Friday, April 6, 2018

April Reading

Circe by Madeline Miller
Remember way back in 2011, a gorgeous book called Song of Achilles? I have been waiting patiently for her next book...and it is finally here on April 10. Once again, as is obvious by the title, Miller returns to her Greek mythology roots. As a retired teacher who taught the Odyssey relentlessly, year after year, Miller picked one of my favorite characters on which to focus her incredible story-telling skills. Circe, the witch who 'imprisons' Odysseus and his men for over a year, sends them to the House of the Dead, tells them how to avoid Scylla and the Sirens, this gorgeous, frightening, intriguing, complicated woman finally gets her own story and it's a doozy. We see her youth in her father Helios' palace (yep, that Helios, the Sun God), her interplay with some creepy siblings and cousins, her first foray into witchery, the banishment to her island, and her dealings with a wide variety of characters from Greek mythology; don't forget - she's immortal so time just whizzes by. While it was a bit of a slow start for me, by about page 40 I was ensnared in Circe's world. This is a gorgeously written book of a historically misunderstood woman, imperfect yet capable of growth, weak yet learns strength, unlikable at times yet wholly admirable. I highly recommend:)

The Chalk Man b C.J. Tudor
This is a deliciously British mystery, dark and chilling, with some strangely compelling characters. The plot line trades places between the childhood of a small gang of children and thirty years later, as the boys have grown into men, the girl into a woman with secrets, and adults who are ill, dead, or have lots of skeletons in their own closets. Eddie Adams is the core of the story that everything swirls around; he has a wild crush on Nicki, the one girl in their crowd, he befriends the school teacher who helps him save a young girl's life after a horrifying carnival accident, and Eddie is also the one who creates the game of chalk. Their gang uses chalk messages and stick figures to communicate with one another, but when a dead body is found and chalk messages litter the forest, a mystery is born. This book will take a reader down a lot of dark alleys, through mazes of dead ends, give hints along the way, and leave one reeling all the way until the final chapter. I highly recommend listening to this one; the narrator has a marvelously clipped British accent, perfect for this creepy tale.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
This book is definitely a page-turner of a thriller. Laurel's daughter Ellie went missing ten years ago, yet Laurel's new love interest has a young daughter who looks strikingly like Ellie. As Floyd becomes incorporated into Laurel's life, author Lisa Jewell creates a cast of quirky characters: Hanna, the daughter Laurel has a complicated and negative relationship with; Noelle, the weird math tutor; Paul, the ex-husband who Floyd seems freakishly copy; and Poppy, Floyd's young daughter, brilliant, socially over-mature, homeschooled, and a dead ringer for Ellie. Yet with all this mystery, the book ultimately was a bit predictable for me, with too pat of an ending. Read in one day, this is a vacation read that won't let you down, but not one that will linger long in my mind. Thanks to Net Galley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Saint of Wolves and Butchers by Alex Grecian
The author of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad books (The Yard, etc.) has turned his attention to a new cast of characters in a new setting. Investigator Travis Roan has made his way to Kansas where he is in search of a Nazi who has hidden for decades. On his first day, he meets both Skottie Foster, a state patrol woman and Sheriff Goodman, a stereotypical small town lawman who does not want strangers in his territory. My favorite character, however, is Bear, Travis' humongous Tibetan mastiff, whose personality, bravery, and intelligence steals every scene. The hidden Nazi, Rudy Bormann, has gathered a creepy collection of acolytes around him while Travis' family organization supports his investigation. The plot line is unique and definitely gripping; in other words, I was compelled to keep turning pages. My one complaint would be the characters. At times, I felt that Skottie, a newly single mom who happens to be one of the rare African-American staters, was thinly drawn; so many deeper issues seemed to be plausible with her that I felt the author ignored. Ditto for Travis Roan, whose mysteriousness is intriguing but also makes me want a second book in order to delve deeper into how Travis came to be this human who fights those who lack humanity and honor. Well worth the read, but also worth a round two by the author to flush out these characters.

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