Friday, September 13, 2019

The Round Two Weekly Link Round-Up




I can see why there are certain things that doctors may not choose to tell us. If they did, chances are pretty good that many people would have the "Why do it if it's only going to happen again?" attitude. I have to admit that I would probably fall into this category a few times myself. But not when it comes to my eyesight.

During my annual eye exam, my doctor told me that I was developing secondary cataracts. A whopping 50% of the population does. So... I will be facing cataract surgery again sometime in the future. The good news is that the pesky things don't come back a third time.

Am I bothered about this news? A little bit. Unlike many other people, I already knew that there was a chance that something like this would happen, and-- with my luck-- I knew I'd probably be one of them. But since I'm now familiar with the procedure, it's not going to be a big deal when it's time to go through it again.

*sigh* It sure would be nice if I had some good luck once in a while, though!

And on that note, I'm going to mosey on out to the corral. Head 'em up! Moooove 'em out!



►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • A record haul of elephant ivory was seized in Singapore, and with the addition of pangolin scales, it was worth over $66 million in total.
  • Unhatched bird embryos communicate with their siblings by vibrating their shells. 
  • Beehive "fences" protect farms from elephants and elephants from firebombing farmers.
  • These amazing photos reveal the hidden light of undersea life.
  • To protect wildlife, national park rangers are using an unusual tool: radar guns.
  • A mother elephant uprooted a transformer in Andhra, India, one day after her calf dies of electrocution.
  • A pair of empty-nester loons adopt a Mallard chick in northern Wisconsin.
  • Elephants are now being hunted for their skin, which is being turned into "ruby"-like jewelry.

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • The best of Butch's Wild Bunch: how the real outlaws who rode and robbed from Montana to Bolivia became cinema heroes.
  • Janaki Ammal, the pioneering female botanist who sweetened a nation and saved a valley. 
  • Inspector Morse composer Barrington Pheloung (one of my favorites) has died. How many of you know that Pheloung used Morse code in his theme for the TV series?
  • H.R. Giger and Bolaji Badejo brought to life the ultimate alien costume.
  • Why John Dillinger's relatives want to exhume his body.


►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.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!



Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Beast in the Red Forest by Sam Eastland


First Line: Boys, I am leaving today!

Although the charred body of Inspector Pekkala has been found at the site of an ambush, Stalin refuses to believe the man is dead. When Pekkala's assistant, Major Kirov, agrees, Kirov finds himself on the way into the heart of a wilderness where bands of partisans wage a brutal campaign against both Nazi invaders and the Red Army.

What Kirov doesn't know is that he's being led straight into a trap. He is not alone in searching for Pekkala, for a deadly killer is determined to make certain that the inspector is dead.

Sam Eastland's Inspector Pekkala series set in Stalinist Russia is another of my favorites, but I read it very slowly. Why? Because life in Russia during that time was so gray and grim and awful. But no matter how gray, grim, and awful it was, Eastland's stories are compelling. The Beast in the Red Forest is no exception.

From past books in the series, Inspector Pekkala has shown that he has an uncanny ability to stay alive. The character has almost mythical status. Who else could be Tsar Nicholas II's top investigator and survive to do the same job for Joseph Stalin? Pekkala's absolute honesty and relentlessness are two major reasons for his longevity, and throughout the series, Major Kirov has been learning from the master.

People aren't who they appear to be. Stalin, who has a love-hate relationship with regard to Pekkala, has more than one agenda. Others are trying to circumvent Stalin to ensure Pekkala's safety... there's a lot going on, and it makes for an engrossing story that's hard to put down.

There's also more than one narrative. The main action of the book takes place in 1944, but The Beast in the Red Forest begins with a letter from an American who's taking his family to Russia in the mid-1930s to work in a Ford Motor plant. The letters continue to break sporadically into the action in 1944. There are letters from Russian officials, from American ambassadors, from the American's wife, and as each one appears, readers wonder what in the world they have to do with the story in 1944. Then it all clicks into place and ratchets up the tension even more. 

A compelling story peopled with strong characters in a vivid setting. I feel as though I'm living in Stalinist Russia as I read these books. Eastland adds humorous lines from time to time to lighten the mood, and he also describes the landscape in beautiful, poetic language, one of my favorites being the origin of the "Red Forest." There was also a surprise for me at the conclusion. I felt a bit sorry for Joseph Stalin at the very end of The Beast in the Red Forest, but before you think I've lost my mind, let me tell you something. I'd also feel sorry for a rabid skunk, but I wouldn't come anywhere near it, and I'd never turn my back on it.

This is a superb historical mystery series that I highly recommend. Give it a try!


The Beast in the Red Forest by Sam Eastland
ISBN: 9780571281466
Faber & Faber © 2014
Paperback, 320 pages

Historical Mystery, #5 Inspector Pekkala mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Book Outlet.


 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes


First Line: Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on.

In Flowers for Algernon, Charlie Gordon, a mentally challenged man working as a janitor in a bakery, agrees to an experimental surgery that turns him into a genius... and brings him heartache.

I still seem to be going through a phase of reading the books some of my favorite films were based upon. It's always interesting to me to see what the filmmakers changed in order to tell their own versions of the story.

I've watched two different film adaptations of this book: 1968's Charly, starring Cliff Robertson (who won an Academy Award for his performance in the title role), and 2000's  Flowers for Algernon, starring Matthew Modine.
Both films opted to make a kinder, gentler version of Daniel Keyes' book.

The book is written as a series of progress reports, and they provide a vivid picture of Charlie's mental and emotional intelligence. The sections in which Charlie was mentally challenged were literally painful for me to read because my eyes simply did not want to translate so many misspelled words. This reaction did surprise me, and I was certainly glad when Charlie's reports began to improve post-surgery.

I think the thing that surprised me the most in a comparison between the book and the movies was Charlie's anger. Post-surgery, Charlie realizes that all his good friends at the bakery, all those guys he had so many laughs with, were really making fun of him all along. Charlie's past has also been hiding some extremely painful episodes. And as his intelligence increases to genius level, he becomes very impatient with everyone around him because they can't keep up. Obviously, the filmmakers decided that much of this (understandable) anger could not be shown because it could jeopardize audience sympathy for the character.

Since the book is written as a series of progress reports, the tone often seems very dispassionate, as if I were being kept at a distance. I'm not sure if I care for this or not. What I do know is that I'm glad I read Daniel Keyes' book. I feel as if I really know Charlie Gordon now, and even though I may have a sentimental preference for the movies, I like him just as much now as I did before. Daniel Keyes created a marvelous character study in which he proves that emotional intelligence is every bit as important as mental intelligence.


Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
eISBN: 9780547539638
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt © 2007
Originally published in 1959.
eBook, 228 pages

Science Fiction, Standalone
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


 

David Rosenfelt at The Poisoned Pen!




With Denis and I both being unabashed dog lovers, I felt we'd been remiss in not going to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore when author David Rosenfelt is in town. We rectified that in July when he was in town to talk about his latest Andy Carpenter mystery, Bark of Night. One thing is for certain: I thought the night would be a little different. I was right.

Dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds were an integral part of the audience. One,  a year-old Standard Poodle/Golden Retriever mix, had more energy than all of us put together. Another, a Rottweiler sweetheart named Serenity Grace, was right by me throughout the event. You'll see doggy photos scattered throughout this recap, so don't say you haven't been warned.

David Rosenfelt with an enthusiastic fan.
When Rosenfelt appeared, he didn't miss saying hello to a single canine in the audience, and I have to say that this was the happiest, most laidback audience I've been a member of. Let's go straight to the interview!

Barbara: Good evening and thank you, everyone-- humans and canines-- who have come here this evening. [to Rosenfelt] Are you familiar with Golden Doodles [the enthusiastic fan in the photo with the author]?

David: There's every kind of doodle. [audience laughter] There really is. Hundreds of them.

Barbara: She's having a wonderful time, and over here we have a service dog-in-training who's also a therapy dog. [Serenity Grace] And then we have our author, who probably needs to be leashed the most... [audience laughter] David and I have been doing this since 2002. Wow-- long time! How many books?

David: I think this is thirty. Not thirty Andy Carpenters, but thirty altogether.

Barbara: David and I did an event for Open and Shut, the very first Andy Carpenter book, and at that time he was driving over from California, and occasionally he would adopt a dog-- or even more than one dog-- while he was here and take them home.

David: Yes. First of all, everything I'm going to say tonight I've already said in this store. [audience laughter] I've used up all my life experiences already, so if you come here a lot to see me, my first question would be, "Why?!?" [audience laughter] The second thing would be, "You've heard it all."

David Rosenfelt making us all laugh.
We rescued two dogs here named Hunter and Tudor, twelve-year-old golden retrievers, who were brothers and looked identical. I drove them home to L.A. and they had bandanas. One said "Hunter" and the other said "Tudor," and when we get home-- we had thirty dogs at the time-- they weren't in the house five minutes when they ripped off their bandanas. They lived for another three years, and we called them Hunter-Tudor because we had no idea which one was which! [audience laughter]

Barbara: How many of you were here when David published his non-fiction book called Dogtripping? For those of you who don't know it, you should tell the story because it really had an impact on your career.

David: I'll read it to ya. [audience laughter]

Barbara: The whole book?

David: It's the story of our move from California to Maine with twenty-five dogs, three RVs, and eleven human volunteers. It was a horrible experience for me, and everybody else thinks it's the greatest adventure of a lifetime. I get emails every time there's a six-month anniversary. Remember the time we were in... [audience laughter]

Career-wise, that book came out the same day as an Andy. I think it was Unleashed. I think because it was a non-fiction book and therefore got more publicity and different reviews, it expanded the Andy audience. As a result, Unleashed did 30% more than any previous Andy, and the sales have grown steadily since then. I really think it was because of that book.

Available Now!
Barbara: I also attribute it to these fabulous covers. As always, a dog is a pretext for Andy Carpenter, world's laziest attorney, and fortunately endowed by David in a burst of brilliance... Andy's father left him a considerable sum of money and Andy couldn't find anybody to give it back to so he's done various things with it which makes him an ideal lazy attorney and sleuth because he has plenty of time to go sleuthing.

David: Right, and his clients he could pick and choose and not have to worry about getting someone who couldn't pay his fee... it's nothing to do with real life. [audience laughter]

Barbara: But somehow the only thing that provokes him away from the TV set watching sports or the bar where his two friends Pete and Vince have never bought themselves a burger or a drink the entire time they've been with Andy... it's always a dog. Something that happens to a dog that gets Andy motivated.

David: Right. I'm embarrassed to say that it's an excuse to put a dog on the cover. [audience laughter] The sixth book in the series was Play Dead, and it was going to be the last book. Because they were doing okay but not great. Anyway, I wrote Play Dead, and a dog was integral to the plot. So they put a golden retriever on the cover and it sold twice as many copies than any previous one. So now if I rewrote Judgement in Nuremberg, it would have a dog on the cover. [audience laughter]

Barbara: It would probably be an Alsatian!

David Rosenfelt
David: In fact, once it came out and did so well the publisher asked me to write another one, and I agreed because I don't know in advance what the book is going to be about-- so I certainly don't tell them. As soon as I agreed, they sent me the book jacket for the next one [audience chuckles] which had two dogs on the cover. It had a golden and a Bernese, and it was called New Tricks. So I actually wrote the book to the jacket... [audience laughter] which is not how Faulkner used to do it! [more laughter]

Barbara: Tell us about Truman because I think it's a very interesting story and actually believable as opposed to perhaps some of the other ploys.

David: As this one woman pointed out, it just happened to us in real life. The guy brings Truman to Andy's vet's office and says I want him euthanized, and he pays for it and leaves.

In real life, a vet is obligated to do it once they pay the money. But the vet knew Andy could find this dog a home, so he tried to get in touch with the guy to ask him if he could rehome the dog instead. It turned out that the guy was not the owner of the dog; it was a fake name, and the real owner of the dog had been murdered three days before. So that brings Andy into the story, and Truman's a dog, so Truman's on the cover.

Barbara: And it goes on from there in very surprising directions. This is one of those books where I really wish we could talk about the ending because it's so well done, but many of you would go home hating us so we can't do that. But Truman is the spark here to a much larger story.

Serenity Grace, service & therapy dog
David: That's all the dogs ever really are. Andy has his own dog Tara and he has a rescue foundation, but basically, the dogs aren't solving crimes or talking, they're just...

Barbara: But occasionally one's really in jeopardy. You've had a couple where the dog is at risk...

David: Noooo...

Barbara: Not of its life but of possible... wasn't there one where the dog was involved in a...

David: Oh! Yes, yes, yes. But not physical jeopardy. If Andy's failed in a trial and... but that ain't happenin' any time soon! [audience laughter]

Barbara: So nineteen people die in this book but no dog. Without mentioning what the plot is, was there a real-life inspiration for the sequence of events, or did you just make it up?

David: I made it up, but we just recently got a dog, a five-year-old golden retriever who is spectacular that the owners actually tried to have euthanized. Their vet-- whom I don't even know-- took it to a shelter, the shelter called me.

Barbara: Hmmm. I wasn't actually referring to the dog part of the plot...

David: ...the rest of the book where eighteen people die? [audience laughter]

A canine must for these hot pavements!
Barbara: So you make these up as you go along, don't you? I said to David that he could be a career criminal because his mind works that way, you know.

David: I wish I didn't have to make it up as I go along. If I could think of the plot in advance it would be so much better.

Barbara: So you don't get anything from newspapers or real-life sequences to inspire you?

David: No. Never. Well, maybe subconsciously but not that I can recall.

Barbara: When did you start the Christmas books because they have become part of the Andy Carpenter world?

David: They told me that every year they asked one of their authors to write a Christmas mystery. All it has to do is take place during Christmas time. When they asked me, I thought sure, why not? So I wrote the book that will live in American literary history called The Twelve Dogs of Christmas...

Barbara: Not exactly an original title!

David: I'm not responsible for the titles! I think I've come up with about two titles in thirty books.

Barbara: There are actually people walking the streets of New York thinking up book titles. I know. I've met some of them.

Available October 1, 2019!
David: The title and the book jacket are done in the dark because they don't know what the book is going to be about.

I'm writing a book now for the spring, and for next summer there's a book. We have the title already, and I haven't even begun to think about it. It's called Muzzled. [audience laughter] So... I forgot what you asked me! Oh... The Twelve Dogs of Christmas did really well, so they asked me to do another one the next year, and it was called Deck the Hounds, and that did really well.

Barbara: You have one coming out in October for Christmas.

David: Yes, and it has an embarrassing title. You ready? I can't even say it in a way that makes sense! It's Dachshund Through the Snow. [audience laughter and oooohh's of delight] Then there will be Christmas books for each of the next two years.

Barbara: So, just as a guess, there'll be a dachshund in a red stocking cap or something on the cover for October?

David: There's a dachshund on the cover, but I don't know what it looks like. [But I looked it up, so you do!]

Barbara: In addition to writing a Christmas book and an Andy book, you have written seven standalone thrillers?

David: Seven standalones and then one of the standalones became a three-book series.

Barbara: They're darker. They actually have people who spring into action voluntarily, and they have really good plots.

David Rosenfelt
David: I like those books. They never did what the Andy books did, but they did okay.

I'll be doing a new series starting in March...

Barbara: And what's that going to be?

David: It's called The K Team. In Dachshund Through the Snow, there's a new character that's introduced and Andy defends his police dog. Andy gets the police dog out on early retirement, and the guy and the dog team up with Laurie and Marcus to form an investigative team called the K Team. So Andy's kind of a peripheral character.

Barbara: He's either buying food and drinks at the bar, or he's home in front of the television.

David: Yeah, actually it's pretty hard for me because Andy's all about his own perspective on life; we're in his head. In this case, we're not in his head, so he's in the book but I haven't gotten too far with it yet.

Barbara: So who is the narrator?

David: The new guy. The guy with the dog.

Barbara: So it's not going to be Laurie and it's not going to be Marcus who's telling us the story. It's going to be the new guy.

David: Right.

Barbara: Why can't you write a book from Marcus's perspective? [audience laughter] Sure, it would be short and violent, but...

Available March 2020!
David: My agent wanted me to write a story with Marcus as the lead character, but there's just nothing there. [audience laughter]

Barbara: All muscle! Actually, I love Marcus. It's nice to know there's backup. That has been a characteristic of a lot of different series. Spenser had Hawk. Joe Pike is Elvis Cole's backup, and so forth. There's...

David: I probably ripped off Hawk. Looking back on it, and I didn't realize it at the time... I love the Spenser books.

Barbara: I do, too. And I really like Hawk.

David: Yeah. I think that's where Marcus probably came from, although he's different from Hawk.

Barbara: If you have someone like Andy who's not a kung fu master and he's not proficient with firearms-- he's not going to be terrific on self-defense-- it's nice to have a character like Marcus.

And what about Willie? Willie was in Open and Shut. What's he evolved into?

David: He runs with rescue foundation with Andy, he's action-oriented. He helps sometimes. He's fearless-- and Andy and I are not. But not a major role.

Barbara: So when we first met Laurie, she was a cop, right?

David: No, she had been a cop. She was already out of the force, and she was Andy's investigator, and they were sort of getting together, then Andy went back to his wife... a lot of drama... and then they got together.

A dog with her own business card!
Barbara: But you sent Laurie off to Wisconsin.

David: I did send Laurie to Wisconsin.

Barbara: And didn't you think that was going to be the end?

David: No.

Barbara: No? You had faith that Andy would follow her to Wisconsin from Paterson, New Jersey? Really?

David: I am an incurable romantic. [audience laughter]

Barbara: I thought you might break them up because then Andy could have a new...

David: As I told you, I didn't know they were breaking up until she literally told him, and then when he went to Wisconsin to do the case, I didn't know they were going to get back together... literally as I typed it, that's when I knew.

Barbara: And now you've given them a child, so she has a different set of responsibilities. She can't just wing it.

David: The theory of the new series is that Andy doesn't like to work very much and there are three people who need work, so they're doing their own investigating independent of Andy.

Barbara: So Andy's at home with Ricky while Laurie's out running around with Marcus?

David: You can get into some pretty funny stuff with that, actually. [audience laughter]

Barbara: I really like that. Ricky has an interesting role in Bark of Night because he's at camp almost the entire book, which is an excellent way to deal with a small child while you've got parents running around solving crimes. But he does come back and actually has a key role in the book.

Come over and play?
David: I drew on my own experience with the camping. My son went to a sports camp in Maine, and on the final weekend, it was the fathers against the sons in the various sports. Until they were twelve, we beat them, and then... [audience laughter] When he was ten or eleven, it was a foul shooting contest, and I'm on the line. If I make it, we win, and if I miss, the kids win. So you gotta miss in that situation, right? So I tried to miss and SWISH! nothing but net. [audience laughter] That happens to Andy in the book.

Barbara: How long were you in the movie business?

David: A long time. I was a movie executive...

Barbara: What does that mean?

David: I had several different jobs. I was ultimately president of marketing for TriStar Pictures. Prior to that, I was executive vice president of MGM/United Artists. I was in it for about twenty-two years. No writing, just as an executive.

Barbara: Is this where your mordant sense of humor comes from?

David: You have to have it or you die! [audience laughter]

David also told us that his wife commutes from Maine to Boston for her book club and that they spend a week in New York City every six weeks.

Fan: So you must have housesitters who come?

David: We have the greatest dogsitters in the whole world.

Fan: Like a whole team?

David: Two women. One is there during the day, one is there at night so the house is covered 24/7. And they're better at it than we are. I'm serious!

David Rosenfelt
Barbara: How many dogs do you have now?

David: Seventeen, and we're getting one on Tuesday-- a 210-pound Tibetan Mastiff. She is gorgeous!

Barbara: How do the dogs come to you?

David: In almost every case now, shelters or rescue groups know to call us if they have a dog they can't place. So if the dog is blind or epileptic or old-- whatever the reason-- those are the dogs they call us about. We get dogs from Memphis, upstate New York, New Jersey, Houston...

Barbara: I heard you use the word "rehome" earlier. Is that a verb in the dog world that means you take a dog and give it a new home?

David: Truth is, that's probably the first time I used that word. A lot of rescue people do.

Barbara: What do you do about feeding them? They must have different diets. Do you have relays of dining?

David: The ones that are on special diets eat in a room by themselves.


The event wound up with a raffle in which we could bid on the right to have a character named after us in one of David's books. The money would be donated to a local canine rescue group.

I'm so glad we decided to go see this talented author-- it was such a fun evening!



Monday, September 09, 2019

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis


First Line: Drawing her shawl a little closer around her, Charlotte adjusted her writing slope once more and dipped the nib of her pen back into the ink, her head bent low, nose just above the paper.

When sisters Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë learn of the disappearance of a young wife and mother just a few miles from their home in Haworth, they are shocked. Not only is the disappearance sensationalistic with nothing left of her but large pools of blood, but the Brontës know her.

Intrigued, it doesn't take the three long to realize that they have all the skills required to be excellent "lady detectors." They have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. As Charlotte remarks, "...detecting is reading between the lines-- it's seeing what is not there."

As they investigate, they confront a society that would much rather they all stay home with their embroidery; they absolutely should not be roaming the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop these three, even if it means their own lives are in danger as a result.

When I first learned of The Vanished Bride and the fact that it was the first in the Brontë Sisters historical mystery series, I thought that it was a concept that would require careful tending to keep it from dying on the shallow-rooted vine of cuteness. I am very happy to say that author Bella Ellis is a master gardener. With a writing style that is vaguely reminiscent of the Brontës, she has crafted an excellent mystery that brings the three sisters to life.

The major reason why I chose to read this book is that I've read all the books the three sisters wrote. I've been to the parsonage at Haworth, wandered through the graveyard, listened to the rooks' depressing calls from the trees shading the house, and I've walked the moors. I've read about the sisters' lives as well. So I suppose you could call me a Brontë fan. As I read The Vanished Bride, I also discovered that the characters got around a lot more than I expected-- and that I'd been to their destinations, too. Bella Ellis was making me feel right at home.

As the pages turned, I saw seeds of the future books they would write, and I found the depictions of the three sisters and their occasional squabbles enchanting. (And that's a word that I seldom use.) All three long to be the captains of their fate in a society where they're considered nothing but property. When their brother Branwell wasn't at the local pub, he got underfoot, and it certainly wasn't easy to keep their father in the dark.

There are wonderful characterizations and humor in this book, and-- what all mystery lovers crave-- an excellent mystery to solve. I'd fit one piece into its proper place, then another, but I was nowhere close to completing the entire puzzle. In fact, the misdirection with regard to one certain character threw me for the proverbial loop.

Brontë fans should really enjoy The Vanished Bride-- and so should historical mystery lovers who don't know (or don't care) about the family who lived in Haworth Parsonage in the mid-nineteenth century. I now find myself looking forward to the Brontë sisters' next investigation.


The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
eISBN: 9780593099063
Berkley © 2019
eBook, 304 pages

Historical Mystery, #1 Brontë Sisters mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley


 

Sunday, September 08, 2019

On My Radar: Susan Elia MacNeal's The King's Justice!




I've enjoyed Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope historical mystery series since the very first book, Mr. Churchill's Secretary. This series is a wonderful blend of history, mystery, and character, with a strong dash of thriller that certainly can raise the pulse. It's hard for me to believe that Maggie is already up to her ninth adventure, but she is, and I did my uncoordinated happy dance when I found out the particulars for the newest book in the series.

Let's take a look at what's in store for us in The King's Justice which will be available February 25, 2020! 


Available February 25, 2020!
Synopsis:

"London. December 1942. As the Russian army repels German forces from Stalingrad, Maggie Hope, secret agent and spy, takes a break from the Special Operations Executive division to defuse bombs in London. But Maggie herself is like an explosion waiting to happen. Shaken by a recent case, she finds herself living more dangerously--taking more risks than usual, smoking again, drinking gin and riding a motorcycle--and the last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime. But when she's called upon to look into a stolen Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie finds the case too alluring to resist.

Meanwhile, there's a serial killer on the loose in London and Maggie's skills are in demand. Little does she know that in the process of investigating this dangerous predator, she will come face to face with a new sort of evil...and discover a link between the precious violin and the murders no one could ever have expected.
"


Sounds like another good'un, doesn't it? One of the things I like the most about this series is that the things Maggie has to do as a part of the effort to win the war-- and to stay alive-- have a profound effect on her. She's not ten feet tall and bulletproof. She's human. But, boy howdy, can she ever think on her feet!

If you're a fan like me, I'm sure you've just added The King's Justice to your pre-order or wish lists. If you haven't read any of the books in the series, I hope you give them a try. You have a treat in store for you!


Friday, September 06, 2019

A Summer Cleaning the Blog Weekly Link Round-Up




I finally found some time to work on the appearance of my blog. It's been looking past its sell-by date for a long time, which is not a good thing since newcomers might have taken a look and thought the poor thing had been abandoned.

There's a newer, simpler look to Kittling: Books... not that it was anything fancy to begin with. I've always thought content to be more important than looks, although in this day and age of branding and all that jazz many people would disagree.

I'm still not done tinkering with it, or maybe I am. I've discovered that, in the years since I last worked on the blog template in a big way, Blogger seems to have decided that blog owners should not be allowed to monkey with the coding in order to have everything just the way they want it. I'm not Quick Draw McGraw when it comes to HTML and all that stuff, so I may tinker a few more times and then decide to quit before I blow the thing up.

Shortly after I started this blog, I had an award-winning series called Scene of the Blog that featured book bloggers, where they blogged, their shelves, and anything else they wanted to share. I've been wanting to create a sort of "Golden Oldies" page and include that series as one of the items, but in checking through the links, I've found so many blogs that are no longer in existence. It's sad. But... life brings changes, doesn't it? 

On that note, I think I'll head on out to the corral to commune with the links. They seldom ever give me any trouble, bless 'em. Head 'em up! Moooove 'em out!


►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
  • Target has launched a Harry Potter line of clothing, accessories, and home goods. 
  • The Notre Dame fire has revived demand for skilled stone carvers in France.
  • The CW's Nancy Drew won't directly adapt any books, but it will be horny. (Honestly? Nancy Drew? Horny?) 
  • Should books include credits like films?
  • The modern American works longer with less vacation than medieval peasants. 
  • A thriller author and her forensics expert partner celebrate the literary and investigative merits of the all-time great thriller, The Silence of the Lambs.
  • Mailing babies: When it was legal to send children through the U.S. Postal Service in the early 20th century. (What?!?)
  • How women are leading the charge to recycle whole houses.


►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄


►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄


►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Joy Harjo has become the first Native American writer to be named U.S. Poet Laureate.
  • Eliza Leslie: the most influential cookbook writer of the 19th century. 
  • Cara Black on her long-running detective series, her impeccably dressed detective, and how Paris is always a good idea.
  • Why 19th-century ax murderer Lizzie Borden was found not guilty.
  • JoAnn Hardin Morgan, the only woman in the room at Apollo 11's historic moon launch.

►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.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!


Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Bone Fire by S.D. Sykes


First Line: December 1361. To the finder of this letter, If you are reading this, then I am dead.

When the Black Death resurfaces in England in 1361, Oswald de Lacy knows that the best thing to do is to find a safe place for him and his family to hide. The chosen place is the island fortress of Eden, home to de Lacy's eccentric friend, Godfrey, who invited them to come and wait out the plague during the long winter to come.

Once De Lacy, his wife,  young son, and mother arrive at the castle, the portcullis is lowered. No one is to enter or leave until the spring. But the de Lacys scarcely have time to settle in when a murder occurs and proves that the castle is not the place of security everyone had thought.

The inhabitants of Eden Castle aren't safe within its walls, but they cannot leave because the plague is decimating the countryside. The only thing Oswald can do is to attempt to solve the murder before the killer strikes again.

Sinister Eden Castle is the worst place to wait out the plague, and that choice of "safe haven" makes S.D. Sykes's The Bone Fire her best Somershill Manor mystery yet. Plague outside the walls, a killer on the loose within. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for locked room mysteries, and The Bone Fire delivers a multi-layered mystery that's fun to solve.

I've been a fan of this series from the first book, Plague Land, and it was interesting for me to witness how characters who had survived the first plague in 1348 behaved when it returned in 1361. Interesting facts about the era in which the book is set are seamlessly woven into the story. Oswald's friend Godfrey has prepared for a long siege, having his chosen guests bring in food and other necessities, while he carries out his own plans: the few servants in the castle are all female because females eat less, food storage is given top priority, and even entertainment is taken care of by hiring a fool.

The mystery is intricate, and you'll be surprised at just how much scuttling and hiding a few characters can do in a relatively small castle. Buttonholing each character and trying to find out his true agenda is quite a job, and as Oswald tries to do just this, he realizes his true task: "I was not a hero or a pariah. I was a nemesis." I would imagine I'm not the only person who immediately thinks of Miss Marple whenever I see the word nemesis, and Oswald definitely needs all of that woman's skills of deduction.

The setting is excellent, and so is the mystery, but the characters truly drive the story. Oswald has matured so much from the first book in the series. He's doing much less investigative stumbling around in The Bone Fire. His marriage is an interesting one, too. I still can't stand Oswald's mother, but the purpose of the supremely frustrating woman makes much more sense now. (Shame on me, but I'm still hoping that the next round of plague does her in.) The secondary cast of characters reads like something out of Chaucer: a lord and his lady, a knight, a religious extremist, a court jester, a drunk, a couple of traveling craftsmen-- and they all have an important place in this story.

If you enjoy historical mysteries, I urge you to read this series. Although best read in order, you can read The Bone Fire as a standalone. (But I hope you don't.)

The Bone Fire by S.D. Sykes
eISBN: 9781643132976
Pegasus Books © 2019
eBook, 320 pages

Historical Mystery, #4 Somershill Manor mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley