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Friday, October 20, 2017


Reading can be an escape from reality or a confrontation with a reality that sometimes we would like to avoid, but sometimes, a literal escape from our everyday life is in order.  We took a short trip into the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas in hopes of finding some of the gorgeous fall foliage that is missing here at home.

The dry weather that has plagued us in northeast Louisiana for the last couple of months has meant that fall color is scarce here, but we discovered that drought has been a problem  in northern Arkansas as well.  Climate change--whatcha gonna do?  

We didn't see much fall color--little of Shelley's "pale, and hectic red" was to be seen and not much gold, but we did have a fine escape from the flat plains for the Red River Valley.  We went from the flat farmland, through the rolling hills, and up into the Ouachita National Forest and mountains.  Climbing up the hairpin, serpentine roads, passing through tiny towns and abandoned communities, and finally, to Mount Magazine and the lodge where we stayed.

The weather was perfect.  Cold in the mornings and evenings and in the 60's and low 70's during the day.  The lodge afforded gorgeous views of sunrises and sunsets.

We walked and hiked and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere, avoiding our phones, news, and social media.   Although I brought my Kindle, I didn't even read.

Mount Magazine State Park offered a tranquil escape in a beautiful setting where every effort is being made to preserve the plants and wildlife of the region.  The state park is known for its birding and for its diverse butterfly population.  Thankfully, we didn't see any black bears, but we did see some deer.

Now that we are home, I'm now in the midst of Kelley Armstrong's latest Casey Butler book, and the goings on in Rockton are, as usual, dramatic!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Hostage Heart by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

 A little romance, a little mystery.  The Hostage Heart by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles has little in common with her more accomplished historical novels like The Morland Dynasty or her excellent Bill Slider detective series, but it is an interesting look at the author's earlier efforts.

From the Author's Note that precedes the novel:

"This book is the work of a very young me; but it's the product of an energetic, enthusiastic and optimistic self in what seemed a simpler world, and I'm very pleased to see it back in print.  If you know my later books, I hope you will uncouple your expectations, and just enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it."

There is something touching about Harrod-Eagles' attachment to the works that helped shape her into the author she is today.  I loved the section of the Author's Note where she says that when she ran out of pony novels at the library, she had no choice but to write her own, and  "Between the ages of ten and eighteen I wrote nine pony novels."

Read in August; blog review scheduled for Oct.

NetGalley/Severn House

Mystery/Romance.  Nov. 1, 2017.  Print length:  224 pages.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

Although the second in the Change of Fortune series, Whispers of Warning functioned well as a stand-alone.  I liked the setting--a spiritualist hotel with echoes of the real spiritualist towns of Lily Dale, NY and Cassadaga, Florida.  

Ruby Proulx is happy to be living with her aunt in a hotel which offers various psychic readings to its guests.  Ruby is a "clairaudient"--a voice guides her talent as a medium, and her abilities are growing.

When Sophronia Foster Eldridge arrives as a guest, Ruby is impressed at both Sophronia's reputation as a Spiritualist and as an outspoken Suffragette.  But Sophronia's goal is more complicated than purely seeking the vote, and she presents a threat to someone who wants to derail her platform.

Ruby begins to recognize that Sophronia has a manipulative side, yet she still wants to support Sophronia's goal of gaining the vote for women.  

While the setting intrigued me, the book was a little slow.  I think I was looking for something similar to Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer, something a little more complex, but I like the cover.

Blog review scheduled for Oct. 17, 2017.

NetGalley/Berkely Publ.

Paranormal Mystery.  Sept. 19, 2017.  Print length:  331 pages.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Scandal in Battersea by Mercedes Lackey

I read the first in Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series over ten years ago, and at the time, I intended to read more.  The only other one I've read is The Wizard of London, but I enjoyed both books and don't know why I never followed through with the entire series.

I didn't even realize A Scandal in Battersea was part of the Elemental Masters series, but as soon as I started reading, the familiarity of certain elements was evident.  

There are wizards, psychics, mediums, hobs, and spirits, and a school for young children with magical abilities.    Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and his wife Mary also play important roles, along with Lord Alderscroft, Master of the White Lodge.

The previous books in the series take a fairy tale as a starting point, but the association is very loose and transferred to the Victorian era.  A Scandal in Battersea makes a slight departure into a folklore figure. 

A vague and powerful evil begins inserting itself into the world, but as young women begin disappearing, the threat increases and London itself could be utterly devastated.  Psychic Nan Killian and Medium Sarah Lyon-White are enlisted by Dr. Watson and Mary to examine a young woman who had herself committed to an asylum for disturbing visions of murders.  Her latest vision is of London in ruins.  The initial question is whether the visions are delusions or evidence of clairvoyant abilities.

Whatever this ancient evil is " will take the combined forces of Magic, Psychic Powers, and the worlds greatest detective to stop the darkness before it can conquer all."

It would be an advantage to have read more of the books in this series.  Although the books I read years ago let me recognize a few things, I would like to know more of the background of characters like Nan and Sarah and about some of their previous adventures.  

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing

Fantasy/Supernatural.  Oct. 17, 2017.  Print length:  320 pages.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Three More Catch-Up Reviews

Ellicott's Murder in an English Village is a light, cozy  mystery set in 1920.  

Blurb:  "As friends, the boisterous and brash American Beryl couldn't be less alike than the prim and proper British Edwina. But as sleuths in an England recovering from the Great War, they're the perfect match . . ."

The friends won't compete with Miss Marple, but a quick read, and I like the cover.

NetGalley/Kensington Books 

Historical Mystery.  Oct. 31, 2017.  Print length:  304 pages.

Block 46 is one of those books that has gotten rave reviews from a blog tour, but fair warning, it is a gruesome book about the serial murders of children.

Taking advantage of the current popularity of Nordic Noir, the book moves back and forth between Sweden and London for the contemporary portion of the novel.  It also moves back and forth in time as the genesis of the present-day child murders has roots in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1944.

The  style is choppy--moving from one point of view to another, from place to place, and from past to  present.  The two female protagonists are an interesting combination--acquaintances more than friends.  Emily Roy is a profiler and Alexis Castells is a true crime writer.  Only hints of their backgrounds are given and will no doubt be expanded on in their next outing.

I wasn't convinced by either of the roles of the protagonists, however; Emily's profiler skills are pretty specific, but not always helpful initially in making progress in the case.  Alexis is involved because she was close friends with a woman murdered in the same manner as the children, and since she is, coincidentally, a true crime writer--she is accepted into the investigation. ?

The "project" (the reason for the deaths of the children) goes back to medical experiments in Buchenwald, but the purpose is never explained.  

Not eager to read more by this author as neither the characters nor the plot appealed much to me.

Read in September.

NetGalley/Trafalgar Square Publ.

Crime.  Oct. 1, 2017.  Print length: 300 pages.

Yep, I know I've been fascinating with a lot of WWII nonfiction--and most of it has been as fascinating as fiction.  Most of it, however, has been specific to England, Bletchley Park, the SOE, Turing, the Blitz, and MI5 or MI6.

Code Girls differs because it addresses the American code breakers, and most particularly the women who were recruited initially from elite women's colleges and then from teachers' colleges.  It covers the way the Navy and the Army recruited these women, continuing to broaden their nets to enlist more and more to decipher, decode, and translate German and Japanese messages.

Code Girls provides impeccable research into previously classified materials about the women cryptographers whose crucial efforts saved thousands of lives and were mostly unacknowledged.

The first of the book was absolutely fascinating, but there are portions that become a bit repetitive.   These women contributed greatly to the success of the war, and I love that Liza Mundy has provided recognition of their important efforts.

Read in July/August.

NetGalley/Hatchette Books

History/Nonfiction.  Oct. 10, 2017.  Print length: 500 pages.   

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Catching Up

All of the books below, except for The Naturalist, were read in September. I read 4-5 books a week, and not all of them are going to be winners.  The following books kept me interested enough to finish them, but weren't books that would make me pursue the author or the series.  Books are a matter of taste, and each of the following books has had some 5 star reviews on Goodreads, opinions should be taken with a grain of salt.  Always.  You might love one or more of them.

My best friend and I disagree on books all the time.  She will recommend a book that leaves me cold and will hate a book that I love.

The Naturalist started off exceptionally well.  Dr. Theo Cray is returning to his hotel room only to discover a swat team a swat storming the hotel.  He takes cover, but when told to return to his room, he remains watching the scene.

Because he can't return to his room--it is his room being stormed.

It turns out that a former student of his has been doing research in the area and has been found dead.  Theo is taken in for questioning, but is released when it is determined that the young woman died from a bear attack.

His curiosity and a sense of guilt cause Theo to do a little more investigation and what he discovers makes him believe that a man has disguised not only this murder, but many more murders; some were listed as animal attacks, but many were never reported at all.  As Theo uses his computer to investigate missing persons in the area, he begins to locate bodies.

I really enjoyed the first portion, but  the novel became a combination of  too far-fetched and too clever and lost its initial focus.  Talk about character transformation--Theo Cray started off as an intriguingly nerdy character, but ended up as a standard action hero.  

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Crime/Suspense.  Oct. 1, 2017.  Print length:  382 pages.

I didn't realize that I had read the previous novel in this series when I requested Hide and Seek (Helen Grace #6) from NetGalley, but as I began reading I recognized some of the events that led up to this installment.  

In Little Boy Blue, a killer has laid the groundwork to destroy DI Helen Grace's career.  Hide and Seek finds Helen Grace in prison for crimes she didn't commit.  

When the bizarre murders of inmates in prison begin, Helen Grace finds her detective mindset kicking in, even as she fears for her own life.

Both books are suspenseful and violent.  The series is very popular and the reviews are extremely positive, but the book falls into that abyss of depending on multiple grotesque murders to create suspense.  Not my favorite plot line.  Nevertheless, M.J. Arlidge has a committed contingent of fans, and we are all different in what we look for in our crime/mystery/detective fiction.  

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing

Crime/Suspense.  Oct. 10, 2017.  Print length:  409 pages.

Although I had hoped Wolves and Roses would be a fun YA fantasy, the book didn't actually deliver.  Simplistic romance with fairies, werewolves, and witches--supposedly following fairy tale templates.

I always enjoy YA books by Sarah J. Maas, Megan Whalen Turner, Maggie Stiefvater, and Kelly Armstrong, but all of the preceding have great character development, excellent writing, and exciting plots.  Wolves and Roses failed on all three.  Others liked it much better than I did.

NetGalley/Monster House Books, LLC

YA/Fantasy.  Oct. 31, 2017.  Print length:  292 pages.

Beacon Hill by Colin Campbell follows the Resurrection Man series featuring former British cop Jim Grant, who now works for the Boston PD.

Jim Grant's character feels like a "wannabe" Jack Reacher. 
(The Jack Reacher from Lee Child's books, not the one from the films which I wouldn't see because of miscasting). Lots of action and an unusual premise make Beacon Hill interesting, and yet more surface than depth.  

One incident that was, I guess, supposed to add some dark humor involves a dog.  The reference to the dog appears again and again, and what was not funny to begin became more and more irritating.  Spoiler:  More time and emphasis was given to the unfunny squashed dog than to the death of the girlfriend.

NetGalley/Wildblue Press

Suspense/Police Procedural/Crime.  Sept. 13, 2017.  Print length:  315 pages.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Merlin at War by Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis' Merlin at War, featuring London DCI Frank Merlin, is the third in this series.  In 2014, I read and enjoyed The Princes Gate, set during the phony war between September 1939 and May 1940, but I somehow missed Stalin's Gold, the second in the series which also received positive reviews.

 Merlin at War takes place after the fall of France; the armistice between Vichy France and Germany is in effect, and the nominal government of France collaborates with Nazi Germany in reprehensible ways.  

The book begins, however, in Crete where a team of British soldiers hope to escape and be evacuated. Only one man survives the perilous journey.  The survivor carries a letter from his superior officer, but the officer dies before he can definitively designate the letter's recipient.  

Ellis depicts a London during the nervous calm after the autumn Blitz of 1940:  a young woman dies in a botched abortion; the French emigre doctor who performed the abortion is murdered;  a traitor among the Free French delegation operating from London sends messages to the Vichy government with the time and place a young agent is to be dropped into France; there are a connections to Buenos Aires and New York. 

Most of the book is a satisfying mystery with compelling historical elements, but the multiple subplots slow it down a bit. Nevertheless, Merlin at War presents a view of the war from many angles, and Ellis' main characters have depth and dimension.

Read in August; blog review scheduled for Sept. 27.

NetGalley/JKS Communications

Historical Mystery/WWII.  Oct. 12, 2017.  Print length:  490 pages.     

Friday, September 22, 2017

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

The opening of Bluebird, Bluebird grabbed my attention and my imagination immediately. 

We first meet Geneva Sweet as she snakes an orange extension cord through a cemetery, past the grave markers that read "Mayva Greenwood, Beloved Wife and Mother, May She Rest With Her Heavenly Father" and "Leland, Father and Brother in Christ" until she reaches her goal, the final resting place of her husband, Joe "Petey Pie" Sweet, whose monument reads "Husband and Father, and Forgive Him Lord, A Devil on the Guitar."

The extension cord and the transistor radio allow Geneva to play Joe some Muddy Waters.  

Geneva Sweet, almost seventy, is in many ways the heart of the novel.  She is not the protagonist; she is the core, the center that anchors a tiny community with deep roots in the past.

Darren Mathews is a black Texas Ranger, and he is justifiably proud of the fact.  He loves Texas and the Rangers, but his pride in both doesn't mean Darren isn't aware of flaws in the justice system.

Raised by his twin uncles (Clay, a celebrated law professor and William, the first black Texas Ranger), Darren's background is privileged.  At the other end of the spectrum, Darren's mother is a poor alcoholic who is always cadging money. Darren's connections run the gamut of the socioeconomic spectrum. 

After a degree from Princeton and two years of law school, Darren's career path derails after the horrific event in 1998 in Jasper, Texas.  He drops out of law school, much to the disappointment of his wife and his Uncle Clay, and joins the Texas Rangers.  

While it is easy to love Darren, despite his ideals, he is as imperfect as any other human being, and in the midst of some serious problems at work and at home, he finds himself in the tiny town of Lark, Texas at the request of a friend in the FBI.  A black man has been found dead and the death receives only a cursory examination.  Then a few days later, a white woman is murdered.  

When he walks into Geneva Sweet's tiny establishment, Darren has no idea of how his perspective will undergo change.

Bluebird resonates on so many levels--from the piney woods setting in East Texas, to the strengths and frailties of the human condition, to the historic and current effects of race relations.

The novel is a love song to Texas in many ways, despite the acknowledged racism and the impact prejudice and discrimination have on the lives of both blacks and whites.  That, I think, is what makes this different from many novels that attempt to cover racism.  Attica Locke's roots (like those of her protagonist) are deep in the red soil of East Texas and despite all of the injustices, historic and contemporary, she loves the state and her own heritage.

The novel presents a thoughtful and humane look at the characters while still making the situations perfectly clear, never excusing and never despairing.  Locke examines the complexity of the events of a small town and leaves her protagonist uncomfortably aware of a script that diverges from his expectations. 

The prose and the images from this novel will remain with me.  Highly recommended.

From a Literary Hub interview with the author:
Attica Locke: I’m from an area that kisses the border of Louisiana. It’s infinitely more Southern than it is Southwestern. Is there still that Lonestar spirit? Yes, but it’s not big sky country, it’s the piney woods. They call a portion of it Big Thicket. It’s lumber country, woods and trees everywhere, creeks and bayous.
To me one of the great contradictions about East Texas is the sense of familiarity among black and white folks. Folks have been living up under each other for hundreds of years. There’s a familial quality to it. That doesn’t mean we’re all holding hands and singing cumbaya. But the people there are fundamentally intermixed—culturally and genetically. So there really is a sense of family.

(The piney woods and the names of some of the small towns along the Texas/Louisiana border are as familiar to me as the music that runs like a melody through the novel.)

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Mystery/Crime.  Sept. 12, 2017.  Print length:  320 pages. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hollywood Hang Ten and Penance of the Damned

Hollywood Hang Ten by Eve Goldberg.  I requested this one because of the connection to the years of Hollywood Blacklisting.  This disgraceful period of blacklisting writers and actors who refused to name names was instituted by HUAC in 1947 and lasted until 1960. 

In 1963, young Ryan Zorn, who has been working with his uncle for a number of years, finds himself alone at the detective agency during his uncle's hospitalization. Twenty-three-year-old Ryan has never been in charge of an investigation and has not always paid strict attention to his uncle's techniques and advice.  On his first solo case, Ryan has to learn from his mistakes.  

The case of a missing boy leads to stolen photographs, blackmail, and murder--with tentacles reaching back to the 1950's.

Hollywood Hang Ten adeptly places the reader in time and place.  I liked the way Ryan's character is forced into growth by the circumstances he encounters.  It is particularly interesting to see the cultural differences that have occurred since 1963.  

Eve Goldberg is a writer and award-winning documentary filmmaker.  Her screen credits include the Emmy-nominated "Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist" (co-writer), "Cover Up: Behind the Iran-Contra Affair" (writer) and "Maestra" (writer).Her writing has been published in American Popular Culture, The Reading Room, The Gay & Lesbian Review, Hippocampus, and Censored: The News that Didn¹t Make the News. Hollywood Hang Ten is her first novel.

NetGalley/Thistle Publishing

Mystery/Historical Fiction.  Oct. 5, 2017.  Print length:  247 pages.  

I've only read one other Sister Fidelma mystery and feel much the same way about Penance of the Damned as I did about the earlier book--good mystery, excellent history.  

Set in Ireland in 671 AD, Fidelma is sent to find out more about the murder of a bishop.  What she finds is a friend accused, religious disagreements, disquisitions on Irish law vs the laws of the New Faith, and a locked room mystery. 

The first of the novel is a little slow and deals with the recent history between Irish principalities that will effect Fidelma's mission to discover the truth about the bishop's murder. When Fidelma and Eadulf arrive in Prince Donnenach's fortress, however, the story begin to get interesting.

These books are as much (or more) for those interested in ancient Irish history as they are for lovers of historical mysteries.  I find the historical elements fascinating, especially conflicts between the New and the Old Faith and the information concerning ancient Irish law.

Peter Berresford Ellis (born 10 March 1943) is a historian, literary biographer, and novelist who has published over 90 books to date either under his own name or his pseudonyms Peter Tremayne and Peter MacAlan. He has also published 95 short stories. His non-fiction books, articles and academic papers have made him acknowledged as an authority on Celtic history and culture. As Peter Tremayne, he is the author of the international bestselling Sister Fidelma mystery series. His work has appeared in 25 languages.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Historical Mystery.  July 25, 2017.  Print length:  352 pages.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Devil's Wedding Ring by Vidar Sundstol

The Devil's Wedding Ring is a stand-alone novel that takes place in the Telemark region of Norway.  From the author of the Minnesota Trilogy, The Devil's Wedding Ring  is Nordic Noir --combining the present and the legendary past and revealing an intricate darker side to a beautiful region.

Max Fjelllanger left Norway almost thirty years ago after an unsettling incident in his early career with the police.  When he hears about the death of his former partner, Max feels compelled to return for the funeral.  Knut Abrahamsen supposedly filled his pockets with rocks and walked into the water, but Max is uneasy about the verdict of suicide, partly because of where Knut drowned.  

In 1985, both Max and Knut had been involved in the search for Peter Schram, a folklore researcher who disappeared on Midsummer Eve, and Max's own burden concerning that investigation revives his questions and guilt--especially about the corrupt sheriff who threatened him at the time.  The case was never solved; the young man was never found. Max feels he bears some responsibility...and wonders if Knut, too, found the case haunting.

When Max discovers that Cecilie Weiborg, who had also been researching pagan traditions and the Stave Church in Eidsborg, disappeared on the previous Midsummer Eve, he finds the coincidence too close for comfort. Instinct tells him that the disappearances of the two folklorists and Knut's death might be connected.

In the meantime, Tirill Vesterli, a librarian who loves mystery novels and wants to be a detective, is concerned when a man who has been stalking her returns after an absence.  She has her own theories about what happened to Cecilie Wieborg--she believes Cecilie's research into pagan folklore associated with the Stave Church in Eidsborg put the young woman in danger. 

Tirill is the highlight in this novel that is full of dark and atmospheric landscapes.  She is whip-smart, intuitive, and an intriguing mixture of quirky and practical.  Max eventually (reluctantly) teams up with Tirill, and the two make an excellent duo, playing to each other's strengths.

Tales of the ghostly monk and pagan rites may be more than embellished folklore, and Max and Tirill find that secrets of the past are still being protected, regardless of the human cost.
 Eidsborg Stave Church; source
More images of Stave Churches.

NetGalley/University of Minnesota Press

Mystery/Suspense.  Sept. 26, 2017.  Print length:  280 pages. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

A debut novel by Sarah Bailey, The Dark Lake provides a compelling psychological drama.

DS Gemma Woodstock is a complex and not always entirely likable character.  Her mother's death when she was thirteen and her boyfriend's suicide a few years later cast a pall on several aspects of her life.  Her job is extremely important to her; she likes the details of investigation and is respected and valued by her boss.  On the other hand, Gemma often seems insensitive, callous, or needy, and the decisions in her private life are often questionable.

The discovery of the body of Roselind Ryan, an enigmatic young teacher, shocks the community.  Rose and Gemma were high school classmates, but not friends.  Rose was the kind of person who charmed and intrigued others: beautiful, elusive, very private.

 Gemma and her partner Felix are beset with a litany of questions, but few answers.  Who would want to hurt Rose Ryan? What brought Rose back to her hometown?  Is there anyone at all who had a close relationship, a more than superficial knowledge of Rose?  Certainly not her family or her colleagues. 

Rose's murder and the subsequent investigation have an emotional effect on Gemma, reviving memories of the past.  The puzzle of Rose Ryan consumes her, but Gemma has some secrets of her own, past and present, that she is keeping.

An impressive first novel--a gripping psychological police procedural.  Well-written and deftly plotted.  Recommended.  :)

Read in June; blog post scheduled for Sept.   14

NetGalley/Grand Central Press

Psychological/Police Procedural.  Oct. 3, 2017.  Print length:  400 pages.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Five Books Due in 2018

Often the books I get from NetGalley are 6 months or more in advance of publication; this can be frustrating because I don't want to publish reviews that far in advance, but I can't hold off reading the books.

Here are some brief descriptions of books I read in July and August that won't be published until 2018.  Reviews will follow closer to publication dates.

*The Night Market by Jonathan Moore (Jan.)   "..a near-future thriller that makes your most paranoid fantasies seem like child’s play."
Intense and uncomfortable speculative fiction. Engrossing, disquieting, conspiracy, manipulation, ambiguous conclusion.  I haven't read The Poison Artist by Moore, but now I want to--I think.  Maybe because I am now so distrustful of any rich and/or powerful institution (business, industry, church, state) right now, The Night Market had a chilling effect.

A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond (Feb.)  (Cold Case Investigation #1) The major story line involves a current case in which detective Lauren Riley agrees to help a defense lawyer whose godson is on trial for murder.  OK, but not a series I will pursue.

The English Wife by Lauren Willig (Jan.)  Kind of spooky Gothic Lite.  If you are looking for Wilkie Collins or Du Maurier, this isn't going to satisfy, but The English Wife can provide an entertaining few hours and will be appreciated by fans of the author.

*The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor (Jan.) Had my complete attention from beginning to end!  Suspenseful, twisty psychological--an impressive first novel.  

**The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (Mar.)   Yes! A great ghost story!  I love a good ghost story, but I'm fussy and critical--and frequently disappointed when most ghost stories turn out to be less than I hoped for.  The Broken Girls was more than I expected or hoped for. Two time frames, a boarding school, a murder mystery, and plenty of suspense.  

I'm surprised the publication wasn't scheduled for October or November--prime reading time for eerie, mysterious, and supernatural stories.  Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed it in the heat of summer, but would have been the perfect book for an autumn evening with a fire in the fireplace and a cold wind moaning outside.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Clever and On Target

Tom Gault on saving time online

And More...

Can't help but laugh 
at Tom Gault's incisive humor.

How many of us recognize that library?

Thursday, September 07, 2017

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Each of Adler-Olsen's previous Dept. Q books have been engrossing, and I looked forward to The Scarred Woman.  However, I found myself starting and stopping a half dozen times before getting into the novel enough to finish it.

Even after I finally got engaged enough to finish the book, the novel never invoked the same fondness for the characters that I've had in all of the previous books, nor did I find the plot(s) as compelling. 

All of the women were disturbed, shallow,self-indulgent, and violent.  Rose isn't shallow, but deeply disturbed, and I felt strangely distant from her character.  

Why didn't this one satisfy me?  For many reasons, but mostly because it felt so different in character and plot development  from earlier books.  Obviously, this is my own opinion and others may not have the same perception. 

Read in July;  blog review scheduled for 9/7/17

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Police Procedural.  Sept. 19, 2017.  Print version:  480 pages.   

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Reading, Books, and Fearless Librarians

What is the point of reading, if you forget most of what you read?  It's OK to "Forget" Most of What You Read  says that "forgetting is not forgetting."       

I may not be able to recall most of what I read when asked on the spur of the moment, but much of what I read resurfaces when the occasion arises--in a conversation or when reading another book that references information I've read previously.  My subconscious background has been broadened--and maybe my understanding is more complete when an esoteric subject arises.

Even in fiction (especially if a book sends me to research an actual person or event) the information can be relevant in many other instances.  Novels that I can't even remember have led me to explore historical events, to reconsider social problems, to question my previous beliefs, to become more empathetic and understanding of certain situations.

I read a lot, and much of what I read is purely for entertainment. But even bad fiction can provide insight.  When I read nonfiction, I find myself more critically aware of what I read in fiction.  As a result, a novel I've all but forgotten may have influenced my reading in ways beyond conscious awareness, and nonfiction reading can help me appreciate the characters and events in various novels and to judge the accuracy of the history or setting.

I love this article about librarians on horseback.  

"The Pack Horse Library initiative was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), created to help lift America out of the Great Depression, during which, by 1933, unemployment had risen to 40 percent in Appalachia. Roving horseback libraries weren’t entirely new to Kentucky, but this initiative was an opportunity to boost both employment and literacy at the same time." (source)
There are more photos and information in the article.  Librarians are, indeed, amazing!  This was not an easy job, but these women could certainly be proud of the work they were doing.

Monday, September 04, 2017

An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. Mckillip

These two books have little in common other than their publication dates, but both are novels that can leave you pondering.

The William and Hester Monk series by Anne Perry is one of my favorite historical mystery series.  Each new release piques my interest, and I downloaded An Echo of Murder as soon as it was offered.

William Monk is an enigma.  In the The Face of a Stranger, the first novel in the series, he awakes in a hospital bed with amnesia.  He learns his own name only by a visit from someone who knows him, but hides his complete loss of memory of his past.  What he does learn fairly quickly is that he was a policeman; however, what he learns about the sort of man he was--doesn't present a flattering picture.

Over the many novels since then, Monk has continued to learn more about himself, has met and married Hester Latterly, and has had some career changes, all involved with investigating murder; he is currently the Commander of the Thames River Police.

Hester Latterly Monk served in the Crimea under Florence Nightengale.  She, too, has had several changes in her career, but she is dedicated to medicine and to serving those who can least afford care.  Intelligent, outspoken, and courageous, Hester is the kind of woman who precipitated change in the roles of women during the Victorian Era, and along with Nightengale, Hester was outraged and critical of those in charge of the disastrous Crimean War.

Both characters have an innate sense of justice, and Perry uses each of them to explore social and political issues of the time.  One of my favorites in the series was a mystery involving some of the first experiments with blood transfusions.

An Echo of Murder deals with a horrific series of murders against members of the Hungarian immigrant population in London;  the "echo" is relevant to present opinions and treatment of immigrants, a problem that has always existed.  Those who are different have difficulties in their attempts to maintain their own histories and culture and to assimilate into a new society.  

Aside from Monk and Hester, there are a number of recurring characters that make their appearance.  Perry does a fine job with characterization, plot, and addressing the kind of social issues that never go away. 

Read in June; blog review scheduled for Sept. 4

NetGalley/Random House/ Ballentine

Historical Mystery.  Sept. 19, 2017.  Print length:  320 pages.  

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillup is one of those books that has had an enduring effect on its readers over the years.  First published in 1974, the next year it won the Young Adult World Fantasy Award. It has influenced authors such as Susan Fletcher, Peter S. Beagle, Bruce Colville, Ben Lory, Gail Carriger, and Max Gladstone.  

Both a poetically rendered fairy tale and a morally complex narrative that illustrates large and small corruptions that result from destructive decisions, the novel turns a fairy tale into a kind of parable.

The villains can't be absolved for their decisions, but their reasoning and histories are understandable in the realm of human flaws and motivations.  The heroine is justified in her fury, but is also forced to confront her own destructive need for revenge.

A beautiful wizard; magical, sentient animals,; lovely prose; and complex attachments and relationships have made The Forgotten Beasts of Eld a classic adored and re-read by those who first discovered it decades ago.  Does it appeal to today's youth?  I don't know, but it seems that its influence remains in the works of many current authors who fell in love with it when they first read it.

I've read other books by McKillip, but it was Lark's review that encouraged me to read this one.  Fortunately, it was still available on NetGalley. 

Read in June; blog review scheduled for Sept. 4

NetGalley/Tachyon Publications

Fantasy/Fairy Tale.  Sept. 19, 2017.  (has been re-published numerous times, but I love this new cover!)  Print length:  248 pages.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sharon McCrumb and Catriona McPherson

The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb is historical fiction giving a remarkably researched account of the Greenbrier Ghost.  I had read about the trial in which the testimony of a ghost helped convict the murderer some time back, so I was already invested in discovering more about the murder of Zona Shue back in 1897.  

The case is still on record and you can read some of the newspaper accounts here.

The book is listed as historical fiction, but as a result of McCrumb's intensive research, there is little fiction other than the imagined conversations the author gives the characters.  All of the characters are real, as are the important events.  

Fascinating account of a historical incident.  (Teresa, this is from your neck of the woods!  Are you familiar with the story?)

Read in April.  Blog post scheduled for Aug. 30.

NetGalley/Atria Books

Historical Fiction.  Sept. 12, 2017.  Print length:  368 pages.

I've enjoyed each of Catriona McPherson books, and this was no exception.  House. Tree. Person. is the story of Ali McPherson, whose dreams have recently crashed.  Both she and her husband have lost their businesses and have had to sell their dream home and move into a tiny cottage.  Their teenage son Marco is also having difficulty adjusting to the move from friends and to the reduced circumstances.

Then Ali gets a job at Howell Hall, a nearby private psychiatric facility.  (play on How Well or Howl?)  Ali gets the job with a false resume and is pretty certain that the psychiatrist who hires her knows it, and her salary is more than it should be.  Ali is a little suspicious, but in desperate need of income.

As she gets to know the others who work at Howell Hall, she realizes that they are all misfits in some way.  Ali isn't the only one whose qualifications might be in question, and she has her own secrets to hide.

A body is discovered, and although the corpse is at least a decade old, Ali's son is questioned by the police. Dealing with problems at home, Ali also has reservations about the treatments of some of the patients at Howell Hall.   Ali begins to question everything, including her own stability.  

Ali is sometimes annoying, but with the patients at the facility, she shows great warmth and empathy.  Her concerns about her own life and mental health make her behavior erratic at times.

Tension and uncertainty abound in this latest by McPherson, who is quickly building a reputation for psychological suspense.  

I thought the title quite unusual, but it is explained in the novel.  House Tree Person is a technique used by some mental health professionals.

Read in April.  Blog post scheduled for Aug. 30

NetGalley/Midnight Ink.

Psychological Suspense.  Sept. 8, 2017.  Print length:  360 pages.