A Red Herring without Mustard: A Flavia deLuce Novel by Alan Bradley

Intrepid heroine Flavia returns in this third installment of Alan Bradley’s light mystery series (following “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” and “The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag” – both reviewed here in 9/09 and 5/10). This time Flavia is trying to solve the mystery of an attempted murder on a gypsy woman who has been camping on the deLuce property. There were many plot elements in this story: the gypsy woman’s attack, a lost portrait of Flavia’s mother, the gypsy’s grand-daughter who befriends yet isn’t quite honest with Flavia, a strange religious cult, a lost child, Flavia’s ongoing sibling issues, the family’s impending financial crisis, and the list goes on! I had a bit of a time keeping things straight – and I did figure out the mystery and how all the pieces came together rather early on – but I found precocious chemistry wiz Flavia as endearing and refreshing as ever!

You might want to read these books in order, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

I purchase mine through my kindle — pre-ordered and it magically downloaded when it was released!

See Alan Bradley discussing his characters through this You Tube link:

Quick Review: Year of Wonders – a Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

I really enjoyed Geraldine Brooks’ Pulitzer Prize winning novel “March”, so I got “Year of Wonders” from the library after I saw it on the blogosphere. “Year of Wonders” follows a year in the life of young mother and widow Anna Frith – when the plague hits her small English hamlet in 1666. Anna loses just about all she loves in a short space of time; but learns to embrace life and finds the strength to carry on. The book ends on a note of renewal and hope, though there is much sadness and loss in these pages.

Brooks, as always, is a beautiful writer. She has a way of writing conservatively, and her passages are never rambling or boring or off track. Brooks presents for us, among other things, a study of human character. The novel isn’t overly long and I enjoyed it!

Review: The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent

A week ago I finished this great book (from the library) and haven’t had a chance to write about it. “The Wolves of Andover” is the prequel to Kent’s “The Heretic’s Daughter” – a novel about Salem that I just loved!

This story takes place in the town of Billerica (right next to where I used to live!) and tells of Martha Allen – a strong-willed and independent young woman – as she comes to stay at her pregnant cousin’s house to help care for her and her children.  Martha is intrigued with the farm laborer, Thomas Carrier, a man working off his servitude in order to gain a plot of land along the Concord River. Thomas has a somewhat mysterious past, and there is rumor that he is actually Thomas Morgan – the executioner of King Charles I (and thus, a wanted criminal). Martha and Thomas’  friendship turns to love, but as their story line moves forward a separate plot develops and threatens to converge with theirs: a group of miscreants who are out to find Thomas and bring him back to England, dead or alive.

Kent’s story arises from her own family’s history: she is a distant descendant of Thomas and Martha Carrier – and Martha Carrier was hung as a witch in Salem in the 1690’s. Kent has a wonderful ability to paint a picture of the bleakness of the winter landscape and of the Puritan existence. The “wolves” are both actual wolves that the family is trying to keep away from their livestock, and the “wolves” that are coming after Thomas.

My biggest problem with the book was the harsh distinction between the chapters as we jumped from Massachusetts to England (or more specifically to the “bad guys” coming to America).

I also am still pondering the title. Call me dense, but why is it the wolves of Andover since they were in Billerica? Martha’s family is in Andover (a town about 25 miles away). The human wolves that are seeking Thomas are from England. I have to think that there is a reason beyond the fact that “the wolves of Andover” flows better than “the wolves of Billerica” – but what it is I can’t tell you. Comments, please!

See Kathleen Kent talking about her novels and family:

What’s On My Nightstand…

I am reading SO MANY good books lately – and all at the same time!

The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent — a prequel to The Heretic’s Daughter.

A Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks — Pulitzer prize-winning author of “March” and “People of the Book”

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland — author of “Girl in Hyacinth Blue”

–the next Ivy Malone mystery – bought for my Kindle! The other three are all from the library. 🙂

A QUICK REVIEW: The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

Last week I read this wonderful book about a Catholic family living in the north of Ireland in the early 1900’s.  Eileen O’Neill is a young girl at the story’s onset, and little does she know that the happy way of life for her family is soon to come to an end. Eileen struggles through poverty and seeks to keep and then bring her family back together, while historical events and tragedy work to tear them apart. This story is set against the backdrop of WWI and the clashes between Catholic and Protestant, Irish and British, in Northern Ireland. Eileen’s story is also a love story, as she struggles to find happiness with her Irish nationalist husband, and tries to suppress the feelings she has for a British soldier.

I really enjoyed this novel – and felt that Falvey did a great job blending historical facts with story and (basically) romance. Eileen’s voice was so resonant throughout the telling, and she was a character I related to and rooted for. This is Falvey’s first novel, and I look forward to other stories from her!

I purchased my copy on my Kindle! 🙂