Book Review: Trace of Evil

Trace of EvilTrace of Evil (Natalie Lockhart #1) by Alice Blanchard

A riveting mystery that introduces a bold and audacious rookie detective assigned to hunt for a killer who is haunted by the past in this gripping murder case…

Natalie Lockhart always knew she was going to be a cop. A rookie detective on the Burning Lake police force, she was raised on the wisdom of her chief-of-police father. These cases will haunt you if you let them. Grief doesn’t come with instructions.

But the one thing her father couldn’t teach her was how to handle loss. Natalie’s beloved sister was viciously murdered as a teenager, and she carries the scars deep in her heart. Although the killer was locked up, the trace evidence never added up, and Natalie can’t help wondering―is the past really behind her?

As the newest member on the force, Natalie is tasked with finding nine missing persons who’ve vanished off the face of the earth, dubbed “the Missing Nine.” One night, while following up on a new lead, she comes across a savage crime that will change everything.

Daisy Buckner―a popular schoolteacher, wife to a cop, and newly pregnant―lies dead on her kitchen floor. As Natalie hunts for Daisy’s killer in the wake of the town’s shock, her search leads to a string of strange clues―about the Missing Nine, about Daisy’s secret life, and reviving fresh doubts about her sister’s murder.

As the investigation deepens, Natalie’s every move risks far-reaching consequences―for the victims, for the town of Burning Lake, and for herself.

Spellbinding and gripping, Trace of Evil is a novel of twisting suspense that will leave you breathless.

Review:
The premise of this book was great and there was a lot that was interesting about it. However, I also found that for some reason, the book dragged a bit for me. There were a lot of story lines and they were interesting and the author wove it all together really well.
I even liked the characters. Natalie is interesting and tenacious. I loved her niece.
I think there was just a lot of “info dumping”. There were lots of long passages of telling background, instead of weaving it in. Also, there was a lot of repetition.
Still, this is a promising start to a detective series.
Thank you to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for the review copy.
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Book Review: Kingdom of the Blind

Book Review: Kingdom of the Blind

Kingdom of the BlindKingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #14) by Louise Penny

The entrancing new crime thriller featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, from number one New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny

When Armand Gamache receives a letter inviting him to an abandoned farmhouse outside of Three Pines, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him as an executor of her will.

Armand never knew the elderly woman, and the bequests are so wildly unlikely that he suspects the woman must have been delusional – until a body is found, and the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing. The investigation into the events that led to his suspension has dragged on, and Armand is taking increasingly desperate measures to rectify previous actions. As he does, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots – and the terrible things hiding there.

Review:

I enjoy this series and this book was good, but not great for me. I got tired with all of the sentence fragments and the constant refrain of “junkies, whores, and trannies”. All of those words are outdated so were hard to take. I also didn’t really enjoy the good looking versus the ugly contrast going on with some of the characters. The story, however, was interesting and the mystery was a good one. I liked the play on the word “blind” throughout the book. The conclusion was set up well.

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Book Review: Chronicles of a Radical Hag (With Recipes)

Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes) by Lorna Landvik

A bittersweet, seriously funny novel of a life, a small town, and a key to our troubled times traced through a newspaper columnist’s half-century of taking in, and taking on, the world

The curmudgeon who wrote the column “Ramblin’s by Walt” in the Granite Creek Gazette dismissed his successor as “puking on paper.” But when Haze Evans first appeared in the small-town newspaper, she earned fans by writing a story about her bachelor uncle who brought a Queen of the Rodeo to Thanksgiving dinner. Now, fifty years later, when the beloved columnist suffers a massive stroke and falls into a coma, publisher Susan McGrath fills the void (temporarily, she hopes) with Haze’s past columns, along with the occasional reprinted responses from readers. Most letters were favorable, although Haze did have her trolls; one Joseph Snell in particular dubbed her “liberal” ideas the “chronicles of a radical hag.” Never censoring herself, Haze chose to mollify her critics with homey recipes—recognizing, in her constantly practical approach to the world and her community, that buttery Almond Crescents will certainly “melt away any misdirected anger.”

Framed by news stories of half a century and annotated with the town’s chorus of voices, Haze’s story unfolds, as do those of others touched by the Granite Creek Gazette, including Susan, struggling with her troubled marriage, and her teenage son Sam, who—much to his surprise—enjoys his summer job reading the paper archives and discovers secrets that have been locked in the files for decades, along with sad and surprising truths about Haze’s past.

With her customary warmth and wit, Lorna Landvik summons a lifetime at once lost and recovered, a complicated past that speaks with knowing eloquence to a confused present. Her topical but timeless Chronicles of a Radical Hag reminds us—sometimes with a subtle touch, sometimes with gobsmacking humor—of the power of words and of silence, as well as the wonder of finding in each other what we never even knew we were missing.

Review:
I was absolutely drawn into this book by it’s fantastic title, and it did not disappoint. I tore through this uniquely written book and enjoyed getting to know the characters of this small town — and reading the yummy recipes!!
The book uses Hazel’s newspaper columns from over 50 years to structure the story of Hazel, the people in her life, and the people who’s lives were touched by her columns. It seems like this might be confusing, but it isn’t because it’s handled really well.
I love Hazel and her no nonsense point of view. She is not shy on giving her opinion and has the courage to say things that might be unpopular — with the understanding that at least she will be engaging people in important discussions.
This book gives strong opinions on a lot of hot social and political topics — everything from feminism, to gay rights, to war, and beyond. I imagine that the author was hoping to be like Hazel, to put her thoughts out there and inspire some discussion. I did find that near the end, it felt like a lot of issues were being thrown at the reader in a bit of a rush.
One of my favourite characters was Sam, the struggling teenager who learns to find his way, largely through reading through Hazel’s columns. He’s absolutely adorable and it was nice to see the growth in this teen and how he learned to inspire others.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me a review copy of this book.
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Book Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Review:

I bought this for my daughter because I had heard about it. She raced through it, said it was one of her favourite books ever and handed it to me to read.
Wow.
This is such a well told book. It deals with big issues, but does it in a sensitive, intelligent, and even educational way.
Initially, the book was a little hard for me to get into, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. The characters are real, diverse, and authentic — and I love how they discussed their various points of view, giving the reader insights into some important issues.
The book revolves around Starr, a teen who has to choose how to use her voice. She has to decide whether or not to tell her story after witnessing her unarmed friend get shot by a police officer. This is a killing that has shaken her whole neighbourhood and there are pros and cons for Starr to tell her story publicly. She has to decide how to act as an African American girl at a predominantly white school. She has to decide who to be in her neighbourhood.  There are so many choices and they come down to how to use your voice and how to tell your story.
This is a powerful book and one that both teens and adults will get something out of.
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