Friday, August 14, 2020

The Perfect 110 Weekly Link Round-Up

Another week has sailed by. Denis learned that super glue can work well with pool pump repairs, and he also finished going through all his "stuff" on his side of the office closet. Now we can schedule a pickup to get what we no longer need a step closer to people who want it.

I've finished up some small projects and have almost completed another afghan. I think I want to make sure everyone is nice and warm this winter. (And don't tell anyone... I received a big box of yarn this week, too!)

I've seen several ads on Facebook for things that I would dearly love to have (but don't necessarily need), but after seeing some of the nightmares friends and acquaintances have had after ordering something from a Facebook ad, I've made it a hard and fast rule never to indulge. Naturally, a company is trying to make me break my rule by having some perfect t-shirts and totes. What do you think? Think this t-shirt suits me?

Speaking of perfect, I've lost track but the Phoenix metro area has had at least 34 days of 110°F. temperatures or higher. Since when did 110 become the perfect number?

I'm going to mosey out to the link corral before the sun gets any higher. Head 'em up! Moooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►Fascinating Folk◄

►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Stay safe! Stay healthy! And don't forget to curl up with a good book!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Grave's End by William Shaw

First Line: There have always been a few people here, coming and going, passing through, usually in the company of dogs.
The body of a naked man has been found in a freezer in an empty country house. The man is identified as Vincent Gibbons, a man well-known to Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi's seventeen-year-old daughter Zoë who is a staunch animal rights activist.
Could Gibbons' death have anything to do with the Whiteland Fields real estate development which is scheduled to build hundreds of new houses in a bucolic area filled with wildlife? Cupidi's investigation will lead her to Whitehall and meetings with ministers, to local resident Frank Collins who was arrested for badger baiting, and to the past history of Thornhead, a boys boarding school. All this will also lead her straight into the path of danger.
I had read that this third book was the last in a trilogy featuring Alexandra Cupidi, and I sincerely hope it's not. Shaw has captured my imagination with his atmospheric setting in the Romney Marsh area of southeastern England, with his characters, and with his stories. 
In Grave's End, the characters are marvelous. I have to admit that my favorite is an old badger, for those animals figure prominently in the book. I was amazed at how much I learned about these creatures-- and by how much I looked forward to the old badger's voice. (No, he's not a talking badger, but we do get to see Whiteland Fields and the other characters through his eyes.) The main cast of characters is so well-drawn that they are beginning to feel like friends, yet another reason why I don't want Shaw to stop writing about them. Jill Ferriter is even more opinionated, probably because she's trying to find a decent man to have a relationship with. Many of her opinions are completely at odds with mine, but I like her anyway. Ex-cop Bill South is now working for an ecological survey company, and watching this loner letting Alex and Zoë into his life is both touching and humorous. Zoë is now a deeply committed ecological activist. If you're going to do something that will hurt any sort of wildlife, expect her to get right in your face and not move. It's also fun to watch city girl Alex Cupidi's attitude change toward the countryside. Will she ever completely adapt? I'd like to find out.
It's a joy to watch all the pieces of this intricate mystery come together. For me, the only thing that marred Grave's End was a TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) moment Alex had at the end, although, yes, it does show that when she's intent on solving a case, she puts blinders on to almost everything else around her. And how can readers not love a book that contains this bit of dialogue between Alex and Zoë: "How come you know all this...stuff?" "I read books, Mum...You should try it sometime."

This is one of the most compelling series I've read in a long time, and I urge you all to read it. I'd suggest starting with The Birdwatcher even though it's not listed as part of the series because it's readers' first encounter with Bill South and Alexandra Cupidi. Then follow up with Salt Lane, Deadland, and Grave's End. Chances are, once you've sampled this series, you'll be just like me-- hoping that there's more to come.

Grave's End by William Shaw
ISBN: 9781529401806
Riverrun Books © 2020
Hardcover, 475 pages

Police Procedural, #3 DS Alexandra Cupidi mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon UK

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Burial Circle by Kate Ellis

First Line: "Where are you going?"
A stormy night in December. A large tree blown down. A skeleton and a red rucksack discovered. The discovery makes Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson immediately think of a young hitchhiker who went missing twelve years ago and was last seen carrying a similar backpack. Now a cold case has become a murder investigation while in the nearby village of Petherham a famous television psychic has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. 
Wesley's friend, Neil Watson, now the Heritage Manager of Archaeology and Historic Environment for Devon, has been studying Petherham's ancient mill and uncovering the village's rather sinister history. Could the mysterious deaths in Petherham over a hundred years ago be connected to the current murders? Peterson and his team are going to have to work hard to find out. 

Every summer, I choose to get caught up with a few of the mystery series I've fallen behind in reading. This summer, I chose Kate Ellis' Wesley Peterson police procedural series, although I've often used it as a GGR (Guaranteed Good Read) after I've read things that weren't my cup of tea. I've enjoyed the time I've spent in Devon with Wesley and the other members of Ellis' excellent cast. Through twenty-four books, these people have become friends, and I always enjoy catching up with what's going on in their lives. It takes a talented writer like Ellis to turn characters into family without weighing down the plot.

In The Burial Circle, Ellis uses Devon's early history of mills and the cloth industry, and early forms of insurance and photography to weave an atmospheric tale that kept me guessing. There is a very light touch of the paranormal in this book which shouldn't turn off anyone who's against "woo-woo" in their reading because it's easily explained by logic. More than anything else, the paranormal is used to heighten the eeriness of the story surrounding the old mill.

As with most Wesley Peterson books, it's fun to see how all the various parts of the mystery fit together. If you're put off at the thought of reading a (so far) twenty-four book series, The Burial Circle stands alone quite well. Longtime fans will agree-- Kate Ellis's series fits in well with other crime writers like Elly Griffiths and Ann Cleeves. It's one of my all-time favorites.

The Burial Circle by Kate Ellis
eISBN: 9780349418315
Piatkus Books © 2020
eBook, 310 pages

Police Procedural, #24 Wesley Peterson mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

An Adventurous Spirit Runs in the Family

When I was 10, my grandparents, mother, and I loaded up the Chevy and went to Grass Valley, California to visit relatives. It was a trip of many firsts for me, but when I came across these two photos the other day, I had to share the highlight of my journey.

Uncle Orville and Aunt Mae Littleton were born in 1885 and 1883 respectively. This photo shows them all dolled up, but the second photo I'll be sharing shows why they were so cool.

I fell head over heels for Uncle Orville. He was a Renaissance man. Archaeologist, professor, artist, prospector, writer... it seemed like he could (and did) do it all, and he was a splendid raconteur. I was so mesmerized by him that I remember very little about Aunt Mae who spent most of our visit chatting with my grandmother.

Uncle Orville and Aunt Mae would often go out in the Mojave Desert for fun. It was a perfect spot for someone who's both archaeologist and prospector, eh? One day, Aunt Mae was standing not far from the car waiting for Orville to return from rambling when she looked down at the ground around her feet and saw ants working little beads up out of their hill. Aunt Mae was standing on an Indian burial site, and in his role as archaeologist and professor, Uncle Orville would oversee the excavation.

Uncle Orville & Aunt Mae out in the Mojave Desert

Don't you love their car-- and of course one goes trekking out in the desert wearing pearls just like Aunt Mae!

When we came back to Illinois, Mom had a large painting that Uncle Orville had not only painted but made the frame for, and I had a lump of fool's gold in a little jar, a matchbox filled with tiny beads, three arrowheads, two shell ornaments, daydreams of being an archaeologist, and memories!

Just to show that an adventurous spirit runs in the family, here's another photo I ran across...

Denis & me out in the Mojave Desert

Monday, August 10, 2020

Tahoe Hit by Todd Borg

First Line: It was an ideal gathering for murder.
Private investigator Owen McKenna is hired by millionaire hedge fund specialist Carston Kraytower to investigate the deaths of two of his colleagues who have died under inexplicable circumstances in the Lake Tahoe area. As McKenna begins to unravel the secrets Kraytower has worked so hard to hide, Kraytower's son is kidnapped. Now it's a race against time to save the teenager.

August just isn't August without a new Owen McKenna thriller, and Tahoe Hit, the eighteenth addition to this marvelous series, was just what I needed. I'm addicted to Todd Borg's intricate, fast-paced mysteries every bit as much as I'm addicted to the beautiful setting of Lake Tahoe and to his marvelous characters.

In Tahoe Hit, millionaire Carston Kraytower really kept me off-balance; I never knew which way that man was going to jump. When you've got a character like that, solving the mystery gives your little grey cells a workout. Even when McKenna starts uncovering secret after secret, it still took me some time to figure everything out-- and I still missed some of the twists. I like that.

But this book (and this series) isn't just about the mystery. It has one of my all-time favorite casts of characters in crime fiction. Being an ex-cop, Owen McKenna has gone out of his way to forge good relationships with police officers in the Lake Tahoe area, and those relationships lead to much of the humor in the books. McKenna is also very observant whether it be man or beast that is the focus of his attention. He takes the time to discover how gifted young Joshua Kraytower is, and he's willing to do something about it. He also is highly observant when it comes to his sidekick, his harlequin Great Dane, Spot. McKenna knows his dog, what his dog's reactions will be, what his dog's capabilities are. When Spot can help him with an investigation, he does. But if there's a strong possibility that Spot will be in danger, you can take it to the bank that he won't be tagging along. Another plus in McKenna's favor? His relationship with entomologist Street Casey. She's brilliant, she's unconventional, and she's still dealing with trauma from her past. Many other men wouldn't, but Owen accepts their relationship on her terms. Owen, Spot, Street, and the rest of the regular cast make this series something very special.

But wait-- there's more! A fantastic Lake Tahoe setting? Check. A mystery that keeps you guessing? Check. A multi-faceted cast of characters that becomes just like family? Check. What else is there? It's the added extras that Todd Borg weaves into his narrative. Learning about a small town settled by Chinese immigrants who were brought over to build the railroad. Indian residential schools. The naturalist Aldo Leopold who believed we should leave blank spots on the map. Even a little philosophy that leads to the question "Is the life of a really bad man automatically more important than the life of a really good dog?"

Tahoe Hit-- and this entire series-- is the perfect blend of mystery, action, setting, and characterization. Tahoe Hit stands alone well, if you're worried about taking on a series with eighteen books, and I urge all of you to give it a try. Just don't be surprised if you find yourself looking for more. Owen and Spot are impossible to resist!

Tahoe Hit by Todd Borg
ISBN: 9781931296281
Thriller Press © 2020
Paperback, 352 pages
Private Investigator, #18 Owen McKenna mystery
Rating: A
Source: the author

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Win an Autographed copy of Russ Thomas' Firewatching!

It's that time again! The Poisoned Pen Bookstore has been doing an excellent job of keeping me supplied with reading material, and the best thing I can do is to share the wealth.

This week it's Russ Thomas' Firewatching, a book that I called "a gold mine for character-driven readers." Here's the synopsis of the book:

"When financier Gerald Cartwright disappeared from his home six years ago, it was assumed he'd gone on the run from his creditors. But then a skeleton is found bricked up in the cellar of Cartwright's burned-out mansion, and it becomes clear Gerald never left alive.

As the sole representative of South Yorkshire's Cold Case Review Unit, Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler is not expected to get results, but he knows this is the case that might finally kick start his floundering career. Luckily, he already has a suspect. Unluckily, that suspect is Cartwright's son, the man Tyler slept with the night before.

Keeping his possible conflict-of-interest under wraps, Tyler digs into the case alongside Amina Rabbani, an ambitious young Muslim constable and a fellow outsider seeking to prove herself on the force. Soon their investigation will come up against close-lipped townsfolk, an elderly woman with dementia who's receiving mysterious threats referencing a past she can't remember, and an escalating series of conflagrations set by a troubled soul intent on watching the world burn . . .

~~~What One Lucky Person Will Win~~~

  • One autographed hardcover edition of Russ Thomas' Firewatching. It has a protective mylar cover on the dust jacket, and has been gently read once.

~~~The Rules~~~
  1. To be entered in the drawing, send an email to kittlingbooks(at)gmail(dot)com.
  2. The subject line of your email must read Firewatching Giveaway.
  3. The body of your email must have your name and mailing address.
  4. Send your entries to me by noon, Sunday, August 16, 2020.
  5. Due to the high cost of postage, this giveaway is open to US residents only.

~~~The Small Print~~~

Very Important: If your emails are missing any of the required information, i.e., the correct subject line and your name and mailing address, you will not be entered to win. How do you know if you've been entered? If you have not received an email from me within 24 hours which says, "Your entry has been received. Good Luck!" you'll know something went wrong. That's okay. Try again!

The winner will be notified by email, and the announcement will be made here on Kittling: Books on Monday, August 17, 2020. The book will go out in the mail the very next day.

Now it's time to fill up my inbox with entries!

Friday, August 07, 2020

A Talking in Code Weekly Link Round-Up

Another week of Not-Much-Going-On. I've finished most of my smaller projects and have begun knitting yet another afghan. I have vague ideas about what I'm going to do with them all, but nothing concrete. Yet.

Denis, the non-multi-tasker, has taken another crack at cleaning out his side of the office closet. By the time he's done getting rid of outdated computer do-dads, his side might be empty. He just this second told me that hoarding is a hard habit to break. I agree, but I've had to do something he hasn't: go through the worldly goods of hoarders after they've died. Having had to do that makes me more aware of the job the loved ones I leave behind  will have to face.

On that cheerful note, here's a photo of a t-shirt that's been doing an excellent job of keeping me smiling--

Our niece Daisy has been teaching herself how to knit, and I sent this to her, asking her how her knitting was coming along. She replied that the t-shirt contained several things that she'd have to check out on YouTube. The t-shirt does make knitting lingo look like some sort of code, doesn't it? Wish YouTube had been around when I was learning to knit, but I can't really complain. I've got it now when I need to decipher a bit of code!

Enjoy this week's links!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Scientists have cracked the mathematical mystery of stingless bees' spiral honeycombs.
  • New evidence suggests that ancient crocodiles swam from Africa to America.
  • How do dogs find their way home? They might sense the Earth's magnetic field.
  • I loved seeing this huge black bear that was spotted relaxing a a pool.
  • The incredible condor can soar for one hundred miles without flapping its wings.
  • Protections for grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone area were upheld in court.
  • A pigeon that can't fly and a special needs Chihuahua have formed a fast friendship at a New York rescue.
  • Birds sing to their eggs, and this song might help their babies survive climate change.

►Fascinating Folk◄

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Stay safe! Stay healthy! Don't forget to curl up with a good book!

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Dead Man's Lane by Kate Ellis

First Line: Linda Payne knew how to die convincingly.

Strangefields Farm is being turned into a luxury holiday village, and developers are hoping that everyone forgets that a notorious serial killer named Jackson Temples used the farm as his base to lure young girls there. The developers' hopes are dashed when a skull is found in the old house. Then a florist is found murdered in an echo of Temples' crimes. Detective Inspector Wesley Peterson fears that a copycat killer is on the loose-- especially when a second murder in a nearby village appears to be linked.

When Peterson's friend, archaeologist Dr. Neil Watson, begins uncovering the secrets of Strangefields' grisly past, it seems that an ancient tale of the dead returning to torment the living might not be as fantastical as it seems. Wesley is going to have to work fast to discover who's behind the recent murders before more people lose their lives.

Dead Man's Lane is yet another deeply satisfying mystery from the talented Kate Ellis. Her Wesley Peterson police procedural series always features dual timelines: one in the present and one in the past, both of which involve the same location. I always learn something new when I read a book in this series. This time as the sinister past of Strangefields Farm was revealed, I learned about deviant burials.

I do admit that I had to smile when I learned that developers were turning the former home of a serial killer with an address on Dead Man's Lane into luxury holiday homes. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? And as usual, I had to deduce how the historical timeline of Strangefields tied in with what was going on in the present. I love how Ellis ties everything together. Do the present-day murders tie into what Jackson Temples did? Did Temples actually kill those girls? Did one of the developers actually see a man reported to be dead? Who's robbing local elderly residents? What, exactly, does the history of that farm have to do with what's happening? In Dead Man's Lane, identity is key. Do we really know who all these people are? The journey to enlightenment is an enjoyable one, as it normally is with a Wesley Peterson mystery.

If you're in the mood for a character-, history-, and mystery-rich read, Dead Man's Lane is it. If you're in the mood for a long-running, high quality mystery series in which the cast of characters become friends and family, start at the beginning with The Merchant's House. I will never intentionally miss reading a book in this series. In fact, I've already started reading the next one!

Dead Man's Lane
eISBN: 9780349418278
Piatkus Books © 2019
eBook, 352 pages

Police Procedural, #23 Wesley Peterson mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.