book reviews in 200 words

A Conspiracy in Belgravia – a book review in 200 words

A Conspiracy in Belgravia (Lady Sherlock, #2)

by Sherry Thomas


Charlotte Holmes is Lady Sherlock in late 1800s London. She has been disgraced in the eyes of Society and run away from her family. She and Mrs. Watson use the name Sherlock Holmes as a ruse when meeting with clients. Sherlock is supposedly bedridden and using Charlotte as his willing minion.

In the course of the novel, three mysteries are solved. The first involves the wife of Lord Ingram, her first love and benefactor. The second revolves around a set of puzzles that Lord Ingram’s brother has given to her as an inducement to marriage. The third concerns a gold-digging house servant who may be poisoning those she serves.

I love the idea of a female Sherlock Holmes. But I am unsure if a lady Sherlock would really be so preoccupied with the number of chins she has or whether or not she should butter another muffin at tea.

I probably would have enjoyed this book more if I had read the first in the series before this one. There were references that I am sure I missed. I will be watching this series because although it is not great right now, it really has the potential to be so.

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

Rating: 75/100

Buy it now at Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound



Glass Houses by Louise Penny – a book review in 200 words

Glass Houses


Louise Penny


What is a Cobrador? Why is one in Three Pines, standing in absolute stillness and silence for days? Why is Gamache on the witness stand?  And who exactly is on trial? These are the questions racing through your mind as you start this newest book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny.

I think this may be the best book in Penny’s series to date. As always,  she weaves together seamlessly: obscure history with fabulous fiction, the lives of her recurring characters with new people (be they friends or suspects), and the quiet life of Three Pines with the ongoing struggles against corruption within the Sûreté du Québec.

I sell a lot of Penny’s books to my customers for two reasons. One, her plots always contain great mysteries where the endings never disappoint. And, two, I want to live in Three Pines and be friends with everyone who lives there!

Penny’s characters come alive again in this 13th book as we learn about the roots of a Spanish tradition still in existance today, a plot meant to heap untold pain on too many humans, and a daring plan that could mean the end of many Sûreté careers. ENJOY!

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

Rating: 97/100

Buy it tomorrow at Barnes & Noble / Amazon / IndieBound

Lincoln in the Bardo – a book review in 200 words

Lincoln in the Bardo


George Saunders

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I stayed away from Lincoln in the Bardo for a long time, even after several recommendations from readers I respect. I did read the first few chapters (a couple of times) and was bothered by the way the book was setup. Why all these quotes? And conflicting quotes? What is happening?

Then I heard it was long-listed for the Man Booker prize, and gave it another go.

And I love it!

Lincoln’s son, Willie, has died and Lincoln comes to his son’s tomb for a last visit in the middle of the night. What Lincoln cannot see is the full and vibrant “afterlife” that is happening around him – the men and women who are stuck in a sort of purgatory (the Bardo) where thoughts can change everything and the spirits don’t know they are dead.

This book is a touching portrait of Lincoln, the mood of the United States in the Civil War’s early years, and the moments we most regret when we leave the living.

Be prepared for a difficult slog at the beginning but you quickly get used to it. Hang tough, because in the end, the ride is completely worth it.

Rating: 92/100

Buy it at Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound

The Bedlam Stacks – a book review


The Bedlam Stacks

by Natasha Pulley


What a stunningly magical book! Merrick (Em) travels to Peru on a mission for the India Office (formerly that of East India Company villainy). He is to bring back the quinine wood that treats malaria – a plant that grows in the heart of Peru and is protected by a local monopoly. When he finally arrives in the village of Bedlam, nothing is as it seems. Glass roads, moving statues, candle ivy, the history of the place, and its current residents – all combine to make Bedlam and the surrounding lands a place out of a fairy tale. And, not the watered down princess-saving fairy tales we tell our children now. The original ones!

I won’t tell you more so that I don’t ruin the book for you. Suffice it to say, you will not be disappointed when you pick up this book. Do keep a dictionary handy. Ms. Pulley has a firm grasp of the (British) English language. Do keep a computer handy to google things you haven’t heard of before, i.e. Schwarzwald-ish, Pyrrhic victory, shibboleths.

This is a swashbuckling, moving, brilliant, funny, touching story that I highly recommend!

Rating: 95/100

Buy this book at Barnes & Noble or Amazon

The Epiphany Machine – a book review in 200 words

The Epiphany Machine


David Burr Gerrard


What would my epiphany tattoo be? What would yours be?

“The worst possible thing you could think of to say about someone will almost certainly be your epiphany.”

The epiphany machine tattoos on the forearm a one-sentence “truth” about the person receiving the tattoo. You know, that one thing about someone that everyone knows – except the person themselves.

“Everyone else knows the truth about you, now you can know it, too”

Venter Lowood is the POV character in this book. His fascination with the epiphany machine starts young; his mother abandoned him as a baby to work with Adam Lyon, the man who runs the epiphany machine. We follow Venter from childhood to middle age, and as the world changes around him, so does the public opinion of epiphany tattoos. John Lennon gets a tattoo, as does a 9/11 terrorist. The tattoos can be bought with $100 or with no monetary exchange and then commercialized epiphany tattoos are the norm. In the beginning, one tattooed person says of their unflattering epiphany:

“You should only feel shame before you feel shame. Once you feel shame, you know that you have to change. When you feel shame, you should really feel relief. You should say: ‘Hurray! Now I know that I have to change.”

By the end, another says,

“Shame is basically hypocrisy redirected against yourself-it’s holding yourself to a higher standard than you’re capable of meeting, rather than holding other people to a higher standard than you’re capable of meeting.”

This book is beautifully written in many distinct voices – the main narrative, short stories from a book about the epiphany machine, and accounts by those who have received epiphany tattoos.

As this is only Gerrard’s second novel, I predict you should expect further great reads from this writer!

Now – I want an epiphany tattoo.


Rating: 92/100

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble


Find it local at Indie Bound

The Witches of New York – a book review in 200 (and a few) words

The Witches of New York


Ami McKay

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If you are intrigued by any of the following:  mysticism, spiritualism, witches, demons, opium, absinthe, crazed clergy, surviving civil war soldiers with missing limbs, Egyptian obelisks, the djinn, fairy tales, spells, ghosts, the Fae, talking animals, insane asylums, fortunetelling, scrying, herbal remedies, the Salem witch trials, women suffragists, mediums and/or folk magic – then this is the book for you.

The Witches of New York tells the story of three witches in New York City in 1880. Eleanor comes from a long line of witches, absorbing her folksy magic from her mother. Adelaide learned fortune-telling while working for a side-show and quickly found she had a real knack for it. The too-smart and restless Beatrice moves to the City and learns that she’s a new kind of witch.

There is so much history and magic contained in the pages of this book, that it is difficult to describe it exactly. McKay blends the real 1880’s New York with her fictional characters and circumstances so effortlessly that I found it difficult to discern the difference. Her descriptions are spot-on as well; when her characters walk down the street, you walk with them – you can hear the newsboys, smell the roasted peanuts, feel the cold on a sleigh ride through Central Park in January.

Hopefully, this book is the first of a series or I will be sorely disappointed; many storylines were left unresolved at the end of the novel. Plus I would love to spend more time with these three witches of New York.


Buy this book July 11, 2017. Pre-order at:

Barnes and Noble


Vector (Joe Rush #4) – a book review


(Joe Rush #4)


James Abel


“Mutation is, by definition, always a surprise.”

If you are not already scared into agoraphobia by the threat of the Zika virus, Lyme disease, and skin cancer, James Abel’s book will make you afraid to leave your house or at least make you clothe yourself from head to toe and top that off with a couple layers of bug spray.

Vector is a chilling exercise that imagines the results of a terror organization’s ability to weaponize an everyday annoyance we barely notice here in the United States. It is terrifying how easy Abel makes it seem to create, distribute and disperse such a weapon.

The book starts with Joe Rush and his partner, Eddie, travelling the Amazon. Except that Eddie is missing, Joe is being followed, his guide is less than trustworthy and a large number of malaria-stricken individuals have disappeared from their homes.

Things go terribly wrong for Joe at the same time that events are going awry quietly and steadily in the United States. A terrorist’s threat is delivered, the government is blackmailed, hard decisions are made. (Some of the most terrifying moments in the book stem from the decisions of people in power and the reasoning behind those decisions.)

“Presidents say they will not make deals with enemies, but they do. Kennedy faced down the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But behind the scenes he pulled U.S. missiles from Turkey. Nixon said he’d never talk to North Vietnam. He sent a rep there at the same time.”

When the two story lines intersect, the action comes quick and fast.

The pacing of this book is just what you want in a thriller. The science was written in a believable and easy to understand way. And the ending does not disappoint.

I will definitely be going back to read the first in the Joe Rush series, White Plague.

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

Rating: 87/100

Buy it July 25, 2017.

Lost Boy – a book review in 200 words

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

by Christina Henry


A plethora of books on the market now retell old fairytales. Skip all of these – read Lost Boy by Christina Henry instead!

Lost Boy is Jamie’s story. Jamie is the first boy that Peter Pan brought to his island. He is also the defacto father-figure for the other boys, but only because he is the “oldest” and realizes that they still need to eat and, occasionally, bathe. And given that their lives consist of roughhousing, battle simulations, fighting off the Many-Eyed, and ransacking the pirates’ camp, he is also the closest thing to a doctor the boys have.

Everything changes when Peter brings back a boy who is younger than usual. Charlie is only five years old, and takes much of Jamie’s time and attention. Much of the book deals with Peter’s jealousy over Charlie and Jamie’s relationship and the schemes of Peter to separate Jamie from the young boy.

The addition of Nip and Sal bring further complications, of which you will need to read yourself.

And then after many crying jags (mine) – Captain Hook.

Suffice it to say, I will never look at Peter Pan the same again. I am now and forever a Captain Hook fan.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. (A huge thank you to Berkley Publishing Group!)

Rating: 95/100

Buy this book July 4th!

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