Tag Archive: Elizabeth C. Bunce


210407_netflix_robbery_docuseries

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Where are they now?

Most true crime TV tends toward the lurid, the sensational, the gory, the depraved.  So Netflix’s new documentary series, This is a Robbery, comes as a breath of fresh air to the genre.  Their cold case?  A 1991 unsolved art heist at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

You may be familiar with the case—the night after St. Patrick’s Day, men wearing police uniforms hustled their way into one of Boston’s most beautiful museums and hustled their way out again 81 minutes later with thirteen irreplaceable (and uninsured) works of art, including Rembrandt’s only seascape, also a Vermeer, a Manet, five Degat works, and two other Rembrandts, worth a total estimated value of $500,000,000.  Yes, five hundred million.  The Gardner Museum made the gutsy decision to continue displaying the emptied frames in the gallery, where they still hang, 30 years later.

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Wood Wife cover

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Fantasy fans likely know Terri Windling primarily as an anthologist, editor of collections of modern fairy tales with co-editor Ellen Datlow including Black Thorn, White Rose, The Green Man, A Wolf at the Door, and others.  Now Windling’s own original novel, The Wood Wife (1996) is getting a new release from Tor Books as part of its “Tor Essentials” library of books.

Readers (and writers) who came of age in the 1990s will find much here that feels like coming home to a familiar landscape.  Windling’s tale of magic in the American desert, and the humans seduced by it, is at once a murder mystery, a story about art and artists, and a haunting fairy tale.  The Wood Wife is a classic example of American fantasy at its finest.

When a poet she’s never met dies and leaves writer Maggie Black his remote home in Arizona, Maggie seizes the chance to leave her nomadic life behind and settle in the stark and beautiful Sonoran Desert near Tucson.  Hoping to write a biography of Davis Cooper, the poet she wrote her college thesis on, Maggie eagerly digs into his papers, not realizing she’s opening the door to more than just his past.  Strange things begin to happen: objects and people go missing, she has mysterious encounters with even more mysterious strangers, and she begins experiencing rumbles of unearthly dangers.  As Maggie grows to understand the desert, she also uncovers its underlying magic, learning it’s as full of folklore, fairy life, and magic as anywhere in Western literature.

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Agatha Award 1

Here’s some news that got us off to a great start this week–The Agatha Award nominees for 2021 were announced this weekend.  For more than three decades the annual honor has recognized nominees like familiar names John Grisham, Anne Perry, Max Allan Collins, Sue Grafton, Mary Higgins Clark, Charlaine Harris, Janet Evanovich, Ann Cleeves, Rhys Bowen, Charlotte MacLeod, and many more, as well as celebrated those significantly contributing to the mystery genre, like Angela Lansbury and David Suchet.  Nominees are announced early each year and winners awarded at the summer mystery convention Malice Domestic.  The annual list commemorates traditional mystery works typified by the novels of mystery author Agatha Christie (pictured above).  And who was nominated for the 2021 Agatha Award?  Our own borg contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce, for her novel Premeditated Myrtle

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Sarah Beth Durst’s new standalone novel The Bone Maker answers the perennial fantasy question “What has it got in its pocketses?”  And that answer is: bones.  The magic in the Kingdom of Vos is worked by manipulating the life force remaining in bones to build animated machines, tell the future, or create powerful talismans.  Any animal bone will work, but human bones are taboo.  Twenty-five years ago, a wizard bent on revenge broke this most sacred rule of bone magic, and reanimated human bones to wreak destruction on the kingdom and its people.

Five warriors—bone workers all—stepped forward to stop him, and four came home heroes.  Now, a lifetime later, that war should be long past, only a dark and haunting memory.  But for the woman who lost her husband in the war, the fight has never ended.  Kreya has spent the last twenty-five years perfecting the spell needed to permanently resurrect her beloved husband.  The only problem is, the spell requires two unspeakable ingredients—half her own life, and enough human bones to power the magic.

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Here’s some news that got us off to a great start this week–The Mystery Writers of America just announced its annual recognition of the mystery, crime, suspense, and intrigue genres. The annual list memorializes the anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, and this year’s nominees for the 2021 Edgar Allan Poe Awards honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, and television published or produced in 2020. The 75th Annual Edgar Awards will be celebrated on April 29, 2021.  And who is on the 2021 nominations shortlist? Our own borg contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce, for her 2020 novel Premeditated Myrtle

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Our borg Best of 2020 list continues today with the Best Books of 2020.  If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Best Movies of 2020 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here, and the Best in TV 2020 here.  Our list continues tomorrow with the Best Comics and Games of 2020.  And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame later this month.

We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf.  We don’t publish reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.

So let’s get going!

Best Sci-Fi, Best Thriller Novel Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson (Tor Books).  It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy.  And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page.

Best Tie-In NovelBloodshot novelization by Gavin Smith (Titan Books).  A great update to the genre that began with Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, Smith creates an exciting, vivid novelization of the comic book character adapted to the big screen.  Honorable mention: Firefly: The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).

There are many more best book selections to go…

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

It’s no secret that here at borg, we’re big fans of Victorian mysteries—from Netflix’s Enola Holmes to Crimson Peak, to my own Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series, we are always on the lookout for the next great historical whodunnit to share with you.  Thanks to our friends at Minotaur Books, we have a new series to recommend.  Erin Lindsey’s third “Rose Gallagher” novel, The Silver Shooter, is not only a cracking good Victorian mystery, it’s a paranormal mystery, and set in the Old West, to boot (ahem).  Readers are plunged straight into an adventure with Pinkerton Special Department agents Rose Gallagher and Thomas Wiltshire as they take on a case for ranch owner Theodore Roosevelt (yep, that TR!).

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Everyone needs some good news, right? In advance of Black Friday, this week Amazon announced its annual list of the Best Books of 2020. The list includes the Top 100 adult titles and the Top 120 children’s titles broken down by target audience (20 titles named for each of baby to age 2, ages 3-5, ages 6-8, ages 9-12, young adult, and a separate category for non-fiction). Amazon went on to select the Top 20 Children’s Books from this group. We’re happy to report that frequent borg contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce‘s mystery Premeditated Myrtle was named to Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Book of 2020!

Premeditated Myrtle was previously named an Amazon Best of the Month Editor’s Pick and #1 Amazon New Release, and last month the second book in the series, How to Get Away with Myrtle, was a #1 Amazon New Release.   Online webzines Netflix Life and Fansided included the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series on its list of “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”  

Elizabeth’s first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the American Library Association’s inaugural William C. Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book.  Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book for 2010, and Liar’s Moon, one of Kirkus Blog’s Favorite YA Novels of 2011.  StarCrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold have appeared on Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List.  Her novels have been named to the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and she is a three-time Kansas Notable Book winner.  Elizabeth completed her eighth novel and third novel in the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series, Cold-Blooded Myrtle last month–it is slated for release next year. Learn more about the series and major industry reviews of Elizabeth’s books here.

In Premeditated Myrtle, readers will meet the quick-witted and fearless Myrtle Hardcastle, a twelve-year-old girl with an unseemly obsession with forensic science and criminology. When Myrtle’s wealthy neighbor dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle is the first to notice anything amiss. With the help of her unflappable governess and opinionated cat Peony, Myrtle takes it upon herself to follow the clues investigators overlooked. As more evidence emerges, she begins to believe that the town prosecutor, her own father, is pursuing the wrong man. Myrtle pores over toxicology textbooks, interrogates suspects, and does the one thing no Young Lady of Quality is ever supposed to do: she Goes Outside Alone After Dark. Myrtle Hardcastle may be just a twelve-year-old girl, but she is not the type to sit by while grown men botch a murder investigation. 

It’s no surprise that Myrtle can’t stay out of trouble for long, even when her father sends her off to the English seaside for some relaxation. In Book Two, How to Get Away with Myrtle, Myrtle, her governess, her insufferable Aunt Helena, and, of course, Peony the cat are loaded onto a private railway coach where Myrtle makes the acquaintance of Mrs. Bloom, a professional insurance investigator aboard to protect the priceless Northern Lights tiara. But before the train reaches its destination, the tiara vanishes and Myrtle discovers a body in the baggage car. The trip is derailed, the local police are inept, and Scotland Yard is in no rush to help. What’s a bored aspiring detective stranded in a washed-up carnival town to do but follow the evidence to discover which of her fellow travelers is a thief and a murderer?

Other titles selected by Amazon for its Top 20 Children’s Books of 2020 are Amy Timberlake and Jon Klassen’s Skunk and Badger, Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Bob, Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora’s The Oldest Student, Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Black Brother, Black Brother, Tami Charles and Bryan Collier’s All Because You Matter, Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Paolo Santiago and the River of Tears, Derrick Barnes and Gordon James’ I Am Every Good Thing, Jacqueline Woodson’s Before the Ever After, Jonathan Auxier and Olga Demidova’s The Fabled Stables, Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey’s The Old Truck, Terry Fan’s The Barnabus Project, Lev Grossman’s The Silver Arrow, Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohammed’s When Stars are Scattered, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Every Night is Pizza Night, Peter H. Reynolds’ Be You, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’ The Suitcase, Frances Stickley and Anuska Allepuz’s What Will You Dream of Tonight?, Ibram Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky’s Antiracist Baby.

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series is published by Algonquin Young Readers, a division of Workman Publishing Company.  Cover artwork for the series is created by Brett Helquist (A Series of Unfortunate Events) and Laura Williams. 

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

A Curse Dark as Gold cover Elizabeth C Bunce

Halloween arrives this weekend and if you’re still looking for a ghost story to get you into the mood of the season, check out borg writer Elizabeth C. Bunce’s novel A Curse Dark as Gold, available in hardcover, paperback, and E-book editions from Amazon and other booksellers, first reviewed here back in 2011.  The audio book as read by British actress Charlotte Parry, known for her roles in Tony Award winning Broadway plays and TV work, is a great way to immerse yourself in this ghost story.

A Curse Dark as Gold is set in the Gold Valley in that far away land where fairy tales reside.  Charlotte Miller is a girl in her late teens whose father dies and leaves her the town of Shearing’s woolen mill, which serves as workplace for most of her community, along with the care of Charlotte’s younger sister Rosie.  Unwanted responsibilities fall into the lap of this young woman from page one.  From a framework standpoint A Curse Dark as Gold at first is a spin on Rumpelstiltskin-type “helper” tales of the past, but this story takes on its own life.  Shearing is at once lovely and pastoral, yet dark and creepy doings begin to permeate the corners of the town.  A mysterious uncle arrives and begins to interject himself into the girls’ lives, pecking away at their sanity.  As if sick itself, the mill begins to respond to the death of Charlotte’s father, with boards crashing down, textile machines failing, and the fabric of Shearing seeming to unravel.

A Curse Dark as Gold audio Elizabeth C Bunce told by Charlotte Parry

The story is set at the dawn of an Industrial Revolution.  Water wheels are about to be replaced with steam power and the smoke-filled cities that come along with that new technology.  Charlotte has inherited her father’s acumen as a savvy businessperson, yet pressures including competition from big city wool firms and unfair attempts to squeeze Shearing’s mill out of the marketplace cause the mill to lose its workers.  The economic issues are only the beginning of Charlotte’s problems.  A strange neighbor lady is a follower of old world ways, superstitions and magic, and tries to help.  Charlotte is steadfast and stubborn, relying only upon her own intuition as she turns away from everyone near her, including sister Rosie and her new husband.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Originally released as Audible original audiobooks, Sharon Shinn’s Uncommon Echoes series is now available in trade paperback editions.  With trademark Shinn romance and wholly original magic, Uncommon Echoes will be a must-read (or must-listen) for Shinn fans. The three novels stand alone and feature new characters, but contain somewhat intertwined stories and familiar faces from the other tales.  Roughly chronological, they could be read in any order, although the first two books spend more time grounding the reader in the world and its unique (or not…) magical attributes.  Highborn nobles in the Kingdom of the Seven Jewels are graced with “echoes,” exact physical copies—like supernatural clones—who shadow them and copy their every move. Believed to have been bestowed by the goddess as decoys to protect the nobles, the echoes are connected to their “originals” by a powerful psychic bond and treasured as status symbols: the more echoes you have, the more elite you are.  But the echoes themselves are merely soulless copies, with no sentience of their own.

…Until they aren’t.  Uncommon Echoes explores the lives and loves of three women and their echoes who break the mold, against the background of a kingdom on the brink of civil war.

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