Thursday, May 28, 2015

Keep Me Ghosted (Sophie Rhodes Romantic Comedy) - Karen Cantwell

Come on -- with a last name like that, I had to read at least one of her books. (To be clear, I've never met Karen Cantwell, and as far as I know, I'm not related to her.)

Sophie Rhodes is a young woman with a problem. For starters, she needs a job. But besides that, she's haunted -- by a veddy British gentleman ghost named Marmaduke Dodsworth. Marmi has been known to get her into scrapes in the past. But in this particular instance, he turns out to be useful. Because Sophie's new employer -- a cute optometrist named Dr. Callahan -- is also haunted. His office is afflicted with a banshee that just won't go away.

Sophie and Marmi do their best to rid the office of the ghost, with plenty of paranormal hijinks and romance along the way.

I found Keep Me Ghosted to be a light, fun, and entertaining read. It's not a genre I would normally pick up, but I did enjoy this book. And if you're the sort who likes light, fun paranormal books, then I'd say go for it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Willowtree (Bruce DelReno Mysteries) - Mike Bove

In Willowtree, we meet an unlikely sleuth -- a retired mailman (can we still call them mailmen?) named Bruce DelReno. Bruce is retired and living in a little town in Arizona called Willowtree, where he plays a lot of golf, and more or less keeps house. His wife Genny still works as an on-call nurse for a nursing agency -- which is to say that she has a part-time job with full-time hours at a lot of different places. So Bruce is in charge of most of the cooking and housekeeping, and of taking care of their dog.

Everything's going along great -- until the dog discovers a body in the wash on the local golf course. Before long, our retired letter carrier is unofficially helping the local cops with a murder investigation. It turns out that another body was found at nearly the same location many years back, and Bruce figures the two incidents might be related. Eventually, a whole host of characters is involved -- including a crazy old guy, one of the people who works for the golf course, and Bruce's least favorite golfing partner.

I enjoyed the book, although our hero is a bit long-winded at times. I could have done with fewer instances of Bruce recounting all the stuff he did that day that didn't have anything to do with the murder investigation. His day-to-day chores got so much attention that I half-expected the bad guys to attack either Bruce's wife or his dog, or both, before the story was up. Thankfully, that never happened. Wait, was that a spoiler? Hmm. Guess you'll just have to read Willowtree yourself and find out.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mazie Baby - Julie Frayn

Mazie Baby is a well-written story of domestic abuse and, eventually, redemption.

Mazie Reynolds has been married to Cullen Reynolds for many years. At first, he loved and even worshipped her. But his behavior has spiraled down over the years until now, Mazie finds herself walking on eggshells to avoid setting him off. Even so, his temper explodes too often -- and when it does, Mazie is often seriously injured, and must explain away her injuries as clumsiness to medical authorities, and even to her daughter Ariel.

But unbeknownst to Cullen, Mazie has been documenting everything for the past several years. Finally, she snaps. She means only to give him the same sort of treatment he has been giving her all these years, but instead she goes too far and kills him. Then she and Ariel hit the road on a journey across Canada to hide from the authorities and start a new life. Along the way, she finds personal strength, and a support system she never knew was there.

Frayn is a gifted writer. Her descriptions of Mazie's torture at Cullen's hands make her suspicion of those who claim to want to help her all the more believable. I was pulling for Mazie and Ariel all through the book, but especially at the end. Which was perfect, and perfectly believable.

Mazie Baby is not an easy book -- some of the descriptions are graphic -- but it's a rewarding read in the end. Highly recommended. And I'll be looking for more from this author.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Healer's Shadow trilogy - Zoe Brooks

This week, you get a three-fer -- mainly because I had all three books in the Healer's Shadow series and once I'd finished the first one, I just kept reading 'til I'd read the whole thing.

This series of books in the genre of magic realism follows the tale of Judith and her Shadow, Sarah. When we first meet them in The Girl in the Glass, they are young girls named Anya and Eva, living in the home of their cruel aunt, who took them in after their parents died in the plague. The aunt believes Anya to be a witch like her dead mother, the healer. Eva, as Anya's Shadow, is treated as less than human -- but she gets the better end of the deal, as the aunt finds every opportunity to punish Anya by beating her and/or locking her in the broom cupboard. After one particularly harsh punishment, the girls run away from home, across the desert, to the town of Pharsis -- a port city that suffers from frequent earthquakes. The girls change their names to Rosa and Elizabeth; they move into a condemned house and find odd jobs. Eventually Rosa comes to the attention of a powerful man named Rex, and again the young women are subjected to humiliation and abusive treatment until they run away. They change their names once again, to Judith and Sarah, and have a stroke of luck: an elderly perfume maker named Mistress Elma takes them in, and Judith finds her calling.

Or one of them, anyway. As it happens, many of the herbs and oils used in the art of perfume-making can also be used for healing. And in Love of Shadows, Judith is called upon to use her healer's gift not only to help injured dockworkers, but also to staff a secret hospital for Shadows who have been attacked by students at the local university. There's a war going on against Shadows in Pharsis, and Judith and her husband Bruno find themselves embroiled in it.

In the final book, The Company of Shadows, Judith and her young sons travel to Bruno's home village in the northern forest. There, Judith learns more about both Bruno's upbringing and her own, and finds peace -- and a real home -- at last.

Judith's story is compelling, and Brooks does a first-rate job in revealing it, bit by bit, over the course of these three novels. The reader also gets hints about where Shadows come from, and when the full story is revealed, it's a head-shaker at the very least. All of this is played out against a fully realized backdrop, magic-realism-style: Anya's desert home is devoid of love as well as moisture; as Rosa, and again as Judith, her world is rocked by personal earthquakes every bit as unexpected and severe as the real ones that plague the city; and there's a good reason why Judith keeps falling for men from the Forest, where magic is as abundant as the flora and fauna, and as nurtured.

For fans of women's fiction as well as those who love magic realism, I highly recommend all three books in the Healer's Shadow series.