Sunday, June 16, 2024

An Unforgiving Place by Claire Kells

Felicity Harland and Ferdinand "Hux" Huxley are agents for the Investigative Services Bureau; they investigate crimes that occur in National Parks. This time they've been summoned to the Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska where a young couple has been found dead near the Alatna River. Was it a tragic accident? Or murder? 

Harland and Hux soon discover that the couple came to Alaska to meet up with the reclusive Zane Reynolds, a man who purportedly can solve any couple's infertility issues. To Harland, his group sounds like a cult. So, she and Hux head out into the remote landscape in search of Reynolds to find out if he had anything to do with the couples' deaths. 

My thoughts:  This is another intriguing mystery from Claire Kells. I really loved the setting! The Gates of the Arctic is the second largest national park in the United States; it's also one of the least visited because of how remote it is. There are no roads or trails leading into the park; you have to be flown there in one of those small Alaskan bush planes and dropped off. That extreme isolation really added some nice tension to this book. Not only do Harland and Hux have to deal with the harsh landscape, but they also have to deal with a secretive survivalist, fleeing fugitives and a "demon bear". It's a fun summer read.

Happy Reading!

Kells' previous novel:  Vanishing Edge

Thursday, June 13, 2024

June's Bookish Art...

Frederick Carl Frieseke -- Summer Reading, 1902

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
--Bertrand Russell

Monday, June 10, 2024

I Know Who You Are by Barbara Rae-Venter

 "All my life, mysteries have called out to me to be solved."

From the blurb:  In I Know Who You Are, Barbara Rae-Venter reveals how she went from researching her family history as a retiree to hunting for a notorious serial killer--and how she became the nation's leading authority on investigative genetic genealogy, the most dazzling new crime-fighting weapon to appear in decades. 

My thoughts:  Talk about a fascinating look at how far investigations have come in the use of DNA, especially in solving cold cases. I loved Rae-Venter's story and how she went from researching her own family history, to helping adopted children search for their biological parents using commercial DNA sites, to volunteering her time to help police hunt down the Golden State Killer using one DNA sample and the latest methods of genetic genealogy. 

There's A LOT of science in this book, but Rae-Venter explains it well. I learned the difference between autosomal and mitochondrial DNA; that a centimorgan is the unit of measurement for how much DNA two people share; and about DNA segment triangulation and how they can build family trees down from the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) found between two people to figure out the identity of a third person. It's time-consuming work requiring diligence and attention to detail, and Rae-Venter does it well. 

All the cases Rae-Venter chronicles in this book are so interesting! I loved her investigative process, and how she uses pieces of DNA to solve the most baffling of puzzles. It's true crime writing at its best.

Happy Reading!

Friday, June 7, 2024

My Life in Book Titles...

I saw this meme on BookerTalk back in December 2023, and I thought it looked like fun. And the beginning of June seemed like a good time to do it. I've answered each category with the title of a book I've read this year. And so far, 2024 has been full of some very good books. 

In high school I was:  The Other Side of Lost  (Jessi Kirby)

People might be surprised by:  A Robot in the Garden (Deborah Install)

My fantasy job is:  Keeper of Enchanted Rooms  (Charlie N. Holmberg)

At the end of the day I need:  Home at Night (Paula Munier)

I hate being:  Fish Out of Water (Katie Ruggle)

I wish I had: A Groom of One's Own (Emma St. Clair)

At a party you'd find me with (an): Exit Strategy (Martha Wells)

I've never been to: Where the Road Bends (Rachel Fordham)

A happy day includes: Wishes (Muon Thi Van) & Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)

Motto I live by:  What You Are Looking For is in the Library (Michiko Aoyama) & Everything is OK (Debbie Tung)

On my bucket list:  The Unlikely Thru-Hiker (Derick Lugo)

In my next life I want to have:  An Inheritance of Magic (Benedict Jacka)

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

The Women by Kristin Hannah

 "Women can be heroes."

The first part:
"Frankie had never thought about nurses in Vietnam; the newspapers never mentioned any women. Certainly no one talked about any women at war. ... But could she? Really? ... How did you know if you had the strength and courage for a thing like that? ... She could earn her place on the heroes' wall, and not for marrying well. For saving lives in wartime."
 The second part: 
"She'd joined the Army to find her brother and found herself instead; in war, she'd found out who she really was and who she wanted to be, and as tired as she was of all the death and destruction, she was also more than a little afraid to go home. What would life look like stateside?" 

My thoughts:  Frances Grace McGrath's journey from her quiet, well-bred life on Coronado Island, California, to hot, steamy and war-torn Vietnam is both powerful and poignant. Dealing with the wounded and other horrific aspects of war is hard enough, but coming home is even harder for Frankie where she faces hostility, indifference and her own PTSD. Her strength and courage is tested at every turn. As is her heart. I found her to be a remarkable and memorable heroine. And Hannah's writing is very compelling. I liked getting to see the Vietnam War and its aftermath from the viewpoint of a combat nurse. (Certain parts really reminded me of that TV show China Beach, which I loved.) This novel is a moving tribute to all the brave women who served in Vietnam, and to the unspoken struggles they faced when they came home. 

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

Happy Reading!


Saturday, June 1, 2024


I just finished reading a delightful romance:
Love on Camera by Dana LeCheminant. It was cute and clean and made me smile. I look forward to reading her other two romances in this series.

My latest library haul:
        Romancing the Grump by Jenny Proctor
        Daughter of Mine by Megan Miranda
        Are We There Yet? by Savannah Scott
        The Girls Who Disappeared by Claire Douglas
        Holmes Coming by Kenneth Johnson
        I Know Who You Are by Barbara Rae-Venter
        The Wintringham Mystery by Anthony Berkeley
        Love in Writing by Dana LeCheminant
        The Diamond and the Duke by Chrisi Caldwell
        An Unforgiving Place by Claire Kells
        Better Living Through Birding by Christian Cooper 

Some recent things that made me glad:
  • My lettuce and chard seeds have come up and are growing well. Delicious fresh produce from my own garden is on the horizon!
  • Had a fun game night with my extended family Memorial weekend. We ate dinner together then played Ticket to Ride, a train route-building game that I enjoyed even though I totally lost. (My youngest nephew won.)
  • Heard Chickadees on my morning walk and saw some colorful Bullock's Orioles as well.
  • Best of all, school is out and my summer vacation has officially begun! 

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Vanishing Edge by Claire Kells

 "Bad things happen in the wilderness--and sometimes they're not accidents."

An abandoned glamping campsite near Precipice Lake in Sequoia National Park. Two missing campers. Who were they? And what happened to them? Park ranger Ferdinand "Hux" Huxley suspects foul play. But it's up to Special Agent Felicity Harland to investigate. But with no witnesses and sparse clues, it's not going to be easy to track down the truth. 

What I liked best about this mystery:
  • Getting to know Felicity and Hux. These two characters have interesting back stories, and they work well together. Hux is a former Navy Seal with a talent for finding people; Felicity is recovering from a devastating accident and travels with a cute dog named Ollie. I look forward to reading their next investigation.
  • That beautiful National Park setting with its isolated wilderness, icy blue lakes, mountain peaks, and forested trails. It's always a favorite of mine.
My rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Happy Reading!

Another favorite read by Claire Kells:  Girl Underwater