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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Providence by Caroline Kepnes

As I read the first few chapters of Caroline Kepnes' Providence, I was delighted and expected to love the book.  But...that didn't happen.

There was an abrupt turning point, and the novel took an unexpected turn that didn't work well for me.

from the description:  Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he's suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Including an H.P. Lovecraft element sounded interesting; however, the way the story proceeded was much less interesting than the initial chapters.  I didn't find it suspenseful, and I plowed through most of it.  

Lovecraft was a strange man, but I've never been particularly interested in reading his work.  I have been interested in the way his pulp fiction influenced other writers, though, which is why I wanted to read Providence.   The love of all things Lovecraftian was one of the weirdest parts of the book--the "love" of all the people who attended the annual Necronomicon festival in Providence and pseudo-philosophical stuff was bizarre.  

There was so much potential, and yet the book wandered around, repeating itself, and never truly examining the most interesting parts about Blair and his experiments.  It will please some people (reviews on NetGalley cover the spectrum), but Providence left me dissatisfied.

NetGalley/Random House

genre?  June 19, 2018.  Print length:  359 pages.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella and Some Links

Lately, I've been in the mood for ghost stories and decided to try Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella which was free on Kindle Unlimited.  

Ghost Gifts was an interesting blend of mystery, ghostly visits, and romance.  Aubrey has inherited a psychic gift and "sees dead people."   Sometimes her gift gives a sense of closure to the ghosts make contact.  But sometimes the connections are dangerous, and Aubrey makes every effort to control her contacts. 

In the present, Aubrey is managing quite well with her job at a local paper dealing with real estate, keeping her unusual talent a secret.   

Then her boss assigns her to work on the shocking discovery of a skeleton found sealed in a wall.  Way out of her usual purview.  Unable to get out of the assignment, Aubrey is partnered with the difficult investigative reporter Levi St. John.    

Aubrey is no shrinking violet;  she has worked hard for a normal life and has attempted to avoid unwanted ghostly contacts, but she has no problem speaking her mind.  Both reporters resist the partnership, but eventually, they work together, and Aubrey's gift turns out to be crucial to solving the murder.

Interesting characters, a well-plotted mystery, subtle clues that entwine characters and events past and present into a complex whole.

Kindle Unlimited.

Mystery/Supernatural.  2016.  Print length:  386 pages.   

I often collect links of interesting articles, then forget about them.  Here are a few that I found on an unfinished draft:  

For readers who enjoy the supernatural, this article on ley lines.

I've been following Steve McCurry's photographic blog for years.  The photos are from every part of the world and cover most human activities along with quotes.  The title is this entry is "To Light a Fire" -- with photographs of readers from Afghanistan to Yugoslavia.  I love his blog.

Wage inequality: A study of more than 2m books has revealed that titles by female authors are on average sold at just over half the price of those written by men. (Source)  The article goes on to say the study was a result of VIDa counts that foun a "skew towards reviews of books by male authors, written by maler reviewers."

Read a Book--it could save your sanity.  From a study by  The Journal of the American Medical Association: "researchers discovered that readers’ risk [of dementia] was significantly lower than non-readers."  YAY!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

What My Sister Knew, The Ghost of Marlow House, and True Fiction

Twins--their similarities, their difference, their relationships--consistently provide fodder for novels.  When you are a singleton, twins are a genuine curiosity, and novelists make the most of our inquisitive nature.  What My Sister Knew by Nina Laurin examines the strained relationship between a pair of fraternal twins.  

The dynamic between good-looking, smart, and dominant Eli and his less attractive and bullied sister Addie is cause for unease even during their childhood.  

When Eli, at thirteen, is convicted of a terrible crime, Addie's life does not immediately improve.  Years after the tragedy, however, Addie finally seems set for a better life.  She's in a good relationship and has overcome many personal demons.

Then Eli turns up again, and Addie's world begins disintegrating.  What does his sister know?

Read in May.  Review scheduled for June 5.

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Suspense.  June 19, 2018.  Print length:  384 pages.  

The Ghost of Marlow House  is a fun cozy paranormal mystery.  Danielle inherits an old mansion that she hopes to turn into a B&B.  But in addition to the house and furnishings, she quickly realizes that she has also inherited a ghost who doesn't realize he's dead.  

Light and entertaining, The Ghost of Marlow House reminds me a bit of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.   Danielle needs the ghost to move on in order for her B&B plan to work. Eventually she manages to convince Walt Marlow that he is, indeed, dead.  Walt, however, is not ready to leave his home and enter the afterlife and persuades Danielle to investigate his death.

This is the first in a long series and reads as such in several ways, but I found it an entertaining counterbalance to some of the darker mysteries I read.  

Free on Kindle.

Paranormal Mystery.  2016.  Print length:  256 pages.

True Fiction is another book that lands on the light side of the scale.

From the blurb:  When a passenger jet crashes onto the beaches of Waikiki, bestselling thriller writer Ian Ludlow knows the horrific tragedy wasn't an accident.

Years before, the CIA enlisted Ian to dream up terrorism scenarios to prepare the government for nightmares they couldn't imagine. Now one of those schemes has come true, and Ian is the only person alive who knows how it was done...and who is behind the plot. That makes him too dangerous to live.

Comical and yet...I've often wondered, as I'm sure some of you have, if some fictional scenarios have not actually been translated to real life.  The idea that the CIA or terrorists  have taken ideas from fiction doesn't sound that far-fetched to me.  Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

True Fiction offers adventure, suspense, and comedy as Ian Ludlow, nerdy author, must think like his fictional protagonist if he wants to survive.  

Kindle Unlimited

Suspense/Humor.  April 1, 2018.  Print length:  248 pages.

JUST for Fun

We are all influenced by book covers, but take a look at some of the pulp covers of classic literature!  (source: Literary Hub)

Friday, June 01, 2018

Jar of Hearts and The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder

Jar of Hearts is a compelling tale of bad decisions.  When she was sixteen, Georgina (Geo) Shaw falls in love with Calvin James, an older man at twenty-one.  Angela Wong, Geo's best friend, disappears without a trace.  Kaiser Brody, the third in the group of best friends, later becomes a detective determined to catch a serial killer.

from the description:   This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who's been searching for the truth all these years.

Jar of Hearts is an edgy, suspenseful tale that has some grim elements.   While wanting to sympathize with Geo, it is sometimes difficult to do.  Geo is, however, brutally honest with herself.  While she keeps some things secret, she accepts and admits her role in Angela's death.  

The book follows Geo in the past and in the present, and the  events on the night in question are revealed a little at a time.  In the present, a new nightmare is about to begin.

The conclusion bothered me a bit and seemed a bit rushed, but this is an intense book that 
will keep you turning the pages, getting involved with the characters and their situations, and puzzling through your own opinions.

Read in April; blog review scheduled for May 29.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Suspense/Crime.  June 12, 2018.  Print length:  320 pages.

The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder features thirteen-year-old Jasper Wishart who is autistic, suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindess), and is a synesthete.   His autism and face blindness (he can't recognize faces and must depend on voices and clothing to identify even his own father) are definite drawbacks, but Jasper thinks of his synesthesia as a wonderful gift.  

Sounds are colors, and Jasper delights in the myriad colors of voices, music, even memories--his mother is cobalt blue.

What I liked:  Jasper.  It is difficult to truly imagine some of his autistic and facial blindness difficulties.  Although his conditions are natural for Jasper, they seem remarkably frightening for the reader.  Imagine only being able to recognize your father and distinguish him from others by the sound of his voice (and for Jasper, the color of his father's voice--a muddy brown) and his clothing.  All of the normal relationships in life would be so slippery!  

I enjoyed Jasper's curious approach to life and his charming character, but Harris also managed to make me imagine the frustrations of living with a bright child with so many complications.  Jasper's father does the best he can for his child, but he is also a single parent who must dress the same way each day to help his son recognize him.

Bee Larkham, the beautiful and unconventional new neighbor, captures the imagination of the entire neighborhood, but not always in a positive way.  She provides the impetus for some unpleasant situations.

Not so much:  The overuse of the color trope can get a little irritating.  There are also places where things drag; the story might be better served if it was a little shorter and tighter.

Reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon in the use of an autistic main character.  Sarah Harris has written a book that makes you curious about autism and synesthesia, but you still wonder about how the accuracy/realism of some of the details.

I enjoyed The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder and look forward to what Harris does next book.

Read in March; blog review scheduled for May 29.


Mystery/Coming of Age.  June 12, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly

The Woman in the Woods is the latest Charlie Parker novel.  Although I am not generally a fan of horror, the Charlie Parker novels combine excellent writing, compelling characters, suspenseful mystery, and the supernatural in an unusual amalgamation that makes me hold my breath each time.

Always: a battle of good vs evil with collateral damage on both sides, the loss of good people, characters that you come to love despite their decidedly criminal backgrounds, a creep factor that chills down to the bone, and usually some unexpected, but much appreciated humor.

Deep in the Maine woods, the body of a young woman who had recently given birth is discovered.  She has been buried for several years, but no infant body is found.  A star of David carved into a tree grabs the attention of lawyer Moxie Castin, who then convinces Charlie Parker to follow the investigation, and if the baby survived, to find it.  

The police are investigating, trying to identify the young woman, Charlie Parker is also searching, but there is someone else also looking for the young woman.  Someone not simply bad, but repellently evil.

Short chapters move back and forth between characters, the main plot, and secondary plots.  The roles of Louis and Angel are more limited in this one, but Louis is responsible for an inciting incident that plays into the larger plot later.  

"And in a house by the woods, a toy telephone begins to ring and a young boy is about to receive a call from a dead woman."  --from book description

Read in March.  Review scheduled for May 29

NetGalley/Atria Books

Crime/Mystery/Supernatural.  June 12, 2018.  Print length:  496 pages.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mystery, History, Suspense

For Richer, For Poorer by Kerry Wilkinson is the latest in the series featuring DI Jessica Daniel. The current bothersome case involves home invasions and robberies of cash and jewelry involving unusual prior knowledge of the homes and their security systems.  The new DCI is frustrated and wants the robberies solved posthaste.  

If that were not bad enough, the day following each robbery, the police begin getting calls from various charities saying someone made huge anonymous donations in cash.  Are the thieves taking a page from the Robin Hood tales?

In another tangle, Bex asks Jessica to see if she can help a friend whose neighbor's activities are disturbing her...which leads to a revelation involving sex trafficking.  

Jessica is still dealing with the aftermath of events in the last book and a new DCI who doesn't appear to have much confidence in Jess or her abilities.

NetGalley/Book Outure

Crime/Detective Fiction.  May 15, 2018.  Print length:  354 pages.  

The Shadow Killer is set in Iceland in 1941 during the change over from the British to U.S. troops.  Tiny Iceland, which had been largely isolated, was first invaded by about 25,000 British troops.  When the novel begins, the British are about to depart and the Yanks are taking over in even larger numbers.

A time of great upheaval--the war, the Allied troops, the cultural and social confrontations.  A young man is found murdered with a bloody swastika on his forehead.  The weapon, a Colt 45, is associated with the American forces.

Flovent, an Icelandic policeman, and Thorson, a Canadian seconded to the American Military Police are united again in the investigation.  (I have not read The Shadow District, the first book in this series).  Both Flovent and Thorson are likable characters who lack the super-crime-solving abilities of many detectives.  They do the best they can in a difficult situation fraught with all kinds of social and political ramifications from both Icelandic and military interference.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/WWII.  May 29, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages.  

Never Alone is one of those tricksy novels meant to keep you uncertain.  One of those methods (I won't mention the technique) began to bother me early.  Something wasn't meshing, and I wondered why.  It wasn't long before the suspicion was...not exactly verified, but I began to realize that one of the blurbs I'd read had deliberately set up the wrong perspective.  

So.  A widow, Sara, struggling financially on an isolated Yorkshire farm.  An old flame, Aiden, returns to the area, but is intent on keeping his private life off-bounds.  Sara's daughter Kitty, who visits during university breaks.  Sara's son, Louis, who became alienated from Sara after his father's death.  Sophie, Sara's friend and confidante.  Will, a friend of Sara's son Louis, who arrives in the area after a long absence.

The bleak Yorkshire winter setting lends itself to suspense, but the story dawdled along for quite some time.  The bad guy isn't too difficult to detect, and once you do, you wonder why Sara is so slow to wise-up.  I also found an element of the story just--weird and uncomfortable.    

Myriad Editions ARC in the mail.

Suspense.  2016.  354 pages.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Sharp Solitude by Christine Carbo

I've been reading Christine Carbo's suspenseful novels set in Glacier National Park since NetGalley offered the first one (The Wild Inside) in 2015.  The natural beauty of the park and the often terrifying threats of the wilderness are always crucial elements in the novels.  The park itself is more than setting; it is character as well.

Carbo's tendency to take a minor character from one novel and give him or her a lead in the next novel is much the same as in Tana French's novels.  This penchant of developing secondary characters contributes a freshness and energy to each succeeding plot.  

A Sharp Solitude features FBI investigator Ali Paige and Reeve Landon.  Landon is Ali's former boyfriend and the father of her daughter.  When Anne Marie Johnson (a journalist who was last seen accompanying Reeve Landon  and his service dog for an article she was writing) is murdered, Landon becomes the chief suspect.  Intensely private and with a secret past he is desperate to keep hidden,  Landon is arrested after not admitting that Anne Marie visited his cabin.

Ali Paige refuses to believe Landon is guilty and gets involved in the investigation using her FBI position to get information.  But Ali is not authorized to do so and is jeopardizing her own career.  She is also afraid she may discover something she doesn't want to know.

I thought I knew where the novel was going because issues concerning gun control appear early, but while that is an interesting aspect, the truth is something different.

Shifting between Reeve Landon and Ali's perspectives, the reader learns of the events in their pasts that contribute to the situation in which they find themselves.

Monte Harris and Gretchen Larsen have only cameo appearances.  

A fine addition to this series, but I wonder who will take the lead in the next installment.

Read in March; blog review scheduled for May 17.

NetGalley/Attria Books

Suspense.  May 29, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Winter Song by Susan C. Muller and Some Mail Art

Winter Song introduces Houston Detective Noah Daughtery and his partner Connor Crawford.  Noah is still grieving over the loss of his wife and trying his best to get along with Sweet Pea, the dog who loved and misses her.  Sweet Pea's grief targets Noah, and Sweet Pea punishes him in the way only dogs can.

When a woman is killed on the way home from a yoga class, the wealthy husband is a suspect, but since he didn't commit the crime himself, Noah and Connor look for a third party.

When they get too close, the killer targets Noah.  And Sweet Pea.  

I enjoyed this first book in a new-to-me series and look forward to more.

Kindle Unlimited/Stanford Publishing

Detective Fiction/Crime.  2016.  Print length:  332 pages.  

 I had fun with National Letter Writing Month and National Poetry Month in April.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Why Kill the Innocent: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery by C.S. Harris

I've long enjoyed this historical Regency mystery series, but I have to admit this one is not as engaging as previous books.  What is interesting is the emphasis on the situation in which women found themselves during this period.  We tend to forget how circumscribed the lives of women have traditionally been.

Jane Ambrose, a talented musician, is murdered, and the plot revolves around the surprisingly numerous suspects for such a kind and talented woman.  As a music tutor to Princess Charlotte, her connections to the royal family have placed her in a precarious situation. Her husband may also have had a reason to kill her.  Her brother and a dear friend have been imprisoned for their writings against not only the Prince Regent, but against much of the Tory ideology, but even the Whigs may have been willing to sacrifice lives at the political alter.    Jane may have overheard something at the homes of one of her pupils that has to do with smuggling and the French.  On and on, there are suspects and possible motives.  

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount of Devlin, becomes involved in Jane's death because his wife Hero discovered the body.  So...there is the basic plot.  Sebastien and Hero visit suspect after suspect, all of whom deny murdering Jane.

It is interesting to see, in the context of fiction, the way Jane's life has been restricted and hemmed in by the strictures of society.  A brilliant musician, Jane is reduced to becoming a tutor for children because women were not allowed to perform.  Her art has been censored by social norms, not by law. Her husband can beat her, and she has little recourse.  Divorce was legally possible, but not an option for most women because husbands would take their children.  

I was reminded of the book Censored:  A Literary History of Subversion and Control which I read in January and in which there is a section on Frances Burney, whose writings were stifled and controlled by her father and her mentor because writing for the stage was considered inappropriate for women.  

Interesting aspects of this historical mystery include the corruption of the court and politics, the common people and the poor who were neglected or used as cannon fodder, and the fact that no mattered how intelligent or how talented, women were confined by the dictates of a male dominated society.  As a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery, however, I found it much slower than previous novels.  

Read in April; blog review scheduled for May 4

NetGalley/Berkely Publ.

Historical Fiction.   April 3, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Head On by John Scalzi and Odysseus Ascending by Evan Currie

I liked John Scalzi's Head On, a standalone follow-up to Lock In, which I have not read, but definitely need to read.

A mystery/FBI procedural set in the near future, Head On has agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann investigating an incident in which a Hilketa player dies on the field.  Talk about a violent sport!  But the thing is...the players are actually robotic bodies called threeps controlled by people with Haden's Syndrome, a disease that paralyzes the body, but leaves the mind functional.  So no one is really supposed to be physically injured.

Because I had not read Lock In, I had a little trouble initially understanding certain elements, but I caught up on the idea pretty quickly.  I recommend reading Lock In first, but even without the previous book, Head On was an intriguing read-- sometimes amusing, sometimes feeling a bit too much like a conceivable future which added to the tension.

 Read in April.  Blog review scheduled for May 1.


Science Fiction.  April 17, 2018.  Print length:  336 pages.

Set in the far future of space travel, Odysseus Ascendant (#7 in the Odyssey One series) continues the battles of survival against The Empire.  I've read all of these and enjoy each new installment.

This science fiction is known as Space Opera (Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalric romance, and risk-taking.)  Source 

Think Star Wars, which is probably the best known space opera of all.  The only thing missing is romance.  Canadian author Evan Currie's characters are more concerned with friendship, duty, and allegiance.  

The novels are full of adventure, suspenseful, and strangely believable.  I look forward to each new offering!

Read in March; Blog review scheduled for May 1.

NetGalley/47 North

Science Fiction.  May 8, 2018.  Print length:  304 pages.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Lost for Words Bookshop

The Lost for Words turned out to be a pleasure.  While I'm usually tempted and often enjoy books about bookshops, Lost for Words was more than I expected.

The Lost for Words Bookshop, a used bookshop, comforts and shelters Loveday Cardew. Sometimes she may be at a loss for words, but words are not lost on Loveday, and her love of books has sustained her for over half her life. 

When Loveday's family is destroyed, she ends up in foster care and the loss of her family results in a happy and friendly child becoming an isolated and reclusive teen.  

At fifteen, however, a visit to the Lost for Words bookshop provides a sanctuary when Archie, the owner, offers her a job.  Ten years later, Loveday continues her mostly self-imposed and unsociable existence with Archie as her only real friend.

On her way to work one day, she picks up a book that has been lost or discarded and posts a "found" sign in the bookshop window--an inciting incident that will change the course of her life.

The story is told in past and present, and the traumatic events that destroyed her family are revealed in small doses.  In the present, boxes of used books begin arriving that connect to Loveday's past, a new relationship offers the opportunity for Loveday to expand her life beyond her small flat and the bookshop, and a past relationship becomes threatening.

I was expecting bit of romantic chic lit, but found a more thoughtful coming of age tale.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Bibliophile/Contemporary.  First published, 2017; June 19, 2018.  Print length:  304 pages.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Mix of Genres

The Last Trial by Robert Bailey proved even better than the first book in the series.  I really liked The Professor, the first book, but somehow missed the second in the series.  This is a legal thriller, but most of the book is about the crime, the characters, and the attempt to discover evidence of innocence. 

The main characters, Professor Tom McMurtrie and Bo Haynes, will have you rooting for them and worrying about them as they involve themselves in a dangerous situation.  Rick Drake, McMurtrie's partner, plays a smaller part in this book because of a personal tragedy. 

Football fans will find a comforting element as both the fictional McMurtrie and Bo Haynes played for the legendary Bear Bryant.  Real players like Jo Namath and Kenny Stabler who also played for Alabama under Bear Bryant get a mention for verisimilitude.  

I really liked this one and will have to get a copy of Between Black and White.  

From the description:  Former law professor Tom McMurtrie has brought killers to justice, and taken on some of the most infamous cases in Alabama’s history. Now he’s tackling his greatest challenge.
McMurtrie’s old nemesis, Jack Willistone, is found dead on the banks of the Black Warrior River. Willistone had his share of enemies, but all evidence points to a forgotten, broken woman as the killer. At the urging of the suspect’s desperate fourteen-year-old daughter, McMurtrie agrees to take the case.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Legal Thriller.  May 8, 2018.  Print length: 400 pages.

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews was recommended by Literary Feline who has been following the series.  It was something of a palate cleanser after the drama of The Last Trial to switch to a light and fun romp with werewolves, vampires, other magical creatures, and a sentient Bed and Breakfast.

Dina is the Inn Keeper who manages the Victorian B & B (The Gertrude Hunt) for otherworldly creatures.  She's a feisty woman who wants her Inn to be a success, but has some difficulty abiding by the traditional neutrality of Inn Keepers-- especially when some monstrous creature begins killing neighborhood dogs.  

Dina has a back story that is introduced and will be influential in future books, but mostly this is a kind of mashup of urban fantasy and science fiction with a light touch and plenty of humor.

I look forward to Sweep in Peace.  Yep, Dina has a magic broom.  :)

Kindle Unlimited.

Fantasy/Science Fiction.  2013.  Print length:  235 pages.

Alter Ego by Brian Freeman is the 9th book in the Jonathan Stride series, but the first one I've read.  

A film crew is making a movie of one of Stride's old cases and Stride is invited to the set.  Watching the filming is a little problematic for Jonathan because it reminds him of the terrible case in which he was able to save only the last victim.

The actor playing Jonathan Stride in the movie is a Hollywood legend and the screenwriter is the son of the man convicted of the murders.  While Jonathan is initially impressed with the actor's apparent warmth, he quickly realizes that career and image mean more to Dean Casperson than anything else.  

When an intern goes missing from the set, Jonathan is asked to find her.  As events develop, there are actually two story lines that may or may not be connected and plenty of twists and turns.  

Alter Ego functioned perfectly well as a stand alone.   I'm interested in more about Serena, Cat, and Maggie Bei, but only because I know they have been part of earlier books.  Their characters are pretty well-defined in this novel, but since I liked them, I will be checking on earlier novels.  There is also a character that is evidently a lead in another series (Cab Bolton), but helps Maggie when she is in Florida.

Read in March.  


Police Procedural.  May 1, 2018.  Print length:  400 pages.  

Monday, April 23, 2018

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Julia Heaberlin's novels are set in Texas and radiate her attachment to the state and the wide assortment of people who inhabit it.  My favorite is still Black-Eyed Susans, but Paper Ghosts is and entertaining puzzle involving Grace, a young woman whose beloved older sister disappeared when Grace was twelve.  

Grace has spent the intervening years searching for clues, determined to discover what happened to Rachel.  Carl Feldman, a gifted documentary photographer, was once suspected of the murder of several young women across the state.  Now, he is an old man who suffers from dementia.  

Grace considers Feldman a good possibility to have kidnapped and murdered her sister.  She visits the home where he is being cared for claiming to be his daughter.  He agrees to accompany her on a road trip to visit the locations of some of his eery photographs.  At times, Carl seems a bit lost, at other times, you question the dementia diagnosis and worry about what Grace has gotten herself into.  After all, if Carl is guilty, she has put herself in a dangerous situation.

While parts of the narrative are fascinating, there are some slow and repetitive sections as well.  From Galveston to Marfa, the two tour the locations of missing women and of many of Carl's photographs.

I liked this novel despite some slow spots and an ambiguous conclusion, in which you learn some answers, but by no means all.

Playing Dead, Black-Eyed Susans, and Paper Ghosts, each have a character with dementia. Since there could hardly be a family in America who hasn't felt the heartache of Alzheimer's or some form of dementia, either within their own family or the families of friends and colleagues--it seems appropriate.

Heaberlin's acknowledgements include interesting personal comments about some of the elements that went into the creation of Paper Ghosts, including the grandfather who shot crime scene photographs; her friend, Texas photographer Jill Johnson; and the eery photographs of Keith Carter. 

Read in November; blog review scheduled for April 23, 2018.

NetGalley/Random House/Ballantine

Mystery/Suspense.  May 15, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza is the first in a series featuring DCI Erica Foster.  There are now six books in the series.

After the death of her husband, DCI Erica Foster is back in a new position.  In fact, she hasn't even found a place to live when her first case begins to take over her life.  

The prologue introduces the victim, her abduction and murder.  A few days later, a young man stumbles on the body of the young socialite in a frozen pond.  Erica has just arrived and hasn't even had time to take her suitcase to a hotel before she must visit the crime scene.

Erica is a strong woman and a capable detective, but she is still dealing with the trauma of her husband's death and her own sense of guilt and responsibility.  Nevertheless, she begins making friends and allies as she initiates  her investigation.  Unfortunately, there is also an officer who wants to see her fail and her superior officer doesn't provide consistent support.   

The victim Andrea Douglas-Brown is the daughter of a millionaire with political clout.  There are similar murders that Erica believes associated with the case, but they are of young immigrant prostitutes, and the powers-that-be don't want a connection that might sully the Douglas-Brown family.  

It is easy to cheer Erica through her challenges and to appreciate the cast of characters that support her in her battle to find the killer despite the opposition from the family and her own department.  

Read in March.  Blog review scheduled for April 20.  

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Police Procedural.  Originally published in 2016; April 24, 2018.  Print length:  396 pages.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey

If you enjoyed The Girl with All the Gifts, you will enjoy M.R. Carey's The Boy on the Bridge set ten years earlier.  It is not as fast-paced, but the third person omniscient narrator gives fascinating insight into  the internal thoughts, opinions, and secrets of each of the major characters.

Although Samrina Khan and Stephen Greaves share the limelight as dominant characters, the novel is something of an ensemble cast.  Twelve people, a mixture of military and scientists and one adolescent boy, are sent out from Beacon in the armored vehicle/science lab named the Rosalind Franklin.  Their mission is to find something that will enable humans to survive the hungries, those infected by the Cordyceps plague.  Is there any place where the plague is inhibited by environment?  Any way to develop a cure or vaccine?  

In the close confinement of Rosie, the armored vehicle, tensions mount, personalities clash.  Month after month, the crew faces down hungries, takes samples, perform experiments in the lab, but fail to find any positive information to fight the Cordyceps pathogen, which unchecked, will mean the end of the human race.  

I don't want to say much more because I liked reading it without any spoilers or preconceived ideas.  The book works perfectly well as a standalone.  If you've read The Girl with All the Gifts, you already have insight into the world Carey has created, but it isn't necessary to understand or appreciate The Boy on the Bridge.  

The structure and archetypes are similar to the previous novel, the style is terse and analytical (well, you are privy to the thoughts of military personnel and scientists, not writers or artists),  yet even these these left-brain characters occasionally have their moments, and Carey includes some vivid descriptions of  setting.  I liked the present tense omniscient pov that gave insight into the reasoning of each of the characters, whether I liked the character or not.  

And then there is an epilogue.  Another excellent installment in this dystopian world, and I want more.

Read in January; blog review scheduled for April 17.

NetGalley/Orbit Books

Science Fiction/Dystopian.  May 2, 2018.  Print length:  392 pages.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd

Dead Girl Running is a strange amalgam of intriguing premise and plot holes.  Another book with a backstory inserted bit by bit into the main plot, Dead Girl Running had me alternating between suspenseful sections and confusion because not everything quite fit together.

I have three confessions to make:

1. I've got the scar of a gunshot on my forehead.
2. I don't remember an entire year of my life.
3. My name is Kellen Adams...and that's half a lie.

After a prologue that didn't appeal to me, I became involved with the characters and plot, only to pull up sharp several times with a "huh?"  Nevertheless, the suspense kept me intrigued until the last 20% of the book that just got too weird.

Read in Oct.; blog review scheduled for April 13, 2018


Mystery.  April 24, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blue Moon Gardens

We took a trip to Blue Moon Gardens in Texas. They grow their own plants at Blue Moon Gardens so the plants are always in excellent condition.  An added benefit is that they often have plants that I can't find in local nurseries.  

Last year my prize was the pygmy Japanese Maple like this one on their web site:

 Mine pygmy maple isn't as mature as the one above, but nearly a year later, it is coming along.  Unfortunately, the guy who trimmed the shrubs in the fall trimmed up the pygmy maple, too!  It is nice and bushy instead of airy and open :(

 This year we found another Japanese maple that I love, complete with open and airy appearance.  It came home, too. 
Where will it go?  It was already in a heavy pot.
Need to be sure before straining our backs again to put it in place.

We brought home some other plants as well--including two milkweed plants and a firecracker plant--both will attract more butterflies and humming birds.

Since losing the three huge birch trees, we are having to rethink some elements in the garden to deal with more open space and more sun.  Pros and cons to the situation.

When I tire of working in the garden, I'm decorating envelopes and postcards for National Letter Writing Month.  I try to include lines of poetry on each piece of mail to celebrate National Poetry Month.  Matching poems to envelopes or postcards and vice versa can be fun, but it can also be challenging.   

I wanted to use the lines from this Sylvia Plath poem because Mila likes Plath, but I had no idea how to decorate the envelope.  I looked online and at Pinterest for ideas, before I remembered that I had a stamp in my stash with a pagoda!  Perfect.  
from Bayou Quilts, my other blog
On occasion, I actually clean house  and do laundry.  Household chores are not this month's priority, however.  There are more important things to consider, both inside and out.  :)

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Knowledge: A Richard Jury Novel by Martha Grimes

I've been reading Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series for years.  Her book titles are the names of real pubs in England, but the appeal is mostly in her quirky characters.  Her latest installment is titled The Knowledge, a pub known only to London cabbies.  Although her previous books are based on real places, this one may not be.  If there is no real pub called "The Knowledge," there should be.   

My interest in this one was piqued by "the Knowledge"--"The Knowledge is a series of tests which must be passed by all black cab drivers before they can get a licence to work in the capital.  Black cabbies must study some 320 routes and 25,000 streets and get to know them all by heart. 

They also memorise roughly 20,000 landmarks and places of public interest, from tourist destinations to museums, parks, churches, theatres and schools.

The process typically takes between two and four years to complete and has been described as like having an atlas of London implanted into your brain.
Black cabbie hopefuls must then pass a written test and a series of oral exams before they can get their licence."  (source The Sun)
Early studies have shown that the brains of London black cabdrivers had larger-than-average hippocampi.  New research shows that "that London taxi drivers not only have larger-than-average memory centers in their brains, but also that their intensive training is responsible for the growth."  (source The Scientific American)

OK--enough digression.  This latest Richard Jury novel involves cab drivers and a rag tag bunch of kids who help solve the murder of a young couple.  
from the description:  Robbie Parsons is one of London’s finest, a black cab driver who knows every street, every theater, every landmark in the city by heart. In his backseat is a man with a gun in his hand—a man who brazenly committed a crime in front of the Artemis Club, a rarefied art gallery-cum-casino, then jumped in and ordered Parsons to drive. 
With the murderer as a passenger, Parsons surreptitiously signals other black cab drivers and then the kids get involved in keeping track of the killer's escape.  Later, Jury enlists the aid of Melrose Plant (my favorite character, although he doesn't get as much play as I'd like) and Marshall Trueblood in an attempt to solve all of the twists and turns of the case.  

You must be prepared to accept a less than realistic characterization of the kids, but as usual, Grimes' latest Richard Jury novel is a whirlwind of crime-solving and fun.

Read in February; review scheduled for April 8.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic

British Detectives.  April 13, 2018.  Print length:  662 pages.  !? I can't believe it was so many pages--I sped through it!