Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Witch Elm - Tana French

The Witch Elm is Tana French's first standalone book.  I talked about this book last week in my First Chapter First Paragraph post here.  If you'd like to read the first paragraphs or the blurb, just click over to that post.  I listened to this one narrated by Paul Nugent.  He's new to me and I liked his voice part of the time and not so much at other times.

I've shared more than once that Tana French is on my favorite author list.  She writes a book and I know that I'll be reading it.  It's been that way since I read her first book, In The Woods.  I've read all the Dublin Murder Squad books and liked them all.  My favorite is probably Faithful Place, but they all pleased me.  And even though they are billed as a series and do have some characters that repeat, they are loosely connected.  Usually a more minor character from one book moves to the forefront in another and so on.  I'm used to the way French works with her police characters and crime solving.

Now we'll talk about The Witch Elm.  Sigh.  I've struggled with what to say.  Yes, I finished the book.  I did long to have a print or e-book copy though because this story moves very, very slowly.  However, I wasn't loving it enough to purchase a copy and the library hold lists were and are insane.  I thought about going to a bookstore and reading the ending from their shelves.

As I said, this book moves very, very slowly.  It tells of Toby who has always considered himself a lucky guy.  He has grown up in a close family and spent a lot of time with his cousins, Susannah and Leon.  Each of them are only children and their fathers are brothers.  Growing up, the cousins stayed a lot with their Uncle Hugo (the only unmarried brother) while their parents traveled.  Hugo lives in the family home, Ivy House, which belonged to Toby's grandparents.  And then Toby is attacked by burglars in his apartment and he suffers a serious head injury.  As he is recovering, he and his girlfriend, Melissa, go to stay with Uncle Hugo at Ivy House.  Hugo has been diagnosed with brain cancer and the family needs someone to watch out for him and make sure he has help nearby as he receives treatment and as his condition progresses.

Toby has never had to worry about too much.  He was a popular guy growing up and he still has his pals from his teen years.  He is good at talking his way out of trouble and getting what he wants.  This attack and head injury are tough on him and so, for the most part, this is the story of how Toby is coping (or not coping) with memory loss and physical symptoms that he tries to minimize.  And then Susannah's children discover a skull in the witch elm in the garden.  A human skull.  The police get involved and pretty much everything goes nutty.

Well, I was determined that since this was a Tana French book that I would certainly like it or come to like it.  And off and on, I did - sort of.  I kept thinking that this would be a gripping mystery of that skull.  And it was - sort of.  There are definite secrets and Toby's memory loss was sad.  However, I didn't like many of the characters and found it very hard to care about their secrets.  The only characters that I liked were Uncle Hugo (I was sad for his illness and how that progressed) and Melissa, Toby's girlfriend.  And there was so, so, so much talking in the second half of the book.  On and on and on.  Which is why I wanted to go to the bookstore and read ahead.  By the time I got to the end, I was happy to say - 'done now and let's move along to something else'.

I rarely finish books that I'm not enjoying.  I do think Tana French can write very, very well.  However, I think I need to stick with her crime solving cop-centered books.  I had a few friends who were displeased with the end of In The Woods.  And my friend Les liked the first few books by French, but not the last two.  I am much more sympathetic about that now.  So, did I like this book?  No.  However...

I understand that a TV adaptation is coming for the first two Dublin Murder Squad books, In The Woods and The Likeness.  I think that BBC One  and Starz will be featuring it.  You can read about it here and here.  I'll look forward to perhaps seeing that at some point.

I'm hoping that Tana French's next book will go back to the type of crime novels she's written in the past.  Have you read this book?  Did you like it?  Please share...

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday - Lock Every Door

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 Tressa's blog at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

Yesterday, I talked about Riley Sager's second book.  There will be a third book by this author coming out in the summer.  This week, I can't wait for:

Publication Date:  July 2nd

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew's sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph - The Last Time I Lied

I am linking up with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter First Paragraph or two of the book you are currently reading or plan to read soon.

Last year, I very much enjoyed reading Final Girls and talked about it here.  I mentioned this week's book as Riley Sager's next venture into the thriller realm.  I'm going to do a read/listen for this one as well - it begins at a summer camp...


First Paragraph(s):

This is how it begins.
     You wake to sunlight whispering through the trees just outside the window.  It's a faint light, weak and gray at the edges.  Dawn still shedding the skin of night.  Yet it's bright enough to make you roll over and face the wall, the mattress creaking beneath you.  Within that roll is a moment of disorientation, a split second when you don't know where you are.  It happens sometimes after a deep, dreamless slumber.  A temporary amnesia.  You see the fine grains of the pine-plank wall, smell the traces of campfire smoke in your hair, and know exactly where you are.
     Camp Nightingale.


Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings--massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera--the only one on the property--pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp's twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.


I went to summer camp as a teen - only for a week each year, but since it was in Central Texas, our main purpose was to not burn up in the summer heat.  Did you 'do' camp?  Would you keep reading?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Bone on Bone - Julia Keller

Bone on Bone by Julia Keller

First Paragraph(s):

'Belfa.  Is that right?  Unusual name.'
     Bell nodded.  She'd been fielding that inquiry or a version therof her entire life.  It used to rile her when she was a kid--Yeah, granted, it's not Jane or Sue or Mary, but maybe you could just shut up about it--because, really, why should she give a damn what anybody else thought about her name?
     She'd let go of that anger a long time ago.  After all, it was unusual.  People often mistook it for 'Belva.'  Or, if a new teacher back in Acker's Gap High School had been calling the roll and thought it was a typo, she'd ask Bell how to spell it.
     B-E-L-F-A?  With an F?
     Yeah.  B-E-L-F-A.  With an F.  F as in--
     Bell would stop herself just in time.  Good way to get expelled.

My Thoughts:

I mentioned recently that I tend to 'hoard' some books by favorite authors and save them for a 'perfect' time for me.  Julia Keller's series featuring Bell Elkins is one of those I might 'hoard' - which I did with this 7th entry.  Ah yes.  My good blogging friend Susan said it best here - it hit her in 'all the feels'.  And I say - me too, me too.  By the way, Susan is the one that convinced me through her wonderful reviews to try this series.  I am deeply indebted.  If you're interested in it, the first book is A Killing in the Hills, and you might not want to read any more of this post - spoilers, you know.

Bell Elkins' life is a lot different in this book than in the previous books of the series.  She no longer has her job in Acker's Gap, West Virginia.  She recently was released from prison.  She's finishing up her community service requirement.  And deciding what will come next in her life.  Her friend, Rhonda, now is the prosecutor.  And Jake Oakes, who used to be a deputy sheriff, is now a paraplegic.  Acker's Gap though still remains in the grip of drugs and addiction.  When the current sheriff asks Jake and Bell for help, they agree and perhaps a new season begins for all of them.

I loved seeing all the characters in Bone on Bone.  Many from previous books are revisited or updated.  Yes, there will be changes, but my guess is the author has left things open for new vistas and possibilities.  The crime solving itself in this one wasn't particularly difficult, but it was poignant.  Do I recommend this series?  Yes, I do, absolutely.  Try it, you might like it.


Bone on Bone, the next powerful chapter in Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Keller's beloved Bell Elkins series, sends readers headlong into the thick of a mystery as young as today's headlines -- but as old as the mountains that hold these lives in a tight grip.

How far would you go for someone you love? Would you die? Would you kill? After a three-year prison sentence, Bell Elkins is back in Acker's Gap. And she finds herself in the white-hot center of a complicated and deadly case -- even as she comes to terms with one last, devastating secret of her own.

A prominent local family has fallen victim to the same sickness that infects the whole region: drug addiction. With mother against father, child against parent, and tensions that lead inexorably to tragedy, they are trapped in a grim, hopeless struggle with nowhere to turn.

Bell has lost her job as prosecutor -- but not her affection for her ragtag, hard-luck hometown. Teamed up with former Deputy Jake Oakes, who battles his own demons as he adjusts to life as a paraplegic, and aided by the new prosecutor, Rhonda Lovejoy, Bell tackles a case as poignant as it is perilous, as heartbreaking as it is challenging.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Shadow in the Woods - J.P. Choquette

Shadow in the Woods by J.P. Choquette

First Paragraph(s):

November 1, 1889--The Green Mountain Daily

Mrs. Veronica Brown of Little River, seeks information on the disappearance of her daughter, Miss Lilian Brown.  Widow of the late Charles Brown, an esteemed banker in the Little River area, Mrs. Brown is distraught over her fourteen-year-old daughter's disappearance.
     Miss Brown was last seen walking on the logging road east of Little River, and was wearing a red hat and brown coat.
     Hunters in the area stated that they had seen an animal of some kind, perhaps a bear, but no evidence has been found to signify that Miss Brown met an untimely death.  The local sheriff's department, along with townsfolk, have been searching the area, but no signs of the missing girl have yet been found.

My Thoughts:

First of all, may I just say that I have no intention ever of taking an 'eco-therapy' weekend.  Just look at the first two sentences of the blurb - 'six go into the woods - three come out'!  See what I mean?

J.P. Choquette's Shadow in the Woods starts out with a group heading into the Vermont woods for some nature therapy.  Addie Preston is a counselor and she's happy to say yes to her colleague's suggestion to accompany him and three of his clients for the weekend.  Addie brings along one of her clients as well.  Dr. O'Dell tells Addie that he has a lot of experience camping and hiking in the woods, he gives a detailed list of things that each person should bring, and they set off.  The weather is supposed to be good and the fresh air and exercise will be beneficial.  Only it doesn't quite work out that way.  There is a cave and there is something else...and that's all I'll say about the plot.

The author shifts the viewpoint all throughout the story and that works well to keep the tension tight and pace brisk.  I liked seeing things from different perspectives.  The only thing I might have wished for was a bit more of a back story of the characters' lives and why each was in therapy.  A couple of newspaper articles in the beginning do prepare the reader for 'something in the woods' and also make it clear that strange things have happened before in the area.  The suspense became intense and I had a good time reading this book - very quickly.  Happily, J.P. has recently mentioned that a new book, Silence in the Woods, a prequel to this story, will be published later this spring.  I'll definitely be watching for it!  If you like spooky stories, this might be one to try.


Six go into the woods. Three come out.

Addie Preston, a new mental health counselor, is flattered when her colleague asks her to co-lead an intensive Ecotherapy weekend for a small group of clients. The band of six head into the remote trails of the Green Mountains.

As a storm engulfs the area, the group takes refuge in a cave off of the trail. No one is prepared for what they will discover.

Or what will discover them.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Into the Night - Sarah Bailey

Into the Night by Sarah Bailey

First Paragraph(s):

Freezing air slices my lungs every time I breathe.  I walk to the other side of the tunnel in an attempt to shift blood into my numb feet.  I peer into its black depths.  I assume it's just a long stretch of concrete and rubbish, shelter for rats and mice, that eventually merges with other concrete passages running underneath unsuspecting roads and buildings.  Faded graffiti hugs the curved wall, the colorful scrawls harshly exposed by a mobile spotlight, and fresh police tape across the entrance is taut, barely shaking in the breeze.  The nearby asphalt path is slick with recent rain.  High above, a plump moon peers down at the blunt edges of the city.  As the white puffs exit my mouth, I think about how much grittier the crime scenes always seem here than they did in Smithson.  So much more sinister somehow.
     I was drifting into my second hour of sleep when the call came through.  A fatal attack in Carlton.....

My Thoughts:

I read Sarah Bailey's debut novel, The Dark Lake, and talked about it here.  I liked that one and was eager to see how the author would move Gemma Woodstock, an Australian police officer, along in her journey.  Gemma is a gifted detective, but she has definite issues in her personal life.  As we begin Into the Night, Gemma has moved from her small hometown of Smithson and accepted a new job in Melbourne.  She a long, long way from home and family - her son and her father primarily.  She has new colleagues to figure out and a new boss.  There is a murder of a homeless man and then almost right away, Gemma and her new partner, Nick Fleet, are pulled off that one and assigned to lead the investigation into the fatal stabbing of a famous young actor.  There is a huge amount of press presence and the stress level ratchets up and up and up.  And that's all I'll say about the plot.

I did like this second entry into an interesting Australian mystery series.  It moved slowly in the beginning and the characters seemed a bit overly introspective or, honestly, they seemed to get lost staring into space a lot.  Both Gemma and Nick (we presume, although we don't get much info about him) are damaged and self-destructive when they aren't 'on the job'.  As the story moved along toward the end, the tension increased dramatically.  Did I like Gemma as a character as well or better than last time?  Yes - but, I still wish she would get her act together and either get some help or something.  Things did improve a bit by the end.  I'm hoping that continues and I'll be watching for Sarah Bailey's next book.   


Troubled and brilliant, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock finds herself lost and alone after a recent move to Melbourne, brokenhearted by the decisions she's had to make. Her new workplace is a minefield and Detective Sergeant Nick Fleet, the partner she has been assigned, is uncommunicative and often hostile. When a homeless man is murdered and Gemma is put on the case, she can't help feeling a connection with the victim and his lonely, isolated existence.

Then Sterling Wade, an up-and-coming actor filming his breakout performance in a closed-off city street, is murdered in the middle of an action-packed shot, and Gemma and Nick have to put aside their differences to unravel the mysteries surrounding the actor's life and death. Who could commit such a brazen crime? Who stands to profit from it? Far too many people, and none of them can be trusted. Gemma can't imagine a pair of victims with less in common--and yet as Gemma and Fleet soon learn, both men were keeping secrets that may have led to their deaths.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday - The Hiding Place

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 Tressa's blog at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

The book I'm featuring this week is the second by the author.  I read her debut book, The Chalk Man, last year and wrote about it here.  This week, I can't wait for:

Publication Date:  February 5th

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang--the betrayal, the suicide, the murder--and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn't have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe's sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town--while avoiding the enemies he's made in the years since--is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn't the day his sister went missing.

It was the day she came back.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph - The Witch Elm

I am linking up with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter First Paragraph or two of the book you are currently reading or plan to read soon.

After finishing my last audiobook, I was prepared to jump right into this week's book.  I've read all the books that Tana French has written up to this point (and enjoyed them).  All of those are in her loose series featuring the Dublin Murder Squad.  My book this week is her first standalone.  Here's the beginning of:

First Paragraph(s):

I've always considered myself to be, basically, a lucky person.  I don't mean I'm one of those people who pick multi-million-euro lotto numbers on a whim, or show up seconds too late for flights that go on to crash with no survivors.  I just mean that I managed to go through life without any of the standard misfortunes you hear about.  I wasn't abused as a kid, or bullied in school; my parents didn't split up or die or have addiction problems or even get into any but the most trivial arguments; none of my girlfriends ever cheated on me, at least as far as I know, or dumped me in traumatic ways; I never got hit by a car or caught anything worse than chicken pox or even had to wear braces.  Not that I spent much time thinking about this, but when it occurred to me, it was with a satisfying sense that everything was going exactly as it should. 
     And of course there was the Ivy House.  I don't think anyone could convince me, even now, that I was anything other than lucky to have the Ivy House.  I know it wasn't that simple, I know all the reasons in intimate, serrated detail; I can lay them out in a neat line, stark and runic as black twigs on snow, and stare at them till I almost convince myself; but all it takes is one whiff of the right smell--jasmine, lapsang souchong, a specific old-fashioned soap that I've never been able to identify--or one sideways shaft of afternoon light at a particular angle, and I'm lost, in thrall all over again.


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.


Have you read The Witch Elm or any of Tana French's other books?  What did you think?  Would you continue?

Monday, January 21, 2019

A few fun pictures...

I was sorting through some pictures on my phone and computer and came across these.  I had meant to write a post about them or rather a couple of posts.  I'll just tell a bit because they were fun.  

The first two pictures are hopefully ones that everyone can actually see. (And no, they are not of last night's lunar eclipse.)  They were taken by my brother-in-law last summer when he and his wife were in Ruidoso, New Mexico.  I think he took them around midnight one evening.  They are obviously the night sky.  And they reminded me of the book that I read last summer by Lori Rader-Day, Under A Dark Sky.  I shared my thoughts about that book here.


Midnight Sky - Ruidoso, NM

There are a couple of dark sky parks in New Mexico, though none in the Ruidoso area.  In case you're not familiar with Ruidoso, it's in the southern part of New Mexico and has probably the closest 'actual' mountains to our home in Central Texas.  And then when you come down out of the mountains and go a bit further west, you come to the beautiful White Sands National Monument.  You can see the shimmer of the sands when you are still pretty high up on the mountain highway.

Midnight Sky - Ruidoso, NM

The next couple of pictures are of some truly odd looking bugs and I took them on my driveway here in Central Texas.  I have not looked up these bugs to see what they are, but the pest control guy was at our house soon after for our regular service (we have lots of scorpions, snakes, rodents, ants, centipedes, etc.) and I showed him the pictures that I had taken.  Asked him if he had seen these before.  I think he had seen some similar to the second picture - the black and white bug - but not the one just below.  Kind of looks like Spiderman's costume, right?

Odd Texas Bug - maybe he loves Spiderman?

Odd Texas Bug - looks like a mosaic

So, here ends my 'fun' picture session.  Hope you enjoyed it!  At least I wasn't showing snake pictures or scorpion pictures, right?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Nine Perfect Strangers - Liane Moriarty

I finished listening to Caroline Lee's great narration of Nine Perfect Strangers this morning and decided to share a few of my thoughts.  It was the book I featured on Tuesday in my First Chapter First Paragraph post, so I won't repeat the blurb or the beginning - you can read that here if you like.

I mentioned that I've had Liane Moriarty on a 'favorite author' list since I read The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies several years ago.  I was not as pleased with the last book, Truly Madly Guilty.  I think Moriarty was propelled into 'even more famous' status after the TV adaptation of Big Little Lies and the actors that played the main parts.  Many people 'discovered' her books.  And had expectations.  So, what did I think?

Well, I wasn't sure I was going to be so pleased with the book.  It contains a lot of characters and the viewpoint shifts from person to person, though more of the book is told through a subset of 4 or 5 people.  A lot of the more negative reviews mentioned the many characters and viewpoint shifts.  It begins with a woman who is suffering a heart attack and seems to have died.  We then move 10 years down the road and meet 9 people who are arriving at a health resort way out in the Australian countryside.  They are there to 'transform' their lives through various means - many of the current trends, fads, whatever you want to call behaviors that improve your body and spirit.  It turns out not at all like what they thought.  It gets completely wacky or 'bonkers' as Cleo mentioned in her review here last fall.

As I listened and thought, this is too weird, but kept going, I decided that I did like the book.  Parts of the way the characters interacted and related reminded me of this author's treatment of people in other books - books I loved.  I didn't mind lots of characters or viewpoints.  There was humor and poignant stories too.  In the end, as the characters changed and 'transformed' (maybe not how we anticipated), I liked most of them a lot better too.  And that's all I'll say because I don't want to give away too much.

Even though I don't think this book will top my two favorites by Liane Moriarty, I liked it a lot.  I'll keep reading her books and I'd also like to go back and try her backlist.  Have you read this one or others that I didn't mention here?  Ones you would recommend?  Let me know.  And would you go to a health retreat for a vacation?  I don't think I see that in my future - certainly not one like this!  Ha!   

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Kingdom of the Blind - Louise Penny

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

First Paragraph(s):

Armand Gamache slowed his car to a crawl, then stopped on the snow-covered secondary road.
     This was it, he supposed.  Pulling in, he drove between the tall pine trees until he reached the clearing.
     There he parked the car and sat in the warm vehicle looking out at the cold day.  Snow flurries were hitting the windshield and dissolving.  They were coming down with more force now, slightly obscuring what he saw outside.  Turning away, he stared at the letter he'd received the day before, lying open on the passenger seat.
     Putting on his reading glasses, he rubbed his face.  And read it again.  It was an invitation of sorts, to this desolate place.

My Thoughts:

I never exactly know what to say when I've finished a book by Louise Penny.  I tend to want to hoard them and save my first reading for a 'just the right moment' situation.  Sometimes I can't wait.  Sometimes I do.  I always enjoy my reading and savor the story, the characters, the themes.  Honestly, I wasn't sure that we'd get a book from Louise this year and she herself has said she didn't intend to write one.  Here's a bit from her acknowledgments:

A funny thing happened on my way to not writing this book.
     I started writing.
     The truth is, I've known since I began writing Still Life that if Michael died, I couldn't continue with the series.  Not simply because he was the inspiration for Gamache, and it would be too painful, but because he's imbued every aspect of the books....

She tells that one day she sat at her computer and wrote two words - Armand Gamache.  The next day she wrote 5 more...and so on.  And she says that she realized that the books are more than her Michael and more than Gamache - they are about kindness, acceptance, gratitude, about life, and about consequences of the choices we make. 

I feel that Louise Penny has a rare gift of not only writing a compelling mystery series, but a recitation of important themes and behaviors to strive for.  She writes of the human condition and frailties of humanity and the strengths.  I feel these books are quite deep and very thought-provoking.  They may not strike everyone that way, but that's what I get from them.

As to this particular book, the reader gets to reconnect with many characters that we know and love.  Some of the stories from the previous book, Glass Houses, are continued or even wrapped up.  New bonds are formed.  Certain endings are hinted at.  I was happy to see that Myrna, the bookseller and former psychologist from Three Pines, has a very prominent part in the story.  And in the end, I was satisfied.  Some readers have wondered whether the series will go on in the future.  In her last newsletter, Louise said that it indeed will go on and she's working on the next book.  That makes me very happy and the wait begins again. 


When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing.

The investigation into what happened six months ago—the events that led to his suspension—has dragged on, into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip through his hands, in order to bring down the cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception.

Enough narcotic to kill thousands has disappeared into inner city Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers.

As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.


This book will qualify for the Canadian Book Challenge.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday - The Vanishing Stair

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 Tressa's blog at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

One of my favorite books last year was the YA mystery, Truly Devious.  I knew it was part of a proposed trilogy and now it's time for the next book to be published.  This week, I can't wait for:

by Maureen Johnson
Publication Date:  January 22nd

The Truly Devious case—an unsolved kidnapping and triple murder that rocked Ellingham Academy in 1936—has consumed Stevie for years. It’s the very reason she came to the academy. But then her classmate was murdered, and her parents quickly pull her out of school. For her safety, they say. She must move past this obsession with crime.

Stevie’s willing to do anything to get back to Ellingham, be back with her friends, and solve the Truly Devious case. Even if it means making a deal with the despicable Senator Edward King. And when Stevie finally returns, she also returns to David: the guy she kissed, and the guy who lied about his identity—Edward King’s son.

But larger issues are at play. Where did the murderer hide? What’s the meaning of the riddle Albert Ellingham left behind? And what, exactly, is at stake in the Truly Devious affair? The Ellingham case isn’t just a piece of history—it’s a live wire into the present.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph - Nine Perfect Strangers

I am linking up with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter First Paragraph or two of the book you are currently reading or plan to read soon.

The book I'm sharing this week is by an author that I've read before.  In fact, a couple of her books are among my favorites in the last decade, The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies.  Her last book, Truly Madly Guilty, was not as much of a winner with me.  I've heard mixed reactions to this new one, but I'm hopeful.  It's narrated again by Caroline Lee and though several have criticized her voice and pace in this book, I'm finding it just as pleasing as those I've heard her narrate before.  Here's the beginning of:

First Paragraph(s):

'I'm fine,' said the woman.  'There's nothing wrong with me.'
     She didn't look fine to Yao.
     It was his first day as a trainee paramedic.  His third call-out.  Yao wasn't nervous, but he was in a hypervigilant state because he couldn't bear to make even an inconsequential mistake.  When he was a child, mistakes had made him wail inconsolably, and they still made his stomach cramp.
     A single bead of perspiration rolled down the woman's face, leaving a snail's trail through her makeup.  Yao wondered why women painted their faces orange, but that was not relevant.


 Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.


Have you read Nine Perfect Strangers or other books by Liane Moriarty?  What's your opinion if you have?  Would you continue?

Friday, January 11, 2019

A new pursuit...and a new journey...

I wanted to do a little 'show and tell' about my Christmas gift from my lovely husband.  This is the digital piano that he gave me.  It's not as expensive as a traditional piano, but the sound is very good.  And the keys feel like the ones on a regular piano.  We had been talking about getting a piano for long time and I'm glad we decided to go ahead with the purchase.  I had a perfect corner for it, though that is the corner where the Christmas tree resides during the 'season'.  We'll see what happens next year.

Here's a little background on my music life and journey over the years.  When I was 7 years old, there was a big suitcase-looking thing under my grandmother's Christmas tree that had a tag on it with my name.  I was so excited about it.  What could it be?  It was big (or so it seemed to me).  On Christmas morning I eagerly snapped open that 'suitcase' and there was....what was it?  An odd looking thing with some piano keys on one side and some round button things on the other.  I was very disappointed.  Ha!  It didn't look fun and it was not something I had asked for or wished for.

It was a child-sized accordion.  I've placed a link in case you don't know what that is.  Anyway, my mother (who apparently always wanted accordion or organ lessons - who knew?) thought it was a perfect gift.  Well, I took accordion lessons until I was 12 and my Mom 'made me' share my music with all kinds of people.  Mom was a dear woman and we visited a lot of older relatives in nursing homes and things like that.  She always brought my accordion and I had to play.  It was pretty much a horror for this book lover who liked hiding in the corner reading.  Ha!

Happily, I outgrew the instrument (literally) and when I was 12, I asked for a piano.  My parents purchased an organ.  My sister and I had to take lessons for a few years.  The happy part was we didn't have to transport the organ around with us playing for random people that we really didn't know.  The thing is that when you play the accordion or the organ, you learn the right hand or treble clef notes.  Your left hand doesn't learn the bass clef as well - you play with chords.  So, I can play up a storm with my right hand (even still), but not my left.

One of my quests this year is to teach myself to play the piano - with both hands - and no chords.  I could take lessons, but I'm going to try to do this with music books and possibly a few lessons on YouTube if I need to.  I think it will be fun and no pressure involved.  I've been a bit behind in starting because I have had a cyst on my left index finger that had to be 'frozen' by my dermatologist just before Christmas.  This cyst is caused by a bone spur (probably) that comes from the arthritis in my fingers, plus I am left-handed and so this is my dominant hand.  I've been healing and hoping it won't come back.  If it becomes bothersome again, I'll probably have to have hand surgery, but we won't borrow trouble in that regard.

Playing the piano will be good for my hands and fingers, just like typing on a keyboard is good for them.  My arthritis is not awful, but it's progressing and I've been looking for ways to keep my joints a little more supple.  I think that making some music will do just that.  Thanks for listening to my long story.  So, do you play the piano (or even the accordion or organ)?  Do tell - I'm curious how many of us took music lessons and how many have kept up with it over the years. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday - The Huntress

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 Tressa's blog at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

I'm going to resume participating in this meme after my break at the end of 2018.  I had thought that with a fresh focus away from 'new and shiny' books, my interest might wane, but I still have some books that I'd like to highlight.  I have gone ahead and switched over to Tressa's name of 'Can't Wait Wednesday' for the new year.

Our mystery group read and discussed Kate Quinn's The Alice Network last week.  I really enjoyed reading that story, set in World War I and also just after World War II.  I thought that the author did a good job with the dual timeline.  Her next book will soon be published.  This week, I can't wait for:


Publication Date:  February 26th

In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…

Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.

Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Growing up in post-war Boston, seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride is determined to become a photographer. When her long-widowed father unexpectedly comes homes with a new fiancée, Jordan is thrilled. But there is something disconcerting about the soft-spoken German widow. Certain that danger is lurking, Jordan begins to delve into her new stepmother’s past—only to discover that there are mysteries buried deep in her family . . . secrets that may threaten all Jordan holds dear.

In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

First Chapter First Paragraph - Norse Mythology

Today I am linking up with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter First Paragraph or two of the book you are currently reading or plan to read soon.

I have been away from this meme for a long time, probably before Vicki took it over from Diane.  I've missed it and since I won't be necessarily doing reviews of each and every book I read this year, I decided to join in again.

The book I'm sharing this week is one that is a book group selection for January.  This is a group that I wasn't able to attend much in 2018, but I'm hoping to join in more this year.  Their first book is Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology.  I've not yet read any books by Neil Gaiman and, actually, I'm amazed that I haven't.  The author does the narration of the audio.  I'll probably be trying a read/listen.  Here's the first couple of paragraphs to be followed by the blurb.

First Paragraph(s):

It's a hard to have a favorite sequence of myths as it is to have a favorite style of cooking (some nights you might want Thai food, some nights sushi, other nights you crave the plain home cooking you grew up on).  But if I had to declare a favorite, it would probably be for the Norse myths.
     My first encounter with Asgard and its inhabitants was as a small boy, no more than seven, reading the adventures of the Mighty Thor as depicted by American comics artist Jack Kirby, in stories plotted by Kirby and Stan Lee and dialogued by Stan Lee's brother, Larry Lieber.  Kirby's Thor was powerful and good-looking, his Asgard a towering science fictional city of imposing buildings and dangerous edifices, his Odin wise and noble, his Loki a sardonic horn-helmeted creature of pure mischief.  I loved Kirby's blond hammer-wielding Thor, and I wanted to learn more about him.


Neil Gaiman, long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, presents a bravura rendition of the Norse gods and their world from their origin though their upheaval in Ragnarok.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose, these gods emerge with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.


Have you read this book or would you continue?  Have you read a Neil Gaiman book that I shouldn't miss?  Please tell!

Monday, January 7, 2019

In which the mystery book group discusses The Alice Network...

I was going to write a recap of our mystery group's discussion of The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  However, one of our mystery group members, Gayle, has a blog too, It's a Mystery!  She wrote a great post about it, so, I'm going to send you there.  Here's the link to her thoughts on this book and our meeting.

Gayle is such a great member of our group.  She always makes a list and spreadsheet when we have our 'best of the year' meeting and also when we read for a theme or 'award winning/nominated' books.  Plus, she subs for me when I have to be out if she can.  She's practically perfect!!  Take a look at her blog and what she shares.  She loves the new mystery movies that have been made from successful cozies and writes about them.  She also is in contact with several authors that might not be familiar to you.  It's a Mystery! is a blog that I can recommend!

As to what I thought about The Alice Network, I enjoyed it very much.  I want to read more books this year with these 'unknown' stories about women's contributions to war efforts.  And, yes, this one is based on real people and real situations.  Kate Quinn has new book coming out soon and I'll be talking about that on Wednesday. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

A look back at 2018....my 10 favorite reads...

As I'm trying to get myself back into the habit of sharing a few blog posts here, I hope you guys will be patient with me.  Because I've been doing exactly what you see above.  Well, maybe if you put a Kindle in her hands or some wireless headphones in her ears.  Ha!

I guess what I'm saying is that this one will be short and sweet.  Not too much detail, but some links if you'd like to find out more about the books that appear on my 'favorites of 2018' list.

I didn't keep detailed statistics about my reading for 2018.  Just my reading journal.  I did take time to note title, author, date finished, and the first and last sentence.  The first and last was something I tried this year and I like it.  Helps me remember more about the book. 

I read a few less books this year - 138.  Still, that was a decent number.  I remember the years when 40 or so were amazing.  Many of the 138 were audiobooks or read/listen combos.  I'm liking that at times.  I suspect that close to 50% of my reading is in audio format.  I know that it's tough for some to concentrate or whatever, but I really like listening while walking or driving or folding clothes.  It might take practice, but if you haven't gotten into audiobooks, you might consider them.

OK, let's get to the list of 'favorites'.  These are in no particular order and the link included is to my thoughts on the book in another post.   

by Anne Bogel
If I had to pick a most favorite, this would be it.

 by Ann Hood

by Eowyn Ivey

by Gail Honeyman
This is the only book that's not linked to a review by me.  I didn't write one as this was a book I read much later in the year.  It was for a book group discussion that I ended up not getting to attend.  I loved this book.  So quirky and different.  Funny, sad, emotional.  It was especially interesting for me as the guy who 'taught' Eleanor how to relate to others was a IT guy.  I'm married to a IT guy and though he is not as 'typical' as many of his staff over the years have been, these individuals are often just not as good at relating to people.  They are great with software.  If you get a chance to 'meet' Eleanor and Raymond, take it!

by A.J. Pearce

by Kate Morton

by Maureen Johnson

by Lori Rader-Day

by Robert Galbraith

by Nicci French

That's my 'top 10' - have you read any of them or do you think you might?  If you do, hope you enjoy them.  I've had a good time seeing what others have put on their lists.  Now, it's 2019 and it's time to get back to reading...where did I put my Kindle?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!! Welcome to 2019!

Wishing everyone a very happy, peaceful, 'just breathe'-type 2019!  I've decided that my word of 2019 will be...PERSEVERE.  As in 'never quitting again' - in my life journeys of all types - reading, health, movement, and, most importantly, in my quest to be kind, loving, sensitive, and spiritual.

I love looking at pictures of mountains and love contemplating mountain vistas.  In every mountain range, there is up and there is down.  There are hard roads that test your strength and there are easier ones where one can coast.  Life is like that in many ways.  Endurance and perseverance are needed for both the ups and the downs.

So this year, my aim is to PERSEVERE through the good and the not so good and keep my goals in mind for all aspects of my life.  And definitely enjoy the journey.  Thanks so much for stopping by and may you have a very Happy New Year!