Thursday, January 31, 2019

K-9 Suspense...

"Megan Jennings ignored the water squelching noisily in her soggy hiking boots and focused instead on the black Labrador running ahead. Hawk ran with his nose skimming the ground, his thick tail held stiff and high. The chase was on, and he was in his element. Pausing briefly, he pushed through the broken underbrush, following a path that meandered through the trees, a path that nearly wasn't, unless you knew what to look for. ... They were looking for a killer."

Lone Wolf: An F.B.I. K-9 Novel by Sara Driscoll -- Meg and Hawk are part of the F.B.I.'s elite K-9 unit. They track criminals and are well-trained in search-and-rescue. And when a government building is bombed, they help locate any survivors in the debris. When the bomber strikes again, Meg is determined to help track him down, even if it means enlisting the help of the journalist who was recently contacted by the bomber himself.

So, here's the truth:  I didn't love this one, but I didn't hate it either. On the plus side, it reads fast. And Hawk and the other dogs are amazing. But I felt the humans' character development was a little lacking, and I questioned the role that the K-9 handlers ended up playing in the F.B.I investigation. Still, I liked it enough to want to give this series another try because I think Driscoll's premise has a lot of potential. (The second book, Before It's Too Late, sounds especially good.) And I did really love the dogs. 

Happy Reading!

Other K-9 reads:

Monday, January 28, 2019

A little bookish trivia....

Did you know that the game of Clue was inspired by the British murder mysteries from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction? 

It seems that Anthony Pratt, Clue's designer, was an avid reader and drew inspiration for his classic game from the mysteries he loved.

Cool, huh?

So, where did I learn this fascinating bit of bookish trivia?

It's All A Game: The History of Board Games From Monopoly to Settlers of Catan by Tristan Donovan is a fascinating read. Each chapter focuses on a different game from Chess to Scrabble, Twister to Risk, Trivial Pursuit to Pandemic. For example, I never knew that the Risk was inspired by the war games played in Prussia in the 1800s to help Prussian officers strategically prepare for battle, or that stores didn't want to sell Twister when it was first introduced because they weren't sure it was morally proper to play it. "This book is the story of these board games. The games that shaped us, explained us, and molded the world we live in." And I thought it was a lot of fun. It read pretty fast, too. And when I was done, I wanted to pull out our old game of Life and give the wheel a spin.   

Happy Reading.... and game playing!

Friday, January 25, 2019

January's Bookish Art...

Albert Edelfelt -- Reading Window

"We are born an empty bookshelf. Life is what we fill it with."
--Felicia Day

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Haiku Reviews

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

Pride and Prejudice
with hobgoblins, dragons and swords...
and lots of fighting.

Fantasy (with a little romance) .... 333 pages .... 4/5 stars.

The One Man by Andrew Gross 

Nathan Blum returns
to Poland to rescue a famed
physicist from Auschwitz.

Action/Thriller set in W.W.II .... 407 pages .... 4/5 stars.

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

Lost treasure and a 
mystery from the past bring
Ben & Millie together.

Christian Romance .... 344 pages .... 3/5 stars.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

From my TBR shelf...

Title & Author:  Locker Nine by Franklin Horton

Why I bought it:  I love disaster/survival stories--whether the disaster is caused by a massive earthquake, EMP, terrorist attack, or zombie apocalypse. So when I saw this book on Amazon, I couldn't resist putting it in my cart. (Because once again, my library didn't have it.)

The Premise:  Grace is just finishing her freshman year of college when a terrorist strike takes out the power grid. Chaos quickly ensues. Luckily Grace's dad--a serious prepper and science fiction writer who's plotted the end of the world numerous times--has prepared her for this kind of disaster. He's even given her a key to a locker with everything she and her roommate, Zoe, will need to make the 600 mile journey home. Too bad the roads they must  travel on are filled with other people not quite so prepared...and definitely not on their side.

My thoughts:  I really liked Grace. She's tough and resilient and never backs down. And her relationship with her dad brought a welcome layer of humor and heart to an otherwise predictable plot. I wish every chapter had been about her and Zoe and their journey. Sadly, half the chapters focus on another character, Ray, a pot-smoking video gamer who's decided to start living life like he's the hero of Grand Theft Auto. Talk about a despicable human being! But I guess every disaster novel needs its requisite bad guy. (I also didn't love the first five chapters that were all about the terrorists; Horton could have done away with those entirely in my opinion. But at least they were short.) This wasn't a perfect read, but despite its shortcomings, I still liked it. It's a decent disaster read with a memorable and fun heroine. And I'd read book two, Grace Under Fire, just to find out what happens to Grace next.

Rating:  3/5 stars.  Best of all? It counts as my first read for Lark's Backlist Reader Challenge!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

For laughs...

Saw these quotes that totally made me laugh and couldn't resist sharing them...
Does anyone else ever feel this way? Or is it just me?

Happy Reading...and Adulting!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A chilling read...

For our first buddy read of the year, Melody and I chose to read The Hunger. In this novel, Alma Katsu relates the haunting history of the Donner Party but with a supernatural twist. She also explores the evil that lies within men ... and without. All of her characters, from Tamsen Donner, to James Reed, to Charles Stanton, carry their own dark secrets. But there's another kind of darkness stalking them along the trail. One that hungers. And kills. And as they near Lake Truckee high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, that awful darkness closes in on them.
"...evil was only an arm's length away, waiting to swoop down on them, whether animal or spirit--or man."

There's a lot to like about this novel: Katsu's compelling prose, her attention to historic detail, the authentic voices of her various characters, and her quiet building of suspense. Then there's the tension and horror she creates as the party gets trapped and the number of deaths starts to mount. I really liked the combination of historical fiction and horror in this novel. The one flaw for me was that I felt Katsu tried to juggle too many characters. Some of her characters showed up once at the beginning only to then disappear for the rest of the book except for one brief mention at the end; and a few other times, a character wouldn't be mentioned for several chapters in a row and then they'd suddenly show up again in the narrative. It was a little jarring. But all in all, The Hunger is an atmospheric and gripping novel, and I liked it a lot. And did I mention that I really appreciated the lyrical way Katsu writes? Here's just one example:
"The children were turning into strange, stalking insects, all eyes and spikes and desperate twitches. Stanton, in comparison, looked like a man in color among a wash of wraiths."
Reading this book with Melody made it even more fun. She always has such good insights and comments. And she asks some great questions, too. Here they are, along with my answers. And be sure to check out her excellent review. 

Happy Reading!

Melody's questions:

Q. Many of these characters become unlikable as the story progresses. However, there are still one or two characters whom we sympathized with. Who do you think is the most pathetic?
A. I think all of my sympathies were with some of the younger characters like Elitha Donner and Mary Graves, who had no choice or voice in any of the decisions that were made concerning the Donner Party, but who then had to live with the tragic consequences of those choices. I also sympathized with the young Paiute guide, Thomas, who also got caught up in something he didn't choose or deserve. I had a lot of sympathy for Charles Stanton, too. Of the many adults in this book, he was by far the most likable. 

Q. What mistakes do you think the Donner Party made that can account for the tragedy? You may choose to answer this question based from the true event or the fiction aspect of the story.
A. Where do I begin with this one? So many mistakes were made! Starting too late. Loading their wagons with unnecessary weight. Not heeding the advice of others who told them to turn back or take another route. And not traveling faster. Fighting among themselves. It's like a domino effect how all these seemingly small decisions led to one large and unforgettable disaster. 

Thanks, Melody!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Death on Tour by Janice Hamrick

I first  saw this book on Iliana's blog last year. She mentioned it briefly, and when I saw that it's set in Egypt, I immediately wanted to read it, too. Only my library didn't have a copy. And I wasn't sure I wanted to buy my own copy without knowing if it was any good. So, I asked my library to borrow it through inter-library loan....which sometimes works, and sometimes doesn't. Luckily for me, this time it worked. It just took a lot longer than I thought it would. (But then, considering it came to Utah all the way from Michigan, it's no wonder.) So instead of reading it last year like I planned, I ended up reading it last week.

Was it worth all the hassle?

Well... the mystery itself is actually pretty easy to figure out, so while this book reads fast, it's not super suspenseful. I did like the main character, just not enough to want to read about her again in another book. The side characters were a mixed bunch; I liked some, was annoyed by one in particular, and the rest hardly figured into the book at all. What I loved was getting to revisit all of Egypt's amazing tourist sites from Abu Simbel to Edfu. That was a lot of fun and ended up being my favorite part of the book. All in all, Death on Tour was a 3.5/5 star read for me.

Here's the plot in brief:  Jocelyn Shore is a Texas high school teacher who's always wanted to go to Egypt. She and her cousin, Kyla, are enjoying the pyramids when Millie, one of their fellow travelers, ends up dead. At first, everyone assumes it's a tragic accident, and the group blithely continues on with their tour, but then they find out Millie was murdered. Not only that, but she'd been secretly nosing around the other tour members. Then there's a second murder. And Jocelyn stumbles upon some information that hints at artifact smuggling. She also gets caught up in a case of mistaken identity that could have fatal consequences. (Oh, and she falls in love.)

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Tale of Two Challenges...

Here's what you need to know about me and reading challenges--I love the idea of them and I always start out with great enthusiasm, but some time around June, my enthusiasm begins to peter out, and I usually end up with a list of books I no longer want to read or review. Which then causes me unnecessary stress... and unwanted bookish guilt, too. So last year, I didn't sign up for any reading challenges. And it was nice. But part of me also missed joining in the reading challenge fun with everyone else.

So this year, I'm signing up for not one, but two reading challenges:  The Backlist Reader Challenge and the Back to the Classics 2019 Challenge. Why these two? Because I've done each of them before and they're a lot of fun, and also because the books on my TBR list that I was already planning on reading this year happen to count for both challenges.

It's bookish serendipity at its best!

(You'll have to wait and see if I'm able to finish either of these challenges, or if I end up quitting halfway through the year...again.)

Here are the main things you need to know about these two awesome reading challenges:

The Backlist Reader Challenge 2019
Hosted by Lark at The Bookwyrm's Hoard

The Rules:
  1. Choose and read books published before 2018 that are either already on your TBR shelf at home or on your want-to-read list. (I'm going to focus on the books I already own.)
  2. Sign up and set your own reading goal. (I like that I have the freedom to read as many or as few books as I want to with this challenge!)
  3. Review the books you read and link your posts back to Lark's blog.
Easy right? Plus, it tackles that ever-growing pesky TBR pile we all seem to have.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2019
Hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate

Here are the categories for this year's challenge...and the authors I hope to read for each.
  1. 19th Century Classic.  (Elizabeth Gaskell)
  2. 20th Century Classic.   (Angela Thirkell)
  3. Classic by a Woman Author  (Willa Cather)
  4. Classic in Translation
  5. Classic Comic Novel   (Georgette Heyer)
  6. Classic Tragic Novel   (Thomas Hardy)
  7. Very Long Classic   (Anthony Trollope)
  8. Classic Novella   (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
  9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean)
  10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania
  11. Classic From a Place You've Lived   (Luke Short)
  12. Classic Play   (Shakespeare)
Complete either six, nine, or all twelve categories. Sounds fun right? You should join in!
(As you can see, I'm shooting for 9 of the 12 categories because I already own books by those authors.)

Wish me luck...and Happy Reading!

Friday, January 4, 2019

A Borrowing of Bones...

How it begins:  
"Grief and guilt are the ghosts that haunt you when you survive what others do not. Mercy Carr survived, and so did Sergeant Martinez's dog. Nearly a year after her best friend died in Afghanistan, she rose at dawn and took Elvis on another long hike through the Vermont woods. A tired dog was a good dog. ... So every morning they marched off their grief mile after mile in the mountains, where the cool greens of the forest could chase away the dark ghosts of the desert."

The main characters:

Mercy Carr, 29, former military police who's stubborn and independent, quotes Shakespeare and who's still grieving the death of her best friend and fiance ... and her dog, Elvis, a five-year-old bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois with canine PTSD.

Troy Warner, 33, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Game Warden who's wife left him one year ago ... and Susie Bear, his Newfoundland retriever mix that he rescued who now helps him with all his search and rescue jobs.

The Mystery:

Mercy and Elvis are out hiking when they find an abandoned baby in a clearing in the woods. Troy and Susie Bear come up to help investigate and stumble upon some old bones nearby. Is it just some strange coincidence, or are they somehow connected? As Mercy and Troy investigate further the mystery surrounding both only deepens.

What I liked best:

Mercy, Elvis, Troy and Susie Bear!  Mercy and Troy are both a little broken and not sure they can trust each other. But they do trust their dogs. And together they make a formidable team. I liked the growing friendship between Mercy and Troy and I loved their dogs. The mystery is good as is the Vermont setting, but it's the characters who make it really compelling. I'd give this one 4.5/5 stars.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

It's 2019!

"Some people have big dreams, some people have small dreams.
Whatever you have, the important thing is that you never stop dreaming."
--Doug Hansen

Here are a few of my hopes and dreams for 2019:
  • a house on the beach
  • a new job
  • a stamp in my passport (or a road trip closer to home)
  • good books to read
  • time with friends & family
  • more adventures to photograph
  • laughter and love
  • new trails to hike
  • new birds to spot
  • and a little serendipity and happiness along the way.

What are some of your hopes and dreams for 2019?

Happy New Year!
(I hope it's the best one yet.)