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Saturday, August 18, 2018

End of Summer Break...


Yes, I'm going to take another break.  We've got a trip planned and I've also got other family things going on.  Then there's always the extra time to read.  As the end of summer rolls around, I'm hoping everyone is enjoying last days at the pool and at the lake and at the beach.  I'll be back after Labor Day in early September.  Take care and talk to you soon!

P.S. I hope everyone doesn't mind these 'official' notices of my breaks.  I don't want to just disappear without warning, but it also allows me to plan better for my book 'thoughts' and schedule them.  Don't feel like you have to comment.  It's nice when you do, but I'll be back around before long.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Bookish Nostalgia - August 2018



Welcome to Bookish Nostalgia for August 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:



August 1998 - Engineered For Murder by Aileen Schumacher - Last month I mentioned that a lot of my mystery reading 20 years ago was impacted by books I found while reading and participating in mystery groups and lists on the internet.  This book and series is one of those that I heard about and then read.  Aileen Schumacher, a professional engineer, born in Texas, wrote the Tory Travers mystery series - 4 books.  Engineered For Murder is the first and I remember thinking it was quite different in the profession (structural engineering) of the protagonist.  It's also set in El Paso, TX and Las Cruces, NM, locations that were somewhat familiar to me.  I'm pretty sure this author had to stop writing her series because of illness.  However, remembering about it makes me want to see if I can find all 4 books.  And I may do that.


August 2003 - Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - I'm almost positive that I read at least one book by Ann Patchett before I picked up Bel Canto.  I think it was The Magician's Assistant.  Both of the books were a bit outside of what I normally read, though Bel Canto does tell of a hostage situation in which a large group of people are held for several months.  I do remember that I was very involved in the story.  Peopled by opera singers and foreign business individuals and diplomats, the story was compelling.  I might have started this with an online book group perhaps.  I wasn't in a face-to-face book group at that point.  I do know that I consider this one of the better books I've read in my life.  But...I don't remember a lot of the details.  Another that I ought to reread.


August 2008 - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - Now this book I did read with a face-to-face book group.  I remember scheduling it for our afternoon group (everyone loved it) and practically pushing it into the hands of many, many patrons when I worked at the library.  I also remember the delight I felt the first time I read it.  Such a lovely book and the story of the aunt and niece that co-authored it was a sweet one.  I know that it has now been turned into a film, though I've not yet seen it.  Have you?  I think reading this was the first time I realized many facts about the WWII time period and how the people living in the Channel Islands were affected.  



August 2013 - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Another book that I scheduled as a monthly read for a face-to-face book group - this one for our mystery group.  Ah - what can I say?  Well, it might be the book that we bonded over more than any other - a bonding of dislike.  I bet most of the people that read this post will have read Gone Girl - a book that was talked about incessantly for weeks, months, possibly years.  And the beginning of the trend to put 'Girl' in book titles that are deemed 'psychological thrillers'.  I didn't love it, but I thought it was well written.  Some of our members actively hated it.  I remember one member talking about how there were no characters that were not despicable.  Makes me giggle to remember the tone of her voice.  Now, of course, we're kind of used to that whole way of telling a story.  But then - not so much.  This book still gets brought up as one we all agreed on - we did not like it.  Ha!

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And so we end this month's Bookish Nostalgia.  Hope you'll join me again next month to see what September books I remember from my journals.  

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Gathering of Secrets - Linda Castillo

A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo

First Paragraph(s):

She didn't sleep.  Hadn't slept through the night in a long time.  There was too much darkness, not the kind that was restful.  At dawn, when her mamm peeked into her bedroom and told her it was time to feed the animals and get ready for worship, she was already awake, waiting.  Ready.
     Ever the obedient daughter, she pulled on her dress, tugged her hair into a bun, and covered her head with her kapp.  Stepping into her winter tights and sneakers, she left her room and took the steps down to the living room.  She avoided the kitchen, where she could hear her mamm clanging breakfast dishes and frying sausage, and went out through the side door and into the cold.  The morning was wet and gray, drizzle floating down from a sky the color of iron.  Once in the barn, she tossed hay to the horses, filled their water buckets, dumped scratch into the chicken feeder, and gathered six brown eggs.
     She'd never lied to her parents.  Not once in all of her seventeen years.  But when Mamm told her to get cleaned up for worship, she complained that she'd been sick and throwing up half the night.  Mamm wasn't pleased that she would miss such an important day.  But what could she say?

My Thoughts:

A Gathering of Secrets is the 10th book in Linda Castillo's series set in Amish country of Ohio.  The protagonist is Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and I've been a fan since the very first book.  No summer is complete without reading a Kate and John Tomasetti (her significant other) tale.  Linda Castillo has done a good job here of centering the story around all branches of the Amish community.  I don't think I was aware that there were stricter and less strict portions of believers.  Some drive cars or have telephones or dress more colorfully.  Since this is a crime novel, there is, of course, crime.  Two teenagers have died - a few months apart - and Kate discovers that these deaths, one by suicide and one by fire, might be connected.  She works hard to get the families and friends of the teens to give her information and tell her the truth, but some aspects of behavior are still very hidden and secret.  The families don't report things because they don't want 'shame' to come on the individuals involved or on the family itself.  Kate is very frustrated.  What she suspects takes her back into her own memories and her own past traumatic incident, a time that she still struggles to understand and process.  And now I'll stop talking about the plot.

I was pleased to see the whole team at the Painters Mill Police Department.  There are changes ahead for some people, a good thing.  Kate's life with John Tomasetti, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation, has stabilized and he is great support to Kate as she investigates here.  Their relationship is one that I am very fond of - a good duo in this ongoing series.  If you're looking for a new mystery series with a bit of difference, you might try this one.  It comes highly recommended by me. 

Blurb:

When a historic barn burns to the ground in the middle of the night, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called in to investigate. At first, it looks like an accident, but when the body of eighteen-year-old Daniel Gingerich is found inside—burned alive—Kate suspects murder. Who would want a well-liked, hardworking young Amish man dead? Kate delves into the investigation only to find herself stonewalled by the community to which she once belonged. Is their silence a result of the Amish tenet of separation? Or is this peaceful and deeply religious community conspiring to hide a truth no one wants to talk about? Kate doubles down only to discover a plethora of secrets and a chilling series of crimes that shatters everything she thought she knew about her Amish roots—and herself.

As Kate wades through a sea of suspects, she’s confronted by her own violent past and an unthinkable possibility.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Witch Elm



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 love this author's books - love them.  Of course, I have my favorites, but so far, I've not been disappointed in any of them.  The new one coming out will be a little different.  It's the first one not part of her ongoing loosely-connected series.  Yes, I'm excited to see what Tana French can do with a standalone!  This week I'm waiting on:




Publication Date:  October 9th

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who's dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life - he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family's ancestral home to care for his dying Uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden - and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

A spellbinding standalone from one of the best suspense writers working today, The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we're capable of, when we no longer know who we are.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Do You Have Taphophilia? - A Guest post by author J.P. Choquette


Today I'm changing things up a bit.  I want to welcome J.P. Choquette, author of six suspense novels, to join us and tell us a bit about her latest pursuit - taphophilia.  So, do you even know what that is?  Well, J.P. is here to share with us:

Do You Have Taphophilia?

Do you like to explore old cemeteries? Do gravestones with their beautiful, intricate stonework float your boat? Do you love nothing better than to meander through graveyards, reading tombstone inscriptions and photographing particularly unusual memorial stones? If so, you’re not alone and may be a taphophile. Taphophiles are those who enjoy everything from a quick, solitary walk through the local cemetery...to those who plan trips around visiting graveyards. Some aficionados are focused on a certain type of grave—say military—while others just enjoy being out and exploring new-to-them cemeteries.

Personally, I like the peacefulness I find in cemeteries, and the solitude. When my son was young, I would walk in one close to his school nearly daily as I waited to pick him up. I’ve visited very unique crypts in New Orleans, and seen the “grave mounds” of South Korea, but have never actually planned a trip around visiting a certain cemetery. Old stones are my absolute favorites. I usually don’t walk in the newer parts of a cemetery. I particularly like those that tell something about the person buried there, and the stones that have unusual or exceptionally beautiful carvings. Some stones and crypts are truly works of art.

Old gravestones in a Vermont cemetery.

 A Brief History of Cemeteries

Did you know that up until the late 19th Century, most bodies were buried in the city in which the person had lived? This became problematic in a number of ways. Firstly, there were too many bodies and not enough space to bury them. Take for example, the Paris Catacombs. Secondly, it was far easier for diseases to spread. The solution? Garden cemeteries. During the mid-to-late 1800s, garden cemeteries located in the countryside became popular in Europe. Here, there were monuments, roads for carriages to traverse, walking paths and beautiful landscaping. A stellar example is the Gothic Highgate Cemetery in London, England (though this wasn’t perhaps an official “garden” cemetery, as it was still within the city limits).

In the United States, it was 1830 before similar types of burial grounds were created. Before that, stated author and associate professor at the University of Missouri,  Keith Eggener, people were generally buried in churchyards, town greens and sometimes on private homesteads. (Check out the article that features Dr. Eggener via The Atlantic.) Here in Vermont, for example, it’s not unusual to find a small cemetery located in one’s backyard. In fact, there is a house less than a quarter-mile from where I live with a small plot of six or so graves tucked under some trees. Eggener stated that while in the past, we had more of a connection to the infirm and dead (this was pre-nursing homes and during the time when wakes were still held in private homes), now as a rule we prefer to create a sort of boundary between ourselves and death.

Cemeteries can be very peaceful places to visit.

“Isn’t Thinking About Death Morbid?”

The cold, hard truth is this: we’re all going to die someday. For me, learning about things like Victorian death jewelry, early funeral practices, mourning rituals, and yes, even an occasional walk through the cemetery, reminds me of the preciousness of life. Rather than running through it with blinders on and pretending that we’re not all headed in the same direction, perhaps taphophiles are slightly better prepared for what comes next. You remember that old saying, carpe diem (seize the day)? Taphophilia reminds us to embrace every day as though it were our last.

I think too, that one can be a taphophile without spending a great deal of time thinking about death and dying. After all, some cemeteries like Hope Cemetery in Barre, Vermont, are completely fascinating in their own right. In fact, my son’s class recently visited it on a fieldtrip and the kids loved it...especially the soccer ball and race car!

This has been a brief introduction to taphophilia. I could go on and on about the subject. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the fascinating site, Cemetery Traveler. You’ll learn more than you ever thought possible about all things cemetery and graveyard related.  😊  

Thanks so much to Kay for letting me visit her great blog and share a little about one of my passions.

J.P. Choquette’s sixth Gothic-inspired suspense novel, “Let the Dead Rest,” just came out this week. And yes, it may include a mysterious gravestone in the woods. J.P. loves to go for long walks, sip hot beverages and read voraciously...just not all at the same time. Learn more at her website, www.jpchoquette.net.

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I want to thank J.P. for this most interesting article on taphophilia - the love of graveyards.  I have several friends who have visited many cemeteries and taken rubbings of their loved ones info.  They also tell me about the peace and tranquility to be found there.  When she and I were talking about what she might share here, she suggested this topic and I found it fascinating.  Will you find me in a cemetery before long?  Maybe, who knows?

I also wanted to mention J.P.'s new book that is just out - Let the Dead Rest.  I will be reading it before long and sharing my thoughts - goal is sometime in September, so watch for that.  I told J.P. that she pretty much had me with the cover - I love 'creepy' doll covers.

Good luck with your writing, J.P.!  I really enjoyed this.  

Monday, August 13, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - Curses, Boiled Again! - Shari Randall

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.



1st in the Lobster Shack Mystery Series

Welcome to the seaside hamlet of Mystic Bay, where the fish is always fresh, the folks are ever-friendly, and murder is on a roll. . .

Allie Larkin was living her dream as a ballet dancer when a bad fall put her out of business. Now she’s back home in Mystic Bay to heal a broken ankle while also helping her dear Aunt Gully get her Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack off the ground. Nothing would help Gully more than winning the local food festival’s Best Lobster Roll contest. The competition is sure to be killer—especially after one of the contest judges dies after eating a roll from one of Gully’s biggest rivals.

Soon, all eyes fall on Gully as the prime suspect. Allie may only have one good leg to stand on, but she’s not going to let her aunt go down for a crime she never could have cooked up. Can Allie, along with her devoted crew of friends, family, and customers, find a way to trap the killer and claw herself out of this hard-boiled murder case?



Shari is a former children's librarian and military wife who lives in Connecticut with her husband.  She's the current Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime.  Oh, and she also writes this great mystery series in her spare time.  Busy, busy, right?  The second Lobster Shack mystery just came out at the end of July.  It's Against the Claw and takes the reader back to Mystic Bay to visit with Allie Larkin and her Aunt Gully.  I'm ready to head to New England and solves some crimes!  Why don't you come along?

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Many thanks to Shari for sending me Curses, Boiled Again!, plus a very kind note thanking me for supporting KEEN (the charity the auction benefited) and the mystery community.  Shari, it was my genuine pleasure and I so look forward to starting your series!  Good luck with your writing and from one librarian to another - well done! 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Daughters of Bad Men - Laura Oles

Daughters of Bad Men by Laura Oles

First Paragraph(s):

'Do you think you can get my money back?'
     Jamie Rush was used to that question, just as she was accustomed to tempering her answers with hope while still remaining honest about the realities of such cases.  As a skip tracer in the small town of Port Alene, Texas, Jamie had built a somewhat steady clientele of women just like Sarah Mathers.
     Sarah, a single mother of two little boys, sat across from Jamie, her small frame almost folded in on itself.  The weight of being in such a situation showed itself in her posture and in her eyes.  It was as if she wore the shame of her circumstances like a blanket.
     'I'm going to do everything I can,' Jamie said.  'Start from the beginning.  Tell me about him.'

My Thoughts:

I read Daughters of Bad Men for our mystery group's August Theme - 'A Staycation'.  And I really, really enjoyed it.  So glad to get to meet Jamie and Cookie and Erin and Deuce (Jamie's sweet dog).  Oh, and I'm glad I got to meet their creator in the spring at Malice Domestic - Laura Oles.  This is Laura's first crime novel and she certainly deserved her nomination for 'Best First Mystery' at Malice.  Set in the fictional Port Alene, Texas (based on Port Aransas near Corpus Christi), Jamie Rush makes her living as a skip tracer.  She learned her skills from her 'shady' family, but she's made a 'real' and loving family with her friends in this small town.  Plus her beloved Deuce.  She works inside and outside the law, but she really tries to do the right thing and serve justice. 

Jamie's brother, Brian, asks her to find his missing daughter, Kristen, and Jamie only agrees because Kristen is important to her.  Just as Jamie is a 'daughter of a bad man', so is Kristen (and also others included in the story).  Her business partner, Cookie Hinojosa, a big man with a tender heart, helps her as do other friends and contacts.  That's all I'll say about the plot.  Full of glimpses of the Texas coastal setting, this book all but smells of salt air, delicious tacos and fresh fish.  I was pleased with the ending and I certainly hope that we'll get to see Jamie and Cookie again in another book.  This one is recommended!   

Blurb:

Jamie Rush understands what it takes to disappear because her parents taught her that long ago. Leveraging her knowledge of why and how people run from their own lives, Jamie has built a business based on bringing those in hiding back to answer for their actions. She takes pride in using her somewhat shady skills to work both inside and outside the law.

When her estranged brother, Brian, calls and says his daughter is missing, Jamie initially turns down the case. Kristen has always been a bit wild, frequently dropping off the grid then showing up a few days later. But Brian swears this time is different, and even though Jamie vowed years ago to keep her conniving sibling at arm’s length, she can’t walk away if Kristen could be in real trouble.

As Jamie begins digging into Kristen’s life, she uncovers her niece’s most guarded secrets. Uncovering the truth will put a target on Jamie’s back and endanger the lives of those she loves.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Fire on the Fens - Joy Ellis

Fire on the Fens by Joy Ellis

First Paragraph(s):

'Not much left of that lot, is there?' Denny said.  The young firefighter stood with one of the big hoses draped over his shoulder to clear the water remaining inside it.
     Josh, one of his crewmates, nodded at the massive piles of smouldering charred wood.  'Farmer reckons that's a couple of thousand pounds worth of pallets there, nothing but ash now.'  He looked at a car standing just beyond the fire appliances.  'He's here again.  Third time this week.'
     Denny glanced across to the tall man staring at the scene of the fire.  'Is this what happens when you retire from the fire service?  You spend your days chasing blue lights?'
     'He's one of the best fire investigators you'll ever meet, I'll have you know.  In his day, John Carson solved some of the country's most complex arson cases.  Why he's trailing us around these bored yobs' attempts at arson beats me.'

My Thoughts:

Fire on the Fens is the 9th and latest book in this great series.  Did I love it?  Yes, indeed I did.  In between reading this one and my previous review here, I read Captive on the FensBuried on the Fens, and Thieves on the Fens.  I'm not going to write individual reviews for those 3 books, but know that they are worth your time as well.  DI Nikki Galena, DS Joseph Easter, and other members of the team have lots happening in their lives, both personal and professional.  There are losses.  There are additions to the team.  Happy times and sad times.  Each book updates us in that regard, gives an interesting crime to solve, and also imparts some interesting angle of research that Joy Ellis shares.  She has another series that begins with The Murderer's Son and features another crime-solving team.  I'm planning on trying it soon in order to meet DI Rowan Jackman and DS Marie Evans.  Perhaps that will keep me content until we next get to see Nikki and Joseph.  This series is very much recommended.   

Blurb:

The fens are burning and Detective Nikki Galena faces a cat-and-mouse battle with a killer.

Someone is lighting fires. First they target homes and businesses, but then a body is found at one of the crime scenes.

More fires are lit. And at each one a single person dies. But the victims have led spotless lives and apparently there’s no connection between them.

Meanwhile, the town is facing a very peculiar threat from a group of sinister Satanists led by a charismatic businessman.

Who is burning with anger, and can Nikki stop them before anyone else dies?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Leverage in Death


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 waiting on this week is #47 in the series - can you guess which one?  And, I've read every single one of them!  I will be the first to admit that I really like J.D. Robb's 'In Death' series with protagonists Eve Dallas and Roarke.  Last year, I kind of went on a binge and caught up with all the books.  So now, as each is published, I can read them as they come out!  I know - small things excite me.  Ha!  This week I'm waiting on:




Publication Date:  September 4th

For the airline executives finalizing a merger that would make news in the business world, the nine a.m. meeting would be a major milestone. But after marketing VP Paul Rogan walked into the plush conference room, strapped with explosives, the headlines told of death and destruction instead. The NYPSD’s Eve Dallas confirms that Rogan was cruelly coerced by two masked men holding his family hostage. His motive was saving his wife and daughter—but what was the motive of the masked men?

Despite the chaos and bad publicity, blowing up one meeting isn’t going to put the brakes on the merger. All it’s accomplished is shattering a lot of innocent lives. Now, with the help of her billionaire husband Roarke, Eve must untangle the reason for an inexplicable act of terror, look at suspects inside and outside both corporations, and determine whether the root of this crime lies in simple sabotage, or something far more complex and twisted.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

An Unwanted Guest - Shari Lapena

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

First Paragraph(s):

Friday, 4:45 p.m.

The road curves and twists unexpectedly as it leads higher and deeper into the Catskill Mountains, as if the farther you get from civilization, the more uncertain the path.  The shadows are deepening, the weather worsening.  The Hudson River is there, appearing and disappearing from view.  The forest that rises on either side of the road has a lurking quality, as if it might swallow you whole; it is the forest of fairy tales.  The softly falling snow, however, lends it all a certain postcard charm.
     Gwen Delaney grips the steering wheel tightly and squints through the windshield.  She's more one for grim fairy tales than picture postcards.  The light is going; it will soon be dark.  The snow coming down makes driving more difficult, more tiring.  The flakes hit the glass in such profusion that she feels as though she's stuck in some kind of relentless video game.  And the road is definitely becoming more slippery.  She's grateful that she has good tires on her little Fiat.  Everything is turning into a white blur; it's hard to tell where the road ends and the ditch begins.  She'll be glad when they get there.  She's beginning to wish they'd chosen an inn a little less remote; this one is miles from anywhere.

My Thoughts:

An Unwanted Guest comes out today in the US and I liked it - quite a lot, actually.  I'm always up for a good 'locked room' mystery, and it doesn't hurt that this one also has some aspects of Agatha Christie's famous play, The Mousetrap.  It's not the same - let's say that right off the bat - but there are some similarities.  A winter storm, a bunch of characters that are heading to a remote guest inn, being cut off because of the weather, lots of secrets, and then, of course, bodies.  Is it murder or accident?  If murder, is the killer from outside or here among us?  I love this!  A puzzle within a puzzle.

I read Shari Lapena's first book, The Couple Next Door, and liked it.  I haven't read her second, A Stranger in the House, as yet.  However, I'll do that before long and I'll be watching for what she'll write next.  If you like Christie's way of telling a story, I suspect you might like this one too.  It's contemporary, but not too horribly gruesome.  Yes, I guessed the ending, but that never bothers me.  It makes me feel like a good detective.  If you decide to read it, I'll be curious what you think.   

Blurb:

It's winter in the Catskills and Mitchell's Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing--maybe even romantic--weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge woodburning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity--and all contact with the outside world--the guests settle in for the long haul.

Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead--it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.

Within the snowed-in paradise, something--or someone--is picking off the guests one by one. And there's nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm.

Monday, August 6, 2018

My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

First Paragraph(s):

This morning Rino telephoned.  I thought he wanted money again and I was ready to say no.  But that was not the reason for the phone call: his mother was gone.
     'Since when?'
     'Since two weeks ago.'
     'And you're calling me now?'
     My tone must have seemed hostile, even though I wasn't angry or offended; there was just a touch of sarcasm.  He tried to respond but he did so in an awkward, muddled way, half in dialect, half in Italian.  He said he was sure that his mother was wandering around Naples as usual.
     'Even at night?'
     'You know how she is.'

My Thoughts:

My Brilliant Friend is the first book in the Neopolitan Quartet, written by Elena Ferrante.  No one actually know who this author is (or apparently not).  The name is a pseudonym and she/he communicates only through email.  It was the July selection for the afternoon book group that I attend most of the time.  I remember several bloggers reading it some time back and it certainly has been popular with book groups.  I wasn't at all sure I'd even try it, but I decided to make an attempt on audio (Hillary Huber narrates).  I had gotten started late and suspected I wouldn't finish, but I got within an hour of the end (about 13 hours on audio).  I did attend the discussion and it was a lively one.

You know, sometimes you think you won't be the right audience at all for a book and that was my suspicion with this one.  However, somehow, it just worked for me.  I have no idea why.  It was a book that was liked by some of the book group and not liked by others.  A couple of ladies really, really loved it and want to read on.  Some were not at all interested and thought it was boring or too violent or too many characters.  It is a translated book, so there may be some issues with the translation.  From my perspective, it was obvious that the author meant for the story to be whole only when all four books in the quartet are read.  This first book was only about Lila and Elena as young girls and teens.  Parts got really slow, but there were underlying nuances.  I kept thinking that this was a deep story.  I would just need to be in the right frame of mind to decipher the themes.

We all shared a thumbs-up or down.  My thumb was at about 10:00.  I was asked if I would read on.  I said - not sure.  Well, I'm listening to the second book, The Story of a New Name, already.  Guess I have my answer.  More to come about this 'not at all what you'd expect Kay to read' quartet.  Ha!  Have you read any of these books?

Blurb:

Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its protagonists, the fiery and unforgettable Lila, and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflictual friendship. Book one in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence.

Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation - From Atonement to Bluebird, Bluebird

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 one I've meant to read, but so far have not.  I know many others have read it and probably watched the film adaptation - Atonement by Ian McEwan.



This is a tale, set in the 1930's, of young Briony who witnesses a scene that she doesn't understand and misinterprets.  Lives are changed.  Some really liked this book and some did not.  It was nominated for the Booker Prize.



Connecting to the name of the protagonist, Briony, I thought of another book, Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart.  One of my favorite books by a favorite author - another Bryony is 'called' home by her cousin through the 'telepathic' connection that they've never spoken of.  In fact, she's not sure which of her cousins is the one.  Bryony's father has died and there's something strange about it.  Gothic suspense - love it!



The next connection is to another book by Mary Stewart.  As I said, she's been a favorite author of mine since my teens.  This Rough Magic is set on Corfu.  In it, Lucy comes to visit her sister and, of course, a body washes up on the beach.  There's a dolphin and the handsome son of a famous actor - you get the picture.  Mary Stewart set many of her books in interesting locations.  This book is on my 'Classics Club' list to reread at some point in the next months.  It was written in 1965.



Another book on my 'Classic Club' list is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.  I love this book.  It's definitely a classic of Gothic suspense.  Written in 1938, this book begins with the sentence - 'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.'  Who is it that dreamed?  Well, it's the second Mrs. de Winter, though we never find out her first name.  Rebecca was the first Mrs. de Winter and she and scary Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper, dominate the whole story.  If you haven't read this book, you should.  October is a nice month for it.



A recently published book that also has a very Gothic feel and a scary and creepy old housekeeper, The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware.  I read this one a few weeks ago and can say that it's a good one.  The book begins with a rhyme about magpies and the sentence 'The magpies are back.'  What is it about those black squawking birds?  Have you noticed that the covers I've shown are all fairly sinister looking?  Yes, that was on purpose.



The connection to the next book is 'Magpies' and I can also highly recommend Anthony Horowitz's Magpie Murders.  Our mystery group read and discussed this one a few months ago and it was a favorite.  A tale within a tale - an author that delivers his manuscript and then dies - an editor reading it and realizing that the last chapter is missing - a novel within a novel.  As I said - a good one.  This book has been nominated for a 2018 Anthony Award for Best Mystery Novel.



Our last connection is to another 2018 Anthony Award nominated book - Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke.  This book has already won a 2018 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel.  Attica Locke sets her book in East Texas with a protagonist that is a black Texas Ranger.  There's a crime to solve and there are certainly racial tensions.  I'm looking forward to reading this one soon. 

I do enjoy creating these chains - going from book to book.  This month, I've read 5 of the 7 books.  We started in 1930's England and ended up in present day East Texas.  The connections were a character named 'Briony/Bryony', author Mary Stewart, my 'Classics Club' list, a scary and creepy housekeeper, magpies, and 2018 Anthony Award nominees.  As usual, mystery novels are supreme.  I'll not be participating in the September 1st event as I'll be on a blogging break, but I'll try to be back in October with another 'Six Degrees of Separation'.   

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Our House - Louise Candlish

Our House by Louise Candlish

First Paragraph(s):

Friday, January 13, 2017
London, 12:30 P.M.

She must be mistaken, but it looks exactly as if someone is moving into her house.
     The van is parked halfway down Trinity Avenue, its square mouth agape, a large piece of furniture sliding down the ribbed metal tongue.  Fi watches, squinting into the buttery sunlight--rare for the time of year, a gift--as the object is borne shoulder high by two men through the gate and down the path.
     My gate.  My path.
     No, that's illogical; of course it can't be her house.  It must be the Reeces', two down from hers; they put their place on the market in the autumn and no one is quite sure whether a sale has gone through.  The houses on this side of Trinity Avenue are all built the same--redbrick double-fronted Edwardians in pairs, their owners united in a preference for front doors painted black--and everyone agrees it's easy to miscount.

My Thoughts:

Our House isn't actually available in the US until next week, but since it's been out in the UK for a couple of months, fair game.  Hmmm....what to say about this one.  Definitely kept my interest.  I was trying to imagine what I'd feel if I turned onto my street and noticed a moving truck in front of my house and being unloaded.  First of all, I'd likely think there were robbers or thieves.  Unloading though.  Maybe my husband surprised me with something?  This is not the situation in the story that Fi is telling.  She and her husband are separated, sharing custody of their sons.  She was supposed to be gone for another day.  If she hadn't come back early, she'd not have seen the movers.  Why is someone moving into her house?  Her house was not for sale - that she knew of.

I liked this book, though I did figure out several different aspects of it.  And it was populated with some not-so-likable characters.  Fi and Bram were both hiding things - him more than her.  The story is told from various points of view and I liked that.  There were multiple twists and turns - also liked that.  It was well written, but the tale itself had me a bit incredulous.  Could this actually happen?  Maybe.  I do know that it has made me want to take a look at Louise Candlish's backlist.  My final word is that if you are not sick to death of domestic thrillers - pick this one up.  It's got some curious and inventive twists. 

Blurb:

There's nothing unusual about a new family moving in at 91 Trinity Avenue. Except it's her house. And she didn't sell it.

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she's sure there's been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern coparenting arrangement: bird's nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona's children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram's not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Pieces of Her



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.

Karin Slaughter has been a favorite author of mine for a long, long time.  I love practically everything she writes and her character of Will Trent is one of my favorites ever, ever.  Her books are not for everyone.  Some think they are too dark, too grim, too violent.  I think she has a purpose in her writing, but I do know that if you have trouble with very dark, you might want to skip her books.  I've traumatized part of our mystery group with a book or two of hers.  Ha!  This week I'm waiting on her new one (not a Will Trent book, sadly):




Publication Date:  August 21st

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother Laura. She’s knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Gullaway Island; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a Saturday afternoon trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one will ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Twenty-four hours later Laura is in the hospital, shot by an intruder who’s spent thirty years trying to track her down and discover what she knows. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumbs of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - Steeled For Murder - K.M. Rockwood

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.



1st Jesse Damon Crime Novel

After serving nearly 20 years in prison on a murder conviction, Jesse Damon has been released, a home detention monitor strapped to his ankle. Determined to make it and mindful of his parole restrictions, he struggles with life outside prison. He finds a basement apartment, a job on the overnight shift at a steel fabrication plant and a few people who treat him like anybody else. Especially Kelly, a woman who works in the shipping department. He seems to be making it. Until Mitch, forklift driver on the shift, is found murdered in the warehouse. Investigating detective doesn’t want to look any further than Jesse to close the case He’s not fussy about the methods he uses to gather evidence. If Jesse isn’t going down for this, he will have to be the one to figure out who killed Mitch—and why.

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Info from the author's website:

KM Rockwood draws on a varied background for stories, among them working as a laborer in a steel fabrication plant, operating glass melters and related equipment in a fiberglass manufacturing facility, and supervising an inmate work crew in a large medium security state prison. These jobs, as well as work as a special education teacher in an alternative high school and a GED teacher in county detention facilities, provide most of the background for novels and short stories.

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I was delighted to receive yet another book this month.  Steeled For Murder seems a little outside my usual type of book, but I'm game for sure.  I will freely admit that I know nothing about steel fabrication or the fiberglass industry.  This author does and I've seen some great reviews of this series.  And this is the first book of six (to date).  I'm curious about the protagonist - was he wrongly accused?  In any case, this author also has other books and short stories.  Can't wait to try them!  Thanks so much, K.M.!  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Final Girls - Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager

First Paragraph(s):

The forest had claws and teeth.
     All those rocks and thorn and branches bit at Quincy as she ran screaming through the woods.  But she didn't stop.  Not when rocks dug into the soles of her bare feet.  Not when a whip-thin branch lashed her face and a line of blood streaked down her cheek.
     Stopping wasn't an option.  To stop was to die.  So she kept running, even as a bramble wrapped around her ankle and gnawed at her flesh.  The bramble stretched, quivering before Quincy's momentum yanked her free.  If it hurt, she couldn't tell.  Her body already held more pain than it could handle.

My Thoughts:

Final Girls got a lot of press last year when it was published.  It was recommended by many notable authors and my copy came from Book of the Month.  When I decided to read it this year, I also added the audio, narrated by Erin Bennett and Hillary Huber, from my library.  As the blurb says below, this book starts with a teen horror movie type beginning, a girl running through the woods after her friends have been killed at a remote cabin.  And the action continues from there.  Quincy, the girl running, becomes one of the so-called 'Final Girls', a term coined by the media for lone survivors of horrible spree killers.  Quincy does not want to be a 'Final Girl' and refuses to consider herself by that term.  Instead, she has a baking blog and a quiet life with Jeff - until she doesn't.

I liked this book and definitely wanted to know how it would end.  Quincy was interesting, if a little clueless about many things.  Samantha was strange and creepy.  The reader doesn't get to know much about Lisa, but what we were able to glean was positive.  Was someone trying to get rid of the three 'Final Girls'?  Well, I'll let you read the book and figure that out on your own.  There was a bit of drama about the author, Riley Sager, a pseudonym for Todd Ritter.  Some asked why he used such a gender-neutral name and there was discussion.  His next book, The Last Time I Lied, was published earlier this month and I'll likely be reading it soon. 

Blurb:

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit; and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Bookish Nostalgia - July 2018




Welcome to Bookish Nostalgia for July 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:



July 1998 - Miss Zukas and the Library Murders by Jo Dereske - A lot of my mystery reading was impacted by discovering other mystery readers on the internet.  In 1998, I was finding a lot of authors that I had not heard of or seen on my library shelves.  However, I'd read about them on the DorothyL list or on a YahooGroup (remember them?) and happily see if I could find the various books.  Jo Dereske's mystery series featuring Librarian Helma Zukas is one of those.  This is the first book in that series and I remember it was so much fun and Helma is an original for sure.  Now that these have appeared in e-book format, I ought to read them again.  



July 2003 - Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews - Another funny mystery and first book in a great series is Murder With Peacocks.  Donna Andrews is still writing this series and book #23 will be out in August.  Meg Langslow is scrambling in this one to be the maid of honor for three weddings in her home town - her mother's, her soon to be sister-in-law, and her best friend.  Each is different and each bride is relying on Meg for lots and lots of help.  Oh, and each bride keeps changing her mind about wedding details.  So many funny moments in this book.


  
July 2008 - Tilt A Whirl by Chris Grabenstein - Obviously, July is my month for starting fabulous, funny mystery series.  Here's another - Chris Grabenstein's first book in his Jersey Shore mysteries.  John Ceepak is a great cop - a little stiff, but perfect.  Danny Boyle is learning to be a cop, but in this first book, he's only part-time.  Ceepak and Boyle are one of the best cop duos around and this series comes highly, highly recommended by me.  So much fun and some serious issues as well.  If you haven't read it, I'll share a secret - the first three books in the series are available for only $.99 each on Kindle.  Just saying...



July 2013 - The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel - I've always been a bit fascinated by the wives of the astronauts.  I think that began when I saw the movie The Right Stuff.  And, of course, I'm from Texas and Houston has been a big part of NASA.  Anyway, I was excited to read a book about the Mercury 7 astronaut's wives.  I know this became a TV series, but I didn't watch it for some reason.  As we are now within a year of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing (July 20, 1969), I'm interested in this book again.  Honestly, I don't remember much detail about it, even though it's only been 5 years since I read it.  Did you read this book or see the TV adaptation?

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And so we end this month's Bookish Nostalgia.  Hope you'll join me again next month to see what August books I remember from my journals.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Chalk Man - C. J. Tudor

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

First Paragraph(s):

The girl's head rested on a small pile of orange-and-brown leaves.
     Her almond eyes stared up at the canopy of sycamore, beech and oak, but they didn't see the tentative fingers of sunlight that poked through the branches and sprinkled the woodland floor with gold.  They didn't blink as shiny black beetles scurried over their pupils.  They didn't see anything anymore, except darkness.

My Thoughts:

The Chalk Man is C.J. Tudor's debut crime novel and it's a doozy.  I wasn't sure if that was going to be my final assessment, but by the end...yes, a doozy.  I listened to this book on audio narrated by Euan Morton.  I really liked his narration and will be looking to see if he's voiced other books.  So, this book has gotten a lot of press and hype or it did when it was published earlier this year.  It harks back to the 1980's and things present in that era - Stephen King stories and novels, music of the time, those movies with scary bits and teens in peril.  Told in two time periods, 1986 and 2016, it's about Eddie 'Munster' Adams and his friends, a gang of five.  It's also about a girl who was murdered.  It's about what happens to the kids at that earlier time and also what happens after they are grown up.  It's about their messages to each other, written in 'chalk code'.  It's about secrets, lots and lots of secrets.  Everyone has them, right?  Everyone....and that's all I'll say about the plot.

I liked the book, most of it anyway.  There were some grim and gruesome parts.  There were some parts that made you angry about certain issues and sad.  I guessed some things.  I didn't guess others.  I'm excited to know that C.J. Tudor will have a second book published next spring entitled The Taking of Annie Thorne.  I'll be watching for it. 

Blurb:

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he's put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.

That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Transcription



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.

It's been a long time since I read a book by this week's author.  Many years, in fact.  She's continued to write and I've meant to read more, but other books have caught my fancy.  The blurb for this book rather shouted at me - 'you'll like me!!' - so, this week I'm waiting on:




Publication Date:  September 25th

In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past forever.

Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.