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Friday, June 24, 2016

Louise Penny and David Lagercrantz Reviews

Last week my library visit yielded two books that I'd been waiting for.  :)

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny was, of course, excellent!  I love the Three Pines series and can't get enough of the characters.  

The death of a nine-year-old boy who had a penchant for telling fantastic lies sets the plot in motion.  When the death is about to be written off as an accident, Armand Gamache insists on a closer look.

As usual, Penny writes beautifully and weaves her plot with consummate skill.

Her description of grief just floored me:  

"Clara knew that grief took its toll. It was paid at every birthday, every holiday, each Christmas.  It was paid when glimpsing the familiar handwriting, or a hat, or a balled-up sock.  Or hearing a creak that could have been, should have been, a footstep.  Grief took its toll each morning, each evening, every noon hour as those who were left behind struggled forward."

I was surprised when I finished to discover that there was one of the most fantastic elements of the plot was based on reality.  Gerald Bull was a Canadian scientist and arms designer, and it was believed that he was building his missile launcher for Saddam Hussein.  Really--the truth is often stranger than fiction, and Gerald Bull is proof.

Library copy.

Mystery.  2015.  376 pages.

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz.  Like everyone else who read the first three books in Stieg Larsson's Millennium series, I was apprehensive.

I read all three in 2009 and 2010 and was fascinated by them, but I read a lot and so that was a plenitude of books ago.  This distance allowed me to be a little more open to any changes in style and focus.  

So... while many fans of the series have not been pleased with this new entry, I thought it was very good.  If I'd read it soon after my initial experiences with the series, I may have made too many comparisons and been disappointed.

However, with hundreds of books between my reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the last of Larsson's original series, and beginning this new one, I found adapting to Lagercrantz' Spider Web much easier.  And I liked it!

"It was true that nobody in Hacker Republic could claim the moral high ground here.....But they were not without ethics and above all they knew, also from their own experience, how power corrupts, especially power without control.  None of them liked the thought that the worst, most unscrupulous hacking was no longer carried out by solitary rebels or outlaws, but by state behemoths who wanted to control their population" (59).  The emphasis is mine, but that sentence highlights something we are all concerned about.

Library copy.

Suspense/Thriller.  2015.  400 pages.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Authentic William James

The Authentic William James.    Well, I had no idea their were so many categories for lunatics!  There were pauper lunatics and non-pauper lunatics; criminal lunatics, naval lunatics, melancholics, hysterics, epileptics.  And there were Chancery lunatics, usually members of rich families who were deemed incapable of managing their own affairs.  
 Our protagonist Simon Becker is a Special Investigator for the British Crown tasked with  "gathering evidence that determines whether or not someone is a Chancery Lunatic—afflicted with madness making them unfit to manage their fortunes—without tipping the hand of those whose resources often make them above the law."   

There are two earlier novels featuring Simon Becker, but I didn't realize this when I read the book, which functions quite well as a stand-alone.  However, since I found the novel quite entertaining, liked the quirkiness of Simon Becker's job, and found the characters intriguing, the earlier novels are on my library list.

There is no mention of William James, brother of Henry, but I wonder if Gallagher meant to call him to mind.  At any rate, that is the William James the title suggested to me when I first saw it.

Stephen Gallagher has quite the background--no wonder the book appealed to me:

Beginning his TV career with the BBC's DOCTOR WHO, Stephen Gallagher went on to establish himself as a writer and director of high-end miniseries and primetime episodic television. In his native England he's adapted and created hour-long and feature-length thrillers and crime dramas. In the US he was lead writer on NBC's CRUSOE, creator of CBS Television's ELEVENTH HOUR, and Co-Executive Producer on ABC's THE FORGOTTEN. His fourteen novels include DOWN RIVER, RAIN, VALLEY OF LIGHTS, and NIGHTMARE, WITH ANGEL. He's the creator of Sebastian Becker, Special Investigator to the Lord Chancellor's Visitor in Lunacy, in a series of novels beginning with THE KINGDOM OF BONES and THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE. 

Described by The Independent as "the finest British writer of bestselling popular fiction since le Carré ... Gallagher, like le Carré, is a novelist whose themes seem to reflect something of the essence of our times, and a novelist whose skill lies in embedding those themes in accessible plots." According to Arena magazine, "Gallagher has quietly become Britain's finest popular novelist, working a dark seam between horror and the psychological thriller.

The Daily Telegraph wrote, "Since Valley of Lights, he has been refining his own brand of psycho-thriller, with a discomforting knack of charting mental disintegration and a razor-sharp sense of place." Charles de Lint wrote in Mystery Scene magazine, "Gallagher is a master of abnormal psychology and he just gets better and better." Also in Mystery Scene David Mathew added, "never a writer to rest on his laurels, he has written good hard thrillers, some horror genre work (such as Valley of Lights), and a novel (Oktober) that might even qualify as a vague distortion of contemporary world fantasy... in places. You might go as far as to employ that overused phrase sui generis. He is, at any rate, one of the best writers of his generation."

Winner of British Fantasy and International Horror Guild awards.
I will mention this one again closer to publication.

NetGalley/Subterranean Press

Historical Mystery.  Sept. 30, 2016.  Print length:  320 pages.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The English Boys

The English Boys is a debut novel by Julia Thomas.   

Brief description:    Daniel Richardson and his best friend, Hugh Ashley-Hunt, both rising British actors, are in love with the same woman, the free-spirited Tamsyn Burke. Reluctantly, Daniel steps aside when Tamsyn decides to marry Hugh. Shortly before the wedding, however, she's murdered, and suspicion falls on the family, friends, and associates present.

 Most of the novel is told from Daniel's POV.  His grief and confusion evident as he tries to process Tamsyn's death.  Daniel feels the loss acutely--for himself and for his best friend Hugh, the man Tamsyn was going to marry.

Reluctantly, Daniel joins forces with Tamsyn's sister Carey in an effort to discover who could have killed Tamsyn.  Was Tamsyn the free-spirit she appeared to be?  How well do we know even friends and family?  How do events in the past influence the future?

Julia Thomas allows things to percolate slowly as Daniel attempts to distill his memories of his relationship with Tamsyn and then to incorporate information he learns when he accompanies Carey to Wales to visit Tamsyn's family.

Thomas has done a fine job in creating her characters and in building a complex plot, giving away just enough to keep you wondering if your suspicions are correct.  I look forward to more from Julia Thomas.

Read in February.  Blog review scheduled for June 21, 2016.

NetGalley/Midnight Ink

Mystery/Crime.  July 8, 2016.  Print version:  360 pages.  



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Age of Myth by Michael Sullivan

I wrote about this one in early April, but wanted to save my review until closer to publication.  (Note: After reading Age of Myth, I went on a Sullivan binge and read everything in the Riyria series, although I didn't review all of them.  I love Royce and Hadrian!)  

But it was Age of Myth that introduced me to Mr. Sullivan and his fantasy, and it takes things back a step. Back to Riyria thousands of years before Royce and Hadrian come along.  

I'm not much for gods in fantasy, so when Raithe kills a god and becomes a legend as a "god killer," I wasn't sure that the book was going to appeal to me.  However, men create gods in their own image, whether physical or metaphorical, and it soon becomes clear that the Fhrey, a powerful race with magical abilities,  have become gods to subjugated races.  At that point, I was all in.

The world-building is exemplary; the characters are as diverse as any group of people can produce--the good, the foolish, the arrogant, the brave, the corrupt, the vicious, the honorable.  The plot is exciting and full of energy.  I loved it. 

Sullivan's characters come off the page and choosing a favorite is difficult, but there are several that I couldn't help but fall in love with.  

High fantasy at its best, The Age of Myth is the first in a new series, and I can't wait for the next one!

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine

Fantasy.  June 28, 2016.  Print length:  433 pages.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

And When I'm Not Reading...

Mail Art Continues.

Incoming



 
Outgoing
The bottom two postcards on the left have some tea bag art;
a photo of Mila on one and the strange plant drawings on another.

I've had a lot of fun lately seeing how many
different ways I could decorate tea bags.

A photo of  a hibiscus, altered and printed on a tea bag.
Printer was running out of ink.

And a couple of tea bags stitched together.

I think I've  done 15 or 20 variations of photos, drawings, stamping, and embroidery on tea bags!  Now, I'm having to wait to build up my stash of used tea bags so I can do more of them.

Reading:  The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny.  I love Three Pines and all of the characters, but especially Ruth and Rosa!

Garden:  My favorite garden ornamental this year is the Chocolate Drop coleus.  I'm rooting more!


I have no idea where I got this, but I love it.  :)

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Facefaker's Game by Chandler Birch

Chandler Birch has written a book to fall in love with on his first outing.  In 2014, Simon & Schuster held a contest for emerging speculative fiction writers;  The Facefaker's Game was the winner.  Chandler Birch was 22.  He will be 24 when the book is published in November.  And folks, what a book!  

Just briefly:  a young protagonist, a world so well done that you adapt immediately, terrific characters, and a plot that kept me happily engrossed.  

I'll do another mention closer to time for publication, but you can pre-order now.   

The cover may change.  I notice on Amazon, there is no cover image, but I would not have chosen this one based on the cover.  The description is what caught my attention, and I was not disappointed.  In fact, it was so much more than what I could have expected.

“It’s Les Miserables meets Harry Potter in Atlantis with the protagonist as the Tenth Doctor, but as a teenager,” mused Birch in a Skype interview. “Ashes is the main character and gets in way over his head.”  (source)

Highly recommended!

NetGalley/Simon & Schuster

Fantasy.  Nov. 1, 2016.  Print length:  464 pages.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

What Happened to the Week?

We left Tuesday for a quick trip to Houston and got back yesterday.  The combination of all the yardwork from the weekend and the five hour drive there and back has left me so stiff!  I look at the garden and see what needs to be done...and groan.  

On the positive side, the cuttings I've been taking from rosemary, coleus, and sweet potato vine have all rooted.  I especially love the chocolate drop coleus:  it is happy in sun or shade, has a trailing habit, beautiful foliage, and is easy to propagate.  Today, I will take some more cuttings, do a little clean-up of shrubs, and note some chores that I can accomplish later.  I have dug up the monkey grass about half-way around one bed, but that is too strenuous for today.  I simply don't have the energy to tackle that today.

Most of my day will be writing letters, reading, and writing a couple of reviews.  :)

Dear Amy by Helen Callagan.  

Margot Lewis teaches at a private school; she is also an "agony aunt," an advice columnist for a local paper.  Not all of the letters she receives are genuine, and usually Margot spots them quickly, but when she receives a letter from a girl who says she has been kidnapped and is begging for help, Margot isn't sure whether or not the letter is a hoax. 

The police dismiss the letter; Bethan Avery, the girl who purportedly wrote the letter, has been missing for years and long presumed dead.  But more letters arrive, and a cold-case criminologist becomes interested because the letters have details that were never released.

A suspenseful psychological thriller, Dear Amy has plenty of twists!

NetGalley/Penguin UK

Psychological/Mystery/Suspense.  June 16, 2016.  Print length:  352 pages.


The Traitor's Story by Kevin Wignall.  

Finn Harrington is a historian (rumored to be a former spy).  Returning home after a research trip, he learns that his girlfriend has left him.  He hasn't had a chance to really consider why she left and whether or not her absence is permanent, when a neighbor appears at his door asking for his help--her fifteen-year-old daughter is missing.  

Finn initially brushes her off.  A reticent and withdrawn man,  he has his own circumstances to consider.  After some thought, however, he agrees to look into the situation.  Finn's search for the missing girl intrigues him and somehow initiates Finn's reinvolvement with himself and others.  

The story moves from present to past, allowing the reader to become privy to the events in Finn's past that have led to his disengagement with others and his almost total withdrawal into his writing.  Gradually, Finn becomes more approachable, more engaged with the world and those who inhabit it.

Some of the detail in the sections about the past could have been abbreviated.  While past circumstances are crucial to the plot in the present, this portion sometimes interrupted the pace.

Nevertheless, The Traitor's Story was a compelling read about a complex individual who must come to terms with his past and his present, and I really enjoyed it. 

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Mystery/Suspense.  June 21, 2016.  Print length:  384 pages.


The Wages of Desire:  An Inspector Lamb Novel by Stephen Kelly is set in a small English village during the early years of the war.

Although this might fall into the cozy category, it is a much more complex version.  The characters have depth and individuality, and the plot is a knotty tangle of threads that reach back into the past.

 Secrets abound in the bucolic English countryside; the title is significant in more than one way.

I haven't read the first in this series, but I liked Inspector Lamb and the way Kelly managed to pull everything together.

Reviews on Goodreads run the gamut, but I found all the twisting threads fascinating and would eagerly read more of Inspector Lamb.

NetGalley/Pegasus Books

Mystery.  July 4, 2016.  Print length:  352 pages.

As usual, NetGalley is hit or miss, and I have had quite a few misses lately, but the above three novels kept me engaged and are worth all of the NetGalley e-books that hit the metaphoric DNF pile.


Monday, June 06, 2016

Two Reviews and a Question

300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson is set in Faro, the southernmost district in Portugal, which boasts 300 days of sun each year.  Jo, a journalist recently made redundant, enrolls in a language school in Faro to learn Portuguese. With little else on her mind but escaping from a relationship that is no longer satisfying, Jo meets Nathan Emberlin, who has a laid back confidence and an interest in everyone and everything.

Nathan, however, has not come to Faro simply to learn the language; he has a puzzle he is trying to solve, and knowing that Jo has a journalistic background, asks how she would go about uncovering the information he needs.

Nathan's investigation into an old child-abduction case intrigues the journalist in Jo, and she joins him in his search for answers.

The answers may lie in a far more distant past than at first expected, and Jo is advised to read The Alliance, a novel that involves refugees from WWII who arrive in Portugal, officially a neutral country but with fascist ties and plenty of Nazis.  A parallel story emerges that will, eventually, explain something about circumstances in the present.  (While interesting, some of the sections from the novel within the novel slow down the pacing.)

Someone does not want the distant or more recent past revealed, and Nathan and Jo's investigation turns threatening.

The consequences of the past, suspense, complex characters, and a captivating setting--I'm certainly interested in reading more by this author.

NetGalley/Lawsome Books

Suspense/Mystery.  May 16, 2016.  Print length:  384 pages.



Oh, how I love good historical fiction!  And Gentleman Captain provides a suspenseful historical tale filled with adventure.  Set a few years after Oliver Cromwell's death, Charles II  navigates the uneasy peace that lies between the Roundheads who supported Cromwell and the Royalists who support the monarchy. The novel covers something I'd never really thought about--the transition involved in the Restoration.  Old wounds are still raw, offenses are not yet forgiven, and politics are definitely divergent; efforts are being made to unite England, but the path is precarious and deciding who to trust is difficult.

Historically, there are some interesting details about the navy and its traditional operation (gentlemen captains with no experience is only one element, lovers of naval history will be more than satisfied with the details of naval operation), but the novel is also an adventure in which Matthew Quenton, a young inexperienced captain (who lost his last ship) is commissioned to accompany another ship captained by a former Roundhead to investigate and foil an attempt at conspiracy in Scotland.  

Fortunately for Matthew, he is accompanied by the man who saved his life when his last ship hit the rocks and sank.  Matthew and Kit Farrell have a deal:  Kit will teach Matthew seamanship and Matthew will teach Kit to read.  One of the most enjoyable elements of the novel is Davies' ability to bring to life so many secondary characters, always a feat to be admired.

The beginning was a little slow, but when the ships set sail, a fascinating tale begins.  Great plotting, compelling characters, and lots of action kept me engrossed.  And yes, I loved the couple of mentions of Samuel Pepys, naval administrator and diarist!

The novel was originally published in 2009, so I'm delighted to learn I can look forward to more of Matthew Quinton's adventures without a long wait.

J.D. Davies is a British historian and writes both fiction and nonfiction.

NetGalley/Endeavor Press

Historical Fiction/Adventure.  2009, 2016.  Print length:  341 pages.
------

Have you ever written a letter to an author?  
I'm considering working up the courage to do so, 
but I'm not there yet.

James Preller, an author of children's books, visits schools and receives a lot of fan mail, and he makes an effort to reply to the children who write to him in such a generous and humorous way!  

I was writing a post about letters and thank you notes on my other blog, and Mr. Preller gave me permission to use one of the letters he received and his reply.  You can check it out here.  A wonderful way to encourage kids write letters and what an experience if the author actually writes back!

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Memories of Ash by Intasar Khanani

Memories of Ash: The Sunbolt Chronicles Book 2 by Intasar Khanani continues the adventures of  Hitomi, who made her first appearance in Sunbolt.  

I've waited a long time for this one and am delighted with Memories of Ash.  I adored Sunbolt (reviewed here) and recommend reading it first to get some of the background.  

Briefly:  Hitomi lost her memories and nearly her life when she used her sunbolt in the previous installment.  A year with Brigit Stormwind has healed Hitomi physically, but her memories have not fully returned.  Stormwind has provided Hitomi with shelter and training for a year, when she is suddenly summoned by the High Council of Mages to stand trial for treason.

Alarmed by an intercepted communication, Hitomi prepares herself to follow Stormwind and  attempt to sway the High Council.  She experiences some narrow escapes and harrowing adventures on the journey, and by the time she arrives, Stormwind has already been convicted and sentenced.  Hitomi, our intrepid heroine, has no intention of abandoning her mentor....

Khanani's prose flows and her characters live and breathe; some of the very minor characters live as fully in this world as do the more important characters.  Magic and adventure at its best with a female protagonist who struggles to do the right thing.

What else?

*Hitomi makes mistakes, but has sound ethical and moral values. 
*Hitomi doesn't expect to do everything on her own.  Sometimes she asks for help.
*This isn't a romance; it is an adventure.
*I love Val and so many of the friends Hitomi meets along the way.  But mostly Val.

I read it the day it appeared on my Kindle (I'd pre-ordered it) and my only complaint is having to wait to find out what happens in the Burnt Lands.

Oh, and Sunbolt is a novella, but Memories of Ash is a full-length novel.  

Purchased for next to nothing!  A bargain at any price.  

Fantasy.  May 30, 2016.  Print length: 358 pages.  





Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Eleanor & Park, The Girl Before, and Jane Steele

Eleanor & Park.  I really liked Attachments, but I loved Eleanor & Park.  It has been on my list since it was published; I skimmed all the positive reviews at the time because I didn't want to know too much about it, but...somehow I never got around to reading it.  Now, I have, and it was a pleasure.

Although billed as YA, E&P is a book for anyone who remembers what it was like to be a young adult, at that awkward stage and the need to be accepted; Rainbow Rowell clearly remembers.  The pov alternates between Eleanor and Park, two misfits who somehow, eventually fit together.  

One of Rowell's greatest strength is her ability to create characters who are interesting and likable, not goody-goody or too bad-ass.  Characters who are ordinary, but individual, not heroic and not totally downtrodden.  Sometimes small things d0 require courage and abuse can fail to make an individual surrender.  No magic, no deadly battles, no assassins, no zombies.  Two young people who learn to depend on each other and who face life's  predicaments and hazards with pluck and determination.  And that is not always easy, especially for adolescents.

Purchased.

YA/Contemporary.  2013.  Print length:  335 pages.


The Girl Before is timely in the sense that human trafficking is something right here in our own world, not in some distant country.  In fact, our local paper has been running a series of articles about human trafficking that brings the topic that many novels lately have used as a premise--too close to home.  

The Girl Before was an intense and frustrating read, but often novels make the distant and the impersonal...very personal. Was the premise of this novel believable?  Maybe not so much, because the expense of kidnapping, raising, and educating a child for the purpose of selling her (or him) ten or twelve years later would be difficult to justify economically(Dear God, what a thing to say!).  Quite a few elements of the novel didn't ring true...yet the brainwashing and Stockholm Syndrome are quite believable, sad, and disheartening.  

An interesting and well-written novel about a degrading, repellent practice that is much more common than those of us in our middle-class neighborhoods want to believe.  If it happens most often to runaways, immigrants, or the very poor (there are instances of parents selling their children or pimping the children themselves) than to the people we know, it does not change the horror.  A compelling read that manages to avoid graphic descriptions, avoids manipulating the reader while still making the point, and does not leave you without hope.  

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Psychological Thriller.  Penguin Group.  Print length:  320 pages.


Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is a recent retelling of Jane Eyre, and the similarities are all over the place--except turned on their heads.  Jane Eyre in a fun-house mirror.  :)  

It was amusing to see how closely and how absurdly Faye followed and inverted characters, events, and elements from the original novel.  There are murders and romance and intriguing situations.   

There are flaws (pacing could have been better, some parts that drag and the whole treasure motif didn't feel convincing), but I have to admit to enjoying it thoroughly.   What I enjoyed most (besides noting all of the clever sneaky subversions) was the Thornfield household with the butler, who was not a butler, and Jane using her charge's love of horses to teach...well, almost everything.  Well done, Governess Jane.  :)

Library copy.

Pastiche/Serial Killer Parody.  2016.  427 pages.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Library Books

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike #3).  I like this series largely because of Cormoran and Robin, but the plots keep me interested as well.  

I could have done without the body part delivered to Robin at the beginning--a wee bit too much of an opening, but it does demonstrate how personal the attack is.  And although the leg (uh huh, uh huh, a leg) is sent to Robin, the real target is Cormoran Strike.  

The first dilemma is discovering who hates Strike enough to send him a leg (not overly fond of dismemberment); there are four possibilities that have to be investigated.   

While the police focus on one suspect, Strike and Robin investigate the other three that Strike believes more credible.  Several subplots are entwined with the central plot, and  along the way we also find out more about the backstories of both characters.  In the acknowledgements, Rowling mentions how much she enjoyed writing this installment.  It is certainly more grisly than the previous two books and definitely not Harry Potter.

Library copy.

Mystery/Suspense.  2015.  498 pages.


No Shred of Evidence by Charles Todd.  I've been reading this series since the first one was published in 1994, and I've read quite a few, but not all of the 18 books (mainly the ones my library has purchased) about Inspector Ian Rutledge.

A bit of the background:  Ian Rutledge suffered from shell shock during WWI and continues to do deal with some of the effects.  

Sooo--four young women are boating when they realize a young man is in distress--he can't swim and his boat is rapidly sinking.  They attempt a rescue, but several details are curious. 

As two of the girls attempt to get the young man in the boat without tipping themselves over, a farmer witnesses the situation and swims out to help.  He accuses the young women of trying to kill the young man, and when the group reaches shore, the girls are taken into custody.  Detective Rutledge is called in to investigate.

Because the victim is in a coma, Rutledge needs to find out what actually happened. The girls say they were trying to rescue the young man; the farmer says they were trying to kill him.

There is also a secondary plot involving a mysterious young woman who was staying in the village, but has moved on.  In fact, this young woman never stays in one place for any length of time and is difficult to locate.  Another curious situation.

There are some several holes in the novel, but I enjoyed it.  I'm quite fond of Inspector Rutledge and of Hamish, the young Scot Rutledge was required to execute during the war for refusing to obey an order.  Hamish remains a voice in Rutledge's head, but has received less time as the series has continued.  He is, nevertheless, an important character.  

My favorite in the series remains the first one, A Test of Wills, but I've enjoyed at least 9 of the novels in this series.  The effects of shell shock were so severe that some men never recovered.  The Todds have also co-authored the Bess Crawford series.  

Library copy.

Historical Mystery.  Feb. 2016.  336 pages.


Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear.  Another series I've followed since the first book.  Set in the period between the two world wars, the early books deal with some of the same issues the Todds write about concerning the first world war.  The later books begin anticipating the inevitability of WWII--which is what this one does.

Maisie is sent to Munich in 1938 to retrieve a man the British Government believes will be useful in the war effort.  Maisie must navigate Hitler's Munich, a frightening and dangerous place.

I'm not sure where this series is going.  Will Maisie get back to her detective work or continue working for the Secret Service?  

Probably both, but for some reason, I would prefer more on the detective side.  

The later books have been uneven, and I find myself preferring the earlier entries in the series. I like the historic details that have been a part of the series, but Maisie as an undercover or intelligence agent doesn't appeal to me as much as Maisie the detective.

Library copy.

Historical Mystery.  March 2016.  309 pages.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Snail Mail, Mail Art

Two books that I've read in the past several months, but haven't reviewed:

Snail Mail by Michele Mackintosh is a fun and crafty book with some good ideas for spicing up mail art and some free stickers, too.

I enjoyed it, and when I'm in the need of a little inspiration, I can check it out again.

Purchased.









Always First Class: The Pleasure of Personal Letters by Lois Barry is about letter writing, not mail art, and is full to the brim with the most wonderful quotes!

It's uplifting to get a letter--like an 'ooh!' in your mailbox.
            --Kate Spade

Everything is good, even having to write letters, because there are things one can write that one can't say just as there are things one can say that one can't write.
           --May Sarton to Margaret Foote Hawley

I live a solitary life.  My gregariousness is letters...
                                                       ---Donald Hall

I write to my mother every day, and of course in a daily letter you end up telling everything--stories, dreams, recipes, family, politics and the world.  I never read them again.  When I sit down and write while thinking about someone, the writing is much easier.
           ----Isabel Allende
     (who has written to her mother every day for thirty years)

Purchased.


A few examples of incoming mail:

From Wendy--
with a bookmark
AND
a bookmark (front & back)
hand-made by the Marvelous Mouse!

from Suzie--
a cool postcard she found at Jazz Fest

Since this beautiful skyline is in Singapore,
you may have guessed Melody
    
from Connie, who always has creative envelopes

A couple of outgoing pieces.



Sending letters and postcards has been keeping me remarkably busy!  Many more examples are on my other blog. So much fun to make postcards and envelopes--and even more fun to find something cheerful in my mailbox, sit with a cup of tea, and read the letters!   

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

3 Mysteries

 Gone by T.J. Brearton.  A family has gone missing.  Things are looking bleak as Detective Rondeau and his team consider the possibilities, including murder/suicide or kidnapping.  Or is it a government conspiracy?

Interesting and tense.  There were red herrings, but they were as often for Detective Rondeau as well as for the reader.   

The father of the missing family is a documentary filmmaker, who had recently finished a documentary about factory farming and was investigating toxic waste disposal when the family disappeared.

The novel mentions that factory farming is worse for the environment than any other single factor.  Although I have read similar statements and a few articles before, a little research made me appropriately ill:  11 Facts about Factory Farming, Factory Farming and the Environment, Factory Farming and Human Health, and there is plenty more out there--including the "humane" treatment of animals.  
via Your Food Is Medicine

Anyway--Brearton has a tense novel (although the conclusion was a bit too psychological), but what I mainly took away was more  what occurs in the real world, and it isn't pretty.  Fiction can make the government's role in allowing these abuses more offensive than simply reading articles by environmentalists.

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery/Suspense.  May 2016.  Print length:  212 pages.


By the North Door by Meg Elizabeth Atkins is a strange and creepy novel about a young woman who goes missing. Originally published in 1975, it is both a little old-fashioned and very modern for its time.

Inspector Henry Beaumont has a family connection to the missing woman and makes discovering what happened to her a personal mission outside of his role with the police.

Strange characters and modern witchcraft.

Not sure what I really think about By the North Door, but I wanted to know what happened!

NetGalley/Endeavor Press

Mystery/Paranormal.  1975.  2016.  Print length:  182 pages.


Stephen Booth's Cooper & Fry mysteries are uneven; some I've liked a lot, some not so much.  I liked Scared to Live better than the last one I read, partly because Fry, always difficult, is less waspish and irascible in this one.  Cooper, as always, provides the calm and empathetic element, but he has some concerns of his own.

The murder of Rose Shepherd, a recluse, and a house fire that kills a mother and two of her young children initially have no connection. Eventually, however, the two investigations intertwine.

A Bulgarian connection, two separate worries about mental illness, an odious neighbor, baby smuggling, blackmail....  

Tidbits: 

* I was totally unaware of Schengen countries (borderless countries that don't require a passport)!  I've been to the UK several times, but never to the European continent and was unaware of the treaty in 1990.  

*Booth refers to a meal of homity pie, a dish with potatoes, onions, and leeks, and covered with cheese.  

*He also mentions crantsies, or maidens' garlands, so I checked with Wikipedia and discovered a crant/crantsey/maiden garland:  is a crown-shaped garland used as a funeral memento for, usually female,virgins.






An interesting history of the practice can be found at A Vintage Green Life.

Booth's books always include descriptions of the Peak District sometimes in detail, as he does with the town of Matlock Bath in this novel, or in a simple mention of something that might seem common to him, but unfamiliar to the reader.  :)  I love tid bits.

Purchased.

Mystery/Police Procedural.  2014.  Print length:  594 pages.