Books & Blog: April 27, 2019

Books of the Week:

  • Wild Country, Anne Bishop
  • Sea of Shadows, Kelley Armstrong
  • No Saving Throw, Kristin McFarland
  • Tamsin, Peter Beagle
  • Save Me from Dangerous Men, S.A. Lelchuk
  • Finding Katarina M., Elisabeth Elo

If you’ve read many of my Book & Blog essays, you’ll know I think Anne Bishop is absolutely great. And of the many interesting books Bishop has written, I love The Others series the most. Wild Country is the last one Bishop has planned (for now), so I read it twice. Jana Paniccia, an untried policewoman, accepts a job in Bennett, a very isolated town recovering from annihilation by the terra indigene after the Humans First war. Jana’s boss is a werewolf whose mate and pup were wiped out by humans. Working for him has many surprises, and none of them are of the sexy or adorable kind. A criminal clan has set its sights on Bennett, too, and the Blackstones still have no idea that if they decide to fight the vampire administration that controls Bennett, heads will literally roll. I wouldn’t have missed this book for anything.

Kelley Armstrong is a versatile and talented writer I’ve known for a long time, and she has amazingly high-quality books for a prolific writer. I feel like a piker compared to Armstrong.Sea of Shadows is probably a YA book, though I enjoyed it a lot. Two sisters, twins, Moria and Ashyn, are the Keeper and the Seeker of their local Forest of the Dead. This entails quieting the spirits of the damned every year. However, the first year the job is up to them entirely, the spirits will not be calmed, and mayhem ensues. So the twins and their companions set out to tell the emperor. Naturally, the path is difficult and enemies beset them along the way.

No Saving Throw is a traditional mystery which will be on the shelves next month. Autumn has returned to her hometown to open Ten Again, a gaming store, in the local mall. Though gamers are not universally approved in the community, Autumn is actually doing well and has good employees. She’s even applied for a grant to improve the mall’s business. But during a special event at the store, one of the gamers falls to his death, and the blame falls on Autumn and her clientele. She has to find out what really happened, or she’ll go under. You have to like Autumn; she’s no fool, and she’s really invested in her community, both of the town and the store.

Peter Beagle is always good. Tamsin really captures the emotional tangle of a girl on the cusp of becoming a teen. Jenny Gluckstein’s mother has met an Englishman (he has two sons), and she wants to marry him. Jenny is anything but cooperative; she’s a native of New York City, she has friends at school, and she can’t imagine going to rural England. (I think we can sympathize with that.) Jenny’s mom is a very good mother, which is a real pleasure to see in a novel, and Jenny knows she owes it to her mom to try. But Jenny makes everything as hard as she can for a long time. Then she meets the ghost who lives in an empty room upstairs. Tamsin, once the daughter of the house, has been dead for hundreds of years. Her story is heartbreaking, and Jenny instantly becomes Tamsin’s friend and advocate. But someone is coming after Tamsin, and the more Tamsin manifests after Jenny wakes her up, the more this entity is determined to claim her. Such is Beagle’s skill that I believed in Jenny all the way through and cared about her, and this is just a marvelous book.

Save Me from Dangerous Men is more of a thriller, and it’s also a journey of self-discovery for Nikki Griffin, bookstore owner and hater of abusive males. Nikki does private eye work at night, but her self-control slips when she confronts men who are hitting their girlfriends or spouses. In fact, it slips to a scary extent, and Nikki is in court-ordered therapy. By chance, she meets a man she actually likes, but he is taken aback by Nikki’s violent side. A tech CEO hires Nikki to follow Karen Li, whom he accuses of selling secrets; when Karen meets a bad end, Nikki feels guilty and wants to find out why she died. This is actually believable given Nikki’s background and her relentless nature. But Nikki is getting into more and more trouble, people are not what they seems, and this may be Nikki’s last case.

Elisabeth Elo’s Finding Katarina M.is another book in the thriller category; reading two back to back is unusual for me. Dr. Natalie March is absorbed in her career, and has little time for friends. Her mother, now in a rehab center with MS, is a Russian immigrant with a sad story. Vera has always believed her parents died in the gulag (along with literally millions of others). When a Russian dancer who wants to defect contacts Natalie, she tells Natalie something shocking: she is Natalie’s cousin, and her grandmother is still alive. To prove or disprove this for her dying mother, Natalie takes an enormous risk and goes to Russia to look for Katarina M for herself. It’s a terrifying trip, and the worst happens to Natalie. When she returns to the US, she is no longer the quiet doctor she was when she left. Her experiences are both terrifying and fascinating.

 

Blog

I’ve been reminded recently of how many people, people I know and like, don’t read. When I ask them what they do all day (because I’m genuinely puzzled), I never get a clear answer. Some say they are too busy with the business of being a working parent, or a busy retired individual who gets on more committees than one person can cope with, or people get involved with volunteer work, or yard work.

Some people boat. Some people fish. Some people knit or crochet. Out of all the answers I’ve gotten, none really sparks my interest as much as reading, with its infinite variety. It would be nice to be able to enjoy something else during my leisure time. I do watch television, but most often I have an open book on my lap while I do. I do cook, but mostly it’s only whatever we will eat that day or something for a church potluck. I do have a lot of emails to answer or dispose, but that’s hardly a hobby.

Oh! I play games online. Hidden object searches appeal to the mystery writer in me.  Or “match three,” which involves plotting and predicting, both qualities also useful in writing. I tried the kind of game where you have find the boards to fix the ladder so you can climb over the fence to see if there are three statues there that fit into niches . . . so you get out the secret key that unlock a crypt where you’ll find the machine that destroys the evil mechanism and you can escape the island. There is NEVER an intact ladder in those games. You can NEVER find all the necessary amulets to open the locked chest, at least in one location. It is such a convoluted world that I finally decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation.

At my age, I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll suddenly take up photography or real estate sales as some of my retirement-age friends have done. I have no desire for a second career; I’m still trying to perfect the first one.

I guess I’m stuck with reading and writing, and frankly, that’s just fine with me.

 

Charlaine Harris