Friday, September 18, 2020

A Putting in the Miles Weekly Link Round-Up

 


Before you think "putting in the miles" means that I've left the premises and gone somewhere, think again. I've been putting in time every day on the new exercise machine and almost immediately began experiencing benefits. When it looked as though Denis thought bringing the thing inside and putting it together was the sum total of his involvement, I gave him a gentle nudge (honest!), and now he's fallen under its spell, too. The machine is closely related to the one I was using at the lymphedema clinic only better, and I'm not just talking about the price. 

It's amazing how quickly a pool can cool off here in the desert. We actually had a couple of days with temperatures below 100° combined with three to four days of overcast skies due to the smoke from poor California. When you combine those two things with the fact that this is the exact time of year that the sun's position in the sky changes, all of a sudden, yikes! The pool water turned cold. Denis was in the habit of going for a swim when he got home from work. Last week, he was back in the house in slightly less than a minute. "My knees wouldn't let me go in any further!" he told me. Thus endeth another season, and I'll end this with another t-shirt, which would be completely true if only someone had added "Books"...

 

Enjoy the links!


►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

 
►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
 
►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
 
►Fascinating Folk◄
 
►The Happy Wanderer◄
 
►I ♥ Lists & Quizzes◄

 
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, September 17, 2020

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

 

First Line: 1989. The woods were wrong.

Dr. Theo Cray is a computational scientist. He sees patterns in chaos. When mutilated bodies are found deep in the forests of Montana, local law enforcement chalk it up to a rogue grizzly bear. But Cray sees something they missed. 

Seeking the truth behind the death of one of his former students, Cray tries to guide the police in the right direction, but all he does is convince them that the killer is either a bear or Cray himself. Cray has to work fast before he's either thrown in prison or becomes a serial killer's next victim.

 

The voice of Dr. Theo Cray drew me right into The Naturalist. Cray is a wimp. He's a nerd. He has trouble relating to people because his head is so thoroughly buried in science and he spends so much time alone on field trips. Some readers' eyes may cross at all the talk of science, but I enjoyed 98% of Cray's shop talk. (Hmm... does that make me a wimpy science nerd who doesn't relate to people, too?) The science really got me into Cray's character, and it does add background to the story. The reason Cray decided to go out on a limb and hunt for his former student's killer is guilt, and that says something about his character, too. He's not all about science after all. He feels that, as a professor, he spent too much time doing things like showing and critiquing the film Avatar to get his students to like him and not enough time teaching them how to be safe on field trips in the wilderness. He's a smart guy whose heart is in the right place even though he's out of step with the rest of us. But-- as the characters in all good stories should-- Cray changes as his hunt for the killer progresses, especially when he walks into a certain diner for a meal. But I digress.

I did have a problem or two with The Naturalist, and it wasn't over the portrayal of law enforcement. When the police have a weird guy who keeps digging up bodies and telling them about what he's found, what else are they going to think? You got it: they're going to think he killed them all and wants his fifteen minutes of fame. No, the problems I had have to do with the serial killer himself and some of the action scenes at the end. I found both to be a bit over the top, although in the killer's case, I found his portrayal a bit unbelievable, not the facts behind his creation.

But for me, discovering the character of Dr. Theo Cray was like hitting the jackpot. I had to know how he was going to win the day, and I had to know what sort of shape he was going to be in once it was all over. Now I want to know what he does next. I'll be reading more.


The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

eISBN: 9781477824245

Thomas & Mercer © 2017

eBook, 372 pages


Amateur Sleuth, #1 Dr. Theo Cray mystery

Rating: B+

Source: Purchased from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Dead Woman Driving: Dead in the Desert by Sue Ann Jaffarian

First Line: Even before she opened her eyes, Hope Callahan sensed she was moving.

Hope Callahan is no stranger to living a rough life. She ran away from home as a teen and has often found herself on the wrong side of the law. Her latest boyfriend had dreams of becoming a drug lord, and as a result, Hope is badly beaten and left for dead in the Sonoran Desert south of Tucson. Fortunately, she's found by Ozzie Byrd, a scruffy-looking old guy traveling in an RV with his three-legged dog named Punch. Ozzie has his own criminal past, but he does give Hope a chance at a new life. The question is: will she grab this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or run from it, trying to stay alive on her own?

I'm no stranger to Sue Ann Jaffarian's writing, in particular her Odelia Grey mysteries. I've been following her on Facebook and vicariously enjoying her life. You see, Jaffarian retired from being a paralegal, bought an RV, and has been traveling the country, sharing her adventures in photos and prose along the way. When she mentioned her new serial novel Dead Woman Driving, I knew I had to read it.

I certainly wasn't disappointed. I was so engrossed in the story that the thirty-two pages flew by. Hope is going to be an interesting character.  She's a good person, but since she's a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, readers are never going to know what skills she has in her repertoire to confront anything her travels throw at her. Ozzie and his three-legged dog Punch were perfect companions for Hope.

Dead Woman Driving is going to be just the thing for readers who only have short periods of time in which to read. If each installment is around thirty pages, Jaffarian's intriguing storylines and well-developed characters are going to suck readers in and leave them waiting impatiently for the next installment. I know I am.


Dead Woman Driving: Dead in the Desert

by Sue Ann Jaffarian

ASIN: B08HR9JL4V

The Novel RV © 2020

eBook, 32 pages

 

Contemporary Fiction, #1 Dead Woman Driving

Rating: B+

Source: Purchased from Amazon.

I Have Russ Thomas Covered!

It's a week after Labor Day, and the rest of the country thinks summer is over. My reaction? Would a loud guffaw be considered unladylike? Too bad. That was my reaction! 

October is more like the end of summer here in the Sonoran Desert, but I'm not going to bank on that this year. As I write this on Labor Day, Phoenix has had over FIFTY straight days of temperatures over 110° (that's 43° for you Celsius folks). Combine that with a non-existent monsoon season not providing us with badly needed seasonal rain, and this place is scorching.

What to do...what to do... How about staying inside and comparing the US and UK covers of a book I read a few months ago, Russ Thomas's debut mystery Firewatching? Sounds like a plan, so let's get to it!

 


 

Both covers are actually pretty good as far as giving you an idea of what the book might be about. The US cover has a shadowy figure in front of a house, and the flame-colored "specks" make it appear as though sparks are coming from the building. I only have two quibbles with the US cover. One, for cryin' out loud, scrap Lee Child's blurb. From all the covers I've seen, I think he hands his blurbs out like penny candy. Has the man ever read a book he didn't like? (Inquiring minds and all that...) Two, the cover is actually quite bland. Nothing stands out. Nothing really grabs me. I'd probably walk right past it in the bookstore.

As for the UK cover, it has an unnecessary blurb, but since Thomas is a debut author, I'll give that a pass. Interesting that the UK publisher didn't go for someone more famous (like Lee Child). On the whole, though, I like it. It's well-balanced. The red comes right out and grabs your attention. The little paper figures beginning to ignite speak to me-- and they would even if I hadn't already read the book and known that the arsonist/killer has a To Do list.

So it's the UK cover for me, but what about you? Which cover do you prefer? US? UK? Neither one? Inquiring minds just have to know what you think!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Hades by Candice Fox

First Line: As soon as the stranger set the bundle on the floor, Hades could tell it was the body of a child.

Homicide detective Frank Bennett is the new kid on the block, and he doesn't really know what to make of his new partner and her brother who is also on the Sydney police force. Eden is beautiful, intelligent, cold, efficient, and very, very distant. Her brother, Eric, is a monumental pain in the neck who thrives on trying to make Frank's life a misery.

But when a large underwater graveyard filled with large steel toolboxes is discovered, all the attention rightfully shifts to finding the killer. For Eden and Eric, the investigation takes them back to their traumatic childhood and the murderer who raised them. For Frank, the case is going to bring him face to face with evil... and the knowledge that no one is truly innocent.

I've been aware of author Candice Fox for a while now but had never read one of her books. When a fellow reader mentioned this series of books featuring Sydney, Australia, homicide detectives Eden Archer and Frank Bennett, I decided to try it out with this first book. I enjoy reading Australian crime fiction, and although there isn't much Aussie flavor to Fox's story, the occasional mention of frangipani trees and flying foxes napping in fig trees were enough to transport my mind's eye to the land down under. 

What Fox really excelled in as far as Hades' setting goes is her chilling descriptions of two of the serial killer's body dump sites. Although neither graphic nor gruesome, those descriptions made my blood run cold. I really love it when writers can make me break out in goosebumps without drowning scenes in buckets of gore. 

It took me a long time to warm up to Frank Bennett, the man who tells us what's going on. He's needy. He becomes fascinated with Eden, originally because she's so pretty (yawn) but then the fascination grows when he realizes that there's something not quite right about Eden and her brother Eric. It took time, but I did warm up to Bennett finally when I learned about his relationship with an elderly man after chasing a burglar out of the man's house. That was the tipping point for me.

There were a couple of secondary characters whose deaths were inevitable, and I did find the serial killer (dubbed "The Body Snatcher" by the media) to be over the top and not really believable, but the linchpin of Hades is Eden Archer. When she was five, she and her brother were kidnapped, left for dead, and then raised by a fixer-- a killer for hire who "fixed" other criminals' problems. When Hades realizes what young Eden and Eric are doing in their spare time, he ensures that the two will use their skills only for good, and in this, it's impossible not to compare Eden Archer to Jeff Lindsay's Dexter. This comparison has everything to do with my reaction to this book. 

I read the first Dexter Morgan book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, and appreciated the author's originality and writing style. I thought it was a well-written, absorbing book. But. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) I never read another book in the series. There's something about someone taking the law into his or her own hands that offends me even when the person is taking vicious criminals off the streets permanently. Consequently, I have the same problem with Eden Archer, and although I did find the story compelling, I'm satisfied with reading just one. The good news is that I have the first book in Candice Fox's other series waiting to be read. I look forward to Crimson Lake because one thing I know for sure is that I like the way this author writes.


Hades by Candice Fox

eISBN: 9780786040704

Pinnacle Books © 2017

eBook, 325 pages

 

Police Procedural, #1 Archer & Bennett mystery

Rating: B+

Source: Purchased from Amazon.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

On My Radar: Paige Shelton's Cold Wind!

 


Sometimes I think I'm a weird reader in that I love it when my favorite authors try something different. I've long been a fan of Paige Shelton's cozy series like the Scottish Bookshop mysteries set in Edinburgh, but when I heard that she had a new series called the Alaska Wild mysteries coming out that was not a traditional cozy, I have to admit that I lit up. See? I told you I was a weird reader! I wanted to see how she handled new storytelling territory.

The first book in the Alaska Wild series, Thin Ice, came out last November, and after reading it, I really looked forward to the next one. When I heard about Cold Wind, you have to know I did my little happy dance. Let me tell you a little more about it.

 

Available December 1, 2020!

Synopsis: 

"Beth Rivers is still in Alaska. The unidentified man who kidnapped her in her home of St. Louis hasn’t been found yet, so she’s not ready to go back.

But as October comes to a close, Benedict is feeling more and more like her new home. Beth has been working on herself: She’s managed to get back to writing, and she’s enjoying these beautiful months between summer and winter in Alaska.

Then, everything in Benedict changes after a mudslide exposes a world that had been hidden for years. Two mud-covered, silent girls appear, and a secret trapper’s house is found in the woods. The biggest surprise, though, is a dead and frozen woman’s body in the trapper’s shed. No one knows who she is, but the man who runs the mercantile, Randy, seems to be in the middle of all the mysteries.

Unable to escape her journalistic roots, Beth is determined to answer the questions that keep arising: Are the mysterious girls and the frozen body connected? Can Randy possibly be involved? And—most importantly—can she solve this mystery before the cold wind sweeping over the town and the townspeople descends for good?
"

 

You can see why I'm looking forward to this one, can't you? Beth is such an engaging character, and I like how Shelton uses the Alaska setting in her stories.

If you haven't read any of Paige Shelton's Alaska Wild mysteries, pick up a copy of Thin Ice and get acquainted with Beth Rivers. I'll bet it won't be long before you'll be getting Cold Wind!


Friday, September 11, 2020

A Surprise, Surprise, Surprise Weekly Link Round-Up

 


Denis and I love to watch three or four game shows on cable. We don't record them, so we have to live through the commercials. Fortunately, few of the commercials are political advertisements. When they are-- regardless of political party-- I make use of the remote's MUTE button. As for the others, I made Denis laugh with a comment or two of mine. If you believe all the commercials, you'd swear on a stack of Bibles that all the women in the U.S. have leaky bladders. I know that can't be true so at least once I'd like to see one for male incontinence. Just once. That's all I ask!

And with the pandemic, another type of commercial has reared its annoying head: those centered around kids running amok in the house and ruling the roost. The ones that bug me the most are the ones that show parents being "forced" to bribe their children to eat a mouthful of healthy food by giving them mouthfuls of junk food. This is wrong on so many levels-- and don't even get me started on fruit bowls!

Something did actually happen here at Casa Kittling-- the exercise equipment finally arrived, the box weighing in at well over one hundred pounds. Just horsing the box inside the house and getting it unpacked wore Denis out, so I can't wait to see what happens when he starts using the machine. (I can't wait to see what happens when I start using it, too.)

Denis did find out that the instructions (or as he likes to call them the "destructions") lied. They said that the machine could be assembled in thirty-eight minutes. I didn't keep an accurate check, so all I will say is that it took well over that allotted time. Wonder of wonders, however, I did not hear one swear word come from the dining room the entire time.

Another surprise came yesterday when I opened my mail. I've spoken of my insurance woes in the past. The two years running when the insurance company told me I was paying too much so I didn't have to pay my premiums the rest of the year only to have the government tell me come tax time that I didn't pay nearly enough, so I owed thousands. Well, the insurance company sent me a rebate check that, although it doesn't come anywhere near reimbursing me for all that money I had to pay at tax time, it does pay for the exercise equipment. I'm going to overlook the imbalance and call it a win. You probably would, too.

Before I mosey out to the link corral, here are a couple of photos of our new dining room furniture. It's going to get a lot more use than what was originally in there. Head 'em up! Moooove 'em out!

 


 

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

 
►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
 
►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
 
►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Charlie Parker and the language of jazz.
  • In 1815, thousands of people came to watch George Wilson, the "Blackheath Pedestrian," walk 1,000 miles. (Did a certain song come to mind?)
  • Photographer Rizwan Mithawala turned his Mumbai window into a butterfly garden.
  • Two Northern women-- one Black (Eleanor Mire) and one white (Debra Bruno)-- both trace their family roots back to the same enslavement.
  • How did Amelia Earhart raise the money for her flights?
 
►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. And don't forget to curl up with a good book!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Hanging Falls by Margaret Mizushima

First Lines: Friday afternoon, mid-July. A stitch in her side plagued Deputy Mattie Cobb as she jogged uphill, telling her that her level of anxiety and this form of exercise didn't mix.

When Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo accompany a Fish and Game officer up into the high country around Hanging Falls to check for trail damage, they find a body floating at the edge of a lake. When Robo catches the scent of a homeless man living in the forest, this person rapidly becomes suspect number one.

With the help of local veterinarian Cole Walker, Mattie identifies the victim and finds herself visiting some new residents to the Timber Creek area: an odd religious cult whose dress and manners hark back to the nineteenth century. As clues are gathered and the list of suspects grows, Mattie has a dream come true. She is visited by members of her long-lost family, and she's hoping that they will be able to shed light on the night when she was abducted at the age of two. 

Hanging Falls, the sixth book in Margaret Mizushima's enjoyable Timber Creek K-9 series, has more of what I always look forward to: wonderful outdoor scenes in the high country of Colorado, animals like Robo to enjoy, and catching up with some of my favorite fictional characters. 

I found the mystery in this book to be a bit pedestrian, but perhaps that's because I've read Betty Webb's Lena Jones mysteries. What is more important (besides those riveting scenes up in the mountains) is Mattie finding out more about what really happened during her traumatic childhood.

I've enjoyed this series, not just for its animals and high country action, but also because of its characters. Mattie's journey to put her past behind her touches the heart as does Cole Walker's attempts to balance a very busy veterinary practice with his home life and two daughters. He's trying very hard to be there for his two girls after they were abandoned by their mother. Mattie's fellow police officers also play important roles in the stories.

I'm slowly recuperating from my trek up to Hanging Falls, and now it's time to wait once more for Mattie and Robo's next adventure.


Hanging Falls by Margaret Mizushima

eISBN: 9781643854465

Crooked Lane Books © 2020

eBook, 288 pages

 

Police Procedural, #6 Timber Creek K-9 mystery

Rating: B+

Source: Net Galley