Book Review: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

A Fatal GraceA Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Book number two in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, and I do love the setting for these books. Penny is amazing at bringing the location to life – not only the village which is so appealing, but in this book the time of year almost becomes a character in the story as well. She’s so convincing that I’d look up from reading and feel surprised that there wasn’t snow outside.

If anything, the flaws are that the setting is too perfect – Three Pines seems unbelievably quaint and charming. Even the village curmudgeon is beloved. The murder victim is also an extreme – so hateful, so mean-spirited, so vicious, it’s hard not to root for her killer to get away with it as a kind of public service.

I should probably pace myself with the series, as some of the aspects of the books will likely begin to annoy me if I binge read them. However, I am so curious as to what’s going to happen with a few of them I’m not sure how successful I’ll be at that plan. As I write this post I’m already about a quarter of the way through book #3.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Responses to the Reader Survey, part 1
Four years ago: Review: Enough by Will Davis Jr.

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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend paperbackThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

I wanted to love this book. The premise is fun, and the emphasis on books seems like it be a definite winner.

Except.

The premise and emphasis on books is all that keeps this from turning into a rant about the book, and as it is I can’t believe it’s a best seller. The supposed “charm” of the book felt fake and ridiculous, the characters were so cardboard I had a hard time remembering who they were, and the resolution was contrived and cringe-worthy. There’s also a side-plot that was impossible to believe, and some dangling plot elements that annoyed me to no end. As if that wasn’t enough, it was way too long and drew out what littleaction there was with tons of padding. I like big books, but I don’t want them to be long and boring. This one? Kind of boring.

Often after I finish a book I disliked I find myself perusing Goodreads reviews to see if I’m the only one with those negative opinions. Typically I can find other negative reviews (like this one) that capture the issues I had with the book, which is always satisfying. Yes! It wasn’t just me!

As disappointed as I was in this book, I would keep an eye out for future titles by Bivald – this was a debut and I can hope that the issues I had would improve with more experience. I feel like she’s got the potential there, and this one had potential as well. It just didn’t happen.

Not recommended. Save your reading time.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

Book Details

Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Author: Katarina Bivald
Category: Fiction
My Rating: 2 Stars


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cover Love: The Well of Lost Plots

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book to review by NetGalley (although I actually read a library copy because the NetGalley copy wasn’t cooperating with my Kindle). I was not required to post a positive review (I guess that’s probably pretty obvious though), and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links – thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

Death Wears a MaskDeath Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

I was reminded of this series thanks to my own “on this date” posts (as found at the bottom of blog posts). Late in July, Weaver’s first book, Murder at the Brightwell, popped up which prompted me to go looking for the next book.

Once again I enjoyed the main character, and was entertained by the book. Although I am not super fond of the whole marriage-situation plot device, it’s not (currently) a deal-breaker as far as continuing to read the series. I have some concerns that it’s going to get really tedious if she doesn’t resolve it in some way, but I’ll read the next one and then decide if I’ll keep going (assuming the series keeps going).

The books are light and although this one isn’t as good as the debut, I’ll try the third, A Most Novel Revenge, after it releases in October. The description leads me to believe the marriage issues that so bugged me in book #2 might not be an issue in book #3 so here’s hoping. 🙂

(A heads-up if you’re interested in trying this series, book #1 is currently only $2.99 for Kindle.)

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Amory Ames is looking forward to a tranquil period of reconnecting with reformed playboy husband Milo after an unexpected reconciliation following the murderous events at the Brightwell Hotel. Amory hopes a quiet stay at their London flat will help mend their dysfunctional relationship. However, she soon finds herself drawn into another investigation when Serena Barrington asks her to look into the disappearance of valuable jewelry snatched at a dinner party.

Unable to say no to an old family friend, Amory agrees to help lay a trap to catch the culprit at a lavish masked ball hosted by the notorious Viscount Dunmore. But when one of the illustrious party guests is murdered, Amory is pulled back into the world of detection, enlisted by old ally Detective Inspector Jones. As she works through the suspect list, she struggles to fend off the advances of the very persistent viscount even as rumors swirl about Milo and a French film star. Once again, Amory and Milo must work together to solve a mystery where nothing is as it seems, set in the heart of 1930s society London.

Death Wears a Mask is the second novel in Ashley Weaver’s witty and stylish Amory and Milo Ames mystery series.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Anniversary Week: A Look Back, a Look Around, and a Look Ahead

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Introducing September’s Book Club Selection: Burial Rites

Burial RitesBurial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent by Hannah Kent

What It’s About

Description from Goodreads:

A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Why Was This Title Selected

I love historical fiction that’s inspired by real events. Add to that an unfamiliar time period and location – I’ve been intrigued by this title since I first heard about it. Top it off with stellar reviews (including glowing reviews for the Audible version – apparently the narrator is amazing) and it was an easy pick for the year.

Anything Else to Know About It?

Kent’s debut novel has won multiple awards, including the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year, the Indie Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year and the Victorian Premier’s People’s Choice Award. It was also nominated for numerous other awards.

We’ve started the discussion about the book, but you’re welcome to join in when you can.

The title is available in print, for Kindle or Nook, or on Audible.

What’s Coming Up in October?

The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
by Washington Irving

Why did I select it? I wanted something that gave a bit of a nod to Halloween, but I’m too much of a reading wimp to pick a true horror story. And at just over 100 pages, this helps bring down the average page count for the year.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: there are several audible versions available. I’ve linked to the cheapest one – it’s under $1, but there are others as well.


See all the books we’ll be reading in 2016 here.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago:
Two years ago: Bookworm Problems: Impatiently Waiting for the Next Book in a Series
Three years ago: Series Review: Graceling Realm (Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue)

On Rereading Books: Still Life

Still LifeYears ago I read Louise Penny’s novel, Still Life. It introduced a new mystery series set in Canada.

And I was thoroughly unimpressed with it, and proceeded to ignore future books in the series as they were released.

Except. Friends whose reading tastes I trust kept saying good things about her books (especially on audio). They said that the first wasn’t her best, but that the series improves.

There’s so many things to read, it’s hard to justify rereading a book I didn’t like, in the hopes of it turning into a series I like, but I do trust my reading friends.

Last week I reread Still Life, with the plan being just to get it read to reintroduce myself to the characters, with the expectation of continuing on with the series.

And I don’t know if it was the (very) low expectations I had, or if it was a different stage of reading life, but I really enjoyed it. Now I’m left wondering why I thought so poorly of the book the first time through. This is when it would be helpful if I’d been blogging about my reads all along; all I have is that star rating, with no comments. Was it a mistake – had I meant to type 3 stars and my finger slipped? Was I in a particularly cranky mood when I read it and nothing would have pleased me? It’s a mystery, one that no detective will solve for me.

On the bright side of things, it means I have the entire Penny series to look forward to reading, thank you very much Jessica and Sarah and Janet and Anne.

On the not-so-bright side, what other books or series have I potentially been ruling out because of a bad first experience, when if I tried them again I might think quite differently about them?

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter. Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces – and this series – with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

Book Details

Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Category: Fiction / Mystery
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Book Review: Poison

Snow Angels by James Thompson

Snow AngelsSnow Angels by James Thompson

Loved the setting, liked the premise and main characters, and the story showed a lot of promise early on. It went off the rails at the end – lots of coincidences and I was all but rolling my eye sat how everything resolved. I’m undecided about reading more in the series – I’m a bit intrigued by Vaara and his wife and their situation, but don’t know if I care enough to give the author another shot. There are just so many other books to read instead…

What really keeps me from recommending them without hesitation, even to crime fiction fans, is the amount of graphic detail Thompson includes. If you’re familiar with Nordic Noir as a subgenre, this won’t surprise you, but I’d hate for you to go into it thinking it’s going to be a gentler mystery than it is. It’s not. Be aware of this if you’re a sensitive reader. I’m not a particularly sensitive reader and I still found myself wincing at times. If you like that subgenre I still think there are stronger options, but perhaps his plotting improves in later books.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
It is called kaamos–two weeks of unrelenting darkness and soul-numbing cold that falls upon Finnish Lapland, a hundred miles into the Arctic Circle, just before Christmas. Some get through it with the help of cheap Russian alcohol; some sink into depression.

This year, it may have driven someone mad enough to commit murder. The brutalized body of a beautiful Somali woman has been found in the snow, and Inspector Kari Vaara must find her killer. It will be a challenge in a place where ugly things lurk under frozen surfaces, and silence is a way of life.

Book Details

Title: Snow Angels
Author: James Thompson
Category: Fiction / Mystery
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Relentless by Darcy Wiley

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Midnight RiotMidnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Jessica (Quirky Bookworm) shared about this title and made it sound so appealing that I immediately looked for it at my library. Happily for me, I was able to get a copy right away and dove into it. I love mysteries and when someone adds a twist to it it’s extra fun. In Midnight Riot the twist is the paranormal element, and I really enjoyed it.

It’s the first book in a series, and I’ll be getting the next, Moon Over Soho soon(ish). If they all stay at this level, I’ll likely read the entire series.

While I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read, if it sounds interesting to you and/or it’s the sort of book you enjoy (an urban fantasy/crime fiction mashup) then it’s worth trying.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

Book Details

Title: Midnight Riot
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Category: Fiction / Mystery
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cover Love: The Princess Bride

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (and a linkup)

Cuckoo's CallingThe Cuckoo’s CallingThe Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike) by Robert Galbraith a.k.a. J. K. Rowling by Robert Galbraith

While I found this mystery just a tiny bit slow to start, once I got pulled into the story, I was hooked. Galbraith (a.k.a. J. K. Rowling) is excellent at creating compelling characters, and I fell hard for Cormoran Strike and especially Robin.

The plot was fairly weak, but I didn’t mind that much as I enjoyed the characters so much. The ending was the worst part – somewhat contrived and confusing and yet I ended the book and immediately put #2 on hold from the library. I forgive a book a lot when I care about the personalities in it.

I know of at least one person who was unable to finish this book because she couldn’t get past it not being more like Harry Potter. If you think that would be an issue for you, I’d say pretend you don’t know that it’s Rowling writing under an pseudonym, and read this on its own merits only. It’s a solid start to a mystery series, and I’m eagerly anticipating reading more.

No, it’s not perfect, but it was a very satisfying read. There is a fair amount of language in it, so if that’s a concern to you consider yourself warned. Recommended for mystery fans.


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey on August 1st.


If you’ve written a post about The Cuckoo’s Calling, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

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3. The linkup will be open for two weeks.

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Quick Lit: Recent Series Reads

Harry Potter 1 2 3I’m in the midst of a Harry Potter readathon (so fun!) and have completed the first three books, and am thisclose to finishing book four. I’ve been listening to them all via Audible and while it takes longer (which is why I’m only just now almost finishing book four), I’m really enjoying the slower pace and wonderful accents that Jim Dale brings to it. Years ago I listened to some of them on CD, but it’s different hearing them now, after a break, and after completing the series.

Among the MadAmong the Mad (Maisie Dobbs #6). I think I enjoy this as a series more than any one book in particular – I like Maisie as a character quite a bit, and Billy is great too. I’m anxious to continue reading the series to see what happens with them both. Does Maisie find love again? Does Billy’s wife improve? Do Billy and his family move to Canada?

Flavia de Luce 6 and 7The Dead in their Vaulted Arches and As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce books 6 and 7). I’d been trying to read this series s-l-o-w-l-y because I don’t want to reach the point of no more to read. And now all I have left is a short story, The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse. I shouldn’t have too long to wait though, as book #8, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d is releasing September 20th. I’m planning on pre-ordering the Audible version as soon as it’s available.

The Mystery of the Blue TrainMystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot #6)
Fairly convoluted plotting, but I still enjoy Christie and will keep reading her.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Quick Lit July 2015
Two years ago: Favorite Books from the first half of 2014
Three years ago: Best Books {from the first half} of 2013

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little LiesBig Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty by Liane Moriarty

Last month’s book club read, and I completely forgot to do a final wrap-up post about it. My apologies! I thought I’d have more blogging time during the summer but I’m not finding that to be the case – either I need to accept that this is the new reality of time available, and make adjustments to my expectations, or else hope that the school year structure will let me get back into my previous routine. Or maybe some of both?

Anyway, back to Big Little Lies. I LOVED it. Such a satisfying read, and it was a perfect vacation book – compelling and easy to read, but enough depth that I didn’t feel like I was wasting my reading time on pure fluff. There’s some real substance to Moriarty’s stories that provides a lot to think about even as you’re swept along in her storytelling.

The structure was really enjoyable to me – I liked how she opened it with the big event, and then went back to the beginning to let the reader see how it got to that point. I liked the interviews that were interspersed throughout the text – it was fun seeing personalities emerge from those little snippets. I really liked how not only was I trying to figure out who the killer was, but also who the victim was!

A heads-up as well if you liked this one: Moriarty has a new title, Truly Madly Guilty releasing July 26. I am *so* excited about this, and keep going back and forth about pre-ordering the Audible version. Anyone trying it?

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Book Details

Title: Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Author: Liane Moriarty
Category: Fiction
My Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cover Love: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler