“Code name Verity” (Verity #1) Elizabeth Wein

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Hyperion. 339 p. (Includes a “Brief Bibliography.”)

CodeNameVerityThe story opens with Verity, a secret agent sent to Occupied France by the British, being held prisoner by the Gestapo during World War II. After being tortured for weeks, Verity struck a deal which allowed her to regain a modicum of civility but which also included having her write all she knew about the Royal Air Force (RAF) and her role with the British.

As Verity’s story unfolds we meet Maddie, a rare female pilot in the RAF who became Verity’s best friend. As their stories of bravery, friendship, and survival in the midst of fear and the unknown are revealed, readers will be hard pressed to keep their tears and emotions in check.

“Code Name Verity” won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award in 2013, given by YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association). It also was listed on the 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten list, and won numerous other awards. All are well deserved.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older, including Adults.


“What you left behind” Samantha Hayes

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. DCI Lorraine Fisher #2. 2015. Crown (Random House.)

WhatYouLeftBehindDetective Inspector Lorraine Fisher planned to have a nice vacation with her sister Jo and nephew Freddie in her childhood country home. Though surprised to find Freddie moody and uncommunicative, she brushes off Jo’s concern he might be suicidal because their neighbor Simon and 5 others killed themselves 18 months earlier. Jo is certain the recent suicide of Dean, a homeless teen motorcyclist, would lead to more suicides.

When an autistic neighbor shows her a drawing he made of the accident, showing there had been two people on the motorcycle when Dean died, Lorraine’s interest is piqued. Soon Lenny, another homeless teen, commits suicide and Freddie disappears, leaving Lorraine to find out what happened. What she doesn’t know is that someone has been very clever and will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep secrets hidden that will turn the town upside down.

This whodunit kept me biting my nails and sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation as Hayes cleverly dropped clues about various key characters. Just when I was convinced I knew what happened, she threw a very clever curveball that left me scratching my head in disbelief. Hayes is an author who does not disappoint, and I look forward to reading more of her books.

Though this book was the second in a series about Detective Lorraine Fisher, it stands alone as each book has its own storyline.

Highly recommended for Adults.


“All these perfect strangers” Aoife Clifford

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. To be published July 12, 2016. Random House.

AllThesePerfectStrangersIn the late 1980’s a murder was committed in Pen’s small hometown when she was only 15, which implicated her and her best friend Tracey. It’s now 1990, and she is seeing a psychiatrist for some murders that happened at her University. Using her doctor’s suggestion, Pen decides to keep a journal to recount events in her life so she could get to the root of her real problems.

Pen’s diary goes back and forth in time describing the current situation in her hometown, then skipping back to her life at University where someone is attacking females with a screwdriver, and where drugs, sex and drinking run rampant and unchecked. Occasionally Pen’s diary jumps even further back in time to give readers glimpses of her time with Tracey, but that timeframe is not as well developed.

The author cleverly weaved in secrets and lies as people were dropping like flies, which made me suspect practically everyone. I enjoyed trying to figure out what was happening, but I did not like the way the book ended. Are readers supposed to guess at what happened in the last chapter, or is the author planning on writing a sequel? I really hope not, but if she isn’t going to write one why did she leave readers dangling off the edge of a cliff?

I will recommend this book with some reservations. If it weren’t for the ending, and not getting clear answers to my many questions about Pen and Tracey, I would have given this book 4 stars. Its murky ending lowered it to three stars.

Recommended for Adults.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Try not to breathe” Holly Seddon

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Ebook. Published February 23, 2016. Ballantine Books.

TryNotToBreatheAmy Stevenson was 15 years old in 1995 when she went missing. She was found three days later savagely beaten, sexually assaulted, with multiple broken bones and severe brain damage. No suspect was ever found.

It is now 2010 and Alex Dale is writing about a brain doctor’s work in a neuro-disability ward with patients often typecast as “vegetables.” While on a tour of the facility she discovers Amy among the patients, which sets off her curiosity as to what happened fifteen years ago. Alex wants to dig into Amy’s past to locate clues, but her own past stands in the way. Her inability to stay sober has cost more than her marriage and job, as her self-esteem is at an all time low. If she manages to save Amy she may save herself.

As Amy’s foggy brain begins to sift through the events leading up to her attack, Alex tries to conquer her alcoholic demons. Through flashbacks and the present time, Seddon masterfully winds a path of intrigue, which will lead readers to a truth that will leave them reeling in disbelief.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Mrs. Engles”Gavin McCrae

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Published October 13, 2015. Catapult.

MrsEnglesUsing her droll sense of Irish humor, Lizzie Burns tells of her life as a poor mill worker in Manchester, England along with the trials and tribulations of living with her sister Mary. Included in the telling is a relationship she had with Moss, a former Irish lover, which vies with the love she feels for Frederick Engles, her current lover, and Karl Marx’s secretary.

Though illiterate, Lizzie is a wise, straight talking, take-no-prisoners kind of woman who takes her chances on having a better life in London with Frederick, cohabiting without the blessings of a marriage vow. The struggle to bring early forms of Communism to the populace pepper the pages along with Moss’ struggles for a free Ireland. As Lizzie ponders thoughts of falling back into her former life and escaping the corner into which she felt she’d painted herself with Frederick, readers are led through the past and present as she recounts her life with Mary.

Though I found Lizzie’s Irish humor and talk to be interesting, Marx and Engles bored me. In truth, the book bored me so I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.



“Will Starling” Ian Weir

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2014. Goose Lane Editions. (Includes Historical information in “Acknowledgements.”) Published by Steerforth on February 3, 2015.

WillStarlingWill Starling, who served as a surgeon’s assistant during wartime for 5 years, and his employer have returned to London in 1816 shortly after the Napoleonic Wars. It is a time when London’s inhabitants are striving to rise above the misfortune of war while surgeons seek to uncover the mysteries of life and death. Their ever-growing need to learn about human anatomy has given rise to a black market of grave robberies, for dissection purposes, subjecting them to distrust and fear by the general public.

This new world of experimental scientific knowledge is led by Dionysus Atherton, a surgeon convinced he can bring the dead back to life through unorthodox methods. His increasing thirst for knowledge, and the rumors which surrounded his practice, have raised Will’s suspicions. Will has his own reasons to dislike Dionysus, certain he harbors terrible secrets, and will stop at nothing to get the evidence he needs to put a stop to Dionysus’ way of practicing medicine. However, the more he digs into Dionysus’ life, the worst things become for Will until the secrets he uncovers forever changes his own life.

I enjoyed getting historical background about the great experiments with life and death attempted by surgeons of the day, as well as learning about the London of 1816, and could easily see how these unusual experiments seemed to have given Mary Shelley the inspiration she needed to write “Frankenstein.” What I did not enjoy was the increasingly confusing manner in which the story was told, going from the present to the past or even to the future, and then doubling back to the present. There were all manner of asides thrown into Will’s rambling narrative, which made me flip back and forth to figure out what had happened so I could put it in its context.

Despite these flaws, “Will Starling” will enlighten many on the subject of surgeons of the 19th century, as well as the life and times of 1816 London.

Recommended for Adult readers.


“The Picture Frame” Iain Rob Wright

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2014. Salgad Publishing. (Includes two short stories by Matt Shaw.)

ThePictureFrameBlake Price sold his home and moved his family to the English countryside under mysterious circumstances. Eager to get away from the “bad things” found in city life, he is sure his wife and 10-year-old son Ricky will find a new, safer life in their cottage.

While wandering the countryside with a Geiger counter, he and Ricky unearth a strange looking, old picture frame that doesn’t appear to have suffered any of the ravages of time. Thrilled with the find Ricky places a picture of his dog Bailey into it and, within moments of doing so, Bailey is dead.

After replacing the photo with a family portrait, strange accidents begin to occur to everyone in the picture. It seems too bizarre to believe, but Blake soon learns that a man named Oscar Boruta has put a curse on his family. Oscar was killed in 1928 but seems to be calling out from the grave for revenge. With nowhere to turn, and with the curse gaining in strength, Blake will have to figure out how to save his family before it’s too late.

“The Picture Frame” is a quick read but was a little too predictable and had a few too many loose ends, along with some grammatical errors. I would have liked to learn more details about how/why the frame was cursed so, perhaps the author would consider writing a prequel in which the story of the picture frame is told from Oscar’s point of view.

Recommended for Adult readers.