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Friday, August 31, 2018

Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves

I'm sorry that Ann Cleeves has decided that this will be the last in the Shetland series featuring Jimmy Perez.  Maybe especially sad because I found this one so good. 

As is often true in small communities, "incomers" can find it difficult to fit in.  When Helena and Daniel Fleming move to the island, they were hoping for a quieter, more peaceful life than they had in London.  However, their acceptance in the community is not what they hoped, and after the suicide of the former owner of their home, things quickly become worse.

When a young nanny is found hanging in the same barn in which the previous owner hanged himself, Jimmy Perez and Sandie Wilson are called in.  The young woman was found by the Fleming's autistic eleven-year-old son which puts even more stress on the family.  Emma Shearer, the young woman found murdered in the barn, had been a the nanny for the Moncrief family since she was seventeen.  

When Chief Inspector Willow Reeves arrives on the island, she and Jimmy have some personal business that keeps them from working together as easily as they have in the past.

Ann Cleeves has a way of seeming to let the various characters create themselves.  The Flemings, the Moncriefs, the Riddells all develop in an organic and believable manner. Perez, Willow Reeves, and Sandy Wilson need less introduction, but are all in the process of their personal transitions even as they work the case.

Emma Shearer, the very private nanny, doesn't come fully into view until the conclusion.  Cleeves works hard to keep from revealing who was responsible for Emma's death, and I bounced back and forth between a couple of suspects.  

Troubled families, complex characters, and an excellent procedural!  Recommended.

Read in August.  Blog review scheduled for Sept. 4

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Police Procedural.  Sept. 4, 2018.  Print length:  416 pages.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Exes' Revenge (Sticks and Stones) by Jo Jakeman and Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima

The Exes' Revenge by Jo Jakeman is exactly what it says and yet...not at all what I was expecting.

Imogen is in the midst of a divorce, and Phillip, her controlling and abusive husband, has given her an ultimatum:  leave the house in two weeks or he will make sure he gets custody of their son.  Phillip is a policeman and would be able to bring up Imogen's depression following a miscarriage.  Currently, Phillip is living in another property he owns with his current, much younger girlfriend.

Although Imogen's personality is non-confrontational, Phillip's latest demands require her to stand up in order to be able to provide a decent life for their son.  

In a visit to try and persuade Phillip to be reasonable, Imogen realizes that Phillip has been abusing his girlfriend as well.  

When an irate Phillip learns of her visit, he storms into the house full of threats and ego, then goes into the basement to retrieve some belongings.   Pushed beyond rational thought, Imogen does something drastic and completely unexpected.   Now what?  

Moving back and forth in time, Phillip's relationships with Imogen, his current girlfriend, and his ex-wife emerge.  Unlikely allies and perhaps with different agendas, the three women learn more about themselves, each other, and the man with whom they have all been involved.

Expecting a typical revenge mystery, I was delighted to find a more complex and engrossing experience with a brisk pace and some dark humor.


Update, July 20: this book has recently received a new title and cover:  Sticks and Stones

Read in June.  Review scheduled for Aug. 29.

NetGalley/Berkely Publishing

Mystery.  Sept. 11, 2018.  Print length:  352 pages.

Having never mastered the skill of training any of our dogs to do more than "sit," I tend to be captivated by working dogs, their skills and their training.  Set in the Colorado Rockies, Margaret Mizushima's Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries combine the abilities of Robo, a talented young search and rescue dog with good characterization and suspenseful plots 

Burning Ridge is the 4th book in the series, and I was just as enthralled as usual.  Robo may be my favorite character, but I like all of the regular cast from members of the Sheriff's Dept. to Cole, the local veterinarian, to Mama T, the foster mother who raised Mattie.

Deputy Mattie Cobb is the K-9 officer in the small town of Timber Creek, CO.  Mattie and Robo have a tremendous bond and trust each other implicitly.  He may be a working dog, but he is definitely loved and respected, not only by Mattie, but by all those who have come to appreciate his talents and personality.

When a burned body is discovered high in a mountain valley, all are stunned at the apparent brutality, but the situation is worsened when the identity of the victim is revealed.

Burning Ridge touches close to home for Mattie.

Couldn't turn the pages fast enough--(so to speak, as I read it on my Kindle).  Ready for the next in the series and hate having to wait.

Read in June.  Review scheduled for August 29

NetGalley/Crooked Lane Books

Crime/Suspense.  Sept. 11, 2018.  Print version:  279 pages.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Divided House by J. M. Dalgliesh

J.M. Dalgliesh is a new author for me, but I will certainly be reading more from him.  

Divided House introduces DI Nathaniel Caslin.  Nate Caslin had been on an upward career path with Scotland Yard, but he made a mistake and is now the odd man out in York.

His marriage is on the rocks, and his personal life is a mess, but there is an integrity that keeps him from falling into a hopeless abyss.

When no one else seems concerned about the disappearance of a young family, Nate listens to his own internal warnings that something is drastically wrong.

The commitment to solving a complex case has Nate slowly emerging from his tendency to hide in substance abuse and alcohol and to gradually regain some of the trust he has lost.

Dalgliesh has created an intriguing character in a well-plotted dark example of detective fiction.  I will be on to the next one in the series soon!

Detective Fiction/Police Procedural.  May, 2018.  Print length:  335 pages.  

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Rule by Ellen Goodlett is the first in a series (trilogy?) that begins with a king having his three illegitimate daughters located and brought to court.  The king of Kolonya decides to acknowledge his three illegitimate daughters only after his son and presumptive heir dies.  

The three young women are very different and quite amazed upon discovering not only their unknown father, but also that they have siblings.

Nothing especially new in this YA fantasy...except that (Spoiler)  the three girls eventually form a bond, supporting each other, instead of the expected cut throat competition for the crown. This was actually the thing I liked most, the siblings uniting.

Each of the daughters carries a dark secret, and each of the secrets could carry a dreadful consequence.  When the blackmail begins, who is to be trusted?

I enjoyed the first installment of this series.

Read in July; blog review scheduled for Aug. 25.

NetGalley/Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

YA Fantasy.  Sept. 11, 2018.  Print length:  384 pages.

Friday, August 24, 2018

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

I read The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter last year and loved it.  

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman is the sequel that takes the Athena Club (Mary Jekyll, Catherine Moreau, Beatrice Rappaccini, Justine Frankenstein, and Diana Hyde) on another exciting adventure.  

Don't read this one without having read the The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter first; the sequel depends on the characterizations established in the first book.

The Athena Club faces new and old enemies as they attempt a rescue of Lucy Van Helsing.  New and interesting characters include Mina Murray Harker and Irene Adler Norton.

As in the first book, all the characters taken from the original novels and short stories  (by Bram Stoker,  Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, H.G. Wells, Conan Doyle) are turned on their heads.  If you enjoyed any or all of the originals, you will find the Athena Club mash-ups great fun.

All of that said, however, this one is a tad long and could have been improved by judicious editing of at least 100 or so pages.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed European Travel and look forward to the next adventures of the "monstrous women" of the Athena Club.


Victorian/Fantasy.  2018.  Print length:  780 pages.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

An Act of Villainy by Ashley Weaver

An Act of Villainy continues the adventures of Amory and Milo Ames.  This one involves a West End theater, threatening letters, a friend whose marriage is disintegrating as her husband has an affair, and of course, a murder.

Set in the 1930's, Ashley Weaver's series echoes some of the techniques of The Golden Age of Detective Fiction with some modern twists.  Clever detection, stylish writing, the avoidance of graphic violence, and in an Act of Villainy, a surprising twist.

If you've been following this series, you will enjoy Weaver's latest offering for the mystery and the characters.   

Read in June; blog review scheduled for August 23.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Detective Fiction.  Sept. 4, 2018.  Print length:  320 pages.

Monday, August 20, 2018

In the Heat of the Moment by Viveca Sten

Midsummer's Eve on Sandhamn annually attracts all kinds of visitors who celebrate the longest day of the year by drinking and carousing.  The event is endured by inhabitants and police.

Nora Linde's life is complicated when her new boyfriend's daughter doesn't come home after a night of celebrating.  In addition to that worry, she is asked to take in two teenage girls who were found lost and confused after a night of drinking.

When the body of the young man is discovered, Thomas Andreasson and his partner Margit are called in to investigate.  

I've enjoyed all of Viveca Sten's previous books, and although this one is not bad, for some reason I wasn't as engaged with the plot.  

Both Nora and Thomas are interesting, intelligent, and compassionate characters, and I was happy to see a little take-down of the mother-in-law and to see ex-husband Henrik behave reasonably.  

Read in July;  blog review scheduled for Aug. 20.

NetGalley/Amazon Crossing

Mystery.  Sept. 4, 2018.   

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Iron Flower and Edinburgh Dusk and a few other things...

Iron Flower by Laurie Forest continues The Black Witch Chronicles.  I liked the first book a lot, and I like this one even more.  The Black Witch dramatizes the prejudices in Gardneria and illustrates how those prejudices influence the treatment of others.  

In Iron Flower, Elloren and her friends work for the Resistance, but the sinister Marcus Vogel has gained absolute power in Gardneria and is determined to eradicate any opposition.

In fact, Vogel doesn't even want submission, his goal is more ominous.

Elloren continues to gain confidence as the bonds of loyalty grow among her friends, and she commits herself to do all she can to protect those threatened with slavery, imprisonment, and death. 

A lot of action and a little romance kept me turning the pages, but mainly I loved the way these young people are risking everything to stand up for their friends.  Although Rafe and Diana are secondary characters, they are among my very favorites.

An epic YA fantasy, and I can't wait for the next installment!

NetGalley/Harlequin Teen

YA Fantasy.  Sept. 18, 2018.  

Edinburgh Dusk is also a second in a series by Carole Lawrence.  After a perfectly ugh prologue, the book improved.  It is better than the first book in the series, although I didn't review the first book here.

I love Edinburgh so I couldn't help giving the series another try.  While I did like this one better (aside from the yucky prologue), I still couldn't quite get a feel for Ian Hamilton.  

The Hamlet trope was way overdone.

Favorite character:  Conan Doyle is a secondary character that will probably be in the next book as well.  We even get a cameo appearance of Dr. Bell, Doyle's mentor.  

Reviews of Edinburgh Twilight ran the gamut from one to five stars on Goodreads (I gave it a generous 3), but so far the reviews of Edinburgh Dusk are positive.  Since twilight and dusk are synonyms, maybe one should have had a different title.  I don't know that I'd try another in this series.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Historical Mystery.  Sept. 18, 2018.  

And just for fun:

Imaginary Foods

Atlas Obscura asked readers to tell them what fictional foods they wished were real and to describe what they think they would taste like.  

One example:  
Cauldron Cakes from the Harry Potter series
What might it taste like?“A small sponge cake with a ganache, a smooth interior that tastes like chocolate and pepper. So, a spicy chocolate taste. I love sweets and I adore the world of Harry Potter. I immediately envisioned chocolate, and the ‘cauldron’ makes me think spicy. I imagine a delectable treat.” — Cherie, Jacksonville, Florida 
 P.S.  This one had me at ganache (a whipped filling of chocolate and creme), but I have a friend who adds a little pepper to her chocolate cookies--and they are delicious.  I think Cherie has imagined a great description for Cauldron Cakes.


I'm a fan of snail mail (although I mostly keep that to my other blog), but this might appeal to readers of comics and graphic novels!  I found this at Letter Writers Alliance--
Comics and Correspondence Club for August.

Thursday, August 16th, 2018 - Join Donovan Challenger for an evening of corresponding postally with your favorite comics via letter. Every month, we'll focus on sending mail (real, physical mail) to a specific comic. Need to talk about your feelings on WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT THING? Or WHY DID THEY DO THE OTHER THING? Or HOW DARE THEY? Or even HEY, I LIKE YOU A LOT! We know you have opinions. Time to share them with the people who are actually responsible. No more excuses! We'll have stationery and stamps, envelopes and everything else you need to take the conversation out of the store and into the mail.

They will be writing to Marjory Liu and Sana Takeda, creators of the Monstress fantasy series.  

in care of:

Image Comics, Inc.
2701 NW Vaughn Street, Suite 780
Portland, Oregon 97210

If you live in Chicago, you might want to attend, but if you don't, it is an interesting idea that you could do on your own.  Write to the writers, illustrators, or to one of your favorite characters.

If you read graphic novels, what character or series would you want to write to?  Have any of you read any of the Monstress series?  I love the covers.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Little Comfort by Edwin Hill

  Readers always have a soft spot for librarians, and Edwin Hill has a librarian as the protagonist in his debut novel Little Comfort.

Hester Thursby, Harvard librarian, has taken a leave of absence to help her partner care for his young niece.  Hester has a side job, however; she implements her research skills to locate people.  The prom date in 1974, adopted children, or birth parents--Hester uses her skills to find those who may be missing from someone's life.

Hester adores Kate, but the little one is causing some disruption in Hester's life.  As much as she loves Kate, suddenly thrust in the role of caregiver to a small child was never in Hester's life plan, and she occasionally finds herself bored.  

When a call from Lila Blaine requesting help in locating her brother that she hasn't seen in twelve years, Hester agrees to meet her and find out more.  Intrigued by the sporadic postcards Lila has received over the years, Hester agrees to see if she can locate Sam Blaine and the best friend he ran away with at fourteen.

Why did Sam and Gabe run away in the first place?  Why are the postcards so cryptic?  

Hester follows the clues and finds herself in a situation she never bargained for.

Read in June; blog review scheduled for August 13.

NetGalley/Kensington Books

Mystery/Suspense.  August 28, 2018.  Print length:  324 pages. 

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Keep Her Silent by Theresa Talbot

Keep Her Silent is less interesting for its plot than for the premise involving the tainted blood scandal in the UK.  This horrific situation involved America, a Canadian drug company, and corpses from Russia.  You really can't make this stuff up.  

I wasn't as engaged with the murder plot or the characters (Oonagh was annoying), but truth is stranger than fiction in this situation--and that part of the story kept me engaged.  

When a police investigation into the Raphael Murders is reopened, investigative journalist Oonagh O'Neil discovers more questions than answers, but her interviews and research cause her to examine the original investigation with a different perspective.  She's often wrong-footed and her discoveries are almost stumbled on, but she eventually knows the murders were not what they seemed.

Britain's Contaminated Blood Scandal

Scandal Not Confined to Britain

Can you imagine if your child was one of the Pups?  "The acronym used was Pups – previously untreated patients. They were in effect being experimented on."
There are numerous articles online about the tainted blood scandal, but the corruption, greed, arrogance, and cover-up  involved is sickening.  Theresa May has ordered a new inquiry which may bring some semblance of justice.

Read in July; blog review scheduled for Aug. 9.


Crime/Suspense.  Aug. 21, 2018.  Print length:  301 pages.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Not the Booker Shortlist & Other Tidbits

Not the Booker Shortlist, with one more to be selected. 

The only one of these I've read is Dark Pines, which I enjoyed,
especially its deaf protagonist Tuva Moodyson.
I'm also interested in The Ruin, a new crime series set in Ireland.

Writers opinions of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.
Despite many disparaging remarks about the classic,
writers like Virginia Woolfe, Joan Didion, Alice Hoffman,
and Joyce Carol Oates all admired it.
Interesting to read their views!

There is a word for everything,
even it is from another language.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest will unsettle some.  It is both fantasy and allegory.   As a fantasy, The Black Witch provides intriguing characters, excellent world-building, and a suspenseful plot.  As an allegory, it is an examination of a xenophobic world that ascribes to a superior race doctrine and of the young people who, despite their differences and long-held prejudices, learn to accept others and commit to a resistance of the regime.

Most of Gardneria still reveres the Black Witch who saved them during the Realm War, but Elloren has been sheltered from that sycophantic admiration.  She has also had the advantage of her uncle's care which has shielded her from the worst of a society that degrades minorities.  

When Elloren finally gets her wish to attend university to study to be an apothecary, she meets the kind of prejudices her country has instilled.  She must acknowledge that those prejudices are reciprocal:  those that vilify other cultures are vilified in turn.  Being the granddaughter of the Black Witch is admired by Gardnerians, but other cultures despise the connection.  It isn't an easy lesson, but Elloren does learn, slowly and painfully, that preconceived ideas about other races works both ways.

Allegories can be preachy, but The Black Witch provides interesting characters and a suspenseful plot that we know will reach beyond discrimination of different races/cultures (Elves, Fae, Lupines,  Kelts, and "mixed breeds") to something far worse.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, even as I felt it to be a bit didactic, because it so clearly fits our own era of divisiveness and fear of others.  As a YA novel, it has both good lessons and an exciting story.

Read in July 

NetGalley/Harlequin Teen

YA/Fantasy.  May 2, 2017.