Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner

Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner (Lord John Grey, #3)Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Outlander series and the Lord John series intersect in this story, which brings Lord John and Jamie together again. Forced into daily contact with his former jailer, Jamie gradually softens and we get to see the beginning of healing, respect for each other, and even friendship. The audio version used two different narrators to show the alternating point of view of the characters. I thought that was very effective. While the book could probably stand on its own, I loved how characters from other stories made a reappearance: John’s brother,Hal, his valet, Tom Bird, Stephan von Namtzen, Harry Quarry, and, of course, Jamie Fraser and his son, Willie.

Book description: London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of-war, life is coming apart at the seams. In the remote Lake District, where he’s close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own, Jamie’s quiet existence is interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of an erstwhile comrade still fighting to rally the Irish. But Jamie has sworn off politics, fighting, and war. Until Lord John Grey shows up with a summons that will take him away from everything he loves—again. Lord John is in possession of explosive documents that expose a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. Soon Lord John and Jamie are unwilling companions on the road to Ireland, a country whose dark castles hold dreadful secrets, and whose bogs hide the bones of the dead.

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What’s a Ghoul to Do?

What's a Ghoul to Do? (Ghost Hunter Mystery, #1)What’s a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I almost gave this 4 stars, but I think it has room to grow as a series. I liked the ghost hunting aspect. Some of the spectral activity seemed a bit over the top, but the author is a clairvoyant and a police psychic, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. I loved the gay sidekick, Gilley, and the African parrot, Doc. M.J. I’m not too sure about yet – perhaps her personality will develop more in time. Steven Sable – nice romantic interest, but the running joke with his English started wearing thin about halfway through the book. The plot was interesting, but had some holes. On the whole, I enjoyed it and want to see where the series goes.

Description (from book jacket): M.J. Holliday has two rules. One, she and her partner, Gilley Gillespie, work alone; and two, she doesn’t date clients. But when handsome Dr. Steven Sable needs her help, the specter-spotting sleuth is ready to break both of her rules. It seems the doc’s grandfather jumped from the roof of the family lodge in an apparent suicide. But Dr. Sable knows in his bones it was foul play, and strange things keep happening at the lodge. He’ll hire M.J. and Gilley – but only if he can come along. Hey, the duo needs the money – and looking at eye candy all weekend doesn’t sound too bad either… But once they reach the lodge, the three realize they’re dealing with more ghosts than just Grandpa Sable’s. And the spooks keep playing nasty tricks on their human visitors. To the untrained eye, it would appear that ghouls just want to have fun. But M.J. knows they’re communicating their distress – and it’s up to her to figure out why…

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, #1)Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short, cozy, charming setting, humorous situations. Not literature, nor a compelling mystery, but I enjoyed it. The prickly protagonist did well as an aggressive business woman in London, but her social skills are sorely lacking. This gives her kind of an appealing vulnerability as she tries to fit in and make friends in her new community. I liked her forthright nature. She says what she thinks and doesn’t have a lot of patience for artificial social niceties. This book is the first of a series, and I will probably read more of them.

Book Description:
Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry—but falls over dead! After her quiche’s secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…

Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner’s tag on her toe…

The Distant Hours

The Distant HoursThe Distant Hours by Kate Morton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ultimately satisfying, but the journey was quite long and rambling. There was beautiful prose along the way, but I found it hard to follow as an audiobook. I think the going back and forth in time, and shifting points of view might be clearer in the text. The gradual unveiling of various secrets took the oomph out of any suspense the author was trying to create. In the end, nothing has really changed for any of the characters except possibly the relationship between Edie and her mother. I was mostly left wondering what the point of all the wandering was. I think it would have worked better as a straight story about the three sisters and their failed romances and frustrated dreams, without framing it with the letter and the modern day journalist trying to unravel their secrets. A nice homage to gothic fiction, yes, but a romantic thriller, no.

Book description:
It starts with a letter, lost for half a century and unexpectedly delivered to Edie’s mother on a Sunday afternoon. The letter leads Edie to Milderhurst Castle, where the eccentric Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted during World War II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives caring for their younger sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiancé jilted her in 1941. Inside the decaying castle, Edie searches for her mother’s past but soon learns there are other secrets hidden in its walls. The truth of what happened in “the distant hours” has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. In this enthralling romantic thriller, Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning a rich and intricate web of mystery, suspense, and lost love.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the RainThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Domestic fiction, but from a guys point of view – well, actually it is narrated by the dog, Enzo. Enzo believes his soul has evolved to become human and he will be a human in his next life. He tells the story of his master, a race car driver, dealing with the illness and loss of his wife to brain cancer, and who is fighting his in-laws for custody of his daughter, and false allegations of rape by a young relative. Enzo deals with the trials of trying to communicate without words, and the lack of opposable thumbs. He is wise, funny, and philosophical. We can learn a lot from Enzo, and from the world of racing: living in the present moment, never giving up, maintaining a positive outlook despite life’s difficulties, and keeping your eyes on where you want to go.

Ascension

Ascension (Water, #1)Ascension by Kara Dalkey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was just what the doctor ordered to provide a lighter diversion alongside Wolf Hall. I am not regretting spending actual money on the ebook. The intended audience is probably preteen – I would say ages 10-13. But I’m an adult and enjoyed it. The author has created a (mostly) believable underwater world (Atlantis, after it sank). The mermyds are very humanlike – some, like Nia, even have legs instead of tails – and they can breathe out of water. Nia is a spunky, likeable heroine. Some reviewers have criticized all the details about the city and its history, but that is what is bringing it alive for me. I like lots of details, and I think children do too – it’s what puts you into the story. I also like the sci fi elements (the squidlike Farworlders who exist in a sort of symbiotic relationship to the mermyds). Nothing overtly Arthurian in this first book of the trilogy – this is a teenaged Niniane long before she becomes the “Lady of the Lake.” I am looking forward to finding out how she gets there….

Book Description
The sea is the birthplace of legends.

Nia, a young mermyd of the Bluefin clan, has had one wish all her life — to be an Avatar in her beloved home of Atlantis. The ten Avatars rule the beautiful and peaceful undersea city alongside the ancient Farworlders, whose magic keeps their world alive. To be an Avatar is an honor and a great responsibility, and Nia dreams of taking her place among the noble ten.

Now, at sixteen, Nia has a chance to see her dream come true. Atlantis is choosing its next Avatar, and Nia knows she is supremely qualified.

But there is something Nia doesn’t know — if she gets her heart’s desire, it could mean the end of her treasured world of Atlantis forever.