Quick Review: “Oh Danny Boy” by Rhys Bowen

I had missed Bowen’s “Oh Danny Boy” while I was reading the Molly Murphy mysteries and read it last week after finding it at the library. This is a quick review as I’ve already written about this series (and okay, I’m really supposed to be packing as we’re leaving on vacation today!).

“Oh Danny Boy” finds Molly’s love, Daniel Sullivan, arrested and held in The Tombs, falsely accused of taking bribes and engaging in illegal activities. Molly sets off to clear his name and set him free, while also getting entangled in horse racing, prize-fighting, and a serial killer.

I wanted to mention this book as I felt is was much less “cozy” than the previous MM books I’ve read. (SPOILER ALERT!) Molly is dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. Young girls are being assaulted and mutilated. There was a lot of seediness in this book (coupled with a lot of whining by Daniel), and quite honestly it made me care for this one less than the others. However, I come to these books looking for a cozy read – not a real life one. Bowen does portray the grittiness of city life for the poor and middle class with accuracy, in my opinion. It just wasn’t what I was planning on when I took up the book!

Cozy mystery readers – let me know your thoughts! Do you like it when cozies get less cozy than expected?

REVIEW: The Body in the Big Apple by Katherine Hall Page

When I was perusing the mysteries section at the library, I noticed a Katherine Hall Page installment that did not seem familiar. I thought I had read all of hers, but apparently I missed this one! “The Body in the Big Apple” is a prequel to the Faith Fairchild mysteries and is set, not surprisingly, in New York City. Faith is entreated into helping a childhood friend who is being blackmailed and ends up involved in a related murder. Naturally, things get complicated!

I enjoyed this book and I enjoyed reading about Faith in her younger years, as a recent college graduate who is just starting her catering business. However, I really enjoy the family element that usually runs through these books: Faith’s relationships with her husband and children. While I loved reading about New York, the mysteries usually take place in the fictional “Aleford”, a pseudonym for a nearby Boston suburb, so that makes reading even more fun for me!

All in all, it’s not my favorite Faith Fairchild mystery (it was a little less “cozy” in my opinion), but it was a good read and well-plotted.

I’ll give it 3 1/2 Stars! I got my copy from the library – my favorite place to find a book!!

REVIEW: New York by Edward Rutherfurd

I’ve gone two weeks without a post because I’ve been reading Rutherfurd’s latest historical novel — the lengthy (over 800 pages) “New York”. This novel traces the history and development of the city of New York from the early Dutch settlers and Native Americans to 2009. As with other Rutherfurd novels, “New York” traces the lineage of fictional families through the years: primarily the English Master family, but also the Dutch Van Dyck’s, an Irish family, and an Italian family, with other characters along the way playing key roles.

I love Rutherfurd’s novels. I find his attention to historical detail is so expertly woven into the narrative that I’m learning while following an interesting plot line. Of course, I also love, love, love the city of New York, so I found it fascinating to learn of the history of the area’s development. I also loved the true historical characters that play a role in the story: JP Morgan, the Astors and the Vanderbilts, Theodore Roosevelt, etc.

What can I say — like his previous books I’ve read on London and Ireland — Rutherfurd’s novel is historical fiction at its finest!

Yes, it gets my coveted 5 Stars award — “It’s so good I have to own it!” I got mine as a birthday gift.

YA book review: The Secret of Sarah Revere by Ann Rinaldi

Ann Rinaldi is one of my favorite YA historical fiction writers. As an adult, I enjoy her books and find them full of interesting historical facts. The Secret of Sarah Revere was no exception. Sarah, one of Paul Revere’s children, is a thirteen-year-old living in Boston with her family as the country is on the brink of the Revolutionary War with England. Sarah’s father often is gone on his “rides” as he travels the country alerting patriots to British activity. Sarah’s home life is centered around her siblings, especially older siblings Debbie and Paul, and her step-mother, Rachel. Sarah also has a strong crush on family friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, and struggles with her “new” feelings for him as she also deals with adolescence and the fear that the world as she knows it is changing.

This was an interesting perspective to have as the narrator. I knew little about Paul Revere’s children, except that he had many. Sarah was a strong female protagonist, though I did find her attraction to Dr. Warren – a man almost three times her age – as somewhat unbelievable. I also did not like the story line of her suspecting him of being attracted to/having an improper relationship with her step-mother. At times the book moved slowly, but the second half of the book picked up as the action increased.

For the YA reader, I think the themes of loyalty are strong in this book: Sarah’s loyalty to her father and step-mother, Paul Revere’s loyalty to his country and his belief in liberty, etc. What exactly does it mean to be loyal?  A teacher could craft an interesting lesson in “loyalty” and compare these characters with other characters from other Rinaldi books, or from history. Also, throughout the book the idea of “it doesn’t matter what people think; what matters is what you know to be true” comes up again and again (another teachable moment!). And, of course, one must ponder the title….what IS the secret of Sarah Revere? Far be it from me to spoil that one for you!

While this isn’t my favorite Rinaldi, it is a good one and I’d recommend it to those with an interest in the Revolutionary War era. I got my copy from my local library.

I’d give it 4 Stars!

REVIEW: Captivity by Deborah Noyes

For my online historical fiction bookclub (through facebook!) we read Deborah Noyes’ Captivity for June. What an intriguing book! My library had it on the new release shelf and I hadn’t heard much about it. Captivity tells two, intertwining stories: one following the lonely, reclusive, and grieving Clara Gill as she shuts herself away from society after a scandal, and the Fox sisters, Maggie and Kate  – of upper state New York, who have bizarre, supernatural experiences and claim to be able to communicate with the dead. The amazing thing is – the part about the Fox sisters is based on fact. There really were these sisters who claimed to be visited by ghosts and spirits and who, by their popularity and actions, gave rise to the spiritualist movement in the mid-1800’s in the United States. {I visited Wikipedia (certainly not the font of knowledge and wisdom but right handy in a pinch!) to find out more about them. Apparently, Maggie claimed it was all a hoax shortly before her death, then attempted to recant her confession.}

I enjoyed this novel, even though I found it very slow at times.  My favorite passages were about Clara. I was routing for her throughout the book to start living life again and to move on from her tragedy. I did find the seances fascinating. I have to say Leah’s control and manipulation of her sisters made me angry (all the more since it was based in fact!).

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction based in fact – along with a good touch of Gothic! I’d give it 3 3/4 Stars!

Trying to Read “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott”…

The very lovely Dawn from “She Is Too Fond of Books” recently lent me a copy of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees. If you know me – even a little bit – you know my complete obsession with the Alcott family. Yes, I know odd little facts about them, have read just about everything written about them, and even can be found occasionally cavorting in a hoop skirt at their museum (Orchard House) in Concord, MA. Ms. McNees has taken a summer that the Alcotts truly did visit and stay in Walcott, New Hampshire and created a tale of lost love for Louisa. It is evident that she researched her Alcotts. She does a wonderful job of tying in their philosophies, their beliefs, and their real life into this imagined daily life. However, this is a work of fiction and I just couldn’t suspend my knowledge of the Alcotts in order to enjoy it. Ms. McNees is a wonderful writer — the problem was me. Call me inflexible, call me rigid, go ahead and just call me weird, but I could not get through this book. I didn’t care what was going to happen and I knew it wasn’t true anyways, so I lost my motivation.

I know that lots of my blogging friends have read and enjoyed this novel, so please feel free to comment and provide a link to your post so that my readers can read another (more normal I suspect) perspective!