Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Audiobook Review: Murder in an Irish Village, by Carlene O'Connor


Title: Murder in an Irish Village (Irish Village Mysteries #1)
Author: Carlene O'Connor, read by Caroline Lennon
Publisher: Dreamscape Media 2016; original hardback by Kensington, 2016. 304 pages.
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Summary:
In the small village of Kilbane, County Cork, Ireland, Natalie's Bistro has always been warm and welcoming. Nowadays twenty-two-year-old Siobhan O'Sullivan runs the family bistro named for her mother, along with her five siblings, after the death of their parents in a car crash almost a year ago. It's been a rough year for the O'Sullivans, but it's about to get rougher. One morning, as they're opening the bistro, they discover a man seated at a table with a pair of hot pink barber scissors protruding from his chest. With the local garda suspecting the O'Sullivans, and their business in danger of being shunned. It's up to feisty redheaded Siobhán to solve the crime and save her beloved brood. 

My Review: 

An altogether satisfying mystery! Maybe it just hit the right tone at the right time, but I thought the story and characters were interesting, the mystery was intriguing and not so easy to see through, and there were just the right amounts of excitement and romance (which is to say, a final scene that raised the heart rate a bit, and romance kept to the very mild and second or probably third tier of importance to the story).

Probably the only complaint I could make would be the usual one of motivation and justification for the amateur sleuth, and in all honesty, this was much less of an issue than with most cozies. Every time I began to think Siobhán should just go to the police and let it go, the author ramped up her personal investment, and gave Siobhán reasons why she couldn't wait for the slower-moving wheels of justice to grind.

The interactions of the people of the village are a large part of what makes this sort of book interesting, and I thought O'Connor did a great job of making the people interesting, quirky, and a human mix of good and bad. There were no stereotypes, except maybe the evil landlady.

Caroline Lennon does a great job with the reading, and has a delightful voice and accent to listen to.

My Recommendation:
This is definitely a series and an author to watch, and to read more of.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Murder in an Irish Village out of my on-line library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: Greenglass House


Title: Greenglass House
Author: Kate Milford
Publisher: Clarion Books, 2014. 375 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Summary:
A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet's Chasing Vermeer series.

It's wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler's inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers' adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo's home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook's daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House-and themselves.

My Review: 
This definitely wasn't what I expected. I'm not sure just what I did expect, but this wasn't it. It was even less what I thought it was in the middle of the book. Probably the most telling thing I can say about it is that I was about 2/3 of the way through at bedtime, and ended up staying up rather late to finish it, because I just couldn't stop! It wasn't just that things got exciting, though they did. I also felt a strong need to find out just what was going on.

In addition to a story about family and friendship, and a mystery, this is a book that plays with the boundaries of reality. The time period is left deliberately vague; it is modern, but no one seems to have a cell phone. The location is likewise unknown, but we are on a river that harbors smugglers, but the smuggling seems to be in order to get around the greed of the sole purveyor of supplies in the region (this might be a nice way to make the smuggling less morally dubious for the sake of younger readers). The effect of all this vagueness is that the reader is perfectly positioned to believe whatever unfolds.

I did.

My Recommendation:
A good fun read, with a little bit of a serious side about family--what it is, and who is part of it. Milo's adoption has come to the forefront of his thinking, and that allows the reader to think about what it means to be adopted, and to have two families, even if you only know one of them. So I'll give this credit for being well-written, thought-provoking AND a lot of fun.

I am intrigued enough to want to read the sequel, though the blurb sounds kind of like a re-hash of the same story. I'm going to give Milford credit for being better than that, given the quality of this one.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Greenglass House out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Flash Fiction Friday: There is No Exit

This week's flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig was simply to write a story that used the phrase "there is no exit."

No Exit?

“I hate going down there,” Evan whispered as he and Owen entered the elevator cage and began the drop into the mine.

Owen jabbed his friend with an elbow before crossing himself. For good measure, he spat over his left shoulder, making sure he wouldn’t hit any of the other miners. It might be worse luck to spit on one of the older men than to speak of the fear they all felt underground.

Anyway, this mine wasn’t so bad. There was a mine over on the other side of the mountains, that went more than twice as deep. They said you could hear the mountain creak at that depth, and it was hot down there, so that men worked stripped to the waist. At least here they got some fresh air, by way of a network of old shafts.

For all that, Owen felt the familiar dread as the sun dropped away above and the lights on their helmets grew brighter in the darkness.

Owen and Evan had gone into the mine only a few months before, when they turned 14. Their birthdays were within a few days of each other, so they were able to start together, which made it less lonely. Not that the men were unkind. They were all neighbors and kin, and looked out for the boys. But there no other boys on their shift, so they stuck together.

The shift boss sent them down a small tunnel, away from the other workers that day.

“You boys are the smallest. You’ll be able to swing a pick in there without hitting the roof,” he told them, with a slap on Evan’s shoulder. “Someone will come along in an hour or so to pick up what you get loose, and give you a break.” He was Evan’s uncle and looked out for them.

Owen didn’t like the small tunnel. It felt cramped, and the air there wasn’t as fresh as in the larger spaces. But they set to work in the steady fashion they had already learned.

An hour later, Owen stopped, putting a hand on Evan’s arm. “Wait. Hear that?”

The other boy cocked a head, listening as well. A strange creaking troubled the mine, and the distant sound of the other miners died away as they, too, stopped to listen. Evan took a step toward the mouth of their tunnel, his eyes wide.

Then the world ended.

That was how it felt, anyway. The sound was overwhelming, and the shaking knocked both boys from their feet. Then came the wave of dust-filled air, choking them until Owen thought they would die of it.

Just in time the dust began to settle. Their lamps had gone out in the fall, and Owen reached shaking hands for his matches. He hadn’t ever had to light the lamp in the dark, but his father had made him practice until he could do it with his eyes closed every time. Now he found and struck the match, lit his lamp, and reached to light Evan’s as well. They found their lantern and lit it just as the match reached Owen’s fingers.

“Save your matches.” That was all Owen said, but it was enough. Evan followed Owen’s gaze to the heap of rubble near the mouth of their tunnel.

“It’s not blocked,” Evan said, his voice shaking as much as Owen’s hands. The boys rose and walked toward the pile of rock, the lantern swinging in Evan’s right hand.

The mouth of their tunnel was littered with rubble, but not blocked.

It was the main tunnel that was blocked, in the direction that led back to the elevator. The boys turned the other way. The men were working somewhere down there; perhaps they knew another way out.

Thirty or forty steps were all it took to crush those hopes.

“There’s no exit,” Evan said, slumping against the wall. “It’s blocked, both ways. We’re going to die here.”

Owen, aware his friend was right but unwilling to give up so quickly, returned to the first cave-in. He tried shifting a rock, and more fell. He jumped back.

“Better not do that,” Evan said.

“Is the other cave-in as bad?” Owen asked. He didn’t need to see Evan’s nod to know the answer.

“I told you, we’re trapped,” Evan said. He began to cry, fighting against it, then giving up.

Owen turned away, so as not to see his friend’s weakness, or perhaps in hopes that he wouldn’t join him.

As he did so, he saw the flame of the lantern waver a bit. “Evan!”

Both boys stared at the flame, seeing the flicker that suggested moving air. Then they began to move the lantern about, to find where the movement came from.

The moving air didn’t come from either end of the cave-in. It came from the face where they had been working. Excited now, they moved the lantern carefully about the face, until they located the insignificant-looking crack where the air flowed imperceptibly. Setting the lantern safely back from their work space, the boys began attacking the crack in the stone.

Owen had hoped to hear the sounds of digging on the far side of the wall, but no crack and thud of picks answered their own. Undeterred, he and Evan worked on. When the crack widened so that they could feel the air movement, they worked all the harder, confident now that at least they wouldn’t run out of air.

When the two boys emerged from a long-forgotten tunnel and dragged themselves, bone-weary, through the forest back to town, they were greeted as ghosts. They were the only miners to leave the mine that day.

“How did you do it? The tunnels were blocked for a dozen yards. There are men down there trying to dig through to the trapped miners, but they have made little progress. There’s no way out.”

 “We were separated from the others,” Evan explained.

“So we made our own exit,” Owen concluded.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
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