Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CITY OF DARK MAGIC by Magnus Flyte

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I have always loved to travel but I have never really had any interest in visiting Prague until I read this book. Music student Sarah Weston gets a job opportunity at a castle in Prague cataloging some Beethoven manuscripts. It seems like a dream job except for the fact that she was chosen after her mentor died in the same position.  Sarah takes off to Prague and becomes embroiled in the many secrets concealed by the Castle and the people who inhabit it. Sarah becomes suspicious about the circumstances arounde her mentor's apparent suicide and begins to investigate.  She discovers a time-warping drug that will change how she views not only her beloved Beethoven but also the history of the world around her. And she finds a little romance along with her adventure.

This was a really fun novel. It had some similarities to Harkness' DISCOVERY OF WITCHES in that there is a strong female scholar who becomes involved in extraordinary events. While the romance and sex scenes could sometimes be a bit far-fetched and over the top, the mystery and the time-warping drug were really great.  Prague itself becomes a character in the novel with all of its history and mystical properties.  I loved how the novel moved back and forth through time thanks to the mysterious drug.  The reader is able to see all the drama that unfolded within the walls of the Castle and Prague itself. While the writing can be a little messy and the story could have been developed a bit more, it was still a really entertaining book. It even left room for a sequel which I would definitely welcome.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A fun vacation read with action, mystery and a little romance.  Fans of Harkness and Gabaldon will enjoy this one.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Reading with Kids

Noodlebug and I have been going through our favorite Thanksgiving picture books to prepare for the big day. We thought we would share a few of our favorites with you.


I absolutely love the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  The only reason I ever shop at Macy's is because I want to support the store that gives me such happiness every year.  This little picture book celebrates the man behind the wonderful balloons in the parade.  It is a little wordier than most picture books but my 4-yr-old loves the pictures.  The illustrations are sweet and very detailed and there are wonderful photos of actual documents and newspaper articles from the 1920's and 1930's.  This makes a charming read each year as we prepare for our parade viewing.

2. BEAR SAYS THANKS by Karma Wilson

We love all of Karma Wilson's "Bear" books and this one is really sweet and charming.  Bear's friends start showing up to share a feast and each one brings something special. But Bear doesn't have anything to offer.  As Bear struggles with feelings of inadequacy (wink), his friends let him know just how much he really IS contributing to the fun. Really sweet.

3. BERENSTAIN BEARS GIVE THANKS by Jan and Mike Berenstain

As a parent, I have been rediscovering the Berenstain Bears and I just love them. All of the stories are sweet and wholesome and have a wonderful message that I think we can all get behind. 


This one is just for fun. It's a Thanksgiving version of the "Night Before Christmas" that focuses on some of the more traditional aspects of American Thanksgiving such as the food, the games and other family activites.  At least there is no Black Friday in there!!!

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. I'll be counting my blessings!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I dearly love Kate Morton and she just keeps getting better and better.  She is a master of the "family secret" genre. (one of my favorites!)  Morton returns to this familiar territory with THE SECRET KEEPER.

16-yr-old Laurel Nicolson is hiding in her childhood treehouse when she witnesses her mother involved in a shocking crime. When Laurel returns home years later to see her mother, Dorothy, on her deathbed, she decides that the time has finally come to solve this family mystery.  We follow Dorothy's story from WWII to the present.  We meet Dorothy's fiance' Jimmy and her best friend Vivien and learn how the three of them met.  As their paths cross in wartorn London, a series of events will be set into motion that will change their lives forever.

I think one of the things that makes this story so effective is the setting in 1940's London.  WWII is the perfect backdrop for the intersection of the lives of Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy.  All of the characters are interesting and compelling and the reader is driven to find out the truth behind their relationships and the secret that Dorothy has been hiding for over fifty years.  Although the secret became clear to me fairly early on, I still didn't know HOW the events came to be.  Morton kept me guessing until the end.  I was completely engrossed by this story and couldn't put it down.

BOTTOM LINE:  Highly recommended. Another winner from Morton. Save this one for a vacation because you won't want to put it down until the secret is revealed.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


I had high hopes for this one.  So much so that I purchased a copy as soon as I heard it was coming out.  It seemed to have all the ingredients that I look for in a book.  Characters who love books and mysteries, an odd bookstore that may or may not hide a secret, eccentric characters....the list goes on.

After young Clay Jannon loses his job in the midst of the Recession, he takes a position in a very odd 24-hour bookstore.  Clay works the night shift and figures that his job will be pretty quiet with the exception of the goings-on at the strip club next door.  Clay quickly realizes, however, that there is more to Mr. Penumbra's bookstore than meets the eye.  A group of eccentric customers appear on a regular basis requesting books from the book of the store that Clay refers to as the "backlist."  When Clay finally brings himself to look at one of these books, he sees that they are written in some kind of code.  Why are these books here?  And, more importantly, what are the mysterious customers doing with them? As the days go by, Clay becomes more curious about the mystery and employs his girlfriend at Google as well as other technologically-inclined friends to help him break the code.  All of these individuals meet at the intersection of technology and books in order to solve a centuries-old mystery.

While the idea of this book is charming and interesting, it fell flat for me.  With the exception of Mr. Penumbra himself, I didn't find any of the characters particularly engaging.  I loved the fact that Sloan mixed up Luddites and technology buffs and created a mystery that could only be solved using both kinds of people. The mystery itself with its secret brotherhood and emphasis on books was quite charming.  I think, though, that the book was just too short.  If Sloan had fleshed out the story and characters a bit more, say 500-600 pages instead of 300, we could have had a really great story.  As it was, the whole thing felt rushed and the ending tidied everything up a little too much. Print-book readers definitely win with this one in that it has an absolutely charming cover.  It made me happy each evening to turn out the light and watch the cover glowing in the dark on my bedside table!

BOTTOM LINE:  Not recommended.  I think Sloan had some terrific ideas but the book just wasn't long or detailed enough to really have an impact.  I would have liked to know more about the story and characters instead of being rushed through it.