Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday...


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

This week's theme is supposed to be Fictional Crushes. But that really didn't work for me. So I tweaked it. Here's my list of....

Favorite Recurring Characters:

❤ Mercy and Adam
(Mercy's a coyote shapeshifter and Adam's an Alpha werewolf in Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series--one of my all time favorite fantasy series.)

❤ Evan Smoak  (Aka Orphan X.)
What can I say? I love this series!

❤ Alex Verus
(A time mage in Benedict Jacka's awesome urban fantasy series. The last book comes out later this year and I can't wait to read it, although I'm very sad to see this series come to an end.)

❤ Mercy and Truman
(She's an FBI agent, and secret prepper, and he's the Police Chief in Eagle's Nest, Oregon, in Kendra Elliot's Mercy Kilpatrick mystery series.)

❤ John Taylor
(The man who can find anything from Simon Green's excellent Nightside series.)

❤ Mattie Cobb and her K9 police dog Robo.
(From Margaret Mizushima's Timber Creek K-9 mystery series.)

❤ Harry Potter & Co.
(By J.K. Rowling, of course.)

❤ Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage
(From Anna Lee Huber's Lady Darby historical mysteries.)
These two make such a great team!

❤ Mercy & Travis and their dogs Elvis & Susie Bear
(From Paula Munier's K9 mystery series.)

 ❤ Peter Ash
(From Nicholas Petrie's adventurous and action-packed Peter Ash series.)

❤ Casey Duncan and Eric Dalton
(from Kelley Armstrong's Rockton series.)

Honorable Mention:  George Holloway!
(From Katie Ruggle's Gone Too Deep.)

Isn't it crazy how many characters named Mercy made this list?
Let me know who some of your favorite fictional characters are!
Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Another Classic...

 I needed a 20th Century Classic (a book written between 1900-1971) for this year's Back to the Classics Challenge, and I didn't want to read anything super long or depressing. So I decided to go with P.G. Wodehouse's A Damsel in Distress, which was written in 1919. Because who can't use a little more Wodehouse in their lives?

A Damsel in Distress is a delightful novel of comedic mishaps, chance encounters, and English manners. The characters lie at the heart of it. There's Lord Marshmoreton, the widowed seventh Earl of Marshmoreton, who prefers his roses to anything else, and Lady Caroline, his overbearing sister who rules the roost at Belpher Castle. She wants her stepson, Reggie Byng, to marry Lord Marshmoreton's daughter, Maud. But Reggie is in love with the Earl's secretary, Alice Faraday.
"Reggie's was a troubled spirit these days. He was in love, and he had developed a bad slice with his mid-iron. He was practically a soul in torment."
 Maud, too, is in love with someone else:  an American she met last summer. Her family, especially her insufferable older brother, Percy, is against the match, but she's a girl with pluck. She heads to London hoping to meet up with the man she loves and lands in a cab with George Bevan instead. George is a successful American composer who's feeling a bit gloomy these days...until pretty Maud Marshmoreton tumbles into his cab.
"This girl's tempestuous irruption into his life had supplied flame for George. Her bright eyes, looking into his, had touched off the spiritual trinitrotoluol which he had been storing up for so long. Up in the air in a million pieces had gone the prudence and self-restraint of a lifetime. And here he was, as desperately in love as any troubadour of the Middle Ages."
The course of love never runs smoothly in a Wodehouse novel,  but it is always filled with funny situations. And George's courting of Maud is no exception. 
"...the fairway of love was dotted with more bunkers than any golf course he had ever played on in his life."
Luckily, everything works out in the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel: the quirky characters, their machinations and misunderstandings, Wodehouse's droll wit, and, of course, the happy ending. It's a fun one, from the servants downstairs to the Earl himself. But then, Wodehouse always makes me smile.

Happy Reading!

 P.S. You can check out my other Wodehouse post here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Haiku reviews...


Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley

Single romance writer
finds inspiration with her ex
at her best friend's wedding.

Contemporary romance .... 317 pages .... 3/5 stars.
(The first half was great, but it sadly fizzled a bit at the end.)

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

One client dead; another
accused of murder. Who knew
 matchmaking was so dangerous?

Historical fiction/Mystery .... 320 pages .... 4.5/5 stars.
(Loved this! Gwen Bainbridge and Iris Sparks are two unforgettable matchmakers and amateur detectives.)

No One Like You by Kate Angell

He needs a personal
assistant; she needs a job.
Neither is looking for love.

Contemporary romance .... 290 pages ....4/5 stars.
(This book has humor and heart and one very memorable Great Dane named Atlas whom I loved.)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

A Breath After Drowning...

Kate Wolfe is a child psychiatrist with a lot of baggage. When she was ten, her mother, Julia, was committed to a mental institution, and then later committed suicide. Then, when Kate was sixteen, her younger sister, Savannah, was abducted and murdered by Henry Blackstone. Even now, sixteen years later, Kate still blames herself for that. And she's also dealing with a recent patient's suicide, the upcoming execution of her sister's killer, and a new troubled teen named Maddie. But when Palmer Dyson, a retired police officer who investigated her sister's murder, shows up insisting that Blackstone is innocent and Savannah's real killer is still out there, Kate can't help but delve into the past. And what she finds puts her own life in danger and at times makes her question her own sanity.

This psychological thriller is the first book I've read by Alice Blanchard, and it's a good read. It's well-paced and held my interest all the way to the end. And Kate runs into some unexpected twists about her family along the way. I do have to say, I wasn't completely convinced when the real killer was revealed, probably because I was never given any reason to suspect him. I also questioned some of Kate's choices and decisions, but given her traumatic past I guess they were understandable. Despite her stubbornness, I liked her; I just wouldn't want her to be my psychiatrist. I did admire her toughness at the end, and I also liked her relationship with James, another psychiatrist at the hospital where she works. All in all, this ended up being a 3.5/5 star read for me.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

To the Center of the Earth

In 1485, Arkady Saknussov, a Russian alchemist and explorer, supposedly found his way down to the hollow center of the earth. In 1972, a group of Russian cavers decided to follow in his footsteps, venturing into Krubera Cave, one of the deepest caves on earth. Only one, Katya, made it back out alive. After spending almost a year underground. And her talk of a strange world with a red sky and a multitude of monstrous creatures landed her in a mental asylum.

But Mike Monroe believes her story. Of course, he's always believed in the possibility of a hollow center deep inside the earth. And now he's got Katya's own diary as his guide. He and his friend Jane Baxter along with four other cavers head into Krubera Cave on an expedition reminiscent of Jules Verne. Only what they encounter living in Krubera's depths just might kill them. Especially when their way out gets caved in. 

Greig Beck's To the Center of the Earth is a fast-paced, entertaining ride. There's suspense, adventure, large carnivorous plants, and gigantic insectoid monsters. I've always loved expedition stories that take place in deep, unexplored caverns and caves. That cave environment is so foreign and primordial, and the world Beck creates deep beneath Krubera Cave is evolutionarily freakish and inventive. And also very deadly. Though there were things that happened to some of the characters that made me cringe and want to close my eyes, I really enjoyed this one. Beck's books are always a lot of fun. I can't wait to check out the sequel. 

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
Blind Descent and Beyond the Deep (Two awesome nonfiction reads.)

Next up:

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday...

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

This week's theme is supposed to be Favorite Places to Read. But I have to admit, I wasn't really feeling that, because I mostly read on the couch, or outside on my patio. Not very exciting places to post about. So I changed it up. Here's my top ten list for this week:

Favorite settings/places in books I love to read about:

1. Mars 
(Space is good, too, but there's something about the red planet that I especially love.)

2. Deep caves and mysterious caverns.

3. Remote islands 

4. The Alaskan Wilderness

5. Scotland, Cornwall, Paris or Venice.

6. Antarctica
(Though books set in the Arctic are always good, too.)

7. Old houses that might be haunted.
(Because I love a good ghost story!)

8. A boarding school or elite private college.

9. Any ancient ruins
(Especially ones with a supernatural vibe.)

10. Amazon rainforest
(Although any jungle setting will do.)

11. Quirky towns
(Especially if they're near a beach.)

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

Eighteen-year-old Samantha Koenig went missing from her job working as a barista at a coffee kiosk in Anchorage, Alaska on February 1, 2012. Was she kidnapped? Or did she just run away? The Anchorage Police Department and the local FBI agents had differing opinions, but their joint investigation eventually led to a man named Israel Keyes...and the chilling realization that Samantha was not his first victim.

Maureen Callahan has written a fascinating and unputdownable book about the investigation that uncovered a serial killer "likely responsible for the greatest string of unsolved disappearances and murders in modern American history." So why have we never heard of Israel Keyes? Probably because most of his crimes have never been connected or proven, his victims never found. But what he does so matter-of-factly confess to the FBI after he's caught is downright disturbing.
"The Bureau's top criminal profilers were at a loss. The only thing they could tell the team was that Keyes was one of the most terrifying subjects they had ever encountered. There was no precedent for a serial killer with this MO: no victim type, no fixed location for hunting, killing, and burying, putting thousands of miles between himself and his victims; caches (of killing kits) buried all over the United States. He avoided detection through travel. Travel!"
Are you supposed to rave about a book written about a serial killer? Because this true crime narrative is amazing. It's so well-written, and so compelling; I could not put it down. Keyes is one scary psychopath. It's too bad so much of his life and heinous acts remain unknown and untold.  I feel bad for the families of all his victims who may never know the truth about what happened to their loved ones. That's the heartbreaking part of this book. His victims. But what a story Callahan has written! American Predator is definitely one of the best nonfiction books I've read this year. 

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

From the C Shelf...

 Author:  Paul Cleave
Title:  The Laughterhouse

As I was scanning the C shelf at my library for new authors to try, I spotted this book by Paul Cleave, and another one by Steve Cavanagh called Thirteen, that both looked good. In the end, I went with this one. And it's a very solid read. Set in Christchurch, New Zealand, it centers around Theodore Tate, a former Detective Inspector who'd really like his job back. Only he just spent four months in jail, and he killed someone once. It makes his boss hesitant to hire him back. But when a spree killer murders four people in one night, it's all hands on deck, and Theo gets his badge back. Temporarily. As long as he doesn't screw up again.

The other major player in this book is the killer himself. Caleb Cole has spent the last fifteen years in prison. But he's out now and intent on getting revenge on all those he deems responsible for his daughter's death. He's got a list, and he's working fast. He hopes to finish his murderous plan before the police have time to figure out how all his victims are connected.

Apparently, this is the third book Cleave has written about Theo Tate. And while I wish I'd started with the first book in this series, you don't need to have read the previous two books in order to enjoy this one. It's well-written, and I immediately liked Theo, despite all his flaws. Or maybe because of them. 

I have to admit, I didn't love the chapters written from Caleb's POV, mostly because I don't love obsessive characters intent on revenge, even when I can kind of understand why they feel the way they do, but also because I felt like Caleb's chapters slowed down the narrative and overall pacing of the book.

I did appreciate that Cleave's writing never gets too intense or graphic. And I thought all the chapters with Theo and the other detectives working to solve this case were very compelling. Things certainly get messy and complicated. I found myself racing through the last chapters. And that ending! I'm going to have to hurry to the library and check out the fourth book in this series just to find out what happens to Theo next. All in all, I enjoyed this library find.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

August's Bookish Art...

Shirataki Ikounosuke -- Woman Reading

"I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book."
--J.K. Rowling

Thursday, August 5, 2021

An Agatha Christie Mystery...

"I am the best!" said Hercule Poirot. "I do not need to bend and measure the footprints and pick up the cigarette ends and examine the bent blades of grass. It is enough for me to sit back in my chair and think. It is this" -- he tapped his egg-shaped head -- "this that functions!"

Carla Lemarchant will need Poirot's best if she hopes to prove that her mother did not poison her father, the well-known artist Amyas Crale, sixteen years ago. Even though her mother is now dead, Carla still wants Poirot to find the real murderer. There are five other suspects for him to consider:  Philip Blake, Crale's best friend, Meredith Blake, an amateur herbalist and Crale's neighbor, Elsa Greer, the lovely young girl who was having an affair with Crale, Cecilia Williams, the governess, and Angela Warren, Caroline Crale's tempestuous younger sister. As Poirot gets each of their stories, he hopes to find the truth lying somewhere between the lies. It won't be easy, but Poirot is nothing if not persistent. 

Five Little Pigs is an entertaining mystery. There's a lot of questioning by Poirot, both of the police and of the five suspects, and each account of the murder he hears paints a little more of the total picture. But questions always linger. I had fun trying to figure out the who, how and why. Although Poirot did it much better than me, I did guess one of the twists at the end before he revealed it. But I couldn't figure out the real murderer. Still, I had a lot of fun trying. I really enjoy the way Agatha Christie writes; she's one of my favorite authors. And I love Hercule Poirot. Which makes this the perfect book to fill the New-to-you Classic by a Favorite Author category in this year's Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen over at Books and Chocolate.

Happy Reading!

A few other Christie novels I've reviewed over the years:

Monday, August 2, 2021

Two Recent Reads...

 Here are two more books I read and enjoyed, but that I'm not going to review. Mostly because so many people are already familiar with these books.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.  I've read several excellent reviews of this book from several different bloggers, and all I can say is that I agree. It's a great read. My favorite part? Rocky!!! I absolutely loved that little alien sidekick. He's definitely the best part of this book. If you like science fiction and you haven't already read this book, I recommend you give it a try.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.  I really like the way Krakauer writes, and I thought his recounting of Chris McCandless's nomadic life and subsequent death was very interesting. It's a tragic story, but one that has fascinated many people over the years. It reminded me a lot of  The Cold Vanish by Jon Billman, which is one of my favorite nonfiction reads this year. Both books are worth reading. 

Happy Reading!