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Friday, September 24, 2021

Uncharted Waters and Where Cowards Tread by Sabrina Flynn, Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave, Tahoe ice Grave by Todd Borg

Catching up on reviews from this summer.


Uncharted Waters by Sabrina Flynn is an unusual and intriguing installment in the Ravenwood series, an interlude between the mysteries--a novella that gives the mysteries a rest as it catches the reader up on the various characters and their lives.

The series has a large cast of characters, but the novella takes the time to develop them in their ordinary lives, away from the mysteries that Bel Amstel and Atticus Riot keep getting involved in.  

Because so many characters are interesting in their own right, Uncharted Waters allows us to know them a bit better.  It also provides hints that might lead to future plots.  A fun intermission from an entertaining series!

Read in August.


Ink & Sea Publishing
2019.  Print length:  113 pages.

Where Cowards Tread was an immediate follow-up to Unchartered Waters.  Back into the Ravenwood Mysteries, because they are such a combination of danger, suspense, and great characters.  

Bel and Atticus Riot have married, adopted Sao Jin and Sarah who were part of previous books, and are addressing all of the complications involved with married life and the new location of the detective agency.

Jin is sneaking out at night and visiting China Town, searching for answers in the dangerous streets and alleys.  Grim has begun following her in hopes of keeping her safe.

Someone doesn't want the new Ravenwood detective agency to survive, there's a missing girl, and Jin is courting serious danger in China Town.  

The historical setting of San Francisco, China Town, and the Barbary Coast, the genuinely interesting cast of characters, and the suspenseful plots keep this series entertaining, exciting, and fun to read.  

Read in August.

Ink & Sea Publishing
2020.  Print length:  442 pages.

Paul Cleave's Cemetery Lake (Theodore Tate #1) is a pretty dark crime novel.  Theo Tate is a PI and former police officer.  After his wife and daughter were rundown in a drunken hit-and-run accident, his daughter died and his wife has remained in a catatonic state.  Theo is a broken man, not only from the loss, but because of his subsequent actions.

While Theo is overlooking an exhumation at a Christchurch cemetery, things go to hell.  The body in the coffin is not the one that belongs there and bodies begin to rise in the lake that borders the cemetery.

Reviews seem to indicate that people either loved or hated Cemetery Lake.  I'm somewhere in between.  Theo is a little hard to like, the first person narrative doesn't work well for me, and the twists were disconcerting.  

I may try another in the series in hopes that Theo becomes more likable and less broken, but overall the book was dark, and I wasn't particularly concerned about the characters.

Read in August.

Kindle Unlimited/Atria Books
Crime.  2016.  Print length:  416 pages.   

I really enjoyed the first two books in Todd Borg's Tahoe series, but Tahoe Ice Grave  wasn't quite as satisfying.  Owen McKenna is hired to investigate the death of Thos Kahale who was murdered in the frigid waters of Lake Tahoe.  The investigation takes him to Hawaii and back again.

The premise didn't work as well for me in this book, and I had a difficult time adjusting to that.   Still...likable characters and a beautiful setting, and I'll move on to the next book.

Read in August.

Kindle Unlimited/Thriller Press
Crime/Detective.  2002.  Print length:  288 pages.


----------------
The news can be depressing, so I love to find articles that are hopeful (often in admittedly small ways) that creative and innovative individuals are doing for themselves and for their communities.  Positive things like finding solutions to plastic pollution, re-wilding areas, exhibiting kindness in small, but important ways, better farming techniques that look at preserving the land, seed savers (especially heritage plants), designs for more sustainable housing and community involvement in architecture and city planning--things that may be small and local, but that are encouraging.  Innovation, resilience, and creativity may not change the big picture, but still make me happy and act as a defense against the bad news.  

Also, things that counteract the violence, hate, and aggressive behavior that we are bombarded with daily.  Try this link for hopeful and uplifting things on Bored Panda.   

One example:  
"A little boy about 3 came up to me and asked if my head was cold.  I said yes a little (Melbourne Weather).  He took his beanie off and said that I could have it."


Yep, these make me feel better.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Vanishing Act (Jane Whitefield book 1) by Thomas Perry

 Sam had a post on Thomas Perry, and I realized I'd read The Burglar and liked it, so I thought I'd read a little more of Thomas Perry.

Looking at a list of Perry's books, I noticed the Jane Whitefield series.  Jane is a Native American, and I like books that feature indigenous characters.  I also liked the description of Jane being a "guide" who helps people in serious trouble disappear.  Many books in this category are about women and children escaping abusive situations, but Jane's clients vary.  They aren't always innocent, but they aren't deserving of being murdered.  (Think Kelley Armstrong's  Rockton series in which not all of the community are upstanding citizens.)

from description:   Thanks to her membership in the Wolf Clan of the Seneca tribe, she can fool any pursuer, cover any trail, and then provide her clients with new identities, complete with authentic paperwork. Jane knows all the tricks, ancient and modern; in fact, she has invented several of them herself.

In that lovely way of synchronicity,  Jane's Seneca background is important and there are digressions that tell some of the same myths that Robin Wall Kimmerer relates in Braiding Sweetgrass.  Deganawida  the Peacemaker features in Kimmerer's discussion of the legends of the Iroquois.  Born in Tonawanda, NY, Thomas Perry is well versed in the local indigenous legends and culture.  Many things that Kimmerer mentions in her nonfiction Braiding Sweetgrass appear in The Vanishing Act. from legends to environmental and cultural practices of the indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region.

The plot begins with Jane finishing getting one client to safety and finding another prospective client waiting for her in her home.  Jane's professional skills are impressive and the plot has plenty of close calls and one sinister surprise.  As skilled as Jane is at making people disappear, she is also capable of making mistakes--and just when it seems her skills are incomparable, Jane finds herself confronting unanticipated problems.

Suspenseful and entertaining!  I was glued to this one, and since this is the first in Perry's Jane Whitefield series, I have more to look forward to reading.

Ballantine Books (purchased)

Thriller.  1996, 2007.  Print length:  368 pages.  


Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Mad Women's Ball by Victoria Mas

Throughout history, men have used many ways to remove difficult or embarrassing wives and daughters.  Women who, for one reason or another have proven troublesome (for husbands, fathers, or brothers) have often found themselves relegated to asylums.  Whether because of mental illness, refusal to stay in their place, adultery (of either partner), or financial incentives--asylums have provided ways to remove inconvenient women.  

In 1885 in Paris, Eugenie, a young woman in a controlling, patriarchal household, reveals to her grandmother that she "sees dead people."  As a result, she ends up in the Salpetriere Asylum.  Eugenie was already problematic for occasionally taunting her father, and he takes the opportunity to relieve himself of her presence.

The asylum under Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot was in much better shape than it had been previously, and Charcot made many advancements in science, but "Charcot had come to believe that susceptibility to hypnosis was an indicator of latent hysteria. He based this belief on the fact that hysterical symptoms could be reproduced by hypnotic suggestions (Fancher, 1985, p. 54)." (source)

Women in the Salpetriere Asylum range from those who suffer from epilepsy, dementia, "hysteria", sexual trauma, and in Eugenie's case the insanity of seeing spirits.  But Eugenie is not insane, and soon enough, Genevieve, the head nurse has to deal with this particular problem.  

The book is short and well-researched, and I found it intriguing in its rather unusual approach.  The inclusion of spiritualism, family dynamics, and the names of Charcot's famous students were sometimes at odds.  Medical science, especially in the area of mental health, has undergone remarkable and often cruel trends and so have cultural norms.  Women are much better off today--they can vote, get divorced, retain custody of their children, work outside the home, etc.  And yet...women are still expected to meet some of the social norms of a century ago, don't trust that reporting abuse will be taken seriously, and are called hysterical if they respond in a manner accepted as OK for men.  

Women Who Defied Gender Roles Were Once Imprisoned in Asylums

Restoring Perspective: Life and Treatment at the London Asylum

Women's Admission to Asylums in United States of America

It was difficult to find accounts of the Le Bal des Folles at the Salpetriere Asylum because almost everything led back to the novel and the upcoming film, but I finally found this.   

NetGalley/Abrams Books

Historical fiction.  Sept. 7, 2021.  Print length:  224 pages.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer


I finally finished listening to Braiding Sweetgrass:  Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, and it was quite an experience.  A blending of myth, traditions, science, environmental mistakes and possible cures, family anecdotes, and all kinds of thoughts to ponder.  

While I enjoyed some essays more than others and each essay has a strong personal involvement and bias, each one gave me a something to consider about the ecology of this land and the abuses we have inflicted upon it.  Unintended and unexpected consequences, as well as "who cares" consequences.  Even attempts to correct the mistakes often had other harmful consequences.  

First published in 2013, Kimmerer and most scientists were fully aware of the ramifications of global warming/climate change on both flora and fauna.  Eight years later, here we are experiencing the cumulative effects that scientists have been warning about since the climate models of the 1970s.  The changes may have been gradual for years, but the effects have intensified and can no longer be ignored.

Kimmerer had not despaired in 2013, and her work continues to offer ways of reclaiming damaged environments, but I have to wonder how hopeful she continues to be.  The catastrophic fires, floods, hurricanes, and droughts have, for the last few years, forced us to look at what we have wrought and yet, we continue to do the very things that have contributed to the mess we've created.  

Do I agree with Kimmerer's basic philosophy?  Yes.  It is beautiful, scientifically sound, and logical:  reciprocate--take care of what feeds and supports you, don't take more than you need, insure that the plants, trees, and animals that help humans survive can also survive and thrive.  

I wish I could have read this book decades before it was written.  Braiding Sweetgrass may be idealized at times, but it touches people in ways that statistical models cannot.  Perhaps it could have helped curtail the some of the practices that have led us to this point.  Perhaps it would have encouraged a more open-minded outlook and offered a better horizon.

The Wendigo metaphor of insatiable greed and hunger is an affliction we can all recognize:  we want more, faster, easier, more convenient.  We never have enough.  Instead of recognizing this always wanting more as a flaw, societies have seen it as not only acceptable, but aspirational.  

The book is long and the audio version is exceedingly long, but I want to believe that we will, not only this country, but the world, realize the damage we continue to inflict, and think about healing this planet.

Audiobook.



Saturday, September 11, 2021

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen, Gated Prey by Lee Goldberg, The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine


 
Little Thieves is a retelling of the Goose Girl fairy tale by Margaret Own from the perspective of the maid who stole the princess's identity.  

The book starts well.  Vanja has usurped the princess's identity and is stealing from wealthy aristocrats in order to buy herself a chance at freedom.  Vanja's godmothers, Death and Fortune, have made it clear that a certain time Vanja must choose between serving one or the other her godmothers.  Vanja, however, is determined to be in service to no one.  

After a heist that she hopes will provide the final amount to buy her freedom, she encounters one of the lesser gods who curses her, but gives her two weeks to break the curse.  

So much is going on in Little Thieves, the "princess" is soon to be married off to a brute of a man, Vanja needs to get free before that marriage takes place, the real princess is in the village in much reduced circumstances and justifiably angry, a Junior Prefect arrives to catch the jewel thief--and the story devolves in a half dozen ways.  

Much of the Little Thieves is very good.  I like the idea of telling the story from the POV of the maid that takes over the life of the princess.  Vanja can be practical and funny, but at sixteen, she isn't always seeing the situation clearly.  The curse is one that is intended to make Vanja consider events in a different light AND has another purpose besides punishing Vanya.  

There is a lot going on, suspense, a little romance, a growth experience, all kinds of complications cropping up.  

Somehow though, I was never as invested as I wanted to be.  I enjoyed it, but didn't love it.

Two of my favorite fairy tale re-imaginings of the Little Goose Girl story are Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl in her Bayern series and Intasar Khanani's Thorn.

NetGalley/MacMillan's
Teens/YA.  Oct. 19, 2021.  Print length:  512 pages  

 

Gated Prey is the third entry in Lee Goldberg's Detective Eve Ronin series.  In order to have a better understanding of the background, it is better to begin with the first and second books that explain how rookie Eve Ronin ends up in the homicide squad and the resentment the Sheriff's department expresses toward for her high profile appointment and for her role in exposing the corruption in the department.  

Two plot threads are included in this third book.  One has to do with a Eve and partner Duncan Pavone pretending to be a wealthy couple in order to catch the home invaders who have been hitting very wealthy homes in an exclusive and gated community.  The second has to with Eve's questions about a still birth that has serious implications.

From the first book, Duncan Pavone's imminent retirement has been discussed.  If Duncan retires, I'm not sure the series will succeed.  His mentorship and support help keep Eve balanced.  He is the perfect experienced foil to Eve's impulsiveness.  

Read in May.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Police Procedural.  Oct. 26, 2021.  Print length:  268 pages


A man, his wife, and his daughter are murdered in an isolated farmhouse.  The murders are similar to murders that occurred in the same farmhouse twenty years earlier.  Too similar to ignore.

This is the second book in this series, and I didn't read the first one.  

There are some twists, but an important plot thread seemed obvious from early on.  I didn't find the main character Detective James Walker particularly appealing and the references to a couple of previous cases felt more digressive than important.

Alex Pine has written a series of books on true crime, but I believe this is only his second novel.

read in August

NetGalley/Avon

Mystery/Thriller.  Oct. 28, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages 

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Names in a Jar by Jennifer Gold

 What drew me to Names in a Jar was the fact that Jennifer Gold used Irene Sendler as the inspiration for this fictional account of Warsaw, Poland and the Nazi occupation, and that as a young person, Leon Uris' Mila 18, the well-researched novel about the Warsaw Ghetto and the remarkable uprising, was an unforgettable experience.

Sendler's courage, initiative, and ingenuity intrigued me, and I wanted to try this fictional account based on Sendler's activities.

Two sisters, Anna and Lina, and their father are rounded up and imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto where starvation and typhoid take a terrible toll.  Twelve-year-old Anna joins a group of children who make their way in and out of the Ghetto, usually through the sewers, in order to get food and medicine.  

The story alternates between Anna and Lina.  Anna and infant Dov are smuggled out by Jolanta (the nom de guerre used by Irene Sendler) and taken in by a Polish family.

Lina stays in the ghetto, but becomes involved in forging papers for the underground network to give the children being smuggled out new names and backgrounds.  Eventually, Lina and Masha, another young woman who exhibits great courage, end up in Treblinka.  

Both sisters hold out hope for reunion, struggling with the threats that could end their lives.  Will the jars in Jolanta's garden help reunite the sisters, or any of those 2,500 smuggled Jewish children, with their families?

Although the author never goes into graphic detail at any point, there are some difficult and unpalatable incidents that should be expected in a book set in this period and location.  Gold handles all of these incidents well, including just enough to give a sense of the horror faced by Polish Jews and the Polish resistance and still be in keeping for young adults.  

NetGalley/Second Story Press
YA/Historical Fiction.    Sept. 14, 2021.  Print length:  336 pages.

Friday, September 03, 2021

R.I.P

 When Carl, began the first R.I.P. Challenge in 2006, I was all in.  I think the last time I formally joined was in 2016 or 2017, but I continued to read spooky books during the fall.   If you are looking for some suggestions, here are some that I looked back and found.

Renfield: Slave of Dracula (R.I.P. #9)

A list of some of the books that I'd read for the challenge  posted in 2011

End of Watch by Stephen King

Almost anything by John Connolly or Sharon Bolton

I wish I'd kept better track of R.I.P. books, because it is such a fun challenge.  At first, I concentrated on classics, then I moved on to some more contemporary books that fit the parameters of the challenge.  I also read some middle school or YA that were good, too. 

 Now, I just look for what others are reading and add some to my list.  

My favorite holiday is Halloween and spooky/supernatural books fit the season.  I'm not quite ready to get the Halloween decorations out, but I'm certainly thinking about it.  I just ignore the Heat Advisories and think pumpkins.


Anyway, I'm checking your R.I.P. book lists and stealing your suggestions. :)

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

SOE in Denmark, and Desolation Canyon by P.J. Tracy

 September has finally arrived, although it will be a while before it feels like fall.  I still have a lot of books to review from August, and I'll have to make myself get some of them scheduled.  Procrastination.  Instead of reviewing, I often just start another book.  Do you do that?  

It is 88 this morning with a heat index of 97 degrees; the high today will be 99--so the heat index will be at least 108.  Combined with the onset of allergy season and the itchy eyes, sneezing, and overall tiredness, I'm not feeling any incentive to do much today.  Weeds, be damned.  

I slowed down on my Nightmare Catchers in August, and have only three in progress.  Almost done, but they've been waiting on completion for a while. 

 

SOE in Denmark is an overview of SOE operations in Denmark written shortly after the war.  (Special Operations Executive) 

"SOE in Denmark was written at a time when SOE was still largely unknown to the general public and its operations a closely guarded secret. It was expected that its activities would never be officially acknowledged and the study of its actions in Denmark was compiled with the aim of provide a lasting record of its achievement."

While the book offers an account of the SOE's operations and collaboration with the Danish agents, it is an official report and lacks personal information about the agents who risked their lives.  The Appendices offer more information and reference material.  I was a little startled to find that approximately 2/3 of the book was the reference material, important and informative.

Having read Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks (son of Benjamin Marks, antiquarian bookseller of Marks & Co and 84, Charing Cross Road fame), I mistakenly thought SOE in Denmark would be similar.  

It isn't.  It is, nevertheless, important.  I  wish someone had recorded a more detailed account of  the individuals involved in the resistance to the Nazi Occupation of Denmark. Although SOE in Denmark lacks the human aspect, it is historically interesting.

(Some of the most famous female SOE agents were in France and included Nancy Wake, Violette Szabo, Odette Sansom, and Noor Inayat Khan--they have been written about many times. I wish we knew more about the Danish agents.)  

NetGalley/Frontline Books

WWII History.  Sept. 21, 2021.  Print length:  208 pages.


Desolation Canyon is the second book in this new series by P.J. Tracy.  

The series has several problems: 

While the author seems to want Detective Margaret Nolan to be the lead character, she wasn't the main character in Deep Into the Dark, and she isn't in Desolation Canyon.  

Too many fantastic coincidences and unbelievable plot lines.

No humor.

I miss the Monkeewrench gang! 

NetGalley/Minotaur Books 

Jan. 18, 2022.  Print length:  320 pages


Friday, August 27, 2021

Braiding Sweetgrass (in progress), I Will Always Write Back, and The Devil's Teeth


 For the last ten days or so, I've been listening to Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by written and narrated by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  A series of essays that combine scientific knowledge with indigenous myth and culture and examine our relationship with the earth.  

I've been enjoying the essays and the soothing voice of the author/narrator.  It isn't the kind of book that you read (or listen to) straight through.  You listen and pause and return again later that day or the next.  I've listened to about half now, an essay or two at a time as I do chores or sit and sew on the Nightmare Catchers.  

Kimmerer is a scientist, but she is strongly influenced by her indigenous heritage, and the essays make me ponder the way the two, science and culture, differ.  They may come to the same conclusions, but by very different paths.  


In a letter from our thirteen-year-old granddaughter, she mentioned that of her summer reading, I Will Always Write Back was the book that made an impression on her.  As both a reader and a letter writer, I figured this was a book I needed to read.  

The true story of an all-American girl and a boy from an impoverished city in Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.

In 1997, Caitlin's middle school initiated a pen pal exchange, and Caitlin requested a pen pal from Zimbabwe.  Martin Ganda, a bright, but impoverished student received Caitlin's letter.  For six years the two corresponded, building a friendship that has lasted over the years.

The story is told in hindsight, with both Caitlin and Martin revealing events and situations that were not present in their letters.  Martin's poverty was beyond what twelve-year-old Caitlin was capable of understanding, and he reveals the extent of it only much later.  Initially, he wants to focus on what the two had in common, as if they were both normal kids.

When the letters begin, Caitlin is as shallow and privileged as many American middle schoolers can be in an affluent society.  With little experience outside of their own families and communities, they don't yet realize what it is to be without the things they take for granted--food, clothing, housing.  American children are often sheltered and unaware--in any real sense---of the effects of poverty, even in their own communities.  This is, of course, true of many adults as well.  

Martin's experiences come as an eye-opener for readers.  And most of the readers of this book will be American middle-schoolers.  The stories of Caitlin and Martin should have an impact on how young people begin to process a broader world.  

Martin is persistent.  He never gives up, and eventually, with the help of Caitlin and her family, attends an American university and builds a successful career.  Still friends years later, the two relate the story of the impact the letters had on each of them.
   
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
2015.  Print length:  392 pages.


In 2018, I read the first of the Ravenwood Mysteries, then the second, third, and fourth.  The more I read the more I enjoyed them (always fortunate).  

The Devil's Teeth is book #5, and I was delighted to get back to a cast of characters that continued to grow on me with each book. 

For pure rollicking adventure, wit, and historical inspiration, these books have all been a pleasure of escapism.  The Devil's Teeth is somewhat tamer, as Bel has been confined to an asylum.  Not that this has done much to contain her.

In San Francisco, Atticus Riot has his own problems with the agency, his caseload, and the two daughters he has adopted.  

Sabrina Flynn uses the history of San Francisco and the raucous Barbary Coast as inspiration for both characters and events.   In the midst of the adventure, other topics like misogyny, racism, political corruption, all the vices of the Barbary Coast and China Town. 

Action packed and characters that leave the page and engage your imagination.  A Victorian mystery series that is one romp after another.

Ink & Sea Publ.
Victorian Mystery.  2019.  Print length:  352 pages.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Horseman by Christina Henry and Tahoe Blow Up by Todd Borg

 A wonderful cover, but unlike The Girl in Red, Horseman doesn't deliver.  At first, I thought it would be a fun take on the original.  When the two fourteen-year-olds were playing Sleepy Hollow Boys, I expected to love this different perspective on Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  Instead, the story begins nearly thirty years later.

Which was fine and still promising.  Brom and Katrina have married, had a son, lost both their son Bendix and their daughter-in-law, and have been raising their grandchild, Bende, usually shortened to Ben.  

As a coming-of-age or self-actualization story, Horseman does have some merit, but in the end, the impact is lost.  The first person narration tends more to "telling" than showing and feels clumsy--like explanations of what is happening.

I looked at some reviews and there are plenty of positive reviews, so the fact that I was disappointed, doesn't mean that you will be.  And no one can fault the cover!

NetGalley/Berkley Publ.

Fantasy.  Sept. 28, 2021.  Print length:  320 pages

 

In early August, I read Tahoe Death Fall by Todd Borg and felt glad to be at the beginning of a long series which will be there when I need something to read in those periods when the pickings are poor or when a book I thought I'd enjoy ends up being abandoned.  

Of particular interest is the plot.  Owen McKenna is alerted by Spot, his Great Dane, and realizes that a fire is rapidly moving up the mountain toward his cabin.  The speed of a forest fire depends on fuel, weather, and terrain and can move as fast as 10 mph.  All conditions are present when McKenna registers the danger, and the fire is quickly moving up the slope at frightening speed.  He notifies his closest neighbor and picks her up as quickly as possible to escape being trapped by the fire.

With all the fires currently burning across the West, the book felt even more relevant  Aside from the search for the arsonist, the information about forest fires was educational.  Blow ups, sudden increases in intensity that risk fire fighters losing control; trees that are more flammable and those that have greater resistance; methods and equipment used in fighting forest fires are all included as McKenna, the fire department, and the forest service deal with the fires.  

I like the characters and, although the arsonist is not too difficult to spot, I enjoyed the way the plot played out.

Thriller Press/Kindle Unlimited

Suspense.  2001.  Print length:  320 pages.



Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Bombay Prince by Suhata Massey and Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer

 

From the beginning of this series, it was clear that India was approaching the precipice of a divided nation.  Britain had promised self-rule if India would help during WWI, but reneged, offering some reforms, but not self-rule.  

When Edward, the Prince of Wales, made his royal tour in 1921, tempers were high and the divisions between sects were a roiling undercurrent.  Indians were divided into those who wanted self-government and those who supported the British-- and then into various sects, the largest majorities of which were Muslim and Hindus.  

A supporter of independence, Perveen Mistry did not intend to join the parade crowds welcoming the Prince of Wales, but changes her mind and joins her friend Alice and the Woodburn College assembly. 

A student protester rushes toward the prince's carriage, unruly crowds that turn into riots, a young girl who had visited Perveen for advice is found murdered on campus grounds.  

Another excellent glimpse of the various cultures, beliefs, and political turmoil of an India seeking change.  The redoubtable Perveen and her family and friends give a personal insight to different views, religions, and nationalities.  For many of us, the best way to develop an interest in other cultures and in history is often the result of reading fiction and then becoming interested in finding out more.

I highly recommend this series by Suhata Massey.

The audiobook was skillfully narrated by Snethan Mahan.

-----

I read some Jeffrey Archer books years ago, so when NetGalley offered this one, I was interested.

from description:  In London, the Metropolitan Police set up a new Unsolved Murders Unit—a cold case squad—to catch the criminals nobody else can. 
 
In Geneva, millionaire art collector Miles Faulkner—convicted of forgery and theft—was pronounced dead two months ago. So why is his unscrupulous lawyer still representing a dead client? 
 
On a luxury liner en route to New York, the battle for power at the heart of a wealthy dynasty is about to turn to murder.
 
And at the heart of all three investigations are Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick, rising star of the department, and ex-undercover agent Ross Hogan, brought in from the cold. 

Over My Dead Body is the 4th book in the Detective William Warwick series, and I haven't read the previous books.   The setting is the 1970's and was full of topical allusions which younger readers might not recognize.  

Three previous books in the series might have made a difference in my opinion, but I doubt I'll go back and pick them up.  

I liked some elements, but several felt "forced"--i.e., the Holmes-like deductions in the opening chapters whose only purpose was the author's need to have a little fun and to make DCI Warwick seem supremely clever.  This largely throw-away section does, however, introduce young James who has a bit of a cameo late in the novel and may be intended to show up in future books.

Warwick is upstaged as the novel progresses DI Ross Hogan, who is a more interesting character with an edgy quality that contrasts with "choirboy" Warwick.  Warwick's team has multiple characters who have obviously been in previous books, but don't have that much to do in this installment as the main plot (among the many mini plots) focuses on the clever, sinister, and obsessive Miles Faulkner and his return to life...and on his obsession with his art collection.

NetGalley
Police Procedural.  Oct. 13, 2020.  Print length: 384 pages.
----------




Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Exiled Fleet by J.S. Dewes

 

 I read The Last Watch in October of 2020 and posted the review in March.  I'm glad to have been able to continue this adventure with The Exiled Fleet, but now I'm waiting for book 3.  

 My main complaint is that I wish there had been a little reminder of some of the events in the first book.  The Exiled Fleet begins in medias res, and as I've read over a hundred of books since last October, it took me a chapter or so to reorient myself.  A minor complaint.  

Character development continues, an important element in a series that relies on a sense of loyalty and camaraderie.  Each of the characters has both strengths and concomitant flaws that keep them human--not perfect, infallible cardboard cutouts.  In addition to Rake, Cavalon, and Jackin, secondary characters from the first book take on new responsibilities, and some interesting new characters are added.

The Sentinels survived the collapsing of the Divide and have rescued as many other endangered Sentinels as possible, but their situation is still dire.  As they struggle for materials, food, and mechanical and technical solutions, we learn more about the characters and their backgrounds while also gaining a better understanding of their world(s) and the machinations of Augustus Mercer, his eugenic programs, and long range plans.

Plenty of action.  Read in July; review scheduled for 

NetGalley/MacMillan-Tor/Forge
Science fiction.  Aug. 17, 2021.  Print length: 432 pages.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Last Time She Died by Zoe Sharp

Gideon Fitzroy never reported his daughter Blake as missing, instead, he encouraged the rumor that Blake was a runaway.  Ten years later, shortly after Fitzroy's death in an auto accident, Blake Fitzroy shows up at his funeral.

Unsurprisingly, his second wife as well as several others are shocked and dismayed at the arrival of a calm, cool twenty-five-year-old on the scene claiming to be Blake.  

The Blake who shows up is not the shy fifteen-year-old who went missing a decade ago, but a composed, self-possessed young woman.  A  con artist, hoping to gain control of the estate through the will?

Detective John Byron, on medical leave from the Met, has also shown up for the funeral.  He has no official authority, but it appears that he does have a purpose.

Byron is a shrewd and competent detective, but he is on medical leave, not at all certain he should be back at work, and a little curious about this assignment.  His boss, however, wants Byron back in the game unofficially in order to motivate his interest in returning to work full time.

Unsure what to think about the young woman claiming to be Blake Fitzroy, Byron is intrigued.  His initial assignment changes with Blake's unexpected arrival throwing everything up in the air.  

Blake has an agenda, but her goal seems less to do with gaining an inheritance and more to do with the events that caused her to runaway ten years ago...and to stay away until Gideon Fitzroy was dead.  If she is, indeed, Blake Fitzroy.  And whether or not she is, Blake certainly has some skills in housebreaking.

Both characters and plot kept me involved and eager to know what happened next! Enough information to make you eager to keep track of details, but not enough to feel confident who is responsible.  Exactly the way I like it. :)

An absorbing and entertaining mystery with characters I'm eager to read more about!

NetGalley/Bookoutre   

Mystery/thriller.  Oct. 20, 2021.   

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 I don't answer unknown numbers,
but I do think this would be fun.


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Witching Tree by Alice Blanchard

 

 Although sucked into the town of Burning Lake and its ability to accommodate both Wicca and Christian inhabitants, the need for the first two books didn't manifest.

from description:  Welcome to Burning Lake, a small, isolated town with a dark history of witches and false accusations. Now, a modern-day witch has been murdered, and Detective Natalie Lockhart is reluctantly drawn deep into the case, in this atmospheric mystery from Alice Blanchard, The Witching Tree.

When the leader of the town's oldest coven is brutally murdered, detectives Natalie Lockhart and Luke Pittman are stunned, not only at the loss of a beloved member of the community, but by the terrible circumstances.

There are plenty of interesting elements, and I was happily disregarding a few things that bothered me.  One major cavil was with Natalie's  love triangle, living with one man and hankering for another.  She is still reeling from events in the previous books, so it is easy to feel some compassion for her situation, but it bothered me for several reasons.  

At any rate, I was willing to ignore several things until it ended in a cliff hanger!  No conclusion, no resolution.  It is one thing to leave a few threads dangling, but that was not the case.  Nothing is resolved. 

As I was reading, I was thinking this would make a good R.I.P book, but ending a mystery without a conclusion in and attempt to make the reader eager for the next book is inexcusable.  The Witching Tree was by no means great literature, but it was entertaining, and to have the book end abruptly with everything still in the air is unfair manipulation.  I won't be looking for the next book--I no longer care what happens to any of the inhabitants of Burning Lake.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Mystery.  Dec. 7, 2021.  Print length:  336 pages.
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Although I haven't taken part in the R.I.P. challenge in several years, I'm always on the lookout for books that fit the tenor of the challenge because I especially enjoy spooky, eerie, witchy books in the fall.  

I'm looking forward to trying The Manningtree Witches at some point:  "Wolf Hall meets The Favourite in this beguiling debut novel that brilliantly brings to life the residents of a small English town in the grip of the seventeenth-century witch trials and the young woman tasked with saving them all from themselves."
 
Has anyone seen anything about the challenge this year?  I participated from 2006 -2016, after that I continued to read along with everyone else but without adding my name to the challenge posts.  

Do you have some R.I.P. books in mind?  Have you heard if anyone is sponsoring the challenge this year?

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Tahoe Death Fall by Todd Borg and Miscellaneous Nonsense

  Whew, I've been abandoning a lot of books lately.  Some I know pretty quickly that they aren't what I want to read; I've read over 50% of others (hoping that somehow the experience will be salvaged) before giving up.  Sometimes it's the book and sometimes it's me--for whatever reason.  


Cathy recently mentioned the Owen McKenna Tahoe series by Todd Borg as one of her favorites.  H
er review of the latest in the series caught my interest, so I started with the first in the series.  If I liked it, I'd have many books to keep me distracted from the real world.

And I did like it and will read the next book.    The excruciatingly long plane escape was more interruption than suspense for me, but any other implausible elements bothered me not in the least.   Owen and Street are great characters for a series, and I even hope Jennifer appears in future books.  She is too interesting to be wasted on just one book, and I'd like to see her grow up in the series.  Not that I actually expect that, but it doesn't hurt to hope.

from description:  When 14-year-old Jennifer Salazar approaches Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna, she explains that her identical twin sister Melissa died 8 years before on their 6th birthday. Now, at the ripe old age of 14, Jennifer has come to believe that her sister's death was not the accident that everyone says. When McKenna investigates, he uncovers a long-buried secret that is still driving a murderer to kill. McKenna is desperate to catch the killer before he strikes again because McKenna believes that Jennifer is next to die... (less)

A fast and easy read, with a Great Dane named Spot, interesting characters, and a plot that kept me wondering.  This is exactly what I need right now: escapism.   I suspect Tahoe Death Fall is one of those series that gets better as you become invested with the characters, and I'm eager to find out. The first book in the Owen McKenna series makes the most of the location, introduces characters, includes a love interest based on friendship and respect, and provides plenty of suspense.  

There are now 15 books in the series, so I will have a reliable "go to" when needed.

Mystery/Suspense.  2001.  Print length:  258 pages.
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Crafting:  I keep making the Nightmare Catchers--but now, I'm feeling the Halloween vibe.  Maybe I'll get out my Halloween fabric to make the next ones.  This is the time I usually start getting in the mood for Halloween characters.  

Currently Reading:  In this case, listening to The Bombay Prince by Suhata Massey.  :)

Recently Finished:  The Riverwoman's Dragon by Candace Robb and Better Off Dead (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child/Andrew Child.

Gardening:  too hot!  

 

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Constance by Matthew Fizsimmons

 

Constance is a strange book, a mix of intriguing ethical questions to ponder and some over-the-top events that take it from future possibility to B movie horror.  

from description: In the near future, advances in medicine and quantum computing make human cloning a reality. For the wealthy, cheating death is the ultimate luxury. To anticloning militants, it’s an abomination against nature. For young Constance “Con” D’Arcy, who was gifted her own clone by her late aunt, it’s terrifying.

Constance has not recovered from the accident that put her boyfriend into a permanent vegetative state and left her with severe damage to one of her knees.  

Con's Aunt Abigail, with whom Constance has had only one brief encounter as a child, is a brilliant scientist whose work has made cloning a possibility.  

When Abigail's work is successful and her company Paragenesis is worth millions, Abigail gives her family the opportunity to have a clone--sort of giving them all her middle finger because she knows they won't accept.  Con, who also left her dysfunctional home, accepts the opportunity for a clone --mostly for the same reason, to thumb her nose at her family.  But after a scheduled update or "refresh" to put Con's most recent memories into the clone, something goes wrong.

Slow beginning, then suddenly intense and fast-paced, when Con's clone is activated.  When Con2 is activated, she is missing memories of the last 18 months and has no idea what happened to her "original."  

On the run, Con2's compulsion to find out what happened during the 18 missing months, while trying to evade those who have been sent to recover her, leads her into dangerous situations.  Unable to trust those who tell her they are trying to help her, Con2 pursues her quest to fill in the memory blanks and to find out how and why her "original" died.  There are plenty of twists.

I raced through this one.  The middle is satisfying and suspenseful, but the conclusion feels like the author lost track of his purpose or self-control and let his over-heated imagination have free rein.  :)  

Quotes:  

"No hint that, deep in the bowels of the building, the laws of nature were being systematically rewritten." (about the Paragenesis building and labs where the cloning takes place)

"Humans are very good at inventing solutions and very, very bad at anticipating consequences."

"In this country, power doesn't derive from defeating a threat; true power comes from the fear of the threat.  And maintaining power requires a continuing threat."

Science Fiction.  Sept. 1, 2021.  Print length: 352 pages.








 

 

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Gone for Good by Joanna Schaffhausen and The Merchant and the Rogue by Sarah M. Eden

The first in a new series by Joanna Schaffhausen, Gone for Good is Detective Annalisa Vega #1.  Like the Ellery Hathaway/Reed Markham series by Schaffhausen, Gone for Good has a twisty conundrum of a plot.

Twenty years have passed since the Lovelorn Killer murders, and now Annalisa Vega is wondering why the murders have started again.  She has a personal connection to the last of killer's victims.

The most interesting part to me was the online "detective" group called the Grave Diggers, who investigate cold cases.

I didn't want to put it down, but I still had a lot of quibbles. The reviews are extremely positive, and although I'll certainly need the next Annalisa Vega book, this one wasn't a stand-out for me.  

I'm looking forward to the next Ellery Hathaway/Reed Markham book, though.

Read in February; blog review scheduled for Aug. 1.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/Thriller.  Aug. 10, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.


The Dread Penny Society series is light fun with interesting characters.  I like the concept, but it must be hard-going to keep it fresh.

The Merchant and the Rogue is the third book in the series and contains the sweet little romance of the main characters.  There's a hint of which secondary characters will take the stage in the next book.

Each book contains  a Penny Dreadful story by one or two of the characters.  Brogan's Penny Dreadful, "The Dead Zoo" had an interesting concept, but I found it ...not terribly interesting.  King's story was better.  Then, of course, there is the main plot in which Brogan goes undercover and falls for the bookseller and confronts corruption.

I loved the first book The Lady and the Highwayman because if its originality.  The second and third books are OK, but all of them have terrific covers. :)

Read in February; blog review scheduled for Aug. 1.

NetGalley/Shadow Mountain Publishing
Historical/Mystery/Romance.  Aug. 17, 2021.  print length:  368 pages.

Friday, July 23, 2021

In Fury Born (audiobook) by David Weber, narrated by Vivienne Leheny

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres, and David Weber has long been one of my favorite authors.  His books are long (often 800+ pages) and full of characters, and yet I never have a problem with the number of characters and always hate to finish his books.  I think I've read every book in the Honor Harrington series--unless I've somehow missed a newer publication since 2018..  The Safehold series is where I began reading Weber years ago, and I've read at least 4 in that series--but somehow lost track of it.  Not for lack of interest, however.


I actually read In Fury Born in 2008, but then I saw an audio book that has the addition of Alicia Devries' backstory.  Nearly 32 hours of audiobook!  To say it took a long time to finish is an understatement, but I never lost interest, and I did a lot more walking, weeding, stitching, laundry, and other chores done during those days than would otherwise have happened.

The narrator Vivienne Leheny was exceptional.  

from description:  Imperial Intelligence couldn't find them, the Imperial Fleet couldn't catch them, and local defenses couldn't stop them. It seemed the planet-wrecking pirates were invincible. But they made a big mistake when they raided ex-commando leader Alicia DeVries' quiet home/work, tortured and murdered her family, and then left her for dead. 

Alicia decided to turn "pirate" herself, and stole a cutting-edge AI ship from the empire to start her vendetta. Her fellow veterans think she's gone crazy, the Imperial Fleet has shoot-on-sight orders. And, of course, the pirates want her dead, too. But Alicia DeVries has two allies nobody knows about, allies as implacable as she is: a self-aware computer and a creature from the mists of Old Earth's most ancient legends. And this trio of furies won't rest until vengeance is served. 

In Fury Born is a greatly expanded new version of David Weber's popular novel Path of the Fury, which has gone through six large printings in its original mass market edition. David Weber has added considerable new material, revealing the earlier life of Alicia DeVries before she embarked on her mission of vengeance, and illuminating the universe of the original story. The result is a novel with almost twice the wordage of the original, and a must-buy for all David Weber fans.

I didn't even realize it was the same book I read years ago because this version begins with Alicia Devries' background, acceptance into the cadre, and first adventures--a prequel, of sorts.  Even when it came to the familiar parts, I'd forgotten so much even that it was as good as new.

Not for everyone, but military science fiction and space opera fans should give David Weber a try.  I'll be getting back on board with books I've missed. :)

Military Science Fiction.  Narrator Vivienne Leheny.