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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Clockmaker's Daughter - Kate Morton

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

First Paragraph(s):

We came to Birchwood Manor because Edward said that it was haunted.  It wasn't, not then, but it's a dull man who lets truth stand in the way of a good story, and Edward was never that.  His passion, his blinding faith in whatever he professed, was one of the things I fell in love with.  He had the preacher's zeal, a way of expressing opinions that minted them into gleaming currency.  A habit of drawing people to him, of firing in them enthusiasms they hadn't known were theirs, making all but himself and his convictions fade.
     But Edward was no preacher.
     I remember him.  I remember everything.

My Thoughts:

Ah, I was so happy to see a new book by Kate Morton.  I haven't read all her books, but I've read maybe 3 of them.  Loved all the ones I've sampled.  I listened to this one on audio and it's a long book - 22+ hours - narrated by Joanne Froggatt.  Joanne played Anna Bates on Downton Abbey and so her voice was familiar and lovely.  She did a good job.

As I said, this is a long book and it's set across many, many years.  Morton does take the story back and forth and there are certainly characters upon characters.  I know that many have not been as pleased with it as they hoped.  I've read several reviews where the readers thought there was too much going on, too many people, too much time change, confusing.  And I do understand that.  Honestly, for me, it was wonderful.  I wasn't in a hurry as I listened to it.  Other than having to pay close attention to the character names and keep up with where we were, I loved it all over the place.  So very Gothic - that house, Birchwood Manor - fairies and spirits, secrets and hiding places, art thieves, murder, beautiful music and a lovely setting.  It all ties together in the end.  I was most pleased.  If you've read this, tell what you experienced - good or bad.   

Blurb:

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist's sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker's Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker's daughter.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Thousand Doors: An Anthology of Many Lives - Edited by J.T. Ellison

A Thousand Doors: An Anthology of Many Lives - Edited by J.T. Ellison

First Paragraph(s):

The day Mia Jensen died dawned cold and harsh under a brittle sun that barely warmed the streets.  Clouds like frothy ash never released their hold on the sky, and people were angry with each other and the world.  It was that sort of day, the kind when nothing is right, everything is wrong, and people long for evening, for the gentle cradle of their beds and dreams.  Ah, well. Tomorrow is another day, they said to one another, nodding, everyone a sage, everyone holding out that small bit of hope that yes, tomorrow would be a new day, tomorrow can and will bring something new and better and good to our lives.
     This was not the case for Mia.
     For Mia, there was no warm, soft bed and chirpy dreams, no reading of the latest chapter of the latest book, no brushing of teeth or braiding of hair or relaxing soak in the tub before slipping into pajamas.  No glass of red wine with dinner, pot roast started in the slow cooker before she left the house, with multicolored carrots and potatoes because eating the colors of the rainbow will make her healthy.  No trip to the gym after work to burn off the calories of lunch and the frustrations of her day.  No texts to friends about cocktails, no kisses, no hugs.  No sex on the desk.  No shrugging off camel-hair coast in the green room, no powder and pancake before the 3 p.m. promo slot.
     None of it, because at 8:03 p.m., after unexpectedly quitting her lawyer's office and fleeing to the ironic safety of her home, Mia Jensen was stabbed to death in her kitchen.

My Thoughts:

I am not much of a short story reader.  Not sure why exactly except they are just 'short'...not long enough usually for me to feel a part of the story.  However, when I ran across this anthology and read a bit about how J.T. Ellison had been considering this main character and how to tell her story since 2010, I was intrigued.  Ellison said that she presented this book to her agent as 'Sliding Doors meets The Lovely Bones'.  She wanted Mia to have several completely different lives, ones that she had not personally written.  So, she asked several author friends to help and A Thousand Doors was the result.  I've read books by 5 of the 15 authors included.  I liked all their books and had heard good things about the books of several more.  I took a chance.

J.T. Ellison sets the stage with the beginning of Mia Jensen's journey and she writes the conclusion to the book as well.  In between, Mia sees different ways her life could have turned out if she had made other choices.  As each chapter is written by a different author, those lives are quite varied.  In some of them, Mia is a person you'd want to know and in some, not so much.  I liked some of the stories better than others but overall, I was impressed.  And I liked how it wrapped up.  If you'd like an anthology that's a little different, you might try this one.  I can guarantee that it will make you want to check out the various authors' backlists.  Wonder if there are other books similar to this one?  Do you know of any?  This was a good change-it-up book. 

Blurb:

The day Mia Jensen died, she finally got to live.

WHAT IF…

We’ve all played the “what if” game. For Mia Jensen, “what if” is a fact of life. Dissatisfied with her choices, she often dreams about what could have been. Now she has the chance to know. But that knowledge is going to cost her dearly. Only through death can she fully realize the value of her life.

Friday, November 9, 2018

IQ - Joe Ide

IQ by Joe Ide

First Paragraph(s):

Boyd parked his truck across the street from the school and waited for the bell to ring.  It was ninety-plus degrees outside, the air in the cab as still and stifling as a closed tomb.  Boyd's fishing cap was dark with sweat; streams of it trickling down his face, getting in his eyes, and making his sunburn sting.

My Thoughts:

IQ is the first in Joe Ide's series featuring a very modern day 'Sherlock', and it has won multiple awards in the crime fiction community.  This was the November selection for our mystery book group.  Though the language is a bit rough, it fits with the setting and the characters, and it was probably more apparent because I listened to this one on audio, ably narrated by Sullivan Jones.  There are rappers, hit men, attack dogs, and a very urban set of characters.  There is also Isaiah Quintabe.  He dropped out of high school and the honors program, where he excelled, after his older brother, Marcus, was killed in a hit-and-run.  Marcus wanted Isaiah to use his gifts to help people, to give back to the community.  And after some tough times surviving when he's left on his own, that's what Isaiah (IQ) tries to do.

I liked this book and can see why it's been praised by many in the mystery world.  It's different and unique.  As I said, some salty language and some violent situations, but the characters are compelling.  Isaiah's backstory is interspersed with his current jobs.  The reader comes to know how IQ came to be and how Isaiah didn't always make the best decisions as he tried to survive and deal with his massive grief.  However, he has learned from his mistakes and now attempts to make his late brother proud.  I'll be curious to find out how it came across to the rest of the mystery group.  And I'm planning on reading the other two books in the series - Righteous and Wrecked (which was just published).  I think if you're a fan of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, you might like this one.

**Update - Since I wrote this review, I've also listened to the second book in the IQ series, Righteous, narrated by the same person.  I liked it mostly.  In it, Isaiah discovers a lot more about his brother's death, investigates in Las Vegas, and get caught up in a gang war.  Lots of people die.  Isaiah and his colleagues definitely don't follow the law very closely.  I can see why the series is well-liked, but it reminds me of several popular TV series that have main characters that are anti-heroes.  I'll take a break from these books for now and perhaps come back to the third book after a few months. 

***Second Update - We had the discussion of IQ earlier this week in the mystery group.  Most liked it, some did not, some didn't finish it.  We talked about the Sherlock influence and also mentioned that even though the language was 'rough', it fit the setting.  There were a lot of great points discussed.  I'd say it was a success - from my viewpoint as the 'book selector' anyway.

Blurb:

East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch.

They call him IQ. He's a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he's forced to take on clients that can pay.

This time, it's a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - A Short Time To Die - Susan Alice Bickford

Guppy Book of the Month

Welcome to the next 'Guppy Book of the Month' post!  I'm very excited about highlighting the books that I'll be receiving as part of my special Live Auction win at Malice Domestic 30.  Each time I receive a book, I'll tell a bit about it and also a bit about the author.  No promises as to when I'll get it read and my thoughts shared, but if it looks great to you, check it out at your local library or bookstore.  Some of these books will be debuts and some will be from authors already established.



Nominated for Best Debut Mystery at 2018 Left Coast Crime 

Walking home on a foggy night, Marly Shaw stops in the glare of approaching headlights. Two men step out of a pickup truck. One of them is her stepfather. A sudden, desperate chase erupts in gunshots. Both men are left dead. And a terrified girl is on the run—for the rest of her life . . .

Thirteen years later, human bones discovered in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California are linked to a mother and son from Central New York. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Detective Vanessa Alba and her partner, Jack Wong, dive into an investigation that lures them deep into the Finger Lakes. They find a community silenced by the brutal grip of a powerful family bound by a twisted sense of blood and honor, whose dark secrets still haunt the one family member who thought she got away . . .



From Susan's website:

Susan Alice Bickford was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Central New York.

After she discovered computer graphics and animation her passion for technology pulled her to Silicon Valley, where she became an executive at a leading technology company.

She now works as an independent consultant, and continues to be fascinated by all things high tech. She splits her time between Silicon Valley and Vermont.

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I'm always really interested in the books that get nominated as 'Best Debut' for any award event.  I'm sure the authors are so pleased that their wonderful creation is appreciated by many.  Therefore, I was really thrilled to get a copy of A Short Time To Die and find a new-to-me author to follow.  After taking a look at Susan's website, I noticed that she has a new book coming next year entitled 'Dread of Winter'.  Just the cover made me cold.  Ha!  Since I've found that A Short Time To Die also includes cold weather, these would both be perfect for my rule of 'read cold books in the heat'.  Lovely!

My deepest thanks to Susan for sending me a copy of A Short Time To Die.  I am very much looking forward to reading it and have also added Dread of Winter to my list.  Susan, wishing you much luck in your writing endeavors!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Stranger Diaries



I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to 'Can't-Wait Wednesday' hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

The book I'm featuring this week is by an author that I've loved over the years.  Her Ruth Galloway mysteries are great favorites of mine.  She also has another series starring Max Mephisto, a magician, and Edgar Stephens, a detective inspector in 1950's England.  Of course, I'm talking about Elly Griffiths and this week's book is her first standalone (and it's already out in the UK).  I'm waiting on:




Publication Date:  March 5th

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. A high school English teacher specializing in the Gothic writer R. M. Holland, she teaches a course on it every year. But when one of Clare’s colleagues and closest friends is found dead, with a line from R. M. Holland’s most famous story, “The Stranger,” left by her body, Clare is horrified to see her life collide with the storylines of her favorite literature.

To make matters worse, the police suspect the killer is someone Clare knows. Unsure whom to trust, she turns to her closest confidant, her diary, the only outlet she has for her darkest suspicions and fears about the case. Then one day she notices something odd. Writing that isn't hers, left on the page of an old diary:

Hallo Clare. You don’t know me. 

Clare becomes more certain than ever: “The Stranger” has come to terrifying life. But can the ending be rewritten in time?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

12th Annual Canadian Book Challenge - I'm going to join in...



I'm excited to say that I've decided to join the 12th Annual Canadian Book Challenge.  Yes, it's well on it's way (see below), but I think I can read 13 Canadian books by the end of June, 2019.  My inspiration was Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery

1. What is the Canadian Book Challenge?

Created by John Mutford at the Book Mine Set a decade ago and hosted by him for its first 10 years, the Canadian Book Challenge is an annual online reading challenge in which participants from Canada and around the world aim to read and review 13 or more Canadian books in a one year span: Canada Day to Canada Day. Reviews must be posted online and participants are asked to share links to their reviews with other participants.  This event is now hosted by Melwyk at The Indextrious Reader.

There is more info in the FAQ on the official page.  Check it out if it sounds like something you'd like to do.
 
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After I read Tracy's post, I decided to take a quick look on my Kindle and also on a couple of websites to see what Canadian books I might have lurking.  I did remember that 'the biggie' for me would be Louise Penny's new book, Kingdom of the Blind, (already preordered).



Also, I recently read Judy Penz Sheluk's 1st Marketville Mystery, Skeletons in the Attic.  The 2nd book in the series, Past & Present, has just come out.  Set in Canada and I already own it!  That works.

 

I thought of Entry Island by Peter May, which I could reread.  I could also reread Vicki Delany's Molly Smith books, set in British Columbia.  Sadly, I don't think Vicki's going to be writing any more of those. 

There are several mystery series set in Canada that I've meant to try (I'm listing the first book):

Kelley Armstrong's Casey Duncan Books -  City of the Lost

Barbara Fradkin's Amanda Doucette Books - Fire in the Stars

Maureen Jennings' William Murdoch Books - Except the Dying

Inger Ash Wolfe's Hazel Micallef Books - The Calling

R.J. Harlick's Meg Harris Books - Death's Golden Whisper

M.J. McGrath's Edie Kiglatuk Books - White Heat

By the way, the Left Coast Crime Mystery Conference (which I'm not going to be able to attend, though I'd love to) will be in Vancouver, Canada in March of 2019.  It's called Whale of a Crime.  Lots of good authors will be attending! 

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I haven't even started thinking of books that aren't mysteries, but I know that there would be many of them.  I'm going to have fun with this and hope you'll all enjoy my Canadian journey.  Who knows where I might end up?

Monday, November 5, 2018

A favorite book or author - what would 'YOU' suggest?


Talking about favorite books and authors - we do a lot of that in the book blogging world.  We share recommendations and give our opinions, talk about what works for us and what doesn't.  We mention frustrations with certain themes or are amazed at how simple words written in a specific way can sweep us away to another time or world.  We are lovers of books and language.

Recently, I read Anne Bogel's new book, I'd Rather Be Reading, and I shared this quote from it:

On being asked to relate your 'favorite' book:
     Aside from the sheer impossibility of choosing just one favorite book, her question was daunting for another reason: I felt I'd been asked to lay my soul on the table.  Reading is personal and never more so than when we're sharing why we connect with certain books.

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I'm not going to ask you to 'lay your soul on the table'.  However, I would like to get some suggestions and recommendations for books that have touched you in a special way, books that might have come to you at the 'perfect' time.  I'd like to know authors that you love or a book that you have recommended over and over.  I know that with as many books as we read, it's tough to choose a 'favorite'.  You could mention 'one' favorite though or a favorite author.

If someone asked me that question, I have a couple of answers.  For a book that I think everyone should read and that I've recommended many, many times - Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.  A book that will touch your heart and give you and your loved ones much food for thought.

I think almost everyone is aware that Louise Penny is probably my favorite author for fiction.  Yes, there are others that I love as well, but if I had to pick one, she'd be it.  Again, her books touch my heart and my soul in special ways.

If you'd feel comfortable doing so, please share an author, a book, or a series of books that you'd recommend I try.  I'm planning on doing exactly that next year - trying books that I might not have ever considered.  I'll keep a list and let everyone know how these suggestions worked for me.  And I'll keep up with who pointed me in the right direction.

Oh, and if you can think of a clever title for an occasional post about this, share that as well.  And thanks!  I look forward to hearing your thoughts...

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation - From Vanity Fair to Detective Inspector Huss

I'm here with Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. She chooses a book as a starting point and then links to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

The starting book in this month's chain is not one I've read and I'm not really likely to read it (being honest here) - Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.



I found that Vanity Fair was published in 1848 and it tells the exploits of Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley - one is scheming and one is the pampered child of a rich man who falls into poverty.  Lots of shenanigans and drama.



Connecting to Becky Sharp, I remembered that the protagonist of Witch, written by a favorite author of mine, Barbara Michaels, was reading Vanity Fair in this tale.  Ellen March (that protagonist) mentions getting back to Becky Sharp's adventures.  I have read Witch more than once and enjoyed it each and every time.  It's typical early Michaels - very Gothic romantic suspense.



The next connection is to the name March and Geraldine Brooks' novel by that same name.  This book tells the story of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.  And it won a Pulitzer Prize.  I liked it well enough, but Mr. March doesn't come across as very agreeable.  It was interesting to think about what might have been going on 'off the page' in the Alcott book.



 Another book by Geraldine Brooks is People of the Book.  I like this one much better than March.  This is the tale of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a very rare and precious Jewish illuminated volume and the journey of this book over the centuries.  It is based on a true story and is very interesting.



Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is also based on a true story, a very tragic one.   Agnes Magnúsdóttir was the last person executed for murder in the country of Iceland.  Her tale is bleak, but somehow beautiful in ways I have a hard time describing.  A debut novel, this author tells of this maid who is accused and convicted of killing her master in the early 1800's.  Our mystery group recently read and discussed this book.



The next connection is Iceland, the country, and the first book in the Sergeant Gunnhildur Gisladottir crime series.  It's entitled Frozen Assets and written by Quentin Bates.  'Gunna the Cop', as she is known,  is a widow and mother of two teenagers.  In other words, she's busy, mostly dealing with speeding drivers and drunks, but in this book she has to investigate a death.  I've only read this first book in the series, but I want to read more.



Our last connection today is about another woman police officer and mother, Detective Inspector Huss.  This book, written by Helene Tursten, features Irene Huss of the Violent Crime Unit in Göteborg, Sweden.  Dealing with family life and also a police force that is still not comfortable with women officers, DI Huss has her hands full.  First book in a series that now includes eight books.  I haven't read this yet, but definitely plan to make time for it soon.

We come to the end of this month's chain of books.  I've read 5 of the 7, which is not a bad average.  We began in early 19th century England and ended up in 21st century Sweden.  The connections were 'Becky Sharp', the last name 'March', books written by 'Geraldine Brooks', books 'based on a true story', books set in the country of 'Iceland', books with a protagonist that is 'a woman, a mother, and a police officer'.  I'm glad to be back with a 'Six Degrees...' chain and hope to be here in December when the starting book will be appropriately holiday-ish, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Going Forward - Free range book hunting...and a few plans...

I promised I was going to ponder and think about my reading life and I have.  First of all, I'm going to share a few pictures that show aspects of reading that are important to me, along with some quotes about reading that I love.  After that, I'm going to quickly share a bit about what I've been doing and planning for upcoming days.  Settle in - get a cup of coffee or tea.  Let's talk about reading...




"Reading is dreaming with open eyes."



"Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.” – E.B. White



 “Of course anyone who truly loves books buys more of them than he or she can hope to read in one fleeting lifetime. A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper.” – David Quammen



“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis
(in my case, substitute coffee)

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I've had a good time lately doing some 'free range' book hunting.  My husband was out of town and I had some extra time to spend just wandering a couple of local libraries and bookstores.  Looking at the books, remembering ones I'd read before, picking up and putting down, checking out scads from the library to consider.  I went to a 'Friends of the Library' book sale and chose several older books, some that I had read in years past.  It's been quite relaxing.

Next year, I'm planning to focus less on the 'shiny, new' and more on some series that I've wanted to try or wanted to catch up on.  I'm planning on reading several from my 'Classics' list.  I think I'll bring back my 'kay's favorites from the keeper shelf' posts.  'Bookish Nostalgia' will continue and I'll have the 'Guppy Book of the Month' through the first half of the year.  And I have a request of everyone here - I'd like some suggestions or recommendations of books that have really spoken to you in the past.  More about that on Monday, but be thinking about it.  As always, I look forward to talking books and reading and life with all of you.    

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!! - And goodbye to R.I.P. XIII...


Wishing everyone a very Happy Halloween!  I took this picture a few years ago when my daughter and I visited Disney World in early October.  Disney does fall and Halloween decorating up right!  Hope you get no tricks and lots of treats!!





Today is the last day for R.I.P. XIII and I had a good time reading spooky books.  You can see my updated list with links to reviews here.  Hope this event will be around next year too.