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Thursday, May 06, 2021

The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar by Liese Sherwood-Fabre and One Lost Soul by J M Dalgliesh

Having enjoyed the two previous books in this series about a young Sherlock Holmes, I wouldn't have wanted to miss this one.  

The Oxford-Cambridge annual boat race turn into a tragedy as a young man is found drowned.  

The Holmes family is drawn into the investigation because he is one of Mycroft's fellow students and because Mrs. Holmes is present.  Even if Mycroft and Sherlock could avoid a mystery, Mrs. Holmes certainly can't.

Mycroft is reluctantly involved because his reputation is threatened.  If the young man who drowned is designated a suicide, the Crown can take his estate and leave his family destitute.  His sister decides to blackmail Mycroft into helping prove that the death was not a suicide.

The threat of blackmail certainly gets the family's attention and even Mycroft, the reluctant investigator, knows what is at stake and does his best.  

NetGalley/Little Elm Press

Historical mystery.  May 15, 2021.  Print length:  314 pages.


I've read several books in the Dark Yorkshire series featuring DI Nathaniel Caslin by J M Dalgliesh and decided to try the Hidden Norfolk series featuring DI Tom Jansen.  

One Lost Soul is the first in the Hidden Norfolk series and introduces DI Tom Janssen, whose character is without some of the problems Nate Caslin has in Divided House, the first in the Dark Yorkshire series.  I like that the author has created a very different MC in Tom Janssen, that and the settings help keep the two series easily separated.

One Lost Soul does have that "first book in a series" feeling as the characters and setting are introduced.  It also has a much less complex investigation than those in the Dark Yorkshire series.  

Briefly, a young girl has been found murdered and there appears to be an attempt to cast blame on one suspect, but there are several other possibilities.  DI Tom Janssen, DCI Tamara work together with the youngest member of the team to determine who is responsible.  I will probably read the next one to see if I'll continue with the series, and I know I will get back to Nate Caslin in the Dark Yorkshire series, now that I've been reminded.  :0

Kindle Unlimited

Police Procedural.  2019.  Print length:  294 pages.

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Garden:  I took some garden pics early this morning.  My thanks were 3 mosquito bites along my cheek bone from ear almost to my eye.  Huh?  That had to have happened when I was putting one of those mosquito donuts in a puddle  where the water hadn't drained from the storm the other day.  I didn't even realize those nasty little buggers had found their target until the itching started. 

And so it begins:  the annual war between human and mosquito.  It is a no-win situation, just damage to both sides.

Need to refill the birdbath

 

The February snow was so unusual that it never occurred to me that throwing bird seed on the snow would be a problem.  I've been pulling sunflowers ever since.  Some I've left, obviously--because it is so fascinating to see how quickly they grow!  


The Homestead Purple Verbena didn't do much last year, but this year it is trying to take over.  

Edgrrr prowls/patrols his patch 

Now to finish enjoying my coffee and Fee's blueberry bread.  Yum.



Sunday, May 02, 2021

One, Two, Three by Laurie Frankel

 This is the first book I've read by Laurie Frankel, but now I'll be looking for more.

Seventeen years ago, the small town of Bourn welcomed a new chemical factory that promised a better economy for residents and delivered poisoned water, death, and birth defects before closing down.

Norah Mitchell has headed up a class action suit that never goes anywhere, but she continues looking for the smoking gun, undeterred by setbacks.

Her daughters, triplets, are the voices in the story.  Mab (One), Monday (Two), and Mirabel (Three) have grown up in the damaged town and provide the narration.  Mab is "normal" in appearance and behavior; Monday is on the high end of the spectrum--bright, but obsessive about being touched and extremely literal; and Mirabel is a genius, but wheelchair bound and unable to speak without the aid a vocalizer.  

Sounds depressing, doesn't it?  And yet as we meet each girl, we are immediately and irrevocably drawn into their relationships with each other and with other members of the town.  The writing is neither sentimental nor maudlin, and the girls, each in her own right, are forces to be reckoned with.  I was immediately captivated with One, Two, and Three and engaged with each one in their struggles to prevent a repeat of the previous disaster...because the chemical plant wants to re-open--promising that all the problems have been rectified and offering much needed well-paying jobs.  Who will trust them this time?

Poignant and funny and suspenseful.  

Highly Recommended.  Loved it.

NetGalley/Henry Holt

Coming of Age/Topical.  June 8, 2021.  Print length:  416 pages.


  


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Glimmer Lake series by Elizabeth Hunter

 

Sometimes, I enjoy light books that don't have too much emotional or social turmoil, and the Glimmer Lake books gave me just that with a paranormal twist and a little romance.

Three friends are on their way for a little girl time together when a car accident sends them off the road and into a deep lake.  All three survive, but the circumstances include a rescuer who doesn't exist.  Robin, Val, and Monica emerged from the lake with new abilities that require some serious adjustment.

The first book deals with Robin who now has the ability to see ghosts.  The second book features the extremely reluctant Val, who finds that by touching certain objects she suddenly knows much more about the owner than she wants to.  The third book focuses on Monica psychic dreams.  

I found the books to be exactly what I needed during a period of anxiety.  The friendships between these three middle-aged women and the way each adjusted to her new abilities was fun--especially because they find themselves solving mysteries.

If you enjoy female friendships adorned with a little supernatural, some mysteries, and a little romance, you might find these books fun and comforting. 

I haven't read Elizabeth Hunter before, but the next time I am in the mood for something that will lighten my mood and keep me entertained, I'll look for what else she has to offer.

After reading the first in this three-part series, I couldn't not know what this threesome got up to next, so I dashed through all three. :)

Kindle Unlimited.




Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Custard Corpses by M J Porter, Murder in Pembrokeshire by Gretta Mulrooney, and Farewell My Herring by L.C. Tyler

I chose this one largely based on the strange title.

from description:  Birmingham, England, UK, 1943.


While the whine of the air raid sirens might no longer be rousing him from bed every night, a two-decade-old unsolved murder case will ensure that Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is about to suffer more sleepless nights.

Young Robert McFarlane’s body was found outside the local church hall on 30th September 1923. But, his cause of death was drowning, and he’d been missing for three days before his body was found. No one was ever arrested for the crime. No answers could ever be given to the grieving family. The unsolved case has haunted Mason ever since.

A cold case that has bothered Sam Mason for years comes to the forefront again when Robert McFarlane's sister comes to Sam on her annual visit about the death of her brother.  This time, however, she brings an old newspaper clipping about what child murder that took place three years after young Robert's.

Interested, if not exactly hopeful, Sam is determined to follow any lead.  As it turns out, there are similarities Sam can't ignore...and yet cannot decipher.  Sam's wife makes the most important connection that sends Sam and Constable O'Rourke  through many twists and turns as "new" old cases keep turning up.   

The concept is interesting and the investigation kept me involved.  Slow in places and sometimes a bit repetitious, The Custard Corpses still managed to provide an intriguing and unusual historical police procedural.  

Read in April.  Blog review scheduled for ????

NetGalley/BooksGoSocial

Historical Police Procedural.  March 25, 2021.  

I've read a couple of books in Mulrooney's Tyrone Swift series and a couple in her Siv Drummond series and enjoyed them.  

from descripton:  An isolated community.
No Wi-Fi, no mobile signal.
No witnesses.

Detective Tyrone Swift is invited to stay with Afan Griffith, an old friend living in a small community in rural Pembrokeshire. Cut off from the rest of the world, with no mobile signal or Wi-Fi, something’s got Afan worried.

But Afan isn’t there to greet Swift when he arrives. The next day, Swift discovers Afan’s body on a lonely stretch of the nearby coastal path — stabbed to death.

Before becoming a private detective, Swift had been with the Met and also had spent some time in France with Interpol, where he and Afan had become friends.  Murder in Pembrokeshire has Swift outside of his usual world in the isolated community in Wales.  

Puzzled and concerned that his friend isn't there to meet him as planned, Ty sets off the next day for a walk and discovers Afan's body.  Determined to unearth the killer and the motivation, Ty remains at the commune to unravel some of the many secrets members of the small community are keeping that might prove useful in finding Afan's killer.

This isn't my favorite in the series, but I did enjoy it.

Read in March.

NetGalley/Joffe Books
Detective.  March 23, 2021.  Print length:  243 pages.

Another book selected mostly for the unusual title, but also for the beautiful cover, Farewell My Herring was every bit as unusual as the title implies.

I did enjoy this comical crime novel, there is plenty to amuse the reader in the amateur detection of Ethelred and Elsie. A bit too overtop for me to want to read another, but it was a fun satirical adventure.

I had a look at his other titles--they all contain the word "herring." Ok, so when I saw this title I was immediately reminded of Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, but when I looked at Tyler's other "herring" titles, Agatha Christie was well represented: Ten Little Herrings, The Herring in the Library, The Herring on the Nile, etc. Chandler and Christie were certainly the source of the Herring titles. :)

NetGalley/Alison and Busby
Comic Crime? April 22, 2021. Print length: 227 pages


 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

 

From Description:  Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission--and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.


Except that right now, he doesn't know that. He can't even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

 Strangely, I abandoned both The Martian and Artemis, but Project Hail Mary was a definite hit for me.  

There is a lot of science/physics/math that I didn't understand, but made me think that solving problems with this knowledge could encourage young people into STEM courses.  Even a "mathophobe" like me was intrigued and felt the excitement of problem solving.  

Middle School science teacher, Ryland Grace wakes up from an induced coma far in space, with no memory of how he got there.  His two crew mates didn't survive, and it takes him a while to  remember even  his name, but he gradually realizes that he has a great deal of knowledge about the ship and its functions.  At first, his knowledge is a little surprising to him, but as his memory returns in fits and starts, and he experiences flashbacks of his previous life, he understands the mission of Project Hail Mary and its importance--a last ditch effort to save Earth and humanity.  

He is alone in space...until he isn't.  He finds an unexpected ally, and the two of them risk their lives over and over to make sure their missions are completed.  Here, Weir excels at creating a dynamic between Ryland Grace and Rocky and moves beyond the typical space adventure into something more.  The need for Grace and Rocky to communicate, to except each other's abilities and limitations, and to work together using their combination of skills in order to save their respective worlds is the crux of the book.  Yes, it is a space adventure, but not in the usual sense--Project Hail Mary combines suspense and humor and "humanity" in the midst of some abstruse science and mathematics.  

As I mentioned, the science and math was beyond me, and yet I found the way Weir used it (or perhaps, overused it)  made me see the solving of mathematical and scientific puzzles as exciting as solving a mystery in a police procedural.   Never thought that could happen.  

I was completely engaged from first to last with this novel.  Rocky is the highlight and an unforgettable character--you really need to meet him!  

Read in March; review scheduled for April 25.

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine                                                                                                        Science Fiction.  May 4, 2021.  Print length:  496 pages.  

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Swimming Back to Trout River

 

I've read several books, both fiction and nonfiction, that concern the Cultural Revolution, but this is perhaps the most unusual and certainly one of the best. 

  Swimming Back to Trout River gripped me from the beginning and my interest never flagged.  Beautifully written with characters who are individual and complicated, hopeful and talented, and then confronted with the Cultural Revolution's efforts to purge capitalism, foreign influence, and tradition.  Young intellectuals were sent to the countryside to experience manual labor and "rehabilitation."  

Momo, Cassia, and Dawn were young and talented, but the upheaval in their lives after being sent to the countryside required remarkable resilience.  When the Cultural Revolution ends, Momo, Cassia, and Dawn attempt to rebuild their lives in different ways, and Junie, Momo and Cassia's daughter is left in China with her beloved grandparents.

Momo's goal is to reunite with Junie, to bring her to America.  Junie, however, cannot imagine a life away from Trout River.

One of the most impressive elements in the story in the influence of music on the main characters and the importance of art and creativity in their lives.  

Beautifully written, thoughtful, and perceptive, Linda Rui Feng has written a novel that will linger with its readers in many ways.  It is one of my favorite novels of last year.  Highly Recommended.

Read in December; blog review scheduled for April.

NetGalley/Simon & Schuster.

Multicultural History.  May 11, 2021.  Print length:  272 pages.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Sister's Twin, What You Never Knew, Hadley and Grace, and This World So Fierce

 

From Description:  How do you solve a murder when the victim is still alive?

Lily Spencer knows her twin is fated to die. And she can’t stop envisioning the end.

A stranger in the night.
A vicious blade.
The tarot card he will leave behind.

Lily’s clairvoyant friend has foreseen it all. And her eerie insights are never wrong.

A killer is coming to the care home where the sisters live. It’s only a question of when. And why.

In desperation, Lily turns to curmudgeonly sleuth Ray Flowers for help.

She may be elderly but she’s anything but defenceless. And she’s not giving up on her sister.

Not without a fight.

Someone is killing vulnerable old people, but who is the person planning the murders and why?   Lily and Rose are essential to the plot, but Elspeth Moore is by far the most entertaining character!  Give Elspeth a tarot deck and a cricket bat, and she's got things under control.  Well, almost.   Ray Flowers is reluctant to get involved...until he is forced to believe.  I enjoyed this one.

Read in March; review scheduled for  April 11.

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery.  April 1, 2021.  Print length:  201 pages.


From Description:  

Idyllic Avril lsland, owned by the Bennett family, where their hundred-year-old cottage sat nestled in acres of forest. Forty-year-old June Bennett believed that the island had been sold after the summer of her father's disappearance when she was only twelve years old. It's months after the shocking death of her older sister May in a fatal car accident, that June finds out that the cottage was never sold. Avril Island is still owned by the Bennett family and now it's hers.

Old secrets and an old friend await June on Avril island.  What June thought she knew about that last summer on the island when she was twelve--is not nearly what she thought.

I wanted to know all the secrets, but from very early in the book June's character seemed less than realistic.  In the end, I wasn't even satisfied knowing the secrets.

Read in March   

NetGalley/Crooked Lane Books

Mystery.  April 13, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.  


Hadley's husband is abusive and Grace's husband has a gambling habit.  When Hadley decides to take the two kids and leave Frank, she plans on getting some of his money first.  Grace, who works for Frank, has also decided to take the money Frank owes her and with her infant son make a get-away.

Kind of the heist from hell when the two women get into it during their separate attempts at theft.  As it turns out, they are going to need each other as the two hit the road with kids in tow.

Favorite character: Skipper who has lived with Hadley for most of his eight years and is special needs.  

It does have the escape element of Thelma & Louise, but this time there are three kids added to the mix.

Read in March.

Kindle Unlimited.  2021.  344 pages.

From Description:  
Trish and Nikki are Orphans who live on the poor side of town. But they know what it means to have a family that cares, even if that family is not blood. Their foster parents can't have children of their own, so they raise children who come to them from a world of pain and loss. When the family is asked to take in one more, they can't refuse. But it might be one more than they can handle.

"The World So Fierce" is a story of the other side of tragedy. The orphans are a surrogate family, but when they take in one more child could their family break? What happens when one orphan can't turn his life around?

A family who fosters and adopts children who need a home and a family--agrees to take in seventeen-year-old Mike, who is preparing to leave state custody.

The hope that Mike will be able to turn his life around is part of Bud and Molly's basic philosophy, but will he be able to join the family as a member or will he be a destructive influence?  Even with the best of intentions, can everyone be saved?

Mary Marcotte is a blog friend, a retired teacher, and an avid quilter.  This is her debut work that takes place in South Louisiana, a world Mary knows well.

Read in April.

Orphans/FosterFamilies.  2020.  90 pages.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Thief of Souls by Brian Klingborg

Thief of Souls is a police procedural set in a small Chinese village and the first in a new series by Brian Klingborg.  This is the first time I've read anything by Klingborg, so here is a little background from Amazon's author page:   "Brian Klingborg is a graduate of Harvard's Regional Studies East Asia program, and spent many years living and working in Asia and Europe. In addition to his first novel, Kill Devil Falls, published in 2017, he's written widely on Chinese martial arts."
 

When reading a book set in another culture, it is nice to know the author has some first hand knowledge and familiarity with his subject.

From Description:  "Lu Fei is a graduate of China's top police college but he's been assigned to a sleepy backwater town in northern China, where almost nothing happens and the theft of a few chickens represents a major crime wave. That is until a young woman is found dead, her organs removed, and joss paper stuffed in her mouth. The CID in Beijing--headed by a rising political star--is on the case but in an increasingly authoritarian China, prosperity and political stability are far more important than solving the murder of an insignificant village girl. As such, the CID head is interested in pinning the crime on the first available suspect rather than wading into uncomfortable truths, leaving Lu Fei on his own."

Lu Fei is an interesting character: a little lonely, not entirely unsatisfied with his backwater assignment, determined to do his best.  When a superior wants an arrest quickly, Lu Fei must continue the investigation on his own, not only to solve the murder, but to prevent an innocent man from being convicted.  

As it turns out, the young woman's death and the method is part of a pattern, and Lu Fei finds himself on the trail of a serial killer.

The plot is interesting on its own, but the connection with the Chinese bureaucracy and culture added to my appreciation of the novel.

Read in Feb.; blog review scheduled for April 9.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Police Procedural/Cultural.  May 1, 2021.  Print length:  288 pages.

Monday, April 05, 2021

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Last summer I discovered the Murderbot Diaries through a review by Bookfool and fell in love with Murderbot, a construct AI and SecUnit, who has altered its governor module and is now self-aware and trying to find out more about itself now that it is free from having to obey commands from the Company.  

All Systems Red, the first novella, gives some background about its name and his job is protecting the Company's clients. MB binge-watches Sanctuary Moon as a way to relax.  There's humor, action, suspense, and a villainous corporation called Graychris.

Artificial Condition has MB leaving its friends? (it is still trying to understand exactly what it is and friends is another new concept).  (I keep having to correct my pronouns.  MB is genderless, but I keep typing "he" or "his.")  Anyway, MB manages to get on a Research Transport with an AI that MB names ART, for Asshole Research Transport.

---  


In short, I loved the above novellas, and recently, when I was giving myself a rest from gardening and nursing my aching back, I discovered that I had a bunch of audible credits and spent several days catching up on the series.  Listening to novellas doesn't take too long, and I worked on some embroidery and went about catching up on neglected household chores while engrossed with the new additions to the Murderbot Diaries.

Rogue Protocol is the third novella in the series, and I enjoyed getting back to the adventures of MB and its transition to becoming more itself and more human in its flaws.  

MB decides to get more evidence against GrayChris corporation for Dr. Mensah.  He It meets Micki, a bot MB considers a pet.  Upbeat, friendly Micki is quite a contrast to grumpy MB, and MB finds Micki irritating.  By the end of the novella, MB has unintentionally and without acknowledging it, learned something about friendship.

Audio book 


From the beginning, the density of these novellas (I'm not usually fond of novellas) has surprised me, and I've enjoyed all the snarky humor and the way in which MB develops in its search for identity.  In Exit Strategy, he returns to Preservation Station to aid Dr. Mensah.

Moving from SecUnit to human, if we consider what "human" means, MB becomes more accepting of his need protect others as an essential part of its self.  Continuing to make fun of human flaws and failures, it is also subconsciously aware of its own similar failings.  

This was intended to be the last of the series, but fortunately, Wells has continued!  


As much as MB has evolved, he still doesn't feel comfortable with humans (with a few exceptions of his friends from All Systems Red), but when a body is found on Preservation Station, MB is drafted into the investigation.  More confident in his abilities, he works with Insah, who still isn't comfortable with SecUnits of any kind, to resolve the mystery.

(Note this was published after the full-length novel Network Effect, but chronologically belongs here.)

 NetGalley/Tor/Forge

Science Fiction.  April 27, 2021.   


  Network Effect is a full-length novel that brings ART back into the picture!  

I'm so enamored with this series, and it was fun having a longer version. 

Will Martha Wells go back and add to the novellas that lead up to the novel or will she take MB on to further adventures with ART?  Whichever way Wells proceeds with this series, I'm in for the count.  

As long as she keeps MB having adventures, I'll keep reading!

Read in March; blog review scheduled for April 5.

Tor/Forge

2020.  Print length:  350 pages.


Saturday, April 03, 2021

April!

 I've been gardening and reading.  My Kindle is never far from my reach, and I rest and read when my back and knees get tired.  Spring is such a lovely time of year, and before it gets too hot, I need to get as much done in the garden as I can.  Things are beginning to look up in some areas.  Other areas are in awful shape, but work continues, and if my back and knees hold out, I'll have a partial shade garden with ferns and hostas.

The worst and hardest area is where the jasmine and a ground cover have taken over.  I've dug, hacked, and pulled vines for days and may never finish.  One day, while resting, I took a bunch of the vines and wove this little wreath.  Fee was not impressed, and I admit it had a Blair Witch Project ambiance.  Upstairs, I found this rabbit head I made several years ago (I have a bunch of heads that never got bodies) and stuck it in.  :) Now it looks more like Easter than Blair Witch.



My compost area will be fenced off soon, so that's one ugly area that will be improved.

Everything I divided last month is doing well and will spread again.   

 Recently read, but not reviewed:



I've got several reviews already scheduled, but will be reviewing and scheduling these soon.

Lately, I've been behind on so many things because I'm tired from wrestling with garden chores.  At the end of the day, I don't have much energy left.  My new thyroid prescription should help the energy level, but that old saying, "not as young as I used to be" is also true!

How is spring treating you?  Gardening? Books? Crafts?

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 29, 2021

What the Devil Knows by C.S. Harris (Sebastian St. Cyr)

 In 1814, Sebastian St. Cyr is confronted with a series of murders that are so similar to the Ratcliff Highway Murders that London must consider whether or not the real murderer was John Williams after all.  Is the real murderer active again?  Is it a copycat?

Based on the actual Ratcliff Highway Murders, Harris presents another possibility to the gruesome murders that took place in 1811, and as usual, the blend of fact and fiction is practically seamless as Harris' research is impeccable.

I look forward to each new Sebastian St. Cyr book.  The author's knowledge and examination of the political and social norms of the time, combined with her intriguing characters, result in great mysteries and an image of the Regency period that feels genuine.

My favorite character is Hero, partly because of personality and partly because she always gives insight into the culture of the poor.  A quiet character, Hero is also a determined woman who writes social articles about the lower levels of society, the impoverished, ill-treated, and forgotten men, women, and children of the period.  Sebastian pursues justice in his way, and Hero seeks justice in her own dedicated way.  Sebastian carries most of the novel, but Hero's involvement provides the support needed.

Read in Feb.; blog review scheduled for March 29.

NetGalley/Berkeley 

Historical Mysteries.  April 6, 2021.  Print length:  336 pages.  

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch

 

This is a little unusual for a Charles Lenox novel, he ends up in America at the request of the British Prime Minister.  Disraeli wants Lenox out of the country during a trial involving officers of Scotland Yard.

Giving in to his early dreams of travel, Lenox eventually accedes to the P.M.'s request and travels to New York.

After a short stay in N.Y., Lenox is to travel to meet some colleagues  in Boston, accompanied by Teddy Blaine, a young man from one of the wealthiest families in America who is interested in becoming a detective.  The journey is interrupted when the train is stopped and Lenox is handed a letter pleading with him to come to New Port, R.I. (then as now, the summer homes of the ultra rich) to solve the murder of a young debutante.

In New Port, Lenox goes about interviewing folks from all spectrums of society, from Vanderbilts to kitchen staff with the occasional presence of Teddy Blaine, in his attempts to solve the murder. Some of his thoughts are revealed in the letters he writes to his wife Lady Jane, his brother Edmund, and his close friend Graham.  

As always, Charles Finch reveals segments of Victorian society, but this outing reveals elements of the American Gilded Age, that time between the end of the Civil War and before the turn of the century. The opulence, the fantastic wealth, the summer "cottages" with 70 to 100+ rooms (and all of the servants required to maintain them) is touched on as Lennox observes New Port's stunning affluence.

In addition to the mystery plot, I learned the origin of the word "shrapnel" and the phrase "heard it through the grapevine."  Lt. Henry Shrapnel invented an artillery shell that fragmented in 1803 and the Grapevine Tavern in N.Y. was a place where Union officers and Confederate spies mingled during the Civil War.  Thus, the source of news, information, gossip, and rumors was through the Grapevine.  
 
There was also a brief reference to Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), the British photographer considered one of the most important portraitists of the time.  I was familiar with her portraits of Julia Jackson Duckworth, Cameron's niece, otherwise I wouldn't have caught this one sentence reference.

Another great outing with Finch's Charles Lenox and the expectation of some changes in the future.

Read in October; blog post scheduled for March 23, 2021.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Historical Mystery.  Feb. 10, 2020.  Print length:  288 pages.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Hanging Fire and Branded by Eric Red

 Last year I reviewed the first in the Joe Noose series by Eric Red.  I went on to Hanging Fire.  

U.S. Marshall Bess Sugarland is still recovering from a gunshot wound, and Joe Noose is tasked with taking the infamous Bonnie Kate Vance to Victor, Idaho and her date with the gallows.

Not everyone wants Joe to succeed.  A sheriff from Arizona wants Bess (pretty much alive or dead) and if Joe Noose stands in the way, it's his mistake.  Also on their trail is a former lover of Bonnie Kate.  A dangerous trip over Talon Pass puts Joe and Bonnie Kate in danger over and over again.  

From the first book, the reader knows Joe Noose is larger than life and so are his adventures.  Action-packed.  

Kindle Unlimited.

Western.  2019.


The prologue of Branded gives some important background into Joe Noose, and a bitter lesson that Joe learned at thirteen.

U.S. Marshall Emmett Ford appears in Bess Sugarland's office in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  He's tracking a serial killer who brands his victims, sometimes entire families.

Joe Noose, recognizing the brand and the killer,  joins Bess and Emmett Ford in tracking down the deranged killer through a Wyoming winter.  

Another fast-paced adventure with plenty of action.  Read in November.  Review scheduled for March 20, 2021.

NetGalley/Kensington Books

Western/Thriller.  2021.  Print length:  281 pages.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Widows (Kinship #1) by Jess Montgomery

Another book read out of order.  I read The Hollows (Kinship #2) first and loved it.  Because The Hollows was so good--the characters, the setting, the plot, the writing--I knew I would want the first book in the series.

I finally got around to reading The Widows  and was again surprised at how much I loved everything about the town of Kinship and the characters Jess Montgomery created.  Some books hit everything I want in a novel, and both The Widows and The Hollows fall in that category for me.  Well-researched for historical elements, three-dimensional characters, strong women, excellent plot in both of these novels compelled me to keep turning the pages and to hope it wouldn't end, at the same time.

From Description:  "Inspired by the true story of Ohio’s first female sheriff, this is a powerful debut about two women’s search for justice as they take on the corruption at the heart of their community."

Kinship, Ohio in 1924 owed a great deal to coal, but not everyone was happy with the treatment of miners.  When Lily Ross learns that her husband Daniel, sheriff of the county, has been killed by an escaped prisoner, she needs to know more.  Appointed as interim sheriff until the next election, Lily has the opportunity to investigate on her own, and what she learns about Daniel's death doesn't follow what she has been told.

When Marvena Whitcomb, unaware of Daniel's death, to talk to him about the disappearance of her daughter, Lily is confronted with the fact that she didn't know her husband as well as she thought.  Lily and Marvena join forces to halt a war in the making between miners, struggling for their rights, and the mine owner backed by Pinkerton strikebreakers.  

Miners' rights, prohibition, unlikely allies, suspenseful murder plot, deftly constructed sense of time and place, excellent prose.  5/5

I can't wait for The Stills, the next in the series.

I highly recommend the Kinship series!

Purchased.   

Historical.  2019.  336 pages.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Address Unknown by Katherine Kressman Taylor

 

You don't want to miss Address Unknown first published in 1938 under the androgynous name Kressman Taylor, because the publishers believed a male author would be better received,  the author was actually Katherine Kressman Taylor. 

From Description: "A series of fictional letters between a Jewish art dealer living in San Francisco and his former business partner, who has returned to Germany, Address Unknown is a haunting tale of enormous and enduring impact."

----

The letters begin in 1933, when Martin returns to Germany.  The two friends, Max, a Jew, and Martin, a gentile, begin the correspondence with the casual of effect of old friends.  The letters change fairly quickly in the correspondence as the situation in Germany changes.

Address Unknown is a short story in the form of nineteen letters, and even with the introduction and afterword that explains the events that inspired the story, it is fewer than 100 pages. 

To say that this short book carries an impact is an understatement.  It did at the time of publication--and it certainly had an impact on me.  "Words have power."  Both spoken and written.

Blog review scheduled for March 14.

Highly recommended.

NetGalley/Ecco

Historical Fiction.  1938; 2002; 2021.  

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Fantasy: The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani and Warrior's Ransom by Jeff Wheeler

 The Theft of Sunlight is due out on March 23.  I reviewed it early here, intending to post a reminder in March.  So this is the reminder.  :)

Intisar Khanani never disappoints me.






Jeff Wheeler is another of my favorites in the fantasy genre.  I adored the Kingfountain and the Harbinger series by Wheeler.  Warrior's Ransom is "The First Argentines #2."

Somehow, I missed the first book in this new series.  I'll probably go back and pick it up at some point.

I enjoyed it, but not nearly so much as the earlier Kingfountain and Harbinger books.  That said, missing the first book in "The First Argentines #1" series may have had something to do with it.

All three series are related to the Kingfountain books (my favorite) which are great fantasy fun and adventure.

Read in February.

NetGalley/47 North

Fantasy.  May 18, 2021.  Print length: 363 pages.  

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter

"Angela Slatter is the author of the supernatural crime novels from Jo Fletcher Books/Hachette International: Vigil (2016), Corpselight (2017) and Restoration (2018), as well as eight short story collections...


She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, an Australian Shadows Award and six Aurealis Awards.

From Description:  "Long ago Miren O'Malley's family prospered due to a deal struck with the Mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren's grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren's freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea...."
---
This is the first book I've read by Angela Slatter.  All the Murmuring Bones is a mixture of dark Gothic and mythic elements with a protagonist who wants to escape the strange O'Malley family and become her own person.  The writing is lush and atmospheric, and the story doesn't really begin until chapter two.  The first chapter is a beautifully written history of the sinister O'Malley family.

Miren, abandoned by her parents when she was a child, was raised by her grandparents.  After her grandfather's death, her grandmother Aoife O'Malley prepares to use her granddaughter in keeping the O'Malleys viable by forcing her to marry an O'Malley cousin.

Miren, however, has long wanted freedom from the O'Malley traditions and makes some plans of her own.  In the course of her journey, Miren meets with all manner of strange creatures: kelpies, ghosts, corpsewights, and other Irish folkloric creatures.

All the Murmuring Bones is a slow paced experience, steeped in Gothic and Irish folklore.

NetGalley/Titan 

Myth/Fantasy.  March 9, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Reading Aloud

 This is an interesting article in Neuroscience NewsHow Reading Aloud Can Be an Act of Seduction.

"Gurdon also suggests that reading aloud “has an amazing capacity to draw us closer to one another” both figuratively and literally. Where solitary reading drives us into ourselves – producing the cliched image of the couple reading their own books in bed before rolling over and turning out the light – reading aloud is a shared experience.

Reading aloud takes longer, but that is part of the point. Slow reading is sensuous reading. As opposed to the audiobooks now so firmly a part of the cultural landscape, for adults as well as children, reading aloud is responsive, intuitive and embodied."


We enjoy reading aloud to children, and I remember the disappointment when my children became early readers and I was no longer a necessary part of the reading experience.  

The audible book is an interesting phenomenon, although it may not be the same "shared experience" of reading aloud.  Many readers love listening to someone read to them.  Although I don't listen to many books because I can read much faster, I like to occasionally sit and listen while I embroider or  while doing mundane tasks that take little thought.  Not the same as reading to a partner or listening to a partner read, but still the concept of being read to and a slower experience.   

Before we had all of the technological means (radio, cinema, television, computers, cell phones) to keep us entertained or informed, reading aloud was a way of sharing stories and news, a kind of communal entertainment.  

I think of Captain Kidd in News of the World traveling around Texas frontier towns and reading newspapers to eager audiences and of all the households in the nineteenth century where reading novels aloud provided enjoyment and diversion. 

Reading aloud is a skill that few of us practice, at least for any length of time.  We are used to speeding through the pages, but there is importance in slowing down.  Reading aloud a short passage is very different from reading an entire book.  You have to admire those narrators who read novel after novel for audible books.

What are your experiences with reading aloud?

Sunday, March 07, 2021

The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boeheme

The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme is set in a fantasy world where magic is forbidden to the common people and the current king is addicted to a powerful dark magic.  Maralyth (Mara) has the magical ability to make grapes grow and ripen, which is fortunate in that her father is a famous vintner.  And unfortunate--because  affecting and protecting nature with her magic will result in her being kidnapped and suborned into a plot to overthrow the king.  A threat to her father makes certain she will comply.

It turns out that Mara is a descendant of the rightful royal family, and she is trained in court manners, dressed appropriately, and becomes a pawn in the attempt to overthrow the current king and his sons.

Then she meets the younger prince and likes him.  Mara's situation becomes more difficult as the coup will result in the death of the king, the older brother, and the young prince.  Whew!  That's a lot of responsibility on Mara's head.

A YA fantasy that I enjoyed while reading, but within a week couldn't remember much about it.

Read in January; blog review scheduled for March 7.

NetGalley/Macmillan Tor/Forge

YA Fantasy.  March 2, 2021.  Print length:  320 pages.



Friday, March 05, 2021

Perspective


 In high school, I really liked The Scarlet Letter, but when I read it years later with a three-year-old...I had a whole new appreciation.  There are so many books that on a re-read give an additional resonance or that make you realize that the writing was not as good as the plot (Mila 18 by Leon Uris; but what a plot--it certainly increased my interest in all things WWII and Nazi Germany).  In some cases, I've loved a book more; in other cases, I've been disappointed that my re-read ruined my first opinion.

How about you?  


Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Drown Her Sorrows by Melinda Leigh and The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris

 Two quick reads.

Drown Her Sorrows is the third book in Melinda Leigh's Bree Taggert series.  I read the first book, missed the second, and recently received this one from NetGalley.  I've liked some of the Morgan Dane series, but found the Scarlett Falls series too repetitive.  

Likable characters and a twist that you may or may not see coming.  The Bree Taggert books are bit of a mix of cozy, romance, and thriller.  

I plan to try the Midnight series, too.

Read in Feb.; review scheduled for March 3.

NetGalley/Montlake

Mystery/Crime.  March 16, 2021.


The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris is the third book in the Gunnie Rose series, and I haven't read the first two books, so there were adjustments to be made about missing background.

Nevertheless, this was an action-packed...?--I'm not really sure what to call this genre, but it was full of action and magic.  :)

My favorite series by Harris is the Harper Connelly series.  But for heaven's sake, Harris must never get up from her writing desk; she is prolific!

Read in Feb.; review scheduled for March 3.

NetGalley/Gallery/Saga Press

SciFi/Fantasy?  Feb. 23, 2021.  304 pages.


 






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.