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Monday, December 06, 2021
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.”
Wednesday, December 01, 2021
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
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.
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.
Historical Mystery. 2021. Print length: 362 pages.
Friday, November 26, 2021
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
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
Friday, November 12, 2021
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.
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
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
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?)
Read in Oct. Kindle Unlimited. Paranormal/Urban Fantasy. Print length: 213 pages.
The Three Winter Terrors are three entertaining linked stories.
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?
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.
Sunday, October 31, 2021
A Death at Seascape House by Emma Jameson. Mystica mentioned this series, and I thought it sounded like fun. It was.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
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.
They are wrong.
Supernatural Thriller. Oct. 26, 2021. Print length: 388 pages.
Thursday, October 14, 2021
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.
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.
Legal Thriller. Sept. 7, 2021. Print length: 320 pages.
Monday, October 11, 2021
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.
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.
Thursday, October 07, 2021
read in August; blog review scheduled for Oct. 7, 2021
Nov. 2, 2021. Print length: 304 pages.
Wednesday, October 06, 2021
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.
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.
Fairytale re-telling. 2021. Print length: 311 pages.