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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Last Reviews of the Year

We celebrate Christmas at the camp.  The kids came on Tuesday, Christmas Eve.  Erin and her crew left on Friday.  Amelia and her crew were back on Saturday.  It was a long and merry week, and after the final clean-up detail some good memories remain.  And a few extra pounds.

Guess who the Boomers are!
And I don't consider it a criticism, Mila.  :)
There is no WiFi at the camp and spotty cell reception, and I get home to find more iffy computer problems.  I'm still a little tired from the post-Christmas stuff (cleaning, clearing, etc.), but that is part of the process.  High energy, too much good food, fun and games with the kids--followed by the slow settling back into a normal routine.  The whole celebration takes about five days before everyone heads home, and I'm slowly becoming ready for the final chore here at our house--packing up the Christmas decorations.  

2019 Books read and scheduled (or not even reviewed yet):

Westering Women by Sandra Dallas
The Janes by Louisa Luna
Into the Fire by Greg Hurwitz
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman
The Perfect Kill by Helen Fields
Sword of Shadows by Jeri Westerson
The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan
 Who Speaks for the Damned  by C.S. Harris
The New Husband by D. J. Palmer
 The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason

I wasn't especially taken with the first book in the Stillhouse Lake series and didn't follow up with the next two books.  However, after reading Bitter Falls, I kind of regret that... because I did enjoy this one.

Gwen Proctor attempts to lead a normal-as-possible life despite her horrific background as the wife of a serial killer-- stalked by those who hated her husband and by those who admired him.  Her kids, Lanny and Connor, are her priority, but she knows she can't fully protect them from even the every day problems of life, much less from the bullies and trolls concerning her husband.  

Although Gwen, her partner Sam, and the kids have found some security in Stillhouse Lake, things have changed and  are at best uncomfortable and at worst dangerous.  

When Gwen gets a new missing persons cold case--that of a young man missing for three years--she focuses on it, turning up new and disturbing information that will result in a terrifying situation for Gwen, her partner Sam, and the kids.

Characters from previous novels play their roles in this one.  Some characters I recognized from the first book, others were new to me.  It didn't matter that I skipped books 2 and 3 in the series; Bitter Falls didn't cause any confusion.  Rachel Caine's skillful recap fills in all you need to know to enjoy the plot.

I may go back and pick up the books I missed--or not--but I will be looking for the next one.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Mystery/Thriller.  Jan. 21, 2020.  Print length: 336 pages.

Journaled to Death by Heather Redmond is entertaining enough for a couple of hours.  

from description:  
Journaling vlogger Mandy Meadows strives to preserve her hyper-organised life while searching for her cousin's killer in this twisty mystery: first in a brand-new series.

A light cozy mystery.

Read in October.  Review scheduled for  

NetGalley/Severn House
Cozy Mystery.  Feb. 4, 2020.  Print length:  224 pages.

The Crossing is the first in a new series featuring Detective Louise Blackwell by Matt Brolly.   The Crossing begins with the brutal murder of a pensioner, an older, retired woman with no known enemies.  Among other injuries are two puncture wounds in her wrists.  Then an elderly Catholic priest is also found murdered in a grisly manner.  Are the murders random or selected for a personal reason?

Shocked at the murder of two elderly and seemingly good people, Louise struggles to find the connection.  Louise is also being harassed by a former partner who seems determined to see her fail.  (I despised him!)

Since it is the first in a new series, some of the characters are being introduced and will probably be developed further in successive books.

 NetGalley/Amazon Publishing
British Detectives.  Feb. 15, 2020.   

 And one of my favorites of the year:

Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz is sharply focused on the man, his family, and friends from May 10, 1940 when Churchill took office until America finally enters the war.

The book is meticulously researched and still personal and relatable.  Churchill is presented in all his glory and all of his eccentricities.  Letters and diaries from friends and family fill in life during the period from Hitler's invasion of the Low Countries and the rapid fall of France, the crucial evacuation  at Dunkirk, the fear of occupation, and the devastation of the Blitz.

One thing I was not aware of was that in 1937 the Mass Observation Diary Project was formed.  The Archives provide primary source material of the everyday lives of the 500 volunteers.  An excellent source at any time, but during those years preceding and during the war--an amazing resource.  
A pioneering social research organisation, Mass Observation was founded in 1937 by anthropologist Tom Harrisson, film-maker Humphrey Jennings and poet Charles Madge. Their aim was to create an 'anthropology of ourselves', and by recruiting a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers they studied the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. This landmark digital project opens up revolutionary access to the archive. (Source:  the above link)
 The Splendid and the Vile ranks among my favorite nonfiction books this year (or ever), an absolutely engrossing account of disasters, courage, and defiance; of great leaders, elegant language, and of ordinary people.

Read in November.

NetGalley/Crown Publishing
History/Nonfiction.  Feb. 25, 2020.  Print length:  464 pages.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays!  And now we await the New Year and hope for peace, compassion, courtesy, and kindness in 2020.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

I suppose everyone comes up against a novel that utterly frustrates attempts at writing a review.  One which leaves you with a sense of ambiguity and no way to explain what you think about it because you still aren't sure.

World building:  A
Character Depth: A
Prose: A
Theme:  wonders/horrors of science?  colonialism?  friendship and family? betrayal?  the never changing flaws of society?  Such a mixture of thematic elements and development.

A fresh and unusual science fiction novel that defies classification and for me, explanation.

from description:  A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever in this captivating debut of connection across space and time.

"This is when your life begins."

Absorbing, haunting, and difficult to pin down.

Read in September; blog review scheduled for Dec. 30.

NetGalley/Random House
Science Fiction.  Jan. 14, 2020.  Print length:  400 pages.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Last Passenger, Origami Man, A Conspiracy of Bones, and the Demon Door series

The Last Passenger is the third in the prequels for Finch's Charles Lenox series.  It has been interesting to read these books about the young Lennox, who wants to establish himself as a detective since I've liked the plots and characters in the original books with the mature Lenox.  

The series is one of my favorite historical mystery/detective series, and I enjoyed the latest book as well.  Young Charles Lenox is encouraged by his mother to marry, and Charles is a desirable husband--except for the fact that he continues to pursue a career as a detective, which is not highly thought of in his social class.  

Inspector Hemstock seeks Charles' help when the unidentified body of a young man is discovered at Paddington Station, and Charles is eager to be involved with the Scotland Yard investigation.

As usual, there are many historical details that add to the plot, the characters are well-developed, the writing is excellent, and the mystery intriguing.  

Read in Oct.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Historical Mystery.  Feb. 18, 2020.  Print length:  304 pages.

Gibson Vaugh, legendary hacker and former marine, returns in a fifth installment of this series by Matthew Fitzsimmons.  He is also a wanted fugitive living in the Caymans when Tinsley, assassin and the man who killed Vaughn's father, draws him into a dangerous new situation.

The threat is ominous, and Tinsley needs Vaughn's help, but as important as the terrorist threat is--can Tinsley be trusted in a truce to prevent the disaster?  

Dan, Jenn, and George join Gibson in the hunt for the details that would help them prevent the deaths of millions.

The first book (The Short Drop) is my favorite, but I've enjoyed all of the books and the team of characters involved.  

Read in Oct.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Thriller.  Feb. 18, 2020.  Print length:  316 pages.

A Conspiracy of Bones in the latest Kathy Reichs book featuring Tempe Brennan.  Although I've been reading this series for years, this isn't the best, which doesn't mean that it won't hold your attention.  

Temperance is recovering from neurosurgery for an aneurysm, her new boss holds a grudge, someone may be stalking her, and in general, life had been difficult for Tempe.

She gets mysterious pictures of a body with most of  his face and his hands missing and no identification.  Who sent it?  
Her new boss is determined to push her out, but Tempe gets into the morgue and views the body.  She disagrees with the new coroner about several things and begins investigating on her own.  (The savaging of the body is the result of feral hogs, and just recently a woman in Texas was killed by hogs.  They truly are fearsome creatures.)    

Teaming up with the cantankerous and acerbic Slidell,  Tempe sets out to identify the body, and then to look into the Dark Web at conspiracy theories spouted by the repulsive Nick Body, and into a possible connection to missing children.

There is an interesting afterword about how Reichs came up with elements of her plot, but I had no trouble believing in the feral hogs detail as they are prevalent everywhere in the South and have been moving north as well.

Mystery.  March 17, 2020.  Print length:  352 pages.

The Sand Prince was nothing to write home about, spite of being unsatisfied with much of it,  I continued with the second book, The Heron Prince, and I liked it much better.  So--moving on to books 3 and 4, The Glass Girl and The River King was easy.  After making my way through the first half or so of The Sand Prince,  I enjoyed the rest of entire series.  

I've been busy with so many things lately--Christmas stuff (such a long list of Christmas stuff--from gifts and wrapping, to recipes and grocery shopping), stitching, reading, everyday chores, feeding the birds, making tentative friendship with a raccoon who has been visiting at night. 

Even in our subdivision, we have occasional night visits from raccoons and possums.  I think our visitor is young, more curious than frightened, he approaches me with such a quizzical look on his face.  Much better than the wild creatures like bears and mountain lions that visit other areas!   And at least we have had no feral hogs in our neighborhood, although there are plenty down at the camp in the country.   They make a mess of fields and crops, which is bad, but they are dangerous as well.  And ugly!  

Sunday, December 08, 2019

A Cry in the Night by Kerry Wilkinson and When You See Me by Lisa Gardner

I've enjoyed this series for quite a while, but admit this one isn't my favorite.  A Cry in the Night lets you know pretty early that something is wrong on Jessica Daniel's team.  You know how when a character you like does something untoward, it can be either easily accepted or cause uneasiness?  Jessica offers 10 pounds to a snitch to let her know when her suspect turns up, and 10 more when he does.  Why did that make me so uneasy?  Because Wilkinson intends exactly that--to create a sense of disquietude.

From description:  "Samuel is fourteen years old. He lives with his mother in a Manchester flat, goes to school, plays on his computer, reads books and likes the same things that most other teenagers do.

He’s also blind.

And he’s the only witness when his mother is attacked in their own home late one night."

The plot was interesting.  A while back I read a couple of books by Andreas Pfluger in which his main character is blind and uses echolocation.  Fourteen-year-old Samuel also uses echolocation and is able to tell the police that there were two assailants, one taller than theother,  and that one moved with a limp.  He also is able to "recognize" people by the same method, which startles Jessica.  She is both impressed and disbelieving and investigates this phenomenon to see how much trust to put into Samuel's abilities.

A second plot thread is both connected and separate.  The underlying awkward tension, however, has to do with a threat to Jessica, not a physical one, but a threat nonetheless.

The conclusion leads to a continuing arc for the next book.  The cases are solved, but the apprehension about Jessica's situation will most likely be the main narrative structure for the next novel.  I really don't like worrying about my favorite characters.  :/

Police Procedural.  Jan. 15, 2020.  Print length:  347 pages.

Lisa Gardner's When You See Me brings together three capable women.  

from description:  FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. When a disturbing piece of evidence is discovered in the hills of Georgia, they bring Flora Dane and true-crime savant Keith Edgar to a small town where something seems to be deeply wrong. What at first looks like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister...and they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed. Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers—and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.

Although I enjoyed the D.D. Warren series before Flora Dane was added, Flora Dane has added an edge to the plots.  D.D. and Flora provide a study in contrast: D.D. a dedicated law enforcement officer provides a balance to Flora's vigilante approach.  The two women have gradually come to work well together despite their differences.  I'm also glad to see Keith Edgar, the true crime and computer expert introduced in the previous book, join this investigation.  By creating new intriguing characters and including them in new books, Gardner keeps fresh possibilities for plot lines.  

Read in Oct.; blog review scheduled for Dec. 8.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Police Procedural.  Jan. 28, 2020.  Print length:  400 pages.  

I've been busy with stitching on my panels for 25 Million Stitches.  I finished the first one and mailed it, and I'm making progress on the second panel.   

first panel (15 x 17"), which I've finished and mailed

I've binge watched the Father Brown series (based on G.K. Chesterton's short stories) while stitching.  I've especially enjoyed the clothing and cars from the 1950's--the hats are a treasure.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries, try this series set in the picturesque village of Kembleford, where an unprecedented number of murders occur!   

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Murder House by Michael Wood and Archangel Rising by Evan Currie

The Murder House is the 5th in a new series for me.  I'll be going back and picking up earlier books.  
from description:  The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.
Although this is the 5th in the series, it works well as a stand alone, and the characters are well-fleshed out, complex, and satisfyingly believable.  The plot is used to  develop the characters, reveal their personalities and temperaments and the complications in their lives.

DCI Matilda Darke quickly sums up problems with the crime scene.  She doesn't assume the evidence is genuine.
Even so, her team is somewhat reluctant to disregard the evidence.  

This is an ARC and I noticed a couple of errors that should be easily corrected by publication, but I thoroughly enjoyed Matilda, her team, and the investigation.  I've already ordered the first in the series.  I love finding a series with characters I want to know more about.

Read in November. 

NetGalley/One More Chapter
Police Procedural.  Jan. 31, 2020.   

Evan Currie's two connected military science fiction series continue to keep me reading.  I've read every book in the Odyssey series and the (sort of) spin-off Archangel now has two books.   (Some of my reviews that give background on the Odyssey series.)

In Archangel One "An elite squadron must go undercover behind enemy lines in this thrilling new space adventure from the author of the Odyssey One series."

Archangel Rising, #2 in the series, continues with Captain Steph Michaels and his Archangel team functioning as privateers in the undercover operation to gain information about the Empire.

Action packed, likable ensemble characters.  For militatry science fiction/space opera fans, I would recommend beginning with Odyssey One: Into the Black.

Read in November.

NetGalley/47 North
Space Opera/Military Science Fiction.  Jan. 14, 2020.