Mini-review: The Turncoat by Donna Thorland; Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King; and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

turncoatTitle: The Turncoat
Author: Donna Thorland
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: AudioGO
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Madeleine Lambert
Audiobook length: 10 hours and 14 minutes
First line: Kate didn’t like Mrs. Ferrers.

Goodreads blurb: They are lovers on opposite sides of a brutal war, with everything at stake and no possibility of retreat. They can trust no one—especially not each other.

Major Lord Peter Tremayne is the last man rebel bluestocking Kate Grey should fall in love with, but when the handsome British viscount commandeers her home, Kate throws caution to the wind and responds to his seduction. She is on the verge of surrender when a spy in her own household seizes the opportunity to steal the military dispatches Tremayne carries, ensuring his disgrace—and implicating Kate in high treason. Painfully awakened to the risks of war, Kate determines to put duty ahead of desire, and offers General Washington her services as an undercover agent in the City of Brotherly Love.

Months later, having narrowly escaped court martial and hanging, Tremayne returns to decadent, British-occupied Philadelphia with no stomach for his current assignment—to capture the woman he believes betrayed him. Nor does he relish the glittering entertainments being held for General Howe’s idle officers. Worse, the glamorous woman in the midst of this social whirl, the fiancée of his own dissolute cousin, is none other than Kate Grey herself. And so begins their dangerous dance, between passion and patriotism, between certain death and the promise of a brave new future together.

I loved the historical aspects of this book, but I wasn’t crazy about the characters and the romance. The sex was a bit graphic for my tastes, and I found it hard to believe that a young Quaker woman would so easily surrender to physical passion. I did enjoy learning more about the real historical figures, though I was left wondering how much of what she wrote was true, and how much was speculation – for instance, was John Andre really gay? The audiobook narrator was just okay. She did the dialogue well, but was very awkward in her reading of the non-dialogue sections.

garmentofshadowsTitle: Garment of Shadows
Author: Laurie R. King
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction
Publisher: Bantam Books
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: The big man had the brains of a tortoise, but even he was beginning to look alarmed.

Goodreads blurb: In a strange room in Morocco, Mary Russell is trying to solve a pressing mystery: Who am I? She has awakened with shadows in her mind, blood on her hands, and soldiers pounding on the door. Out in the hivelike streets, she discovers herself strangely adept in the skills of the underworld, escaping through alleys and rooftops, picking pockets and locks. She is clothed like a man, and armed only with her wits and a scrap of paper containing a mysterious Arabic phrase. Overhead, warplanes pass ominously north.

Meanwhile, Holmes is pulled by two old friends and a distant relation into the growing war between France, Spain, and the Rif Revolt led by Emir Abd el-Krim—who may be a Robin Hood or a power mad tribesman. The shadows of war are drawing over the ancient city of Fez, and Holmes badly wants the wisdom and courage of his wife, whom he’s learned, to his horror, has gone missing. As Holmes searches for her, and Russell searches for herself, each tries to crack deadly parallel puzzles before it’s too late for them, for Africa, and for the peace of Europe.

This wasn’t my favorite of the Holmes/Russell series. I found the political situation in Morocco very difficult to understand, which made portions of the plot extremely hard to follow. I did enjoy the idea of Russell losing her memory, which gave the author a chance to throw in some neat bits of previous books. And, even though this wasn’t as good as the rest of the books in the series, I always enjoy my time with Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.

lifeafterlifeTitle: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Genre: Historical fiction, paranormal fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: A fug of tobacco smoke and damp clammy air hit her as she entered the cafe.

Goodreads blurb: On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

This book is a complete mind-twister, in the best possible way. I could not stop reading. You would think that a book that continually repeats earlier scenes would get boring, but Atkinson is a pure genius. There was never a time when I thought, “Oh, really, we’re going back there again?” I really wanted to give this a five-star rating, but I couldn’t because of the ending. As most of you know, I’m not a big fan of ambiguous endings. For most other readers, this will not be an issue, and I still loved the book.

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11 Responses to Mini-review: The Turncoat by Donna Thorland; Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King; and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

  1. bermudaonion(Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I liked Life After Life a lot too but it did take me a little while to figure out just what was going on. Once I got into it, though, it was hard to put down.

  2. irene says:

    I’ve heard such good things about Life after LIfe. Not sure about the Laurie King book, I was not so impressed with Mary Russel. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Irene – I suppose we can still be friends, even if you don’t like Mary Russell. 😉

  3. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    Life After Life is definitely going to be a Kindle purchase for my travels this summer. Aside: I was just trying to locate my Kindle to start ordering, AND I COULDN’T FIND IT!!!! Total panic attack since we are leaving a week from tomorrow. I turned the house upside down. So I *HAD* to order another one. I can’t be messing around here. So in 3 to 5 days, Life After Life will be mine.

  4. Anna says:

    So glad to see you liked Life After Life. My husband bought it for me for Mother’s Day, and I can’t wait for my July vacation so I can read it. I love the idea that it’s a “mind-twister.”

  5. Vasilly
    Twitter: Vasilly

    I’ve read nothing but positive things about Life after Life. Any chunkster that keeps you reading is always a good thing. I can’t wait to read this.

  6. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – June 30, 2013 (plus, wraping up June’s reading) | BOOKS AND MOVIES