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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Pretty Folly and Strangers at the Gate

A Pretty Folly by Charlie Garratt is the second in a series set just prior to the outbreak of war in 1939.  Although there are a couple of mentions to the previous book's mystery, this one works as a stand-alone.  

Inspector James Givens is Jewish, but doesn't practice, although he is very close to his parents.  Assigned to stop the attack on Jewish businesses in Coventry Givens interviews the victims and searches for the perpetrators.  Then a case closer to his home in Kenilworth divides his attention.

The body of a young woman is discovered in the ancient crypt of a chapel on the grounds of a charity school.  The body has been laid out in a staged manner and the conditions of the crypt preserved the body, but who she is and when and how she died presents problems.

I liked the setting with all the tensions of the period before England enters the war and the traditional style of the writing and investigation.  Givens is an interesting character, and I look forward to more in this series.

NetGalley/Sapere Books
Historical Fiction.  Oct. 7, 2019.  Print length:  268 pages. 


Catriona McPherson's books have consistently chilled and intrigued me.  Strangers at the Gate makes the fifth of her intense mystery/thrillers that I've read.  Each one is a stand-alone, which is unusual for such a prolific writer.  

Strangers at the Gate proves the old axiom "Too good to be true."

Paddy's new job results in a new job for Finn, and the rent free gate house on the boss's estate is an added bonus.  Paddy is enthusiastic, Finn less so, but when opportunity knocks, turning down so many advantages proves too difficult.

Simmerton is located in a valley and the mountains that surround it make sunlight brief; combined with the lack of sunlight, Finn is uncomfortable with the oppressive atmosphere of the surrounding woods.  

Shortly after moving in, Paddy and Finn are invited to have dinner with Paddy's boss and his wife.  The Dudgets, Lovett and Tuft, live in a grand dower house called Widdershins, a short walk through the woods from the gate house.  Finn is reluctant to go, but once there, she has a surprisingly good time.  Tuft is irrepressible and funny, and Finn enjoys the evening.  

As Paddy and Finn are walking home after the dinner, Finn realizes she has forgotten her bag.  The two return to find that in the short time they were gone, Lovett and Tuft are dead.  Finn tells Paddy to call the police, but he persuades her to wait until the return to the gate house where they discuss their shock and horror.  We also discover why Paddy would rather not call the police at all and why Finn finally agrees.

As they wait for the deaths to be discovered by someone else, the strain on Finn and Paddy increases.    

Was it a suicide or murder?  The suspense and twists increase when an email from Lovett to his office was after the time Paddy and Finn found the couple dead.  Finn makes some too rapid assumptions about what has happened and there are a few connections that don't feel coherent, but I was glued to the pages until the end ignoring a few details (or lack thereof) that bothered me.  McPherson is a master of suspense, and I was along for the ride.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Suspense.  Oct. 22, 2020.  Print length:  368 pages.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

I read Jewell's I Found You in 2017, and The Family Upstairs , and I liked this one, too.

from description:  You thought they were just staying for the weekend. They looked harmless enough – with only two suitcases and a cat in a wicker box.

But soon things turn very, very dark. It happens slowly, yet so extraordinarily quickly.

Now you and your sister must find a way to survive…

"The baby is back."  Twenty-five years ago, the deaths of three adults in a mansion worth millions looked like the suicides of cult members.  The only survivor-- a well-cared for baby in a crib.  But where are the other four children? 

Now, on her 25th birthday, Libby learns she has inherited the mansion in Chelsea and discovers that what she thought she knew about her birth parents is all wrong.  

But Libby isn't the only one who has been waiting for this day.

The short opening prologue introduces a mysterious narrator.  Chapter I introduces Libby.  Chapter 2 introduces Lucy and her children in France.   In Chapter III, the mysterious narrator reveals himself as Henry, one of the four missing children. Back and forth from character to character and from present to past and back again, the novel begins to unravel, slowly and skillfully, developing the characters and revealing the sinister events that led to the deaths and the disappearance.

The writing and characters set this book apart from the crowd of similar books.

Read in June.  Blog review scheduled for Oct. 14.  

NetGalley/Atria Books
Psychological Suspense/Mystery.  Oct. 29, 2019.  Print length:  464 pages.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Books for Kids of Any Age

I have a weakness for children's books, sometimes for the text, sometimes for the illustrations, and especially for those books with both.  Recently, I've ordered three (for gifts, but I get first read and enjoyment).  


Ordered in September, this delightful book
about love and friendship.  First published in 1965
and such perfect examples of what makes a friendship so wonderful.
I think I may order more of this one.  They are small
and affordable and perfect for an anytime gift for any age.

I Like You



Arriving yesterday:

Theophile Alexandre Steinlen loved cats and
sketched, painted, sculpted, and made posters of them.
The Artist Who Loved Cats

 One of Steinlen's famous posters.  1905


Written and illustrated by Lark's sister and brother-in-law,
If Monet Painted a Monster is almost as much fun as
the Newbold's If Picassa Painted a Snowman, which I bought
a couple of years ago as a gift, and kept for myself.
It is now part of my Christmas decorations.

One of my favorites is this take on Hopper's famous Nighthawks.

Some Halloween  Books for Kids

from picture books to chapter books to middle grade and teen

I have this one from when Bryce Eleanor was small.

I reviewed The Black Witch in 2017.

Now I must resist ordering more.  

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss

I loved the first book in Theodora Goss's trilogy about the Athena Club.  The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter was original and fun as Goss introduced the reader to a unique view of literary characters like Mary Jekyll and Diana Hyde (evidently Dr. Jekyll had offspring), Beatrice Rappacini, Justine Frankenstein, and Catherine Moreau (the puma woman for Dr. Moreau's island) and connects them to Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and the Baker Street Boys.

The second book European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, however, was too long and often slow, but there were some great moments here, too.

I liked The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl better than the second book.  The same flaws have persisted throughout the series plus an influx of characters who appeared in European Travel, but I did enjoy this one.

from description:  Mary Jekyll and the Athena Club race to save Alice—and foil a plot to unseat the Queen, in the electrifying conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Nebula Award finalist and Locus Award winner The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.

This trilogy doesn't work as well without all of the background in the first book.  If you like a good mash-up and literary characters who take on lives of their own, try the first book and get a fresh view of some literary classics.  :)

NetGalley/Saga Press
Suspense/Fantasy.  Oct. 1, 2019.  Print length:  448 pages.  




Thursday, October 03, 2019

Some September Reads


I've been enjoying Viveca Sten's Sandhamn mysteries for a few years now, and I'm happy to return to the island with In the Shadow of Power.  

It is difficult to maintain the essence of small places when they become popular, and the citizens of Sandhamn have made an effort to keep the Sandhamn traditions and coastlines from becoming lost to summer visitors.  When the wealthy and arrogant Carsten Jonsson manages to flout the rules and traditions with his new summer house, islanders are not happy.

Jonsson has received anonymous threats and warnings, but when Jonsson's guest house burns down and an unidentified corpse is found inside, the situation escalates.  

Thomas Andreasson isn't sure if it was an accident or a murder (the fire was arson, but was the death deliberate?), and Carsten Jonsson's arrogance isn't helping the investigation.  Nora gets drawn into a dangerous situation as suspicions mount.

I would love to visit Sandhamn in person, but must make do with Sten's mysteries set on the beautiful Swedish island.

NetGalley
Mystery/Police Procedural.  Oct. 22, 2019.  Print length:  398 pages.


Her Last Whisper by Jennifer Case is the second book in the Katie Scott series, but I haven't read the first one.

Katie suffers from PTSD and sometimes elements in her job as detective bring up memories and emotions she would like to avoid.  Her recent post involves cold cases, but one of those cases comes back to life with a new murder.

I found the interruptions involving memories of her time in Afghanistan a little annoying, but understand the connection to her PTSD symptoms.  The police procedural aspects also raised a few questions.

Interesting enough to keep reading, but didn't love it.

NetGalley/Bookoutre
Police Procedural.  Oct. 21, 2019.   




Dread of Winter by Susan Bickham

Sydney Lucerno never intended to return to Oriska, New York, but her mother's imminent death requires her to come home.  Sydney left at seventeen after a stint in rehab--certain that if she didn't escape, she would be drawn back into old habits, former companions, and worse.

After attending college in California, Sydney turned her life around, but she is unable to avoid returning to Oriska when she gets the call that her mother is dying.

Things get more complicated.  Within two days, her mother's long-time partner is also dead after a shootout with two others.  Sydney discovers she has a sister that the wasn't aware of and for whom she feels responsible.  The Sheriff has a vendetta against her and another old enemy has an axe to grind.  Problems abound.

Sydney wants to protect Maude and get out of Dodge, but that is easier said than done.

NetGalley/Kensington Books
Mystery/Suspense.  Oct. 29, 2019.  Print length:  272 pages.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols by Nicholas Meyer and The Fixer: The Naked Man by Jill Amy Rosenblatt

Fake news is nothing new, and Nicholas Meyer uses a genuine 1905 case that illustrates the appalling consequences of a plagiarized document that is published as genuine.  

I read Meyer's The Seven Per Cent Solution years ago, and I still tend to choose books linked to Sherlock Holmes.  As in this case, many of these books have the premise of rediscovered writings by Dr. Watson.

Although based on true events, there are some unnecessary liberties taken pertaining to real people that bothered me.  The descriptions of Holmes differ as well.

I wish I'd liked it better.

Read in May.  Blog review scheduled for Oct. 1.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur
Sherlock Holmes/Historical Fiction.  Oct. 15, 2019.  Print length:  246 pages

A novella introducing Katerina Mills, college student, who has worked for a lawyer and is now doing temp jobs to help with her expenses.  Katerina gets a call from one of her ex-boss's clients and finds herself in a room with a naked man pacing erratically, an unconscious woman in his bed, and a termagant wife due to arrive shortly.

Katerina's successful extraction of the woman, sending her home to her husband before either spouse becomes aware of the affair, leads to an offer she finds hard to refuse:  fixing problems for the rich and powerful.  Kat needs the money and reluctantly accepts the offer.

I like the premise, but there were a number of things that I found less appealing.  The next book, which is full length, is on my list.  I'll make up my mind about the series after reading the next entry. :)

NetGalley
Suspense.  2015.  Print length:  349 pages.

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I've been busy with Halloween projects.  I seem to have paint or glue on my hands all the time now because my favorite decorations are for fall and/or Halloween.  :)
The bottles have been fun.


I love playing with tiny skeletons--this one went in a cone.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis and A Book of Bones by John Connolly

At first, I was not sure if I'd be able to read The Good Luck Girls--those girls taken or sold at ten years old to a "Welcome House." On each girl's sixteenth birthday, she is auctioned off before before assuming her role in the brothel.


From description:Westworld meets The Handmaid's Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.
Aster, the protectorViolet, the favoriteTansy, the medicMallow, the fighterClementine, the catalyst
THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS
The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls--they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a "welcome house" as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.


Clementine, however, on her sixteenth birthday kills the "brag" or client that won her auction.  With the help of Clem's older sister Aster, several of the girls make a break for freedom.  From that point on, the plot becomes an adventure story with Aster in the lead.  Violet, the favorite who had delighted in getting girls in trouble, demands to go with them because she knows where to find Lady Ghost.

The girls must work together to survive and to find the almost mythical Lady Ghost, hoping that she will be able to remove the "favor," the magical tattoo that brands each of them as welcome girls.  Because they are all dustbloods (with the exception of Violet)-- they are all part of a disenfranchised, oppressed element of society,but without the favor, they would not be recognizable as escaped "good luck girls."

Part dystopian, part adventure, part supernatural, part heist...and all about the inequity of a society that subjugates certain members.  While there are flaws--some elements are not explored or explained, the length of the journey isn't mentioned until the end, and other than the madam of the Green Creek Welcome house, women are largely absent or mentioned only in passing--The Good Luck Girls  nevertheless provides an interesting, adventure-filled plot that addresses a number of social issues.  

I'm glad I kept reading, and I look forward to the next book which I hope will smooth out some of the problems in this intriguing debut novel.

NetGalley/Tor Teen
YA/Fantasy.  Oct. 1, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.



A Book of Bones by John Connolly is the latest in the Charlie Parker PI/supernatural/horror series.  

I was a little disappointed in this one.  It skips all over the place from Parker and his allies to the villains to new sets of characters to historical inserts.  The writing is excellent as always, but the frequent breaks and historical insertions (while interesting) gives an uneven pace to a long book.

There is a great deal of violence in Connolly's good vs evil conflict.  The sinister, macabre elements are so frequent that they actually become less effective.  When a book is over 700 pages, maintaining suspense and dread is difficult.  Gruesome can only go so far.

Problems: too little of Parker, Angel, and Louis (Bob does a little better), too many interruptions that fracture the pace.

spoiler:  At any rate, this ends the Familists, Quayle, Pallida Mors narrative arc, but the Backers are still in play.

Now, where will Connolly go next?  In spite of my disappointment in A Book of Bones, I wouldn't miss a Charlie Parker book and am eagerly anticipating the next one.

NetGalley/Atria Books
Horror.  Oct. 15, 2019.  Print length:  720 pages.



Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Litter of Bones and Thicker than Water by J.D. Kirk

A Litter of Bones is the first in a new series featuring DCI Jack Logan.  

When a child goes missing, Jack Logan is sent from Glasgow to the Highlands to investigate.  The circumstances are too similar to an earlier case to ignore.  The man convicted of the earlier murders is in prison, but was the wrong man sentenced or is this new case a copy cat?

While there is a familiar format and cast of characters, Kirk sets the ball in motion early and keeps the plot tight and fast-moving throughout.  An intense introduction to a new series.

Deserving of the Tartan Noir epithet because there are some dark and gruesome moments.

Police Procedural/Thriller.  2019.  Print length:  286 pages.


After finishing A Litter of Bones, I went right on to Thicker than Water.  Jack Logan has relocated from Glasgow to the Highlands and the team he worked with in the previous book.

An attempted teenage assignation by Loch Lomond is interrupted by the appearance of a mutilated body.  You can't help but be amused by the drastic change the young man involved undergoes--from hot and bothered and the kind of behavior that becomes abusive when not getting his way to...
well, sometimes karma can be so satisfying.

I'd give 3/5 stars to both of these and will read the next in the series.

Police Procedural.  June 30, 2019.  Print length:  316 pages.


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As October approaches, I'm ready for some Gothic, witchy, supernatural books that will make me shiver.  :)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Murder at Whitby Abbey by Cassandra Clark and Deathin Focus by Anne Perry

I enjoy medieval mysteries and even if had not already enjoyed several of the Sister Hildegard books, it would be hard to resist a mystery set in Whitby Abbey.  

Hildegard of Meaux is sent to Whitby Abbey to bid on a a lock of St. Hild's hair, a relic purported to be more than 600 years old.  The year is 1389, and the ancient relic (if genuine) would be a prize for who ever succeeds in the bidding war.

Accompanied by Father Luke and Gregory and Egbert (militant monks who have been on the crusades), the entourage from Meaux find a very different and unpleasant atmosphere at Whitby--and that is before the body of a monk is discovered.  Things get decidedly worse and dissension between the abbey and the town intensifies.

A Medieval whodunit with a strong female lead, an interesting plot, and a glimpse of the struggles to keep the Church honest.

Read in July.  Blog post scheduled for ??

NetGalley/Severn House
Medieval Mystery.  Oct. 1, 2019.  Print length:  240 pages.

The first in Anne Perry's new series is set in 1933 and gives some insight into the period in which Hitler has built up his power.  In England, Oswald Mosely and his British Union of Fascists have gained influence.  Fear of another war with Germany has many concerned, but the attitudes vary from those realizing the danger of Hitler and those admiring him and his policies.

What I liked:  Several quotes near the beginning.

"Fear begets violence and hatred," he said.  "it's the easy answer.  Blame someone else.  blame the gypsies, the Jews, the Communists, anyone but ourselves.  Get rid of them, and it will all be fine."

"Hitler is either assuming more power himself or appointing bloody awful men to do it for him.  Himmler, for example."

'I suppose every culture has them:  men in bondage to their own inadequacies, who will never be satisfied because the emptiness is inside them."

"They're always there, the misfits.  It's the measure of a leader, which men he picks for the next tier of command...."

"What you see, and allow without a fight, is what you become yourself.  What is the moral difference between the man who burns his neighbor to death, and the man who stands by and watches him do it?"

"And Hitler feeds people's resentment, ..." 

"People are capable of believing anything they want to justify what they feel.  And of believing that what they need to be true to justify what they are doing."

"...now winning is the only objective!  And the more you win, the more you justify it, until the whole idea of right and wrong disappears and only winning matters."

What I didn't like:  Everything else was a disappointment.  This is unusual for an Anne Perry book, but the plot and the conclusion were improbable and the characters were thin.

The quotes, however, from the early part of the book (and I didn't include all of them) seem as appropriate in today's climate as they did in 1933.

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine
Historical Mystery.  Sept. 17, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.  

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas continues her Lady Sherlock series with The Art of Theft.

from decription:  Charlotte Holmes, Lady Sherlock, is back solving new cases in the Victorian-set mystery series from the USA Today bestselling author of The Hollow of Fear.

 And off we go in another adventure with Charlotte Holmes, Lord Ingram, Mrs. Watson, Livia, and other familiar characters.  

It is unusual that a prospective client has an interview with Charlotte, and then decides not to engage the services of Sherlock Holmes, but the beautiful Indian woman who requested the interview doesn't believe "Sherlock Holmes" is suitable for the job she requires.  

It turns out, however, that Mrs. Watson is an old friend of the mysterious woman, so Charlotte and friends end up in France in a dangerous escapade that turns out to be more than they bargained for.  

The plot is concluded, but a twist at the end sets up the next installment.  This is the 4th book in the series, and if you are looking for a good binge, start with the first one A Study in Scarlet Women

Read in June; blog review scheduled for Sept. 19, 2019

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing
Historical Mystery.  Oct. 15, 2019.  Print length:  336 pages.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan

Two different versions of the cover of A House of Ghosts.  






















from description:  Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives. At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die. 

 There is definitely an Agatha Christie vibe to this one.  I thought it was fun--a little old-fashioned, but in a way that seemed appropriate to the time period.  

An old abbey converted centuries ago to a family home; a winter storm that cuts the inhabitants off from help; seances, spiritualists, and espionage.  :)

Read in June.  Blog review scheduled for 9/18/19.

NetGalley/Skyhorse Publishing
Historical Mystery.  Oct. 1, 2019.  Print length:  384 pages

---------  I've just started John Connolly's new Charlie Parker installment, A Book of Bones.  Anyone interested a mix of horror and thriller can look to the Charlie Parker series to provide a battle of good vs evil, supernatural, and suspense.  In 2014, I read The Wolf in Winter for an R.I.P challenge, and it is a good place to start if you want a good PI, mystery, suspenseful, supernatural thriller.  Intense creep factor, but great characters, plots, and writing.


Monday, September 16, 2019

A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie



Like many others, I always look forward a new Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James adventure by Deborah Crombie.  Spending time with familiar characters and expecting a well-plotted mystery is pretty much a guarantee with each new book in this well-established series.

A weekend in the Cotswolds with DS Melody Talbot's wealthy and influential sounds like a pleasant respite for the Kincaide/James family.  

Of course, you know that isn't going to happen.  A deadly car crash and some unexplained deaths keep the ball rolling in this latest addition.

Chef Viv Holland's opportunity to cater a luncheon for food bloggers and critics would allow her to display her talents and enhance her reputation, and Viv personally likes Melody Talbot's mother, who is hosting the luncheon.  

However, Viv is also struggling with an unpleasant visit from her past and an unhappy eleven-year-old daughter.  Additionally, the deaths of two people in the car accident, followed by more mysterious deaths have connections to Viv's pub.  

As the connections to both the Talbot's home and Viv's pub continue to occur, Duncan and Gemma join with the local constabulary to find the guilty party and prevent more deaths.

I'm almost tempted to start with the first book and read the entire series again because the characters are so engaging.  Not just Duncan and Gemma, but their children, friends, and minor characters.  In fact, I'd love to see some of the minor characters again.   

This is one of my favorite series not just for the characters, but also for the police procedural aspects. 

Read in May.  Blog review scheduled for Sept. 16, 2019.

NetGalley/ Harper Collins
Police Procedural.  Oct. 8, 2018.  Print length:  384 pages.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Murder at Kensington Palace by Andrea Penrose and All the Devils by Barry Eisler

Murder at Kensington Palace is the third in the Wrexford & Sloan mysteries.  I've had problems with the earlier two, but I like the characters and Charlotte Sloan's secret identity as the satirical artist A.J. Quill in the Regency Period so I've continued to read the books.  

I'm happy to say the third book seems to find Andrea Penrose becoming more skillful in her presentation (but that may be because I was reading ARCs that were probably edited).  Murder at Kensington Palace made the most of previous characters and added some intriguing new ones.

Charlotte's cousin Cedric is murdered and his twin brother Nicholas is arrested for the murder.  Unable to believe Nicholas guilty, Charlotte determines to find out what happened. The plot (far-fetched, but exciting) requires Charlotte, Lord Wrexford, and the Weasels (two street boys, Hawk and Raven whom Charlotte has taken in and who have aided in previous investigations) to explore scientific experiments involving electricity.  (Is someone trying a Frankenstein experiment?)   

The role of Mrs. McClellan (the housekeeper) develops; Charlotte's great-aunt and the bluestocking Lady Cordelia are introduced.  I like the addition of the two new strong female characters and giving Mrs. McClellan more time, and as always the lovable Weasels.

I look forward to the next addition to this series. :)

Read in Aug.  Blog review scheduled for Sept. 11, 2019.

NetGalley/Kensington Books
Historical Mystery.  Sept. 24, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.

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The latest Livia Lone book by Barry Eisler has connections to current news about sex trafficking and powerful people.  It is well-researched, as all of Eisler's books are, and links to real events are included in the notes following the novel.  

from description:  Ten years ago, the daughter of Homeland Security Investigations agent B. D. Little vanished into thin air. So did seven other girls—the crimes all bearing the same signature characteristics.
Now the disappearances have begun again. And Agent Little’s efforts to investigate are being blocked by forces far above his pay grade. Desperate, he turns to Seattle sex-crimes detective Livia Lone, the most obsessive hunter of predators Little knows.
Livia Lone has continued to grow in these books, and she never gives up on her mission to save young women.  While very different from Lisbeth Salander, she is every bit as determined to pursue and bring to justice, legal or otherwise, those who abuse women and children--regardless of their wealth and powerful positions.  

The Livia Lone books are a spin-off of the John Rain books, and some of the characters from the John Rain series make appearances.  All of Eisler's books are intense thrillers, and this one doesn't disappoint!

Read in June.  Blog review scheduled for Sept. 11, 2019.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Thriller.  Sept. 24, 2019.  Print length:  364 pages.  
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The weather here is more like July/August than September, but I'm thinking about fall, Halloween, pumpkins, fall foliage.  Surely we will eventually get to the low 90's and [gasp] possibly the 80's before long.     

Monday, September 02, 2019

The Bone Ships by RJ Barker and The Body on the Beach by Anna Johannsen.

The world-building in RJ Barker's The Bone Ships:  The Tide Child #1 is original and bold.  Barker has created a new world, full of detail, history, and culture for this series.  

In the world of the Hundred Isles, ships have been built from the bones of sea dragons--white, gleaming ships, equipped with corpse lights.  But there are also black bone ships, captained and crewed by condemned criminals.  And Joron Twiner finds himself on Tide Child, a black ship, in retaliation for killing the son of a powerful official in a duel.

Joron Twiner presents an intriguing protagonist as he gradually grows from an angry, depressed, nineteen-year-old and begins to question the rules and history of his society.  I found this particularly interesting as the growth is slow and not readily accepted as Joron clings to the traditions he has been raised to accept.

Lucky Meas takes command of the Tide Child from Joron and not only allows him to live, but gives him second in command.  Lucky Meas has been Shipwife (captain) of one of the most famous of the bone ships and has become a legend for her courage and skill in battle.  How did she become condemned to a black ship?  Whatever the reason, Meas is a leader and she is able to get both ship and crew into shape through force of will.

Meas, Joron, and the crew of the Tide Child are in search of the last sea dragon and the attempts to protect it or kill it.

 (At the end, there is an appendix ranks in the Fleet and the Hundred Isles that (in my opinion) should have been at the beginning to help the reader adjust to this new world.  Definition of the bern, berncast, Fleet ranks, etc. would make entering the world easier.)

I had not read RJ Barker before, but as soon as I finished The Bone Ships (knowing it would probably be a year's wait before the next in the series comes out), I ordered Age of Assassins, the first in Barker's Wounded Kingdom trilogy.  Which lets you know how much I liked the book and the author.  I literally put my Kindle on large print and walked while reading--mostly inside because adding the heat index to 98 degrees made walking outside too damn hot.

Read in August; blog review scheduled for Sept. 2.

NetGalley/Orbit Books
Fantasy/Adventure.  Sept. 24, 2019.  Print length:  512 pages.


The Body on the Beach by Anna Johannsen.  When a body is found on the beach of the small island of Arum, the question arises: natural death, suicide, murder?

DI Lena Lorezen is sent to investigate by a boss she doesn't trust.  The victim was the head of a children's home, and the investigation leads to links to the past.  

Not a bad mystery/police procedural, but the romance of Lena's reconnection with her youthful boyfriend felt like the author was trying to include a romance for a target audience.

Read in July; blog review scheduled for Sept. 2.

NetGalley/Amazon Publishing, UK
Police Procedural.  Print length:  240 pages.  

Saturday, August 31, 2019

See That My Grave Is Kept Clean and The Starlight Claim

Billed as something for fans of Craig Johnson, I couldn't help but have high hopes for this one.  In the end, though, the book didn't suit me...or I didn't suit the book. 

See That My Grave Is Kept Clean (tentative connection to content) featuring Iraqi War veteran Tommy Smith is the third book in the series.  A missing ten-year-old girl, a corpse of a missing embezzler, and a sinister owner of a "titty bar" and abuser of women and underage girls, an ineffectual sheriff, and plenty of dead folks.  

Although not a book that I wanted to abandon, I had trouble connecting with the characters on more than a superficial basis and had little confidence in the plot.  

There are a lot of admirers of this series, but ultimately, it wasn't a good fit for me.

Read in May; blog review scheduled for Aug. 31, 2019

NetGalley/ Skyhorse Publishing
Crime.  Sept. 17, 2019.  Print length:  288 pages.

The Starlight Claim was an exciting survival adventure.  Nate didn't intend to make the trip to the cabin alone, but when his friend is grounded,  he decides not to back out.  But a blizzard sets in and in subzero temperatures, Nate must not only survive the weather, but must outwit escapees from a maximum security prison who have taken refuge in his family's cabin.  Thanks to his father, Nate is not without resources, both physical and mental.

from description:  Four months after his best friend, Dodge, disappeared near their families’ camp in a boat accident, Nate is still haunted by nightmares. He’d been planning to make the treacherous trek to the remote campsite with a friend — his first time in winter without his survival-savvy father. But when his friend gets grounded, Nate secretly decides to brave the trip solo in a journey that’s half pilgrimage, half desperate hope he will find his missing friend when no one else could. What he doesn’t expect to find is the door to the cabin flung open and the camp occupied by strangers: three men he’s horrified to realize have escaped from a maximum-security prison. Snowed in by a blizzard and with no cell signal, Nate is confronted with troubling memories of Dodge and a stunning family secret, and realizes that his survival now depends on his wits as much as his wilderness skills. As things spiral out of control, Nate finds himself dealing with questions even bigger than who gets to leave the camp alive.

Nate discovers an unexpected ally, but not a benevolent or selfless one.  

Although the main character is a teenager, I didn't realize at first that this was a YA novel; however, as with any good book,  The Starlight Claim will grab your interest and hold it throughout.

Read in May;  blog review scheduled for Aug. 31, 2019

NetGalley/Candlewick Press
YA/Suspense.  Sept. 10, 2019.  Print length:  240 pages