Quiet on the reading front

The last week’s been busy, and while much was started, nothing was accomplished. This includes a few blog posts as well…

I started an online course on historical fiction this week and somehow managed to not finish reading one thing even though the reading was interesting. A few articles and chapters here and there were perused but nothing was finished. I find this so frustrating. The good thing is that the required books for the course look very interesting so I’m looking forward to starting those.

One thing that I know is going to get me out of this funk is The Republic of Thieves Read Along.  If you’re not familiar with Scott Lynch go now and read The Lies of Locke Lamora and then Red Seas Under Red Skies. Once you finish those two books, The Republic of Thieves will be waiting for you. I have this book queued up and plan to start it later today, damn that class reading. (Actually, I plan to finish that reading too; that’s the kind of rebel I am.)

Reviews have been sorta non-existent for a bit here but I do have one to share — This House of Haunted by John Boyne. My review is over at The BookReporter. It’s a good ghost story for October (hint, hint).

I’ve been doing this yoga challenge that requires me to get myself out of bed for a 7am class several times a week. I’m not (NOT) a morning person but I have been very relaxed of late which is maybe why my lack of reading focus isn’t bothering me so much. It’ll be interesting to see how November turns out with all the traveling we have planned. The good thing about those cross country flights is that they provide several hours of uninterrupted reading time. Looks like I’ll have time to catch up on a few things, next month.

Now, I have to go buy a pumpkin.

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Review – The One I Left Behind

The One I Left BehindI’m going to confess right up front — I read the ending of this book first. That happens often with me but I’m religious about reading the ending of a thriller before even getting 20 pages in. It’s my thing. This isn’t my first McMahon book and she has a way of creeping me out early on so I need to find that strand of sanity to hold onto while she pulls me through the story with my eyes half closed. Knowing the ending didn’t make this any less exciting. McMahon doesn’t take a straight path to the end, and even knowing still made it nerve wracking.

Reggie Dufrane’s life has never been easy. Born to a former beauty queen, she always idolized her mother, wondering at her beauty but never really knowing the woman beneath the veneer she created for her daughter. Having lost her ear when she was attacked by a dog at a very young age, Reggie grew up with one real ear and one fake one, never to be the beauty her mother was. In the summer of 1985, a serial killer begins terrifying the residents of Brighton Falls, Connecticut. When the severed hands of the victims begin appearing on the front steps of the police station, every resident in town waits, waits for the body to appear next. And each time a hand appeared, a body soon followed. When Reggie’s mother disappears, she knows the killer, dubbed Neptune by the local press, must have her. When her mother’s hand, recognizable by the scars she suffered rescuing Reggie from the dog attack, everyone waits for the body. It never appears. Days pass and months go by but the body of Vera Dufrane never appears.

Making the most out of an opportunity to start over, Reggie moves far away from Brighton Falls and puts as much distance as possible between her future and her past. A well-known architect, she celebrated in her industry but she’s never escaped Neptune and he haunts her till the day her mother re-appears — alive.

I knew how this was going to end but I still wanted to have every light on in the room I was sitting in and all the doors locked in the house. With most thrillers, I love the crazy ride, and you do get that here, but there’s the psychological element that McMahon does so well. It’s the cruel way she plays around with the characters letting you see every picked scab and dirty secret long-held onto in the dark.

Reggie is damaged goods, both mentally and physically. Her mother, a woman more damaged than her, is not one to look up to but she’s all Reggie ever had. The summer of her disappearance and supposed murder becomes an eye opener to Reggie who learns that her mother and the woman known as Vera Dufrane are two very different people.

McMahon doesn’t let anyone off easy and sometimes I did long for one person without any crazy skeletons in the closet beyond the embarrassing moments in high school that we all have. Those people don’t exist in her books and that’s what makes them so readable and difficult to read at the same time. Her characters are so flawed they become believable and unbelievable all at once and because of that you can’t stop reading. By the time you want out, you’re too far in and you need to know how it’s all going to turn out — good or bad.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

The One I Left Behind

Jennifer McMahon

William Morrow

ISBN: 9780062122551

Review – Autumn: The City

Autumn: The City

By David Moody

St. Martin’s Griffin

ISBN: 9780312570002

4 stars

Donna Yorke is reporting for the early shift at her office when her colleague is overcome by a strange coughing fit that quickly turns into a bloody, choking convulsion killing her in minutes. After trying unsuccessfully to help several colleagues and friends in the office experiencing the same symptoms, she moves the bodies to a far off section of the office not wanting to look at her dead co-workers. Afraid to leave not knowing what she’ll face outside, Donna gathers supplies and holds up in her small office with a sleeping bag, some snacks from the vending machine, and a flashlight to ward off the dark.

On the other side of the city, Jack Baxter is hiding in his home when he makes the fateful decision to leave his refuge in the hope of finding other survivors. He finds one; a young girl named Clare who lost her parents to the disease. Together they make their way into the city center and after spending a comfortable night in a department store, they make a gruesome discovery — the corpses are moving around, awkwardly, but they’re moving on their own. When Jack and Clare hear a car they track it down hoping to find others like themselves. Not only do they find two survivors but are told there is a group of about fifty people living at the local university.

The university has become a beacon for not only survivors but the dead who surround the place. Drawn to the living, the re-animated corpses flock to the university, and at first are calm almost unaware of the living walking among them but that soon changes. In a few short days, the rather sedate corpses become violent, attacking survivors venturing out and stalking out places where the living are congregating.

Soon after, a soldier left behind after a failed mission into the city joins up with the university group. Knowing food supplies are running low, a decision is made by the survivors to make their way to the military base in the hope of finding supplies and other survivors. What they don’t count on is how the dead will react to the plan.

I wasn’t sure if I should refer to this book as apocalypse or zombie fiction. As far as the survivors are concerned, it’s the end of the world they knew. Then again, it’s also a story full of the walking dead; although I was appreciative of the fact Moody doesn’t mention the word zombie anywhere in the book. Reminding me of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Moody manages to evoke a loneliness that feels surprising real slowly introducing us to each survivor along the way. One thing he doesn’t do is get bogged down in details and in a way it’s refreshing. Why should I know what’s going on when none of the survivors do? Some might find that annoying but in this book, I enjoyed the sense of lawlessness and the unknown Moody created and he didn’t deviate which can be so tempting in a story like this one. Leaving the reader with very little knowledge made it interesting to imagine what would have caused the metamorphosis.

This isn’t a book for everyone. While it’s not gross or disgusting, quite restrained actually, it’s not something you read at lunch either. And it does have a few scenes that reminded me of a popular zombie movie but if you’re willing to look past those small bits, Autumn: The City is a fast and entertaining read.

Autumn: The City is the second book in the Autumn series.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

Review – The Tudor Secret

The Tudor Secret

By C.W. Gortner

St. Martin’s Griffin

ISBN: 978031265850-2

4 stars

A few years back, I overdosed on Tudor fiction but in the last few months I’ve been craving the drama, court intrigue, and ever present bedroom battles that come along with Henry VIII and his wives. What I liked about The Tudor Secret was that it wasn’t told from the perspective of the royal household, but from a 20 year-old with a blank past who is unceremoniously thrown into court life with the intent of letting it devour him.

Brendan Prescott knows nothing of his past other than he was abandoned as a baby and Mistress Alice, a woman who worked as a maid for the wealthy Dudley household, raised him. A child with no background or family, he knows only too well his lowly place in the household and society at-large. His hopes rise no higher than someday being a squire or a steward and even those positions don’t hold much interest for him. He would rather spend his days in the barn with the horses. When he is called to court by Lady Dudley to be a squire to her oldest son, Robert, his hopes of a peaceful life among horses are forgotten.

Knowing nothing of court life and with no one willing to teach him, he’s left alone among the court sharks looking to use him for their own gain, his Master Robert included. Robert promptly engages Brendan in court escapades that involve setting up a liaison with the Princess Elizabeth with whom he is in love. Brendan manages to find the Princess and deliver the message but he slowly begins to understand that nothing about court life is ever secret. Pulled unwillingly into a spy ring, Brendan becomes privy to the lives of his masters in ways he never imagined and ends up a double agent working not only for Master Robert but also to keep Princess Elizabeth safe and help her sister, Mary, to become Queen.

It is Brendan’s past though that keeps him involved long after he wants nothing more than to walk away. He wants to know who abandoned him that night so long ago but his real concern is for the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth. They are targets of people who want nothing more than to overthrow Mary and Elizabeth and convince their brother Edward that neither are true heirs to the throne.

Court intrigue and espionage are always terms that are mandatory when talking about the Tudors. The spying, backstabbing, and face-to-face pleasantries while secretly whispering lies behind a person’s back are well-known traits of this family and the court they created. It’s also what makes them all so much fun to read about. The fodder they have provided for future generations is enormous and I think that’s why, while I might need a break to recover from the tension of crown politics, I never entirely tire of the Tudors. Gortner zeroes in on this tension and the moment that Brendan arrives at court, he starts to ramp it up making you turn pages wanting to desperately know what comes next. Telling the story from an outsider’s point of view also makes the character of Elizabeth much more interesting. She’s well-known but an enigma to Brendan which adds freshness to a character that can feel stiff and sometimes a little standoffish.

Covering about two weeks worth of time, the story does feel a bit forced in places though and in particular Brendan who while understanding nothing of the Tudor court, manages to become involved and an integral part of a spy ring. He blunders too much in the beginning and to see him mature so quickly and in a mere matter of days, feels unlikely. But, he’s somehow still very likable and that’s what makes it work. He doesn’t immediately grasp the implications of every move made at court and that sets him apart from the others and you can’t help but side with him. If you’re looking for a book that will pull you back into the Tudor’s, this one’s a good choice.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for The Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  The idea is to give everyone a look inside the book you’re reading.

Play along: Grab your current read; Open to a random page; Share two teaser sentences from that page; Share the title and author so that other participants know what you’re reading.

I’m only a few pages in to The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner but it’s proving interesting and slightly amusing.

“Though Guilford had been at court for over three years, presumably engaged in more than the satiation of his vices, he got us lost within a matter of seconds.  I imagined being discovered centuries later, two skeletons with my hands locked about his throat, and took it upon myself to ask for directions.”  (pg. 32)