A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

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A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

So, this is the continuing saga of the village of Knightsbridge that started with the building of the cathedral in Pillars of the Earth”.  If that was an epic trilogy, this one was equally as intriguing.

Starting with the reign of Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) and ending with the plot to blow up Parliament and King James, the book follows the villagers through Catholic and Protestant struggles during the Tudor legacy.  For those that don’t know….Mary was Catholic and hated Protestants.  Elizabeth was Protestant and allegedly more accommodating of Catholics, but ended up executing a whole mess of Priests.  King James extended her legacy.  So basically lots of bloodshed spilled in the name of religion.

The book crosses oceans….it bounces between England, Spain for a brief time, Netherlands for even briefer, and a long journey into France.

I love Follett’s books because they are proper sagas.  Spanning at least 80 years, the reader sees families grow up and change.  They also see how others relate to each other.  There are SEVERAL villains in this book, and man, they are the WORST!  Luckily, their ends are usually justified and are satisfying to the reader.  The “heroes” of this book are the people who realize that tolerance and acceptance is the way forward.  While they have to play politics and sometimes do things they aren’t proud of, if they had their way, people could worship and live in peace as needed.

I enjoyed this more than the Pillars series…maybe it was because I know the period of history that is discussed.  I went through a major Tudor period a few years ago, so Queen Elizabeth is my knowledge base.

 

Also, I saw Hamilton….and I LOVED IT!!!  The book was good, and the musical definitely lived up to the hype.  I’ve been singing the soundtrack for like  two weeks now.  And on Sunday I’ll be taking a dance class with a member of the cast.  Should be fun.

…..and another thing….if you’re in Boston on Saturday October 13, stop by the Sisters in Crime NE booth from 10-11 and say hi!  I have some book swag for my upcoming mystery!

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Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Let me get this out of the way first.  I unabashedly love Hank.  Her books are awesome sure, but she’s also a super awesome human being.

Most of those in my area may know her from being the lead investigative reporter in Boston Channel 7 News.  She brings that same investigative skills to her books as well.  Her Jane Ryland series got me hooked.  Set in Boston, it follows a one time tv reporter to the world of newspapers and of course murder and mayhem.  Plus, the detective Jake is dreamy.  Or he is at least the way I imagine him.

Anyway, so just this past month, she released her newest novel:

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Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan

It’s a standalone novel, centered around the court case of a young mother accused of murdering her child.  For those in the Boston area, it is reminiscent of the “Baby Doe” case that gripped the city a few years ago.  The only difference is, the mother more closely resembles Casey Anthony than a drug addicted woman.  While trying to pull herself out of a depression, former reporter Mercer is assigned to follow the case for a potential book.  Everyone knows Ashlyn (the mother) is guilty.  Mercer thinks it as well.  The first part of the book follows the trial and is interspersed with Mercer’s notes/write ups.  They clearly signify Ashlyn’s guilt.

The second part of the book takes a turn as Mercer and Ashlyn are thrown together.  I won’t spoil how, but it has to do with the book.  Ashlyn seems to be a master manipulator, and even the reader starts to wonder if they got everything wrong.

The mystery at the end is wrapped up tidily, which was a bit of a disappointment.  I thought the end could’ve used a little more explanation.  But, at the same time….fans of shows on Discovery ID will like this book for the courtroom drama.  I definitely wanted to read to the end to find out it if the reader ever learns if Ashlyn is really guilty or not.

Hank is so good at making a good beach/winter read.  And as a Massachusetts person, I love reading books set in Boston.  It makes me feel like I’m part of the action!

So Many Books….So Little Time

I’ve been MIA recently..and it’s for a good reason!

I started a new job last week, and I’m actually busy with work.  I ended up having a week off between jobs, and I read/finished about 5 books.  I probably should’ve wrote about them then, but I got distracted by starting my second book in the Baseball Mysteries.  I need to get words on paper!

Also, I now have to write monthly blog posts with my publisher, Pandamoon Publishing, so sometimes I get so wrapped up in that that I forget to tell you about all the good books I’ve read lately.

This is just a tiny sampling, but I wanted to reommend them.

First Up:

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Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Like any girl of a certain age, I can remember one of my first crushes being the Fox from Disney’s Robin Hood.  I mean, how cute was he?  I also remember falling in love with the Robin Hood myth/story at that moment.

This book is a re-telling of Robin Hood, but with one twist.  Will Scarlet is a woman!   And, ***spoiler alert***

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ALSO MAID MARIAN!

Dead.  I died.  So good.  I finished the book last night, and I’m waiting anxiously for my Book Outlet order to come with the other two books in the series.  There was adventure! Romance!  Tough women!  Knives!  Fights! Humor!  Yeah, I was a bit into it.  And of course it has made me want to go back and watch more Robin Hood things.  I loved the BBC version, and hope I can find it on Netflix/Amazon for this weekend!  (Before the Pats game of course!)

Okay, now an ARC review.

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Treacherous is the Night by Anna Lee Huber

I’ve written before about my love for Anna Lee Huber’s work, and this book just continues the love.  The new  Verity Kent mystery doesnt’ come out until September 25, but I was lucky enough to be approved for an early copy on NetGalley.com.

Guys.

It was good.  Verity is dealing with the fact that her husband has returned from the dead, but also her past as a “spy” during the war is now coming to light and dangerous things are afoot.  Someone is murdering members of “La Dame Blanche”, a network of women who were working for the allies during the war.  This leads Verity to hunt down one of her former partners in espinoge to ensure their safety.  What follows is a trip through war torn Belgium and France as her and Simon follow clues to the elusive woman.

I loved.  Much like I lover her Lady Darby mysteries.  So another two thumbs up for me.

And finally….

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European Travel for Monsterous Gentlewomen by Theodora Goss

This one was WAY better than the first one, but don’t read this unless you’ve read “The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.”  That book provides the background you need to follow the exploits of the newly formed Athena Club.  Made up of the daughters of famous horror villians, these women find a bond with each other that no one in the “real” world understands.  And of course there are nefarious plans being hatched by the villians of their own stories and new villians that they alone can stop.  This book takes the reader out of London and through a little jaunt through Europe….starting in Vienna and ending in Budapest….oh, and there is the Orient Express too!  It was a fun ride, and the heroine’s are split up a for a time that really gives the reader a chance to learn more about each character which I enjoyed.

So, there is a little bit of everything this week.

Stay Tuned next Spring for my book!

And read my blog over at Pandamoon Publishing

As always, you can find me on twitter @nanazlyn (I write about the books I read there a lot too).

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

If I could just give a book *heart eyes* I would.  This book is like a million *heart eyes*.  I read this book between 8am and 3pm in one day!  (Thank goodness for the second to last day of work giving me the time!).

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I wanted to read the book before the Netflix film premiered….and….well…I’m now so ready to watch it.  My Friday night is booked!

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Set immediately after WWII, the book is told in letters.  Mostly between author Juliet and her best friends Sidney (also her publisher) and his sister Sophie (her oldest friend from school).  After acclaim for her wartime work, Juliet is looking for inspiration which comes in the form of a letter from the Channel Island of Guernsey.  Occupied during WWII by Germans, the islanders created their own clandestine society.  Started out of an illicit pig roast, when caught after curfew by Germans, member Elizabeth comes up with the idea for the literary society.  Potato Peel Pie is one of the rationed creations created by islanders.

Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey, former pig farmer, who found her name and address in an old book sold on the island.  Intrigued by the story of the literary society, Juliet starts a correspondence with the members of the group.  Learning their stories, she decided to go to the island for more information.  The islanders welcome her with open arms and open the society’s doors for her.  She learns more about life during the occupation, and starts a relationship with a young girl whose mother was taken off to a Concentration Camp for assisting German prisoners.  The story of Elizabeth and Kit is heartbreaking, but it is interspersed with lovely stories of the rest of the islanders taking over Kit’s care.  It made me want to pack up everything and move to the island.  Even though I had never heard of it until this book!

I honestly can’t say anything bad about this book….other than it was too short!  I need more stories of the cast of characters.  I also can’t wait to watch the show.

Also, it’s a tragic story of how the book was written too.  A labor of love by Mary Ann Shaffer, the book was started in the 1980’s.  By the time it was sold and being worked, she became ill and couldn’t get the stamina to continue writing.  She tapped her niece, Anne Barrows, the only other writer in the family.  She completed the book, but Mary Ann died before seeing how well received the book was.

If you’re in a book club, read this book!  It’s the perfect book to talk about.  Even in the midst of horrible war stories, there is a beautiful heart on this island that is just amazing.

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Anxiety

So, I’ve just recently had several bouts of anxiety that I’m not quite sure how to deal with.  I’m seeking help, b/c it’s annoying to deal with.  I’ve even started having random panic attacks which make every day life hard.  Luckily, they aren’t as severe as others, but still enough to disrupt life.  My anxiety mostly centers around travel, and in August I’m trying to head down to NYC for the Writer’s Digest Conference.  Everything is booked….and I was supposed to go last year….but that darn anxiety got the best of me.  So, here’s hoping that I can get my stuff together for a four day trip out of town.

Which, leads me to the book I want to talk about in this post.

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Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan

Now, you might be saying to yourself….”what is Nicole talking about….this looks like a good old fashioned historical mystery, not some treatise on anxiety.”  And you’d be right.  It is a good old fashioned historical mystery (set in Boston no less!).  BUT it also depicts a character who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks as well.  And it doesn’t define him in the end, and he learns how to cope with the help of a sassy former debutante.

I get ahead of myself though.  Hamish DeLuca was a going to be a lawyer until a panic attack in the courtroom drove him from Toronto to Boston where his cousin was setting up the new Flamingo nightclub.  Regina Van Buren (yes, one of those Van Buren’s), Reggie to her friends, escaped a mundane life of high society in Connecticut to become the secretary for Hamish’s cousin.  She always wanted to be like the self-sufficient women she saw at the pictures, and this is the first step to her new life.  The office is located in the North End, with cannoli’s galore, and shady characters around every turn.

The Flamingo opens to great success, and becomes even more of a destination when a dead body is found in the club.  Hamish and Reggie think it’s murder, while everyone else wants to sweep it under the rug as a tragic accident.  Is it the mob?  Careless accident?  Jealous boyfriend?  Random gentlemen in the club?  The two decide to crack the case and on the way learn some surprising truths about themselves.

I enjoyed this immensely.  It was a great introduction to the characters and the city of Boston.  I can’t wait to follow the trail of the newly minted detectives in further books!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Guys, the hype is well deserved for this book. (Now the inaugural book for Jimmy Fallon’s Book Club)

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The book reads like a movie.  I was entranced from the first chapter.  In a world with out magic, Zelie remembers a time before the “raid” with her family and their magic.  The current king eradicated the country of magic, which included Zelie’s mother.  As a young diviner, she is considered the lowest of the low and treated as such by the royal guards.  They harass her and other villagers on orders of the King to try and keep them kicked down.  Secretly trained in fighting by Mama Agba, Zelie is constantly searching for a way to help her family and friends.  Then suddenly everything changes.

The young princess of the country escapes with a sacred magical object and runs into Zelie while fleeing the guards. Zelie learns that magic isn’t gone forever, but needs to be brought back through a sacred ritual that only she, her brother, and the princess can complete.  Thus starts an adventure across the country.  A large cache of characters come and go in her life that all help lead her to where she needs to go.  Does the Princess really believe in her cause?  Will they make it to the sacred island before time runs out?  Who could she really trust?

The character of Zelie is astounding.  She is a flawed hero that makes mistakes, doubts herself, and tries to do the right thing.  She doesn’t always succeed, which makes the book super realistic even in the midst of the magical fantasy.

I was in it from the beginning.  And then the Author’s note at the back of the book broke me.  As a white woman, I know I can’t understand the struggles of POC in today’s society.  I just know that reading the note at the end and the attached articles make me want to make the world a better place.  This is the same feeling I got reading “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas too…..another great book.  Empathy is important, and I think this world could use more of it, especially with all that is going on in the US right now.#FamiliesBelongTogether

I cannot wait to see this on the big screen….and for the further adventures!  The book ends on a cliffhanger so big that I don’t know how I’m going to make it until the next book comes out.  Thanks Tomi Adeyemi!  One of my favorites of the year!

Current Book Obsessions

I have a lot of books in my TBR pile.  Like, a lot.  Up to about 400.  So, I’ve been trying to read like a crazy person to put a dent in the pile.  But, I’ve become obsessed with a few series over the past few months that I just had to talk about.

First, The Red Queen Series by Victoria Aveyard.

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The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Currently at four books (and some short stories), this series hooked me from the first book.  Mare Barrow lives in a world that is divided by blood.  Mainly, the ruling “Silvers” and the lowly “Reds”.  There is an undercurrent of rebellion in the red community, but Mare doesn’t have the drive to join the group until all her brothers are conscripted into the never ending war against the Lakelanders.  The Reds are used as cannon fodder for the Silver soldiers.  When given the opportunity to work in the palace of the Silver king, she takes the opportunity.  When a freak accident at the Queens trial reveals that Mare is something all together new, the manipulative Queen Elara brings her into the fold of the family under the guise of helping her family.  The Silvers have various powers that can  be called upon, and now Mare is found to have powers that were never seen before.  Known as a “newblood”, Mare must navigate family politics, dangerous Silvers, and the growing rebellion in the Red camp.

The next few books in the series follow the rebellion….does Mare join up with the rebels?  Will she survive against the Queen?  Can she find and save other New bloods?  I just got the fourth book, War Storm, and it’s crazy big.  But I’m cracking it open this weekend and hope I can spend the time out on the deck with the cats and a breeze.

The second obsession, The Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir

 

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Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Huh.  Weird…..this is also a book that involves an overpowering regime and a scrappy band of rebels.  With supernatural elements.  I think I sense a theme.

Laila, daughter of notorious rebels, escapes arrest in which her grandparents are murdered and her brother captured.  She finds her way to the same rebels her mother worked for and promises to spy in the notorious military academy in exchange for breaking her brother out of prison.  Of course, things aren’t always as they seem.  She encounters the sadistic martial of the academy, but also manages to make an uneasy alliance with Elias, the unwilling student looking for a way out.  Oh yeah, and he’s also the daughter of the head of the school.  There is an element of mystery that there is some shadowy figure looking to take over the ruling party, but that doesn’t really play out until the next book.  The newest book, A Reaper at the Gates, just came out and again it’s on my pile to read and I can’t wait to crack that one open too!

Another obsession is the author V.E. Schwab (Victoria Schwab)

Not only is she a great follow on the twitter/Instagram, her writing is just so good.

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Vicious by V.E. Schwab

The first book in the Villains duology.   Victor and Eli were college roommates from different sides of the tracks.  They became best friends until a shared research project goes horribly wrong, killing a person and leaving them with “extraordinary abilities.”  The book jumps forward ten years, Victor was in prison for attempted murder, and Eli is on a separate mission to get rid of those with these extra abilities.  Once friends, now arch enemies, this book leads to their ultimate showdown.  The second book in the series comes out this fall, Vengeful, and I”ve already pre-ordered it.

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The Shades of Magic series shows the parallel worlds of London (Red, Grey, White, and the mysterious Black London).  Kell is the last of his kind who can travel between Londons with the help of a special token and magic.  Some London’s have more magic (Red, White), while the other London has no magic (Grey).  Kell is protected in his own London by being best friends with the Prince, and has determined to be his bodyguard as well.

When a trip to Grey London goes wrong, he encounters Delilah Bard, a thief with aspirations of being a pirate.  One of my favorite characters ever BTW.  She saves him, and he repays her by spiriting her away to another world.  The books provide a nice bit of escapism that we so desperately need in this world now.  I’m in the midst of the third book, A Conjuring of Light, at the moment, so I hope it continues to blow me away.

Finally, I just finished this book last night, and it was so good.

 

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A Different Kind of Evil by Andrew Wilson

I didn’t know this was the second in the series, but I really enjoyed it anyway.  So, it’s Agatha Christie, crime-fighter!  She’s still the same person, but now she finds herself assisting the British Secret Intelligence Service,  investigating a murder of an agent in the Canary Islands.  She is also using it as an excuse to continue her next novel and also get away from the drama in her life in England.  Traveling with her secretary Carlo, and young daughter Rosalind, she boards a cruise ship to head to her destination.  While on board, she witnesses a suicide.  Saddened by the event, she continues on the trip to the resort that she intended.  Featuring a diverse set of characters, Agatha finds herself in many precarious situations as she investigates the murder (s) on the island.  I was a big fan of this mystery and will probably go back and read the first one too!

And now, something completely different:

If you are horrified like I am at the thought of children being separated from their asylum seeking families at the border, please consider marching next weekend (June 30th) in support and also donating money to an organization to help those families become reunited.

One such organization is https://www.raicestexas.org/ their site has been inundated with support, and they have links to follow for other information.  #resist