Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: No Shred of Evidence by Charles Todd

No Shred of Evidence (Inspector Ian Rutledge, Book #18)
by Charles Todd
Release Date: February 16th 2016
2016 William Morrow
Kindle ARC Edition; 357 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062386182
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

On the north coast of Cornwall, an apparent act of mercy is repaid by an arrest for murder. Four young women have been accused of the crime. A shocked father calls in a favor at the Home Office. Scotland Yard is asked to review the case.

However, Inspector Ian Rutledge is not the first Inspector to reach the village. Following in the shoes of a dead man, he is told the case is all but closed. Even as it takes an unexpected personal turn, Rutledge will require all his skill to deal with the incensed families of the accused, the grieving parents of the victim, and local police eager to see these four women sent to the infamous Bodmin Gaol. Then why hasn’t the killing stopped?

With no shred of evidence to clear the accused, Rutledge must plunge deep into the darkest secrets of a wild, beautiful and dangerous place if he is to find a killer who may-or may not-hold the key to their fate.

My Thoughts
No Shred of Evidence is the eighteenth entry into what is one of my favourite mystery series, starring Inspector Ian Rutledge, a WWI veteran and PTSD (or shell-shock) survivor.  Rutledge's continuing fight to deal with his ghosts from the Battle of the Somme, and the resulting shell shock, is definitely one of the highlights of the series, but I was a bit disappointed to see little of Hamish in this story.  And while I loved the writing style and the character descriptions and development, I do have to admit that the mystery was a bit all over the place in this one, as if the authors couldn't quite figure out which angle the mystery should take. (For those of you unfamiliar with this series, I do use authors on purpose as Charles Todd actually is a pen name for the mother/son writing team of Caroline Todd and Charles Todd.)

First of all, I adore Inspector Rutledge and have really enjoyed how his story has progressed through the books.  In this one, there was a lot of introspection, especially about his past loves, which gives me hope that Rutledge will eventually find the one for him, and it's been a long time coming, almost too long.  He really didn't seem as anxious and troubled in this one which is a bit step forward for someone suffering from shell shock, but I definitely missed Hamish on many an occasion.  The whole idea of ending everything wasn't as prevalent either, expect in a brief moment when he thought about jumping into the river, which made you feel like it was an impulse moment rather than a serious constant thought. For maybe the first time in so many books, I really felt like there was hope for Rutledge, both in his personal life and in his psychological issues.

The cast of characters surrounding Rutledge are always interesting and I look forward to every town, village, and city in which he goes to investigate.  The premise of the story seemed a bit awkward, and I didn't really buy into all that much, but I was willing to go along with it to see where it went.  Four women rowing along the river try to help a man who is about to drown, then later accused of his murder?  Naturally, when Rutledge goes in to investigate, all he meets is resistance from everyone around him; young women who are told not to give any details, wealthy fathers who feel they are above the law, villagers who have secrets, more dead bodies, and so on. The case becomes rather personal however, when Rutledge discovers he knows one of the young women accused of murder and little evidence exists that could exonerate them.  

The plot was a bit murky right from the beginning, and to me, felt like the authors were rather unclear in which direction they wanted to take the mystery.  For the first time in this series, I found the execution to be a bit inept, with too many unimportant / insignificant details.  The actual writing style was good, as always, but I found myself constantly wondering, How was that important? or going Really?  Not a good thing in a mystery.  The pace and the flow were fine, but there were parts that I definitely enjoyed more than others.  

No Shred of Evidence is one of those entries that I think happens in every series.  While the book wasn't boring by any means, I found the mystery to be rather mundane and meandering.  I have really appreciated the previous entries in this series so I was a bit disappointed in this one.  Am I ready to give up on this one though?  No way.  Hopefully the next one will up to its usual standards. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Review: 300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson

300 Days of Sun
by Deborah Lawrenson
Release Date: April 12th 2016
2016 Harper Paperbacks
ARC Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062390165
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

My Thoughts
300 Days of Sun is a tale of two stories, told in alternating parts. The story begins in contemporary Portugal where the main character is sort of escaping from her life by taking language courses in Faro and avoiding a boyfriend back home. The alternating story line is built into the story and is part of the mystery that surrounds Nathan, a student in her class. A reporter, Joanna stumbles across a mystery that involves Nathan as well as some missing children that may actually span decades.

As a history teacher and a fan of all things historical, the alternating story lines has never bothered me; in fact, I actually enjoy them and go out of my way to find books that contain them.  While I really enjoyed Joanna's story, I actually preferred Esta's as I find everything about WWII fascinating and love reading about it.  The events in Portugal, one of the few neutral countries during this time period, definitely had a rich history and many of its stories are yet to be told.  I know, for example, that Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond) spent some time there, and the Spanish royal family were exiled in Estoril. I think my biggest disappointment in this novel is that these sections, and there were only three of them, were too short.  I also really liked learning about the 1941 windstorm that struck Portugal as it was something I had never heard about so I found it quite interesting.  Apparently, in monetary terms today, the damage would have been around five billion dollars.

Joanna's story was quite interesting in the beginning and her search for Nathan's family is something I always enjoy.  Searching for newspaper articles, asking questions, exploring areas that may contain clues, talking to people about the past, all up my alley.  It's certainly ground that has been covered before, and will probably be covered again, but that's okay.  Unfortunately, where I lost interest was in the mysteriousness of Ian Rylands as he was just too cryptic and 'mysterious' for me and for the story. I think the author was trying to add some secrecy, and perhaps some concept of deadliness to the story, and I just felt it didn't quite work.  Don't get me wrong, I love crime novels and read them voraciously, but it was jarring to the story and to the setting.

300 Days of Sun is one of those books that started out quite strong for me, but kind of lost me towards the end.  I gave it the rating I did because I really enjoyed the author's style of writing as it made me feel like I was right there, and there were some elements that were quite engrossing.  I actually liked the historical aspect better than the modern tale, but I also felt like I connected better to Esta than I did to Joanna.  I was a bit disappointed with the ending, not because of what happened with Nathan and his family as it was sort of what I was expecting, but more about Joanna as I didn't feel like she developed at all throughout the novel.  Besides, I've always thought running away was a bit childish and she didn't seem like she wanted to face her problems.  Personally, if you are looking for a light-hearted mystery/romance, and a nice romp through sunny Portugal, then I would recommend this one for you.  It definitely had the added affect of adding Portugal higher up my traveling bucket list, and the cover makes me want to go snorkeling right now.  
Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thought This Was Interesting!!

Rare Objects - Published 2016 (Harper)

The FitzOsbornes in Exile - Published 2011 (Knoft)

I just happened to be doing some browsing to unwind from work and its stressors when I came across this.  As I had just completed a review on Rare Objects yesterday, I thought it was interesting the cover pages were almost identical, but one was published in 2011 and the other in 2016.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

Rare Objects
by Kathleen Tessaro
Release Date: April 12th 2016
2016 Harper
ARC Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062357540
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.

My Thoughts
Rare Objects is set during the Great Depression, and follows Maeve Fanning as she deals with the ups and downs of life, of being independent, duirng this time period.  A first generation Irish immigrant, I enjoyed the struggles that May had as she searched for a job, dealt with her mother, associated with her friends, and tried to deal with the morals and values of this time.  May has had a lot of difficult moments in her life, and seemed like she led a bit of rebellious life when she was younger, but she could also be manipulative and a bit of a liar when it suited her purposes and her needs.  

First of all, the beginning of this novel was quite interesting and really drew me into the story.  May is quite the troubled character, leading a double-life, one of partying and drinking in New York while lying to her family and friends about what she was doing, even going so far as to miss her best friend's wedding to hide her activities.  As May meets various characters from her girlhood when she returns home, we learn quite a bit about her background, one that was rebellious enough that her friends' parents had cautioned them about being seen in public with her or even having her in their homes.  I found this quite fascinating, that dynamic mix of old-fashioned values with the new independence that women were trying to build for themselves, how slow a process it actually was for women.  Unfortunately, as May became involved with the Van der Laars, the story actually became a bit bogged down for me, and I actually found myself losing interest in it; there were simply too many threads wound together, many quite predictable, and the philosophical, social, and moral issues didn't help streamline the story.  To be honest, I found it hard to believe that someone like Diana Van der Laar would be allowed to even associate with someone like May. I definitely believed in the treatments Diana would have received once her 'issues' were perceived by her family as it would have reflected on the entire family and would not have been tolerated.  However, her dramatics wore on me after a while; I actually liked the stronger Diana who told May to get her life together and work out her issues.  That Diana was more interesting.

I really like the descriptions of the time period, and I did like the complexity of May's character.  While there were times when I could have shaken her, it was nice to see her grow up a little bit throughout the novel; at first, I really thought she was quite egocentric, believing herself the center of her universe, and I like how that was removed as she met her childhood friends again and had to apologize for her previous behaviour.  I did find it a bit of a stretch to imagine how May would have landed such an interesting job however, as it was the middle of the Depression and millions of people were looking for work.  

I actually found Mr. Winshaw to be one of the most intriguing character, if he was annoying at times, and I wish he had more of a story to tell.  I don't feel like the author was really able to get a fix on him and how he really fit into the story, and this did cause a bit of a problem for me.  

Rare Objects definitely has a lot to recommend it, and the many story lines by themselves, are intriguing, but I don't feel like everything came together at the end.  I didn't particularly like Maeve at the beginning of the novel, and although she did transform to some extent, I'm not really sure it was enough to really make her really likable for me, or even genuine. Many of the periodic details were fascinating however, and I did enjoy those tremendously.  While I would recommend it, I would definitely be careful to whom I did so as I don't think it would be for everyone. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

The Decent Proposal
by Kemper Donovan
Release Date: April 5th 2016
2016 HarperCollins
ARC Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062391629
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

A struggling Hollywood producer, Richard Baumbach is twenty-nine, hung-over, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an innate charm and an air of invincibility, he still believes good things will come his way. For now he contents himself with days at the Coffee Bean and nights with his best friend Mike (that’s a woman, by the way).

At thirty-three, Elizabeth Santiago is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina” The Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to avoiding anything that might derail her quiet, orderly life. And yet recently she befriended a homeless man in her Venice neighborhood, surprised to find how much she enjoys their early-morning chats.

Richard and Elizabeth’s paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor. They’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together—just talking—every week for a year. Astonished and more than a little suspicious, they each nevertheless say yes. Richard needs the money and likes the adventure of it. Elizabeth embraces the challenge of shaking up her life a little more. Both agree the idea is ridiculous, but why not?

My Thoughts
The Decent Proposal is one of those books in which I was very interested in the beginning, but not as much towards the end.  I really liked the premise and thought it would be interesting to see how it all played out; half a million dollars just for meeting with someone for two hours a week?   Thought the movie and book discussion idea was a brilliant way to get to know someone and I definitely enjoyed the thoughts of each character over some of the books.  

The setting of the book takes place in Los Angeles, and the author definitely goes to a lot of pains to ensure that you never forget it; there are many great descriptions of the area, including some historical facts, and while I enjoyed them tremendously, I did feel they had no impact on the story or even relevance.  In fact, I actually thought the story kind of got lost at times because of the descriptions.  What it did was make the characters seem almost one-dimensional, focusing a lot on their looks and their beauty.  What I found kind of intriguing is that the peripheral characters who seem almost lost to society were definitely not good-looking - Orpheus and Bev.  The author almost went out of his way to mention his characters' good looks, and I was getting a bit annoyed by this as it is usually irrelevant to me.  Because of this shallowness, it made Elizabeth seem uptight and unapproachable, unhappy in her life because she had no man to complete it.  What nonsense! And then there is Richard, good-looking, but with a string of women on his arm, made him seem shallow and uncouth.  Luckily, I liked both of these characters, despite their behaviour, and liked the mystery that surrounded them and tied them together somehow.  

As previously mentioned, the premise is quite intriguing, and I like how the author takes the reader on a journey to solve they mystery.  It was not quite what I was expecting, although I did have a suspicion about part of it; you do have to kind of just go with it though, as some of it does seem a bit contrived.   I liked how Richard and Elizabeth's friendship slowly developed over the course of the book as I am definitely not a fan of insta-love.  I did think there was going to be a love triangle at some point, but I am glad that was deflected by the author.  I wasn't too crazy about Mike for most of the novel as I thought she was selfish and self-involved, and I don't think my opinion about her changed too much over the course of the book.  I also felt that a lot of the inner monologue was a bit jarring, and while it did give us more insight into the characters, it also kept me from being fully invested in them and really caring what happened to them.

The Decent Proposal is a light, I hesitate to call it a romance, chick lit.  The two main characters are usually likeable, but it would have been nice to see their characters develop a bit more.  The main strength of this novel is the writing.  The author's talent is great and I would love to see him tackle something a bit more in-depth and complex to really show off his writing skills.  I would recommend this one to anyone looking for something light and fun, but I am definitely curious as to what this author does next.  

About the Author
Kemper Donovan has lived in Los Angeles for the past twelve years. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he worked at the literary management company Circle of Confusion for a decade, representing screenwriters and comic books. He is also a member of the New York Bar Association.

Follow Kemper on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: Who Invited the Ghost to Dinner by Teresa Watson

Who Invited the Ghost to Dinner: A Ghost Writer Mystery
by Teresa Watson
Release Date: February 1st 2016
Ebook Edition; 393 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Cozy / Mystery
Source: Review copy from Great Escapes Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Cam Shaw is hoping that her life will be ghost-free from now on. But that hope dies with the appearance of Mac “the Faker” Green, a wise-cracking ghost from Vegas who has followed her grandmother home. And during the opening night of Blithe Spirit, someone has sent Susan Ingram to her ghostly afterlife. What does her death have to do with the death of her mother-in-law fifty years ago? Who is trying to wipe out the Ingram family one person at a time? And when will that Vegas ghost stop sticking his nose into Cam’s business?

My Thoughts
Who Invited the Ghost to Dinner was a fun and relatively fast-paced cozy mystery that had an aspect of the paranormal to it.  I really thought the main ghost, Mac Green, was a lot of fun and I enjoyed his character quite a bit, loving the way he just popped up at the most inappropriate times.  

What I really liked the best about this novel was the characters and their quirkiness.  First of all, I loved Mac, he was a lot of fun and I thought his sarcasm and quirkiness really added to the story.  I found myself really looking forward to the scenes when he just popped up; I thought some of the scenes were quite funny, especially when he showed up in Cam's bedroom while she was getting dressed.  I definitely look forward to seeing more of him in future novels, and learning more about his background; let's just say my interest has been piqued by him.  I also really liked Cam's grandmother and newly acquired husband; they are just so quirky, and I really hope I have their energy when I am in my eighties. While I did enjoy Cam as a character, I did find her to be a bit annoying at times though. Her crankiness at not always being involved in the investigations or not being told police business did get on my nerves quite a bit as really, it was none of her business, despite her relationship with the chief.  I do like the way Mike and Cam's relationship issues are dealt with however, as Mike's job does get in the way and I do think that Cam has to realize at some point that she will not be privy to police details on cases that Mike is following.  Knowing a couple of police officers quite well, for her to be involved in some situations and to sit in on interviews actually comes across as fake.  

I did enjoy the mystery however, even if I was disappointed that one 'mystery' was not resolved in this book.  It does allow for future visits from this character and I do see some interesting times ahead for Mac and for Cam, and maybe a trip to Las Vegas?  I enjoyed the twists and turns in the book even though I figured out who did it quite early on; it was still interesting to see how the author would get to the solution and how many scrapes the characters would get into before that happened.  I personally like the paranormal aspect to this novel and really enjoyed the ghosts and their reactions to the events.  

Who Invited the Ghost to Dinner was an enjoyable cozy mystery and was quite fun to read for the most part.  I liked most of the characters and thought they were quite quirky in their own right; Mac was an especial favourite of mine and I would love to see him in future novels.  I could do without Cam's annoying behaviour when she isn't given information on murder cases that Mike is following, and some of her other behaviour was a bit juvenile, but overall I do like her and think there is a lot of room for development.  Teresa Watson is also the author of the Lizzie Crenshaw mysteries, of which I am a fan.  Knowing how enjoyable those books were, I am sure these ones will continue to grow and develop as well, and I am looking forward to the next book in this series when it is released.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Review: Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear

Journey to Munich (Maisie Dobbs, Book #12)
by Jacqueline Winspear
Release Date: March 29th 2016
2016 Harper
Ebook ARC Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062220622
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher / TLC Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square—a place of many memories—she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s wife is bedridden and his daughter has been killed in an accident, the Secret Service wants Maisie—who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter—to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.

The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis—the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death—has learned of her journey, and is also desperate for her help.

Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers—and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas. . . .

My Thoughts
Journey to Munich is the twelfth book in the Maisie Dobbs series, and Maisie continued to develop as an interesting and complex character.  Just when I think I had her figured out and thought I knew what she was going to do next, she surprised me and did something entirely different.  Having no permanent home in London, and continuing to deal with the tragedies that befell her in Canada, she accepts a job that will take her into the heart of Munich in 1938, just before the Anschluss. Having a history background, and teaching WWII, this is the part of the book that I found the most interesting.

First of all, I really enjoyed the descriptions of Munich in March 1938; Maisie's discomfort at having to salute, her avoidance of the statues in the park, the different types of soldiers she saw, the harassment by the soldiers, her visit to Dachau, her visits to Nazi headquarters (including her brief but memorable meeting with Hitler himself), the tension in the city, and the descriptions of the people themselves.  I really felt the author captured the flavour of the city during this time period quite well and the reader got a really good feel for the underlying tension and fear that existed.  People were leery of each other, and tended to avoid questions, often walking with their heads down. As often as I've tried to picture it, I still can not imagine what it would have been like to live like this, knowing your neighbours have been disappearing,  hearing about Dachau, and seeing some of the atrocities being committed.  Especially memorable for me was Maisie's meeting with the two little girls, one Christian, one Jewish, who had to sneak away in order to play together. Reading the description about them was heartbreaking, and I could just feel Maisie's emotions as she watched them walk away hand in hand, knowing she would never see that moment again, foreshadowing the future, perhaps Kristallnacht, in November 1938.

The actual plot, while I enjoyed it quite a bit, did make me raise my eyebrows a couple of times however.  While it was nice to see Maisie go undercover again and use some of the skills she had learned, there were some plot points that did stretch the imagination quite a bit.  I also would have thought that being a British citizen, she would have been followed a bit more than she was.  I did like the fact that she was more assertive than her usual self, but this has been building for quite a while; with all of the personal tragedies she has suffered, and some of the things she has done, she can't help but change from the person she was.  I like her more now than I did before.  I'm still not convinced that I see her as a spy, but anything can happen and we are entering some really interesting times for Daisy and her friends.  Maisie couldn't tell her friend everything about Munich though, as her friend is the mother of sons and she didn't have the heart to tell her that war is on the horizon.  That broke my heart.

Journey to Munich was more about the horrors of living in Hitler's Germany and about building one's life after living through personal tragedy than the actual spying and espionage.  While I really enjoyed seeing Munich through Maisie's eyes, I did feel that spending so much time in Maisie's head as she coped with her tragedies was kind of limiting to the plot and to Maisie herself.  Because the mystery was a bit limited in scope and imagination, I just couldn't give this a five-star rating, but the atmosphere was layered and quite thick with intrigue; I just wish it was used more in the plot.  I am looking forward to some interesting things happening as Maisie and her friends head into WWII.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review: Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

Into the Dim (Into the Dim, Book #1)
by Janet B. Taylor
Release Date: March 1st 2016
2016 HMH Books for Young Readers
Ebook Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-0544602007
ASIN: B011H55S2G
Genre: Fiction / YA / Time Travel
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.

My Thoughts
Into the Dim was an okay book if you didn't take it too seriously and especially if you didn't compare it to Outlander.  I am really starting to dislike those who compare books to other books as I really think it does a disservice to both the author and the book.  There is no comparison to Outlander, which I loved, and while I absolutely think a YA novel can be fantastic and complicated, it simply can't be like Outlander.  I don't think it's fair to the author entering a novel with that mindset as you are already going to be looking for criticisms and weaknesses.  

First of all, I enjoyed Into the Dim quite a bit.  As always, the mystery of Hope's past and ancestry was quite interesting and I liked how everything was revealed to her.  I am always up for secrecy and history, so I was quite happy to follow along and see how everything fell into place.  Naturally, the majority of the setting took place in Scotland; where else would an author set a time-travel mystery?  So many of these time travel things happen in Scotland and Great Britain, but as I love the history, I don't actually mind.  I think my love with anything Scotland has to do with my discovery of Gothic literature when I was very young and the mysteriousness of the land has sort of stuck in my head as something awesome, which is why I return to these novels, any genre now, time and again.  

The time-traveling aspect of the novel was a bit complicated and I actually prefer the more simpler versions of it, like accidentally touching a stone and poof! in the twelfth century.  This whole Tesla concept was a bit much, or maybe I just found it a bit boring and didn't really pay attention to it as much as I should have; I just thought the concept was a bit forced, and the use of opals a bit much.  

I didn't mind the plot too much, but I definitely didn't read it and compare it to Outlander. I actually prefer it when authors use modern language in their speech as sometimes it comes off as fake when they try to incorporate speech from the twelfth century.  Aside from books, we really have no way of knowing the common every day speech patterns, and as the language was so different from the modern language we use today, I think it is actually easier to stay with the modern.  I am French-speaking, but having read texts from the time period, I know I would have trouble with twelfth century French.  As far as the plot went however, it was fairly predictable, but enjoyable, and I liked the descriptions from the twelfth century.  

I did have a problem relating to Hope for quite a bit of the novel however.  I found her to be whiny, annoying, impatient, and a snob.  There were many negative comments about other girls and I didn't really appreciate them as it made her seem shallow, and whereas I think the author was trying to evoke pity from the reader, it only failed in my opinion. I get the author was trying to show Hope's level of intelligence by doing this, but it just made her look snotty and whiny; I'm sure there could have been another way to do it without putting other groups of girls down.  I also felt that Hope's anxiety was a bit forced, and used more as a plot point rather than an actual ailment.  When she needed something to happen, like a crisis, let's just use Hope's claustrophobia and panic attacks as a reason to create drama.  Being familiar with panic attacks, it just didn't work for me and left a bad feeling in my mouth.  

Into the Dim is the first book in a new series about time-travel, but for me it was just an okay book.  I did enjoy it, but I also had some issues with the characters and the plot.  I really didn't see a lot of development on the part of the characters, and thought the plot was a bit predictable, romance and all. The slower start to the book didn't really bother me too much, and I definitely enjoyed the actual travel in the twelfth century as I thought it was fun meeting the characters from that time period.  This is one where you will have to decide for yourself what you think.  I will probably read the second book in the series as I am curious to see what happens next.