Friday, May 18, 2018

May 2.0

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Admittedly, I am a big fan of Ruth Ware; she writes very quintessential British mysteries, full of interesting characters, always uses a female lead, and is darn good with the ending 'twist.' I loved In a Dark, Dark Wood, really liked Woman in Cabin 10, and thought The Lying Game was okay. In Mrs. Westaway, Ware has her mojo back. Hal, a lonely young woman, deals tarot cards on the Brighton pier, has some serious money issues and a nasty loan shark, and has recently received a letter telling her that as Mrs. Westaway's granddaughter, she has an inheritance coming. All good, right? Yeah, nope. All of Hal's paperwork shows her grandparents' names and none of them are Westaway, she's never heard of this family, and it would literally take her last dime to get a train out to Penzance. can she not go? Who better to pull off a con than a fortune teller? As Ware spools out the threads (three uncles she's never met, a forbidding and creepy housekeeper, a diary from a teenage girl, a creaky cold Cornwall mansion, and some prophetic magpies), I followed quite a few hints down wrong roads. This book kept me turning pages long past when I should have - great vacation read, or for a rainy day, or just for anyone that loves a solid mystery.

Furyborn (The Empirium Trilogy #1) by Claire Legrand
Take all the most incredibly creative ingredients from other fantasy novels: shades of HP (tournament, dementors, trio of friends, prophecies), Hunger Games trilogy (tournament costumes), Game of Thrones series (army of the dead, flying creatures), Shadow and Bone trilogy (different magical skills for cliques of people), Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy (angels for antagonists). And now mix it all together with Claire Legrand's natural affinity for gorgeous writing, a creative and beautifully drawn fantasy world, a gripping plot, and complex and deeply developed characters, and here is a new hit fantasy series. This book is wicked good; its characters invaded my nighttime dreams, made me stay up waaaay too late at night, and made me voraciously hungry for the second book.

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin  Powers
In 2012, Kevin Powers wrote his award winning debut novel called Yellow Birds, an evocative and unforgettable story of the Iraq war. Six years later he is back with another powerful and confronting story, this time set in the South. The story spins throughout time periods: the Beauvais plantation as its inhabitants face the cruelty of enslavement and the brutality of Civil War; Virginia in the 1950's as an old man searches for his identity; and the 1980's as a woman reflects back on her life. Through these brief snapshots of life, Powers forces us to see what our American history of racism, enslavement, and lack of opportunity has done to all of us, whatever race we may be. The power of hate and how it entraps all humanity is shown to be insidious and powerful. This is not a book to be read when falling asleep; one needs all their emotions right on the surface, all their wits about them as the setting changes, and all their own cultural biases at the forefront to see the beauty in this book. This would be a phenomenal book club choice, and also a powerful read for a high school or college classroom, particularly in today's world as we continue to see the consequences of terrible decisions made hundreds of years ago.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
This is a delightful, witty, very British romp through time as we meet Tom Hazard, a man who happens to be over 400 years old, living in today's world. You see, he has a physical anomaly - for every decade of life, he only ages one year. Sounds great, right? Yet it has caused Tom a plethora of stress and tragedy throughout the ages as it requires him to move constantly (it gets a little noticeable when you don't get any older than your neighbors!) and lessens the ability for long term relationships when you outlive a spouse by a few hundred years. We meet Tom as he has taken a new job teaching history in a London school, creating many opportunities to go on past reminisces on the people he has met (Shakespeare, Captain Cook, F. Scott Fitzgerald), the adventures he has experienced (wild west America, Tahiti during the height of colonialism, the roaring twenties), and the family for which he yearns. I was thoroughly entertained by Matt Haig's dry humor and thoughtful explorations of love, friendship, and the passage of time.

Legendary (Caraval, #2) by Stephanie Garber
In the first visit to Caraval, we met the two fearless sisters, Tessa and Donatello, as they escaped their nasty father and won the golden ticket to play the game of Caraval, a magical romp put on by the mysterious magician called Legend. This second trip is mind-blowing, wickedly delicious, and contains an unstoppable train of events. Tella is the player now, and a dark, foreboding pall hangs over this game as the elderly empress has demanded a special playing for her birthday celebration. Unbeknownst to Tella, the Fates (a super creepy batch of creatures) have been trapped in a deck of cards for quite some time and want out. Her 'pretend' fiance for the game happens to be the Prince of Hearts who is looking to free his buddies from their flattening confinement, as well as dangling the possibility of saving Tella's long-lost mother as part of a deadly bargain. The sisters have some impossible choices in front of them, which forced me to stay up waaay too late to voraciously read to the very end, where of course I got a bit of a cliffhanger as I wait impatiently for Book Three. She does, however, wrap up this storyline which is much appreciated:) Stephanie Garber is a magician herself as she is able to create a gorgeous yet forbidding fantasy world, write complex characters that act in oh so human ways, and design a twisty turning plot that demands to be read. While I loved Caraval, I do believe Legendary is even better.

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