A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Title: A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock Series #1), Author: Sherry Thomas A Study in Scarlet Women. Finished 5-3-19, 4/5 stars, mystery, pub.

Unabridged audio

Lady Sherlock #1

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society.  But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.   from Goodreads

What a fun twist on a story everyone already knows.  The iconic Sherlock Holmes, whether from the classic books, movies, or TV shows is one of those rare characters that has thrived in the minds of the public for over 100 years.  After reading this I went back and did a little case study on Sherlock and am interested in reading his first book, A Study in Scarlet.  I’ve only read one of his books and am curious now for more.

Charlotte is a woman who knows her own mind and she’s not going to let her parents ruin the future she wants for herself.  When her father backs out of a deal they had made Charlotte takes matters into her own hands and disgraces herself in the process.  Now, as society shuns her she must find a way to support herself.  Enter Mrs. Watson, a widow in need of a companion, who offers her not only a home, but a business plan. “Sherlock Holmes” sets up shop.  As an old friend acts as her liaison to Scotland Yard, Charlotte wades her way into a series of murders that she tried to connect for the sake of her family.

There were a lot of characters and a lot of storylines happening and it was  a little confusing at times, especially because I was listening and not reading, but it all managed to come together in the end.  I liked the personal stories of Charlotte, her unattainable man, Mr. Ingram, and the various secondary characters that will no doubt show up in the rest of the series.  The mystery ended up being several mysteries and it came together brilliantly, even if disturbing.  I loved the narration so I’ve already downloaded the second book of the series.

My One and Only by Kristan Higgins

Title: My One and Only, Author: Kristan Higgins My One and Only. Finished 4-25-20, 4/5 stars, romance, 379 pages, pub. 2011

Divorce attorney Harper James can’t catch a break. Bad enough that she runs into her ex-hubby, Nick, at her sister’s destination wedding, but now, by a cruel twist of fate, she’s being forced to make a cross-country road trip with him. And her almost-fiancé back at home is not likely to be sympathetic.

Harper can’t help that Nick has come blazing back into her life in all of his frustratingly appealing, gorgeous architect glory. But in Nick’s eyes, Harper’s always been the one. If they can only get it right this time, forever might be waiting—just around the bend.     from Goodreads

Harper has a hunky boyfriend, a coveted house overlooking the beach, and a successful career as a divorce attorney.  Just as she’s trying to propose to hunky boyfriend her step sister calls with the news that she’s marrying Harper’s ex-husband’s brother.  Hunky boyfriend comes in handy in these situations as they head to Montana for the wedding that Harper hopes doesn’t take place.

This is not your normal romance.  Yes, there’s first love never forgotten,  regret and steamy scenes, but there is also heartbreak, divorce, strange family ties and a hero and heroine not quite like the others.  I didn’t care for Harper for awhile and my issues with ex-hubby Nick remained, BUT the book had its charm and the last few chapters were top-notch.  I like the way that Higgins dealt with the parents and their issues in this book.  For me, that where the heart was.

Higgins, as always, entertains while touching your heart.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Title: American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club), Author: Jeanine Cummins American Dirt. Finished 4-11-20, 4/5 stars, fiction, pub 2019

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?    from Goodreads

So, I read about the controversy before my book group picked it for this month.  I understood that it was coming from a sincere place.  I won’t go into it much here, but you can always do a search if you’re interested, there are lots of articles.  I read the first shocking and heartbreaking chapter and understood the hook.  I was drawn in right from the get go.

The story begins with the violent murders of Lydia’s family, fourteen in total, by the cartel in Acapulco.  Forced to flee with her son, this middle class bookstore owner has more means and motive than the average migrant heading north.  The two are literally running for their lives.  Luca is only a year younger than Gage and I would love to own a bookstore so I was perhaps extra invested in their plight.  The complexity of escaping the cartel and the stories of the people they met along the was eye opening.

I liked the way that the story was told with live action interspersed with significant flashbacks to give the story heft.  There was a humanizing of all of the characters that you don’t often find.  It’s a timely and important story with a perspective not many of us understand and for that reason alone it should be read.

My book group of ten all liked the book to varying degrees, except for the one who only made it to the 82% mark.  I found it hard to read about such a heartbreaking topic when I was so stressed and I do think that tempered my enjoyment of it.  I’m still glad that I read it.

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

Title: Before I Go to Sleep, Author: S. J. Watson Before I Go To Sleep.  Finished 3-25-20, 4.25/5 stars, thriller, pub. 2011

Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle-aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.

Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more unbelievable it seems.    fromGoodreads

I still remember the hype when this came out all those years ago, back in the days when you got together with friends and gave hugs hello and goodbye.  Christine has a condition where she wakes up every morning with no memories.  Think of the movie 50 First Dates with Drew Barrymore.  She has no memory of her middle aged body or face or the man in bed with her every morning.  Each day she says goodbye to her husband as he goes off to work and she stays home doing…well, it’s hard to say exactly.  Somehow she started seeing a doctor without her husband’s knowledge and he convinces her to start a journal and then calls most mornings to reminder where to find it.  It’s through this journal that random memories start to stick.  And it’s this journal that makes the book.

I liked this one quite a bit.  It was a mystery and thriller wrapped in a slow paced amnesiac journal.  That sounds fun, right?  Well, it worked for me.  Anything that can hold my attention right now aside from what’s going on in the world is a winner and this did just that for me.  And, yes, there is a twist that makes it memorable.

Has anyone seen the movie?

 

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child

Title: Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher Series #12), Author: Lee Child Nothing to Lose. Finished 2-17-20, 4/5 stars, thriller, 531 pages, pub. 2008

#12 of the Jack Reacher series (1-Killing Floor2- Die Trying, 3 – Tripwire, 4 – Running Blind5 – Echo Burning6 – Without Fail, 7 – Persuador, 8 – The Enemy, 9 – One Shot, 10 – Hard Way, 11-Bad Luck and Trouble)

It wasn’t the welcome Reacher expected. He was just passing through, minding his own business. But within minutes of his arrival a deputy is in the hospital and Reacher is back in Hope, setting up a base of operations against Despair, where a huge, seething walled-off industrial site does something nobody is supposed to see . . . where a small plane takes off every night and returns seven hours later . . . where a garrison of well-trained and well-armed military cops—the kind of soldiers Reacher once commanded—waits and watches . . . where above all two young men have disappeared and two frightened young women wait and hope for their return.

Joining forces with a beautiful cop who runs Hope with a cool hand, Reacher goes up against Despair—against the deputies who try to break him and the rich man who tries to scare him—and starts to crack open the secrets, starts to expose the terrifying connection to a distant war that’s killing Americans by the thousand.   from Goodreads

This is how I described Reacher in the second book, “Jack Reacher is a man’s man, but one that women are drawn to because of his sheer masculinity and unavailability.  He is who he is, take him or leave him and that confidence and physical presence makes him a force to be reckoned with.” This is still accurate all these books later although I would add loner to the mix.  The books are long, but read fast and should be enjoyed by starting at one and working your way through.

As Reacher is making his way diagonally across the country, from Maine to south of San Diego he walk from Hope to Despair in Colorado and all hell breaks loose.  He is beat up, locked up and thrown out of the town told never to return all because he walked into the diner and ordered a cup of coffee.  Reacher is not one who likes to be told what to do and sneaks back in more than once.  When all is said and done he has uncovered an Armageddon type plot and added another notch to his bedpost.  Not bad for a week’s work.

This was not my favorite, but anytime with Reacher is time well spent.

 

Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

Title: Starry Night: A Christmas Novel, Author: Debbie Macomber Starry Night. Finished 2-9-20, 4/5 stars, romance, 231 pages, pub. 2013

Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.

Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a megabestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.

Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.    from Goodreads

Sweet, implausible, and just what I needed.  This Christmas romance came at the perfect time, after a few heavy reads and winter firmly settling in.  Finn is a man’s man and Carrie a girly girl and when the two first met it was not love at first sight.  But somehow in the span of a few short days the recluse from Alaska and the reporter from Chicago fell madly in love.  The characters were good and the tension was perfect enough to carry the story and leave me in a happy place.

Happy Valentine’s Day 🙂

At Home With Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life by Jennifer L. Scott

Title: At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life, Author: Jennifer L. Scott At Home With Madame Chic.  Finished 2-9-20, home/style, 4/5 stars. 281 pages, pub. 2014

At Home with Madame Chic reveals the secrets to having a happy, fulfilling, and passionate life at home. Jennifer explains the morning send-off need not be chaotic, it’s possible to look stylish with minimal time and effort, a little forethought makes it possible to serve a home-cooked dinner every night, and details like music and scented candles can set the tone for the whole family’s evening. Organized by the pleasures that can be found throughout the day, this charming, helpful book is full of ideas, playlists, recipes, beauty routines, and advice that can turn an irritating day into an enjoyable experience.   from Goodreads

This was a perfect timing kind of read for me.  This is not the type of book that I would normally pick up, but my 30 day challenge for next month involves my wardrobe and I was browsing the library shelves in that area I picked this up.  I’m so glad that I did.  Our home is still causing me quite a bit of stress and the emphasis on putting some love and attention into your daily life, your home included, helped me view the chaos around me with a little more clarity.

As a mom with two young children she spoke a language I understand about the importance of making a childhood for your kids that they will look back on and want to emulate.  The ‘chic’ you see in some woman starts from an inner peace, an air of mystery, and there are things we ‘un-chic’ gals can do to feel some of that ourselves.  At least that’s what she tells me 🙂  There’s a lot more in here about your daily life and ways to make special memories every day, including recipes, games, wardrobe lists, and playlists.

The author has written several Madame Chic books and I do plan on looking for the others.  The library book I checked out?  I returned it and bought my own copy.  It’s such a pretty little book and something that will remind me to slow down and put a little more love and intention in to my day.

Liars’ Legacy by Taylor Stevens

Title: Liars' Legacy, Author: Taylor Stevens Liars’ Legacy. Finished 1-31-20, 4/5, thriller, 339 pages, pub. 2019

Book 2 of the Jack and Jill series (1-Liars’ Paradox)

The assassin broker is dead. The power void has left the network he controlled without restraints, and the world’s deadliest killers free to pursue their own vendettas and political agendas. The United States government, unwilling to risk upheaval and global chaos, has mobilized killers of its own to preemptively hunt down and destroy each potential threat.

Among the most dangerous on that list are Jack and Jill.

Often estranged–always connected by a legacy they can’t escape–the siblings have eluded many who want them dead. As they board a flight to Berlin hoping to meet the father they’ve never known, they suspect a trap. What they can’t predict is how far a high-level Russian operation will go to secure their skills, or how hard the U.S. operatives sent to stop them will fight to assassinate them first.   from Goodreads

I really liked the first in this series of assassins.  The seemingly unhinged mother, mysterious father, the two twins who are rarely on the same page, but both deadly.  In that book the Broker who ran the web of assassins around  the world (easy to picture if you’ve seen the John Wick movies, but not nearly as civilized as all that) was murdered.  This second installment is what happens in the aftermath.

Jack and Jill are flying to Berlin to meet the father they’ve never known, but they know they are being watched, hunted even.  With a little help from fellow killer for hire Holden the three of them manage to stay one step ahead of the Russians and Americans who want them either locked up or dead.  It was a little confusing, I was always a move or two behind.  Once they returned to the United States things became clear, even though Jack’s plans are always too smart for me to even guess at before the action starts.

I liked this one, and not just because Jack ends up in Cleveland for a bit (hanging with our homeless no less!).  It was nonstop action for over half the book until it slowed down just enough to let you catch your breath and enjoy the finish.  I loved that Holden was back and appreciate the way he sees Jill and likes her, but is willing to walk away from the crazy.  I’m intrigued by Kara, who has a thing for Jack, but works for the government.  I’m interested to see where this thing with with their father takes them.  So many things I look forward to finding out in the next book.

If you like nonstop action in your thrillers this is the series for you!

Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Title: Exit Strategy, Author: Steve Hamilton Exit Strategy.  Finished 1-29-20, 4/5 stars, thriller, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio read by Ray Porter.  6 CDs.

Book 2 in the Nick Mason series (1-The Second Life of Nick Mason)

Nick Mason has been given a true mission impossible: Infiltrate WITSEC, the top-secret federal witness-protection program that has never been compromised, locate the three men who put his boss Darius Cole behind bars for life, and kill them.

But first he has to find them—they’re ghost prisoners locked down around the clock in classified “deep black” locations by an battalion of heavily armed U.S. marshals charged with protecting them—and the clock is ticking. Cole is appealing his conviction, and these witnesses are either his ticket to freedom or the final nail in his coffin.    As he risks everything to complete his mission, Mason finds himself being hunted by the very man he replaced, the ruthless assassin who once served, then betrayed, Darius Cole. 

In an action-packed journey that leads from a high-security military installation in the Appalachian Mountains to a secret underground bunker hidden far below the streets of New York City, Nick Mason will have to become, more than ever before, the lethal weapon that Darius Cole created.   fromGoodreads

I listened to the first Nick Mason book last month and liked the way Nick, a low level criminal turned killer, was portrayed as a man making bad decisions based on wanting to live another day.  I’m not sure sympathy is the best word, but definitely some feeling of understanding kept me listening.  In this second book with Nick, one that starts about a month later, the bigger picture becomes clearer and his luck with women goes from bad to worse to the worst.  I think at least one of those could have been left out.

Somehow, Nick has become this uber assassin and I was a little confused about how he obtained all of these skills in such a short amount of time, but once I just accepted it as fact the story became more fun.  Well, as fun as killers hunting killers and leaving lots of dead bodies in wake can be.  Again, once accepted the entertainment value goes way up.

I like Nick Mason and this series, improbable as it may be, and am looking forward to the next book.

The Complaints by Ian Rankin

Title: The Complaints (Malcolm Fox Series #1), Author: Ian Rankin The Complaints.  Finished audio 1-14-20, 4/5 stars, mystery, pub. 2009

Unabridged audio read by Peter Forbes.

Book 1 in the Malcom Fox series

Nobody likes The Complaints–they’re the cops who investigate other cops. It’s a department known within the force as “The Dark Side,” and it’s where Malcolm Fox works. He’s a serious man with a father in a nursing home and a sister who persists in an abusive relationship, frustrating problems about which he cannot seem to do anything.   from Goodreads

Fox is a good cop who investigates bad cops, so imagine his surprise when someone turns the table and suddenly he’s on the wrong side.  He finds himself sympathetic to the suspected and at the same time goes too far in helping his sister, enough so that he is the one under suspicion.  Fox brings a sense of good even when you aren’t sure he’s doing the right thing, you trust him but you’re not sure why.  Maybe some of the trust you feel is because of his relationships with his father and sister.  Both relationships strain for different reasons and yet Fox never wavers in his attitude toward them.  A good solid read for lovers of Scottish mysteries or police procedurals.

I picked up this book at our library sale because it was Ian Rankin (my most read author last year) and the book was in brand new condition.  I started it thinking it was a standalone.  Turns out it’s the first of a new character who will eventually share books with Rankin’s other series with John Rebus.  I’ll probably read more with Rebus first because he has more books before the two characters meet, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it connected to a series I already love.

I recommend anything that Rankin writes 🙂