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  • The Inquisitor's Tale, or, The Three Magical… by Gidwitz, Adam
    ★★★★☆

    Set in France in 1292 this book tells the story of three children who are brought together by circumstance.  William who is "part-Christian, part-Muslim; part-European, part-African" is a tall very dark skinned young monk.  Jacob is a Jewish boy whose parents have been murdered when his village is set on fire.  Jeanne is a peasant who suffers from epilepsy, but is thought to be possessed by evil spirits.  Jeanne is traveling with a white greyhound named Gwenforte who has died and come back to life.  Gwenforte is loosely based on the Legend of Guinefort, one of the "faithful dog" legends.  Gwenforte guides and helps the children as they join forces with another monk, Michelangelo di Bologna, to save all the Talmuds in France from being burned by King Louis IX.  

    So, I love the Middle Ages and The Inquisitor's Tale does an excellent job of capturing the history of the time in which it is set.  A lengthy author's note details the truth behind many of the events portrayed in the book.  And, more importantly, it has, as a central character, a greyhound and a historic one at that!  So why, then didn't I like this book more?  To be honest I am not a fan of slapstick humor and there is a fair amount of it here.  For me, this detracted from the story, but I'm sure it will make the book more interesting for the intended audience.  All in all a very well written story with some surprising twists and turns that are quite clever and unexpected.  

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Jan 10, 2017

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  • Loner by Wayne, Teddy
    ★★☆☆☆

    I had to give this book two stars since I kept reading until the end...I kept hoping something would happen to make it worth the time investment.  I picked it off the 2016 NPR Book Concierge list so I was hoping for something a bit more engaging.  Loner tells the story of a young man, David Federman, who has worked all his life to get into Harvard.  His work has paid off and he begins his freshman year.  David has never quite fit in, but he tries.  He goes to bonding activities.  He seems to be making progress as the members of his new group of friends seem to truly like him.  When he sees Veronica Morgan Whelk at a social gathering he is smitten from the first minute he lays eyes on her.  When she turns out to be the roommate of one of his cadre of friends, Sara, he begins to deepen his relationship with Sara in order to get closer to Veronica.  He begins a stalking campaign to remain close to Veronica in the hopes that she will notice him.  He goes so far as to write papers for Veronica just so he can spend time with her.  But as time goes on his plan begins to backfire and, in the end, he discovers Veronica is using him as part of a social experiment she is doing for a class.  When he learns the truth about his place in Veronica's life he vows revenge.

    David is a thoroughly unlikable character as is the haughty Veronica.  I really didn't care about what happened to either of them.  I'm sure David's methods of stalking have been described accurately according to obsessive behavior.  I just became very tired of reading about his endless ploys to get close to his object of desire.  When he ruins his life and Veronica's in the end I really didn't care.

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Jan 10, 2017

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  • Butcher Bird by Sykes, S. D.
    ★★★★☆

    Oswald de Lacy has another mystery to solve at Somershill Manor when a baby is found impaled on a thorn bush.  With many twists and turns and other mysteries along the way, the solution to this crime is not what the reader could ever imagine.  Oswald, at age 19, is beginning to grow up, but he is challenged at all turns as continues in his role of Lord of Somershill.  He misses his studies and the intellectual conversations at the monastery.  He finds life managing an estate in the wake of the plague difficult as more and more tenants move in order to gain higher wages.  Vacillating between doing what he knows is right for his tenants and holding to the Statute of Labourers which made it illegal to raise the wages higher than pre-plague levels, Oswald changes his mind again and again.  It is only upon the resolution of the mystery that he finds his way to do the right thing.  

    Excellent period detail and thorough research make this series a pleasure to read.  I'm hoping as Oswald grows to be a man, he will become a completely sympathetic character.  But presenting him as flawed and morally ambiguous at times lends more credence to the story.  I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment.

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Dec 16, 2016

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  • Black Chalk by Yates, Christopher J.
    ★☆☆☆☆

    Insufferable.  I made it through about 75 pages before I gave up.  Switching between the present and the past, Black Chalk tells the story of "One Game, Six Students, Five Survivors."  This premise sounds intriguing, but the characters are thoroughly unlikable.  Jolyon, who begins the novel comes off as a whiner and his musings are torturous.  The flashbacks are slightly more engaging, but switching back and forth between the two advances the story extremely slowly.  I just couldn't stomach it for long.  I really didn't care which student didn't live nor did I care to find out more about what happened fourteen years ago when they were all playing "the game."  Sorry, NPR, you let this one slip through.

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Dec 4, 2016

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  • Kings Rising by Pacat, C. S.
    ★★★★★

    Kings Rising is an absolutely fantastic ending to the Captive Prince Trilogy!  It is full of intrigue and honor and kept me guessing until the final pages.  Adventure abounds and just when the reader thinks all hope is lost a clever solution comes along.  Everything is believable, however.  I was reminded again and again of the adventures of Alec and Seregil in Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series, another series I thoroughly enjoyed.  And, just as I longed for more stories of Alec and Seregil, I now long to read more about Laurent and Damen. I was so sad to turn the last page in this trilogy.   

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Dec 4, 2016

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  • Crosstalk by Willis, Connie
    ★★★☆☆

    If I could rate this book by half I would give the first 300 pages two stars and the last 298 pages four stars.  I had to average it out at three.  The premise is interesting--a future time when couples can have brain emplants so that they can communicate all feelings instantly and honestly.  But when Briddey and her social climbing boyfriend, Trent, decide to have it done, there are "unintended consequences."  The first part of the book is about two hundred pages too long--all the set up and description of Briddey and her wacky Irish-American family and their intrusion into her life goes on for far too long.  I grew weary of the stereotypical Irish-ness which was, I suppose, intended to be humorous.  If this had been just about any other author I would have given up long before reaching the half-way point.  That would have been a mistake since the second half of the book was everything the first half wasn't--gripping and compulsively readable.  After the midway point I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was happy I'd persevered (slogged) through.  

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Nov 22, 2016

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