Monday, August 31, 2020

Book Review: The Heart of a Hero (Global Search and Rescue #2) by Susan May Warren

The Heart of a Hero (Global Search and Rescue, #2)The Heart of a Hero (Global Search and Rescue #2).  Susan May Warren. Fleming H. Revell (2020). 368 pages. Genre: Romantic Suspense.

First Lines:  "In the daylight, Jake Silver wasn't the devil.  He didn't hear the screams.  Didn't smell the pungent residue of gun smoke tinging the air.  Didn't destroy lives.  In the daylight, he was just Uncle Jake, the guy who knew how to fly."

Summary:  This second installment in the Global Search and Rescue series picks up just a week after we left them in the first book.

Jake is living with his parents at their home on a lake in Minnesota.  He is not sure what his next move will be.  His friend Hamilton has started a private search and rescue company and wants Jake on his team.  To further complicate matters, he can't seem to get Dr. Aria Sinclair off his mind.  He helped rescue her and two of her friends off of Denali in Alaska.  Before leaving Alaska, Aria invited Jake to her hotel room.  This was not a good idea and when Aria's roommate walked in while they were kissing, she made all kinds of assumptions and accused Jake of taking advantage of Aria.  Jake thought it was mutual, but when Aria walks away from him without saying a word, Jake blames himself.

Dr. Aria Sinclair is glad to be back doing her job as a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.  She is one of the best, but after losing a patient, she blames herself.  Maybe she wasn't ready to get back to work yet.  Her boss reassures her that it wasn't her fault the patient died.  He is sending her to a conference in Florida where she will give a lecture in her field and then have several days to just relax.  She doesn't want to relax in Florida - but she is so tired, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

After her speaking engagement, Aria goes on a snorkeling expedition with some of the other doctors.  Unfortunately, the waves on the ride home don't agree with her and she becomes very seasick.  When she gets back to her room, all she wants to do is sleep.  But first she sends a text.

When Jake reads the text Aria sent, his hope is renewed.  She says she wishes he was there.  That doesn't sound like someone who wants nothing to do with him.  He tries to call Aria to check up on her, but can't get through.  Meanwhile, there are reports of a hurricane approaching Florida.  Is Aria okay?  Why isn't she returning Jake's calls and texts?  She must be in trouble.  Jake must get to Florida.

My thoughts:  While this series is considered suspense, the threat to lives is usually the elements.  The characters in these stories take big risks and do dangerous things usually to save lives.  They have some amazing adventures while saving others and themselves.  My life is so not like this.  That is why I love these stories!

Both Aria and Jake have some baggage from their past.  They both blame themselves for things that happened to people they love.  They are both highly driven people, but in very different ways.  Jake seems to run toward trouble.  He acts and then thinks.  But he was trained for this when he was a SEAL.  He is also very tenderhearted.  He has attempted to deal with pain by having fun, making jokes and doing dangerous things.  Aria, on the other hand, has tried to make up for what she feels was her fault, by working harder, being the best, not stopping to have fun or enjoy life.  Neither way of dealing with pain is working very well.  They both grow through the literal storm that God brings into their lives.  

In addition to the main story line dealing with Jake and Aria, there is a secondary story line that has spanned several books.  Susan May Warren has a knack for bringing characters from other series into a story.  The secondary story line involves Hamilton Jones.  He has just recently learned that he has a daughter who survived a yacht fire in Italy.  He thought his wife was dead, but recently discovered that she was still alive.  However, she never told him she had a child.  Hamilton has hopes that she is still alive, so while on business in Europe he does some investigating.  We are left with a cliffhanger regarding this part of the plot.

There are several new characters introduced through the hurricane.  Several of these were interesting and I hope to see them in future books.  

The description of the hurricane was incredible.  This is not something I have ever been through, but I felt like I had after reading this.  

"Outside their tiny spiritual enclave Lucy tore at the building.  It shuddered, and with it, the wind moaned, haunting the hallways with shrieks and wails.

She wanted to press her hands over her ears.

Glass shattered all over the building, tearing at the metal frames.  Rain pounded the building, the storm surge outside rising and falling with what sounded like great gulps of destruction."

If you are looking for an edge-of-your-seat read, full of adventure and bravery, I highly recommend this book.  However, if you have not read the first book in the series, The Way of the Brave, I recommend you start there.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Book Review: Booked For Death (A Booklover's B&B Mystery #1) by Victoria Gilbert

Booked for Death (Booklovers B&B Mysteries, #1)Booked for Death (A Booklover's B&B Mystery #1). Victoria Gilbert. Crooked Lane Books (2020). 320 pages.  Genre:  Cozy Mystery

First Line:  "A ship may bob, safe at harbor, but that doesn't mean it hasn't experienced the wide world - or won't again."

Summary:  Charlotte Reed, a former high-school teacher, has recently inherited Chapters Bed-and-Breakfast from her great-aunt Isabella.  Chapters is located along the water in Beaufort, North Carolina.  The bed-and-breakfast is a booklover's paradise, equipped with great-aunt Isabella's library which includes several rare volumes and featuring special events celebrating books, authors and genres.  

Chapters is offering a week long celebration of author Josephine Tey, who wrote mysteries during the Golden Age.  One of the guests, Lincoln Delamont, a rare book dealer, claims that Isabella was a thief and insinuates that she purchased her rare book collection and Chapters with money that wasn't her own.  He attempts to blackmail Charlotte by threatening to tarnish her family's reputation.  Charlotte suspects he is after some of the books in her aunt's collection.

It turns out Mr. Delamont is not a well-liked man.  He and his wife were heard arguing loudly the night before.  It seems he is prone to desire the company of women he is not married to.  He is at odds with his teenage daughter over many things.  Some of the other guests are familiar with him and it is common knowledge that he is difficult to deal with.  So, when he turns up stabbed to death later that evening, there are plenty of people who had a motive to kill him.  But, who had opportunity?  And who stands to gain the most by his death?

My thoughts:  Chapters and the town of Beaufort are charming and filled with interesting characters.  I enjoyed getting to know Charlotte, Alicia, the live-in housekeeper and cook at Chapters and Ellen, Charlotte's eccentric neighbor who knew great-aunt Isabella.  

Charlotte is widowed and decided that the inheritance of Chapters would be a fresh start for her.  Previously, she was a high school teacher.  This comes in handy when dealing with teenagers and those who are acting like teenagers.  Running an inn is completely new to her.  She often relies on Alicia, who has worked at the inn for years, to help her understand the ins and outs of running the inn.  Alicia is spunky and tells it like it is.  She also worked for Isabella, so she knows the way things have been done.

Ellen makes a point of checking in with Charlotte and supporting and encouraging her in her new endeavor.  She often invites her over for a drink on the porch or a walk with her Yorkie, Shandy.  After the murder, everyone suspects everyone else.  For Charlotte this includes Alicia and most of the guests staying at Chapters.  The guests have been ordered to stay in town at the inn while the police conduct their investigation.  Charlotte feels a little stressed to be possibly sharing her home with a murderer.  She finds it helpful to be able to get away from the inn and bounce her ideas off of Ellen.

The mystery started out fairly straight forward.  But as Charlotte began investigating, it became more complicated.  There were lots of secrets and deception that had to be uncovered.  One of the scenes toward the end felt like an Agatha Christie novel, with several suspects together in one room trying to solve the murder.  

There were lots of references to books and authors which was delightful.  Charlotte's best friend, Julie, owns a book shop in town which added to the bookish talk as well.

All in all this looks to be a great new cozy mystery series.  I look forward to the next book.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Book Review: Rum & Razors (Murder, She Wrote #3) by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Rum & Razors (Murder, She Wrote, #3) Rum & Razors (Murder, She Wrote #3). Author:  Donald Bain. 293 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery

First Lines:  "GLOTCOYB. Not another one.  It was the fifth envelope I'd received in the past two weeks in which a piece of paper with the letters G-L-O-T-C-O-Y-B was enclosed."

Summary:  Jessica Fletcher is in the process of finishing the manuscript of her latest book.  Once the manuscript is on its way to the publisher, she will be on her way to a lovely resort on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean.  

Her friends Laurie and Walter Marschalk, owners of Lover's Lagoon Inn, have been asking her to visit ever since they took over the inn three years ago.  She is looking forward to relaxing after finishing her manuscript.

The first evening of her arrival she is disappointed to find that Laurie has been called to another island on business.  However, she has dinner with Walter at the Inn's lovely dining room.  It seems the Marshalk's are having some financial trouble and rumors are circulating that the Inn was purchased under questionable circumstances.  While Jessica wants to believe the best about her friends, she has to admit that circumstances surrounding the purchase of the Inn are a bit underhanded.  There is animosity between Walter and the owner of a nearby resort and Walter believes that the owner sends spies to his Inn.  

Walter also indicates that some of his staff are not working hard enough and in fact he plans to fire an employee the next day.  Unfortunately, the firing is done early the next morning right outside Jessica's window.  When Jessica has trouble sleeping, she decides to visit the neighboring resort and see what she can learn.  While there she meets the owner and a travel writer who is attending a conference at the resort.  She is quickly learning that Walter is not well liked.  This is such a surprise to her as she has always known him to be a very likable guy.  

Later that evening, she decides to walk along the Lagoon which has a reputation for being the most beautiful in the world.  It certainly is beautiful, but the beauty is marred when Jessica discovers Walter's dead body along the shore of the Lagoon.  He was supposed to have gone on a business trip with his wife.  He seems to have made plenty of enemies, but who is angry enough with him to kill him?

My thoughts:  I always enjoy spending time with Jessica Fletcher.  This time she is on a beautiful Caribbean island hoping to relax, enjoy some warm weather and read some books.  But, alas, it was not meant to be.  The descriptions of island life were great and made me feel like I was there. 

There are so many suspects in this story.  I didn't particularly care for any of them.  Even Laurie, Walter's wife and Jessica's friend, who doesn't seem to be grieving much for her husband, is a suspect.  The mystery kept me guessing with many twists and turns.  

As usual, Jessica must discover who the murderer is and puts herself in some dangerous situations.  However, in the end the mystery is solved.  

I enjoyed this installment in the Murder, She Wrote series.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Book Review: A Harvest of Hope (Song of Blessing #2) by Lauraine Snelling

A Harvest of Hope (Song of Blessing, #2) A Harvest of Hope (Song of Blessing #2). Author: Lauraine Snelling (2015). 352 pages. Genre: Historical Fiction

First Lines:  "Blessing, North Dakota.  Mid-September 1905.  Be careful, pay attention were the only thoughts to have when sitting down to milk this particular cow.  Trygve Knutson had learned the hard way, and the bucket had been nearly full."

Summary:  Miriam Hastings is called home to Chicago part way into her nurse's training in Blessing, North Dakota.  Her mother is ill.  She has begun to get to know the families in Blessing and would really like to finish her training there.  Not to mention the young man who refuses to let her forget him.  Her nursing supervisor gives her permission to return to Blessing and finish her training there.  Unfortunately, her mother passes away and Miriam is hesitant to leave her brothers and sisters in Chicago.  However, they encourage her to go.

When she returns to Blessing she is struck by how it feels like home to her.  How is that possible when she has only spent a few months there?  The Bjorklund and Knutson families have welcomed her into their homes and lives.  They invite her to church and to have Sunday dinner with them.  She resumes her role at the hospital and is glad to be back.  The town is still fairly new and is growing and changing.  Along with that comes growing pains.  The banker has made some bad decisions and is now denying loans to the people of the town.  Dr. Elizabeth is having a difficult pregnancy and has been ordered to stay in bed, leaving Dr. Astrid with more work.   Winter is coming and many of the people living in tent town and working in Blessing will need proper shelters.  But life continues on.  Can the town pull together and take care of the needs in their midst?

My thoughts:  The story picks up right where it left off in the first book, To Everything a Season.  I would definitely recommend starting with that book if you are interested in this series.  That book was one of my favorite reads of 2019.  I am not sure why it has taken me so long to get back to this series, but I am so glad I did.

These stories all make up a family saga and are as much about the families that make up Blessing as they are about the town of Blessing.  The matriarch of this series is Ingeborg Bjorklund.  She is a wonderful example of a wife, mother, grandmother and friend.  Her home and family are of utmost importance to her.  But she is also quick to welcome in anyone who is in need of a family.  She isn't perfect and has struggles, but she tries to live a life pleasing to God.  

Miriam has come to Blessing to train in the hospital there.  The hospital is run by Dr. Astrid (Bjorklund) Jeffers, daughter of Ingeborg and Dr. Elizabeth Bjorklund, daughter-in-law of Ingeborg.  It was unusual for woman to become doctors in this time period, so this is interesting.  I enjoyed the medical situations in the book and the descriptions of the procedures and processes by both the doctors and nurses.  As I have mentioned before, I enjoy stories involving midwives.  There are some birthing situations in the story as well as other medical problems.  There is nothing very graphic, rather descriptions of what is happening so that you feel like you are there helping with the procedure.  Miriam is welcomed into the Bjorklund and Knutson families.  Trygve Knutson has declared his love for her, but does she love him back?  She is not sure what love between a man and woman actually feels like.  She enjoys spending time with Trygve, her heart beats faster when he is around, but is this love?  And what about her family in Chicago?  If she decides to make a life in Blessing, what will become of them.  These are the things she is wrestling with.  However, they don't dominate the story and I appreciated that.  

These families know how to pray!  There are some wonderful prayers in the story and good examples of how to handle problems and difficulties that arise between family members and people living in a town.  The men are strong, courageous, kind and protective of women.  The women are brave, strong, competent and feminine.  

As an interesting side note, my paternal grandmother's maiden name was Knutson and she grew up in North Dakota.  Her married name and my maiden name was Moyer.  In the front of the book, the author has included a family tree.  In this family tree there are Knutsons and Moyers.  This was intriguing to me and I wondered what caused Ms. Snelling to choose these names for her characters.  So I emailed her and asked.  She was very gracious and sent me a nice note back.  In regards to the names, here was her response:

"I have to admit it was a random draw from my bank of names.  I have an uncle with the name Knutson which is probably why that name is in my bank.  As to Moyer, it was a random choice."

I love these stories and highly recommend them to anyone enjoys historical fiction or stories featuring strong families.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Book Review: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row (Cannery Row #1)Cannery Row.  Author:  John Steinbeck (1945). 181 pages. Genre:  Classic

First Lines:  "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.  Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses."

Summary:  This is the story of a place, but also of the people who live and work there.  As we get to know the people who live there and how they came to be there, a plot develops.  Five of the men who share a house in the row, decide that it would be nice to throw a party for Doc, owner and operator of Western Biological Laboratory.  They feel he is a "hell of a nice fella" and that they should do something nice for him.  The trouble is, not one of them has a steady job and no money between them.  And everyone knows you have to have money to throw a party.  There is drink to buy and steak and what about decorations?  They hatch a plan to make some money.  But, unfortunately, things don't go as they had planned.  However, they won't be deterred.  Doc deserves a party and a party he will have.

My thoughts:  John Steinbeck is a master at creating memorable characters.  

Lee Chong, owner of the the grocery on the row, works from dawn to dusk and has most of the community in his debt.  He rarely collects from his clients, but if the bill becomes too large, he cuts off their credit.

The five men who share the house are; Mack, the leader and mentor of the group, Hazel, a young man of great strength; Eddie, the one who occasionally has work as a back up bartender; Hughie and Jones, who are just along for the ride.  Mack was able to convince Lee Chong to let the boys live in the abandoned house he owned by telling him that they would protect the house from break-in or fire.  Here is how they are described:

"...a little group of men who had in common no families, no money, and no ambitions beyond food, drink, and contentment."

Doc is the owner and operator of Western Biological Laboratory.  He spends his days collecting specimen and filling orders.  He is mysterious to the rest of the residents because in the evenings he buys two quarts of beer from Lee Chong's and returns to the lab to listen to music which can be heard along the row.  He is always alone, but never seems lonely.  He treats everyone as a human being.  

Dora runs the whore house with dignity.  She has standards and runs a "virtuous" club.  She is strict with her girls and then men who visit the house.  But she has a soft heart and is willing to help others when needed.

Not much happens in Cannery Row, but we come to know these characters and see the goodness in them despite their vices.  

Content note:  There is some language in the book, but it is minor.

Cannery Row Book CoverCannery Row around 1945

Photo by Pat Hathaway


"Hazel hated that, it meant casting about in his mind for an answer and casting about in Hazel's mind was like wandering alone in a deserted museum.  Hazel's mind was choked with uncatalogued exhibits."

"There is no term comparable to green thumbs to apply to such a mechanic, but there should be.  For there are men who can look, listen, tap, make an adjustment, and a machine works."

"It is the hour of the pearl -- the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself."

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Book Review: No Good Tea Goes Unpunished (Seaside Cafe Mystery #2)

No Good Tea Goes Unpunished (Seaside CafĂ© Mystery, #2) No Good Tea Goes Unpunished (Seaside Cafe Mystery #2)

Author:  Bree Baker

Publisher:  Poisoned Pen Press (2019)

330 pages

Genre:  Cozy Mystery

First Lines:  "Congratulations, Mrs. Miller," I said, embracing my childhood friend, Judy, who was still glowing from her recent exchange of wedding vows."

Summary:  Everly Swan, owner of Sun, Sand, and Tea, is hosting a wedding reception on the beach outside her cafe.  Everly not only catered the reception, she also acted as a liaison between the bride and the town council.  The wedding was held on the beach, with the reception being right in front of Everly's cafe.  Everything went perfectly until the groom received a phone call in the middle of a photo session.  He said the call was from his business partner and excused himself to take the call.  A short while later the photographer was looking for the couple to get some last pictures before the light fades.  No one knew where they had gone and many guests started to look for them.  Everly noticed something floating in the surf.  As she took a closer look, she discovered it was a body.  She yelled for help and then drug the body in.  It was the groom.  Everly and her friend, Amelia, prepared to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  That is when they noticed blood on the victim's shirt and on their hands.  It was too late.  The groom was dead.  Where is the bride?  Has she met with the same fate? Who would want to kill the groom on his wedding day?

My thoughts:  I really enjoyed this story, even more than the first one in the series.  The setting is Charm, North Carolina.  A town along the beach full of cute shops and interesting people.  

"Charm is part of North Carolina's barrier islands, the long narrow strips of land separated from the mainland by channels, also known as the Outer Banks.  The sun rose over the Atlantic outside my back door and set over the bay.  The lighthouse-like tower that rose from the top of my old Victorian made views of both possible - and perfect."

Everly's best friend, Amelia, owns a bookstore along the beach and keeps the Little Libraries along the beach supplied with reading material.  Everly's aunts run Blessed Bee, a shop that sells everything made from honey taken from their personal hives.  The aunts are so funny and so opposite of one another.  They love Everly and always know what she needs.  

Detective Grady Hays is back.  In the four or so months between the first story and this one, there has not been much communication between Grady and Everly.  Everly realizes she has missed him and his friendship.  Once again, he insists that Everly should stay out of the investigation.  She says she will, but talking to people isn't really investigating, is it?  As the story progresses, Everly realizes that maybe she cares for him more than she realized.

The mystery was well plotted.  There are plenty of people who had motives for murder.  Everly does her best to try and talk to the suspects, but she tends to think the best about people and is sometimes led astray.  There are several other fun story lines as well.  The town is hosting it's annual Summer Splash which brings lots of people to town, including a cowboy who once broke Everly's heart.  The grieving bride stays with Everly while the investigation is being conducted along with a man they went to school with who won't leave the bride's side.  A wedding columnist shows up hoping to get the story of a lifetime starring the "young powerhouse millionaire" groom.  He has to stay in town while the investigation is conducted.  

Everly has a thing for cowboys.  One of my favorite quotes was:

"Cowboys were loyal and true.  They appreciated hard work and natural beauty.  They were patriots and animal lovers.  What wasn't to love? "The rodeo part I could live without," I admitted.  "It's not about the performance.  I've just always loved what cowboys stand for, if that makes any sense."

This was a great summer read that helped me feel like I had been at the beach.  I am eager to read the next book in the series.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Book Review: The Best of Intentions (Canadian Crossings #1) by Susan Anne Mason

The Best of Intentions (Canadian Crossings, #1)
The Best of Intentions (Canadian Crossings #1)
Author:  Susan Anne Mason
Publisher:  Bethany House (2018)
352 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction

First Lines:  "May 1919.  Grace Abernathy stood at the rail of the SS Olympic, staring out over the calm expanse of sea as the last trace of sunlight disappeared over the horizon.  Darkness spread outward to encompass the water, pierced only by a single beam from the masthead light."

Summary:  Grace Abernathy is sailing to Canada from England.  Her sister Rose is living in Toronto.  Grace has not seen Rose in several years although the sisters have stayed in touch through letters.  Rose recently lost her husband in the war and a few months later gave birth to their first child.  She has begged Grace to come to Canada to be with her.  Their mother is not well and longs to see Rose and her grandchild.  Grace promises to bring Rose and the baby home to England with her.  She hopes that maybe her mother will finally forgive her if she does this.

Grace arrives in Canada only to discover that her sister recently passed away from the flu.  She is shocked and saddened.  Once the initial shock is over, she remembers the baby.  Mrs. Chamberlain, the woman who runs the boardinghouse where Rose stayed, tells Grace that the baby has gone to live with the family of Rose's husband.  The Easton's are a wealthy family that own a hotel.  When their son Frank broke off his engagement to Cecilia Harrison, daughter of another wealthy man, to marry Rose Abernathy, the family disowned him.  Rose begged Grace in her letters to care for her nephew if anything should happen to her.  Grace is determined to do just that.  

She doesn't really have a plan other than to find out if the baby is being well-cared for by the Easton family.  She begins watching their house hoping to catch a glimpse of the baby.  One day she sees a young lady pushing a pram come out of the gate.  She follows her to the park where she strikes up a conversation with her.  In the course of the conversation the woman mentions that they are looking for a nanny for the baby.  Grace sees this as an opportunity to get close to her nephew.  She mentions that she is looking for a job.  After an interview with Andrew, the baby's uncle, she is hired.  Will she be able to keep her identity secret?  

My thoughts:  Susan Anne Mason is a new-to-me author.  I really enjoyed her writing style.  She has a way of whisking the reader away into the story.  I was amazed at how fast the pages turned.  

The characters were all really well developed and most of them I would like to spend time with.  We get to know Rose through excerpts from the letters she wrote to Grace.  Most chapters start with an excerpt and they proceed chronologically.  Our story starts in 1919, the letters start in 1914.  

Each character is flawed, but even the seemingly bad characters show some growth.  Many of the characters made huge mistakes, often life altering ones affecting not only their lives, but the lives of those they love.  But the power of honesty stands out in the story.  Grace obviously is deceiving the Easton family and soon comes to really like them.  She is in a hard place and fears that if she tells the truth, they will make her leave and she will lose not only her nephew, but also their friendship.  Her struggles through this felt very realistic.

Grace's past also is complicated.  She has felt for years that she has let her mother down.  Her brother died when she was 14 and Grace blames herself and believes her mother blames her also.  She wants so badly to please her mother and be forgiven.  Andrew struggles with a similar issue with his father.  He has always felt that he didn't measure up in his father's eyes.  His father favored his brother Frank.  Andrew just wants to please his father, even at the expense of sacrificing his desires.  Forgiveness is another major theme in the story.  

Another major theme in the story is that of societal pressures.  The Easton family, mainly Mr. Easton, disowned Frank after he married Rose because she was not of the same class.  Andrew is now engaged to the same woman Frank had been engaged to.  Andrew doesn't love her, but feels pressure from his father to marry her and solidify the family connections.  Their sister Virginia is also engaged to a man she doesn't love, but feels it is her duty to marry because of the family connections.  And of course Grace is a servant in the Easton home and is not allowed to join the family in certain situations because of this.

The Easton's home is magnificent and I enjoyed the descriptions of it.

"The fountain was surrounded by a low stone seating area, but Grace wasn't ready to rest just yet.  She continued through the rows of flowering greenery until she came to the small orchard and a vegetable garden that she knew kept the house supplied with fresh produce.  In the far south corner of the property, a gleaming white gazebo created another inviting space to relax."

This was a wonderful story of family and home and friendship.  I look forward to reading more from Susan Anne Mason.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Book Review: End Game (Capital Intrigue #1) by Rachel Dylan

End Game (Capital Intrigue, #1)
End Game (Capital Intrigue #1)
Author:  Rachel Dylan
Publisher:  Bethany House (2020)
313 pages
Genre:  Romantic Suspense

First Lines:  "I think they might be keeping dead bodies in their condo!"  Bailey Ryan sat beside her friends in an Arlington, Virginia, diner and took a big bite of salad as Layla Karam continued to tell her animated story."

Summary:  In End Game, we meet Bailey Ryan, an agent in the Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI, who has just received a call from her partner letting her know that they are on a new case.  She is being called to the Medical Examiner's office to view a body that just came in.  It is the second murder in just a few days that was done using similar methods.  It turns out that the second victim was a Navy SEAL.  That means that the FBI will have to partner with NCIS on this case.  

NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini will be leading the investigation.  Bailey will have to work with his team at Quantico.  They have very little to go on and are working against the clock fearing that another murder will take place.  Are the murders random acts of violence?  Could they be the work of a serial killer?  Or is something more sinister involved?  

My thoughts:  This was the first book I have read by Rachel Dylan and it won't be my last!  She does a great job of building some solid characters in Bailey and Marco.  Throughout the story we get to know each of them a little better and learn a little about their pasts.  But it felt like there was a lot more to tell, so maybe that will happen in upcoming books.  There were some great secondary characters as well.  Bailey's friend Layla, who works for the CIA, Izzy, a twenty-something newby at NCIS, JAG Attorney Lexi Todd and Army CID Special Agent Jay Graves are all characters that I hope to meet again in future books.

The book takes place in Washington D.C., however it is not the city that we really get a feel for, rather it is the system that we see the inner workings of.  This was quite interesting to learn about different protocols involved in certain situations.  Author Rachel Dylan is an attorney, so she has a deep understanding of legal matters and that definitely comes through.

The mystery was complex and I often felt like they had very little to go on until it was solved and things came to light.  And there was plenty of danger along the way.

The relationship between Bailey and Marco was just right and developed as they had to spend time together working on the case.  There were a couple of other romances blossoming between secondary characters that will be fun to follow up on in future books.

I enjoyed Rachel Dylan's writing style and look forward to reading more from her.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Book Review: Indemnity Only (V.I. Warshawski Mystery #1) by Sara Paretsky

Indemnity Only (V.I. Warshawski, #1)
Indemnity Only (V.I. Warshawski Mystery #1)
Author:  Sara Paretsky
Publisher:  Dell (1982)
323 pages
Genre:  Mystery

First Lines:  "The night air was thick and damp. As I drove south along Lake Michigan, I could smell rotting alewives like faint perfume on the heavy air."

Summary:  Our heroine is V. I. Warshawski, Vic to her friends.  She is currently a private detective, but was previously a lawyer working for the Public Defender's office.  She is divorced and lives in the Chicago area.

When the story opens, she has received an appointment from an anonymous caller looking to hire her.  She is on the way to her office, when the electricity in the building goes out.  She is still able to keep the appointment, however the caller's identity is somewhat hidden.  The caller would like to hire her to find his son's girlfriend.  He doesn't approve of her or the influence she is having on his son and he went to visit her and try to talk sense into her.  Right after that, she disappeared.  He does finally identify himself so that she can reach him with what she finds.  

She begins the investigation by visiting the apartment where the son and girlfriend were living.   She finds the apartment empty, except for the dead body of the man's son.  Before contacting the police, she snoops around in the apartment to see if she can find anything interesting.  When she goes to visit Mr. Thayer, she realizes that this is not the man who visited her office.   Who was the man claiming to be Mr. Thayer?  Did he hire her so she could find the body of Peter Thayer?  

My thoughts:  From the beginning I loved the feel of this book.  It felt like an old school detective novel.  The book was written before the time of cell phones and computers, so everything is analog.  V.I. has an answering service that answers her calls when she is not in her office, which is most of the time.  She talks about hiring a Kelly Girl to do her filing.  It takes place in Chicago and you really get a feel for the city.

"Little fires shone here and there from late-night barbecues in the park.  On the water a host of green and red running lights showed people seeking relief from the sultry air.  On shore traffic was heavy, the city moving restlessly, trying to breathe.  It was July in Chicago.  I got off Lake Shore Drive at Randolph Street and swung down Wabash under the iron arches of the elevated tracks."

V.I. Warshawski is tough and has a chip on her shoulder.  Her father was a cop and she was raised to be able to take care of herself.  Her first name is Victoria, but she started going by her initials because it wasn't so obvious to others that she was a female.  She was married for a short time, but it didn't work out because she was so independent.  She never had any children, but occasionally feels a longing to be a mother.  Even though she has a tough exterior, there is a softness underneath.  She is very caring toward those who are vulnerable.  

"Suppose your father did something criminal and we find that out?  It's going to be rough, but it only has to be a scandal and make your life miserable if you let it.  Lots of things in this life happen to you no matter what you do, or through no fault of your own - like your father and brother getting killed."

My favorite character was Lotty.  Lotty is an old friend of Vic's and runs an inexpensive medical clinic.  After getting beat up and having her apartment ransacked, Vic stays with Lotty for a few days.  

"She was a doctor, about fifty, I thought, but with her vivid, clever face and trim, energetic body it was hard to tell.  Sometime in her Viennese youth she discovered the secret of perpetual motion.  She held fierce opinions on a number of things,  and put them to practice in medicine, often to the dismay of her colleagues."

"All of Lotty's instincts are directed at helping people.  She's just not sentimental about it."

The mystery was good with lots of suspects.  The murderer was discovered before the crime was solved.  V. I. had to figure out how and why it was done and try to find evidence to prove it before the murderer could be arrested.  I did think she was too free with the information she shared with others.

There is quite a bit of language in this book from V. I. Warshawski, the criminals and the police.  There is also sex, but it is not graphic.  It is of the they enter the bedroom and then it is the next morning and they are having breakfast type.  Also, lots of drinking, often excessive.  

All in all, I found myself liking the story and the characters.  I'm not sure if I will continue with the series, but am glad I read Indemnity Only.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

July Reading Wrap-up

July has been quite hot and humid where I live.  I read 10 books this month and did not finish one.  It appears that the majority were in the mystery genre.  Here's the break down:

Contemporary Fiction:  2
Cozy Mystery:  3
Suspense:  2
Mystery:  1
Middle Grade:  1
Non-fiction:  1
DNF:  1

Well, when broken down like this it looks a little more diverse.  As I was typing this I realized that both of my contemporary fiction reads took place in the winter.  I guess reading winter books when it is stifling hot out isn't such a bad idea.

Contemporary Fiction:

A story of friendship, tragedy, grief and found family in Scotland.

Beartown by Frederik Backman
A hockey town struck by tragedy and how they got there.  An out-of-my-comfort-zone read.

Cozy Mystery:

The 5th book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.  An outrageous request from Mma. Potokwani at the Orphan Farm and tracking down a husband for a wealthy woman occupy Mma. Ramotswe during this visit.

The 1st Book in the Maine Clambake series.  Julia Snowden has returned to her hometown in Maine to help out with the family clambake business. But on the first day of the new season, a body is discovered on the island.  Julia and the police must solve the mystery before the family loses the business.

The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun
The 4th book in The Cat Who... series.  Qwilleran and the cats move to a new apartment in a large house where things aren't quite what they seem.


The 1st book in the Global Search & Rescue series.  Full of non-stop action, the story follows some climbers up Denali.

The 3rd book in the Kaely Quinn, Profiler series.  This is the final book in this series and was a great finish.  Lots of psychological aspects as Kaely comes face to face with her father.


Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky
The first in the V. I. Warshawski series.  Old school detective novel with a female heroine.  A little out of my comfort zone.

Middle Grade:

Soar by Joan Bauer
A young boy who was abandoned as a baby but adopted by the man who found him.  He and his father share a love of baseball and this is what allows them to become part of the new town they move to.  Very uplifting read.


Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney
Succinct, practical, Biblical advice on being a wife and mother.

What did you read in July?