Saturday, April 17, 2021

Book and Audio Review: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Author:
Garth Nix
Narrator: Marisa Calin
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (September 22, 2020); Listening Library (September 22, 2020)
Length: 408 p.; 11 hours and 15 minutes

Description: A girl’s quest to find her father leads her to an extended family of magical fighting booksellers who police the mythical Old World of England when it intrudes on the modern world. From the bestselling master of teen fantasy, Garth Nix.

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.

Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.

Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

My Thoughts: It is 1983 in an alternate London when Susan Arkshaw comes to try to discover who her father is before she begins an arts course at school. She has stopped to see Frank Thringly who had sent Christmas presents and written to her and her mother for years. She isn't expecting him to be turned to dust via a silver hatpin wielded by Merlin St. Jacques. Nor is she expecting to be forced to flee with Merlin which drops her into a magical world she knew nothing about.

Merlin is one of a line of left-handed booksellers who do more than sell books. Their tasks are to keep legendary creatures under control. Merlin's family includes the left-handed ones who are the fighters and right-handed ones who are the scholars and even-handed ones too. 

Merlin decides to help Susan track down her father because he learns that there is something special and unusual about her and also because she is suddenly in danger from creatures from the other world. Susan doesn't have many clues beyond a reading room ticket with an illegible name and a silver cigarette case with an unknown engraving. 

Merlin is on a quest of his own to find out who murdered his mother. The two investigations look to be linking up. Marisa Calin did a great job narrating this story. The pacing was well done and the characters easily distinguishable. 

The story is filled with intriguing characters, lots of literary references, lots of action and even a romance as Merlin and Susan get to know each other. Fans of contemporary fantasy and coming of age stories will enjoy this well told tale. 

Favorite Quote:
"Children's writers," said Merlin. "Dangerous bunch. They cause us a lot of trouble."

"How?" asked Susan.

'They don't do it on purpose," said Merlin. He opened the door. "But quite often they discover the key to raise some ancient myth, or release something that should have stayed imprisoned, and they share that knowledge via their writing. Stories aren't merely stories, you know. Come on."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Memes: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

 Happy Friday everybody!

Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
A slight young man with long fair hair, wearing a pre-owned mustard-colored three-piece suit with widely flared trousers and faux alligator-hide boots with two-inch Cuban heels, stood over the much older man on the leather couch.
Friday 56: 
"Thorn House is one of our places in the country," said Merlin. "Dorset, They grow a lot of vegetables there. You'd probably be at home. Whereas I wouldn't be, making it a suitable place to send me for a punishment."

"Growing up in the country doesn't make me a farmer," said Susan. "What were you trying to find out?"
This week I'm spotlighting The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix. This was a recent Kindle Deal. Here is the description from Amazon:
A girl’s quest to find her father leads her to an extended family of magical fighting booksellers who police the mythical Old World of England when it intrudes on the modern world. From the bestselling master of teen fantasy, Garth Nix.

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.

Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.

Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Audiobook Review: After Dark by Jayne Castle

After Dark

Author:
Jayne Castle
Series: Harmony (Book 1)
Narrator: Joyce Bean
Publication: Brilliance Audio (June 1, 2009); Berkley; Reissue edition (September 1, 2000)
Length: 8 hours and 17 minutes; 354 p.

Description: Welcome to Harmony—where the rules are a little different.

Life is tough these days for Lydia Smith, licensed para-archaeologist. Seriously stressed-out from a nasty incident in an alien tomb, she is obliged to work part-time in Shrimpton’s House of Ancient Horrors, a very low-budget museum. She has a plan to get her career back on track, but it isn’t going well. Stuff keeps happening.

Take the dead body that she discovered in one of the sarcophagus exhibits. Who needed that? Finding out that her new client, Emmett London, is one of the most dangerous men in the city isn’t helping matters either. And that’s just today’s list of setbacks. Here in the shadows of the Dead City of Old Cadence, things don’t really heat up until After Dark.

My Thoughts: Para-archaeologist Lydia Smith has had nothing but bad days lately. After losing 48 hours and her memory in an alien tomb, she's lost her university job and is working at Shrimpton's House of Ancient Horrors while trying to start her consulting business.

Her first client is Emmett London who is looking for an ancient Earth artifact called the chest of curiosities. Lydia has her doubts about the provenance of the chest and also about Emmett but a job's a job. Only she doesn't make a good impression on Emmett when the two discover the body of one of Lydia's acquaintances near her office at the museum. Chester Brady had the same psychic talent as Lydia but didn't have the advantage of her education. He was quite a shady character. 

Emmett is keeping a number of secrets about his quest and about himself which are slowly revealed through the story. He's really looking for his nephew who made off with the chest and then disappeared. The nephew isn't the only unexplained disappearance either. 

Chester knew something about the disappearances and about a discovery of very rare artifacts and those who are trying to keep their crimes secret believe that he told Lydia. This puts Lydia in lots of danger and causes Emmett to move in with her to protect her. 

Fuzz is the dust-bunny in this story. He's Lydia's companion and the one who rescued her when she was trapped in the alien ruins. He is very protective of Lydia even though he most often looks like dryer lint and is small enough to ride on her shoulder. He is a big fan of pretzels. 

This is definitely science-fiction-lite but an entertaining paranormal romance. I liked the worldbuilding and the paranormal talents the residents of Harmony are developing. 

Favorite Quote:
She had a feeling that with Emmett, like Fuzz, by the time you saw the teeth it was too late. 
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Book and Audio Review: Finding Perfect by Susan Mallery

Finding Perfect

Author:
Susan Mallery
Narrator: Tanya Eby
Series: Fool's Gold (Book 3)
Publication: HQN Books; Original edition (November 16, 2020); Brilliance Audio (August 31, 2010)
Length: 9 hours and 1 minute; 350 p.

Description: Return to Fool’s Gold, California with the 3rd book in this fan-favorite series from New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery!

When Pia O’Brian’s best friend dies, Pia expects to inherit her cherished cat. Instead, the woman leaves Pia three frozen embryos. With a disastrous track record in the romance department and the parenting skills of a hamster, Pia doesn’t think she’s meant for motherhood. But determined to do the right thing, Pia decides to become a single mother. Only to meet a gorgeous, sexy hunk the very same day.

A former foster-care kid now rich beyond his wildest dreams, Raoul Moreno runs a camp for needy children in Fool’s Gold, California. After his last relationship, Raoul thought he was done with women and commitment. Still, he can’t get sweet, sexy Pia out of his mind—and proposes a crazy plan. But can such an unconventional beginning really result in the perfect ending?

My Thoughts: Pia O'Brian's life is turned upside down when she learns that a good friend left her the embryos she and her husband had not had time to birth. Pia is astonished and certain that she isn't the right person for that awesome responsibility. After all, no one in her life has stayed. Her father committed suicide when she was a Senior in High School and her mother decamped to Florida with no intentions of coming back or asking Pia to go with her. A few boyfriends along the way also left her. 

Pia has made a good life for herself in Fool's Gold, California. She works for the City planning events and festivals and is wonderful at the organization and details needed to make each event a success. She is supposed to have a business meeting with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Raoul Moreno who has moved to Fool's Gold and is in the process of setting up a camp for underprivileged city kids. The first meeting doesn't go well because she is still so floored by the lawyer's news but Raoul is both nice and sympathetic. 

Raoul is speaking to a class of fourth graders at one of the Elementary Schools when the school catches on fire and is totally destroyed. He volunteers to let the school use his camp since the summer season is over. Pia manages to arrange a fundraiser to get supplies for the new school in just three days. Raoul connected with one of the fourth graders from his class and becomes concerned about him fearing that he might be being abused. After the school takes over his camp, Raoul forms a friendship with young Peter and even takes him in when Peter breaks his arm falling off some playground equipment and his foster parents can't be found.

Meanwhile, Pia has decided to have her friend Crystal's embryos implanted even though she isn't sure that she'll be able to handle the responsibility. Raoul offers to be her pregnancy partner and even offers to marry her. He's offering everything but his heart which was trampled on by his first wife Caro who kept an awful secret from him and lost his trust. 

Pia goes along with this engagement for a while but breaks it off when she realizes that she's in love with him and not conent to marry someone who doesn't love her just as much. It takes interventions from many of the people of Fool's Gold before their situation is resolved.

This was a great romance and well narrated by Tanya Eby. Fans of small town romances will enjoy this excellent addition to the Fool's Gold series. 

Favorite Quote:
"What do you mean she left me the embryos? I'm supposed to get the cat." Pia O'Brian paused long enough to put her hands on her chest. The shock of hearing the details of Crystal's will had been enough to stop the strongest of hearts, and Pia's was still bruised from the loss of her friend.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Audiobook Review: Dark Light by Jayne Castle

Dark Light

Author:
Jayne Castle
Series: Harmony (Book 5)
Narrator: Joyce Bean
Publication: Brilliance Audio (August 26, 2008)
Length: 8 hours and 33 minutes

Description: Reporter Sierra McIntyre is determined to find out who is kidnapping homeless retired Ghost Hunters off the streets of Crystal City, and more importantly, why. When her search for answers leads her to interview the new Guild Boss, John Fontana, she's ready with her questions.

Despite her paper's ridiculous tabloid headlines, Fontana has kept an eye on Sierra's reporting and knows she's on to something. To uncover the conspiracy within his own organization, Fontana proposes....marriage.

Realizing they need to work together to get what they each need, the pair marries to keep up appearances. She's a psychic and can tell he's a trustworthy fellow. His psychic power to radiate a rare dark light saves her from trouble. But this marriage of convenience might turn into something more.

My Thoughts: Sierra McIntyre is determined to find her true passion in life. After all, she comes from a family of overachievers. Right now, she's working for a tabloid and on the case of the disappearance of some retired ghost hunters. In her quest for answers, she gets an interview with the new head of the Ghost Hunters/ John Fontana is aware of Sierra's reporting and is also wondering about the missing ghost hunters and about a new drug that's commonly used by ghost hunters.

Fontana proposes a marriage of convenience to give them an excuse to work together even though he is secretly going for the more permanent and socially acceptable Covenant Marriage. Sierra has just dumped a fiancé and isn't looking for marriage at all. But she agrees to Fontana's proposal.

Their first night in Fontana's home doesn't end as either of them expect. A group of men try to break in and set the house on fire. There is an escape in the basement to the catacombs built by the aliens who are long gone. But only trained and prepared ghost hunters with tuned amber would ever take that escape route. Add in Sierra's claustrophobia and more bad guys in the catacombs and you don't have anyone's idea of a proper honeymoon. 

When Fontana almost burns himself out eluding the bad guys, Sierra is left alone with him in a vast underground jungle. 

Well, she's alone except for her dustbunny Elvis and his white, rhinestone-studded cape. I loved Elvis with his unique fashion choices and his liking for peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I also liked that people at Sierra's office made him a flying machine from a flat box and helium balloons. 

The story is exciting as Fontana and Sierra figure out what happened to the missing ghost hunters and fall in love along the way. There lots of great dialog between the two main characters. And who doesn't love a cute, fluffy dustbunny?

Favorite Quote:
She was intensely, intimately aware of him in a way she could not explain.

There was nothing nervous or fidgety about Fontana. You got the feeling that it would require, at the very minimum, a volcanic eruption right here in his office to catch him by surprise. Even then, you would probably discover that he had contingency plans for such an event.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, April 12, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 12, 2021)

 It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.


It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup.

Other Than Reading...

Happy Monday! This past week has been filled with rain and thunderstorms which has made for a lot of good reading time. I did manage to lower my stack of review books early in the week but then replenished the stack again later in the week. 

The week was quite quiet with some baseball games to keep me occupied. Of course, watching baseball has lowered the number of audiobooks that I listened to. I did get a new one - The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King - because I follow her on Twitter and she has been posting messages about that book. She does have another about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes coming out June 8 and I'm sure these posts are building interest. I've read the book a couple of times but this is the first time I'm listening to it. I also have an eARC of the newest on my Review stack. 

Saturday was my brother's birthday. He worked so we didn't have dinner together. I did stop at Perkins Restaurant & Bakery and buy him a slice of French Silk pie. It is his favorite variety of pie. I used to bring him pies from Bakers Square each time I came to Duluth when I lived near Rochester. Those locations have closed and I haven't been back there since I retired anyway. The nearest now are in the Twin Cities which is a good seven hour round trip. He'll have to make do with the Perkins version. 

This week is completely free of appointments and, since Covid-19 numbers are increasing here in my county, I plan to stay close to home. I am two weeks past my second Covid-19 vaccination but I'm not eager to take chances. 

Read Last Week

If you can't wait until the review shows up on my blog, reviews are posted to LibraryThing and Goodreads as soon as I write them (usually right after I finish reading a book.)
  • Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold Cookbook (Mine) was filled with interesting recipes with a little too much goat cheese and cilantro to tempt me. There was also a story woven between the recipes. 
  • Thief of Souls by Brian Klingborg (Review; May 4) -- A mystery set in modern day China with all sorts of insight into Chinese culture. My review will be posted on April 28.
  • Wicked All Night by Jeaniene Frost (Mine) -- Third in an urban fantasy series that I've been reading. My review will be posted on May 1.
  • A Trail of Lies by Kylie Logan (Review; May 11) -- This was a very entertaining cozy mystery that is third in a series. My review will be posted on May 5.
  • City of Dark Corners by Jon Talton (Review; May 11) -- A hard-boiled mystery set in Phoenix in the 1930s filled with police corruption, mob bosses, and murders. My review will be posted on May 4.
  • The Last Scoop by R. G. Belsky (Review; May 5) -- Clare Carlson finds a mystery while looking into the last story her mentor was working on before he was killed. My review will be posted on May 6.
  • Shadowed Steel by Chloe Neill (Review; May 4) -- Third in the Heirs of Chicagoland series was an exciting, fast-paced story. My review will be posted on April 27.
  • Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill (Mine; Reread) -- The first in the Chicagoland Vampire books was a fun reread.
Currently
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

Review:
Bought:
What was your week like?

Saturday, April 10, 2021

ARC Review: The Unkindness of Ravens by M. E. Hilliard

The Unkindness of Ravens

Author:
M. E. Hilliard 
Series: Greer Hogan Mysteries (Book 1)
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (April 13, 2021)

Description: Librarian Greer Hogan matches wits with a deviously clever killer in M.E. Hilliard's chilling series debut, ideal for fans of Louise Penny and Dorothy L. Sayers.

Greer Hogan is a librarian and an avid reader of murder mysteries. She also has a habit of stumbling upon murdered bodies. The first was her husband's, and the tragic loss led Greer to leave New York behind for a new start in the Village of Raven Hill. But her new home becomes less idyllic when she discovers her best friend sprawled dead on the floor of the library.

Was her friend's demise related to two other deaths that the police deemed accidental? Do the residents of this insular village hold dark secrets about another murder, decades ago? Does a serial killer haunt Raven Hill?

As the body count rises, Greer's anxious musings take a darker turn when she uncovers unexpected and distressing information about her own husband's death...and the man who went to prison for his murder . She is racked with guilt at the possibility that her testimony may have helped to convict an innocent man.

Though Greer admires the masters of deduction she reads about in books, she never expected to have to solve a mystery herself. Fortunately, she possesses a quick wit and a librarian's natural resourcefulness. But will that be enough to protect her from a brilliant, diabolical murderer?

And even if Greer manages to catch the Raven Hill killer, will living with her conscience prove a fate worse than death?

My Thoughts: This debut mystery stars Greer Hogan who came to librarianship after a previous career in the cosmetics industry in New York City. Her guilt about the death of her husband in an apparent home invasion caused her to look for a new career and new city. Now, she is happily settled in her new job as a librarian at Raven Hill Manor in a small New York town. 

She has connected with an old friend from her college days who is also a recent resident of the town and who is active in the Friends of the Library. When she discovers her friend's body after an apparent fall, she decides to find out what happened to Joanna for two reasons. She wants justice for her friend and she doesn't want to be considered a suspect. Finding two dead bodies can be really career-limiting!

Greer is a devoted fan of mysteries and their detectives and needs to channel the things she has learned from all those fictional detectives from Miss Marple's nose for gossip to her own personal favorite Trixie Belden's use of teamwork. I really enjoyed the number of books and detectives that Greer mentioned throughout the book.

The story required Greer to look into the past of the town and the people and to try to retrace the path Joanna forged to figure out who the killer was and why Joanna was killed. There was a nice array of suspects from Joanna's husband to her colleague at the television station where she worked to a woman who was opposed to Joanna's support for a new library building.

I really enjoyed this debut and look forward to more from the author.

Favorite Quote:
"Hmmm," I said, "that's interesting. I don't get a lot of requests like this, but I'm sure I can find some things for you." This was librarian speak for "I've got nothing."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.