The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

The Devil and the Dark Water is billed as a classic locked-room mystery, and that is certainly what it delivers–and not much else. Though the mystery is a first-rate challenge for the armchair detectives, those who prefer a little bit of literary merit with their mysteries will be left unsatisfied.

The setting is a ship, bound for Amsterdam from Batavia in 1634, at the height of the power of the Dutch East India Company. Among the ship’s passengers are the governor general, his wife and daughter, his mistress, and his second-in-command, while locked in the ship’s brig is Sammy Pipps, the world’s greatest detective. Also aboard are Sammy’s bodyguard, a priest and his assistant, a greedy captain, a feckless purser, and innumerable bloodthirsty soldiers and sailors. And, apparently, a demon.

As the demon wreaks havoc abovedecks and below, the governor general’s wife teams up with Pipps’s bodyguard to stop whatever (or whoever) has summoned the evil. But every time they seem to be approaching a solution, a new problem appears. All the twists will definitely keep the reader guessing, but I found myself not really caring much about the outcome because I didn’t care about the characters. They are flat and uninteresting, and the dialogue falls somewhere between stilted and downright unnatural. The setting, which might be so evocative, is used almost entirely as a prop for new discoveries and given zero ink in its own right. And it’s best not to get me started on the historical accuracy.

Read The Devil and the Dark Water if you don’t have any friends handy to play Clue with. If you want a mystery with great 17th-century Dutch period detail, try The Miniaturist instead.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC TURTON)

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

Hour of the Witch, the newest offering from New England author Chris Bohjalian, takes the reader to Salem, Massachusetts, in the decades before the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Mary Deerfield, a young Puritan woman, attempts to sue her abusive husband for a divorce, and the scrutiny brought by the divorce case leads to her arrest and trial as a suspected witch.

While the divorce storyline puts a new twist on the usual witch trial story, I was ultimately unsatisfied with the novel. I was never able to believe in Mary Deerfield as a Puritan woman of the 1660s. While Bohjalian spends a considerable amount of ink expounding upon the philosophy of the Puritans, the reader gets the impression that Mary has never bought into the Calvinist worldview. In fact, she seems more like a modern rational humanist who has time-traveled back to the 17th century and is not happy about it.

This is not a problem unique to this novel or novelist, and a good foundation of historical detail can make up for a lot of character shortcomings. But only the very best historical fiction can boast characters who feel completely true to their time, and Hour of the Witch does not live up to that standard.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC BOHJALIAN)

Westering Women by Sandra Dallas

Reviewed by Holly (Library Patron)

This was a wonderful book. It was set in the mid-1800’s. And the basic premise is a wagon train of women who answered a poster announcement regarding a journey to California in search of a husband. The author did a great job with both plot twists and character development. Granted some of the plot twists were unbelievable but somehow you wanted to believe. And the characters were so strong. The contrast between the present and when the story took place, will make readers think how very different life was then and how much things have changed. This was an excellent book choice for a Book Club!!!

Available through the Bridges Library System

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir

Reviewed by Emily Terasa (Library Staff)

I’ve always had a fascination with Henry VIII and his six wives, and I’ve been interested in this series by Alison Weir, where she writes about one wife in each book. But the books are long, so I’ve never picked them up before. When I saw the first audiobook available on Hoopla, I knew I had to dive in and start listening!

The first book follows Henry’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, from when she first arrives in England at age 16, to her first wedding with Arthur, and finishes with her tumultuous marriage to Henry. I knew a some of her life story, but through this book I learned a lot more and I enjoyed getting to know Katherine (even though she frustrated me with her decisions at times). If you like Philippa Gregory, or other historical fiction novels about real people, I would highly recommend starting this series!

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC WEIR)

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

Reviewed by Holly (Library Patron)

This is a book that explores life in a small town in Ohio during the late 1940s, and covers a generation of time. The characters are woven together and developed by their actions and the impact of their choices. The story is told primarily through the character’s dialogue. And while I felt that product names may have been a technique to draw readers in and add authenticity to the time period, I found it often came off as a way to describe the scene. As such, it made the book seem more like a movie script than a novel. The plot was a bit too much of a soap opera for me. That being said the story had a good amount of twists and turns. Overall I would say the book was just o.k..

Available through the Bridges Library System

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

Reviewed by Emily Terasa (Library Staff)

“I have always had a love affair with Jane Austen and her books, so any time a retelling or spin of one of her classics is released, I often find myself wanting to read it. When I saw The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow followed Mary Bennet (the bookish, marginalized middle daughter of Pride and Prejudice) I knew I had to pick it up because while I might wish to be Elizabeth Bennet, I’m really more of a Mary.

The Other Bennet Sister follows Mary as she learns to find herself in a society that doesn’t understand her. And while her story includes a man (because this is based on Jane Austen after all) Mary must decide if he is the one for her and if she is worthy of love.

I really enjoyed this novel because it took a very small character from my favorite novel and created a whole story for her. I always felt bad for Mary in Pride and Prejudice so i was so glad to see her get her own story.

Available through the Bridges Library System

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

In the late 1930s a library horseback delivery system was created to serve residents in the rural areas of Kentucky. This book is a fictionalized story of one group of ladies that answered Eleanor Roosevelt’s call to action.

The story revolves around Alice, a young English woman who marries and moves to rural Kentucky. Her life is not what she hoped it to be, but joining the library gives her new friends and a purpose in life.

Overcoming bad home situations, widowhood, and disability, the women become strong , resourceful and a force in the community.

I enjoyed the time period and reading about women who made a difference. I read other reviews for this book and it was noted that author Kim Michele Richardson’s book, The Book Women of Troublesome Creek, published before this one, is very similar.

I recommend the book if you haven’t read the Richardson book. I now plan to look for nonfiction titles about the real women since this book piqued my interest.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC MOYES)

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz

Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II by Alan Gratz, Hardcover | Barnes &  Noble®

Reviewed by Sonia S (Library Patron)

In the story Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz, the main character Michael is the son of the Irish ambassador to Nazi Germany and lives in Berlin with his parents. Like every other boy at his school, Michael is a part of the Hitler Youth. However, he and his family have a huge secret: they are spies. One day, Michael hears about Projekt 1065, a jet being created by one of Michael’s classmates’ fathers, from a downed British pilot he is helping. Michael decides that he needs to become friends with this kid in order to steal his father’s blueprints.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and I had so much fun reading this book. It was full of action and tough decisions, especially for a thirteen year old. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, then I would definitely advise you to read this book.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC GRATZ)

The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

Reviewed by Holly (Library Patron)

If you like the WWII era and you are a fan of Hallmark movies then this book is for you. The main character, Audrey, faces several internal struggles. She has a dream/goal that doesn’t include marriage. As predicted she meets someone and then she meets a second someone. That sets up a choice between three doors…….Guy #1, Guy#2, and Dream #1. If this type of inner choice peaks your interest you should read to find out Audrey’s decisions and how her life turns out. I did feel the pace of the story was slow. The book does highlight the importance of females in the service of our country during WWII.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC SALAZAR)