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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Deep Into The Dark by P.J. Tracy

1.  This is not the Monkeewrench series. 

2.  It is supposed to be a series featuring LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan and murder suspect Sam Easton, but as it turns out, Nolan plays a pretty minor role.  Sam and Melody Traeger take over the novel.

3.  I knew the villain on his first appearance.  That's fine if the author intends for you to, but I think it was supposed to come as a surprise. 

Deep into the Dark kept my interest because of Sam and Melody, but the plot was not believable.  Either plot, I guess, because there was a secondary plot thread. 

The eccentric and endearing characters that helped make Monkeewrench such a fun series are absent in Deep into the Dark, which is more of a straight forward crime novel. 

If I had not been hoping for some of the fresh and funny aspects of Monkeewrench, I would have liked it better, but the author (whose mother and partner for the Monkeewrench series has died) is entitled to take a new path with a different vibe.

Read in August.  Blog review scheduled for Dec. 30, 2020

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press.
Crime.  Jan. 12, 2021.  Print length:  352 pages.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Books by W.R. Gingell, Danielle Girard, Lisa Gardner, and Linda Rui Feng

Another attempt to catch up on reviews.

Ashley mentioned the Between books by W.R. Gingell a while back.  I knew I'd really liked Wolfskin by Gingell (Intisar Khanani recommended Gingell's books) and had also enjoyed Masque.  So I thought I'd give the Between series a chance.  

How embarrassing.  I'd already read the first two and didn't realize it until I started reading Between Jobs, book 1, but the first page brought much of it back...well, certain scenes and the characters back, there was much I didn't remember.  I raced through it again and went for Between Shifts, book 2, which I'd also read.  

I moved on to books 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7!  Book 3 (Between Floors) was even better, and I couldn't stop!  They were all free from Kindle Unlimited, and they carried me through December.  Briefly:  a teenage human's house is taken over by 2 Fae and a Vampire (investigators).  Murder mysteries in an Urban Fantasy.  If you enjoy Urban Fantasy, this may be for you, too!

Far Gone is the second book in the series, and I haven't read the first book.  Maybe that would have helped, but it still worked fine as a stand alone.

from description:  
When a North Dakota couple is shot down in their home in cold blood, the sleepy town of Hagen wakes with a jolt. After all, it’s usually such a peaceful place. But Detective Kylie Milliard knows better.

Despite not handling a homicide investigation in years, Kylie is on the case. A drop of blood found at the scene at first blush promises to be her best evidence. But it ultimately only proves that someone else witnessed the murder—and the results are shocking: the DNA reveals a familial match to a crime involving local nurse Lily Baker from over a decade ago. This unveiling stirs new nightmares for Lily as she’s forced to reckon with the most traumatic time in her life.

 I'd give this one a 3/5.  Maybe if I'd read the first book, I'd have been more invested in the characters.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Detective.  July 6, 2021.  

I love Gardner's D.D. Warren series, but I'm not sure about this one.  

from description:  Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

Frankie is an unusual character and the plot was interesting. However, if the book had not beenwritten by Lisa Gardner, I don't know that I'd be interested in the next book.   

Since it is Lisa Gardner, I will give the next book a chance, but what I'd really like is more of D.D. Warren and Flora Dane.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Mystery/Missing Persons.  Jan. 19, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages.

Just a mention and recommendation:
Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng.  I'll review this one later because it is a remarkable book!  It is one of my favorites of this year, beautifully written, deeply touching. 

From description:  A lyrical novel set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution that follows a father’s quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter’s momentous birthday, which Garth Greenwell calls “one of the most beautiful debuts I’ve read in years.”

I've read Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress and Wild Swans:  Three Daughters of China and maybe a couple of others about the Cultural Revolution, but those two made the most impression.  

Swimming Back to Trout River is an excellent and worthwhile addition for anyone interested in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) or interested in just reading a beautifully written book.  This is another NetGalley book and won't be published until May, so when I review it, I'll schedule the review for later.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Death and the Singing Birds by Amy Myers and Bone Canyon by Lee Goldberg


A cozy mystery set in the 1920's with Nell Drury as the chef in a historic old mansion.  I found Nell a little annoying, especially at first.  The dialog is a little stiff, the humor, forced.

New neighbors to Wychbourne Court are not quite fitting in.  Sir Gilbert and his wife Lady Saddler host an artistic event. A murder, a friend of Nell's who suffers from shell shock is arrested.  The Wychbourne Court crowd, both upstairs and downstairs, are sure that Mr. Bailey is innocent.

Cozy mysteries are hit or miss with me.  This one was a miss.

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Dec. 27.

NetGalley/Severn House

Cozy Mystery.  Jan. 5, 2021.  Print length:  224 pages.  

I read Goldberg's first Eve Ronin book (Lost Hills) in January and enjoyed it.  

In this second entry, a brush fire reveals scorched bones and further investigation reveals more bones.  As Eve and her partner Duncan investigate, the situation may prove dangerous as secrets are uncovered.  The relationship between Eve and Duncan, who is due to retire shortly, helps make this series more engaging.  Eve needs Duncan's experience; she is aware of her own inexperience, but she does tend to annoy others and is insistent when she feels she is right.

There is already a good deal of resentment over Eve's promotion, add to that her suspicion about corrupt members of the department, and Eve finds herself in a dangerous position.

I look forward to the next book.

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Dec. 27.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Police Procedural.  Jan. 5, 2o21.  Print length:  287 pages.



Monday, December 21, 2020

Their Frozen Graves by Ruhi Choudhary, Cold Wind by Paige Shelton, Noose by Eric Red, They Disappeared by Joy Ellis

 I'm trying to catch up with some reviews before 2021! 

Their Frozen Graves is the second book in this series featuring Detective Mackenzie Price.  Although I've not read the first book, the book works as a stand alone.

from description:  

"When two bodies are found dumped in a vast lake in Lakemore, Washington, Detective Mackenzie Price is first on the scene. She identifies one of the victims as Katy Becker, a local known for her work helping the community. The other victim looks strikingly similar.

Still grappling with a shocking revelation from her past, Mack is only too happy to throw herself into the case. But when she goes to break the news to Katy’s husband, the investigation takes an unexpected turn: Katy is very much alive, and has never met the women who resemble her so closely."

A twisty plot and an engrossing read.  I liked Mackenzie and may look for the first book.  


Mystery/Police Procedural.  Jan. 7, 2021

Cold Wind is another "second book" that provided enough background that it wasn't necessary to have read the first book.

from description: "Beth Rivers is still in Alaska. The unidentified man who kidnapped her in her home of St. Louis hasn’t been found yet, so she’s not ready to go back."

 Benedict, Alaska seemed a safe place for Beth to  stay hidden because her kidnapper is still at large.  Secure in the fact that only a few people know about Beth and her situation, she is able to continue writing her thrillers under a pseudonym.

When two eight-year-old girls knock on the door to her office, Beth realizes that they either cannot or will not explain who they are or how they got there.  They are silent.  

Oh, and the body of a woman is found in a trapper's shed.  Beth gets busy trying to solve both mysteries.  She wants to find the girls' parents and to discover who the dead woman is why she was killed.   

I liked most of the book, but found the plot complications too far-fetched.  Not that you know this until the conclusion, but still.

The characters and setting appealed to me, but the resolution was disappointing because I couldn't get past all the coincidences in the explanation.

Netgalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery.  Dec. 8, 2020.

The cover really speaks to you, doesn't it?  <grin>  In many ways the book lives up to the cover.  More Louis L'Amour   than Larry McMurtry, it is a pulp fiction Western with lots of violent deaths.

Joe Noose is a bounty hunter who brings culprits in alive.  Not all bounty hunters want to bother with the "alive" part, and a group of twelve bounty hunters follow Noose.  When Noose finds and captures the bank robber, they charge in.  Killing the bank robber and taking his body in for the bounty.

Noose follows them into town.  The bad guys end up killing a U.S. Marshall then frame Noose for the murder.  Now, Noose has a bounty on his head and twelve men in pursuit.

 Uh oh.  For Noose to save his own life and to get justice, a lot of bad bounty hunters are going to have to die.  

Action packed.  

Kindle Unlimited

Western.  2018.   

They Disappeared is the latest in the Jackman and Evans series by Joy Ellis. 

Ellis is a favorite of mine for her books set in the fens on the east coast of England.  

In this latest installment, Orac, the IT boss, has gone missing and everyone is concerned.   

The second thread involves three missing urban explorers.  Who is targeting these young men and why?  

Joy Ellis' plots keep my attention, and her characters have dimension.  I always speed right through her books.  

Kindle Unlimited.

Police Procedural.  Nov. 30, 2020.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Defending the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder and The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken


Defending the Galaxy, the final book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy trilogy by Maria V. Snyder, offers another fun and exciting adventure.  Snyder is able to take a pretty odd and fantastical premise  involving the terra cotta warriors and turn it into a multi-planet  space conspiracy full of suspense.  

Begin with Navigating the Stars, then try Chasing the Shadows so you have all the characters and the background. 

Likable characters, the Q-net, and a courageous attempt to save the galaxy. :)

YA/Science Fiction.  Dec. 2, 2020.  Print length:  407 pages.

Funny, bawdy, farcical, with a lot of bloody incidents,  The Blacksmith Queen is...well, I'm not entirely sure how to classify it.  Parody/Fantasy?  Fun!

Keely is a big, strong woman who loves her hammer, her forge, and  her family.  She has a sunny personality and likes and gets along with everyone--with the exception of her sister Gemma, who ran off and became a nun.  

The humor of this brawny woman blacksmith and her sister the nun (with a secret) and their constant arguments, their strange family, the Centaurs, dwarves, and demon wolves--kept me grinning.  Oh, and there's an evil sister whose machinations endanger everyone.

It is a fantasy that has danger and suspense, and yet is full of rude humor, arguing siblings, and strange allies.  The Blacksmith Queen seems intent on overturning many of the fantasy tropes, retaining the sense of danger in spite of all the silliness.

This is a love it or hate it book.  The first chapter made me think I would abandon it, but I'm so glad I didn't.  All the brawling, messy, ridiculousness I would have missed!  Definitely over-the-top, but I had a great time reading it.

Kindle Unlimited
Fantasy/Parody/Camp.  2019.  Print length:  304 pages.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles

The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed combined with drought and the Dust Bowl  sent much of America into survival mode.  In West Texas, the Stoddard family struggles with frequent moves to oil field towns as Jack Stoddard  follows oil field work.  For everyone, from bankers to farmers,  the poverty and hardships created by the double calamity of economic depression and drought had to be endured.

We are all somewhat familiar with the effects of the depression and the dust bowl, but Paulette Jiles brings to life characters and situations in a personal way that gives an intensity to the struggles and the resilience of the Stoddard family throughout the decade of the 1930's.

As in News of the World, the writing is evocative and the characters memorable and compelling.  In Stormy Weather there is less of a plot and more of a feeling of memoir and endurance, and we follow Jeannine's story as the Stoddards move and move again, following the oil field until Jack Stoddard, the handsome, gambling and womanizing father dies as a result of a sour gas accident.  

Jeannine and her mother Elizabeth and her two sisters don't have the $10 for the rent and must pack up and leave.  They go back to the Tolliver house, where Elizabeth was born, which has been unoccupied for years and is shockingly run down.

The women persevere with, Jeannine often providing the motivation, even as she herself barely remembers the better times when her grandparents were alive and the place a going concern.  

For me, this was an outstanding book for several reasons.  My father was a petroleum engineer, and we lived in Texas when I was very young--so the descriptions of the oil fields of the 1930's were particularly interesting, even though they were before my father's time.  

The characters were so real--not only the Stoddard women, but their friends and neighbors.  When people manage  to meet the constant challenges of difficult times with stamina and grit, we are able to better appreciate the simple facts of running water, grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables, and all of the unbelievable conveniences we have today.

The dust.  The everlasting, unavoidable dust.  In the air, in the house, the worst storms literally burying vehicles.   Dust pneumonia caused by the lungs filling with dust, not fluid.  

Ordinary people in extraordinary times.


"When her father was young, he was known to be a hand with horses.  They said he could get any wage he asked for, that he could take on any job of freighting even in the fall when the rains were heavy and the oil field pipe had to be hauled over unpaved roads, when the mud was the color of solder and cased the wheel spokes."

"It was just before the bank failures in 1933, and the rest of the nation paused, dumbfounded, in their party clothes and tinfoil hats, in Chicago and New York and Los Angeles and New Orleans, while money fell like hot ashes out the bottoms of their pockets."

"...behind every human life is an immense chain of happenstance that included the gravest concerns; murder and theft and betrayal, great love...that despite the supposed conformity of country places there might be an oil field worker who kept a trunk of fossil fish or a man with a desperate stutter who dreamed of being a radio announcer, a dwarf with a rivet gun or an old maid on a rooftop with a telescope, spending her finest hours observing the harmonics of the planetary dance."  (these characters sometimes only occur once, but they are very present in the world Jiles creates.)

"There is no past; it is always an accordioned present consisting of compound interest accruing every second."

"Pearl, dear," he said.  "Sometimes I don't know where I am."  Mrs. Joplin stroked his back.  "It's all right James," she said.  "Wherever you are, that's the world."  (Mrs. Joplin was a favorite character, she makes only a few appearances, but she has an impact.  Her husband James is losing himself to dementia, but they, too, get on with things.)

Historical fiction.  2007.  Print length:  350 pages.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Tech by Mark Ravine and Gone Too Far by Debra Webb

A couple of short reviews.

 From description:
  Alexandra has just taken charge of her new team, a motley crew of screw-ups at the Arizona Field Office, the latest in a series of forgettable assignments.

The first in a new series,  The Tech  is not at all believable, but fun, nevertheless.  There's a conspiracy of connected crimes, an evil cabal, and a mysterious IT tech.

The cover doesn't work for me, but I enjoyed the book.  FBI escapism.

e-book from Dawn Hill Publications

I read the first in this series in July and liked it, so I was pleased to get the second in the Devlin and Falco series.  

from description:  As veteran detectives of the Birmingham Police Department, Kerri Devlin and Luke Falco have seen it all. So when the city’s new hotshot deputy district attorney turns up dead as part of a double homicide, the partners immediately get to work.

I was glad to see Sadie Cross make another appearance and get more of her background; hope for more of her in the future.  

Kerri Devlin and Luke Falco have a great partnership that will probably lead to more.  I like the friendship and the way Luke steps in when Kerri's daughter has a serious problem.

Several storylines and complications.  

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Suspense.  April, 2021.  Print length:  382 pages.

We have been Christmas-ing around here.  

Three birthdays down and one to go.  :)

Friday, December 04, 2020

Whiskey When We're Dry by John Larison


I read this about two weeks ago after Les mentioned it.  An epic tale of the Old West that concentrates not on the romantic aspects of the Western genre, but on the difficulties of making a life in a dangerous land.  

Jessilyn Harney had to divide her love between her failing father and her rebellious brother.  When her father died, her twin goals were to hold on to their ranch and to find her brother Noah, who has become one of the most wanted outlaws in several states.

Jess, who narrates her own story, realizes that a teenage girl is vulnerable, and so as she takes on the task of tracking down her brother, she assumes the persona of a young man.

Life on the frontier in the 1880's was harsh and violent, and Larison builds a world that reflects the difficulties with remarkable detail.  

While there are gunfights, saloons, and brothels as is many books in the Western genre, Larison's development of Jess manages to reconstruct the typical tropes through Jess's first person narrative.  

Noah Harney is also an intriguing character, and Jess's love for him, which becomes more clear-eyed as the story proceeds, is an engrossing part of Jess's journey.  Noah, a charismatic leader, is a mixture of positive and negative; Jess must accept that her brother has feet of clay.  

It's a long book that immerses you in the details of hard-scrabble lives and has epic proportions.  It isn't Lonesome Dove, but in spite of turning so much of the typical Western on it's head, Larison has created a world with the same scope.

Again, thanks Les, for this recommendation.


Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Chasing the Shadows by Maria V. Snyder and When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain and Other Stuff

 Jumping from one holiday to the next.  Our Thanksgiving was surprisingly good, but now the countdown to Christmas which, I think, will be harder for us.  We are taking it one day at a time.  We've started decorating in hopes that color and memories will keep us cheerful throughout the season.  

We finally got some cold weather, so my husband built a fire and put on Christmas music.  Fee also bought me some Christmas pajama bottoms.  Size XS.  I laughed and laughed!  In fact, every time I think about it, I cackle.  Fee is a wonderful and thoughtful husband, but not very observant :)  I've been debating putting them in with the Goodwill stuff...or sewing up the bottoms of the legs and hanging them for a Christmas stocking! 

I'm really behind on reviews.  Because I'm so busy.  ???   Well, busy reading, anyway.

Chasing the Shadows was another fun romp with Lyra, who has survived the attack on her life. To keep Jarren from realizing that Lyra is still alive, she has been given a funeral and a new name--Ara Lawrence, and Ara has a new job in security.

Creative and suspenseful YA science fiction with an absorbing plot.  I've read several books lately that make use of AI, and Chasing the Shadows has a unique take.  Each of Lyra's strange experiences has made connecting with the Q-net easier; it appears that Q-net has chosen her for a purpose.  

I still think the romantic interest takes too much time, but then the book isn't written for me, but for a YA audience.  I've enjoyed the experience for it's adventure.  :)

I'm ready for the third book!


 I already have seven reviews scheduled for next year releases, and I'm finding it hard to write reviews that far ahead of time, so I'm going ahead with this one.

The first chapter had me a little at a loss with the MC's situation, but it wasn't long before my immersion in the book was complete.

from description:From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes an atmospheric novel of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?

 As a missing persons detective, Anna Hart has been part of some somber outcomes, then a personal tragedy becomes the breaking point.  Anna retreats to Mendocino, where Hap and Eden, her foster parents, helped her recover from childhood trauma.

She becomes involved with the case of a missing girl that reminds her and others of a case from years earlier.  The theme of "missing" is covered in many ways:  missing persons cases, missing information, missing people we have cared about, missing a sense of home and belonging .  Paula McLain's beautiful prose leads the reader through the past as well as the present, and even makes reference to the real life case of Polly Klass.  

A mystery with twists and turns, a study of trauma and resilience, When the Stars Go Dark is an absorbing read.

NetGalley/Random House
Psychological Mystery.  April, 2021.  Print length:  384 pages.  
I don't usually do Christmas cards, partly because I decorate my Christmas letters and envelopes.  This year, I'm actually going to send some Christmas cards--it will be one more thing to keep me busy and involved.  And I need to be busy and involved.  
How are things going with you?  Books, Christmas prep?  Holding things together?