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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Catching up on reviews while it rains

The second in a series, The Wolf's Eye by Luanne G. Smith was slow and confusing initially.  It did get better, but still wasn't completely satisfying for me.

Witches, mages, and a vlkodnak (Czech for werewolf) curse. 

I read The Raven Spell by Smith in 2022 and thought it was good fun, but for some reason this one didn't resonate in the same way.

Thanks to NetGalley and 47 North.  


A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta is the third book in the Lincoln Perry series that I've read recently.  

When Alex Jefferson is found tortured and murdered, the police come to Lincoln Perry.  At first, simply because Lincoln Perry had history with Jefferson.  As things progress, however, the case against Perry grows from curiosity to suspicion to the police wholeheartedly believing in Perry's guilt.

Perry must find a way to clear himself, but the set up against him continues to increase, making him look guiltier by the minute.  Jefferson's death was a revenge killing, but Perry and Joe, his partner, must discover the reason for such a terrible revenge intent on leaving Perry as a scapegoat.

A Welcome Grave kept my interest, and I've enjoyed all three books so far in this series.

305 pages                                                                                                                                             PI Mystery

I've read 6 stand alones by Catriona McPherson and enjoyed each one.  I haven't read any of her series books, but the psychological standalones keep me coming back.  

Deep Beneath Us did not disappoint. From the blurb:

"Tabitha Muir returns to her childhood home in the remote hills of Hiskith in Scotland after twenty years away. She's lost her job, her house, and custody of her son after a divorce, and thinks this must be rock bottom - but worse is to come. An unplanned explosion at the dam on the loch and the suspicious death of her beloved cousin Davey force Tabitha to confront her past demons."

And boy, does the Muir family describe  dysfunction.  I couldn't keep up with the twists, doled out like dominoes ready to fall.

I've scheduled my review for May, as the publication date is June.  Thanks to Netgalley and Severn House.

Psychological mystery                                                                                                                           341 pages

Can't play outside.  This rain hasn't let up for 3 days.

Friday, April 05, 2024

The Furies by John Connolly

John Connolly's The Furies is quite different from earlier books in the Charlie Parker series.  It is actually 2 short novels combined.  The first The Sisters Strange was written during the pandemic lockdown daily for 64 days.  The second The Furies which gives the title, perhaps because of the 3 women in The Sisters Strange and the child in The Furies.

In other ways, the book is typical of the Charlie Parker books:  good vs evil, violence, and paranormal.  The violence is less than in earlier books, many of which are certainly not for everyone.  

I never miss a Charlie Parker installment and always look forward to recurring characters, especially Louis and Angel (there is never enough of them).

Connolly is an unusually erudite author and his humor is sharp and witty, often lending comic relief to horrendous situations.  The first time I read Connolly was decades ago and I think I abandoned it in fear.  About 5 years later, I read the second book, and only after starting it did I realize that it was the second in the series, but by then I was hooked, and I've read each book since, 20 so far.  I don't think of myself as a horror fan, but I'm certainly a fan of Charlie Parker.

508 pages

Europa Deep by Gary Gibson

Cassie White didn't make the first expedition to Europa, but her brother Chris did.  The expedition ceased responding and disappeared, but now 15 years later, another expedition is about to embark, and Cassie has the opportunity to be on board.

She's wary of this opportunity for several reasons, but the chance to discover what happened to her brother seals the deal.

Someone, however, seems determined to sabotage the mission, and Cassie doesn't know who to trust.  

At the heart of the novel, perhaps, is our human distrust of the very technology we often depend on.  AI and humans who are enhanced in some way can become frightening.  While the novel is set far in the future, the problems of fear and prejudice are the same we are suffering through in the present.  

The human condition is leery of what is different.  We are both curious and apprehensive of what we don't understand, the unknown, the unfamiliar.  The situation for Opt (individuals whose genetics have been altered) on earth is becoming dire.  Attacks on individual Opts and plans for internment camps are increasing.

The question of  consciousness also exists as some, like Marcus, on the verge of death uploads his consciousness, becoming a sentient AI.  And there is the phenomenon of consciousness deep in the ice covered Europa lake.  

Europa Deep is the second book I've read by Gary Gibson and both are different from the science fiction I usually favor.  Both Echogenesis and Europa Deep are stand alone novels and have, in addition to action and suspense, a more philosophical turn.

However, it seems Gibson has some series that fall more into the military science fiction/space opera subgenres I usually choose. 

Both of the stand-alone novels I've read by Gibson leave as many questions as answers, and considering the genre, that's OK.  I'm interested in his book series now.

Read in March.  

Science Fiction.  360 pages

Thursday, April 04, 2024

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

The Light Pirate is set in the near future. Destructive hurricanes have been worse for several years, but the storm coming for Florida is going to be a turning point.  

The ominous threat of Hurricane Wanda, has pregnant Frieda Lowe's anxiety increasing by the moment.  She wanted to evacuate, but her husband Kirby is convinced his preparations will keep them safe and tries to convince her that the storm is predicted to go north of their location.

A storm has been brewing in their relationship as well, as Frieda's fears increase and Kirby resents her lack of trust in his preparations.  Neither is right; neither is wrong.  They are both good people on the edge. Frieda's experience with a devastating hurricane in which she lost her mother and Kirby's experience as a linesman who has experience in restoring power in the aftermath of hurricanes and who grew up along the Florida coast put them at odds. Frieda's fear and Kirby's confidence clash.

Frieda's fears are realized in more ways than one.  Hurricane Wanda's damage reaches a new scale for Florida, and terrible loss and grief for the Lowe family.  In the midst of the storm, Frieda goes into labor and delivers a baby girl that she names after the hurricane.  

From this point Wanda becomes the focus.  The child is well-loved, but different.  Her friendship with her older neighbor Phyllis, retired from teaching biology at the university, teaches the young girl much about the nature around her.  Initially, Phyllis keeps Wanda after school until Kirby gets home, but eventually there is no more school. By the sixth grade, almost no children remain as families have given up and left.

The Light Pirate is an unusual dystopian work.  No sudden disaster like an EMP or a plague that kills with impunity, devastating a population.  Instead, even when the novel begins, people have begun expecting the violent changes in weather in the form of fire, flood, or wind.  No one expected the changes to come so quickly, by the time Wanda is ten, people are realizing that the infrastructure they've relied on cannot be repaired.

We follow the characters over the years and the adaptations, the difficulty keeping power on, the migration of families to the interior, the eventual evacuations of small towns and finally, the evacuation of Miami.  The seas relentless encroachment, the frequent storms, the increasing heat cause the decampment of the coastal population, but the interior has been undergoing changes as well.

The author's prose is beautiful, vibrating with tension at times, but always tender with the characters.    

The novel reminded me of At Home on an Unruly Planet (reviewed here), which was nonfiction, but was examining some of the climate changes that have already occurred and what needs to be done in preparation.  The Light Pirate, in the hands of an immensely talented Lily Brooks-Dalton, imagines further in the future in the decidedly human characters she creates.

Highly Recommended.  

Sunday, March 31, 2024

In the Hour of Crows by Dana Elmendorf

A little Southern Gothic, a little supernatural, and a little Appalachian superstition, In the Hour of Crows  is also a mystery.

Abandoned by her mother, and living with an unpleasant grandmother who is known as a "Granny Witch," Weatherly Wilder has an unusual childhood.  Her family has a history as herbalists with strange gifts, and Weatherly's gift is as a death talker like her grandfather.  Her cousin and best friend is a scryer.  Are these gifts or curses? It depends.

Death talkers can often, but not always, talk to the dying and bring them back.  There is a price to be paid for this-- the death talker inhales the death, creating Sin Eater Oil.  Weatherly's been doing this since she was a child at the encouragement of her grandmother.  Her grandmother is a cruel and controlling woman, but she needs Weatherly. Without Weatherly's skill and the death oil, the old woman becomes meaningless.

When a car hits Adair's bicycle killing her, Weatherly refuses to accept it as an accident. Adair "saw" something that bothered her, and Weatherly is convinced Adair's death was deliberate; she doesn't intend to let the wealthy Sloan Rutledge get away with it.

Family secrets are slow to be revealed, but Weatherly has every intention of discovering why Adair was targeted and to hell with the consequences.

I enjoyed the book, but felt that there were many loose ends that were not resolved involving Weatherly's mother, Rook, Gabby Newsome, the fact that everyone overlooks evidence of Adair's death, and the reason for the grandmother being in Stone Rutledge's office.  A sense of incompleteness that bothers me. 

Thanks to NetGalley for this opportunity.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Bookwoman's Last Fling by John Dunning

John Dunning's Cliff Janeway was a favorite years ago, and I don't know how I missed this final book in the series. 

Cliff Janeway, former detective and rare book expert, is contacted to review a remarkable collection of rare books from the H.R. Geiger estate. He eagerly flies to Idaho to assess the books and decide whether or not he can except the job.  The collection was amassed by Geiger's deceased wife, Candice, a bookwoman after his heart.  

His meeting with Junior Willis, however, does not go well, and regardless of how thrilled Janeway is with the collection, there are problems to be resolved.

One of the problems: several of the original books of astounding value have been replaced with reprints. Another is that Junior Willis wants this done more quickly than is reasonably or responsibly practical.  How can Janeway locate and return the missing books in the time allowed?  Is he expected to just sign on the line?

Janeway is fascinating with Candice Geiger and her collection, but also with the suggestion that Candice was murdered twenty years ago.  The deal with Junior goes south, but new possibilities arise with his meeting with Candice's daughter, Sharon.  The former detective and the rare book expert in Janeway combine--leading through many twists and turns, including spending time as ginney (groom or stable hand in horse racing terms), a murder, and attempts on Janeway's life.

  I learned a great deal about horse racing and shedrows (Dunning himself spent time as a ginney in his youth) and the plot kept me in the dark.  Near the end, I thought I had it figured out by the Mad Hatter clue, then an abrupt shift through me off again.  It wasn't until the concluding chapter that the bad guy was revealed.

The Bookwoman's Last Fling was engrossing, but I will certainly miss Cliff Janeway. 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Echogenesis by Gary Gibson

 I really enjoy science fiction, and this was a strange, but fascinating version that has a connection with our current problems-- mixing dystopia, fantasy of sorts, and science possibilities.

Fifteen people awake in a strange place with no idea how they got there or where "there" is.  They awaken in bodies of their much younger selves with no memories after a certain point in their lives, and this, in addition to their unknown surroundings, disturbs them all.  

Also disturbing for some is that their memories of being decades older inside bodies that are so much younger. They must make adjustments to deal with the teenage hormonal changes that make them quicker to anger and quite a bit feistier.

There are plenty of twists, curious and hostile creatures, and an immediate division among the survivors. Humans are humans with all the flaws inherent to our condition.  

One thing that bothered me was the immediate dislike between Sam and Vic.  I would have liked to have seen that develop less quickly, the reason for Sam's aversion to Vic a bit slower for them to understand.

Overall, a Echogenesis is in many ways more thoughtful than all the action suggests. If you enjoy science fiction, this is a book you may find not just full of twists, but an involving mystery of how and why these 15 people are where they are.

Friday, March 22, 2024

The Salaryman's Wife


3.5/5 stars

The Salaryman's Wife was written in 1997 and perhaps Suhata Massey's first novel.

Rei Shimura is half Japanese and half American, raised in America. She loves Tokyo, but finds herself caught between 2 cultures. For example, she speaks excellent Japanese, but is still trying to learn Kanji, the Japanese character writing system. The mystery is complex with multiple characters and complicated circumstances. The characters are well drawn, and the Japanese setting, culture, and atmosphere contribute to the plot.

I enjoyed it (with the exception of 2 sex scenes that were unnecessary) and probably would have given it 4 stars if I weren't more familiar with Massey's Purveen Mistry series set in India, which I love. I look forward to the next in this series; it is always fun to see how an author develops after a first novel, and of course, I want to know more about Rei's new venture in antiques and her relationship with Hugh.

The narrator was quite good, although it was difficult at times to keep track of Japanese names without seeing them visually.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Dark Wives


The Dark Wives by Ann Cleeves


When a young man's body is found outside a care home, Vera is concerned not just with the murder, but with the disappearance of a fourteen-year-old girl at the same time. Reading from the girl's journal, Vera resists the opinion that the girl is responsible, but knows that finding Chloe Spence is of utmost importance whether or not Chloe is guilty. Then another death escalates the suspense and confusion.

The team is undergoing a transition (and some guilt) after Holly's death, and Rosie Bell, the new team member has to find a way in. Rosie has a surprising empathy with families of victims which gives her a contrast with Holly. Her determination is evident, and I like her addition to the team.

Vera is much less curmudgeonly than in earlier novels, but she continues holding on to her opinions before sharing with her team, which is not always in everyone's best interest.

As always, Ann Cleeves draws the reader in with both great plotting and character development. I also appreciated the focus on care homes for profit at the expense of the young people who need help, which is a matter of concern in both the UK and the US.

The conclusion was... broader than expected and evidence of the author's ability to throw in the unanticipated. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Monday, July 25, 2022

Long Gone by Joanna Schaffhausen

The second in Schaffhausen's Annalisa Vega series.  

From description:  Chicago detective Annalisa Vega shattered her life, personally and professionally, when she turned in her ex-cop father for his role in a murder. Her family can’t forgive her. Her fellow officers no longer trust her. So when detective Leo Hammond turns up dead in a bizarre murder, Annalisa thinks she has nothing to lose by investigating whatever secrets he hid behind the thin blue line.

The first book in this series was OK, but I didn't love it.  I liked this one better, but still not completely satisfied with it.  I like the Ellery Hathaway/Reed Markham series better.

Read in March.  Review scheduled for July 25.

St. Martin's Press
Suspense.  Aug. 9, 2022.  Print length:  304 pages.


Monday, July 18, 2022

 This is simply a reminder that At Home on an Unruly Planet will be published soon.  I reviewed it in February, but it is so good and so timely that it needs to be read widely.  Reviewed Here.  Scheduled for July 18.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

True Biz by Sara Novic


from description:  A transporting novel that follows a year of seismic romantic, political, and familial shifts for a teacher and her students at a boarding school for the deaf, from the acclaimed author of Girl at War.

True biz (adj/exclamation; American Sign Language): really, seriously, definitely, real-talk

I really enjoyed this novel, mostly for what I learned about the deaf community, its successes and its battles. 

 The first time I discovered the beauty of ASL was in college watching a family in a restaurant signing, later I saw the National Theater of the Deaf perform Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales on PBS.  Then there was Children of a Lesser God.  

For a year or so, I've been enjoying Nicky Elliot's videos "Signing to the Oldies" which are delightful.  This month, I happened on True BizBehind the Green Door.  The ASL is so smooth and I love the old songs that Nicky chooses.  

This month, I happened on True BizI learned much more about the history and evolution of sign language and its variations while reading True Biz as I followed the teachers and students at the fictional River Valley School for the Deaf.  I expect this renewed interest in ASL and the deaf community will result in one of the wandering literary itineraries I love.

I already wanted to see Coda, but now...even more so.

NetGalley/Random House

Fiction.  April 5, 2022.  Print length:  386 pages.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Woman Eating by Claire Kohda


Lydia or Lyd has been keeping the lid on emotions her entire life: on her condition, her relationship with her mother, her loneliness, and her hunger.  

Having just graduated from art school, Lyd has an internship at a prestigious art gallery and has just placed her mother in a home for dementia patients.  She feels as if her life is finally beginning, but she is not prepared for the hunger as her normal food source is much harder to acquire.  

She rents a studio, meets other young people, and Ben, the friendly manager of the studio spaces, and struggles with her desire to fit in and overcome the sense of shame instilled in her by her mother. The internship is not at all what she expected--more an unpaid assistant than a learning experience.

She distracts herself with videos of women eating, cooking, and discussing food or with Buffy, the Vampire episodes. 

Lydia is hungry.  Always.  But if you are looking for a "vampire" book, you will be disappointed.  Woman Eating is psychological and allegorical, an intriguing anomaly with multiple themes. 

Read in Oct. 2021. Review scheduled for April 5, 2022.

 NetGalley.  April 15, 2022.  Print length:  240 pages.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Love You More by Lisa Gardner, One Bad Turn David J. Gatward

Love You More (D.D. Warren #5, Tessa Leoni #1).  State Trooper Tessa Leoni claims she shot her husband in self-defense.  She has been seriously beaten and no one questions her injuries, but D.D. Warren doesn't quite believe Tessa, something is off--and Tessa's six-year-old daughter is missing.  

Tessa is hospitalized for her injuries, then arrested for the murder of her husband.  Six-year-old Sophie is still missing, and D.D. and Bobby Dodge believe they are looking for her body, the kind of thing that disturbs even veteran cops.

Like in the Flora Dane books, D.D. plays a big role in the procedural portions of the book, but the alternating chapters in Tessa's voice propel the plot.  

Gardner ratchets up the tension and slowly reveals all the complications involved in this engrossing thriller.

Suspense/Thriller.  2011.  Print length:  368 pages.

I've caught up on the Grimm Up North series, which I really enjoy.  The characters and the setting work well together, and it is obvious how much the author himself loves the Yorkshire Dales.  

There are some chilling scenes as the body of a young woman is discovered and the terrible and unanticipated aftermath of the discovery.

This has become a favorite series, and I'm so glad stumbled on the first book and already looking forward to the next.

Kindle Unlimited.
Police Procedural.  March 3, 2022.  Print length:  343 pages.

Currently reading Churchill's Band of Brothers.  Excellent so far.

Something I've never thought of before,
 but the last two comments make it clear.  :)


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Three DI Zoe Finch books by Rachel McLean and Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner

Assistant Chief Constable Bryn Jackson is murdered shortly after returning home on the  night of his retirement. Recently promoted  DI Zoe Finch, fresh off a case involving corruption, fraud, and abuse against children, finds herself on the scene.  

Is Jackson's wife Margaret responsible?  Even with what little is revealed early on, it seems Margaret might have motive.  Zoe is surprised and confused by the way her DCI is handling the case and relegating Zoe to more tedious tasks.  Is he protecting Margaret?  And what changes his mind?

Deadly Wishes is the first in McLean's Zoe Finch series, and I liked it even better than McLean's Dorset Crime series.  Zoe's commitment and perseverance made this police procedural an enjoyable experience.  Zoe's team helps add to the interest:  DS Mo Uddin, DC Connie Williams, and DC Rhodri Hughes.

If the murder of an ACC who spent his life on the force isn't bad enough, Zoe senses a sinister underside to the murder and is determined to dig until all the pieces fit.

Kindle Unlimited
Police Procedural.  2020.  Print length:  402 pages.

Allison Osman takes her children to Cadbury World in a planned excursion her husband Ian was supposed to join.  Ian doesn't show.  Allison  leaves twelve-year-old Maddy to watch her little brother while she stands in line to get their food.

A matter of minutes and both children are gone.  

Another good police procedural with interesting characterization and plenty of suspense.  DI Zoe Finch and her team have to examine several unsavory possibilities in their attempt to determine who and why the children have been abducted.

Kindle Unlimited.
Police Procedural.  2020.  Print length:  400 pages.  

Someone has been making horrific assaults on gay men, creating anger and fear in the gay community.  Amid the pressure to solve the case, Zoe also fears for her eighteen-year-old son who doesn't seem to think he is danger.

There is a connection to police corruption that has been running through from the first book in this series, but as in the previous book, there is a plot that is resolved.  While I'd recommend beginning with the first book, each book can be read as a standalone.  

Two things I like about this series:  the characters on Zoe's team and the fast-paced plots!

Kindle Unlimited
Police Procedural.  2020.  Print length:  430 pages.

(I'm not sure whether all these books were released at once, but each one has a 2020 publication date.)

Lisa Gardner has rarely failed to keep my interest, and certainly the abduction of the Denbe family was a compelling example.  

In 2014, I read and loved Crash & Burn as an ARC.  It started me looking for any Lisa  Gardner book available from NetGalley or the library, regardless of publication date or series.

Anyway, I listened to Touch & Go the second book as an audio book, and was quickly immersed in the story. A common approach in many of Gardner's books is to give the victim as much or more time than the lead detective.  The secondary characters often turn up again in different books.  

Tessa Leoni, former state trooper, current investigator for a security firm, is called in by the Denbe Construction company.  D.D. Warren makes a cameo appearance in her role with the Boston Police Department, but the FBI takes over and Tessa must work with them.  In this case, the story moves back and forth between Tessa and Libby Denbe.  

Libby's voice describes the abduction and the imprisonment of the family.  Justin, Libby, and their fifteen-year-old daughter Ashlyn are stashed in a newly built but unoccupied prison facility in the wilds of New Hampshire.  Through Libby we learn of the mechanics of the family's abduction and the circumstances of their imprisonment.  We also learn a lot of the dynamics of the "perfect" family.  

In the investigation, Tessa interviews employees of the construction company, piecing together an outside version of the Denbes.  Detective Sergeant Wyatt Foster is also involved in the investigation and provides a nice balance to Tessa.  Getting the gradual information about the company, Justin, Libby, and Ashlyn was intriguing.  

Suspense and secrets.  Twists and turns.  When you think it is over.  It isn't.

There is a backstory to Tessa, that D.D. Warren first alludes to, but which relates to the reason that Tessa is no longer a state trooper.  This was a little frustrating, as I had not read that book.

The narration was OK, but Elizabeth Rodgers' attempts to distinguish different characters was not always successful and her occasional attempts at Boston and New Hampshire accents were often annoying.  I'm not sure any single narrator could have done a good job on so many characters, but that was a distraction.  

 It took a little while to find the first Tessa Leoni book because the first book that includes Tessa Leoni is actually the 5th book in the D.D. Warren series--Love You More.  I  couldn't wait and started it last night.

I recommend reading these three books in order. One of those "do as I say, not as I do" situations.

Love You More  (2011)
Touch and Go  (2013)
Crash and Burn  (2015)

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

The Hidden One by Linda Castillo and The Verifiers by Jane Pek


An Amish Bishop's remains are discovered 18 years after his disappearance, and an old friend from Kate Burkholder's  childhood and adolescence has been arrested for the Bishop's murder.

Three Dieners, church elders, come to Kate and ask her to investigate as they are positive that Jonas is innocent.

As always, I enjoy the way Castillo reveals Amish customs and culture and I enjoy the way Amish beliefs influence the plots.  When I finished The Hidden One, I felt like this was one of my favorite books in the series.  

The next morning, however, I had some questions... something that was not resolved.  Doesn't change my overall opinion about the book because I was completely engaged throughout, but I am really curious about a couple of things that were not explained.  Spoiler:  Who called Kate and said, "They were all there!"?  Were the Dieners  there?  Did I miss something? 

I checked the reviews on Goodreads, and no one mentions the thing that is bugging me.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery.  July 5, 2022.  Print length:  320 pages.

An interesting concept that involves internet dating sites, algorithms, and a company that verifies information of members.

Claudia Linn works for Veracity, a company that verifies profile information if a client finds something that doesn't ring true or that worries them.  When a client ends up dead, Claudia gets involved.

There were several elements that evoked my interest about online dating profiles.  I mean, we've become accustomed to the jokes about "I enjoy sunsets and walks on the beach" kind of thing.  I was curious about the kinds of questions matchmaking sites actually asked to try for a match.  Do these sites try to match only similar interests (if people are even honest in their interests)? Do they ever match "opposites," I wonder.  What algorithms?

On a more serious level, how do companies go about checking for out-and-out dishonesty about professions, locations, financial situations, etc. in a client's profile?  The match-making sites are part of our lives since the advent of the internet, but I have never really thought about them in a way that doesn't include the use of online-dating in a mystery novel or thriller.  

Unfortunately, this book was not a match for me--the characters felt artificial, the promised humor was hit or miss, I didn't learn much about what I was curious about, and the plot itself didn't really engage me.  Note:  I'm in the minority about this according to GR reviews.   


LGBQT Mystery.  February, 2022.  Print length:  368 pages


Note about earlier review of The Silence.  In America:  An 1893 court ruling increased pressure to keep Indian children in Boarding schools. It was not until 1978 with the passing of the Indian Child Welfare Act that Native American parents gained the legal right to deny their children's placement in off-reservation schools.

Also, Cathy mentioned the film The Rabbit-Proof Fence in her comment , and I want to see it.  I may just read the book, but Kenneth Branagh is in the film, and he is always worth watching.

Love this!

Monday, March 07, 2022

Murder at the Royal Botanic Gardens by Andrea Penrose, The Silence by Susan Allott, and The Summer We Forgot by Caroline George

The first book in the Wrexford & Sloane series was so much fun!  The last couple of books have been less so.  

The spark has gone out somehow.  The Weasels are still fun, but Wrexford and Charlotte have become less vibrant.  I hope the next one gives the MCs a bit more of their previous √©lan.

Read in Feb.

Kindle Unlimited
Regency Mystery.  2021. print length:  353 pages

The Silence is a layered story told in alternating timelines that unfold gradually.  Slow paced and character driven, the 1967 backstory reveals the human flaws in two families, flaws that are exacerbated by the situations in which they find themselves.  

 Steve, a policeman, hates the frequent requirement of removing aboriginal children from their homes and placing them in institutions, and he doesn't believe that the institutions will actually provide a better life regardless of what the government says. The strain builds until he can no longer cope; he is unraveling, coming undone.  Mandy, his wife, never grasps the effect the job has on her husband or on their marriage.  Steve wants children, but Mandy doesn't tell him that she is still taking her birth control pills.

Next door, Joe, an alcoholic, and Louisa, homesick for England, have marital problems that are only partially revealed until later, but Louisa hates Australia and wants to return to England.  All of this is divulged in the chapters that give the backstory.   
(Think: "The past is not dead.  It is not even past."--Faulkner; "What's past is prologue."--Shakespeare)

In the 1997 timeline, Isla Green, an alcoholic working for sobriety, receives a call from her father.  Joe tells her that he is under suspicion for Mandy's disappearance thirty years ago, and Isla returns to Australia for the first time in ten years--to her dysfunctional family and some vague memories of her early childhood.

The characters are not always likable, but they are very human and three-dimensional.  The scenes are visual and atmospheric--drawing the reader into the story in a palpable way.  

Theoretically, the removal of indigenous children from their parents was colonial Britain’s attempt to improve their living conditions. But in practice, kids were stolen from loving homes and brought to institutions that trained them to work for white people. Abuse, cruelty, and inhumanity filled their new lives. (via Washington Independent Review of Books)

Being silent about past mistakes doesn't remove the influence of those mistakes.  Not in families, not in social norms, not in government actions.   The problems these two families deal with are both personal and general.  The practices of Australian government are not unique, they have been pretty universal, and we have our own situations to atone for.


Audiobook read by Nelle Stewart.  

from description:  "Darby and Morgan haven’t spoken for two years, and their friend group has splintered. But when the body of their former science teacher is found in the marsh where they attended camp that summer, they realize they have more questions than answers . . . and even fewer memories."

A group of friends who attended a summer camp, can't remember the experience.  The two voices, Darby and Morgan's are indistinguishable.  I had to stop and think about who was actually speaking numerous times.  Difficult to have much character development when the voices don't indicate individuality.

Plot is...less than believable, and the style is disrupted in a number of ways, disjointed and ponderous, and too long.

NetGalley/Thomas Nelson
Mystery.  March 8, 2022.  Print length:  413 pages.  


Friday, March 04, 2022

Dorset Crime Series by Rachel McLean

 International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo) is over, but I still have some letters to respond to.  It was difficult to get a letter in the mail each day in February and there were days when I had to catch up with three or more letters at a time.  A challenge, but fun--especially getting so much mail!

I've received letters from new people, in addition to the folks I usually write, and this has been especially enjoyable.  The incoming mail will continue into March--because letters written later in the month take awhile to arrive and some folks are from the UK, Canada, France, and Australia.  The main requirement is to write back to everyone who writes you, and I already do that.  Maybe not promptly, but persistently.  

The last batch of February letters went out on Saturday and on Monday (2.28.22).

Of course, I've been reading, too. A new-to-me series by Rachel McLean; the Dorset Crime books are fast-paced, and I couldn't go through them fast enough!  There is an overarching plot that links the books, but each is fine as a standalone.  


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A Divided Loyalty by Charles Todd, The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang, and Carville's Cure: leprosy Stigma, and the Fight for Justice by Pam Fessler


I began reading this series with the first book years ago, but have missed many recent adventures.  Fortunately, the books can be read as standalones.  A historical mystery series featuring Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge, the series begins shortly after WWI when Rutledge returns to Scotland Yard.  

The Charles Todd books plot excellent mysteries and deal with the aftereffects of the war on society in general and on Rutledge, who suffered from shellshock, in particular.  

The voice of the dead corporal Hamish MacLeod, occurs more frequently in the earlier books, but has diminished over the years.  Rutledge has   become more accustomed to the voice, recognizing Hamish as a part of his own mind.

A Divided Loyalty has Rutledge assigned to a case that a friend and superior officer did not solve:  the murder of a young woman whose body was found next to a standing stone at Avebury.  Rutledge is aware that Chief Superintendent Markham does not expect him to solve the case and that Markham hopes to use his failure as a means of getting rid of Rutledge. 

There is almost nothing to go on, but that does not stop Rutledge from pursuing every avenue he can.  

Written by the mother and son team who publish as Charles Todd.

William Morrow Publishers
Historical Mystery.  Feb. 4, 2022.  Print length:  335 pages

 From Description:
ive years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared. The older of her two daughters, Zadie, should have seen it coming, because she can literally see things coming. But not even her psychic abilities were able to prevent their mother from vanishing one morning.

I am not at all sure what I think of this one.  The writing is excellent, the premise is intriguing, but even though parts that were quite interesting, I wasn't satisfied.

I glanced at reviews when I finished, and almost everyone else loved it.  Several reviewers found it fast-paced, when I found it slow--but I'm definitely in the minority.    

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Fantasy?  Nov. 15, 2022.  Print length:  336 pages.

For some reason, I have associated the leper colony at Carville with Walker Percy, but it must of been just a brief mention in one of his novels.  

At any rate, Hansen's disease was and is one of the real boogiemen of diseases, largely because it has been misrepresented for centuries.   The disfigurement and the stigma associated with leprosy was almost as bad as the disease itself.

In 1894, the first seven patients were taken to what would become the Louisiana Leper Home near Carville in Iberville Parish, Louisiana.  

Pam Fessler's research is impeccable and fortunately the  history of the colony has been recorded in detail by the doctors, the nursing sisters of the Daughters of Charity, and the patients themselves.

I had no idea that the history of Carville would be so enthralling, and the credit is largely due to Fessler's compassionate writing.  The account ended up being as compelling as a novel, something I never expected.  

Quickly immersed in the history and in the lives of those who were patients and the lives of those who treated them, I found the book difficult to put down.  

Once diagnosed, patients had no choice, if they did not go willingly, then they were forcefully taken to the facility, sometimes in handcuffs.  Their names were changed to save their families from the shame and fear of the disease, and they were isolated from the public and even their own families.  All ages, genders, races, religions, and cultures  created a diversity almost unheard of as patients from all over the country  ended up in Carville.  Many patients spent almost their entire lives in Carville.

abandoned plantation that was to house 
the Daughters of Charity
when they arrived in the 1894

slave cabins to house patients

The situation improved, bit by bit over the decades to follow, and I was completely invested in both the history and the patients.  I was horrified at the separation of children from their families and at of some of the early rules to prevent contagion (even though they knew that the disease was not very contagious).  I celebrated the triumphs and marveled at the resilience and determination of both caretakers and patients.  

This was a remarkable book, and I'm so glad I happened on it.  It is not one I will forget--from John Early to Stanley Stein to Betty and Harry Martin, to Jack and Rachael Pendelton, to Simeon Peterson (known as Mr. Pete, who spent 83 of his 89 years in institutions, first in the St. Croix Leprosarium and then in Carville.  

Highly recommended.  

(More about Carville)  Many of you might mark this one down for November's Nonfiction Month if you don't have time to read it now.

Nonfiction.  2020.  Print length: 409 pages.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Finders Keepers and End of Watch by Stephen King; Hideout by Louisa Vega

During February, I finished listening to Finders Keepers and to End of Watch by Stephen King.  I didn't like Finders Keepers as much as Mr. Mercedes, although it was a good mystery/thriller.  I think this was because, as the second book in the trilogy, I expected Bill, Holly, and Jerome to be a larger part of the book, and they didn't appear at least have way through.  My expectations were more at fault than the book, and the characters were well drawn and believable.  

Although I read End of Watch in 2016 (my first ever book by King), I went ahead and got the audio version because I knew I'd forgotten much of it, and I could listen while doing other things.  Will Patton does an excellent job on the narration, but there were so many characters!  All of the female characters had the same speech patterns and intonations.  

If  I had not read the book first (giving Holly my own imagination of her voice and style), I might not have been bothered with Holly's "voice" in the audio version.  But I did, and I was.  Otherwise, the narration was great and kudos to Patton for all the voices he had to deal with.  Trying to differentiate so many voices is pretty much impossible.  

 While Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers are crime thrillers, End of Watch introduces a supernatural element.  

Private Investigator Alice Vega, takes on a cold case, not her typical kind of thing, but the money is good.

Zeb Williams has been missing for 30 years.  A rising football star, who in 1984 took the ball and ran to the rival team's goal post and kept on running--out of the stadium and out of the lives of everyone who knew him.

Zeb Williams became a cult figure and while initially there were occasional supposed sightings, thirty years later, no one knows if he is alive or dead.  

Alice Vega was given one photograph that showed Williams in a small town in Oregon.  After failing to induce Max Caplan to accompany her, Vega goes alone.

For several reasons, this third book in the series did not resonate with me.  I did not want to abandon it, but Vega didn't feel as genuine in this installment.  Caplan, at home with his daughter, had some problems of his own.  Hideout isn't bad, but I didn't find it as enjoyable as the previous two books.  Maybe Vega needs Caplan to help make her believable. 

Mystery/Suspense.  March 8, 2022.  Print length:  368 pages.

I've continued reading the DCI Harry Grimm series, which are fast-paced and fun with likable Yorkshire characters and distasteful villains. :)

February is International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo), and I decided to participate this year.  It is quite the challenge, and I've found it a bit overwhelming, but it is such fun to find even more letters in my mailbox!