Wednesday, July 22, 2020

THE FORK, THE WITCH, AND THE WORM Tales From Alagaesia (Volume 1: Eragon) by Christopher Paolini

Tales From Alagaesia (Volume 1: Eragon)
Christopher Paolini

            Christopher Paolini has returned to the world of Eragon and Alagaesia with The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm. The new book is a collection of three stories. Paolini wrote The Fork and The Worm, while his sister, Angela Paolini, his inspiration for the character Angela the herbalist, wrote The Witch.

            I listened to the audio version of the book, read by Gerard Doyle. I have listened to other books narrated by Doyle, and I have been impressed with him; his work on this recent Paolini book is no exception.

I have always enjoyed the Eragon series, but I was a bit surprised to find just how much I have missed Eragon and Saphira. I was a little disappointed to find that this was a collection of three stories and that it was so short (the hardcover has 288 pages, compared to the 500 plus pages of the hardcover version of Eragon and the 700 plus pages of the hardcover versions of the other books in the Inheritance Cycle). But, I was thrilled to be back in Eragon’s world. I really hope that Paolini is working on additional stories set in Alagaesia with Eragon and Saphira.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

THE 19TH CHRISTMAS by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

James Patterson
Maxine Paetro

            The 19th Christmas, written by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, is the nineteenth book in Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series. In this latest addition to the series, it is almost Christmas, and it is a busy time for all. Although Cindy, Yuki, and Claire have their own interesting things going on, the majority of the book is concerned with Lindsay’s case. Lindsay and her partner, Rich, received a tip about a major crime that was planned for Christmas day. But, they do not know who is planning the crime or what is the target, and time is running out, as Christmas is imminent.

            I have been a fan of the Women’s Murder Club series for a long time, and I continue reading the books even though the quality of some of the later books in the series has not, in my opinion, been as high as the earlier books. However, I think The 19th Christmas is one of the better additions to the series in some time. Granted, the Women’s Murder Club does not have as much group time in this book as in previous books – and I happen to think they often have too many group meetings to be realistic – but, we do have some group time and some Joe time. And, we are treated to some solid police work to boot.

            The 19th Christmas is a well-balanced, satisfying reading experience, and I recommend it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Friday, April 17, 2020

THE MAN WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin by Jan Stocklassa

Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin
Jan Stocklassa

            I was in a funk. I had finished the book I was reading, and nothing in my “to be read” pile appealed to me. I found The Man Who Played With Fire: Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin, by Jan Stocklassa, on my Kindle. I do not recall how it arrived there or how long it had been around; but, it turned out to be a perfect choice for me at that time.

            In 1986, Olof Palme, the prime minister of Sweden, was assassinated on a street in Stockholm. Despite extensive investigations, his murder has not been resolved. In fact, there remains a substantial reward for solving the murder. Stieg Larrson, the Swedish journalist best known for writing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the other Millennium Trilogy novels, did a great deal of investigation into right-wing extremism and the assassination of Palme. Jan Stocklassa found Larrson’s research and continued the investigation. The Man Who Played With Fire: Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin is the result of that investigation.

            Stocklassa’s book is well written and very interesting. At times I wondered if the Swedish police could really be so incompetent – or so corrupt. But it is not so simple. As the investigation into Palme’s assassination shows, the circumstances are complex and convoluted. I found Larrson’s initial investigation and Stocklassa’s subsequent investigation to be fascinating. And, the book certainly resolved my funk. I highly recommend The Man Who Played With Fire: Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin.

Sunday, March 1, 2020


Mary Lawrence

            The Lost Boys of London, by Mary Lawrence, is the fifth book in the Bianca Goddard mystery series. The book is expected to be released on April 28, 2020.

            If you have read prior books in the series – or my earlier reviews – you know that Bianca Goddard is the daughter of a disgraced alchemist and a white witch. Bianca draws from both parents as she works in her room of Medicinals and Physickes.

This latest installment in the series begins in February 1545 and essentially picks up where the last book, The Alchemist of Lost Souls, ended. Bianca’s husband, John, having been conscripted into King Henry’s army, is still away fighting in Scotland. Bianca, meanwhile, continues concocting her medicines that her friend, Meddybemps, then sells for her.

During this time, Bianca is summoned by Constable Patch. A young boy has been found hanging from the side of one of London’s churches – murdered – and Patch needs Bianca’s assistance. This is not the only murder, nor the only church. Who is killing these young boys? And, where is Bianca’s young friend Fisk?

            As we accompany Bianca on her journey, searching for Fisk and seeking the murderer, we learn a bit about London’s Lost Boys and about Fisk’s family. We also gain some insight into the changes in the religious tenor of Henry’s Tudor England.

            The Lost Boys of London is another interesting and well-written addition to the Bianca Goddard series. Lawrence does a masterful job of capturing the everyday life of the common people in Tudor times. The biggest disappointment for me came as I was reading the Author’s Note and discovered that this is the last book in the series. I was sure that Lawrence had a few more books planned, so this discovery was a shock. I am going to miss Bianca Goddard. However, I will await other new and exciting work from Lawrence. Meanwhile, I highly recommend the book.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

THE OVERSTORY by Richard Powers

Richard Powers

            The Overstory, an opus about trees by Richard Powers, is the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. And, it is an incredible reading experience.

            Powers’s twelfth novel is divided into four sections: Roots, Trunk, Crown, and Seeds. In Roots, we are introduced to nine disparate individuals whose commonality is that each has experiences, albeit unique, with trees. Although we all know trees, these individuals Know trees. As we progress through Trunk, Crown, and Seeds, we learn about their knowledge and follow them as their lives overlap in their pursuits to save the trees.

            When I began The Overstory, working my way through Roots, I did not particularly care for this book. I felt like I was reading a series of short stories where the only uniting factor was some experience or other involving a tree. I am not a lover of short story, and I feared the entire 500 plus pages was such a compilation. Happily, I was wrong. That initial learning of the disparate backstories of these individuals is crucial to the remainder of the book. As soon as I realized this – as soon as the pieces began to fit together – I started to fall in love with this book. And, that love deepened with the turning of each page.

By the time I completed The Overstory, I was dumbstruck and awestruck. Powers has done a wonderful job weaving together this masterful work about trees.

            The Overstory is more than just a Pulitzer-quality book; it is an unmatched reading experience that I highly recommend.

Monday, September 30, 2019

BLOODY GENIUS by John Sandford

John Sandford

            Bloody Genius is John Sandford’s latest novel in his Virgil Flowers series. When the investigation into the murder of wealthy, well-connected university professor Barthelemy Quill made no progress, the governor became involved. Calls were made, and Virgil Flowers, of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, was assigned to the case. So, Virgil teamed up with Maggie Trane, a sergeant with Minneapolis Homicide who was leading the Quill investigation. With two ex-wives (and an estranged wife number three), a feud with another academic department, disgruntled patients, colleagues and employees at his university lab and at the hospital, and an angry surviving daughter, there were no shortages of suspects. That is, until Flowers was assigned and did his thing.

            Virgil Flowers is a tall, thin man with longish blond hair who routinely wears jeans, t-shirts depicting various indie bands, and cowboy boots. His style – both in manner of dress and in method of operation – are very different than that of his good friend Lucas Davenport (who does make a cameo appearance in Bloody Genius).

            I have been a long time fan of Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series and Virgil Flowers series. While reading Bloody Genius, however, I realized that I am no longer such a Flowers fan. I do not know if my tastes have changed or if I do not care for the direction Sandford has taken his character. Although the introduction of a spouse and children can be difficult for an author to pull off, I think Sandford was successful with regard to Davenport. However, I do not like Frankie and am not looking forward to the birth of their twins.

            Nonetheless, Bloody Genius presents a pretty good mystery. The plot is complex and convoluted, and Sandford takes us step by step through the process Flowers used to solve the case. This is vintage Sandford, with typical Sandford humor, and Flowers does discover Quill’s killer.