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Monday, April 23, 2018

Spring Break - Back in a couple of weeks...



I wanted to let everyone know that I'm going to take a break from the blog for at least a couple of weeks - maybe three.  I'm going to be attending the Malice Domestic mystery conference and we've also got some things going on with family and friends.  Seems like a good time to step away for a bit.  Plus, I want to read a bunch.

I'm planning on coming back in mid-May with several days of posts relating my Malice Domestic adventure.  I've done that before and several have said they would like to 'virtually' attend again.  I love sharing my pictures and tales, but I will note that it does take a bit of time to put those posts together.  So, watch for them, probably the week of May 14-18.

One nice thing is that I should have a number of books to talk about, though the reviews may be a few weeks behind the actual date read.  This won't be my only break in upcoming months.  We've got several getaways planned for summer and fall, plus it's nice to just read sometimes.  I'll likely not be commenting much during the break, but I'll be reading your blog posts.

A happy personal note is that my husband is completely finished with his cardiac rehab and is back to a normal work and golf life.  He is doing very well, and he and I both have changed a lot of things about our eating and exercise life.  One day before long I'll post a 'before and after' picture of myself.  I've lost over 80 pounds and I think it's such a positive change for me.  I'm not quite finished, but the health benefits are clear.  I've got a few more wrinkles evident now and have had to buy some new clothes (I know, a terrible thing!), but I'm never quitting this lifestyle again.  My promise to myself.

Take care everyone and I'll see you soon! 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Bookish Nostalgia - April 2018



Welcome to Bookish Nostalgia for April 2018.  I've kept records of books I read for over 25 years and I enjoy looking back through my reading journals to see what I was reading 5, 10, 15, and 20 years ago.  Let's see what I remember about what I was reading in those years:



April 1998 - Blind Descent by Nevada Barr - This is the 6th book in Nevada Barr's mystery series featuring Park Ranger Anna Pigeon.  It's probably my favorite in the series.  I think in part that was because I had visited the national park where it's set - Carlsbad Caverns.  If you've never read this series, the 1st book is Track of the Cat.  Anna is a ranger with US National Park System and in this book, she's sent below ground - way below ground and to small, tight spaces.  The narrative is very, very vivid and I can remember barely breathing.  It's a good one.


 
April 2003 - Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah - As I've mentioned many times, I don't read very much non-fiction and so I'm not sure what made me pick Falling Leaves to read.  The author, Adeline Yen Mah, tells the story of her young years when she was unwanted by her family.  Her mother had died and her father married again.  A sort of Cinderella tale and, in fact, this author also has a young adult version of it, Chinese Cinderella.  It was a very poignant story.



April 2008 - The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares - I was working at the Austin Public Library in 2008 and several of my young colleagues were getting their MLS degrees.  There were a couple who were adamant about making sure I read the newest young adult fiction - which was fine.  I loved them stopping by my desk and telling me that they had another book for me to try.  The Second Summer of the Sisterhood is the 2nd book in this author's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.  I did enjoy the first book and liked this one as well.  I can't recall whether I read the 3 books that come after this one.  I should do that.  Ha!



April 2013 - A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy - I think I picked up this book very soon after it was published after the author's passing.  I always loved Maeve Binchy's books and was very sad to know that there wouldn't be any more of them.  The first one I read was Circle of Friends, after I watched the movie which starred Minnie Driver.  And I also remember reading The Glass Lake on a vacation to Bend, Oregon.  It's amazing how some books are so vivid in your memories, partly because of where you read them.

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And so we end this month's Bookish Nostalgia.  Have you read any of these books or authors?  Hope you'll join me again next month to see what May books I remember from my journals.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Wildling Sisters - Eve Chase

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase

First Paragraph(s):

No one of us can bear to touch his belt, so horrifyingly intimate.  But as we drag him across the lawn, it plows into the soil.  He's heavier than he looks, unwieldy.  Every few steps we stop and catch our breath, startling in the dawn light, daring one another to look down at the unbelievable fleshy fact of him, the childlike abandon of his outstretched arms.
     Daisies are stuck to him now, their pink-white petals opening to the sun that is rising at a worrying speed behind the orchard.  There's something very wrong about these daisies, stars in the dark sticky of his hair.  Dot leans forward as if to pluck them out, sit down, and thread them into a chain over the hammock of her gingham skirt.  If she did it wouldn't make anything stranger.

My Thoughts:

The Wildling Sisters is Eve Chase's 2nd book after Black Rabbit Hall.  That one resides on my bookshelf, as yet unread by me.  Story of my life - 'as yet unread by me' - ha!  I'll get to it soon, hopefully.  In any case, I decided to listen to this book about sisters on audio, narrated very well by Clare Corbett and Emilia Fox.  Two narrators because this is a tale told in two periods of time, 50 years apart.  Margot Wilde and her three sisters, Dot, Pam, and Flora, come to Applecote Manor in 1959 to spend the summer with their aunt and uncle.  The sisters are 17, 16, 15, and 12 and not very happy about the arrangement.  They used to love visiting Applecote, but that was when their cousin, Audrey, was there.  Audrey disappeared five years ago and that mystery hangs heavily over the house and couple who live there.

In the present day, Jessie and her husband, Will, decide to purchase Applecote Manor.  They are trying to simplify and slow their busy London life.  They have two daughters, Bella (a teenager who is Jessie's stepdaughter and still grieving and lashing out because of the death of her mother) and Romy (a toddler).  Unfortunately, Will very quickly has to return to London and spend more and more time there because of business problems.  Jessie struggles to keep her wits about her as this old house they bought needs lots of attention and Bella is more than a handful.  The old mystery, never solved, regarding Audrey Wilde's disappearance intrigues Bella and she spends a lot of time obsessing over it and actually finding some objects that might or might not be related.

I liked this story of two families, both struggling with emotional issues and grief.  This book has the mystery of the missing girl from long ago, but it also has a poignant story of sisters and their bonds and relationships.  Each sister is unique and the author's characterization is well done.  Margot takes the lead telling the story in the past, with Jessie narrating in the present.  There are Gothic overtones, as one might expect with an old house and overgrown garden.  There are secrets to be revealed.  And there is love and understanding in the end.  This one is recommended.

Blurb:

Four sisters. One summer. A lifetime of secrets.

When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.

Fifty years later, Jesse is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jesse finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Corpse at the Crystal Palace


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.

I'm particularly pleased to see the book I'm featuring this week.  I've read many books in this series, but not quite all.  And it's been several years since the author had a new Daisy Dalrymple mystery - this is #23.  This week, I'm anxiously waiting on:




Publication Date:  July 3rd

April 1928: Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is visited in London by her young cousins. On the list of must-see sites is the Crystal Palace. Discovering that her children's nanny, Nanny Gilpin, has never seen the Palace, Daisy decides to make a day of it—bringing her cousins, her 3-year-old twins, her step-daughter Belinda, the nurserymaid, and Nanny Gilpin. Yet this ordinary outing goes wrong when Mrs. Gilpin goes off to the ladies’ room and fails to return. When Daisy goes to look for her, she doesn't find her nanny but instead the body of another woman dressed in a nanny's uniform.

Meanwhile, Belinda and the cousins spot Mrs. Gilpin chasing after yet another nanny. Intrigued, they trail the two through the vast Crystal Palace and into the park. After briefly losing sight of their quarry, they stumble across Mrs. Gilpin lying unconscious in a small lake inhabited by huge concrete dinosaurs.

When she comes to, Mrs. Gilpin can't remember what happened after leaving the twins in the nurserymaid's care. Daisy's husband, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the murdered nanny. Worried about her children's own injured nanny, Daisy is determined to help. First she has to discover the identity of the third nanny, the presumed murderer, and to do so, Daisy must uncover why the amnesic Mrs. Gilpin deserted her charges to follow the missing third nanny.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie - Classics Club Read #3

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

First Paragraph(s):

It was five o'clock on a winter's morning in Syria.  Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express.  It consisted of a kitchen and dining car, a sleeping car and two local coaches.
     By the step leading up into the sleeping car stood a young French lieutenant, resplendent in uniform, conversing with a small lean man, muffled up to the ears, of whom nothing was visible but a pink-tipped nose and the two points of an upward curled moustache.

My Thoughts:

First of all, I was supposed to be reading The Woman in White for the latest Classic Club Spin.  Yes, well, that didn't work out.  I'll do it at a later time.  Instead, I switched to one of my favorite Christie books - Murder on the Orient Express.

I think that I originally knew of this book as a film adaptation in 1974, which is still my favorite of the movies/TV versions.  After that, I read the actual story in print.  And this time (have no idea how many times I've read the book), I listened to David Suchet's excellent narration.  He is my favorite Poirot, but it's also kind of unsettling to hear him speak in his 'normal' British voice.

The story is probably familiar to almost everyone.  A murder aboard a train crossing Europe - the Orient Express.  A wonderful 'locked room' mystery with so many characters that it's perfect for 'big name' film stars.  Hercule Poirot is just the detective to solve the crime as the train is stuck in the snow and the usual methods of detection are not easily available.  Therefore, 'the little gray cells'.

It turns out the murdered man was a using a false name.  He was connected with a very famous kidnapping case in the US - much like the Lindbergh child in 1932.  Christie changed some details in her 1934 book, but obviously it was used as inspiration.  And it seems that the author had also traveled on the famous train herself in 1928. 

The 1974 film version won several awards and, as I mentioned, remains my favorite.  I did not care for the TV version starring David Suchet (a great Poirot) as much.  It was too dark.  We also saw the newest film that came out last year featuring Kenneth Branagh.  It was good enough, but I had a really hard time looking at those mustaches on Branagh.  Ha!  The scenery was quite vivid in the new movie.  So, tell me, have your read this book or seen the movie?  Which is your favorite?       

Blurb:

“The murderer is with us—on the train now . . .”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.

Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man's enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.






Monday, April 16, 2018

Entry Island - Peter May

Entry Island by Peter May

First Paragraph(s):

It is evident from the way the stones are set into the slope of the hill that industrious hands once toiled to make this pathway.  It is overgrown now, the shallow impression of a ditch on one side.  He makes his way carefully down toward the remains of the village, pursued by the oddest sense of treading in his own footsteps.  And yet he has never been here. 
     The silhouette of a broken-down drystone wall runs along the contour of the treeless hill above him.  Beyond it, he knows, a crescent of silver sand curls away toward the cemetery and the standing stones on the rise.  Below him, the footings of blackhouses are barely visible among the peaty soil and the spikes of tall grasses that bend and bow in the wind.  The last evidence of walls that once sheltered the families who lived and died here. 

My Thoughts:

I wrote about reading this book a while back, but it was included with other short reviews.  I decided to repeat my thoughts below, but also include a few more things about the book.  It was really well done on audio by the wonderful Peter Forbes.  Also, look below for another video (courtesy of the author's website) - Peter May discussing Entry Island. 

Entry Island has two storylines - one with a current setting - a murder investigation in a small group of islands off the coast of Quebec, Canada.  The other story is historical - the mid-1800's as people are forcibly moved by local gentry from the Scottish Isles to Canada.  The two stories are connected loosely at the beginning and then the reader comes to understand that they are interwoven tightly.  Homicide detective Sime Mackenzie is the main protagonist, along with the wife of the murder victim.  The setting is incredibly vivid, both in Canada and Scotland.  This author has a way of writing about the Isle of Lewis that makes the reader want to jump on a plane and go there immediately.  I really, really enjoyed this book.  The setting, the characters, the stories.  Highly recommended.

Blurb:

When a murder rocks the isolated community of Entry Island, insomniac homicide detective Sime Mackenzie boards a light aircraft at St. Hubert airfield bound for the small, scattered chain of Madeline Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as part of an eight-officer investigation team from Montréal.

Only two kilometers wide and three long, Entry Island is home to a population of just more than 100 inhabitants, the wealthiest of whom has just been discovered murdered in his home. Covered in her husband's blood, the dead man's melancholy wife spins a tale for the police about a masked intruder armed with a knife.

The investigation appears to be little more than a formality--the evidence points to a crime of passion, implicating the wife. But Sime is electrified by the widow during his interview, convinced that he has met her before, even though this is clearly impossible.

Haunted by this strange certainty, Sime's insomnia is punctuated by vivid, hallucinatory dreams of a distant past on a Scottish island 3,000 miles away, dreams in which he and the widow play leading roles. Sime's conviction soon becomes an obsession. And despite mounting evidence of the woman's guilt, he finds himself convinced of her innocence, leading to a conflict between the professional duty he must fulfill and the personal destiny he is increasingly sure awaits him.





Friday, April 13, 2018

The Good Liar - Catherine McKenzie

The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie

First Paragraph(s):

I was late.  That's why I wasn't there when it happened.
     Not in the building, not even that close.
     I lost track of time that morning trying to get the kids organized and out the door.  It happens sometimes.  I'll have everything under control and then--poof!--an hour will have gone by and we've missed whatever deadline we were supposed to hit.  School drop-off, a kid's birthday party, even an airplane once, despite the fact that we were in the terminal with plenty of time to get to our gate before pushback.

My Thoughts:

Catherine McKenzie is an author that I've enjoyed in the past.  Her books Smoke and also Fractured were suspenseful reads for me.  The Good Liar is her latest book and I liked it as well.  Three women are connected by an event that happened a year ago - a tragic explosion in downtown Chicago.  Each of them reveals their story a bit at a time.  A documentary is being made about some the families affected and so part of the tale is told in interviews with the filmmaker.  As the title indicates, there are lies and secrets.  All the women are hiding something and, eventually, all is known.

As I said, I've liked Catherine McKenzie's books and struggle a bit with how to relate my thoughts.  This book has great reviews and they are deserved, to a certain extent, in my opinion.  I do think that I am maybe a bit too savvy about 'twists' in the story.  I normally don't mind when I guess all secrets, but I found this one a bit too predicable for me.  It may have just been my mood or, as I've shared lately, I'm needing to slightly limit my 'domestic thriller' books.  I've gotten a little burned out.  So, all this means - please don't let me discourage you from trying this one.  However, I'm off to find a something different - at least for now. 

Blurb:

When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered.

A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.

Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Lewis Man - Peter May

The Lewis Man by Peter May

First Paragraph(s):

On this storm-lashed island three hours off the north-west coast of Scotland, what little soil exists gives the people their food and their heat.  It also takes their dead.  And very occasionally, as today, gives one up.
     It is a social thing, the peat-cutting.  Family, neighbours, children, all gathered on the moor with a mild wind blowing out of the south-west to dry the grasses and keep the midges at bay.  Annag is just five years old.  It is her first peat-cutting, and the one she will remember for the rest of her life.

My Thoughts:

I have been enjoying my time visiting Peter May's trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  The Lewis Man is narrated by Peter Forbes (who narrates this whole trilogy plus Entry Island).  His voice is great and his pronunciation of the difficult Gaelic words is spot on.  I also want to say that I'll be moving on to the third book, The Chessmen, next.  I've already written about that one here and won't be including another review.  If you'd like to see my thoughts, click on the link above.

After the events related in The Blackhouse, Fin Macleod has resigned his job, agreed to a divorce from his wife, and moved to Lewis planning to renovate his parents' old croft.  Not long after he arrives, DS George Gunn crosses his path and tells him of a body that's been found in the peat.  It appears to have been there for 50 years or so and, more importantly, DNA has shown that the dead man is related to Tormod Macdonald, Marsaili's father.  Tormod is suffering from advanced dementia and Marsaili's mother has passed responsibility for him on to her daughter.  Since a police investigation into the circumstances of the death is imminent, Fin must step in to assist.

This book is probably my favorite of the trilogy.  The story is related in pieces as Fin tries to determine what exactly happened years ago and how Tormod is connected.  Tormod himself relates part of the story through memories (his past thoughts are much more coherent than his present day).  Dealing with and relating to a person with advanced dementia is tough and very, very poignant.  Fin is better able to handle the queries, but it's not easy peeling back the layers of time.  And then things get much more dire as a present day threat presents itself.  The book comes to a most dramatic and shocking ending.  As with the previous book, the setting is vividly described and traditions and customs revealed in interesting ways.  Highly recommended.

Blurb:

In The Lewis Man, the second book of the trilogy, Fin Macleod has returned to the Isle of Lewis, the storm-tossed, wind-scoured outer Hebridean island where he was born and raised. Having left behind his adult life in Edinburgh--including his wife and his career in the police force--the former Detective Inspector is intent on repairing past relationships and restoring his parents' derelict cottage. His plans are interrupted when an unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog. The only clue to its identity is a DNA match to a local farmer, the now-senile Tormod Macdonald--the father of Fin's childhood sweetheart, Marsaili--a man who has claimed throughout his life to be an only child, practically an orphan. Reluctantly drawn into the investigation, Fin uncovers deep family secrets even as he draws closer to the killer who wishes to keep them hidden.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Last Thing I Told You



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.

I've read one other book by Emily Arsenault, In Search of the Rose Notes, but have meant to read more.  This week I'm waiting on:




Publication Date:  July 24th

I hear myself whispering. Not again. Not again.

Why did I ever come back here? Surely because of you. Because I thought of something I’d always meant to tell you. Because you were the only one I ever really wanted to tell it to…

Therapist Dr. Mark Fabian is dead—bludgeoned in his office.

But that doesn’t stop former patient Nadine Raines from talking to him—in her head. Why did she come back to her hometown after so many years away? Everyone here thinks she’s crazy. And she has to admit—they might have good reason to think so. She committed a shockingly violent act when she was sixteen, and has never really been able to explain that dark impulse—even to Fabian. Now that Fabian’s dead, why is she still trying?

Meanwhile, as Detective Henry Peacher investigates Fabian’s death, he discovers that shortly before he died, Fabian pulled the files of two former patients. One was of Nadine Raines, one of Henry’s former high school classmates. Henry still remembers the disturbing attack on a teacher that marked Nadine as a deeply troubled teen.

More shockingly, the other file was of Johnny Streeter, who is now serving a life sentence for a mass shooting five years ago. The shooting devastated the town and everyone—including Henry, who is uncomfortable with the “hero” status the tragedy afforded him—is ready to move on. But the appearance of his file brings up new questions. Maybe there is a decades-old connection between Nadine and Streeter. And maybe that somehow explains what Nadine is doing in Fabian’s office nearly twenty years after being his patient. Or how Fabian ended up dead two days after her return. Or why Nadine has fled town once again.

But as Nadine and Henry head toward a confrontation, both will discover that the secrets of people’s hearts are rarely simple, and—even in the hidden depths of a psychologist’s files—rarely as they appear.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Conspiracy in Belgravia - Sherry Thomas

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

First Paragraph(s):

Thank goodness for a blatantly obvious murder.  
     Inspector Treadles did not say those words aloud--that would be disrespectful to the deceased.  But he most certainly entertained the thought as he made his way, Sergeant MacDonald in tow, to the house where the body had been found.
     After the taxing irregularities of the Sackville case, a run-of-the-mill murder would be calming and restorative.  He looked forward to gathering clues.  He looked forward to questioning witnesses.  He looked forward to assembling an account that would serve as the crown's evidence.
     He looked forward to handling every aspect of the work on his own, without needing to turn to anyone else for help.

My Thoughts:

I am really liking Sherry Thomas' series featuring Charlotte Holmes (aka Sherlock) and Mrs. Watson.  A Conspiracy in Belgravia is the second book and it added new and intriguing characters and problems to this 'twist' on the Sherlock theme.  We now are introduced to Lord Ingram's brother, who solves 'interesting' problems for the crown (Mycroft Holmes).  And Moriarty has entered the story and shadows are everywhere with his influence.  There are ciphers to interpret, dead bodies, secrets galore, Charlotte's sister Livia's mystery man, Mrs. Watson's niece, and a Holmes half-brother.  Also, Mrs. Watson begins training Charlotte in self-defense, which is a bit of a tough proposition because our 'Lady Sherlock' likes her tea cakes a lot more than exercise.  In the end, most of the answers to the problems presented are revealed...or are they?  Guess we'll have to find out in the 3rd book, The Hollow of Fear, which will be published in early October.  I can't wait!

Blurb:

Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office.

Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother.

In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London?