Friday, June 25, 2021

The Heron's Cry by Ann Cleeves

I had been focusing on the Vera Stanhope series and was happy to know Ann Cleeves is developing yet another detective series called Two Rivers.  Matthew Ven is the starring detective and the setting is Devon.

The story starts with a party in Barnstaple hosted by Jenn's friend Cynthia. The detective Jenn is newly single and we learn about the ups and downs of her new life as she adjusts. Jenn is getting into her cups when she meets a nice man at the party, Dr. Nigel Yeo.  He expresses an interest in contacting her later in the week.  Is it to ask for a date or is it related to business? 

Jenn won't find out as she awakens very hung over and called to a murder scene.  Nigel's daughter Eve has discovered him in his studio, dead with a shard of glass embedded in his neck.

In addition to the murder there is a suicide and the connections slowly form as you read on.  The ending was surprising.

I mostly liked the characters but I couldn't get invested in this series even though I can see this series developing into a cohesive team.  It just does not grab me as the Shetland or Vera series does. Certainly I am in the minority about this new series as I see many people love it.  The writing is well done as always - I am simply not connecting with the characters or their personal lives as I did with Cleeves' other series/detectives.

Publication date September 7, 2021 by  St. Martin's Press.  Genre: Mystery and Thrillers.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves


We start this Vera Stanhope mystery in Northumbria in a small community called Valley Farm. Ann Cleeves is such an excellent author, bringing you directly into the scene and allowing you to be the proverbial fly on the wall.  This wasn't as engaging as her other Vera novels but I did enjoy following along with the investigation.  

This time we have two murders straight away, both men killed different ways and with a curious connection.  An older man found stabbed and his identity, at first, was a complete mystery. The younger man called Patrick Randle was found face up in a ditch. Patrick  was a house sitter at a large country house - the same place mystery man was found stabbed. The only connection the two men had was an interest in moths yet they did not seem to know one another. 

When Vera starts the investgation she and her team, DC Holly Clarke and DS Joe Ashworth, start interviews with the residents of Valley Farm. Nigel and Lorraine, Sam and Annie and Jan and her professor husband. All of these couples have secrets, some relative to the investigation.

There were enough clues to set me thinking I absolutely knew what the motive would be and how it would end. Nope!  I was completely surprised.

What I loved was the quick mind and investigative thought process Vera displays in all the books. What I didn't care for was the constant reminders of Vera's weight and her health issues.  If you have read this series in order you will be well acquainted with how fat Vera Stanhope is and her occassional inner thoughts about being alone.  It seemed to be hammered in with this novel.  Lighten up there, please.

I would like to see more development with Holly Clarke's character.  She was quite introspective in this book and I wondered if she would soon be written out. She sounds like she has plenty of personal secrets and it would be interesting to know more about her.

Linking up Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

We begin this story in 1870, Wichita Falls, Texas, with Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd looking over the newspaper stories he will share at his reading in town.  As the DVD is out, and no I have not seen it yet, I do know the main character is played by Tom Hanks.  His is the voice I hear when I read this narrative.

He is approached by Britt Johnson, a freed black man, to deliver a a ten year old white girl to her surviving family.  The U.S. Army recently rescued the girl but they no longer retain responsibility to return those captured to their families. She was taken captive by Kiowa Indians, her parents and siblings slaughtered, and she had lived with them these past six years.  She loved her Indian mother and her life with the Kiowa and has forgotten about her past.  Forgotten her native German language, does not know English and is as feral and fierce as her adoptive indigenous family.

Cicada, birth name Johanna has escaped twice and is hellbent to return to the Kiowa. While Captain Kidd does not know about Indians, he does know about girls as he raised two daughters.  He accepts the undertaking and it's quite a journey between these two. An old Confederate war veteran aged 72 and a 10 year old girl full of mistrust. 

It's quite a journey through northern Texas and Indian country and I hung on to every word.  As a matter of fact, the ending of this book brought tears to my eyes and it's been a long time since a book elicted such emotion at the conclusion. 

I am very much looking forward to the movie now.  It will be interesting to compare the book to the movie. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

The time period for most of this book is WW II, the viewpoint and setting is Germany. Usually I gravitate toward England and occasionally France for novels set in the WW II era. This was, at times, difficult to read.

The first chapter starts in 1989, the setting New York. Ava Fischer sits on her bed crying after learning about her mother's death and past life. Ava had banished her mother, Ilse von Fischer, from her life ten years prior. You'll learn why as you read on.  She receives a box from Ilse's attorney with her mother's ashes and a cache of letters addressed to Renate Bauer.  Bauer isn't a name Ava has ever heard and doesn't know who the woman.  Why would her mother be writing to Bauer?

Ava discovers unsettling things about her mother's involvement with the Ilse BDM (Bund Deutscher madel) in Nazi Germany.  The chapters go back and forth mainly between Ilse and Renate in the early 1930's. Ava's chapters are interspersed.

Ilse and Renate were very good friends. They shared secrets, books, loved one another without question. There was one scene where they defied the German soldiers and went into a Jewish bakery together. The boycott of Jewish businesses didn't bother these two young ladies as they strode past the soldiers in search of sweets. Such boycotts were ridiculous for these headstrong teenagers.

But as you read on there is a sadness that such a wonderful friendship could be severely strained and eventually fractured over one being Jewish. Perhaps it’s the political climate in America today but this book had my mind drifting to the hate crimes and gang mentality I currently see in the news. While it was well written it was at times hard to read.

Reading how Ilse and Renate's friendship was tested because Renate was Jewish was uncomfortable. Reading how relationships could change in a snap because of one's heritage was sad.

Foodie book - no way. There were delectable bakery items and a traditional German meal mentioned.
Buttery poppyseed cakes, stolen, fruit pies, apple cakes, doughnuts, Schweinebraten in a crackling glaze of paprika, mustard and caraway seeds.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Outlander revisited

 Anyone who has been a fan of the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon knows her next book is about to be published!  Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone is book nine in the series.  I am not certain if that is the last book to wrap up this saga but I am anxious to read it and continue the journey.

That made me want to revisit the first book - Outlander - which started it all. 

Outlander has many of the features I love to read about – time travel, a bit of romance, it’s a historical fiction, genealogy, Scotland and lots of dialogue! I read this the first time after picking up a copy from the used book section at my local library. I was hooked! In the beginning you are getting to know Claire and Frank Randall. Frank is obsessive about his genealogy and they are in Scotland checking out the area where his ancestor, Black Jack Randall, went to battle in 1745 at Culloden.

Claire was a combat nurse, separated from Frank by war and her duties. She is reunited with her husband and they went on a second honeymoon in Scotland, getting reacquainted with each other again after a long separation. During one of their outings they visit a dolman. Something special in one of the rocks at a dolman they visited attracts Claire and, upon touching the stone, she is transported back in time – same place, but 200 years earlier. Naturally she thinks she’s landed herself in a BBC production of some costume drama when she sees the Red-coated British uniforms and Scots in full kilt and sporran get up running from them.

Meeting Frank’s ancestor, Jonathan Wolverton Randall, is shocking (for obvious reasons) but to see him as the spitting image of her husband (Frank) is quite unnerving – especially since he isn’t kind and compassionate like Frank. She is saved from certain rape and interrogation by Capt. Randall by a Scot named Murtagh. He takes Claire to a cottage where she meets Jamie Fraser for the first time. The seven or so Scottish rebels are as puzzled by Claire as she is by them. They think she’s a spy for the English. Randall thinks she’s a spy for the Scots or France. Viewed by all with suspicion makes it difficult for her to escape. Claire ends up marrying Jamie so she may become a Scottish citizen and thus, untouchable by the English and protected. Still – even with her attraction to Jamie, she plans to try and get back to her own time.

There are so many interwoven story lines within this book with all the characters; I hung on to each chapter and was left hooked on these Outlander books. Happily for me, there were 4 more in print when I first started reading it so I quickly moved on to the other stories. I am awaiting the last book of this series to come out for what is promised to be a tear jerker finale.

I've only seen a few episodes of the television series and it didn't rock my world so I can only speak about the books.

Happy Reading!

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Roundup

 I had signed up for the book challenge at Shelleyrae's site  Book'd Out  and went for the Nibbler category of six books.  Here'...