Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

The Guests on South Battery.  Karen White. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 352 pp. ISBN #: 9780451475237.

Melanie Trenholm is returning to work after being home following the birth of her twins.  She’s a successful real estate seller and her husband, Jack, is a successful author.  They live in an old house in Charleston, South Carolina; in fact most of the homes in their area are historical, “old” homes.  Melanie has a gift that she can see the dead and for some reason while she was pregnant she lost that ability.  But now it’s back full steam ahead, beginning with someone trying to communicate with her by telephone even though there’s no voice on the other end when she answers the phone.  Now some people who have helped her fix up parts of her home in need of desperate changes find that underneath her back yard are questionable artifacts.  It seems her house is starting to resemble the proverbial “money pit” with constant surprises.

Returning to work, Melanie meets Jayne, who wants to sell a house she inherited and buy a new home that is ultra-modern.  She also finds out that Jayne is looking for a job as a nanny and she’s a perfect match for Melanie as they’re both rather anal about schedules and ways to take care of children.  Of course, there has to be a problem and it’s that disastrous things happen whenever Jayne is around.  When Melanie visits the house Jayne wants to sell, mysterious events start happening like a talking doll, ringing bells in a home with no electricity, objects being thrown, etc. 

The story continues with the mystery obviously being who had lived there beside the woman who left the house to Jayne and what were the turbulent relationships that caused this house to be haunted.  Of course, the reader knows the mystery will be solved, but that doesn’t stop the constant thrills, shocks and threats that continue non-stop throughout the whole story. 

There’s another sub-plot about an author who stole a plot from one of Jack’s novels.  Add to that Jack has had writer’s block ever since Jayne was hired to nanny the couple’s children.

All in all, this is a grand thriller and exciting read for those who love the genre and others as well. The plot is somewhat stereotypical but told in a way that generates and holds interest quite constantly.  Nicely crafted, Karen White!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Perilous Undertaking: Veronica Speedwell Novel #2 by Deanna Raybourne

A Perilous Undertaking: Veronica Speedwell Novel #2. Deanna Raybourn. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 352 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451476159.

Victoria Speedwell is a sharp lepidopterist who is back again to solve a new mystery with her natural historian/taxidermist buddy, Stoker.  When Victoria is invited to a woman’s club that is like men’s clubs of the Victorian era in 1887, a place where women’s intelligence and interest in just about anything are allowed to shine and be shared.  Victoria meets a formidable member, Lady Sundridge, who brings Victoria into a quiet room where she is scrutinized and queried by another woman.  Victoria takes very little time to figure out that she is being addressed by a member of royalty.  Now Lady Sundridge had already begged Victoria to assist in solving the mystery of the murder of a woman named Artemesia, the lover of a famous society art patron, Miles Ramsforth who is to be hanged for the murder in only two days. Not too much pressure! Add to the fact that Victoria she will meet her own father if she succeeds.  Both sides of this quest have very different, unknown motives in resolving these mysteries with success!

Stoker and Victoria discover the more sordid side of royalty in a secret sex society and other mysterious places and people.  As usual, Victoria receives a secret communication that threatens her life is he insists on continuing her investigation of the circumstances surrounding Artemisia’s death. 

No spoiler’s here – we soon discover there are plenty of suspects who might have committed the murder.  We also meet several high society and royal personages who are a part of the decadence so characteristic of this historical time.  Add to that the mystery behind Victoria and Stoker’s relationship which seems slightly hot, growing hotter but never actually getting there, a frustrating conundrum for readers!

A Perilous Undertaking is a satisfying read that starts off slowly but gradually picks up momentum with plenty of twists and turns all the way to the surprising final page!  Nicely done, Deanna Raybourn!

Traveling Light: A Novel by Lynne Branard

Traveling Light: A Novel.  Lynne Branard. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 320 pp. ISBN #: 9781101989043.

Alissa has entered a rather strange contest to win a storage unit that has been abandoned.  What she finds, ironically, doesn’t seem to surprise her.  Instead she discovers the ashes of a deceased man, Roger Hart, and quickly decides she will return his ashes to his family or hometown.  She also is in need of a change and this strikes her as presenting innumerable possibilities.  No, it’s not the path most would take but it’s certainly an intriguing premise.

Little does she know that her eyes and heart are about to be opened, beginning when a strange young waitress, Blossom, decides to join her on the trip to Texas, as well as Alissa’s three-legged dog.   They discuss families as they travel and Alissa gets to meet some unique characters, like Blossom’s Dad. 

They meet fascinating people, some stereotypical, some odd.  They learn to go with the flow of whatever happens, including when their car starts misbehaving and all of Alissa’s car education helps them figure out what it is but not be able to fix it without help from elsewhere.

Meanwhile the man who abandoned Alissa a few days before the wedding keeps calling her and trying to hook up again.  But Alissa’s stronger, feistier and she’s not giving in to his charm.  Add to that her own father is dating a woman thirty years younger than he is, with two small children. And Alissa makes it clear that she doesn’t want to take over the newspaper her father owns and for which she wrote for a long time. 

What does she want to do?  Repair a boat.  “I don’t want to follow a script anymore…Everybody needs to listen to their own hearts…we should all decide on our own scripts.”  It seems that Alissa has learned to allow life to happen to her instead of directing life along the patterns her family has always followed, even though she really didn’t mind those patterns until now.

This is a quite unusual novel that reminded me of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road story, even though it really isn’t like that for most of the story of Kerouac’s journeys.  One even wonders if this change is because people are different in the West and the South.  One thing for sure is that Alissa and Blossom’s story will have you nodding your head up and down and at times holding still while questioning what has always been accepted.  What would it take for you to totally embrace life in different ways?  Lynne Branard helps the reader to begin his or her own journey, if one dares!