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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.

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?  )


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.


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.


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.

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 


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