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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Shamed by Linda Castillo

Last year, I read Down a Dark Road, my first foray into Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder series. (Thanks, Kay, for the heads up on this series.)

Shamed is another excellent entry set in Painters Mill, Ohio and the Amish community.

from description:   An Amish grandmother is murdered on an abandoned farm, her seven year old granddaughter abducted. Chief of Police Kate Burkholder plunges headlong into a case that quickly becomes a race against the clock. She knows the longer the girl is missing, the more likely a tragic outcome. The family of the missing girl is well thought of—a pillar of the Amish community. Their pain is palpable and they cooperate in every way, but Kate soon learns they’re keeping secrets...

There are now eleven books featuring Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police in Painters Mill, and the two books that I've read have had compelling mysteries with complex situations.  Insights into the Amish community and the contrast of the peaceful lifestyle and the violence that intrudes makes the books even more engrossing.

Read in March; blog review scheduled for June 30.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Mystery/Crime.  July 16, 2019.  Print length:  320 pages.
I love Steve McCurry's photographic blog and this entry is about reading in different settings, in different countries, for different reasons.  

Everywhere I go in the world, I see young and old,rich and poor, reading books.Whether readers are engaged in the sacred or the secular,they are, for a time, transported to another world.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Liar's House by Carla Kovach and Some Interesting Takes by Behavioral Scientist Paul Dolan

The Liar's House is the fourth in the series, but I haven't read the first three.  DI Gina Harte has a past having to do with her abusive husband that she would rather not be made public, but years later, her equally despicable brother-in-law turns up in her current case.

In her current case, Jade Ashworth has been murdered, and 
seven years ago, Samantha disappeared.  At first glance--nothing appears to connect the two women.  Yet as Gina and her team investigate, the connections appear.

A suspenseful plot with several twists.  My main problem is with the number of controlling men and the women who allow the control.  It isn't that I don't realize that this sort of thing can happen, but this book has way too many women who are easily dominated by the men in their lives.

The plot involves a wife-swapping group, and most of the women don't want to take part, but are pressured by their husbands or partners.  Of course, the women have to have been habituated to that kind of pressure even before the "parties," but it is discouraging to read about so many women in unequal relationships, who feel it so necessary to have a man in their lives that they give up their own autonomy.

The reviews of this one are overwhelmingly positive, and it is suspenseful and the guilty party unexpected, but it was depressing.  

Read in May.  Blog review scheduled for June 28.

Crime/Police Procedural.  July 2, 2019.  Print length:  337 pages.

Behavioral scientist Paul Dolan "analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS)"   that indicates single women without children are happiest: Unmarried Women Are the Happiest and Healthiest.  The same survey is also in The Guardian and The Independent.  Interesting and taking in several factors that make sense, and yet....

This might be true if there were no pressure to marry and have children, but there is tremendous social pressure to have a partner and few women can resist it.  A bit of a conundrum.   "Despite the benefits of a single, childless lifestyle for women, Dolan believes that the existing narrative that marriage and children were signs of success meant that the stigma could lead some single women to feel unhappy."

It is interesting that I read these articles after reading The Liar's House which already had me curious about why so many women find such unsuitable partners--women who are willing to sacrifice their own beliefs and who choose partners who make them miserable.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson
surprised me; it turned out to be more than what I expected.  
from description:  A short, irresistible, and bittersweet coming-of-age story in the vein of Stranger Things and Stand by Me about a group of misfit kids who spend an unforgettable summer investigating local ghost stories and urban legends
Growing up in 1980s Niagara Falls - a seedy but magical, slightly haunted place - Jake Baker spends most of his time with his uncle Calvin, a kind but eccentric enthusiast of occult artifacts and conspiracy theories. The summer Jake turns twelve, he befriends a pair of siblings new to town, and so Calvin decides to initiate them all into the "Saturday Night Ghost Club." But as the summer goes on, what begins as a seemingly light-hearted project may ultimately uncover more than any of its members had imagined. With the alternating warmth and sadness of the best coming-of-age stories, The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a note-perfect novel that poignantly examines the haunting mutability of memory and storytelling, as well as the experiences that form the people we become, and establishes Craig Davidson as a remarkable literary talent.
When the novel began with the observations of a brain surgeon, I was a bit taken aback.  The narrative is about misfit kids and an unforgettable summer, but there is also an acutely philosophical theme of memory and its vagaries.  The adult Jake moves from his current career as a neurosurgeon to his memories of the summer when he was twelve--his family, his friends, and his understanding of events in the past.

Read in March; review scheduled for June 26.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Coming of Age.  First published in 2018; July 9, 2019.  Print length:  240 pages.  

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Need by Helen Phillips

The Need by Helen Phillips is a strange nightmare of a novel.  

from description:  From the award-winning author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat, comes a subversive genre-busting thriller about a woman who grapples with the complex dualities of motherhood—joy and dread, tenderness and anxiety—after confronting a masked intruder in her home.

Real, supernatural, science fiction, psychological?  I never could decide.  Toward the end, I began to find it tedious, but kept on hoping for more enlightenment.  The Need reads like a bad dream and has the same open-ended feeling of being unable clarify or interpret with any genuine understanding.  That wispy feeling of trying to remember, interpret, and understand an eerie nightmare.

Maybe that was just me.  I've never been particularly good at being able to synthesize dreams, to meld the elements into a coherent whole.  I ended up with the same vague emotional reaction to something that failed to emerge as a comprehensible description.

Read in Jan.; blog review scheduled for June 24

NetGalley/Simon & Schuster
???  July 9, 2019.  252 pages.  

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Bastard Brigade by Sam Keane

The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Plot to Stop the Nazi Atomic Bomb  was a surprise in a number of ways. In spite of my interest in WWII, I wasn't sure if this one would be a winner for me.  There is some physics involved, which made me a bit leery, but Sam Kean keeps it simple even for the layman, and the oddball (and totally real) characters involved are fascinating examples of all the strengths and flaws human beings can exhibit. 

from description:  From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold story of a renegade group of scientists and spies determined to keep Adolf Hitler from obtaining the ultimate prize: a nuclear bomb.

Some of the information was already familiar to me because I've read a lot of WWII nonfiction, but not in the same detail.  

I knew about the attempts to sabotage the Venmorck Heavy Water facility in Norway to prevent the Germans from gaining access to heavy water for nuclear experiments, but not how many on died on the original British attempt or any details about Operation Grouse and the unbelievable hardships of the Norwegian team.  

I knew about Marie Curie, but not that she was asked not to attend the ceremony for her second Nobel Prize for moral reasons--because after the death of her husband, she was having an affair with a married scientist.  She attended anyway.  

And I had no idea about her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie and her husband Frederick Joliot-Curie's experiments, their connection to heavy water, and Frederick's work with the Resistance.  

I knew about Moe Berg, the baseball catcher turned spy, but not about the details of his career and that during baseball's off seasons, he attended the Sorbonne and graduated from Princeton and Columbia Law School.  Casey Stengel called him "the strangest man ever to play baseball."  

I knew almost nothing about the scientists involved other than the most famous names, but all of these men and women came alive as real people, not just historical footnotes.  

Although I had some quibbles about the author insertions in parentheticals or italics, the book was easy to read, fascinating, and informative.  Many missions failed or missed, and the book doesn't present any of these individuals as comic book heroes or paragons, many of them had no background in clandestine activities and were eccentric in one way or another, but each one played a vital role in helping prevent Germany achieving nuclear power. 

Read in May.  Blog review scheduled for June 23.

NetGalley/Little, Brown, & Co
Nonfiction/WWII.  July 9, 2019.  Print length:  464 pages.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Decanted Truths by Melanie Forde

In 2015, I read Melanie Forde's Hillwilla, a book that I very much enjoyed, so I was eager to read this one.  Decanted Truths is very different from Hillwilla and depicts the assimilation of Irish families as a process that takes a couple of generations.

It is easy to forget how unwelcome Irish immigrants were and how the only jobs they were offered were menial.  Many who came after 1845 (the potato blight famine) were desperately poor.  
 It is estimated that as many as 4.5 million Irish arrived in America between 1820 and 1930.
Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish constituted over one third of all immigrants to the United States. In the 1840s, they comprised nearly half of all immigrants to this nation.  Source
The Harrigan and Gavagan families arrived in the 19th century, but the book opens in the with the characters in the 1920's and focuses on Leah Gavagan.  Leah, an orphan taken in by her Aunt Theo, doesn't quite fit anywhere and struggles with "the sight" and episodes that make some uncomfortable in her presence.  

The novel then takes a turn to examine Margaret Harrigan and events in the late 19th that have lasting effects in the lives of both Harrigans and Gavagans.

The truths decanted in the histories of the two families are not always welcome and secrets are eventually revealed that have been kept hidden for decades.  

A compelling collection of characters and an intriguing saga of families, Decanted Truths depicts individuals who meet all of the changes and difficulties life throws at them.  As in real life, some meet these situations with more grace and fortitude than others.  

NetGalley/Books Go Social
Literary/Historical Fiction.  2018.  Print length:  416 pages. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Soul of the Sword, The Suffering of Strangers, Murder at the British Museum

Last year, I read Shadow of the Fox, the first in this series.  The story proceeds in Soul of the Sword as kitsune shape-shifter Yumeko and her companions continue their journey to the Steel Feather Temple.  

But--the demon Hakaimono escaped and possessed Tatsumi, the young warrior who was protecting Yumeko. This complication, which occurred at the end of The Shadow of the Fox, causes more difficulty and danger in Yumeko's quest.  (I found the added pov of Hakaimono actually slowed things down a bit.  I much preferred getting back to the sections with Yumeko and her little band because I'm much more involved with them.)

If you liked Shadow of the Fox, you will be sure to enjoy Soul of the Sword

itsune (狐 or きつね, Kitsune) is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shape shift into men or women. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

 My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho is one of my favorite Korean dramas.  The nine-tailed fox is a gumiho in Korean (kitsune in Japanese).   

NetGalley/Harlequin Teen/Ink Yard Press
Fantasy/Mythology.  June 18, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.

Caro Ramsay makes few concession to readers, and it would be best to start with the first book in the series.  When I read The Sideman, I felt exactly the same way.

Ramsay has a number of well-drawn characters that are interesting
(the snarky DI Costello is the most vivid, but I like the other characters as well). 

While The Suffering of Strangers can be read as a standalone, it would be smoother sailing to begin with the first book in the series to become accustomed to Ramsay's writing style and have a better grasp of the characters.

from the description:  "When a child abduction and sexual assault case overlap, Glaswegian police team Costello and Anderson team up to crack the cases.
DI Costello faces a disturbing child abduction case; a six-week-old has been stolen and replaced with another baby. The swap took cold and meticulous planning, so Costello treads the seedy, Glaswegian back streets for answers. She’s convinced that more than one young life is at stake.
Promoted into the Cold Case Unit, Colin Anderson reviews the unsolved rape of a young mother, whose attacker is still out there. Each case pulls Anderson and Costello in the same direction and, as their paths keep crossing, they begin to suspect their separate cases are dangerously entwined."


Police Procedural.  2018. Print length:  356 pages.

from description: 1894. A well-respected academic is found dead in a gentlemen's convenience cubicle at the British Museum, the stall locked from the inside. Professor Lance Pickering had been due to give a talk promoting the museum's new 'Age of King Arthur' exhibition when he was stabbed repeatedly in the chest. Having forged a strong reputation working alongside the inimitable Inspector Abberline on the Jack the Ripper case, Daniel Wilson is called in to solve the mystery of the locked cubicle murder, and he brings his expertise and archaeologist Abigail Fenton with him. But it isn't long before the museum becomes the site of another fatality and the pair face mounting pressure to deliver results. With enquiries compounded by persistent journalists, local vandals and a fanatical society, Wilson and Fenton face a race against time to salvage the reputation of the museum and catch a murderer desperate for revenge. 

I haven't read any others in this series, but I have enjoyed a couple of Eldridge's DCI Paul Stark books set in the 1920's.

Murder at the British Museum kept me entertained. :)  I found the supporting characters and the plot interesting, and I like learning things while enjoying myself.

NetGalley/Alison & Busby.
Historical Mystery.  July 18, 2019.  Print length:  318 pages.  

Tom Gauld created some funny taglines for novels.
I like "Occasionally-putdownable" best. :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

What I expected:  another tense psychological thriller from Mackintosh.   What I got was something quite different and quite remarkable.  

Pip and Adam are happily married and delighted with their son Dylan.  He's perfectly normal...until he isn't.  At two, Dylan begins having headaches and stumbling and falling frequently.  A brain tumor, surgery, chemotherapy, and more problems.

Handled with such skill and sensitivity, the heartbreaking story of a child and his parents never becomes maudlin.  When the hospital decides that only palliative care is needed, both parents are devastated.  

This is the story of Pip and Adam and Dylan.  There is no hope of a good outcome--Dylan cannot be cured.  Both parents love the child to distraction and have endured exhausting months of fear and sadness watching their son deteriorate.  The dilemma they face is appalling, and when Pip and Adam can't agree on the way to proceed, the matter moves to the court system.

An unusual twist takes place after the court decision, "after the end."  A powerful book that was nothing like what I expected, but was an emotional exploration of all the repercussions of love and loss and resilience.   

(The tenderness with which Mackintosh writes is enormous and has something to do with her having lost a child to meningitis.)

Read in April; blog review scheduled for June 12.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Literary Fiction.  June 25, 2019.  Print length: 400 pages.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

A woman is on the run from an abusive husband, a man she feels will never stop looking for her.  She has planned her escape for over a year, putting all her arrangements in place, covering her tracks, and leaving behind those who care for her in order to save her own life and gain independence.

Sabine Hardison is missing.  Beth Murphy is on the run.  Told from three points of view:  the woman on the run, Sabine's husband Jeffrey, and the detective investigating Sabine's disappearance.  

I was reminded of Sleeping with the Enemy and still was not prepared for the twist.

I have not read anything by Kimberly Belle before, but I will be looking for more.  

Read in February; blog review scheduled for June 10, 2019.

Mystery/Thriller.  June 25, 2019.  Print length:  384 pages.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Navajo Nation Mysteries by R. Allen Chappell

Navajo Autumn is the first of a series set in the Four Corners region of the American Southwest.  I've been looking for a series set in this region that appeals to me , and R. Allen Chappell has satisfied that longing.  If you have enjoyed Craig Johnson or Tony Hillerman, you might like this series.  

What all three authors have in common is a love of the area they write about, well-developed characters, and intriguing plots.  Johnson's Longmire books are set in Wyoming, Hillerman's Chee & Leaphorn books are set in New Mexico, and Chappell's books are set in the Four Corners reservations of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Chappell's main characters Charlie Yazzie and Thomas Begay are Navajo, and while both have been to boarding school, Charlie Yazzie went on to earn a law degree, while Thomas Begay stayed on the reservation.  The two were friends in high school, but have gone different ways since.  

When Thomas is discovered drunk next to the dead body of BIA agent Patsy Greyhorse, he is arrested, but escapes.  Charlie needs to find out who is responsible for the murder of  Patsy Greyhorse and for setting Thomas up.

This first in the series does a cracking job of introducing the characters and providing a look at Navaho culture.  The book is relatively short, but doesn't feel that way because the story has a sense of depth and dimension.  

Points for:  good characterization, interesting secondary characters, a visual setting, respectful treatment of  Navaho culture and tradition, and an absorbing plot.

I liked it so much, I immediately moved on to the second book!

About the author:
R. Allen Chappell, the author of nine novels and a collection of short stories, grew up with the Navajo, went to school with them and later worked alongside--forging enduring friendships along the way. "Those friendships," the author recalls, "became the inspiration for this series." 

Chappell notes, "My writing focuses on the people of the Four Corners region past and present. I tend not to romanticize my characters, preferring instead to paint them as I find them. They have much the same qualities, good and bad, as the rest of us." 


It is always a pleasure to find the second book in a series as good as the first, and in this case, even better.  Characters from the first book continue to gain substance, and new and engaging characters are added.

In Boy Made of Dawn, Thomas Begay's children have been taken from their mother to assure that she  doesn't testify in the trial of corrupt tribal councilmen.  

Thomas Begay and Charlie Yazzie are also on the list, but the solutions to keeping them from testifying are likely to be fatal.  

New characters to love--Aida, the widow Sally Clee takes shelter with, and Caleb, Thomas' son.

Another appealing thing about this series is that they are not imitations of Craig Johnson or Tony Hillerman.  The style is different and the characters and plots are distinctive.  The similarities lie in each author's love of the areas he writes about. 

I can't wait to read this entire series!

Monday, June 03, 2019

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Like dystopian novels?  Fairy Tale retellings?  The Girl in Red combines both and exceptionally well.

First there was the Cough, which spread rapidly depopulating areas almost before the danger could be processed.  Red, who has a fondness for science fiction and post-apocalyptic novels and films, considers the situation serious long before others do.  She plans to be prepared and works to convince her parents and brother of the worst-case scenarios.  In the months that pass, things get worse, and by the time Red is taken seriously, it is almost too late.

Eventually, Red convinces her parents and brother that they should go to her grandmother's house, but they need to walk, not drive, avoiding contact with the infected--staying away from populated areas and highways.  A 300 mile trek through the woods and rough country is a daunting scenario, but using everything she has learned from watching films and reading books, Red has a mental idea of what would keep them safe.

The Girl in Red is divided into sections Before the Crisis occurred and After the Crisis changed everything about their former lives.

Of course, plans go awry from the beginning.   No matter how many dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels you've read, circumstances bring new challenges, losses, predators, and unanticipated horrors.  If the Cough was first, the new threat is worse--and man-made.

Oh, and to make things more difficult, Red has a prosthetic leg (because a post-apocalyptic world isn't dilemma enough). 

 "Over the river and through the woods,/To grandmother's house we go...."

Since I like both dystopian novels and fairy tale retellings, I was eager to read this The Girl in Red and found Red and her journey engrossing, satisfying my appetite for both genres.  My only problem is that I genuinely want more of this world and of Red.

Read in May; blog review scheduled for June 3.

NetGalley/Berkely Publishing
Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic.  June 18, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages