Review: Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson

Review: Nine Lessons (A Josephine Tey Mystery #7) by Nicola Upson
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 10, 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

Called to the peaceful wooded churchyard of St-John’s-at-Hampstead, Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose faces one of the most audacious and unusual murders of his career. The body of the church’s organist is found in an opened grave, together with a photograph of a manor house and a cryptic note. The image leads Archie to Cambridge, where the crisp autumn air has brought with it bustling life to the ancient university and town.

Both Josephine Tey and Archie’s lover Bridget have recently settled in Cambridge, though both women are not equally happy to see him. One has concealed an important secret from Archie which now threatens to come to light. Meanwhile, the change of seasons has also brought with it a series of vicious attacks against women in town, spreading fear and suspicion through the community.

Soon, another body is revealed, and in the shadow of King’s College Chapel, Archie uncovers a connection twenty-five years old which haunted both victims—as well as some of their living companions. As Archie and Josephine each grapple with savage malefactors intent on making their victims pay, they must race to stop another attack in this beautifully written, intricately plotted mystery.

 

Curling up with a compelling, detailed and surprising historical mystery is one of my great reading pleasures, so imagine my delight to have been introduced to a new, terrifically written historical mystery series! Nicola Upson’s well-reviewed Nine Lessons is the seventh entry in the critically acclaimed Josephine Tey Mystery 1930s-set series, though the first one I have had the pleasure of reading. Beautifully, elegantly written with a subtle darker edge at its core and rounded out by terrific, engrossing characters, I found Nine Lessons to be quite a standout historical mystery title.

Nine Lessons begins in a churchyard with the discovery of a body in an open grave. Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose, as readers can surmise, has seen his fair share of crime scenes and death; but this, the finding of the church organist’s body is something…different. Penrose, with the aid of his police colleagues, finds out almost incomprehensibly disturbing details about how the deceased, former Cambridge student Dr. Stephen Laxborough, might have been killed. As Penrose begins piecing together strange and frustratingly vague clues left on the deceased person, more murders- all linked, somehow, to Dr. Laxborough and a group of Cambridge classmates- occur. While Penrose focuses most of his time and attention on the Laxborough murder and connected crimes in and around Cambridge, a string of heinous, violent sexual crimes against women are happening in the same city. As the two crime threads intersect at intervals, readers are introduced (or re-introduced) to Penrose’s friend, mystery author and amateur sleuth Josephine Tey (a character Upson has based on the highly-regarded Scottish author). As Tey finds herself exploring in both crime threads to aid Penrose and women in the Cambridge area, readers are proffered glimpses into Tey and Penrose’s somewhat delicate history and how they have come to be with their current romantic partners. How the crime threads are investigated and culminate is pretty terrific- meticulously plotted and presented. Moreover, there is another related piece to Nine Lessons that I want to bring up: just how much substance and critical weight to the subject matter Upson covers in Nine Lessons. Everything from police and public response to sexual assault, victim (female) blaming and shaming after rape, historical and public conceptions and intolerance regarding same-sex partnerships, and more. You might be wondering, with such an incredible scope, just how does everything tie together and wrap itself up by the end of 300 pages? Lest you worry, I can say that Upson does a superb job with making Nine Lessons read cohesively- never overwhelming or burdening the reader.

Overall, an excellent, complicated mystery that leaves the reader satisfied: polished, interesting and compelling from start to finish with tremendous depth. I was so intrigued by the main characters of Archie and Josephine- and their clearly complex history- during my reading, that I have now made it a goal to go back and read the series from the beginning. While I don’t think any curious readers diving into the series at this entry point will have any issues following along, my interest has definitely been piqued and I am aiming to go back and gain more insight into Archie and Josephine’s separate and joint histories. For any readers who adore this sub-genre of mystery/suspense, I highly recommend this title and series; if you’re not yet convinced, Nine Lessons has made Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2017 in the mystery/thriller category!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Must Read Monday (73): Children’s Titles from Charis Cotter, David Barclay Moore, Kat Yeh & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

 

This week: wonderful looking and sounding children’s lit! The Truth About Twinkie Pie author Kat Yeh is back with The Way to Bea; award-winning Canadian author Charis Cotter returns with The Painting; Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is back with a sequel to the incredible, award-winning The War That Saved My Life with The War I Finally Won; Jake Burt debuts on scene with the buzz-worthy Greetings from Witness Protection!; Lindsay Currie promises a wonderful suspense with The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street; and David Barclay Moore’s The Stars Beneath Our Feet is already receiving praise and starred reviews.

 

The Painting by Charis Cotter
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Annie and her mother don’t see eye to eye. When Annie finds a painting of a lonely lighthouse in their home, she is immediately drawn to it–and her mother wishes it would stay banished in the attic. To her, art has no interest, but Annie loves drawing and painting.

When Annie’s mother slips into a coma following a car accident, strange things begin to happen to Annie. She finds herself falling into the painting and meeting Claire, a girl her own age living at the lighthouse. Claire’s mother Maisie is the artist behind the painting, and like Annie, Claire’s relationship with her mother is fraught. Annie thinks she can help them find their way back to each other, and in so doing, help mend her relationship with her own mother.
But who IS Claire? Why can Annie travel through the painting? And can Annie help her mother wake up from her coma? The Painting is a touching, evocative story with a hint of mystery and suspense to keep readers hooked.

 

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.

His path isn’t clear–and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape–and an unexpected bridge back to the world.

 

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Everything in Bea’s world has changed. She’s starting seventh grade newly friendless and facing big changes at home, where she is about to go from only child to big sister. Feeling alone and adrift, and like her words don’t deserve to be seen, Bea takes solace in writing haiku in invisible ink and hiding them in a secret spot.

But then something incredible happens–someone writes back. And Bea begins to connect with new friends, including a classmate obsessed with a nearby labyrinth and determined to get inside. As she decides where her next path will lead, she just might discover that her words–and herself–have found a new way to belong.

 

Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by Feiwel and Friends
Book Description:

Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . .

The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.

Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past.

 

The War I Finally Won (The War That Saved My Life #2) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by Dial Books
Book Description:

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?

World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?

 

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie
Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by Aladdin
Book Description:

Tessa Woodward isn’t exactly thrilled to move to rainy, cold Chicago from her home in sunny Florida. But homesickness turns to icy fear when unexplainable things start happening in her new house. Things like flickering lights, mysterious drawings appearing out of nowhere, and a crackling noise she can feel in her bones.

When her little brother’s doll starts crying real tears, Tessa realizes that someone—or something—is trying to communicate with her. A secret that’s been shrouded in mystery for more than one hundred years.

With the help of three new friends, Tessa begins unraveling the mystery of what happened in the house on Shady Street—and more importantly, what it has to do with her!

Must Read Monday (71): Children’s Titles from Jason Reynolds, Robin Stevens, Celia C. Pérez & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

 

 

This week: more children’s fiction! I can’t help it, folks- children’s fiction is one of my reading loves…and there is so much GREATNESS out there in this area that my to-read pile grows and grows. Some of this week’s picks are inspired by recently read incredible, moving, and overall wonderful reads. I just finished reading Jolly Foul Play, the fourth in the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries series by British author Robin Stevens, and immediately added Mistletoe & Murder (book number five) to my list. It had been some time since reading book three in the Murder Most Unladylike series, but starting Jolly Foul Play brought Stevens’s brilliant 1930’s English world of young detectives all back- and it is a tremendous series that gets even stronger, sharper, and more engaging with each entry. Truly great. I also recently read Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds (mentioned here) and it is excellent- a highly, highly recommended read. I have Patina (Track #2) on my must-read, though for this Must Read Monday I am including another of his acclaimed middle grade novels, As Brave As You.

Last, but certainly not least, this week also includes: James Nicol’s The Apprentice Witch, which I picked up on a whim and looks delightful; the fantastically spooky and strange sounding The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter; and Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk, which I have been reading rave reviews about.

 

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
Publication: May 3, 2016 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Book Description:

When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally.

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck and—being a curious kid—Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he covers it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).

How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.

Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?

 

Mistletoe & Murder (Murder Most Unladylike #5) by Robin Stevens
Publication: October 20, 2016 by Puffin
Book Description:

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms – but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.

Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident – until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

The fabulously festive fifth mystery from the bestselling, award-winning author of Murder Most Unladylike.

 

The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Dial
Book Description:

Sophie Seacove is a storyteller. She tells stories of what the world would be like if madness hadn’t taken over. If her parents hadn’t sold her off as a servant to pay for their stupid vacation. If she wasn’t now trapped in a decaying mansion filled with creepy people and surrounded by ravenous sea monsters.

The mansion has plenty of stories, too: About fantastical machines, and the tragic inventor who created them. About his highly suspicious death. And about the Monster Box, a mysterious object hidden in the house that just might hold the key to escaping this horrible place—and to reuniting Sophie with her family.

But not everyone wants Sophie to have the Monster Box, and as she gets closer to finding it, she finds herself unspooling years-old secrets—and dodging dangerous attacks. Sophie needs to use her brains, her brawn, and her unbreakable nature if she wants to make it off this wretched island…and live to tell this story.

 

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
Publication: July 25, 2017 by Chicken House
Book Description:

Arianwyn has flunked her witch’s assessment: She’s doomed. Declared an apprentice and sent to the town of Lull in disgrace, she may never become a real witch– much to the glee of her arch-rival, Gimma.But remote Lull is not as boring as it seems. Strange things are sighted in the woods, a dangerous infestation of hex creeps throughout the town, and a mysterious magical visitor arrives with his eye on her.

With every spirit banished, creature helped, and spell cast, Arianwyn starts to get the hang of being a witch–even if she’s only an apprentice. But the worst still lies ahead. For a sinister darkness has begun to haunt her spells, and there may be much more at stake than just her pride . . . for Arianwyn and the entire land.

 

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
Publication: August 22, 2017 by Viking
Book Description:

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Review: Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank

28107411Review: Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: March 7, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

Charlie isn’t looking forward to sixth grade. If he starts sixth grade, chances are he’ll finish it. And when he does, he’ll grow older than the brother he recently lost. Armstrong isn’t looking forward to sixth grade, either. When his parents sign him up for Opportunity Busing to a white school in the Hollywood Hills, all he wants to know is “What time in the morning will my alarm clock have the opportunity to ring?”

When these two land at the same desk, it’s the Rules Boy next to the Rebel, a boy who lost a brother elbow-to-elbow with a boy who longs for one.

From September to June, arms will wrestle, fists will fly, and bottles will spin. There’ll be Ho Hos spiked with hot sauce, sleepovers, boy talk about girls, and a little guidance from the stars. Set in Los Angeles in the 1970s, Armstrong and Charlie is the hilarious, heartwarming tale of two boys from opposite worlds. Different, yet the same.

Armstrong & Charlie, the middle grade debut of Steven B. Frank has already received high praise with a starred review from Kirkus. A fantastic historical novel with two protagonists you’ll not forget, Armstrong & Charlie seamlessly combines serious heartache and humour to tell the story of two young boys who meet during school desegregation in 1970s California.

We meet Armstrong Le Rois and Charlie Ross as they set out to start sixth grade at a Los Angeles school called Wonderland. Both boys are beginning their new school year under stressful, difficult circumstances, and in alternating first-person narratives, we experience and follow their often turbulent connection as their paths cross over and over again in and out of school. For Armstrong, he, as well as a few other students from South Central LA, will be integrated into a white school in the Hollywood Hills as part of an Opportunity Busing program. For Charlie, the start of the sixth grade means starting a school year at Wonderland without his brother and with the terrifying realization that he’s soon going to have lived longer and get to experience more than his beloved older brother ever had the chance to. A story replete with substance, era and significant historical movements, Frank has more than capably interwoven the unforgettable voices and personal heartbreak of Charlie and Armstrong as they experience and navigate their new surroundings. Through the main characters’ incredible, engrossing voices, Armstrong & Charlie explores everything from grief, death, trauma, racism, bullying, as well as family, loyalty, and adolescent matters of the heart. Frank navigates through Charlie and Armstrong’s experiences of ugliness and happiness, moments of soaring and moments of dishonour with grace, insight, and some unexpected and satisfying humour.

Overall, Armstrong & Charlie is a standout read. Well-written, focused, rich with exceptional characters and a terrifically done dual-narrative, Steven B. Frank has done a super job with his children’s debut. Readers who enjoy the excellent offerings of children’s authors such as Firoozeh Dumas, Rebecca Stead, Karen Harrington, Kwame Alexander, Erin Entrada Kelly, or Sarah Weeks, or readers who enjoy historical or hard-hitting, significant middle grade lit might especially love this wonderful story.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (56): Adult Fiction from Heather Tucker, Jen Sookfong Lee, Claire Fuller & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: new and upcoming adult fiction titles on my radar! Three recent, well-reviewed titles from Canadian authors whose work I have not yet explored but cannot wait to- Heather Tucker, Jen Sookfong Lee and Claire Fuller- as well as the soon-to-be-released contemporary novel from one of my long-time favourite writers, Elinor Lipman.

 

28691857The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker
Publication: October 11, 2016 ECW Press
Book Description:

Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.

Eight-year-old Hariet, known to all as Ari, is dispatched to Cape Breton and her Aunt Mary, who is purported to eat little girls. But Mary and her partner, Nia, offer an unexpected refuge to Ari and her steadfast companion, Jasper, an imaginary seahorse.

Yet the respite does not last, and Ari is torn from her aunts and forced back to her twisted mother and fractured sisters. Her new stepfather, Len, and his family offer hope, but as Ari grows to adore them, she’s severed violently from them too, when her mother moves in with the brutal Dick Irwin.

Through the sexual revolution and drug culture of the 1960s, Ari struggles with her father’s legacy and her mother’s addictions, testing limits with substances that numb and men who show her kindness. Ari spins through a chaotic decade of loss and love, the devilish and divine, with wit, tenacity, and the astonishing balance unique to seahorses.

 

28691882The Conjoined: A Novel by Jen Sookfong Lee
Publication: September 13, 2016 by ECW Press
Book Description:

On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother’s belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery — two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng — troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.

As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life.

Moving between present and past, this riveting novel unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.

 

30304221Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Publication: January 28, 2017 by Anansi International
Book Description:

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

 

28114543On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman
Expected publication: February 14, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It’s a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state.) And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he’s Chagall. When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence . . .

Elinor Lipman may well have invented the screwball romantic comedy for our era, and here she is at her sharpest and best. On Turpentine Lane is funny, poignant, and a little bit outrageous.

Must Read Monday (54): His Bloody Project, Anatomy of a Girl Gang, The Mothers & More!

Happy New Year! Before I get cracking on the first post of 2017, I want to say a BIG thanks to all the lovely folks- fellow readers, visitors to the site, supportive bloggers, publishers, authors, and all- who helped make my 2016 year of reading, reviewing and posting so great (and so much fun!).

Now– welcome back to another Must Read Monday– the first Must Read Monday and first post here of 2017!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: a smorgasbord of adult fiction titles. After reading a slew of ‘Best of 2016’ book lists as well as perusing numerous bookish sites and journals over the holidays, I’ve added some very intriguing looking and sounding titles. Let’s take a look:

 

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His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae
by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Publication: October 18, 2016 by Skyhorse Publishing

A triple murder in a remote northwestern farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. There’s no question that Macrae is guilty, but the police and courts must uncover what drove him to murder the local village constable and his two children. The book starts with the account of the accused killer who gives us the events leading up to the murders from his jail cell. The book then offers the fictional opinion of a medical doctor and psychologist on the questionable sanity of Roderick Macrae. The last third of the book is a courtroom transcript that reveals the full truth of the events that left three dead. Burnet has created a fascinating unreliable narrator in this historical revenge tragedy and courtroom drama.

 

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Anatomy of a Girl Gang by Ashley Little
Publication: October 15, 2013 by Arsenal Pulp Press

A sharp and gritty novel told in multiple voices, Anatomy of a Girl Gang is the powerful story of a gang of teenage girls in Vancouver called the Black Roses, a.k.a. “the city’s worst nightmare”: Mac, the self-appointed leader and mastermind; Mercy, the Punjabi princess with a skill for theft; Kayos, a high-school dropout who gave birth to a daughter at age thirteen; Sly Girl, who fled her First Nations reserve for a better life, only to find depravity and addiction; and Z, a sixteen-year-old graffiti artist.

Cast out by mainstream society, the Black Roses rob ATMs, cook crack on stoves, and savagely beat down anyone who dares to harm them. Brutal and broken, they claw at the knot of darkness and violence that tightens around their lives.

 

themothers28815371

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Publication: October 11, 2016 by Riverhead Books

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

 

The Dilettantesdilettantes17920855 by Michael Hingston
Publication: September 10, 2013 by Freehand Books

The Peak: a university student newspaper with a hard-hitting mix of inflammatory editorials, hastily thrown-together comics and reviews, and a news section run the only way self-taught journalists know how—sloppily.
Alex and Tracy are two of The Peak’s editors, staring down graduation and struggling to keep the paper relevant to an increasingly indifferent student body. But trouble looms large when a big-money free daily comes to the west-coast campus, threatening to swallow what remains of their readership whole.

It’ll take the scoop of a lifetime to save their beloved campus rag. An exposé about the mysterious filmed-on-campus viral video? Some good old-fashioned libel? Or what about that fallen Hollywood star, the one who’s just announced he’s returning to Simon Fraser University to finish his degree? With savage wit, intoxicating energy, and a fine-tuned ear for the absurd, Michael Hingston drags the campus novel, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

 

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The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
Publication: December 26, 2016 by The Borough Press (first published in 2015)

England,1976.

Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.

And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…

Review: Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

oncewasatime25777460Review: Once Was a Time by Leila Sales
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: April 5, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte’s scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place?

Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

If you are ever given the opportunity to go through a portal, you had better be absolutely certain that you can handle never coming back.

If you are a reader of young adult novels, you may recognize author Leila Sales from her well-received titles such as Tonight the Streets Are Ours, This Song Will Save Your Life, or Mostly Good Girls. I have been a fan of Sales’ novels since her debut so I was delighted when I read that she was set to release a middle grade title in 2016. Once Was a Time, a time-traveling story with a young English protagonist, is indeed a big departure from Sales’ more known work in contemporary YA; a departure that absolutely succeeds. At its heart a story about a deep friendship between two kindred spirits, Once Was a Time is another surprising, beautiful and memorable read of 2016.

The story begins in 1940’s England, where we meet our ten year old protagonist and narrator Charlotte. Charlotte and her very best friend Kitty are endlessly fascinated by the strange and wonderful-sounding work of Charlotte’s father. A professor of science and working with the British government, Professor Bromley’s area of intense focus and research is that of time travel and portals. One night, Kitty and Charlotte are kidnapped by sinister, threatening forces who want Professor Bromley’s research. Facing down the possibility of imminent death, Charlotte saves her own life when she makes an irreparable decision: seeing the elusive, nebulous, shimmery shape of a portal, Charlotte decides to JUMP. Without Kitty.

Charlotte ends up in Sutton, Wisconsin, year 2013. An entire seventy three years away- gone- from her past life in Bristol. While I don’t wish to get into too many details here due to spoilers and space, I will say that Sales does quite an incredible job of placing Charlotte from one distinctive decade and country into another completely different time and place. In a plot device I particularly appreciated, a local library, its resources, and a kind-hearted librarian become a key factor in how Charlotte survives, begins and maintains her new, strange, surreal life in Sutton- and also how she starts to uncover more about her ‘old’ life, …and what happened to her family and friends. Charlotte’s narrative voice here is so well done: a curious, resourceful, bright young narrator who never, ever forgives herself for leaving her dearest friend Kitty behind. As time goes on in the present for Charlotte, her memories of Bristol and her family begin to dim slightly, though her intense, aching pains of regret and sadness never do. It is not until a prescient discovery in the pages of a book, however, that Charlotte comes face to face with yet another life-changing possibility: that there may be some way that she can find Kitty again.

Overall, Once Was a Time is a moving, wonderfully written, tenderhearted middle grade read. While some of the time-traveling/portal aspects of the novel are a wee hazy, that had no bearing on how much I genuinely loved the experience of meeting Charlotte and reading her extraordinary story. Unexpectedly emotional, written with sophistication and elegance, Sales has done a tremendous job here with her middle grade debut. I hope she continues to write for both YA and children’s genre as she clearly has the terrific ability to do both very well.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (51): Adult fiction titles on my radar!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week is all about adult fiction. There have been numerous titles popping up on my radar (everything from contemporary to fantasy) due to recommendations from fellow readers, colleagues, review journals, etc., and I wanted to share out which titles have been added to my must-read!

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
Publication: July 12, 2016 by Random House

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Publication: August 9th 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab
Publication: February 24, 2015 by Tor Books

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss
Publication: July 7, 2016 by Granta

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
Publication: July 12, 2016 by St. Martin’s Press

Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
Publication: June 7, 2016 by Ecco

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens
Publication: May 3, 2016 by Tin House Books

The Lauras by Sara Taylor
Publication: August 4, 2016 by William Heinemann

Blog Tour: Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl

secrets-in-the-snow-blog-evite

 

Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books organized blog tour for Michaela MacColl‘s latest historical YA title, Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance! Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!

 

secretsinthesnow9781452133584Review: Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance by Michaela MacColl
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 4, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Jane Austen’s family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking-until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives. Could he be the one? Before Jane can find out, she must solve a murder, clear her family’s name, and face a decision that might cost her true love.

Author Michaela MacColl has a number of well-reviewed historical teen titles to her name. Her latest novel, Secrets in the Snow, centers on a dramatic time in Jane Austen’s young life. Mixing biographical facts from Austen’s life with a fictionalized story of mystery and possible romance, Secrets in the Snow offers an engaging mystery with an iconic author as its protagonist.

With a strong and terrifically sharp and droll nineteen-year-old Jane Austen as our main character, readers are taken on an eighteenth century-set adventure full of deception, some dancing, and a murder. After eavesdropping on a charged conversation between her brother and a member from the War Office accusing one of their family cousins of being a spy for France, Jane becomes entwined in a life-changing chain of events. Altering her plans and returning to her family home, Jane takes it upon herself to approach her beloved, vivacious and widowed cousin, Eliza- the family member under suspicion of being a traitor to England. Back at home, Jane also finds herself mixed up in another drama- that of the possible attractions of a young, handsome man named Tom LeFroy, who appears, at first, to be a disagreeable and slightly haughty. MacColl easily blends Austen-esque attributes of character friction, witty banter, grand dances at halls, and pointed conversations of class and money with that of an unfolding mystery. While the murder mystery and suspenseful aspects of the story are well-done (if a tad hurried toward the end), I found that one of the most thoroughly enjoyable aspects of the novel is that of Jane’s voice. MacColl interestingly writes Jane from the third-person rather than first-person narrative, and she does a fantastic job in how Jane is presented and written as a thoughtfully-defined, energetic and wholly rooted character.

Overall, I found Secrets in the Snow to be a delightful and cozy read. A lovely surprise of a historical fiction title and very smoothly written, MacColl more than capably takes on what could be a daunting prospect and creates lively, well-imagined characters and a fun story with a dash of suspense. Any readers interested in an intriguing but not overly intensive look inside the imaginings of Jane Austen’s life, or have interest in a charming mystery might do well to check Secrets in Snow. MacColl also includes a generous Author’s Note section which divulges more about Jane Austen’s life, her family, her relationship with sister Cassandra and her history with Tom LeFroy. Readers who have enjoyed work by authors such as Katherine Longshore, Jennifer McGowan, Y.S. Lee or Sharon Cameron might especially enjoy this title!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this post. All opinions and comments are my own.

Back to School Giveaway with Middle Grade Books from Simon & Schuster!

My site runneth over with another incredible giveaway! I am thrilled to be hosting a very special back to school giveaway featuring three new and soon-to-be released children’s fiction titles courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada.

Open to Canadian residents, one lucky person will have the chance to win an amazing prize bundle with ALL THREE of the wonderful middle grade books below! Read on for more information about the books and how to enter!

THE BOOKS

mark-of-the-plague-9781481446747_lgMark of the Plague (The Blackthorn Key #2) by Kevin Sands
Christopher Rowe is back and there are more puzzles, riddles, and secrets to uncover in this follow-up to the Indie Next pick The Blackthorn Key, which was called a “spectacular debut” by Kirkus Reviews in a starred review.

The Black Death has returned to London, spreading disease and fear through town. A mysterious prophet predicts the city’s ultimate doom—until an unknown apothecary arrives with a cure that actually works. Christopher’s Blackthorn shop is chosen to prepare the remedy. But when an assassin threatens the apothecary’s life, Christopher and his faithful friend Tom are back to hunting down the truth, risking their lives to untangle the heart of a dark conspiracy.

And as the sickness strikes close to home, the stakes are higher than ever before…

 

the-littlest-bigfoot-9781481470742_lgThe Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner
From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner comes a laugh-out-loud funny and painstakingly real tale of friendship, furry creatures, and finding the place where you belong.

Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, slips through the world unseen and unnoticed. Ignored by her family and shipped off to her eighth boarding school, Alice would like a friend. And when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in a lake one day, she finds one.

But Millie is a Bigfoot, part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—NoFurs, as they call them—are dangerous, yet Millie is fascinated with the No-Fur world. She is convinced that humans will appreciate all the things about her that her Bigfoot tribe does not: her fearless nature, her lovely singing voice, and her desire to be a star.

Alice swears to protect Millie’s secret. But a league of Bigfoot hunters is on their trail, led by a lonely kid named Jeremy. And in order to survive, Alice and Millie have to put their trust in each other—and have faith in themselves—above all else.

 

a-little-taste-of-poison-9781481437745_lgA Little Taste of Poison (Uncommon Magic #2) by R.J. Anderson
Twelve-year-old Isaveth tries to take down the man who framed her father for murder in this lively follow-up to A Pocket Full of Murder, which Kirkus Reviews called “thoroughly entertaining.”

The city of Tarreton is powered by magic, from simple tablets that light lamps to advanced Sagery that can murder a man from afar. Isaveth has a talent for spell-making, but as a girl from a poor neighborhood she never dreamed she could study at the most exclusive magical school in the city. So when she’s offered a chance to attend, she eagerly accepts.

The school is wonderful, but old and new enemies confront Isaveth at every turn, and she begins to suspect her scholarship might be more a trap than a gift. Even her secret meetings with Esmond, her best friend and partner in crime-solving, prove risky—especially once he hatches a plan to sneak her into the biggest society event of the season. It’s their last chance to catch the corrupt politician who once framed her father for murder. How can Isaveth refuse?

 

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

One (1) winner will receive a three book prize bundle which will include one (1) copy of each of the following:

  • Mark of the Plague by Kevin Sands
  • The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner
  • A Little Taste of Poison by R.J. Anderson

Giveaway open to Canadian addresses only. Book prizes fulfilled by Simon & Schuster Canada.

The giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to….Lisa B.! You have two days to email (or DM via Twitter!) with a confirmation of Canadian mailing address.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway!

The giveaway is open to Canadian residents and will run from September 19th to September 26th, 2016. The winning entry will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter. All entries will be verified. Winner has by end of day September 28th, 2016 to respond to me via email at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com with their mailing address, or a new entry will be drawn. Enter by clicking on the following link to Rafflecopter and follow the instructions to enter!

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

 

This post and giveaway has been done in cooperation with Simon & Schuster Canada. Simon & Schuster Canada is providing fulfillment of the prize bundle. All other opinions and comments are my own.