Book Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmener

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

 

 

I picked up the ARC for this at a Blogging event at a local bookstore back in January 2017. I’m not a huge YA fan, and only make occasional forays into this genre. I always have a fear that YA books will be too ernest and patronising.

Thankfully this wasnt the case here. It’s written in an interesting format, where POVs change between chapters, sometimes even during chapters. Letter and emails are exchanged, as well as IRL interactions between the main people and it’s always interesting. The stories are told from the POV of the youngsters involved – I was going to call them “Children” (patronising? moi? nah!) but that is perhaps the one thing that’s hard to bear in mind: The story is set in an American High School, and I found it hard to remember that the two main characters were both aged 17 – sometimes I thought they were perhaps 15 or 16.

Juilet’s mother – a war photographer – died several months previously in a hit and run accident on her way home from an assignment. Juilet has subsequently carried a certain level of guilt along with her grief, as she had requested her mother come home early and if she hadn’t, her mother wouldnt have been in the taxi that got hit.

Declan is doing community service, having gotten drunk at his mother’s second wedding and crashed the car – his father is in prison, having been drink driving and crashed the car that killed Declan’s younger sister – not only does he now have a record and a reputation, but is he following in his father’s footsteps as the drunk driver in the family? His stepdad is very strict, and Declan is angry with the rules that are being put in place, thinking them unfair and too harsh (and why should it be Alan imposing them and where is his mother in all this?).

Juilet and Declan muddle through a difficult year, their own issues and guilt, and somehow (through their letters and emails) help each other out, so that their year isnt as bad as it started out.

On the whole this was a strong book in the YA genre (with a little romance thrown in for good luck!).

 

About this author

Brigid Kemmerer is author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Inspector Montalbano: Equal Time, Collection 3, Episode 2

This is based on another short story, and therefore not based on a complete book.     

The episode starts with two men pulling up in a car, with one getting out and approaching a young blond girl on a moped. Scared, she throws her helmet at him and rides off, with the men giving chase. She nearly loses them a couple of times in the narrow backstreets, but decides to ditch the moped once out in the countryside. The men fire at her as she runs across the fields, missing her, but letting her go.

Caterella is at a quarry where a dead body has been found, Mimi’s baby has been born so he’s on leave, Fazio is on patrol, so Caterella calls Salvo. There is some great shots of the quarry, with huge gaps where the stone has been carved out.

The victim, Angelou Bonpensiero, was shot in the face mafia execution style and is known to be one of the Cuffaro family.  Married to Mariccia, the only daughter of the head of the Cuffaros, he rapidly became the right hand man to the father

Salvo and Fazio go to the church to see who goes to the funeral. We get introduced to the big hitters in the Cuffaro family, plus the fact that one of the Sinagra boys go to offer his condolences.

Fazio and Salvo discuss the murder and how Salvo doesn’t think it’s a mafia execution…..there are too many unanswered questions

We see Caterella out picking snails before he goes to work when he comes across the abandoned moped. Rather than calling it in, he pushes the bike away to go to the garage

Salvo gets devastating news…Calogero is closing the restaurant on health grounds and Salvo has no idea what he’s going to do for his lunch. It’s when he’s discussing his options with Mimi, that Fazio tells him that the Cuffaro have retaliated with the death of Michele Zummo, a Sinagra man.

Salvo visits Don Sinagra, who assures him that the Sinagras didn’t start this, and the head of the Cuffaro said wouldn’t have killed his Son In Law, even to blame the Sinagras. There is no one to follow the aging head, and the daughter is apparently not very bright. She comes into the station to be interviewed, is not upset at her husband’s death. She reports that he went out late the evening of his death, and she knows that he was killed by the Sinagras.

Fazio and Salvo go to visit Mr Scozzese who is too old and infirm to go to station. He’s reporting the disappearance of young Eva who rides a scooter and has been missing 3 days.

There’s a 3rd murder, this of Fichera, married to a Cuffaro. Salvo gets called to see the superintendent, who tells him the case has been handed over to Trupiano, the head of the flying squad. Feeling down, Salvo goes to Calogero, who despite being closed, feeds him anyway.

Afterwards, Salvo goes to docks to talk to some Russian girls esp.  Anja and Alina who were the last people to see Eva 4 days previously. Back at the station, Anja recognises the moped that Caterella brought in as Eva’s.

Caterella takes Fazio and Salvo to where he found the moped, and they find a nearby house, but the inhabitant, Biagio, is not very bright. He refuses to recognise Eva, despite her jewellery being in her house. He makes reference to “The puppeteer” who took the girl and threatened Biagio

Sinagra calls Salvo, annoyed that his son has been arrested for ordering the death of two Cuffaro men. Sinagra says only one death was ordered and it wasn’t Bonpensiero.  Meanwhile, two men are massacred whilst driving through a tunnel with roadworks.  Bonpensiero’s widow is seen at the hospital visiting Zaccaria.

The police are searching Bagio Cocuzzo’s land for bodies….he was questioned over the disappearance of another girl previously….waiting in the lane, Caterella spots there are too many sheep droppings for the number of sheep Cocuzzo’s keeps. How and why are they there?

Salvo uses Anja to try and get Biagio to say the name of his boss, but all he admits to is a man comes to visit, stays the night and goes with his sheep.

Salvo explains his theory to the team that he  believes Eva stumbled across Biagio at his house and goes in, thinking she will be safe, not knowing what she’s getting herself into.

The team narrow down the shepherds to one Alfaro Selia and pay him a call. Caterella, needing the toilet, stays behind as the others search the farm, which means he gets to save the day when Selia starts shooting.

The team rescue Eva. Whilst at hospital, Anja hands over photos of Eva with Bonpensiero and it’s clear they’ve been having an affair.

Salvo visits Mariccia, Bonpensiero’s widow, who is working in a great looking room, with high, high ceilings – she’s taken over her husband’s job in the firm. He tells her that they have reopened file on the death as they don’t believe it’s a mafia job – also that Eva is still alive.

The next shot is of cars  pulling into an abandoned quarry cave that is now being used as some form of auditorium. Salvo has called the heads of both families together. Salvo explains his theory then tells the families what he wants: the war to stop, Bonpensiero’s killer, and Mariccia to hand herself in.  The two old men embrace, ending things their side. Cosimo Zaccaria, the killer, gets delivered to Salvo in the precinct, still alive but following a chat.

They find Mariccia at the quarry, she admits to killing Bonpensiero herself by pulling the trigger of Cosimo’s gun. Before Salvo can stop her, she pushes herself off the edge, falling multiple stories to the ground.

The story finishes on a lighter note, with Mimi’s son being named, and the family are all together including Francois, who is rapidly growing up. He still loves horses, but is now interested in computers too. Hearing that Salvo is off to pick up Livia from the airport, he begs a lift to meet her.

The On Screen Sicily of Inspector Montalbano

Book Review: The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

The bestselling author of Richard & Judy Book Club hit The Cold Season returns with a chilling mystery – where superstition and myth bleed into real life with tragic consequences

Pretty Lizzie Higgs is gone, burned to death on her own hearth – but was she really a changeling, as her husband insists? Albie Mirralls met his cousin only once, in 1851, within the grand glass arches of the Crystal Palace, but unable to countenance the rumours that surround her murder, he leaves his young wife in London and travels to Halfoak, a village steeped in superstition.

Albie begins to look into Lizzie’s death, but in this place where the old tales hold sway and the ‘Hidden People’ supposedly roam, answers are slippery and further tragedy is just a step away

From Netgalley in exchange for a review, this is very much in the style of a Gothic Novel, with the potential for the “hidden people” to be influencing events at every turn.

Albert (Albie) Mirralls is working at his father’s firm in the city, and he goes to the Great Exhibition of 1851, where he meets  his  cousin, Lizzie, and her father. Despite them only meeting the once, Albie convinces himself that he is in love with his first cousin, and that they would someday meet again and marry. However, a decade passes, Albie has married Helena, and is stunned when he hears of Lizzie’s violent death at a still relatively young age.

Helena can’t understand her husband’s distress over the death of a distant relation he met only once. When he hears that  Lizzie was  killed by her husband, who had come to believe that she’s a changeling, Albie sets off for the Yorkshire village of Halfoak, to investigate…

Lizzie is found to be still unburied, her burnt and putrid corpse not even laid out properly. Albie arranges for the funeral to take place, but the locals that do attend do it pitifully, and the rest of the locals simply don’t turn up either at the church or the graveside. As a rationalist from the Big City, Albie makes a point of not believing in or not understanding local superstitions, such as that Lizzie shouldnt be buried in green (it’s their colour) or on a Friday (because it’s unlucky) etc.

Helena arrives from London, seemingly still upset that she is still being ignored in favour of this distant relative. She often comes upon her husband, only for him not to recognise her – is she bewitched somehow, or is she even a changling herself? Despite her objections, rather than leaving after the funeral, they move into the house left behind by Lizzie and her now imprisioned husband as Albie begins to investigate what has lead to this horrible situation.

To be honest, this is as far as I got. I’ve read other reviews that say that pacing was patchy and/or slow, only to pick up in the second half and I hope that this is true. Littlewood has produced what was a very good Gothic-esque story that I was just not able to complete. Even the secondary characters (such as the Innkeeper) were well drawn, even in his apparent shiftiness.

 

So I seem to have been one of those people that didn’t push through to the end, but I hope others get to persevere!

Book Review: The Colour by Rose Tremaine

Newlyweds Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate from England to New Zealand, along with Joseph’s mother Lilian, in search of new beginnings and prosperity, but the harsh land near Christchurch where they settle threatens to destroy them almost before they begin. When Joseph finds gold in a creek bed, he hides the discovery from both his wife and mother and becomes obsessed with the riches awaiting him deep in the earth. Abandoning his farm and family, he sets off alone for the new goldfields over the Southern Alps, a moral wilderness where many others, under the seductive dreams of the “colour,” rush to their destinies and doom.

Paper edition from my bookgroup.

I am the first to admit that my reading has been “off” for about 6 months, if not longer, so I am probably not operating at my full game. That said, I am sad to admit that The Colour is the first DNF of 2017.

Three people make the perilous journey from England to New Zealand to make a new life. Joseph; Harriet, his wife of a few months; and Lilian, his mother. Each person has their own reason for leaving England and each has a different idea what the country will offer them. However, the country instantly puts them on the back food, especially x, as the seasons are topsy turvey and they have little time to prepare for winter. Out of stubboness, x builds his house in the wrong place, using the wrong material, and it soon becomes clear how wrong the decision was.

Joesph gets gold fever, and makes the decision to leave his wife and mother to go to south island to search for more gold. The majority of the book is dedicated to each major character living a separate life to one another with loneliness being the overwhelming trait in their life, even when surrounded by others.

It’s when Joesph gets left by his only companion, and is subsequently surrounded by other gold rush miners that I finally gave up on this book. I’d been reading it for over a month, and was struggling to get any energy to return to it.  This is generally the signal to drop a book and move on, as I wasn’t going to pick up another book until I had made a decision about this one.

There were some good parts in this, such as the description of how and why Joseph decided to leave England (we get hints early on, but only fuller details in the second half of the book). The interaction of the neighbour’s son Edward with his superstitious Maori nurse is also rather magical. However in the end, it wasn’t enough to keep a cynical reader entertained.

Book Review: Meet Me At Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt

Welcome to Willoughby Close… a charming cluster of cozy cottages, each with a story to tell and a happy ending to deliver…

Ellie Matthews has come to Wychwood-on-Lea to find a new start for her and her daughter Abby. But, life there doesn’t start out as idyllic as she had hoped. While Ellie loves her cute cottage in Willoughby Close, the Yummy Mummies at the primary school seem intent on giving her the cold shoulder, Abby has trouble fitting in, and her boss, Oliver Venables, is both surprisingly sexy and irritatingly inscrutable.

But miracles can happen in the most unexpected places, and in small, yet wonderful ways. Slowly, Ellie and Abby find themselves making friends and experiencing the everyday magic of Willoughby Close. When Oliver’s nephew, Tobias, befriends Abby, the four of them start to feel like family… and Ellie begins to see the kindness and warmth beneath Oliver’s chilly exterior, which awakens both her longing and fear.

Ellie knows all about disappointment, and the pain of trying too hard for nothing, while Oliver has his own hurts and secrets to deal with. When the past comes rollicking back to remind both of them of their weaknesses and failings, will they be able to overcome their fears and find their own happy ending?

Picked up from Netgalley and read over the New Year – it’s only now, in checking reviews that I’ve realised that I haven’t written one for this book!

I’ve previously read A Cotswold Christmas from the same author, and whilst I considered that one a little short and light, this was a better book (possibly because it was longer and therefore room for more character development).

Anyway, Ellie has moved to Willoughby Close with her daughter Abby to get away from a painful past and try and move on.  Abby has previously been bullied at school, and unfortunately it seems it might be happening again at her new school. It doesn’t help that her apparent nemesis (Mallory) – and her mother (Harriet) – move in to the house next door.

Following a shaky start – both of them had different expectations from her working in the university typing pool – Ellie and her boss Oliver start dating. Abby, who swings between being the child and the adult in her relationship with her mother, becomes friends with Oliver’s nephew Tobias.

There’s an interesting take on “blended families”, where  Ellie and Oliver need to navigate Ellie’s relationship with Tobias’ mother, who has sunk into an alcoholic fugue following her husband’s suicide.

Against all odds, Abby also makes friends with Lady Dorothy, who is the old woman who lives in “the big house” – Ellie feels she always started off on the wrong foot with Lady Dorothy, ever since the dog ruined the croquet lawn.

The usual events for a romance happen along the way, and there are the usual bumps in the road – Nathan (Ellie’s ex) turns up unexpected, and Oliver invites Ellie home to meet his parents, having avoided telling her he comes from minor aristocracy and that his parents are horrendous people.

Ultimately, nearly everything gets resolved satisfactorily, but there is room for a future book on Harriet and Mallory, and perhaphs one about Nathan. As I mentioned before, it was a more rounded book than the previous one, so I’m glad I took another chance on this series.

 

Spring 2017 Bloggiesta – Finish up!

As I mentioned in my sign up post, I kept it relatively light this year, and so my to-do list was relatively short as follows:

  • Review uploaded media…anything not attached to a post?
    • I deleted about 30 images that were not attached to a post, and that I could not see being used in the near future. There are still unattached images in there, but there’s actually chance of them being used.
  • Do Librarythng. and Goodreads match, including reviews?
    • Goodreads and Librarything now match, with reviews linked and the 2017 books now matching.
    • It wasn’t what I had planned to do, but I did a check that the “To-Read” shelf and my “tbr” tag matched on Goodreads – to find out that they were out! I corrected these, corrected/added some reviews, and got several review hits from goodreads for the said books in the following days!
    • My Librarything to-read and tbr numbers match, but they are lower than the number on Goodreads – I still have to work out where the missing books are.
    • On an unrelated note, I logged onto Netgalley to review my TBR pile – and found there were two books that I’d read but not reviewed!  One review had already been published, so was copied in, and – worst of all – one review had simply not been written! Argh! There’s a post that needs to be done!
  • Any posts that need to be completed/scheduled?
    • two reviews were finished and published
  • Tags and categories right on blog, Goodreads and Librarything?
    • These have been tidied up, and where the usage numbers were low (< 2), deleted
  • Any posts that can be scheduled into twitter?
    • On the assumption that if a page got a hit in the last week, it means someone is looking at it, then some of those pages got scheduled into twitter over the next week or so, with images. This included the post just published
  • Take part in twitter chats where possible
    • this didn’t happen this time….boo!

 

Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic by Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo

dr-strange

They’ve crossed the dimensions, purging each of all sorcery. Now the Empirikul are here. And with Earth’s Master of the Mystic Arts weakened beyond measure, is there any chance of stopping them? The Sorcerer is no longer Supreme, and he’ll find himself at the mercy of the Imperator! With his magic destroyed and his world on the brink of disaster, are there any more tricks left up Strange’s sleeves? Or failing that, how about some cool weapons? Plus: As the Empirikul wreak havoc on magic users across the Marvel Universe, discover Wong’s ultimate sacrifice, watch Brother Voodoo make a stand, and meet a new player just as she’s about to lose the game!

I’ve not read Dr Strange before and I picked this book up around the time the film came out in the hope of brushing up on some of the source material.

It took me several attempts to get into the story and it was only later that I realised the probable reason for this – when I brought it, I didn’t realise this was the second half of a story arc, and I haven’t read the first novel.  The Empirikul, having decimated other realities, have come to this world, and are decimating their way through the magical forces in the world. It is up to Strange and the other magicians to band together to prevent the loss of everything, sometimes making total sacrifices to achieve the end.

It’s taken me a while to write this review – I dont know the creators and I dont know the characters at all, so I dont know how well or badly those involved are performing, but judging by the other reviews around the place…..this is a poor second book, especially in relation to what is generally considered to be an excellent first book. Judging by the fact it took me so many attempts to get started, and it still took me ages to review, I generally agree with what else has been written about it.

So in summary: I have more than enough Graphic Novels on my TBR list that I need to read so I will not be in a rush to buy any more Doctor Strange stories.