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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Striking Range by Margaret Mizushima and The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith


Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 Robo are back in another Timber Creek Mystery by Margaret Mizushima.  

Mattie and cold case detective Jim Hauck go to the Colorado State Prison planning to interview John Cobb the man who tried to kill Mattie and who may also have information about her father's murder three decades earlier. To their frustration, the Cobb is killed in his cell before the interview can take place. The only clue they discover is a map of the Timber Creek area.

There are several threads that are intertwined in this latest addition to the series:  Mattie's search for information about her father, a dangerous secret on the mountain, a dead young woman and a missing newborn, and then Cole goes missing on the mountain.  But it is the characters in the series that provide the biggest draw, and Robo is always a star.  This time the puppies Robo fathered give their mother a difficult time, but are received with great joy by all of those who love both Robo and Sassy.  

I look forward to every book in this series.  Mizushima has once again kept me eagerly turning the pages to see what the familiar characters are up to, puzzling the mysteries, and cheering on Robo.  

NetGalley/Crooked Lane Books                                                                                                                     Mystery.  Sept. 7, 2021.  Print length:  288 pages.

The Witch Haven is Book One of a duology by Sasha Peyton Smith.  

Nice cover.  Good writing.  Interesting premise.  However, the characters are thin and the story itself was both a combination of rushed and slow.  The events take place in a very short space of time, but the pacing often dragged.  

from description:  In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.

Frances waits to be arrested for murder, but before that can happen, two "nurses" whisk her off to Hexahaven Sanitarium for tuberculosis patients.  Hexahaven, however, is not a sanitarium for tb patients, it is a school for witches.

For someone who had been living in poverty and suddenly discovers she has magic powers, Frances' quick assessment of Haxahaven as a prison seems unrealistic.  She receives a safe place to stay, new friends, good food, and classes for learning control of her new powers.   I can see that she might tire of the restrictions and silly classes eventually, but within a month?  A poor seamstress who had next to nothing and had just been saved from a murder charge would likely take a little time to appreciate her good fortune.

Frances, however, immediately turns against the headmistress, but believes in a young man who has been leaving her notes to meet him (and doesn't spend much time being concerned about how he manages to do so or why).  She's headstrong and makes decisions that she often realizes are risky and might endanger others, but goes right ahead.  She is suspicious of the headmistress and even her friends, but strangely trusting where she shouldn't.  Frances wants her way (and right now) so badly she is heedless of the effect on others.  She is then surprised and regretful, before she rushes off to another situation.  Doesn't learn much from experience, our Frances.

Stock characters and plot holes are a problem in The Witch Haven.  

Read in June.  Blog review scheduled for  

NetGalley/Simon & Schuster
YA, Paranormal.  August 31, 2021.  Print length:  448 pages.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs

 The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs is the 20th outing for Temperance Brennan!  I've read a bunch of these, but not all of them.  Reichs usually has scientific or forensic medical information that is currently of interest in the news which I find as interesting as the case itself. 

  CRISPR has been in the news for the last couple of years, and gene altering is one of those scientific achievements that has as much possibility for evil as for good.  

A medical waste container tossed ashore during a hurricane has two bodies inside.  Tempe, called in by the Charleston coroner, is stunned to see that the details are exactly the same as a case she investigated in Canada fifteen years earlier.

To say her interest is piqued--is an understatement.  Tempe feels compelled to identify the bodies in the current case and those of the old case as well.  Identical situations in two different countries, fifteen years apart presents a puzzle that both Tempe and Ryan need resolved.

In a secondary thread, there is some background of ResuciAnnie, the mannequin used to teach CPR.  

Read in February; review scheduled for June 24, 2021.


Mystery/Forensics.  July 6, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Binding Tempest by Steven Rudy and The Satapur Moonstone by Suhata Massey


Another fantasy.  Interesting the way fantasy reflects all of the empires, wars, corruption, and colonialism from ancient history to contemporary problems.

from description:  "...three aging veterans and a band of young rogues, are all that can protect the failing republic from the return of an evil empire. Together, their only hope lies buried with the mysteries of the past and an ancient relic called the Tempest Stone."

I liked the characters and the individual problems that each faced as they eventually united to work against the return of an ancient evil.  The import and significance of the three older characters was a great deal of the charm of this book.

Wasn't as crazy about the steampunk elements inserted.  The novel is derivative in many ways (except for the steampunk elements), but it is difficult to avoid using the fantasy tropes that have been so well established over the years.

The Binding Tempest:  The Luminescence Saga Book One.   
NetGalley/MysticHawk Press
Fantasy.  June 1, 2021.

The Satapur Moonstone (Perveen Mistry #2) was just as good as The Widows of Malabar Hill, and just as good as everyone said it was!

I listened to the audio book narrated by Sneha Mathon and was so engrossed I finished it more quickly than intended.  You know how you feel when someone interrupts you when you are in the middle of a good book?  It was all I good do to smile at my husband when he came home--and he brought dinner!  

Historically, the width and breadth of British control over so much of Indian society was surprising.  That the British influenced royal marriages and under certain circumstances took over guardianship of royal children was something I was unaware of.  

I was surprised that Cyrus presented a problem in this book, as I thought that was dealt with in the last one.  Other than that, I was completely engaged with the plot.  I'm going to try to resist moving on the The Bombay Prince for a while.  That is already  proving difficult, as wondering  what challenges  Perveen meets next is testing my will power.

Audiobook.  Narrated by Sneha Mahon.  

A little Romance.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Marshlight, The Bone Shard Daughter, Love Lettering, and In the Company of Witches

Marshlight is the 4th in Joy Ellis' Matt Ballard series.

from descriptions:  An old friend’s sister disappears without a trace. There’s no sign of foul play, but she’d been acting very peculiarly . . .

Meanwhile, Liz’s cousin Christie comes to stay. She takes an immediate — and uncharacteristic — dislike to the local bookshop owner, Gina. Why does everyone put up with her awful behaviour?

Joy Ellis is one of my favorite authors, but the Matt Ballard series is not my favorite of her three series.   

Gina is a game player, a manipulative woman who manages to berate and coddle, denigrate and reward her employees and friends.  Christie sees this, but Gina's victims make excuses for her.

Ellis manages to bring to life some of her characters:  Tom's mother Margaret, Ian, even Pip and Dominic.  Strangely, the more important characters don't fare as well.  The inability of Tom, Delphi, and Jane to see through Gina makes them seem quite dense.  

NetGalley/Joffe Books
Mystery/Suspense.  July 8, 2021.   

The Bone Shard Daughter (Drowning Empire #1)by Andrea Stewart. 
Although Lin is the Emperor's daughter, she is unable to recall certain memories after her illness.  Her father pits her against Bayan, a young man he has fostered and appears to favor, teaching him the bone shard magic he refuses to teach Lin.

Jovis, a smuggler, is searching for his wife who was abducted 7 years ago.  He sails the Endless Sea, from island to island searching for her, financed by a powerful criminal group to whom he owes money.  When an island collapses into the sea, Jovis escapes with a young boy he has rescued from the tithing ceremony and saves a strange little cat-like creature from the sea.  

Mephi, the strange cat-like creature, gradually rescues Jovis from his grief and encourages Jovis to continue rescuing children.

Phalue is the daughter of the governor of one of the islands and Ranani is her girlfriend, who is working with the rebels.

Sand lives and works on an island where the inhabitants don't know where they came from and believe they have been there forever.  An accident reminds Sand that she hasn't been on the island forever, but regaining that specific knowledge doesn't give her back her memories.  

All of these threads will unite eventually.  In the meantime, each one has a powerful story involved.  The book moves back and forth between the characters and their stories easily.

  When children across the island kingdom are eight years old, a tithing requires that each child has a shard of bone excised from its skull.  The shard belong to the emperor who uses bone shard magic to supposedly protect the islands.  Part of this involves the creation of "constructs," an amalgamation of animal parts plus the bone shard(s).  The bone shards implanted in these constructs contain commands from the emperor.  Shades of Dr. Moreau.  Creeeepy.  

The magic seems to be science gone mad.

So...what did I think?  I was all in--able to tolerate inconsistencies and curious about each of the different storylines, completely absorbed in this compelling tale.  Sadly, I will have to wait for the release of the next in the series.  

Hatchett Audio Book;  Narrators:  Feodor Chin, Natalie Naudus, Emily Woo Zeller
Fantasy.  2020.  Print length:  448 pages.

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn was a strange choice for me.  I was looking for something a little light, and this one sounded like a rom/com about a calligrapher.  I don't usually read "romance," but this sounded like something a little different.

And it sort of was and there were parts I sort of liked.  Yet... somehow it didn't work out for me.  I liked the characters fine.  The interior monologues about words, fonts, and letters was almost like Meg had a form of synesthesia, interesting, but maybe a little over done. 

It was a nice little romance, even with the flaws, until the second half of the book. I don't equate detailed sex scenes with romance, and in the end the good points weren't enough to satisfy any "com" in the "rom."

Ah, well.  You win some, you lose some.   

In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace is another unusual choice for me, as I don't often choose cozy mysteries, but I was still looking for a light read, and you know there's that big cat and the Victorian mansion on the cover and witches. 

from description:  When a guest dies in the B&B she helps her aunts run, a young witch must rely on some good old-fashioned investigating to clear her aunt's name in this magical and charming new cozy mystery.

I liked the aunts.  Their personalities were such a contrast.  Brynn, their niece, has always been able to commune with ghosts and when Constance (the guest) dies, Brynn seems the perfect person to have a little conversation with Constance to find out what happened, especially since it appears the her Aunt Nora is the chief suspect!  Brynn, however, has been unable or unwilling to use her powers since her husband died.  She is determined to clear her aunt without using her powers and isn't even certain that she could use them if she wanted to.

In the Company of Witches is a fast read, and if you enjoy cozy mysteries this might be one you would like.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing
Cozy Mystery.  Oct. 5, 2021.  Print length:  336 pages.  
After all the plenteous rains of May and early June came the heat and humidity.  It may not be officially summer yet, but most of the country seems to be experiencing record heat.  Summer used to be peak travel time, but honestly, I'd rather go somewhere in the fall or spring than in the summer.  

There has been a lot less gardening and a lot more reading and stitching inside with AC.  

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Therapist by B.A. Paris and Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger


I'd looked forward to this one, but in the end, I felt like the reader was being gas lighted.  

from description:  When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…

As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Everyone is a suspect in Nina's murder.  Alice is boring and obsessed, and no one is trustworthy because the author is manipulating the reader to  keep up suspense, and counterintuitively, the pace begins to crawl and the suspicions become repetitive.   (It's Tamsin, Will, Connor.  No, Edward, Eve, Leo, Ben.)  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

 July 13, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.


from description:  She met him through a dating app. An intriguing picture on a screen, a date at a downtown bar. What she thought might be just a quick hookup quickly became much more. She fell for him—hard. It happens sometimes, a powerful connection with a perfect stranger takes you by surprise. Could it be love?

But then, just as things were getting real, he stood her up. Then he disappeared—profiles deleted, phone disconnected. She was ghosted.

Wren Greenwood is an advice columnist, and her column "Dear Birdie" has been so popular, it has turned into a well-paying, sponsored podcast as well. 

Wren's best friend Jax pushes her to try a dating app to provide something more in her life besides work.  Surprisingly, one of her matches has all the qualities Wren has been looking for in a partner, not simply a hookup.  She and Adam seem to fit together, and for a few months, Wren and Adam seem to be developing a long term relationship.  Then he fails to show up at a restaurant where they were to meet and doesn't respond to her texts.

When a detective shows up at her door with information about "Adam,"  Wren is forced to reexamine their relationship.  Could Adam really be responsible for the disappearance of at least two young women?  

Wren joins the detective in the search for the man who has a great deal to hide and may not be through with Wren.

Interesting premise in this new world where people find themselves isolated and use dating apps to try and find relationships.   

Suspense.  Oct. 5, 2021.  Print length:  352 pages.



Sunday, June 06, 2021

Fallen by Linda Castill and The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Fallen and The Widows of Malabar Hill are both books that take us into other cultures and traditions.  The first has a contemporary setting in America, and the second takes us to Bombay in 1921, one hundred years ago and a time presaging great upheaval.  The power of fiction to engage our interest in lives that are very different from our own, to make us curious as we are informed, is one of the most important aspects of reading for many of us.

I read Fallen in March, but held back the review until closer to publication.  

Kate Burkholder left the Amish community years ago, but her familiarity with Amish customs and traditions are useful in her job as police chief in Painters Mill.  Having grown up in an Amish family, Kate understands and often sympathizes with the men and women she interviews during an investigation.  It doesn't mean she agrees with their thinking or their behavior, but she does have a context for it.  Even in devout communities, crimes occur and victims need justice.

When Rachael, "the only girl as bad at being Amish as Kate was" is found dead in a motel room in Painters Mill, Kate realizes she knew her years ago.  Rachael had been rebellious, eventually banned, and had left town for another life beyond Amish restrictions.  Why had she returned and who would have committed this brutal murder?

Each of Castillo's Kate Burkholder books functions as a standalone, an added bonus to an excellent series.  Her books are interesting because of the well-developed characters, the plots, and the insight into the Amish way of life.  I always look forward to new adventures with Kate.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Police Procedural.  July 6, 2021.  Print length:  320 pages.

The Widows of Malabar Hill
  by Sujata Massey had been on my list forever and when I started making the nightmare catchers a couple of weeks ago, it was one of the audible books (narrated by 
 Soneela Nankani)  I downloaded to listen to while stitching.  Loved it, just like every review said when it first came out.  

Aside from the plot, it was the insight into other cultures that made this so interesting.  Hindu, Muslim, Parsi--their laws and their customs kept me as absorbed as the well-drawn characters.  

Perveen Mistry is the first woman solicitor in Bombay and works for her father's law firm.  The backstory of Perveen's difficult road to her law degree is told in flashbacks, so there are two storylines being told and each is informative about life in 1916-1921 Bombay and about Perveen and the Mistry family. 

The current plot involves three Muslim wives after the death of their husband.  The women have all lived in purdah, seclusion from males, since their marriages, and now the mourning period is in effect as well.  As a woman, Perveen is able to visit the women and explain the terms of the will and the bequests to each of the women.  She is concerned about the estate manager's usurpation of authority in the household and about the ability of the women to understand how some of his directions would be detrimental to the widows' (and their children's) future financial situation.

I'm becoming quite addicted to audio books and Suleena Nankani's narration was excellent.  I'm debating on whether to read or listen to the next book, because of course, I have to read the next one!

 Currently reading, slowly12 Bytes by Jeannette Winterson: "Twelve bytes. Twelve eye-opening, mind-expanding, funny and provocative essays on the implications of artificial intelligence for the way we live and the way we love - from Sunday Times-bestselling author Jeanette Winterson.  In 12 Bytes, the New York Times bestselling author of Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson, draws on her years of thinking and reading about artificial intelligence in all its bewildering manifestations. In her brilliant, laser focused, uniquely pointed and witty style of story-telling, Winterson looks to history, religion, myth, literature, the politics of race and gender, and computer science, to help us understand the radical changes to the way we live and love that are happening now."

The first essay was fascinating, drawing together Ada Lovelace, Mary Shelley, Charles Babbage, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Lord Byron in an intriguing history of connections, mathematics, computers, women's rights, and the fictional leap of Frankenstein.  About a third of the way in, however, the essays are more philosophical, which takes me a great deal more time to decipher and ponder.  

I suppose that like most people, I'm curious about the future of AI--a subject that is as frightening as it is fascinating.  Winterson appears to have a hopeful outlook, but as always, there is the possibility of unintended consequences.  I'll continue the essays, slowly, and doing a little Google researching on my own.  

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Death at the Crystal Palace by Jennifer Ashley; Between Decisions by W.R. Gingell


Another fun adventure with Kat Holloway.

from description:  While attending an exhibition at the Crystal Palace, young cook Kat Holloway is approached by a woman in distress. Lady Covington is a wealthy widow convinced that her entire family is trying to kill her. Kat feels compelled to help, and she escorts the lady home to discover whether she is delusional or in true danger.

Someone in the household is trying to poison Lady Covington, and her children and stepchildren have possible motives.  Kat enlists Cynthia to visit the Covington home for a while and observe and gather information about the family.  Cynthia, whose parents are trying to force her home to their estate in the country in hopes of finding her a husband, is only too happy to undertake the task and get away from her parents for a while.

Kat's friend Daniel is involved in another mission to discover whether a Duke is supplying money to Irish Nationalists.  

This historical series is always fun, the characters are likable and the plots interesting.   Another enjoyable mystery with the (mostly) Below Stairs crowd.

NetGalley/Berkeley Pub.

Historical Mystery.  July 6, 2021.  print length:  304 pages.

If you enjoy urban fantasy, you might give W.R. Gingell's The City Between series a try.  But start at the beginning!

I was pleased when Ashley (Rustic Reading Gal) noted that book #8 was available, found it on Kindle Unlimited, downloaded it, and returned to Hobart and all of the curious characters and adventures.

So there are Sirens and the united efforts to put an end to their preying on humans.  Typical stuff.  The back and forth with Pet and Jin Yeong-- fun. But...then...Shock after Shock! 

How long will we have to wait for #9?   I want the final two books, and I want them now!

Kindle Unlimited.

Urban Fantasy.  May 16, 2021.  print length:  266 pages.