Sunday, May 9, 2021

Not just a summer romance...


Ben and Anna had a plan to sail the Caribbean together. But then Ben took his own life and Anna now has to figure out how to live without him. Only it's not working. So on the day they were supposed to set sail, Anna decides to take Ben's boat and make the trip alone. But Anna's never sailed without Ben, so she hires a professional sailor to show her the ropes.

Keane is grieving, too. He lost his lower right leg in a car accident a year ago and now no one will hire him to race with their crew, even though he has a prosthetic leg that makes it possible and sailboat racing is the thing he loves most in the world. Until he meets Anna.

My thoughts:  Float Plan by Trish Doller is one of those poignant and charming reads that had me hooked from the first page. I really felt for Anna as she grieved Ben's death and the loss of all their dreams. I also admired her resilience as she found new hopes and dreams for herself.
"I'm starting to understand how sadness and happiness can live side by side within a heart. And how that heart can keep on beating."

Her relationship with Keane as they went from polite strangers to caring friends to more was a touching journey. There's a lot of humor and heart in this book. I also really enjoyed reading about all the different islands they visited; it made me want to set sail around the Caribbean myself. All in all, Trish Doller has written an amazing story that I loved a lot.  

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Girl With No Name by Lisa Regan


The plot:  Josie Quinn's life just got more complicated. Not only is she now the chief of police in Denton, Pennsylvania, but she's getting married soon. Only Luke, her fiance, has been cold and distant lately, and she's just been called out on a case involving her ex-husband's girlfriend. The former stripper was attacked at home, her newborn baby taken. Only she's too hurt to identify who attacked her. Then Josie discovers that Luke is also missing, and the mysterious young woman who was discovered at his house claims not to remember her name. What is going on? Josie thinks the two cases might be connected, but she isn't sure how. And she's worried that Luke might be in real trouble.

My thoughts:  This is the second Josie Quinn novel that I've read, and I liked it as much as Vanishing Girls, the first book in this series. It's fast-paced, with the suspense constantly building, and the mystery is compelling, with some good twists and turns along the way. Another plus is that the main characters are very likable, especially Josie Quinn. She's got some secrets in her past that I'd really like to read more about! Police procedurals sometimes bog down for me, but this one never did. It's an entertaining thriller. And I'm looking forward to reading the remaining books in this well-written series.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

A French Classic...

Published in 1883, Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Delight) by Emile Zola centers around Octave Mouret's dazzling new department store in Paris, and all the lives it effects, both for good and bad. No one has seen anything like Mouret's seductive store which draws in scores of women and convinces them to buy more than they need because the prices are so low, while at the same time driving all the smaller competitors nearby out of business.

Mouret is a brash and energetic man who takes big risks for big rewards, and who loves to charm and 'conquer' his customers...and the other women he meets. And he's not shy about it. "I'm a passionate man, I don't just sit back and let life go by. ... It's wanting something and acting on it, you see, creating something, in short. You get an idea and you fight for it, you hammer it into people's heads, you see it grow and triumph."

Then there's Denise Baudu, a provincial young lady who comes to Paris with her two younger brothers. Needing work, she gets a job at Au Bonheur des Dames as a salesgirl. But life there isn't easy; her first day ends in tears. "From that day on, Denise showed great courage. Beneath her emotional crises, there was an intellect always at work and the bravery of someone weak and alone who was cheerfully determined in pursuit of the tasks she had set herself. She made little fuss, but went directly ahead towards her goal, taking any obstacles in her stride--and she did all this simply and naturally, because her whole nature was in this invincible gentleness. ....Her willingness to endure pain and her dogged determination kept her upright and smiling even when she was on the point of collapse, entirely exhausted by work that would have finished many men."

It is her modesty and gentle sweetness that draws Mouret's interest. His attraction deepens to love. (And almost obsession.) But no matter what he offers her, Denise refuses to become his mistress. Even though deep down, she loves him, too. Their lives revolve around Au Bonheur des Dames and its triumphal success.

Zola had a lot to say about consumerism and instant gratification in this novel, and how one man and one store can manipulate society so easily. But I enjoyed it mostly for his characters and the personal journeys each one takes. In many ways, Denise reminded me of Jane Austen's Fanny Price, quietly determined to do what she believes is right no matter what. Mouret's morals, on the other hand, weren't so admirable, but his business acumen was impressive. No one else believed his department store would be so successful. Except for Denise. These two make quite a pair. And while I found the ending a bit anti-climatic, I ended up liking this French classic (which counts as my Classic in Translation for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge.)

Happy Reading!

P.S. The Penguin version I read was ably translated by Robin Buss.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Two books I recently read and loved...

Here are two more of my favorite reads this past month that I'm not going to review, but am going to recommend. (With thanks again to Rachel @ Waves of Fiction for the idea.) 

Prodigal Son is Gregg Hurwitz's latest Orphan X novel. It's the 6th book in this series, which makes it tricky to review without accidentally spoiling things that happen in previous books. Just know that Evan Smoak is one of my all-time favorite characters, and I absolutely LOVE this series. All six books. They're awesome. My review of his first three books can be found here and here.

The Breaker is the latest book in Nick Petrie's Peter Ash Series. It is also book #6. I love this series, and this character, too. Every time I finish one, I can't wait for the next one to come out. If you want to read my review of the first book in this series, check it out here. 

So there you go, two more books I loved and highly recommend.
Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Without Mercy by Jefferson Bass

 In explaining my fascination with forensic cases, and especially my ability to stomach gruesome details such as dismemberment, I often told students and police this: "I don't see a murder as a death; I see it as a puzzle. If I have the skills to solve that puzzle and bring someone to justice, I've done a good job."

Dr. Bill Brockton is a forensic anthropologist and the head of the Body Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee. When skeletal remains are found in the woods near a ghost town in Cook County, Bill is the one they call. The case is a disturbing one. It appears the male victim was chained to a tree for almost six weeks before dying. It's hard for Bill to determine more than the sex of the victim because not only is the skull missing, but most of the other bones are, too. And his graduate assistant, Miranda Lovelady, has just finished her dissertation and is now applying for jobs elsewhere, which doesn't make him happy either. But things get much worse when Nick Satterfield, a sadistic serial killer, escapes from prison. He wants revenge, not just on Bill, but on everyone Bill holds dear.

I've read the first six books in this series and have enjoyed each and every one. (This one is #10.) I find Bill Brockton to be an engaging and likable narrator, and all the forensic science fascinating. The case involving the skeletal remains in this book is both interesting and sad. Then there's the threat of the serial killer, which heightens the tension and makes the ending very suspenseful. I liked this one a lot. In fact, Without Mercy feels like the perfect way to wrap up this entertaining series. 

Happy Reading!

Other Bill Brockton books I've reviewed:

Thursday, April 22, 2021

April's bookish art...

Jean George Ferry -- Two Woman Reading in an Interior

" whatever you read. Enrich your life with books of any type.
If you aren't enjoying a book, try another---life is too short."
--Jenny Colgan

Monday, April 19, 2021

Haiku Reviews...


Notorious by Allison Brennan

An old friend's murder
haunts Max; she comes home to hunt
down the truth at last.

Mystery ....326 pages ....4.5/5 stars.
(Intrepid crime reporter Max Revere is a new favorite character!)

Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker

Who needs a man? Paige
is happy being single....until
she meets single dad Lucas.

Romantic Comedy .... 292 pages .... 3.5/5 stars.
(A cute, light-hearted romance...with puppies!)

Cut Off by Adrianne Finlay

When a reality
game show goes wrong, four teens try
to find their way home.

YA Adventure/Science Fiction .... 371 pages .... 3/5 stars.
(Liked the survival parts; didn't love the technological twist at the end.)

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

A bookish poem...

I love this poem by Julia Donaldson, and since April is National Poetry Month, I thought it was the perfect time to share it:

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey

From the blurb:
"Meet Duffy, an old curmudgeon who lives in an assisted living home.

Meet Josie, a desperate young woman who climbs through his window.

Together, they’re going to learn it’s never too late—or too early—to change your ways.

For Duffy Sinclair, life boils down to one simple thing: maintaining his residence at the idyllic Centennial Assisted Living. Without it, he’s destined for the roach-infested nursing home down the road—and after wasting the first eighty-eight years of his life, he refuses to waste away for the rest. So, he keeps his shenanigans to the bare minimum with the help of his straight-laced best friend and roommate, Carl Upton.

But when Carl’s granddaughter Josie climbs through their bedroom window with booze on her breath and a black eye, Duffy’s faced with trouble that’s sticking around and hard to hide—from Centennial’s management and Josie’s toxic boyfriend. Before he knows it, he’s running a covert operation that includes hitchhiking and barhopping.

He might as well write himself a one-way ticket to the nursing home…or the morgue. Yet Duffy’s all in. Because thanks to an unlikely friendship that becomes fast family—his life doesn’t boil down the same anymore. Not when he finally has a chance to leave a legacy."

My thoughts:
I loved everything about this book: the humor, the writing, the characters, and the heart. Duffy Sinclair is one of the most likable curmudgeons ever written. And he's such an engaging narrator! His views of life in an assisted living home (don't call it a nursing home!) made me smile...and hope I never end up in one myself. He handles all the "joys" of old age--like when his water spills at dinner and he unsuccessfully tries to convince everyone he didn't just pee his pants--with sarcasm and snark. And a very big heart. The way he's willing to risk everything in order to help Josie get back on her feet only made me like him more. This funny yet poignant book is definitely one of my favorite reads so far this year.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's theme: Book Titles that sound like they could be Crayola Crayon Colors. 

You're supposed to give a description of what color each title would be, but I decided to just put each title in its own illustrative color. Here's my list:

Foxglove Summer
by Ben Aaronvitch

Cold Wind
by Paige Shelton

Aurora Rising
by Amie Kaufman

A Sparkle of Silver
by Liz Johnson

Deep Dark
by Laura Griffin

Cretaceous Dawn
by L.M. Graziano

After Sundown
by Linda Howard

Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys

Barefoot Beach
by Debbie Mason

The Beast's Heart
by Leife Shallcross

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Another classic...

I became acquainted with D.E. Stevenson a few years ago when I first read Miss Buncle's Book, a novel I absolutely love. So when I saw that my library had a copy of The Young Clementina, I knew I wanted to read it as my Classic by a Woman Author for this year's Back to the Classics Challenge. It was first published in 1938. And I'm very glad they republished it in 2013 because it's a charming novel.

Only it's not young Clementina's story. It's the story of Charlotte Dean, a country parson's daughter, and her younger sister, Kitty, and Garth Wisdon, the handsome and serious boy from the manor house on the hill. It's a story of love lost...and found again, of lies and betrayal, of quiet resignation, of family and friendship, forgiveness and hope, and second chances. 

I wasn't sure about this book when I first started reading it, but I ended up loving it. Unassuming and candid Char is someone I think I could be friends with; her story drew me in and kept me happily reading until the end. I know I haven't given you a full picture of what this novel is about, but what makes this book so good is the way the story unfolds on its own, revealing its hidden treasures one by one. And I didn't want to spoil that for anyone. Just know that The Young Clementina is well-written, and worth reading. And the ending brought happy tears to my eyes.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

A fun cozy mystery...

Title & Author:  Mayhem at the Orient Express by Kylie Logan

Setting: South Bass Island (a small island twelve miles off the southern shore of Lake Erie)

First lines: If it weren't for Jerry Garcia peeing on my pansies, I never would have joined the League of Literary Ladies. No, not that Jerry Garcia! Jerry Garcia, Chandra Morrisey's cat.

The plot in brief:  Bea Cartwright and her two bickering neighbors, Kate and Chandra, can't seem to get along. Fed up with their arguing, the island's court magistrate sentences all three of them to join the library's book discussion group for one year. They reluctantly choose Murder on the Orient Express as their first book. When the owner of Orient Express, their favorite restaurant on the island, is murdered, they decide to emulate Hercule Poirot and investigate. Before they get very far, a sudden snowstorm knocks out power across the island, stranding everyone on the island, including the murderer. And all the main suspects are staying right there at Bea's bed and breakfast. 

My thoughts:  The humor, the combination of quirky island characters, and that snowy island setting are what I enjoyed most about this cozy mystery. Bea, Kate, Chandra, and Luella, the fourth member of their book club, aren't the best of investigators, but they did make me smile. And I liked the references to Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express and the unexpected twist at the end of the book. I actually don't read a lot of cozies, but I thought this one was a lot of fun.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy Birthday!

Today is my dad's birthday. He passed away three years ago, but we still celebrate his birthday every year. Among my dad's many talents and interests was his love of reading. He read many different kinds of books: biographies and histories, westerns, mysteries, science fiction, and even the occasional romance. He and my mom are the reason I love to read so much. Books have always been a large part of my life because of them. So, in honor of my dad's birthday, and his love of reading (which he passed on to me), I thought I'd honor these twelve authors who were also born in April, and wish them all a Happy Birthday.

Anne McCaffrey (1st)

Hans Christian Andersen (2nd)

Washington Irving (3rd)

Maya Angelou (4th)

Anthony Horowitz (5th)

Vince Flynn (6th)

Beverly Cleary (12th)

Jon Cryer (16th)

Isak Dinesen (17th)

Nick Hornby (17th)

Sue Grafton (24th)

Andre Agassi (29th)

Happy Birthday, Dad ... and Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America's Wildlands

"The not-knowing. That's the mental and emotional cancer.
.... The not-knowing is mad-making."

No one knows how many people go missing in North America's National Parks or other wilderness areas every year. There's no list or database. But  I bet the number is higher than anyone thinks. After all, there's a lot of forest and wilderness in America. Over 800 million acres. Even in Utah, where I live, hikers, campers and hunters go missing every year in our mountains. Most are found. But not all. Some just vanish.

In early April 2017, Jacob Gray's bicycle and  gear were found near the Sol Duc River in Olympic National Park in Washington. There was no sign of Jacob. In The Cold Vanish, Jon Billman chronicles the search for Jacob over the following weeks and months. He also writes about other cold vanishings across North America and what makes the searches for these missing people so difficult. And so puzzling. Some of these mysteries have sad endings, but many are never solved. 

I found this book fascinating. Jon Billman is a gifted writer and natural storyteller. And the stories of all the missing are sometimes heartbreaking, often mystifying, and always compelling. If I decide to do a list of my favorite nonfiction reads of 2021, this book will definitely be near the top.

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Recent reads I loved, but didn't review...

So, I got the idea for this post of 'Favorite Non-review Books' from Rachel over at Waves of Fiction who did it first, and I just want to thank her for letting me steal her idea. Anyway, here are three books I recently read that I really did love, but that I didn't review... because I'm lazy like that sometimes. I do highly recommend all three of these books!

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager is a suspenseful mystery with a hint of the supernatural in it. I love books with haunted houses in them, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. So many other bloggers have read and reviewed it though, I didn't feel like I needed to. But do read it if you haven't!

Red-Tails in Love by Marie Winn is an awesome nonfiction read, especially if you're into birds and birding like I am. Who knew there were so many interesting species of birds inhabiting Central Park? And the story of the red-tailed hawks? So unforgettable!

96 Miles by J.L. Esplin is one of those survival stories I love to read. In this one, two brothers are without power, and without food or water. In order to survive, they'll have to trek 96 miles across the Nevada desert. It's a middle grade fiction book that readers of all ages can enjoy.

Happy Reading!

Friday, March 26, 2021

In Morocco by Edith Wharton

 "To step on board a steamer in a Spanish port, and three hours later to land in a country without a guide-book, is a sensation to rouse the hunger of the repletest sight-seer."

In September 1917, Edith Wharton traveled to Morocco. She spent a month there, making her way from Fez to Marrakech in a French military motorcar. She described the cities, detailed the architecture, reported on the ceremonies she viewed, and even included a brief sketch of Morocco's history. It's obvious she did her homework before embarking on this trip; she knew the names of key historical figures, the dates, and the important events in their lives. 
"To see Morocco during the war was therefore to see it in the last phase of its curiously abrupt transition from remoteness and danger to security and accessibility; at a moment when its aspect and its customs were still almost unaffected by European influences, and when the 'Christian' might taste the transient joy of wandering unmolested in cities of ancient mystery and hostility."
This is not an exciting or fast read. Though Wharton chronicles her trip by describing each city and place she visited with exacting detail, she's barely in the book herself. You get no sense of her, or of the people she travelled with, or met. The most exciting thing that happens is a sudden dust storm in Marrakech. Their visit to the Sultan's harem was interesting, too. But mostly this book left me wishing she'd written a fictionalized account of her trip to Morocco instead. That's a book I would love to read! Sadly, I did not love this travelogue. 

Wharton's fine writing does shine through in places however, like in these gems:
"If one loses one's way in Morocco, civilization vanishes as though it were a magic carpet rolled up by a Djinn."

"How can it seem other than a dream? Who can have conceived, in the heart of a savage Saharan camp, the serenity of this hidden place?"

I've owned this book for well over a decade, and now that I've read it, I'm glad I can finally take it off my TBR shelf where it's been gathering dust. I also get to count it as my Travel or Adventure Classic for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge. So that's good, too.

Happy Reading!



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Funny Book Titles

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's theme?  Funny book titles.

Here are my top ten:

How Nancy Drew Saved My Life
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

How to Be a (Bad) Birdwatcher
by Simon Barnes

Does My Head Look Big in This?
by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Scooby Apocalypse
by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Howard Porter

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
by Philip K. Dick

Dating Big Bird
by Laura Zigman

Nerd in Shining Armor
by Vicki Lewis Thompson

You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost)
by Felicia Day

It Happened One Doomsday
by Laurence MacNaughton

My Life as a Potato
by Arianne Costner

Happy Reading!