Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

  • ISBN-10: 0385531400 - Hardcover $26
  • Publisher: Doubleday (May 12, 2015), 304 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:
Jeremy Logan (The Third GateDeep Storm) is an "enigmalogist"—an investigator who specializes in analyzing phenomena that have no obvious explanation. In this newest novel Logan finds himself on the storied coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, where he has been retained by Lux, one of the oldest and most respected think tanks in America. Just days earlier, a series of frightening events took place in the sprawling seaside mansion that houses the organization. One of its most distinguished doctors began acting erratically—violently attacking an assistant in the mansion's opulent library and, moments later, killing himself in a truly shocking fashion. Terrified by the incident and the bizarre evidence left behind, the group hires Logan to investigate—discreetly—what drove this erudite man to madness.

His work leads him to an unexpected find. In a long-dormant wing of the estate, Logan uncovers an ingeniously hidden secret room, concealed and apparently untouched for decades. The room is a time capsule, filled with eerie and obscure scientific equipment that points to a top secret project long thought destroyed, known only as "Project S." Ultimately, the truth of what Project S was . . . and what has happened in that room . . . will put Logan in the path of a completely unexpected danger. 

When Jeremy Logan arrives at Lux in Newport, Rhode Island, it lead me to imagine  an elite think tank based in New Haven with Yale professors and graduates.  The mansion that Lux occupied could easily be one of the old mansions on an Ivy League campus. Certainly, the politics and backbiting and the perks of Lux were also reminiscent of highly productive professors.

While the "enigmatologist" does sound a little wacky, Lincoln Child presents both the field and the expert in such a logical way that it's easy to suspend disbelief and follow Jeremy Logan's investigations of the mysterious deaths.   I was fascinated by the architecture of this mansion and the idea behind The Forgotten Room.   The concept and execution were wonderfully done - such a fun, absorbing read!

About the Author:
Lincoln Child is the New York Times bestselling author of The Third GateTerminal Freeze,Deep StormDeath Match, and Utopia, as well as coauthor, with Douglas Preston, of numerous New York Times bestsellers, most recently Two Graves. He lives with his wife and daughter in Morristown, New Jersey.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott

  • Series: A Novel of the Four Arts (Book 1)
  • ISBN-10: 0451465393 - Mass Market Paperback $7.99
  • Publisher: Roc (April 28, 2015), 336 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:
Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…

I read The Shattered Court and loved it so much that I searched for M.J. Scott's other books.  

M.J. Scott has created a world where the throne is passed on to women in the royal line whose magic is strong enough to keep the country bountiful and healthy.  The country's tradition and religion has established rites such that women of royal blood who manifest magical powers are directed to marry and undergo a religious rite that binds their magical power to their spouses.  The country's court and culture is much like that of Elizabethan England with its strict mores and social structure.  Our heroine is a lady-in-waiting with a distant tie to the throne but with magical powers that will prove near legendary.

The emergence of magical powers comes at on one's 21st birthday.  Lady Sophia Kendall was far from the throne, only 32nd in line.  But an attack on the Court forces her to hide with Lt. Cameron Mackenzie and she comes of into her powers unexpectedly and without the traditional rites or protections.  Not only does Lady Sophia prove to be exceptional in her abilities and the strength of her magic, she is linked to Cameron and unable to be bound to another.

Sophia is seen as a uncertain power and a potential threat to the status quo.  While the Queen holds affection for her royal cousin, powers behind the throne prefer to remove Sophia's powers and the threat that she poses.  The Queen and her court are reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth of England - powerful, jealous, and a critically important ruler for the small nation trying to rule as best she can.

The young Sophia seeks to serve her Queen and her family but is largely unprepared for the maneuvering and ruthlessness that come with ruling a nation state.  She must learn to balance her principles with political reality and must do so as she fights for her life.  

I found Sophia a winning protagonist - loyal with a deep sense of honor but thrust into an impossible situation. She tries to remain loyal to her Queen but is uncomfortably aware that while she has the Queen's affection, she is not certain of her trust.  As Sophia struggles to prove her loyalty to Queen and state, she must learn to face deadly threats and keep her head.  The love story between Sophia and Cameron adds another layer of uncertainty and fun to a wonderful, engrossing read.  I can't wait to read what happens next!

About the Author:
M. J. Scott is an unrepentant bookworm. Luckily she grew up in a family that fed her a properly varied diet of books and these days is surrounded by people who are understanding of her story addiction. When not wrestling one of her own stories to the ground, she can generally be found reading someone else’s. Her other distractions include yarn, cat butlering, dark chocolate and fabric. She is the author of the Half-Light City novels: Shadow Kin, Blood Kin, and Iron Kin, and Fire Kin.She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Falling in Love: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon

  • ISBN-10: 0802123538 - Hardcover $ 26
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (April 7, 2015), 246 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

The blurb:
Donna Leon’s Death at La Fenice, the first novel in her beloved Commissario Guido Brunetti series, introduced readers to the glamorous and cutthroat world of opera and one of Italy’s finest living sopranos, Flavia Petrelli;then a suspect in the poisoning of a renowned German conductor. Years after Brunetti cleared her name, Flavia has returned to Venice and La Fenice to sing the lead in Tosca.

Brunetti and his wife, Paola, attend an early performance, and Flavia receives a standing ovation. Back in her dressing room, she finds bouquets of yellow roses —too many roses. Every surface of the room is covered with them. An anonymous fan has been showering Flavia with these beautiful gifts in London, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, and now, Venice, but she no longer feels flattered. A few nights later, invited by Brunetti to dine at his in-laws’ palazzo, Flavia confesses her alarm at these excessive displays of adoration. And when a talented young Venetian singer who has caught Flavia’s attention is savagely attacked, Brunetti begins to think that Flavia’s fears are justified in ways neither of them imagined. He must enter in the psyche of an obsessive fan before Flavia, or anyone else, comes to harm.


The latest Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery, Falling in Love, reintroduces the famous soprano Flavia Petrelli years after their first meeting at the start of Donna Leon's series.   Flavia is terrified by an extravagant secret admirer whose actions quickly escalate to stalking. Not only does she receive lavish gifts but somehow the giver is able to bypass security and leave these offering within Flavia's private spaces.  

Flavia is already uncomfortable with the public side of her profession.  As the admirer grows more and more bold, her fear and distress increase.  When victims of violent attacks are somehow linked to Flavia, it's clear that her admirer is building up to a dangerous climax.

Once again, Donna Leon delivers a delightful glimpse into Brunetti's Venice.  I particularly enjoyed the return of the old character, the friendship between Flavia and Brunetti adds another layer to the investigation.  Brunetti and Paola, their children and the political sparring all make Falling in Love a fun installment in one of my favorite detective series. 
About the Author:

A New Yorker of Irish/Spanish descent, Donna Leon first went to Italy in 1965, returning regularly over the next decade or so while pursuing a career as an academic in the States and then later in Iran, China and finally Saudi Arabia. Leon has received both the CWA Macallon Silver Dagger for Fiction and the German Corrine Prize for her novels featuring Commisario Guido Brunetti. She lives in Venice.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

  • ISBN-10: 1619634317 - Hardcover $17.99
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (July 7, 2015), 368 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.

The blurb:
As debutantes in 1890s New York City, cousins Dacia and Lou knew little about about their mysterious Romanian relatives, the Florescus. Now, upon turning seventeen, the girls must journey to Romania--a journey that seems to be both reward and punishment--to meet their cousins and their tyrant of a grandmother and to learn the secrets of their family. Secrets spoken of in whispers. Dangerous secrets known as the Claw, the Wing, and the Smoke.
But as dangerous as those family secrets might be, even more dangerous is the centuries-old bond between the Florescus and the royal Dracula family, and it seems that it's time for Dacia and Lou to give up their life in New York society and take their place among the servants of the Draculas. When the devilish heir, Mihai Dracula, sets his sights on Dacia as part of his evil, power-hungry plan, the girls must accept or fight against this cruel inheritance. Do they have the courage to break the shackles of their upbringing and set the course of their own destiny?

Debutantes from New York City travel to Europe to visit their powerful, wealthy and mysterious Romanian relatives.  Think Downton Abbey period - the girls lose friends on the Titanic.  

As the two cousins, Dacia and Lou, get closer to their destination, they notice that people have been acting strangely.  Their relatives have gotten more anxious and it's a surprise to see their independent aunt defer to the tyrannical grandmother.  Also, as they meet a prince and nobility, their last name provokes a strange reaction.  

As we learn about the shape shifting and the Florescu family's long tie to the Dracula family, Silver in the Blood gives us an unexpected twist.  Lou and Dacia are transformed and it's a delight to have Lou discover her power.  If you're looking for a historical fiction with a twist - think Gilded Age and werewolves - Silver in the Blood is treat!

About the Author:
Jessica Day George earned a BA in Humanities/Comparative Literature from Brigham Young University, where she enjoyed classes in Pottery and Old Norse, and dutifully forced herself to take Algebra and Biology. Originally from Idaho, she now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three young children.  To learn more,   visit Jessica at