Friday, April 29, 2022

When We Fell Apart - Soon Wiley

When We Fell Apart is Soon Wiley's debut novel. Which, I have to say surprised me. His writing is simply beautiful. 

Min is a young Korean -American man who has taken a job in Korean. He has always felt like he never quite fit into his life. Perhaps moving to Seoul and exploring his heritage will bring a sense of belonging. He meets and begins to date Yu-jin, a young woman also trying to find peace in her life, a place, a belonging. She is an only child and is expected to excel and achieve the goals her parents have laid out before her.

Now, this isn't a spoiler as it's front and center in the publisher's description. Yu-jin dies. Was she murdered? Or was it suicide? This news hits Min extremely hard. He can't understand why or how she died and takes it upon to seek out the answer to those questions.

Wiley tells his story in dual timelines - the present for Min and the time before her death for Yu-jin. Wiley did a fantastic job of bringing Yu-jin to life for me, from memories as a young child to the young woman questioning her life, her goals, her wants, her needs and more. As an observer, we can see the danger just waiting to cross her path. 

Min becomes focused on nothing but the reasons for her death and who is responsible. We come to know him through his thoughts and actions. The mystery of Yu-jin's death consumes him and as he chases answers, and he realizes he didn't know the real Yu-jin at all. My suppositions on whodunit changed often as I read. 

I loved the vibrant descriptions of Seoul, the people, the food, the attractions, the shops, the karaoke bars and more. 

Wiley deftly explores family relationships and their expectations, the search for one's identity, culture, love and more. His prose are eloquent and nuanced, making for thoughtful, introspective reading. See for yourself - read an excerpt of When We Fell Apart.

"In Korea they call it Han. It's a feeling of sorts A kind of collective despair in response to being conquered and oppressed for long periods of time, over generations. To choose you own destiny - that's what an individual, a nation, craves most. Han is a result of that most basic desire being crushed. "

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Children on the Hill - Jennifer McMahon

The Children on the Hill is Jennifer McMahon's new book. 

From Simon and Schuster: "From the New York Times bestselling author of The Drowning Kind comes a genre-defying new novel, inspired by Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, that brilliantly explores the eerie mysteries of childhood and the evils perpetrated by the monsters among us." You had me at Frankenstein....

McMahon employs one of my favorite storytelling methods - past and present. The past in this case is 1978 at Dr. Hildreth's renowned psychiatric treatment center in Vermont. Her grandchildren, Violet and Eric, also live with her. The present is 2019 with Lizzy Shelley, host of the Monsters Among Us podcast. She is on her way to Vermont to follow up on a sighting of 'Rattling Jane'. And you really had me at monster sightings.

The Children on the Hill has a gothic feel to it - secluded, gated psychiatric hospital avoided by the locals, questionable 'treatments', a sense of mystery and suspense, and someone in peril. There are some creepy excerpts from Violet and Eric's homemade "Book of Monsters, that's full of how to information - how to find them - and more.

Will Lizzy find a monster hiding in the woods? And what is the draw of this legend for her? Hint - it's personal...

McMahon does a great job of building the suspense and danger in both timelines. She also gives the monster and young Violet a voice. The listener is able to start piecing things together with those different views and times. The nod to Shelley is easy to spot, but McMahon ends things on a lovely, didn't see that coming twist in the final pages. Another great read from McMahon.

I chose to listen to The Children on the Hill. I find I become more immersed in a story when I listen to it - especially suspense novels. (Note - even creepier when listening in the dark...) The reader was Erin Moon - a new to me reader. I thought she did a great job. She provides a slow, dark almost hissing voice for the monster that just says 'danger'. Lizzy's voice was engaging and likable. She provided believable voices for the supporting cast, including children, teens and males. Her diction was crisp, easy to understand and pleasant to listen to. She interprets McMahon's work very well accentuating the danger, suspense, action and emotions. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Children on the Hill

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

An Honest Lie - Tarryn Fisher

An Honest Lie is Tarryn Fisher's new novel. The title had me taking a second look...I liked the juxtapose of the two words.

Rainy has moved to Washington state be with her boyfriend. She's happy with just her own company, but is making an effort to make friends - for Grant's sake more than hers. She reluctantly agrees to go on a Vegas weekend with 'the girls'. Rainy has her reasons to stay out of Vegas, but ultimately goes with them.

It is here that Fisher splits her story into a then and now narrative. Then takes us back to young Rainy (aka Summer) who was a member of a cult. Fisher provides us with her own take on cults and their leaders. I do think the whole cult angle has been done so many times that it's hard to come up with anything truly fresh. The now thread amps things up when of the group going missing. Could the two past and present intersect? And how?

I did enjoy Rainy as a lead character. She's a survivor, smart and capable. The supporting players in the 'now' are somewhat cliched - it seems there's a mean girl and peer pressure no matter where you go. In this case it's Tara. Again well depicted - you can't help but dislike her. Taured - the leader of the cult - is also written that way. His dialogue, manipulations and actions will infuriate you. As they're meant to do. There are a few 'good' characters, such as Violet.

There is indeed a meeting of past and preset, which I will leave for you to discover, so as not to spoil it for you. There are a few plot devices that require the listener to suspend disbelief, but just go with it. As well, I'm not sure the 'my man' thread worked for me.

I chose to listen to An Honest Lie. The reader was  Lauren Fortgang. She did a great job. She enunciates well and her voice is pleasant to listen to and the pace of speaking was just right. Fortgang has come up with voices that really suit the characters. The voice for Rainy suited her strength. Tara? Oh, the perfect mean girl tone and inflections. And a suitably sinister one for Taured. Fortgang captures the tone of Fisher's book and presents it very well. She captures the action, the emotions and situations of the plot. Her voice has movement, instead of 'just reading'. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of An Honest Lie.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Wild Girls - Phoebe Morgan

Phoebe Morgan's latest book is The Wild Girls. And it's a wild tale!

As teenagers, Grace, Felicity, Alice, and Hannah dubbed themselves The Wild Girls. They were fast friends until something happened two years ago that destroyed the friendship. As listeners we don't know what that 'until' is. But, when Felicity contacts the other three with an olive branch - an all paid escape to a Botswana holiday spot to celebrate Felicity's birthday - they all agree to go.

Morgan gives a voice to all four women and we slowly learn more about their friendships, their personal lives and their inner thoughts. Morgan slowly lets the listener to get closer to what happened amongst the four. And...what is happening now. Because there's something very wrong at the holiday spot.  

Morgan deliciously ramps up the suspense with every new chapter, often changing the narrator at a critical spot. (Which only ensures I will be up late listening to 'just one more chapter.'

Now, I thought I had things all figured out as the end drew near. I had guessed one bit, but didn't see the last 'gotcha' coming. Well done Phoebe Morgan!

I am so glad that four narrators were used for this book - Stephanie Racine, Polly Baron, Silvia Presente and Olivia Dowd. Each had a completely different voice that made it easy to know who was speaking. Each voice suited the character they were reading. The readers were very expressive in their roles, easily capturing the uncertainty, the unknown, the danger and the tension of Morgan's book. All four spoke clearly, enunciated well and were easy to understand. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I become more immersed in a book when I listen. And The Wild Girls is the perfect example of that. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Wild Girls.

The publisher has suggested that if you like Ruth Ware and Lucy Foley, you'll like Phoebe Morgan. I agree. Great plot, great listening experience. Five stars for me. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Watch Out For Her - Samantha M. Bailey

Watch Out For Her is Samantha M. Bailey's second novel. 

Sarah and her husband Daniel decide to take on Holly as a summer babysitter for their young son Jacob. Holly is the daughter of one of Daniel's colleagues. And it's good in the beginning - until it's not. Sarah and her family end up packing up and moving from Vancouver to Toronto to put distance between themselves and Holly. 

So, what happened? Bailey tells her story from a now and then narrative, alternating between Sarah's and Holly's point of view. I didn't like Holly at all, despite what's going on with her. I initially liked Sarah in the beginning, but changed my mind fairly early on in the book. There are a number of supporting players in both locales, providing lots of options for suspicious behavior. 

As I read Watch Out For Her, I started to note some plot points with a 'really?' There were just too many coincidences, unrealistic behaviors and too many threads that were simply unbelievable for me. The whodunit is fairly obvious and easy to suss out. Much of the plot is cliched and the overall effect was too much. Less can sometimes work better than so many disparate and farfetched threads. 

I'm in the minority on this one. Check out what others thought on Goodreads.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Free - Lauren Kessler

Free is the new book from award winning author Lauren Kessler

The cover provides a good guess as to what's inside - which is a fascinating, eye-opening look at what happens after an incarcerated person is released from prison. The statistics alone tell a story. 

"With just five percent of the world's population, the United States accounts for close to 25 percent of the world's prison population." "...on any given day one-third of adult Americans are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole."

And building on that - "Nearly half of all who are released are rearrested within the first year, and two-thirds are rearrested within the first three years." So what happens when an incarnated person is released? How are they prepared? What help is available pre and post release? After reading Free, I can see where there are cracks in the system and a set of stumbling blocks just waiting. What can we as a society or as an individual do? 

Kessler has opted to combine the investigative bit with a window into the personal lives of six released prisoners and their 're-entry' journey over the course of a few years. How do you measure success? Being released is not equal to free. I found the stories of the six people to be compelling, especially that of  Sterling Cunio. Those personal stories illustrated the hurdles or re-entry well.  

Kessler's writing is forthright, knowledgeable and compassionate. Free is a thought provoking book that will have you thinking... See for yourself - read an excerpt of Free.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Kew Gardens Girls at War - Posy Lovell

The Kew Gardens Girls at War is Posy Lovell's new novel. I can't seem to get enough of  WWII historical reads. 

Settling in, I thought that Lovell might have already written a book set in Kew Gardens. I did a quick check and saw that yes, she has written one set in the WWI years at the Gardens. (I've added it to my teetering TBR pile.) But there's no need to have read that book before reading The Kew Gardens Girls at War.

I liked the premise - which is based on historical fact. ("Kew Gardens is now officially home to the largest living plant collection on earth.") In the war years, a showpiece Victory Garden was grown, showing how even a small patch could feed a family year round. But, I didn't know about the County Herb Committees which were nationwide medicinal plant collecting committees. I really liked the descriptions of the gardens and the veggie plots. A great setting. Lovell's descriptions of war torn London also brought the setting to life.

But, the best bit of all is the characters. Daisy and Beth are our leading characters. They're both from very different backgrounds, with different goals and are at different stages of life. But they hit it off and become fast friends. The supporting cast brings in a number of strong personalities, who change the narrative with their actions as well.

Lovell captures the Keep Calm and Soldier On attitude of the Brits in wartimes. Needs must and you just have to get on with things. But there are wounds don't show as well. Lovell brings some serious issues into her story, including shell shock and racism. 

The Kew Gardens Girls at War is a warm, caring, comfortable read that celebrates family, fortitude, friends and yes, romance.  See for yourself - read an excerpt.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Last Party - Cassidy Lucas

The Last Party is Cassidy Lucas's new book. 

It's a first read of this author for me. And quite honestly after reading the first chapter, I thought it might not be. 

Each chapter is prefaced with a date and a confirmation of whose point of view we're reading. The first chapter introduces Raj (the Drifter). Raj is mentally ill and/or high as a kite. Or both. I finished that first chapter and wondered about what I'd just read. Did I want to keep going?

It was curiosity that had me picking up the book again. The setting is the Celestial Ranch in the Topango Canyon. Seven old friends get together to celebrate Dawn's fiftieth birthday. Okay, friends might be a stretch. They used to have a connection, but something went wrong many years ago. But it's all good now - right?

Each and everyone of the guests is unlikable, dysfunctional and honestly quite cruel. The ranch staff is only Twyla, her husband and a friend of Twyla's who is a psychic. I liked Twyla and that's about it. Everyone else has their own agenda. And the birthday activities? Seriously? I won't reveal them in case you do choose read The Last Party. Bad decisions abound. Peer pressure at fifty. 

The connections and behaviour of each and every player was patently ridiculous. I still kept reading, because I simply had to know what the ending would bring. Why did the author give Raj the final pages? And end it the way they did? Why not tie up the loose ends of the group of seven? What happened after the basement?

On looking at the Cassidy Lucas webpage, I learned that Cassidy Lucas is actually the pen name of writing duo Julia Fierro and Caeli Wolfson Widger. Maybe too many ideas between the two? It felt like every last one seemed to make it into this book. There were some good ideas that would have benefitted from focus, instead of so much and so many. On turning the last page, I felt a kinship with Raj - what the heck just happened....

Monday, April 18, 2022

Blood Sugar - Sascha Rothchild

Blood Sugar is Sascha Rothchild's debut novel. 

The first chapter is a real 'gotcha'. Shocking and unexpected. And on the heels of that chapter, we meet the police station being questioned about a murder. Actually it's more than one...

And as she's being questioned she remembers and silently recounts her life. This was a great storytelling method, keeping me hooked with every revelation - and every murder.

What a complicated character Ruby is. She's kind, has friends, relationships and is a truly caring psychologist. I quite liked her. As the book progresses it's hard to reconcile this likeable persona with the crimes she is accused of. The focus of the book is Ruby herself.

Rothchild is also a Emmy-nominated screenwriter - and it shows in her writing. Her prose are smooth and make for addictive reading. Her plotting is very clever with twists that delighted me. I really enjoy twists you can't see coming.  See for yourself - read an excerpt of Blood Sugar.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Nobody But Us - Laure Van Rensburg

Nobody But Us is Laure Van Rensburg's newly released, debut novel. 

Ellie and Stephen are headed out for a weekend away at a secluded cabin. An unexpected snowstorm and loss of a cell signal seals them off even more.

The book begins with a prologue from a police perspective at the cabin. So, right from the first pages, we know right away that one of the two doesn't make it out. I wanted to know who and why.

The first thing that glared out at me was the age difference between Stephen and . And that Ellie is a student and he is a literature professor. I'll be honest - I immediately thought been there, read that. 

Van Rensburg tells her story from three points of view - Ellie, Steven and and that of an unknown character. That third perspective kept me curious. I have to applaud Van Rensburg for her depiction of Stephen. He was absolutely intolerable, so sure in his own mind and ego that he is a catch and that any female he takes note of should be thankful. My opinion of Ellie changed as the book moved forward. I can't say I really liked her either.

I can see the motive for one character's actions, but I didn't entirely buy into the plot. I think things could have been tightened up a bit, as the back and forth between the two started to feel repetitive. For me, this novel was a slow burn.

To be fair, Van Rensburg does put her own spin on things, but it still wasn't enough to lift this book from just okay for me, despite the descriptor of "a locked room high concept thriller". That being said - Van Rensburg's final 'why' is an important one. Gentle readers, there a number of triggers in this book.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Patron Saint of Second Chances - Christine Simon

The Patron Saint of Second Chances is Christine Simon's newly released debut novel. If you're looking for a light-hearted, humorous listen, this is the perfect book for you. (Especially if you've enjoyed other books that feature a grumpy senior trying to do the right thing with mixed results, a small village filled with quirky, lovable characters and a David and Goliath story!)

Simon has set her book in Prometto, Italy (population 212). Senor Speranza acts as the mayor of the village and so it is he that finds out that the village water system needs repairing - at a cost of 70,000 Euros. How can he raise the needed funds without worrying the other residents - or having them move away? Hmm, why not start a rumor - that movie star Dante is going to be filming a movie in and around Prometta!? Surely that will bring in the tourists.

Simon has come up with a fun, light-hearted premise that's just plain fun to listen to. The rest of the village becomes enamored of the film idea, especially with heart throb Dante starring. Uh huh - you can see some flaws in his idea can't you? You just know things aren't going to go to plan for Senor Speranze, no matter how many saints he calls upon.

Simon does a great job with her characters. I love quirky characters and The Patron Saint of Second Chances is chockablock with them. I quite liked Senor Speranze, but his assistant Smilzo was my favorite. (You'll love his screenplay ideas) Simon explores the power of community, relationships of many types and the power of believing in something and someone in her story. A lovely listen that kept me company as I puttered.

I chose to listen to The Patron Saint of Second Chances. The reader was Tim Frances. He did a great job of bringing Simon's work to life. He has a lovely, gravelly tone to his voice that absolutely fit the mental image I had created for Senor Speranze. And it suited the age of the character. Frances is an enthusiastic reader, easily capturing the emotions of the characters and the tone of the plot. He provides a suitable, believable Italian accent for the characters when they are speaking. As the 'narrator' he speaks in his own British accent, which also has lots of movement. See for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Patron Saint of Second Chances.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Investigator - John Sandford

‎I am a long time fan of John Sandford's writing, having literally read everything he’s written. 

Sandford has moved his characters along in real time - they age and change as their lives move forward. Davenport's adopted daughter Letty is now 24 years old. When she joined the series, I have to admit I really didn’t like her. She has continued to make appearances in the Prey series and slowly but surely she has grown on me. Sandford's latest book, The Investigator, features Letty as the lead character. And after just a few chapters, I was solidly in Letty's court. 

The opening chapter gives you a feel of what the rest of the book(s) are going be like - which is one heck of a good page-turner. Letty is working for a Senator (shades of her dad) and ready to quit (she's bored) when the Senator offers up an investigative position working with a member of Homeland Security. She's intrigued, takes the job and is paired with investigator John Kaiser. The two make a really good team - age and experience combined with youth and intelligence. Both have the drive to go the extra mile. The dialogue between the two is short and snappy, suits the characters and echoes Sandford's style. 

Oh my gosh - the plotting! The case is ripped from newspaper headlines and is more than possible. I'm sure it's happening already somewhere. It's brilliantly written and will have the reader on the edge of their seat, turning just one more page. There’s so much action in this book and the danger level is set to high.

This book is listed as the first in the new series an I for one cannot wait to see the second book featuring Letty - and John as well I hope. See for yourself – read an excerpt of The Investigator

And for those of you who are long-term time fans like myself there is a mention of you know who in the book. Virgil Flowers. And speaking of Virgil and Lucas - keep  your eyes out for Righteous Prey (#32) due out in October 2022.

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Sign for Home - Blair Fell

It's no secret - I love to read and listen to books. I have my favourite genres but I really, really appreciate being caught off guard with something new, different or unexpected. Blair Fell's new novel The Sign for Home is one of those books.

Arlo Dilly is a young DeafBlind man, a Jehovah’s Witness and is under his uncle's guardianship. His life is strictly regimented by that uncle - no friends, no extracurricular activities, just church work, no internet, no video phone, just a narrow, prescribed life. Arlo finally convinces Brother Birch to let him take a creative writing class at the local community college. He’s put on strict warning to behave and another JW will act as his ASL interpreter. When a second interpreter is needed, that's when Cyril comes in.

We come to know Arlo bit by bit through his inner thoughts and his writing. A reference to something and/or someone in his past tantalizingly unfolds as Arlo finds his voice and his wings, slowly but surely. Cyril is a part of that, wanting more for his client. He too has his own memories that he needs to confront. He's not perfect, but he tries to be and do the best he can. Sanctimonious Brother Birch had me shouting out loud - he made me so angry! Cyril's best friend Hanne is a free spirit who doesn't hear the word no.

I would’ve loved this book if I read it, but I chose to listen - and that was the perfect choice for this story. I always feel immersed in a story when I listen. I was thrilled to find that it was the author himself narrating his own work. Fell actually works as an ACL interpreter. He knows what he’s writing about  and his work has that ring of authenticity. Fell is a very expressive reader. He captures the loneliness, frustration, sadness, anger, hope and love that Arlo experiences. Arlo 'speaks' in staccato bursts that I feel are an accurate depiction. Fell provides different voices for the supporting cast that make it easy to know who is speaking. His voice is clear and easy to understand. A great book and a great performance. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Sign for Home. 

Arlo's awakening and reckoning made for a 'just one more chapter' listen, keeping me up 'til late at night. The Sign for Home is gut wrenchingly good and heartbreakingly sad. You’re gonna love it. Absolutely, positively recommended. An easy five stars.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Sari, Not Sari - Sonya Singh

Sari, Not Sari is Sonya Singh's debut novel. I really enjoyed it! 

What's it about? From Simon and Shuster: "This delightful debut rom-com follows the adventures of a woman trying to connect with her South Asian roots and introduces readers to a memorable cast of characters in a veritable feast of food, family traditions, and fun."

Our lead character is Manny - the owner of a unique business. 'Breakup' helps people ease the pain of ending their relationships. They'll help find the right way and words to break up - by email and/or text. A fun premise for sure. You'll find email requests at the beginning of each chapter that are quite funny. I found this tidbit reading Singh's bio - "Sari, Not Sari, is an ode to her own personal dating experiences, during which she honed the art of writing the perfect break-up email/text."

Now, following the rom-com formula, Manny has her own relationship issues, there's a client that might just be more than business, a find yourself epiphany for our lead character, a great bunch of quirky supporting characters and the ending that you really want. I quite liked Manny as a lead - she's warm, funny, caring and - she can't see that her fiancĂ©e is a bit of a donkey's behind. 

Singh gives us more to love with Manny's search for her South Asian roots and the large, boisterous and loving Patel family. Seriously, I'd love to go to one of their family get togethers - food, family and dancing - what's more to want? (Note that I really like Bollywood movies and can see this novel as a film!)

I loved Sari, Not Sari - what a great debut this was. Pick this one up for the beach bag this summer. 

I look forward to Singh's next book. But for now - read an excerpt of Sari, Not Sari. You can connect with Sonya Singh on her website and on Instagram.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Diamond Eye - Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn's previous book The Rose Code was my favorite historical read last year. When I heard she had a new book coming out I wondered - could she match that fantastic read? Well, the answer is a resounding yes! The Diamond Eye has just released and it too is a fascinating blend of fact and fiction.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Mila Pavlichenko. You’ll recognize the first name, but most likely not the second. Pavlichenko was a Russian sniper in WWII who came to be known - and feared - as Lady Death. 

Quinn brings Mila to life in the Diamond Eye. We meet her as a young mother, a hard worker, a loyal patriot, and a historical librarian student. When the Germans declare war, she immediately steps up to defend her country. She’s such a great lead character, strong, feisty, determined and clever. She’s also a woman and a mother and Quinn explores and depicts those facets of her life as well. She faced great deal of adversity on all fronts. Not everyone thinks Mila should be the sniper she is, or the face of the Russian soldier. There’s lots of action, danger and a mystery woven into The Diamond Eye.

I chose to listen to the The Diamond Eye. The reader was one of my favorites -  the very talented Saskia Maarleveld. She has the most wonderfully expressive voice. Her voice is rich and full with a gravelly undertone. She provides different voices for each of the characters that very much suited the mental images I created for each. Mila's voice is so strong and absolutely brought her to life. And yes, her Russian accent was realistic and consistent. There are many male characters as well and the voices and tones Maarleveld provided were also believable. She captures the plot of Quinn's work easily with her voice. As well as the emotions and settings. Her voice is easy to listen to, well enunciated and the pace is just right. I've said it before and I'll say it again - when listening to a book, I find I am much more immersed in the story and that was definitely the case with The Diamond Eye. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of The Diamond Eye.

Monday, April 4, 2022

A Sunlit Weapon - Jacqueline Winspear

A Sunlit Weapon is the 17th entry in Jacqueline Winspear's long running and much loved Maisie Dobbs series. Picking up the latest in this series feels like settling in with an old friend to catch up.

I appreciate that Winspear keeps the narrative moving forward. We’ve been with  Maisie through her younger years through to the current time period - 1942 WWII. She's gone from a servant on an estate to now being a licensed psychologist and private investigator with her own office.

Winspear takes historical events and weaves them together with a mystery in each book. I really enjoy the historical bits. A Sunlit Weapon uses the air ferry women as a basis for one of Maisie's cases.

While the plotting and mysteries are always excellent, it is the characters that have me coming back for each new book. Maisie is a great lead - calm, thoughtful, somewhat impulsive and curious. Winspear has kept the personal lives of all the characters moving forward as well. I've become quite invested in their lives and what might be next for them all. Maisie's assistant Billy Beale is a perennial favorite supporting character. He and Maisie work well together. All of the characters have suffered some loss over the years - which mimics life. But, they continually put one foot in front of the other and move forward - can do, keep calm and soldier on. 

The latest case is a complicated one and as things progress, two of Macy’s cases seem to have something in common. I appreciate the way the cases are solved with leg work, conversations and slowly piecing together clues and observations. And with Maisie there's also that extra little bit intuition. 

The settings have always been a character in these books as well - each described so well that I can picture them. (I'd love to be in the car with Maisie, motoring down a country road.

Excellent plotting, wonderful characters and prose add up to another satisfying tale. But I knew it would be! If you love historical fiction and you haven't read Jacqueline Winspear you're missing out on an excellent series. See for yourself - read an excerpt  Sunlit Weapon.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Spotlight - Treasures of the Sky - Jenny Tinghui Zhang

I'm today's stop for the blog tour of Treasures of the Sky - Jenny Tinghui Zhang's debut novel.

What's it about? From Flatiron Books:

"A propulsive and dazzling debut novel set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, about a Chinese girl fighting to claim her place in the 1880s American West.

Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy school, to a San Francisco brothel, to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been - including the ones she most wants to leave behind - in order to finally claim her own name and story.

At once a literary tour de force and a groundbreaking work of historical fiction, Four Treasures of the Sky announces Jenny Tinghui Zhang as an indelible new voice. Steeped in untold history and Chinese folklore, this novel is a spellbinding feat." "Engulfing, bighearted, and heartbreaking." - Ann Patchett

Photo Credit: Mary Inhea Kang
Read an excerpt of Treasures of the Sky.

"Jenny Tinghui Zhang is a Chinese-American writer. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Apogee, Ninth Letter, Passages North, The Rumpus, HuffPost, The Cut, Catapult, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Wyoming and has received support from Kundiman, Tin House, and VONA/Voices. She was born in Changchun, China and grew up in Austin, Texas, where she currently lives. Four Treasures of the Sky is her debut. You can connect with Jenny on Instagram."

Friday, April 1, 2022

What We Harvest - Ann Fraistat

What We Harvest is Ann Fraistat's debut novel - a YA read entitled What We Harvest. 

For 150 years, the four founding families of the small village of Hollow's End have prospered. Their animals and crops are marveled at by visitors. Wren's family grows 'rainbow' wheat that is delicious in bread. Some even say it has almost magical health benefits. All four families are thriving until…the blight arrives. The last farm to be touched is Wren's family farm. Wren believes it's up to her  to save the farms - as she thinks she caused the blight. There's one other person she can ask to help - her ex boyfriend Derek who is also a descendant of the original four families. The will they, won't they romantic storyline is well done. And - what book doesn't benefit from a loyal dog?

If you’re kind of a fan of zombie movies (raises hand) you’ll enjoy Fraistat's world building. The blight is mercurial, slithering and sliding into everything and everyone. It gave me goosebumps. Wren is great lead character - she’s strong, brave, a bit reckless, but determined save the farms and folks of Hollow's End. What she finds isn’t it at all what she expected. Or  me either. 

There’s lots of action and danger as encounters and skirmishes with the blight increase both in frequency and danger. How can the blight be beaten? Will Wren have to sacrifice herself for the good of the town and it's inhabitants? I do think there was perhaps one too many skirmish for me. It started to feel just a tad repetitive to me. I was eager to get to the resolution.

Isn't the cover gorgeous? And I liked the title's nod to the phrase "You reap what you sow." What We Harvest is a strong debut. I would happily pick up the nest book from this author. See for yourself - read an excerpt of What We Harvest.