Happy Monday! What are you reading?

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so it’s time for an update! I’m still working on my Read Your Shelf challenge, trying to finish some of the books I own before acquiring any more. So far I have avoided the library for a month, but I did but a couple on Kindle.

This weekend I finished In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton. Here’s the synopsis.

On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine. An estimated 300 men were killed upon impact; close to 900 sailors were cast into the Pacific Ocean, where they remained undetected by the navy for nearly four days and nights. Battered by a savage sea, they struggled to stay alive, fighting off sharks, hypothermia, and dementia. The captain’s subsequent court-martial left many questions unanswered: How did the navy fail to realize the Indianapolis was missing? And perhaps most amazing of all, how did these 317 men manage to survive? 

If you like survival stories, this one is really good. It’s headed to the used bookstore now.

I am also listening to My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. It’s okay, but I really liked A Man Called Ove better.

I’m reading Dominion, Book 4 in the Awaken Online series by Travis Bagwell. I’ve mentioned his series on here before. I also just started A Dedicated Man by Peter Robinson, a detective mystery. What are you reading? Let me know in the comments.

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Encore Review: The Face of a Stranger

This review appeared earlier and is reprinted here.

The Face of a Stranger (William Monk #1) by Anne Perry

Book description:

His name, they tell him, is William Monk, and he is a London police detective. But the accident that felled him has left him with only half a life; his memory and his entire past have vanished. As he tries to hide the truth, Monk returns to work and is assigned to investigate the brutal murder of a Crimean War hero and man about town. Which makes Monk’s efforts doubly difficult, since he’s forgotten his professional skills along with everything else…

My thoughts:

Now I remember why I don’t read Anne Perry anymore. I don’t really like her writing. This book sounded like a change from her Thomas/Charlotte Pitt series, which I did enjoy at one time. I just got a little tired of reading about the seamy side of Victorian life, and she explored deviance in all its forms, the worst crimes she could imagine, and on and on and on. There wasn’t much to smile about in her books, ever. But this is about a different character, so it was possible that it would be enjoyable.

Nope.

This is a classic example of how NOT to write a mystery, IMO. It starts with Detective William Monk awaking in a hospital to find that he is very weak, injured, and that he doesn’t remember anything at all, even his name or how he got there. He returns home and searches for clues all over his flat to find anything that will help trigger a memory. When nothing helps, he goes to visit his sister. On his return to London, he gets sent to investigate a crime that occurred the same night he had his accident, the murder of a popular gentleman with a titled family. Someone beat Joscelin Gray to death.

So far, it could have been a good book. We’ve got both the mystery of Monk’s past and the mystery of murder. But the writing was so darn bad that I really couldn’t finish the book. I was listening to it, which means that it took stinking forever to finish, so I finally gave up and got a paper copy at the library so I could skim through to the end.

The main thing that turned me off was the way the writer stuck interior monologue in the middle of PRACTICALLY EVERY CONVERSATION! So Monk is questioning someone, and then randomly thinks, “I wonder what kind of man I was before my accident. I wonder if I liked music. Did I have a girlfriend? Did I like pie? Why can’t I remember?” and on, and on, and on, while the actual conversation just sort of hangs there until Monk comes to his senses and starts paying attention again.

And the other main character, Hester Latterly, does the same thing. She’ll be listening to some discussion of the Crimean war and have a flashback to her service there as a nurse and we’ll get a page of her reminiscences. I know we all do that from time to time, let our minds wander now and then, but it’s really super boring to listen to! Even reading it was bad enough, but at least then I could skip ahead a couple of paragraphs.

I know that this series, and her other one, have some fans, but I am not reading anymore by this author. One series is too dark, and this one is too dumb. The writing itself is not very good and the style is extremely irritating. 1 star.

My Top 10 Mysteries

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. The prompt for this week was Top 10 books from your favorite genre. According to Goodreads, Mystery is my biggest shelf – by far. It was hard to come up with my 10 favorites – I have 2000+ that I’ve rated – but here are 10 that I love to reread. I’m going to force myself to choose just one from each author, but it’s so hard!

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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie This one is not the first Hercule Poirot – that one is The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It’s not the most famous – Murder on the Orient Express wins that title. But for some reason, I think it’s my favorite.  It’s clever, occasionally funny, and plays fair with the reader. The cover could be better, but it does hint at what’s going on in the plot.

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In the Best Families by Rex Stout This series has sort of fallen out of fashion. I think that’s a shame, as it features two of the most memorable characters in mystery – Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. This is definitely not the place to start if you want to try it out – I’d suggest starting at the beginning with Fer-de-Lance – but this is where it all culminates into the most suspenseful and shocking climax.

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The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King I’m going to be controversial here and say that I actually prefer King’s version of Sherlock Holmes to the original. I know, heresy! But this is an older, more mellow version of the sleuth and the writing is – sorry, Sir Arthur – much, much better. The series declines as it goes on, but the first 3-4 were just perfect, and this cover is my favorite.

Death and the Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh Another author who is frequently forgotten by modern writers. I will admit that her treatment of queer characters is problematic. But most mystery writers of the era didn’t even admit that they existed. This book is a Stately Home murder with our handsome copper Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn on the scene.

Miss Seeton Sings by Heron Carvic This series might be unique in that it had 3 different authors, each of whom kept the characters in the original. Carvic created the character and his version is both funny and biting. Miss Seeton herself is an elderly retired art teach who just keeps blundering into the most appalling crimes and stirring things up, but all without realizing what’s going on.

A Late Phoenix by Catherine Aird Set in a fictional county in England, this series features a hardworking inspector, his clueless constable, and in this book, some nasty secrets dating back to World War II. Aird had to juggle the timeline around in later books to keep up with publication, but in this one, her characters are old enough to remember the war and the chaos it caused.

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly Set in pre-Civil War New Orleans, everything in this series is shaped by race. The main character, Ben January, is Black. So is the victim. That means that the White police are going to hush things up as soon as possible. But Ben refuses to allow that to happen. So much history in here, and none of it pretty.

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander This series is not very long – the author died after book 5 – but I enjoyed it so much it still makes the list. This is the first in the series about historical figure Sir John Fielding, a 18th century criminal court judge and founder of London’s first police force.

Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews As a Southern woman with a large extended family, I can neither confirm nor deny that this is what we are like. My family weddings never involved Spanish moss, peacocks, or murder. But murder isn’t off the table, that’s all I’m saying.

The Thin Woman by Dorothy Gilman Another great comic mystery series. Ellie Haskell is just trying to get through a family reunion when she hires a male escort to pose as her fiance. Then the aged relative dies and leaves them an inheritance – jointly. Now they’ll have to figure out how to live together before someone kills them both.


Did I tempt you with any of these favorites? What was on your list? Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave a link to your list. Happy reading!

 

May Reading Wrap Up

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Hello readers! May is over so I thought I would do a wrap up of my reading month. It looks like it was a pretty good month, so let me get started.

Let me start with the bad, and work up to the good!

Books I DNF’d

The Christie Curse (Book Collector #1) by Victoria Abbott – I remembered why I don’t like modern cozy mysteries.

The Missing Guests of the Magic Grove Hotel (Ethical Chiang Mai Detective Agency #2) by David Casarett – just lost interest. It made me hungry though!

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis – flipped through a few pages, got the general idea.

Crossed Out by Kim Baccellia – didn’t realize it was a YA paranormal, didn’t fit for me.

The Invisible Hand (The Cost of Freedom #3) by Chris Northern – I loved the previous books in this series. What happened?

Not a bad amount, although it felt like there were more. There were a few books I read a few pages of and then decided I wasn’t in the mood to finish, so I decided to try later, but I’m not going to list them.


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Audiobooks

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place (Flavia de Luce #9) by Alan Bradley. Fun, but not his best. 2.75 stars

Captain’s Fury (Codex Alera #4)  by Jim Butcher. Still like the characters, but the writing is started to bug me. 3.5 stars

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Dense, highly technical writing made relevant with personal stories. Mind blowing stuff. 5 stars

I’m kind of surprised the number is so low. What was I listening to? Did I just forget to track it? I don’t know.


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Books I read

Red Sister and Gray Sister (Books of the Ancestor 1 & 2) by Mark Lawrence. Freaking awesome! 5 stars each.

The Black Lung Captain (Tales of the Ketty Jay #2) by Chris Wooding. Lots of fun and I *loved* the ending. 4.5 stars

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America, edited by Ibi Zoboi. Not a bad story in here. 4 stars

Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries, edited by Martin Edwards. Reviewed here.

The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home. Promising series debut set in Scotland. 4 stars

Murder in Little Shendon by A H Henderson. Also a mystery debut, set in mid-20th century England. 4 stars

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Totally original teen dystopia by Australia writer. 5 stars

Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History by Penny Le Conteur. Why chemistry matters! 5 stars

A Bone of Contention: The Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Matthew Gregory. Medieval mystery set in Oxford. 4 stars.


Longest book read: The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, 592 pages

On my TBR the longest: Napoleon’s Buttons by Penny Le Conteur, since Feb 2012

Most disappointing: The Invisible Hand by Chris Northern. Went from a military fantasy fighting necromancers in book 1 to economic theory in book 3. Yawn.

Epic Awesome: Red Sister and Gray Sister by Mark Lawrence. You need to read these!

Coziest comfort read: Resorting to Murder. Perfect for a day sick in bed.


Like I said, a really good month! This month I’m hoping to stick to more of my own books, and not borrow from the library. I have so many physical book around here I would like to read. But I don’t make a specific TBR for each month. How was your reading in May? Let me know in the comments or post a link to your list. Happy reading!

Resorting to Murder, book review

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Resorting to Murder: Holiday Murders, edited by Martin Edwards

Book description:

Holidays offer us the luxury of getting away from it all. So, in a different way, do detective stories. This collection of vintage mysteries combines both those pleasures. From a golf course at the English seaside to a pension in Paris, and from a Swiss mountain resort to the cliffs of Normandy, this new selection shows the enjoyable and unexpected ways in which crime writers have used summer holidays as a theme.

These fourteen stories range widely across the golden age of British crime fiction. Stellar names from the past are well represented Arthur Conan Doyle and G. K. Chesterton, for instance with classic stories that have won acclaim over the decades. The collection also uncovers a wide range of hidden gems: Anthony Berkeley whose brilliance with plot had even Agatha Christie in raptures is represented by a story so (undeservedly) obscure that even the British Library does not own a copy. The stories by Phyllis Bentley and Helen Simpson are almost equally rare, despite the success which both writers achieved, while those by H. C. Bailey, Leo Bruce and the little-known Gerald Findler have seldom been reprinted.

Each story is introduced by the editor, Martin Edwards, who sheds light on the authors’ lives and the background to their writing.


My thoughts:

I kept seeing this book recommended to me by Goodreads and Amazon, so when I found a copy at the library I snatched it up. This is part of the British Library  Crime Classics series, which includes reprints of some forgotten gems by popular writers of the 20th century. This book contains a collection of short stories all centered on the holiday or vacation setting. We’ve got stories at the seaside, in lonely country cottages, and in Alpine snow chalets. Some of them feature sleuths that readers might recognize from other books, like Dr. Thorndyke, Reggie Fortune, John Dollar, and of course, Sherlock Holmes.

The Holmes story, “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot,” was the only story I had read before, and frankly, it’s not his best. All of the other stories were new to me. While I had my favorites, there really wasn’t a bad story in the whole collection. That is so rare! “The Hazel Ice” by H C Bailey and “Cousin Once Removed” by Michael Gilbert were my favorite. I also found some new authors, The funniest story was by Helen Simpson, “A Posteriori.” It’s worth hunting this collection down for that story alone! I was surprised not to see Agatha Christie in here, but I’m kind of glad they stuck to unknowns.

10 Authors New to Me

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl that I sometimes join in. This week’s prompt didn’t inspire me though, so I came up with something totally different. Enjoy!

10 Authors I Tried This Year

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Ibi Zoboi. She is known for writing contemporary YA fiction, middle grade, and short stories. I read her book Pride,  a retelling of the Jane Austen classic featuring an Afro-Latina main character. I also have Black Enough from the library which I hope to get to soon.

Camron Wright. Wright is a local Utah writer who writes inspirational stories based on real life. Both The Rent Collector and The Orphan Keeper were book club picks. His books are great for promoting a good discussion.

Django Wexler. Wow, where has this guy been?! Amazing fantasy writer, versatile and complex stories. I tore through his first two books in The Shadow Campaign series. Fun to follow on Twitter as well.

Becky Wallace. Goodreads has been recommending her to me for years now, and I finally caved. Her YA fantasy duology  The Keeper’s Chronicles was solid and original.

Jason Reynolds. I know, he’s huge! But I only knew about his books told in verse and I am NOT a fan. Then I found out about his YA contemporary The Boy in the Black Suit and I was sold. Loved the MC, loved the writing.

L L McKinney. An Alice in Wonderland retelling with Black Girl Magic? Yes, please! I raced through A Blade So Black only to find out that book 2 doesn’t come out until this fall!

Mark Lawrence. Another fantasy writer that everyone seems to know about but me. I’m deep into The Book of the Ancestor series about assassin nuns, but I am not planning on reading his other series. Too dark for me.

W R Gingell. I don’t know why I love this urban fantasy series so much. It’s got a vampire, for Pete’s sake! But I am so anxious to read the next book in The City Between. I love that it’s set in Australia too.

Guy Fraser-Sampson. He is known for a mystery series that combines modern police methods with a Golden Age sleuth feel. If you love classic detective stories, you should check him out, and they’re on Kindle Unlimited.

Rachel A. Collett. I found her Blood Descent series on Kindle Unlimited, and it was another hit. YA fantasy with a nice love story. Unfortunately, only book 1 has been released, but it was very promising!


So those are 10 authors I have discovered this year. Who are you reading? Let me know in the comments!

Recent Acquisitions

Hey readers! So I don’t always list my book hauls, but I have bought a few new ebooks I wanted to talk about. I almost never buy new print

books because my shelves are so full. But I went on a bit of a splurge lately for my Kindle.

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The Mad Monk of Gidleigh by Michael Jecks. This one is a surprising #14 in the Knights Templar series. The first one is the best, but I have enjoyed most of these medieval mysteries.  I love looking at the covers as they contain all sorts of clues about the story.

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Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane. I needed another good science book since I finished my last one and this has been on my list for a while.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. I think this is number 6 in the series and I can’t wait to read it!

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence. A YA science fiction thriller that sounds really good. Based on D&D.

The Genius Plate by David Walton. Two brothers may bring about the end of the world.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I’ve heard great things about this memoir.


What have you bought recently? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments.

Encore Review

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I read this one a while back, but I haven’t shared this review before.

Title:

Synopsis:
Lara McClintoch owns a Toronto antiquities store and is obsessed with finding rare artifacts. The murder of an expert in Mayan history brings Lara to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula where mysteries from the Mayan past and Mexico’s present political problems lure Lara on a perilous journey.
Review:
I liked this mystery, but as late as halfway through I was still unclear about the date until it specifically says that it’s set in the 1990s. I think that was because of the prevalent “Had I But Known” vibe that was almost overpowering the book. For those who don’t know, that was a technique common to mysteries in the 1930s by authors like Mary Roberts Rinehart and then the 1980s in Gothic mysteries by Phyllis A. Whitney and E. X. Ferrars. It features lots of foreshadowing, a heroine in trouble, and two romantic rivals. The heroine almost always picks the wrong one right up until the last minute.
Come to think of it, I’ve basically given you the whole plot of the book right there. Lara is recovering from a divorce, heads off to visit a former colleague, and gets caught up in political intrigue and theft. It was still kind of fun, but you have to be in the right mood for it. 2.5 stars

Don’t Look Back: A Book Review

Don’t Look Back: Konrad Sejer #2

By Karin Fossum

Synopsis:

Meet Inspector Sejer: smart and enigmatic, tough but fair. At the foot of the imposing Kollen Mountain lies a small, idyllic village, where neighbors know neighbors and children play happily in the streets. But when the body of a teenage girl is found by the lake at the mountaintop, the town’s tranquility is shattered forever. Annie was strong, intelligent, and loved by everyone. What went so terribly wrong? Doggedly, yet subtly, Inspector Sejer uncovers layer upon layer of distrust and lies beneath the town’s seemingly perfect façade.

Critically acclaimed across Europe, Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer novels are masterfully constructed, psychologically convincing, and compulsively readable. They evoke a world that is at once profoundly disturbing and terrifyingly familiar.

My thoughts:

I’m a little confused. Goodreads lists this as #2 in the series, but from the synopsis, it sounds like this is the first one in the series. Maybe there’s a prequel that was released earlier or something, I’m not sure.

In any case, the book features detectives Sejer and Skarre looking into the murder of a teenage girl. In this little town, everyone knows each other and everyone loved the dead girl. In fact, no one has anything bad to say about her, so who could want her dead?

I liked this book. I just found it at the library and decided to give it a try. I liked the Norwegian setting a lot. The characters were well drawn and I especially liked the detectives. I would definitely read another book in the series. However, the whole tone of the book was quite sad. I wouldn’t say there was a need for any trigger warnings, but there was definitely some unpleasant stuff sort of hanging in the background.

Sejer’s a widower, but he’s not the sad sack alcoholic detective with tons of baggage. That is far too common in Scandinavian mysteries. Very refreshing, IMO. 3.5 stars out of 5.

 

Murder at the Mill: a review

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Iris Grey needs a quiet place to work on her art and decide what to do about her failing marriage. She finds just what she needs in Mill Cottage, deep in Hampshire and even featuring a picturesque stream nearby. Things are going pretty well until Christmas time. That’s when the neighbors plan a big holiday party that ends with a body being found floating in the previously mentioned stream.

Iris is right in the middle of events. She was present at the holiday party and has been drawn deep into the neighbors secrets. Now she has to figure out what’s going on before she dies too.

I liked this mystery, but from the description I was imagining a 1930s style house party with servants and sleuths and all. However, this is set in present day. The overall feel of the book is quite different as well. I think the description was rather misleading. I did enjoy this story and I quite like Iris. However the mystery wasn’t all that hard to solve and I’m not sure I would feel compelled to read another in this series.

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.*