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Sunday, August 01, 2021

Gone for Good by Joanna Schaffhausen and The Merchant and the Rogue by Sarah M. Eden

The first in a new series by Joanna Schaffhausen, Gone for Good is Detective Annalisa Vega #1.  Like the Ellery Hathaway/Reed Markham series by Schaffhausen, Gone for Good has a twisty conundrum of a plot.

Twenty years have passed since the Lovelorn Killer murders, and now Annalisa Vega is wondering why the murders have started again.  She has a personal connection to the last of killer's victims.

The most interesting part to me was the online "detective" group called the Grave Diggers, who investigate cold cases.

I didn't want to put it down, but I still had a lot of quibbles. The reviews are extremely positive, and although I'll certainly need the next Annalisa Vega book, this one wasn't a stand-out for me.  

I'm looking forward to the next Ellery Hathaway/Reed Markham book, though.

Read in February; blog review scheduled for Aug. 1.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/Thriller.  Aug. 10, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.

The Dread Penny Society series is light fun with interesting characters.  I like the concept, but it must be hard-going to keep it fresh.

The Merchant and the Rogue is the third book in the series and contains the sweet little romance of the main characters.  There's a hint of which secondary characters will take the stage in the next book.

Each book contains  a Penny Dreadful story by one or two of the characters.  Brogan's Penny Dreadful, "The Dead Zoo" had an interesting concept, but I found it ...not terribly interesting.  King's story was better.  Then, of course, there is the main plot in which Brogan goes undercover and falls for the bookseller and confronts corruption.

I loved the first book The Lady and the Highwayman because if its originality.  The second and third books are OK, but all of them have terrific covers. :)

Read in February; blog review scheduled for Aug. 1.

NetGalley/Shadow Mountain Publishing
Historical/Mystery/Romance.  Aug. 17, 2021.  print length:  368 pages.

Friday, July 23, 2021

In Fury Born (audiobook) by David Weber, narrated by Vivienne Leheny

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres, and David Weber has long been one of my favorite authors.  His books are long (often 800+ pages) and full of characters, and yet I never have a problem with the number of characters and always hate to finish his books.  I think I've read every book in the Honor Harrington series--unless I've somehow missed a newer publication since 2018..  The Safehold series is where I began reading Weber years ago, and I've read at least 4 in that series--but somehow lost track of it.  Not for lack of interest, however.

I actually read In Fury Born in 2008, but then I saw an audio book that has the addition of Alicia Devries' backstory.  Nearly 32 hours of audiobook!  To say it took a long time to finish is an understatement, but I never lost interest, and I did a lot more walking, weeding, stitching, laundry, and other chores done during those days than would otherwise have happened.

The narrator Vivienne Leheny was exceptional.  

from description:  Imperial Intelligence couldn't find them, the Imperial Fleet couldn't catch them, and local defenses couldn't stop them. It seemed the planet-wrecking pirates were invincible. But they made a big mistake when they raided ex-commando leader Alicia DeVries' quiet home/work, tortured and murdered her family, and then left her for dead. 

Alicia decided to turn "pirate" herself, and stole a cutting-edge AI ship from the empire to start her vendetta. Her fellow veterans think she's gone crazy, the Imperial Fleet has shoot-on-sight orders. And, of course, the pirates want her dead, too. But Alicia DeVries has two allies nobody knows about, allies as implacable as she is: a self-aware computer and a creature from the mists of Old Earth's most ancient legends. And this trio of furies won't rest until vengeance is served. 

In Fury Born is a greatly expanded new version of David Weber's popular novel Path of the Fury, which has gone through six large printings in its original mass market edition. David Weber has added considerable new material, revealing the earlier life of Alicia DeVries before she embarked on her mission of vengeance, and illuminating the universe of the original story. The result is a novel with almost twice the wordage of the original, and a must-buy for all David Weber fans.

I didn't even realize it was the same book I read years ago because this version begins with Alicia Devries' background, acceptance into the cadre, and first adventures--a prequel, of sorts.  Even when it came to the familiar parts, I'd forgotten so much even that it was as good as new.

Not for everyone, but military science fiction and space opera fans should give David Weber a try.  I'll be getting back on board with books I've missed. :)

Military Science Fiction.  Narrator Vivienne Leheny.  


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck


When I received The Ice Coven from NetGalley, it didn't take long to realize that I had not read the previous novel and that it might be a good idea to go back and pick it up.  I stopped and ordered The Witch Hunter and read it first--although I already had some information the reader was not supposed to know from reading even a little of the second book.                                                                                                                                       Jessica Niemi is called to the scene of a murder, and it is a strange scene indeed.  Disturbing, not because of blood or gore, but because of the way the woman is dressed and the expression on her face.  Maria Koponen, wife of a best selling author, has been murdered in a way that imitates the death of a character in her husband's first book in his trilogy about the Inquisition and torture of witches.  More deaths are to come and while some do not precisely imitate the murders in the book, they are too similar to dismiss, and investigator Jessica Niemi realizes that there is not a single, lone killer, but a cohesive cadre of believers.  But believers in what?  Witchcraft?

The novel is dark, creepy, and suspenseful, but not entirely satisfying.  The concept of murders imitating those of a novel isn't new, but there are twists in this one to take the idea further. 

The flashbacks to Jessica's sojourn in Venice when she was nineteen were ugly, unnecessary, and interrupted the pace of the main plot.  The interruptions add nothing of importance to the plot except for the introduction of a character that could have been better served in another way.

The Witch Hunter is suspenseful and sinister, and to give the author credit, he does not engage in gory details, especially since those details are not needed when the creep factor is so high.  The conclusion was rushed and unsatisfying, obviously setting up for the second book.

The author does a good job of building atmosphere and suspense, some of the characters are sympathetic, and he skillfully keeps the reader from knowing one important detail.

On the other hand, the gratuitous backstory in fitful intrusions, an unbelievable premise (once you realize what it is near the end), and the hurried and open-ended conclusion make me wonder if I want to read the Ice Coven...even though I already have it.   

Mystery/Thriller.  2020.  Print length:  400 pages


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan

Cathy recommended Vaseem Khan as another author of Indian mysteries, and since I enjoyed Suhata Massey's The Widows of Malabar Hill and The Satapur Moonstone so much, I wanted to read Vaseem Khan's new series as well.   

Midnight at Malabar House is set in Bombay, but where The Widows of Malabar Hill is set in the 1920's as Ghandi's influence is increasing, Midnight at Malabar House begins on New Year's Eve 1949--after the 1947 partition of British India into two independent dominions, India and Pakistan.  From both historical accounts and a novel read years ago (I don't even remember the name), I knew this was a bloody and tragic period of sectarian violence and massacres.

Vaseem Khan creates Persis Wadia, India's first female detective: "mistrusted, sidelined and now consigned to the midnight shift."

 Persis, however, is determined to do her job regardless of prejudice and setbacks, and when she gets the call that Sir James Herriot, an important British diplomat, has been murdered, she finds herself in a sensational and delicate case amplified by the fact that she is female and the case is virulently political.

Midnight at Malabar House is an excellent mystery, but as I read, it was so many of the passages and events that reminded me of our contemporary problems, not only here in America, but in many countries.  We have pasts (and contemporary problems) that we would prefer not to acknowledge.


"Inflame a man's passion and you can make him do anything."

"Evil could only flourish if the world colluded with it."

"How was a nation to establish itself if it could not look itself in the mirror."

"Thought Police, in particular, bothered her, the idea that individualism and independent thinking might actually be considered a crime."

"And that today many want that restriction."

"Men, women, and children murdered.  All in the name of patriotism."

"We all know what happened," she said.  "The trouble is that a new fiction is being written.  Day by day we are rewriting the past."

"...who set aside decades, sometimes centuries of friendship, who took up sword and flame to terrorise their neighbours and compatriots, to murder men, women, and children in a frenzy of bloodlust that even now is difficult comprehend."

"That is the true legacy of Partition.  The way it has coloured the perceptions of two peoples who were essentially one, the way it continues to serve as a means by which political interest on both sides of the border can employ hatred and prejudice as a means of deflecting criticism of their regimes."

Recommended for both the mystery and the history.  And now I want to read The Dying Day by Vaseem Khan.


Historical Mystery.  2020.  Print length:  320 pages.  


I keep weeding, fighting mosquitoes, and retreating upstairs to work on my little monsters.  As Les at Coastal Horizons mentioned in a comment, listening to an audio book makes weeding less onerous, but darn, the heat!  

The blue jays that had been visiting for the peanuts I put out for them have been absent lately.  I suspect the aggressive mockingbird who patrols the yard and dive bombs Edgrr may be responsible.  Mockingbirds can intimidate other birds, but I would have thought blue jays would be worthy enough opponents.  At any rate, I miss the blue jays; they have their own feeder with nothing but peanuts and no other birds seem to want them.   

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell, Count to Three by T.R. Ragan, and A Void of Magic by Sandy Williams


Tallulah and Zack leave baby Noah with Tallulah's mother Kim.  It is unusual for the nineteen-year-olds to have a night out, and Kim is happy to see them have a chance to enjoy themselves.

Unfortunately, they don't return home.  Kim is frantic, but no one seems to have a clue about what happened.  The young couple have disappeared, and Kim insists that her daughter would never willingly leave her baby.  The police find no trace that would lead them to an answer--one way or another.  

A little over a year later, Sophie Beck arrives at Maypole school where her partner has been appointed the new Headmaster.  When she sees a sign saying, "DIG HERE," she assumes it is part of a scavenger hunt.

After learning of the missing teenagers,  Sophie is curious--she is, after all, an author of cozy mysteries, and she returns to the sign and digs.  What she finds makes her even more invested in discovering what happened the night Tallulah and Zack went missing.  She takes her find to Kim, who recognizes the ring as the one Zack intended to use when he proposed to Tallulah.  

Multiple POVs and two time lines, allow Lisa Jewel to unravel the plot at a pace guaranteed to give just enough information at just the right time.  And it doesn't always lead where you might expect.  

Read in July.

NetGalley/Atria Books
Suspense.  Sept. 7, 2021.  Print length:  416 pages.

Dani Callahan became a private investigator after own five-year-old daughter disappeared.  She continues to search for her daughter, but she also works to help others find their loved ones.

I like Dani, Quinn, and Ethan, and Count to Three appears to be the first in a new series by Ragan.  I haven't read her other series.   I plan on reading the next one, but hope there are no characters like Carlin Reed--a serious nutcase if there ever was one.  It was not the plot, but the main characters and the growing relationships between them that kept me involved.

As for the plot, the kidnapped young woman trope is so over done, but twelve-year-old Ethan's determination to do something about what he saw the day of the kidnapping really appealed to me.  

Read in June.   

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

P.I./Mystery.  Dec. 14, 2021.   

Ashley mentioned A Void of Magic: Kennedy Rain Book One in her Can't Wait Wednesday post, and I found it available on NetGalley.  

Kennedy Rain's family has been part of  the Rain Hotel since its inception, going back generations.  What differentiates the Rain from other hotels is the power of the land on which it is built and its clientele.  The property is a null zone; the clientele and employees are paranormals.  As guests of the hotel, magical powers are rendered null and void; vampires are able to watch the sunrise and werewolves are able to avoid the transformation induced by a full moon.

The Rain family, however, are human and must manage the paranormals by using the power of the original treaty, skill, and diplomacy.

Kennedy Rain, however, has problems with the hotel and its paranormal guests and has created a life for herself as a college student, avoiding the hotel and her parents as much as possible.  Until her parents go on vacation and Kennedy is forced to handle some hotel crises during their absence.

Initially, some of the problems seem a little run-of-the-mill, but Kennedy is forced to accept there is more going on.  A run of extremely bad luck or a paranormal conspiracy?  

It was fun until I got to the end and realized it was a cliff hanger!  Well, that was a blow and means a long wait for the next book.   The first book in a series is always a bit of a problem if you like it and want the next book quickly--cliffhangers are even more frustrating!  Maybe I'll try one of Williams' other (completed) series in the meantime.  

Read in July.

NetGalley/Brimfire Press

New Adult/Paranormal.  July 27, 2021.   


Literary topics from Jeopardy

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

cription:  This is a tale of courage and compassion, of good sons and vulnerable young mothers. Absolutely beautiful.' -Douglas Stuart, author of SHUGGIE BAIN (Winner of the Booker Prize 2020) It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, faces into his busiest season. As he does the rounds, he feels the past rising up to meet him - and encounters the complicit silences of a people controlled by the Church 

 If you are familiar with the Magdalene Laundry asylums and the subsequent scandals, you will see a connection as well to the abuse of Canada's indigenous children in the resurfacing of the sordid past of the Kamloops Indian Residential School and the many other government-funded and often Church run institutions and victims.

"The Magdalene Laundries were part of an interlocking system of orphanages, industrial schools, “mother and baby homes” for unwed mothers and church-run institutions in which Ireland once confined tens of thousands of its own.

At least 10,000 women and girls are believed to have passed through the laundries between independence from Britain in 1922 and the closing of the last one in 1996." (source)

Small Things Like These, set in Ireland in 1985, deals with the actions of one man when he is confronted with truth of the abuses at the local Magdalene Laundry.  A quiet story of courage and conscience.  In only 128 pages, Claire Keegan illustrates the way various people react to abuses in the Church.  So committed to their religion or from fear of repercussions, most ignored or failed to believe or failed to acknowledge what went on.   Bill Furlong faces what he did not want to be true--and acts.  

It was not until 1996 that these institutions were finally closed.  

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic

Literary Fiction.  2020 & Nov. 30, 2021.  Print length: 128 pages.


until 1996, pregnant or promiscuous women could be incarcerated for life 

Magdalene Laundries

Irish Mother and Baby Homes 

Three fictional books that use history and fiction as vehicles to remind of us of the roles of both government and Church in the treatment of children:

 Lost by Claire McGowan includes elements of the Magdalene Laundries. 

 Asylum by Jeannette deBeauvoir, a mystery with facts about Canadian Residential Schools that shocked me as I did some research and the U.S., the CIA, and Project MKultra played a horrific role.   Dupleiss Orphans

Stolen Lives by Matthew Pritchard, another fictional account based on terribly real circumstances that took place during the Spanish Civil War during Franco's dictatorship. 

Thursday, July 08, 2021

July 4th, and A Familiar Sight by Brianna Labuskes

 We had a get-away over the long July 4th weekend and were able to visit with both daughters and all three grands.  It was wonderful to see the Colorado Crew for the first time in so long.  My husband and I were pretty superfluous when the girls got together and rarely shut up, talking 90 mph the entire time.  The cousins, too, were engaged discussing everything over the last year.  Fee and I sat back and listened with grins on our faces.  

I've been catching up on blogs and household chores since we got home late Tuesday afternoon.  How far behind one can get in 4-5 days!  The laundry and everything else waited until the next morning.  

Once a few years ago, my cousin's wife and I were chatting about chores we disliked, and she mentioned she had changed her attitude about them by thinking about what she did like, not what she didn't.  Now, when I fold sheets, the idea that they will be fresh and ready for the next change makes me smile, even struggling to get a fitted sheet on the bed is more a preparation for the comfort of sleeping on it later than the annoying chore it has been in the past.

None of this means I enjoy the tedium of repetitive cleaning.  Yes, I love clean sheets and mopped floors and clean bathrooms, but at least the thought of the result takes away some of the feeling of resentment at having to do the same things over and over, day in and day out.  

My other go-to on "chore-ing" is an audio book.  It doesn't have to be particularly good, but if I can listen while working, I'm not in as much of a hurry to just get through it because the tasks aren't cutting into my "reading" time.  

I have been slow to come around to audible books, but my appreciation of them has grown tremendously in the last several months.  Not having to choose between reading and sewing is another benefit.  I can sit and stitch and listen quite happily.  That doesn't mean I prefer audio books, just that I have learned to enjoy them at times.


I'm a little on the fence on this one because 1) the writing is good and I found the plot compelling, but 2) there was a disconnect about the traits of sociopaths and psychopaths and a few things that were not resolved for me.

from description:  Psychologist and criminologist Dr. Gretchen White is a specialist in antisocial personality disorders and violent crimes. She’s helped solve enough prominent cases for detective Patrick Shaughnessy that her own history is often overlooked: Gretchen is an admitted sociopath once suspected of killing her aunt. Shaughnessy still thinks Gretchen got away with murder. It’s not going to happen again.

When a high-profile new case lands on Shaughnessy’s desk, it seems open and shut. Remorseless teenager Viola Kent is accused of killing her mother. Amid stories of childhood horrors and Viola’s cruel manipulations, the bad seed has already been found guilty by a rapt public. But Gretchen might be seeing something in Viola no one else does: herself.

If Viola is a scapegoat, then who really did it? And what are they hiding? To find the truth, Gretchen must enter a void that is not only dark and cold-blooded, but also frighteningly familiar.

Gretchen is a fascinating character even though she describes herself as a sociopath.  A lot of her background is hinted at--Gretchen was suspected of killing her Aunt Rowan when she was eight-years-old.  The next book will probably go into that background, but at present, her responsibility for her aunt's murder is ambivalent.  

Thirteen-year-old Viola Kent is certainly a psychopath, and Gretchen never doubts the diagnosis, but Gretchen doesn't believe the girl murdered her mother Claire.   Viola, however, is quite happy to take credit.  She feels no guilt or shame for any of her previous violence and is proud of the accusation and happy with the notoriety.  

Then Lena Brooks, Viola's lawyer, commits suicide.  Lena, one of Gretchen's few friends, has sent some subtle clues that Gretchen didn't pick up on and then leaves a phone message saying that she "messed up" and wants Gretchen to fix it.  Now Gretchen is looking both back at a message she didn't understand and committed to finding out what Lena wants her to do.

I was engrossed and read with compulsion even as the differences between sociopathy and psychopathy didn't always match with the DSM and the reactions to some of the incidents didn't make sense to me.  Yes, there is a superficial hint about why Viola was kept at home and not hospitalized--it would damage the couple's reputation.  Both parents were afraid of Viola, yet Viola attends school where she might be a danger to classmates and her younger brothers are locked in their room for safety.  If I believed one of my children was a danger to my other children and/or myself, I think I would seek a better solution than a locked door.

Told from two POV, Gretchen's and Reed Kent's (husband of Claire and Viola's father).  Gretchen's portion is told in the present; Reed's is told in non-chronological order.

The plot is complicated, the characters are complicated, and the relationships are tangled, yet the way the plot comes together makes sense.  Mostly.  Some events are never explained or cleared up satisfactorily.  I'd love to discuss the book with someone who read it and still had some of the same questions.

I found the book a compulsive read, and I look forward to more of Gretchen White, but the book isn't without flaws that left me with some questions, and I can't explain the more important ones without giving away too much of the plot.

differences between sociopathy and psychopathy

not all psychopaths are violent

21% of CEOs are psychopaths

Kindle First Choice/Thomas & Mercer

Psychological Suspense.  Aug. 1, 2021.  Print length:  367 pages.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

The Killing Kind by Jane Casey, Bloodless by Preston & Child, and Other Stuff

It is like the climate is fighting back.  I'm stunned at temperatures in areas that  have never experienced the like and who for the most part don't even have AC.  The Northwest and Canada are not accustomed to the kind of temperatures that Arizona is used to having, and it is proving deadly. 

Jane Casey's The Killing Kind is a standalone, not part of the Maeve Kerrigan series.  

Four years earlier, barrister Ingrid Lewis defended John Webster on a stalking charge and was successful.  It doesn't take long before Ingrid realizes that Webster was guilty and has turned his manipulative powers against her.  A sociopath with an obsession is a dangerous thing, and eventually, Ingrid finds her relationship with her fiancĂ© in tatters, her home burned down, and the realization that Webster may always be a threat.

Then, having had no problems from Webster recently,  another set of circumstances puts Ingrid in danger, and Ingrid immediately assumes it is Webster again.  This time, however, Webster appears to want to help.

Aside form the typical suspicion of various characters that is typical in this kind of psychological thriller, there is an unexpected revelation about 60% in that provides an unexpected turn of events--that makes you wonder about the narrator.  

A page-turner that  (as is usual with Jane Casey) kept me involved.  Casey is a skilled writer who can keep the reader engaged and a little off balance, not certain of the guilty party, but pulled one way or another as motives or information becomes available.  

 I enjoyed this one; it was nice to have Casey try something a little different, and The Killing Kind is certainly twisty and suspenseful.

I do, however, want more of Maeve and Josh and hope Casey isn't tired of them!

NetGalley/Harper Collins                                                                                                                              Suspense.  Sept. 21, 2021.  Print length:  480 pages.


I never miss an Agent Pendergast.  The books are a mix of campy, supernatural, and horror--and the strange appearance and personality of Aloysius Pendergast.  

The novels aren't for everyone, but Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have a huge fan base.  The first in this long series is Relic, which was made into a movie in 1997.  

What I liked about this one is that the novel has a connection to the famous and unsolved D.B. Cooper case.  

These books are not literature; they are an amalgam of horror, supernatural, and suspense.   I liked the earlier books better for the most part, largely for characters who are no longer part of the series, but I can't resist giving each new one a try. 

 The information about D.B. Cooper (even if the novel is fiction) made me curious about elements in the unsolved 1971 real life case.  I'm not sure I like the importance of Constance in the later books.  

Read in April.

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Suspense.  Aug. 17, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages.


The weeds are winning in the garden.  Between the mosquitoes and the heat, the desire to get out and pull weeds is a challenge that doesn't appeal to me as much as it has in the past.  I have discovered that if I use Tea Tree Oil on mosquito bites, the itching is lessened more quickly, so that's a plus.

The Nightmare Catchers  continue to keep my interest and amuse me.   I have so many scraps left over from the fidget quilts and other projects that simply browsing through bags of scraps have provided me with plenty of fabric with which to work.  Below, Agnes is not the one that I originally intended for Bryce Eleanor (it was a much sweeter cat version), but she loved Agnes and her lavender backpack.  

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Striking Range by Margaret Mizushima and The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith


Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 Robo are back in another Timber Creek Mystery by Margaret Mizushima.  

Mattie and cold case detective Jim Hauck go to the Colorado State Prison planning to interview John Cobb the man who tried to kill Mattie and who may also have information about her father's murder three decades earlier. To their frustration, the Cobb is killed in his cell before the interview can take place. The only clue they discover is a map of the Timber Creek area.

There are several threads that are intertwined in this latest addition to the series:  Mattie's search for information about her father, a dangerous secret on the mountain, a dead young woman and a missing newborn, and then Cole goes missing on the mountain.  But it is the characters in the series that provide the biggest draw, and Robo is always a star.  This time the puppies Robo fathered give their mother a difficult time, but are received with great joy by all of those who love both Robo and Sassy.  

I look forward to every book in this series.  Mizushima has once again kept me eagerly turning the pages to see what the familiar characters are up to, puzzling the mysteries, and cheering on Robo.  

NetGalley/Crooked Lane Books                                                                                                                     Mystery.  Sept. 7, 2021.  Print length:  288 pages.

The Witch Haven is Book One of a duology by Sasha Peyton Smith.  

Nice cover.  Good writing.  Interesting premise.  However, the characters are thin and the story itself was both a combination of rushed and slow.  The events take place in a very short space of time, but the pacing often dragged.  

from description:  In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.

Frances waits to be arrested for murder, but before that can happen, two "nurses" whisk her off to Hexahaven Sanitarium for tuberculosis patients.  Hexahaven, however, is not a sanitarium for tb patients, it is a school for witches.

For someone who had been living in poverty and suddenly discovers she has magic powers, Frances' quick assessment of Haxahaven as a prison seems unrealistic.  She receives a safe place to stay, new friends, good food, and classes for learning control of her new powers.   I can see that she might tire of the restrictions and silly classes eventually, but within a month?  A poor seamstress who had next to nothing and had just been saved from a murder charge would likely take a little time to appreciate her good fortune.

Frances, however, immediately turns against the headmistress, but believes in a young man who has been leaving her notes to meet him (and doesn't spend much time being concerned about how he manages to do so or why).  She's headstrong and makes decisions that she often realizes are risky and might endanger others, but goes right ahead.  She is suspicious of the headmistress and even her friends, but strangely trusting where she shouldn't.  Frances wants her way (and right now) so badly she is heedless of the effect on others.  She is then surprised and regretful, before she rushes off to another situation.  Doesn't learn much from experience, our Frances.

Stock characters and plot holes are a problem in The Witch Haven.  

Read in June.  Blog review scheduled for  

NetGalley/Simon & Schuster
YA, Paranormal.  August 31, 2021.  Print length:  448 pages.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs

 The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs is the 20th outing for Temperance Brennan!  I've read a bunch of these, but not all of them.  Reichs usually has scientific or forensic medical information that is currently of interest in the news which I find as interesting as the case itself. 

  CRISPR has been in the news for the last couple of years, and gene altering is one of those scientific achievements that has as much possibility for evil as for good.  

A medical waste container tossed ashore during a hurricane has two bodies inside.  Tempe, called in by the Charleston coroner, is stunned to see that the details are exactly the same as a case she investigated in Canada fifteen years earlier.

To say her interest is piqued--is an understatement.  Tempe feels compelled to identify the bodies in the current case and those of the old case as well.  Identical situations in two different countries, fifteen years apart presents a puzzle that both Tempe and Ryan need resolved.

In a secondary thread, there is some background of ResuciAnnie, the mannequin used to teach CPR.  

Read in February; review scheduled for June 24, 2021.


Mystery/Forensics.  July 6, 2021.  Print length:  368 pages.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Binding Tempest by Steven Rudy and The Satapur Moonstone by Suhata Massey


Another fantasy.  Interesting the way fantasy reflects all of the empires, wars, corruption, and colonialism from ancient history to contemporary problems.

from description:  "...three aging veterans and a band of young rogues, are all that can protect the failing republic from the return of an evil empire. Together, their only hope lies buried with the mysteries of the past and an ancient relic called the Tempest Stone."

I liked the characters and the individual problems that each faced as they eventually united to work against the return of an ancient evil.  The import and significance of the three older characters was a great deal of the charm of this book.

Wasn't as crazy about the steampunk elements inserted.  The novel is derivative in many ways (except for the steampunk elements), but it is difficult to avoid using the fantasy tropes that have been so well established over the years.

The Binding Tempest:  The Luminescence Saga Book One.   
NetGalley/MysticHawk Press
Fantasy.  June 1, 2021.

The Satapur Moonstone (Perveen Mistry #2) was just as good as The Widows of Malabar Hill, and just as good as everyone said it was!

I listened to the audio book narrated by Sneha Mathon and was so engrossed I finished it more quickly than intended.  You know how you feel when someone interrupts you when you are in the middle of a good book?  It was all I good do to smile at my husband when he came home--and he brought dinner!  

Historically, the width and breadth of British control over so much of Indian society was surprising.  That the British influenced royal marriages and under certain circumstances took over guardianship of royal children was something I was unaware of.  

I was surprised that Cyrus presented a problem in this book, as I thought that was dealt with in the last one.  Other than that, I was completely engaged with the plot.  I'm going to try to resist moving on the The Bombay Prince for a while.  That is already  proving difficult, as wondering  what challenges  Perveen meets next is testing my will power.

Audiobook.  Narrated by Sneha Mahon.  

A little Romance.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Marshlight, The Bone Shard Daughter, Love Lettering, and In the Company of Witches

Marshlight is the 4th in Joy Ellis' Matt Ballard series.

from descriptions:  An old friend’s sister disappears without a trace. There’s no sign of foul play, but she’d been acting very peculiarly . . .

Meanwhile, Liz’s cousin Christie comes to stay. She takes an immediate — and uncharacteristic — dislike to the local bookshop owner, Gina. Why does everyone put up with her awful behaviour?

Joy Ellis is one of my favorite authors, but the Matt Ballard series is not my favorite of her three series.   

Gina is a game player, a manipulative woman who manages to berate and coddle, denigrate and reward her employees and friends.  Christie sees this, but Gina's victims make excuses for her.

Ellis manages to bring to life some of her characters:  Tom's mother Margaret, Ian, even Pip and Dominic.  Strangely, the more important characters don't fare as well.  The inability of Tom, Delphi, and Jane to see through Gina makes them seem quite dense.  

NetGalley/Joffe Books
Mystery/Suspense.  July 8, 2021.   

The Bone Shard Daughter (Drowning Empire #1)by Andrea Stewart. 
Although Lin is the Emperor's daughter, she is unable to recall certain memories after her illness.  Her father pits her against Bayan, a young man he has fostered and appears to favor, teaching him the bone shard magic he refuses to teach Lin.

Jovis, a smuggler, is searching for his wife who was abducted 7 years ago.  He sails the Endless Sea, from island to island searching for her, financed by a powerful criminal group to whom he owes money.  When an island collapses into the sea, Jovis escapes with a young boy he has rescued from the tithing ceremony and saves a strange little cat-like creature from the sea.  

Mephi, the strange cat-like creature, gradually rescues Jovis from his grief and encourages Jovis to continue rescuing children.

Phalue is the daughter of the governor of one of the islands and Ranani is her girlfriend, who is working with the rebels.

Sand lives and works on an island where the inhabitants don't know where they came from and believe they have been there forever.  An accident reminds Sand that she hasn't been on the island forever, but regaining that specific knowledge doesn't give her back her memories.  

All of these threads will unite eventually.  In the meantime, each one has a powerful story involved.  The book moves back and forth between the characters and their stories easily.

  When children across the island kingdom are eight years old, a tithing requires that each child has a shard of bone excised from its skull.  The shard belong to the emperor who uses bone shard magic to supposedly protect the islands.  Part of this involves the creation of "constructs," an amalgamation of animal parts plus the bone shard(s).  The bone shards implanted in these constructs contain commands from the emperor.  Shades of Dr. Moreau.  Creeeepy.  

The magic seems to be science gone mad.

So...what did I think?  I was all in--able to tolerate inconsistencies and curious about each of the different storylines, completely absorbed in this compelling tale.  Sadly, I will have to wait for the release of the next in the series.  

Hatchett Audio Book;  Narrators:  Feodor Chin, Natalie Naudus, Emily Woo Zeller
Fantasy.  2020.  Print length:  448 pages.

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn was a strange choice for me.  I was looking for something a little light, and this one sounded like a rom/com about a calligrapher.  I don't usually read "romance," but this sounded like something a little different.

And it sort of was and there were parts I sort of liked.  Yet... somehow it didn't work out for me.  I liked the characters fine.  The interior monologues about words, fonts, and letters was almost like Meg had a form of synesthesia, interesting, but maybe a little over done. 

It was a nice little romance, even with the flaws, until the second half of the book. I don't equate detailed sex scenes with romance, and in the end the good points weren't enough to satisfy any "com" in the "rom."

Ah, well.  You win some, you lose some.   

In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace is another unusual choice for me, as I don't often choose cozy mysteries, but I was still looking for a light read, and you know there's that big cat and the Victorian mansion on the cover and witches. 

from description:  When a guest dies in the B&B she helps her aunts run, a young witch must rely on some good old-fashioned investigating to clear her aunt's name in this magical and charming new cozy mystery.

I liked the aunts.  Their personalities were such a contrast.  Brynn, their niece, has always been able to commune with ghosts and when Constance (the guest) dies, Brynn seems the perfect person to have a little conversation with Constance to find out what happened, especially since it appears the her Aunt Nora is the chief suspect!  Brynn, however, has been unable or unwilling to use her powers since her husband died.  She is determined to clear her aunt without using her powers and isn't even certain that she could use them if she wanted to.

In the Company of Witches is a fast read, and if you enjoy cozy mysteries this might be one you would like.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing
Cozy Mystery.  Oct. 5, 2021.  Print length:  336 pages.  
After all the plenteous rains of May and early June came the heat and humidity.  It may not be officially summer yet, but most of the country seems to be experiencing record heat.  Summer used to be peak travel time, but honestly, I'd rather go somewhere in the fall or spring than in the summer.  

There has been a lot less gardening and a lot more reading and stitching inside with AC.  

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Therapist by B.A. Paris and Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger


I'd looked forward to this one, but in the end, I felt like the reader was being gas lighted.  

from description:  When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…

As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Everyone is a suspect in Nina's murder.  Alice is boring and obsessed, and no one is trustworthy because the author is manipulating the reader to  keep up suspense, and counterintuitively, the pace begins to crawl and the suspicions become repetitive.   (It's Tamsin, Will, Connor.  No, Edward, Eve, Leo, Ben.)  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

 July 13, 2021.  Print length:  304 pages.


from description:  She met him through a dating app. An intriguing picture on a screen, a date at a downtown bar. What she thought might be just a quick hookup quickly became much more. She fell for him—hard. It happens sometimes, a powerful connection with a perfect stranger takes you by surprise. Could it be love?

But then, just as things were getting real, he stood her up. Then he disappeared—profiles deleted, phone disconnected. She was ghosted.

Wren Greenwood is an advice columnist, and her column "Dear Birdie" has been so popular, it has turned into a well-paying, sponsored podcast as well. 

Wren's best friend Jax pushes her to try a dating app to provide something more in her life besides work.  Surprisingly, one of her matches has all the qualities Wren has been looking for in a partner, not simply a hookup.  She and Adam seem to fit together, and for a few months, Wren and Adam seem to be developing a long term relationship.  Then he fails to show up at a restaurant where they were to meet and doesn't respond to her texts.

When a detective shows up at her door with information about "Adam,"  Wren is forced to reexamine their relationship.  Could Adam really be responsible for the disappearance of at least two young women?  

Wren joins the detective in the search for the man who has a great deal to hide and may not be through with Wren.

Interesting premise in this new world where people find themselves isolated and use dating apps to try and find relationships.   

Suspense.  Oct. 5, 2021.  Print length:  352 pages.



Sunday, June 06, 2021

Fallen by Linda Castill and The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Fallen and The Widows of Malabar Hill are both books that take us into other cultures and traditions.  The first has a contemporary setting in America, and the second takes us to Bombay in 1921, one hundred years ago and a time presaging great upheaval.  The power of fiction to engage our interest in lives that are very different from our own, to make us curious as we are informed, is one of the most important aspects of reading for many of us.

I read Fallen in March, but held back the review until closer to publication.  

Kate Burkholder left the Amish community years ago, but her familiarity with Amish customs and traditions are useful in her job as police chief in Painters Mill.  Having grown up in an Amish family, Kate understands and often sympathizes with the men and women she interviews during an investigation.  It doesn't mean she agrees with their thinking or their behavior, but she does have a context for it.  Even in devout communities, crimes occur and victims need justice.

When Rachael, "the only girl as bad at being Amish as Kate was" is found dead in a motel room in Painters Mill, Kate realizes she knew her years ago.  Rachael had been rebellious, eventually banned, and had left town for another life beyond Amish restrictions.  Why had she returned and who would have committed this brutal murder?

Each of Castillo's Kate Burkholder books functions as a standalone, an added bonus to an excellent series.  Her books are interesting because of the well-developed characters, the plots, and the insight into the Amish way of life.  I always look forward to new adventures with Kate.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Police Procedural.  July 6, 2021.  Print length:  320 pages.

The Widows of Malabar Hill
  by Sujata Massey had been on my list forever and when I started making the nightmare catchers a couple of weeks ago, it was one of the audible books (narrated by 
 Soneela Nankani)  I downloaded to listen to while stitching.  Loved it, just like every review said when it first came out.  

Aside from the plot, it was the insight into other cultures that made this so interesting.  Hindu, Muslim, Parsi--their laws and their customs kept me as absorbed as the well-drawn characters.  

Perveen Mistry is the first woman solicitor in Bombay and works for her father's law firm.  The backstory of Perveen's difficult road to her law degree is told in flashbacks, so there are two storylines being told and each is informative about life in 1916-1921 Bombay and about Perveen and the Mistry family. 

The current plot involves three Muslim wives after the death of their husband.  The women have all lived in purdah, seclusion from males, since their marriages, and now the mourning period is in effect as well.  As a woman, Perveen is able to visit the women and explain the terms of the will and the bequests to each of the women.  She is concerned about the estate manager's usurpation of authority in the household and about the ability of the women to understand how some of his directions would be detrimental to the widows' (and their children's) future financial situation.

I'm becoming quite addicted to audio books and Suleena Nankani's narration was excellent.  I'm debating on whether to read or listen to the next book, because of course, I have to read the next one!

 Currently reading, slowly12 Bytes by Jeannette Winterson: "Twelve bytes. Twelve eye-opening, mind-expanding, funny and provocative essays on the implications of artificial intelligence for the way we live and the way we love - from Sunday Times-bestselling author Jeanette Winterson.  In 12 Bytes, the New York Times bestselling author of Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson, draws on her years of thinking and reading about artificial intelligence in all its bewildering manifestations. In her brilliant, laser focused, uniquely pointed and witty style of story-telling, Winterson looks to history, religion, myth, literature, the politics of race and gender, and computer science, to help us understand the radical changes to the way we live and love that are happening now."

The first essay was fascinating, drawing together Ada Lovelace, Mary Shelley, Charles Babbage, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Lord Byron in an intriguing history of connections, mathematics, computers, women's rights, and the fictional leap of Frankenstein.  About a third of the way in, however, the essays are more philosophical, which takes me a great deal more time to decipher and ponder.  

I suppose that like most people, I'm curious about the future of AI--a subject that is as frightening as it is fascinating.  Winterson appears to have a hopeful outlook, but as always, there is the possibility of unintended consequences.  I'll continue the essays, slowly, and doing a little Google researching on my own.  

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Death at the Crystal Palace by Jennifer Ashley; Between Decisions by W.R. Gingell


Another fun adventure with Kat Holloway.

from description:  While attending an exhibition at the Crystal Palace, young cook Kat Holloway is approached by a woman in distress. Lady Covington is a wealthy widow convinced that her entire family is trying to kill her. Kat feels compelled to help, and she escorts the lady home to discover whether she is delusional or in true danger.

Someone in the household is trying to poison Lady Covington, and her children and stepchildren have possible motives.  Kat enlists Cynthia to visit the Covington home for a while and observe and gather information about the family.  Cynthia, whose parents are trying to force her home to their estate in the country in hopes of finding her a husband, is only too happy to undertake the task and get away from her parents for a while.

Kat's friend Daniel is involved in another mission to discover whether a Duke is supplying money to Irish Nationalists.  

This historical series is always fun, the characters are likable and the plots interesting.   Another enjoyable mystery with the (mostly) Below Stairs crowd.

NetGalley/Berkeley Pub.

Historical Mystery.  July 6, 2021.  print length:  304 pages.

If you enjoy urban fantasy, you might give W.R. Gingell's The City Between series a try.  But start at the beginning!

I was pleased when Ashley (Rustic Reading Gal) noted that book #8 was available, found it on Kindle Unlimited, downloaded it, and returned to Hobart and all of the curious characters and adventures.

So there are Sirens and the united efforts to put an end to their preying on humans.  Typical stuff.  The back and forth with Pet and Jin Yeong-- fun. But...then...Shock after Shock! 

How long will we have to wait for #9?   I want the final two books, and I want them now!

Kindle Unlimited.

Urban Fantasy.  May 16, 2021.  print length:  266 pages. 


Friday, May 28, 2021

The Heron's Cry by Ann Cleeves, The Child in the Photo by Kerry Wilkinson, Art Matters by Neil Gaiman and A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier


I read this in April, but it won't be published until Sept. 7.  I intended to schedule it, but I'm tired of waiting that long to review a book.  I will mention it again closer to publication.

from description:North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder--Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter's broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He's a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

I enjoyed the first of Cleeves' new series featuring Matthew Venn, but not as much as her Vera series.  However, I'm liking it better as I grow familiar with the characters in the Two Rivers series.   The Long Call introduced her new characters and The Heron's Cry continues their development.   So...a nifty police procedural as well-written as is typical of Cleeves, and characters who are evolving make The Heron's Cry another great addition to the Cleeves' body of work.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Police Procedural.  Sept. 7, 2021.  Print length:  400 pages.

from description:  I stare at the newspaper article about a baby snatched from the back of a car thirty years ago, and wonder why someone would post it through my door. Looking closer, my blood freezes. The little girl in the photo has an unusual scar – just like mine.  

Kerry Wilkinson is another of my go-to mystery and police procedural authors.  The Child in the Photo is a stand-alone and a compelling read as I became engaged with Hope's search for the truth.  

It isn't my favorite from this author, but I enjoyed the relationship between Hope and her best friend Stephen and the twists as Hope begins to realize that the family she has known and loved is not her biological family.  Her feelings of frustrations, confusion, and anger, as she delves into the past and several deceptions by people she meets.  

Mystery.  June 14, 2021.  Print length:  318 pages.

I listened to this as an audio book and thoroughly enjoyed Neil Gaiman's very English voice;  the only drawback was that since it was an audio book, I didn't get to see Chris Riddell's drawings.

My favorite was Gaiman's talk "On Libraries, "  which emphasizes the importance of libraries and fostering young readers.  Of course, you would all agree with his opinions, as you are readers, too, but it was a pleasure to listen to.

from description:   

Art Matters bring together four of Gaiman’s most beloved writings on creativity and artistry: 

  • “Credo”, his remarkably concise and relevant manifesto on free expression, first delivered in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings
  • “Make Good Art”, his famous 2012 commencement address delivered at the Philadelphia University of the Arts
  • “Making a Chair”, a poem about the joys of creating something, even when words won’t come 
  • “On Libraries”, an impassioned argument for libraries that illuminates their importance to our future and celebrates how they foster readers and daydreamers.
I listened to this as I was working on some small Nightmare Catcher dolls.  I was watching a K drama when the main character gave the love interest, who was troubled by night terrors, a Nightmare Catcher doll.  It was very similar to Junker Jane's monster dolls, and I went upstairs and immediate began gathering scraps to make some of my own.  (Melanie, have you watched It's OK Not to Be OK?)  Audio books are wonderful to listen to while working on these eccentric little creatures.    

The next audio book I listened to was A Borrowing of Bones (which I downloaded some time ago on Lark's recommendation, but had not listened to.)

from description:  First in a gripping new mystery series about a retired MP and her bomb-sniffing dog who become embroiled in an investigation in the beautiful Vermont wilderness
It may be the Fourth of July weekend, but for retired soldiers Mercy Carr and Belgian Malinois Elvis, it’s just another walk in the remote Lye Brook Wilderness—until the former bomb-sniffing dog alerts to explosives and they find a squalling baby abandoned near a shallow grave filled with what appear to be human bones. U.S. Game Warden Troy Warner and his search-and rescue Newfoundland Susie Bear respond to Mercy’s 911 call, and the four must work together to track down a missing mother, solve a cold-case murder, and keep the citizens of Vermont safe on potentially the most incendiary Independence Day since the American Revolution.

 Yes, I'm still a sucker for working dogs, and Mercy, Elvis, Troy, and Susie Bear kept me interested the entire time.  Amy and Helena and Patience were also great characters.   A Borrowing of Bones was a suspenseful mystery and a new series to follow.

Thanks, Lark! 

I was still making dolls, but in addition, I was also managing some household chores like dusting, mopping floors, etc.   Now, I have a cleaner house, four completed dolls and two more in progress all while being entertained .