The Girl with No Face – M. H. Boroson

Xian Li-Lin is a Daoist priestess in 19th century San Francisco. After the events of the first book of this series, Li-Lin has left her father’s temple after he disowned her, but she still tends to the dead. Which is why she’s brought the body of a young girl who was killed by a plant growing out of her.

I really enjoy these books – it’s nice to see a non-Western mythological background explored, and having it set in such an interesting period of San Francisco’s history is an added bonus. I really don’t know how accurate these stories are to the traditions they draw from, but they definitely make for great story telling.

I’m interesting to see where this goes next – Li-Lin’s relationship with her father definitely has room to grow, and there are several side characters I’m interested to know more about.


The Hermit of Eyton Forest – Ellis Peters

I’ve been cycling through books recently – I’ve actually got three open books on the Kindle at the moment that I haven’t been able to keep attention on long enough to finish. (I’ll probably nope out on one by the end of the year, and another is a short story anthology that I’m really enjoying, but is incredibly dense to read, so I can’t read it straight through.) I realized I’ve been avoiding my physical book to read pile, and as soon as I looked at that, realized I could do some comfort reading.

This particular edition of this book doesn’t have its order on it (most of the books have “The nth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael, of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Peter and Paul, at Shrewbury” as part of the cover), so I should have read it a few books ago. Fortunately, the stories are pretty standalone, so other than what’s going on with the ongoing battle between Empress Maud and King Stephen that serves as the backdrop of the stories having events that already happened, the actual events of things in Shrewsbury flowed along quite nicely.

This book is really hard to summarize without giving away plot points. What I will say is that there are two murders here, and the reasons for both, and how the individual murderers are punished are so very reflective of the times of the setting, and I really appreciated that. The end of the book ends up as a discussion between two of the characters about the morality of one of the murders, and it’s not how that conversation would have gone between two people today. I just so appreciate the attention to historical details in this book.

The Potter’s Field – Ellis Peters

I have got to read this series more regularly – every time I come back to it, I enjoy it immensely, and then I wait forever to read the next book.  I realized a while ago I’m basically hoarding the next books’ enjoyment, since it is a finite series.   But is that really a good thing?

Anyway, in this seventeenth story, Brother Cadfael is called in to help survey a new field that has been donated to the Abbey.    One of the local landowners had donated it after the tenant, a potter, had left to join the the abbey as a brother.   The potter had left his wife on the land, but when it became clear that her husband was serious in his vocation, she left.   She had been very angry before leaving, and no one thought much of it.  So now the field is in abbey hands, but when they begin to plow, they find a body there, clearly a woman, but too far gone to be able to clearly determine who she was.

At the same time, the younger son of the landowner who had donated the land has returned from a far off monastery where he had gone to take vows, when it’s become clear to him that it was a mistake to do so.   His fate is tied up with the body found in the potter’s field.

There were some great twists to this book – the identity of the body has several very plausible turns, and even when it’s determined who is truly is, the why came out of left field for me.    I absolutely did not see the final resolution coming, which made for an oddly exciting ending.   I really enjoyed this book.

Clash of Eagles – Alan Smale

f701d2c49481550596d564f6d67434f414f4141This was an interesting concept – a Roman Empire that never fell to the northern tribes, who eventually subjugated the Vikings, and was therefore able to use their ships to go to the New World in the 13th century. They send an army, but once there, it’s obliterated by the native population, leaving only the Praetor alive. He eventually throws in with the native Cahokian people against their Iroqua enemies.

The Cahokians do have one piece of technology that’s really cool, pretty much instantly earning them Marcellinus’ respect. I think my quibble with the story is that the Romans should have had some better technology available to them – they don’t seem very far advanced beyond what they had in the time that they fell in our real world.

Still, it’s an enjoyable story, and I’m interested to see where he takes it from here.

In the Market for Murder – T. E. Kinsey

5e869c8ddc08e66596c78787377434f414f4141I had to go find my review for the first book in this series, and I find I have the same complaint about this book as I had in the last. Lady Hardcastle and her maid Flo have retired to the English countryside after a life of adventure, and I’m just not getting enough stories of the adventure.

After the previous book, the police have noted the pairs’ detective skills, so when a local farmer who everyone hated turns up dead, they’re enlisted to help. After all, it’s pretty hard to narrow down the suspects when absolutely no one liked the man, including his own family. I will admit, I admired how a theft at the local rugby club ended up being connected. And Flo did get to work a few of her connections from their prior life, but I want more. This is definitely a series I’ll only continue if I can read it for free.

The Heretic’s Apprentice – Ellis Peters

9ef31c048f16561596749706e77434f414f4141Our story begins when a young man named Elave returns from the Holy Land, bringing back the body of his master, William of Lythwood. They’d left on pilgrimage a number of years ago. Elave had been the clerk for the Lythwood family, and while they’re sad that William is gone, they’re happy to see Elave again.

The family has a foster daughter, Fortunata, who has grown up in the time that William and Elave has been gone. William has sent home a beautiful box to be her dowry.

It’s hard to go into more detail about the story – it’s very detail specific, and all the details are important. (Including why the word heretic is in the title – that’s a tldr in the making.) What I will say is that the reason for the murder is actually set up quite early, and though I noted it as a detail, its importance escaped me. So I had a really good aha moment about who the murder was, and exactly why, barely ahead of the action of the book, even though it had been there to see the whole time. That completely earns my respect – great mystery writing!

The Confession of Brother Haluin – Ellis Peters

057d75cfdc65b27597a72705a41434f414f4141It’s winter in Shrewsbury, and a particularly bad storm puts a hole in the roof of the Abbey. While the brothers are up fixing it, Brother Haluin falls from the roof. His injuries are grave, and they do not expect him to live. Because of this, he makes a confession that Brother Cadfael is there to hear. And then, he lives.

Though his legs were shattered, and he can only walk on crutches, Haluin pledges to make a pilgrimage to the grave of a girl that he wronged before he took his vows, and Cadfael goes with him, to help him along the way. You really need to read the book to get the full sense of the transgression that Haluin is trying to atone for, and exactly how many things on his pilgrimage go so incredibly right to help him do it. It’s a different book than many of the others in this series. There is a murder, but it’s almost a side action. It’s really a story of following your heart when it tells you must do something.

A Spirited Manor – Kate Danley

2f313b1e8127b6859702b567141434f414f4141This is more of a novella – starting with a young widow purchasing a new house to get away from the memories of her dead husband. The house has been on the market for a while, because it’s supposedly haunted by the ghost of a young girl. Naturally, Clara sees the ghost. In trying to find out what happened to her, she visits the house’s former owner, and ends up at his creepy country estate for a séance.

This story has good bones, but it’s over way too fast, and not fleshing it out more is a problem. There’s a romance, which is way too rushed, and the paranormal aspects of the story are covered way too quickly, especially when a big reveal at the end makes your realize how important those details are. I can’t say I’m in a hurry to read more in this series if this is the quality I’m in for.

The Curiosity Keeper – Sarah E. Ladd

0718011805.01._SX142_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_I picked this one up for free because it was labeled a regency romance, and the plot seemed promising – young man is trying to save his family’s fortune, and encounters a young woman tangled up in the mess that may be able to help him.

It’s not a bad book, but I can’t say I loved it. There is a fair amount of action, but not in a way that I associate with regency romance. And there are some interesting characters, but again, not in a way I associate with a regency romance. I think the label spoiled this book for me on a certain level – I had some expectations it simply couldn’t meet.

Jane and the Genius of the Place – Stephanie Barron

6d766dcc6677d645939536e5a77434f414f4141In this book, Jane is staying at her brother Edward’s estate in Kent (which he has because he was adopted by a wealthy, childless couple – this is real life detail). While there, they go to the races, where the wife of one of the other local landowners is found dead. Mrs. Grey had not been well liked in the neighborhood – she was French, and Napoleon was poised just across the Channel, making plans to invade. Still, Edward is the local magistrate, and is obligated to the investigate. And as we all know from the previous three books in this series, Jane is not a bad investigator herself, so naturally helps.

This ends up being a really interesting commentary on womens’ lives in Regency England, mixed up with the politics of the war, and with a bit of landscape gardening thrown in for good measure. How the murder ends up working into that ends up being very interesting – I will admit I hadn’t figured it out before the reveal.

These books are definitely anachronistic, but fun enough that I don’t mind.