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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

In the Barren Ground

In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White takes place in a Canadian wilderness bordering the Arctic Circle.  Tana Larson, young and pregnant, becomes the sole law enforcement for an area that covers 17,500 miles when her superior has some issues with the cold, isolation, and prolonged darkness of the area.

Two young researchers are savaged by wolves, and Tana, after viewing the scene begins to have some doubts about whether the wolves killed the two young people--or arrived after they were dead.

A mixture of legend, madness, and a determined young Mountie who has a surfeit of suspects.

I liked it.  White's writing evokes the atmosphere of the far north.      

Kindle Unlimited.  Read in March.   

The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey was my favorite book in March, but it won't be published until August, so I'm holding the review.

My husband didn't get this,
but anyone who has grown an avocado tree from an avocado pit will.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, The Black and the White by Alis Hawkins, The Falling Girl by R. Allen Chappell, and Some Loreth Anne White

I'm behind on reviewing; off course, that is usually the case, but in this current turmoil--even more so.  

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson was full of detail and well-researched; some of the details were fascinating, but they were overwhelming.  It was difficult to actually absorb all of the numbers, but interesting to see the myriad complications of planning and creating the Chicago's World Fair.  Interspersed between chapters about the all that went on to actually build the Fair were chapters about the serial killer H.H. Holmes.  

One thing I didn't like was Larson's imagining certain scenes with the killer and his victims.  He addresses this in his notes, but imagining scenes in a nonfiction book annoys me.  I'm glad I read it--I learned some things that will stay with me about the planning of a World Fair and the complications that ensue but I definitely prefer the altered style of Larson's The Splendid and the Vile about Churchill and the blitz.   No imagined scenes in The Splendid and the Vile--all came from letters and personal accounts, and it read more smoothly and more quickly than The Devil in the White City.


Great cover and an intriguing premise.  The Black and the White by Alis Hawkins has some historical interest and is well-written, but the "mystery" is a slow burn--even though the reader is quick to see who the murderer is.  (Martin has all the information and still fails to let it penetrate or persuade him to admit it.)

Anyone interested in the Black Death might enjoy elements of the story that "sort of" coincide with the current pandemic, but as a mystery or thriller, it did not succeed for me.  

Netgalley/Sapere Books
Historical Fiction.  March 30, 2020.  Print length:  370 pages.

Since first reading Navajo Autumn last year, I've read every book in this series.  I have not reviewed all of them, but I have loved each one  and was so excited that R. Allen Chappell had a new entry in the series!

In Falling Girl, Harley Ponyboy takes the lead and adjusts to changes in his circumstances in a purely Harley Ponyboy way!  Harley adapts to his new situation(s) in ways humorous and expected, but also in ways that show growing maturity as he depends less on his friends to counteract the threat.  His initiative is different from that of Charlie Yazzie or Thomas Begay, but effective.

I adore this series and the characters.  If you have the opportunity, get the first book in this series of the Four Corners region of the Southwest and immerse yourself in the culture, characters, and plots because Chappell just keeps getting better!

Kindle Unlimited.

Melody mentioned how much she enjoyed In the Dark by Loreth Anne White a while back and sent me looking forWhite's books.  So far I've read and enjoyed In the Dark, The Dark Lure, and The Dark Bones.  Yes, I do want more.  They are not great literature, they are fast-paced and gripping and keep my mind off the news.  Fortunately, I will be able to read quite a few more.  Free on Kindle Unlimited.  Thanks, Melody.  :)

 I do my daily yoga sadhana.  With the emphasis on breath, yoga gives a respite from the news and overthinking.

The constant rain without time for the ground to dry out has inhibited my ability to garden, but I fill the bird feeders daily.  The birds don't seem to mind the rain, and I enjoy the daily squabbles over whose turn it is on the feeders.  Doves are greedy and sometimes bully the smaller birds.   The hawk that sat on the fence and frightened all the other birds away has not returned.  

Stay safe.  

Monday, March 16, 2020

Jeri Westerson, Louisa Morgan, and C.S. Harris--Historical Fiction

In Sword of Shadows by Jeri Westerson, Crispin Guest is again on the hunt of a fabulous artifact, this one more related to myth than religion.

from description:  London, 1396. A trip to the swordsmith shop for Crispin Guest, Tracker of London, and his apprentice Jack Tucker takes an unexpected turn when Crispin crosses paths with Carantok Teague, a Cornish treasure hunter. Carantok has a map he is convinced will lead him to the sword of Excalibur - a magnificent relic dating back to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table - and he wants Crispin to help him find it.

Tintagel, a hidden village, some murders, jilted lovers, and the return of Kat.  Another fun adventure with Crispin and Jack.

Read in December.  Blog review scheduled for March 16, 2020.

NetGalley/Severn House
Historical Mystery.  April 7, 2020.  Print length:  224 pages.

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan features a family of witches with historical roots, some benevolent magic vs manipulative magic for self-interest, a social climbing stepmother, a young woman fighting for independence, a little romance.  

Like with ghost stories, witch stories always appeal to me, but rarely satisfy me.  Although I didn't want to abandon it, The Age of Witches didn't make me want to seek out the author again.  For me, it promised more than it delivered.

Read in December.  Blog review scheduled for March 16, 2020.

NetGalley/Redhook Books
Historical Fiction/Paranormal.  April 7, 2020.  Print length:  448 pages.  

Whenever a new Sebastian St. Cyr book is released, I'm eager to begin!  Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris pits Sebastian (Viscount Devlin) against Jarvis and a political cover-up.  That damned Jarvis, he is the epitome of the influential politician.  Of course, he is also Hero's father, which puts Sebastian in many an awkward situation.

Nicholas Hayes was transported to Botany Bay for life and reportedly died there.  Why has he returned to London?  Who killed him and why?  

Sebastian's valet knew Nicholas Hayes and his opinion of the man differs greatly from those who name him as a murderer.  Hayes was accompanied by a young boy who has since disappeared, and Sebastian and Hero search for him.  Someone else is also searching, but the intent is vastly different.  

As always, I enjoyed the history, the mystery, and the characters in C.S. Harris' enthralling series set in Regency England.

Read in November.  Review scheduled for March 16, 2020.

NetGalley/ Berkley Pub.
Historica Mystery.  April 7, 2020.  Print length:  336 pages.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa, The Last Sister by Kendra Elliot, and Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford

 Night of the Dragon, the final installment of Julie Kagawa's Shadow of the Fox trilogy, follows the little band of heroes to the final conflict with evil.  Hoping against hope to stop the Master of Demon's plan, Yumeko, Tatsumi, Reika, Okame, Daisuke, and the little ghost maiden Suki  embrace the challenges and put their lives on the line for the chance of saving the world.

I love the characters.  I loved the first two books.  This final book, however, deals more with the battles and monsters than with the characters.  I'd be interested in the percentage of time spent on battles vs time spent with characters who have made the trilogy so much fun for me.   The purpose was, perhaps, to increase suspense, but for me, it became simply frustrating.  I quit caring about how many heads and limbs were lost and just wanted to get on with the plot.  Even the appearance of the silent game player that gave a late twist to the plot...didn't quite feel right.

So, if you've been following Shadow of the Fox, you will want to read this to discover a number of secrets revealed and how our charming band of hopefuls end up.  You may not agree with my opinion of too many lengthy battles.

NetGalley/Inkyard Press
YA/Fantasy.  March 31, 2020.  Print length:  384 pages.  

 The Last Sister by Kendra Elliot is the first in her new Columbia River series.  I really enjoyed Elliot's Mercy Kilpatrick series and was pleased to find another series that might keep my interest.

I don't usually listen to audio books, but I did listen to this one while doing mundane chores.  It kept me entertained, and I did a lot more  mindless tasks than I intended.  It was certainly a different experience from reading.

Small town in Oregon, a young black man hanged and his white wife savagely stabbed to death, a weird connection (or two or three) to a murder 20 years previously.

The main character Zander Wells is from a previous series that I haven't read.  A second book is scheduled for this year, and I will probably listen to it as well.  And dust, mop floors, do laundry, do baseboards and ceiling fans, etc.  :)

Kindle Unlimited
Mystery.  January 2020.  Print length:  328 pages.

I rarely read novellas, but I've recently read two, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflecting Water by Zen Cho (which I've scheduled closer to publication) and Jeffrey Ford's Out of Body.

From description: "Jeffrey Ford returns with Out of Body, a new horror story about a small-town librarian whose sleep paralysis becomes something much more."  

OK.  A rather dull librarian experiences out of body episodes that introduce him to the mysteries of the night world.  Murders, vampires, a serial killer, and other strange experiences.  

I was slowly drawn in to this one, mostly because I had no idea what to expect and still don't know what to say about it.

Strange, but not really my thing.

NetGalley/Macmillan, Tor/Forge.
Horror? Fantasy?  May 26, 2020.  Print length:  175 pages.

I'm slowly making my way through two nonfiction books:  The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and Growing Old by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.  

Anthropomorphzed Books by Johnathan Wolstenholme found here 

Sunday, March 08, 2020

The Canary Keeper, The Killing Fog, and No Quiet Among the Shadows

The Canary Keeper by Clare Carson is a historical mystery set in the mid-1800s, full of atmospheric descriptions and historic detail.  I was particularly interested in the connections to the Franklin Expedition because I had a reading itinerary several years ago that focused on books connected directly and indirectly to the Franklin Expedition and Arctic exploration.   There was also a look at the fur trade, the abuses and prejudices against indigenous peoples.  

A murder, a false accusation, and an escape to Stromness in the Orkney Islands of Scotland.  

Kindle Unlimited

Historic Mystery.  2019.  Print length:  416 pages.

The Killing Fog (#1 in the Grave Kingdom series) by Jeff Wheeler.  

I loved Wheeler's Kingfountain series and enjoyed his Harbinger series, as well.  This new series, however, didn't engage me in the same way.  

A lot of possibility and a strong beginning, but the characters lack the depth and interest of those in his previous series.  The rush into the plot left no time to appreciate either the characters or the world situation.

Disappointed, but will give the next book in the series a try.

Kindle Unlimited

Fantasy.  March 1, 2020.  Print length:  212 pages.

No Quiet Among the Shadows by Nancy Herriman is a historical mystery set in San Francisco.  

A glimpse of the husband Celia Davies thought was dead, the murder of an investigator, seances, and women and wives who are troublesome committed to asylums.  Some intriguing avenues for a mystery.

This is the third in this series, but I haven't read the first two books.  Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had.

NetGalley/Beyond the Page Publishing
Historical Mystery.  March 3, 2020.  Print length:  264 pages.

 Blind date with a book

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Why Writing Matters by Nicholas Delbanco

Why Writing Matters is full of Delbanco's personal experiences with writing, with his mentors, and with his students.  (I know I mentioned this book when I read it, but this is a more detailed review.)

Delbanco begins with one of the most important reasons for writing:  "before the invention of writing, spoken discourse could not last."  Oral transmission, while wonderful for making use of memory, is "subject to forgetfulness or change."  The oral tradition was marvelous, but writing has more permanence.  

Writing, words on a page or clay tablet, allows cultures to be shared and provides a way to imagine the future and to keep evidence of the past.  Writing enables us to communicate with those who are not physically present--and recorded history and literature allow us to communicate with those from the past. 

One important note that Delbanco makes early, and returns to later:  Read it again!  Our first impressions of a written work can change.  The beloved books of our youth can take on new meaning or become obvious in their lack of genuine content or style.  When an adolescent Delbanco was spouting the marvels of The Scarlet Pimpernel, one of his teachers advised him to read it again. At fourteen, he did and discovered that while the book had been fun and exciting, it was not the great literature he had imagined.  Delbanco's reminiscences of his teachers, mentors, and colleagues reveal how writers learn their trade and inspire each other.   

( Delbanco was a privileged and intelligent kid with the added advantage of some marvelous teachers at his prep school.  Fieldston is part of the Ivy Preparatory School League and is an elite school with impressive graduates and teachers.)  

After Fieldston, 
He was educated at Harvard University, B.A. 1963; Columbia University, M.A. 1966. He taught at Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, 1966–84, and at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, 1984–85. He was a visiting Professor at such institutions also as Trinity College, Williams College, Columbia University and the University of Iowa. He was director of the MFA Program, and the Hopwood Awards Program at the University of Michigan, until his retirement in 2015. (Wikipedia)

The section on imitation is interesting, and Delbanco emphasizes that for many trades apprenticeship has been the preferred way to learn.  He adds, "But to imitate is not to be derivative; it's simply to admit that we derive from what was accomplished by others."   And "No one seeks to be original when learning scales, or how to use a grindstone, or where the comma belongs in a dependent clause. "  We emulate in order to learn skills.

Delbanco also discusses imitation, forgery, plagiarism, and authenticity in an intriguing way with famous examples.

The exploitation and corruption of language is another way of examining both spoken and written words.   Think politicians--saying one thing, then saying they didn't say it or that they didn't mean it.  Instead of cogent and meaningful discourse, the choosing of hyperbole and boastfulness, repetition "as if asseveration might make a falsehood true"  has become more and more common.  Do people mean what they say or what they write?  I find it difficult to believe political rhetoric, mostly because it lacks sincerity at best and is predominantly ad hominem attack without content or truth at worst.  An intentional misuse of language, Delbanco believes is an assault on democracy.  I'm not sure anyone would disagree these days.

 This wasn't intended to such a long review, but as I skim over all the highlighted passages I marked as I read, there is no way to cover everything.  There are sections I would omit.  Sometimes a few examples are better than too many and Delbanco, who takes obvious joy in writing, can overdo a good thing at times.  :)

The book was a pleasure to read, and I loved the references to writers I've read and to some I've only read about.  I enjoyed the plays on words  (though maybe some should be cut) and Debanco's pleasure in language is evident throughout, and I loved learning a couple of new-to-me interpretations of quotes from Hamlet

I want to read the final edited version and have pre-ordered the book.  Read in January; blog review scheduled for March 3.

NetGalley/Yale U.P.
Nonfiction.  March 17, 2020.  Print length:  296 pages (ARC)

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald and Glass Houses by Louise Penny

I know a lot of people loved When We Were Vikings, and sometimes I did, too. 

from description:  For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:

1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.

But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.

I loved Zelda, who suffers from cognitive disabilities as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome, and sympathized with Gert, who had been responsible for her most of her life. 

It wasn't the characters that didn't work for me, they were well realized.  It was the narrative that bothered me.  Also, Zelda's ability to read and retain information,to add and use words to her vocabulary daily, as well as her ability to problem-solve were a little puzzling.  I know college-educated adults who would have difficulty reading nonfiction works about Vikings and remembering in detail.  Zelda shows both maturity and immaturity in equal measure, almost as if her intellect was fine and only her emotional responses were childlike. 

There were parts I loved, but something (I'm not sure exactly what--a kind of ambivalence or doubt that kept creeping in) kept me from wholeheartedly believing.

I do recommend When We Were Vikings.  A sense of compassion permeates the story.  It is easy to fall in love with Zelda and to admire Gert's commitment to his sister.  The support of AK47 and others is another uplifting element to this modern myth of heroes, Valkyries, and villains.  

NetGalley/Gallery, Pocket Books
Literary Fiction.  Feb. 1, 2020.  Print length:  335 pages.  

Louise Penny's Glass Houses begins slowly with a murder trial, but moves back and forth in time between the inciting event and the trial.  

Nearly a year before the trial, a strange masked figure wearing a hooded black robe appears at a Halloween party.  No one recognizes the figure and the figure remains silent, ignoring the questions of party goers.  Puzzling, but since it is a Halloween party, most of Three Pines residents and the two visiting couples find it merely curious.  

The next day, the figure appears on the village green, silent and seemingly immobile--and curiosity turns to uneasiness.  When Armand Gamache approaches it, questioning its identity and intent, the silence and lack of physical response begin to feel menacing.  The figure has hurt no one, but the silent vigil is unnerving for the community.  They want Gamache to do something, but no laws have been broken.

Eventually a guest mentions the cobrador del frac--a Spanish debt collector dressed in top hat and tails who follows people who owe money and refuse to pay.   

He adds that much less is known about the medieval origin of the cobrador, a collector of moral debts--who acted as a conscience and stalked his target until confession or penance occurred.  

The idea of an incarnation of the ancient cobrador--taking no action, speaking not at all, but shaming the guilty party--causes citizens of Three Pines and their guests to wonder whose moral crimes have attracted the cobrador.  And who has called a Conscience to Three Pines.  

In a discussion of conscience, the question is asked about why the Holocaust happened.  Myrna answers, "It happened because no one stopped them.  Not enough people stood up soon enough.  And why was that?"  

Clara suggests fear may have prevented people taking action,  and Myrna responds, "Yes, partly.  And partly programming.  All around them, respectable Germans saw others behaving brutally toward people they considered outsiders.  The Jews, gypsies, gays.  It became normal and acceptable.  No one told them what was happening was wrong.  In fact, just the opposite."   

Armand follows up a little later with "We see it when bullies are in charge.  It becomes part of the culture of an institution, a family, an ethnic group, a country.  It becomes not just acceptable, but expected.  Applauded even."

The cobrador is conscience, and someone in  the tiny village knows that he or she is the guilty party.  Then a murder.  

As the narrative moves back and forth between the court scenes and the arrival of the cobrador in Three Pines nearly a year earlier, the background is gradually filled in.   

Gamache faces a dilemma that results in a decision that will bother his conscience with either  dreadful choice.  

Character-driven and complex, Glass Houses is another outstanding offering from Louise Penny.

Now, I have only three more books to be caught up with this remarkable series.  

Crime/Mystery.  2017.  Print length:  391 pages.

One of my favorite books last year was Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile:  A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.

Here is an interesting interview:  Erik Larson on Writing Wartime Life During the London Blitz

Friday, February 21, 2020

Mike Hambling's DCI Sophie Allen Series

In November of last year, I read Silent Crimes by Michael Hambling as an ARC from NetGalley. The book was #8 in a series featuring DCI Sophie Allen, and although I had not read any of the previous books, it worked well as a stand-alone.  

I like police procedurals, so I ordered and read the first in the series Dark Crimes: Sophie Allen #1.

from description:  A young woman’s body is discovered on a deserted footpath in a Dorset seaside town late on a cold November night. She has been stabbed through the heart.
It seems like a simple crime for DCI Sophie Allen and her team to solve. But not when the victim’s mother is found strangled the next morning. The case grows more complex as DCI Sophie Allen discovers that the victims had secret histories, involving violence and intimidation.

I just realized that I didn't review it at the time, but I did keep Hambling in mind because I wanted to read more.  

Kindle Unlimited

This month, I went back to the series and read books 2,3, and 4.  They read quickly and are full of puzzling investigations.  

from description:   A young man’s mutilated body is found on top of the Agglestone, a well-known local landmark on Studland Heath
It seems that he was involved in a human trafficking and prostitution gang. 
There is also a thread concerning Sophie's father.  It was believed that he deserted her pregnant mother, but when a body is found down a mine shaft, Sophie and her mother realize he was murdered.

Kindle Unlimited. 

from description:  The body of an attractive festival-goer is discovered on the rocky shoreline at Peveril Point
But the young woman’s injuries arouse suspicion. Who was the man she met? Is there a history of suspicious deaths at other music festivals across the area?
 Sophie is still dealing with the effects of the previous book and her own involvement.  She has had therapy and is now trying to get on with her life.

A new character is introduced.  Transgender detective constable Rae Gregson joins the team--hoping to fit in, but aware of potential problems.

Kindle Unlimited

 from description:  A family move into their dream home in Dorchester: it seems perfect, particularly for their two children, but when Philip and Jill Freeman decide to move a buddleia bush, what they find buried beneath its roots will haunt them forever.

 Decades old murders are short on clues, but the team works at all of the twists presented.  Kept me a bit off-center and guessing about two possible suspects.  

Kindle Unlimited.

I'll eventually get to the other books in this series.  :)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Saturday, February 15, 2020

18 Tiny Deaths by Bruce Goldfarb

When I requested 18 Tiny Deaths, it was this sentence in the description that caught my attention:  

"The fascinating story of the forgotten woman who pioneered forensic science."

I'd never heard of Frances Glessner Lee, but one of my reading objectives is to read more nonfiction and more biographies of women.  The idea of a woman having pioneered forensic science was an irresistible bonus to a fan of mysteries and police procedurals.  

Frances Glessner was born in 1878 to a family of great wealth and influence.  She and her brother were home schooled by private tutors, receiving a wide-ranging education significantly beyond what a public school could offer.  They were also encouraged to be children and to appreciate the outdoors, music, and arts and crafts in ways outside of academics.  Although her brother went to Harvard, women were not admitted to those "hallowed" halls and Frances did not go to college.  While she may have been brilliant and accomplished (more so than most college educated men), she personally felt the lack of formal education.

It is a thorough biography; however, since Frances did not become interested in what was termed medicolegal pathology until the latter portion of her life, it is in the last half of the book that her efforts to transform medical legal medicine into a unique division of medicine  is presented.  Inspired by her friend and mentor George Magrath, Frances used her wealth and influence to improve the system.

"She persisted" genuinely applies to Frances' efforts to revolutionize the ways sudden or suspicious deaths were examined, to replace the ancient coroner system with medical examiners, and to train police to preserve crime scenes and become intently observant.  

Previously much of what can be found about Frances Glessner Lee  has to do with her dioramas, the nutshell models--and they are important.  But Bruce Goldfarb has brought to light all of what the woman accomplished.  While the nutshell models are crucial, what impressed me most was the money, energy, time, and effort Frances put into her attempts to end a corrupt coroner system and replace it with trained medical examiners and to educate crime scene investigators (patrolmen and detectives) on how to observe and preserve a crime scene.  

A compelling look into the life of the woman who is responsible for scientific approaches to crime investigation.  A remarkable book about a remarkable woman--highly recommended for those interested in history, crime, and forensics.

Extensive primary and secondary sources.

A look at the Nutshells.

Nonfiction/Biography.  Feb. 4, 2020.  Print length:  336 pages.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman and Safe House by Jo Jakeman

I had looked forward to this one, and at first, I thought I might like it.  

That didn't turn out to be the case.  The behavior of the main character was off-the-wall questionable from the first chapter and became more questionable with each succeeding chapter.  

More filler than thriller.  And then there was the conclusion.  

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Feb. 1, 2020.  Print length:  314 pages.  

I really liked Jo Jakeman's previous book (under two titles at the time I read it--Exes' Revenge and Sticks and Stones), and I was excited about Jakeman's Safe House.

from description:  The morning after a terrible storm, a woman turns up in a remote Cornish village. She calls herself Charlie, but it's a name she's only had for a few days. She keeps herself to herself, reluctant to integrate with the locals. Because Charlie has a secret.

Before her ten months in prison for supplying a false alibi for her boyfriend, Charlie was Steffie Finn.  Now with a new name and hopefully a safe place to live without the burden of anyone knowing her past, Charlie is trying to come to terms with who she really is and fit into her new name and new life in a small village.  While in prison, Steffi received twisted hate mail, blaming her for the deaths of the two women her boyfriend killed. It is difficult for her to feel safe physically and she fears exposure that would incite more threats.

Part of the suspense is not knowing who it is that has made such an effort to find her.  Part of the suspense is waiting to see what the twist will be. Jakeman keeps the reader uneasy.

I liked  speculating about this and that possibility.  Until the author wants the reader to know, the guessing game is intact.  Written in past and present and in various perspectives, Safe House was a satisfying psychological thriller, although the conclusion felt rushed.  

NetGalley/Berkely Publ.
Psychological Suspense.  March 10, 2020.  Print length:  336 pages.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

All the Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen, an Ellery Hathaway/Reed Markham Novel

Suspended police officer Ellery Hathaway and FBI Agent Reed Markham are back in Joanna Schaffhausen's latest novel.  

Reed asks Ellery's help in investigating a cold case, one that is intensely personal. Reed  knew he was adopted as an infant, and when he was eighteen, his father told him the circumstances of his birth mother's murder and Reed's subsequent adoption by the Markham's.  

In No Mercy, the previous book, a gift for DNA testing revealed secrets that made Reed question everything he thought he knew.  His foundation begins to crumble.

Reed and Ellery head to Las Vegas to delve into the unsolved murder of Reed's mother, Camilla.  A forty-year-old cold case presents multiple difficulties, and Reed is both determined and fearful of the outcome, which may destroy the family that raised him.

Schaffhausen does a good job of keeping the possibilities open, so there are several good options to keep the reader guessing.  Reed and Ellery have complicated pasts to resolve, but the two combine their strengths to support each other.

This series has gotten better with each new addition.  I'm really curious about where the next book will lead.

(I don't like either of these covers, but at least the second one has some connection to the story.)

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Suspense.  Feb. 11, 2020.  Print length:  336 pages.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

January Favorites

The Indomitable Florence Finch:  The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter and Savior of American POWs by Robert J. Mrazek. I have not scheduled my review, but I'm still in awe of background of the War in the Pacific and the courage of Florence Finch.  

An absolutely engrossing story that reveals the failure of MacArthur in defending the Philippines (and his monumental ego), Florence Finch and her determination to risk her life despite the consequences, and many other real people who defied the odds against them.  

A wealth of primary sources, books, and other material  enabled Mrazek to reveal both personal and historical elements of the War in the Pacific--the battles, loss of lives, and conditions of the Philippines including the last ditch effort on Corregidor, the Battaan Death March, and the occupation of Manila.  I've just started a review, but it will be scheduled for closer to the book's June 16th publication date.  Nonfiction.  Highly Recommended!  

Why Writing Matters by Nicholas Delbanco.  Another one that I read this month, but publication will be in March, so I'll schedule the review closer to publication. Nonfiction.

I also really liked The Hollows, with its strong female cast and historical relevance which I reviewed here.

I finished Hidden on the Fens by Joy Ellis yesterday, and it made the list.  Ellis is one of my very favorites in the police procedural genre, and her latest Nikki Galena/Joseph Easter is one of her best.

A copse of trees, so dense and entangled that getting in is almost impossible, hides a derelict cottage from the early 1900's.  Richard Howard wants to clear the copse and plant local trees--leading to the discovery of the ramshackle cottage and evidence that someone has been squatting there. They find a tent and a satchel with photos of a girl who went missing 15 years ago.  And eventually, a body.

At the same time, Richard's mother has been receiving some disturbing messages, including an athame, a witch's knife.

Nikki's team is working two cases and there is a staff shortage that is keeping everyone busy.  Ellis always writes excellent police procedurals, and this time, she had a number of surprises to keep me off balance as to the identity of the villain.   

I love the characters and the complex, skillfully woven narratives in this series.  I was also intrigued by a couple of mentions of Nikki's mother and friend Wendy undertaking some historical research in Scotland in an attempt to find out more about an artist mentioned in the last book.  The references to this research indicate more of Eve and Wendy in the next book.  :)  

NetGalley/Joffe Books
Police Procedural.  Feb. 14, 2020.  Print length:  302 pages.

A good month that ended on a high note!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Irish Inheritance by M.J. Lee and Anne Belinda by Patricia Wentworth

I first read about this series on Cathy's blog and decided to give it a try as the premise of a genealogist "detective" appeals to my love of historical mysteries.  I tried one other genealogical series that didn't work for me, but this one was a pleasure.  

The Irish Inheritance by M.J. Lee engaged my interest with the Easter Rising and the subsequent Irish problems over the years.  Jayne Sinclair, former police detective and current genealogical researcher, agrees to help an adopted American billionaire by discovering who his father was. 

 Jayne "has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. And it soon becomes apparent somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past."  (from description)

With little time and little to go on, Jayne puts all her efforts into discovering the answers, to both the past and present questions.

I'm glad I began with the first book, and I'm happy to know that there are plenty more in this series for me to discover.  :)

Kindle Unlimited
Mystery.   2016.  Print length:  332 pages.

Patricia Wentworth is the Golden Age of Detective Fiction author of the Miss Silver series.  I saw this stand alone offered free on Kindle Unlimited, and since I wanted to read more from the Golden Age period, this one sounded like a good beginning.

Anne Belinda is as much an old-fashioned romance as it is old-fashioned mystery. 

In 1917, after he’s released from the hospital, John Waveney is headed back to the trenches in France when he decides to visit the land of his ancestors dating back to the Crusades. There, he meets a young girl who, upon learning he’s all alone in the world, tells him she’d be sorry if anything happened to him at the front.

Nine years later, John inherits the estate and returns.  His first thought is to meet Anne Belinda again, but he can't get any relevant answers.  Where is Anne and why is everyone giving him the run-around?

The novel is definitely old-fashioned and frequently frustrating.  I didn't hate it, but it doesn't compare to the best of the period.  

Open Road Media
Golden Age Crime.  1927; 2016.  Print length: 208 pages.  
My third panel for 25 Million Stitches is finished and ready to mail.  I've spent countless hours on these three panels and enjoyed some binge-watching of Netflix, a number of good podcasts, and some silent meditative stitches.  As soon as I finished, I had to begin another stitching project with no purpose other than to have the peaceful process of "needle pulling thread."

This is encouraging!

In 2019, more Americans went to the library than to the movies. Yes, really.