Monday, July 25, 2011


IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES begins with eleven-year-old friends, Nora and Charlotte, and their teenaged babysitter, Rose, investigating the paranormal through the Time-Life book series. When Rose disappears, Charlotte and Nora again turn to the otherworldly to search for clues. Nora suffers through her status as "last to see Rose alive" and escapes the oppressive hometown, while Charlotte stays right where she is. When Rose's body is found sixteen years later, Nora reluctantly returns home to stay with her estranged friend. Charlotte wants them to pick up their investigation where it left off, and they deal with Rose's loss in very different ways. The novel unfolds with flashbacks to 1990 interspersed with the events after Rose's body is found. The integration of past and present is very well-done and reflects Nora's reluctance to remember (or acknowledge) some of the questions she had when Rose disappeared.

As the mystery of Rose's fate unfolds, Charlotte and Nora's reunion proceeds with awkwardness realistic for two people who were once close. The differences between the two friends as children and as adults make this a particularly nuanced novel, and Arsenault's investigation into the adults children become is fascinating and not intrusive. This is a well-plotted mystery and a unique coming-of-age story. My only complaint is the title, which implies that there are some notes that are the subject of a search. I will spare you the annoyance of wondering when these notes might be mentioned by telling you that they aren't the focus of the novel's unfolding plot.

Source disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


The problem with a fantasy novel that does not, as mandated by genre, kill off the parents, is that the tedious issue of parents dealing with their young children's adventures (or the children's disbelief-suspending avoidance of discovery) must be addressed. While Meloy's resolution to this quandary is not the most satisfying, the magic she brings to a 1952 London in which alchemy is alive and well offsets that small annoyance. Janie and her family move from Los Angeles (where the McCarthy hearings are in full force) to London under a certain amount of duress. Janie meets Benjamin, the son of the apothecary, who confesses an infatuation with the mean girl at school and an ambition to become a spy. When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin team up with Pip, a local pickpocket, and Sergei, a fellow student, to protect the book with which the apothecary has entrusted his son. Without giving up too many plot points, I will say that I wasn't entirely satisfied with the level of involvement of either Pip or Sergei. While they play key roles, they seemed a bit neglected and shoved out of the way during the main plot (which involves using alchemy to avert a nuclear disaster).

The setting of this novel was fantastic. In post-war London, shortages are still in effect, nuclear power is a major issue, and across the Atlantic, anti-Communist paranoia and unbelievable abridgments of First Amendment rights are affecting families. Alchemy is more science than magic, and the distillation of herbs into wonderful potions is great fun. The ending left me uncertain as to whether this book begins a series or not. If it does, the ending is pointlessly expositional, but if it does not, there are unanswered questions that make it deeply unsatisfying. I found the combination of alchemy with the historical setting highly readable, so I hope the first is the case. Although it has its flaws, THE APOTHECARY was an enjoyable read.

Source disclosure: I received this book compliments of the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mystery Monday: Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

I read Chevy Stevens first book STILL MISSING the early part of last year. I'm amazed she has another new book out already! But I was thrilled to know that, because her first book was so well written. And her second entry in the book world is even better!

In NEVER KNOWING, a woman (Sara) finally decides to look into who her birth parents are after always knowing she was adopted. She never quite fit into her adoptive family, especially when her mom was able to have two more biological daughters after adopting Sara. Sara's dad never really seemed to like her and treated her differently than her sisters. When the day arrives that Sara receives a copy of her birth certificate in the mail, opening it is like opening Pandora's box. She realizes her birth mother is a professor at a university nearby. When she tries to meet with her, the woman doesn't want to get to know her. In fact, she can't stand the sight of Sara! Heartbroken, Sara hires a private investigator to try and figure out who her birth father may be. Through information the investigator collects, Sara soon learns she is the product of a violent attack and her father is a serial killer still at large known as the Campsite Killer. As Sara digs deeper, information is leaked to the public and the Campsite Killer soon contacts her. This triggers a feeling of obligation on Sara's part to get this psychopath off the streets. Her obsession with trying to catch her biological father threatens her life and her relationships with her fiancee, daughter, and family.

This book was really good. I always hated when I had to set it down to do something else. Every chance I got to pick it up I would read a few pages here and there. This is one that I wish I had an entire day to just cuddle up and read straight through. Perfect for a vacation read! Stevens uses "Sessions" with a psychiatrist to break up the book instead of chapters, just as she did in STILL MISSING. Perhaps this will become Stevens trademark style of writing? I like it. It helps with character development. You get to delve into the main character and really know what she is thinking. I liked this book even better than STILL MISSING just because the creepy guy wasn't as creepy as The Freak. And I loved the "hunt" of this book. It was so suspenseful! I wanted to keep reading to find out if Sara caught the Campsite Killer or if he got to her first! I will for sure pick up the next book that Chevy Stevens writes and probably the one after that too.

NEVER KNOWING hit the bookshelves this past Tuesday on July 5th! So no need to wait in adding this one to your library!

Source Disclosure: I requested a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Mystery Monday: The Kate Burkholder Series

Hard to believe it's already been two years since I reviewed Linda Castillo's first book in her Kate Burkholder series, Sworn to Silence. I really liked that book! I read it in a little over a day.

I've been wanting to read Pray for Silence since I first saw it was released. It wasn't until I was going on vacation and looking for a new book that I quickly purchased it and downloaded to my NookColor. And I was not sorry I did. In this second installment of the series, seven members of an Amish family are found dead in their home leaving law enforcement officials baffled. Not until Kate finds a hidden diary written by one of the teenage daughters (Mary) in the family does she realize that Mary's boyfriend may be the #1 suspect. But Mary never mentions him by name. Throughout the case, Kate identifies with Mary as a victim. Her past catches up with her; Kate was victimized as a young Amish girl who eventually left that way of life. She finds it hard not to take it personally as she learns about Mary being taken advantage of. The only downside to this book is that there are quite a few characters on the periphery. I had to remind myself who one of the suspects was at the end.

Once I finished Pray for Silence, I was soooo excited to find a review copy of the latest book in my mailbox! I jumped right into Breaking Silence. Kate is called out to an Amish family's home where four children are left orphaned when it appears that their mamm, datt, and uncle are found dead in the manure pit in the barn. The coroner realizes at least one of them was murdered and the case turns around. Someone has been going around committing hate crimes against the Amish and they think the murders may be a part of that. However, Kate soon learns that things are not what they seem and maybe things aren't so simple in the Amish world. The family's secrets are revealed and things really twist around!

Throughout both of these books, Kate calls on John Tomasetti both to help her with the cases and to lean on in her personal life. They have both endured great personal hardship and are fighting their way back from being broken. They both have their demons but work well together. The thing I truly like about these books is the way Castillo writes the characters of Kate and Tomasetti. They are so real. And deep. Really, really great character development in this series. The only thing that bugs me a bit is that it seems that Castillo is stuck on the young innocent Amish girl being victimized. It would be nice if her next book had a fresh take on the Amish community and the case involved a storyline other than a young naive Amish girl.

Source Disclosure: I purchased Pray for Silence and received a review copy of Breaking Silence from the publisher.