Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday 56: Not in the Flesh by Ruth Rendell

It's been over a year since I've participated in the Friday 56.  When I used to do this, I'd link up with Storytime with Tonia and Friends but that blog has since disappeared.  This is new for me, linking up at Freda's Voice - hope that you enjoy my Friday 56.

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56 or 56% on your e-reader/
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Freda's Voice at
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

About Not in the Flesh by Ruth Rendell
A new Chief Inspector Wexford mystery from the author who Time magazine has called “the best mystery writer in the English-speaking world.”

When the truffle-hunting dog starts to dig furiously, his master’s first reaction is delight at the size of the clump the dog has unearthed: at the going rate, this one truffle might be worth several hundred pounds. Then the dirt falls away to reveal not a precious mushroom but the bones and tendons of what is clearly a human hand.

In Not in the Flesh, Chief Inspector Wexford tries to piece together events that took place eleven years earlier, a time when someone was secretly interred in a secluded patch of English countryside. Now Wexford and his team will need to interrogate everyone who lives nearby to see if they can turn up a match for the dead man among the eighty-five people in this part of England who have disappeared over the past decade. Then, when a second body is discovered nearby, Wexford experiences a feeling that’s become a rarity for the veteran policeman: surprise.

As Wexford painstakingly moves to resolve these multiple mysteries, long-buried secrets are brought to daylight, and Ruth Rendell once again proves why she has been hailed as our greatest living mystery writer.

Here's my Friday 56 (from my Kindle):
"These two self-appointed vigilantes had somehow convinced themselves that it was their job to police that house.  Or had it all been a simple by voracious curiosity?"

About the Author, courtesy of Amazon::
Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE (born 17 February 1930), who also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, is an English crime writer, author of psychological thrillers and murder mysteries. In addition to police procedurals starring her most iconic creation, Chief Inspector Wexford, Rendell writes psychological crime novels exploring such themes as romantic obsession, misperceived communication, the impact of chance and coincidence, and the humanity of the criminals involved. Among such books are A Judgement In Stone, The Face of Trespass, Live Flesh, Talking to Strange Men, The Killing Doll, Going Wrong and Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. Many credit her and close friend P. D. James for upgrading the entire genre of whodunit, shaping it more into a whydunit.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

The blurb:
In 2083, chocolate and caffeine are illegal, water is carefully rationed, books are scarce, and New York City is rife with poverty and crime.
And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine.  But when she finds herself falling for the son of the new assistant district attorney, and her ex-boyfriend is poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures, Anya is unwillingly thrust into the spotlight - in the news, and more importantly, within her mafiya family.

All These Things I've Done is brilliant and hilarious and I couldn't put it down.  In the NYC of 2083 that Zevin has created, anyone can purchase alcohol and cigarettes as long as they have the "vouchers" but paper (and paper books), chocolate and caffeine have been outlawed.  Teens go to illegal speakeasies for a taste of coffee and chocolate.  The Egyptian Wing of Metropolitan Museum has been turned into a disco. 

The heroine of the novel is Anya Balanchine.  An orphan who is under the guardianship of her bedridden and occasionally delusional grandmother, Anya takes care of everyone in her family from her brilliant younger sister to her older, impaired brother.  Fortunately, Anya doesn't do this alone. She has the help of her family lawyer, her oldest and best friend, and a gorgeous and fascinating newcomer named Win.   Win is the son of the new assistant district attorney, so Anya is wary of revealing family secrets (contraband, illegal  speakeasies, mafiya secrets). But when Anya is thrown in a juvenile detention center, it's Win who intervenes. 

All These Things I've Done is written in a fresh, engaging voice and introduces us to some of the most sympathetic and interesting characters that I've come across in a long time.  Not only are Anya and her friends witty but they find themseles in unusual predicaments.  The plot twists, characters and dialogue make All These Things I've Done a fantastic read!
ISBN-10: 1250010284 - Paperback $9.99
Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (May 8, 2012), 384 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:
Gabrielle Zevin is an American author and screenwriter. She graduated from Harvard in 2000 with a degree in English & American Literature and still lives in New York.   Zevin's first writing job was as a teen music critic for her local newspaper. Her first novel Elsewhere was published in 2005. It was nominated for a 2006 Quill award, won the Borders Original Voices Award, and was a selection of the Barnes & Noble Book Club. It also made the Carnegie long list. The book has been translated into seventeen languages. In 2007 Zevin was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay for Conversations with Other Women which starred Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart and was also directed by Hans Canosa.the author of the national bestseller Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, as well as two novels for adults, Margarettown and The Hole We're In. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shadow and Bone: Book One of the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

The blurb:  Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

Chosen as one of Amazon's top YA books for 2012, Shadow and Bone is the sort of adventure story that I love.  The heroine, Alina Starkov, was raised as an orphan with her best friend Malyen Oretsev in the house of their benefactor Duke Keramsov.   As the children grew up, they were trained to serve in the army: Alina as a cartographer and Mal as a tracker.  

For as long as they could remember, their country had been battling a growing "Shadow Fold" of darkness with flesh eating monsters called volka.  While on reconnaissance, Mal was attacked by one of the mythic volka and when Anika tried to save him, they discovered her unusual magical powers.  Anika is whisked to the capital to be protected, trained, and to fight to dispel the Shadow Fold.  But she discovers that her enemies are not limited to the flesh eating volka, that enemies and allies at court can be far more dangerous than monsters. 

Anika learns to navigate dangers and intrigues of court and seems to come into her own.  But betrayal comes when she least expects it.  Help comes from an unexpected source and Anika must find a way to save herself, her oldest friend, and the nation that she loves from an overpowering force.  Shadow and Bone is a story about loyalty and friendship and an unimaginable challenge.  It's beautifully written and deeply engrossing.  I am eagerly awaiting the next two books in the series.

Ages 12 and up.
ISBN-10: 0805094598 - Hardcover $17.99
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (June 5, 2012), 368 pages.
Review copy courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher.

About the Author:
Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, raised in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. She indulges her fondness for glamour, ghouls, and costuming in her other life as a makeup artist in Hollywood, and she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

Monday, February 18, 2013

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

The blurb:
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child.  Now sixteen, she makes her way as Matron's assistant on the grounds of the remote estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans. . . and assassins.  Only when Nisha begins a forbidden flirtation with a handsome young courtier does she let herself imagine a life outside the city's walls.  Until, one by one, girls around her start to die.

City of a Thousand Dolls is set in a fantasy world governed by an Emperor, nobles and a caste system.  Individuals have few personal freedoms and membership in a tribe, group or powerful family is essential. 

Families are only allowed to have two children. To support this strict requirement, the kingdom supports the City of a Thousand Dolls which accepts, trains, and places young girls.  Once accepted into the City, the girls lose their previous caste and they are all supposedly treated equally.  The City has several different Houses, each with their own area of specialization:  House of Music, House of Pleasure, House of Discipline, House of Shadows, House of Combat, and House of Flowers.  Every year, the City holds a Redeeming. During the Redeeming ceremony, the City has an elaborate masquerade and a grand party to show off the novices in the best possible light. Those 16 years old will be presented to nobles, healers, merchants, and the general public for pairing.  Each girl waits and hopes for a formal announcement that she's spoken for - and to discover the life that she'll soon live. 

Our heroine, Nisha, was left at the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was 6 years old and too old to be placed in one of the Houses. Instead, the Matron raised her to serve as her personal assistant and her eyes and ears in the City.  Nisha is not comfortable with her role as spy, but she acknowledges that the information she relays has occasionally been used to move a girl from an unhappy position to a more suitable one.  Nisha is not particularly popular.  Her plain clothes and lack of connections occasionally leave her open to the taunts of the beautiful and popular girls.  Though her best friend Tanaya helps make up the worst days. They first met when girls from the Flower House were taunting Nisha and Tanaya swooped down to tell them off.  Tanaya is noble, beautiful, and will soon be the most famous and highborn of all the girls to have ever lived in the City of a Thousand Dolls as has been matched with the Prince. 

When we meet Nisha, she's sixteen and hoping to escape her life in the City. She's fallen in love with a young noble and risks the punishment of death to regularly meet with him.  She dreams that he'll speak up for her during the Redeeming.  Though, like a good adventure/mystery, there are other factors in play.  A young girl is found dead, possibly murdered.  The loss of the income from the girl's "redeeming" and the new head of the Council have decided that Nisha can be withdrawn from the roster for the Redeeming and will instead be sold as a bond slave to cover the cost of her ten years of training in the City.  This could mean a life as a slave if Nisha is unable to repay her purchase price.  Nisha may lose everything unless she can come  up with a plan acceptable to the Council. 

Nisha faces dark opponents and hidden enemies.  But she has her own secret allies. She has the unique ability to speak to the many cats in the City - they comfort her and help her during these turbulent times.  While she does not know much about her parents, their legacy lingers and resurfaces when she needs them most.

In City of a Thousand Dolls, Forster gives us a new and entertaining young adult fantasy novel that is very much a story of friendship, intrigue, and loyalty.

ISBN-10: 0062121308 - Hardcover $17.99
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 5, 2013), 368 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Prime program and the publisher.

About the Author:
Miriam Forster lives in Idaho with her husband.  City of a Thousand Dolls is her debut novel.  You can visit Miriam online at  and follow her on twitter @miriamforster