Ashley Weaver, Playing It Safe
As bombs fall on London in the autumn of 1940, Ellie McDonnell is summoned to the port city of Sunderland by her handler, Major Ramsey. She doesn’t know the details of her mission, but things get complicated fast when a man dies right in front of her the day she arrives. She and Ramsey both suspect the man has been murdered, possibly because of shady spy activities. As Ellie befriends the dead man’s social circle, she uncovers many secrets and endangers her life in the process. I’m continuing to enjoy this series, mainly for the likable main characters and WW2 setting. I wasn’t as compelled by the mystery — the murderer’s identity seems to come out of nowhere — but there are some good suspenseful scenes. I also liked the developments in Ellie’s relationship with Ramsey. This book just came out, but I’m already impatient for the next one!
Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown
Aerin has always felt like an outsider who doesn’t belong. She’s the daughter of the king’s second wife, a reputed witch who supposedly died of disappointment that Aerin wasn’t a boy. She doesn’t have the magical Gift that’s shared by all people of royal blood. Most of her cousins despise her, and she’d rather ride her father’s old warhorse or practice swordplay than be a courtier. But when dragons and demon-magic from the North threaten her kingdom, Aerin discovers she has a crucial role to play. This is a book of my heart; I loved it as a child and am delighted to discover it’s just as good as I remember. Aerin is surprisingly relatable for someone who slays dragons, and Robin McKinley’s writing is pure magic. I’m really happy I revisited this one!
Claudia Gray, The Late Mrs. Willoughby
***Warning: SPOILERS for Sense and Sensibility***
Jonathan Darcy has been invited to Allenham, the estate his old schoolmate John Willoughby has just inherited. Willoughby was a bully during their school days, so Jonathan isn’t particularly excited about the visit — until he meets Juliet Tilney again, who’s staying nearby with her friend Marianne Brandon. He and Juliet are both eager to renew their acquaintance, but things take a dark turn when Willoughby’s wife is murdered. Could Willoughby or Marianne be the culprit? I don’t usually love Austen pastiches, but so far this series has impressed me with its fidelity to Austen’s characters even as it places them within a murder mystery. I was able to identify the murderer pretty early on, but I still enjoyed the plot, and I liked the development of Jonathan and Juliet’s relationship. To get the most out of this book, you definitely have to be familiar with both The Murder of Mr. Wickham and Sense and Sensibility, but if you liked book #1 of the series, you’ll enjoy this one too.