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Monday, June 17, 2024

Guide Me Home by Attica Locke

Guide Me Home is the third and final installment of Attica Locke's Highway 59 series featuring Darren Matthews.  I'm sorry to see this series end as Locke is one of the best at characters, setting, and plot.  

Darren has so much on his plate.  He's juggling his guilt, a possible indictment, his hope for a commitment from the woman he loves, his drinking, and his justified resentment of his mother.

He hands in his Texas Ranger badge, which is unwillingly accepted, and plans on going home and asking Randi to marry him. To his chagrin, his mother is there and Darren can hardly bare to look at her, he is so angry.

His mother explains that she is sober, but Darren doesn't trust her, and when she says she's worried about a young black girl in a white sorority who has gone missing, Darren doesn't really believe her.  His anger about his mother combined with his drinking reaches the point that he may have permanently damaged his relationship with Randi, and she leaves.

Eventually, Darren realizes that he wants to know more about the missing woman and begins checking into her disappearance.

Locke is an exceptionably fine writer with a love of Texas that does not deny the problems of race.  Guide Me Home departs from her previous books in the series as it concentrates on Darren's drinking, his animosity toward his mother, and his concerns about whether or not he will be indicted.  He feels terribly sorry for himself, but discovering what happened to the young woman keeps him focused.

While Darren's self-pity is entirely human and understandable, it took up perhaps more time than needed.  On the other hand, his finally learning to open himself to new information about his family background made for genuine growth.  

There are uncomfortable truths about the rise of White Nationalism in Texas and elsewhere.  Despite Locke's love of Texas, the Aryan Brotherhood and similar groups have been evident in all three novels in the trilogy.  The characters are flawed and complex, and Darren is far from perfect, yet one can't help cheering for him, hoping for the best.

Recommended, but appreciation of the novel may depend on your political leanings.

 Publication date:  Sept. 3, 2024

Thanks to NetGalley and Mulholland Books

Previous books in the series:

 Bluebird, Bluebird 

Heaven, My Home

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Lady Anne and the Haunted Schoolgirl by Victoria Hamilton and Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes

I've enjoyed the previous books in this series, but something changed in the way Anne and Tony react that bothers me.  I liked the attraction between the two in the earlier books, but the presentation this time felt both blatant (nothing graphic) and unnecessary to the plot.  Too much time on their eagerness to pursue wedded bliss.  Anne didn't really need Tony until the end.

Lady Anne and the Haunted Schoolgirl is the latest in a light entertaining series that always has Anne uncover a "supernatural" mystery.  

Historic mystery.  Print length:  302 pages 

Thanks to NetGalley and Beyond the Word Publ.

From blurb:  A Best Book of 2022 by the New York Public Library  One of the Best SFF Books of 2022 (Gizmodo) • One of the Best SF Mysteries of 2022 (CrimeReads) • A GoodReads Choice Award finalist for Best Science Fiction!

A crew that responds to a distress call finds the spaceliner that disappeared over twenty years ago.  Despite the weirdness of seeing dead people floating around inside, Claire Kovalik and crew decide to claim the ship for salvage, but they have no idea what they're taking on.  

My opinion is drastically different from the blurb above.  I didn't care for the protagonist, her crew didn't move beyond one dimensional, and an interesting premise turned into something less.  There you go, we all have different opinions, and mine may be in the minority.

Science Fiction.  2022.  Print length:  345 pages.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Taking London by Martin Dugard and a short list of WWII nonfiction

Taking London by Martin Dugard is a bit misleading in both the title and the cover.  The author does spend some time on Churchill and Chamberlain and their opposing views of Germany's intentions in the decade or so before the war.  Churchill spent years trying to persuade the country to prepare for another war with Germany, but the majority of England still resisted the idea.   

With Germany's move on Poland, however, public opinion began a slow change and Churchill began climbing back to influence and power, continuing to warn of the need to be prepared.  Then France falls.

I found the first section disjointed, although there was interesting information about the "Spitfire" and "Hurricane" fighter aircraft, Air Vice-Marshall Hugh Dowding, the RAF/Luftwaffe differences, and the efforts to prepare for invasion before the Battle of Britain.

The majority of the book deals with four legendary fighter pilots and their personal experiences.  The sections on the pilots (Peter Townsend, Richard Hillary, Geoffrey Wellum, and the lone American, Billy Fiske, long before America entered the war) were much better written and flowed more easily, even though the author went back and forth between them and their individual missions to hold back the Luftwaffe.   The Battle of Britain has been described as a "David vs Goliath" situation as England was badly outnumbered in both planes and pilots.

The book would certainly have benefitted with a thorough proofreading to give a more coherent presentation. The information on the individual pilots and their accounts made it worth persevering.  

"RAF pilots were at the heart of the Battle of Britain. Just 3,000 men stood between Britain and a German invasion – those who Winston Churchill famously called 'The Few'."

WWII nonfiction, Print length:  349 pages.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group

Some recommended WWII nonfiction:

 Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

 The Liberation of Paris by Jean Edward Smith

  The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Plot to Stop the Nazi Bomb  by Sam Keane

  Dick Cole's War by Dennis R. Okerstrom  reviewed here

The Code Girls by Liz Mundy 

 Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks

  The Citizens of London by Lynn Olson

All of the above nonfiction are extremely readable, well-documented, and fascinating.


Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Death at the Sign of the Rook by Kate Atkinson and Sleeping Soldiers by Jack Gatland


It has been such a long time since I read a Jackson Brodie book!  I know now that I missed #5 and will have to back up and get it at some point.

Death at the Sign of the Rook brings Brodie back, but he's now 70.  His current clients annoy him, and he certainly has questions about the painting they want him to find and about the brother and sister who want it recovered.  

Maybe because it has been so long since the last Jackson Brodie, this one felt a bit different.  Is it a pastiche or homage to Agatha Christie?

I like the way Atkinson spends a great deal of time with other characters, but in this one, it feels like Jackson Brodie gets lost.  He kind of bookends the plot, his search for the missing painting begins the story and he is there at the end, but not too often in between.  

In the end, I found it a bit disappointing, especially since I'd looked forward to the return of Jackson Brodie.  I liked it, but wanted to love it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for this copy.

Mystery.  Publication Date, Sept. 3.  

I've kept up with the Last Chance Saloon series featuring DI Declan Walsh for several years now.  Tom Marlowe is a secondary character who has occasionally made an appearance in that series, so I thought I'd give this one a try.

 Sleeping Soldiers has Tom Marlow, a Section D agent of MI5, currently on medical leave after mission that went wrong.  (One connected to the Declan Walsh series).   

  From blurb:  "Someone is killing old spies. Retired and forgotten, these relics from the Cold War are being removed—quietly and brutally."   

 Tom gets drawn in to the situation, when an old mentor dies, and from then on it is full of action.  

Fast-paced, as Tom survives one deadly incident after another.  I liked it fine, but not nearly as much as the Last Chance Saloon books with Declan Walsh and all the other characters who have become so familiar.

Espionage. 2022.  Print length:  364 pages.

I thought this was funny as I've had a young possum visiting at night.  

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni

 Book 1 of Robert Dugoni's Keera Duggan new legal thriller series follows the arrest of a millionaire for the murder of his wheelchair-bound wife.  Keera Duggan takes the case with the hope of helping revive her family's law firm.  She isn't sure of her client Vince LaRussa's innocence, but her role is to defend him and there are puzzles in the evidence that make her hope to find an alternative to LaRussa for the murder of his wife.

Her Deadly Game introduces several characters (besides Keera's family) that I imagine will appear in future books, both as supporters and as antagonists.

An interesting aspect concerns Keera, who was a chess prodigy in her teens.  She learned much about chess, strategy, and law from her father Patsy Duggan, the Irish Brawler and legendary lawyer.  Patsy, however, has always had a problem with alcohol which has only gotten worse and threatens the family law firm's reputation.  

An anonymous chess game Keera is playing online makes her think about the moves she needs to make in her case.  The strategy of chess helps Keera anticipate moves her opponent might make.

* Kerry is receiving emails from "Jack Worthing" that lead her and her team to background on Vince LaRussa.  The prosecutor in the case has a personal antagonism toward Keera and does his best to make things difficult.  Frank Rossi, detective believes in LaRussa's guilt but has questions about the prosecutors tactics.

Has LaRussa been set up...or is he guilty?

Almost everything in this engrossing novel was excellent.  I had quibbles about one thing, but let it go in the end because the rest of the novel was so good.   Can't wait for the next installment which is due out in October.

Legal thriller.  Thomas & Mercer.  Print length:  396 pages.  


One book that I didn't finish last was Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel.  I wanted to like it, but couldn't maintain interest.  If you've read it, what did you think?

Monday, June 03, 2024

The Elias Network by Simon Gervais; The Summoner Trilogy by Taran Matharu

The Elias Network by Simon Gervais is the first in a new series featuring Caspian Anderson, a translator at the United Nations; except that is only a part of Caspian's portfolio.  He is also an assassin for Homeland Security.  At least, that is what he believes.  

The truth: the Onyx group has been disbanded, and Caspian's handler had no intention of notifying Caspian of the groups demise as she continues to have use for him.

As his current assignment takes place in Switzerland, Caspian begins to discover that the situation isn't exactly what it seems.  He doesn't follow protocol and instead rescues the family of his target.  

The plot is full of action, his girlfriend is also a spy, a female colleague is off her meds (and off her head), and his rival assassin has also been misled about his mission.  

Fast-paced and entertaining even if spy thrillers are not my usual choice.  

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley

Read in April.   349 pages.  Publication date:  Sept. 17, 2024 

In May, I read the following three in the Summoner trilogy back to back and found them fun, full of adventure, and also thoughtful in the sense that there are racial problems between dwarves, men, and elves.  These are YA books that are as entertaining for adults as for the younger crowd.  

The Novice introduces Fletcher, an orphan who has been raised by the local blacksmith.  Seems pretty normal, but you know the thing about orphans in fantasy, they are rarely what they seem.  As it turns out, Fletcher can summon demons, which comes as a stunning surprise to Fletcher, who thought the ability to roll his tongue was his best trick.  

I love all good fantasy and found The Novice so much fun, I went directly to the next book.  

"The appealing characters, fast-paced plot, focus on racial politics, and interesting demon varieties (demonology addendum included) make this an enjoyable read."―School Library Journal

Print length:  366 pages

The Inquisition follows up on Fletcher's adventures after his training as a battlemage and his imprisonment.  Again, orphans turn out to be more than expected, a trope fantasy novels often use. 

The characters and adventures kept me engrossed once again.  I loved the friendships developed in this series as well as the adventure.

Print length:  368 pages

 Battlemage takes Fletcher and his friends forward in their battles to save their world.  As in the previous books, the characters are likable, despicable, loyal, treacherous according to their roles.  Adventure, suspense, action, great characters.  Fantasy lovers should take a look at The Summoner trilogy!

Print length:  385 pages