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Monday, March 01, 2021

The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes

 

Science Fiction is one of my favorite genres, and J.S. Dewes' debut novel The Last Watch was a compelling adventure in space. The absorbing plot and engaging characters kept me enthralled.  

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 last chance."


The Sentinels stationed on the Argus are a mixed bag that have some problematic reason for their posting: hacking, disobeying an order, lack of respect for officers, etc.  Adequin Rake, the Commander of the Argus, is a Titan--one of the elite soldiers during the last war.  Titans are legendary heroes and Quin is one of the best known...so why has she been relegated to the edge of the Divide?

The first chapter begins with a "spread your legs" scene as a new recruit goes through the physical examination of entering his new post.  Cav Mercer is relieved that his reason for being banished to the Argus has been redacted; he'd rather no one know his identity and lineage. Brilliant, with a list of advanced degrees, Cav is also a smartass. A failing he needs to overcome if he is going to survive as a new recruit with no military background.

The Last Watch is a smart military space opera with a gripping plot and characters you can't help but root for as they attempt to stave off the collapsing of the universe.

Read in Oct.; blog post scheduled for March 1, 2020.

NetGalley/Tor/Forge
Military Science Fiction, Space Opera  April 20.  Print length:  480 pages.

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin and Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson

 Time to catch up with reviews I've been putting off.  I'm bad at keeping up with reviews, almost as soon as I put a book down, I pick up another.  Reading is much more fun than reviewing.

The Music of Bees was a pleasure.  

From description:  A heartwarming debut novel for readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, following three lonely strangers in a rural Oregon town, each working through grief and life's curveballs, who are brought together by happenstance on a local honeybee farm where they find surprising friendship, healing--and maybe even a second chance--just when they least expect it.

Maybe I simply fell in love with the characters, but my cousin is also a beekeeper, so I had an additional interest.  My garden is alive with bees when the herbs come to flower, and I always give some of the plants a chance to flower, while keeping a few (especially basil) pinched back to continue producing.  The bees like other plants, too, but the idea of that hint of basil, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and rosemary in the honey...sounds so delicious.

The Music of Bees has characters you want to know, fascinating information about bees, and warnings about the dangers of pesticides rolled into a sensitive and heart-warming mix.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and read it at a time when I needed exactly that book.

Sam has a better review of this, so check it out.  Anyway, it was a book that left me feeling lighter, more positive, and better informed.  

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Friendship.  April 27, 2011.  Print length:  336 pages.  


I mentioned Letters from Tove earlier on my other blog with more detailbut after about 300 pages, I paused and read a bunch of fiction before coming back to it.

from description:  Tove Jansson’s works, even her famed Moomin books, fairly teem with letters of one kind or another, from messages bobbing in bottles to whole epistolary novels. Fortunately for her countless readers, her life was no different, unfolding as it did in the letters to family, friends, and lovers that make up this volume, a veritable autobiography over the course of six decades—and the only one Jansson ever wrote. And just as letters carry a weight of significance in Jansson’s writing, those she wrote throughout her life reflect the gravity of her circumstances, the depth of her thoughts and feelings, and the critical moments of humor, sadness, and grace that mark an artist’s days.

 Letters from Tove is a compelling look at the artist and author and the times in which she lived.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  

"Tove Jansson is one of the greatest children’s writers there has ever been."—Sir Terry Pratchett

She also wrote wonderful letters.

Purchased
Letters.  2014; 2020.  496 pages.  

I'm congratulating myself for getting two reviews out of the way.  :)



Monday, February 15, 2021

Heartbreak Bay by Rachel Caine

 Heartbreak Bay is the 5th book in the Stilhouse Lake series.  Although I didn't love the first book in the series, I've been entertained by the others.  Maybe I simply had to accept certain implausible and often bizarre elements of the plot in Stillhouse Lake.

The books are fast-paced and yes, pretty far out, but once I tried the second book, I became accustomed to the unrealistic elements and went with the flow.

This one started with interest, but ended with a completely off- the-reality-charts conclusion.

In between, I was engaged, but the conclusion was enough to make me wonder if I'll try another one in the series.  Perhaps this series has run it course for me.  I may like Gwen, Sam, the kids, and Kezia, but their adventures have become a bit frustrating.

Read in September; blog post scheduled for Feb. 15, 2021.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer                                                                                                                

Thriller.  March 9, 2021.   

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Accidental Savant by George Crowder

Two books I've read recently have had a protagonist with synesthesia, and both characters have the kind associated with music.  I've already reviewed a couple of books from the Scott Drayco series  with a brief mention of the condition.  Drayco's synesthesia was congenital.  He was born seeing music in color.  


I just finished reading  The Accidental Savant, featuring a fourteen-year-old boy who becomes an acquired savant with synesthesia after  a hard hit on the football field and a concussion.   

Gregory "Friz" Collins, an outstanding young receiver who can pluck a football from the air with the same delight as that of a Frisbee Dog.  His interest in football is pretty much all consuming.

After Friz suffers a concussion from a hard tackle, however, his life changes.  His recovery is slow, and he is under rigid restrictions to rest and let his brain heal.  Until, that is, a sudden change occurs, and Friz suddenly finds himself able to play the guitar as well as anyone with decades of experience.  He can reproduce a song after one hearing, and he sees music in colors.

That change alone is remarkable, but after hearing a blues guitarist, Friz recognizes something even deeper in himself and in the music.  Football no longer interests him, he is irrevocably hooked on blues.

I'm going skip some episodes, but eventually, Friz takes what Joseph Campbell would describe as a "heroes journey."   Traveling with elderly bluesmen, Friz is renamed "G" for guitar man and hears tales of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, meets Buddy Guy and William "Po' Monkey" Seaberry, and learns a lot about the world, friendship, and racism.  

An excellent coming of age tale!  Great characters, information about blues and blues musicians--The Accidental Savant is worth your time!  I was familiar with some of the names mentioned, but not Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, or Po' Monkey and his Mississippi Juke Joint.  I love learning while being entertained.

(Bernadette Sheridan is a grapheme synesthete and sees letters and numbers as colors. You can find our your own name in colors here:  What color is your name?  )

NetGalley/BooksGoSocial  

Coming of Age.  Feb. 14, 2021.  Print length:  257 pages.                                                                

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

To Take a Phrase from Shakespeare, "Malice Domestic"

 Cathy and several others have mentioned being tired of domestic thrillers; usually the plots are pretty interchangeable.  Below is an excerpt from a letter written in 1677 illustrating the long tradition of unhappy and turbulent marriages.  A little research revealed that the two deserved each other, but Marguerite Louise was seriously unhappy:  

You are driving me into such a state of despair that no hour of the day passes when I do not desire your death and wish that you were hanged. What aggravates me most of all is that we shall both go to the devil and then I shall have the torment of seeing you even there. I swear by what I loathe above all else—that is yourself—that I shall make a pact with the devil to enrage you and to escape your madness. Enough is enough. I shall engage in any extravagance I so wish in order to bring you unhappiness. If you think you can get me to come back to you, this will never happen, and if I did come back to you, beware! Because you would never die but by my hand.

Marguerite Louise D’Orleans | Letter to her estranged husband, Cosimo III De Medici, 1677 | The Medici Women

Saturday, February 06, 2021

The Adventures of the Murdered Midwife, Requiem for Innocence, The Girl fro Silent Lake and Other Stuff

Garden chores have been taking some of my time.  The temperatures have been warm, and I've been digging up cannas that are threatening to overtake an entire area, moving shrubs, and other chores.  This morning is much colder and rain is expected this afternoon, so I'm busy with some laundry and other household repeat performances.

In addition to my little "pocket" sketchbook, I purchased a larger one that mostly stays on my desk.  Sketching real and imaginary items has become addictive.  I'm not participating in the 100 Day Project, but it was what inspired me.  I'm sketching lots of ideas for my postcards, envelopes, and letters.  It doesn't have to be accurate, if the item is recognizable, I'm happy.   :)


Lots of reading.  :)

After reading The Adventures of the Murdered Gypsy, I got a copy of the first book, The Adventures of the Murdered Midwife.  Although I prefer reading a series in order, it doesn't always work that way.  Now, however, I've read both books in the young Sherlock series and eagerly await a third.

From description:  "Before Sherlock Holmes became the world’s greatest consulting detective...
Scandal rocked the Holmes family.

A cache of documents has been recently discovered detailing, in Sherlock's own hand, his early forays into criminal investigation. With The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife, the game begins as Sherlock faces his first case."

Thirteen-year-old Sherlock is summoned home from Eton because his mother has been accused of murder!  Sherlock, who has not been enjoying Eton, is eager to help determine the real culprit;  Mycroft, on the other hand, can't wait to return to Oxford.

I thoroughly enjoyed another visit with the Holmes family.  The young Sherlock is a interesting character, as he struggles with the culture of the times, his own curiosity and coming of age, and his love and fear for his mother.  He also gets some insight into his parents' marriage--Sherlock is surprised at the nuances of relationships. 

Recommended:  both books, but read this one first if you can.

Purchased.

Historical Mystery/Sherlock Holmes.  2020.  Print length:  346 pages.  


Requiem for Innocence, the second book in the Scott Drayco series, was as good as the first.  

Drayco, former piano prodigy until an accident put an end to his concert career, joined the FBI like his father.  At present he works as a crime consultant.   

From description:  "Crime consultant Scott Drayco is in the middle of a thorny case in Washington, D.C., involving murder victims who were all wheelchair-bound. Then, out of the blue, he gets a worried call from a friend on Virginia's Eastern Shore about an attack on an innocent disabled girl. Working once again with Sheriff Sailor and Deputy Nelia Tyler, Drayco discovers almost everyone believes the girl's attack was an accident."

Requiem for Innocence takes Drayco back to the small Eastern Shore town of Cape Unity, where he renews his friendships with the characters in the small town as he investigates the attack on twelve-year-old Virginia and looks for connections to his D.C. case. 

Character-driven, good plotting, interesting element with synesthesia--I'm really enjoying this series.  I like the way the characters are developing and new ones are added.

Purchased.

Mystery/Crime.  2015.  Print length: 292 pages.

The Girl from Silent Lake is one of those books that make the most of violence toward women.  The kind of thriller that likes shocking torture and abuse.  Of women.  

I'm tired of reading this kind of thriller, especially when the author is capable of writing a good mystery/thriller without concentrating on the torture and abuse.  It isn't that I don't enjoy some books in this category, but they must make the investigation more important than the details of psychopathic behavior.

I read this one last month and debated about reviewing it.  Most reviews are positive, but it annoyed me more than entertained me.

NetGalley/Bookouture
Thriller.  2021.  Print length:  373 pages. 

Monday, February 01, 2021

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

When I finished my review of The Stranger Diaries, I added, "The book is a stand-alone, but I'd like to see Elly Griffiths continue this Gothic mystery style or at least give DS Harbinder Kaur another case."

Happily, I got the second part because The Postscript Murders is Harbinder Kaur #2.  But the book isn't Gothic at all, it's a cozy.  While I'm not especially fond of the cozy genre,  I found The Postscript Murders delightful!

A cast of characters you'll fall in love with, crime writers who acknowledge the contributions of a ninety-year-old "murder consultant" (with cards to prove it), murders, a literary festival in Aberdeen, and the inimitable Sikh DS Harbinder Kaur.  

In conclusion, this time I want more Natalka, Benedict, and Edwin.  

Read in September.  Blog review scheduled for 

NetGalley/Houghton-Mifflin

Cozy Mystery.  March 2, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward and Played to Death by BV Lawson

 

From description:  England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married to a war-traumatised husband and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.

Gothic ambiance, a séance and a re-creation of an 1896 séance, lots of family secrets, a ghost. 

The book was kind of a near-miss for me.  Some great Gothic elements and writing style, but not quite  as suspenseful as it wanted to be. Nevertheless, the Gothic elements were interesting, and The Quickening would make a good book on a night you want a mysterious and not too frightening Gothic adventure.

Historical Fiction.  2020.  Print length:  336 pages.


From description:  Still suffering nightmares from a case that ended tragically, brilliant freelance crime consultant Scott Drayco considers retiring from crime solving altogether. When a former client bequeaths Drayco a rundown Opera House in a Virginia seaside town, he figures he'll arrange for a quick sale of the place while nursing his battered soul in a peaceful setting near the shore.

A Shamus Award Finalist and Best Mystery, Next Generation Book Awards

Drayco plans to meet a prospective client at his Opera House, only to find his client dead.

What I liked:

*Interesting small town characters.

*No bodies of women tortured.

*Nice plot line focused mainly on solving the murder(s).

Played to Death is the first in a series, and I plan to continue reading.   I'm a little tired of "thrillers" in which the thrill involves tortured and murdered women.  I don't mind one every once in a while, but it seems more and more have less mystery and investigation and more horrific cases.  Anyway, I did enjoy this book and the characters.

Mystery/PI.  2014.  Print length:  314 pages.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Bravest Voices by Ida Cook

 

I was not familiar with the Cook sisters or their role in helping people escape Nazi Germany, but I found Ida Cook's memoir (of the years from their youthful discovery of opera, through the efforts to save those who tried to escape Hitler's Germany, through their personal experiences of the Blitz) a touchingly human experience of courage and resilience.

First published in 1950 as Safe Passage, republished in 1976 as We Followed Our Stars, and again in 2021 as The Bravest Voices.

In the 1920's the sisters discovered opera and were dedicated fans of both conductors and opera singers.  The first of the book deals with this era of saving meager salaries to attend performances.  I'm not an opera aficionado, but the love of these two young women for the music and for the performers was impressive.

The second section deals with how some of their operatic friends became involved with aiding escapes from Nazi Germany in the late 1930's.  Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss and his wife his wife Viorica Ursuleac first introduced the sisters to the dangers of those trying to escape before being killed or put in concentration camps.  The sisters used the excuse of attending operas to get in and out of Germany to arrange safe passage for refugees until war broke out. Krauss scheduled operas that aided their efforts. 

After war closed the borders, and it was no longer possible to aid refugees, Ida describes her own families experience with the Blitz.  At one point she mentions the bombs hitting the book centers and the books and burning pages spread over London.  It reminded me of this photograph of a boy reading books outside a bombed book shop.

Ida Cook also wrote Harlequin Romances under the name Mary Burchell, and I'm tempted to see if I can find a book still in print.  

There is a certain innocence in this book and a freshness of voice that kept me engaged.  I may never fully appreciate opera, but Ida Cook's descriptions of different voices intrigued and surprised me.  

I truly enjoyed this book which gives another view of WWII experiences.  
In 1965, Israel s Yad Vashem named Ida and Louise Cook Righteous Among the Nations. Ida died in 1986 at the age of 82, and Louise in 1991 at the age of 90. In 2010, they were posthumously honored as Heroes of the Holocaust by the British Government.

NetGalley/Harlequin
History/WWII.  Jan. 19, 2021.  Print length:  256 pages.



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice, The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy by Liese Sherwood-Fabre

 

Didn't want to abandon The Shadow Box, but didn't love it.  It would have been stronger if Claire had been less eager to believe in her husband in the first place; she never rang true to me.  On the other hand, another reviewer referred to the book as a "popcorn read," and I agree that the reader wants to discover how it ends. :)  I think I'll keep that phrase in mind for quite a few books!

from description: "After artist Claire Beaudry Chase is attacked and left for dead in her home on the Connecticut coast, she doesn’t know who she can trust. But her well-connected husband, Griffin—who is running for governor—is her prime suspect."

Thomas & Mercer
Suspense/Thriller.  Feb. 1, 2021.  Print length:  367 pages.


I'm fond of Sherlock Holmes pastiches and enjoyed this one!

I haven't read anything else by Liese Sherwood-Fabre, but I'll be looking for more in this series featuring the young Sherlock and his family.

At thirteen, Sherlock already has some of his abilities of observation and reason, but these skills are still being developed.  This is not the austere and coldly logical adult Sherlock, but a kid with curiosity and intelligence; sometimes annoyed, sometimes fearful, and often unsure of himself. 

I especially enjoyed the character of Mrs. Holmes; she never takes center stage, but her influence and intellect play a significant role in the plot. Hers is the perceptive, observant, and curious mind depicted as guiding her sons.  

Little Elm Press
Historical Mystery.  2020.  Print length:  342 pages.

I'm currently reading Letters from Tove and enjoying it very much.  

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock, The Stolen Child by Alex Coombs, No Way Out by Fern Michaels, and a Reminder about Kelley Armstrong's A Stranger in Town


 Winner of the 2019 Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing


Publishers Weekly Top 10 Mysteries for Spring 2019

"Driven by the heart-pounding suspense of a high-stakes poker game, Bluff is a vivid, compelling novel about deceit, seduction, and delicious revenge that will keep you spellbound and cheering as you turn the last page." -Susan Cheever, New York Times bestselling author


Bluff is a mix of comedy of manners and revenge tale with an older society woman who plays badass poker!  It was fun and unpredictable as the reader is led along through a murder, escape, and many surprises.  Thanks to Cathy for this recommendation, I really enjoyed it!

Poisoned Pen Press                                                                                Mystery/Revenge.  2020.  Print length:  320 pages.


The Stolen Child.  DCI Hanlon #1  

Although I liked the characters and some elements of this one, the subject matter was depressing.  There weren't any graphic descriptions and yet....  

A good crime thriller, but you may want to consider that it is a dark look at evil and pedophiles.  

I will give the author another try and hope the subject matter doesn't distress me.

NetGalley/Boldwood Books      

                     

Crime/Police Procedural.  2021.  Print length:  302 pages.

I've never read Fern Michaels before, but I'd classify No Way Out as a cozy.  It started out very interesting with a young woman who never left her house. I wanted to know why and what she was afraid of.

A second thread involves a case of domestic abuse in the neighborhood.

What could have been a really suspenseful read turned into a "everything works out in the end"  sort of book.  That's fine, but building so much suspense and curiosity and then having half the characters reform completely--makes the original suspense feel false.

I didn't hate it, but it isn't really a genre I enjoy; however, it should appeal to those who are already fans of Fern Michaels.

NetGalley/Kensington Books

Cozy.  March 30, 2021.  Print length:  322 pages.


Although, I actually reviewed this months ago, this is just a reminder that A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong will be published Feb. 2.  Reviewed in October.  

What else can I say--I like this series. :)



Monday, January 11, 2021

Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman and Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh

I'm so behind on reviews and have been absent from both my blogs.  It wasn't an intentional or planned break, but once I got out of the habit of more regular posting, it became harder and harder to post. Here are two recent books that have cold cases at the heart.    


I liked Serpentine better than the more recent installments of the Alex Delaware series.  The first books were favorites, but for the last several years, the books haven't appealed to me as much.  

My favorite character is not Alex, but Milo Sturgis, and Serpentine felt more like some of the earlier books.

from description:  Psychologist Alex Delaware and detective Milo Sturgis search for answers to a brutal, decades-old crime in this electrifying psychological thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense.

A young woman's request for an inquiry into her mother's death is dictated from Milo's superiors, and he isn't too happy about it.  The case is 25 years old and records are sparse.  Milo involves Alex and the two visit the young woman.  Something catches their attention, and even if Milo doesn't believe anything will come of it, he gradually becomes more intrigued.  And it turns out that not only was it murder, but someone is still determined to avoid exposure.

I have a weakness for Milo.  

NetGalley/Random House                                                                   Police Procedural/Cold Case.  Feb. 4, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages.


Aarev Rai's family lived in an exclusive cul de sac in New Zealand, but regardless of how much money the family had or how beautiful Aarev's mother was--family life was a battle ground.

When Aarev was sixteen, his beautiful mother disappeared and so did a quarter of a million dollars.  His father believes Nina Rai left him and stole the money.  Aarev can't believe his beloved mother would have left him behind.

Ten years later, Aarev is temporarily back home after an accident, and Nina Rai's remains are found.  

Nina was not a perfect mother and several people had reason to hate her, but Aarev has to know what happened and who was responsible even if....

An unreliable narrator, good writing, and a little outside the usual formulaic pattern all worked to keep me turning the pages.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing
Crime.  Feb. 23, 2021.  Print length:  384 pages.




Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Another action-packed adventure with Orphan X.  I was worried about whether he would resume his role as the Nowhere Man after excepting a pardon from the president.  As circumstances unfold in the latest book, the call for help to the Nowhere Man comes from a most unexpected source: a woman claiming to be his mother.

She wants him to help a man called Andrew Duran, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and now has a dedicated brother and sister team out to assassinate him. 

I'm not at all as sure about the mother/son business, but I'm very happy to see Evan Smoak take up his mantle as the Nowhere Man again! 

Read in August;  blog review:  Jan. 11.

Keep 'em coming, Mr. Hurwitz!

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Mystery/Thriller.  Jan. 26, 2021.  Print length:  432 pages.