The Time of Green Magic – Hilary McKay

The Time of Green MagicFrom the publisher, “When Abi’s father marries Max and Louis’s mom, their families start over together. Abi suddenly finds herself the middle child, expected to share far too much—especially with grubby little Louis. Then they move into an eerie, ivy-covered house, big enough for all of them.

But for the children, strange things start to happen in that house. Abi reads alone, and finds herself tumbling so deep into books, they almost seem real. Louis summons comfort from outdoors, and a startling guest arrives—is it a cat or something else? Max loses his best friend . . . and falls in love. Meanwhile, Louis’s secret visitor is becoming much too real. Now Abi, Max, and Louis must uncover the secrets of their new home—for there can be danger in even the most beautiful magic.”

This is for the gentle reader, the thoughtful reader who doesn’t need swashbuckling action at every turn.  It is more a story about blended families and growing up.  It is a calming read and much appreciated.

eGalley review                                                    Publication date 7.28.2020

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The Faithless Hawk – Margaret Owen

Faithless HawkFrom the publisher, “Dangerous magic, a tormented romance, and lethal betrayals come to a head in the thrilling sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow.  As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s ruthless bid for the throne.  Queen Rhusana wins popular support by waging a brutal campaign against the Crows, blaming them for the poisonous plague that wracks the nation.  A desperate Fie clings onto a prophecy that a long-forgotten god will return and provide a cure to the plague. Fie must team up with old friends—and an old flame—to track down a dead god and save her people.”

Fie is still trying to get Prince Jasimir on the throne by bringing down the evil Queen Rhusana.  There is more this time about the old gods and gods reborn and some of it got a tad confusing.  I still really like the premise of teeth and bones holding power.  Fie continues to be the heroine to root for.  She’s so blunt.  Even though her life is complicated, she comes across as an uncomplicated person. Tavin is back (!) and also Jasimir, who has sense of humor.  And a scene is always better when Barf, her cat, is present.  Excellent duology.

eGalley review                                             Publication date 8.18.2020

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Anxious People – Fredrik Backman

Anxious PeopleThe eight strangers who were participating in an apartment viewing could not, in their wildest imaginations, have thought this would have been a life-or-death situation. (And really it wasn’t, but they didn’t know that!) You see, a bank robber burst in and took them hostage, a bank robber with a gun! As the police surround the apartment building and TV crews arrive, the tension mounts, they begin talking with one another, about their lives, their anxieties. Thus, the title of this book.

This is a bittersweet comedy that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time. Fredrik Backman is good at that. I love his books, and this is one of his best. Don’t miss it.

eGalley review                                                      Publication date 9.8.2020

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Chasing Chopin: A Musical Journey Across Three Centuries, Four Countries, and a Half-Dozen Revolutions – Annik LaFarge

Chasing ChopinThere have been many, many, biographies of Chopin. Do we really need a new one? Yep . . . we need this one, because it is a biography of Chopin’s music:  how he composed, how he played his music, how he taught his techniques to his students, what pianos he used. LaFarge buried herself in Chopin’s world, visiting monuments, churches, archives. She played on antique pianos, talked to music teachers and pianists.  But the best thing is a companion website It is organized by chapter and has links to performances of the music mentioned in that chapter. How wonderful to be able to listen to music as it is being discussed.

I absolutely loved this book.

eGalley review                                                     Publication date 8.11.2020

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The Geometry of Holding Hands: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (13) – Alexander McCall Smith

Geometry of Holding HandsWhat a treat in this era of staying home and self-distancing. Isabel Dalhousie is always calm and

reassuring. You know that everything will be all right, eventually.  This time, her problems center on her niece, Cat, who has an unsuitable boyfriend (as usual), and a rather odd request she received from a stranger. He wants her to be the executor of his estate, for he is dying of cancer and can’t decide which of his relatives will use it best. Since she is the editor of the quarterly publication Review of Applied Ethics’ Isabel naturally thinks things through to come to the most ethical conclusion.


This is Book 13 in the series, but it is easily a standalone novel.

eGalley review                                                     Publication date 7.28.2020

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Or What You Will – Jo Walton

Or What You WillHe has had an amazing life. He can be anyone, do anything. He can be a boy or a god, play anyone. It’s hard to believe he is just a figment of Sylvia’s imagination. But it’s true, and he has been living in her head for quite a while. You see, he has been a character in over thirty of Sylvia Harrison’s novels. Unfortunately, Sylvia’s life is coming to an end, and he will die with her. He finds this totally unacceptable and comes up with a plan that will keep both of them alive forever.

I loved this book. It is narrated by the figment of Sylvia’s imagination and the story jumps from the pages of the novel Sylvia is writing to the real world and back. It’s a story within a story, within a story, full of delightful characters, so much fun and unlike anything I have read. Don’t miss it.

eGalley review                                          Publication date 7.7.2020

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Riviera Gold : A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes – Laurie R. King

Riviera GoldWhile Holmes was away doing something or other, Mary was lounging on the Venice Lido with a new friend, (the Honourable Terrence Shields-McClintock), when Terry suddenly said, “You need to come sailing with us. Truly.” Twenty-two days later she found herself, bronzed and blistered, on the Riviera. It’s the summer of 1925, and the Riviera is full of American expats and celebrities. Among others, Mary runs into Lily Langtree, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso, and to her immense surprise, she happens on the Holmeses’ former housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, who left England after being accused of murder. Unfortunately a young man is found murdered in Mrs. Hudson’s front room, and Mrs. Hudson is once again accused of murder. Holmes soon turns up to help Mary defend Mrs. Hudson. This is more Mary’s story with Holmes in a lesser role, and I didn’t like it as much as some of the previous books. I missed Holmes’  deceptions and disguises. It is still a very good read, with lavish descriptions of the lives of the rich and famous, twists and turns of plot, narrow escapes, evil villains.

eGalley review                                                                Publication date 6.9.2020

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Elephants: Birth, Life, and Death in the World of the Giants – Hannah Mumby

ElephantsOn a trip to Africa, I was amazed at the way the elephants encircled the babies to protect them when we came near. If there were no little ones in the group, they paid no attention to us, but they were obviously going to protect the young at all costs. After that, I was hooked on watching elephants, so this book caught my attention. Dr. Mumby has spent most of her life studying these complex animals. She explains how they communicate, how they bond, how their personalities differ. She notes how the intergenerational group of mothers, grandmothers, sisters and children interact with each other. She also has studied many other elephant groups, including both orphaned elephants, male groups and the solitary elephant males. And she comes to the conclusion that elephants and humans are not so very different.

This is a personal account of her field research, full of her adventures, and fun to read (mostly). At times, though, I was overwhelmed by too much detailed information. The published book features a 16-page color insert of original photography.

eGalley review                                                 Publication date 5.12.2020

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Galileo : and the Science Deniers – Mario Livio

GalileoThere have been a great many biographies written about Galileo, but very few (if any) written by someone with Mario Livio’s credentials. He is an astrophysicist who has worked with the Hubble telescope, the descendant of Galileo’s telescope.  As a scientist, he brings a new perspective into Galileo’s story. In a world with science deniers everywhere, where religion is still sometimes in conflict with science, he sees Galileo as a reminder of the importance of freedom of thought.

The book is well written, easy to read, with accounts of Galileo’s struggles to support his family while continuing his research. And of his struggles with the Jesuit scholars who found his research unacceptable. He made his own telescopes, and was determined to confirm Copernicus’s claims that the Earth went around the sun. But even though he was the most famous scientist in Europe, that fame could not protect him when his writings conflicted with the Church.

I enjoyed the book. It’s an easy read. Livio explains Galileo’s findings in layman’s language, and helped me see Galileo as a real person, not just a name.

eGalley review                                                             Publication date 5.5.2020

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The Book of Koli – M. R. Carey

Book of KoliMythen Rood is a large village, more than two hundred souls. It is Koli’s home, a fine home with a fence all around it, as high as one man on another man’s shoulders. It seems that everything outside that fence hates Koli, wants to eat Koli. The trees had special ways to hurt. And there were the dangerous shunned men. Much safer to stay inside the fence.  The village is ruled by the Rampart family, and Koli so wants to be part of that family. They know how to use the old-time weapons. Everyone looks up to them. So Koli, always an impulsive teen, does the unthinkable. He breaks into the cache and steals some old-time tech. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a music player, not a weapon, and he is soon found out and banished from the village. His life is now just a struggle to avoid all those things that want to eat him. But his music player also houses an AI named Monono who manages to help him a bit.

This is book one of a post-apocalyptic trilogy, about a world ravished by war and climate change, with genetically modified plants that went terribly wrong. Koli is a great protagonist, intelligent and likable, just able to keep ahead of his enemies. And those enemies, plant, animal and human are described in horrific detail. I enjoyed the book very much and am really looking forward to the next one.

eGalley review                                              Publication date 4.14.2020

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Raphael, Painter in Rome – Stephanie Storey

Raphael, Painter in RomeWhen Raphael was eleven, he promised his dying father that he would become the greatest artist in history. This book is the story of how he tried to keep that promise.  The painting of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel has been told in countless histories, biographies, and works of fiction. But it has never been told like this, through the eyes and voice of his rival, Raphael Santi of Urbino. And what a voice it is. He begins his story with a tirade about Michelangelo and the myths that have surrounded his painting of the Sistine Chapel. How he laid on his back to paint it . . . not true. How he hates to paint. Also not true. He continues by saying people think of him as the ideal courtier, with talent that comes easily and as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. And he says that is not true either.

This was a delightful book. It had everything:  beautiful writing, settings, that were rich and full of detail, characters that lived, that you could care about, a gripping plot. Although it is fiction, decades of research into Italian Renaissance art and of the life of Raphael preceded its writing. With a recommendation that the reader have a computer or tablet handy to look up the referenced works, everything comes together. I highly recommend this book, you will enjoy it, even if you are not interested in Renaissance art.

eGalley review                                                           Publication date 4.7.2020

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The Golden Flea: A Story of Obsession and Collecting – Michael Rips

Golden FleaYes, this is really a book about a flea market, and yes, it is pretty good. New York City’s Chelsea Flea Market operated most weekends in a two-floor garage on the west side of Manhattan for decades, and Michael Rips became addicted to it, attending most every weekend for nearly 20 years. Through his lively writing, you will meet eccentric vendors with odd nicknames, some of whom will only sell to customers they deem worthy. You will encounter knowledgeable pickers, hoping to make a huge profit. You will also be witness to Rips compulsive purchases, as he collects everything from West African fetish dolls to sculptures and paintings and frames and anything that tickles his fancy. And his apartment fills to overflowing. I LOVE flea markets, estate sales, garage sales . . . anywhere I might, just might, find a treasure. So, I enjoyed this book. BUT if you are one of those who turn your nose up at such adventures, don’t bother reading it.

eGalley review                                                      Publication date 4.21.2020

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The Midnight Lie – Marie Rutkowski

Midnight LieFrom the publisher, “Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.
Nirrim keeps her head down, and a dangerous secret close to her chest.  But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away, who whispers rumors that the High Kith possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.”

I always look forward to reading this author’s works and was so eager to jump into this story.  The premise is great, the mystery of the city’s history, the caste system, and the characters.  The writing is descriptive with plenty of dramatic action in the beginning but I came away with the feeling the story was more about the sexuality of the two main characters, Nirrim and Sid.  There could have been so much more devoted to the city’s history and the hidden magic.

eGalley review                                                 Publication date 3.3.2020

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Twilight Hauntings – Angie Sage

Twilight HauntingsFrom the publisher, “In Book One of the Enchanter’s Child duology, New York Times best-selling author of the Septimus Heap series Angie Sage crafts a fantasy world where enchantment is illegal, Oracles knit octopuses, wizards run around in soggy underpants, and one girl is on a mission to save Enchantment and Enchanters, which might just save the kingdom.  

Alex has a set of Enchanted cards. When she flutters her fingers above them, something magical happens: the cards come alive and create moving pictures of what is now and what is yet to come. But Enchantment is illegal in the city of Luma, and those who practice it are imprisoned forever in the Vaults—dark dungeons deep below the city.  When Alex is betrayed by her foster sister Zerra, she knows she is in great danger. With the help of her little foster brother, Louie, she makes a daring escape.   

But Alex discovers she is not safe outside Luma either. Here lurk deadly Hauntings that seek out those who practice magic: Enchanters and their children. The Hauntings take many forms and Alex is hunted by a giant bird of prey, the Hawke, a murderous Night Wraith called the Grey Walker, and the eerie Xin.  But why do the Hauntings haunt Alex?  Alex doesn’t believe she’s an Enchanter’s Child, but she has no idea who her parents are. Her precious Enchanted cards are her only clue to her true identity, and she becomes determined to find out who she is. And, while she is at it, to get rid of the deadly Twilight Hauntings forever.”

I absolutely love the author’s writing style and eagerly gobble up everything she writes.  She successfully introduces a plethora of characters, each with an intriguing backstory so rich that each character could easily star in their own story.  Yet she never loses sight of her main characters.  As each person is introduced, I ponder their role and how it is all tied together.  It’s so very clever and fun to read.  Hard not to smile while reading.  I am slightly saddened this is a duology, not a long series.  But that’s okay, as long as the author has a trove of stories still to come.  Highly recommend!

eGalley review                                                Publication date 3.31.2020

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Trace Elements : A Comissario Guido Brunetti Mystery – Donna Leon

Trace ElementsWhen Brunetti receives a call from a hospice saying a dying woman has asked to speak to the police, he and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, respond quickly. “They killed him. It was bad money. I told him no” was all she whispered, and Brunetti quietly promised that he would help. All he and Griffoni knew was that she was talking about her husband who had recently died in a motorcycle accident. As they unravel the threads, corruption and graft show themselves, and Brunetti must decide how to best dispense justice.

The Comessario Brunetti books are not your usual “collect the clues and solve the mystery.” Instead, the focus is on the everyday life of Comesario Brunetti and his family and co-workers. The mystery seems not so important. Donna Leon writes beautiful prose and places the reader in the scene. I enjoy descriptions of Venice, the meals, the weather, the walks and the canals. This thought-provoking book also quietly addresses the effects of tourists and climate change on Venice.

eGalley review                                                    Publication date 3.3.2020

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