Monday 30 October 2023

The Dream Thief

Finished October 25
The Dream Thief by Shana Abe

This is the second book in the Drakon series. They are set in the late 18th century. I've read the third book in the series Queen of Dragons, so I had some sense of where this book would end up. The Drakon are people who can transform from human to smoke and to dragons. Most gain this ability during their late teens, but not all. 
Amalia (Lia) is the daughter of the leader of the clan and she doesn't have the ability to turn, but she does have other abilities that she keeps to herself. One is to recognize real gems, like diamonds, sapphires, etc. including being aware of them from a distance. One that she has sensed for a long time is Draumr, an infamous diamond buried in the mountains of Carpathia, that has the power to enslave the drakons. It was buried by a princess of the clan who died doing it after being enslaved for years to an ordinary man. Her other gift is that she dreams the future, and she knows that it is a man with special skills who will go after Draumr. 
Lia is sent to boarding school in Scotland, but her knowledge of the future enables her to prepare in some ways for that, things like learning the languages of Hungarian and Romanian. She is also aware that Zane, a man rescued as a child by her mother, and who thus knows about the drakon, is a skilled thief who will be the one to go after the diamond. She approaches him when she is very young, but he rebuffs her. 
So when he is hired to go after the diamond, she must use her skills to follow him, and then travel with him on this journey. Along the way, she learns more about her own skills and abilities and finds herself capable of even more than she realized. 
We also see how capable Zane is, with his weapons knowledge and preparedness, and his ability to move quickly and surreptitiously when needed. 
In Romania, we also see the current Prince Imre of the castle where the diamond is, a man of drakon heritage, who lacks the ability to turn, and his bride Maricara, a child taken against her will from her peasant family because of her turning ability.
This is a story with strong protagonists, Zane and Lia, as well as other strong female characters, which I liked to see. It is also a story of control and power, and how that can corrupt and taint relationships. This story has a journey that is difficult and fraught with setbacks and hurdles from arson to snowstorms. 
A very enjoyable read. 

Saturday 28 October 2023

The Probability of Murder

Finished October 24
The Probability of Murder by Ada Madison

This novel is the second in a series of cosy mysteries featuring mathematics professor Sophie Knowles. Sophie holds weekly parties on campus that have a scientific theme with a short presentation. One of these, on Mobius strips, is just winding up when news of a death on campus begins to filter in. Charlotte Crocker, the librarian, has been found dead in the stacks. Sophie was a friend of hers, and is shocked at the news. Sophie's boyfriend, medevac pilot Bruce Granville, is leaving for a climbing adventure up in Vermont the next morning, and so the two forego plans for the rest of the day in light of the incident. 
When Sophie makes an unexpected discovery around something Charlotte left with her, she seeks counsel first from a friend before going to the police, and then decides that she needs to follow up on the clues she has to figure out if her friend was really a friend, or a criminal. When Sophie becomes a target herself, she is even more determined to find the truth.
With interesting mathematical problems scattered throughout, this is a series with its own particular draw, and Sophie's use of deductive reasoning drawing from her mathematical background gives great reasons for her own investigation. 
I liked the main characters and found the mystery very engaging. 

Friday 27 October 2023

The Haunted Season

Finished October 18
The Haunted Season by G.M. Malliet

This cosy murder is set in the English village of Nether Monkslip, where Father Max Tudor is still adjusting to his role in the community and his new role as the father of a young child. Max has a previous life as a spy, and he worries that that life may have followed him to his new one. 
The village is looking forward to the annual duck races, which raises money for worthy causes, including the church, and has asked the local gentry, Lord Baaden-Boomethistle for the use of their grounds for the event, which is reluctantly given.
When the Lord is found dead in a grisly and obviously planned murder, the search begins for the killer, with Max both the man who makes the discovery of the body, and a consultant to the police. 
Max's new curate, Destiny Chatsworth, plays an important role as well, overhearing a conversation in London that references the village, and remembering a personality from her university days. 
The characters and setting are very twee here, with the character names almost overdone. There are also several characters that are stereotypical on the surface, but surprising as one gets to know more about them, such as the avid volunteer Eugenia Smith-Ganderfort, the housekeeper Mrs. Hooser, the retired schoolteacher Miss Agnes Pitchford, and the Lord and Lady of the Manor, along with their adult children. 
This is the fifth book in the series, but the first that I've read and I found the character list at the beginning helpful to place the numerous people. 
There is definitely a touch of wit in this mystery, along with the cosy atmosphere of village life. 

Saturday 21 October 2023

Cape Diamond

Finished October 13
Cape Diamond by Ron Corbett

This is another mystery centering on police officer Frank Yakabuski, taking place in a small city in northern Canada. As the book opens, the body of a retired leader of one of the main criminal organizations operating in the town is found hung on a fence on the side of town he wouldn't normally be in. The body has been beaten and stabbed and mutilated and a strange object is found in the victim's mouth. This act gives rise to acts of violence between the Shiners and the Travellers, two criminal gangs with a long history in the area and beyond. The escalation of this rivalry with the death of a man in the rival organization and the kidnapping of a young girl has Frank looking back into the history of the groups, and people who have disappeared or kept themselves out of the limelight. 
Frank's father, a retired disabled police officer, has some knowledge of both groups, and he is convinced to share this with Frank given the serious nature of the acts taking place. A young man connected to one gang also offers a bit of useful information. 
There is also another voice in this story, a man travelling from the southern United States toward this northern town, leaving death in his wake. We see him thinking about what he will do when he gets to his destination and killing when the opportunity or a perceived threat comes into play. 
There are themes of disappearing, land claims, family dynamics, and the realities of life in a remote area. A very engrossing read. 

Thursday 12 October 2023

That Darkness

Finished October 8
That Darkness by Lisa Black

This psychological suspense novel is set in Cleveland, and we get two perspectives. One is Maggie Gardiner, who works as a civilian for the police department and does trace evidence, fingerprints, and other crime scene evidentiary work. She's worked there a long time, and seen many Jane Does, some of which her work was able to identify. In the latest case, a teen girl is found dead in a graveyard with injuries showing that she was severely beaten. A few comments from the pathologist, and the fact that no one has reported her missing have Maggie exploring some ideas about the girl. Maggie is happily divorced from a police detective in the homicide unit, and likes her small place downtown near her work. She also likes solving the puzzles that her work brings her.
The other character we follow is Jack Renner, a homicide detective who has a hidden agenda to make the world safer for everyone. Privately, he's on the trail of a woman who was arrested for a case he investigated in another city, one that became personal. She's eluded him before, and he hopes that in Cleveland, he'll catch up with her. Meanwhile he works hard in his spare time to identify other people that, like her, make the world less safe, and deal with him. The opening scene is one example of this work. When his private work crosses paths with the unidentified girl in Maggie's case, then things get very interesting and Jack finds himself in danger of being discovered. 
This is a fast-moving story with questions of morality at the core. A story that will definitely have you thinking. 

Catch Me If You Cannes

Finished October 6
Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson

This light vacation romance starts with Jess hitching on to a business trip her best friend Bryony was taking to the Cannes Film Festival. Bryony works for a British tabloid called Sleb, and her boss Mitch wants her to get some tantalizing gossipy stories for the publication. 
Jess and Bryony have been unlikely friends since high school when Bryony moved with her family to Cornwall and Jess befriended the tall black girl. 
Jess is determined to thoroughly enjoy her trip and starts out by going down to the shore and having a delicious crepe. She is accosted by a young man, Leo, who was jogging and stopped to flirt with her. So she starts off well with a good story to tell. 
When they try to get into one of the hot spots for dinner and are put off by the hostess, another group in the restaurant invite them to join their table. And this is where the two women start embellishing or lying about themselves. While Jess is truthful about being on holiday, she says that she owns a string of cafes, not just the one she actually owns, and Bryony says she works for The Times. They get invited to a party on one of the large yachts anchored there and Jess is surprised when Leo is on the next yacht over. He also has a friend who is also on the yacht, Harvey who seems quite interested in Bryony.
As we spend time with Jess and the people she meets, we see a different world, a fun and frivolous world, even from the viewpoint of those who work, like makeup artists and dressers. The women eat, shop, party, and travel a little more, and thoroughly enjoy their time, even while Bryony tries to follow through on her assignment and strive for something to push her career forward. 
A fun and enjoying read, with friendship at its core. 

Take Me Home

Finished October 4
Take Me Home by J.H. Croix

This is the first novel in a romance series set in a small town in Alaska, Diamond Creek. Marley Adams, a computer programmer, recently moved back home from Seattle after an unsettling robbery where she walked in on the crime, and was pistol-whipped and threatened. She is living in a small cabin on her parents' property and starting to look for work. 
Gage Hamilton is a retired Navy Seal, looking to rehabilitate the ski lodge that he and his siblings recently inherited from their grandmother. The lodge has been closed for many years, and is he begins by working on the exterior, repairing and repainting. When he sees Marley, who is his closest neighbour walking on the property they meet and begin to learn each other's stories. They are also drawn to each other by a powerful attraction that they both feel.
The people of Diamond Creek are excited about the lodge reopening and some of those who used to work there appear to see what is happening and find themselves staying to work, or suggesting others who might be able to take on different aspects of the work that needs doing.
This is a story of the romance between the two main characters, the ongoing story behind the robbery at Marley's Seattle apartment, and the revitalization of a town amenity and tourist attraction. 
I enjoyed it. 

Tuesday 10 October 2023

All Things Consoled

Finished October 2
All Things Consoled: a Daughter's Memoir by Elizabeth Hay

This memoir covers the last few years of Hay's parents lives, her relationship with them then and earlier, and the life that went on around them. She really brings her parents to life in terms of personality, both good and bad aspects, and tries to discover what made them act the way they did. 
Her father could be charming or cruel, kind or curt, jealous or complimentary. Her mother observant or forgetful, docile or independent, a peacemaker or troublesome. We see these different pieces of them and how they influenced her and her relationship with them as well as her siblings. We can also see how her parents' actions affected the relationships between siblings. 
Because she was the closest to where they lived, it made sense to move them from London, Ontario to Ottawa as they became unable to live on their own. While she touches on bits of emptying the house they lived in for years, it is only a note compared to the relationships that she looks at more closely. Both her parents had failing health and her mother had dementia. The title of the book is from a comment her mother made to her. 
A fascinating look into someone else's life, I found it sad at times, and funny at others. We see the roles that education, art, pride, and nature had in their lives and how they both loved each other and were annoyed by each other. 
Hay's wonderful writing shows here. 

The Last Runaway

Finished October 2
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

In 1850, Grace Bright was set to travel to the United States to marry a man from her community who had previously emigrated there, her sister Honor decided to go with her. Honor had recently been left by the man she had been supposed to marry and was feeling too many eyes on her in the Quaker community that she lived in. On the voyage, Honor was much more seasick than her sister, but as they traveled to the community in Ohio that they were going to, it was Grace who fell ill and died. 
On the way, the wagon that Honor was getting a ride on was accosted by a rough man, Donovan, looking for escaped slaves. They had an interaction that Honor found disconcerting. Arriving in the town of Wellington, Honor sent word ahead of her sister's death, but took time to recover by staying with a kind woman, Belle Mills, who is a milliner. 
When her sister's fiance, Adam Cox, arrives and takes her back to the village of Oberlin, where he lives, she finds that Adam's brother has recently died as well, leaving her living with Adam, and his brother's widow Abigail. It is an uncomfortable situation as Honor feels resented and when soon the elders determine that it isn't right for an unmarried man to be living with two unmarried women who aren't his blood relations, she realizes that things must change. 
Honor is a skilled quilter and seamstress and did some work for Belle when she stayed with her. She also quilts at home in Oberlin and at a community quilting session, where her skills are noted. Adam asked her to come work at the dry goods store he owned in a larger town nearby and she met another interesting woman there, a black woman who also took note of her. 
As Honor adjusts to life in this new land, she must also find the quiet inside that she always felt at home with her religion, but struggles to here. And she must balance the legal issues with her sense of morality in dealing with escaped slaves. 
This was a very interesting read, that gave a sense of the real struggles that people dealt with during these times. It also gave a sense of the Quaker religion of the time and how communities both set themselves apart and mingled. 

Tuesday 3 October 2023

One Tequila

Finished September 30
One Tequila by Tricia O'Malley

This is the first book in a series centering on the psychic Althea Rose. Althea lives in on Tequila Key in the Florida Keys, and shares a shop, Luna Rose Potions and Tarot Shop, with her friend Luna who mixes elixirs and who is also (secretly) a white witch. Althea has inherited her psychic skills from her mother who is a famous psychic with celebrity clients. The is also an older woman who lives down the street and who appears to be a voodoo priestess. 
Althea and Luna often hang out at the seaside bar of their friend Beau, and one night they meet some new real estate investors in town. Both of them are drawn to one of the men and soon agree to dates. Althea enjoys her date with Cash, but doesn't give in to his hints to take it further that evening. Luna's date doesn't call her back and she feels hurt by it, and wonders why (but, um, can't she use her magic to figure that out??) Also her diving buddy Trace suddenly shows signs of jealousy. 
There is a lot going on here, but it seems badly put together and ill-defined. The various paranormal elements are all combined together in odd ways, and the characters lacked depth. 
Althea was all over the place and couldn't seem to remember basic instructions, especially when things became tense. It seldom seemed to occur to her to use her skills to gauge situations before jumping in. 
The dialogue also needed work, and was often awkward and choppy. 
This is the first book in the series, and since there are several more, I'm hoping that means that the writing improved. 

Ready or Not

Finished September 28
Ready or Not by Cara Bastone

This is a romance novel with an unusual twist. As the book opens, Eve Hatch is at an ob/gyn appointment on her lunch hour, looking for confirmation of her suspected pregnancy. She's done some at-home tests, and is already pretty sure of the truth. Eve is not in a romantic relationship. A few weeks ago, when her best friend Willa's brother Shep left his long term relationship and moved in with his sister and her partner in Brooklyn, the three had a fun night out. When Willa and Shep called it a night and caught a cab home, Eva found herself still energized and went into a nearby bar, where she ended up going home with the bartender, Ethan Rise. 
So after she gears herself up to tell first Willa the news, and then Ethan, she must figure out how to tell her siblings, and the wider community.
Eve has a job in an organization that she's always dreamed of working for, a wildlife conservation organization, but she is in administration and dreams of running her own project. When an opportunity in a different direction opens up due to her hard work, she must make a choice and figure out what she really wants there as well. 
She loves her small apartment that she's made exactly as she wants, but worries about whether she can fit her baby into it, especially as it grows. 
With all these changes opening up in her life, Eva finds Shep, her childhood friend to be there when she needs someone. He accompanies her on errands, shows up at her home with exactly the perfect things for the moment, and helps her to focus her mind on the good in what's happening. 
This novel is a journey of self-knowledge and self-life as well as a romance. A real page-turner. 

Monday 2 October 2023

The Ballad of Black Tom

Finished September 26
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

This short novel has a lot of atmosphere. It is apparently inspired by a Lovecraft story. The story begins with a young black man, Charles Thomas Tester, known as Tom, taking on a task of delivering a book to a house in a white neighbourhood in Queens. It is set in the 1920s, a time of open racism and police brutality, and Tom does what he can to put food on the table and pay the rent for his father Otis and himself. Otis is not well, and unable to work himself, but he is a musician, and he's tried to teach Tommy what he can. Thus Tom often takes his guitar and busks for money. 
Taking on a task asked of him by someone who stopped and listened to him, is not uncommon, but Tom can feel the evil of the book he carries and he feels compelled to take a risk and remove a page from the book so that its full evil cannot be used by the strange woman, Ma Att, that he delivers it to. But this act sets off ramifications for Tom that he has to deal with. 
He is approached by a man, Robert Suydam, who pays him a lot of money to come to his house and perform, and Tom is aware there is something strange about the request. Suydam tells him a story about a Sleeping King and refers to the Supreme Alphabet. There is a police officer, Malone, and another man working with him, Howard, who menace Tom, and try to intimidate him. 
His father fears for him, and he goes with him to a club, the Victoria Society, where he meets an old friend Buckeye and asks for advice. 
Tom takes his own actions in response to the men trying to control him, and becomes something more than he expected after he learns he has nothing to lose. 
This is a story that is unsettling and dark, and so well told. Gripping.

Lone Wolf

Finished September 25
Lone Wolf by Linwood Barclay

This is the third book in the series featuring Zack Walker, a Toronto journalist. This book was also published under the title Bad Luck. I like this series for the humour and the Canadian setting, as well as the well-written family dynamics. 
Here, he is out at lunch with a former neighbour when he receives a disturbing phone call from his wife. One of the contributing reporters in cottage country has let her know that a body has been found, apparently killed by a bear, near the camp run by Zack's father, and his father is nowhere to be found. 
Zack immediately heads north, and finds the local police chief Orville Thorne, the local coroner, the reporter who called it in, and the people who are renting his dad's cabins at the present time. Most of these are returning guests, who've been coming up for years. While it is quickly established that his father isn't the victim, the victim's identity takes a little while to uncover, and several other issues show themselves.
One is the renters of the farmhouse on his dad's property. They have all kinds of warning signs mounted around the place dissuading casual visitors, a pair of aggressive dogs, and a radical mindset.
Another is one of his father's guests, a wealthy entrepreneur who wants to create a large luxury resort on a neighbouring property which goes against the local culture and may endanger the lake's health. 
The reader also soon learns that the local fair, which begins with a parade and is coming up on the next weekend, has been issued a threat of violence if a local LGBTQ community is allowed to participate. There is a petition, driven by one small-minded local businessman, and some threatening phone calls to the mayor, which also seem to be directed at her being married to a man who isn't white. 
Both Zack and his father are a bit overwhelmed by what they are facing and he calls on an old friend Lawrence Jones for his assistance. This assistance helps with some of the issues, others are resolved in unexpected ways, but the largest issue of the renters only gets worse until the final climax. 
A total engaging read, with lots of edge of the seat scenes. 

October Reviews for the 17th Annual Canadian Reading Challenge

 Here is where you post links to your reviews for books finished in October.

If you want to add a comment, please do so.