Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Reading a few more recently published books...I'm having a good summer in that regard...

Hi there, book friends!  Hope you are all doing well or doing well enough.  I greet you from the dry, hot Central Texas area with little rain forecast for upcoming days or weeks.  Well, that's summer.  This is indeed one of our hottest years in over 10 years, but 2011 was awful as well.  Guess we will see what fall brings.  Yes, we've got August to get through first.  Aren't we glad that we have air conditioning?  When I was a kid, not so much or not everywhere.  I can remember the sound of fans rotating back and forth and back and forth.  Ceiling fans were not such a thing in those days and windows were open to catch a small breeze.  Yes, that was in Texas too.  What was really hot was school.  It wasn't a normal thing for schools to have A/C in Texas probably until the 1970's.  Anyway, I'm grateful for what we have now.  

I've been reading more newly published books and enjoying them.  Here's some info about three of them.  First up was Ruth Ware's new book, The It Girl.  I think I've read all of Ruth Ware's books and though I have my favorites, I've enjoyed each of them.  This tells the story of friends at Oxford over a decade ago and what happens when one of them is killed during that university time.  And it also brings them up to the present day and how their lives are now and the possibility that the man convicted of the murder was not guilty.  Two of the friends are now married and expecting their first child.  The story goes back and forth and I was reading quickly to see if I could guess the solution.  Enjoyed this one a lot.

The next book I picked up was Sarah Pearse's latest, The Retreat.  I read this author's first book, The Sanatorium, last fall I think.  That book featured the same detective, Elin Warner, and was set in the Swiss Alps.  The Retreat has an island setting that has a dark history but now contains a wellness 'retreat'.  When a body is found below the yoga pavilion, Elin and her colleague are sent to investigate.  As I said, the island has a dark and supposedly 'cursed' past.  The setting is important here and the weather also plays a big part.  More than one person dies and Elin's investigation gets very complicated.  I liked this one a lot too.

My next book had an even more vivid setting, The Himalayas, and it was definitely a 'cold' book with mountain climbing and murder.  Breathless is Amy McCulloch's first adult book, though she has written several YA books.  The pace of this story was 'breathless' indeed and the setting and information about climbing the highest peaks was interesting and very scary.  The mountain to be climbed is Manaslu, 8th highest in the world, and the author did make that climb herself.  I think that's why her descriptions are so amazing.  The story is good, though I did get a little annoyed with the protagonist, Cecily Wong, a journalist who has come to climb the mountain in order to get an interview with Charles McVeigh, a famous mountaineer.  As the expedition begins, someone dies and then another person....are these horrible accidents or is there a killer on this mountain?  Well, you'll have to read Breathless to find out.  

Now, I'm reading The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner for the August discussion of the historical fiction book group I've been attending.  I'm liking a little slower pace and not so many gasps - ha!  I'm only going to be able to attend two of the four book groups I've been enjoying for August, so I won't have quite as many books to attempt to read.  The mystery group will be discussing The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey and I'm looking forward to talking about that one with the group.  Happily, I've already read that one and will likely just remind myself of a few things about it.

So, have you tried any of the books I mentioned above?  Let me know if you have and what you thought about them.  I'll be back soon to share more.  Take care!                

Friday, July 15, 2022

Reading three brand new books...plus a couple of book group meetings...

Hello my book friends!  How are you doing?  I have been fine and am delighted to say that we got almost half an inch of rain late yesterday afternoon and evening!  It was wonderful and I could almost feel the grass and plants 'drinking' in the moisture.  Lovely.  When I got out this morning to take my daily walk, it was 67 degrees and the air was fresh and clean.  I saw a bunch of fellow walkers as everyone wanted to make the most of the cool temperatures.  It's only supposed to get up to 93 degrees later this afternoon and that is about 8-10 degrees less than yesterday before the rain.  Will this be the start of something?  Probably not.  It is July after all and we still have August and probably September for summer-ish weather.  I'll take what we can get though.

First of all, I've attended two book groups lately.  Last week, I enjoyed the 'Historical Fiction' group discussion of Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.  And this week, the 'Brown Bag' group met and talked about Brit Bennett's book, The Vanishing Half.  Really interesting meetings and discussions.  I had not been able to read either book, but attended anyway and was glad I did.  I hope to get to both at some point.

I have been reading several 'just published' books and I'll talk a little about those next.  First up is Augusta Hawke by G. M. Malliet.  I met this author at one of the mystery conferences that I attended a few years ago and have known several who have read her Max Tudor series.  This book is the first in another series with the second hopefully to come out in 2023.  Augusta Hawke, the protagonist, is a crime writer who lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C.  She writes alone in her home and often peers out her study window thinking about how her story will go.  That's how she notices that her neighbors have gone missing.  When a police detective appears at her door with questions, Augusta decides to 'assist' in hunting for them.  Her current book is not going well and it will give her something to do.  The story was kind of easy for me to figure out, but as the first book in a series, I always give some grace for learning about characters, etc.  I'll be watching for the next book.

The next book I was delighted to pick up was Linda Castillo's new Kate Burkholder mystery, The Hidden One.  This is the 14th in the series, and it's a series that I  love.  I am also listening to an event at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore from yesterday with Linda and Barbara Peters.  I really enjoy these events (released on YouTube or can be live or as podcasts).  The Hidden One takes Kate out of Painter's Mill and I suspect that some will not be as happy with that, but the author herself thinks that it keeps the characters fresh and allows different aspects of their lives to be shown.  Kate is asked by three Amish leaders from a community in Pennsylvania to come to their town and help an old friend of hers.  Jonas Bowman and Kate were close when they were teenagers and Jonas has been arrested and charged with the murder of an Amish bishop.  Kate's regular team and significant other do appear, but not as much.  I liked this book a lot though.  I've enjoyed how the author has told us Kate's backstory bit by bit through the series.

Today, I finished up Carol Goodman's newest book, The Disinvited Guest.  It just came out on Tuesday and I was lucky enough to get an audio of it from the library.  I've read a number of this author's books, all standalones, and liked them.  They are often set in the woods of the Northeast or at schools and usually include things that would be considered in the Gothic realm - creepy, spooky, parts of legends or lore.  The Disinvited Guest does include the pandemic of 2020 (as the author refers to it), but I think it's set in about 2030.  There is another time of sickness, a new virus, and people are having to go back to some of the behaviors and cautions that filled our recent years.  Lucy and her husband, Reed, are going to an island off the coast of Maine, that Reed's family has owned for many years.  Some friends will be sheltering with them.  What Reed hasn't shared so much with Lucy is the history of the island in the 19th century.  It was known as Fever Island and served as a quarantine hospital for people coming to the US and Canada from Ireland.  These people had typhus and many died there.  When Lucy finds a diary written by one of the doctors that treated these patients, she discovers all kinds of secrets and also what people believe about the island.  Ah, yes.  I found this quite spooky and enjoyed it a lot.  I've been kind of picky about the books that I've read that include the pandemic times, but I was OK with how Goodman included it.  


That's all the news I have for now.  I'll try to get back in the next week or so and let you know what I've been reading or doing.  Take care and have a good weekend! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Sarah Stewart Taylor's Mystery series featuring Maggie D'arcy - I've read all three...

Hello everyone - hope you're all having a good week and reading some great books!  I wanted to check in and tell about my recent reading - Sarah Stewart Taylor's mystery series.  There are now three books in this series and the protagonist is Maggie D'arcy, a police detective in Long Island, New York.  The books are:

I really enjoyed these books and liked Maggie and her colleagues a lot.  Maggie works as a homicide detective in Long Island, but her family has ties to Ireland and her uncle owns an Irish pub that she grew up working in.  In the first book, The Mountains Wild, we learn that Maggie's cousin, Erin, went missing in Ireland 23 years ago.  At that time, Maggie herself travelled to Dublin in order to help the police any way she could.  Erin was not found.  In the present time, the Gardai' let Maggie's family know that Erin's scarf has been found and another young woman is missing.  Again, Maggie travels across the sea to see what she can find out.  The difference is that Maggie is now a divorced mother of a teenager and she's also a cop.  

In the second book, A Distant Grave, the story continues with the action set on Long Island, but definite ties to Ireland.  And the third book, The Drowning Sea, takes Maggie and her daughter, Lilly, back to Ireland for a supposedly relaxing vacation that will include a lot of personal changes in their lives.  I don't want to share too much, so no spoilers.  

What I will share is that the mysteries themselves were good and I enjoyed the puzzles.  I loved the descriptions of the settings, Ireland especially.  I was so immersed in the audio of the first book that I almost ignored a neighbor saying 'hello' while I was out walking.  I apologized and told her that I wasn't in 'hot' Texas, but I was in 'cool, damp' Ireland.  Ha!  

Sarah Stewart Taylor has another mystery series as well, the Sweeney St. George series, that I believe has four books.  These were written previously and the first book is O'Artful Death.  Have not read these, but maybe...  


As to what I'm reading now, I just started G.M. Malliet's new book, Augusta Hawke.  So far, so good.  And I've got Linda Castillo's new Kate Burkholder mystery, The Hidden One, waiting in the wings.  Reading is definitely good right now!  

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Asheville, NC Vacation - Part 5 - Two Bookstores and some author info...

Last post about our trip to North Carolina.  I wanted to share pictures of two bookstores we visited and, of course, I bought a couple of books.  Not too many as I was having to transport back by air.  Anyway, hope you enjoy these.

The first bookstore is in downtown Asheville and it's called Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe.  We really enjoyed looking around the store and I bought one of those 'blind date'-type books.  More about that below.  The employees were very friendly and there was a great display of local/areawide authors that was fun.

I learned that an author that I'd been aware of, but not read, was from the area.  His name is Mark de Castrique and he has a mystery series, featuring Sam Blackman, that's published by the Poisoned Pen Press.  It is set in Asheville and, as I said, I'd been aware of his books - probably saw them at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore.  Anyway, I was glad to know the Asheville connection.

I also had vaguely known that Zelda Fitzgerald had been mentally ill and hospitalized for a portion of her life.  It turns out that she had been a patient at Highland Hospital in Asheville and actually died in a fire at that hospital.  Anyway, Lee Smith, an author that I've read a couple of times, wrote a book called Guests On Earth, and it's a fictionalized account of mental illness treatment in the early 1900's and includes the fire at Highland Hospital where 9 women died in the fire.  I'm planning on reading Guests On Earth at some point.  As I said, nice display about area authors.      


My 'blind date' book is below.  As you can see it was wrapped in brown paper and had 'Asheville landmarks, Mystery and murder, Quirky characters, Amazing animals, Roller derby, And a bird to love' as a teaser.  Yes, they had me at 'Mystery and murder'.  When I bought the book, the staff at the checkout desk said that I would likely not guess the author if I wasn't from the area.  And I did not guess.    

When I unwrapped the package, I found As The Crow Dies by Kenneth Butcher.  I haven't started it yet, but I'm looking forward to it.    

The second bookstore that we visited was in the little town of Hickory, North Carolina and called The Book Exchange.  It's between Asheville and Charlotte.  A fun little used bookstore that I enjoyed wandering around for a bit.  

I told the lady behind the counter that I was checking to see if they had any of Mark de Castrique's books, since I had just discovered that Asheville mystery series.  Happily, they did have one book and I snatched it up.  It's the 7th book in the series and entitled Murder In Rat Alley.  The first book, which my local library happily has, is Blackman's Coffin and I think there just happens to be a picture of the Biltmore on the cover.  Ha! 


Well, that concludes my lengthy sharing about our North Carolina trip.  As I've said, we had a great time.  Hope you found something you didn't know or of interest to you.

Take care everyone and I hope that all have a nice holiday weekend if you're in the US.  Happy 4th of July!