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Friday, February 22, 2019

Her Father's Secret by Sara Blaedel

I read The Undertaker's Daughter by Sara Blaedel last year and liked it.  

Unlike her Louise Ricks series, Blaedel has set her Ilka Jensen series in Racine, Wisconsin instead of Denmark .  When Ilka was about seven, her father abandoned his family in Denmark and moved to the U.S. where he started a new family.  Ilka never came to terms with the desertion of her beloved father.

When he died, Paul Jensen left his funeral home to Ilka, and she flew to Racine to finalize the estate and maybe find out more about her father.  The first book details her meeting with her father's new family (who reject her) and the problems concerning the sale of the funeral home. Oh, and a disappearing corpse and a decade old murder.

In Her Father's Secret, Ilka  continues to face difficulties involving selling the funeral home.  Worse, there is so little money available that even getting through pre-paid funerals is a challenge.  Ilka has found blackmail letters to her father from a woman named Maggie; someone is following Ilka; a feud between two wealthy and influential men becomes more threatening; Ilka's half-sister is seriously injured and her horses stolen; a woman is killed in a home invasion; and a boatload of uncomfortable and dangerous family secrets make this book much more suspenseful than the first book.  

A couple of unexpected twists at the end make me eager to read the next book.

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing
Mystery/Suspense.  Mar. 5, 2019.  Print version: 320 pages.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Boys Who Woke Up Early by A.D. Hopkins

In the little Virginia mountain town of Early in 1959, high school juniors Stony Shelor and Jack Newsome get involved in adventures sometimes humorous and some times very serious.  

from description:  Jack draws Stony into his fantasy of being a private detective, and the two boys start hanging around the county sheriff’s office. Accepted as sources of amusement and free labor, the aspiring gumshoes land their first case after the district attorney’s house is burglarized. Later, the boys hatch an ingenious scheme to help the deputies raid an illegal speakeasy and brothel. All the intrigue feels like fun and games to Jack and Stony until a gunfight with a hillbilly boy almost gets them killed. The stakes rise even higher when the boys find themselves facing off against the Ku Klux Klan.

 I really liked this one:  the writing, the characters, and the plot.  Stony and Jack are friends with completely different personalities, but who complement each other in this story of growing up in the late 1950's in the small town of Early.  There are many episodes that illustrate the different time frame yet evoke timeless situations and there is a current of suspense that works with the overall theme.  

Reading like a memoir, The Boys Who Woke Up Early is an engaging novel that captivated my interest early and held it throughout.

Read in January; review scheduled for Feb. 19.

NetGalley/Imbriflex Books
Coming of Age.  March 3, 2019.  Print length:  256 pages.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

What if you discovered that someone had been writing in your diary, adding comments connected to your own entries?  What if one of your friends had been recently murdered when you discovered the strange entries?

English teacher Claire Cassidy has been researching the life and works of R.M. Holland, the reclusive Victorian writer,  and teaches at the school located on Holland's estate.  When her friend and colleague Ella is murdered, a note with a line from Holland's most well-known work is discovered at the scene.  

If this were not disturbing enough, the notes that begin to appear in Claire's diary are in the same handwriting.

From the beginning, this eerie novel with Gothic overtones and allusions creates a feeling of unease and uncertainty.  

Without revealing anything, I will note that there was one situation that I found bothered me, but aside from that, the novel kept me glued to the pages, doubting one character after another, and it was not until the author wanted the reader to figure things out that the villain of the piece was clear.

The Stranger Diaries was surprising in several ways, and I loved the Gothic ambiance, the three narrative voices, the connection to the fictional R.M. Holland, and the fact that I didn't solve the puzzle until Griffith's was ready.

The sinister and spooky ambiance was both unsettling and fun--in keeping with a modern Gothic.

The book is a stand-alone, but I'd like to see Elly Griffiths continue this Gothic mystery style or at least give DS Harbinder Kaur another case.

Read in November; blog review scheduled for Feb. 18, 2019

NetGalley/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Mystery/Gothic.  March 5, 2018.  Print length:  416 pages.

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Merciful Secret by Kendra Elliot and Other Stuff

 This is the third in the Mercy Kirkpatrick series by Kendra Elliot, and I'm still enjoying the series.   Returning late at night from her secret hideaway cabin (Mercy's prepper instincts are too strong to resist), Mercy  almost hits a frightened girl who needs help for her grandmother.   

Following the girl to a cabin deep in the woods, Mercy discovers the grandmother has been brutally attacked and is dying from her wounds. 

How does the murder of the old woman connect to the murder of a well-known judge in Portland?

The "secret" in A Merciful Secret makes an interesting twist to the story.      

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The Guardian's Best Recent Crime and Thrillers Review-Roundup    I haven't read any of them although two are on my list. 


A book hostel in Japan where you can sleep in the shelves?   

  Book and Bed Tokyo
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I've been doing some more on the white embroidery piece while watching shows on Netflix and/or Amazon Prime.  

Although this is a month of letter writing challenges, I have not been participating in either InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writers Month) or LetterMo (Month of Letters).  In fact, I'm behind in answering the letters I've recently received, but since my husband is going to be out of town this weekend, I plan to get busy and answer my mail. 

Today will be a pajama day which means reading books, writing letters, maybe some binge-watching and embroidery, and plenty of snacks.  I'm prepared for self-indulgence.  :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Killer Collective by Barry Eisler


Seattle detective Livia Lone is tracking down a pedophile ring with the assistance of an FBI hacker.  When startling links to a government agency turn up, Livia is warned off and the investigation closed down.

Outraged, Livia can't decide what to do--until she is targeted by two assassins in what seems to be coincidentally close to the timing of the investigation that was just closed down.

As it turns out, the hit on Livia was first offered to John Rain.  Rain, retired from black ops with a specialty in "natural causes," refused the job. 

I have not read the John Rain series by Eisler and was surprised at how he could bring in so many characters from the series and make it work, but he does.  Even though this is the 10th book in the John Rain series, it functions as a standalone.

Fast-paced and suspenseful, the novel makes the best of a large cast of characters.  

About the author: Barry Mark Eisler is a best-selling American novelist. He is the author of two thriller series, the first featuring anti-hero John Rain, a half-Japanese, half-American former soldier turned freelance assassin, and a second featuring black ops soldier Ben Treven. Wikipedia

And there is also a third series featuring Livia Lone.  The Killer Collective combines the characters from all three series.  It may sound complicated, but it isn't.  The book read quickly, and I couldn't put it down.

Also, of genuine interest to me, was a section of Notes at the end.  For each chapter there are links to articles that provided the inspiration for events in the story.  

Livia's sting was based partly on "The Takeover:  How Police Ended Up Running a Paedophile Site."

Remarks about Pentagon spending:  "Only the Pentagon Could Spend $640 on a Toilet Seat."

Other links on cognitive dissonance, the "hurtcore" subculture, Secret Service scandals (oh, yes, we've read about some of those), a link to Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear:  Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence (a good idea to follow your gut to avoid dangerous situations), Erik Prince's Plan to Privatize the War in Afghanistan which provided the basis for the OGE group, and on and on.  

The links give relevance to the plot, but they are also pretty damn scary because they show the dark side of a lot of things, and I've only listed a few.  

“The fun of Eisler’s super thriller is in the excitement, the chase, and the survival. The Killer Collective binds it together into a blazing adventure of espionage escape fiction, perfect to start the new year.” —New York Journal of Books


Kindle Unlimited.
Thriller/Suspense.  

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Ann Cleeves New Series; The Dead Witch on the Bridge and The Familiars

I've enjoyed Ann Cleeves' Shetland series with Jimmy Perez (which she recently concluded) and her Vera Stanhope series (long may it continue), but she also has a new series in the works!  

I've recently finished two witchy books.

Gretchen Galway's Dead Witch on a Bridge is the first in a series (Sonoma Witches #1), a kind of cozy witch mystery.  Alma Bellrose failed as a demon hunter for the Protectorate and now lives in the quiet and isolated community of Silverpool in the redwood forest.  

When her former boyfriend is murdered, Alma finds herself in an awkward situation that could (and does) turn dangerous.  Various characters are introduced that will no doubt be further developed in future books, but my favorite is Random, the dog that appears on the morning after the murder and becomes quite attached to and protective of Alma.

The first in this series was fun and has interesting possibilities. :)

NetGalley/ Kobo books
Paranormal/Mystery.  Jan. 15, 2019.  Print length:  340 pages.


The Familiars by Stacey Halls is a much more serious book that takes a fictional look at the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612.  

Most of the characters were real people, and Stacey Halls creates a rich and frightening narrative with the character of Fleetwood Shuttleworth.  Fleetwood, a genuine historical figure (as imagined by Halls) is a fascinating young woman whose character grows and develops throughout the novel.

Having suffered three miscarriages, seventeen-year-old Fleetwood is suffering through her fourth pregnancy, ill and frightened that she will once again loses the baby.  After finding a letter written to her husband by a doctor who examined her, Fleetwood realizes that she may not survive this pregnancy, and her fear and distress is heightened.

 When Fleetwood meets Alice Grey, she discovers that the young woman is a midwife.  In her desperation, she insists on hiring Alice to care for her and to deliver her child, bucking the advice of others who believe a more experienced midwife should be engaged.  

In the meantime, Alizon Device is arrested and accused of murder by witchcraft.  Much like in the Salem witch trials, the frenzy of accusations increased and spread.  

As she loses trust in almost everyone else, Fleetwood comes to trust Alice Grey,  and when Alice is also caught up in the accusations and imprisoned, Fleetwood is determined to save her.

What resonates so strongly in the book is the role of women--obedient wives, powerless over their own wealth; the importance of producing an heir and the dangers of childbirth; women whose opinions are ignored, and who are easily blamed for things that have natural causes.   

Initially, I was distressed and worried by Fleetwood's vulnerability, but the book moved
 into a compelling story as Fleetwood and Alice work together to insure Fleetwood's health and a successful childbirth.   Then Fleetwood does her best to prevent Alice from facing the gallows after her arrest. 

There is also an understated, but intriguing element of the supernatural that gives some ambiguity to the story.  I liked the way this was hinted at, rather than emphasized.

Interesting tidbit:  Sharon Bolton's The Craftsman is a suspenseful modern take on Pendle Hill and the witches.

NetGalley 
Historical Fiction.  Feb. 19, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.







Monday, February 04, 2019

The Vanishing Season; The House of Secrets

The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen is a debut novel that introduces Abby Hathaway, who now goes by the name of Ellery to keep her privacy in tact.  As a child, Abby was kidnapped and tortured before being rescued by a young FBI agent.  She is the only victim of a serial killer who survived.

As an adult, Ellery changes her name, moves to Massachusetts, and joins a police force in a small town.  Keeping her life as private as possible shields her from an onslaught of journalists who might want to revisit her kidnapping and rescue.

But as birthday cards begin showing up with cryptic messages, Ellery becomes increasingly uneasy.  And near the time of each birthday card, a local disappearance occurs.  Unable to get the local police chief interested without giving herself away, Ellery contacts the FBI agent who rescued her with her concerns that a new disappearance will be occurring soon.

I suspected the villain, and I didn't find him especially believable, but an interesting first novel from Joanna Schaffhausen.

The cover of this one bothers me.  Does anyone else think the cover is a little weird--under the word season?

ARC in the mail.
Crime/ Mystery.  2017.  274 pages.


Originally published in 2016 as Weeping in the Wings, the book is being republished under the new title of The House of Secrets.  

From description:  Sarah Bennett has two secrets: she sees ghosts, and she is in love with a spy.
When Sarah takes a job with occult expert Dr Matthew Geisler, he promises to help her understand the sorrowful spirit that seems to have attached itself to her.

I can't resist a ghost story and this one had several interesting features as the setting is during WWII at a home converted into a psychiatric hospital.  However, a lot of the more interesting possibilities were overlooked and the characters felt one-dimensional.  There was too much going on:  ghostly presence, espionage angle, psychiatric facility and mental illness, family dysfunction, a runaway bride, gas-lighting, romance, etc., etc.  

If only one or two of these aspects had received more attention and some of the others eliminated, I would have enjoyed it more.  Another problem for me is that this is the second book in the series, and there are many references to events in the first book which I have not read.  I felt really left out of background material.

NetGalley
Paranormal/Mystery.  2016; April 2019.  Print length:  252 pages.

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Just for fun:  Mr. Bean in the Art Gallery

 Check the above link for more silliness.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Merciful Truth by Kendra Elliot and Some Interesting Articles

Book #2 in this series.  Mercy Kirkpatrick's family, dominated by her father, has had mixed feelings about her return to the small town of Eagle's Nest.  Her sister Rose is the only one who is wholeheartedly happy for Mercy's return.

After the conclusion of the first book, Mercy took a position with the FBI office in Bend, Oregon to be closer to Eagle's Nest, Rose, and police chief Truman Daly.  Before he died, her brother Levi asked Mercy to take over the care of his daughter Kaylie, so she is also trying to find her feet in parenting a teenager.  

A series of fires, first thought to be the work of teenagers, turns into something more sinister.  An anti-government militia is forming in a secluded area, and Kaylie's boyfriend Cade works on construction at the ranch.  When Cade sees something he shouldn't, an already dangerous situation becomes even more menacing.

A Merciful Truth can be read as a standalone, but since it is only the second in the series, it is easy to begin with the first book for a more thorough background.  I have #3 in hand :)

Kindle Unlimited
Crime/Suspense.  2017.  Print length:  322 pages.  

---------- Interesting---------

An Interview with Lyndsay Faye over at Kittling Books.

Book covers can make the difference on whether or not we give a book a chance.  This article gives examples of iconic dust covers from the 1920's and 1930's.  My, how covers have changed. 

The Year in Sherlockiana 




Saturday, January 26, 2019

Never Tell by Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner's Never Tell brings D.D. Warren and Flora Dane back together in a powerful mystery that kept me glued to the pages.  The story is told in three voices:  D.D., Flora, and Evie Carter.

Evie Carter's husband is shot three times at his desk.  Evie takes the gun and shoots his computer twelve times just as the police arrive.  

When D.D. is notified, her interest is amplified because 16 years ago, Evie killed her father.  That death was ruled accidental.  D.D. vividly remembers this case and how sixteen-year-old Evie behaved at the time.   Now D.D. has to wonder whether the death of Evie's father was really accidental.

When Flora sees the news and recognizes the photo of Conrad Carter as a man who met with Jacob Ness, Flora's kidnapper, she is stunned.  (There is a lot of back story on how D.D. and Flora met and how Flora became a vigilante and D.D.'s confidential informant.  Flora's first appearance in this series begins with Find Her.)

Evie, who has been subject to suspicion and media scrutiny for years, tries to figure out what happened to her marriage and to her life.  The answers are surprising, and Gardner carefully introduces them while still keeping the reader in suspense.

Gardner's introduction of Flora Dane into an established series was a brilliant move.  In Never Tell, she introduces two new characters that will give her a broader range of stories to tell.  Evie's character has enough depth to make it possible she may appear again in future works and the computer geek and crime buff Keith Edgar will provide another aspect to future works.

Never Tell is an excellent, well-plotted, and fascinating addition to the series.  I had to slow myself down with this one--it moves quickly and skillfully from one voice to another, but without leaving each chapter as a cliffhanger.  I finished each chapter ready to switch to a new perspective, not frustrated at being cut off in the middle of a story.

If you've already been involved with these characters, you will love this one.  If not, it functions well as a standalone, but you might want to go back to Find Her to get all of the background on Flora Dane.

Recommended.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Crime Fiction/Suspense.  Feb. 19, 2019.  Print length:  416 pages.  

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot

I found a new series that I enjoy.  Mercy Kilpatrick is an FBI Agent whose latest case has taken her back to Eagle's Nest, Oregon where she was born and raised.  

Mercy is not happy to be back in the town she left when she was 18.  For the past 15 years, she has had no contact with any of her family.  Raised in a family of preppers in a town where many people have chosen the prepper life style and often live off the grid, Mercy may have moved away, but she still has the ingrained need to be prepared in case of any catastrophic event.

The crime Mercy and her partner Ed Peterson have been assigned to involves the murder of several preppers and the theft of weapons from each home.  Is someone building a stockpile of weapons?  Is the purpose some kind of domestic terrorism?

One of the victims is the uncle of the current Eagle's Nest police chief, and he has a personal investment in the case.  Truman Daly is doubtful, but intrigued when Mercy sees a connection between the recent murders and murders from the past.  While there are many differences, the fact that all the mirrors in each house have been broken in the current murders resonates with the murders from fifteen years earlier.  And Mercy ought to know.

Truman is relatively new to the town, although he spent several summers as a teenager visiting his uncle, he is not fully accepted by the entire town.  Mercy has the background knowledge and understanding of the mindset of many of the town's citizens.  The two work well together and there is a growing attraction between the two that never takes away from solving the case.

Well-fleshed characters, interesting insight into preppers and survivalists, and a town with some memorable inhabitants.  A Merciful Death reads quickly with enough background on various characters and the town's history to give the setting a realistic atmosphere and unique sense of place while never diluting the suspense.

I've already started on the second book.  :)

Kindle Unlimited
Crime/Suspense.  2017.  Print length:  352 pages.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Old You by Louise Voss


The Old You by Louise Voss has an intriguing premise.  For Lynn Naismith the onset of dementia in her husband Ed is devastating, but there are a few things that confuse her about the situation.  Although Lynn puts some worrisome situations out of her mind, she does question certain events.  Not too seriously, though.

Unfortunately, I found the pacing slow and uneven until the latter part of the novel, at which point the twists just annoyed me.  It was really difficult to sympathize with any of the characters. 

Not much of the novel rang true for me, and I really lost patience with the bit about the clinical trial.  Lynn's acceptance of all of the trial and all of the discrepancies and inconsistencies was too hard to accept.


NetGalley/Trafalgar Square Publishing
Domestic Noir?  2018 & Jan. 1, 2019.  Print length:  300 pages.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Night Window, Jane Hawk #5


Although I didn't read the first novel in this series, I've read each of the four following novels.  

About the series:  Groundbreaking, wholly involving, eerily prescient and terrifyingly topical, Dean Koontz's Jane Hawk series sets a new standard for contemporary thrillers. Since her sensational debut in The Silent Corner, readers have been riveted by Jane Hawk's resolute quest to take down the influential architects of an accelerating operation to control every level of society via an army of mind-altered citizens. At first, only Jane stood against the "Arcadian" conspirators, but slowly others have emerged to stand with her, even as there are troubling signs that the "adjusted" people are beginning to spin viciously out of control. Now, in the thrilling, climactic showdown that will decide America's future, Jane will require all her resources--and more--as she confronts those at the malevolent, impregnable center of power.

When reviews call the books suspenseful and categorize the series as thrillers--there is no exaggeration.  Your heart will speed up, your grip on the book or e-reader tighten, and you will wonder if  you can continue.  Sometimes, I had to get up and walk around before coming back to see what happened next in each of the four books I read.

The Night Window won't be released until May, but if you are interested in this series, you have time to check out the earlier books and see what you think.

The Night Window is the concluding book, and I sped through it.  Here is another one of those reading dilemmas:  do you want the series to end? --yes, I want a conclusion and no, I'm not ready for the characters to abandon me.  So...now it has ended, and  I'm left with both satisfaction and a little sadness.   

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine
Suspense/Thriller.  May 14, 2019.  Print length:  432 pages.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Meandering Through January



Prism Cloud by Jeff Wheeler is #4 in The Harbinger series and continues the adventures of Cettie and Sera as war once again breaks out between Kingfountain and Muirwood.  There is a bit of role reversal as Sera becomes more confident in her abilities and Cettie allows herself to become caught up in the schemes of the mother she never knew.  While Sera's transformation seemed logical, Cettie's switch of loyalties didn't ring true for me.  Will see how this twist develops in the next installment.  

I'm liking Sera's adventures much better than Cettie's at this point.

Read in December; review scheduled ---

NetGalley/47 North

Fantasy.  March 5, 2019.  Print length:  332 pages.



The Vanishing Man is another prequel to the Charles Lennox mysteries.  In 1853, Charles is a youthful 26 trying to establish himself in his new profession.  He isn't even sure how to describe himself--investigator, detective?  What he enjoys is solving puzzles.


When the Duke of Dorset approaches him about a missing painting, Charles is eager for an endorsement from an important individual.  However, as the investigation continues, the Duke turns contrary.  What is the secret behind the missing painting and the more valuable one that was left behind?

Read in Oct.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Historical Mystery.  Feb. 19, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields is the first in the DI Callenach series.  DI Luc Callenach is new to Edinburgh via Interpol and a past he would rather not discuss.  

Luc's father was Scottish, his mother French, but after his father's death, Luc's mother returned to France where he was raised.  He is not particularly warmly received in his new position and doesn't make things easier on himself.  DI Ava Turner--down-to-earth, practical, and warm--makes an offer of friendship that Luc gradually accepts and feels comfortable with.  Both characters are interesting and well-drawn.

Luc is immediately drawn into the case ofElaine Buxton, a respected lawyer, who has been abducted.  When a body with forensic evidence appearing to identify Elaine is found, the search for a missing person changes to a homicide investigation.  But Elaine is not dead.  This is revealed almost immediately to the reader, although the investigators continue to believe her dead and hunt for the killer.

Then another respected and intelligent woman disappears.  The reader is aware of what is going on, but Luc and Ava and various team members are in the dark.  It is easy to get wrapped up in this narrative, but I could have wished for less emphasis on the sadistic violence.  

In this first in a series featuring Callenach and Turner, the author introduces other characters who will play roles in future books.  (I read Perfect Prey, the second in the series in 2017, and felt about the same: liked the characters and and elements of the plot, but too much emphasis on the gruesome.)

Read in December.  

Purchased.
Crime/Detective Fiction.  2017.  Print length:  417 pages.
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Most Talked About Crime Fiction-- I've read The Paragon Hotel, Scrublands, The Burglar, The Last of the Stanfields, and The Boy, but there are 20 titles on the list.  Have you read any on the list? 








Saturday, January 12, 2019

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Scrublands will be on my list of favorites next year!

After a traumatic event in Gaza, reporter Martin Scarsden is sent to Riversend, a small country town in Australia devastated by a long drought.  A year earlier, a charismatic young Anglican priest had opened fire on the church steps--killing five men.  Martin's assignment is to write about the the effects on the town a year later.  

The question of "why" reverberates--why did Byron Swift shoot down the five men before being killed himself by his friend Constable Robbie Haus-Jones?  Surprised by the response of various town members who still seem to admire and respect the young priest,  Martin is perplexed.  

The owner of the local bookshop urges Martin to investigate the why.  Why a popular and beloved young man committed such a violent and senseless crime.  A simple assignment is thereby turned on its head as Martin's own curiosity pulls him deeper into the story.  Some things about the original story don't seem to fit, and Martin finds himself falling into a rabbit hole leading to more questions than answers.  

Not wanting to give away too much, I found this one of the most fascinating and intricate novels I've read in a while.  The descriptions of the small town of Riversend and the scrublands make the setting an essential part of the story, the characters are complex, and as other developments occur, the question of how everything fits together becomes more acute.  The narrative keeps building, the puzzle more confounding, the action more intense.

Beautifully written, Chris Hammer's first novel is a gripping, curious, and complex tale that kept me engrossed.

Chris Hammer has worked as journalist for more than thirty years, alternating between covering federal politics and international affairs. Chris has worked as Senior Writer for The Age, Chief Political Correspondent for The Bulletin and Online Political Editor for FairfaxAs a roving international correspondent for SBS TV’s Dateline program, he reported from more than thirty countries across six continents. 
Chris is the author of two successful and well-received non-fiction books, published by Melbourne University Press: The River: A Journey through the Murray-Darling Basin and The Coast: A Journey along Australia’s Eastern ShoresThe River was shortlisted for the 2010 Walkley Book Award and won the ACT Book of the Year in 2011. The book recounts Chris’ travels through the Australian bush during 2008 and 2009, from Queensland to South Australia, at the height of the worst drought in Australian history. It’s those travels and the people he met that provided the inspiration, and inform the setting, for Chris’s first work of fiction, Scrublands. (source)
A stunning first novel and highly recommended.

NetGalley/Touchstone
Crime/Investigation.  Jan. 8, 2018.  Print length:  385 pages.  

Friday, January 11, 2019

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

When I was young my father had a subscription to National Geographic Magazine and kept his copies year after year.  No longer would all of them fit in the house, so older copies went into shelves in the storeroom.  I'd sit for hours looking through them, mostly interested in the articles and photos about ancient history and archaeology.  The iron age bog bodies have continued to fascinate me.  

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss opens with a scene of a young woman being prepared as a sacrifice or for an execution.  The details echo those of the 16 year old Yde girl and the Windeby girl.  


Then we are introduced to the current situation in which seventeen-year-old Silvie and her parents are participating in an iron age reenactment along with a university professor and his students.


Set in Northumberland in the 1990's, the descriptions of the small camp, forest, and countryside do create a feeling of an earlier time.  However, the group is not far from civilization, and Molly, one of the students, makes clandestine use of a near by convenience store.  

Moss creates the feeling of isolation and repression immediately in taut descriptions that involve more than the physical setting.  Professor Slade is pretty easy-going, but Silvie's father Bill is not, and  it is clear that he would like his dictatorial and controlling views to be accepted by more than his wife and daughter.

Physically and emotionally abusive, the father tries to keep a wall around his family and particularly around Silvie.  If the others are aware, only Molly seems concerned.  Retreating to the past is, for the students, an exercise for credit, but for Bill it carries much more weight.  Silvie and her mother are only there because of Bill.

Ghost Wall is actually a novella, but it didn't feel like one because of its density--packing so much in so few pages. There are numerous themes, each handled in an understated manner that seeps into your consciousness.  I was both pleased and frustrated by the conclusion which was a little rushed, and I was curious about some of the outcomes, wanting to know more.

There are walls aplenty--physical, mental, social, and metaphysical--and plenty to think about in this short book.   

NetGalley/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

General Fiction/Coming of Age.   Jan. 8, 2018.  Print length:  144 pages.



Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Some of 2018 Favorites

Finally managed to decide on a favorite list for the past yer and I'm still not at all sure about it.  Maybe I will pay more attention to favorites each month to make the final selection a little easier.  :)

Favorites for 2018


Circe by Madeline Miller

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsey Faye
Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
The Exes Revenge by Jo Jakeman
Snap by Belinda Bauer
A Sharp Solitude by Christine Carbo
Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Lullaby Road by James Anderson
Censored:  A Literary History of Subversion & Control by Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis
And the Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic

Honorable Mention:


Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Look for Me by Lisa Gardner
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (read in 2017, but review posted in 2018)
The Hollow of Fear (Lady Sherlock #3) by Sherry Thomas
Salt Lane by William Shaw
The Last of the Stansfields by Marc Levy
Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths 

and several books by Kerry Wilkinson, Joy Ellis, Anne Bishop, Kelly Armstrong; authors who always fall in my favorite lists


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For all readers of novels this tweet should prove interesting.  I mean, who hasn't read a book with a cemetery setting and a mysterious figure in black, standing at a distance?

Even funnier--all the responses and suggestions.  I cracked up when Neil Gaiman got in on this, wondering if he should put it in his will or pay in advance.  :)  




Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Plotters by Un-Su Kim

Translated by Sora Kim-Russell, The Plotters is the American debut of Korean author Un-Su Kim.  

From Description:  Behind every assassination, there is an anonymous mastermind--a plotter--working in the shadows. Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city's most dangerous criminals, but their existence is little more than legend. Just who are the plotters?

The Plotters is a strange book that mixes noir with absurdist situations.  Reseng, an antihero, is an an assassin raised  in the library of Old Raccoon, the librarian.  The reader is introduced to contractors, plotters, fixers, assassins guilds, assassins--and targets.

Assassins maintain a distance from their work that lets them discuss the deaths of their targets and the deaths of their fellow assassins  with detachment and acceptance.  This emotional detachment is necessary for an assassin, but Resang has, in the back of his mind, an awareness of the situation and actually chooses this distance to continue with his "profession."  After all, he was raised for it.

Several events over the years, however, have begun to weaken the disassociation.  Two particular deaths (murders) of assassins he has respected have gradually interfered with his typical "just a job" attitude.  A chance to have another life with a young woman he met at 22, a chance he threw away, also begins to figure into his questioning of his role--questions he has resisted most of his life.  He revisits these events in his mind.

Two recent jobs bring doubts to the forefront, and although he has always known that he will probably be a target himself, acknowledging this fact in relation to his recent experiences results in a change of goal.  This is not to say that he feels remorse, exactly, but the sea change that has been building over several years takes a more dramatic turn when his friend is murdered and he gets involved with three curious women, one of whom is a plotter that had a bomb placed in his toilet.

Filled with offbeat and provocative characters, The Plotters' smooth translation is geared to making the novel flow easily for Western readers.  I hope Un-Su Kim will have another English translation soon.

Read in November; blog review scheduled for Jan. 8, 2019.

NetGalley/Doubleday Books

Thriller?/Satire.  Jan. 29, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Heading to 2019 and Four Reviews

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!   

Catching up on all the blogs I usually keep track of proved a bit too much after nearly a full week away from home while we were all gathered down at the camp.  I gave up trying because there is still stuff to do and finish up at the end of the year.  

After the hectic Christmas activities, everyone needs a little time to recover and reflect as one year ends and another is quickly coming around.  I'm considering taking another break from FB, and from constantly checking the news as a New Year's Resolution.  It wasn't too difficult down in the country because there was no WiFi, but now that I'm home, it is proving difficult.  

December reading:


Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire  by M.R.C. Kasasian features Betty Church as one of the first women Detective Inspectors in 1939.  After losing part of her arm, Betty leaves the Metropolitan Police for her home village in Suffolk.  Expecting little activity in the sleepy backwater village, she becomes entangled with a number of strange murders.

I found the characters all a bit too eccentric for my taste.  Betty is the only one who has any common sense--all the others are caricatures.  Her constables are annoying in their idiocy, her boss has PTSD, her parents are clueless and irritating, and Dodo Chivers is exasperatingly tiresome.  

Had it been shorter and not trying so hard, I might have liked it better.   

NetGalley/Head of Zeus
Historical Mystery.  Feb. 7, 2019.  Print length:  432 pages!


Silent Suspect by Kerry Wilkinson is the 13th installment in Wilkinson's Jessica Daniel series.  Jessica's friend Bex has been missing for three months when she gets a phone call and the only word spoken is "Jessica" before the call ends.  But it is Bex's voice.  

The call is from a public phone booth in Blackpool, and as soon as Jessica traces the call, she is off to the seaside town in search of Bex.  Things get strange as soon as Jessica locates the phone booth and sees a poster of a missing young woman who is similar in appearance to Bex.

She calls the number on the poster and agrees to meet a man who says the missing girl is his sister.  On meeting the man, Jessica feels a little uncomfortable and no further in her attempt to locate her friend.  The next morning, she is awakened by police.  The man she met with has been found dead on the beach.

Now Jessica is not only still searching for Bex, but is a suspect in the man's death.

An interesting side story includes Jessica seeking help from Andrew Hunter, the PI in another series by Wilkinson.  Other than the help from Hunter, Jessica is cut off from her home base of Manchester and her friends on the force.  Her search for Bex has led her into complex criminal activity and an attempt to frame her for murder.

Another winner from Kerry Wilkinson.  :)

NetGalley/Bookouture
Detective fiction/Suspense.  Jan. 14, 2019.  Print length:  316 pages.


Victoria Jenkins is an Australian crime writer and this is the fourth in her series with Detectives Alex King and Chloe Lane.   I haven't read any of the previous books, but A Promise to the Dead functions as a stand-alone. 

A young couple run out of gas in an isolated area.  Matthew leaves his girlfriend in the car as he searches for help.  Unfortunately, he winds up seeing something he wasn't supposed to and the next morning he is missing and his girlfriend is dead.

Alex and Chloe have another case of a missing young man, and then the discovery of a body that proves to be that of a young man who went missing thirty years ago.  Are the three cases connected?  Two recent disappearances and the remains of a young man from decades past keep the team trying to unravel the puzzle.

NetGalley/Bookouture
Police Procedural.  Jan. 21, 2019.  
  
Code Name: Lise by Larry Loftis.  Odette Sansom Hallowes is also known as Odette Churchill and was recruited by the SOE in 1942.

My problem with this biography are the "conversations."  While some of these can be documented in general, using this as dialogue feels too much like fiction.  I prefer a third person account unless conversations can be documented verbatim with appropriate footnotes.

Odette Sansom was a French woman married to an Englishman and joined the SOE in 1942.

I did like the references to the SOE, Leo Marks, Colonel Buckmaster, and a few others because I was familiar with them from other books about the SOE.  It was  a bit disconcerting to get to the end and read the criticism of some historians in regard to Odette's service.  While I admire the author for including the controversy, it left me a little unsettled about the roles of Odette and Peter Churchill.  

An intriguing look at the lives of some of the agents in occupied France, Code Name: Lise 
examines the service of one of the most famous of the SOE agents and one who survived Ravensbruck concentration camp.

If you are interested in the SOE and the intelligence operations in Europe I can recommend Leo Marks' Between Silk and Cyanide.

  The purpose of the SOE was "to conduct espionagesabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe (and later, also in occupied Southeast Asia) against the Axis powers, and to aid local resistance movements."

 Leo Marks, a cryptographer, headed the code department " supporting resistance agents in occupied Europe for the secret Special Operations Executive organisation" while Maurice Buckmaster was the head of "F" section.  

Also another book about an SOE agent in France is Nancy Wake by Russel Braddon.

Read in October.

NetGalley/Gallery Books
History/WWII/Espionage.  Jan. 15, 2019.  Print length:  384 pages.