Monday, June 17, 2019

The Assassin of Verona by Benet Brandreth

The Assassin of Verona: A William Shakespeare Novel by Benet Brandreth, including a map, list of characters, Historical Note and Acknowledgements. Sequel to The Spy of Venice.

Venice, 1586. William Shakespeare is masquerading as the steward to the English Ambassador to Venice. But the Ambassador is dead, killed in an ambush by agents of the sinister Pope Sixtus V, sworn enemy of the English Queen Elizabeth. He and his fellow players Nicholas Oldcastle and John Hemminges have taken up the Ambassador's secret mission and now possess the names of the Pope's agents in England who seek to destroy Queen Elizabeth. But their disguise is wearing thin, and the Pope's agents in Venice are closing in. They need to get out of Venice and take their knowledge back to England before they are caught. But Shakespeare refuses to leave his Venetian mistress, Isabella Lisarro. Finally Oldcastle and Hemminges leave without him.

In neighboring  Verona, the Lady Aemelia, the only child and heir of the Duke of Verona, is in love with her cousin Valentine. a poor relation who fancies himself a poet. The Duke is desperate to find a warrior to wed his daughter and defend the dukedom from the Pope's ambitions. The Duke is fiercely resisting the Pope's Inquisitor, the sinister Father Thornhill who has been tasked to seek out and destroy all opposition to the Pope's absolute authority.

Will Shakespeare and his friends escape with their secrets - and their lives?

The Assassin of Verona, like its predecessor, The Spy of Venice, is packed with action, intrigue, and rapier-sharp wit, as it speculates on what Shakespeare could have been doing during the seven-year gap in our knowledge of his life between leaving Stratford and establishing himself as an actor and playwright in London.

Benet Brandreth is an intellectual property lawyer, a lecturer on Shakespeare and rhetoric coach for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and created and performed his own one-man show at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival. 

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth - 443 pages

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.
That was five years ago.
Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body.

I thought this would be a relaxing read but I found it boring.

Hunting Game by Helen Tursten

Hunting Game by Helen Tursten - 280 pages

Embla Nystrom has always been high energy and plagued with chronic nightmares.  She channels her energy and investigative mindset into her work as a Detective Inspector for the mobile unit in Gothenberg, Sweden.

Nystrom embarks on her annual hunting vacation to the rural area where her Uncle lives out by prime forested hunting grounds.  She is part of a community hunt that has been going on for generations.  The hunt sees several new participants that bring an edge of tension that soon blows up into a criminal case when people turn up both dead and missing.  Peter, a newcomer to the community returned to his family estate, becomes an interest in both the case and Nystrom's personal life.

This book has a great sense of place and I felt rural Sweden unfold around me as I read.   I like Scandinavian thrillers for their sparseness and focus on the action in the narrative that moves the plot forward.  I'm looking forward to further entries into the this series and exploring the author's back catalog.

Buy a Whisker by Sofie Ryan

Buy a Whisker by Sofie Ryan
(Second Chance Cat Mystery #2)
336 pages

"Things have been quiet in the coastal town of North Harbor, Maine, since Sarah Grayson and her rescue cat, Elvis, solved their first murder. Sarah is happy running Second Chance, the shop where she sells lovingly refurbished and repurposed items. But then she gets dragged into a controversy over developing the waterfront. Most of the residents--including Sarah--are for it, but there is one holdout--baker Lily Carter.

"So when Lily is found murdered in her bakery, it looks like somebody wanted to remove the only obstacle to the development. But Sarah soon discovers that nothing is as simple as it seems. Now, with the help of her cat's uncanny ability to detect a lie, Sarah is narrowing down the suspects. But can she collar the culprit before the ruthless killer pounces again?"  (from the publisher)

This is another fun installment in the series.  For some reason the publisher's summary doesn't include the elderly ladies' "Charlotte's Angels" private investigation agency, but they are a hoot!  Ryan knows how to craft a great cozy mystery.  I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
206 pages / 10 hrs, 43 mins

"Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood--where even great pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned--Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted."    (from the publisher)

This is a topic near and dear to my heart.  In grade school we were asked to write about someone we admired and I chose Harriet Tubman.  She is still high on my list of heroes!  That said, I didn't think the book was particularly well written especially for a book that won the Pulitzer.  Also, in my opinion, transferring the metaphorical railroad into an actual railroad didn't really add to the story.  I gave it 2.5 (rounded to 3) stars out of 5.

Rule of Two (Star Wars Darth Bane #2) by Drew Karpyshyn

Rule of Two (Star Wars Darth Bane #2) by Drew Karpyshyn-320 pages

This is the second novel in the Darth Bane trilogy and a direct continuation of the first novel. Darth Bane has taken on an Apprentice, Darth Zannah, and is training her in the ways of the Sith. He is trying to sew deceit and destruction slowly among the Jedi and the Republic from the shadows. However, one Jedi Knight, Johun, is convinced that the Sith still exist and is determined to hunt them down and destroy the Sith once and for all. This is a good read, as was the first. I am ready to read the third and final novel in the trilogy and learn the ending.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren - 400 pages

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancĂ© is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.