Thursday, August 13, 2020

What Are You Reading?

How are you this week? I'm on vacation, although I'm at home. So, that gives me reading time! I'm reading on deadline, as usual. I'm also reading Gabriel Valjan's PI novel,  Dirty Old Town. It's set in Boston, and it's the first Shane Cleary mystery. Cleary is an ex-cop turned PI who takes a case from a childhood friend he detests because he's desperate for money. He also still has a thing for the man's wife who was Shane's girlfriend at one time. I know this is going to get rough for Cleary eventually. That means I'm happy it says "Shane Cleary Mystery #1". I always like to know that the hero makes it out alive.

How about you? Are you doing okay? What are you reading this week?


Jeff Meyerson said...

We're OK. Our second neighborhood library opened this week (yay!) for pickups and you'd think it was an Ebola lab. You walk up the ramp (follow the arrows) and when you get to the door, it's locked. There is a security guard inside, and he opens the door for you but only allows one patron inside at a time. Most of the library is roped off, but there are cases with books being held for you (alphabetically), and you take them over to one of the two new machines to check them out. I got THE GODMOTHER, a mystery by French writer Hannelore Cayre (it's been so long since I reserved this I can't remember where I heard about it), and Robert Silverberg's short story collection, ALIEN ARCHIVES: Eighteen Stories of Extraterrestrial Encounters. I am a big fan of his short stories (and especially of his introductions telling where and when and why he wrote each story) and have previously read most of these. And I got an email that two more of my reserves are now in at our other library. Maybe tomorrow....

This week I've been reading more, it seems. Don Winslow's BROKEN grew on me. It is six stories, all 50-60 pages each, and there are appearances from a number of his series characters. My favorite by far was "San Diego Zoo" (dedicated to Elmore Leonard) with the great opening of an escaped chimp at the zoo. No one knows where he got the revolver.... The first section is hilarious and I really enjoyed it a lot.

Lee Goldberg's LOST HILLS may not hold up to the believability test, but it is has a lot going for it: it is short (225 pages) with five page chapters (always a plus for me) and a fast moving plot that keeps you turning the pages quickly. Eve Ronin got a promotion to Detective in the L.A. Sheriff's Office, and now she has her first murder case, a house with so much blood it is impossible to believe there were any survivors. But where are the woman and her kids who lived there, or their bodies? There is a sequel coming in January.

IF YOU LIVED HERE, I'D KNOW YOUR NAME was Heather Linde's first collection of tales of her life in Southeastern Alaska. It's not for me, but her book was a fun read.

OUT OF BOUNDS was the first Val McDermid I've read in a few years, and I need to smack myself for neglecting one of the best mystery writers currently out there. This was book four about Chief Insp. Karen Pirie, the likable head of the (two person) Scottish Cold Case squad, and it is very good. I need to get to book five more quickly, especially as the sixth is coming out soon.

Still reading the COLLECTED STORIES of F. Scott Fizgerald, though I have put them aside to read the Winslow and Silverberg collections.

Up next? I downloaded NADA, a perfect title for one of Jean-Patrick Manchette's existential French mysteries. I also have the previously mentioned GODMOTHER. And if I get to the library, I have Lauren Beukes's AFTERLAND (I really liked her THE SHINING GIRLS) or Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan's THE HOLLOW ONES. Del Toro (PAN'S LABYRINTH, THE SHAPE OF WATER) is one of my favorite directors, and I read their THE STRAIN series.

Stay safe, everyone!

Gram said...

I have started Murder once Removed by S C Perkins - about a geneologist who solves murders. The Secrets of Bones by Kylie Logan - not the first in this series about cadaver dogs. Hidden Salem by Kay Hooper - a Bishop Files mystery. A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain - a modern day detective sent back in time to solve murders.

SandyG265 said...

In contrast to Jeff’s library, ours is fully open. Holds are shelved across from the door and you can either check them out yourself via the library app or have a librarian check them out. They have plexiglass across the desk , everyone has to wear a mask and they are asking you to not stay more than half an hour because they are limiting occupancy. But so far it’s hasn’t been very busy when I’ve picked up my holds.

This week I read WITCHING FOR HOPE by Deanna Chase, a paranormal romance featuring witches.

THE MOUNTAINS WILD by Sarah Stewart Taylor. This was a bit of a slog to get through for me.

An ARC of GRAVE SECRETS by Alice James. This was my favorite book of the week. A necromancer, zombies, and vampires are thrown together in the English countryside.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm reading The Mad Hatter's Son by Helen Starbuck, the first in the Annie Collins mystery series.

Life is not as difficult for a closing-in-on-80 married couple as it is for younger folks, especially those with kids. I do grocery shopping online for curbside pickup or delivery and only occasionally go inside a store or library (masked, of course) for a quick errand. I do not want this virus and will take all precautions to avoid it. Reading and writing keep me going, and Zoom meetings with friends and family are a true blessing. And the dog takes me for a daily walk for exercise!

Lesa said...

Jeff, That's interesting about Lee Goldberg's book with all the blood & missing bodies. I just finished a book yesterday that comes out in October that begins with a blood bath & a missing body.

We haven't gone that far with our branches that our open. On the other hand, we haven't figured out how to open our Central (Main) library, so I don't know what that will look like. They're trying to keep users and staff safe. And, our staff is scared to death. I imagine they are at your library, too.

I'm glad you enjoyed the Heather Lende book!

Lesa said...

I'll be interested to hear your opinion of the Perkins & McElwaine books, Gram, when you finish.

Sharon said...

We have to make an appointment for a 30 minute window to pick up books at my library. Your name on a piece of paper is attached to stapled bags containing your books with a checked out receipt inside. The books are on a table just outside the covered entryway to the library with a masked librarian inside the library doors if there are questions or problems. We also have to put our returned books in big wheeled bins rather than use the taped off book/media drops. There hasn't been any announcements as to when my library will be open to patrons. A handful of Columbus Metropolitan Library branches have started to allow to patrons inside to check out their own books but patrons are not permitted among the stacks to browse for books. And at those branches patrons can reserve blocks of time for computer use.

This week I finished BEACH READ by Emily Henry. I enjoyed it very much. My reading week has gone rather downhill since.

Next I finished SOUTH OF THE BUTTONWOOD TREE by Heather Webber. I have mixed feelings about this one. I really liked the magical realism as well as the characters of Blue Bishop and Marlo. My favorite parts were the townspeople trying to assert their opinions as to whether Blue should be able to keep the baby she found at the base of the Buttonwood tree to Judge Quimby. But then all the secrets started coming out and I felt overwhelmed and sad. Despite the happy ending I still felt like I wanted to like this so much more. Please don't let my feelings keep you from reading though. It was a good book. It might just not have been the right time for me to read it.

Now I am reading THE NEXT MRS. SUMMERS by Rhys Bowen. I nearly gave up on this series after the Kenya book. So far this one is better but after texting with my daughter who is only on page 149 after two days of reading, I may be cutting my losses and moving on at page 70. She's decided to finish but said she and Georgie have hit the end of the road. Lots of words without much happening. This is her homage to REBECCA and focuses more on Belinda and Georgie with Queenie left behind (sorry but thank goodness-a little Queenie goes a long way). Darcy is off on a mission so it is unsure if he will make another appearance before the end.

Stay safe and Happy Reading! Enjoy your time off, Lesa.

Lesa said...

Sandy, I don't think our libraries have been extremely busy either. We're holding back on opening our Central Library & Covid numbers are going up here, so it might be a while before we open that one.

I'm sorry about The Mountains Wild.

Lesa said...

I agree, Patricia. I'm in my sixties & most of my days feel normal, both at work and home. But, it does sometimes get to me, as I said, that I can't hug my best friend, I can't go see her new puppy, I can't travel. I miss all of that.

Lesa said...

Sharon, Yes, my sister & her husband have been picking up reserves at their library in the CML system.

I have to agree. That Kenya book just didn't do much for me, either. You're right. I've had enough Queenie. And, this book doesn't really interest me.

I've actually heard similar comments about both of Heather Webber's last books.

Margie Bunting said...

My library is open, but so far I've only done curbside pickup--I make an appointment and a library staffer brings out my books in a paper bag. But they do have senior hours so I'm thinking of going inside next week.

I liked SOUTH OF THE BUTTONWOOD TREE by Heather Webber better than Sharon did. The two main characters are young women, each with her own troubling past. Blue's universally-disliked family are all deceased, leaving her with the lingering family reputation and a longing to build a new family. When she comes upon a newborn baby in the forest, she hopes to adopt it against all obstacles. Sarah Grace is dealing with a bad marriage while trying not to shame her family. Both have men who would like to be in their life (one for the first time, one who has resurfaced after years) but who may be problematic. Magical realism is also a part of the story, as the town's buttonwood tree is often called upon to dispense advice. Blue can often find things people have lost, and Sarah Grace finds that the houses she buys and sells sometimes talk to her (no, not out loud) or are protective of her. The story is well told, with convincing character development and heartfelt emotion.

TRACK OF THE CAT by Nevada Barr is the first Anna Pigeon mystery, which I read for a book club. Anna is a fascinating character, who has chosen to leave New York after the death of her husband to become a law enforcement park ranger in treacherous open country. When she finds another female ranger dead of an apparent lion attack, she is concerned that it will lead to lion hunting and death so she investigates the possibility that it wasn't really a lion who caused the woman's death, putting herself in jeopardy. There are plenty of murder suspects among the park employees, their families, and residents of the areas that abut the park, so it's a twisty story. The writing is top-notch, and the environment is drawn in detail that allows the reader to feel a part of it, if only vicariously.

I agree with Lesa that the charm of the Chet and Bernie books by Spencer Quinn is not in the mystery. In fact, I thought the mystery in OF MUTTS AND MEN wasn't that interesting. But I love the fact that Chet (the dog) narrates the books from his own perspective. He clearly loves and idolizes his owner, Bernie Little, and he is a strong and dedicated backup in their private investigation agency. But he often takes what he hears literally and doesn't necessarily understand what is happening or why. His ruminations are frequently hilarious. No, he's not a talking dog, but he is the primary reason this series continues to run after 10 books.

In THE DISTANT DEAD by Heather Young, Adam Merkel was a university professor but gave it up to teach math in a middle school. One day he didn't come to school, because he'd been set on fire and murdered. The rest of the book investigates why it happened--and by whom, of course. Adam had been spending time (innocently) with a motherless sixth-grader, Sal, who was living with his two apparently uncaring uncles and forced to deliver drugs by one of his uncles, under pain of losing his home and going into foster care. Another teacher, Nora, was caring for her very ill father, the former high school football couch, who lives with guilt after causing the loss of his son years ago. Adam had lost a son, too, and feels similar guilt. All of this comes together convincingly in a bleak but fascinating story.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Doing okay here and doing better when I "social distance" from Facebook. Someone referred to it as "doom scrolling," and sometimes it does seem like that and I recognize that I'm as guilty as anyone (guiltier than some) about posting and venting about things that I find crazy and/or upsetting. So, I'm checking in only sporadically now.

I've read some good and I've read some not so great books this past week.

Ten Women by Marcela Serrano - Not for everyone. I liked it but not a sit down and read it in all one sitting book.
Outsider by Linda Castillo - My first Castillo and I liked it a lot.
The Push by Claire McGowan (ARC) - Kinda "eh," but I needed to know the end so I did finish it.
The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth (ARC) - Weird! I liked it lots.
The Best Part of Us by Sally Cole-Misch (ARC) - Liked it a whole lot.
The Secret Language of Stones by M. J. Rose - Loved it.

And now I'm rereading a book I wish everyone in the whole world would read. Armor Towles' A Gentleman in Moscow. I hesitated reading this when it first came out because, truly, I have no interest in Russia - now or ever. NPR said this: " . . . new novel stars a Russian aristocrat, sentenced by the Soviets to permanent house arrest in a luxury hotel. It's a frothy romp that tends to overlook the reality of life under Stalin." While I agree that there is some froth, there is also much in the way of philosophical thinking and introspection. And gentle humor.

It's lovely. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is a gentleman in every sense of the word, besides being a very kind man, a very smart man.

"His boredom is alleviated a little when he befriends a young girl named Nina (Think Eloise in the Plaza), who is precocious, stubborn, and most importantly, adventurous. Her single father is temporarily posted to Moscow on state business, but as he did not enroll her in school, she spends most of her time exploring the hotel. Nina has acquired a passkey for all of the hotel’s doors, and she shows the Count its various rooms and passageways."

Sending hugs!

Mark Baker said...

Should be finishing up CAT ME IF YOU CAN by Miranda James today. The book officially comes out 8/25. It's another fabulous adventure for Diesel, Charlie, and the gang.

Lesa said...

Margie, If you go inside the library, will it be the first time since you moved there? They were already closed when you moved, weren't they?

You're right about the Chet & Bernie books. I really didn't care much about the mystery in the latest one. I read for Chet.

Lesa said...

Kaye, It's Twitter that does me in. I seem to do okay with Facebook, easier to skip what I don't want to read. Sometimes, on Twitter, I get hooked on a topic and dragged down the wrong rabbit hole.

A Gentleman in Moscow. I don't know if I should take a chance on it someday, risking that I won't like it, and I'll disappoint you, or just not read it, and disappoint you. Of course, there's always that third option that I'll like it. But, odds are stacked against me. ;)

Lesa said...

Oh, jealous, Mark! You have Cat Me If You Can. Oh, well. I shouldn't complain. I don't have time to read it right now, anyways.

Glen Davis said...

I've been really busy this week. No trips to the library, no physical books.


Gumshoe Rock; Reno based PI finds the skull of the head of the local IRS in his girlfriend's car. Different, but I was disappointed the most interesting character didn't complete her arc.

Zodiac States; A Lost Race type novel about a trip to an island divided between the Zodiac signs. There is a state for Cancers, Pisces, Geminis. etc. Not bad, but author didn't seem to know an awful lot about astrology. Like too many self professed free thinkers, the author is as dogmatic as the people he criticizes.

The Stories of Cody Bill; Short snippets of memoirs, most of them about sports.

Murder at Shakes Holes; DI Skelgill and Co. find themselves stranded in an old dark house in the 21 century. Entertaining, but not quite as tough as Agatha Christie.

Margie Bunting said...

Lesa, yes, the El Dorado Hills branch of the El Dorado County library was closed when I moved here in early June. They just opened with somewhat limited hours on July 20. I know my daughter-in-law took the children to some programs there before Covid hit and liked it. It's pretty close to where they live and only about 10 minutes from me. So aside from the fact that I don't think they have as good a catalog as I would like, I definitely want to take a look at what's inside and to convert my library card to a real, not virtual, one.

Gram said...

I started A Gentleman in Moscow and could not get very far. Just not my cup of tea I guess.
I will be happy to let you know hopw I feel about the Perkins and McElwain books when I finish them.

Gaye said...

It's currently 112 degrees today in my neck of the woods so I am doing everything I can do remain totally cool. I am reading books set in December in East Texas - Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke (taking it slow as I love the sense of place that Attica Locke gives me!) and another in Chagrin Fall, Ohio in the month of October - A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette. Both of them are great distractions. I'm playing zydeco and southern jazz while craving ice cream! Staying cool almost complete.

Rosemary said...

Hi Lesa

None of our libraries is showing any sign of opening, but completely understand about the staff being terrified. I’ve noticed that more and more of the staff in the supermarkets here look to be 25 or younger - I suppose they want the jobs and are not as scared as we are of catching this wretched thing. One of the guys on the tills at Tesco said he would rather be working than sitting at home getting bored - but he looked about 16! I myself am not in the least bored at home, but I’m sure many young people must be.

I have just finished HE Bates’ ‘A Breath of French Air’, in which the Larkin clan leave a rain-sodden Kent to take a holiday in a seaside hotel in Brittany. Unfortunately when they arrive the weather on the Atlantic coast turns out to be even worse than it was at home, they hate the food and can’t sleep on the hard French beds. Nevertheless they soon settle in and by the end of their stay they are the best of friends with the local community. This book was written in the late 1950s and much of the behaviour - mainly Pa Larkin’s - would be unacceptable now, but if you can get past this it is a an entertaining read and I enjoyed it. You may have see the long-running TV series ‘The Darling Buds of May’, in which David Jason played Pa. I really can’t think of a better actor for that role - ‘perfick’ as Pa himself would say...

Now I am about to start ‘The Hog’s Back Mystery’ by Freeman Wills Crofts - it is one of the British Library Crime Classics series.

And on BBC Sounds I am listening to another old Paul Temple mystery - this one if The Conrad Case and involves a missing schoolgirl, a smart finishing school in Germany, a psychiatrist parent, a suspect author, a wealthy countess, and all the characters who usually turn up in these Francis Durbridge stories. All terribly dated of course, and the way Paul talks down to his extremely posh wife ‘Steve’ would never be OK today - again this is a bit of a period piece, but it’s fun and a great listen for when you are baking, or having a solitary meal.

By the way I LOVED ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’! I’d definitely recommend it.


Lesa said...

Glen, I had a good time with Gumshoe Rock, but it was the first one of Goldman's that I'd read. And, now I don't even remember the most interesting character! Was it his boss?

Take care of yourself! Don't overdo it.

Lesa said...

I hope you like the library, Margie! I'm glad your daughter-in-law liked it.

Lesa said...

Oh, Gaye. 112 and humid, I'm guessing. I like your method of staying cool. Take care of yourself!

Lesa said...

Rosemary, I agree. I'm not at all bored at home, either. And, there are other things I could do here, and just don't seem to find the time!

I've heard of Freeman Wills Croft, but I've never read one of his books. Let us know how it was afterwards!

I've never seen "The Darling Buds of May", but I've heard of it. I really don't watch too much TV. I seem to be streaming a lot though because I watch theater online. Tomorrow night it's the Irish Repertory Theatre's Love, Noel about Noel Coward.

Glen Davis said...


The most interesting character was Mira Tanakka, the waifish almost homeless girl. I was really hoping for some sort of new direction for her.

Lesa said...

I guess it's just been too long since I read it, Glen. I don't even remember her.

Pat S. said...

Lesa, I have to agree with most of the others...."A Gentleman in Moscow" was wonderful! If you have to drive to your work I can attest that the Audible version of the book is great and really gets you into the story....which really has very little to do with Russia. It is a lot of hours but you can pick it right back up between trips without any problem. It is quite delightful.

I have Matt Goldman's "Dead West" and Jinn McKinlay's "Paris is Always a good Idea" ready to pick up at the library. Very different genres but I find that is a good thing with so much reading while still staying home.

Lesa said...

Kaye will be so pleased that you liked A Gentleman in Moscow, Pat. It's a someday for me. I have Dead West as well, but, again, haven't had a chance to read it yet.

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