Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Clockmaker's Daughter

Book: The Clockmaker's Daughter
Author: Kate Morton

My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?-Goodreads

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter is a very descriptive (beautifully at times) novel that follows several characters and their relationships with Birchwood Manor, a house in the English countryside. There were so many different narrators it was difficult at times to keep everyone straight. I'll attempt a summary here with general timelines:

*Early/mid 1800's: Young Birdie and her father 
*Early/mid 1800's: Birdie/Lily rebirth and life with her 'adoptive' mother
*Mid 1800's: Lily modeling for Edward Radcliffe
*Mid 1800's: Birchwood Manor tragedy resulting in Edward's fiance's death and Lily's disapperance
*Mid 1800's-early 1900's: Lucy Radcliffe's, Edward's sister point of view
*Early 1900's: Ada living at Birchwood Manor 
*Mid 1900's: Juliet and her children living at Birchwood Manor after/during the war
*Present Day: Elodie, an archivist who finds a satchel with a photograph she obsesses over and sketches by Edward Radcliffe
*Last but not least, a ghost residing at Birchwood Manor

Told in alternating narratives and timelines, just when a storyline got interesting we were swept away into someone else's narrative. I really loved all of the Birdie, Lily and Ada sections. Way too much time was devoted to Elodie, who was written as such a boring character with no backbone. Ultimately, when we finally find out what happened that one tragic summer at Birchwood Manor, everything seemed really rushed. This was a 17+ hour audio book and the events at the Manor are maybe 20min. I am happy that we, the readers, know what happened but there was a distinct lack of closure for so many characters. 

This wasn't bad per say, I did enjoy certain sections but I think a good editor could have trimmed this significantly.  The first 25% of the book (not sure on the exact percentage but it felt like 25%) is focused on Elodie and it was a struggle to get through it. There are only so many descriptions and feelings one photograph can elicit and yet they were described so many times. Way too much time was dedicated to her mother and Elodie's wedding. 

My favorite part of the book? Discovering who 'Pale Joe' turned into. 

Grade: 2.5/5

Lost Girls

Book: Lost Girls
Series: DI Kim Stone #3
Author: Angela Marsons

Two girls go missing. Only one will return.
The couple that offers the highest amount will see their daughter again. The losing couple will not. Make no mistake. One child will die.

When nine-year-old best friends Charlie and Amy disappear, two families are plunged into a living nightmare. A text message confirms the unthinkable; that the girls are the victims of a terrifying kidnapping.

And when a second text message pits the two families against each other for the life of their children, the clock starts ticking for D.I. Kim Stone and the squad.

Seemingly outwitted at every turn, as they uncover a trail of bodies, Stone realises that these ruthless killers might be the most deadly she has ever faced. And that their chances of bringing the girls home alive, are getting smaller by the hour…

Untangling a dark web of secrets from the families’ past might hold the key to solving this case. But can Kim stay alive long enough to do so? Or will someone’s child pay the ultimate price? -Goodreads

Review: Angela Marsons, I am so happy my Goodreads friend (thanks Ann!) recommended this series. You know how to craft an addictive read and keep me turning the pages until the very end!

In the 3rd installment of the DI Kim Stone series, Kim and her team are tasked with an abduction case. Two young girls have been kidnapped-the case is eerily similar another kidnapping from a year ago where one child came home and the other has not been found. Kim and her team set up operations in one of the parents homes (who Kim has a history with) while they deal with a press blackout and increasing pressure from all sides. 

The story was great-I figured out one of the main 'bad guys' and Kim seemed slightly out of character compared to the prior 2 books, but I am extremely excited to finish this series this year. 

Grade: 4/5

Stef Soto, Taco Queen

Book: Stef Soto, Taco Queen
Author: Jennifer Torres

Estefania "Stef" Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family's taco truck. She wants nothing more than for her dad to get a normal job and for Tia Perla to be put out to pasture. It's no fun being known as the "Taco Queen" at school. But just when it looks like Stef is going to get exactly what she wants, and her family's livelihood is threatened, she will have to become the truck's unlikely champion.-Goodreads

Review: This was another selection for my daughter's 5th grade book club. A cute, extremely fast read, we follow Stef and her over-protective parents as her father tries to save his taco truck from pending government regulations and Stef tries to help her school raise funds for art supplies while navigating friendships and the rumor mill. I enjoyed this-I just wish it had been longer. It felt too rushed. 

Grade: 3/5

Evil Games

Book: Evil Games
Series: DI Kim Stone #2
Author: Angela Marsons

The greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time - it’s personal.

The rising star of the British thriller scene returns with a novel that enthrall fans of Rachel Abbott, Val McDermid and Mark Billingham.-Goodreads

Review: Wow-what a fantastic book #2 in a series. I absolutely loved this from start to finish. Kim goes head to head with a sociopath psychiatrist and the doctor was such a delicious adversary. Great read!

Grade: 5/5

Silent Scream

Book: Silent Scream
Series: DI Kim Stone #1
Author: Angela Marsons

Even the darkest secrets can’t stay buried forever…
Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood …

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?-Goodreads

Review: This is book #1 in a series introducing DI Kim Stone (tough as nails, doesn't like to get close to anyone) and her team. Kim reminded me of the British version of Detective DD Warren-albeit Kim has a more tragic backstory. They are both hard as nails and willing to do whatever it takes to solve a case. I think this was a strong start to a series and I liked the mystery although it was predicable. 

Grade: 3/5

The Silent Patient

Book: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him....-Goodreads

Review: Alicia murders her husband and stops speaking. She does not speak in her defense, does not speak when she is sentenced-she literally never says a word after the police find her over her husband's dead with a gun in her hands. Did she actually kill him? Why don't she speak? Years later, Theo Faber, a psychotherapist is convinced he can help Alicia. He gets a job at the facility she's being held at and they begin their sessions. 

I will refrain from spoilers but this book kept me turning the pages to see what happened. The story is told in alternating narratives between Theo and a diary of Alicia leading up the crime. I was never bored-even though I didn't 'like' any of the characters this was great read!

Grade: 4.5/5

King of Scars

Book: King of Scars
Series: Nikolai Duology #1
Author: Leigh Bardugo

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.-Goodreads

Review: Fans of Bardugo's Grisha series will be thrilled to see this new spin-off featuring Nikolai, Zoya and Nina, as well as others. This was so, so good! Nina is working undercover with a team focused on rescuing Grisha. Nikolai and Zoya are on a mission to expel the dark magic living in him. They all face obstacles and find strength within themselves to do things they never thought possible. And who knew that Zoya would end up one of my favorites?

If you haven't read the Grisha series, I highly recommend reading that first. 

Grade: 4/5