Monday, July 25, 2016
On This Week in 2005: From Mountains to Monet
I'm still having fun going through my old book journal, so I thought I would share with you the books that I read during this same week in 2005. Ready... set... GO!
First up is one of Earlene Fowler's excellent Benni Harper series set in the ranching country of central California. Benni Harper is an ex-rancher who now curates a folk art museum. Early on when she met the man that she would eventually marry, I disliked him so much that I almost stopped reading the series. What a macho jerk! But I've had similar reactions to friends' boyfriends/husbands, and just because I couldn't stomach their partners... well, that didn't mean that I threw away the friendships. I handled Benni's husband the same way, and I certainly didn't regret it. I even got to like her abrasive grandmother, Dove. To have not one but two characters in a book or series that rub my fur the wrong way normally means that I stop reading the book. It says something about Earlene Fowler's writing that I kept right on through to the end of the series. (And I still wish she'd write more.)
Although the series starts out well (each book being named after a well-known quilt pattern), it really hits its stride in book six, Mariner's Compass. Fowler's plots took on more complexity, her characters grew more and more nuanced, and she even started writing serious action scenes that put my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes.
Earlene Fowler has been "on sabbatical" as she calls it for about five years now. I've had the privilege of meeting her twice, and she's smart and funny and such a pleasure. I do wish she'd start writing again, but if she doesn't, at least she's given us fifteen Benni Harper mysteries.
Kirk Mitchell may be better known for his time travel, alternate history, and historical fiction, but this former law enforcement officer also wrote five books in one of my favorite mystery series. This series features two main characters: Emmett Quanah Parker, a part-Comanche, part-white agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs; and Anna Turnipseed, a part-Modoc, part-Japanese special agent for the FBI. The series started out in the Southwest but soon began to move around the country.
Emmett and Anna had quite a dynamic between them. Their relationship is the type that makes you keep looking for the next book. The mysteries are strong as are the settings, and I appreciated being able to learn more about the lifestyles and customs of various Native American tribes. Do I wish Mitchell were still writing his Parker/Turnipseed mysteries? Yes, I do! Five are definitely not enough.
Skye Kathleen Moody's Venus Diamond mysteries are books that make me wish I'd taken better notes back in 2005. (Funny how blogging changes your note-taking habits!)
Venus Diamond is a US Fish and Wildlife agent in Washington state, and I'm remembering that she was pretty, quirky, smart, and kick-ass before kick-ass females were really acceptable. Venus has an almost James Bond-like quality to her, which is one reason why photojournalist Moody's mysteries were so interesting to read.
Another reason why I enjoyed them a great deal (besides the wonderful settings) is because each book centered around a strong environmental theme, so they were a matter of strong central character, intriguing mysteries, and plenty to learn about the natural world. Win-win-win as far as I'm concerned!
I think Tamar Myers' Den of Antiquity series set in Charlotte, North Carolina (and then Charleston, South Carolina), was the first cozy series I read with titles that were plays on words. Now titles like this are almost de rigueur.
Main character Abigail Timberlake is a little bitty thing, but she's got more Southern sass than women who are head and shoulders taller than she. I really liked learning a bit about antiques-- and the cities of Charlotte and Charleston-- and Myers has a very well-developed funny bone, which is one of the main reasons why I read the series.
I didn't finish reading the Den of Antiquity books though. I came to the series late, got my hands on all the books that had been written to that point, and read them... almost one right after the other. I don't do that anymore. Haven't done for years. If I read series books too close together, humor can fall flat, characters can start annoying me, and plots can start feeling too formulaic. It has to be an unusual circumstance for me to read series books close together.
Myers has two other series, one that I enjoyed, and one that I didn't. The one that I didn't continue reading was her Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries. Why? For the simple reason that the main character was so nasty and abrasive I decided she could take her ill-temper out on some other reader.
The third series that Myers wrote is a four-book one featuring Amanda Brown, a young American missionary in the Belgian Congo in the 1950s. These books are based on the author's own childhood. I not only liked the plots of the books, I also enjoyed the humor, the setting, and the customs of the natives that the young Amanda was learning to live among.
Back in 2005, I read quilt-titled mysteries that were solved by Benni Harper. Now I read mysteries that are solved by members of the St. Rose Quilting Bee. Back in 2005, I read Kirk Mitchell's mysteries that have strong Native American characters and themes. Today I read M.J. McGrath, C.M. Wendelboe, and Margaret Coel. Back in 2005, I read mysteries with an environmental aspect. Today I still do, reading Nevada Barr, Pamela Beason, and Paul Doiron. Back in 2005, I was reading cozies with catchy titles set in North Carolina. Today, I still am-- with authors like Lucy Arlington, Ellery Adams, and Brynn Bonner.
It's always good to see that some things just never seem to go out of fashion.
How about you? Have you read any of these series? Which ones? Did you like them? Any recommendations for me for future reading? This inquiring mind would love to know!