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Monday, December 05, 2016

The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe

The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe begins with the  horrific murder of an unidentified woman.  The macabre tale is told from three different points of view:  Peter, a detective; Hanne, a profiler who has done no police work in years; and Emma, a young woman who has been associated with the man suspected of the murder.

All of the main characters have issues that keep the reader alternating between sympathy and frustration, but it is easy to get caught up in their stories. 

The atmosphere throughout is creepy; and there is a question of the reliability of the narrators--creating that uneasy gut feeling of uncertainty.  All of the characters seem to have relinquished making decisions in their lives, choosing  a kind of passive aggressive acceptance of  events as they come.  

Hanne has, in the past, made one attempt to free herself, but when that fell through, she reverted to her previous passivity.  Despite the circumstances stacked against her, Hanne does again try for something better when she returns to her role with the police against her husband's wishes.

The weakest element is the too typical use of a bizarre murder to get the reader's attention. The murder does not require the shocking method to retain the symbolic concept the author intends, and strangely, the sensational aspect of the murder lessens as the plot proceeds.

Nevertheless, this is one of those psychological thrillers that will keep you riveted as you puzzle out the pieces of this enigmatic crime novel. 

Read in Aug.; blog review scheduled for Dec. 5, 2016.

NetGalley/Random House

Psychological/Scandinavian Crime.  Dec. 27, 2016.  Print length:  368 pages.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Obelisk Gate and So Say the Fallen

Two more November books that kept me interested.

The Obelisk Gate is the second book in N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy.  I can't imagine what goes into writing a trilogy with the scope and depth that Jemisin produces.  The characters and the world continued to entertain me, and I was pleased to continue the development of Hoa and Nessun.  Essun remains the touchstone, but other curious stories are emerging around other characters.  

Did I like it as much as the first book?  No, and I'm not entirely sure why.  Maybe the world-building and character introduction were so unexpected in the first book that the second book couldn't compete with that novel experience. Some sections felt slow as well, and the deliberate hiding of certain information was less titillating and more frustrating than in the first novel.

Which is only to say that I didn't love it with the same intensity as The Fifth Season (reviewed here), but I'm still fascinated with some of the characters and eagerly await a conclusion to the trilogy.

Library copy.

Dystopian/Scifi/Fantasy.  August, 2016.  Print length:  448 pages.



So Say the Fallen by Stuart Neville  is the second in Neville's DCI Serena Flanagan series, but the first I've read.  

Serena Flanagan is not at first suspicious of the suicide of the severely disabled Peter Garrick.  His injuries from an accident are terrible; his wife seems devastated.  Yet some ambiguous, indefinite aspect of the death bothers Serena, and she finds herself unable to immediately sign off on the death as suicide.  The Reverend Peter McKay, a close family friend, comforts Roberta Garrick in her grief over her husband's death.  

Tragedy has followed the Garrick family, and even before Peter Garrick's accident, the couple had lost their young daughter, but even while feeling the sadness of two tragedies in the little family, Serena's instincts tell her to keep digging.

A well-plotted mystery with interesting characters.  A series I will happily pursue.

Library copy.

Crime/Police Procedural.  September 2016.  Print length:  336 pages.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Catching Up

I'm still reading Sei Shonogon's Pillow Book a little at a time and still enjoying it.  None of her entries are very long which makes it easy to read one, or several, within a short time.  It makes me smile to think of her interest in clothes.  The clothing for both men and women in that period (at least for the 10th c. court figures she describes) was elaborate and colorful, and Shonagon gives frequent admiring descriptions of what people were wearing.

The interest in poetry also surprises me--reciting famous poems on cue, recognizing a line from a famous poet and being able to complete the poem, and writing original poetry was both an entertainment and a challenge.  One person creates a line of an original poem, and another must come up with the first line.  Often notes were sent couched in poetry that must be replied to poetically--and the poems were read aloud and judged by an audience.  For example, if a court figure sent Shonagon a poem, she knew the poem she sent in response would be read and evaluated.  Word play is another form of entertainment appreciated by the court in both names and jokes--I frequently have to flip to the end notes to get the implied meanings.

In the meantime, I continue to read mysteries and police procedurals in a completely different manner from Shonogan's Pillow Book.  I swallow these whole.  No reading a few pages and putting down a mystery or a police procedural for me--I'm going to finish before going to bed in most cases.  

About two weeks ago, I read J.M. Gregson's An Academic Death from Endeavor Press offered through NetGalley.  I discovered that earlier books in this series are available for free in Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program and that was enough encouragement to read more.

Making a Killing is the second book in Gregson's Lambert & Hook series of police procedural series.  The cover has little to do with the book or with the murder of an estate agent whose body is discovered in a beautiful old home full of grace and character.

What I like about the series is the effort the author puts into character development.  All of the suspects have a grudge against the murdered Stanley Freeman, and as Superintendent Lambert and DS Hook investigate, the suspects reveal themselves little by little through the skillful questioning of Lambert and Hook and through their own thoughts.

First published in 1990, Making a Killing avoids graphic descriptions and concentrates on the investigation as each suspect evolves into a genuine individual.  Freeman was an unpleasant man whose actions caused grief and resentment both in his employees and his wife, and it is easy to sympathize with the grievances of each suspect.  Gregson manages to keep the field open through most of the book, relating the motives, the behaviors, and the alibis--and the failures of those alibis--gradually.  I enjoyed the skillful development of characters, the relationship of respect and wit between Lambert and Hook, the ability to visualize the scenes, and the author's intelligent and thoughtful prose.

I actually enjoyed this one more than An Academic Death (which was the 14th in the series and my first encounter with J.M. Gregson's Lambert & Hook).

And since they are free, I was on to the next in the series as soon as I finished.

Kindle Unlimited

Police Procedural.  1990/2015.  

Dead on Course finds Lambert & Hook investigating a man found dead on the golf course of the Castle on Wye Hotel and Country Club.  Once again, there are plenty of suspects and again, the plot avoids the sensational aspect of gore, concentrating instead on characters, motives, and careful plotting.

These books don't have to be read in order, each crime is conducted well within the confines of the book. The mysteries rely on astute and resourceful police work, not sensational or bizarre murders by evil or demonic characters.  The guilty party may have sociopathic tendencies--or may be an ordinary individual pushed by circumstance, but the murders are not senseless or random.  The killer has a reason for the murder, rather than killing simply for the pleasure of it.

Kindle Unlimited

Police Procedural.  1991/2015.


The Red Queen Rules by Bourne Morris is the third in the series featuring Red Solaris and the journalism department at a fictitious campus in Nevada.  It is a timely mystery that covers sex trafficking, freedom of speech issues on campus, and white supremacy attitudes. 

The issues covered are important ones and are given careful consideration, but the novel itself did not appeal to me as much as the two previous novels did.  Red, now dean of the journalism school, wants to stand up for freedom of speech when a group on campus that espouses white supremacy invites a speaker whose presence and opinions have initiated violent protests at previous engagements.   The dilemma--when does free speech become hate speech and is the purpose of the event to provoke violence?

While the issues are all quite pertinent at present and are interesting and well done, the involvement of Red strikes me as ridiculous for several reasons that I won't mention because they would reveal too much.  

Each of the three books in the Red Solaris series deals with important topics, but the romance side of the book detracts somewhat by adding unlikely scenarios.  Red's "detective" endeavors would satisfy me more if they were more realistic.

I did like the eventual response on the part of the students who opposed the philosophy of the hate group and could only wish that in this controversial period of our history people would opt for nonviolence with as much grace and determination.

NetGalley/Henery Press

Mystery/Crime.  Dec. 6, 2016.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Three Totally Different Genres: Louise Penny, Julia Claiborne Johnson, N.K. Jemisin

In between researching stuff about making handmade paper and other crafty projects, I read several good novels this past week.  And made some more paper!  


A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny is now one of my favorites in the Three Pines series. Along with other followers of this well-loved series, I want to live in Three Pines and interact with Ruth (and Rosa), Gabri, Olivier, Myrna, Clara and other villagers.

The Great Reckoning takes place partly in Three Pines and partly at the Surete Academy of Quebec.  After nearly dying in his attempt to clean up the corruption in the Surete, Chief Inspector Gamache takes a new position as Commander of the Surete's Academy with the intention of getting rid of the vicious practices (and individuals) put in place by the previous adminsitration and intended to continue the corruption in the Surete itself.  The practices are ingrained and the solutions will be challenging.

As usual, Gamache's approach is unconventional.  His decisions about which professors to keep and which to get rid of and which young applicants to accept cause surprise and concern even among those who know and trust Gamache.  When some of his decisions result in unanticipated and unwelcome events,  Gamache and some of the young cadets are endangered.

I love this series, and A Great Reckoning exceeded my expectations.  This may be the best so far in this series...or do I say that too often?

Library copy.

Police Procedural.  2016.  400 pages.


Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson has been on my TBR list since Lark mentioned it.  Funny, poignant, and Salingeresque are some of the terms used to describe the novel, and I found all of them to be appropriate.  

When the reclusive author M.M. Banning finds herself in financial difficulties, she knows she must write another book, the first in decades.  In order to do so, she needs an assistant to manage her household--mostly as a nanny for her nine-year-old son Frank, an eccentric genius with an unusual wardrobe, an encyclopedic store of facts, and a few other quirks that make him uniquely interesting, vulnerable, and often difficult to manage.

Enter Alice Whitley, who at the request of her boss Isaac Vargas, Banning's publisher leaves New York to join the Banning household in Hollywood.

Parts of the novel are funny and joyful, but while we may love and admire a child like this in literature and revel in his eccentricities--life isn't always easy or fun for the child or for those who love him.  Julia Claiborne Johnson makes the most of both of these aspects without going overboard with the fact that children like Frank are alienated from their peers.

Be Frank with Me was a pleasure.

Purchased.

Contemporary fiction.  2016.  309 pages.


The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison was a compelling introduction to her new trilogy.  I read The Thousand Kingdoms trilogy (reviewed here) last year and was impressed, but this book blew me away.  I was immediately engrossed, found it difficult to put it down, read until late, and finished the next morning. 

From the blurb:  

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. 

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. 

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. 

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.


Told in 3 narrative strands that you know will fit together, even though you don't know when or how, the novel begins with a mother who discovers her young son's body.  Essun is an orogene (orogenes can control the environment for good or ill and are feared or used according to the situation), but Essun who has disguised herself as an ordinary member of the community.  

Damalya's sections deal with the treatment of orogenes who are discovered in the general population and considered feral (orogenes are bred and trained at the Fulcrum).  Any orogenes found within the general population are either killed outright or taken by Guardians to the Fulcrum for training.  With this section, we gain a better understanding of Essun's need to hide her abilities.

The third narrative strand follows Syenite, a young woman trained at the Fulcrum, who has earned four rings and aspires to advance in the Fulcrum hierarchy.  She is assigned a mission with ten-ringer, and in the course of their association, learns a great deal more than she wanted to know about the Fulcrum.

A novel about the abuse of power, the artificial divisions of society, the subjugation of elements of the population, and the power of the earth.  Seems to fit right in with some of my own worries at the moment.

Library copy.

Dystopian/Scifi/Fantasy.  2015.  500 pages.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

An Academic Death and Walk into Silence

An Academic Death by J.M. Gregson is the 14th book in the Lambert & Hook series, although it is the first one I've read.

Matthew Upson, a history professor at Gloucestershire University, is reported missing by his wife.  Not that she is in any hurry to get him back. 

 Initially, the fact that a grown man has been missing for a few days does not raise a sense of alarm, but when Upson's mother seeks an interview with Superintendent John Lambert, Lambert develops an uneasy feeling that this  may be more than a missing person case.

DS Bert Hook and Superintendent John Lambert are the main draw in this book; both are likable characters whose long relationship on the job gives them a sense of camaraderie that works well.  There are some wryly funny scenes on the golf course that made me smile and the plot and minor characters kept my interest.

I enjoyed the writing and the characters in An Academic Death, and will be happy to read more.

NetGalley/Endeavor  Press

Police Procedural.  2001; 2016.  Print length:  172 pages.


Walk into Silence by Susan McBride is the first book in a series featuring Detective Jo Larsen.  

Jo Larsen has left her previous job in Dallas for a small town on the outskirts of the city with fewer incidents of serious crime.  

Patrick Dielman's files a missing person report for his wife and seems genuinely concerned about her.  (Yep, another missing person case.)  Jenny Dielman had a bad first marriage which collapsed after the death of her son. Unable to get over the loss of her only child, Jenny has battled depression and grief for several years despite her efforts to start fresh with her marriage to Patrick.

Jo wonders if Jenny needed an escape from her husband, who apparently adores her, but seems controlling, or if Jenny's grief over her son's death has finally overwhelmed her.

Jo's investigation appears to offer a third option--Jenny did not leave by choice.  And if foul play is involved, who would want Jenny dead...and why?

I found Walk into Silence an interesting introduction to a series--allowing room for further character development in succeeding novels.  

Kindle First

Police Procedural.  2016.  Print length:  370 pages. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Sei Shonogon's The Pillow Book

It was not my intention to choose The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon because November is nonfiction month, but I love serendipity.

 It started with a letter from an old friend who listed some of the chores she was finally getting around to--  you know, those things we all need to do, but frequently put off.  When writing my reply and mentioning  my own compulsive list-making, I thought about Sei Shonogon, the ultimate list-maker. 

 As soon the thought entered my mind, I had to stop and pull my copy of Philip Lopate's The Art of the Personal Essay from the shelf so I could share with Penne some of Sei Shonogon's clever and funny remarks.  (I keep my own list of things inspired by Shonogon's in the back of my journals.  Strange, how simply writing annoying things down turns them into something less annoying and how listing delightful things kind of reverberates through the emotions.)

Lopate only includes a few of the items from Shonogon's lists, although there are plenty available on line.  But I'd never read the entire book itself, and so even before getting back to my letter, I ordered a copy of The Pillow Book from AbeBooks.  I wanted a cheap copy because I didn't know if I would really read the whole thing.  The book arrived within a few days, and I've been reading it ever since with such pleasure that now I want a nice hardcover copy.

The Pillow Book isn't a book that you read straight through, there is no plot line or narrative continuity, and various translators put the writings together differently. The Pillow Book is made up of brief observations, comments, and lists.  I'm only on page 79, and have read 3 novels within the same time span.  But I am reading a little every day--a few pages at a time whenever I feel like sitting down and picking it up.  Usually a couple of times a day.  :)

What has been so enjoyable about it is not simply the lists of hateful things, amusing things, pleasing things, rare things, surprising things, etc., but Shonogon's observations of Japanese court life in the 10th c.  An astute observer, Shonogon makes life a thousand years ago and in a completely foreign culture amazingly vivid and oh-so-very human.  

What I take away from each reading is not the cultural differences or the differences between 10th c and the 21st c, but the similarities, and each time I set the book down, I'm smiling.  (OK--I admit that Shonogon's comments and opinions about plants and trees, while charming in small doses, did get a little tedious after a few pages).  On the other hand, her gossip about members of the court is witty and sly, compassionate and snarky--depending on the situation and the people she is discussing.  

There was a lot of night time visiting in the court, and several entries deal with things that are pleasing or displeasing about a lover's behavior:

A gentleman has visited one secretly. Though he is wearing a tall, lacquered hat, he nevertheless wants no one to see him. He is so flurried, in fact, that on leaving he bangs into something with his hat. Most hateful! It is annoying too when he lifts up the Iyo blind that hangs at the entrance of the room, then lets it fall with a great rattle. If it is a head-blind, things are still worse, for being more solid it makes a terrible noise when it is dropped. There is no excuse for such carelessness.

A man with whom one is having an affair keeps singing the praises of some woman he used to know. Even if it is a thing of the past, this can be very annoying. How much more so if he is still seeing the woman! (Yet sometimes I find it is not as unpleasant as all that.)

And for all book lovers:

Pleasing things: finding a large number of tales that one has not read before. Or acquiring the second volume of a tale whose first volume one has enjoyed. But often it is a disappointment.

Rare things:

A son-in-law who's praised by his wife's father. Likewise, a wife who's loved by her mother-in-law. 

The above excerpts are what first drew me to The Pillow Book when I discovered it by means of The Art of the Personal Essay some twenty years ago, but reading about the court activity is what fascinates me now. 

My translation is by Ivan Morris and includes much about the process of translation and organization of the book, as well as plenty of footnotes and additional information about the times in which Shonogon was writing.

Delightful.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Stalker on the Fens by Joy Ellis

Joy Ellis' first Nikki Galena book was published in 2010, and NetGalley has been releasing them for the last year here in the States.  This series has become one of my favorites, and with each NetGalley release, I have indulged in the world Ellis has created in the fens and in the characters of Nikki and her faithful team, reading and reviewing with genuine pleasure.

Stalker in the Fens, the fifth book in the series, continues the crime-fighting adventures of DI Nikki Galena and DS Joseph Easter.   Each book works as a stand-alone, so don't worry if you don't begin with the first book.  It is nice to see the development from book to book, but Ellis is skillful at developing each plot and set of characters--although there are occasional references to previous characters and events, each plot is self-contained.

Nikki's friend Helen is severely injured in a dreadful accident.  While she is trapped in a cellar and in and out of consciousness, someone speaks to her.  A man is also trapped and injured.  At first, his voice is comforting, but then he says something that shocks her.  

When Helen is discovered and rescued, her injuries are such that she remembers very little about her experience.  A year later, however, she begins having flashbacks; she remembers the man and what he told her.  The thing is--there was no one else in the cellar when Helen was found.

About the same time that Helen has begun remembering some of the events surrounding her injury, she feels she is being watched.  

Nikki and Joseph take her fear seriously, but are not certain whether her flashbacks and feeling of being stalked are real or part of post-traumatic stress.  

Another complex plot with well-developed characters.  Ellis can't write fast enough for me--I want the next one.

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Crime/Police Procedural.  Oct. 18, 2016.  Print length:  311 pages.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Saturday Thoughts

I'm still reading, but so many of the NetGalley books are not being published until 2017.  At present, I have 12 reviews scheduled through April of next year.  My last library books proved to be poor choices, but hopefully, this batch will be better.  And I have a stack of ARCs that arrived in the mail.  

My crafty and mail art activities continue, although those are mostly posted on my other blog.  My studio is complete chaos--even worse than usual and beginning to wear me down.  When I attempt to clean and organize, something turns up that I need to try, and I get distracted, start something new, and get more paste, paint, thread, and fabric all over me and my work area. 

One current obsession is making small collages and collaged tags, but collage is  a technique that seems to be impossible to keep corralled.  If I worked on only one project at a time maybe it wouldn't be so bad, but I rarely work on only one thing at a time.  Every work surface is covered with stuff for different projects--even my ironing board has become a work surface. 
------------
When the world seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket, it helps to look at the positives.

I'm watching the Dakota Pipeline stories with interest...and hope.  

 Another hopeful development is a possible new treatment for AD.   Too late for Terry Pratchett and my father, but may be a saving grace for many others.

A study suggesting that "... men do not enjoy the debauchery or the “extreme shaming, humiliation, and deviance” that are part and parcel of most modern stag dos."  Another example of the way peer pressure can go wrong and this can be an element for women, too.

Girl Power!  (gallery)



God, I love these girls!  

That's all, folks

Source

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Delete by Karl Osberg

Have you ever wondered if the world we live in and our own interaction in it is being directed by some unseen power?  Not in a religious sense, but as if in a game?  Think The Matrix.  

That we are part of a virtual reality, a simulated computer game, is an actual scientific hypothesis and part of legitimate scientific research.  

Excerpt from the linked article:  
Researchers pondered the controversial notion Tuesday at the annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate here at the American Museum of Natural History.
Moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive. “I think the likelihood may be very high,” he said.  (Source)

The article covers some of the thoughts of philosophers and theoretical physicists on the topic.  

Delete begins with a strange prologue, but the first chapter moves into the story and introduces Chief Inspector Eisenberg, a member of the Hamburg police, when an attempt to end a human trafficking ring goes wrong.

Eisenberg's arrogant superintendent blames Eisenberg for  the debacle, and Eisenberg eventually looks for a transfer.  The opportunity that arises is to head a unit that focuses on pre-investigations and crime prevention using technology and the internet; the team, however, consists of brilliant, but fractious misfits.

One of the team members is a gamer, and when several strange disappearances occur in the online game, he is approached by a young woman who wants to find out what happened to her friend.  Was he deleted?  

An intriguing book with characters that hold potential for more episodes, but the pacing has some issues.  The translation by Carolyn Waight is excellent.

NetGalley/Bonnier Zaffre

Mystery/Suspense.  Oct. 25, 2015.  Print length:  358 pages.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fairy Tale Imaginings

I love fairy tales, artists' take on fairy tales, and poems inspired by fairy tales.  Shaun Tan's sculptures based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm are wonderful illustrations of the paths creativity can take.


Little Red Riding Hood

All-Kinds-of-Fur

The Frog King




Several years ago, I wrote a post about the following poem, an example of a contemporary imagining of a fairy tale.  It remains a favorite.

How to Change a Frog into a Prince

Anna Denise
  
  
Start with the underwear. Sit him down.
Hopping on one leg may stir unpleasant memories.
If he gets his tights on, even backwards, praise him.
Fingers, formerly webbed, struggle over buttons.
Arms and legs, lengthened out of proportion, wait,
as you do, for the rest of him to catch up.
This body, so recently reformed, reclaimed,
still carries the marks of its time as a frog. Be gentle.
Avoid the words awkward and gawky.
Do not use tadpole as a term of endearment.
His body, like his clothing, may seem one size too big.
Relax. There's time enough for crowns. He'll grow into it.

Some poems are difficult to understand and require multiple readings, and I love poems like that, poems that require intuition and effort. But I love poems like this one - poems that are instantly accessible, a bit silly and a bit serious. I love poems that "connect," as this one does to something that I'm reading or thinking about.

An easy poem, "How to Change a Frog into a Prince" is about transformation, and we are all transforming, but it is also about patience and kindness. It is tongue-in-cheek and perceptive - a gentle blend. It seems to say that love of all kinds requires acceptance and that princes, children, friends, lovers, and spouses are all subject to growth, to change, and that we have a role in these transitions. And humor helps. "Relax. There's time enough for crowns. He'll grow into it." Maybe we will, too.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Autumn Leaves and Impermanence

"All through autumn we hear a double voice:
one says everything is ripe;
the other says everything is dying.
The paradox is exquisite."

Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces
--------

I think leaves are the most evident and beautiful example of this paradox.

Several days ago, I received an email  encouraging a mention of the Andrew Goldsworthy page.  I love Goldsworthy's work that leaves both permanent and transient images on the landscape.   

Source:  Impermanence

Below are more of Andrew Goldsworthy's images of leaves.
source: visual melt
source: visual melt
His stone wall is a more permanent work.
source: euniyah instagramof Goldsworthy stone wall

Projects

I chose pics with leaves
because my latest project is leaf stitching.

Magnolia leaf--
stitched, rolled, and fastened.


Reading:

Recently finished, but not yet reviewed because they will not be published until next year.

I See You by Claire MacIntosh
The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry
Swiss Vendetta by Tracee de Hahn
Blood and Bone by Valentina Giambanco

Mail Art

I am still enjoying decorating envelopes and sending and receiving letters.  I found this wonderful post at Little Scraps of Magic by Paula Bogan about exchanging memories with her sister.  

Just an excerpt from the post Do You Remember after Paula received a postcard from her sister:   
 Denise wrote, " Do you remember peeking inside the trunk of the cherry tree near the kitchen? A mama bird would build a nest in a hollow spot in the tree trunk each year. We would wait for her to fly away and then run to steal a peek of her babies."

What a great idea to exchange memories on a regular basis!  Years and years ago, I asked my father and his siblings to send me a Christmas memory from their childhoods.  We read these at the family Christmas celebration that year--the results were hilarious and not all associated with Christmas.   But it was a one time thing.  I wish I'd thought to continue asking for memories, especially now that that generation is gone.

As older generations submit to dementia and death, so many stories are lost.  Copies of those original letters are now in the hands of my brothers and all of our cousins and in the hands of our children as well.  What if I'd thought to continue writing and asking for memories...?


 Halloween
:)


Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Shattered Tree and The Twilight Wife

The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd is the 8th book in the Bess Crawford series by the mother and son team who write as Charles Todd.

Set in 1918 in the last throes of WWI, Bess Crawford, a nursing sister, overhears a wounded French soldier make an outburst in perfect German.  When Bess questions this, it is suggested that the soldier may have been raised in Alsace Lorraine, annexed by the Germans in 1870, which would mean that speaking German would have become a necessity.  

When Bess is injured by a sniper, she is sent to Paris to convalesce and coincidentally catches a glimpse of the soldier dressed in an American uniform.  Her curiosity is again aroused, and she decides to investigate.  What is the man's story?  Is he a German spy--the one all of Paris has been searching for?  

Hampered by her injury and a lack of her usual resources, Bess nevertheless proceeds in her own investigation (with quite a few subplots).   Sort of hampered.  Bess sure gets around after being shot, treated, then operated on for an infection caused by a portion of a button that was not removed during the first treatment.  Tougher than many of the injured soldiers, our Bess.

The Todds write two series that have their beginnings in WWI, the original series features Inspector Ian Rutledge; later they added the Bess Crawford series.  

The content and style of the two series differ, and I've always preferred the original series, which is darker and more psychological.  DI Ian Rutledge is a victim of shell-shock and must struggle with his hallucinations of Hamish, who functions as a kind of Greek chorus.  The earlier novels in the series deal with some of the most detrimental effects of WWI on both soldiers and society at large.  The Inspector Rutledge novels are complex and intricately plotted--well-rounded characters and atmospheric settings.

The Bess Crawford series is more mystery and less psychological with more complicated, but less complex plots.  They come across as intense cozy mysteries--still dealing with the casualties of war, but as sidelines to the mystery plots.

Library copy.

Historic Mystery.  2016.  304 pages.


The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner is yet another woman with amnesia story, but a rather predictable one that doesn't feel realistic.  While it does begin with interest, the middle and the conclusion lose the sense of genuine suspense.  Wrapped up nicely and tied with a bow.

The premise is interesting, if difficult to believe, but the characters had no real depth.

The novel was readable, but the comparison to Sharon Bolton is far-fetched.  This is just my personal view of the book.  There are many positive reviews.

NetGalley/Touchstone

Mystery.  Dec. 27, 2016.  Print length:  304 pages.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October and Edward Gorey

I'd love to visit the Edward Gorey House !  His illustrations are so charming, and I loved the way PBS's Mystery incorporated them into their introduction.  Gorey also illustrated T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

No question that the man loved cats.

Years ago, my daughter gave me one of his cat pins.  
It just exudes joy!  
This little fellow is my favorite pin of all time.  :)


The Gorey House has an annual envelope contest
and you can find the 2015 winners here.
one of the 2015 winners

You can download the 2016 entry form here. 
What a fun and creative challenge for kids.  :)

I've been putting out all of my Eccentric figures for Halloween, sorting out witches and goblins and ghosts and various monsters.  


I've begun one new creature to send to my daughter Erin, who is excited about giving a Halloween party in her new house.  They moved in after Halloween last year, so this is there first spooky October.  Her boyfriend teased her about trying to create a school carnival, but school carnivals are so much fun!  The kids are very involved in the planning, so bobbing for apples may or may not be part of the activities--might be bad for costumes and makeup.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier may or may not be the last in this series.  Originally planned as a trilogy, the characters of Blackthorn & Grim have reached a satisfying conclusion, and yet many readers are not ready for the series to end.

I liked Den of Wolves much more Tower of ThornsThe characters of Blackthorn and Grim have more depth and variety in this latest adventure, and again, Marillier melds plot, folklore, and myth in an intriguing way.  

Grim separated from Blackthorn more than he would like when he undertakes the job of helping the crippled Bardan build the heartwood house for Tolas, the master of Wolf Glen and Cara's father.  Grim takes pity on Bardan and is unhappy with the way he is treated by everyone at Wolf Glen.  Grim, big of body and huge of heart, cannot leave Bardan unprotected. 

Blackthorn is asked to befriend Cara, the child-woman who tells stories to trees while birds perch on her shoulders; who loves her father, but is more comfortable with Gorman, the forester who taught her to carve; who is sent away from her beloved Wolf Glen without understanding why; and who eventually reveals great strength under apparent fragility.

Mathuin, the Laois chieftan, remains a specter throughout the first of the novel, and while Blackthorn continues to fear that he has spies who will discover her whereabouts--the secrets of Wolf Glen dominate most of the story.

Near the end, however, the connection to Mathuin is renewed.  

If Marillier chooses to let Blackthorn and Grim go for a while, Cuan and Segan and the rest of the Swan Island Warriors would make a fitting diversion.  I would happily see these characters develop and have no doubt that the author would find fitting plots for them.

Read in Aug.; blog review scheduled for Oct. 17

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing Group

Fantasy/Myth.  Nov. 1, 2016.  Print length:  448 pages.