Saturday, February 28, 2015

To Dwell In Darkness by Deborah Crombie

Wow, oh wow.  You want to know how pleased I was with To Dwell In Darkness, the 16th book in Deborah Crombie's wonderful crime series?  Just, wow.  And I need the next book now, please!!  This book was published back in September of last year and I have held back from reading it - savoring the moment.  Sigh, now I have to wait again.

I am so fond of the characters in Deborah Crombie's world - Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, their children, Kit, Toby, Charlotte.  There is a backstory to each character and I have loved travelling through Duncan and Gemma's London.  Deborah Crombie is a Texan, by the way - just saying - ha!  She spends part of her time at home in the Dallas area and part of her time in London.  Her books are really well done and I've read all of them in the last 3 years.  Well, I re-read a couple of them and then caught up.  The mysteries are intriguing for sure, but it is the character development and the wonderful settings in various parts of London and beyond that keep this reader coming back.

To Dwell In Darkness begins with Duncan going back to work after having been at home on paternity leave with Charlotte.  He has been unexpectedly transferred away from Scotland Yard to a local Major Crime Unit in Camden.  It's not a demotion exactly, but it feels that way.  He's had to leave his faithful DS Doug Cullen behind and there is a whole new group of colleagues to meet and get acquainted with.

There has been a bombing at the historic St. Pancras Station and Duncan and his team are in charge of the investigation.  Other familiar characters happened to be at St. Pancras during the event, including Gemma's Detective Sergeant, Melody Talbot.  A young man, part of a group of protesters, was killed and many others are injured.  A bystander that helped Melody in the chaos disappears.  The other protesters insist that the young man who died was just going to set off a smoke bomb.  Mysteries abound and the puzzle begins to take on a truly ominous flavor.  It will take all of Kincaid's resources to get to the bottom of things and even then, we're not sure if there is more to know.

And then there's another question - where is Duncan's boss from Scotland Yard?  What's going on with the odd transfer?  A lot of things are left unanswered.  Kincaid has a really, really bad feeling about his career.  Here's hoping that we'll get to the nitty-gritty in book #17, because I'm worried.  Indeed, I am.

If you have not read this series before, it begins with A Share in Death.  I know that 16 books are a lot to catch up on, but trust me, it's worth it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A little peek at Louise Penny's next book - The Nature of the Beast

Louise Penny's next Three Pines/Gamache book will be released on August 25, 2015 by Minotaur Books.  Today, she shared a glimpse into this 11th book in her series, and I am so intrigued and excited!  I'm thinking that maybe this is Ruth's book.  Lovely.  Here's the little peek:

Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.

But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.

And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.

And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.

A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.

Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - After the Storm

This is a weekly event that highlights a book that we can't wait to be published.  It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder series is a favorite of mine.  I eagerly await each new book that is usually published in the summer.  Great summer reading!  Kate Burkholder is the Chief of the Painter's Mill Police Department.  She is smack dab in the middle of Amish country and Kate herself was raised Amish.  She left home as a teen though and eventually became a police officer in the big city.  She never thought she'd return home, certainly not as the police chief.  After the Storm is the 7th book in this series.  Even though some have thought that it might suffer a bit from "Cabot Cove syndrome" (too many murders in the same venue strains credulity), I've enjoyed each and every book.  I like Kate and I like her good friend, State Agent John Tomasetti, and I can't wait for:

by Linda Castillo
Publication Date: July 14th

When a tornado tears through Painters Mill and unearths human remains, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder finds herself tasked with the responsibility of identifying the bones—and notifying the family. Evidence quickly emerges that the death was no accident and Kate finds herself plunged into a thirty year old case that takes her deep into the Amish community to which she once belonged. 

Meanwhile, turmoil of an emotional and personal nature strikes at the very heart of Kate’s budding relationship with state agent John Tomasetti. A reality that strains their fragile new love to the breaking point and threatens the refuge they’ve built for themselves—and their future. 

Under siege from an unknown assailant—and her own personal demons—Kate digs deep into the case only to discover proof of an unimaginable atrocity, a plethora of family secrets and the lengths to which people will go to protect their own.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Top Ten-ish Favorite Heroines From Mystery Series

This is a weekly event, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, where bloggers relate their "top ten" of a certain topic.  This week's topic - Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Books.  Shockingly enough, I have selected my favorite heroines or protagonists or lead characters or whatever you want to call them from mystery or crime series.  All of these are from series that I have read virtually every book.  And I love them all.  Various reasons.  They are in random order for I could not possibly rate them from 1 to 10 (or rather 12, as I cheated).  I'll also share the first book in the series, just in case you'd like to try it.  Once a library staff member who shoved books into hands and said "Read this!", always a...you get it.

1. Kate Shugak - Native Alaskan ex-investigator for the DA's office in Anchorage.  Written by Dana Stabenow.  Kate lives on her homestead in the Alaskan wilderness with her fabulous dog/wolf Mutt.  Do not mess with these two ladies.  Seriously.  The first book is A Cold Day For Murder.

2. Gemma James - Detective Sergeant at Scotland Yard as the series begins.  Written by Deborah Crombie.  Gemma is the DS for Superintendent Duncan Kincaid.  She is really something else, intuitive, kind, a really good detective.  Such an asset to this series and her relationship with Duncan and the other characters is wonderful.  Don't miss this series.  The first book is A Share In Death.

3. Ruth Galloway - Holds a doctorate in forensic archeology.  Written by Elly Griffiths.  Ruth is the single mother of wee Kate, age 2.  Loves archaeological digs and solving mysteries that lurk in dark and dank places.  I've already talked about Ruth several times.  I am her biggest fan.  The first book is The Crossing Places.

4. Deborah Knott - District court judge in Colleton County, North Carolina.  Written by Margaret Maron.  Deborah is the daughter of one of the biggest bootlegger's in her state's history.  Has 11 brothers and too many relatives to count.  And stumbles over bodies.  A lot.  I've read this series for over 20 years and love each and every book.  The first book is The Bootlegger's Daughter.

5. Amelia Peabody - Self-taught Egyptologist in the Victorian era.  Written by the great and sadly late Elizabeth Peters.  Amelia has a irascible archaeologist husband named Emerson, a wonderful and naughty son named Ramses and lots of friends and co-workers.  She and her family have many adventures in Egypt of the late 19th and early 20th century.  A really witty series that begins with the classic Crocodile On A Sandbank.  I can't recommend the first book highly enough.

6. Eve Dallas - Homicide Lieutenant in New York City of the mid-21st century (2058 to begin).  Written by J. D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts).  Eve is smart, prickly, impatient, and she always solves the crime.  The futuristic bits are logical mostly, considering the first book was written 20 years ago.  There are now 40 books in this series.  Oh, and there is Rourke, billionaire Irish businessman/former criminal.  Eve gets him too.  Wow!  The first book is Naked in Death.

7. Daisy Dalrymple - Journalist in 1920's England.  Written by Carola Dunn.  And you may also address Daisy as The Honorable, as she is quite well born, if not flush with cash.  She uses her connections to begin a career writing articles about country manor houses.  It's just that people keep getting killed and Daisy is usually on the spot.  A series that may seem light, but has some wonderful info about the time period and England in general between the wars.  The first book is Death At Wentwater Court.

8. Lacey Flint - Detective Constable in London with an interesting back story.  Written by Sharon (S.J.) Bolton.  Lacey has many secrets and she has her own reasons for becoming a police officer.  There are now 4 books in this series and hopefully, there will be a lot more.  The first book was pretty much unputdownable for me.  It's called Now You See Me.

9. Mrs. Emily Pollifax - Senior citizen and spy for the CIA.  Written by the wonderful and unfortunately late Dorothy Gilman.  Mrs. Pollifax is a hoot.  After feeling like her life in retirement lacks a little something, she travels to CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, asking for an application to become an agent.  And she is mistakenly sent on a mission.  Chaos ensues and Emily the Secret Agent is born.  This series is such a delight.  Don't miss it.  Funny as all get out.  The first one is The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

10. Kate Burkholder - Chief of Police in Painter's Mill, Ohio.  Written by Linda Castillo.  Kate was raised in an Amish family, but due to an event in her early teens, leaves home and eventually becomes a police officer.  She later returns as the Chief of Police.  She's smart and hardworking and very lonely.  She's estranged from her family.  And there are a lot of creepy crimes in Painter's Mill.  The first book is Sworn To Silence.


11. Alafair Tucker - Farm and ranch wife and mother of 10 in early 20th century Oklahoma.  Written by Donis Casey.  Alafair is a busy woman.  Ten kids and lots of work to do.  She is practical and loving and really very smart about crime.  This series is a good window into life in the Midwest of the early 1900's.  Great descriptions and recipes.  And the characters are top notch, especially Alafair and the whole Tucker clan.  The first book is The Old Buzzard Had It Coming.

12. Lisbeth Salander - The famous "girl with the dragon tattoo", investigator and hacker extraordinaire,  Written by the late Stieg Larsson.  I've always been so sad that there were only 3 books in this series or trilogy as it came to be.  Lisbeth is a very odd person.  Rather amoral in our eyes, but not in hers.  Amazing investigative skills and do not hurt someone she is fond of or loves (as much as she can).  Truly.  Do. Not. Do. It.  The first book, as if you couldn't guess, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

OK, I'll stop now.  I could go on, but I won't.  There are lots of good books here.  Don't you want to get to know some of these heroines?  Sure you do!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

And now for something a little different for me.  One of my book group members brought Being Mortal to our year end meeting to share.  This is the meeting where we talk about the books that are our "best of..", even if they are not mysteries.  I'm so pleased that she shared this important book with all of us.  She said that her doctor had suggested that she read it.  Quite a good suggestion, in my opinion.  I'm hoping that others will also agree.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is authored by Atul Gawande, a noted surgeon.  It is one doctor's examination of the process of sickness and aging and how medicine has and has not done a good job of preparing individuals to face their own mortality.  You may be thinking that this sounds like the most depressing of books, and it does bring up a number of topics that we just don't like to talk about, think about, or acknowledge.  However, I found it to be filled with fascinating and thought provoking discussions, interesting research, historical details, and some incredibly poignant stories.

Dr. Gawande speaks of the need for medicine to do a better job of treating the whole patient, where they are at that moment.  He talks of the history of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, how they came to be and what they have become.  He relates important information about decision making, end-of-life choices, hospice care, and figuring out what is that best quality of life that an individual can imagine at each stage.  He is honest about his own family's path when his father was diagnosed with a spinal tumor.  This book is one to think about and, hopefully, discuss with those important to you.  I recommend it very highly.

On a more personal note, with your indulgence, I share a bit about my walk through the topics included in Being Mortal.  In the last 6 years, I've lost both my parents and my younger sister.  All 3 were on hospice care at the end of their lives.  I was incredibly lucky that my parents planned and, more importantly, talked with me and my siblings about their end-of-life wishes.  Both of them had Alzheimer's/dementia issues, and I was the one making the decisions for them.  I followed what I felt they would have wanted as best I could, and they both passed peacefully from this life cared for by some wonderful hospice nurses.  My sister had inoperable lung cancer, and I recognized her fierceness in many of the stories in this book.  She took treatment after treatment, but eventually after 2 years, her battle was at an end.  Her family called in hospice and she was compassionately cared for.  I'm pleased that all 3 of my loved ones were able to communicate their wishes for their own end-of-life care.  It was still completely heartbreaking, of course, but they had their choices respected.  My advice to all is to discuss these things with your loved ones and prepare for a time when choices are so difficult.  And then live your life on your terms, loving your special people, and enjoying the moment.

I'll leave you with 2 quotes from Being Mortal:
"At least two kinds of courage are required in aging and sickness.  The first is the courage to confront the reality of mortality--the courage to seek out the truth of what is to be feared and what is to be hoped....But even more daunting is the second kind of courage--the courage to act on the truth we find."
"our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one's story is essential to sustaining meaning in life;" 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Reckoning by Jane Casey

OK, so I feel like I have been on real roll with my reading lately.  Do you ever have those times when it seems like every book you pick up is just the right one for that moment?  I don't get that experience all the time, but lately?  Yes, yes, yes!

The Reckoning is the second book in Jane Casey's DC Maeve Kerrigan series.  The first book is The Burning and I read it last summer.  And the fifth book, The Kill, will be published later this year.  I have lots of good reading to come.  Back to The Reckoning - Maeve Kerrigan is one of the junior members of Superintendent Godley's crime squad.  She is ambitious and really keen to prove that she, a woman, is a detective worthy of her job.  Sometimes it kind of seems like that theme of misogyny has been done over and over, but I suspect that it is more true to life than we would like to consider.

Three men have been killed in terrible ways.  The thing that ties them all together is that they were convicted sex offenders.  Some wonder why the police would even need to care that much.  Maybe the killings are a favor to society.  Maeve feels that they are victims regardless and it's up to the cops to catch the murderer.  She has a new quasi-partner to work with, DI Josh Derwent, an interesting man to say the least.  And she is not at all sure she wants to be working with the abrasive inspector.

Nevertheless, DI Derwent and DC Kerrigan are able to figure out what was behind the awful killings and then they realize that this case has much more at stake.  A young teenager is missing.  Someone close is being stalked, without her knowledge.  There might be a leak in their squad room to the complicated network responsible for crime after crime.  And Maeve discovers that she has a knack for detecting and putting the pieces together in the right order.  Then things really get dicey and scary.

I was pleased to get to know Maeve and her cohorts better.  There is a new female detective that has joined the squad and so Maeve is not alone in her gender anymore.  Her colleagues are becoming more familiar and DI Derwent seems like he will be a good match for Maeve, regardless of her personal dislike of him.  There are depths there.  I can feel it.

Every time I thought that we had learned all there was to know and the book would come to an end, I'd realize that I had more to go.  The intricacies of the storyline were many.  And I totally enjoyed that.  There were funny parts and breathless parts.  A good crime thriller all around.  I look forward to the next in the series, The Last Girl, and hope to read it soon.  This is a series that I can recommend if you like British cop books.  Me, I love them.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Among the Departed by Vicki Delany

I'm really having a good time doing some catch up on several series where I've fallen behind.  Vicki Delany's Constable Molly Smith series is one of those.  I listened to Among the Departed, the 5th Molly mystery, and fell right into the story.  It was read by Carrington MacDuffie, who I think is the narrator for all these books, set in Trafalgar, British Columbia.  She does a good job with the Canadian accents or so it seems to me, a Texas girl.

A little background on Constable Smith of the Trafalgar Police.  Molly, also known as Moonlight Legolas, as she was named by her mother, has grown up in Trafalgar, the daughter of Andy and Lucky Smith, former hippies and owners of a hiking and outfitting store.  This area is quite beautiful, surrounded by mountains, and certainly the setting is a big part of Vicki Delany's plots.  Having a daughter who becomes a cop was the last thing that Molly's parents wanted, but a police officer she becomes nonetheless.  And is known as Molly to all but her mother, who persists in calling her Moonlight.  By the way, the second child of this family, a brother named Sam, has what do think as a legal name?  Of course, Samwise.

Among the Departed begins as Molly and her boyfriend, RCMP Officer Adam Tocek, are having a romantic evening when Adam gets a call that a small boy has gone missing from a family campsite.  Adam and his police dog, Norman, are needed right away.  The boy is quickly found, but another discovery is not quite as pleasant.  Norman has also found something else.  Human bones.  Sergeant John Winters, Molly's co-worker, starts looking into missing persons cases and soon find an unsolved one from 15 years ago.  Brian Nowak left his family home for a walk and never came home.  The last person to see Mr. Nowak was his daughter's friend who had spent the night, Moonlight Smith, age 13.  The case is reopened and all kinds of secrets emerge, ones that some would prefer had stayed hidden.

I have loved this series and loved revisiting the characters, the small town charm, and the gorgeous  setting.  Molly is an interesting character and her life is filled with good friends, an eccentric mother, and co-workers that have all kinds of issues, both good and bad.  The cold case mystery is always a favorite of mine and I was caught up in the investigation of the missing man and also loved the personal aspects of these characters.  This author does a good job of giving us a mystery to solve and friends to hang out with.  The best parts of reading a series.

If you'd like to begin with the first Molly Smith book, it is In the Shadow of the Glacier.  I recommend this series highly.  And I'll be moving on to the next book soon, A Cold White Sun.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Little Black Lies

This is a weekly event that highlights a book that we can't wait to be published.  It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Ah, this week's author is one that I really, really like - Sharon Bolton or, as she was formerly known, S. J. Bolton.  She writes the DC Lacey Flint series and has also written several stand alone books.  There are occasionally characters that have appeared in one book that show up again in other books.  I enjoy that part.  I've not read all this author's books, but most of them.  Haven't found one yet that I didn't like a lot.  The book I'm highlighting this week is not a Lacey Flint book, but is set in The Falkland Islands.  And here it is:

by Sharon Bolton
Publication Date: May 19th

In such a small community as the Falkland Islands, a missing child is unheard of. In such a dangerous landscape it can only be a terrible tragedy, surely...

When another child goes missing, and then a third, it’s no longer possible to believe that their deaths were accidental, and the villagers must admit that there is a murderer among them. Even Catrin Quinn, a damaged woman living a reclusive life after the accidental deaths of her own two sons a few years ago, gets involved in the searches and the speculation.

And suddenly, in this wild and beautiful place that generations have called home, no one feels safe and the hysteria begins to rise.

But three islanders—Catrin, her childhood best friend, Rachel, and her ex-lover Callum—are hiding terrible secrets. And they have two things in common: all three of them are grieving, and none of them trust anyone, not even themselves.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ten Book Related Problems I Have...Or Are They?

This is a weekly event, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish where bloggers relate their "top ten" of a certain topic.  For this week -- Ten Book Related Problems I Have.  I am choosing to share things that might or might not be problems.  Let me know if you think I'm wacky or if you've had a few of these issues.  Be honest - I know some of you have similar experiences!

1. I have a book addiction - Yes, I confess.  I am addicted to books, to reading, to talking about books, to talking about reading.  I've had it since I was 4 and began my reading life.  If I read about a book, more likely than not, I want it.  An addiction, indeed.

2. I have "too many books" - Or do I?  In all honesty, I probably have the smallest number of actual physical books that I've had in many, many years.  I've done a real clean up and clean out of my book shelves over the last 3 years.  I do have treasured copies of certain authors that are signed, favorite books from childhood, a few I just can't part with, but most of my books now are in e-book form.  On my Kindle, well, let's just say that it's less than 1,000 (I think).

3. I must read "in order" - I've tried to work on this quirk (or necessity).  Honestly.  One of the reasons that I love a series is that I get to stay with the characters and the story goes on and on.  The characters change and grow.  It bugs me to come in at halftime or after the main character has had some life-altering event.  Maybe I'm just nosy and I need to know all the details.  Occasionally, I will read a book that is not the first in a series, but it's not my preference.

4. I tend to tidy, alphabetize, sort, pick up and shelve books wherever I am - Yes, I am an inveterate book shelver.  For years before I actually worked at a library, I worked as a volunteer page (or book shelver).  At my junior high school library, my high school library, my daughter's elementary school library, my city library in whatever city I lived in.  And then I actually worked for the Austin Public Library and got paid (sort of).  I like tidy places - my desk, my house, my book shelves, any book shelves.  I have been known to embarrass family at a bookstore or library by picking up and tidying the shelves when it's not my job.  Yes, I've done that.

5. I have almost fallen off chairs or turned upside down trying to see what book someone else was reading - The tablet and e-reader has made this a difficult proposition, but I confess that I have again embarrassed myself and family checking out someone else's book.  It's a need.  I have it.

6. I have a tendency to bore people silly by telling them "the book is better than the movie and here's why" - Yes, again the embarrass the family thing.  Do you see a trend here?  I figure it's my job to let people know these things.

7. I am so incredibly easy to buy for at birthdays, Christmas, whatever because I can be thrilled with a gift card for a bookstore - That being said, does my extended family do this?  Rarely.  This does not include my husband and daughter.  They get it.  They've lived with me.  Other family members say, "But you have so many books already."  They do not get it.  And I'm not kidding that I almost never get books as gifts.  Sigh.

8. I have been caught wandering around people's houses looking at their bookshelves or, sadly, trying to find books at all when I haven't been invited to do so - I have a need to know what people are reading.  I confess that I do judge people who seem to have no books in their house.  What is that about - the no books thing?

9. I have planned vacations around special bookstores I want to visit, authors I want to see, and the first thing I look up when a vacation destination is decided is "where are the bookstores?" - I don't think this is odd.  Do you?  My husband plays golf and I do books.  Seems fair to me.

10. I have been caught, by someone not related to me, smelling a book in public - Truly.  And did I get an odd look?  Yes, I did.  It was in a bookstore, to be honest.  Don't other people smell books and the bookstores themselves?  Cue family embarrassment again.

Well, I've bared my soul.  Do you share any of these quirks/problems/insane needs??

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Yoga for every body - Yoga for my body

I thought I would report a bit about my fitness goals that I shared at the beginning of the year.  I think I mentioned that I was going to return to a yoga practice - hopefully a regular one.  The yoga studio where I had attended classes before a few years ago seems too far from me now.  So, I was on a hunt to find a closer place.  And I found one.  Luckily, they had a beginner's series of classes starting in January and I signed up.  Now, I have practiced yoga before (don't you love that term - practice?) and found that I was able to participate more fully than I would have expected.  Being away from it though, my hard earned semi-flexibility had deteriorated and last year, after not doing a good job at all of any kind of fitness, I felt distinctly creaky.  Isn't it amazing how fast the body can backtrack in things like flexibility and stamina?  One more reason to try to be a bit disciplined about movement.

I started my beginner's classes in January and will finish up this coming week.  Boy, was I out of practice.  But, gradually, I'm getting a tiny bit better.  I don't know if any of you have tried yoga.  I know for such a long time, I felt that it wasn't something that people who were, let's say "of generous portions" in body parts, could do.  But, you can.  Yoga is such a personal thing.  I guess it's not for everybody, but it can be for "every body", no matter what the shape or size or age.  For me, it can keep me from being so stiff and sore in the mornings.  It can make it to where I don't wince when looking behind me as I reverse in the car.  It can make my sleep better.  And it can focus my mind, when my thoughts want to race around like some kind of gerbil on a wheel.

I know that many people can use streaming yoga classes or watch DVD's or just guide their own practice.  For me, I seem to need the variety of a face-to-face class and teacher.  Plus it makes me get out of my house and not just hibernate here, as I have a tendency to do.  The social interaction is good for me - not too much interaction, but a little.  And, again, it's good for me to practice the physical aspects and the mental aspects - the focus involved helps my mind to quiet and my body to balance, literally I mean.

So, I'm happy with my yoga practice for my body - generous in proportions though it is.  And yes, those are my feet in the picture - goodness, I need a pedicure!  Spring is coming and, in Texas, pretty feet are all the rage.  Good luck in whatever goals you have as to health and fitness.  And again, remember, Spring Is Coming!

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths

From fairy tales in a Vermont forest in The Winter People to legends of King Arthur in Elly Griffiths' 5th book, A Dying Fall.  Makes me a happy reader.  I love this series that relates the adventures of Dr. Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, her little daughter, Kate, and her various friends and colleagues in Norfolk.  And in this book, the reader gets to follow Ruth into DCI Nelson's home patch, Blackpool, as she is asked to consult about some bones discovered by her old university friend, Dan Golding.  

Ruth Galloway is a wonderful character, real and ordinary in a very special way.  She is passionate about her job, loves her daughter, has a very complicated relationship with Harry Nelson, DCI in King's Lynn.  She is saddened to learn that her old friend, Dan Golding, has been killed.  She's shocked to receive a letter from Dan the day after she learns of his death.  Dan's letter tells of a fantastic discovery that he thinks he has made, the bones of The Raven King, aka King Arthur.  However, Dan also says that he is very afraid.  After hearing from Clayton Henry, Dan's boss at Pendle University, Ruth travels to the northern regions along with Kate and Cathbad, her Druid friend.  What she finds is a secret group of Arthur fanatics, tales of the Pendle witches, a conspiracy known as the White Hand, and DCI Nelson, on vacation, visiting family and his old work colleagues. 

Elly Griffiths did a good job taking the reader away from Norfolk and Ruth's beloved salt marshes.  We get to see a bit more of Nelson's past history and we get to spend time learning about Blackpool, The Pendle Forest, and all the hoopla that surrounds this seaside pleasure spot.  There are rides of all kinds, Nickelodean World, sand castles, and murder.  It's always a pleasure to see the interaction between Ruth and Nelson, even though they still are not quite sure what they are to each other.  

Little Kate is a joy to read about.  She loves Dora the Explorer and her toy cars and trains.  She makes her mother crazy by rushing to the phone when it rings and answering by saying, "Piss!", which means "peace", a greeting taught to her by her godfather, Cathbad.  And, of course, she loves to dig in the mud.  Budding archaeologist. 

The mystery unfolds in a meandering manner for much of the book, kind of like a relaxing vacation.  However, the action ramps up, another body is found, and Ruth, who has been receiving anonymous texts with warnings to go home, is terrified as little Kate goes missing.   

This is a great series.  I encourage everyone to try it.  The first book is The Crossing Places.  If you like books about bones and digs and interesting settings, legends and the sea, a protagonist that is not a size 0 and a regular person that you could share a coffee with, this is the one.  I'll be picking up the next book in the series soon, The Outcast Dead.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Pure In Heart by Susan Hill

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

I listened to this second book in Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler series and enjoyed it almost as much as the first one.  The Pure In Heart is also narrated by the wonderful voice of Steven Pacey.  It's very soothing.  And for that I was glad.

This book begins with Simon on a holiday in Venice.  It's been a year since the traumatic events that occurred in The Various Haunts of Men.  DCI Serrailler is still recovering, as are other members of his family and team at home.  Simon receives a call from his father asking him to come home.  His younger sister, Martha, is gravely ill and may not recover from a severe bout of pneumonia.  Martha is the youngest Serrailler child.  She lives in a specialized care center for individuals that are profoundly disabled.  After returning, Simon gets caught up in a case of child abduction.  A 9-year-old boy has been taken by persons unknown while waiting for his carpool ride to school.  The family is frantic with worry and DCI Serrailler and his CID cohorts move into action, searching everywhere for the missing child.

The Pure In Heart is an apt name for this book, for there are several individuals who are indeed innocents and whose plights, be it victims of crime or disease, touch the reader deeply.  As in the first book, discussions of philosophical topics are a part of the narrative.  Quality of life versus quantity, especially in persons who seem unable to comprehend or communicate, like Martha Serrailler.  The tender scenes with Simon at Martha's bedside are quite touching.  And the little child who has been taken, the grief that his family experiences as the days go on is heartbreaking.  The parents of that boy, David, go almost mad with sorrow, essentially forgetting that they have another child who needs them too.

And on the happy side of things, Simon's sister, Dr. Cat Deerbon, is pregnant and nearing her due date.  The child she delivers is another innocent, pure of heart, born into a family that is filled with love.  All of this and more are included in this involved crime novel.  There's a stalker and a car theft ring.  Also a young man who has been released from prison and seems to have no options.  The Pure In Heart is a well written book that makes the reader want to pick up the third in the series very soon.  By the way, that book is entitled The Risk of Darkness and I'll likely be listening to it as soon as I can.

I'm so pleased that I finally took time to read this marvelous series.  It's one I can recommend if you like well written character studies that also include some crime solving.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - The Ghost Fields

This is a weekly event that highlights a book that we can't wait to be published.  It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

My selection for this week is the 7th book in Elly Griffiths' mystery series that stars forensic archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Galloway, and DCI Harry Nelson.  It's set in the Norfolk area of England.  And I love it!  Ruth Galloway is a wonderful protagonist.  She's a real, ordinary woman.  Not necessarily in her choice of profession, which is fascinating, but she's not a size 0.  She's not 22 and beautiful.  She is a single mother of sweet Kate, and Ruth has some very memorable friends - like Cathbad, a Druid.  She and Nelson have a complicated relationship, to say the least.  The first book in the series is The Crossing Places.  Meantime, here is the new book:

by Elly Griffiths
Publication Date - May 19th

Norfolk is suffering from record summer heat when a construction crew unearths a macabre discovery—a downed World War II plane with the pilot still inside. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway quickly realizes that the skeleton couldn’t possibly be the pilot, and DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. When the remaining members of the Blackstock family learn about the discovery, they seem strangely frightened by the news.

Events are further complicated by a TV company that wants to make a film about Norfolk’s deserted air force bases, the so-called Ghost Fields, which have been partially converted into a pig farm run by one of the younger Blackstocks. As production begins, Ruth notices a mysterious man lurking on the outskirts of Fred Blackstock’s memorial service. Then human bones are found on the family’s pig farm. Can the team outrace a looming flood to find a killer?

Laced with dry humor and anchored by perennial fan favorite Ruth, The Ghost Fields will delight fans new and old.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Do you like fairy tales?  The real fairy tales.  Not the Disney Princesses, but tales of the dark, tales of hidden places in the forest, tales of caves and things that creep about, scratching at the windows, and making you jump.  Well, have I got a book for you.

I finished Jennifer McMahon's newest book, The Winter People, and still feel a little unsettled, even with sun streaming in the windows.  I've read a couple of this author's books in the past and liked her blend of mystery and suspense and things that go bump in the night.  A reader of Jennifer McMahon's books is never quite sure if the story has an actual human monster or a monster set in tales told in children's story books.

On her website, this author tells how she got the initial idea for The Winter People from a game that her daughter imagined for them to play.  She also dedicates the book to her daughter, Zella, with these words:

Because one day, you wanted to play a really creepy game about two sisters whose parents had disappeared in the woods...
"Sometimes it just happens."

Set in West Hall, Vermont, this is the story of a town that has been plagued over the years with strange legends and disappearances.  In 1908, a woman, Sara Harrison Shea, was found dead behind her house.  Her daughter, Gertie, aged 8, had been killed a short time before in a tragic accident.  Sara became virtually mad with grief.  It was said that Sara was seen after she died and her story became a local ghostly tale.

In the present day, Ruthie, age 19, lives in the same farmhouse that belonged to Sara's family, along with her mother, Alice, and her 7-year-old sister, Fawn.  One morning, Ruthie and Fawn wake up to find that Alice has vanished without a trace.  In their search for clues to her disappearance, they find Sara's diary hidden under the floorboards of their mother's bedroom.  And so our scary journey begins.

This was definitely an absorbing story.  The reader is given glimpses of the past in entries from Sara's diary and shares in Ruthie and Fawn's frantic search for their mother.  It was very hard to predict what might happen.  This is a mystery that certainly has some elements of horror included.  Plus it's set in winter and cold and the forest is definitely dark and deep.  And caves are involved and I felt quite claustrophobic at times.

Although this could be classified as a thriller, at it's heart, this is a story of the grief that people experience when their loved ones are taken suddenly away.  And what they might do to have a little bit more time with them.  Grief can certainly almost drive a person crazy.  It might make you do things you couldn't even imagine.

I will be looking forward to the next book Jennifer McMahon writes and also catching up on her backlist.  I think I have at least 2 or 3 more to read.  Lovely.

I'll leave you with one last quote:

And as in all fairy tales, there was bloodshed, there was loss.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Various Haunts Of Men by Susan Hill

First of all, have you noticed how the colors of the books I've been reading lately have moved from blue to earth tones, brown, sepia, green, gray?  Just an observation.  I like putting the covers there on the sidebar because I think they are eye-catching.

I totally loved listening to Susan Hill's first Simon Serrailler mystery, The Various Haunts of Men.  Truly.  Just a peach of a book.  I've been meaning to read this series for a long, long time and have not ever picked it up.  Listening is a wonderful way to experience this author's writing.  The narrator, Steven Pacey, does an excellent job.  His voice is well modulated and so very British.  No weirdness when he does the female voices.  It's soothing, but doesn't put you to sleep.

The setting is Lafferton, a cathedral town that also has a tor.  Reminded me of Glastonbury as I guess it's supposed to.  The area has a plethora of new age devotees, healers of all sorts, alternative lifestyles and medicines, practitioners named things like "Darva" and psychics and even a psychic surgeon, whatever that is supposed to be.  In this initial book, the author introduces us to Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler, his team, and his family.  Simon is one of triplets.  His brother and sister are medical doctors, like both his parents.  He is the odd man out in many respects.  A policeman and an artist.  There is a younger sister, Martha, that is mentioned, but she lives in a care home for disabled individuals.

DCI Serrailler has a new Detective Sergeant named Freya Graffham, who has recently come to Lafferton from the "Met" in London.  She joins the area choir with Serrailer's mother and gets to know his sister, Dr. Cat Deerbon.  She also is assigned to investigate some women who have gone missing.  Freya has a hunch that these women did not go off on their own and she pursues her investigation doggedly.  And then more individuals go missing.  Several of them have visited some of the alternative practitioners that abound in the area.  Is all of this connected?  Meanwhile, the reader is apprised of some of the notes of the one who is indeed "practicing" on the missing people.  And Freya herself is getting really too close.

I loved the descriptions of the area, the introduction to the Serrailler family as a whole and to the Lafferton CID as well.  DC Nathan Coates, who assists Freya in her inquiries, is cute and funny and irreverent.  Simon Serrailer seems kind, if distant, and he's certainly not a "chip off the old block".  I enjoyed the presentation of various types of alternative treatments, even the psychic surgeon.  And included with all of this is a very intriguing mystery.  The story takes it's time and doesn't rush, but by the end I was not even looking for excuses to listen.  I was just listening, wanting to know how things would be resolved.  A definite winner for me.

I enjoyed this book so much, I have moved right on to the next book in the series, The Pure In Heart.  Happily, this series has 8 books at this point and I have lots of good reading or listening to come.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

In which the mystery book group discusses The Long Way Home by Louise Penny and marvels at Harper Lee's news...

The mystery book group that I lead met last night for our monthly discussion and, boy howdy, did we have a good talk.  First of all, we had 16 people attend (and several regulars that were absent) and so there were lots of voices out there.  This group, which I think I shared has been in existence for over 7 years now, has been growing considerably in the last few months.  That is a good thing, but it also makes it difficult for the leader to select books that have enough copies available in the Austin Public Library system.  But that's my problem and I'm doing my best.

We started out by talking about the big news in the book world - Harper Lee and a new book - a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird.  Wow!  Who would have thought?  Of course, we're all excited to read more about the characters from this beloved book.  We did talk about the age of the author, the mystery surrounding the discovery of this "lost" book, and also the rumors going around about whether the new book, entitled Go Set A Watchman, is being published at the author's behest or not.  I guess we will all have to wait and see.  Publish date seems to be July 14th.

We very quickly moved on to our scheduled discussion.  Our book for this month was Louise Penny's latest, The Long Way Home, 10th in her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series.  I'm not going to give much of a summary of the book.  Suffice it to say that Gamache has retired from his job with the  Surete du Quebec and moved with his wife, Reine-Marie, to Three Pines.  He spends his days relaxing, taking walks, eating good food with friends, and not thinking about police work.  However, one day, Clara Morrow, another resident of Three Pines, comes to Gamache with a problem.  She and her husband Peter had agreed to separate a year ago (which we knew from another book) and take some time to consider their lives and marriage.  The year has passed and Peter has not returned.  Clara is fearful that something has happened and she wants Gamache to help.  This book details a journey that Gamache, Clara, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's former second-in-command, and Myrna Landers, bookstore owner from Three Pines and former clinical psychologist, take to find the answer to Clara's question.  Where is Peter Morrow?

It's always interesting and a little disconcerting when this author takes her characters out of the sanctuary of Three Pines.  She's done so in several books and some readers like the variety of the settings and some find these books too different.  Me, I love all her books, so it doesn't matter to me where she sets these wonderful characters - maybe Mars will be next.  However, this fact was brought up in our discussion and some wondered if the "out of Three Pines" books were more formulaic.  It was also brought up that the journey depicted here was long, really long.  A few of our members had not read other Penny books and so felt that they didn't understand as much about the characters and back story.  I do feel that this is a series best read in order and in it's entirety.

There was a lot of art talk in this book.  Plus the book's journey has been compared to The Odyssey or even Heart of Darkness.  Gamache himself seemed not the same or not as "in charge".  We talked about whether his retirement was the reason or if he had indeed had time to heal after the events of the previous book.  Clara was the primary leader of the group and, if you've read anything about Clara Morrow, you understand that the journey would be unusual and a bit chaotic.  I'm not going to talk about the ending here, but that was of concern to some in the group.

Our final consensus?  A couple loved it (me, one of them), a few liked it well enough, some were so-so about it, and a couple more did not like it at all.  It was a mixed reaction, which pretty much was what I expected.  It's not a usual Louise Penny book.  But then none of hers are predictable.  We all agreed that her writing is stellar.  Her next book will be titled The Nature of the Beast and it will be available on August 25th.  Guess where I will be that day?

The group's book for discussion in March - The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters.  I can't wait!  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Wrong Hill To Die On by Donis Casey

The Wrong Hill To Die On is the 6th book in Donis Casey's mystery series featuring Alafair Tucker.  I love this series and can't think why it took me so long to get back to it.  Happily, the next book is already available and I have it on my Kindle.  It's entitled Hell With The Lid Blown Off.  Don't you love the titles?  This series is set in the early 20th century and the titles oftentimes reflect expressions used by people at that time.

Alafair and Shaw Tucker live in Boynton, Oklahoma on a big farm, surrounded by friendly neighbors and lots of family.  They have 10 children and life is incredibly busy.  In The Wrong Hill To Die On, the year is 1916 and Oklahoma and other states in the Midwest have just experienced a winter with huge amounts of rain.  Alafair has spent most of that winter tending to one or another of her family members who were sick with respiratory ailments.  Blanche, their 10-year-old, has not been able to recover well from her sickness and the doctor advises Alafair and Shaw to take her to a warmer, drier climate for a while.  Luckily, Alafair's younger sister, Elizabeth, lives with her husband and son in Tempe, Arizona.  The Tuckers pack up Blanche, leave their farm and younger children in the capable hands of their older kids and spouses, and set out to travel by train to Arizona.

Of course, Alafair, being Alafair, stumbles over the body of Bernie Arruda, dead in a ditch, soon after they arrive.  Arizona is a really good place for Blanche to recover and heal, and it's a new environment with all kinds of goings-on for the Tuckers to experience.  There's a motion picture, a flicker, being filmed in Tempe and movie people to meet.  There is news that Pancho Villa has crossed the US border and attacked a settlement in New Mexico, soon after the Tuckers travelled through that area on their trip.  There are issues of race, women's rights, and, oh yes, a murderer to catch.  The US Marshal is named Joe Dillon (kin to Matt do you suppose?) and he is intent on proving that Bernie Arruda was connected to the Villistas, the forces riding with Pancho Villa.

Alafair is a sensible, practical country woman, who mothers her crew and also manages to come across a few mysteries along the way.  She doesn't act in an irresponsible way, but does seem to have a knack for putting facts in an order that suggest who might be guilty of wrongdoing.  She loves her husband, Shaw, and their marriage is one of devotion and humor.  This book is a little different because we only get a bit of a glimpse of the family back home.  The historical detail that Donis Casey includes in her books is a special gift.  The author lives in Arizona now, but she is an Oklahoma native and writes of both states with authority.  She also includes a section at the end with recipes from the time period, as well as historical notes and real people mentioned (like Marshal Joe Dillon, who was an actual person).

My mother's parents were from Oklahoma and they lived near where Donis sets her town of Boynton.  I get a thrill every time I read one of these books, feeling like I've just had a visit with my great-grandparents and grandparents.  This book's setting of Tempe, Arizona was lots of fun as well.  We've visited the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe area several times and I've attended author events there at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore featuring Donis Casey.  She is a lovely person.

So, I'm very happy to give a thumbs-up to The Wrong Hill To Die On.  I'm looking forward to reading on in the series.  In case you'd like to start at the beginning, the first book is The Old Buzzard Had It Coming.  Pull up a chair and set a spell.  Have a big ol' glass of iced tea.  You are most welcome!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - The Bone Tree

This is a weekly event that highlights a book that we can't wait to be published.  It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

My choice for this week is a book that I am truly on pins and needles about reading.  It's the second book in a trilogy, written by Greg Iles.  The first book of this trilogy, Natchez Burning, was one of my best books of 2014.  I am not going to say too much about that book and I have only shared a bit from Amazon's description of The Bone Tree below.  Too much is told by the publisher, at least for people who have not read the first book.  April will be Greg Iles month for my mystery book group and we'll be discussing Natchez Burning.  Can't wait!

My selection this week is:

by Greg Iles
Publication Date - April 21

Greg Iles continues the electrifying story begun in his smash New York Times bestseller Natchez Burning in this highly anticipated second installment of an epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice, featuring Southern lawyer Penn Cage.

The Bone Tree is an explosive, action-packed thriller full of twisting intrigue and deadly secrets, a tale that explores the conflicts and casualties that result when the darkest truths of American history come to light. It puts us inside the skin of a noble man who has always fought for justice—now finally pushed beyond his limits.

Just how far will Penn Cage, the hero we thought we knew, go to protect those he loves?

Here's a video of Greg Iles talking about the first book in the trilogy, Natchez Burning.  As a person who was born in and grew up in the American South of the 1960's, I find this an important book.  Hope you might consider giving this trilogy a try.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Top Ten Mystery "Classics" I Haven't Read....And Might Want To

I've decided to try the weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish where bloggers share their "top ten" of a certain topic.  Looking at the list of upcoming topics, I predict this will not be a weekly event for me - maybe a couple of times a month.  In any case, this week is "top ten books you can't believe you haven't read or want to read from a (blank) genre".  That should be easy enough.  And I pick mysteries.  Shocking, I know.

I took a look at a couple of "Top 100" lists for "Classic" or "Most Popular" mysteries and selected 10 books that may be considered classics or may be very popular.  Some of these are from yesteryear and some are pretty recent.  All are well known.  And I haven't read them, have thought about it, and might...only might...read them in the future.  Some are also series and not individual books.

The Adam Dalgleish series by P. D. James - The first book is Cover Her Face.  I know that this author died this last year.  Have heard good things about the series, but never got around to it.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - Have I shared that I have a little bit of an attitude about classics?  Actually, that relates more to High School Honors English, a nasty little old man teacher, and William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.  Pushed me way in the direction of my calculus class.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - I enjoy books in academic settings and I'd probably like this one.  I'm going to try to read this in 2015.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco - I saw the movie adaptation with Sean Connery and remember liking that very much.  I don't have a lot of luck with reading books after I've seen the movie.  Often, I find I like the movie better.  Anyway, this is a maybe.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey - Did I know this one was part of a series?  I knew it was about Richard III and the Little Princes in the Tower.  One of Elizabeth Peters' Jacqueline Kirby books (have you read any of those - great books) is about this mystery - the little princes, I mean.

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart - Indeed, any book by this author.  One of my favorite Carolyn Hart books, A Little Class On Murder, has Rinehart as a big part.  Loved that book.

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane - Or any other book by Lehane.  Saw the movie.  It was depressing.  Never read the book or any of his series or Shutter Island.  Why?  Why?

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - Seriously, Capote's voice.  Creepy deluxe.  Did you ever see the movie Murder By Death.  He played Lionel Twain.  Maybe this one might work as a book group selection.

The Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo - First book is The Bat.  I know lots have read these and loved them.  Another series I plan to at least start in 2015.

Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith - I think I've seen the movie, maybe.  I do know the storyline.  And I think I've read her first Ripley book.  Don't like Ripley.

So, what do you think?  Have you read any of these?  Any I should absolutely not miss?  Tell, tell and thanks for reading this very long post.  Told you this won't likely be a weekly event.