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Sunday, January 02, 2022

Monday, December 06, 2021

Ghost Light by Stan Jones, Patricia Watts and Death by the Thames by Gretta Mulrooney

 

From Description:
  The case starts when Tommie Leokuk’s husband brings her to Active’s office to show him what she found in her latest midnight ramble around the Arctic hamlet of Chukchi. From the pouch of her traditional atiqluk, she pulls a human jawbone with a single molar still in place.

Tommie’s dementia means she can’t explain where she found it. As her husband explains, “She lost her brain few years ago.”
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Ghost Light is the 7th in the Nathan Active series set in Alaska, but the first one I've read.  Nathan Active was adopted by a white family and raised in Anchorage, but in the first book, Active found himself back in the area where he was born as Police Chief, trying to fit in culturally with the Inuit community.  (I may have to go back to the first book and read through the series.)

I liked the way this case was investigated and the way information had to be filtered as new information became available.  The characters were also interesting, not just Chief Active, but the minor characters who are part of the community.  The murderer is one of two options...but which one?   I will check out the previous books at some point and get to know the characters better. 

Purchased.
Mystery.  Sept. 15, 2021.  Print length:  258 pages.  

 Death by the Thames is a Tyrone Swift mystery, and Mulrooney also has a newer series featuring D.I. Siv Drummond.

Toni and Sam have a small wedding planned, done their way, without elaborate plans, and on that morning, Toni is looking forward to seeing Sam and after the ceremony heading to the Scilly Isles for their honeymoon.  But the person at the door is not her ride; it is the police to inform her of Sam's death, and Toni's world begins to unravel in the worst of ways.  The police tell her that Sam and a teenage girl have been drowned in an apparent suicide.

Unable to come to grips with Sam's death and unable to believe that he was having an affair with an underage girl, Toni eventually contacts Tyrone Swift.

She wants him to find out the truth.  The police have found no evidence of anything other than suicide, and Toni still doesn't believe it.  Swift warns her that he may not be able to prove Toni right, that the truth may be unpalatable, but Toni insists on hiring him.

Toni's friends have given her strong support over the months since Sam's death, but they are not at all sure that Toni has done right thing in hiring Swift.  They seem to want her to eat better and begin getting on with her life.  With little to go on and some reluctance from people trying to protect Toni, Sam begins interviewing people, looking for a way into Sam's life and behavior before the wedding.

NetGalley/Joffe Books
British Detective.  Dec. 22, 2022.  Print length: 318 pages.
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I'd much rather read than review, and many other readers face the same dilemma.  How many of you are caught up with your reviewing?  

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult and The Stills by Jess Montgomery

 

I first read about this one on Diane's First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday and quickly got myself a copy of Jodi Picoult's latest book.

Although I admit to being curious when I read the First Chapter intro, it didn't begin to reveal how much I would love the book.  I fell in quickly and was engrossed the entire time.  

Wish You Were Here is a book that you want to read without knowing much about it, so it is difficult to review and not give too much information, but it is one of my favorite books of the year and was full of surprises.  

It is a story of Covid and relationships, beautifully written, and revealing.  Picoult did a great deal of research for the book and it shows, making the story almost more realistic than some of what we read in the news...but it is also much more than that.  A remarkable book and highly recommended.

I want to say more about all of the ways Picoult turned this story on its head, but that would not be fair.  I've recommended it to my daughters and friends so I will hopefully have someone to discuss it with.

You can read Diane's review when she finished it--here. Don't miss this one!  5/5

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine

Literary Fiction. Nov. 30, 2021.  Print length:  336 pages.


I finally got around to reading The Stills, the third book in the Kinship series.  World-building is usually associated with science fiction or fantasy, but Jess Montgomery is so skilled at creating atmosphere and historic details that the term applies to her books set in Bronwen County, Ohio, part of the Appalachian range.

Thanksgiving Day, 1927, begins well with friends and family enjoying a dinner together.  But when a young boy nearly dies from tainted moonshine, Prohibition and revenuers, moonshiners, and a plan to take over bootlegging territory  emerge.  The Prologue deals with what Zachariah saw as he watches over Marlena's still and move on to the Thanksgiving celebration at Sheriff Lily Ross' home.  

The section about dehydrated grape brick turning into wine when Mama, Lily, and Marvena are preparing for dinner was  fun. 

Under the Volstead Act, whose rules regulated Prohibition, grapes could be grown, but only if they were being used for non-alcoholic consumption. Furthermore, if the winemaker sold grapes to someone, aware they were going to use them to make wine, they themselves could be jailed.

It meant that in selling their grape bricks, winemakers had to be able to maintain deniability that their product could be used to produce alcohol. To get around this, winemakers ensured that their grape bricks carried a warning not to leave it in water for too long in case, heaven forbid, it should begin fermenting and turn to wine.

The warning in fact also served as an instruction manual, specifically advising the buyer “not to leave that jug in the cool cupboard for 21 days, or it would turn into wine”.  (source)

One of the strengths of these novels is Montgomery's ability to create a setting in which landscape, culture, historical issues, and characters blend so authentically that the reader is immersed in the story.  In addition, Montgomery has created so many strong female characters--Lily and Marvena and Fiona, such different women, but ultimately made of sterner stuff than they may have ever believed.  

I fell in love with the characters in The Widows, enjoyed them even more in The Hollows, and was glad to join them in The Stills.  The book alternates between Sheriff Lily Ross' pov and that of Fiona Vogel.  

A couple of other interesting facts:  the use of asthma cigarettes to treat asthma and the separation of sexes in many Protestant churches.  Lily speaks of the end  (in 1927) of separation by gender in the Presbyterian Church, and I could only find that many Protestant churches practiced this gender separation.

Purchased.

Historical Mystery.  2021.  Print length: 362 pages.

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.

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 “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.

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 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.

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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.

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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 

Tête-à-tête



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.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

More October Books by Emma Jameson, Sherry Thomas, Jeffrey Deaver, and Joy Ellis


 A Death at Seascape House by Emma Jameson.  Mystica mentioned this series, and I thought it sounded like fun.  It was.  

Librarian Jemima Jago is divided about her feelings concerning her return to St. Morwenna in the Scilly Isles of Cornwall.  She's excited about the opportunity to catalog St. Morwenna's largest collection of antique books, but she left twenty years ago under less than auspicious circumstances and dreads seeing some of the residents.  

Immediately on her return, Jemma discovers the body of the island busy-body, meets an old boyfriend, and becomes the chief suspect in the murder.  Not as cozy as many cozies, although there is an amateur detective, a closed community, and no graphic violence, there is more depth and character development.

Light and often amusing at times, some quirky characters; I enjoyed it and went on to read the next one which I'll review later.

Kindle Unlimited.  2021.  Print length:  278 pages.  

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Miss Moriarty, I Presume (Lady Sherlock #6) by Sherry Thomas continues the adventures of Charlotte Homes, Lord Ash, Mrs. Watson, and Livia.  Another series I've followed from the beginning, enjoying the plots and the characters.  This plot is more complicated than the earlier ones and depends a great deal on having read the previous books.  

Moriarty, using the pseudonym of Mr. Baxter, arrives at Baker Street to hire Holmes (and he knows that Charlotte IS Holmes) to find out about his daughter who is secluded at religious estate in Cornwall.  The usual bravado Charlotte has shown previously is absent here; she is afraid of Moriarty--for herself and for her friends.  She can't refuse, but is aware that Moriarty wants to ensnare her in some way.

Lots of twists in this one, but this one felt very different from earlier installments.

NetGalley/Berkley Pub. Nov. 2, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages.

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The Midnight Lock by Jeffrey Deaver.  I haven't read a Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic forensic scientist and criminologist, book in years, but I enjoyed reuniting with the familiar and relatable characters and the suspenseful, complex plots.

One thread has a young woman awake to discover that while she slept, someone has been in her apartment, moving things around, eating cookies while sitting in a chair watching her sleep, then taking a pair of her underwear, and leaving a note signed "The Locksmith" behind.  Creepy--especially as part of the story is told from the Locksmith's pov.  The indication is that at this point, the Locksmith is content to just mess with her mind.  But he has other victims lined up as well, perhaps with intentions to more than frighten his victims.

The other plotline has Lincoln Rhyme forced to admit to a forensic error in the trial of a powerful and influential mobster.  It results in the Mayor ending Lincoln's job as consultant for the NYPD, which also means that he has to surrender all evidence in the Locksmith case as well. He is not to be involved in any police work.   But Amelia Sachs, Ron Pulaski, and Lon Sellito work at getting around the constraints placed on Lincoln by the Mayor.   

There is quite a lot going on in this book--devious and twisty misdirections keep the reader from fully seeing the entire picture and there are threads that tangle in unexpected ways.

I enjoyed a revisit to the Lincoln Rhyme novels and really should catch up on some the books I've missed over the years.

NetGalley/Penguin Group.  Nov. 30, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages.

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The Night Thief (Jackman & Evans #8) by Joy Ellis has a similar creepy character as in The Midnight Lock--invading houses where women are sleeping and taking only photographs of their sons.  At first, it seems the culprit might be Ratty, who is known for midnight visits, but the photographs are certainly atypical as Ratty has never stolen anything.  So who is making the visits and stealing photographs of young boys...and why?

Rowan Jackman's partner, psychologist Laura Archer, has a patient who has been referred to her for his sleepwalking episodes.  Something about him bothers Laura and she reaches out to Sam Page for help with the man's somnambulism.  

One reason I like Joy Ellis' books is that both the Rowan Jackman & Marie Evans and the Nikki Galena & Joe Easter books have well-developed members of their teams.  Over the course of the series, the minor characters have become so familiar, and I always look forward to the way they work together.  It isn't necessary to have read the previous books in the series since the mysteries are completed in each book, but the pleasure of having watched the secondary characters come to life over the series is a large part of my enjoyment in the books.  

NetGalley/Joffe Books.  Nov. 18, 2021.  Print length:  370 pages.

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Two books set in Cornwall (although only A Death at Seascape House makes the most of the setting)  and two with midnight visitors.  

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Five Reviews

Some short reviews. 


Can't Go Back by Debra Webb  

The third book in this series featuring Detectives Kerri Devlin and Luke Falco is evidently the final one in a trilogy.  I enjoyed the first two books and looked forward to this one.  A woman and her child are found dead when an arson fire destroys the home; the husband confesses.  Something is off and the evidence doesn't appear to point to him.  The story connects to Luke's dark past as he recognizes the husband as a fellow undercover cop.  Luke has tried to put his past behind him, but the current case leads back to his time in an elite group of undercover cops and some things that many would like to remain forgotten.  I like the characters, and I'm sorry that this is the final book.  read in July

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer; Mystery; Dec. 14, 2021.

Mickey7 by Edward Ashton 

Mickey7 is an Expendable--good for any suicidal mission or scientific study.  Mickey volunteered for the expedition to colonize Niflheim, but he was in a hurry to get away from Midgard, and he didn't quite understand the "immortal" part of his new position. He's disposable, he dies (but the deaths are not painless), and he comes back in another iteration with most of his memories.  BUT there is never supposed to be more than one at a time.  Mickey8 comes out of the tank after Mickey7 is written off as dead, but Mickey7 is still alive and kicking. Problems ensue.  Interesting premise with some ponderings about what makes us who we are.   read in October

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press; Science Fiction;  Feb. 15, 2022.  

The Deepest of Secrets by Kelley Armstrong  

Well, the previous book hinted at the end of the Rockton series, and The Deepest of Secrets is the 7th and final book about Rockton and its inhabitants.  A lackluster conclusion to a fun series.   read in September

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press; Mystery/Thriller; Feb. 15, 2022.

The Woman in the Library  by Sulari Gentil

An interesting embedded narrative.  Australian author Hannah corresponds by email with American author Leo.  She develops a story about four people in the Boston library who are at the same table when they hear a scream.  Hannah sends chapters by email to Leo, who comments and makes suggestions.  But what  about the four people (in Hannah's story) who hear the cry, the ones sitting at the library table, and later learn about the death of a young woman?  Is one of them a murderer?  A clever technique for a mystery--a frame story, a story within a story.  read in October

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press; Mystery/Thriller.  May 10, 2022.  

A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari (June 7, 2022) read in October

The cover drew me in, but the pacing was a little slow.  Saffron Everleigh's mentor is accused of poisoning the wife of the man set to lead an expedition to the Amazon.  Historical mystery set in the 1920's, mystery, a little romance.  read in October

NetGalley/Crooked Lane Books; Mystery; June 7, 2022.


 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Bohemians by Jasmin Darznik

 

Dorothea Lange is perhaps best known for her photograph The Migrant Mother that came to represent the plight of the thousands who were forced from their farms and homes during the Dust Bowl.  

The Bohemians, however, concentrates on Lange's 1918 arrival in San Francisco at twenty-three.  San Francisco, still scarred by the 1906 earthquake, was  a mecca for many creative people, and the young Dorothea Lange, who wanted to be a successful portrait photographer, made her way--slowly building important relationships with people like Imogen Cunningham, Consuela Kanaga, Donaldina Cameron (couldn't find any evidence that Lange knew Donaldina Cameron, but she certainly would have known of her), Ansel Adams, and Maynard Dixon (whom she married).

What I loved:  reading about some of these people and finding out more about them via Google; the events like the end of WWI and the soldiers coming home; the Spanish flu; the racism of early San Francisco (the character James Ferrell, is based on Sen. James D. Phelan, Nativist and promoter of the "yellow peril).  

What I didn't like so much:  The novel is a first person account by Dorothea Lange, but so much of the story was about Lange's friendship with Caroline Lee, a fictional character.  At first, I searched the internet looking for Caroline Lee, Lange's best friend.  Nothing.  As a result, my belief in the story was reduced.  
 
I finally discovered that in the early years of her portrait studio, Lange did have a Chinese assistant, but the fact alone is all the factual information available.  Maybe having reversed protagonists and making the fictional Caroline tell the story would have worked better for me.  

Darznik includes additional information in her Notes, which helped, but as it was an audiobook, I didn't realize that until I'd finished the book.  In this case, I wish I'd been reading a print version which I could have read much more quickly, determined my own "intonations" in conversations, and checked the author's additional information easily.  

I love learning new things, and there was a lot of fascinating information about San Francisco in the 1920's.   Monkey Block, the prejudice against the Chinese, the devastating effects of the Spanish flu, the anarchist bombings...San Francisco is perhaps the dominant character in the novel.  It is clear that the author feels a deep connection to the city and its history.  

I now want to read a biography of Lange.  My previous knowledge of her was only through her work as a documentary photographer for the FSA during the Depression.   The book skips over a large part of her life, most of her marriage to Maynard Dixon, the birth of her sons, even her work for the FSA takes a back seat to her early days as a portrait photographer.

In the end, I didn't love The Bohemians as much as my friend Suzie did, but I admire the research that went into the book and the curious history of early San Francisco.  Suzie and I always share what we are reading and recommend books to each other, but don't always coincide in genres (she doesn't really enjoy mysteries!), and we often have slightly different opinions of books we read.   We've been doing this since we were college roommates,  sharing authors and favorite books.   It has proven an excellent balance, not always agreeing, but always eager to give a new book a try. 

How would I rate The Bohemians?   Using Cathy's alphabetical rating, maybe a B.  Much to admire, but not quite what I was hoping for.  Goodreads has plenty of 5 star reviews.  

Audiobook.  Narrator:  Dylan Moore
Historical/Biographical Fiction.  2021.  
 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Operation Mincemeat, Oh William!, by Elizabeth Strout, and The Nameless Ones by John Connolly


In 2010, I read Operation Mincemeat:  How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory  by Ben MacIntyre, and it remains one of my favorite WWII nonfiction books.  The film with Colin Firth is coming out in 2022, and I can't wait.  Operation Mincemeat trailer.



Oh, William 
is such a complex mix of human emotions, memories, and revelations.  How well do we know the people we live with for years?  Parents, spouses, children?  Not always as well as we think, and the same is often true about how well we "know" ourselves.  A lovely, character-driven story of a family, Oh, William makes the reader look into themselves and their own relationships.  Now, I have to go back and read Lucy Barton and all of Elizabeth Strout's books that I've missed.

A beautiful cover and a beautifully written book, as many of you have mentioned.  I'm late to reading Elizbeth Strout, but it has been such a satisfying experience.  How ordinary, how extraordinary!

NetGalley/Random House
Family.   Oct. 19, 2021.  Print length:  256 pages.



John Connolly's Charlie Parker series is always full of violence and brutality.  The series isn't for everyone, but I've followed it for years, always rooting for Parker, Louis, and Angel as they fight against supernatural evil.

from description of  The Nameless Ones In Amsterdam, four people are butchered in a canal house, their remains arranged around the crucified form of their patriarch, De Jaager: fixer, go-between, and confidante of the assassin named Louis. The men responsible for the murders are Serbian war criminals. They believe they can escape retribution by retreating to their homeland.
They are wrong.

 
Anyone who has read about the Serbian Croatian war is aware of the war crimes, mass murders, and ethnic hatred of that period.  The brutality of the Serbian forces remains a particularly dark stain in history, and Connolly doesn't refrain from the atrocities.

Fans of the series can't help but love Louis and Angel, who add a great deal of dark humor to the books.  The Nameless Ones leaves Charlie Parker in the background as Louis and Angel hunt the Serbian war criminals.

Of course, there is also a supernatural element:  Zorya is an eerie, chilling associate with the Vuksan brothers.  

Trigger Warning:  the book is well-researched, but even though I'd read about some of the atrocities before, they still made difficult reading.  

 read in march; review scheduled for Oct

NetGalley/Atria Books   

Supernatural Thriller.  Oct. 26, 2021.  Print length:  388 pages.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Fear on the Fens by Joy Ellis and The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens

From description:
Now.
In the beautiful gardens of Shelley House a shocking discovery is made. A blackened hand dangles over the side of a wheelbarrow. The horrific scent of burnt flesh lingers in the air.

Detective Nikki Galena and Joseph Easter are called in to investigate.

Twenty years ago.
A family destroyed by tragic secrets. The scientist father who killed their gardener, before being murdered himself. The brother who disappeared, never to be seen again.

The 13th entry in the Nikki Galena series has some gruesome murders and a connection to Stargate, the recruitment of psychics for studies by the CIA.  As usual,  seeing Nikki's team in action and the connection to the CIA's attempts at remote viewing kept me interested, but this was not my favorite in the series.

Stargate and Remote Viewing and Stargate: Controlled Remote Viewing  

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Mystery/Thriller.  Oct. 14, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages



The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens is the third in the Joe Talbert series, but the first one I've read.  It worked well as a standalone, and I'll probably go back and pick up the two earlier books at some point.  

Photographer Gavin Spencer plans ahead; when he commits a murder, he has anticipated almost every difficulty.  And even when he can't predict certain events, he has back-up plans in place.

Lila Nash is on the verge of getting the job she most wants, but a vindictive prosecutor is making an attempt to ruin Lila's career. Fortunately, Andi Fitch is on her side, giving her opportunities she had not had previously.  Lila is assigned Sadie Vaulk's case against Gavin Spencer.  Working with Detective Niki Vang, who made the connections between Sadie's case and six previous cases in which the victims did not survive, Lila discovers a chilling connection to Spencer.  

Tense and suspenseful, The Stolen Hours proved a solid new-to-me series that will have me looking at the two earlier books as well!  Thanks to Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea for recommending this one. 

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Legal Thriller.  Sept. 7, 2021.  Print length:  320 pages.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge and World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

It is the season for garden clean up, Halloween crafting, and fall house cleaning.  And a raft of new book possibilities.  All of these activities can require decisions that I'm reluctant to make.  Which will take precedence today?  Setting a schedule is difficult for me and as a result, I meander through the day doing a little of this and a little of that.   The garden, then a letter, then the garden again.  Back and forth, a little here and a little there.  I keep track of all that on the other blog.

I have made some progress on the garden, and I've been good about catching up on correspondence. A letter every day or so for the last couple of weeks.  The fall housekeeping chores have been neglected this week, but I'm working on some purging of drawers and cabinets.  A box for GoodWill sits on the washing machine, and I add a little at a time, pulling things from hangers and deciding whether or not I'll wear it again.  That extra pound of weight a year became "slightly" more during the pandemic, and I must face the fact that some items will never fit again.   

And Every Single Day There Are Books To Be Read.

Once in a while, I find a cozy that genuinely appeals to me.  Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge (Agatha Christie fans may recognize the name of the country estate of Christie's second husband, Max Mallowan) proved surprisingly fun.  

It must be a challenge to write a mystery set in one of Christie's homes and have the housekeeper be the protagonist--it could easily end up more of a parody than a mystery. 

Phyllida Bright, however, turned out to be efficient, self-assured, and often inadvertently amusing.  A former army nurse, Phyllida and Agatha are more than employer and employee, having known each other during the war. Agatha's appearances are minimal; it is Phyllida's show.

Unsurprisingly, Phyllida is fond of detective novels and fictional detectives, especially Hercule Poirot.  When Phyllida discovers a body in the library (!) during a country house party at Mallowan Hall, the fun begins.  Confident that she can do a better job than the police, she goes about her own sleuthing, assured that she knows the household and its doings better than they do and will notice what they may miss.  

Parody, or homage, or a little of both, Murder at Mallowan Hall proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable romp with a character who has no difficulty handling whatever comes her way.  We've been introduced to the household, including Bradford, and I'm eager to see what happens in the next book.

NetGalley/Kensington Books

Cozy/Historical.  Oct. 26, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.


World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments. I've a fondness for personal essays and Aimee Nezhukumatathil's love of the natural world, lyrical language, and her personal experiences combine in this series of essays.   

The essays have no chronological order, Nezhukumatathil takes a cue from nature (a catawpa/catalpa tree, a peacock, a ribbon eel, fireflies) and pulls together information about the object of her attention, combining it with her personal experiences and her poetic voice. 

While some combinations are a stretch, each element in each essay (the nature writing and the personal anecdotes) has much to offer.  Her mother is a microbiologist and her father a geneticist, so the author's close observation and comprehension of the natural world is understandable. 

There is no need to hurry through the book, an essay or two at a time, and a little time to ponder the words and the importance of say, fireflies, to our lives.  The human touch and Nezhukumatahil's appreciation of the world around us--and it's vulnerability--becomes more intriguing and remarkable as we face the loss of species of both flora and fauna.  

I can't remember where I saw this mentioned, but I'm glad I made the effort to find and read World of Wonders.  I'm susceptible to covers and this one is both curious and beautiful, as is  the author's prose.

Have you read this one?  Did I see a review on your blog?

Purchased.  Milkweed Editions

Nonfiction/Nature/Essays.  2020.  Print length:  165 pages.  


Thursday, October 07, 2021

Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

Sometimes a book will not let you go, even when you aren't sure if you like it or not.  Burntcoat by Sarah Hall is one of those books.

Beautifully written, a kind of fictional memoir, Burntcoat takes place in England and begins with the traumatic episode when young Edith Harkness's mother Naomi suffers a severe stroke.  The mother Edith had known is gone and in her place a damaged woman who struggles with regaining sensible speech.  Her father eventually leaves, and eight-year-old Edith becomes interpreter and caretaker for Naomi as she recovers.

As Edith, nearing sixty and terminally ill, looks back over her life she relates the close bond with her mother, her training and success as a sculptor of large creations of burnt wood using the Japanese shou sugi ban technique, and the arrival and aftermath of a Covid-like pandemic much worse than the Covid we know.  

The novel moves back and forth in time as Edith reviews the events in her life.   When the swift and deadly AG3 virus begins its catastrophic death toll on an unprepared England, Edith and her new lover Halit try to ride out the lockdown at Burntcoat, which is both home and studio for Edith.  

There is much to like in Burntcoat, with the exception of the gratuitous sex scenes.  Yes, sex would be a light in the darkness, the closeness people need when threatened by events beyond their control.  There is a purpose for including the intimacy of Edith and Halit's relationship and of sex as a means of escape from the horror.  But...no, the inclusion of the graphic sexual episodes did not work for me.  Awkward, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.

The book is uncomfortable in several ways, but the discomfort is the kind that would be natural in the face of some of the events in Edith's life--her mother's stroke and long recovery, in the physical and emotional hardships of lockdown,  and in the fear and horror experienced as people, locally and nationally, die in huge numbers--one million in England alone.  

Not a book to easily forget, but one that is hard to evaluate.  Even as Edith recounts the important events in her life, she remains distant, removed from her own story.  The distance is understandable, and perhaps, inevitable.  

 read in August; blog review scheduled for Oct. 7, 2021

NetGalley/Custom House

Nov. 2, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Jane Whitefield Series (books 2 and 3) by Thomas Perry: Fly with the Arrow by Sarah Wilson

Dance for the Dead is the second book in the Jane Whitefield series.  I dived into it shortly after reading the first book.  

Timothy Decker is eight-years-old and someone wants him dead.  The people who care about him are dying at a rapid rate when Jane Whitefield steps in to help him disappear.

At the same time, Jane is trying to help Mary Perkins escape a predator who knows about Mary's S&L fraud and wants her money, after which she will be disposable. 

I enjoyed this one, too, and I went directly into the next book.

Read in September.

Ivy Books.  Mystery/Thriller.  

Barry Award Nominee for Best Novel (1997)Dilys Award Nominee (1997).  Print length:  400 pages.                                                       

Shadow Woman has a different twist because Jane decides to marry her Carey McKinnon and give up her life as a guide who helps people disappear.  But Jane feels compelled to help Peter Hatcher again because she had to rush his relocation, and he is once again in danger.  She intends this to be her last case.

Another twisty action-filled book with a pair of married killers who have been hired to find and kill Peter.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, but this may not be the best series for binge reading as the plots are basically the same, although with new characters on the run and new villains pursuing them.  

If I didn't already know that the series continues, I might have wondered if Shadow Woman was supposed to conclude a trilogy.

The suspense and adventure are satisfying, and these books kept me involved, providing an escape from depressing national, state, and local news.  However, I think I'll give the series a pause for a month or so--not abandon it, just enough of a rest that I can appreciate the suspense again.  

Read in September.

Ivy Books.  Mystery/Thriller.  Print length:  432 pages.

Sarah Wilson's Fly with the Arrow (Bluebeard's Secret #1) was a great take-off on the Bluebeard tale.  It was fun, original, the cover is gorgeous.

My only complaint is that it ended in a cliff-hanger.  But I was willing to forgive that and pre-ordered the next book: Dance with the Sword.

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the second book as much AND it ended with another cliff-hanger.  As much as I enjoyed the first book, Dance with the Sword failed to have the same effect.

Read in September.

Kindle Unlimited. 

Fairytale re-telling.  2021.  Print length:  311 pages.