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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Snail Mail

Many of you who responded to the review of Neither Snow Nor Rain mentioned a present or past interest in correspondence.  I gathered a few sources of places to send cards, postcards, or letters in case you might be interested:

Send Kids the World, postcards to kids with life-threatening diseases.  Schools and other groups have joined this effort.  Love the idea of kids sending letters to kids.
Family Service Night at Blake School via Send Kids the World
Our Armed Services always appreciate letters.  If you scroll down on this one there are some responses from those who received letters (both individuals currently deployed and veterans of previous wars--so touching!)

One more for the military--Soldiers' Angels  



The buzz about Eduardo Munez is all over snail mail sites.  The mystery of it!  Naomi explains the origin here.  If you write Eduardo, your letter might be in the film.

Postcard Exchange on Goodreads

The Letter Writers Alliance has lots of ideas.   

Teachers might be interested in class projects featuring letter writing, and the above links will lead to other links.

And, of course, you can write to me.  I will write back.  :) Maybe not as promptly this month because I'm doing the Month of Letters challenge, but certainly as quickly as I can--I'm  putting something in the mailbox everyday.

Jen Mullen
104 Carondelet CT
Bossier City, LA  71111

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Neither Snow Nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service

Years ago, before I had a blog, I had great fun with mail art, submitting work to mail art calls and corresponding with several mail artists.  Then my hiatus from work ended, and I had less time or energy for this entertaining hobby.  A couple of months ago, almost accidentally, my interest in mail art and snail mail found new impetus, and I began to increase the number of letters I was writing and to begin making and decorating envelopes and postcards.


In the serendipitous way of things, NetGalley recently 
offered Neither Snow Nor Rain, and I thought it would be interesting to learn a little about the postal service that we all take for granted.

That I would find this book so entertaining, so funny and fascinating, and in the final sections, so somber--came as a surprise.  

The history of the U.S. Postal Service, its origins in England, letters without envelopes (any extra sheet of paper increased the price), the American postmasters from Ben Franklin through the present, the Pony Express, the battles with private carriers, the introduction of stamps, the innovations with railroads and rail mail, the danger of early air mail, the almost incomprehensible volume of mail handled, and so much more are written about in a way that is not only educational, but compelling.

Tidbits:

"The U.S. Postal Service is a wondrous American creation.  Six days a week, its army of 300,000 letter carriers deliver 513 million pieces of mail [a week, yall!]], 40 percent of the world's total volume.  In parts of America that it can't reach by truck, the USPS finds other means to get people their letters and packages.  It transports them by mule train to the Havasupai Indian Reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Bush pilots fly letters to the edges of Alaska.  In thinly populated parts of Montana and North Dakota, the postal service has what it refers to as "shirt pocket"routes, which means the postal workers literally carry all their letters for the day in their shirt pockets.  At a time when the USPS is losing several billion letters a year to the Internet, it still has to do this six days a week because it is legally required to provide universal service to every American home and business."

"Long before Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States, he was the postmaster of New Salem, Illinois.  Harry Truman held the title of postmaster of Grandview, Missouri.  Walt Disney was a substitute carrier in Chicago.  Bing Crosby was a clerk in Spokane, Washington.  Rock Hudson delivered mail in Winnetka, Illinois."  And William Faulkner was fired from his post at the University of Mississippi.

Montgomery Blair was postmaster general under Abraham Lincoln.  In 1863, Blair started free home delivery and city residents had their mail delivered twice a day.  Blair also instituted railway mail service and had clerks ride trains, sorting letters as the went.  "The Railway Mail Service became an elite operation within the Post Office Department.  Clerks who rode the rails threw bags of letters from speeding trains and grabbed incoming ones with hooks.  They memorized as many as 4,000 post office addresses in order to sort the mail faster."

Mark Twain couldn't recall an address and wrote: "For Mr. C.M. Underhill, who is in the coal business in one of those streets there, and is very respectably connected, both by marriage & general descent, and is a tall man & old but without any gray hair & used to be handsome.  Buffalo N.Y.  From Mark Twain.  P.S. A little bald on the top of his head."  

Mr. Underhill received his letter.

OK-- this always happens when I read good nonfiction, I highlight almost every other page.  

As the book drew to a close, however, it became evident that the history of the USPS may be near its end.  Junk mail is now the majority of the mail handled and delivered. 

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, who retired in 2015, said that the bottom line is "With the exception of the holidays and your birthday, think about your own mailbox.  When was the last time you got a piece of mail that had a stamp on it?  You don't get it."

We pay our bills online, we sent texts and emails.  We appreciate the ease and convenience of these technologies.  But do we want to do without the postal service?   A friend said that she just expects the mail to be there.  So do I.  It has always been there.

When I decided to participate in A Month of Letters  (the challenge of sending something in the mail each day) none of this was on my mind.  Synchronicity, serendipity, that strange coincidental kind of thing happened to make this book available at a time when I was in the mood to genuinely appreciate it.  Mr. Leonard has done an outstanding job.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it...right up until the end.  The prospect of the demise of the USPS saddens me.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic

Nonfiction/History.  April 5, 2016.  Print length:  288 pages.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Three for Monday

Admiral by Sean Danker was one of those books that surprised me.  I mean, I like science fiction.  A lot.  I like military science fiction and space operas.  What surprised me was the quirky little smile that appeared on my face at the  tone of the book.

6 word review:  Who the heck is the Admiral?   

A wrecked freighter on a mysterious planet; 3 Evagardian trainees and an "Admiral" awake from stasis confused and alone on the freighter.  What happened to the captain and the pilot?  

Suspicion abounds, but in order to save themselves the four of them must work together.  

Loved it. 

Found this about Sean Danker:  Sean Danker has been writing since he was fifteen. He read entirely too much Asimov in college, and now we’re all paying the price for it. His hobbies include biting off more than he can chew, feeling sorry for himself on Twitter, and telling people to lighten up. He is currently serving in the military on a base in North Dakota.  Source

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing/ROC

Science Fiction.  May 3, 2016.  Print length:  320 pages.

I reviewed A Better World (the second in the Brilliance trilogy by Marcus Sakey) a while back. NetGalley offered the first book, but I couldn't get it to download, so I went on to Written in Fire, the final installment. 

Although it would be best to begin with the first in the series, I enjoyed the last two without that benefit.

from description:  For thirty years humanity struggled to cope with the brilliants, the one percent of people born with remarkable gifts. For thirty years we tried to avoid a devastating civil war. We failed.

Lots of action and some things to think about.  People who are different are often feared.  

This must be part of our genetic programing as it has been true even from times before civilization and civilization has only improved upon the ways to subjugate the "other."  What is different is feared,  the fear leads to persecution, and in so many historical situations, to extermination.  Things aren't much different today.  Trusting leaders is a risky business worldwide.  Leaders and followers may be acting out of good intentions, but the results can be disastrous regardless. 

This trilogy is a science fiction thriller, but as is often the case, a certain truth can be extrapolated from even exaggerated and implausible plots.  

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Science Fiction/Thriller.  Jan. 12, 2016.  Print length:  348 pages.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell sounded so good.  Unfortunately, I found it...hummm, frustrating.  

from the description:  the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family's long-rumored secret estate, using clues her eccentric father left behind.

Such an interesting premise, but I didn't really like any of the characters or the play on Bronte's Jane Eyre.  The novel  came across as sullen (don't know if you can really have a sullen book, but...), and I guess I didn't appreciate the humor.  The Bronte family is immensely fascinating; however, this take on Brontes, past and present, didn't work for me.  Nice cover, though.

NetGalley/Touchstone

genre?  March 1, 2016.  Print length:  352 pages.





Saturday, February 06, 2016

A Fire Beneath the Skin Trilogy

Ink Mage: A Fire Beneath the Skin (Bk 1) by Victor Gischler 

A fantasy world with strange gods, magical tattoos, wizards and sorcerers, a conquered city, a duchess in exile, and a whirlwind of action.  I liked it.  Enough that after reading Ink Mage, I requested the following two books in the trilogy.

What surprised me a few minutes ago when I checked the reviews was that the reviews of Ink Mage ran the gamut from 1 star to 5 stars. Those who didn't like it, really, really didn't like it.  Plenty more reviewers liked it a great deal with 4-5 stars.

Reasons for low ratings ranged from the cursing, the sex, and the predictability.  But...Ink Mage isn't listed as a YA novel (and I've read plenty of YA novels that contained much more of all 3 critical areas) and while I felt the cursing was maybe a little modern and I noticed it, it didn't seem over-the-top.  The sex...well, there is a brothel in the city that plays an important role.  As for predictability, yes.  Hard to find a fantasy that doesn't have elements that are predictable, and fantasy tropes are always going to be present in some degree.  

Think of Jung and Joseph Campbell, archetypes, collective unconscious, etc.  Stories repeat themselves, but certain elements will always be included.  I found enough original approaches to satisfy me, and I like fantasy tropes.   

Heroes are constructions; they are not real. All societies have similar hero stories not because they coincidentally made them up on their own, but because heroes express a deep psychological aspect of human existence. They can be seen as a metaphor for the human search of self-knowledge. In other words, the hero shows us the path to our own consciousness through his actions.    Source

 Rina, the main character, is both human and heroic.  Her rather pampered life is interrupted when her city is conquered by invaders and betrayal, but she rises to the occasion.  The minor characters are also well-developed, flawed, and capable of growth.

I liked that all of the women were strong and competent-- contributing instead of being shunted to the side.  They aren't perfect, each one has flaws, but neither are they placeholders or dependent on men.  When given the opportunity, even the women of the brothel prove their worth over and over; given their minor roles, I especially liked seeing this. (just realized I'm skipping ahead with the "over and over" phrase, but these former prostitutes carry into the next books).

I liked that Gischler wrapped things up; there is no real cliffhanger, even though you know the stories and the characters have two more books to go.

The novels are not epic fantasy in the way of Kate Elliot, Robin Hobb, Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, but the series does have some interesting characters, some moral dilemmas, and has some unique touches.

NetGalley

Fantasy.  2013.  Print length:  402 pages.

The Tattooed Duchess presents new problems.  The threat of a renewed invasion still exists and a new and even more malevolent menace is arising.  A conflict is arising among the gods, and Rina must seek more tattoos of power to be able to combat the coming perils.  

The story expands, and the original "team" begins to split up to take care of specific problems.

NetGalley

Fantasy.  2015.  Print length:  370 pages.






A Painted Goddess brings the trilogy to a conclusion.  I have to admit to liking the first one the most, but there was no way I would have abandoned the series before finding out what happened to all of the characters...and it wasn't at all what I would have expected from the first book alone.

I liked the focus of the first book and felt the multiple perspectives and separate missions had a diffuse effect on the last two.


NetGalley

Fantasy.  Jan. 19, 2016.  Print length: 402 pages.



Thursday, February 04, 2016

A Mixture of Reviews

The Tracker by Chad Zunker. Remember the 6 word review?  

Political tracker, murder witness, flashbacks, predictable.  

This is supposed to be the first in a series featuring Sam Callahan.  Of most interest to me was the role of a political tracker.

NetGalley

Political Mystery.  2015.  Print length:  406 pages.









Breakdown by Jonathan Kellerman.  6 word review:  Psychotic, but loving mother; missing child

The two most recent offerings by Kellerman have appealed to me.  I really enjoyed The Murderer's Daughter, a stand-alone  in which child psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware made only a cameo appearance.  Breakdown has Alex and Milo Sturgis back in play.  

A disturbed mother's psychosis becomes so severe that she ends up living on the streets.   What has happened to the son she adored?   Alex treated the boy only briefly a few years previously, as a favor to the doctor who was treating the mother.

The plot has several twists and a slow build up that I liked.  The conclusion of the mystery, as well as the root cause left me a little cold, but I liked the majority of this novel enough to overlook that.  

Alex and Milo have to look into the past for clues as they search for Ovid, the missing boy.  

I've followed Kellerman for years and, at one point, sort of lost interest.  The last two novels have made me re-evaluate my desertion of the series.  And I've always like Milo Sturgis. Strange how important the sidekick can become to a series. 

NetGalley/Random House

Mystery/Suspense/Psychological. February, 2016.  Print length:  369 pages. 



The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain.  I loved Laurain's The President's Hat, and I enjoyed this one as well.  A woman is injured during a purse snatching; a bookseller finds the purse and, in trying to find the owner, becomes a little obsessed by the contents of the purse--especially the red notebook.  

More a novella than a novel, TRN is a little bit mystery, a little bit romance, and a little bit....  Well, it is a fast and fun read, even if a detail or two might give you a niggle here, a quibble there.  Lots of literary allusions, a light touch, likable characters.

The President's Hat also took an inanimate object and used it as a method of amplifying an idea, but The President's Hat was cleverer, offering a little more under the surface, and a wry and witty atmosphere.  Mitterand's hat had...influence.  

NetGalley/Gallic Books

Novella.  2014.  Print length:  159 pages.



The Deathsniffer's Assistant by Kate McIntyre.  

Olivia Faraday is a deathsniffer--a truthsniffer who investigates murder.  Most members of society avoid those who practice the profession, treating them with disdain and superstition.  Unless they need them.

Christopher Buckley is nineteen and has been responsible for protecting his sister Rosemary since the death of their parents six years earlier.  Christopher, a wordweaver, finds that the family fortune has diminished and takes a job with O. Faraday to support himself and his sister. 

Olivia Faraday is brusque, eccentric, and unconcerned about the basic rules of society.  Christopher, on the other hand, is almost annoyingly preoccupied with appearances.

Set in a Victorian world with elements of steampunk that do not override the story, the novel has plenty of mystery and magic to entertain the reader.  The characters are well-developed and the  plot kept me guessing.  The elaborate magical hierarchy is also interesting--there are wordweavers, deathsniffers, spiritbinders, and timeseers, each with specific places in society.  

I enjoyed this one, and I look forward to the next in The Faraday Files.

I was offered this by NetGalley, but could not get it to download.  Later it was on offer at Kindle Unlimited, and I snapped it up.

Mystery/Fantasy/Steampunk.  2015.  Print length:  424 pages.  

-------------
I'm continuing to play with Mail Art and am taking part in A Month of Letters which is keeping me busy right now.  By busy, I mean playing with paint and faux postage, making envelopes and postcards, and generally having a fine time.  


Today is National Mail Carriers Appreciation Day.  

 I copied the mail carrier from a card,
but it doesn't do the original justice.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Mystery, Fantasy, Suspense

I'm still reading, but haven't been reviewing. I have books from last year that I've still not reviewed!  I'm so behind on visiting and commenting on blogs that I will never catch up. 

I'm not even sure when I read some of these books--they are a mix of November, December, and January.  

My first experience with McPherson was The Child Garden, which I really enjoyed and reviewed here.  I was excited about this new one and snapped up the NetGalley offer (maybe in November?).  I planned to schedule a review closer to the publication date, but Quiet Neighbors is available for pre-order so I'm going to go ahead knock it off my list. 

Jude is running from something and finds herself in the small village of Wigtown, Scotland.  (Wigtown was officially designated as Scotland's National Book Town in 1998 and is now home to over 20 book-related businesses. A book lovers haven – and with over quarter of a million books to choose from, old and new … it is impossible to escape empty-handed.  Source.)

  That was enough to insure my interest.  A book town, an absent-minded owner of a chaotic book shop, a job offer as an assistant to help organize books, a cottage in a graveyard, mysterious notes in books, a village secret....  Yep.  I was all in.  And I enjoyed my foray into the little Scottish town and the curious characters who live there.

NetGalley/Midnight Ink

Mystery.  April 8, 2016.  Print length:  360 pages.  

Night Study  by Maria V. Snyder is the fifth installment in this series.  It took me a little while to re-orient myself, but once I did, the adventures of Yelena and Valek kept me as engrossed as I was in Shadow Study.

Snyder doesn't make much concession to new readers, so it would be much better to start this series at the beginning.  I had the same problem trying to puzzle out characters and past events with Shadow Study, but once involved, I couldn't put it down.

If you are interested in a new fantasy series, this might be one you can really savor by starting with Poison Study and reading the available books in order.  

Night Study was a guilty pleasure--magic and mayhem and and suspense!

NetGalley/Harlequin/Mira

Fantasy.  Jan. 26, 2016. Print length:  448 pages.


The Dead Place is a Cooper and Fry mystery by Stephen Booth.  I liked the first two books in this series, but have missed several.  


Creepy anonymous phone calls to the police, a morbid fascination with death, a funeral home full of suspects, a professor specializing in death rituals, plenty of detail about what happens to the body following death, more than enough about preparing a body for viewing at a funeral home.  I'm glad, my husband and I have chosen cremation.  (Although, I despise the term "cremains.")

Favorite parts:   nods to Cold Comfort Farm, Inspector Morse, and Midsommer Murders; Gavin Murfin's character.

Overall, the book didn't work as well for me as did Black Dog and Dancing with the Virgins.  Fortunately, Booth let Cooper take the lead in this one, because Fry comes off so flat and snarky.  She isn't a likable character to begin with (and deliberately so), but at least in the first two books she was interesting.  Booth does seem to be preparing for some changes in Fry, but she remains an annoying cipher in this book.

The first two books in this series were quite good, and I have missed books 3, 4, and 5--so I am not going to let my disappointment in this one deter me from reading more Cooper & Fry.

Harper/Collins  (purchased ebook)

Mystery, police procedural.  2014.  Print length:  608 pages.

The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons was a Kindle Unlimited offer and turned out to be a compelling read.  

brief description:  A decade ago, fourteen-year-old Suzanne Lombard, the daughter of Benjamin Lombard—then a senator, now a powerful vice president running for the presidency—disappeared in the most sensational missing-person case in the nation’s history. Still unsolved, the mystery remains a national obsession.

Gibson Vaughn, former legendary hacker, was like an older brother to Suzanne and when approached to try to discover what really happened to Suzanne, he devotes himself to the task.  But someone doesn't want the mystery unraveled and Gibson and his fellow investigators find themselves in danger.  

Fast-paced and compelling, the novel kept me up late, unable to find a place to stop.  This was Fitzsimmons' first novel, but there is to be another novel featuring Gibson Vaughn, and I want it! 

Suspense.  2015.  Print length: 398 pages.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Unreasonable Doubt and Land of Shadows

Unreasonable Doubt by Vicki Delany.

Walter Desmond has been exonerated for the murder of a young woman when it is discovered that evidence was concealed at the time of the trial.  Having spent twenty-five years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Desmond decides to return to Trafalgar City.  He wants to know why the detectives at the time were so determined to have him convicted that they concealed exculpatory evidence.  

The town in not particularly eager to embrace Desmond; many, including the woman's family, continue to believe him guilty.  This sets up a volatile situation for the Trafalgar police department.

But if Walter didn't commit the murder, that means the killer is still free, and a new investigation must take place.

I'm  always happy to return to Trafalgar City and Constable Molly Smith!  This was an especially intriguing installment as the news so frequently covers the release of individuals who have served decades for murders they did not commit.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery/Police Procedural.  Feb. 2, 2016.  



Land of Shadows by Priscilla Royal

Queen Eleanor of Castile has just given birth at Woodstock.  Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas are there because Eleanor's father has suffered a stroke.  

A move against the Jews, in part to increase the king's coffers; the murder of a promiscuous noble woman; a case of PTSD for a veteran of the Crusades; an accusation against Eleanor's nephew; and machinations by the sinister priest (one of those dedicated men with a narrow point of view, more dedicated to the Church than to God--whether he knows it or not) are all part of this medieval mystery set in 1279.

As much as I like this series, it has been uneven in its appeal to me.  Some of the books I've loved; some I've cared less for.
Fortunately, Land of Shadows fall into the former category, and I found myself once again immersed in the politics and cultural conventions of the late 13th c. and in Priscilla Royal's vivid characters.  Royal not only explains much about her choices at the end, but includes her extensive bibliographic material.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press

Medieval Mystery.  Feb. 2, 2016.  Print version:  220 pages.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Catching Up

Worse than Death.  Anna Southwood opens a detective agency; since she has no background for this new business, she depends on her partner Graham because he does have a license.  Graham, however, is an aspiring actor whose auditions interfere with his detecting.

The agency has its first serious case when called upon to find Beth Channing, a missing adolescent.  Beth's mother has been charged with murder, but there is no body.

As the investigation continues, Anna discovers a connection to another missing girl.

Not a bad mystery, but not as good as some.  I did like that it was set in Australia.

NetGalley/Endeavor Press

Mystery.  1991; 2015.  Print version:  192 pages.


The Inquisitor by Mitchell Hogan is evidently his first foray into science fiction.    He is best known for his fantasy series.

Angel Xia is an Inquisitor whose cases involve hunting down Genevolves.  Her new cases turns her into the hunted when she is betrayed and marked for assassination.  

When she receives a call for help from a young girl, Xia's life becomes even more complicated.

Fast action and interesting view of Artificial Intelligence and genetic manipulation.

NetGalley/Amazon

SciFi/Crime.  2015.  Print version:  312 pages.



A Deadly Truth is a Victorian suspense novel.  I really liked this description:  When Doyle Flanagan finds two strangers in his library—one dead and the other the beautiful but meddlesome Cady Delafield, his life begins to unravel as all clues point to him for the murder.

If you like Victorian mysteries with a healthy dollop of romance, you might like this one.  I could have done without the cliched romance, but then, my interests rarely lie in this area.  

NetGalley/Champagne Books

Mystery.  2013.  Print version:  272 pages.





The Hidden Legacy was more than satisfying.  The novel opens with a disturbing crime being committed by a young boy.   The trial and the aftermath leave ripples over the surface of many lives.  

Forty years later, Ellen Sutherland receives a letter from a solicitor telling her that she is mentioned in the will of a woman Ellen has never heard of.  At first reluctant to even call to see what is going on, Ellen decides to make the journey to find out more.  Eudora Nash, a complete stranger, has left her home Primrose Cottage to Ellen.  

The property is very valuable, and Ellen's first visit results in her falling in love with the cottage and realizing that a visitor is there under false pretences.  One secret after another is gradually uncovered as the events move back and forth in time.

Sometimes the alternating time sequences were frustrating because I would get so involved in one of the stories and have to abruptly switch to the next--in which I would become utterly involved.  The prologue is particularly difficult because of the horrifying crime, but after that the psychological suspense kept me riveted as the layers unfolded in both past and present.  

Minett manages to add information a little at a time in keeping with Ellen's increasing interest in the secrets behind her bequest.  The alternating time passages are skillfully handled, and I'm happy to find a new author who can hold my interest while keeping me guessing!

NetGalley/Bonnier Publishing

Psychological Suspense.  2015.  Print version: 448 pages.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A New Year

I've taken some time away from the computer lately, and except for reviews that were already scheduled, have been avoiding writing new reviews.  Each morning, on my "to do" list in my journal, I write bk. rev.  Each morning, I give the computer a wide berth, anxiety mounting.

  I've avoided my other blog as well--because the urge to make and create has also been absent.  Of course, I'm reading.  A day rarely passes that I don't read, but every so often the need to retreat into a less active, more internal state of mind just happens.  Especially after the long holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year's Celebrations when so much is going on.

What I have been doing, aside from the New Year urge to simplify and get rid of "stuff," is writing letters.  Years ago, I participated in Mail Art, which is an entertaining pastime. This year has brought a renewed interest.  Starting in December, Snail Mail to friends and family has kept me entertained.  Especially letters to my grandchildren (who have, as yet, failed to return a letter).  They love getting mail, but are less interested in actually writing letters in return.  But that's OK, because as much as I love receiving letters (instead of just email), for the moment, my obsession is decorating envelopes and writing letters.

to my daughters and a friend

this one went to a blog friend in Australia


grandson- he loves superheroes

grandaughter


Now, maybe I should write some book reviews...or get back to cleaning out and purging the accumulated mess.  GoodWill, here I come.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Catching UP


I'm so behind on everything, including reviewing books I read in 2015.  I've grouped some reviews I had drafts of together and am trying to get caught up on others.




Thorn by Vena Cork is set in London.  


A family disrupted and grieving after the father's death, has each member trying to deal with the loss in different ways as their lives have permanently changed.  Rosa Thorn must take a temporary teaching position at a nearby school.  Her children, Danny and Anna must leave their expensive private academy and join their mother at the same neighborhood school.

Thorn kept my interest up until the conclusion.  Unsure of the villain, I had suspected the actual culprit at times, but there were other possibilities that kept it interesting.  Until the very end, I was not sure who the guilty party was.  What bothered me was the long, feverish, and overdone finale.

Thorn (first published in 2003) is the first in a series, but I am surprised that the Thorn family saga continues, as it reads like a self-contained standalone.  The next in the series is The Art of Dying, and despite my discomfort with the conclusion of Thorn, I'm eager to read more by Cork.

Read in Dec.; review scheduled for Dec. 30, 2015.  Jan.

NetGalley/Endeavor Press

Mystery/Suspense.  2003; Dec. 18, 2015.  Print length:  352 pages.


Passenger 19 by Ward Larsen.  

Brief description:  Jammer Davis has spent most of his life investigating aircraft accidents. When a small regional jet disappears over the jungles of Colombia, it is a tragedy like dozens of others he has seen…but for one terrible detail—his young daughter, who was enroute to a semester abroad in South America, is listed on the passenger manifest.  

 Although it would seem that all aboard died in the crash, Jammer's investigation reveals that the crash was no accident and that at least two passengers are missing from the crash scene.  A search for their remains comes up empty.  Jammer is convinced that his daughter is still alive, but both Colombian officials and his own government appear to be thwarting his investigation.

Crime, corruption, and suspense make this fast-paced novel an engrossing read.

Read in August; review scheduled for Dec. Jan.

Thriller.  Jan. 5, 2016.  Print length:  368 pages.  


   Hillwilla by Melanie Forde is listed as literary/contemporary/women's fiction.  

Brief description:  Beatrice Desmond, 55, lives on a remote farm nestled in a deep hollow in southern West Virginia. A native of Boston and a graduate of an Ivy League college, Beatrice is a fish out of water in Seneca County; although she maintains contact with certain friends and family, too often, Beatrice retreats into her work as a translator and editor, or into the bottle of Jack Daniel’s she maintains nearby. Fate finally intervenes, requiring Beatrice to befriend and shelter Clara, an abused teenager, and accept the job of ghostwriting the memoir of her dashing but enigmatic neighbor, Tanner Fordyce.

I think I may have chosen this one because of the cover, but the description interested me as well.  I became quickly immersed in the novel and enjoyed.  Beatrice is an interesting (if crotchety) character, and I love the setting.

Read in December.

NetGalley/Mountain Lake Press

Contemporary Fiction.  2014.  Print length: 208 pages.


A Better World by Marcus Sakey is the second book in the Brilliance trilogy, but I have not read the first book.  No worries, this one gave just enough background to allow me to enjoy this one without having read the first one.

In the 1980's children began to be born who were gifted in a a wide range of ways and a wide range of levels (Tier 1-Tier 4).  As the children grew up, their gifts became more obvious, and the world had to admit that a small percentage of these individuals had abilities that ranged from the ability to anticipate movement, to being able to tell if someone is lying or telling the truth, to the ability to read patterns to the extent that they can predict what will happen.  At first, perhaps, a novelty, but eventually, some of "the normals" begin to perceive these individuals as threats.  
As the children have grown into adults with these gifts, they have become both sought after and discriminated against because of their skills.  In this second book in the series, the U.S. is on the verge of a civil war.  Normals hugely outnumber Brilliants, but Brilliants have innate talents that can, in some cases, protect them.  Terrorism and corruption escalate the division between the two groups...and the end result might be the destruction of the world for both groups.

Suspenseful.  Easy to make some comparisons to the world's current problems.  

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Suspense/Dystopian/Thriller.  2014.  Print length:  392 pages.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz



Sanctuary Bay by Jennifer Bosworth.  Great cover and an interesting premise: isolated, elite prep school; mixed race girl with traumatic background gets scholarship; something creepy going at the school.  Anything sound familiar?  I'm a bit of a sucker for this kind of novel.  The book started off very well, engaging me with Sarah, the protagonist, and her feelings.  However, it didn't take long for this one to go south for me. Sarah's willingness to get sucked into the "secret society" didn't fit with either her intelligence or the toughness she seemed to have from her difficult childhood.  Even when she begins to stand up against the "pack," it didn't work for me.

Also a cliffhanger.

Read in November; blog post scheduled for ??

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

YA/Mystery/Suspense.  Jan. 19, 2016.  Print length:  320 pages