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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice, The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy by Liese Sherwood-Fabre


Didn't want to abandon The Shadow Box, but didn't love it.  It would have been stronger if Claire had been less eager to believe in her husband in the first place; she never rang true to me.  On the other hand, another reviewer referred to the book as a "popcorn read," and I agree that the reader wants to discover how it ends. :)  I think I'll keep that phrase in mind for quite a few books!

from description: "After artist Claire Beaudry Chase is attacked and left for dead in her home on the Connecticut coast, she doesn’t know who she can trust. But her well-connected husband, Griffin—who is running for governor—is her prime suspect."

Thomas & Mercer
Suspense/Thriller.  Feb. 1, 2021.  Print length:  367 pages.

I'm fond of Sherlock Holmes pastiches and enjoyed this one!

I haven't read anything else by Liese Sherwood-Fabre, but I'll be looking for more in this series featuring the young Sherlock and his family.

At thirteen, Sherlock already has some of his abilities of observation and reason, but these skills are still being developed.  This is not the austere and coldly logical adult Sherlock, but a kid with curiosity and intelligence; sometimes annoyed, sometimes fearful, and often unsure of himself. 

I especially enjoyed the character of Mrs. Holmes; she never takes center stage, but her influence and intellect play a significant role in the plot. Hers is the perceptive, observant, and curious mind depicted as guiding her sons.  

Little Elm Press
Historical Mystery.  2020.  Print length:  342 pages.

I'm currently reading Letters from Tove and enjoying it very much.  

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock, The Stolen Child by Alex Coombs, No Way Out by Fern Michaels, and a Reminder about Kelley Armstrong's A Stranger in Town

 Winner of the 2019 Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing

Publishers Weekly Top 10 Mysteries for Spring 2019

"Driven by the heart-pounding suspense of a high-stakes poker game, Bluff is a vivid, compelling novel about deceit, seduction, and delicious revenge that will keep you spellbound and cheering as you turn the last page." -Susan Cheever, New York Times bestselling author

Bluff is a mix of comedy of manners and revenge tale with an older society woman who plays badass poker!  It was fun and unpredictable as the reader is led along through a murder, escape, and many surprises.  Thanks to Cathy for this recommendation, I really enjoyed it!

Poisoned Pen Press                                                                                Mystery/Revenge.  2020.  Print length:  320 pages.

The Stolen Child.  DCI Hanlon #1  

Although I liked the characters and some elements of this one, the subject matter was depressing.  There weren't any graphic descriptions and yet....  

A good crime thriller, but you may want to consider that it is a dark look at evil and pedophiles.  

I will give the author another try and hope the subject matter doesn't distress me.

NetGalley/Boldwood Books      


Crime/Police Procedural.  2021.  Print length:  302 pages.

I've never read Fern Michaels before, but I'd classify No Way Out as a cozy.  It started out very interesting with a young woman who never left her house. I wanted to know why and what she was afraid of.

A second thread involves a case of domestic abuse in the neighborhood.

What could have been a really suspenseful read turned into a "everything works out in the end"  sort of book.  That's fine, but building so much suspense and curiosity and then having half the characters reform completely--makes the original suspense feel false.

I didn't hate it, but it isn't really a genre I enjoy; however, it should appeal to those who are already fans of Fern Michaels.

NetGalley/Kensington Books

Cozy.  March 30, 2021.  Print length:  322 pages.

Although, I actually reviewed this months ago, this is just a reminder that A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong will be published Feb. 2.  Reviewed in October.  

What else can I say--I like this series. :)

Monday, January 11, 2021

Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman and Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh

I'm so behind on reviews and have been absent from both my blogs.  It wasn't an intentional or planned break, but once I got out of the habit of more regular posting, it became harder and harder to post. Here are two recent books that have cold cases at the heart.    

I liked Serpentine better than the more recent installments of the Alex Delaware series.  The first books were favorites, but for the last several years, the books haven't appealed to me as much.  

My favorite character is not Alex, but Milo Sturgis, and Serpentine felt more like some of the earlier books.

from description:  Psychologist Alex Delaware and detective Milo Sturgis search for answers to a brutal, decades-old crime in this electrifying psychological thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense.

A young woman's request for an inquiry into her mother's death is dictated from Milo's superiors, and he isn't too happy about it.  The case is 25 years old and records are sparse.  Milo involves Alex and the two visit the young woman.  Something catches their attention, and even if Milo doesn't believe anything will come of it, he gradually becomes more intrigued.  And it turns out that not only was it murder, but someone is still determined to avoid exposure.

I have a weakness for Milo.  

NetGalley/Random House                                                                   Police Procedural/Cold Case.  Feb. 4, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages.

Aarev Rai's family lived in an exclusive cul de sac in New Zealand, but regardless of how much money the family had or how beautiful Aarev's mother was--family life was a battle ground.

When Aarev was sixteen, his beautiful mother disappeared and so did a quarter of a million dollars.  His father believes Nina Rai left him and stole the money.  Aarev can't believe his beloved mother would have left him behind.

Ten years later, Aarev is temporarily back home after an accident, and Nina Rai's remains are found.  

Nina was not a perfect mother and several people had reason to hate her, but Aarev has to know what happened and who was responsible even if....

An unreliable narrator, good writing, and a little outside the usual formulaic pattern all worked to keep me turning the pages.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing
Crime.  Feb. 23, 2021.  Print length:  384 pages.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Another action-packed adventure with Orphan X.  I was worried about whether he would resume his role as the Nowhere Man after excepting a pardon from the president.  As circumstances unfold in the latest book, the call for help to the Nowhere Man comes from a most unexpected source: a woman claiming to be his mother.

She wants him to help a man called Andrew Duran, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and now has a dedicated brother and sister team out to assassinate him. 

I'm not at all as sure about the mother/son business, but I'm very happy to see Evan Smoak take up his mantle as the Nowhere Man again! 

Read in August;  blog review:  Jan. 11.

Keep 'em coming, Mr. Hurwitz!

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Mystery/Thriller.  Jan. 26, 2021.  Print length:  432 pages. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Deep Into The Dark by P.J. Tracy

1.  This is not the Monkeewrench series. 

2.  It is supposed to be a series featuring LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan and murder suspect Sam Easton, but as it turns out, Nolan plays a pretty minor role.  Sam and Melody Traeger take over the novel.

3.  I knew the villain on his first appearance.  That's fine if the author intends for you to, but I think it was supposed to come as a surprise. 

Deep into the Dark kept my interest because of Sam and Melody, but the plot was not believable.  Either plot, I guess, because there was a secondary plot thread. 

The eccentric and endearing characters that helped make Monkeewrench such a fun series are absent in Deep into the Dark, which is more of a straight forward crime novel. 

If I had not been hoping for some of the fresh and funny aspects of Monkeewrench, I would have liked it better, but the author (whose mother and partner for the Monkeewrench series has died) is entitled to take a new path with a different vibe.

Read in August.  Blog review scheduled for Dec. 30, 2020

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press.
Crime.  Jan. 12, 2021.  Print length:  352 pages.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Books by W.R. Gingell, Danielle Girard, Lisa Gardner, and Linda Rui Feng

Another attempt to catch up on reviews.

Ashley mentioned the Between books by W.R. Gingell a while back.  I knew I'd really liked Wolfskin by Gingell (Intisar Khanani recommended Gingell's books) and had also enjoyed Masque.  So I thought I'd give the Between series a chance.  

How embarrassing.  I'd already read the first two and didn't realize it until I started reading Between Jobs, book 1, but the first page brought much of it back...well, certain scenes and the characters back, there was much I didn't remember.  I raced through it again and went for Between Shifts, book 2, which I'd also read.  

I moved on to books 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7!  Book 3 (Between Floors) was even better, and I couldn't stop!  They were all free from Kindle Unlimited, and they carried me through December.  Briefly:  a teenage human's house is taken over by 2 Fae and a Vampire (investigators).  Murder mysteries in an Urban Fantasy.  If you enjoy Urban Fantasy, this may be for you, too!

Far Gone is the second book in the series, and I haven't read the first book.  Maybe that would have helped, but it still worked fine as a stand alone.

from description:  
When a North Dakota couple is shot down in their home in cold blood, the sleepy town of Hagen wakes with a jolt. After all, it’s usually such a peaceful place. But Detective Kylie Milliard knows better.

Despite not handling a homicide investigation in years, Kylie is on the case. A drop of blood found at the scene at first blush promises to be her best evidence. But it ultimately only proves that someone else witnessed the murder—and the results are shocking: the DNA reveals a familial match to a crime involving local nurse Lily Baker from over a decade ago. This unveiling stirs new nightmares for Lily as she’s forced to reckon with the most traumatic time in her life.

 I'd give this one a 3/5.  Maybe if I'd read the first book, I'd have been more invested in the characters.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Detective.  July 6, 2021.  

I love Gardner's D.D. Warren series, but I'm not sure about this one.  

from description:  Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

Frankie is an unusual character and the plot was interesting. However, if the book had not beenwritten by Lisa Gardner, I don't know that I'd be interested in the next book.   

Since it is Lisa Gardner, I will give the next book a chance, but what I'd really like is more of D.D. Warren and Flora Dane.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Mystery/Missing Persons.  Jan. 19, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages.

Just a mention and recommendation:
Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng.  I'll review this one later because it is a remarkable book!  It is one of my favorites of this year, beautifully written, deeply touching. 

From description:  A lyrical novel set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution that follows a father’s quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter’s momentous birthday, which Garth Greenwell calls “one of the most beautiful debuts I’ve read in years.”

I've read Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress and Wild Swans:  Three Daughters of China and maybe a couple of others about the Cultural Revolution, but those two made the most impression.  

Swimming Back to Trout River is an excellent and worthwhile addition for anyone interested in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) or interested in just reading a beautifully written book.  This is another NetGalley book and won't be published until May, so when I review it, I'll schedule the review for later.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Death and the Singing Birds by Amy Myers and Bone Canyon by Lee Goldberg


A cozy mystery set in the 1920's with Nell Drury as the chef in a historic old mansion.  I found Nell a little annoying, especially at first.  The dialog is a little stiff, the humor, forced.

New neighbors to Wychbourne Court are not quite fitting in.  Sir Gilbert and his wife Lady Saddler host an artistic event. A murder, a friend of Nell's who suffers from shell shock is arrested.  The Wychbourne Court crowd, both upstairs and downstairs, are sure that Mr. Bailey is innocent.

Cozy mysteries are hit or miss with me.  This one was a miss.

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Dec. 27.

NetGalley/Severn House

Cozy Mystery.  Jan. 5, 2021.  Print length:  224 pages.  

I read Goldberg's first Eve Ronin book (Lost Hills) in January and enjoyed it.  

In this second entry, a brush fire reveals scorched bones and further investigation reveals more bones.  As Eve and her partner Duncan investigate, the situation may prove dangerous as secrets are uncovered.  The relationship between Eve and Duncan, who is due to retire shortly, helps make this series more engaging.  Eve needs Duncan's experience; she is aware of her own inexperience, but she does tend to annoy others and is insistent when she feels she is right.

There is already a good deal of resentment over Eve's promotion, add to that her suspicion about corrupt members of the department, and Eve finds herself in a dangerous position.

I look forward to the next book.

Read in Sept.; blog review scheduled for Dec. 27.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Police Procedural.  Jan. 5, 2o21.  Print length:  287 pages.



Monday, December 21, 2020

Their Frozen Graves by Ruhi Choudhary, Cold Wind by Paige Shelton, Noose by Eric Red, They Disappeared by Joy Ellis

 I'm trying to catch up with some reviews before 2021! 

Their Frozen Graves is the second book in this series featuring Detective Mackenzie Price.  Although I've not read the first book, the book works as a stand alone.

from description:  

"When two bodies are found dumped in a vast lake in Lakemore, Washington, Detective Mackenzie Price is first on the scene. She identifies one of the victims as Katy Becker, a local known for her work helping the community. The other victim looks strikingly similar.

Still grappling with a shocking revelation from her past, Mack is only too happy to throw herself into the case. But when she goes to break the news to Katy’s husband, the investigation takes an unexpected turn: Katy is very much alive, and has never met the women who resemble her so closely."

A twisty plot and an engrossing read.  I liked Mackenzie and may look for the first book.  


Mystery/Police Procedural.  Jan. 7, 2021

Cold Wind is another "second book" that provided enough background that it wasn't necessary to have read the first book.

from description: "Beth Rivers is still in Alaska. The unidentified man who kidnapped her in her home of St. Louis hasn’t been found yet, so she’s not ready to go back."

 Benedict, Alaska seemed a safe place for Beth to  stay hidden because her kidnapper is still at large.  Secure in the fact that only a few people know about Beth and her situation, she is able to continue writing her thrillers under a pseudonym.

When two eight-year-old girls knock on the door to her office, Beth realizes that they either cannot or will not explain who they are or how they got there.  They are silent.  

Oh, and the body of a woman is found in a trapper's shed.  Beth gets busy trying to solve both mysteries.  She wants to find the girls' parents and to discover who the dead woman is why she was killed.   

I liked most of the book, but found the plot complications too far-fetched.  Not that you know this until the conclusion, but still.

The characters and setting appealed to me, but the resolution was disappointing because I couldn't get past all the coincidences in the explanation.

Netgalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery.  Dec. 8, 2020.

The cover really speaks to you, doesn't it?  <grin>  In many ways the book lives up to the cover.  More Louis L'Amour   than Larry McMurtry, it is a pulp fiction Western with lots of violent deaths.

Joe Noose is a bounty hunter who brings culprits in alive.  Not all bounty hunters want to bother with the "alive" part, and a group of twelve bounty hunters follow Noose.  When Noose finds and captures the bank robber, they charge in.  Killing the bank robber and taking his body in for the bounty.

Noose follows them into town.  The bad guys end up killing a U.S. Marshall then frame Noose for the murder.  Now, Noose has a bounty on his head and twelve men in pursuit.

 Uh oh.  For Noose to save his own life and to get justice, a lot of bad bounty hunters are going to have to die.  

Action packed.  

Kindle Unlimited

Western.  2018.   

They Disappeared is the latest in the Jackman and Evans series by Joy Ellis. 

Ellis is a favorite of mine for her books set in the fens on the east coast of England.  

In this latest installment, Orac, the IT boss, has gone missing and everyone is concerned.   

The second thread involves three missing urban explorers.  Who is targeting these young men and why?  

Joy Ellis' plots keep my attention, and her characters have dimension.  I always speed right through her books.  

Kindle Unlimited.

Police Procedural.  Nov. 30, 2020.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Defending the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder and The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken


Defending the Galaxy, the final book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy trilogy by Maria V. Snyder, offers another fun and exciting adventure.  Snyder is able to take a pretty odd and fantastical premise  involving the terra cotta warriors and turn it into a multi-planet  space conspiracy full of suspense.  

Begin with Navigating the Stars, then try Chasing the Shadows so you have all the characters and the background. 

Likable characters, the Q-net, and a courageous attempt to save the galaxy. :)

YA/Science Fiction.  Dec. 2, 2020.  Print length:  407 pages.

Funny, bawdy, farcical, with a lot of bloody incidents,  The Blacksmith Queen is...well, I'm not entirely sure how to classify it.  Parody/Fantasy?  Fun!

Keely is a big, strong woman who loves her hammer, her forge, and  her family.  She has a sunny personality and likes and gets along with everyone--with the exception of her sister Gemma, who ran off and became a nun.  

The humor of this brawny woman blacksmith and her sister the nun (with a secret) and their constant arguments, their strange family, the Centaurs, dwarves, and demon wolves--kept me grinning.  Oh, and there's an evil sister whose machinations endanger everyone.

It is a fantasy that has danger and suspense, and yet is full of rude humor, arguing siblings, and strange allies.  The Blacksmith Queen seems intent on overturning many of the fantasy tropes, retaining the sense of danger in spite of all the silliness.

This is a love it or hate it book.  The first chapter made me think I would abandon it, but I'm so glad I didn't.  All the brawling, messy, ridiculousness I would have missed!  Definitely over-the-top, but I had a great time reading it.

Kindle Unlimited
Fantasy/Parody/Camp.  2019.  Print length:  304 pages.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles

The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed combined with drought and the Dust Bowl  sent much of America into survival mode.  In West Texas, the Stoddard family struggles with frequent moves to oil field towns as Jack Stoddard  follows oil field work.  For everyone, from bankers to farmers,  the poverty and hardships created by the double calamity of economic depression and drought had to be endured.

We are all somewhat familiar with the effects of the depression and the dust bowl, but Paulette Jiles brings to life characters and situations in a personal way that gives an intensity to the struggles and the resilience of the Stoddard family throughout the decade of the 1930's.

As in News of the World, the writing is evocative and the characters memorable and compelling.  In Stormy Weather there is less of a plot and more of a feeling of memoir and endurance, and we follow Jeannine's story as the Stoddards move and move again, following the oil field until Jack Stoddard, the handsome, gambling and womanizing father dies as a result of a sour gas accident.  

Jeannine and her mother Elizabeth and her two sisters don't have the $10 for the rent and must pack up and leave.  They go back to the Tolliver house, where Elizabeth was born, which has been unoccupied for years and is shockingly run down.

The women persevere with, Jeannine often providing the motivation, even as she herself barely remembers the better times when her grandparents were alive and the place a going concern.  

For me, this was an outstanding book for several reasons.  My father was a petroleum engineer, and we lived in Texas when I was very young--so the descriptions of the oil fields of the 1930's were particularly interesting, even though they were before my father's time.  

The characters were so real--not only the Stoddard women, but their friends and neighbors.  When people manage  to meet the constant challenges of difficult times with stamina and grit, we are able to better appreciate the simple facts of running water, grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables, and all of the unbelievable conveniences we have today.

The dust.  The everlasting, unavoidable dust.  In the air, in the house, the worst storms literally burying vehicles.   Dust pneumonia caused by the lungs filling with dust, not fluid.  

Ordinary people in extraordinary times.


"When her father was young, he was known to be a hand with horses.  They said he could get any wage he asked for, that he could take on any job of freighting even in the fall when the rains were heavy and the oil field pipe had to be hauled over unpaved roads, when the mud was the color of solder and cased the wheel spokes."

"It was just before the bank failures in 1933, and the rest of the nation paused, dumbfounded, in their party clothes and tinfoil hats, in Chicago and New York and Los Angeles and New Orleans, while money fell like hot ashes out the bottoms of their pockets."

"...behind every human life is an immense chain of happenstance that included the gravest concerns; murder and theft and betrayal, great love...that despite the supposed conformity of country places there might be an oil field worker who kept a trunk of fossil fish or a man with a desperate stutter who dreamed of being a radio announcer, a dwarf with a rivet gun or an old maid on a rooftop with a telescope, spending her finest hours observing the harmonics of the planetary dance."  (these characters sometimes only occur once, but they are very present in the world Jiles creates.)

"There is no past; it is always an accordioned present consisting of compound interest accruing every second."

"Pearl, dear," he said.  "Sometimes I don't know where I am."  Mrs. Joplin stroked his back.  "It's all right James," she said.  "Wherever you are, that's the world."  (Mrs. Joplin was a favorite character, she makes only a few appearances, but she has an impact.  Her husband James is losing himself to dementia, but they, too, get on with things.)

Historical fiction.  2007.  Print length:  350 pages.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Tech by Mark Ravine and Gone Too Far by Debra Webb

A couple of short reviews.

 From description:
  Alexandra has just taken charge of her new team, a motley crew of screw-ups at the Arizona Field Office, the latest in a series of forgettable assignments.

The first in a new series,  The Tech  is not at all believable, but fun, nevertheless.  There's a conspiracy of connected crimes, an evil cabal, and a mysterious IT tech.

The cover doesn't work for me, but I enjoyed the book.  FBI escapism.

e-book from Dawn Hill Publications

I read the first in this series in July and liked it, so I was pleased to get the second in the Devlin and Falco series.  

from description:  As veteran detectives of the Birmingham Police Department, Kerri Devlin and Luke Falco have seen it all. So when the city’s new hotshot deputy district attorney turns up dead as part of a double homicide, the partners immediately get to work.

I was glad to see Sadie Cross make another appearance and get more of her background; hope for more of her in the future.  

Kerri Devlin and Luke Falco have a great partnership that will probably lead to more.  I like the friendship and the way Luke steps in when Kerri's daughter has a serious problem.

Several storylines and complications.  

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Suspense.  April, 2021.  Print length:  382 pages.

We have been Christmas-ing around here.  

Three birthdays down and one to go.  :)

Friday, December 04, 2020

Whiskey When We're Dry by John Larison


I read this about two weeks ago after Les mentioned it.  An epic tale of the Old West that concentrates not on the romantic aspects of the Western genre, but on the difficulties of making a life in a dangerous land.  

Jessilyn Harney had to divide her love between her failing father and her rebellious brother.  When her father died, her twin goals were to hold on to their ranch and to find her brother Noah, who has become one of the most wanted outlaws in several states.

Jess, who narrates her own story, realizes that a teenage girl is vulnerable, and so as she takes on the task of tracking down her brother, she assumes the persona of a young man.

Life on the frontier in the 1880's was harsh and violent, and Larison builds a world that reflects the difficulties with remarkable detail.  

While there are gunfights, saloons, and brothels as is many books in the Western genre, Larison's development of Jess manages to reconstruct the typical tropes through Jess's first person narrative.  

Noah Harney is also an intriguing character, and Jess's love for him, which becomes more clear-eyed as the story proceeds, is an engrossing part of Jess's journey.  Noah, a charismatic leader, is a mixture of positive and negative; Jess must accept that her brother has feet of clay.  

It's a long book that immerses you in the details of hard-scrabble lives and has epic proportions.  It isn't Lonesome Dove, but in spite of turning so much of the typical Western on it's head, Larison has created a world with the same scope.

Again, thanks Les, for this recommendation.


Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Chasing the Shadows by Maria V. Snyder and When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain and Other Stuff

 Jumping from one holiday to the next.  Our Thanksgiving was surprisingly good, but now the countdown to Christmas which, I think, will be harder for us.  We are taking it one day at a time.  We've started decorating in hopes that color and memories will keep us cheerful throughout the season.  

We finally got some cold weather, so my husband built a fire and put on Christmas music.  Fee also bought me some Christmas pajama bottoms.  Size XS.  I laughed and laughed!  In fact, every time I think about it, I cackle.  Fee is a wonderful and thoughtful husband, but not very observant :)  I've been debating putting them in with the Goodwill stuff...or sewing up the bottoms of the legs and hanging them for a Christmas stocking! 

I'm really behind on reviews.  Because I'm so busy.  ???   Well, busy reading, anyway.

Chasing the Shadows was another fun romp with Lyra, who has survived the attack on her life. To keep Jarren from realizing that Lyra is still alive, she has been given a funeral and a new name--Ara Lawrence, and Ara has a new job in security.

Creative and suspenseful YA science fiction with an absorbing plot.  I've read several books lately that make use of AI, and Chasing the Shadows has a unique take.  Each of Lyra's strange experiences has made connecting with the Q-net easier; it appears that Q-net has chosen her for a purpose.  

I still think the romantic interest takes too much time, but then the book isn't written for me, but for a YA audience.  I've enjoyed the experience for it's adventure.  :)

I'm ready for the third book!


 I already have seven reviews scheduled for next year releases, and I'm finding it hard to write reviews that far ahead of time, so I'm going ahead with this one.

The first chapter had me a little at a loss with the MC's situation, but it wasn't long before my immersion in the book was complete.

from description:From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes an atmospheric novel of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?

 As a missing persons detective, Anna Hart has been part of some somber outcomes, then a personal tragedy becomes the breaking point.  Anna retreats to Mendocino, where Hap and Eden, her foster parents, helped her recover from childhood trauma.

She becomes involved with the case of a missing girl that reminds her and others of a case from years earlier.  The theme of "missing" is covered in many ways:  missing persons cases, missing information, missing people we have cared about, missing a sense of home and belonging .  Paula McLain's beautiful prose leads the reader through the past as well as the present, and even makes reference to the real life case of Polly Klass.  

A mystery with twists and turns, a study of trauma and resilience, When the Stars Go Dark is an absorbing read.

NetGalley/Random House
Psychological Mystery.  April, 2021.  Print length:  384 pages.  
I don't usually do Christmas cards, partly because I decorate my Christmas letters and envelopes.  This year, I'm actually going to send some Christmas cards--it will be one more thing to keep me busy and involved.  And I need to be busy and involved.  
How are things going with you?  Books, Christmas prep?  Holding things together?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Children of the Valley by Castle Freeman and An Ace and a Par by Blake Banner

Children of the Valley is the third book in this series featuring Lucian Wing, sheriff of a backwoods county in Vermont.   

A lawyer of one of New York's wealthy and powerful, visits Lucian to explain that the man's stepdaughter has gone missing and is suspected to be in the area.  Heavy hints of a pay-off if Lucian lets the lawyer know first.  Also, when Lucian doesn't respond as expected, hints that his own men will be looking.  

Lucian is kind of comforting, he is backwoods country and plays on the stereotype, but he's no dummy.  There a couple of times I found myself re-reading a passage for the humor and his laidback outlook.  

As Lucian finds the runaways and begins trying to keep them safe, the novel alternates suspense/quirky characters/ and humor.  I may have to go back and pick up the first book. :)

Police Procedural/Humor.  Dec. 10, 2020.  

from description:  Detective John Stone of the NYPD has the best arrest record in the 43rd precinct. But he’s a dinosaur who belongs to another age. Detective Carmen Dehan has such a bad attitude that nobody at the precinct can stomach her. Captain Jennifer Cuevas wants them both out of the way and thinks they make a perfect pair. So she gives them the Cold Cases file – the cases nobody gives a damn about.
The only problem is the case Stone decides on is going to have deadly repercussions ten years on.  Nelson Hernandez and his four cousins were murdered during a poker game, and although there were plenty of suspects, mob/triad/Latino gang related/ and a bent cop who disappeared, there was no evidence to bring a charge.

I usually avoid mob related stories, but I kept reading because this one concentrated on the investigation and the relationship between the new partners. The plot put a great deal of interest on the abduction of a young woman who was present at the time of the murders.  Stone and Dehan may want the killers, but they are just as concerned with what happened to the young woman.   

Twists and turns, fast paced, completely implausible.  The relationship between Stone and Dehan works, but neither character has much development--the author concentrates on the way they bounce ideas off each other and that worked, but Stone's ability to anticipate "what next" felt a little too much.

As the first in a new series, I may give the next one a try to see if there is some increase in characterization.  An Ace and a Pair was interesting, but also feels like a first step as the author develops his plans  for the characters.

Kindle Unlimited
Police Procedural.  2017.  Print length: 207 pages.

We will be having a Thanksgiving with only the two of us.  This is the first time it has been just us since one Thanksgiving when we were dating and work interfered with going home.
I know many people are upset about a scaled down holiday, but Priya Parker suggests abandoning the traditional thanksgiving script.  We were already planning to forego the turkey and dressing meal.  I'm not going to moan about the loss of a turkey (okay, maybe a little moaning about the pecan pie), but I will miss the kids and grandkids--so Fee and I are going for soup, sandwiches, and a trip to the country.    

However, you spend your Thanksgiving, I hope you will have a good day!  Stay safe and well!

 Both of these made me laugh!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Navigating the Stars by Maria V. Snyder and The Preserve by Ariel S. Winte


I was surprised to hear that Maria V. Snyder was writing science fiction.  I've read Snyder's Study novels which begin with Poison Study and are exciting fantasy with compelling, memorable characters and great world building.  

When I saw Ashley's review of the third book in Snyder's Sentinels of the Galaxy series, I barely skimmed it because I wanted to begin with the first book.  Snyder and YA science fiction--a combination I didn't want to miss.

In Navigating the Stars, Seventeen-year-old Lyra has had a disjointed childhood as her archaeologist parents have moved from planet to planet investigating the secrets behind the Terra Cotta Warriors found on different planets throughout the galaxy.  

The characters are likable, and the relationship between Lyra and her parents is believable.  Lyra resents the moves that uproot her life, but the parental relationship is strong and supportive.

The world-building is, for the most part, limited to the interactions of the characters on the base itself, with some development of the archaeological dig site.  The planet is a desert with sandstorms that can interrupt the work, but doesn't require further detail.

The science takes in the conundrum of space dilation--and the difficulty of adjusting to the phenomenon of a few months in space travel for a crew and passengers becomes decades for those on the planet they just left.  Snyder invented the Q-net to make communications possible, and Lyra is a talented hacker, who "worms" her way through the Q-net with skill and often impactful results.  

Navigating the Stars differs from Snyder's other novels, aimed as it is toward a YA audience, but it was a fun and exciting experience.  Could have done without some of the YA romance, but I can't wait to get to book two!


From description:  Decimated by plague, the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered

An intriguing concept that, for me, was not fully realized.  The Preserve is a dystopian murder mystery with many elements of contemporary problems transformed by shifting the power from human to AI.  It is interesting that the author refers to "robots" rather than AI, and that the most likable character is Kir, the robot partner of the Preserve police chief Jesse Laughton.  

Because the robots are so human in their character flaws of prejudice and addiction, it is difficult to think of them as "not human."  

Although an interesting police procedural, perhaps the most provocative aspect for me is...what is left out.  The book jumps into a situation with no background or history. A little historical explanation would have been nice, if not at the beginning, at least at some point. 

 Kir's mechanical body blends with humans, and his brain has all of the complex, moral, and empathetic qualities we would hope for (and are often missing from) genuine humans.   The only real difference between humans and AI, as presented in the novel, is that their bodies don't bleed.  The movements and abilities are the same and function physically as efficiently as humans. Their "brains" also function much as in humans--with good or bad opinions and intentions.  

I had all kinds of questions as I read, more questions than answers.  Sometimes, however, raising questions is enough to make a book worthwhile.  

NetGalley/Atria Books

Dystopian/Police Procedural.  Nov. 3, 2020.  Print length:  256 pages.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Books--there are never enough; I'm continually adding to my list.  I always find time to read them, but taking the time to review them is another story.  

News of the World by Paulette Jiles.  (Thanks, Sam!)  I read it on my Kindle, but I ordered a physical copy for my husband.  

From a NY Times review:  "  [Paulette Jiles's] story in “News of the World” is painfully simple. An old man, Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, is content to make his living as an itinerant news reader in Texas until he is charged with a much more difficult mission. A white girl, about 10, has been “rescued” from the Kiowa Indians who kidnapped her and killed her immediate family four years earlier. Would he please take her down to the San Antonio region and return her to her closest living relatives, an aunt and uncle?"  (Source)

The characters enter your world with a surprising intensity.  Captain Kidd and Johanna make the dangerous trek through a largely untamed Texas, not long after the Civil War.  Initially, Johanna wants nothing more to return to the Kiowas, but gradually, she and Kidd form a bond.

It is my favorite book of fiction this year.

As I read, I thought of many things, including the problems experienced by children who were kidnapped by various Indian tribes and were unable to re-assimilate into their families after being rescued.  I also thought about boarding schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that forced the children to cut their hair  and wear uniforms of the white culture, that forbade the use of their own language, and more.  Families were coerced into sending their children from 1860-1978.  

Articles in medical and psychiatric science journals have repeatedly discussed how childhood trauma "influences both mental and physical health in adulthood and across generations" (Source), and I thought about the children put in cages at the border and wondered about the ramifications of those actions, not only on the children themselves, but on their children.

I finished this last week, and it is still on my mind.  I've finished several other books since, and although several were good--they aren't in the same category.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Outcast Girls by Alys Clare

I really enjoyed the first book in the World's End Investigation Bureau, a Victorian mystery series.  This one, for some reason, was less intriguing.

from description: "London, 1881. Lily Raynor, owner of the World's End Investigation Bureau, is growing increasingly worried. Work is drying up, finances are tight and she cannot find enough for Felix Wibraham, her sole employee, to do. When schoolteacher Georgiana Long arrives with a worrying tale of runaway pupils, it seems like the answer to her prayers. The case is an interesting one, and what could be less perilous than a trip to a girls' boarding school, out in the Fens?"

The Outcast Girls was OK, but I did not find it as interesting as I hoped. The title World's End Investigation Bureau and the Victorian setting appeals to me, and since I liked the first book, I'll give the next one a try.

Read in August.  Blog review scheduled for Nov. 11.

NetGalley/Severn House
Historical Mystery.  Dec. 1, 2020.  Print length:  256 pages. 

Saturday, November 07, 2020

The Eagle Catcher by Margaret Coel, Chaos on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer, and What My Husband Did by Kerry Wilkinson


Mysteries that take place in the West appeal to me.  Favorite authors include Tony Hillerman, Craig Johnson, Cormac McCarthy, and R. Allen Chappell.

I've added Margaret Coel to that list, after reading The Eagle Catcher, set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.  (Thanks, Cathy!)  

Father John O'Malley,  Jesuit priest and recovering alcoholic works with  Vicki Holden, an Arapaho lawyer in an attempt to find the killer of a tribal chairman and make sure his nephew is not convicted of the murder.

Injustice is a theme, both historical and present day, as hidden crimes from past and present come to light.  Social and culture prejudices are thematic, as well, and blended easily into the mystery plot.

The Eagle Catcher is the first book in the series, so I have more to read!  Since some of my latest books have been abandoned for lack of interest or for mediocre writing, I'm doubly grateful for a new series to enjoy.


Although I haven't read the first book (Catfishing on Catnet), I did find this YA novel intriguing.  

from description:  "When a mysterious entity starts hacking into social networks and chat rooms to instigate paranoia and violence in the real world, it’s up to Steph and her new friend, Nell, to find a way to stop it—with the help of their benevolent AI friend, CheshireCat."

Chaos on Catnet is a YA thriller with some genuine considerations about social media/the internet and its ability to influence hundreds of thousands of people.  As I was reading it, we were all watching social media and news media as the election approached, and even now, in the aftermath of the election, we see the influence of the media for manipulating emotions.

Pretty scary the way those with an agenda can influence hundreds of thousands of people to violence.  In the book and in real life, this happens.

At the same time, the internet does have many positive benefits.  Friendships with people you may never meet in person, inspiration concerning hobbies and interests, and finding acceptance and support among like-minded people.  Steph has this support among her friends.

An AI with human qualities is still a long way in the future, if ever; but the ability of people to use the internet and social media in a destructive fashion has been troublesome for a long time.  Even more so during all the problems 2020 has presented.

Because I think the novel is of current interest, I'm reviewing it now rather than scheduling it for later.


YA/Thriller/Science, Tech.  April 27, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages. 

I like Kerry Wilkinson a lot, but this was not my favorite.  However, looking at Goodreads reviews, Almost everyone else, loved it.  So...there you go.  

from description: "A little girl has been left for dead. And now my husband is missing."

Things aren't looking good for Maddy's husband Richard, and in a village that knows everything that happens and closes ranks, things aren't looking good for Maddy either.  

I realize the cutting back and forth to Maddy's childhood serves a purpose, but I found it distracting.  Much simpler to give a brief background concerning Maddy's father having been convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

Maddy, as she tries to puzzle out the situation of her husband's absence, also has to face some of the elements of their marriage.  


Mystery.  Nov. 17, 2020.  Print length:  360 pages.


Today is my birthday, and my daughter texted that she gave me a new president!  Couldn't be happier!