The Alpine Nemesis by Mary Daheim

Alpine Nemesis

I get my paperbacks at yard sales, so I often read my favorite authors’ books out of order. Such was the case with this book, which is in a series that I thought I really enjoyed. Somehow, the main character this time was very off-putting and I found myself disliking her enormously! (That doesn’t help speed things along, let me tell you!) But, if you’re looking for a new author to try or want to reconnect with this old friend, then this mystery is a decent read. I can’t spoil the ending, but that alone makes it worth slogging through.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating: Highly Recommended

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

FairestThis story is a very loose take on the Snow White fable, where Aza’s desirable trait isn’t beauty, but her singing voice. Aza becomes the Queen’s lady-in-waiting, and when the King is injured, the kingdom is soon threatened to fall apart under the young Queen’s hunger for power, dragging Aza along with her.

Read a review of Gail Carson Levine’s The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

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Review Submitted by: Dorothy Anderson
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: A book you can finish in a day

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

The Silent WifeThe book was billed as better than Gone Girl but it wasn’t. It was an interesting study of a relationship falling apart with an eventual descent into murder, but I really didn’t like either main character. The author is a good writer, and having two narrators/perspectives worked well. Both characters are so self obsessed and in denial that I grew tired of them long before the book ended. The ending was more of a twist than I was expecting, though not a total surprise. I’d be interested to read more from this author but can only give this book an average rating.

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Review Submitted by: Lisa Grossman
Rating:  Recommended with reservations

A God in Ruins By Kate Atkinson

A God in Ruins

“A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.” Kate Atkinson uses this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson to introduce her second novel featuring the wealthy Todd family, familiar to readers of her previous novel Life After Life.

Life After Life focuses on the many stories of Ursula Todd, who is reborn each time that she dies. In each successive life, Ursula’s decisions and actions follow a different path that winds through many of the most important historical events of the first half of the 20th century, including the London Blitz.

In contrast, A God in Ruins follows a more conventional narrative structure, telling the story of postwar Britain through the eyes of Ursula’s brother Teddy, who serves as a bomber pilot during World War II. Unlike Ursula, Teddy has only one life, which Atkinson follows from his childhood in the 1920s to his decline in the early 2000s.

In Life After Life, Ursula and Teddy are youthful, hopeful – their futures lie before them. In contrast, A God in Ruins presents no alternatives. Life is immutable and decaying – only death lies in the future. Read together, these books are a stunning testament to the cataclysm (and consequences) of World War II – both are must reads.

Read a review of Life After Life.

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Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: Book published in 2015

The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly

The Last Kashmiri rose

This is the first book in the “murder and mystery in the final days of the Raj” series and was suggested to me by a friend who knew I enjoyed murder mysteries set in other times. Though far too wordy for a quick read, the book was rich in detail about India in “colonial” times (near the fall of the British Empire in the early 1920s). It largely held my attention throughout and the ending was worth any painful slowness in other parts of the book.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: A book recommended by a friend

13 1/2 by Nevada Barr

13 1/2

This was a departure from the normal Nevada Barr “Anna Pigeon, national parks ranger” series. It was a divergent tale of lives that ultimately intertwine in typical murderous ways. If you’re a fan of Nevada Barr’s crisp writing, you’ll enjoy this book!

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Review Submitted by: James Tyler Bell
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: A book with a number in it

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

The Magician's Land

The Magician’s Land is the third book in the Magicians Trilogy by Lev. Grossman. With several years spanning between releases, recalling key characters and plot points between books was difficult. Additionally, Grossman’s writing style has slightly altered and throughout the book I could not help feeling like he was trying to skew younger and be “cooler” with each reference. I found this book extremely difficult to get into and even complete. The plot comes off as disjointed and many aspects of the book that I thought were major ended up being resolved rather anti-climatically. A friend recommended the book (and series) to me, which encouraged me to finish it. I am glad I finished it as I feel resolved in the story line from the first two novels. I suggest those wanting to read this book ensure that they read it soon after reading the first two, or look up detailed summaries of the predecessors beforehand.

Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Sarah Polgreen
Rating: Recommended with Reservations
Challenge: A book recommended by a friend