Book Review: Grace Under Pressure

I had no expectations with this book beyond its being a Cozy Mystery. Julie Hyzy was a name that was new to me, and I had not heard of her other series either, the White House Chef Mysteries. One of the keys to a Cozy Mystery is that there is a hobby or profession of the main character that usually does not lend itself to being involved in crime solving and detective work. I tend to read those Cozies that share in my own hobbies and interests, so this book was a step outside of my normal range of Cozy reading. Grace, the main character, is a curator for a manor. I think when I was creating my wishlist at the library I was trying to find Cozies with librarians, and the organization of that type of administration led to several museum related Cozies. This book is about an old manor that has been turned into a museum and hotel. The main character, through Hyzy’s writing, truly did draw me in to love her job and location. I left the book wanting to visit this place and meet her, and several days later was still thinking about that idea. It was sad each time for my brain to catch up with my dreaming and realize that she is not real.

    This book had several characters and writing choices that might cause discomfort to some readers in continuing the series. The roommates of Grace are gay, and there was some swearing, but it was always immediately cut off by some interruption after only the first letter. I mention these points because I have found myself reading a Cozy or two in the past that I feel duty-ridden to try to get past similar minor discomforts, but after finishing the book realized that I should not be feeling guilty. There are so many books in the Mystery section that are not for me, and I don’t need to read an entire series trying to get past some quirk of a character that I can’t stand when there are other books with characters I fall in love with, as I did with this book. In fact, as soon as I got to the library the next time, I scooped up every book Hyzy had. For me, these two things were nothing, but I want to be transparent in my review since I am recommending the first book in a series. Julie has me reading her books now, and I highly recommend them.

    The setting was modern day, but brought into play the way that manors used to be run, and that was wonderful for me. I realized reading it that this is something I do enjoy, and often think I can only find in British Literature. It was wonderful to have an American setting that shared some history. I also loved that the romance did not come rushing on strong in the first book. It is expected that the main character, usually female, in a Cozy Mystery will have at least two men pursuing her, and a bad relationship in her past. It was nice to not push all of that into this first book. Having male characters around that were plutonic and gay actually was relieving because it is nice to have friends. The romantic story had some tension placed, but it was not rushed. Finally, there are conversations with women that are not merely about relationships, which in film passes the Bechdel Test. I loved that. The characters were full and gave me excitement to learn more about not just the main characters, but also the side characters that were introduced. The twists in the story did not all get resolved with the resolution of the murder, so there is also that excitement to look forward to in future books. I am also going to read the White House Chef Mysteries, so stay tuned for a review on that series. If you want to take a jaunt through a modern day time machine, this is your book.

The facts about the book.

Title: Grace Under Pressure: A Manor of Murder Mysteries

Author: Julie Hyzy

Place: Marshfield Manor, Emberstowne (a fictional city somewhere in the US) & mentions of Florida & New York

Publisher: Berkeley Prime Crime, New York

Publication Date: June 2010

# Pages: 310

Special Features: Murder Mystery, Curator, Manor, Gardening, Wealth, Scandal, Ponzi Scheme, First Book in a Series

Price: Free from the library or from $0.01 from Amazon

ISBN: 978-0-425-23521-8

Book Review: The Rook (Excellent)

This book took me by surprise. I fell in love with it, and was disappointed to realize that the next book is still on its way toward publication. However, do not be dismayed, it was a great read on its own. I am not even sure how I came about reading this book. I had it on a list of “To Read” at the library, and I reserved it, a week of reading, and it was wonderful.

    The Rook is a fiction novel written by an Australian author, Daniel O’Malley.

Several aspects drew me into this book, which will help you determine if this is a book for you. I have recently discovered I am an Anglophile, I love English books. This book travels the UK in an interesting and fun adventure.

    Another aspect I am always drawn to is Mystery. The inside cover of this book hooked me immediately.

    “”The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.”

    Finally, Secret Service. I did not actually read the tagline at the top of the book for awhile into the book, but the title, as you can see in the picture above reads: On Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service: The Rook. I have been into the Mi6 intrigue in recent movies, and am finding myself drawn increasingly to books with this aspect.

The supernatural bit wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was well done. With a world of “Teen Paranormal Romance” and such garbage, it can be hard to find a good book with a fantasy element. This book was excellent in that regard. I was never taken out of the book by the weird, supernatural, or vampires. The language, characters, and action kept me fully engaged and did not require crass techniques to keep the reader stimulated.

    Because I am into English Mysteries involving the Secret Service, this was a wonderful find for me. If I was only into one of these, however, it would have been just as enjoyable. I thought that it was a book a great many people of different reading styles could enjoy.

It was also wonderful to read an adult book without extreme violence or lust being thrown in my face. I often read from Teen and Young Adult because I am wary of the content of adult fiction, but this one was very appropriate, and I would recommend it to 7th grade and older as the perfect alternative to Twilight, and as higher reading level than Harry Potter. As a young student my siblings and I had a great deal of difficulty in finding books to challenge and entertain us because we were excellent readers. This is one of those books for students who have already read “everything” as well as for the parents and adults who want a good, solid, fun read.

I don’t want to give anything away about the plot because I highly recommend that you go get this book from your library and read it yourself. Have fun! I sure did.

The facts about the book.

The Rook

Author: Daniel O’Malley

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Publisher: Back Bay Books

Date: October 16, 2012

# Pages: 512

Price: Library: FREE

Kindle: $4

Paperback: $13

ISBN: 978-0316098809

Book Review: The House On The Gulf: Okay

The House On The Gulf

by Margaret Peterson Haddix

A story of a broken family trying to support and take care of each other. The family moves to Florida because a college there has a program for single mothers. Their mom wants desperately to be a doctor, which is years and years of schooling. Her son finds a job house-sitting  and they all get to move into the house for the summer which allows for their mom to go to school. However, the younger sister senses that something is not quite right. The reader travels right along with her, never knowing if the truth has been discovered fully or not.

This book was so sad. Even the ending remained rather bleak. I would only recommend this book to others who already knew the author’s style and tone. I would probably not recommend this book to anyone who did not already love this author.

Due to the upcoming Tucson Festival of Books I am eating up the many many authors and many many many many books those authors have written. On a recommendation from a friend I wanted to make sure to read a book by Margaret Peterson Haddix before March 9th when the Festival begins. The only book at the library during a quick and insufficient glance through the children’s section. My return to the library after reading this book was much more successful because, A) I looked in the teen section as well, and B) I checked both hardcover and paperback books in the children’s section, and finally C) someone had returned some of the books that were not available on my previous excursion. Therefore, I hope to have some more reviews from this author’s bibliography soon.