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Friday, November 26, 2021

Where Now Begins by Kerry Hardie and Four Thousand Days by M. J. Trow

After seeing Belfast, I was reminded of a couple of books that I'd read about The Troubles,  I remembered reading The Bird Woman by Kerry Hardy, which was  particularly touching.

I reviewed it here, among several reviews in December of 2006.  

Having been reminded of the book, I remembered that Hardy was a poet and ordered a book of her poetry.  Evidently she wrote only the two novels, but seven collections of poetry.  I ordered Where Now Begins.

Into the Light

All prayers are poems, incantations,
arising our of darkness, joy or grief--

splinters of feather and bone, 
that flicker and spin and are gone,

as brief and intense as a coal-tit's fierce cling

to a coconuts strung from an ash in the rainy air.

Real Estate

For thirty years
we have walked around
inside each other's lives.

We pay bills, hang out the wash, 
comfort children who wake.
Sometimes we bury our dead.

This is the house we inhabit, 
fragile as glass,
the light passing through.

And I loved this line from Daylilies:

"filling the garden with all the wrong colours--
disordered, unruly and joyous."

I read the poems slowly over a period of days and will go back over them again and possibly, again, as is the way of reading poetry.  Hardie is a wonderfully lyric poet who is immersed in her Irish roots, nature, life, grief, and imagery.

Poetry.  Nov. 12, 2020.  

Some other good books about Northern Ireland and The Troubles:
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Shadows on Our Skin by Jennifer Johnston

Set in 1900 London, M.J. Trow uses the University College of London (UCL) as a fitting backdrop for Dr. Margaret Murray, professor of archaeology.  

A young constable who has attended Margaret's free public lectures on Fridays recognizes the body a young woman in a rented room.  She, too, had been attending the free Friday archaeology lectures, but Alice Groves/Helen Richardson had been living a double life.  

Constable Adam Crawford is not pleased that his superior has decided immediately that the death is a suicide, eager to write off the death of a young prostitute as of no concern.

Margaret Murray, on hearing Crawford's doubts, determines to find out more.  She eventually meets retired Detective Reid, who has a formidable reputation with Scotland Yard, and the two try to uncover what Helen and another young woman seeking a degree in archaeology and whose body Reid inadvertently discovers on a beach in Kent, had in common.

I enjoyed this one, maybe not quite a believable murder mystery, but interesting characters and rather fun.  

NetGalley/Severn House
Historical Mystery.  Nov. 25, 2022.  Print length:  224 pages.

 “I used to steal magazines from a store on Genesee Street, in Waukegan, and read them and then steal them back on the racks again. That way I took the print off with my eyeballs and stayed honest. I didn’t want to be a permanent thief, and I was very careful to wash my hands before I read them.”Ray Bradbury


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

At First Light by Barbara Nickless

In 2020, I reviewed the first book in Barbara Nickless's Sydney Rose Parnell series Blood on the Tracks).  I'd actually started with the 4th book and fallen in love with Clyde, Sydney's Belgian Malinois--which meant I had to go back and pick up earlier books.  Sydney and Clyde are both veteran's of the Iraq war, and Sydney is currently an agent with the railway police.  

OK, I loved these books (Clyde is as important to the series as Robo is to Deputy Mattie Cobb in Margaret Mizushima's Timber Creek series) and have been waiting for an addition to the series...

which hasn't happened yet.  However, Nickless has begun a new series featuring Dr. Evan Wilding, a forensic semiotician. 

When Detective Addie Bissett is called to a murder scene with strange symbols and glyphs, she calls her best friend Dr. Evan Wilding in.  Evan recognizes the glyphs as runes and begins his attempts to transliterate the message left by the killer.  

I admit that much of the attraction for me was the connection to Beowulf, and I'm unusually attracted to the Beowulf epic and have read several different translations.  The kennings and rhythms of the ancient poem have always appealed to me--no doubt partly because of Tolkien's essay Beowulf:  The Monsters and the Critics.  And yes, because of John Gardner's Grendel, the delightful little book that gives Grendel's point of view.

(In one of those examples of synchronicity, in a recent purge of books, I relocated my ancient copy of the Anglo-Saxon Primer, my college copy that has the teeth marks of Emily Milk Paws, the puppy that chewed on anything of mine she could if I was not there.) 

Anyway, I enjoyed the book as much for the connections to the Viking and Anglo-Saxon literature as anything else.  I liked Addie and Evan, who btw is a little person, and hope the next book is as interesting.

I don't think At First Light is as good as Nickless's Sydney Rose Parnell and Clyde books, but it is still a promising new series.  I pre-ordered it and it was delivered right away before publication date.

Thomas & Mercer.  Mystery/Thriller.  Dec. 1, 2021.  Print length:  395 pages.


 This shouldn't come as a surprise for readers, but Morality Illustrated in Stories Can Alter Judgment  for Early Adolescents.  via Neuroscience News

The pilot study demonstrated that exposure to verbal prompts emphasizing care, fairness, and loyalty increased the salience of their respective intuitions. The main study showed that exposure to comic books emphasizing all four separate intuitions increased salience of their respective intuitions in early adolescents. (Media Psychology Abstract)

Isn't it a shame that our politicians can't set a better example?  In such a short time, politicians have made their marks by saying  gratuitously nasty remarks about each other and anyone with whom they disagree.  Does that influence the general public?  Yes.  

It is one thing to disagree or to have another opinion about how to do something, but quite another to depend on disrespectful and malicious remarks in ad hominem attacks.

If emphasizing care and fairness can influence young children, so can the opposite (which they hear way too often from the news and from adults).

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Recorder by Cathy McCrumb, Last Seen Alive by Joanna Schaffhausen, and Belfast

Recorder is the first book in the Children of the Consortium series by Cathy McCrumb.

from description:  Recorder has no family, no friends, and no name. Donated to the Consortium before birth, her sole purpose is to maintain and verify the records. A neural implant and drone ensure compliance, punishing for displays of bias.

Ashley mentioned this one as a book she was waiting for, and I preordered it.  Not everyone loves science fiction, but Isaac Asimov hooked me with I Robot  many long years ago, and I've been through many authors and books since then.  

The Recorder, the protagonist in this story (Recorders have no name, only a number), fully believes in her duty, but she also forms her own opinions, even when she attempts to suppress them.

Recorder is sent on a mission to record what happened on a planet that went dark two years previously.  There is a rescue contingent on board, but no one really believes there are survivors.  Recorder's task is to document the operation and to retrieve the body of the Recorder who accompanied the original colonizers.  

The mission goes awry, and Recorder, in an attempt to help save crew members, is injured.  The injury and resultant surgery will result in changes she could never have believed possible.

Recorder is a promising debut by Cathy McCrumb, an exciting adventure, and a promise for more entertainment in the future.  I look forward to more of these characters!

Enclave Books.  Science fiction.  Nov. 9, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.

I liked books 2, 3, and 4 better than the first of the Ellery Hathaway series, and although I was glad to see Ellery and Reed Markham again in this latest book, I wasn't as enthusiastic as many readers.

Last Seen Alive returns to the earliest story when serial killer Frances Coben agrees to a television documentary.  The producers want Ellery to participate, and Coben says he will reveal where the remaining bodies are...if Ellery will be part of the program.

The two things that bothered me:  1) the concentration on the early brutal torture of Ellery (which is why the first book was not my favorite), and 2) although I don't believe the FBI is without faults, the agreement to go along with a sensationalized production and the subsequent FBI practices seemed so over-the-top and implausible that I was annoyed.  

I was disappointed in this fifth (and final? as some have suggested) book, but almost all other readers have given it 5 stars.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Thriller.  Jan. 25, 2022.  Print length:  350 pages.

If you have the opportunity to see Kenneth Branagh's Belfast, be sure and take it.   Branagh has shaped tenderness and turbulence into a series of memories from 1969 as a family confronts the growing violence and faces decisions they never expected.  

Incredible actors all around.

“For the ones who stayed. For the ones who left. And for all the ones who were lost.”


Friday, November 12, 2021

The House on Vesper Sands and A Death at Candlewick Castle and Other Stuff


The House on Vesper Sands has a sinister atmosphere from the beginning (in which a seamstress stitches a message into her own flesh before jumping to her death) until the end.  

Almost immediately, I had a problem with the verbosity and circumlocution of the dialogue.  Fine--give an approximation of Victorian speech patterns, but don't waste pages on long-winded pomposity, especially since Dickens and Wilkie Collins don't sound in the least like this.  I don't remember ever thinking, "Just move on," when reading Thomas Hardy, Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters, or Trollope.

The exception is Inspector Cutter; I loved his hilarious and biting remarks to people who won't get to the point.  His character kept me engaged.

Supernatural and Gothic, The House on Vesper Sands has received a wide range of reviews on Goodreads.  Inspector Cutter raised my opinion to 3 stars.  

Supernatural Mystery.  2018; 2021.  Print length:  408 pages.

Left over from October.  The second book in the Jem Jago series.  Perhaps because I'd already been introduced to the characters, I enjoyed A Death at Candlewick Castle even more.

Research librarian Jem Jago is enjoying cataloging the books in her best friend Paulie's ancient library, but of course, things take a turn when another body is discovered and her old friend Rhys Tremaine is the prime suspect.

Love the setting on St. Morwenna in the Scilly Isle of Cornwall and the characters.

A fun bit of escapism with characters I enjoy.  

Thanks to Mystica for the pleasure of this one. :)  

Kindle Unlimited.  Bookouture
Cozy Mystery.  2021.  Print length:  290 pages.

One of my favorite sites is A Mighty Girl and their annual Halloween Costume Highlights is always delightful.

Another favorite place to visit is Steve McCurry, and I love his current take on conversation.
This link is to 


All the photographs are wonderful and so are the quotes!

I'm not through with garden clean up, but things are looking much better.  Quite a lot is still blooming.  I keep shelling peanuts for the cardinals, and maybe it is my imagination, but it seems that if the peanut feeder is empty in the morning, I get calls to do something about it.    

Catching up on correspondence; not only because I love writing letters, but because I love decorating the envelopes.   Sometimes collage, sometimes cartoons.

Have a good weekend!


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A Hot Mess: How the Climate Crisis Is Changing Our World by Jeff Fleischer

We all have to come to terms with the way the world is changing.  

from description:  We already know what climate change is and many of us understand the human causes. But what will climate change do to our world? Who will be affected (spoiler: all of us!) and how will our lives change in the future? Topics include sea levels, extreme weather, drought, animal and plant extinction, and human and animal migration. Drawing on real-life situations and stories, journalist Jeff Fleischer takes an informed, approachable look at how our world will likely change as a result of our actions, including suggestions on what we can still do to slow down these unprecedented effects.

Extremely easy to read and understand, A Hot Mess discusses the difference between weather and climate, the changes the earth is already experiencing and how the changes affect everything in a domino effect.  

This is one of the best books I've read concerning climate change because it is so clearly written and documented about the very things we have witnessed over the years, though some of it may have escaped our notice at the time. The extreme weather events--hurricanes, droughts, floods, and wildfires--are unavoidable results of a changing climate that we can't ignore.  Everything is connected.  The loss of insect species and amphibians eventually disturb the food chain and those changes in the food chain reach, gradually, but inevitably, all the way up to humans.   

Fleischer details how all of these events are connected and how the droughts, floods, and rising sea waters impact first one species and/or landscape, then another, and continue to move up the chain.  Much of it is common sense, but for some reason, many would rather avoid looking to the future and the way these changes are going to alter the way we live and the effects it will have on our children and grandchildren.  The scientists have known for years, have warned of the consequences, have been ignored.

A Hot Mess should be required reading for all politicians, from mayors to senators, and for all of the young people who will be most at risk.  While the book also gives ways that anyone can make choices that are helpful, it is the responsibility of governments and big business to make the adjustments and adaptations that will make the biggest differences.  

COP26 makes it clear that even the governments that realize the danger are still unable or unwilling to make the hard decisions that will be necessary.  

If more people come to believe what science has been saying for decades, they can influence the outcome by making their opinions known.  How many devastating hurricanes and fires and coasts lost to rising sea levels will we need to endure before that happens?  

A Hot Mess is fascinating reading and written for for teens and young adults, but one of the most concise and readable books I've read on the topic.  

Highly Recommended.  If you are participating in Nonfiction November, give this one a try.

NetGalley/Lerner Pub. Group/Zest Books

Nonfiction/Climate.  Aug. 1, 2021.  Print length:  192 pages.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Between Family, Sherlock Holmes and the Three Winter Terrors, and The Beast in View


Last year, Ashley reminded me of the Between series that I'd started a couple of years ago but missed the next books as they were published.  I didn't even realize I'd read the first book until I started reading it!  (Do you ever do that?  Forget the title and then read the first paragraph and realize you've read the book?)  

Anyway, thanks to Ashley, I re-read the first book (and enjoyed it again) and zoomed through until I was caught up to book 7.  Waited for book 8.  Then waited for book 9!  

The Between books are ridiculous and fun!  I like urban fantasy and love the characters and the absurdity of the Between books--each one is outlandish, suspenseful, comical, and addictive to those who love urban fantasy.  

Between Family (#9) continues the suspense and the Heirling Trials begin.  Morgana is forced into a decision that ultimately, I don't think she regrets as it is a matter of survival, not only for her, but for her friends. Pet's "emotional support" Korean vampire is still locked out of the house.  The house is, of course, sentient.  Is Pet an heirling or not?  And there is Athelas.  

I was thinking throughout that this was the final book and was preparing myself for the conclusion--but no, there is one more!  While I hate for the series to conclude because it has been so much fun, I can't wait for #10.

If you are interested in this series, start with the first book.  Between Jobs will set you on the journey, introduce the main characters and the mystery, and make you laugh and wonder.  

Read in Oct.  Kindle Unlimited.  Paranormal/Urban Fantasy.  Print length:  213 pages.

The Three Winter Terrors are three entertaining linked stories.  

From Description:
1889. The First Terror.
At a boys’ prep school in the Kent marshes, a pupil is found drowned in a pond. Could this be the fulfillment of a witch’s curse from four hundred years earlier?

1890. The Second Terror.
A wealthy man dies of a heart attack at his London townhouse. Was he really frightened to death by ghosts?

1894. The Third Terror.
A body is discovered at a Surrey country manor, hideously ravaged. Is the culprit a cannibal, as the evidence suggests?

I rarely miss a Sherlock Holmes pastiche and enjoyed this one.

Read in Oct.  

NetGalley/Titan Books.  Sherlock Holmes.  Oct. 12, 2021.  Print length: 320 pages

Helen Clarvoe, a thirty-year-old woman, lives in a second-rate hotel despite having inherited her father's money and investments.  Estranged from her mother and brother, Helen has few acquaintances and lives a quiet reclusive life. When she receives a phone call that claims to predict her unpleasant future, she is unnerved and frightened.

She contacts Paul Blackshear, her father's investment counselor for help.  Although he agrees to help despite his reluctance, Blackshear becomes quite involved in his investigation as the situation becomes curiouser.  

Beast in View, published in 1955, has the feel of the time period in setting and characters.  It won the Edgar for best mystery of the year in 1956, beating out The Talented Mr. Ripley, and is also named one of the Top One Hundred Mystery Novels of All Time by the Mystery Writers of America.  

The writing feels dated to the 1950's in culture and style.  A suspenseful, psychological novel, Beast in View connects to something I would mention, but it would definitely give the plot away.  

Margaret Millar's husband Kenneth Millar wrote under the pseudonym Ross MacDonald, and the couple are considered among the best of their generation's mystery writers.

I can't say I loved Beast in View as the style and setting are not my favorites, but the psychological aspect is impressive, especially for the 1950's.   Millar kept the twist away for most of the book.  I may look for another of Millar's books to see if they grow on me, this has certainly happened before.  

Soho Syndicate
Psychological Suspense.  1955, 2015.  Print length:  186 pages.