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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic (and trying to catch up scheduling reviews)

We have just returned home from the country where family gathered after Christmas.  Three or four days at the cabin with those who couldn't make it up for Christmas Day has left me tired and lazy, but I still need to finish reviewing books from 2017 and find slots within 2 or 3 weeks of publication to schedule a few more reviews.

While in the country, I took frequent breaks from the festivities and fireside chats with friends and family to read and relax.   

I had requested Resurrection Bay from NetGalley because I just saw the author's name and was thinking it was the follow up to a book I read in 2016.  Duh.  It was the same book with a new cover, I'd just forgotten the title and since Resurrection Bay was also the town the protagonist came from,  I was hoping for a sequel.  I don't usually reread books, but I decided to reread this one because I'd already read the other books I'd downloaded. 

 It was even better the second time!

Below is my original review, and I can only add that it is an excellent crime novel with well-developed characters:

Resurrection Bay, Emma Viskic's debut crime novel, is set in Australia.  

What I liked:  the setting -- in both Melbourne and the small coastal town of Resurrection Bay; a protagonist who is profoundly deaf and struggles to understand what others are saying; his ex-wife and her Koori family who give some insight into the struggle of native aboriginal peoples.

There are some humorous moments in this dark novel--but make no mistake, there is a lot of violence.  The story begins with the murder of Caleb Zelic's friend Gary, who was aiding Caleb in an investigation into warehouse robberies.  His partner Frankie is a 57-year-old former member of the police force and an alcoholic who has been clean for several years, but Caleb wonders how trustworthy she is after finding a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Caleb's information is often faulty because he must rely more on reading lips than on his hearing aids, and anyone who is not directly facing him causes gaps and misunderstandings in what is said. Caleb's problems are exacerbated by his unwillingness to admit to his disability; his attempts to appear "normal" cause additional problems when he refuses to ask people to repeat themselves or he appears to be ignoring people who talk to him.

An intriguing novel that sets a fast pace, Resurrection Bay has an original protagonist who is flawed more by his pride than by his deafness.  This is a case of who, as well as why.  The novel has plenty of tension with a mysterious villain, secrets and betrayals, and the uncertainty of who is to be trusted.

NetGalley/Echo Publishing/Pushkin Press in US and UK

Crime.  Sept. 1, 2016.  Print length:  231 pages.

The original publication was in 2016, so you shouldn't really have to wait for the new publication date next month.  Check your library, too.  :)

I like the new cover, too.  The original cover seems to depict Melbourne and the new cover, Resurrection Bay.  I like both. If you missed this book the first time around, give Emma Viskic's Resurrection Bay a try.  You'll be glad you did.

Hey, Ho!  I just downloaded the sequel.  What perfect timing--everything from the first novel is fresh on my mind!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Beware the Past by Joy Ellis

Ellis already has two series set in the Fens that I love, so I looked forward to this one, which may be the start of a new series.

As a young policeman, Matt Ballard had one case involving the murder of three young boys that was never solved.  Now, with retirement in sight, Matt plans to continue the investigation on his own.  Then a photo arrives that shows the crime scene of one of the murders--before the murder, a tangle of taunting letters are sent to members of Ballard's team,  and another young boy goes missing.

While this stand-alone (or first in a new series) is another intriguing police procedural from Ellis, I did not enjoy it nearly as much as her previous novels.

The characters don't feel as genuine as those in her other books and the emphasis on sex felt like the book was trying to reach another audience.  Perhaps if the book had come from another author, I wouldn't have focused on the fact that I didn't relate to the characters, but the depth of characterization in her previous novels set a high standard.  I didn't really like any of the characters much.

I will stick to Ellis' DI Nikki Galena and her DI Jackman series.

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Crime/Police Procedural.  December 19, 2017.  Print length:  369 pages.  

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Plague Pits & River Bones by Karen Charlton

Plague Pits and River Bones by Karen Charlton has Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Ned Woods investigating murder, the slave trade, and highway robbery.

Set in 1812 London, the novel is another well-written entry into this historical mystery series.  The introduction of a Moriarity-like character is interesting.  He will undoubtedly add another dimension to future books.

Well-researched with the benefit of Author's Notes and a bibliography.  Many of the events are taken from life and woven into Lavender's investigations.

I thoroughly enjoy this series.

Blog review scheduled for 12/28/17.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Historical Mystery.  Jan. 11, 2018.  Print length:  343 pages.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Running Girl by Sara Blaedel

Sara Blaedel's The Running Girl is the latest in her Detective Louise Rick series set in Copenhagen.  

Louise is caring for Jonas, supposedly on a temporary basis, after his father's murder.  They have a good relationship, but Louise still considers her care of Jonas temporary.  

Jonas attends a farewell party for a classmate that is interrupted by a gang of older teenagers and calls Louise in a panic as the violence erupts.  Louise gets there as quickly as possible, but the circumstances have deteriorated, and she arrives at the scene of a traffic accident in which one of Jonas' friends, running for help, has been hit by a car.

Louise is involved in another case, that gradually seems to link up to the party invasion.

Intense and engrossing.

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Crime/Suspense.  Jan. 2, 2018.  Print length:  448 pages.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Wishing All a Wonderful Holiday

I took a break from making snowmen and several other projects yesterday and just visited with a dear friend who was in town.  I had run out of time on my Christmas sewing projects, but I finished up the crucial items on Friday.  One project will not be completed before tomorrow, but that is OK--it was a last minute inspiration and will be finished eventually.

All of the snowmen will soon have new homes.
I had so much fun making these Christmas gifts!

Oops, blurry pic

Cat turned out to be my favorite project--
for a little girl who has a special love of cats.
Cat needed a bag and a companion...

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all many good books
in the coming year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Season of Blood by Jeri Westerson

Season of Blood takes the reader on another adventure with Crispin Guest as he investigates murdered monks and stolen relics.  I've enjoyed several of these Crispin Guest novels and enjoy the setting during Richard II's reign. Crispin is a disgraced knight who has earned a reputation as an investigator and finder of lost objects.  He has become known as the Tracker.

A beautiful and mysterious woman sets this mystery in motion.  She approaches Crispin, asking for his aid in finding her niece.  Things are not what they seem, however, and when a monk falls into his door with Crispin's old rival Simon Wynchecombe's dagger in his back and a blood relic in his hand, events take a perilous direction.

Crispin has a skeptical approach to relics, but this one seems unlike the usual fakes.  Religious institutions were often competitive about relics because relics were a source of pilgrims and income; blood relics containing the blood of Christ were particularly desirable.

Crispin's attempts to return the relic are thwarted when the relic keeps returning to him.  

Read in September; review scheduled for Dec. 21.

Goodreads/Severn House

Historical Mystery.  Jan. 1, 2017.  Print length:  224 pages.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reading Challenges and Reading Itineraries

I rarely participate in reading challenges any longer, but I often choose to take a reading journey concentrating on an author, genre, setting, time period, or topic.

I recently found this DIY Reading Challenge that gives 50 ways to create your own personal reading challenge.  Here are a few that interested me:

9. Go to the library once a month, browse the stacks, and pick a book that looks interesting to you, but that you have never heard of and that no one has recommended to you. Make sure you’ve never heard of the author, either.

(#9 -- I have done this many times, but not recently--choosing this way can lead to new authors and subject matter.)

11. Pick a subject you’re interested in—it could be anything. Knitting. The history of French macarons. Space exploration. Sex toys. Seriously: anything! Now make a reading list that throughly explores that subject. Make sure to include books of different genres (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.) Think about the authors you’re including on your list—try to include authors from diverse backgrounds. Your reading list could be three or ten or twenty books.

(#11 -- What I like about this one is looking at a topic in different genres, including poetry.)

29. Find a class syllabus for a class you’d wish you’d taken in college, or a class that’s locally offered at a community college or continuing education center, but that you don’t have the time to actually take. Read all the books on the syllabus. Syllabi are actually quite easy to find—a quick google search of “Afro-American history” yielded dozens. Try a more detailed search to find a syllabus to match your particular interests!

(#29 -- Another version of the class syllabus is to look at the bibliography at the back of a book of fiction or nonfiction that provides great sources on the subject.  I've done this with both fiction and nonfiction titles.)

39. Get a group of friends or family together. Have everyone write down a book they love on a piece of paper and put it in a hat. Pass the hat around and have everyone draw a paper. Read the book you draw. When you’re done, have tea and discuss it with the person who chose it, or get together and have a big potluck.

(#39 -- I like the idea of exchanging titles by drawing from a hat.  Another version I've read about people doing is an actual book exchange.  The book might not be one you would ever choose for yourself...which can prove surprising.)

I also look at the books others choose for the reading challenges they are participating in and make a list of their choices.  Always a great source of interesting titles!

For years, I've gotten lost in a number of my own itineraries:

Reading Itineraries (mostly about my fascination with the Tudors)

In 2007, I read several fascinating books recommended on Lotus's blog about the Middle East, both fiction and nonfiction.

An Arctic itinerary that started with fiction and moved to nonfiction.

There are also the yoga book itineraries and the brain/neuroplasticity book itineraries.... I can get excited about finding books to add to previous itineraries as well.

What are some of your favorite book itineraries?

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Black Painting by Neil Olson

The Black Painting  

Goya's Black Paintings are mysterious enough in appearance and in creation, but Neil Olson's novel gives an even more sinister legacy to the black painting owned by the patriarch of the Morse family.  

Fifteen years earlier, Alfred Arthur Morse's black painting was stolen, causing accusations, suspicion, and the estrangement of family members.  Now, the four cousins have been summoned to their grandfather's estate. Teresa and Audrey arrive together, but it is Teresa who discovers their grandfather's body in his study--in front of the space where the black painting had hung before its disappearance.

Teresa is intent on finding out more about the original theft and about her grandfather's death.  Family secrets emerge.

Whether or not the painting was haunted, there is plenty of suspense and mystery surrounding the Morse family's association with the painting.  A clever use of Goya's dark and nightmarish paintings to inspire a curse and a mystery. 

(The book never mentions which black painting Morse owned; perhaps a totally fictitious one, but the cover partially reveals one painting from the series.)

read in April; blog post scheduled for Dec. 18.

NetGalley/Hanover Square Press

Mystery/Suspense.  Jan. 9, 2018.  Print length:  320 pages.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Oh, darn, I am in need of the next installment!  The Cruel Prince didn't much engage me in the first chapter, but then I found myself so immersed in the characters and plot, I couldn't put it down.  

Jude, a seven-year-old mortal child, is taken with her two sisters to live in the High Court of Faery.  Her feelings become divided and a love/hate dilemma twists through her emotions...but after ten years in Faery, Jude no longer feels that she belongs in the mortal world either.  

Having endured bullying and disparagement from the Fey since her arrival, Jude lives in a kind of anxious fear.  When she can no longer remain inconspicuous, her anger emerges, and she begins a dangerous campaign of her own as she fights back.  

The Fey are beautiful, unpredictable, cruel, capricious, and immortal, and Jude finds herself both envying and despising them.  Her goal to become a knight is foiled, but Jude continues to search for a way to gain some power and security.  She moves from merely wanting a respected, secure position to something darker:  "If I cannot be better than them, I will be so much worse."

Even in Faery, there are conspiracies.  The Faery High King is ready to step down; he has chosen one of his six children as his successor.  Prince Dain is generally accepted by most of the Fae as a worthy choice, but there are political intrigues at work and not everyone is pleased.  

The Cruel Prince is a rather dark story suitable for a Faery Court: a protagonist who questions her position and her motives; schemes, spies, family dysfunction; betrayals; twists and turns.  After a slow buildup, the plot is engrossing.  In the past, I've not been a fan of Fae books, but Holly Black's complex characters and edgy narrative kept me in suspense the entire time.

Some elements of the plot are resolved, but there are so many questions about what happens next...and I hate having to wait.  

Read in Oct.; blog review scheduled for Dec. 12, 2017.

NetGalley/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Fantasy/YA.  Jan. 2, 2018.  Print length:  384 pages.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Crime and Science Fiction

Thieves on the Fens by Joy Ellis.

Someone is targeting thieves and calling DI Nikki Galena giving details that might help her prevent a murder.  Not that Mad Tom always plays the rules; he certainly cheats on the first play in his game.  Nikki and her team scramble to interpret the messages and protect the intended victims.

In the meantime, a dear friend of Nikki's mother Eve dies of a sudden heart attack.  Eve, who has a background with the RAF and the MOD is devastated, but also uneasy.  This is the second death among a circle of close friends, and Eve fears an unseen and powerful hand at work.  

If Eve is right, both she and her remaining friends are in danger.  And Eve is right--but the reason the women have been targeted is the question.  What did Ann and Jenny know that led to their deaths?  

Joy Ellis' Nikki Galena/Joseph Easter books are always a pleasure, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of genuinely knowing the characters she has created.  The Lincolnshire Fens add a sense of remoteness to many of the locations and frequently add to the suspense.

 Joy Ellis is one of my favorite authors of crime/detective fiction, and I highly recommend the series--but start at the beginning and enjoy the way the characters develop.

(Her DI Jackman/DS Evans series is equally good.)

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Detective/Crime.  Nov. 28, 2017.  Print length:  309 pages.

The Silent Children by Carol Wyer is the fourth in a series featuring DI Robyn Carter.  I haven't read any of the previous books in the series, but The Silent Children functions perfectly well as a stand-alone, even though there is an arc carried over from previous books.

Another book interspersed with sections on a back story, The Silent Children keeps the narrative bouncing between past and present.  

Overall, I wasn't that impressed with this one, but Wyer has a number of fans who really loved the book.  I never wanted to abandon it, but when I finished, the only character who truly engaged me was Robyn's cousin Ross, and he had a minimal role.


Mystery/Crime.  Dec. 7, 2017.  Print length: 426 pages.

Evan Currie's Odysseus Awakening is the latest installment of this series featuring Confederation captain Eric Weston and the crew of the starship Odysseus.

I like science fiction and space operas and have enjoyed all the books in this series.  Lots of action and suspense, but since some of the intelligence concerning the starships falls into enemy hands, another book will have to detail just how much information the enemy gained.  Does it include the location of earth?

This is not my favorite in the series, but things in the Black are not over yet, and I'm eager to know what happens next.

This isn't a series that works well without having started with the first book, Odyssey One:  Into the Black.

My reviews of the earlier books in the series are here.

NetGalley/47 North

Science Fiction/Space Opera.  Dec. 12, 2017.  Print length:  318 pages.