himself through his scientific discoveries; is it someone from his present, or from his past, that is trying to kill him?  Further demanding of his time, Charles’ detective agency is on retainer for smaller cases in Parliament.  A recent rash of thefts has proven elusive and dangerous.  With his quintessential English stoicism, Charles strives to help both his friend and his country.

Book Commentary:
With the tenth book in the Charles Lenox series, author Charles Finch has something that few authors of long-running series can claim: he maintains consistent quality stories.  I find that with some authors who have a dozen or more books in a series, there are a few that just don’t maintain my interest or have a consistent quality.  All the Charles Lenox stories are excellent, and I think the main reason is the character of Charles Lenox.  He is an intelligent, charismatic protagonist with a refined, calm demeanor.  That is not to say he is perfect; at times, he is arrogant, aristocratic, and flawed.  He is human, from his flaws to his attributes; he is also very likable, someone I would like to have tea and an intelligent conversation with.

The series relies on diverse plot-lines with some adventure, but bottom line is that the protagonist solves the cases through good, old-fashioned detecting. I don’t want to insult them by calling them “quiet” stories because author’s witty and elegant writing style keep the reader fully engaged, but he doesn’t feel the need to always include some grandiose, cliff-hanging escapade in order to solve the case.

I also enjoy the subtle history lessons that author weaves into the story.  He discusses how advent of the telegraph brought both progress and problems to Parliament and how the English custom of driving on  the left came about.

The secondary characters of Edmund, Jane, Dallington, and McConnell reappear in each book to help maintain the consistency of the plots and help to ground Charles into the life of a gentleman.  I look forward to their appearance in each story; their own personal growth and development as characters further influences and defines Charles’ own personality.

Who might like this book:
This series would appeal to anyone who likes a classic English mystery.  The author’s grasp on history is similar to how Tasha Alexander weaves together events, customs, and principles of England in the late 1800’s.

DO NOT even think about not reading this series in order.  It is a great one to get hooked on because there are so many!!  Here is the series in order:
A Beautiful Blue Death
The September Society
The Fleet Street Murders
A Stranger in Mayfair
A Burial at Sea
A Death in the Small Hours
An Old Betrayal
The Laws of Murder
Home By Nightfall

Death in the English Countryside

death-in-the-english-countryside

Title:  Death in the English Countryside (Murder on Location 1)
Author:  Sara Rosett
Publication Date:  2014
ISBN:  978-1-500687304

Book Summary:
A degree in English literature and a fascination with Jane Austen is a fun college major but doesn’t provide many options in the career field so Kate Sharp is fortunate to have found a job as a location scout for Hollywood movies.  As a new film adaptation for Pride and Prejudice is ready to go into production, Kate’s boss Kevin travels to Nether Woodsmoor, a quaint village in England, that will hopefully provide locations perfect for the new film.  The cut-throat business of scouting requires them to be thorough, efficient, and fast.

But when Kevin fails to return after his scouting trip, Kate and office manager, Marci, become concerned that Kevin might have slipped back into his old addiction.  Knowing how lucrative the job is and with the production company calling regularly for updates, Kate travels to England in hopes of finding her wayward boss and keeping the profitable account.

Kate arrives to find Kevin’s luggage and laptop but no camera, and no Kevin.  Kate begins to travel through local pubs and stately country manors trying to retrace Kevin’s steps and find her elusive boss before the film’s pre-production crew bails on their company and Premier Locations goes out of business.

Book Commentary:
I’m always a bit skeptical of the Amazon “if you like this, then you might also like this,” but this particular series has popped up numerous times so I thought I would give it a try.  Of course, set in the idyllic English countryside and featuring a Jane Austen aficionado, the book wasn’t too much of a stretch!

I liked it!  It was a quick read that definitely falls into the cozy mystery category but it was fun with engaging characters, beautiful setting, and well-plotted story-line.  Kate is a very likable character and her quest to find her boss is logical and driven by an altruistic purpose.

Who might like this book:
If you like cozy mysteries, check this book out.  It looks like there are three more in the series plus a holiday novella.  I will be checking out more of these in the future!

Better Late Than Never

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Title:  Better Late than Never (Library Lovers Mysteries 7 )
Author:  Jenn McKinlay
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-399-58373-5

Book Summary:
Librarian Lindsay Norris feels that books back in the library for recirculation are worth the loss of any fines collected, and she organizes Briar Creek Public Library’s first overdue book amnesty day.  The flood of books is so overwhelming that Lindsay not only recruits her entire staff, but also the group of crafternoon ladies who come to the library weekly to craft, discuss books, and enjoy a lunch together.

A copy of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye wins the prize of the most overdue book at almost 10 years, but what is more shocking is that the person who checked it out was Candice Whitley, a local high school English teacher who was murdered.  The plot thickens when Lindsay and the staff realize that the book was checked out on the very day her body was discovered and that the killer was never found.

Always curious and possessed with a natural inclination to want to find the answers, Lindsay uses her research skills to look into this cold case.  The case may be cold, but it seems that the memories of the horror of Candice’s murder and the secrets contained are warming up and Lindsay finds her researching skills put her in the hot seat.

Book Commentary:
This is the seventh book in this delightful cozy series.  Jenn McKinlay writes three cozy series – the Library Lovers, the Hat Shop, and the Cupcake Bakery – and they all embody what makes a cozy mystery so enjoyable:  a fun protagonist, likeable characters, a fun setting, and plot that is interesting without being too complex.  Of the three series, I enjoy the Library Lovers the most; a combination of the library setting and book references interests me, and the book is also set on the Connecticut coast with several adventures on the open water.

Lindsay is a very likeable character and her rationale for research and curiosity are very believable.  The author weaves in a bit of romance with two gentlemen vying for Lindsay’s attention.

Who might like this book:
These books are perfect for the carpool lane or waiting in the doctor’s office.  Each time a new one comes out, I feel like I am visiting with an old friend.

Make sure that you read them in order!

Books Can Be Deceiving
Due or Die
Book, Line, and Sinker
Read It and Weep
On Borrowed Time
A Likely Story
Better Late Than Never

Secrets in the Mist

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Title:                                    Secrets in the Mist (Gothic Myths 1)
Author:                               Anna Lee Huber
Publisher:                           Brightstone Media
Publication Date:              2016
ISBN:                                   978-0-997-939613

Book Summary:
To say that life is challenging in 1812 England is an understatement.  Due to the conflict with the French, the economy is struggling and many of those in the small coastal town of Thurlton resort to a second form of income – smuggling.  However, smuggling is dangerous; if caught, the culprits could be charged with treason for transporting French goods.  If someone is discovered with French goods, there is a hefty fine.  Most of the townspeople are aware of the dangers and are willing to take bribes to keep the smugglers’ actions secret, but there is one final threat that terrifies them all – the mysterious Lantern Men who roam the fens, recognizable by their wisps of lantern lights.  These mischievous spirits haunt the marshes and lure careless travelers into a watery grave.

Ella Winterton has a healthy fear and regard for those who travel through the dangerous bogs and marshes, but when her best friend Kate comes down with an illness that threatens her life, Ella has no choice but to brave the trek through the mist.  Cautious for hidden bogs and tight twists in the path, Ella focuses closely on her travels when suddenly a dark cloaked figure appears out of the mist.  Unsettled by his appearance, Ella is shocked when he allows her to pass by safely.  Ella is convinced that the Lantern Man is more man than myth and most likely involved in the smuggling trade.  His secret activities create more chance encounters with Ella and she becomes fascinated and unafraid of him.

The thought of this mysterious man haunts her mind, but Ella has more pressing concerns to deal with.  Since the death of her mother and her brother, Ella’s father spends his days consumed with grief and alcohol.  Their home has fallen into disrepair and Ella is forced to sell what she can for survival.  When Sergeant Watkins, an officer with the Board of Customs, finds evidence of contraband alcohol in her father’s possession, a hefty fine is levied.  With nothing left to sell and estrangement from her parents’ families, Ella is forced to make a decision that threatens her family’s reputation, her home and property, and even her life.

Book Commentary:
As a huge fan of Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby mysteries, I admit I was bit nervous and apprehensive about this new series.  Would I like it as much?  Would it be as good?  The answer is unequivocally – yes!  Ella is a fascinating and relatable character; the reader feels for her situation but never feels sorry for her.  There is a naivety in her attitudes and perceptions but it not the wide-eyed innocence of a child; rather a woman of a certain station whose situation has faced a change in hardship so that she must have honest view of reality.  I admire her gumption and initiative but also wanted to yell out for someone to give this poor woman a break!

The rest of the characters are rather secondary but have their own individual backstories and motivations.  Ella truly drives the novel but it is the other characters who help guide, or divert her, from her path.  Huber has stated that this book series will follow in the tradition of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.  The series has interrelated story-lines but each novel will highlight different heroes and heroines.  Any one of these secondary characters could develop into their own new book and I am anxious to see what happens next. The second Gothic Myths book is due out in 2018.

According to historical notes on the author’s website, Huber stated that the Lantern Man myth is a real myth; she plans to build the series around some other not-as-well-known myths.  I think it will be fascinating to read about the contrast of fact and fiction in them.  My interest is definitely piqued!

Who might like this book:
Secrets in the Mist has a different feel than the Lady Darby books; it is more of a romantic suspense than a straightforward mystery.  I found the inner-workings of the smuggling operations fascinating; I was amazed at how it was so interwoven in the daily lives and needs of the residents while still being a supposed “secret.”

Although the series is different than the Lady Darby books, one can’t help but compare the two.  In true Anna Lee Huber form, the essence of the story lives in the development of the characters.  Their histories, motivations, and depth make them enduring and the reader becomes fascinated by the lives and adventures they lead.

A Most Novel Revenge

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Title:  A Most Novel Revenge (Amory Ames 3)
Author:  Ashley Weaver
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-1-250-6045-7

Book Summary:
Amory and Milo Adams have two murder investigations under their belts, and after five years of marriage, they finally seem to have arrived at a place of compromise and understanding.  Never satisfied at being in one place too long, Milo has his sights on travel to Italy with his wife for a quiet winter respite.  Plans change quickly however when Laurel, Amory’s cousin, emphatically requests her presence at a house party at Lyonsgate, the country house of Reginald Lyons, an old friend of Laurel’s.  Although Laurel and Milo have never been overly fond of one another, Laurel and Amory were both only children and their cousins’ bond is as close as sisters, so Amory and Milo accept.

The estate of Lyonsgate is a bit rundown and has been uninhabited for many years because it was the site of a raucous party where one of the attendees died.  Although the death was ruled an accident, Reginald moved away from the house.  Unsure of why Reginald has returned, Amory and Milo are shocked to discover that the other invitees to the house party were the same guests that were present that fateful night, including socialite Isobel Van Allen.

Years prior following the accident, Isobel wrote a fictionalized account of a murder at a high society house party that closely resembled the actual events that occurred at Lyonsgate.  The publication of the book and the scandal that ensued cost many of the participants heavily: loss of occupations, social exile, and even death.

Yet, Isobel doesn’t seem to be finished with the story.  She announces the first night at dinner that she is writing a sequel that will reveal even more of the details of that fateful night.  Although many years have passed, some secrets are meant to be buried and the truth is not always what it seems.  Amory and Milo present an unbiased observation of the events but quickly become embroiled in the lies and the scandal and must work together to unmask a killer.

Book Commentary:
This series has moved into my top five favorite mystery series.  The characters are fantastic and the setting of the elite rich following World War I presents a modern view of a society trying to maintain its old traditions and lifestyle in a rapidly changing world.  I love the details of the clothing, the cars, and the social nuances of this generation.  The way the characters cling to the customs and protocol of their place in society as chaos reigns down around them is truly fascinating.

I have mentioned in my previous reviews how much I love the character of Amory.  This book actually presents a bit more of her emotional and vulnerable side, which I think reflects the slowly evolving growth of Milo and Amory’s marriage.  As someone who doesn’t have a connection to the characters involved in the scandal, Amory is able to present an unbiased viewpoint; however, she quickly become invested in the truth which makes her even more likeable but also susceptible to danger.

I am also quite the fan of Milo and love how his character develops in this third installment.  He seems to have come to a comfortable place in admiring Amory’s detective abilities but also, surprisingly, shows a fierce sense of protection of her.  Events occur that show some of his own vulnerability and fears but he still maintains his unruffled and calm demeanor.

Who might like this book:
A really great, well plotted series with engaging characters and mystery that includes all the necessities of love, revenge, jealously, and greed.

Check out my reviews for the first two books in the series:
Murder at Brightwell
Death Wears a Mask

A Terrible Beauty

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Title:  A Terrible Beauty (Lady Emily 11)
Author:  Tasha Alexander
Publisher:  Minotaur Press
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-1-250-05827-0

Book Summary:
Following the heartbreak of Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge, as seen in The Adventuress,  Lady Emily decides a change of scenery would be best for her friend.  In an attempt to lift his spirits, Lady Emily and husband Colin Hargreaves, whisk Jeremy off to a holiday in Greece.  They are joined by Emily’s good friend Margaret.  A lover of all things Latin, Margaret and Emily plan lively debates and entertaining excursions.  The friends will stay on the island of Santorini at Emily’s villa, left to her by her deceased first husband, Lord Philip Ashton.

Philip left for a hunting trip to Africa right after the couple was married and died abroad, victim of poisoning.  Perhaps it is the impending trip to the island that Philip was so fond of, Emily is haunted by thoughts of her first husband exacerbated by strange occurrences that plague her mind.  First, an unsigned postcard arrives addressed to The Viscountess Ashton, a name she has not used in over five years since her marriage to Colin.  Then, Philip’s journal entry of the night of their engagement is pulled out of its hiding place and put in plain sight.  Finally, Emily is sure that she has seen the ghost of her dead husband both on the boat to Greece and hiding behind a column in the ruins.

When the friends arrive in Santorini, the housekeeper shocks them with the news that the Viscount Ashton is there.  Although his face had aged by time and the sun, Philip is who Emily remembers.  He recounts a fantastic tale of an escape from near death by poison, of wandering through the plains of Africa, a rescue by a kind-hearted traveler, and a renewed passion for archaeology.

As overwhelmed by confusion as Emily is, her husband, once Philip’s best friend, is beset with grief and guilt at the possibility that he had left his friend for dead.  The couple is also unsure how his arrival will affect the status of their marriage and more importantly the legitimacy of their children.

The conflict mounts as they discover that Philip has been pursued by an illegal antique artifacts dealer who is convinced that he is in possession of a piece of Achilles’ helmet.  An expert and scholar on Achilles, Phillip is convinced of the authenticity of the artifact that he discovered but distraught at how it was stolen from him moments after its unearthing.  The tension rises as dead bodies, mysterious conversations, and haunting clues follow as Emily and Colin must work together to prevent more loss and to salvage their marriage.

Book Commentary:
Oh, how I loved this book!!!  I have been reading Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series for years but I think this one might be my favorite.  She hearkens back to the adventure and uncertainty of Colin and Emily’s first escapes together; there is a sense of a simpler time as they struggle to grasp hold of what they know and hold most dear.  At times the reader isn’t sure if he can trust Emily’s perceptions as she is often clouded by pain, guilt, and fear.

I really enjoyed the development of Colin’s character; he always seems to be so in charge and in control.  In this novel, we see a break in the calm, cool exterior.  His obvious love for Emily and his genuine compassion for his friend present conflicting emotions and he at times seems a bit lost.  I think this adds a great deal of humanity to his character; the dimension of his raw emotions and his true sense of integrity and honesty create a disjointedness and vulnerability that makes the reader enjoy him even more.

Philip’s character is the most fascinating in the story.  We are reminded how time distorts memories and we can’t always trust what Colin remembers about his friend.  Emily interaction with Philip prior to his departure to Africa consisted only of their courting and very brief marriage; she knows him only through the journals that he left behind.  Philip too has created idolized memories of Emily and their relationship.

Throughout the novel, I felt a sense of heartbreak for these characters and the conflicting emotions that they must be facing.  At the same time, the tension of the stolen artifacts and the ensuing violence build to a very climatic ending.

Who might like this book:
I know that I have mentioned this before, but Tasha Alexander’s biography indicates that she was an English major “in order to have a legitimate excuse for spending all her time reading.”  You have to respect an author who loves reading as much as she does!

This story further capitalized on Emily’s (and the author’s) love of Greece.  The descriptions of the sites visited and the historical details provide a feel of a travelogue, meshed with an exciting story.

Read the series in order.  You will do a disservice to yourself if you miss any of the previous adventures.

And Only to Deceive
A Poisoned Season
A Fatal Waltz
Tears of Pearl
Dangerous to Know
A Crimson Warning
Death in the Floating City
Behind the Shattered Glass
The Counterfeit Heiress
The Adventuress