Hair of the Dog, by Laurien Berenson. I have been reading these books out of order, but it's not really a problem, since each stands well enough on its own.
In this one, Melanie Travis' aunt, Peg, who is a breeder of Standard Poodles and a force unto herself, holds a Fourth of July barbecue. Because it is on the weekend of a major regional dog show, most of the whos-who group is in attendance, with one noticeable exception. An important - but shady - breeder and handler has been murdered.
Aunt Peg is determined to find out what happened, and turns to Melanie to help her. At first there are a number of suspects, but when another murder happens, it gets even murkier as to what might be happening.
I like this series because the character of Melanie is pretty much a normal person, a single mom with a boyfriend, but the books focus more on the characters and mysteries more than being all about romance.
This was the perfect read for a trip to the beach!
The Book of Essie, by Meghan MacLean Weir. Esther Anne Hicks - or Essie, as we meet her - is known as part of the Six for Hicks family, part of a reality show about her family and her father's form of religion, which some think of as a cult. Essie has spent the bulk of her life in front of the camera. She is now seventeen years old, and pregnant. Her mother sees this as a crisis that must be dealt with and calls in the producers and others involved in the show to determine what should happen. Essie has her own plan. She has been watching a senior at her school, Roarke Richards, and knows he has a secret to hide as well.
Eventually, Essie's plan comes into focus - she and Roarke will be married, and it will be part of a blockbuster ratings for the family show. Win-win, right?
Well, the book takes us through the entire process, each chapter being from the viewpoint of a different character, including conservative reporter Liberty Bell, who we learn has her own backstory and experience of fanaticism. Essie asks Liberty to find her older sister Lissa, who left to go to college, but has never come back to visit - though she has been photoshopped into photos at holidays, etc. Essie turns out to be more observant than we might have originally given her credit for, as we learn how she feels about the rest of her family, and their on-screen lives.
This is a book that I have to admit confirmed a lot of suspicions I have always had about people who were "too" religious. My own biases, for sure, but some of the things that were said and done in the story, and the concern with appearances and how things would play for ratings seemed all to real.
This book was much better than I expected it to be. Every time a twist or turn would happen, and you thought you were headed one way, it would veer in a completely different direction. It's a book about family, but also about how difficult it can be to become your own person, whether in a group that is related, or just in the world at large. It is also a reminder that appearances can truly be deceiving, and that public and private faces are often not the same.
Blood Orange, by Susan Wittig Albert. I usually enjoy this series, though I have never read any of it in any order. This book was no different - enjoyable, even though there were new characters that I'm sure were introduced previously.
When China Bayles rents her B&B cottage associated with her business to a young woman named Kelly that she knows who is going through a divorce, she assumes it won't be any big deal. But when, the day after arriving, the woman is missing, and all of her personal effects as well as her purse, car, and clothing are found in the B&B cottage along with an unusual footprint on the carpet. Her inquiries lead to her finding that the woman rushed out of the cottage and into a van with a strange man.
A few days later, when the woman calls China to say that she is OK, but would like to meet with her to discuss a murder, they make plans to meet at China's house. But the young woman never arrives, and we learn she was in a terrible car accident on the way to meet with China and is on life support. The friend that she was staying with contacts China and hands her a flash drive from the victim's computer. Between the two of them, they figure out that there was some suspicious activity happening at the hospice where Kelly was working.
China begins to do some poking around and is close to uncovering a huge case of Medicare fraud when things start to go south for her.
This was a good read and though I figured out what was going on, I didn't figure out the suspects until near the end.
There are also some really yummy recipes at the end of the book.
One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, by Jasper Fforde. In this installment of the Thursday Next series, the *written* Thursday finds out that the *real* Thursday has mysteriously disappeared, and sets out to see if she can be found. As usual, there are the usual ups and downs of the Book World, along with amusing characterizations of literary characters and interesting/funny names (for instance, did you know that the Great Gatsby had two brothers, named Moderate Gatsby and Lesser Gatsby?).
I liked this book well enough, but frankly enjoyed the other ones more, where Thursday herself (as opposed to the written Thursday) is the main character and where she is narrating the story.
The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny. Another excellent Inspector Armand Gamache story. Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie have retired to Three Pines, and are enjoying their quiet, comfortable life there. One day, Laurent - a young boy in the village prone to tall tales - shows up warning everyone that there is a gigantic gun in the forest that will kill all of them. Everyone hears his warning, and takes it for what they assume it is, one of his drastic scenarios. But the next day, his body is found, and the investigation turns up some extremely disturbing information. Gamache becomes involved in an unofficial way, but is crucial to helping solve the crime.
This book was disturbing in many ways, dealing with international arms dealing, weapons of mass destruction, and bringing up suspicions about some of the townspeople and visitors.
A Fool and His Monet, by Sandra Orchard. This was a fun, and also interesting read. We are introduced to Serena Jones, a newly-minted FBI agent with a background in art history, and a mother who just wishes she would find a husband and have children.
As the book opens, Serena is completing her first undercover operation and though the end result is what she wanted to happen, things didn't go perfectly and now she is worried that someone is after her. She gets a distraction of a sort when her friend Zoe, a director at an art museum asks her to investigate two paintings that they have just realized are missing from inventory. No one is exactly sure when they disappeared, but Serena jumps in and begins the investigation.
I enjoyed this book because there were a lot of humorous incidents and comments, but it was also enough of a good mystery to keep you wondering what actually happened, and when, to the missing paintings.
I think I'll definitely read another part of this series.
Claws for Concern, by Miranda James. I enjoy this series. In this book, Charlie Harris and his cat Diesel are solving mysteries again, but things are different than usual. Charlie makes the acquaintance of an elderly gentleman during one of his days working in the library. The man asks him if he has ever heard of someone in the town, and as it turns out, the person being asked about is Charlie's late uncle. It turns out that his uncle was previously married and divorced before marrying Charlie's late aunt, and the elderly gentleman is his son.
Charlie considers asking the elderly man to move into his house, as he knows that what his aunt would want him to do. But he soon learns that the elderly man is someone who was thought to have gotten away with murdering a family years ago. And a true-crime writer contacts Charlie about a book he wants to write about the murder, asking for Charlie's help.
An interesting entry into the series, and the ending has a nice twist to it.
Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry. One Friday evening, Nora Lawrence takes the train from London to go north and spend the weekend with her sister Rachel. When she arrives, she finds her sister and her sister's dog murdered. What follows is the story of how she deals with the next few weeks, and the search for the killer.
I really liked the way this book moved along, showing us bits and pieces of things as they were discovered or imagined by Nora. At one point, Nora is considered a suspect, and I started thinking to myself, "Goddammit, this is gonna be like 'Girl on a Train' which I hated and made me stabby," but fortunately that was not the case, and the story continued to be as interesting as it had been.
I'm curious to read the author's next book, which I think came out quite recently.
We Should All Be Feminists, by Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie. Based on a TED talk given by the author, this is short and straightforward enough that everyone should read it. Then think about it. Then read it again. And then, if you still do not consider yourself a feminist or want to live your life as a feminist, I don't know what else to tell you.
Worth every minute of my time, and every word read.
The Secret, Book, and Scone Society, by Ellery Adams. This was a book that I came across on a list of cozy mysteries, that I wasn't too sure I wanted to read. However, I wasn't sure if I actually wanted to buy it. So when I saw it at the library, I decided to give it a try.
Admittedly, at first I thought it was gonna be one of those stories of people with magical powers that I find annoying. The good surprise was that it is in fact a story of people with magical powers - but within themselves and their personalities, which I can deal with.
The main character, Nora Pennington, is a former librarian who, after a failed marriage and terrible auto accident, has moved to Miracle Springs to start fresh. She has a bookstore, and her "power" is that she can match up a person with books that will help them deal with something in their lives. She meets a man in the beginning of the book who is in town and says he wants to make amends. Shortly afterwards, he is found dead on the train tracks.
The more that Nora and her acquaintances (who become her friends) think, talk, and find out about it, they more they feel that he was murdered, and they decide to find out exactly what happened. As the story goes on, their are more murders that just seem to *have* to be connected.
I liked this book because the mystery was interesting, but also because the characters were intriguing.
Fascism : A Warning, by Madeleine Albright. This relatively short book is worth reading if you at all care about what is currently happening in this country and around the world. I was expecting it to be quite academic, wonky, and dry. It is academic, it is by someone who is a political wonk on the highest level, but it is not dry.
Albright does a wonderful job of illustrating the phrase, "Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it" in this book, discussing what fascism is and how it begins. She uses examples of past and more recent fascists to show how changes that seemed small at the time fed into the growth of fascism, and warns that democracy in the U.S. is being attacked from every side. She sees Donald Trump and his true followers as dangerous (I agree) and does a compare-and-contrast to explain her viewpoint.
I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to, though I thought I would enjoy it nonetheless.
One chilling thing I learned reading this: When Mussolini came into power in Italy, it was with the promise to "drain the swamp." Terrifying.
A Murder for the Books, by Victoria Gilbert. Amy Webber left a job at a university library to become the director of a small public library in small-town Virginia, where she lives with her aunt in the family home. She is trying to make a new start, and in spite of being underfunded, she enjoys her new environment and is making friends.
Then a local person is murdered in the archives.
Along with a new next-door neighbor, who is more attractive than Amy would wish, she starts to try and learn what happened. After a start, it appears to have a connection to a disaster that took place years ago, as well as a murder trial from the past. What they learn is a series of clues that are related to the past having an immediate effect on the present, and involving both of their families.
This book was enjoyable enough. Sometimes keeping track of the players from the past was confusing, but it was well-written.
The Ninth Hour, by Alice McDermott. Another gem from Alice McDermott, though maybe not as transparent as some of her previous books. The book begins with the suicide of a young man who feels unfairly treated by his bosses at the subway, and somewhat badgered by his wife. We come to learn that is wife is expecting a baby, though he never found out.
In nineteenth-century Brooklyn, a lot of the work of nursing the poor fell to Catholic nuns. They take in the young mother and her baby, and the baby, Sally, grows up as a "convent girl" her mother works at the convent, and when she is not in school, she is there with her mother until the evening when they return to their apartment. Though the book is not about the father's suicide per se, it is the impetus for the lives his family lives all of the years afterwards. At the time, a suicide was considered a scandal, and salvation and entry to heaven were automatically denied. Sally and her mother live lives that are a result of this, though it's not necessarily evident.
The narrators tend to switch from time to time, which at first is off-putting, but Alice McDermott's writing keeps you reading.
I enjoyed this book, but it may be that if you did not grow up in an Irish-Catholic family, surrounded by nuns a lot of the time, it might seem unappealing. I could understand that, but I still feel it's a book worth reading.
I do apologize for not responding to comments, or commenting on your blogs recently and for the near future. I can type a bit more easily now, but it's still ridiculously tedious. But know I'm still reading, and that I love reading the comments you leave!
That's it for now. :-)