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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Marshlight, The Bone Shard Daughter, Love Lettering, and In the Company of Witches

Marshlight is the 4th in Joy Ellis' Matt Ballard series.

from descriptions:  An old friend’s sister disappears without a trace. There’s no sign of foul play, but she’d been acting very peculiarly . . .

Meanwhile, Liz’s cousin Christie comes to stay. She takes an immediate — and uncharacteristic — dislike to the local bookshop owner, Gina. Why does everyone put up with her awful behaviour?

Joy Ellis is one of my favorite authors, but the Matt Ballard series is not my favorite of her three series.   

Gina is a game player, a manipulative woman who manages to berate and coddle, denigrate and reward her employees and friends.  Christie sees this, but Gina's victims make excuses for her.

Ellis manages to bring to life some of her characters:  Tom's mother Margaret, Ian, even Pip and Dominic.  Strangely, the more important characters don't fare as well.  The inability of Tom, Delphi, and Jane to see through Gina makes them seem quite dense.  

NetGalley/Joffe Books
Mystery/Suspense.  July 8, 2021.   

The Bone Shard Daughter (Drowning Empire #1)by Andrea Stewart. 
Although Lin is the Emperor's daughter, she is unable to recall certain memories after her illness.  Her father pits her against Bayan, a young man he has fostered and appears to favor, teaching him the bone shard magic he refuses to teach Lin.

Jovis, a smuggler, is searching for his wife who was abducted 7 years ago.  He sails the Endless Sea, from island to island searching for her, financed by a powerful criminal group to whom he owes money.  When an island collapses into the sea, Jovis escapes with a young boy he has rescued from the tithing ceremony and saves a strange little cat-like creature from the sea.  

Mephi, the strange cat-like creature, gradually rescues Jovis from his grief and encourages Jovis to continue rescuing children.

Phalue is the daughter of the governor of one of the islands and Ranani is her girlfriend, who is working with the rebels.

Sand lives and works on an island where the inhabitants don't know where they came from and believe they have been there forever.  An accident reminds Sand that she hasn't been on the island forever, but regaining that specific knowledge doesn't give her back her memories.  

All of these threads will unite eventually.  In the meantime, each one has a powerful story involved.  The book moves back and forth between the characters and their stories easily.

  When children across the island kingdom are eight years old, a tithing requires that each child has a shard of bone excised from its skull.  The shard belong to the emperor who uses bone shard magic to supposedly protect the islands.  Part of this involves the creation of "constructs," an amalgamation of animal parts plus the bone shard(s).  The bone shards implanted in these constructs contain commands from the emperor.  Shades of Dr. Moreau.  Creeeepy.  

The magic seems to be science gone mad.

So...what did I think?  I was all in--able to tolerate inconsistencies and curious about each of the different storylines, completely absorbed in this compelling tale.  Sadly, I will have to wait for the release of the next in the series.  

Hatchett Audio Book;  Narrators:  Feodor Chin, Natalie Naudus, Emily Woo Zeller
Fantasy.  2020.  Print length:  448 pages.



Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn was a strange choice for me.  I was looking for something a little light, and this one sounded like a rom/com about a calligrapher.  I don't usually read "romance," but this sounded like something a little different.

And it sort of was and there were parts I sort of liked.  Yet... somehow it didn't work out for me.  I liked the characters fine.  The interior monologues about words, fonts, and letters was almost like Meg had a form of synesthesia, interesting, but maybe a little over done. 

It was a nice little romance, even with the flaws, until the second half of the book. I don't equate detailed sex scenes with romance, and in the end the good points weren't enough to satisfy any "com" in the "rom."

Ah, well.  You win some, you lose some.   


In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace is another unusual choice for me, as I don't often choose cozy mysteries, but I was still looking for a light read, and you know there's that big cat and the Victorian mansion on the cover and witches. 

from description:  When a guest dies in the B&B she helps her aunts run, a young witch must rely on some good old-fashioned investigating to clear her aunt's name in this magical and charming new cozy mystery.

I liked the aunts.  Their personalities were such a contrast.  Brynn, their niece, has always been able to commune with ghosts and when Constance (the guest) dies, Brynn seems the perfect person to have a little conversation with Constance to find out what happened, especially since it appears the her Aunt Nora is the chief suspect!  Brynn, however, has been unable or unwilling to use her powers since her husband died.  She is determined to clear her aunt without using her powers and isn't even certain that she could use them if she wanted to.

In the Company of Witches is a fast read, and if you enjoy cozy mysteries this might be one you would like.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing
Cozy Mystery.  Oct. 5, 2021.  Print length:  336 pages.  
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After all the plenteous rains of May and early June came the heat and humidity.  It may not be officially summer yet, but most of the country seems to be experiencing record heat.  Summer used to be peak travel time, but honestly, I'd rather go somewhere in the fall or spring than in the summer.  

There has been a lot less gardening and a lot more reading and stitching inside with AC.  

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Therapist by B.A. Paris and Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

 

I'd looked forward to this one, but in the end, I felt like the reader was being gas lighted.  

from description:  When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…


As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Everyone is a suspect in Nina's murder.  Alice is boring and obsessed, and no one is trustworthy because the author is manipulating the reader to  keep up suspense, and counterintuitively, the pace begins to crawl and the suspicions become repetitive.   (It's Tamsin, Will, Connor.  No, Edward, Eve, Leo, Ben.)  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

 July 13, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.

 


from description:  She met him through a dating app. An intriguing picture on a screen, a date at a downtown bar. What she thought might be just a quick hookup quickly became much more. She fell for him—hard. It happens sometimes, a powerful connection with a perfect stranger takes you by surprise. Could it be love?

But then, just as things were getting real, he stood her up. Then he disappeared—profiles deleted, phone disconnected. She was ghosted.

Wren Greenwood is an advice columnist, and her column "Dear Birdie" has been so popular, it has turned into a well-paying, sponsored podcast as well. 

Wren's best friend Jax pushes her to try a dating app to provide something more in her life besides work.  Surprisingly, one of her matches has all the qualities Wren has been looking for in a partner, not simply a hookup.  She and Adam seem to fit together, and for a few months, Wren and Adam seem to be developing a long term relationship.  Then he fails to show up at a restaurant where they were to meet and doesn't respond to her texts.

When a detective shows up at her door with information about "Adam,"  Wren is forced to reexamine their relationship.  Could Adam really be responsible for the disappearance of at least two young women?  

Wren joins the detective in the search for the man who has a great deal to hide and may not be through with Wren.

Interesting premise in this new world where people find themselves isolated and use dating apps to try and find relationships.   

NetGalley/Harlequin
Suspense.  Oct. 5, 2021.  Print length:  352 pages.




 



 

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Fallen by Linda Castill and The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Fallen and The Widows of Malabar Hill are both books that take us into other cultures and traditions.  The first has a contemporary setting in America, and the second takes us to Bombay in 1921, one hundred years ago and a time presaging great upheaval.  The power of fiction to engage our interest in lives that are very different from our own, to make us curious as we are informed, is one of the most important aspects of reading for many of us.

I read Fallen in March, but held back the review until closer to publication.  

Kate Burkholder left the Amish community years ago, but her familiarity with Amish customs and traditions are useful in her job as police chief in Painters Mill.  Having grown up in an Amish family, Kate understands and often sympathizes with the men and women she interviews during an investigation.  It doesn't mean she agrees with their thinking or their behavior, but she does have a context for it.  Even in devout communities, crimes occur and victims need justice.

When Rachael, "the only girl as bad at being Amish as Kate was" is found dead in a motel room in Painters Mill, Kate realizes she knew her years ago.  Rachael had been rebellious, eventually banned, and had left town for another life beyond Amish restrictions.  Why had she returned and who would have committed this brutal murder?

Each of Castillo's Kate Burkholder books functions as a standalone, an added bonus to an excellent series.  Her books are interesting because of the well-developed characters, the plots, and the insight into the Amish way of life.  I always look forward to new adventures with Kate.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Police Procedural.  July 6, 2021.  Print length:  320 pages.

The Widows of Malabar Hill
  by Sujata Massey had been on my list forever and when I started making the nightmare catchers a couple of weeks ago, it was one of the audible books (narrated by 
 Soneela Nankani)  I downloaded to listen to while stitching.  Loved it, just like every review said when it first came out.  

Aside from the plot, it was the insight into other cultures that made this so interesting.  Hindu, Muslim, Parsi--their laws and their customs kept me as absorbed as the well-drawn characters.  

Perveen Mistry is the first woman solicitor in Bombay and works for her father's law firm.  The backstory of Perveen's difficult road to her law degree is told in flashbacks, so there are two storylines being told and each is informative about life in 1916-1921 Bombay and about Perveen and the Mistry family. 

The current plot involves three Muslim wives after the death of their husband.  The women have all lived in purdah, seclusion from males, since their marriages, and now the mourning period is in effect as well.  As a woman, Perveen is able to visit the women and explain the terms of the will and the bequests to each of the women.  She is concerned about the estate manager's usurpation of authority in the household and about the ability of the women to understand how some of his directions would be detrimental to the widows' (and their children's) future financial situation.

I'm becoming quite addicted to audio books and Suleena Nankani's narration was excellent.  I'm debating on whether to read or listen to the next book, because of course, I have to read the next one!
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 Currently reading, slowly12 Bytes by Jeannette Winterson: "Twelve bytes. Twelve eye-opening, mind-expanding, funny and provocative essays on the implications of artificial intelligence for the way we live and the way we love - from Sunday Times-bestselling author Jeanette Winterson.  In 12 Bytes, the New York Times bestselling author of Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson, draws on her years of thinking and reading about artificial intelligence in all its bewildering manifestations. In her brilliant, laser focused, uniquely pointed and witty style of story-telling, Winterson looks to history, religion, myth, literature, the politics of race and gender, and computer science, to help us understand the radical changes to the way we live and love that are happening now."

The first essay was fascinating, drawing together Ada Lovelace, Mary Shelley, Charles Babbage, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Lord Byron in an intriguing history of connections, mathematics, computers, women's rights, and the fictional leap of Frankenstein.  About a third of the way in, however, the essays are more philosophical, which takes me a great deal more time to decipher and ponder.  

I suppose that like most people, I'm curious about the future of AI--a subject that is as frightening as it is fascinating.  Winterson appears to have a hopeful outlook, but as always, there is the possibility of unintended consequences.  I'll continue the essays, slowly, and doing a little Google researching on my own.  




Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Death at the Crystal Palace by Jennifer Ashley; Between Decisions by W.R. Gingell

 

Another fun adventure with Kat Holloway.

from description:  While attending an exhibition at the Crystal Palace, young cook Kat Holloway is approached by a woman in distress. Lady Covington is a wealthy widow convinced that her entire family is trying to kill her. Kat feels compelled to help, and she escorts the lady home to discover whether she is delusional or in true danger.

Someone in the household is trying to poison Lady Covington, and her children and stepchildren have possible motives.  Kat enlists Cynthia to visit the Covington home for a while and observe and gather information about the family.  Cynthia, whose parents are trying to force her home to their estate in the country in hopes of finding her a husband, is only too happy to undertake the task and get away from her parents for a while.

Kat's friend Daniel is involved in another mission to discover whether a Duke is supplying money to Irish Nationalists.  

This historical series is always fun, the characters are likable and the plots interesting.   Another enjoyable mystery with the (mostly) Below Stairs crowd.

NetGalley/Berkeley Pub.

Historical Mystery.  July 6, 2021.  print length:  304 pages.


If you enjoy urban fantasy, you might give W.R. Gingell's The City Between series a try.  But start at the beginning!

I was pleased when Ashley (Rustic Reading Gal) noted that book #8 was available, found it on Kindle Unlimited, downloaded it, and returned to Hobart and all of the curious characters and adventures.

So there are Sirens and the united efforts to put an end to their preying on humans.  Typical stuff.  The back and forth with Pet and Jin Yeong-- fun. But...then...Shock after Shock! 

How long will we have to wait for #9?   I want the final two books, and I want them now!

Kindle Unlimited.

Urban Fantasy.  May 16, 2021.  print length:  266 pages. 







  


Friday, May 28, 2021

The Heron's Cry by Ann Cleeves, The Child in the Photo by Kerry Wilkinson, Art Matters by Neil Gaiman and A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier

 

I read this in April, but it won't be published until Sept. 7.  I intended to schedule it, but I'm tired of waiting that long to review a book.  I will mention it again closer to publication.

from description:North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder--Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter's broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He's a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

I enjoyed the first of Cleeves' new series featuring Matthew Venn, but not as much as her Vera series.  However, I'm liking it better as I grow familiar with the characters in the Two Rivers series.   The Long Call introduced her new characters and The Heron's Cry continues their development.   So...a nifty police procedural as well-written as is typical of Cleeves, and characters who are evolving make The Heron's Cry another great addition to the Cleeves' body of work.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Police Procedural.  Sept. 7, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages.

 
from description:  I stare at the newspaper article about a baby snatched from the back of a car thirty years ago, and wonder why someone would post it through my door. Looking closer, my blood freezes. The little girl in the photo has an unusual scar – just like mine.  

Kerry Wilkinson is another of my go-to mystery and police procedural authors.  The Child in the Photo is a stand-alone and a compelling read as I became engaged with Hope's search for the truth.  

It isn't my favorite from this author, but I enjoyed the relationship between Hope and her best friend Stephen and the twists as Hope begins to realize that the family she has known and loved is not her biological family.  Her feelings of frustrations, confusion, and anger, as she delves into the past and several deceptions by people she meets.  

NetGalley/Bookoutre
Mystery.  June 14, 2021.  Print length:  318 pages.

I listened to this as an audio book and thoroughly enjoyed Neil Gaiman's very English voice;  the only drawback was that since it was an audio book, I didn't get to see Chris Riddell's drawings.

My favorite was Gaiman's talk "On Libraries, "  which emphasizes the importance of libraries and fostering young readers.  Of course, you would all agree with his opinions, as you are readers, too, but it was a pleasure to listen to.

from description:   

Art Matters bring together four of Gaiman’s most beloved writings on creativity and artistry: 

  • “Credo”, his remarkably concise and relevant manifesto on free expression, first delivered in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings
  • “Make Good Art”, his famous 2012 commencement address delivered at the Philadelphia University of the Arts
  • “Making a Chair”, a poem about the joys of creating something, even when words won’t come 
  • “On Libraries”, an impassioned argument for libraries that illuminates their importance to our future and celebrates how they foster readers and daydreamers.
I listened to this as I was working on some small Nightmare Catcher dolls.  I was watching a K drama when the main character gave the love interest, who was troubled by night terrors, a Nightmare Catcher doll.  It was very similar to Junker Jane's monster dolls, and I went upstairs and immediate began gathering scraps to make some of my own.  (Melanie, have you watched It's OK Not to Be OK?)  Audio books are wonderful to listen to while working on these eccentric little creatures.    

The next audio book I listened to was A Borrowing of Bones (which I downloaded some time ago on Lark's recommendation, but had not listened to.)

from description:  First in a gripping new mystery series about a retired MP and her bomb-sniffing dog who become embroiled in an investigation in the beautiful Vermont wilderness
It may be the Fourth of July weekend, but for retired soldiers Mercy Carr and Belgian Malinois Elvis, it’s just another walk in the remote Lye Brook Wilderness—until the former bomb-sniffing dog alerts to explosives and they find a squalling baby abandoned near a shallow grave filled with what appear to be human bones. U.S. Game Warden Troy Warner and his search-and rescue Newfoundland Susie Bear respond to Mercy’s 911 call, and the four must work together to track down a missing mother, solve a cold-case murder, and keep the citizens of Vermont safe on potentially the most incendiary Independence Day since the American Revolution.

 Yes, I'm still a sucker for working dogs, and Mercy, Elvis, Troy, and Susie Bear kept me interested the entire time.  Amy and Helena and Patience were also great characters.   A Borrowing of Bones was a suspenseful mystery and a new series to follow.

Thanks, Lark! 

I was still making dolls, but in addition, I was also managing some household chores like dusting, mopping floors, etc.   Now, I have a cleaner house, four completed dolls and two more in progress all while being entertained .  



Saturday, May 22, 2021

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder

from description:  From the beet fields of North Dakota to the campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older adults. These invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in RVs and modified vans, forming a growing community of nomads.

While I enjoyed the film based on the book, I found the book more interesting and informative.  The stories of the folks who lost their homes through a variety of setbacks and the devastating 2008 financial collapse was an eye-opening and disturbing experience.  Across the spectrum of education and previous income, the loss of jobs and homes wreaked havoc on thousands of people, but the effect of those who have "aged out of the job market" was particularly brutal.  

Perhaps the most unsettling aspect is that large corporations-- that make billions and pay little or no taxes--use these elderly workers (from 60-80 years old) as low-paid, temporary labor for 12 hour labor-intensive shifts.  Although most of the nomads interviewed kept an upbeat attitude in public, the consequences of the callous treatment by companies that use this disposable labor is disturbing, and regardless of trying to keep a positive spin on the situation, the nomads are not unaware of the precariousness of their lives.  They have lost homes, savings, pensions, healthcare, and security.  

It is disconcerting to learn of this subculture of people who have fallen from middle-class to "houseless" travelers.   

Perhaps it is time for Jessica Bruder, to revisit this phenomenon in the wake of the pandemic.

Recommended.

Nonfiction.  Purchased.
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After another week of rain, this morning is clear!  



I also want pockets deep enough to put my hands in and to hold things, not those shallow pockets most often found on women's clothing.  Maybe we should all follow Kamryn's example and write companies about what we want in the clothing department!
  


 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Emerging from Malaise

 I've been reading, even if I haven't been keeping up with reviews.  For about 6 weeks, I was in an apathetic phase.  One of those "do the least possible and know that the doldrums/indifference will end eventually."  This May has been the rainiest I can remember, and that probably had some impact on my attitude.  There have been so  many garden chores that needed to be done before the summer heat, and my frustration would mount when it was too wet and rainy to get them done.   

The Mother's Day Weekend in New Orleans with Amelia, Bryce Eleanor, and Suzie (a wonderful girls' weekend) brought me out of that funk, and when I got back home, Fee had raised the fountain and moved the Happy Buddha in front, and I can't look at it without smiling.  

Cosmos, Homestead Purple verbena,diplodenia, and golden stonecrop 

 
Asters

Coreopsis

Then we had several days without rain, and I could weed and transplant and garden at will.  It rained last night and the prospect is for more today and for the next several days, but that's OK now.  I've finished the bigger chores, and Fee has done the even bigger ones.  

Some of the books I've recently enjoyed. 

A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey was recommended by Ruthiella at Booked for Life.  One of my favorite books from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction is Tey's The Daughter of Time, so it is not surprise that I enjoyed this one.  I agree with Ruthiella that this not one of Tey's best, but it was only her second book.

from description:  When a woman's body washes up on an isolated stretch of beach on the southern coast of England, Scotland Yard's Inspector Alan Grant is on the case. But the inquiry into her death turns into a nightmare of false leads and baffling clues. Was there anyone who didn't want lovely screen actress Christine Clay dead?  

Initially, I wasn't to taken with this one, but it turned into one of those books that I enjoyed more as I continued reading.

First published in 1936.  

Detective Fiction from the Golden Age.


Mark de Castrique was recommended by Cathy at Kittling Books.  I was looking for the character Virgil she described, but she also mentioned that readers should begin with the first in the series. 

Blackman's Coffin (Sam Blackman #1) didn't have Virgil, but it was the beginning of a new-to-me series. 

from description:  Sam Blackman is an angry man. A Chief Warrant Officer in the Criminal Investigation Detachment of the U.S. military, he lost a leg in Iraq. His outspoken criticism of his medical treatment resulted in his transfer to the Veteran’s Hospital in Asheville, NC. Then an ex-marine and fellow amputee named Tikima Robertson walks into his hospital room.

Tikima hints that she has an opportunity for Sam to use his investigative skills--if he can stop feeling sorry for himself. But before she can return, Tikima is murdered, her body found floating in the river.

When Tikima's sister comes to Sam with an old journal from 1919, things get really interesting.  The Biltmore Estate figures largely in the mystery and Thomas Wolfe also figures into the old case.  

I'm definitely in for more in this series!  

Kindle Unlimited/ Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery.  2003; 2008.  Print length:  256 pages. 


A couple of weeks ago I started J.M. Dalgliesh's new series Hidden Norfolk.  Then I decided to go back to his earlier series Dark Yorkshire with detective Nate Caslin I'd read three books in that series several years ago and decided to move on to the fourth, Blood Money.

from description:  As the extremes of nationalist hate descend upon York, a refugee is tortured to death while a straightforward case of a bankrupt’s suicide proves to be anything but simple. How does an enigmatic campaigner with a secret to keep link these two disparate worlds? Shining a light onto corporate finance draws Caslin to those who prefer to live in the shadows.

Detective Nate Caslin's latest case is filled with twists and turns, a number of deaths that seemed either suicides or accidental may have a more sinister connection; Russians, oligarchs, and a "follow the money" theme with a surprise at the end.

Kindle Unlimited.
British Detective.  2018.  Print length:  251 pages.
 

Thursday, May 06, 2021

The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar by Liese Sherwood-Fabre and One Lost Soul by J M Dalgliesh

Having enjoyed the two previous books in this series about a young Sherlock Holmes, I wouldn't have wanted to miss this one.  

The Oxford-Cambridge annual boat race turn into a tragedy as a young man is found drowned.  

The Holmes family is drawn into the investigation because he is one of Mycroft's fellow students and because Mrs. Holmes is present.  Even if Mycroft and Sherlock could avoid a mystery, Mrs. Holmes certainly can't.

Mycroft is reluctantly involved because his reputation is threatened.  If the young man who drowned is designated a suicide, the Crown can take his estate and leave his family destitute.  His sister decides to blackmail Mycroft into helping prove that the death was not a suicide.

The threat of blackmail certainly gets the family's attention and even Mycroft, the reluctant investigator, knows what is at stake and does his best.  

NetGalley/Little Elm Press

Historical mystery.  May 15, 2021.  Print length:  314 pages.


I've read several books in the Dark Yorkshire series featuring DI Nathaniel Caslin by J M Dalgliesh and decided to try the Hidden Norfolk series featuring DI Tom Jansen.  

One Lost Soul is the first in the Hidden Norfolk series and introduces DI Tom Janssen, whose character is without some of the problems Nate Caslin has in Divided House, the first in the Dark Yorkshire series.  I like that the author has created a very different MC in Tom Janssen, that and the settings help keep the two series easily separated.

One Lost Soul does have that "first book in a series" feeling as the characters and setting are introduced.  It also has a much less complex investigation than those in the Dark Yorkshire series.  

Briefly, a young girl has been found murdered and there appears to be an attempt to cast blame on one suspect, but there are several other possibilities.  DI Tom Janssen, DCI Tamara work together with the youngest member of the team to determine who is responsible.  I will probably read the next one to see if I'll continue with the series, and I know I will get back to Nate Caslin in the Dark Yorkshire series, now that I've been reminded.  :0

Kindle Unlimited

Police Procedural.  2019.  Print length:  294 pages.

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Garden:  I took some garden pics early this morning.  My thanks were 3 mosquito bites along my cheek bone from ear almost to my eye.  Huh?  That had to have happened when I was putting one of those mosquito donuts in a puddle  where the water hadn't drained from the storm the other day.  I didn't even realize those nasty little buggers had found their target until the itching started. 

And so it begins:  the annual war between human and mosquito.  It is a no-win situation, just damage to both sides.

Need to refill the birdbath

 

The February snow was so unusual that it never occurred to me that throwing bird seed on the snow would be a problem.  I've been pulling sunflowers ever since.  Some I've left, obviously--because it is so fascinating to see how quickly they grow!  


The Homestead Purple Verbena didn't do much last year, but this year it is trying to take over.  

Edgrrr prowls/patrols his patch 

Now to finish enjoying my coffee and Fee's blueberry bread.  Yum.



Sunday, May 02, 2021

One, Two, Three by Laurie Frankel

 This is the first book I've read by Laurie Frankel, but now I'll be looking for more.

Seventeen years ago, the small town of Bourn welcomed a new chemical factory that promised a better economy for residents and delivered poisoned water, death, and birth defects before closing down.

Norah Mitchell has headed up a class action suit that never goes anywhere, but she continues looking for the smoking gun, undeterred by setbacks.

Her daughters, triplets, are the voices in the story.  Mab (One), Monday (Two), and Mirabel (Three) have grown up in the damaged town and provide the narration.  Mab is "normal" in appearance and behavior; Monday is on the high end of the spectrum--bright, but obsessive about being touched and extremely literal; and Mirabel is a genius, but wheelchair bound and unable to speak without the aid a vocalizer.  

Sounds depressing, doesn't it?  And yet as we meet each girl, we are immediately and irrevocably drawn into their relationships with each other and with other members of the town.  The writing is neither sentimental nor maudlin, and the girls, each in her own right, are forces to be reckoned with.  I was immediately captivated with One, Two, and Three and engaged with each one in their struggles to prevent a repeat of the previous disaster...because the chemical plant wants to re-open--promising that all the problems have been rectified and offering much needed well-paying jobs.  Who will trust them this time?

Poignant and funny and suspenseful.  

Highly Recommended.  Loved it.

NetGalley/Henry Holt

Coming of Age/Topical.  June 8, 2021.  Print length:  416 pages.


  


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Glimmer Lake series by Elizabeth Hunter

 

Sometimes, I enjoy light books that don't have too much emotional or social turmoil, and the Glimmer Lake books gave me just that with a paranormal twist and a little romance.

Three friends are on their way for a little girl time together when a car accident sends them off the road and into a deep lake.  All three survive, but the circumstances include a rescuer who doesn't exist.  Robin, Val, and Monica emerged from the lake with new abilities that require some serious adjustment.

The first book deals with Robin who now has the ability to see ghosts.  The second book features the extremely reluctant Val, who finds that by touching certain objects she suddenly knows much more about the owner than she wants to.  The third book focuses on Monica psychic dreams.  

I found the books to be exactly what I needed during a period of anxiety.  The friendships between these three middle-aged women and the way each adjusted to her new abilities was fun--especially because they find themselves solving mysteries.

If you enjoy female friendships adorned with a little supernatural, some mysteries, and a little romance, you might find these books fun and comforting. 

I haven't read Elizabeth Hunter before, but the next time I am in the mood for something that will lighten my mood and keep me entertained, I'll look for what else she has to offer.

After reading the first in this three-part series, I couldn't not know what this threesome got up to next, so I dashed through all three. :)

Kindle Unlimited.




Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Custard Corpses by M J Porter, Murder in Pembrokeshire by Gretta Mulrooney, and Farewell My Herring by L.C. Tyler

I chose this one largely based on the strange title.

from description:  Birmingham, England, UK, 1943.


While the whine of the air raid sirens might no longer be rousing him from bed every night, a two-decade-old unsolved murder case will ensure that Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is about to suffer more sleepless nights.

Young Robert McFarlane’s body was found outside the local church hall on 30th September 1923. But, his cause of death was drowning, and he’d been missing for three days before his body was found. No one was ever arrested for the crime. No answers could ever be given to the grieving family. The unsolved case has haunted Mason ever since.

A cold case that has bothered Sam Mason for years comes to the forefront again when Robert McFarlane's sister comes to Sam on her annual visit about the death of her brother.  This time, however, she brings an old newspaper clipping about what child murder that took place three years after young Robert's.

Interested, if not exactly hopeful, Sam is determined to follow any lead.  As it turns out, there are similarities Sam can't ignore...and yet cannot decipher.  Sam's wife makes the most important connection that sends Sam and Constable O'Rourke  through many twists and turns as "new" old cases keep turning up.   

The concept is interesting and the investigation kept me involved.  Slow in places and sometimes a bit repetitious, The Custard Corpses still managed to provide an intriguing and unusual historical police procedural.  

Read in April.  Blog review scheduled for ????

NetGalley/BooksGoSocial

Historical Police Procedural.  March 25, 2021.  

I've read a couple of books in Mulrooney's Tyrone Swift series and a couple in her Siv Drummond series and enjoyed them.  

from descripton:  An isolated community.
No Wi-Fi, no mobile signal.
No witnesses.

Detective Tyrone Swift is invited to stay with Afan Griffith, an old friend living in a small community in rural Pembrokeshire. Cut off from the rest of the world, with no mobile signal or Wi-Fi, something’s got Afan worried.

But Afan isn’t there to greet Swift when he arrives. The next day, Swift discovers Afan’s body on a lonely stretch of the nearby coastal path — stabbed to death.

Before becoming a private detective, Swift had been with the Met and also had spent some time in France with Interpol, where he and Afan had become friends.  Murder in Pembrokeshire has Swift outside of his usual world in the isolated community in Wales.  

Puzzled and concerned that his friend isn't there to meet him as planned, Ty sets off the next day for a walk and discovers Afan's body.  Determined to unearth the killer and the motivation, Ty remains at the commune to unravel some of the many secrets members of the small community are keeping that might prove useful in finding Afan's killer.

This isn't my favorite in the series, but I did enjoy it.

Read in March.

NetGalley/Joffe Books
Detective.  March 23, 2021.  Print length:  243 pages.

Another book selected mostly for the unusual title, but also for the beautiful cover, Farewell My Herring was every bit as unusual as the title implies.

I did enjoy this comical crime novel, there is plenty to amuse the reader in the amateur detection of Ethelred and Elsie. A bit too overtop for me to want to read another, but it was a fun satirical adventure.

I had a look at his other titles--they all contain the word "herring." Ok, so when I saw this title I was immediately reminded of Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, but when I looked at Tyler's other "herring" titles, Agatha Christie was well represented: Ten Little Herrings, The Herring in the Library, The Herring on the Nile, etc. Chandler and Christie were certainly the source of the Herring titles. :)

NetGalley/Alison and Busby
Comic Crime? April 22, 2021. Print length: 227 pages


 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

 

From Description:  Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission--and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.


Except that right now, he doesn't know that. He can't even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

 Strangely, I abandoned both The Martian and Artemis, but Project Hail Mary was a definite hit for me.  

There is a lot of science/physics/math that I didn't understand, but made me think that solving problems with this knowledge could encourage young people into STEM courses.  Even a "mathophobe" like me was intrigued and felt the excitement of problem solving.  

Middle School science teacher, Ryland Grace wakes up from an induced coma far in space, with no memory of how he got there.  His two crew mates didn't survive, and it takes him a while to  remember even  his name, but he gradually realizes that he has a great deal of knowledge about the ship and its functions.  At first, his knowledge is a little surprising to him, but as his memory returns in fits and starts, and he experiences flashbacks of his previous life, he understands the mission of Project Hail Mary and its importance--a last ditch effort to save Earth and humanity.  

He is alone in space...until he isn't.  He finds an unexpected ally, and the two of them risk their lives over and over to make sure their missions are completed.  Here, Weir excels at creating a dynamic between Ryland Grace and Rocky and moves beyond the typical space adventure into something more.  The need for Grace and Rocky to communicate, to except each other's abilities and limitations, and to work together using their combination of skills in order to save their respective worlds is the crux of the book.  Yes, it is a space adventure, but not in the usual sense--Project Hail Mary combines suspense and humor and "humanity" in the midst of some abstruse science and mathematics.  

As I mentioned, the science and math was beyond me, and yet I found the way Weir used it (or perhaps, overused it)  made me see the solving of mathematical and scientific puzzles as exciting as solving a mystery in a police procedural.   Never thought that could happen.  

I was completely engaged from first to last with this novel.  Rocky is the highlight and an unforgettable character--you really need to meet him!  

Read in March; review scheduled for April 25.

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine                                                                                                        Science Fiction.  May 4, 2021.  Print length:  496 pages.  

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Swimming Back to Trout River

 

I've read several books, both fiction and nonfiction, that concern the Cultural Revolution, but this is perhaps the most unusual and certainly one of the best. 

  Swimming Back to Trout River gripped me from the beginning and my interest never flagged.  Beautifully written with characters who are individual and complicated, hopeful and talented, and then confronted with the Cultural Revolution's efforts to purge capitalism, foreign influence, and tradition.  Young intellectuals were sent to the countryside to experience manual labor and "rehabilitation."  

Momo, Cassia, and Dawn were young and talented, but the upheaval in their lives after being sent to the countryside required remarkable resilience.  When the Cultural Revolution ends, Momo, Cassia, and Dawn attempt to rebuild their lives in different ways, and Junie, Momo and Cassia's daughter is left in China with her beloved grandparents.

Momo's goal is to reunite with Junie, to bring her to America.  Junie, however, cannot imagine a life away from Trout River.

One of the most impressive elements in the story in the influence of music on the main characters and the importance of art and creativity in their lives.  

Beautifully written, thoughtful, and perceptive, Linda Rui Feng has written a novel that will linger with its readers in many ways.  It is one of my favorite novels of last year.  Highly Recommended.

Read in December; blog review scheduled for April.

NetGalley/Simon & Schuster.

Multicultural History.  May 11, 2021.  Print length:  272 pages.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Sister's Twin, What You Never Knew, Hadley and Grace, and This World So Fierce

 

From Description:  How do you solve a murder when the victim is still alive?

Lily Spencer knows her twin is fated to die. And she can’t stop envisioning the end.

A stranger in the night.
A vicious blade.
The tarot card he will leave behind.

Lily’s clairvoyant friend has foreseen it all. And her eerie insights are never wrong.

A killer is coming to the care home where the sisters live. It’s only a question of when. And why.

In desperation, Lily turns to curmudgeonly sleuth Ray Flowers for help.

She may be elderly but she’s anything but defenceless. And she’s not giving up on her sister.

Not without a fight.

Someone is killing vulnerable old people, but who is the person planning the murders and why?   Lily and Rose are essential to the plot, but Elspeth Moore is by far the most entertaining character!  Give Elspeth a tarot deck and a cricket bat, and she's got things under control.  Well, almost.   Ray Flowers is reluctant to get involved...until he is forced to believe.  I enjoyed this one.

Read in March; review scheduled for  April 11.

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery.  April 1, 2021.  Print length:  201 pages.


From Description:  

Idyllic Avril lsland, owned by the Bennett family, where their hundred-year-old cottage sat nestled in acres of forest. Forty-year-old June Bennett believed that the island had been sold after the summer of her father's disappearance when she was only twelve years old. It's months after the shocking death of her older sister May in a fatal car accident, that June finds out that the cottage was never sold. Avril Island is still owned by the Bennett family and now it's hers.

Old secrets and an old friend await June on Avril island.  What June thought she knew about that last summer on the island when she was twelve--is not nearly what she thought.

I wanted to know all the secrets, but from very early in the book June's character seemed less than realistic.  In the end, I wasn't even satisfied knowing the secrets.

Read in March   

NetGalley/Crooked Lane Books

Mystery.  April 13, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.  


Hadley's husband is abusive and Grace's husband has a gambling habit.  When Hadley decides to take the two kids and leave Frank, she plans on getting some of his money first.  Grace, who works for Frank, has also decided to take the money Frank owes her and with her infant son make a get-away.

Kind of the heist from hell when the two women get into it during their separate attempts at theft.  As it turns out, they are going to need each other as the two hit the road with kids in tow.

Favorite character: Skipper who has lived with Hadley for most of his eight years and is special needs.  

It does have the escape element of Thelma & Louise, but this time there are three kids added to the mix.

Read in March.

Kindle Unlimited.  2021.  344 pages.

From Description:  
Trish and Nikki are Orphans who live on the poor side of town. But they know what it means to have a family that cares, even if that family is not blood. Their foster parents can't have children of their own, so they raise children who come to them from a world of pain and loss. When the family is asked to take in one more, they can't refuse. But it might be one more than they can handle.

"The World So Fierce" is a story of the other side of tragedy. The orphans are a surrogate family, but when they take in one more child could their family break? What happens when one orphan can't turn his life around?

A family who fosters and adopts children who need a home and a family--agrees to take in seventeen-year-old Mike, who is preparing to leave state custody.

The hope that Mike will be able to turn his life around is part of Bud and Molly's basic philosophy, but will he be able to join the family as a member or will he be a destructive influence?  Even with the best of intentions, can everyone be saved?

Mary Marcotte is a blog friend, a retired teacher, and an avid quilter.  This is her debut work that takes place in South Louisiana, a world Mary knows well.

Read in April.

Orphans/FosterFamilies.  2020.  90 pages.