Monday, October 28, 2013

Book of the Week - The Boy in the Snow by M.J. McGrath

I really enjoyed The Boy in the Snow, second in M.J. McGrath’s Edie Kiglatuk mystery series. It comes out in paperback today. Edie is half Inuit. While helping her ex-husband in the course of him running the Iditarod, she stumbles across a baby, buried in the snow. With an election campaign going hot and heavy, her discovery and the possible involvement of a religious sect lead the reader through a fascinating frozen world. It’s been blurbed as being a read-alike for some of the Scandinavian authors but I liked what I saw as more of a western sensibility. It made me think of some of the books with native American sleuths such as those by Tony Hillerman, Margaret Coel, and C.M. Wendelboe.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book of the Week - The Hanging Judge by Michael Ponsor

Ponsor's debut is a welcome addition to the legal thriller genre. Judge David Norcross is thrust into the spotlight when the feds decide to prosecute a death penalty case in western Massachusetts. When a drive by shooting kills not only a Puerto Rican gang member, but also a well liked nurse volunteering at a clinic, the sixteen year old driver of the shooter's car names Moon Hanson, the shooter. Moon, a former gang member, twice jailed, changed his life when he fell in love with Sandra, a middle class young woman earning her masters in library science. Their nice life with their baby girl is ripped apart when the police invade and trash their apartment in the middle of the night. An ambitious Cuban-American prosecutor and old fashioned, chain smoking defense attorney go up against each other in Norcross's courtroom to decide the high stakes fate of Moon. David, who has been widowed for several years finds himself falling for college professor Claire. Many characters, an interesting premise, and historical insights into an early 19th century capital trial in the same area, suck the reader in and keep the pages turning.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Book of the Week - The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig

Willig skillfully entwines the lives of two women, one born in 1900 and dying on her hundredth birthday and the other, an ambitious attorney living in the Manhattan of the late 20th century.

Orphaned Addie, was the daughter of a younger son of good family, who threw propriety to winds marrying the woman he was in love with and living in Bloomsbury. When they are killed in an accident she is sent to live with her uncle the Earl of Ashford and is taken under the wing of her cousin, Bea. Willig brilliantly limns the world of upper crust nobility and in counterpoint, the world of a poor relation in the early years of the 20th century, the tumultuous years of World War I and roaring twenties in Britain. Estranged, the cousin's lives change drastically when they meet up again in Kenya.

Clemmie, a Manhattan attorney on the partnership track has always felt close to her granny Addie but doesn't follow up on the family history until granny Addie dies on her hundredth birthday. Clemmie has put her life on hold until she can make partner. She's always been attracted to her cousin by marriage but he married someone else and she was in a long engagement that didn't play out.

Willig teases out bits and pieces, illuminating both women's stories and the eras in which they live.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book of the Week -Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

Stained is a don't put it down, keep reading it to the end, forget what time of day or night it is thriller. Sarah is sixteen and thinks her life will be changed when she gets treatment to lighten or remove a port wine birthmark on her face. She has it all planned and then her hopes are dashed when disaster strikes her father's business. Even though she is self conscious about her birthmark and bullied because of it, she stands up to bullies who harass her best friend. Walking home in an icy rain she is rescued from bullies by Brian, an attractive young man who works for her father but refuses a ride from him. Before she gets home, he grabs her, drugs her, blindfolds her, and throws her in the trunk. Locked in an empty room is is raped, denied access to a toilet, only sometimes given bananas, peanut butter and water, and forced to behave as he wants her to while he holds hostage with threats against her family. From things he says, Sarah discovers he has held other girls before her and killed them. Meanwhile, Nick, a friend of Sarah's helps her parents with their efforts to get her back. This brutal story is one that will haunt the reader forever. While isolated and in the dark because of the leather blindfold locked to around her head, Sarah doesn't give up. She perseveres, trying to count the days by making balls of the aluminum foil peeled from the peanut butter jars. I know this will have great appeal to reluctant readers and can't wait to share it with them.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Book of the Week - Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce

I've loved every one of Tamora Pierce's books that I have read but I don't necessarily read all the books in a series because I'm often serving on award or selected list committees and concentrating on what is eligible for whatever I'm reading for at that time.

Anyway, I know I've read about Briar before but I also know I've missed many of his adventures. So Battle Magic was especially delightful because it stands alone even though it features a world and characters who are not all new.

Three mages, Briar who is sixteen, his mentor Rosethorn, and Evvy who is only twelve but very strong at working her stone magic are visiting the mountainous kingdom of Gyongxe. They are invited to visit the neighboring Yanjing Empire and the emperor's legendary gardens. While appreciating the beauty and grandeur of Yanjing they are exposed to the emperor's power and cruelty. Learning of his plans to invade Gyongxe, and with Rosethorn needing to go on an important mission they plan to leave. Evvy is captured and tortured. She uses her stone magic to make it impossible for her to betray anything she knows but still, her seven cats are not safe. After an amazing and horrible escape, Evvy finds a way into a mountain of rock where she encounters beings she never imagined existed.

The magic systems used in this story are all fascinating. The protagonist find inventive ways to use the magic they possess. The plant magic used by Briar and Rosethorn is used as defensive weapons when they make bombs filled with thorn seeds that sprout and grow wildly when deployed. They can also make grass grow so fast and tall that it stops the invaders' horses.

Readers who like adventure, vividly described battles, clever characters with lots of heart, and a fully developed and unique system of magic will enjoy this. I particularly like that it has strong appeal to both male and female fantasy fans. The setting conjures up visions of China and Tibet or maybe Shangri-la but always a world one wants to explore.