Extra, extra! A few reviews to end the month.


Splinter the Silence (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #9)Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid

Confession: I am not much of a series reader. I prefer standalones, and I don’t care for procedurals either. That after nine(!) Hill/Jordan books, I’m still fascinated by psychologist Tony Hill and [former/once more] DCI Carol Jordan says a lot about this series and its author—all of it good.

When Carol is offered an opportunity to return to the job and lead an elite murder squad, she must weather both scandal and sabotage to get her team up and running. The squad’s first challenge isn’t technically even a crime. After Tony picks up on a recurring connection between intense cyberbullying and a series of suicides, his interest is piqued. Could there be more to these suicides than meets the eye? The squad begins to poke around.

This may well may be my favorite installment of the Hill/Jordan series. The focus is a bit less on procedure than in earlier books and more on character, and Val McDermid excels at character. From Tony, the socially awkward profiler, to Carol, the brilliant and gutsy inspector battling the bottle, to the rest of her exceptional team, the characters are well-developed, compelling, and morally complex.

I look forward to Book 10.

Thanks to Grove Atlantic for the opportunity to read and review this title.

The Quality of SilenceThe Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

It’s the fine calibre of writing that carries this novel. Gorgeous astrophysicist Yasmin arrives in Alaska from the UK along with her very bright (and deaf) ten-year-old daughter Ruby. The pair expect to be met at the airport by Yasmin’s husband/Ruby’s father, wildlife photographer, Matt. Instead, Yasmin is told by authorities that Matt has died in a tragic fire.

Convinced her husband is still alive—her reasoning? She still loves him, so he must be alive—Yasmin sets out to find Matt. Apparently, love isn’t susceptible to logic even if one is a brilliant astrophysicist.

Lyrical prose, sublime descriptions of Alaska, insights into the danger of fracking, and Ruby, a warm, intelligent, insightful, and likable character, can’t make up for a far-fetched, sluggish plot. The first three quarters of the book read like a slow episode of Ice Road Truckers. The pace picks up in the last quarter, but the story is no more plausible.

When coming from the UK, it’s hard enough to remember which side of the road to drive on, let alone handling a big rig hauling a house at night on unfamiliar Alaskan ice roads in a storm. Yasmin may be smart and beautiful, but she’s completely devoid of all common sense, and that made it difficult to drum up empathy for her. A responsible parent would not expose their child—a deaf child no less—to such irrational risk.

Although I’d rank this below both of Lupton’s earlier books, Sister and Afterwards, the great atmosphere, lovely writing, and one strong character make this a worthwhile read. Particularly for those with an interest in Alaska, the environment, and the risks of fracking.

Thanks to Crown Publishers for the opportunity to read and review this title.

The Witch's Wand: The Craft, Lore, and Magick of Wands & StaffsThe Witch’s Wand: The Craft, Lore, and Magick of Wands & Staffs by Alferian Gwydion MacLir

A comprehensive reference guide exploring nearly every facet of the witch’s wand from lore, legend, and symbolism to wand making and spell casting. While there are books available that cover woods and crystals, others that cover wand construction, and others still that address usage, here everything is compiled in one convenient volume.

That said, there is a risk in writing a guide that targets all levels of expertise. Parts of the book read like a Witchcraft 101 primer (how to throw a circle, for example), while other topics (such as discussions of the astral plane) are likely far beyond the novice.

NOTE: The e-arc was extremely difficult to read, with anecdotal inserts (which were fascinating, by the way) breaking up page continuity throughout. I tried not to let the text format influence my review. I trust it was cleaned up in the final release.

Thanks to Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
for the opportunity to read and review this title.

Special thank you to NetGalley for all the above review copies!