The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man by Gary Inbinder

The Hanged Man is a murder mystery set in  Paris at the end of the 1800’s.

“Achille Lefebvre and his wife Adele are planning to enjoy a stay at a seaside resort…until a body found hanging from a bridge in a public park demands the Inspector’s attention.

Is it suicide or murder?Front CoverA twisted tale of evidence draws Inspector Lefebvre into a shadowy underworld of international intrigue, espionage, and terrorism. Time is of the essence, pressure mounts on the police to get results. Achille’s chief orders him to work with his former partner, Inspector Rousseau, now in charge of a special unit in the newly formed political brigade. But can Achille trust the detective who let him down on another case?

Inspector Lefebvre uses innovative forensics and a network of police spies to uncover a secret alliance, a scheme involving the sale of a cutting-edge high explosives, and an assassination plot that threatens to ignite a world war.”

Inbinder tells his story in an omniscient narrative voice. He has done his historical research for the story involving Russian spies in France, threats of revolution and the newly discovered forensics of fingerprinting.

I found his dialogues stilted and unrealistic. On the plus side, he does attempt to inject his work with interesting vocabulary. He has obviously used a thesaurus to create variety, and kudos to him for that, but unfortunately his knowledge of nuance is lacking, thus making his choice of words, though technically correct, unsuited to the context in which he uses them. This in turn causes his already stiff narrative to have a jarring quality.

Though he sets up the discovery of clues as per the mystery novel formula, his foreshadowing is heavy handed and clumsy. Equally awkward is his attempt at portraying the marital relationship.

Having said all that, the Inspector does get his man and all’s well that ends well.

Sorry Mr. Inbinder, but I am unable to give you more than two stars for this short novel.

Review by Christine

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy.

He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, Image result for the graveyard book summarywith a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy…an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.

But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack who has already killed Bod’s family…”

In typical Neil Gaiman style this is a delightfully strange and captivating story. His writing kind of reminds me of Steven King but this story is definitely geared to middle grade readers (ages 10 – 13)

The novel is illustrated by Dave McKean with unique black and white drawings to enhance all the creepy details that kids will love. If you’re okay with introducing your pre-teen readers to otherworldly writing this is a good place to begin.

Review by Christine


Autumn by Ali Smith

Ali Smith is a writer of note. Her unique style and penchant for playing with words makes for interesting reading. It took me awhile to get used to the rhythm of her prose.

Autumn is divided into two parts. It wasn’t until I reached the first few pages of the second part that the first made any kind of sense to me. I went back and re-read part one and then enjoyed the book much more than I had to that point.

The point of view, third person limited, gives a good look at the two main characters, Daniel and Elisabeth. The use of flashbacks can be a little confusing at times but with careful reading becomes clear.

There is much to think about in the book and we find out that this is the main role of Daniel in Elisabeth’s life; to make her think. She learns to think outside of the societal norms and reach deep inside to intelligently make sense of her world. Autumn is a story of love and loss and how to deal with both.

It was really, quite a lot of work to read this novel but definitely worth the effort.

Review by Christine

A Circus Adventure: a Tumtum & Nutmeg story

A Circus Adventure: a Tumtum & Nutmeg story by Emily Bearn

A Circus Adventure is number 5 in the Tumtum & Nutmeg series, the tales and adventures of two helpful mice.

“When General Marchmouse takes Arthur’s toy bus for an adventure he gets a big surprise. A circus has come to town! But there’s more to this traveling troupe than meets the eye…”

These books are printed in large type, spaciously arranged on the page with numerous pen and ink illustrations of the characters and their antics.

The language and action are well suited to young readers 7 to 9 years of age. Some of the vocabulary will stretch your young reader and working their way through the story will give them a real sense of accomplishment as well as providing a pleasurable read.

Review by Christine


Because Your Grandparents Love You

Because Your Grandparents Love You by Andrew Clements, illustrated by R. W. Alley

Grandparents are special. Fact.

Front CoverThis picture book tells a story of patience and the unconditional love of grandparents for two young children . The tale takes place on a farm. There are many things for the brother and sister to learn and they make lots of mistakes but the grandparents correct them in a kind and uplifting manner.

The narrative is told in simple language and the book is charmingly illustrated. A great book to share with your pre-reader.

Review by Christine

Cirque du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan Book 1

Cirque du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan Book 1 by Darren Shan

“Darren Shan is just an ordinary schoolboy…until he gets an invitation to visit the Cirque du Freak…until he meets Madam Octa…until he comes face to face with a creature of the night.

Soon,Darren and his friend Steve are caught in a deadly trap. Darren must make a bargain with the one person who can save Steve. But that person is not human and only deals in blood…”

In this middle grade novel two boys face deadly enemies and one must deal with his own fears in order to save the other. Cirque du Freak is a tale of friendship, bravery and loyalty. But don’t let all that mushy stuff fool you…you’ll want to sleep with the light on after reading Cirque du Freak.

Review by Christine

Made from Scratch: Discovering the pleasures of a Handmade Life

Made from Scratch: Discovering the pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich

Jenna Woginrich is a web designer by day and a homesteader in her off time. Growing more and more discontent and disillusioned with our world of fast food, mass produced everything and over the top consumerism, she decided to learn a few skills to enable her to be more in control of her food and other purchases.

Inspired by her growing admiration for small farmers  Jenna Woginrich learned a few basic country skills. With enthusiasm and joy for the tasks at hand, Woginrich embarked on a journey that has been sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking and always soul satisfying.

From the fulfilling work of planting a garden and installing honeybees, to the bliss of gathering fresh eggs for an omelet or playing an old-time ballad on the fiddle, Made from Scratch shares the honest satisfaction of doing for oneself, and brings the  reader to a deep appreciation for the value of simple skills performed well.

I found this book to be a well written, easy to read wealth of information. Jenna is nothing if not encouraging. Her practical advice will have you up and doing for your self in no time.

Review by Christine

Little Shop of Murders

Little Shop of Murders by Susan Goodwill

“When Walter, a bathrobe-clad octogenarian, robs the bank using a concealed banana as the hold-up weapon, Kate and Aunt Kitty speed after him in Kitty’s mammoth 1974 Eldorado convertible. But instead of retrieving their cold hard cash, they find a still-warm dead body, much to the consternation of a certain sexy sheriff who happens to be Kate’s person of interest in the boyfriend department. Things go from bad to worse when Kate’s ex-flame from the Treasury Department and a quart-low biker gang – the Devil’s Cheerleaders – get involved in the mayhem.

Despite continuous misadventures, from Sausage festival pandemonium to a malfunctioning giant man-eating plant from Splotski’s’s Theatre Rental, Kate and Kitty are determined that the show must go on.

Sexy, sassy, and hilarious, this theatre mystery is the second in a series featuring amateur sleuth Kate London.”

Little Shop of Murders will keep you giggling from beginning to end.

Review by Christine

Half Spent Was the Night

Half Spent Was the Night by Ami McKay

During the nights between Christmas and New Year’s, the witches of New York – Adelaide Thom, Eleanor St. Clair and Beatrice Dunn – gather before the fire to tell ghost stories and perform traditional Yuletide divinations.Front Cover But their immediate future is revealed to them by a series of messengers bearing personal invitations for a New Year’s Eve masquerade ball to be held by a woman they don’t know. Is their generous hostess as benevolent as she seems or is she laying a trap? As Gilded Age New York prepares to ring in the New Year, the witches don their finery and head for the ball, on the hunt for an answer that might well be the end of them.

Ami McKay is a well read author with a penchant for things other worldly. In this light and lively novelette she leads us further into the lives of her characters (previously featured in Virgin Cure and The Witches of New York). She keeps the reader in suspense until the end of the book, which has a wee twist to it.

Looking for a Christmas read to entertain you of an evening? This one may be the very thing.

Review by Christine

The Cat’s Table

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje

This is the story an eleven year old boy and his adventures aboard a ship bound for England from Ceylon in 1950. He is making the voyage alone, to meet his mother whom he has not seen for five years. Mynah and two other boys, Ramadin and Cassius, are seated at the lowly Cat’s Table along with a number of fascinating and intriguing adults. Front CoverThe reader is shown the world aboard the ship through the eyes of this child, approaching adolescence with all his innocence and the misunderstandings of children, thrown into an adult world. Mynah and his two friends tumble from one adventure to the next, getting under foot and creating a certain amount of havoc.

The boy’s beautiful cousin, Emily who is also on board, is tangled up in a web of deceit and secrecy surrounding a shackled prisoner. The trio of boys is fascinated by this man and watch from the safety of the lifeboats as he is taken up on deck each evening for air, shuffling in his manacles and leg irons. Emily becomes Mynah’s confident and is the object of his budding desire.

Minah’s story strays into manhood where things only partially understood during childhood become clearer as he reconnects with first Ramadin and then Emily.

The Cat’s Table is a beautiful tale of innocence, intrigue and love that will leave you wanting more of this author.

Review by Christine