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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

Jess Kidd loves words.  The words seem to spill out of her--whirling around, creating vivid images and wonderful prose with unexpected juxtapositions and all kinds of figurative language.  They don't feel like deliberate choices as much as thoughts emerging from someone whose use of language is so imaginative, fresh, and creative that she can't contain it.

I loved Himself for those reasons and more, but liked Mr. Flood's Last Resort (also titled The Hoarder) less.  Kidd's characters, however, are wonderful even when the plot is a little iffy.

Her latest book, Things in Jars--especially with Kidd's amazing prose--is a mystery, a fairy tale, a nightmare, magical realism, a ghost story, social commentary, a mysterious amalgamation of genres that does not fit any one category.

Set in 1863, Bridie Devine, private investigator with a connection to the police, smokes her pipe on her way to inspect a crypt with the skeleton remains of a mother and child...and finds the transparent figure of former boxer Ruby Doyle lounging on his grave.  She doesn't believe in ghosts, yet the marvelously tattooed Ruby Doyle (The Decorated Doyle), definitely dead and transparent, seems to know her.  And so the story begins.

Ruby Doyle, the decorated pugilist whose tattoos move and react to situations, becomes Bridie's (initially) unwanted partner.  Doyle knows Bridie, but Bridie cannot remember ever knowing Doyle.  He accompanies her home and on her adventures, waiting for Bridie to remember him and their connection, and Bridie's feelings for Ruby Doyle confuse her as she begins to appreciate  his company.

The main story line begins when Bridie is engaged to find the kidnapped daughter of a baronet.  Christabel Berwick, a strange six-year-old with unusual powers and strange needle-like teeth, is a mystery in and of herself.  Is Christabel the embodiment of the Irish myth of the merrow?  Bridie suspects a possible reason for the little girl's kidnapping...and she doesn't like it at all.

Interspersing chapters reveal more of Bridie's past and diverge to examine the activities of other characters.  Each character is the delightful result of descriptions amplified in the style of Dickens as in this description of Cridge, the curate:
"He is a young man with an unfavorable look about him.  Slight of stature and large of head, with light-brown hair that cleaves thinly to an ample cranium with bumps and contours enough to astound even a practiced phrenologist.  His complexion is wan and floury as an overcooked potato and his mouth was made for sneering."
Moving from past to present and back again, threads that are begun in the past are gradually woven into the present.  Aside from such wonderful characters as Bridie herself, we meet Ruby Doyle, Cora (Bridie's seven foot tall housemaid), Bad Dorcas, the Prudhoes, Valentine Rose, and wicked Gideon Eames.  London becomes both setting and character in this fantastical adventure.

It is difficult not to become enchanted by Kidd's prose, although it occasionally interrupts the plot. :)

Read in November; blog review scheduled for Jan. 19, 2020.

NetGalley/Atria Books
?Historical Mystery/Fantasy?  Feb. 4, 2020.  Print length:  384 pages.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald

Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald wasn't what I expected, but was so much more.  It was a slow build, but I became more and more involved with the situations and the characters.

It opens with the ghost of Henny Broek who has been hit by a truck.   Her life had been about to turn around--the love of her life has just returned to their small town, and Henny's dreams seem to be coming true.  Then, before her dreams can be realized, Henny is looking at her own body.

At first, Henny thinks it must be a mistake or a dream, then when she accepts the fact that she is really dead, she thinks maybe she can convince God to somehow make it right and give her back her life and dreams.  This doesn't work out either.

Henny isn't the kind of ghost who can be seen or heard; she can't directly influence anything, but once she has accepted her situation, Henny tries to make things better for the people she loves.  She's happy that she can see her favorite mountain, tag along with her friends, see the sun rise each morning.  

I love this book.  It's the kind of book that makes you think, that tackles the strengths and frailties of humanity.  There were twists in situations that surprised me--situations that didn't evolve the way I expected.  It speaks in a gentle way to all the divisions among people, none of whom are perfect, none of whom are evil, all of whom judge and misjudge at times.  It is about people who can be kind and compassionate and still display intolerance and prejudice.   It is about friendship and family and community.  It's about seeking a way to live together despite our differences.  

It was exactly what I needed.

Fiction.  Jan. 7, 2020.  Print length:  448 pages.  


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Hollows by Jess Montgomery

The Hollows by Jess Montgomery is the second in her Kinship series.  Lily Ross is the sheriff of  Kinship, a small town in Bronwyn County.  In 1926, a female sheriff could be controversial.   Actually, there still aren't many women in the role of sheriff: "Of the 3,084 sheriffs in the United States, only 42 are women, says Fred Wilson, director of operations for the National Sheriffs’ Assn. And that number is nearly twice what it was just seven years ago, he says. "(Source)

In addition to the fact that Lily Ross is still grieving her husband's death, she has children, a demanding job, and an upcoming election to deal with as well.  Called out in the middle of the night about an elderly woman who was hit by a train.  Accident, suicide, or murder?

Determined to find out who the woman was and where she came from leads to a number of secrets past and present, events and connections that a number of people would prefer to ignore.  Politics, racism, and sexism all play a role in the 1926 small town.  

I had not read the first novel The Widows, but my interest and appreciation grew as I continued reading.  Character-driven, yes.  Good mystery, yes.  Setting that feels genuine, yes.  The Widows now on my list, yes.  

It wasn't until I finished reading the novel, that it dawned on me that all of the important characters were women, which made me curious about the number of female sheriffs and made me think of the Bechtel test.   

The Bechdel test (/ˈbɛkdəl/ BEK-dəl),[1] also known as the Bechdel–Wallace test,[2] is a measure of the representation of women in fiction. It asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.[3]About half of all films meet these criteria, according to user-edited databases and the media industry press. Passing or failing the test is not necessarily indicative of how well women are represented in any specific work. Rather, the test is used as an indicator for the active presence of women in the entire field of film and other fiction, and to call attention to gender inequality in fiction. Media industry studies indicate that films that pass the test financially outperform those that do not.[citation needed]
The test is named after the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel in whose comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For the test first appeared in 1985. Bechdel credited the idea to her friend Liz Wallace and the writings of Virginia Woolf. After the test became more widely discussed in the 2000s, a number of variants and tests inspired by it emerged. (Source)
and this quote from Virginia Woolf  in "A Room of One's Own":
All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. ... And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. ... They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen's day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman's life is that ...[5]     Source   (high light mine)

Two women inspired the author's characters.  Maude Collins (the inspiration for Lily Ross) and Mary Harris Jones (although Marvena's character is less educated than "Mother Jones") --two women who broke barriers in law enforcement and activism. 

I was working on this review when I saw Cathy's review yesterday, so I will skip the plot and point you to Cathy's blog.  :)

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Historical Mystery.  Jan. 14, 2020.  Print length:  352 pages.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz

The latest in the Orphan X series!  I've reviewed previous entries here.   I've thoroughly enjoyed The Nowhere Man who gives his help to those who need it.

From Description:
Taken from a group home at age twelve, Evan Smoak was trained as an off-the-books government assassin: Orphan X. After breaking with the Program, he reinvented himself as The Nowhere Man, a figure shrouded in shadows who helps the truly desperate. But the government didn’t let go of him easily, sending their best to hunt him down and eliminate him. All of them failed. With his deadliest enemies behind him, Evan is facing a new challenge—what is he going to do now that no one is after him?

Poor Evan, his training did little to help him adjust to an ordinary life, but it has given him the skills to help others against overwhelming odds.  When he accepts the call to the Nowhere Man from Max Merriweather, he intends for it to be his last mission.  

But...each time he thinks he has completed his assignment, he discovers there is another angle, a higher-up that must be taken care of before Max is safe.  While the books are not realistic, the reader roots for Evan Smoak as he dedicates himself to saving others, one innocent at a time, and Coleridge's term "suspension of disbelief" is eagerly accepted.  

I have no idea where Hurwitz will take Evan next, but please don't leave the Nowhere Man behind.

Read in September; blog review scheduled for Jan. 

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books
Thriller.  Jan. 28, 2018.  Print length:  400 pages.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Nameless Series by Dean Koontz and When I Was You and The Stillwater Girls by Minka Kent

In a series of six short stories or novellas, Dean Koontz presents different episodes in the life of a man who doesn't know his own name, can't remember his life prior to two years ago, and suspects that his amnesia has been induced at his request.

His mission is to take down targeted evil doers.  He doesn't know who assigns the targets, but with each case, he is provided with a fake name, appropriate identification, a thorough background of the individual...and anything else he might need.  The operation is well-organized and well-funded, but the man knows little more than his own role.

Each short story/novella takes an hour or so to read and is like an episode in a book with each case resolved before another assignment appears.  

In an unusual move, the "Nameless" series is only released in electronic and audio formats, and you can download them free if you are an Amazon Prime member.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz comes Memories of Tomorrow, part of Nameless, a riveting collection of short stories about a vigilante nomad, stripped of his memories and commissioned to kill. Follow him in each story, which can be read or listened to in a single sitting.

I went through the series in late December and enjoyed them.  Dean Koontz knows how to capture and hold your attention. 

When I Was You by Minka Kent.  Brienne Dougray was brutally attacked and barely survived.  Now she suffers from terrible headaches and memory loss and a near constant fear that her attacker will return.

When an attractive doctor becomes a tenant in her home, Brienne feels more secure, but her fear of her unknown attacker keeps her largely housebound and depressed.  Her old active and more social life has disappeared.

Then she discovers that someone has stolen her identity and is imitating her life in alarming detail.  Brienne is forced to leave her house to find out more about this woman.  What she discovers is more complicated and disturbing than what she originally assumed.

Interesting, but not exceptional, I liked it enough to get another of Kent's novels.

Thomas & Mercer.
Psychological Suspense.  Feb. 1, 2020.  Print length:  282 pages.

The Stillwater Girls is another standalone by Minka Kent.  Two young women are living alone in an isolated cabin in the woods.  Their mother left months earlier to try to get medical help for their younger sister, but never returned.  Food is running low, winter is coming, and they don't know how they will survive.

When a strange man shows up at the cabin, he tells them he plans to take them to town.  Having been raised to fear any outsider and told never to leave the forest, the young women are terrified and eventually escape after drugging the man.  

Not very believable, but entertaining.  There are actually two parallel stories being told that coincide, but the plot seems too contrived.  

Thomas & Mercer.
Mystery.  2019.  Print length:  256 pages.

Both books kept my attention and had some interesting characters and plots, but felt a little too convenient.  I liked, but didn't love them.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

January and the Latest "New Beginning"

Favorites Books from 2019.  This is hard because I read so many mysteries and looking back, I don't want to struggle with decisions about favorites.  Goodreads lists 177 books that I've reviewed, but I never got around to reviewing all of the books; some are still in draft form, some I may not even bother with reviewing at this point.

Nonfiction Favorites:  

The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jacki Morris (poetry and art)

Fiction Favorites:

There were so many good mysteries and thrillers this year, even if I don't want to take the time to decide which ones I liked best.  I hope to list some favorites each month in 2020 to make it less time consuming to decide on favorite mysteries and thrillers.

Goals/Resolutions January always seems a little fraught for me because I have the urge to organize and clear out, make lists, make decisions.  Probably many of you feel the same urges.  Thinking about what you want from the new year can result in long, long lists that seem impossible to achieve, so I'm keeping it simple as far as goals.  (Which doesn't mean I won't be checking on the many other things I'd like for 2020 (more patience, less procrastinating, recycle-reuse and be more environmentally conscious, etc., but I won't feel pressured by them.)

 I have only 3 easy to achieve goals:  1)  renew my yoga practice by just committing to get on the mat every day, 2) walk more, and 3) get out more to do things I enjoy (quit being such a hermit).  I've had a successful first week.  Fingers crossed on the rest of the month. 

None of my goals have anything to do with reading, but I do look at the various reading challenges posted and add books to my TBR list.  

Reading Itineraries.  I've taken reading itineraries most of my life--sometimes deliberate, sometimes not even realized until some way down the road.  After reading about a person or event or place in a book of fiction or nonfiction, I often follow up on that in other books.  Mary Tudor as a minor character in a historical mystery might lead to an interest in Jane Gray, or Elizabeth I, or persecution of Protestants, or Philip of Spain.   It is kind of a one-thing-leads-to-another thing, but with various digressions to explore along the way.  Historical fiction often encourages me to find out more about historical characters and events.  

 I'm a third of the way through The Idea of the Brain:  The Past and Future of Neuroscience by Matthew Cobb, which reminded me of the brain/science/learning itinerary I started several years ago.  I read a number of these one year, and then continued to look for interesting books in the category.  

The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
The Secret Live of the Mind by Mariano Sigman
How We Learn by Benedict Carey
The Wisdom Paradox by Elkhonon Goldberg
The Three Pound Enigma by Shannon Moffett
The Vigorous Mind by Ingrid E. Cummings
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
The Intention Experiment by Lynne Taggert
How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
Failing Our Brightest Kids by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Brandon L. Wright
Learned Optimism by Martin E.P. Seligman
The Body Has a Mind of Its Own by Sandra Blakeslee and MatthewBlakeslee
Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Human Mind by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee

Another nonfiction itinerary that has continued for years is a yoga book itinerary.  I've reviewed some, but not all of these, and since I took these pics several years ago, I'm not sure what I've added since then.  The bottom stack are my favorites from all the piles.

I don't see me buying any new books in this category right now, but several of my favorites bear another rereading, especially since I'm trying to renew my practice this year.

Stitching.  I've finished the second panel for 25 Million Stitches, and now I'm darning holes in a sweater and finishing up some UFOs from the last two years.  

Listening.  To some interesting podcasts while I stitch.  

Planning.  Next year's garden and enjoying my salad garden.  I mean it feels like spring here with temps in the 60's and 70's!

Monday, January 06, 2020

The Janes by Louisa Luna

The Janes by Louisa Luna  is the second Alice Vega Novel and since I enjoyed the first one, I was eager for this one. 

On the outskirts of San Diego, the bodies of two young women are discovered. They have no names, no IDs, and no family looking for them. Fearing the possibility of a human trafficking ring, the police and FBI reach out to Alice Vega, a private investigator known for finding the missing, for help in finding out who the Janes were--and finding the others who are missing.

Vega is called in when the bodies of two young Latina women are found with no identification and who have not been reported missing.  When Vega is called in to help, she brings in Cap, her partner in the first book.

Maybe because women are so frequently victims of abuse, we enjoy having a kick-ass female protagonist in a take charge and take-em-down role.  Are these women (Liz Salander, Jane Hawk, Livia Lone, Alice Vega) realistic?  Not really.  They have many stereotypical qualities, but they also have personality and the gumption, determination, intelligence, and a sense of justice that I have fun identifying with in the most ridiculous way.  

Who are some of your favorite awesome, bad-ass female protagonists?

Read in July?  Blog review scheduled for Jan. 6, 2020.

Mystery/Thriller.  Jan. 21, 2020.   Print length:  368 pages.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Westering Women by Sandra Dallas

In 1852, Maggie sees an ad: 

"If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband?"

Maggie has good reasons for leaving Chicago and attends the meeting explaining more about the trip.  She joins forty-three other women "good Christian women" who are looking for husbands--or escape from their pasts--on the dangerous 2,000 mile journey.  

An interesting historical novel about the hardships and heartbreak a group of courageous women were willing to endure in order to  begin life anew.  The reasons for these women to undertake such a hazardous journey varied, but were all based on hope for something better than the situations in which they were currently existing.  One has to admire the courage and determination required to survive and the bonds the women forged.

Although I didn't feel a strong connection to any of the women, I admired them for the fortitude they exhibited and enjoyed the historical elements.

My interest in the Oregon Trail and westward journeys of the 1800's began when I was in my teens and read Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow.  

Read in August; blog review scheduled for Jan. 2, 2020.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Historical Fiction.  Jan. 7, 2020.  Print length:  336 pages.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Last Reviews of the Year

We celebrate Christmas at the camp.  The kids came on Tuesday, Christmas Eve.  Erin and her crew left on Friday.  Amelia and her crew were back on Saturday.  It was a long and merry week, and after the final clean-up detail some good memories remain.  And a few extra pounds.

Guess who the Boomers are!
And I don't consider it a criticism, Mila.  :)
There is no WiFi at the camp and spotty cell reception, and I get home to find more iffy computer problems.  I'm still a little tired from the post-Christmas stuff (cleaning, clearing, etc.), but that is part of the process.  High energy, too much good food, fun and games with the kids--followed by the slow settling back into a normal routine.  The whole celebration takes about five days before everyone heads home, and I'm slowly becoming ready for the final chore here at our house--packing up the Christmas decorations.  

2019 Books read and scheduled (or not even reviewed yet):

Westering Women by Sandra Dallas
The Janes by Louisa Luna
Into the Fire by Greg Hurwitz
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman
The Perfect Kill by Helen Fields
Sword of Shadows by Jeri Westerson
The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan
 Who Speaks for the Damned  by C.S. Harris
The New Husband by D. J. Palmer
 The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason

I wasn't especially taken with the first book in the Stillhouse Lake series and didn't follow up with the next two books.  However, after reading Bitter Falls, I kind of regret that... because I did enjoy this one.

Gwen Proctor attempts to lead a normal-as-possible life despite her horrific background as the wife of a serial killer-- stalked by those who hated her husband and by those who admired him.  Her kids, Lanny and Connor, are her priority, but she knows she can't fully protect them from even the every day problems of life, much less from the bullies and trolls concerning her husband.  

Although Gwen, her partner Sam, and the kids have found some security in Stillhouse Lake, things have changed and  are at best uncomfortable and at worst dangerous.  

When Gwen gets a new missing persons cold case--that of a young man missing for three years--she focuses on it, turning up new and disturbing information that will result in a terrifying situation for Gwen, her partner Sam, and the kids.

Characters from previous novels play their roles in this one.  Some characters I recognized from the first book, others were new to me.  It didn't matter that I skipped books 2 and 3 in the series; Bitter Falls didn't cause any confusion.  Rachel Caine's skillful recap fills in all you need to know to enjoy the plot.

I may go back and pick up the books I missed--or not--but I will be looking for the next one.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Mystery/Thriller.  Jan. 21, 2020.  Print length: 336 pages.

Journaled to Death by Heather Redmond is entertaining enough for a couple of hours.  

from description:  
Journaling vlogger Mandy Meadows strives to preserve her hyper-organised life while searching for her cousin's killer in this twisty mystery: first in a brand-new series.

A light cozy mystery.

Read in October.  Review scheduled for  

NetGalley/Severn House
Cozy Mystery.  Feb. 4, 2020.  Print length:  224 pages.

The Crossing is the first in a new series featuring Detective Louise Blackwell by Matt Brolly.   The Crossing begins with the brutal murder of a pensioner, an older, retired woman with no known enemies.  Among other injuries are two puncture wounds in her wrists.  Then an elderly Catholic priest is also found murdered in a grisly manner.  Are the murders random or selected for a personal reason?

Shocked at the murder of two elderly and seemingly good people, Louise struggles to find the connection.  Louise is also being harassed by a former partner who seems determined to see her fail.  (I despised him!)

Since it is the first in a new series, some of the characters are being introduced and will probably be developed further in successive books.

 NetGalley/Amazon Publishing
British Detectives.  Feb. 15, 2020.   

 And one of my favorites of the year:

Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz is sharply focused on the man, his family, and friends from May 10, 1940 when Churchill took office until America finally enters the war.

The book is meticulously researched and still personal and relatable.  Churchill is presented in all his glory and all of his eccentricities.  Letters and diaries from friends and family fill in life during the period from Hitler's invasion of the Low Countries and the rapid fall of France, the crucial evacuation  at Dunkirk, the fear of occupation, and the devastation of the Blitz.

One thing I was not aware of was that in 1937 the Mass Observation Diary Project was formed.  The Archives provide primary source material of the everyday lives of the 500 volunteers.  An excellent source at any time, but during those years preceding and during the war--an amazing resource.  
A pioneering social research organisation, Mass Observation was founded in 1937 by anthropologist Tom Harrisson, film-maker Humphrey Jennings and poet Charles Madge. Their aim was to create an 'anthropology of ourselves', and by recruiting a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers they studied the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. This landmark digital project opens up revolutionary access to the archive. (Source:  the above link)
 The Splendid and the Vile ranks among my favorite nonfiction books this year (or ever), an absolutely engrossing account of disasters, courage, and defiance; of great leaders, elegant language, and of ordinary people.

Read in November.

NetGalley/Crown Publishing
History/Nonfiction.  Feb. 25, 2020.  Print length:  464 pages.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays!  And now we await the New Year and hope for peace, compassion, courtesy, and kindness in 2020.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

I suppose everyone comes up against a novel that utterly frustrates attempts at writing a review.  One which leaves you with a sense of ambiguity and no way to explain what you think about it because you still aren't sure.

World building:  A
Character Depth: A
Prose: A
Theme:  wonders/horrors of science?  colonialism?  friendship and family? betrayal?  the never changing flaws of society?  Such a mixture of thematic elements and development.

A fresh and unusual science fiction novel that defies classification and for me, explanation.

from description:  A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever in this captivating debut of connection across space and time.

"This is when your life begins."

Absorbing, haunting, and difficult to pin down.

Read in September; blog review scheduled for Dec. 30.

NetGalley/Random House
Science Fiction.  Jan. 14, 2020.  Print length:  400 pages.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Last Passenger, Origami Man, A Conspiracy of Bones, and the Demon Door series

The Last Passenger is the third in the prequels for Finch's Charles Lenox series.  It has been interesting to read these books about the young Lennox, who wants to establish himself as a detective since I've liked the plots and characters in the original books with the mature Lenox.  

The series is one of my favorite historical mystery/detective series, and I enjoyed the latest book as well.  Young Charles Lenox is encouraged by his mother to marry, and Charles is a desirable husband--except for the fact that he continues to pursue a career as a detective, which is not highly thought of in his social class.  

Inspector Hemstock seeks Charles' help when the unidentified body of a young man is discovered at Paddington Station, and Charles is eager to be involved with the Scotland Yard investigation.

As usual, there are many historical details that add to the plot, the characters are well-developed, the writing is excellent, and the mystery intriguing.  

Read in Oct.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Historical Mystery.  Feb. 18, 2020.  Print length:  304 pages.

Gibson Vaugh, legendary hacker and former marine, returns in a fifth installment of this series by Matthew Fitzsimmons.  He is also a wanted fugitive living in the Caymans when Tinsley, assassin and the man who killed Vaughn's father, draws him into a dangerous new situation.

The threat is ominous, and Tinsley needs Vaughn's help, but as important as the terrorist threat is--can Tinsley be trusted in a truce to prevent the disaster?  

Dan, Jenn, and George join Gibson in the hunt for the details that would help them prevent the deaths of millions.

The first book (The Short Drop) is my favorite, but I've enjoyed all of the books and the team of characters involved.  

Read in Oct.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Thriller.  Feb. 18, 2020.  Print length:  316 pages.

A Conspiracy of Bones in the latest Kathy Reichs book featuring Tempe Brennan.  Although I've been reading this series for years, this isn't the best, which doesn't mean that it won't hold your attention.  

Temperance is recovering from neurosurgery for an aneurysm, her new boss holds a grudge, someone may be stalking her, and in general, life had been difficult for Tempe.

She gets mysterious pictures of a body with most of  his face and his hands missing and no identification.  Who sent it?  
Her new boss is determined to push her out, but Tempe gets into the morgue and views the body.  She disagrees with the new coroner about several things and begins investigating on her own.  (The savaging of the body is the result of feral hogs, and just recently a woman in Texas was killed by hogs.  They truly are fearsome creatures.)    

Teaming up with the cantankerous and acerbic Slidell,  Tempe sets out to identify the body, and then to look into the Dark Web at conspiracy theories spouted by the repulsive Nick Body, and into a possible connection to missing children.

There is an interesting afterword about how Reichs came up with elements of her plot, but I had no trouble believing in the feral hogs detail as they are prevalent everywhere in the South and have been moving north as well.

Mystery.  March 17, 2020.  Print length:  352 pages.

The Sand Prince was nothing to write home about, spite of being unsatisfied with much of it,  I continued with the second book, The Heron Prince, and I liked it much better.  So--moving on to books 3 and 4, The Glass Girl and The River King was easy.  After making my way through the first half or so of The Sand Prince,  I enjoyed the rest of entire series.  

I've been busy with so many things lately--Christmas stuff (such a long list of Christmas stuff--from gifts and wrapping, to recipes and grocery shopping), stitching, reading, everyday chores, feeding the birds, making tentative friendship with a raccoon who has been visiting at night. 

Even in our subdivision, we have occasional night visits from raccoons and possums.  I think our visitor is young, more curious than frightened, he approaches me with such a quizzical look on his face.  Much better than the wild creatures like bears and mountain lions that visit other areas!   And at least we have had no feral hogs in our neighborhood, although there are plenty down at the camp in the country.   They make a mess of fields and crops, which is bad, but they are dangerous as well.  And ugly!  

Sunday, December 08, 2019

A Cry in the Night by Kerry Wilkinson and When You See Me by Lisa Gardner

I've enjoyed this series for quite a while, but admit this one isn't my favorite.  A Cry in the Night lets you know pretty early that something is wrong on Jessica Daniel's team.  You know how when a character you like does something untoward, it can be either easily accepted or cause uneasiness?  Jessica offers 10 pounds to a snitch to let her know when her suspect turns up, and 10 more when he does.  Why did that make me so uneasy?  Because Wilkinson intends exactly that--to create a sense of disquietude.

From description:  "Samuel is fourteen years old. He lives with his mother in a Manchester flat, goes to school, plays on his computer, reads books and likes the same things that most other teenagers do.

He’s also blind.

And he’s the only witness when his mother is attacked in their own home late one night."

The plot was interesting.  A while back I read a couple of books by Andreas Pfluger in which his main character is blind and uses echolocation.  Fourteen-year-old Samuel also uses echolocation and is able to tell the police that there were two assailants, one taller than theother,  and that one moved with a limp.  He also is able to "recognize" people by the same method, which startles Jessica.  She is both impressed and disbelieving and investigates this phenomenon to see how much trust to put into Samuel's abilities.

A second plot thread is both connected and separate.  The underlying awkward tension, however, has to do with a threat to Jessica, not a physical one, but a threat nonetheless.

The conclusion leads to a continuing arc for the next book.  The cases are solved, but the apprehension about Jessica's situation will most likely be the main narrative structure for the next novel.  I really don't like worrying about my favorite characters.  :/

Police Procedural.  Jan. 15, 2020.  Print length:  347 pages.

Lisa Gardner's When You See Me brings together three capable women.  

from description:  FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. When a disturbing piece of evidence is discovered in the hills of Georgia, they bring Flora Dane and true-crime savant Keith Edgar to a small town where something seems to be deeply wrong. What at first looks like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister...and they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed. Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers—and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.

Although I enjoyed the D.D. Warren series before Flora Dane was added, Flora Dane has added an edge to the plots.  D.D. and Flora provide a study in contrast: D.D. a dedicated law enforcement officer provides a balance to Flora's vigilante approach.  The two women have gradually come to work well together despite their differences.  I'm also glad to see Keith Edgar, the true crime and computer expert introduced in the previous book, join this investigation.  By creating new intriguing characters and including them in new books, Gardner keeps fresh possibilities for plot lines.  

Read in Oct.; blog review scheduled for Dec. 8.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Police Procedural.  Jan. 28, 2020.  Print length:  400 pages.  

I've been busy with stitching on my panels for 25 Million Stitches.  I finished the first one and mailed it, and I'm making progress on the second panel.   

first panel (15 x 17"), which I've finished and mailed

I've binge watched the Father Brown series (based on G.K. Chesterton's short stories) while stitching.  I've especially enjoyed the clothing and cars from the 1950's--the hats are a treasure.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries, try this series set in the picturesque village of Kembleford, where an unprecedented number of murders occur!   

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Murder House by Michael Wood and Archangel Rising by Evan Currie

The Murder House is the 5th in a new series for me.  I'll be going back and picking up earlier books.  
from description:  The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.
Although this is the 5th in the series, it works well as a stand alone, and the characters are well-fleshed out, complex, and satisfyingly believable.  The plot is used to  develop the characters, reveal their personalities and temperaments and the complications in their lives.

DCI Matilda Darke quickly sums up problems with the crime scene.  She doesn't assume the evidence is genuine.
Even so, her team is somewhat reluctant to disregard the evidence.  

This is an ARC and I noticed a couple of errors that should be easily corrected by publication, but I thoroughly enjoyed Matilda, her team, and the investigation.  I've already ordered the first in the series.  I love finding a series with characters I want to know more about.

Read in November. 

NetGalley/One More Chapter
Police Procedural.  Jan. 31, 2020.   

Evan Currie's two connected military science fiction series continue to keep me reading.  I've read every book in the Odyssey series and the (sort of) spin-off Archangel now has two books.   (Some of my reviews that give background on the Odyssey series.)

In Archangel One "An elite squadron must go undercover behind enemy lines in this thrilling new space adventure from the author of the Odyssey One series."

Archangel Rising, #2 in the series, continues with Captain Steph Michaels and his Archangel team functioning as privateers in the undercover operation to gain information about the Empire.

Action packed, likable ensemble characters.  For militatry science fiction/space opera fans, I would recommend beginning with Odyssey One: Into the Black.

Read in November.

NetGalley/47 North
Space Opera/Military Science Fiction.  Jan. 14, 2020.