Review: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d

thrice-the-brinded-cat-hath-mewdAlan Bradley, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d

Flavia is thrilled to be back in England after her Canadian adventure at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, but she soon discovers that all is not well at Buckshaw. Her oldest sister Feely is in a fight with her fiancé Dieter, and her annoying cousin Undine won’t leave her alone. Most upsetting of all, her father is sick with pneumonia, and she’s not even allowed to visit him in the hospital. Desperate for a distraction, Flavia agrees to run an errand for the vicar’s wife, delivering a message to the woodcarver who is refurbishing the church. But when Flavia arrives at the woodcarver’s residence, she discovers the man hanging upside-down from his bedroom door, quite dead. Of course, she jumps at the chance to solve another murder, which leads her to uncover a decades-old conspiracy involving a famous author. But as always, Flavia’s investigative skills are so sharp that she finds herself in danger.

I’m a longtime fan of the Flavia de Luce series, so I enjoyed this latest installment. However, I’m starting to feel so sad for Flavia that the books are becoming less fun to read. In the first few books, Flavia and her sisters are constantly fighting, but you get the sense that, deep down, they do care for each other. In this book, the arguments are so mean-spirited and brutal that it’s really no fun to read. Flavia also seems particularly isolated in this book; her father is almost entirely off page, her sisters ignore her when they’re not actively being cruel, and she doesn’t seem to have any friends at all (except the vicar’s wife). The ending of this book seems to indicate an even bleaker future for Flavia, and if that’s the case, the series might actually be too depressing for me to continue. I also didn’t love the mystery in this one, although I was happy to see some interaction between Flavia and her former teacher Mrs. Bannerman. Overall, I found this book somewhat disappointing, and I’m not sure I’ll be continuing with the series (although I may try one more book just to see if things improve).

Top Ten Tuesday: Better late than never

Top 10 TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is 2016 releases you haven’t read yet, but you totally plan to! At first I thought I’d have trouble coming up with my list, but actually it was embarrassingly easy to list ten 2016 releases I *intend* to read but haven’t gotten to yet! Here they are, in publication order:

1. Alison Goodman, The Dark Days Club (1/26/16) — I believe it was Emma at The Terror of Knowing who described this book as “Jane Austen meets Buffy.” Even though the undead aren’t normally my speed, I’m intrigued!

2. Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, These Vicious Masks (2/9/16) — “Jane Austen meets X-Men,” according to Amazon! I’m sensing a theme here.

3. V.E. Schwab, A Gathering of Shadows (2/23/16) — I’ve got to read this one in February, before A Conjuring of Light comes out!

4. Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, My Lady Jane (6/7/16) — Santa, in the form of a good friend, came through and gave me this book for Christmas! It sounds like a blast, and I can’t wait to read it!

5. William Ritter, Ghostly Echoes (8/23/16) — I really enjoyed Jackaby and have been wanting to read the sequels ever since. Unfortunately, I still need to read Beastly Bones first, but I’ll get to this one eventually!

6. Genevieve Cogman, The Masked City (9/6/16) — The Invisible Library was one of my favorite books of 2016, so I’m definitely looking forward to the sequels.

7. Seanan McGuire, Once Broken Faith (9/6/16) — I’ve been a fan of the Toby Daye series since the beginning, but I’m a couple books behind at this point. Still need to read the previous book, A Red-Rose Chain, before I get to this one!

8. Jessica Cluess, A Shadow Bright and Burning (9/20/16) — The premise of this one — magic school + 19th century + romance/banter — is so intriguing to me! Definitely hoping to get to it this year.

9. Stephanie Burgis, Congress of Secrets (11/1/16) — A novel set during the Congress of Vienna, where the protagonists have secret identities, and one of them is a con man…with magic? I want to go to there.

10. Stephanie Scott, Alterations (12/6/16) — I’ve mentioned this one before, so I won’t bother to summarize again. It looks cute, and I’ve already bought it for my Nook, so it is on for 2017!

Bout of Books 18 Wrap-up

Bout of Books 18

Bout of Books 18 concluded yesterday, and I’m counting my readathon a success! I was hoping to read two books from start to finish, and I did: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley. (I also finished Crosstalk by Connie Willis.) I really enjoyed all three books I read this past week! Additionally, I wanted to participate in at least one Twitter chat, and I ended up doing both. So I’m very happy with my progress and will almost definitely be back for Bout of Books 19 in May. If you participated this time around, what did you read?

Review: The Hating Game

hating-game-theSally Thorne, The Hating Game

If Lucy Hutton is certain about anything in her life, it’s that she and Joshua Templeman hate each other. As executive assistants to the co-CEOs of their company, they’ve been professional rivals for years, and each of them knows exactly how to get under the other one’s skin. Now they’re both up for the same promotion, and Lucy is determined to beat out Joshua for the job. If that means spending all her energy in coming up with passive-aggressive ways to annoy him, so be it. But when a particularly vicious argument somehow turns into an explosive kiss, everything changes. As Lucy reevaluates her history with Joshua, she realizes that maybe her intense feelings for him can’t entirely be explained by hatred. And maybe, contrary to her longstanding belief, Joshua doesn’t actually hate her at all. But will Lucy have the courage to change the game?

This book may be a giant predictable cliché, but it’s so well written that I don’t even care! I was so invested in Lucy and Joshua’s relationship, and I loved the pace at which it unfolded. The sexual tension between them is immediately obvious, so the author wisely doesn’t string it out too long; the kiss occurs quite early in the novel. But the heart of the story is the slow, tentative transformation from hate-fueled lust to genuine love and affection. I especially liked seeing Joshua gradually open up to Lucy, revealing the reasons for his former rude behavior. Ultimately, this book exceeded my expectations, which were already pretty high since I’d heard a lot of good things about it. I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of romance, especially those who enjoy the hate-to-love trope. It looks like the author has another book coming out this summer, and I’ll definitely be purchasing it!

Review: Crosstalk

crosstalkConnie Willis, Crosstalk

In a near-future society, people are looking for ever more efficient ways to communicate and connect with each other. A new experimental procedure, the EED, allows couples to feel each other’s emotions and thus (theoretically) strengthen their relationship. Briddey Flannigan is thrilled when her boyfriend Trent asks her to get an EED with him, but her nosy family doesn’t like the idea, nor does her reclusive colleague C.B. Nevertheless, Briddey goes ahead with the procedure, only to discover that something has gone terribly wrong — she’s now connected to C.B., not Trent. Moreover, she doesn’t just sense his emotions; she seems to be able to read his mind. Now, with C.B.’s help, Briddey must figure out why this connection occurred and learn how to break it, before the negative effects of their telepathic connection cause irreversible damage.

I’m huge Connie Willis fan, so I had high expectations for this book, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed! This novel has just as much humor and romance as her other light novels, with an added dash of commentary on the negative aspects of incessant communication. I really enjoyed the little asides about past scientific research into telepathy, as well as the speculation that famous historical figures who heard voices (most notably Joan of Arc) might actually have been telepathic. I do think the plot had a few too many twists and turns at the end; the book’s length could have been trimmed somewhat. But I was having such a ball following Briddey and C.B.’s story that I barely noticed at the time! To be fair, the book does have its flaws, which I think the NPR review covers quite well — I can definitely see the reviewer’s point. But I still loved the book, and I would definitely recommend it to Willis fans! Newcomers to her work might want to start with To Say Nothing of the Dog or Doomsday Book (although the latter is much darker) instead.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2017 debuts

Top 10 TuesdayI must admit, I don’t normally seek out debut novels unless I hear a lot of good buzz about them; the 2017 releases I’m most excited about are from authors I already know I like. But this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic intrigued me enough to see what I could find, and sure enough, there are several upcoming debuts that look really interesting! Here they are, in publication order:

1. Katherine Arden, The Bear and the Nightingale (1/10/17, Del Rey) — This novel is a historical fantasy based on Russian folktales, and according to the cover blurb, it’s perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. In other words, the perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter’s night! Find more info on Amazon here.

2. Kristen Orlando, You Don’t Know My Name (1/10/17, Swoon Reads) — I’m a sucker for books about spies, and this one is about a teenage spy-in-training who falls in love with the boy next door. Find more info on Amazon here.

3. Caroline Leech, Wait for Me (1/31/17, HarperTeen) — A World War II novel about the forbidden romance between a Scottish girl and a German POW? Yes, this is relevant to my interests. Find more info on Amazon here.

4. Elan Mastai, All Our Wrong Todays (2/7/17, Dutton) — This book is set in an alternate universe where all those 1950s predictions about “the future” (flying cars, colonization of the moon, etc.) came true. But the main character somehow ends up in our universe instead and must figure out how to get home — or whether he actually wants to. Find more info on Amazon here.

5. Sandhya Menon, When Dimple Met Rishi (5/30/17, Simon Pulse) — The Amazon summary says this is “a laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.” I find the tradition of arranged marriages to be fascinating, so I’m definitely interested in reading this one! Find more info on Amazon here.

6. Tiffany Pitcock, Just Friends (8/1/17, Swoon Reads) — I’m not quite sure I follow the plot of this book, but it seems to involve two teens who accidentally become friends and/or whose relationship begins as a ruse. I really enjoy both the “friends to lovers” and the “fake relationship becomes real” tropes, so this one looks very interesting. Find more info on Amazon here.

7. Katy Upperman, Kissing Max Holden (8/1/17, Swoon Reads) — Another teen romance about friends who fall in love. Okay, so my tastes are a bit predictable. Find more info on Amazon here.

What other 2017 debuts should be on my TBR list?

Bout of Books 18 Progress

Bout of Books 18Bout of Books 18 starts today, and I’ll be tracking my progress in this post. As I mentioned in my sign-up post, my goals are to read at least two books and participate in at least one Twitter chat. If I pick shorter books, I should be able to do it! Happy reading, everyone!

Monday, January 2

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis and The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I read most of Crosstalk on January 1, so I won’t count it toward my goal of two books during Bout of Books. But I really enjoyed the book, so it was the perfect way to kick off this readathon! I also LOVED The Hating Game and will definitely be reading Thorne’s next novel, which comes out this summer!

Currently reading: I’ll be starting Alan Bradley’s latest Flavia de Luce novel, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d.

Mini-challenge: We’re asked to introduce ourselves in six words. Here’s my answer, which I posted on Twitter also: “Books and music are my life.” I think this is accurate. 🙂

Tuesday, January 3

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Currently reading: About to start Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley.

Wednesday, January 4

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Currently reading: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley — hoping to finish tomorrow!

Thursday, January 5

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Currently reading: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

Friday, January 6

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Currently reading: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley — about 125 pages left. I haven’t read much (maybe at all) in the last couple days! *blush*

Saturday, January 7

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne; Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley.

Currently reading: I’m starting Belgravia by Julian Fellowes.

Sunday, January 8

Books completed: Crosstalk by Connie Willis; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne; Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley.

Currently reading: Belgravia by Julian Fellowes.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2016

Top 10 TuesdayI realize I’m almost a week behind at this point, but I really wanted to do this Top Ten Tuesday topic and list my 10 favorite books of 2016. My list is not exclusively 2016 releases; any book I read this year is fair game. Here’s the list, in no particular order:

1. Helen Simonson, The Summer Before the War — A lovely, character-driven novel about romance and politics in an English village in the months leading up to World War I. My mini-review is here.

2. Alice Tilton, Beginning with a Bash — A Golden Age mystery that feels like a screwball comedy, complete with fast-talking dames and gangsters galore. My mini-review is here.

3. Lucy Parker, Act Like It — An utterly charming contemporary romance that has me impatiently awaiting Lucy Parker’s next novel (which fortunately comes out in February!). My review is here.

4. Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King — A fitting conclusion to the wonderful and unique Raven Cycle, which contains a surprising number of Owen Glendower references for a young adult series. My mini-review is here.

5. V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic — A compelling fantasy novel with a fascinating premise (parallel universes with varying degrees of magic) and well-fleshed-out main characters. I can’t wait to read the sequels! My mini-review is here.

6. Genevieve Cogman, The Invisible Library — Another great fantasy premise: there are an infinite number of universes whose only point of connection is an invisible central library that collects and preserves the literature from each world. My review is here.

7. Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom — A short but powerful work about letting go of anxiety and trusting in God. This was the book that most deeply affected me this year. My review is here.

8. Georgette Heyer, Envious Casca — One of Heyer’s best mysteries, combining her trademark wit and character development with a top-notch murder mystery. My mini-review is here.

9. Emma Mills, This Adventure Ends — An excellent YA contemporary that’s all about friendship, with a bonus adorable romance. My mini-review is here.

10. David D. Levine, Arabella of Mars — Jane Austen meets Horatio Hornblower in space! My mini-review is here.

2016 Vintage Mystery Challenge Wrap-up

2017 Vintage Scavenger HuntHappy New Year, everyone! I’m so excited to get started on the 2017 Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt, but before I do that, I should probably post my 2016 wrap-up! Here’s what I read for the 2016 challenge, along with the items I “found” for the scavenger hunt:

1. Georgette Heyer, No Wind of Blame – cigarette
2. Alan Melville, Quick Curtain – performer
3. Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison – bottle of poison
4. Christopher St. John Sprigg, Death of an Airman – plane
5. Alice Tilton, Beginning with a Bash – blunt instrument
6. Georgette Heyer, Envious Casca – brunette

No Wind of BlameQuick CurtainStrong Poison
Death of an Airmanbeginning-with-a-bashenvious-casca

If you also participated in this challenge, don’t forget to add your wrap-up post here!

Mini-Reviews #12: December, part 2

This is officially my LAST BATCH of reviews for 2016! I’m looking forward to starting next year (aka tomorrow) with a clean slate. These last books are all rereads, and it was lovely to revisit some books I’ve enjoyed in the past!

attachmentssummers-at-castle-auburn

Rainbow Rowell, Attachments — I’ve loved all of Rainbow Rowell’s books, but this one (her first novel) remains my favorite. It’s the story of Lincoln, an Internet security specialist whose job is to monitor all emails sent from company accounts. When the emails of Jennifer and Beth get flagged for “inappropriate” usage, Lincoln has to read them; it’s his job. But before long, he gets caught up in the women’s stories and becomes genuinely interested in learning more about them. Then he begins to fall for Beth…but how can he transform his one-sided crush into an actual relationship?

Sharon Shinn, Summers at Castle Auburn — The first time I read this romantic fantasy novel, I didn’t quite pick up on the romance and felt it was a little abrupt. I don’t know what I was thinking, because this time I was all about the romance! It’s subtle and builds slowly, which is just the way I like it. 🙂 I also really enjoyed the vivid fantasy world, and I liked the fact that the heroine truly grows and changes throughout the novel. Definitely recommended for fans of this genre!

corinthian-thebirth-of-blue-satan-the

Georgette Heyer, The Corinthian — One of Heyer’s excellent Regency romances, featuring a jaded young man and a scrappy girl (dressed as a boy) who’s running away from home. The plot gets a bit convoluted, comprising highwaymen, elopements, and even a murder. But of course, everything turns out right in the end!

Patricia Wynn, The Birth of Blue Satan — I read this book, the first in a series, a few years ago, but for some reason I didn’t continue with the series. Recently I decided I’d like to read book two, but I had to refresh my memory by rereading this one first. As a mystery novel, it’s not particularly strong — the solution basically comes out of nowhere — but I loved the period setting (1715! More novels about Jacobites, please!) and the main characters. I’m definitely looking forward to reading book two and seeing what happens next!