Uniquely Portable Magic

Uniquely Portable Magic

The title of this blog is taken from the Stephen King quote "books are a uniquely portable magic".

3 Stars
Book Review: Mr. Mercedes
Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King

A good solid mystery written by one of the best writers around. While I had a few issues with the plot in this one, I invested heavily in the characters as I usually do in Stephen King stories.


This is the first in a trilogy featuring Bill Hodges, a recently retired detective struggling with finding his purpose now that he is no longer a cop. He is haunted by a mass murder that he was unable to solve before he retired. The book opens with a detailed account of this crime.


"In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes."


The killer is also bored and has no plans to retire any time soon so reaches out to Bill Hodges, at first trying to play on Bill's despondency by trying to convince him to commit suicide and then by threatening an even bigger mass murder than the Mercedes killings. As Bill opens his own investigation into the killer, he picks up some assistance along the way from Jerome Robinson, the brilliant 17 year old who mows Bill's lawn and Holly Gibney, middle-aged and struggling with mental illness.


I was debating whether to continue on with the trilogy but thanks to feedback from a trusted reviewer coupled with the fact that I really love the Holly Gibney character, I will be continuing. I know there is another smart mystery to solve in book 2 and then I think there is some supernatural elements that get introduced in book 3. Looking forward to both!

5 Stars
Book Review: The One
The One - John Marrs

A twisty, turny roller coaster ride from start to end! The story takes place in the near future where a scientist has discovered a gene that can be used to identify "your perfect match".


"A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you'll be matched with your perfect partner - the one you're genetically made for."


The story is told from multiple perspectives so be prepared if that isn't something that you typically enjoy. It's not always my favourite way of delivering a story however, in this case, it worked really well for me. I was invested in the stories, trying to guess the twists along the way and that was enough for me. Getting to know the characters any deeper was not really the point of this book.


"Five very different people have received the notification that they've been matched". Mandy is a divorced 37 year old desperate for a family of her own, Christopher is a serial killer, Jade is a twenty-something whose perfect match lives on the other side of the world in Australia, Nick is engaged to Sally when he finds out his perfect match is a man, and Ellie is a CEO too busy to invest in her love life.


As the stories unfold for each of these people, everything is definitely not as it seems. Each page brings another piece of information, often turning any assumptions you've made upside down. The chapters are short and often end in cliffhangers so it's hard to put down this book. I managed to figure out some of the twists but others really surprised me.


What also really interested me is the societal commentary around "the haves" who have been matched and found their perfect partner and "the have nots" who bide their time on dating sites like Match.com and Tinder, waiting for their match to be found. People view relationships that are not "true matches" as less valid or real. The story does a great job of weaving this theme throughout without hitting the reader in the middle of the eyes with it.

While each story gets wrapped up, there is some ambiguity with the ending - don't expect everything to get tied up in a nice, neat package. I really enjoyed the book and recommend if you want a page-turning thriller with a unique premise.

5 Stars
Book Review: Illuminae
Illuminae - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

This book is a delight! I was really unsure about this one because the story is told through emails, instant messages, military files and medical records. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get engaged with the story without more traditional prose to unite everything but I was so wrong.


This is a story about Kady and Ezra, two 17 year olds who live with their respective families on a remote planet rich in natural resources. On the day that Kady breaks up with Ezra, their colony is attacked by a corporation intent on wiping out the existing mining colony and taking the natural resources of the planet for themselves.


With thousands of other residents, Kady and Ezra race for the evacuation ships. Separated in the chaos, they board different ships and along with a third evacuation vessel and the war ship Lincoln, flee the invaders who are intent on hiding their crime by massacring all witnesses - including those on the evacuation vessels. The chase is on!


At first, it seems like a miracle that the Lincoln was in the area of the mining planet on military maneuvers at the time of the invasion as they stepped in to help fight off the attacking ships and are the only reason the evacuation vessels were able to escape. However, it quickly becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. Kady uses her time on the ship to enhance her computer hacking skills so that she can locate her missing loved ones and find out what secret their saviour and now military escort, the Lincoln, is hiding.


The story is fast-paced with a number of twists and turns that I did not see coming. You care about the characters in this story and not just the main ones - there are secondary characters that you learn to love and root for as well. Although marketed as YA because of the age of the main characters, there are some really graphic and scary scenes in this book. The desperation of trying to outrun their pursuers comes across so well and the feeling that Kady, Ezra and their friends have stumbled across a truly sinister conspiracy keeps you turning the pages as you learn more details through your review of the dossier.


Don't wait as long as I did before reading this book!

2 Stars
Book Review: You Are Not Alone
You Are Not Alone  - Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

Shay Miller walks through life alone. She is in love with a man who doesn't love her back, the people in her life are acquaintances at best and her job is unfulfilling. All that ends when she witnesses an apparent suicide in a New York subway station.


The synopsis of this book was compelling. I don't usually share synopses my reviews because I assume you want to read my thoughts on the book rather than someone else's description but in this case, I'm going to make an exception because it is what drew me to the book and ultimately, it steered me wrong:


You probably know someone like Shay Miller.
She wants to find love, but it eludes her.
She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end.
She wants to belong, but her life is so isolated.


You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters.
They have an unbreakable circle of friends.
They live the most glamorous life.
They always get what they desire.


Shay thinks she wants their life.
But what they really want is hers!


Holy crap! Sounds ominous and creepy.......sadly, it's not. This isn't a bad book. The pages turn but at the end, I realized that I just didn't care enough about the characters to feel indignant on their behalf when they tripped through plot holes as large as an ocean (or at least as large as a really big lake).


I'm okay with the occasional "convenient coincidence" that helps move a plot forward but this story was based almost exclusively on convenient coincidences, to the point where it took me out of the story. I also wanted the Moore sisters to either be (a) super scary and smart murder-bots or (b) women doing bad things but who are doing them for a noble cause (the whole anti-hero concept). I got neither of these things. They weren't scary, they weren't smart and their cause was at best, meh.


By the time a few of the interesting twists were revealed (and there are a few good ones that I did not predict), I no longer cared.


This is my first book by this author duo and now I'm a bit nervous to try any of their other books. Anyone have any thoughts? Should I try something else from these authors? They seem to be well-loved by many but maybe their books are just not for me.

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss NO EXIT a gripping thriller full of heart-stopping twists - William Taylor Adams

I am hoping to get 2 books completed during Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon.   Enjoy the weekend all and happy reading!

4 Stars
Big brother IS watching in Ruth Ware's "The Turn Of The Key"
The Turn of the Key - Ruth Ware

It's been years since I have read Henry James' Turn of the Screw, the ghost story written in 1898 about a governess working at a remote country home taking care of some very creepy children. Ruth Ware gives the proper respect to the inspiration for her 2019 novel, The Turn of the Key, but adds a modern-day twist in this story about Rowan Caine, a young woman who accepts a post in the remote Scottish Highlands looking after...you guessed it....some very creepy children.


Instead of children speaking to the ghosts of former servants, this modern day tale introduces us to Heatherbrae House and the resident "smart" assistant, Happy. There are no visible locks on the doors, there are no visible light switches in the rooms and controlling the shower requires a multi-page operating manual. Instead of phoning the house or calling Rowan on her mobile, the owners (who had to leave suddenly on a business trip), check in using speakers that are built in to the house. They can also control the lights remotely and access cameras positioned around the house. Nothing creepy or ominous about that...


To add to the unease, Rowan learns that the four nanny's who worked at the house prior to her arrival all left under mysterious circumstances. Some after spending only a single night in the house. On her first night, Rowan finds an unfinished note in her bedside table written by her predecessor seemingly warning her to be careful.


Underlying all this, is the readers knowledge that Rowan is telling the story through a series of letters from prison where she sits awaiting her trial for the murder of a child under her care. Knowing this fact from the beginning of the story adds to the suspense as the details unfold page after page. Even though I knew from the start of the book that Rowan had accepted the position at Heatherbrae House, during her interview process I was still urging her to reject the job and flee back to London.


Once Rowan gets to the house, she is left alone with three young children, two dogs and a somewhat mysterious handyman named Jack. And of course, don't forget Happy. As seemingly unexplained things start to happen and with the children in her care whispering about ghosts, Rowan starts to research the history of the house and learns of mysterious deaths and mad scientists with a fascination with poison. The weird things start to build up - night after night of sinister footsteps, music blasting from the houses speakers and doors locking by themselves. As Rowan tries to figure out reasonable explanations for all of these odd occurrences, she is also grappling with the children who are not as easy to manage as they originally seemed, all the while feeling that everything she does is being watched via the smart house cameras.


One of my favourite things in books is when the setting becomes an actual character in the story and in The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware delivers on this so well. While the mystery is solved, the ending does not answer all of the questions raised in the book which just adds to the atmosphere of the story. If you love a fast-paced mystery with a truly creepy vibe, I think you will enjoy this one as much as I did.

5 Stars
Seeing Through The Eyes Of Others Truly Does Open Them In Unexpected Ways
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon

I'm not sure where to start.  This books was so good but so unique, I'm struggling putting my feelings about it down on virtual paper.  As I finished the book, I was reminded of the following:


“Blessed are the weird people: poets, misfits, writers. mystics, painters, troubadours. for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.”


- Jacob Nordby, Pearls of Wisdom: 30 Inspirational Ideas to live your best life now


The book starts with a suspicious death when at 12:07am, Christopher John Francis Boone finds his neighbours dog dead on the front lawn.  Seeing this incident through Christopher's eyes, we immediately realize that he does not react to the world in the same way that most of us do.  The book is written from the point of view of a 15-year old boy who describes himself as "a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties".  And that understatement leads us on a wonderful journey of discovery.


While the unreliable narrator can be a trope that is hit or miss for me (A.J. Finn's "The Woman In The Window" = hit, B.A. Paris' "Behind Closed Doors" = not so much), in "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time", it was definitely a hit. Our main character does not look at life the way most of us do and Christopher processes and prioritizes information in a very unique way - often funny, frequently heartbreaking and sometimes scary.


Christopher finds the body of Wellington, his neighbours' poodle who has been killed using a garden fork, and inspired by one of his favourite literary characters, Sherlock Holmes, he sets out to avenge Wellington by solving his murder.  Christopher's teacher Siobhan, suggests he writes a book about his investigation and "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time" is born.


“I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking. It has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.”


Mark Haddon, the curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Vintage Books, 2003), P. 3


In trying to solve Wellington's murder, Christopher starts asking questions of his neighbours and uncovers secrets about his family that not only reveal Wellington's killer, but send his well-ordered life into chaos.


Although there is a mysterious element in this book and some long-hidden secrets are uncovered, the story feels more like a quest novel or a coming of age story than a mystery.  While there are puzzles to solve, the biggest puzzle of all is Christopher himself.  By making Christopher the narrator and "author" of his own story, the reader is able to walk in Christopher's shoes as he steps from a once organized and structured life into one filled with unknown dangers.  While Christopher may not be conquering Mordor or chasing after a serial killer, seen through his eyes, the ordinary feels like the extraordinary - a trip to London is a frantic flight from certain death and a ride on a train something from a spy novel with our hero disguised as a luggage rack and fearing discovery at every stop.


"And then the train stopped and a lady with a yellow waterproof coat came and took the big suitcase away and she said, "Have you touched this?"


And I said, "Yes."


And then she went away.


And then a man stood next to the shelf and said, "Come and look at this, Barry.  They've got, like, a train elf."


An another man came and stood next to him and said, "Well, we have both been drinking."


And the first man said, "Perhaps we should feed him some nuts."


Mark Haddon, the curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Vintage Books, 2003), P. 167


In reading other reviews about this book, I came across some blog posts and news articles that criticized the author for his portrayal of an autistic person.  I can't comment on the representation in this book and whether it was accurate or not - I'm not autistic and I don't have anyone in my close circle of family and friends who is.


So, I did a bit more research and found a July 2009 blog post by the author that addressed the criticism.


"curious incident is not a book about asperger’s. it’s a novel whose central character describes himself as ‘a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties’. indeed he never uses the words ‘asperger’s’ or ‘autism’ (i slightly regret that fact that the word ‘asperger’s’ was used on the cover). if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way. it’s as much a novel about us as it is about christopher."


- Mark Haddon, Mark Haddon Blog, "asperger's and autism", 2009


Do not read this book if you are looking for the definitive guide on what being autistic means.  Instead, recognize that this is a "day in the life" story of someone who likely does not see the world in exactly the same way that you do.  Please consider spending 221 pages looking at the world through Christopher's eyes.  Solve the murder, uncover the family secrets, deal with the shock and learn to shape a "new normal" in a world where none of us are truly normal.  In my opinion, you won't regret it.

5 Stars
Things In Jars by Jess Kidd
Things in Jars - Jess Kidd

A mystery set in Victorian London with the perfect blend of feisty female detective, ghost story, magical realism and a dash of romance thrown in for good measure.  


Using two timelines, 1863 and the early 1840's, Things In Jars tells the story of Bridget (Bridie) Devine…


"A small, round upright woman of around thirty, wearing a shade of deep purple that clashes (wonderfully and dreadfully) with the vivid red hair tucked (for the most part) inside her white widow's cap.” - Jess Kidd, Things In Jars (Edinburgh: Cannongate Books Ltd., 2019), p. 10


Bridie, a private detective, is hired by Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick to find his daughter, 6 year old Christabel.  Bridie quickly discovers that Christabel is herself shrouded in mystery - no one knows who her mother is, her existence has been kept secret from all but a trusted family friend, Doctor Harbin and the child's nurse, Mrs. Biddy.  The other servants whisper about special powers, mist manifesting in the house on the sunniest of days and copious amounts of snails being drawn to the estate by the bucketful.


As Bridie continues her investigation, she is supported by the most interesting and captivating cast of characters I have had the pleasure of meeting:  a seven-foot tall housemaid who shaves, a ghost covered in tattoos that move as his mood changes and an eccentric apothecary.  Based on my description, you may assume that these are simply caricatures used to further the fantastical parts of the story and while they do accomplish that, Jess Kidd brings these characters to life - you care about them, you root for them.......you FEEL something for each of them.  They are so much more than caricatures or plot devices.  No deus ex machina here!


Woven into the story is the Victorian fascination with the odd and unexplained.  This is the birth place of the "freak show" which thrived from the 1840's until 1914 (John Woolf, "The Greatest Show On Earth? The Myths Of the Victorian Freak Show", BBC History Revealed, 2019).  Embedded within the broader entertainment profession, this fascination generated a darker cottage industry where those that were "other" were sometimes kidnapped, imprisoned and forced to publicly display their "otherness" for the profit of their keepers.


It becomes apparent early on that Bridie is familiar with this world of exploitation and fights to defend those that cannot defend themselves.  We learn early in the story that Sir Edmund is a collector of oddities, more specifically, oddities related to the water.  One of his servants confirms Bridie's suspicion…


"He has a whole library of books about the things that swim in the water and the things that crawl out of it, ma'am."  Agnes wrinkles her nose.  "There are things in jars”. - Jess Kidd, Things In Jars (Edinburgh: Cannongate Books Ltd., 2019), p. 69


As Bridie continues to be drawn into the mystery of Christabel, we learn more about her own history and what has shaped her into a woman who…….


"...speaks as she finds, judges no woman or man better or worse than her, feels deeply the blows dealt to others and can hold both her drink and a tune.” - Jess Kidd, Things In Jars (Edinburgh: Cannongate Books Ltd., 2019), p. 17


I care for these characters thanks to Jess Kidd's amazing writing and while I want to see where Bridie's next adventure might take her and her cast of lovable supporters, I would be equally happy to leave them right where they are.  While the mystery is solved at the end, not everything is wrapped up in a nice neat bow which leaves me with a feeling of endless possibilities as I use my own imagination to envision the possible stories that could unfold for Bridie.  Not a bad place to end at all.

2 Stars
The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

I would like to start by thanking Net Galley, Park Row and the author for allowing me to read an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.


I enjoy when an author manages to make the setting of a book come alive so that it feels like an additional character and The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica does this in spades.  According to the Maine Island Coastal Registry, there are 3,166 islands off the coast of Maine and our story opens with the Foust family relocating from Chicago to one of these unnamed coastal islands.  Accessed only by ferry, the island feels isolated, bleak and ominous right from the beginning which sets the stage for a dark and twisty story.


It is apparent from the beginning that Sadie Foust is not happy about the move from Chicago although she acknowledges that the family is in need of a fresh start.  As an emergency room doctor, Sadie worked long hours in Chicago.  Her husband Will is a college professor who might have been spending a bit too much time with some of his students.  Their 14-year old son Otto, a gifted artist, was expelled from his former school and finally, Will’s niece, Imogen, has just lost her mother to suicide in the very island house they are moving into - and she isn’t coping well.  The only one who seems to arrive on the island with no baggage is 7-year old Tate.


Things go from bad to worse when a neighbour gets murdered and all eyes on the small island community turn towards the newest additions as the most likely suspects.


This was my first time reading this author and while I enjoyed both the writing style of Mary Kubica and the atmospheric setting she created, my enjoyment ended quickly once I got to know the characters.  Told largely from Sadie’s point of view, the story unfolds at an awkward pace.   I think we are supposed to feel a gradual sense of control unravelling as Sadie gets pulled deeper into the murder mystery however, the unravelling does not feel gradual at all.  It quickly becomes apparent that Sadie is an unreliable narrator which to me, makes it not only difficult to believe that she is a medical doctor but difficult to believe she stands any chance of solving the mystery.  I found the scenes that involved her medical practice took me out of the story as I couldn’t reconcile “Sadie the doctor” with “Sadie our main character”.  Often described as standoffish and cold, Sadie’s actions contradict this by being emotional and rash.


Imogen, the character that I was most interested in given that she was the reason the family moved to the island in the first place, was under-developed.  Her dialogue was unrealistic and over-the-top, she appears in short, disjointed scenes and yet is pivotal to both the beginning and end of the story.


There are three other points of view in the book - one that made one of the twists very obvious, one that confused me and one that comes in at the end of the book to deliver a truly surprising twist in the story.


In spite of the terrific job the author did in creating a really creepy and suffocating atmosphere, this one didn’t work for me.  There are some plot devices used that I can’t go into here because they would spoil the story but they are some of my least favourite “tropes”, the characters are under-developed and the dialogue just isn’t believable most of the time.  This one might work for fans of Kubica’s work but if you are a first time reader of this author, you might want to consider giving this one a pass and picking up one of her other books.


March Wrap Up


Becoming by Michelle Obama
Review: Amazing & inspiring! Listen to the audio book if you can.
Page count: 426 pages
Primary setting: Chicago, Illinois and Washington, DC

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor
Review: Wonderful & inventive magic system but unbelievable romance
Page count: 418 pages
Primary setting: Prague, Czech Republic

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Review: Hate to love romance with witty banter
Page count: 400 pages
Primary setting: Maui, Hawaii


Platform Seven by Louise Doughty
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review: Some ghostly fun but not enough revenge for my liking
Page count: 448 pages
Primary setting: Peterborough, England

Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey
Review: Interesting magic system, boring school setting, predictable mystery
Page count: 336 pages
Primary setting: Oakland, California


Blue Monday by Nicci French

Rating: ★★★★★

Review:  Atmospheric puzzler with psychoanalyst following the clues.

Page count:  331 pages

Primary setting:  London, England

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Moving, scary, shocking and shame-inducing. Read it.
Page count: 287 pages
Primary setting: Maryland



Total books read:  7

Total pages read:  2,646

Average page total:  378

Total hours reading:  53

Average rating:  3.9


4 Stars
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
The Life We Bury - Allen Eskens

My friend Kim gifted me this book and she obviously knows my taste as I really enjoyed it.  While I've seen some online reference to this book being a thriller, I would consider this more of a mystery.  There are some twists but nothing truly shocking and the story is more about putting puzzle pieces together rather than surviving shocking twists and turns.  The pacing is solid but I would consider it a slow burn rather than the frantic sprint more common in thrillers.


The "detective" in this story is Joe Talbert, a college student who meets and interviews a convicted murderer in order to complete a writing assignment for English class.  Carl Iverson is a dying Vietnam veteran who was convicted of murdering the 14-year old daughter of a neighbour but right from the start, both the reader and Joe sense that something just doesn't make sense about Carl's conviction.


One of my favourite things in books is someone that isn't part of a traditional police force solving a mystery...college students, journalists, professors...it must harken back to my childhood love of Nancy Drew mysteries.  The fact that Joe is a college student, reluctant mystery-solver and has an interesting backstory of his own is what I enjoyed most about The Life We Bury.


With help from his neighbour, Lila (first described in the book as having "...dark eyes, a pixie nose and a chilly penchant for being left alone") and his autistic brother Jeremy, Joe works to solve the thirty-year old mystery.


Good mystery, great characters - worth reading!

February Wrap Up

Better late than never!  A quick summary of my February reading.  I'm still working through writing and posting the detailed reviews.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Review: A book about books, historical research and finding Drakula
Page count: 704 pages
Primary setting: Amsterdam, Netherlands


The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review: Great protagonist solving not-bad mystery
Page count: 303 pages
Primary setting: Minnesota


The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review: Strong start that fades in the middle but still keeps you reading
Page count: 256 pages
Primary setting: Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon


IQ by Joe Ide
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review: Private detective takes on the cases the police won't in a tough neighbourhood
Page count: 325 pages
Primary setting: East Los Angeles, California


The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
Review: Charming, scary fantasy with unnamed child protagonist.
Page count: 181 pages
Primary setting: Sussex, England

4 Stars
The Other People by C.J. Tudor

This was my first CJ Tudor book although I know many have read The Chalkman.  I likely wouldn’t have picked The Other People up so quickly after it’s release January 23, 2020 if it weren’t for a book club I am participating in - you can find more here.


The story hooked me quickly with a frantic first scene where Gabe, driving home from work, thinks he sees his young daughter looking out of the rear window of the vehicle in front of him.  She mouths the word “daddy” and then disappears from view.  Gabe frantically tries to catch the vehicle but can’t so pulls into a rest stop to call home only to learn that his wife and daughter were found murdered in their house.


For those of you covering your eyes and yelling at me for spoiling, you can stop now.  This scene is the first one in the book and happens within the first few pages.  There are SOOO many more twists and surprising reveals to come!


I find it difficult to review thrillers without spoiling the twists so instead, I will list plot devices and other elements that I liked in this book.  If you like the same, you may like The Other People


  • Short chapters that end in such dramatic cliff hangers that you HAVE to keep reading
  • Secret societies
  • Vigilante justice
  • Strangers On A Train
  • Light paranormal that isn’t always fully explained
  • Multiple perspectives (this story has three)
  • Seemingly disconnected events that might not be as disconnected as they first appear
  • Creepy vibes


While this book has a few problematic elements, it’s a fast-paced, twisty read that I enjoyed very much.


3 Stars
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

According to an article in The Guardian which you can read here, in 2004, the publishing rights to Elizabeth Kostova’s first novel, The Historian, were purchased for $2 million, an apparently unheard of amount for a debut author.  Published in 2005, the novel went straight to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.


When publishers put money and promotion behind a book, it seems to appear everywhere.  I’m sure publishing statistics prove out my “no shit Sherlock” assumption that this investment increases the likelihood people will see the book, hear about the book and therefore, read the book.  However, what makes me more curious is whether it increases the likelihood that people will rate the book more highly than they would if it didn’t receive such backing.  I noticed that when I looked up reviews on Goodreads, readers that had read the book when it first came out rated it largely 5 starts while readers who read the book more recently, rated it lower - usually 3 stars or less.  Interesting and something I need to research more before coming to a definitive conclusion but…interesting.


I’ve had this book on my shelves for a while and was prompted to finally read it because it fit a prompt for a reading challenge I am doing this year called Around The Year In 52 Books.  I needed something to prompt me to read more from my already full TBR shelves and was inspired by a friend who is doing a project called Revive 55  which is a 55 week project focused on preserving and enjoying memories through story-telling, photos, videos and mementos.  So I thought, why not an annual project related to books?  I found ATY In 52 books and have largely used books from my existing shelves to satisfy the 52 prompts of the challenge.  One of those prompts was to read a book with a two-word title where the first word is “The” and so, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova was pulled from my shelves, dusted off and read in February.


Although I am not always a fan of pure historical fiction, I love a story that mixes historical fiction with a mystery, some thrills or some horror.  Reading the synopsis of a story that presumes Dracula is more than just a fictional character but is real and still terrorizing the world immediately reminded me of why I picked up this book in the first place.  Great premise!


Like Dracula by Bram Stoker, this story is largely an epistolary novel told in letters written by a number of key characters.  As well as being told from multiple perspectives via letters, the story takes place in three different time periods:  the 1970’s, the 1950’s and the 1930’s.  The book is long - my edition is 704 pages - and quite slow-paced so don’t expect the thrills to come one after the other in this book.  The writing is beautiful and the descriptions of the various cities and towns visited by the characters around the world are vivid and make you feel like you can taste and smell exactly what they are tasting and smelling at that point in time.


My criticism is really reserved for the 1950’s portion of the book which is told through letters from an historian-turned-diplomat father to his 16 year old daughter.  There is nothing that calls out the fact that these are letters other than quotation marks - lots of quotation marks…sometimes quotation marks within quotation marks.  Whereas the letters written by a Professor of Paul, the father, in 1930’s are clearly called out by the author through the use of italics and a date at the start of every letter, the 1950’s portion of the book which is the longest section, is not.  Remember this book is long so not something I read in one sitting.  I kept having to re-read a few pages every time I picked it up in order to get back in sync with the story.


Overall, I rated this book 3-stars which for me, is not a bad rating.  It just didn’t wow me.  The pace was slower than I felt it needed to be, the characters were a bit flat and with some of the letters not clearly being called out as such, there was a lack of continuity at times.  On the other hand, I like stories about books, libraries and researchers and this had all of those in spades.  


I read 8 books in January and they included three 5 star reads - the reading year has started off well!


I haven't figured out how to put graphs of my stats from my book tracking spreadsheet in here yet but am working on getting back up to speed with the Booklikes interface.  Tips welcome as always!


Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review: A thriller with limited thrills but good pace.
Page count: 293 pages
Primary setting: London, England


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Review: Fast-paced story set in the multiverse where every decision matters.
Page count: 342 pages
Primary setting: Chicago, Illinois


The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz
Review: Homage to Holmes with great writing and okay mystery.
Page count: 375 pages
Primary setting: London, England


Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Review: Haunting & scary story filled with inspiring young women
Page coiunt: 353 pages
Primary setting: Raxler Island, Maine


The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Review: Heist story that puts the epic in epic fantasy. Loved it!
Page count: 647 pages
Primary setting: the fictional city of Luthadel


The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Review: Weird, wonderful steampunk-esque mystery set in alternate 1985.
Page count: 374 pages
Primary setting: Swindon, England


The Other People by C.J. Tudor
Review: A wild ride - could not put down! Highly recommend!
Page count: 400 pages
Primary setting: England


The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Review: Heartwarming, no-nonsense female lead solves big & small mysteries in Botswana.
Page count: 235 pages
Primary setting: Gabarone, Botswana



Total books read: 8

Total pages read: 3,019

Average page total: 377

Total hours reading: 60

Average rating: 4.0


Physical books: 7

E-books: 1

Audio books: 0


It has been far, far, far too long.......

While I have been reading books, I have not been reviewing books other than updating in short bursts on Goodreads.  Real life got in the way over the past year and my participation in the Booklikes community suffered.  My travel schedule for work has been crazy and we recently returned to Canada from a 13 month work placement (not the right word but I can't think of a better one right now) in Portland, Oregon.  A big shout out to Stumptown as it's a great city - my husband and I both miss living there although are glad to be back home closer to family and friends.


As my work/life balance is starting to get better, one of my 2020 bookish goals is to return to Booklikes, catch up on everyone's reviews and updates and start doing some myself.


Happy 2020 all!

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