The Seventh Victim by Mary Burton {audiobook}

TitleThe Seventh Victim
Author: Mary Burton
Narrator: Johanna Parker
Length: 9.5 hours
Published in: 2013
Genre: fiction, mystery
ISBN: 9781452611051
Source: public library
Reason for Reading: title spiked my curiosity
Rating: 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED KILL AND KILL AGAIN…
It’s been seven years since the Seattle Strangler terrorized the city. His victims were all young, pretty, their lifeless bodies found wrapped in a home-sewn white dress. But there was one who miraculously escaped death, just before the Strangler disappeared…

Lara Church has only hazy memories of her long-ago attack. What she does have is a home in Austin, a job, and a chance at a normal life at last. Then Texas Ranger James Beck arrives on her doorstep with shattering news: The Strangler is back. And this time, he’s in Austin…


He’s always craved her, even as he killed the others. For so long he’s been waiting to unleash the beast within. And this time, he’ll prove he holds her life in his hands—right before he ends it forever…

My Thoughts: I don’t know that this would be considered a mystery. But it does have certain aspects of a good thriller. I wasn’t continually left on the edge of my seat when I got to work or home (it was an audiobook for my commute), but there were a few times I stayed in the car a few extra minutes to keep listening. I had suspected two specific men to possibly be the Strangler, but was pretty sure it was one of them more than the other. I don’t want to give anything away, but it turns out I was slightly right to suspect both of them, in their own rights. And I have to admit that I was very happy when Lara finally trusted another major character, so as to make her really vulnerable (I’m trying not to give it away, and that might make this sound very weird). That release of her distrust was really good for the story–there was tension there that needed to be realized. Oh, and the very last twist of of the story really got me! I hadn’t exactly seen it coming, but it didn’t surprise me all that much either–as it got closer and closer, I just wanted to yell at Lara that she was being really dumb! I mean, given what had happened, even if you think you’re in the clear, you can’t be too sure.

I think I’d recommend this to people who like a good thriller. It wasn’t a scary thriller, just a pretty run-of-the-mill thriller. But I liked it 🙂

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Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson {audiobook}

TitleAutobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
Author: James Weldon Johns
Narrator: Richard Allen
Length: 6 hours
Published in: 1912
Genre: fiction
ISBN: 9781624061912
Source: public library
Reason for Reading: Title and cover intrigued me
Rating: 4/5

SUMMARY (Goodreads):

James Weldon Johnson’s emotionally gripping novel is a landmark in black literary history and, more than eighty years after its original anonymous publication, a classic of American fiction. The first fictional memoir ever written by a black, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man influenced a generation of writers during the Harlem Renaissance and served as eloquent inspiration for Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright. In the 1920s and since, it has also given white readers a startling new perspective on their own culture, revealing to many the double standard of racial identity imposed on black Americans.
Narrated by a mulatto man whose light skin allows him to “pass” for white, the novel describes a pilgrimage through America’s color lines at the turn of the century–from a black college in Jacksonville to an elite New York nightclub, from the rural South to the white suburbs of the Northeast. This is a powerful, unsentimental examination of race in America, a hymn to the anguish of forging an identity in a nation obsessed with color. And, as Arna Bontemps pointed out decades ago, “the problems of the artist [as presented here] seem as contemporary as if the book had been written this year.”

My Thoughts: As a history-lover, I really found this story intriguing. The time of the story–early 1900s–is a really complex time in America and to read such a one-of-a-kind narrative, however fictional it may be, only piqued my interest all the more.

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

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Title: Etiquette and Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Length: 307 pages
Published in: 2013
Genre: sci-fi/fantasy (alternative historical fiction)
ISBN: 9780316190084
Source: public library
Reason for Reading: Gail Carriger wrote the Parasol Protectorate quintet, which I loved, and this is the first in her new series, Finishing School
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education. Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail’s legions of fans have come to adore

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My Thoughts: I’m really happy that Carriger is coming out with a new series. I thought this book was funny and delightful. I was especially glad to see a character from her Parasol Protectorate series, Sidheag Maccon. I’m hoping this means she will somehow connect the two. I wanted so much to know if Sidheag’s special talent would come out and how it would affect the story. But I guess Tgat@p for another book.

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

Title: Shades of Earth
Author: Beth Revis
Length: 369 pages
Published in: 2013
Genre: post-apocalyptic world/dystopic
ISBN: 9781595143990
Source: 
public library
Reason for Reading: 
This is the third in a trilogy by Beth Revis and it has been one of my favorite series to follow. (I’m very sad it’s all over!)
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceshipGodspeed behind. They’re ready to start life afresh–to build a home–on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience.

But this new Earth isn’t the paradise Amy had been hoping for. There are giant pterodactyl-like birds, purple flowers with mind-numbing toxins, and mysterious, unexplained ruins that hold more secrets than their stone walls first let on. The biggest secret of all? Godspeed‘s former passengers aren’t alone on this planet. And if they’re going to stay, they’ll have to fight.

Amy and Elder must race to discover who–or what–else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. They will have to look inward to the very core of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed–friends, family, life on Earth–will have been for nothing.

My Thoughts: This was a wonderful end to a story I love. While I was sad to see it end, I found it to be just the kind of end I liked.

There is a lot going on in this book. The population of humans from Sol-Earth have been unfrozen and the shipborn people fear them. Despite the differences between them, both groups go to Centauri-Earth. There they are forced to work together to survive some intelligent alien life forms that populate the planet. I’ll admit that I managed to work out, for the most part, what that alien life form was before it was revealed without much thought on my part. But that doesn’t change how excited I can get about how the story leads up to that moment of revelation. And there was a certain character who those who have read the story will know of–who wasn’t all they appeared to be. I hadn’t pinpointed how different this person was, but I knew there was something wrong about them. That should’ve been pretty obvious, considering I’d figured out the other mystery.

Anyways, Revis hardly “ended” the story at the close of this book. The story has barely begun and she left the story open. There are some stories with which I’d like to be told the definite end for the characters and have some nice closure. But considering how much of this story was left to the imagination, I think it was a great choice on her part to let her readers imagine for themselves how the story goes on, or ends if you choose.

I’m sad the story has “ended” but I anxiously await any new worlds Revis might create for me to travel to.

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

Title: Dreams of Joy
Author: Lisa See
Length: 353 pages
Published in: 2011
Genre: historical fiction (communist China)
ISBN: 9781400067121
Source: 
personal collection
Reason for Reading: 
I love Lisa See, especially Shanghai Girls, which was a prequel to this book.
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime.

Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.

My Thoughts: I found this a little slow-moving towards the beginning, like I did with Peony in Love, but it turned around and got quite interesting. I’ve never read much about what life was like in communist China, and while this is fiction, I know See is pretty good at her historical fiction 🙂 As usual with her writing, I was easily able to picture life in Shanghai and in the countryside. And the characters’ emotions were so well described that I was excited, anxious, happy, mad, and disheartened throughout the story.

Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

Title: Castle Rackrent
Author: Maria Edgeworth
Length: 85 pages
Published in: 1800
Genre: fiction (satire)
ISBN: 9780486440927
Source: 
personal collection
Reason for Reading:
Years of Books Goal, to fill the year 1800
Rating: 1/5

Summary (from back of book):

An Irish writer who lived most of her life on her father’s estate, Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) brought humor, realism, and a freshness of style to her works. Castle Rackrent, published anonymously in 1800, was the first of her popular novels on country life. A delightful satire on Anglo-Irish landlords, the work is purportedly the Rackrent family’s memoirs, written by Thady Quirk, a long-time family servant.
“Honest” Thady’s vivd–but questionably accurate–narrative of life on the decaying Rackrent estate details the lives of family members whom he has long served. The result is a stylishly entertaining exploration of relations between England and Ireland in a time of historical crisis.
My Thoughts: I didn’t have much to think about this book because it is a satire about a time and place that I don’t have much background with. I’m sure more of the satirical nature would have meant more to me had I learned about tensions between England and Ireland at the turn of the 19th century. But my history education, having grown up in the US, focuses more on the Revolutionary War than England and Ireland at that particular time of history. Regardless of the satire, I didn’t think much of the story. The characters weren’t to my liking. The most interesting thing I found about this book were some of the character’s names. Never would I have thought that Judy and Jason were names from over 200 years ago–they sound much more contemporary (Jason, especially).

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Title: The Last Runaway
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Length: 301
Published in: 2013
Genre: historical fiction
ISBN: 9780525952992
Source: 
borrowed from library
Reason for Reading:
Loved Girl with the Pearl Earring and Remarkable Creatures by Chevalier, so I’ve been waiting for her next to come out 🙂
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from book jacket):

Ohio 1850. For a modest English Quaker stranded far from home, life is a trial. Untethered from the moment she leaves England, fleeing personal disappointment, Honor Bright is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in an alien, untamed landscape. The men sweat and spit; the women drink whisky and shoot copperheads, even as they stitch bonnets and quilts.

Ninteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her noew home, Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community famed for championing human equality.

Drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two exceptional people who embody the startling power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal cost.

My Thoughts: This book really struck home with me. Having lived my entire life in Ohio, about 1.5 hours drive to the setting of the book, I was totally engrossed in the historical aspect of the book. I could so easily picture Chevalier’s descriptions of the landscape and weather. I’ve never known another landscape or extreme weather shifts (today it is 50 and tomorrow it should be in the 20s!), though it certainly has changed since Honor first came to know Ohio. I often forget just how different England and America are, especially in the 1850s. I’ve been to Scotland for a trip, but did I pay attention to whether or not there were such mundane animals I’m used to seeing like squirrels and raccoons? Of course not! I can only imagine the shock an immigrant would feel upon changing European city-life for backwoods Ohio–even settling in New England would have been better than the polar opposite that was the untamed midwest.

But I digress…I read this book in three sittings. I haven’t read a book so quickly in such a long time. It is a simple story, yet Honor has some very complex feelings about fitting in and belonging. As I’ve never really moved far from my family and friends and all I know, I cannot identify with Honor. But that just made her story all the more interesting to me. I don’t quilt or sew, but Chevalier’s inclusion of that small aspect of daily life made me want to grab my friend who does quilt with her family and see just what it’s like. Oddly enough, I felt that the Quaker ways didn’t seem all that different from the Amish as they are today.

One last thought. This cover is beautiful! I just love it 🙂

A Favorite Quote:

“I think now that the stunning show of leaves in red and yellow and orange in the autumn was one last gift from God to see us through these colourless winter months.” (p185)

What a beautiful way to describe the changing colors of fall in Ohio…