Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Gate Keeper: An Inspection Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd

The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd  
(Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries, Book 20)

  • ISBN-10: 0062791532 - Paperback $26.99
  • Publisher: HarperLuxe; Larger Print edition (February 6, 2018), 480 pages.
The Gate Keeper (Inspector Ian Rutledge #20)

The blurb:
On a deserted road, late at night, Scotland Yard’s Ian Rutledge encounters a frightened woman standing over a body, launching an inquiry that leads him into the lair of a stealthy killer and the dangerous recesses of his own memories in this twentieth installment of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling series.
Hours after his sister’s wedding, a restless Ian Rutledge drives aimlessly, haunted by the past, and narrowly misses a motorcar stopped in the middle of a desolate road. Standing beside the vehicle is a woman with blood on her hands and a dead man at her feet.
She swears she didn’t kill Stephen Wentworth. A stranger stepped out in front of their motorcar, and without warning, fired a single shot before vanishing into the night. But there is no trace of him. And the shaken woman insists it all happened so quickly, she never saw the man’s face.
Although he is a witness after the fact, Rutledge persuades the Yard to give him the inquiry, since he’s on the scene. But is he seeking justice—or fleeing painful memories in London?
Wentworth was well-liked, yet his bitter family paint a malevolent portrait, calling him a murderer. But who did Wentworth kill? Is his death retribution? Or has his companion lied? Wolf Pit, his village, has a notorious history: in Medieval times, the last wolf in England was killed there. When a second suspicious death occurs, the evidence suggests that a dangerous predator is on the loose, and that death is closer than Rutledge knows.

The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After his sister's wedding, Rutledge decides to drive to clear his mind and comes across the murdered young Stephen Wentworth. Wentworth survived World War I and seemed to be one of the least likely people to be murdered. He was independently wealthy and socially prominent. But when his local bookseller retired, Wentworth bought the bookshop and ran it, annoying his family that he "went into trade." But as Rutledge looks into Wentworth's life, his death makes less and less sense. When a second man is killed in cold blood, Rutledge realizes that he isn't just facing a ruthless killer but that he can't spot what links the two victims. The second victim also survived the War with an unblemished record and afterwards worked to help rebuild. He studied agriculture and looked for ways to improve yield, sharing his knowledge with neighbors and strangers alike.  The risk that another death is imminent raises the stakes.  And the choice of victims is particularly disturbing.

We get a deeper picture of Ian Rutledge. As he follows the lives and deaths of two former officers during World War I, Rutledge remembers the War. It's Rutledge's decency and tenacity that gets him close to the killer and along the way we encounter quite a lot of unsavory possible murderers as we mourn the deaths of the victims. As Rutledge hunts down his murderer through luck, skill and quick thinking, Charles Todd delivers a satisfying, engrossing read!  Overall, The Gate Keeper is one of my favorites in the series.

About the Authors:
Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.

Friday, October 20, 2017

My Little Cities: London, Paris, San Francisco & New York - Giveaway!

Jennifer Adams who wrote the BabyLit books has come out with a new series of board books for children called My Little Cities.

My Little Cities takes us to London, Paris, San Francisco and New York.

Rhyming prose and bright colors celebrate the unique architecture and features of San Fransisco. We recognize the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island,  a Dragon Dance in Chinatown and a Pride Parade by City Hall, sea lions at Pier 39, cable cars and colorful Victorian townhouses.  The board book captures and celebrates people's  different styles, ethnicities, and identities with a sense of joy.  The end of the book gives factual descriptions of the different places and items featured (Lombard Street, the Ferry Building, Chinatown, City Hall, Pier 39, Cliff House, the Painted Ladies, Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge).

My Little Cities, New York
  • Age Range: 2 - 5 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten
  • ISBN-10: 1452153884 - Board Book $9.99
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; Brdbk edition (April 11, 2017), 22 pages.

Using simple, lyrical language and modern illustrations, Jennifer Adams shows us the extremes you find in New York City.  She brings us to the top of the Empire State Building and to the stone lions in front of the New York Public Library, to the bustle of the subway and captures the adventure of seeing the Statue of Liberty on a NYC ferry.  We join an appreciative audience at a Broadway play and glow under the bright lights of Times Square. Adams captures the range of places and adventures that one can have in New York as one explores the City from Central Park to Yankee Stadium, to Coney Island and the Brooklyn Bridge whether by subway or ferry or yellow cab or by foot. The end of the book gives factual descriptions of the different places and items featured (Empire State Building, New York Public Library, the New York Subway, the Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Times Square, Central Park, Yankee Stadium, Coney Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge).

GIVEAWAY The publisher, Chronicle Books, has offered to sponsor a giveaway of the set of My Little Cities books.  To join, please just comment which of the 4 books you are most interested in and why you'd like the set of books.  Thanks!

The contest is limited to US residents. One entry per household.  Contest ends on November 20, 2017.

About the Author and Illustrator:
Jennifer Adams is well-known for her cherished BabyLit board book series. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Greg Pizzoli won the Geisel Medal for his first book, The Watermelon Seed, and his subsequent books have continued to garner much commercial and critical acclaim. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Casualty of War by Charles Todd

Casualty of War by Charles Todd
  • Series: Bess Crawford Mysteries (Book 9)
  • ISBN 9780062678782 Hardcover $26.99
  • Publisher: William Morrow (September 26, 2017), 384 pages.

The blurb:
Though the Great War is nearing its end, the fighting rages on. While waiting for transport back to her post, battlefield nurse Bess Crawford meets Captain Alan Travis from the island of Barbados. Later, when he’s brought into her forward aid station disoriented from a head wound, Bess is alarmed that he believes his distant English cousin, Lieutenant James Travis, shot him. Then the Captain is brought back to the aid station with a more severe wound, once more angrily denouncing the Lieutenant as a killer. But when it appears that James Travis couldn’t have shot him, the Captain’s sanity is questioned. Still, Bess wonders how such an experienced officer could be so wrong. On leave in England, Bess finds the Captain strapped to his bed in a clinic for brain injuries. Horrified by his condition, Bess and Sergeant Major Simon Brandon travel to James Travis’s home in Suffolk, to learn more about the baffling relationship between these two cousins. Her search will lead this smart, capable, and compassionate young woman into unexpected danger, and bring her face to face with the visible and invisible wounds of war that not even the much-longed for peace can heal.

Charles Todd's Bess Crawford mysteries are among my favorite escapist fiction. Set during World War I, we follow young Bess Crawford to France and England as she nurses British soldiers at the fighting front.  She is the only child of Colonel Crawford, a highly respected officer long assigned to the Indian subcontinent.  Raised amongst soldiers and outside of England, Bess is tough but mild mannered. Practical, loyal and unflappable, Bess has a strong sense of duty and justice.  She is alert to unusual events and often finds herself drawn to investigate small anomalies that hint at larger mysteries or unfair treatment. 

In A Casualty of War, the latest Bess Crawford Mystery,  Bess encounters Lieutenant Travers, an Englishman from Barbados who shares tales of his home and during that brief time, the war is held at bay.  When Travers returns with a serious head wound and the belief that he was fired upon by a British officer, things become complicated.  Travers is an unlikely candidate for shell shock, in fact he is adamant that he must return to the Front to keep the shooter from harming any of his men.  Travers intends to find his attacker and have him removed from the Front.  But after Travers survives a second deadly attack, his statements against the possible attacker lead to others to question his sanity.  

Relying on her impressions of Lieutenant Travers before his attacks, Bess Crawford refuses to dismiss Lieutenant Travers’ as shellshocked and unreliable.  Instead, she seeks to find out the truth behind the attacks and to see if he has relatives in England that might help.  

The visit to Travers’ relatives is a strange affair and Bess Crawford finds herself in the middle of a dangerous search.  With Simon’s help, their unflagging determination and well coordinated teamwork, Bess and Simon save a good man from a bad fate. 

About the Authors:
Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh
  • ISBN-10: 0316236675 - Hardcover $16.99
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 19, 2017), 352 pages. 
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

I loved The Way to Bea for many, many reasons. First, Kat Yeh writes beautifully.  There are moments when I'd just stop and reread a paragraph just for the pleasure of it.  Her main character Beatrix (Bea) comes back from summer with family in Taiwan to find that her best friend distant and ignoring her.  Bea is heartbroken but she doesn't want to worry or involve her parents.

Bea's mother is a famous artist, pregnant, and deeply absorbed in her latest series of paintings. Her father is a graphic novelist whose latest creation has been optioned for a movie.  Her parents are loving, but busy and deeply absorbed in their own lives and in each other. Bea's learned how to distract them, to keep them for asking probing questions about school and her friends.  She's able to hide her loneliness and the loss of her best friend S.

But Bea's heartbreak and loneliness are so relatable - Kat Yeh captures so well those times that we've all gone through.  Yeh also captures the excitement of the possibility of finding new friends and interests.  Bea's art is poetry and she lives it, loves it, keeps it to show to those she trusts and cares about.  While Bea becomes Poetry Editor of the school magazine, she keeps her own poems for private consumption. She also hides messages and poems in this old stone wall/portal - the poems and messages are written in invisible ink to an unknown friend to whom she shares her heartache and hopes, her sense of who she wants to become and the process of becoming.

The Way to Bea is beautiful -- it captures the joys and pains of the deep friendships of childhood as well as the excitement that comes with learning one's strengths and craft.  Bea's message encourages strength, courage and hope - and also kindness.  It's a book to enjoy and to share.

About the Author:
Kat Yeh is the author of the critically acclaimed middle grade novel The Truth About Twinkie Pie. She grew up reading, writing, and dreaming in Westtown, PA. She currently lives with her family on Long Island, where she can see water every day.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Deadfall by Linda Fairstein

Deadfall by Linda Fairstein
  • ISBN-10: 110198404X Hardcover $
  • Publisher: Dutton (July 25, 2017), 400 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.

The Blurb:
A wild heart beats within New York City. Amid concrete and skyscrapers, the Wildlife Conservation Society works to preserve and protect the animal kingdom both within and beyond the borders of the five boroughs. But dangerous creatures don't always have claws and fangs, as Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper and NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace know all too well. Predators lurk close to home, and in the aftermath of the shocking assassination of an iconic public figure—someone Alex has worked with for years—the trio must unravel the motive behind the shooting to discover who is the bigger snake: the killer or the victim.
The murder investigation provides more questions than answers, as a tangled mess of secrets slowly comes to light. From street gangs to secret societies, from big-game hunting to the illegal animal trade, from New York City zoos to the highest offices in city government, Alex has her work cut out for her—especially since the task force handling the investigation, led by the US Attorney, seems to be more against her than with her. As tensions rise between Alex and the feds, she must determine just how far she is willing to go to uncover the truth—and uphold the integrity of the office she has so proudly served.

I thoroughly enjoy Linda Fairstein's Alex Cooper series and eagerly devour her novels as they come out every year.

This year's Deadfall opens with Alex Cooper witnessing and being interrogated for a high profile murder.  She's off the case and possibly at risk herself. It's uncertain whether she might have been a target or has become a target because of what she discovers as she continues an unauthorized investigation.  

There's plenty of politics -- dealing with a grandstanding, incompetent mayor (who is much like the current mayor of NYC), with the head prosecutor, the FBI and her own allies in the NYPD.  Alex is still recovering from the trauma of having been kidnapped and the added uncertainty threatens to take her over the brink.

In Deadfall, Linda Fairstein delivers another satisfying NYC thriller.

About the Author:
Linda Fairstein was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney's office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America's foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bring Her Home by David Bell

Bring Her Home by David Bell
  • ISBN-10: 0399584447 Paperback $16
  • Publisher: Berkley (July 11, 2017), 464 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.

The blurb:
Just a year and a half after the tragic death of his wife, Bill Price’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Summer, and her best friend, Haley, disappear. Days later, the girls are found in a city park. Haley is dead at the scene, while Summer is left beaten beyond recognition and clinging to life.
As Bill holds vigil over Summer’s bandaged body, the only sound the unconscious girl can make is one cryptic and chilling word: No. And the more time Bill spends with Summer, the more he wonders what happened to her. Or if the injured girl in the hospital bed is really his daughter at all.
When troubling new questions about Summer’s life surface, Bill is not prepared for the aftershocks. He’ll soon discover that both the living and the dead have secrets. And that searching for the truth will tear open old wounds that pierce straight to the heart of his family...

I had planned to read just a few chapters of Bring Her Home and found myself unable to stop.  A single father raising his beautiful headstrong daughter rushes to the hospital after having received word that she's been found after having disappeared for days.  She's been beaten and is barely recognizable but her best friend is barely recognizable from her deadly beating.

The police investigation leads the father to discover the crazy risks that his fifteen year old daughter has been taking.  He can't stay angry with her, he just wants her to wake up healthy.  

As the story progresses, there are even more uncomfortable discoveries.  He has to face the final days of his wife's life and that what he'd expected and understood might have been completely wrong.  

Bring Her Home is a well crafted and a thoroughly engrossing read! 

About the Author:
David Bell is a bestselling and award-winning author whose work has been translated into multiple foreign languages. He’s currently an associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he directs the MFA program. He received an MA in creative writing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a PhD in American literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati. His previous novels are Since She Went Away, Somebody I Used to KnowThe Forgotten GirlNever Come BackThe Hiding Place, and Cemetery Girl.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge
  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • ISBN-10: 1524713570 - Hardcover  $16.99
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (May 30, 2017), 176 pages.

The blurb:
Stephen Albie Bright leads a happy, normal life.  Well, as normal as it gets with two astrophysicist parents who named their son after their favorite scientists, Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein.

But then Albie's mother dies of cancer, and his world is shattered.  When his father explains that she might be alive in a parallel universe, Albie knows he has to find her. So, armed with a box, a laptop, and a banana, Albie sets out to do just that.

Of course, when you're universe-hopping for the very first time, it's difficult to find the one you want.  As Albie searches, he discovers some pretty big surprises about himself and our universe(s), and stumbles upon the answers to life's most challenging questions.

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright is the story of middle schooler Stephen Albie Bright, the son of two astrophyscists who named their sone after their favorite scientists, Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein.

When we meet Albie, his mother has just died. After the funeral, he overhears his grandfather blaming his mother's cancer on her research.  Albie hadn't spent much time alone with his father; his father was busy with his research on cold fusion, on his popular television series on science, and his bestselling books.  Albie had always spent much of his day with his mother. Another chance conversation about quantum physics leads Albie to the theory that parallel universes exist -- Albie hopes that he can find the parallel universe where his mother is still alive and well.

The school librarian, more a "book doctor who can prescribe the right book to anybody" steers Albie to one of his father's books.  With research, his mom's laptop and research journals, Albie somehow pieces together a contraption that takes him to new worlds.  Albie's adventures in these worlds hat are surprisingly similar but with small important differences helps him find a solution of sorts.

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright reminded me of one of my favorite books, A Wrinkle in Time.I loved that Christopher Edge incorporated science into the meat of the story and that he gave us awkward and believable Albie.  The story is told with humor, kindness and delivers a unique adventure.

About the Author:

CHRISTOPHER EDGE grew up in Manchester, England, where he spent most of his childhood in the local library dreaming up stories. He now lives in Gloucestershire, where he spends most of his time in the local library dreaming up stories. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an English teacher, an editor, and a publisher—any job that let him keep a book close at hand. He has written about encouraging children to read. When not writing, he also works as a freelance publisher and an education consultant.  Visit him at