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Friday, September 28, 2018

Interesting Articles

On banned books.  I've read 6/10.  I tried Ulysses, but gave up, and nothing has made me want to try again. 

On conversation.  I watched the following Ted Talk a year or so ago, but someone referenced it recently, and I watched again.  Everyone is doing more "talking at" than "talking with" these days.  I'm often guilty.

 On Craig Johnson.  As a long time fan of the Longmire series, I'm looking forward to Depth of Winter

On Crime Reads.  Several of these have caught my interest!

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way and If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

In 1986, Beth and Doug are so grateful to finally have a child after years of trying, but by the time little Hannah is a toddler, Beth knows that something is not right.    

In 2017, Clara wakes up to the realization that her partner Luke failed to come home.  Unable to get in touch with him because he had forgotten his cell phone, Clara knows he would never willingly abandon the job interview scheduled for that day.  

Although police are initially reluctant to get involved since Luke is a grown man and has not been missing long,  they realize this disappearance may be serious when messages from a stalker are revealed.  Luke had laughed them off,  now, however,  the messaged threats take on an even more menacing aspect.

As it becomes increasingly obvious that Luke is in danger, Clara tries to find out why Luke has been taken.  Some of what she turns up is not to Luke's credit, but Clara is persistent in her attempts to find out who may have been behind Luke's disappearance.

Moving back and forth in time from 1986 to the present, the story unfolds in both expected and unexpected ways.  The prologue gives a convenient prediction, but making things fit together is difficult because the author withholds enough information to keep the reader from fully understanding the overall situation.  The picture is there, but not all of the pieces are available.  

There is resolution, but the conclusion is ambiguous...almost as if leaving an opening for a sequel?  Although "bad seed" characters are interesting, I don't know that I'd follow up on this one.

Read in July; blog post scheduled for Sept. 24.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing

Psychological/Mystery.  Oct. 9, 2018.  Print length:  385 pages.  

If You Ask Me is a collection of advice articles Eleanor Roosevelt wrote over a period of twenty years.  Interesting for a number of reasons:  human problems and questions are remarkably similar regardless of the era;  Mrs. Roosevelt took each question seriously and responded with insight and kindness no matter the topic; common sense and civility are in each response.  

"Covering a wide variety of topics—everything from war, peace, and politics to love, marriage, religion, and popular culture—these columns reveal Eleanor Roosevelt’s warmth, humanity, and timeless relevance."

NetGalley/Atria Books

History/Advice.  Oct. 9, 2018.  Print length:  272 pages.

Just read this article:  In the Time You Spend on Social Media Each Year, You Could Read 200 Books.

Friday, September 21, 2018

One Thing Leads to Another...Espionage Books

Ben MacIntyre has a new book:  The Spy and the Traitor:  The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, and I want it.

The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.

Another MacIntyre book from the Cold War period is A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal.   This one has on my mind since recently reading Kate Atkinson's Transcription. I want to read both The Spy and the Traitor and A Spy Among Friends because MacIntyre writes nonfiction so well.  

 I've enjoyed a couple of Ben MacIntyre's nonfiction books about WWII.  My favorite was Operation Mincemeat:  How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory.  What a great film this one would make!

From my review:  Maybe the reason the entire plan reads something like a novel is that so many of the individuals involved in one way or another were already novelists or became novelists.  While truth is often stranger than fiction, it helps if those who conceive and construct such a complicated plan have the imagination of fiction writers.  I lost count of how many writers were involved from start to finish.  The most famous, although his role was small, was Ian Fleming.  No wonder the Bond stories were so popular, Fleming had all the experience one might need with espionage, double-thinking, and dreaming up ways to confuse or mislead the enemy.

Reading about Ian Fleming's role in Operation Mincemeat eventually led me to read The Man with the Golden Typewriter.  What a pleasure to read the correspondence between Fleming and people like Evelyn Waugh, Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham, and Raymond Chandler.  

The letters were all interesting in so many ways.  Reading each one was a pleasure, and my opinion of Ian Fleming rose as I read the book.  He was not just the author of sensational novels, but a former Naval Intelligence officer, a friend of some of the most talented authors of the day, and a charming and witty correspondent.  


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Catching Up

I've been working on more mail art envelopes and postcards, answering letters, anticipating cooler weather (today's high is supposed to be 98), thinking about Halloween (after finishing Scaredy Cat and Pumpkin Head dolls, I need a new Halloween Eccentric to work on), contemplating a fall garden, and reading.  

I need to catch up on reviews, so I am making a start.  I wish I could do like Lark and make Haiku Reviews, but these are all pretty short.

Something Wicked by Kerry Wilkinson.  This is my first in the Andrew Hunter series, and I liked it.  Not as much as the Jessica Daniel series, but this was Andrew Hunter's first outing, and often a series improves.  The plot involves a creepy cult and isn't terribly realistic, but  I like Kerry Wilkinson and have enjoyed the Jessica Daniel series and several of his stand-alones.  


Detective Fiction.  2014; 2018.  Print length:  321 pages.

Holy Ghost is the eleventh book in John Sandford's Virgil Flowers series, but my first foray into this series.

A small town in Minnesota is dying--not an unusual plight for small towns anywhere that are off the main highways.  Wardell Holland and teenager John Jacob Skinner come up with an idea to put Pinion, MN back on the map, a sketchy ruse to attract tourists.  They are going to use the Catholic Church, a faked Marian appearance, and turn the town into draw for religious tourists.  ! How's that for a plan?

Unfortunately, a series of shootings, followed by several murders take place.  Virgil Flowers, an investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is called in.  What began as two serious injuries turns into a series of murders, and Virgil is at a loss to determine motive.  A number of interesting characters, some humorous conversations, and a long struggle to figure out what was really going on kept me involved.  I mean, one theory after another gets shot down, and Virgil gets frustrated (in a calm, laid back kinda way).

I've never read anything by John Sandford before, but I'll certainly be interested in his other series now--and since I liked all of the odd-ball characters in Holy Ghost, I will be checking the library for more Virgil Flowers.   Thanks to James Thane whose review of a Virgil Flowers book made me try this one! 

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Mystery/Crime.  Oct. 9, 2018.  Print length:  400 pages.

Deathly Portent is the second in the Lady Fan series, and I actually abandoned the first one within a chapter or two, but this was kind of fun.  

Description:  THE DEATHLY PORTENT is the second book in the Lady Fan Mystery series: historical romance murder mysteries with a courageous women sleuth embarking on a traditional British, private investigation in eighteenth-century London. 

Deathly Portent takes place in a small village.  Lady Fan and her husband have carriage trouble and when Lady Fan hears that a young woman is being accused of being a witch and murdering the local blacksmith, she is unable to restrain her curiosity and need to investigate.  Although there are murders, the book makes the most of the eccentric village characters, some humor, and a little romance.  

NetGalley/Sapere Books

Historical Mystery.  August 23, 2018.  Print length:  381 pages. 

I read Divided House by J.M. Dalgliesh last month and went straight into the next book in the Dark Yorkshire series.  Blacklight continues the investigations of DI Nathaniel Caslin--in the current case two women are missing.  One is the daughter of the local MP.

Nate Caslin still has problems, but his character rounds out a bit in this second book.  I'm ready for the next one!

Kindle Unlimited/Hamilton Press

Detective Fiction.  June 1, 2018.  Print length:  319 pages.

Whew!  Shorter than normal reviews, but I enjoyed all of these books.  

As always I love the fan mail James Preller receives from his young fans and his wonderful, gracious replies!   

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Sideman by Caro Ramsay

The Sideman follows on The Suffering of Strangers, which I've not read.  Usually, I don't have any trouble beginning in the middle or at the end of a series, but The Sideman gave me fits initially because it was so obviously connected to a previous story, and I was not familiar with the previous books or the plot.  Most authors manage to give enough background to make it easy to follow, but The Sideman was like beginning a book in the middle with no correlations to rely on.  There were so many characters that it seemed the reader was expected to know...and I didn't.

That said, I was intrigued enough to persevere and eventually found myself engrossed.  Caro Ramsay is a new author to me and The Sideman is the 10th in a series of the Anderson and Costello novels set in Glasgow.  

Brief description from blurb:  Detective Inspector Costello has resigned. No notice, no goodbyes. Convinced that George Haggerty murdered his wife and son despite his cast-iron alibi, Costello has gone solo, determined to expose a ruthless killer without being hampered by police protocol. But is she right about Haggerty’s guilt? And where has she disappeared to?

Expecting Costello to have a large role, I was puzzled when she failed to actually show up.  Her partner and friends are concerned about her, but Costello is a notable absence in what was (for me) at first a hugely puzzling plot.  Gradually, I was drawn in and picked up enough of the previous story to have some background with which to work.  About a quarter of the way in, I was completely invested.

In spite of my initial confusion, I think this is a series I'd like to pursue--but beginning with the first book!

Read in June;  blog review scheduled for Sept. 17.

NetGalley/Severn House

Mystery/Thriller.  Oct. 1, 2018.  Print length:  256 pages.  

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Julie Kagawa is best known for her Iron Fey series, but my introduction to her work was the Blood of Eden trilogy, a dystopian/vampire adventure that I really enjoyed.

The Shadow of the Fox is the first in this fantasy series with creative mythological elements.   

from the description:  Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns...and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near...and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret.

Yumeko, half-human and half-kitsune, has an important role to play in keeping the forces of evil at bay, but she is half-kitsune and is inclined to pranks.  Raised in a monastery, Yumeko is truly naive about the wider world, but she is good-hearted and aware of what she owes to the monks.  When the temple is destroyed by demons, Yumkeo finds herself charged with a great responsibilty: she must deliver the fragment of the scroll entrusted to her to the Steel Feather Shrine.  Her experiences have been limited to the sanctuary of the monastery, but now she must undertake a journey into a world she knows little about.

The second pov comes from Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan, whose life has been circumscribed by his clan leaders.  His current mission it to dispatch anyone who stands in his way of obtaining the fragment of the scroll that Yumeko carries.  Unaware that she is carrying the fragment, Tatsumi believes Yumeko can help him locate it and aids her in her journey. 

Villains, demons, samurai, ronin, shape-shifters, kami and more.  A little slow at the start, the pacing increases with the destruction of the temple that sets Yumeko in her prophesied role.

Read in May; blog review scheduled for Sept. 13.  

NetGalley/Harlequin Teen

YA/Fantasy/Folkore/Adventure.  Oct. 2, 2018.  Print length:  400 pages.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson's Transcription is a strange little book.  Although the novel opens in 1950, we are quickly thrust back to 1940, when eighteen-year-old Juliet begins working for a branch of MI5.  She is idealistic, but aware that she doesn't always meet her own standards.  

She has recently lost her mother, and a sense of abandonment is part of her personality.  She is also young and longing for romance and excitement.  

Her job as a transcriptionist, however, is boring, but when she does have the opportunity to become more involved, Juliet realizes there is still plenty of dull mixed in with the tension and danger.

Most of the book is slow and anything but a thriller, and Atkinson probably did this on purpose.  There is sly humor throughout, especially the kind of bitter/sweet/amusing sections with Juliet imagining the possibility of romance with the wrong man.  

When the war is over, Juliet moves on with her life and by 1950 is a radio producer with the BBC.  She discovers that the past is not always past.

An overarching theme of deception, duplicity, and the masks people wear permeates the novel.  Some of the references are obvious, some made me curious about different applications, but I was not expecting one central duplicity.  In the concluding chapters, the suspense mounts (finally), and traitors are revealed.  

I admit that I found a majority of the novel slow and despite the fact that the slow pace is intentional and despite the many amusing and witty comments and scenarios, I felt myself wading through three quarters of the book waiting for...something.  But that something arrived, and the conclusion and the Author's Note which follows made everything worthwhile.  

Transcription is a curious book.  It is not a thriller, as you might expect, but it is book that ambushed me at the end and one I can't quit thinking about.

Read in August.  Blog review scheduled for Sept. 9.

NetGalley/Little, Brown, and Company

Historical Fiction/Espionage.  Sept. 25, 2018.  Print length:  352 pages.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

I've been reading Sharon Bolton since Sacrifice, her first book and a chilling tale.  Then came the Lacey Flint series and several stand-alones (my favorite is Little Black Lies).   

The Craftsman is set in Sabden, the village at the foot of Pendle Hill, famous for the Pendle witches and the resulting trials and executions in 1612.  The Craftsman takes some of the best elements from all of the above books  and will keep you riveted from first to last.

The book begins in 1999, but moves back and forth in time.

In 1999, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady returns to Sabden for the funeral of Larry Glassbrook.  Glassbrook died in prison after having been convicted of three murders.  Florence was responsible for his conviction, but her return is not going to offer the resolution she seeks.  

In 1969, WPC Florence Lovelady is new to the force and becomes tangled up in a case involving three missing children.   The anxiety is high in the community, and when a group of children say they hear voices coming from a grave, Florence is sent to resolve the situation.  Although facing prejudice for her gender and education, Florence does have one friend on the force, DC Tom Devins.

In 1999, Florence realizes that perhaps they got things wrong and finds herself and her son in danger.

Witches and folklore add to this harrowing tale.  Although billed as a stand-alone, I'd love to see more from Florence, either in her early career or dating from the chilling conclusion.  I would also be pleased if  Bolton decided to  have a spin-off novel involving Avril and Daphne and the local coven.  

This is one of Bolton's best, a compelling plot and well-drawn characters kept me glued to the pages.  

I read Mist Over Pendle as an R.I.P. read several years ago, and The Craftsman would make an excellent choice for R.I.P.  There are dozens of books about the Pendle witches both fiction and nonfiction.

Read in August.  Blog review scheduled for Sept. 4.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/Suspense.  (UK) April 15  and (US) Oct. 16, 2018.  Print length:  432 pages.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang

Cora Lee, the protagonist of The Impossible Girl, is an amalgamation of weird circumstances.    

Cora, the illegitimate child of a wealthy socialite, is born with a physical anomaly that makes her of scientific interest.  Cora's Aunt Charlotte raises her--and Charlotte is only too well of the danger presented by Cora's two hearts.  To keep her hidden from anatomist's who would love to dissect such an interesting specimen, Charlotte initially disguises Cora as "Jacob," in hopes that the legend of the girl with two hearts would eventually dwindle away.

Ironically, Cora becomes the only female resurrectionist in New York, exhuming bodies for the medical establishment for dissection and  allowing Cora to be aware of what physical abnormalities the anatomists are eager to examine.  When the legend of the girl with two hearts is suddenly revived, Cora's safety is at risk.  And someone is killing the people on Cora's list before their time.      

An intriguing mystery that highlights medical advancement and the New York of the mid-1800's, The Impossible Girl had several twists that I wasn't expecting.   Cora proved an interesting character in interesting times!

Read in June; blog review scheduled for 9/2/18.

NetGalley/Lake Union Publishing

Historical Mystery.  Sept. 18, 2018.  Print length:  364 pages.