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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Winter's Redemption and Winter's Rise by Mary Stone; The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes

After reading the first two books in the Winter Black series back-to-back, I was ready to get back to Winter  and her FBI friends and colleagues.  

Winter's Redemption (Book 3).    Mary Stone does an excellent job of drawing the reader into the plot, characters, and backstories, never letting up on the pacing.  

The Preacher is back and killing again after over a decade, but Winter is excluded from the investigation.  She understands the reason for her exclusion, so she gives in and joins Aiden and the Behavioral Analysis Unit in order to take part in a distanced way.

Just what I needed to keep my head away from all of the real-life issues that we all deal with now.  Yeah, serial killers, FBI, BAU, and Winter's unusual gift.  That's the ticket.

Winter's Rise (Book 4)  In the previous books, Winter has been searching for clues to what happened to her younger brother who was kidnapped during the murder of their parents.  The search continues, but Aiden,  an excellent profiler, suspects that having been raised by a serial killer, Justin is not going to be what Winter hopes for.

The main plot, however, deals with a sinister surgeon who has an unhealthy (deadly) interest in anyone who has had a traumatic brain injury and after recovering, exhibits some of the strange gifts that both Winter and her friend share.  

I'll give the Winter Black series another rest before continuing, but I will be continuing.

I just finished this one last night.  Science fiction and full of suspense and danger.  Loved it!

description: "The Divide.

It’s the edge of the universe.

Now it’s collapsing—and taking everyone and everything with it.

The only ones who can stop it are the Sentinels—the recruits, exiles, and court-martialed dregs of the military.

At the Divide, Adequin Rake, commanding the Argus, has no resources, no comms—nothing, except for the soldiers that no one wanted.

They're humanity's only chance."

  A great debut from J.S. Dewes!  Review will be scheduled closer to publication date.

This would be the perfect year end Daylight Saving Time 

Not a bad idea...

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Rosemary and Rue, October Daye #1 by Seanan McGuire


I rarely "read" by audio book, but I did listen to Rosemary and Rue.  Two problems I have with audio books: 

1.  A problem with sitting and listening, so I had to keep finding things to do as I listened.  Things that don't take much thought--so my house was a little cleaner when I finished,  I made progress on a little embroidery project, and I walked a lot.  It just takes so damn long to get through an audio book and this one is unbelievably long.

2.  Listening to a woman try to give assorted male voices takes me out of a story.  I know this is difficult, and I admire good readers, but still...

As far as the book itself, I was interested in October Daye and her problems, but the almost getting killed, surviving, almost getting killed, surviving,  over and over was well over the top and strangely unexciting.  

Ultimately, I'm giving it a 3/5 because I see potential and this is the first in a series that received two Hugo nominations. I may read the next book to see if some of the problems I had are resolved by reading instead of listening and if the author skips some of the filler.  Eleven hours is simply too long when you can read it in half the time.

Audio book

Urban Fantasy.  2010.  Print length:  346 pages.  

 A friend of ours actually caught a squirrel in the act of carving her pumpkins.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz and Song of the Dead by Douglas Lindsay

 Too clever, too long.  

I love allusions and little easter eggs in a novel, but not when they are as contrived as the ones in this one.  Horowitz did a great deal of research and planning to fit them all in, but will you recognize any of them?  No, because each one is part of the puzzle the author builds.  

While it is fun to search for easter eggs someone, even if not you, might recognize, it is annoying to have to have each one explained to you in a lengthy dissection at the end of the book.

I can admire the Horowitz's planning all of the details with extensive research of anything that could possibly amplify the lion/leo trope he has decided to use, the technique is more self-promoting than needed to advance the plot.  

Most reviews are extremely positive, but I found the book manipulative and the pacing slow and a bit disjointed.  

Read in Sept.  Blog review scheduled for 

NetGalley/Harper Collins
Mystery/Thriller.  Nov. 10, 2020.  Print length:  608 pages.  

Song of the Dead is the first in a series featuring Ben Westphall.  It is one of the strangest mystery/crime books I've ever read.  I certainly didn't know what to believe.  

from description:  

Police detective Ben Westphall is burnt out and leading a quiet life in the North of Scotland. Things change when he is assigned to investigate the cold case of a UK national who disappeared in Eastern Europe under mysterious circumstances and who, despite being declared dead, has re-appeared, claiming to have been held for over a decade, various body parts having been harvested during that time. Westphall travels to Estonia, chasing leads and shadows that may lead to an international drugs and organ trafficking conspiracy.

 Westphall is an oddity of ex-secret service, current police detective, and a "sensitive" to the paranormal.  Or is he a burned out middle-aged man with mental problems?  Interesting premise:  a man who was declared dead and identified by both his girlfriend and his parents, turns up alive.  Missing a few body parts.  

So...I didn't exactly love it, but I might try another one in the series.  I guess I'm curious about Westphall.  

Crime/Thriller.  2016.  Print length:  272 pages.  

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M. Eden

Last year I read The Lady and the Highwayman by Sarah M. Eden and enjoyed it thoroughly.   It was such fun!  After a little doubt at the beginning, I fell into the whole idea.  The authors of Penny Dreadfuls formed the secret Dread Penny Society whose primary goal, aside from writing in the genre, was rescuing street children.  

The Gentleman and the Thief includes the previous characters, but focuses on Hollis Darby and Ana Newport.

from description:  A gentleman scribes penny dreadful novels by night and falls in love with a woman who is a music teacher by day and a thief at night.

The penny dreadful stories didn't work quite as well in this one, but it was still a fun read.

Read in April.  Blog review scheduled for Oct. 19, 2020.

NetGalley/Shadow Mountain Publishing
Historical mystery/Romance.  Nov. 3, 2020.  Print length:  368 pages.

Heh, heh.  I couldn't resist adding this meme to the post.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Winter's Mourn and Winter's Curse by Mary Stone

 Special Agent Winter Black had an intense personal reason for joining the FBI--when she was thirteen, her parents were murdered, her younger brother abducted, and Winter was left for dead.  

When Winter emerged from the coma resulting from the blow to her head, she found herself hyper-aware and more observant than she had been previously.  

from description:  "After human remains are discovered in the woods, someone will go to lethal lengths to keep an old mystery buried. Special Agent Black is pulled into an investigation that hits too close to home. In the town where her parents were murdered, Winter needs to find one killer...while being stalked by the shadow of another."

Although there is another of those pesky prologues, the first chapter grabbed my attention.  From then on my interest never flagged.  Winter has a special talent resulting from her traumatic brain injury that aids in her investigations, but that comes with consequences.  She keeps her ability to herself, much like Magnus "Steps" Craig in the Spencer Kope novels.

The plot was fast-paced and gripping and the characters imperfect and likable.  A dark plot without getting to graphic.  

Suspense.  2019.  Print length:  318 pages

There is a thread being carried through from Winter's Mourn as FBI Agent Winter Black continues her hope of finding and nailing the serial killer who murdered her parents and abducted her younger brother.  Winter's Curse, however, contains another complete case as the FBI becomes involved with a bank robbery that appears to be the first step in a sinister plan that involves more senseless deaths.

from description:  "A blessing? A curse? It’s not easy to possess the gift of knowing too much.

What at first seems like a standalone bank robbery becomes something much darker as a pair of masterminds hack their bloody way onto the list of the most notorious US heists. It’s not a job exclusive to the FBI, but Winter’s office nemesis, Sun Ming, is convinced that she holds the key to taking down the murderous criminals hungry for fame."

 Blessing or curse, Winter's gift is useful to a successful outcome.

The secondary characters continue to develop and other characters are also weaving themselves into the storyline.  

Like the first book, you have to be able to suspend disbelief.  A lot of people die and one of the villains is a not truly believable evil psychopath.  Nevertheless, this was another suspenseful and absorbing plot, and I can't wait to read the next book!

Suspense.  2020.  Print length:  290 pages.


I've been making Halloween mail, embroidering, and trying to finish some garden cleanup.  Reading is still an everyday occurrence, and I'm glad I found a new series that reads quickly and keeps my attention.  

Enjoy you are enjoying Halloween Season!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong's sixth book in the Rockton series foreshadows changes that may take place.  Do the council want to close Rockton for good?  Is that the reason for fewer people being accepted into the community?

An injured woman stumble into a gathering of teenagers by a lake.  Detective Casey Duncan and Sheriff Eric Dalton happen to be there at the time and quickly realize this could be an attack by hostiles.  The woman doesn't speak English and is in bad shape.  Casey and Eric have a bad feeling about possible outcomes of this attack, and when they arrive at the tourists' campsite, they discover the remains of at least two men, although it is difficult to tell because of animal predation.

Casey has been pondering the reluctance of the council to admit to the problem of the hostiles, and as things go from bad to worse, Casey becomes more certain that the council is responsible for the hostiles, not simply for wanting to avoid doing anything about them.

I've liked every book in the Rockton series so far, even if this is not my favorite.  My curiosity about what comes next is intense.   

Armstrong's paranormal Darkest Power Trilogy  and The Rising Dark Trilogy would be good for the RIP challenge.  I actually liked them better than the Cainsville books.

Read in September.  I will mention this again closer to the date of publication.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/Suspense.  Feb. 2, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages. 

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Spellbreaker by Charlie Holmberg, Girls of Brackenhill by Kate Moretti, and Frozen Minds by Cheryl Rees-Price

 I've been having trouble with my books lately.  Six books abandoned, one after 70%, although I may return to that one.  

Recently finished.

From description:  
"The orphaned Elsie Camden learned as a girl that there were two kinds of wizards in the world: those who pay for the power to cast spells and those, like her, born with the ability to break them. But as an unlicensed magic user, her gift is a crime. Commissioned by an underground group known as the Cowls, Elsie uses her spellbreaking to push back against the aristocrats and help the common man. She always did love the tale of Robin Hood."

There were parts I liked, but overall, something didn't quite work for me.  I didn't care for Holmberg's earlier series, but decided to give this one a try.  Evidently, most readers are fans of the author's The Paper Magician and like this one as well.

NetGalley/47 North 

Fantasy.  Nov. 1, 2020.  Print length:  284 pages.

From description:  "A newly engaged woman is summoned to her aunt's storybook mansion in the Catskill mountains - her beloved aunt has been killed in a tragic car accident and her uncle is gravely ill and at the end of his life, to the scene of her sister's mysterious and traumatic disappearance sixteen years earlier. She discovers that some family secrets will not stay buried and sometimes old ghosts haunt forever. "

My attempts at finding something a little spooky for the season were again met with disappointment.  This one had so many blind alleys, and the open-ended conclusion left me unsatisfied.


Mystery.  Nov. 1, 2020.  Print length:  330 pages.

------The following book worked better for me. :)

I read The Silent Quarry a few weeks ago and liked it.  Frozen Minds is the second book featuring DI Winter Meadows and set in Wales. 

from description:  "Bethesda House is a haven for vulnerable adults, those with complex mental disabilities. Their safety is dependent on those who care for them, and their wellbeing centres on routine.

When a body is discovered in the freezer at Bethesda House it is easy to shift the blame on the residents. Inside the house, they see and hear everything.

Who would believe them?"

 Winters and DCI Edris have a good relationship and the rest of the team is developing character.  The residents and their carers are only some of the suspects as there has been financial misconduct as well.   I'll be reading the third book in the series soon.  

Kindle Unlimited

Police Procedural.  2016/2020.  Print length:  225 pages.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Death and the Maiden by Ariana Franklin/ Samantha Norman

The final novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death series featuring Adelia Aguilar is soon to be released.  Death and the Maiden by Samantha Norman completes the series begun by her mother Diana Norman (writing as Ariana Franklin).

The first books are set during the reign of Henry II, and the main character, Adelia Aguilar is a medical doctor trained in Salerno, Italy.  In the first books, her friend Mansur takes the role as doctor with Adelia as his assistant.  Because she is a woman, Adelia must rely on this subterfuge in order to practice her skills:  investigative, medical, and logical.  

In Death and the Maiden, Adelia is older and Henry II has died, but Adelia has been training her daughter Allie to succeed her in her medical (and investigative) capacity, and it is Allie who becomes the main protagonist in this book.  Adelia and Rowley make welcome appearances, but the story revolves around Allie.

When Adelia injures her ankle, Allie is allowed to go to Ely without her to care for their friend Gyltha, who is ill.  As Gyltha recovers, Allie enjoys the sense of independence, but she but she is also concerned about the disappearances of several young women in the area.  A handsome young lord from a neighboring estate adds a hint possible romance (which would greatly appease Rowley, who is eager to see his daughter married).  But then Hawise, a young woman who has been a friend during Allie's stay, disappears and the suspense mounts.   

Hopefully, Samantha Norman will take the opportunity to write further of the adventures of Allie, even if Adelia and Rowley stay a bit in the background.

Read in May.  Blog review scheduled for Oct. 1, 2020.

NetGalley/Harper Collins/William Morrow
Historical Mystery.  Oct. 20, 2020.  Print length:  416 pages.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Never Came Home by Gretta Mulrooney


I've read several books by Mulrooney and have enjoyed them.  Never Came Home is the second book in her new series featuring DI Siv Drummond.  I read the first one about this time last year and  liked the focus on the investigation while Mulrooney continues building the character studies of Siv, Ali, and Patrick.  

Before moving from London to Berminster, Siv lost her husband in an accident.  He left and never came home, and Siv continues to grieve.

Siv's new case involves a mother who left the house intending to be back quickly, but who never came  home.  Now, six years later, Lyn Dimas' body has been found, and a case that was written off as a possible suicide becomes a murder investigation.

Depending on her small team of Ali and Patrick, Siv attempts to untangle all the lies and misdirection that led to Lyn's murder.  And there are plenty of lies and secrets to be uncovered.

Since it will be another year or so before the next Siv Drummond installment, I may have to go back and check on more of the Tyrone Swift series which I also liked.

NetGalley/Joffe Books 

Police Procedural.  Oct. 6, 2020.                                                                                                       ----------          

Tomorrow is World Postcard Day, and I've got some postcards almost ready to send.  Mine are Halloween themed, but they are postcards, so I'm counting them.

The spider lilies are up and making me happy, the cosmos and lantana are still blooming like mad, the milkweed has little left after the Monarch caterpillar feasts.  The second bloom of the daylilies is over, but everything else is going strong.

How is your reading, gardening, crafting going?

Friday, September 25, 2020

On to the Weekend

Yesterday I spent better than an hour trying to get my Kindle working again (not counting the times when frustrated, I took breaks).  I have no idea what happened, but my blood pressure and anxiety were increasing by the minute.  

When e-readers first came out, I didn't want one.  However, before a lengthy trip, I knew I would need more books than I would want to pack and lug around. The Kindle was a perfect solution, and I was hooked--as many books as I could possibly want in one slim bit of tech.

I've taken it for granted.  Expecting it to be available with books ready to read any time I picked it up, I was frantic, considering an alcoholic binge.  I finally got it working again, and I'm so relieved.

World Postcard Day is Oct. 1, so I've been making Halloween postcards that will double-duty for WPD and Halloween.  It has been fun and messy.  

Comedy Wildlife Awards
"Social Distance, Please"
Petr Sochman

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Silent Quarry by Cheryl Rees-Price

I was interested in this one because of the Welsh setting and because it is the first in the DI Winter Meadows series.  

DI Winter Meadows has returned to the village where thirty years earlier the murder of one girl and the serious injuries of a second girl proved a devastating event for a small village.  

Winters went to school with both girls and had a crush on Gwen, the girl who survived.  Gwen had no memories of what happened that day, and the person responsible was never found.

Gwen, now married with two adolescent children, has begun having flashbacks to the day of the murder.  Nothing consistent, a brief image at best, but the possibility of further memories may put her life at risk.

Winter Meadows re-opens the case, hoping to discover who killed Bethan and attacked Gwen.  A number of suspects are unhappy about further investigation into the case and may not want Gwen to remember.

The conclusion was not what I expected.  I liked the characters and the setting--this may be a new series for me.  As a first book in a series, the introduction of characters is almost as important as the mystery.

Kindle Unlimited.                                                                                                                                                

Police Procedural/Mystery.  2014.  Print length:  259 pages.  


 Attica Locke has become one of my favorite writers, and this article gives so much information about her family and her books.  Why Did My Black Ancestors Never Leave Texas.  

 Bibliotherapists and Ann Cleeves

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani

In 2014, I read Intisar Khanani's Thorn and loved it. A retelling of the famous Goose Girl fairy tale in which Alyrra is the endangered princess. I've enjoyed everything I've read by Intisar Kahanani, and The Theft of Sunlight was another example of how easily I fall into the worlds she creates.

Set in the same world as Thorn, Theft of Sunlight features Rae, daughter of a horse rancher.  Alyrra, the betrayed princess turned goose girl, is now about to marry the prince.  But although Alyrra plays an important role, she is not the protagonist this time.  

Rae, who limps as a result of a club foot, has come to the palace to visit her cousin and been drafted into becoming an attendant to Alyrra.  Rae agrees because she has a purpose of her own--finding out who is behind the stealing of children and selling them into slavery.

Despite the handicap of a club foot, Rae pursues the dangerous task of discovering the how and the who behind the thefts of children.  Another one of Khanani's wonderful female protagonists, Rae is defined by courage and persistence.

Danger and suspense keep the pace quick.  Who to trust?  How deep is the conspiracy?

My only problem--waiting for the next book.  Recommended!

I'm reviewing this early since the publication date is so far away, but will mention it again in March, 2021.

NetGalley/Harper Teen
YA/Fantasy.  March 23, 2020.  Print length:  528 pages that absolutely flew by!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas

Murder on Cold Street (Lady Sherlock #5)

Inspector Treadles accused of murder?  Two dead bodies and Treadles in a locked room.   The two men are connected to his wife's business, and the inspector won't defend himself.  Things aren't looking good.  

Treadles, a traditional man, has had problems with his wife's inheritance of a large manufacturing concern.  Not only is she now the chief source of income, but she has insisted in actually managing the company.  The Victorian mindset of the man being the breadwinner and protector has caused some strife between husband and wife.

The Victorian tradition of patriarchy and male authority is the reason Charlotte has to operate as a factotum of Sherlock Holmes.  It is only as a personal assistant to the fictitious Sherlock that Charlotte and Mrs. Watson are able to succeed in their investigations.   Never doubt, however, that these two women are as capable as any man.  

There is such fun in Charlotte's odd (and autistic?) personality, her love of cake, and her rather fantastic taste in clothing (her Christmas dress almost puts Lord Ingram's eye out).  The truly feminine combined with Charlotte's ability to defy tradition and succeed in a paternalistic society by subterfuge lends even more whimsy to the books.

Each book builds on the other, so start with the first one, A Study in Scarlet Women, to get the full pleasure of how Charlotte becomes Lady Sherlock.

Read in June; blog review scheduled for Sept. 14.

Historical Mystery.  Oct. 6.  Print length:  362 pages.  
I love these stamps, but imagine Charlotte and Mrs. Watson in feminine attire, although Charlotte does, on occasion, assume a male disguise. :)

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Life Sentence by Judith Cutler and Cold as Ice by Allison Brennan

Another series by Judith Cutler--this one features Fran Harmon, a Chief Superintendent, respected, overwhelmed, and months from retirement.

Fran's elderly parents demand her presence every weekend and in addition to the long drive, she is expected to cook, clean, take care of the garden, and answer each request from crotchety parents who belittle her and depend on her.

At work, after driving back after a long, debilitating weekend, she is trying to cover her job and that of someone else as well.  Exhausted and barely able to keep things together, Fran is struggling.

Mark Turner, colleague and friend, gets Fran a two-year-old case that will allow her some relief from trying to do too much.  Mark has long been a friend, and it is clear that they care for each other...and that the caring could develop into something deeper.

The case Fran is working concerns a woman brutally attacked and left for dead.  She remains in a vegetative state which has been pronounced permanent.  Will Fran be able to determine who assaulted the woman?  

I liked the plot and Fran's developing relationship with Mark Turner.  As their friendship deepens into something more, each is able to offer support to the other, even as they are unsure about whether the other feels the same way.  

While I liked the Kate Powers books, I like these characters better.  Thanks, Cathy, for comment that gave me the heads up on this series. :)  Oh, and for New Tricks, which I am enjoying.

Read in August.

Kindle Unlimited
Police Procedural.  2006.  Print length:  396 pages.  

I've read a couple of books by Allison Brennan, and each one has been fast-paced and suspenseful.  On the minus side, the books are full of characters from previous books in the Lucy Kincaid series.   Nevertheless, the books can be read as stand-alones.   

from description:  Two years ago, FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid put psychopath Elise Hansen Hunt in juvenile detention for her role in an organized crime syndicate. Now eighteen, Elise has been released with a clean slate, and plans to take her revenge by making Lucy’s life hell. The plot begins with Lucy’s husband Sean Rogan, who has been arrested for a murder he most certainly did not commit.

Cold as Ice is certainly as suspenseful as the other books I've read.   

Strange how worried I can be for characters--when I know that in the end, things will work out.  Nevertheless, I worried about Sean, feared Elise, and cheered all efforts to make sure the characters I cared about turned out OK.  :)  Brennan knows how to ratchet up the tension and keep her readers on edge.  

Read in August; blog review scheduled for September 10.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Suspense/Thriller.  Oct. 27, 2020.  Print length:  480 pages.

The Dirty South by John Connolly

I've been reading Connolly's Charlie Parker series for years and was a little surprised to see this latest entry is a (sort of) prequel to the series.

After the vicious murder of his wife and daughter, Charlie Parker is pursuing the killer.  He ends up in Arkansas where young black girls have been brutally murdered, wondering if the same killer was at work.  Even after deciding the murders were not by the same man who killed his wife and daughter, Charlie decides to help when the Police Chief asks.  

This is a more straight forward murder investigation without some of the supernatural elements in most of the novels, but the book is every bit as engrossing as Charlie reveals the depth of corruption of a powerful family.

Connolly's writing is always haunting and suspenseful, and I enjoyed this glimpse into the way Charlie Parker moves from the hunt for the man who killed his family to using his skills as a former NYPD detective to solve other murders.

Recently, I found this:  

Should you read John Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels?  For me, the answer is an unqualified “yes”.  They are intriguing, entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.  A complete list is here.  My only tip would be that although the first book, Every Dead Thing, was a big hit, I found it hard to get into, with an immense amount going on and multiple plot lines.  The second book, Dark Hollow, worked better for me; and the third, The Killing Kind, kept me up late to find out what happened next.  So if you are a Charlie Parker novice, you may want to consider not starting with the first book in the series.  Indeed, if you read Every Dead Thing later, once you’ve become familiar with the protagonist, it will give you the dubious pleasure of learning exactly what ghastly fate befell Parker’s wife and child in the opening chapters of the series. (Source)

The prologue of the first novel almost made me put the book down.  I think the idea of beginning with any of the other novels in the series would be better.  The evil in the Charlie Parker novels is papable, and it is the supernatural that makes them bearable, giving the reader and out, the evil isn't real.  (The Dirty South is a departure in the lack of the supernatural.) 

In 2014, I read The Wolf in Winter, for the R.I.P. Challenge and then went back and picked up all that I'd missed.  Now, I'm always on the lookout for more.  

If you are planning on Carl's R.I.P. Challenge this year, try Dark Hollow or any of the later novels in the series, but buckle your seat belt--good vs evil is a frightening experience.  

Read in June.  Blog review scheduled for Sept. 10.

NetGalley/Atria Books
Police Procedural/Thriller.  Oct. 20, 2020.  print length: 448 pages.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Sanctuary by V.V. James and Well-behaveed Indian Women by Saumya Dave

Sanctuary by V.V. James (She also writes as Vic James) was certainly engrossing.  In a modern world that conforms in most ways to our own, the exception is that witches are an accepted part of the population--with laws and internal rules that guide their use of magic.   

Sanctuary is the perfect town . . . to hide a secret.

When young Daniel Whitman is killed at a high-school party, the community is ripped apart. The death of Sanctuary's star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper Fenn is the daughter of a witch--and she was there when he died.

VV James weaves a spellbinding tale of a town cracking into pieces and the devastating power of a mother's love. Was Daniel's death an accident, revenge--or something even more sinister?

As accusations fly, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a witch-hunt...and the town becomes no sanctuary at all.

I couldn't put it down, but now I'm having trouble deciding what I think about it.  It was tense and alternating POVs gave different levels of suspense.  There are several topics that  are always current in the news.  I liked Maggie, the detective whose role is to investigate Daniel's death.  

I hated one character and as the plot moved on discovered another reason to hate her.  Maybe it was all too reminiscent of people who are so vindictive, even when they secretly know something despicable about the person they "love."  Which makes me question whether it is mother's love or love of a reputation, love of a self-idealization.  

Maybe my problem is that although I liked the book, now--with the connections to paranoia and hatred in the news each day--I simply don't want to face it.  It makes me sad and fearful and sometimes fiction makes it so much more personal.

Read in August; blog review scheduled for Sept. 8.

Mystery/Thriller.  Sept. 8, 2020.  Print length:  464 pages.

I thought I'd reviewed this one, but then realized I'd given a short mention on my other blog.  I liked it: it was well-written and the three generations of women, all of whom had their own strengths, were interesting and likable.                                                                                                                                                                                                             I copied and pasted this from my other blog:  Saumya Dave provides a look at Indian culture (from India) in America.  Well-Behaved Indian Women examines the cultural differences between those born in India and their children born in America.  The main plot premise focuses on arranged marriages.  I found it interesting as our American culture is so different.  My daughter went to high school at the Louisiana School of Math, Sciences, and the Arts, and many of her friends were from different cultures--Korean, Thai, Filipina (another Jen),and Indian students.   And yes, some of the Indian girls had arranged marriages.

 America is a melting pot, but tradition remains an influence on all of us regardless of our origins.    Some traditions and cultural influences are positive, and some are difficult to adapt to a new country.  I loved the characters and their efforts to do the best they could for themselves and for those they love--and as we all know, it isn't always easy.  From generation to generation, regardless of our points of ancestral origin,   ideas and beliefs have to be adjusted.  

Well-behaved Indian Women excelled at showing the choices necessary for both mothers and daughters as they struggle to make the best of their lives.  

Read in August.  

NetGalley/Berkeley Publ.
Women/Culture.  July 14, 2020.  Print length:  385 pages.


Sunday, September 06, 2020

Still Life by Val McDermid

Still Life was written during the Covid lock down (because what else is a writer going to do when quarantined?).  Val McDermid remains high on my list of authors I never want to miss, and in addition to her settings (I love Scotland), her engrossing characters and plots keep me coming back.  The Tony Hill/Carol Jordan and the Karen Pirie series are favorites, but she also has plenty of standalones, and a couple of nonfiction books, including Forensics:  The Anatomy of Crime that I intend to read some day.

Still Life has cold case DCI Karen Pirie involved in two cases.  A traffic accident ends up revealing a skeleton in a van in a garage that has been there for at least ten years. As Karen and Jason investigate, they believe the body belongs to one of two women.  However, in the midst of this investigation, Karen is sent to the Firth of Forth where a body has been discovered--connected to another cold case.   

Juggling two cases, Karen must also deal with the release from prison of the man who killed her lover.  

As usual, McDermid writes an absorbing tale with characters who have decided personalities of their own.  Jason Murray, Karen's DC, is gaining confidence and is a  loyal subordinate, and a new and interesting character is Daisy, who shows promise for future books.

In the last chapter, after both cases have been wrapped up, comes the change that has affected us all:  the virus "that had been a whisper on the wind" as Karen, Jason, and Daisy investigated "had taken firm root in Scotland."  All three "were warned of the lockdown that was to begin in the morning.  They'd be working from home, whatever that meant in practice."  What a conclusion.  The case wrapped up, but their lives on hold.

I'm hoping McDermid will write a book dealing with Karen's team and crime during lockdown.

Read in June; blog review scheduled for Sept. 6.

Police Procedural/Cold Case.  Oct. 6, 2020.  Print length:  448 pages.  

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

The Girls in the Snow by Stacy Green

FBI Profiler Nikki Hunt  is back in Stillwater, Minnesota where two fifteen-year-old girls have been found frozen in the snow.  The main reason for her involvement is a possible connection to a serial killer Nikki and her team have been chasing.  

She knows immediately that the killer is local and not the man they've been chasing, but she still feels some responsibility to aid in the investigation.

This is Nikki's first return to Stillwater in 20 years.  After her parents were murdered, Nikki couldn't wait to finish high school and leave town, which is one personal complication for Nikki.  Another is that the man convicted of her parents' murders has drawn the attention of the Innocence Project and a number of townspeople have joined in support and want his conviction overturned.  Nikki still believes he is guilty, but the situation adds complications.

Nikki has to confront the past and the present even as she tries to discover who killed Madison and Kayleigh--and in a surprising development, whether the murder of the two girls is in any way connected to the murders of her parents.

The Girls in the Snow has a lot of potential as a new series.  I look forward to Nikki Hunt's next case.

Read in August; blog review scheduled for Sept. 2, 2020.

Police Procedural. Oct. 19, 2020.  Print length:  347 pages.  

Friday, August 28, 2020

Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak Series

After becoming so involved with Stabenow's first Kate Shugak book, I moved quickly into the second, third, and fourth.  Right, a bit obsessive, but I enjoyed them so much I couldn't quit.

A Fatal Thaw opened with a chilling murderer randomly shooting and killing with abandon.  Sadly close to the kind of thing we have become accustomed to hearing about and as horrifying and difficult to understand.

from description: "Soon, nine people will be dead, seemingly the victims of a random act of violence—until a routine ballistics test reveals that one of the murders was anything but random."

 One madman and one murder of opportunity disguised as part of the madman's killing spree.  Kate and Mutt (wolf/huskey mix) step in to investigate.  

Again, the glimpses into the culture of the Alaskan wilderness and indigenous people are informative and entertaining.  The potlatch (ceremonial feast) organized by Kate's grandmother was a beautiful and touching event as various tribes honored the deceased.

Shugak packs so much into these books and does it so skillfully: characterization, plot, and setting are so adeptly blended that the reader feels truly immersed in the story.

Dead in the Water has Kate undercover on a crabbing boat from which two young men have gone missing.

In addition to the mystery of what happened to the young men, the dangers and financial rewards of fishing and crabbing in Alaskan waters is made perfectly and frighteningly real.

"These conditions add up to the deadliest occupation in the United States -- 128 per 100,000 Alaskan fishermen perished on the job in 2007, 26 times the national average [source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health]. Fishing deaths also make up about a third of all occupational fatalities in Alaska each year." 

and "Crab pots and crab pot launchers are common sources of injuries. Fishermen get caught up in the coil lines. Working at the edge of the boat also puts them at risk of being swept off the deck and falling overboard."(source)

Also neatly intertwined with the plot is a history of the Aleut tribe and why they were removed from their original homes on the Aleutian Islands during WWII when Japanese troops occupied the islands of  Attu and Kiska.  The information about the Alaskan Scouts, a fascinating part of the defense of Alaska during the war was new to me.

"It wasn’t easy to become an Alaska Scout. The qualifications were stringent, and Castner handpicked them all—trappers, hunters, fishermen, dogsledders, miners, and prospectors. He also chose Native Alaskans—Aleuts, Eskimos, and American Indians. “They have one thing in common,” he said. “They’re tough.” (source)

Learning by reading fiction is the easiest and most memorable way to absorb history.  Well, it works for me because I can't resist checking things out. 

This time Kate is on the North Slope investigating drug-related deaths.  She has personal grievances against the Prudhoe Bay oil company, but as she learns more about how the company operates, she is impressed with the amenities for workers who must spend much of their time in the far north and its deadly cold. 

 Not my favorite, but still very good!

Next up is Play with Fire, and I am making an effort to delay ordering it.  I can feel myself weakening, however.