Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin and meeting the man himself!

IMG_E5464Last month Ian Rankin came to town and on a cold, snowy night and he had a packed house with fans that came from as far as Pennsylvania and New York.  I must again give a shout out to our library system, who always brings in the big names (this month I’m seeing Harlan Coben and next month Stephanie Evanovich and Heather Morris).  Anyway, I loved Ian’s first Rebus book and really wanted to spend an evening with a legit Scottish accent.  So my mom and I went (he is signing her book here).  He was delightful.  He spoke for about an hour and took a lot of questions, some very serious ones about current affairs, like Brexit, and managed to educate and entertain.

Title: Hide and Seek (Inspector John Rebus Series #2), Author: Ian Rankin Hide and Seek. Finished 3-7-19, 4.5/5 stars, mystery, 272 pages, pub. 1990

Book #2 in the Inspector Rebus series (1-Knots and Crosses)

A junkie lies dead in an Edinburgh squat, spreadeagled, cross-like on the floor, between two burned-down candles, a five-pointed star daubed on the wall above.

Just another dead addict – until John Rebus begins to chip away at the indifference, treachery, deceit and sleaze that lurks behind the facade of the Edinburgh familiar to tourists.

Only Rebus seems to care about a death which looks more like a murder every day, about a seductive danger he can almost taste, appealing to the darkest corners of his mind …    from Goodreads

So, Inspector Rebus is back.  I looked back at my thoughts on the first book and saw that I was concerned about how much alcohol everyone drank.  Well, I’m happy to say that Rebus, at least, was a bit more restrained.  It’s a year later and he has no contact with his family and his girlfriend is gone and he seems…okay?  He gets an invite to the big boys club and he takes it, if a little unwillingly.  He needs to sign off on an overdose and move on to a more cushy job, but he just can’t let it go.

When we met Ian I mentioned how much my mom enjoys dead bodies and he said that his series had a low body count.  That may be true later in the series (it’s over 20 now) but this one seemed to have its fair share of corpses.  All well deserved in my opinion.

As with the first book I love the Edinburgh setting and the often surly Inspector Rebus.  The plot will keep you reading, I promise.  I can’t wait to continue with this series.  And if you get a chance to hear Rankin speak, take it!

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Title: Still Me (Me Before You Trilogy Series #3), Author: Jojo MoyesStill Me. Finished audio 2-14-18, 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 20118

Unabridged audio read by Anna Acton, 13.5 hours

Third in a trilogy  1- Me Before You 2- After You

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She has been hired by the superrich Gopniks—Leonard and his unhappy, much younger second wife, Agnes—and finds herself amid a never-ending array of household staff and hangers-on. But Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her job and this very privileged New York life.

As Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets—not all her own—that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?     from Goodreads

Louisa Clark is one of the best heroines in the last few years.  I fell in love with her infectious spirit and have loved seeing her grow into a confident career woman following dreams she didn’t even know she had.  The Louisa we cried with in Me Before You still had me shedding a tear or two in this one, but I’m left with all good feelings about her journey.

This one opens with Louisa moving across the pond to the Big Apple and taking a job as an assistant to a wealthy wife.  She is well suited to the job.  For some reason she thinks she can keep her boyfriend through the move, but the distance proves problematic.  This was no surprise, of course, and it did take the shine off Sam for me.  Alas, our girl is a little too good at her job and is fired.  And did I mention that she met a Will look-a-like who is interested in her?

I loved it and am sad to say good-bye to Louisa, even if we are leaving her in a good place.

 

 

 

 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Title: Where the Crawdads Sing, Author: Delia OwensWhere the Crawdads Sing. Finished audio 2-8-19, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2018

Unabridged audio read by Cassandra Campbell.  12 hours 12 minutes.

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.  from Goodreads

Down in the North Carolina low country there was a girl the locals called the marsh girl.  Abandoned by her mother, her siblings and then by her abusive father, before the age of ten she fended for herself trying to survive.  Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel take pity on her by providing her a way to earn money and giving her a few necessities and friendship. Kya was truly isolated in extreme poverty at a very young.  The social workers came around and they even got her to school one day, but never could find her after that.  She knew the marsh better than anyone.  Tate, who worked in the waters with his dad befriended her and taught her to read, but too soon he was off to college and Kya was alone again.

This is a beautiful debut novel.  The writing was therapeutic to someone holed up for the winter, say, someone like me.  Kya was a great character and one made richer after you’ve finished the novel and had time to reflect.  Her extreme isolation and poverty gave way to her extreme self-sufficiency and loneliness and all of this led to the prejudice that landed her as a murder defendant.  In what could have been just a sweeping coming of age story, there comes a turn that puts her in town and on display for all of those who have shunned her for years.

I loved it and Kya will surely be sticking with me for a while.

 

Liars’ Paradox by Taylor Stevens

Title: Liars' Paradox, Author: Taylor Stevens Liars’ Paradox. Finished 12-26-18, 4.5/5, thriller, 326 pages, pub. 2018

They live in the shadows, Jack and Jill, feuding twins who can never stop running. From earliest memory they’ve been taught to hide, to hunt, to survive. Their prowess is outdone only by Clare, who has always been mentor first and mother second. She trained them in the art of espionage, tested their skills in weaponry, surveillance, and sabotage, and sharpened their minds with nerve-wracking psychological games. As they grew older they came to question her motives, her methods–and her sanity . . .

Now twenty-six years old, the twins are trying to lead normal lives. But when Clare’s off-the-grid safehouse explodes and she goes missing, they’re forced to believe the unthinkable: Their mother’s paranoid delusions have been real all along. To find her, they’ll need to set aside their differences; to survive, they’ll have to draw on every skill she’s trained them to use. A twisted trail leads from the CIA, to the KGB, to an underground network of global assassins where hunters become the hunted.   from Goodreads

It’s been too long since I’ve read a book by Taylor Stevens.  I loved her Vanessa Michael Monroe series and am happy to report that I loved this start to a new series too.  Jack and Jill are twins with a complicated history and a rocky present, but their obligation to their mother forces them to come together and harness their skills.

I loved the family dynamic and international intrigue, somehow managing to make the Cold War into a love story.  Clare was a driven woman, who we saw through the lens of her kids who had believed her crazy most of their lives.  Jack was the favored child and Jill lashed out in all the ways she could.  When an assassin takes out one and comes for the other two, all hell breaks loose.

I can’t wait to get my eyes on the next one!!

When I received this to review I did a search of the blog to remind me of the first time I met Taylor at Bouchercon in 2012.  I had actually forgotten the Mary Higgin Clark story so I was happy to revisit the post.  Maybe you’ll get a chuckle too 😉

 

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Title: On Second Thought, Author: Kristan HigginsOn Second Thought. Finished 12-14-18, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, 470 pages, pub. 2017

Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is being blindsided by a breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her older half sister, Kate, who’s struggling with a sudden loss of her own.

Kate’s always been the poised, self-assured sister, but becoming a newlywed—and a widow—in the space of four months overwhelms her. Though the sisters were never close, she starts to confide in Ainsley, especially when she learns her late husband was keeping a secret from her.

Despite the murky blended-family dynamic that’s always separated them, Ainsley’s and Kate’s heartaches bind their summer together when they come to terms with the inevitable imperfection of relationships and family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.    from Goodreads

I’ve read one series from Kristan Higgins and adored it (Blue Heron series) and thought I’d try one of her mainstream titles.  I loved this one.  Same humor, same tension, and same heart. I’m excited to read more of her standalone titles.

This is a story of two sisters sharing a father and a complicated family history.  Kate, after being labeled a spinster, loses her husband of four months to a freak accident.  Ainsley, who, like Kate, you rolled your eye at for a while, grew on you and by the end you wish you could be more like her.  These two sisters, who were never close, find themselves at a crossroads that they need each other to get through.  I loved them and their strange family dynamics, but more than that I loved the true friendship that developed through circumstance.

There were guys at the ready to help both women, of course.  The boss who noted every minute you were late and Daniel the hot firefighter (no, really, this is his name) were excellent additions and made happy endings more than a possibility.  I loved them both.

I recommend it.  But then I recommend everything she writes 🙂

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris


Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Author: Heather Morris

 

 

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  Finished unabridged audio 12-4-18, 4.5/5 stars, memoir, pub. 2018

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.     from Goodreads

I read Jill’s review in October and thought this would be a great pick for Jason and, it turns out, it was a great read for me as well.  I loved Lale and Geta and the other prisoners we were able to meet.  This book showed the strength of the human spirit in the darkest of circumstances and I recommend it for everyone.  I don’t have time to put more thoughts to the keyboard right now, but I encourage you to go read Jill’s review.  It’s better than anything I could come up 🙂

Eyes on You by Kate White

Title: Eyes on You: A Novel of Suspense, Author: Kate WhiteEyes on You. Finished 11-19-18, rating 4.5/5, mystery,  306 pages, pub. 2014

After losing her on-air job two years ago, television host Robin Trainer has fought her way back and now she’s hotter than ever. With her new show climbing in the ratings and her first book a bestseller, she’s being dubbed a media double threat.

But suddenly, things begin to go wrong. Small incidents at first: a nasty note left in her purse; her photo shredded. But the obnoxious quickly becomes threatening when the foundation the makeup artist uses burns Robin’s face. It wasn’t an accident—someone had deliberately doctored with the product.

An adversary with a dark agenda wants to hurt Robin, and the clues point to someone she works with every day. While she frantically tries to put the pieces together and unmask this hidden foe, it becomes terrifyingly clear that the person responsible isn’t going to stop until Robin loses everything that matters to her . . . including her life.   from Goodreads

First, I need to set the stage.  We are living back home, but only in a few rooms with pretty much no furniture.  We have two mattresses on the floor in the family room and in the kitchen we have one metal outside chair and one basic wooden stool.  The only real option for reading is the kitchen and the seats are only comfortable for about 10 minutes at a time (already I’m standing to type this).  So, reading has not been easy in the past month.  Imagine my surprise when I got sucked into this one and alternated between those two seats until I finished it at 1:30 am!  It was that addicting.

Now for the rundown.  Robin was making a career comeback.  Her book was being released at the same time her on-air TV gig was catching on.  She should have been flying high, but creepy and dangerous things started happening to make her feel threatened and she was afraid to make waves at work.  He sexy co-star offered his body for comfort and for a few hot minutes she resisted.  But good sex can take you only so far and Robin was feeling the pressure.

This was a great who-dun-it with real drama and lots of suspects that never felt like to many.  I learned about the TV business and how cutthroat it can really be.  This read so fast and I recommend it for everyone, but only when you have a few free hours.  I kept telling myself only one more chapter until there were none left.  The writing and the story were excellent.

How To Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh

Title: How to Eat, Author: Thich Nhat HanhHow To Eat.  Finished 9-1-18, rating 4.5/5, mindfulness, 128  pages, pub. 2014

Eating is a chance to return to the present moment.

How to Eat is the second in Parallax’s series of how-to titles by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. These friendly, pocket-sized books contain several delightful illustrations by Jason DeAntonis, and are appropriate for those practicing in any spiritual tradition and all levels of familiarity with mindfulness practice.      from Goodreads

This is part of his mindfulness series, of which I’m a huge fan.  Hanh is a Buddist monk and his books expand the way I see the world and his books will always be on my to-read list.  This is a slight 125 page book on not only how to eat, but how to do so with the meaning.  Mindfulness is about being present in all that you do, so by bringing that to your food, you can change your life for the better.  This is not a diet book, but he does touch upon that we should only be putting the healthiest of foods in our body and that we should not be eating our worries, fear, or anger.  I’ll leave you with a few quotes.

“Enjoy your meal. Stop thinking and be here fully, body and mind.” page 32

“With each meal, we make choices that help or harm the planet.” page 59

“If we feel empty, we don’t need to go to the refrigerator to take things out to eat.  When you eat like that it’s because there is a feeling of emptiness, loneliness, or depression inside.  The moments of our daily lives can be filled with joy and meaningful activities.  Our community includes our family and friends and our connection to other living beings.  They are there to help us get out of these feelings.  We are not alone.  Sharing a meal together is not just to sustain our bodies and celebrate life’s wonders, but also to experience freedom, joy, and the happiness of being in a harmonious community during the whole time of eating.”  page 77

“May we find ways to live more simply in order to have more time and energy to change the system of injustice that exists in the world.”  page 113

The Night Bookmobile, Night Shift, Herding Cats – 3 graphic books worth reading

Title: The Night Bookmobile, Author: Audrey NiffeneggerThe Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. Finished 9-28-18, rating 4/5, graphic short story, 40 pages, pub. 2010

First serialised in the Guardian, The Night Bookmobile tells the story of a young woman who one night encounters a mysterious disappearing mobile library that happens to stock every book she has ever read. Seeing her history and her most intimate self in this library, she embarks on a search for the bookmobile. Over time, her search turns into an obsession as she longs to be reunited with her own collection and her memories.  from Goodreads

I loved this sad, odd little tale of a woman who loves her books.  One night she discovers a bookmobile on a darkened street and walks in to discover everything she’s ever read in her life.  Dazzled and amazed she dedicates her life to reading more books to fill the bookmobile and searching for the magical library on wheels.  What a fun concept!  It was too short and the illustrations were just okay, but I loved it.  Just the right mix of fairy tale and cautionary tale.


Title: Night Shift, Author: Debi GlioriNight Shift by Debi Gliori. Finished 9-28-18, rating 4.5/5, graphic book about depression, 32 pages, pub. 2017

With stunning black and white illustration and deceptively simple text, author and illustrator Debi Gliori examines how depression affects one’s whole outlook upon life, and shows that there can be an escape – it may not be easy to find, but it is there. Drawn from Debi’s own experiences and with a moving testimony at the end of the book explaining how depression has affected her and how she continues to cope, Debi hopes that by sharing her own experience she can help others who suffer from depression, and to find that subtle shift that will show the way out.    from Goodreads

I was so moved by this powerful book about depression.  In only 32 pages of images I felt the crushing weight of depression.  I understood it in a new way.  This is a must read for anyone who loves someone who is suffering or for those who feel alone and don’t know where to turn.


Title: Herding Cats: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection, Author: Sarah AndersenHerding Cats by Sarah Anderson. Finished 9-28-18, 4/5 stars, graphic nonfiction, 108 pages, pub. 2018

With characteristic wit and charm, Sarah Andersen’s third collection of comics and illustrated personal essays offers a survival guide for frantic modern life: from the importance of avoiding morning people, to Internet troll defense 101, to the not-so-life-changing futility of tidying up. But when all else fails and the world around you is collapsing, make a hot chocolate, count the days until Halloween, and snuggle up next to your furry beacon of hope.    from Goodreads

This the third collection, but I’m not familiar with the author or the first two and this book was so quirky and fresh that I had a smile on my face the whole time.  Lots of the reviews on Goodreads include some of the panels and you should definitely take a look.  I plan on checking out her earlier books.

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Title: Our Town, Author: Thornton Wilder

Our Town. Finished 9-17-18, 4.5/5 stars, classic play, 181 pages, pub. 1938

Our Town was first produced and published in 1938 to wide acclaim. This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of life in the small village of Grover’s Corners, an allegorical representation of all life, has become a classic. It is Thornton Wilder’s most renowned and most frequently performed play.     from Goodreads

It’s Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire (population 2,642), early 20th century, and the Stage Manager leads us (the audience) through the years.  We follow two families, the Gibbs and the Webbs as the doctor and the newspaperman and their families lead their lives in the small New England town.  The three acts, years apart, see Emily as a child, a teen and a young bride.

I had forgotten how much fun it can be to read a play. First performed in 1938 on a stage devoid of props this play is simplicity at its deepest. The lives of the townspeople weren’t particularly interesting which made the ending such a punch in the gut (of the gentle and not hurtful variety) for me.  That third act was brilliant.  I loved it.

“That’s what it was like to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those…of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another. Now you know- that’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to. Ignorance and blindness.”

This won the Pulitzer Prize and  my 23rd selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.