Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Mountains Wild






Taylor, Sarah Stewart. The Mountains Wild. New York: Minotaur Books, 2020.

Years ago I stumbled upon Taylor's short series featuring a "funerary art" expert. I loved the series and looked forward to another book by the author when I saw this one. Unfortunately it didn't work for me quite as well. I loved the characters, but the novel itself just didn't flow that smoothly. Police detective Maggie D'Arcy returns to Ireland to unofficially help Garda detective Roly Byrne investigate a new lead into her cousin's 23-year-old disappearance case. Maggie earned a reputation from some high profile cases. Even though she cannot officially investigate, Roly welcomes her insights into the case he'd worked on years before. The book is well-plotted and keeps the reader guessing with an unexpected twist in the end. I cannot put my finger on exactly what made the novel not flow well for me, but I kept putting it down after reading a few pages for several days. I did read the last half of the novel fairly quickly so the flow problem improved. The book did not contain chapters, but dates and other breaks provided readers with opportunities to easily know where to resume reading. I received an electronic advance copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Pandemic Experiences

Surgical face mask
NurseTogether / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)


Randy Seaver challenged bloggers to complete the first 10 prompts of Pauleen Cass' meme last week and the remainder this week. I didn't see the prompt last week, but I decided to complete all this week. I've been meaning to write about my pandemic experiences, and this is a good way to put it in writing.

1. What are you most grateful for during this COVID-19 crisis?

I'm glad to know that God is still in control. I'm also thankful for the companionship of my three cats.

2. What have you missed most during the full or partial lock-down?

Church.

3. Has your hobby sustained you during this time?

Sometimes yes; sometimes no. I've found it very difficult to concentrate long enough to really enjoy books. I started out doing some cross-stitch, and I found that very relaxing. I need to get back to it. As far as genealogy, I research for clients as well as for myself. I've enjoyed working a little on my own research and with DNA matches.

4. What changes have you seen in your life over May 2020?

I want to go back to March when this first began since I haven't written about the pandemic. Our spring break was "in the middle of winter" this year (February 29-March 8). My cats and I went to the Outer Banks. It was freezing, but that break ended up being a blessing because about a week later, students were sent home and the semester resumed online for them. The library staff worked in the office a few more days, but we were soon sent home to work from home. Only the director worked in the library to keep it open for the handful of students needing access to a computer. Only the main floor remained open, and hours were reduced. Tennessee began re-opening around the first of May, and we returned to work but on a staggered schedule. Each librarian would work two or three days in the library (depending on whether there was a holiday or scheduled closure that week) and two from home on the weeks they worked during the summer. I have now worked three of the four weeks I'm scheduled for summer. 

I was supposed to speak at the Tennessee Library Association conference in late March/early April. At first it was rescheduled for May, but it ended up being cancelled because of restrictions on gathering sizes. I was supposed to speak to a genealogical group in May and for a library in July. Both of those events have been tentatively rescheduled. I was supposed to speak at the National Genealogical Society's Family History Conference in Salt Lake City. My talks are now in the "in demand" portion of their replacement virtual event. I was supposed to co-present a workshop for the Association of Christian Librarians Conference. That workshop will not be part of the virtual offerings, but Mary Tatro and I put together a virtual advanced indexing presentation as part of the Christian Periodical Index Indexers Virtual Meeting which was held last week.

5. Have you been exercising more or less?

Overall, it's probably about the same or maybe a little more. I'm definitely doing more stretching because I can't get a massage, and the muscles need to be stretched. Some days I walk more; some days I walk less so it probably averages out.

6. Has the refrigerator been your friend or foe?

For the most part, it's been my friend. I enjoy cooking. I've tried not to purchase too many sweets at a time. I'm not eating large portions.

7. Have you been participating in virtual gatherings with friends or family?

No, but I've made lots of phone calls.

8. Have you taken up new hobbies during the lockdowns?

I wouldn't call it a new hobby, but a lot of web sites are offering some really cool virtual jigsaw puzzles, and I've worked a few of those.

9. Are you cooking or gardening more?

Yes to both. I'm often gone so much in summer that a garden isn't feasible. This year I ordered a couple of container gardens and planted herbs and produce. I harvested my first squash today. Several more are not far behind. The peppers and tomatoes will be coming in soon. The one thing that seems to be a failure is okra. I didn't really like the look of the plants I purchased, and I guess I should have skipped trying to plant them, but I wanted to try. 

10. Have you shopped more or less? Online or offline?

Honestly I'm afraid to go into stores because the few times I tried to stop after we reopened, people were ignoring the aisle arrows, social distancing protocols, and were not wearing masks. I'm generally ordering online with curbside pickup from either Walmart or Food City. If I need something at Ingles, I go early in the morning before it is crowded. I've ordered some cat supplies from Chewy, and I ordered one or two things that were hard to find locally from Amazon.

I've also been purchasing genealogy books since the repositories are closed. Most of the ones I'm ordering are for counties in my own research or counties where client research is taking me.

11. What have you found to be the strangest change to your life?

Worshiping online for church.

12. Have you found the changes and experience stressful/anxious/worrying?

Any time you incorporate more technology into your routine, there will be added stress. The most stressful part is seeing cases go up in your own county or nearby counties. I enjoy travel, and I'm really beginning to get cabin fever.

13. How have the closures affected your local community?

More restaurants offer curbside service. A lot of businesses are suffering because of lost income. Things are beginning to reopen, but a lot of us are not comfortable being in large crowds now because a vaccine won't be available for another year or so. I won't be dining in any time soon.

14. Have in-person meetings been replaced with virtual meetings via Zoom, Skype, etc.?

For me, we just didn't have a lot of meetings at work. We just got e-mail updates. The administrators met via Zoom. Two other librarians and myself worked virtual reference, and we used the chat feature in that application to communicate with each other when we weren't together. Several conferences have used a virtual format. I enjoyed the meetings where I got to see people, but I found the others more difficult to enjoy. I think I'm just happy to see anyone!

16. Do you enjoy the virtual meeting format?

It's good for awhile, but I prefer in-person.

17. Are you working from home instead of in your usual place of work?

I did for awhile. Now it is a combination (although I'm off most of the summer anyway). I don't know what it will look like in the fall.

18. Have your habits changed over the past months?

I'm really staying at home a lot. I was happy when I could finally get my hair colored. I'm overdue on the dental check-up, but I haven't reached the comfort level for that yet in light of an upsurge in cases locally.

19. Have you had to cancel travel plans for pleasure or family?

I did not get to go to Salt Lake City in May. I was looking forward to the conference, researching in the Family History Library, and sightseeing. I did not get to go to Wichita this month for the Association of Christian Librarians Conference. I was looking forward to visiting my great great grandfather's grave in a nearby town. I usually take a vacation right before school resumes in August, but that's up in the air right now.

20. Do you think you'll be able to travel in 2020?

I honestly don't know, but I'm hoping to be able to visit family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'd like to be able to visit repositories during those trips, but if we get the predicted round 2 of COVID-19, the plans will be off.

21. Have you/others been wearing masks when out and about in your area?

I wear one if I'm in public--even just going through a drive-thru or picking up curbside. I don't wear one in the house with the cats. Unfortunately other people are not following the Tennessee Department of Health's suggestion that "My mask protect you. Your mask protects me. Let's protect each other."

22. Will you change your lifestyle after this experience?

I suspect everyone will alter their lifestyle to some extent after this. 



Tuesday, June 02, 2020

The Red, Red Snow



Ramsay, Caro. The Red, Red Snow. London: Severn House, 2020.

A family man's stabbing leaves Anderson and Costello and their teams baffled. The perpetrator left no clues. No motive emerges. No witnesses identified themselves. Two more bodies show up a week later at a cottage where the family intended to spend Christmas. Investigation uncovers dislike for these victims. The novel spends a little too much time discussing problems within the detectives' families and explored some things which needed omission to tighten the novel. Those who read previous series installments may appreciate some of the detectives' family problems more than I did. I did not feel I knew the detectives because I missed earlier installments. I may try the first couple of books in the series to see if I warm to the series. If so and I continue reading the series, I may revisit this installment to see if it improves with the background from earlier cases and without the distractions of reading in a time of COVID-19. I received an electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Lifeline



Mayhew, Margaret. The Lifeline. London: Severn House, 2020.

Ruth Harvey runs a successful gardening business in the English village of Frog End. When a man dies in a greenhouse, Inspector Squibb shows up. Few people regard the Inspector favorably so they turn to the Colonel to discover the murderer. Charms of English village life abound in this sixth "Village Mystery." I now want to go back and read earlier installments so I understand the village a little better. This review is based on an advance electronic copy supplied through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Killer Chardonnay



Lansing, Kate. Killer Chardonnay. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2020.

Parker Valentine made her dreams come true when she opened her own Colorado winery. When a well known restaurant critic and blogger shows up at her opening and drops dead after drinking her wine, she decides to help the investigation along by snooping. Although I had figured out who must be the killer almost from the start, the author created plenty of red herrings to divert attention from the person which probably worked more effectively for some readers than for me. The mystery is more engaging than many of today's cozies, and I might enjoy reading future installments. I liked Parker and the police detective. Most of the characters work although I'm a bit lukewarm on a few. This review is based on an advance electronic copy received through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

The Tinned Fish Cookbook



Van Olphen, Bart. The Tinned Fish Cookbook. Photographed by David Loftus. Translated by Laura Vroomen. New York: The Experiment, 2020.

This cookbook's recipes feature an often overlooked ingredient--canned fish. While I loved the concept and the book's gorgeous illustrations, I found very few recipes I would consider incorporating even occasionally. Most of the usable ones feature ingredients like tuna, salmon, mackeral, or crab. Others features anchovies, sardines, and other canned fishes. Persons who really love canned fishes may want to give this one a try, but for those of us who probably don't want to venture much further afield than variations of tried and true recipes, this one is an optional purchase. I received an advance review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Deadly Inside Scoop




Collette, Abby. A Deadly Inside Scoop. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2020.

Bronwyn "Win" Crewse begins managing her family's ice cream parlor after a cousin's changes to its mission nearly causes its demise. Win wants it to do one thing well--ice cream--and avoid all the other things which did not separate it from other Chagrin Falls businesses. While playing in the snow, she falls over a dead body. When she realizes the detective suspects her own father of the dastardly deed, she and a friend investigate. The novel's pluses include an African-American sleuth, the ice cream parlor that tries to stick to locally sourced ingredients, and the character of Pop-Pop. The novel's minuses include marginalization and depiction of the police as incompetent, a sleuth who spends too little time in her new business, and the sheer stupidity of the sleuth and her friends when it comes to investigation. While I might pick up the second installment to see if it improves, I'm not in a rush to pick it up. I hope she spends more time in the ice cream parlor and less time exhibiting her stupidity in the next installment. I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Mousse and Murder



Logan, Elizabeth. Mousse and Murder. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2020.

In the premiere installment of a new cozy series, Charlie and her cat Benny reside in Alaska where she runs the diner her now-retired parents established. When her chef turns up dead, Trooper deputizes Charlie and a newspaper reporter. Motives for several persons begin to emerge. While some plot elements seem a little far-fetched, I found this a pleasant mystery in an enjoyable setting with local characters I enjoyed. While I did figure it out before the sleuth did, I initially suspected a different person. I loved Benny the cat and his role in the mystery! I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Pumpkin Spice Peril



McKinlay, Jenn. Pumpkin Spice Peril. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2020.

Rene dies just before a catered event in which her artistic creation will debut. Mel becomes a suspect when the police chief questions how she keeps finding bodies and threatens her with an independent counsel investigation into her involvement in past homicides. Meanwhile Angie battles morning sickness but her brothers provide support for her and Mel. I found this to be a pleasant diversion. Even though I missed several installments, my familiarity with the characters was adequate to appreciate this. Even though I rarely read more than 50 pages at a time, I enjoyed this one. These COVID-19 days filled with other distractions account for the length of time it took to read it. I suspect under normal circumstances this would have been read in a few hours. I received an advance review copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Sugar and Vice



Calder, Eve. Sugar and Vice. New York: St. Martin's, 2020.

Although I missed the first installment of this series, the author provided enough background on the characters that I quickly caught up. While planting, Maxi finds a corpse presumed to belong to a legendary pirate. The Coral Cay grapevine alerts residents to the discovery. When an archaeologist arrives on the scene, he delivers the verdict the man died in the last ten years. Soon Kate and the gang begin investigating. My biggest complaint involves the choppiness of the writing. 68 chapters provided far too many breaks in a novel this length. Between the choppy chapters and COVID-19 distractions to reading, I found it difficult to concentrate. I'd give it 2.75 stars, but since I realize these are unusual times and my ability to fully enjoy any book is marred, I'm rounding it up to 3. I received an advance review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The Haunted Lady




Rinehart, Mary Roberts. The Haunted Lady. New York: Penzler Publishers, 2020.

When repeated attempts to rattle or kill wealthy widow Eliza Fairbanks occur, the police send nurse Hilda Adams to care for her. Greeted by a swarm of relatives with motives to kill the woman, Adams knows Eliza's imagination did not get carried away. When the woman turns up dead, the police and nurse Adams must sift through lies and clues to come up with the real murderer.  Roberts drops too many obvious hints of future events. The mystery shows its age in some aspects, but it still presents an interesting puzzle for modern readers. I received an advance review copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Gone with the Whisker



Cass, Laurie. Gone with the Whisker. New York: Berkley, 2020.

I love Eddie the Bookmobile Cat! Minnie's niece Katie comes north to spend the summer, taking on three jobs. Rafe, Katie's boyfriend, works on the home he's preparing for them. In the meantime, Minnie lives on the houseboat. After Katie stumbles over the corpse of a bookmobile patron, Minnie promises to help catch the man's murderer. Eddie helps locate a second corpse later. He plays additional roles later. It's a fun read for mystery lovers who are cat lovers. I caught a couple of typos in the advance review copy that I hope an editor corrects in the final version. I received the advance review copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Speak, Lord, for Thy Servant is Listening!

COVID-19 continues to rage in our country. Unlike anything witnessed during our lives, it changes our day-to-day lives. The other day our associate pastor's wife posted the following to her Facebook page:

You've cleared our schedules.
You've flipped our focus.
You clearly have much to say, Lord.
Now will you still our racing thoughts?
Calm our spirits?
It is noisy, Lord.
Help us to not miss Your voice.

Those words reminded me of Samuel's words in the Old Testament, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." (1 Samuel 3:10, NASB)

Other Facebook posts remind us of how God is removing idols such as sports and money and giving us an opportunity to seek His face in this time of need.

This morning my Bible reading plan included Deuteronomy 4 as one of the texts. While it refers to circumstances in the lives of the Israelites, it reminded me of our present situation as well. In the chapter Israel was chasing after gods made by hands instead of the one true God. God allowed Israel to be scattered among the peoples. However, this time of trial and testing produced good for verses 29-31 proclaim:

29) But from there you will seek the Lord you God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. 30) When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. 31) For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.

May we recognize our sin and return to the Lord! Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A Body in the Bookshop



Cox, Helen. A Body in the Bookshop. London: Quercus, 2019.

I enjoyed this book until about 40% through the book when the book took a turn I did not expect. It was one I, as a Christian, did not wish to read about in detail. I took a break for a few days and returned to the book but when the theme picked back up immediately, I knew it was time to abandon the book. Nothing about this appeared in the book's description, and I will not be reading previous or future installments. I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Beheld




Nesbit, TaraShea. Beheld. New York: Bloomsbury, 2020.

Nesbit imagines life in the Plymouth Colony in this fictionalized account providing a back story and after story to its first murder. The author writes in the vernacular of the day, creating a piece which helps the reader become absorbed in 17th century life. Much of the story's narration comes from the wife of the convicted murderer. Her differences with Bradford and Standish at times make the reader question her reliability as a narrator and at times create questions of the integrity of the colonial leaders. The book, lacking an action-driven plot, requires the reader to savor the characters and atmosphere created by the author. As someone who loves colonial American history, I enjoyed this book; however, it may not be a book for everyone. I received an advance review copy from Bloomsbury, the publisher. While an honest review was encouraged, it was not required.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Eight Perfect Murders



Swanson, Peter. Eight Perfect Murders. New York: William Morrow, 2020.

What a fun read! Malcolm Kershaw runs a mystery bookstore in Boston.  A female FBI agent walks in near closing time one day to ask about a blog post he wrote some years back for the store on "Eight Perfect Murders." She sees a pattern between random murders and the post which discusses such crime classics as Strangers on the Train and The A. B. C. Murders. Readers ponder the reliability of the narrator among other things. It includes some aspects of a psychological thriller. Lovers of crime classics will want to dip into this one which may or may not leave them guessing until the last page due to twists and turns along the way. I needed its edginess as the moment. Did I mention there's a cat? I won an advance copy through GoodReads. Although requiring no review, the giveaway encourages winners to write an honest one.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

British Murder





Meier, Leslie. British Murder. New York: Kensington, 2020.

This book is an omnibus featuring two earlier Lucy Stone mysteries set in England.

English Tea Murder: Lucy Stone and some of her friends join a tour group from Winchester College to England. While still in the air, the tour leader dies of an allergic reaction. A doctor on board the plane who is a member of the group is unable to save the man in time. Lucy and her friends begin to notice some strange things. One member of the group attempts suicide; Lucy's friend Pam is barely spared when pushed in front of traffic. Could the members of the group be involved in a conspiracy? If so, what possible reason could they have had to murder a well-beloved professor? The mystery element in this book is fairly light. The book is mostly an account of a visit to England with a few misadventures along the way. While I enjoyed the sights and sounds of England, I was a bit disappointed that there was not a more clear-cut murder in this one.

British Manor Murder: Lucy's grandson moved to Alaska with her son and his wife. She mopes because she missed seeing the lad. Her friend Sue asks Lucy to accompany her to England for a hat show at Moreton Manor. They expected more grandeur, but find the manor itself serves as a tourist attraction while the family lives in a secondary house. As they wander in the maze, they find a corpse. They discover things are not quite they seem at the manor with cheap reproductions replacing valuable art pieces. Some inconsistency exists between the earlier installment with a British setting and this one. In English Tea Murder Pam, faced with a maze, states the key is to turn to the left since designers know most people will turn right. In this one, Pam can't figure out which way to go and turns right, getting them lost in the maze. It seems either Pam or Lucy would remember this and automatically go left.

I received the omnibus as an electronic advance copy through NetGalley with expectations of an honest review.

Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut




Graves, Sarah. Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut. New York: Kensington Books, 2020.

The town's pirate festival promises to be good business for Jacobia "Jake" and her friend Ellie who own the local bakery. When a man turns up dead in their basement, Jake becomes the chief suspect and knows she needs to catch the person or persons responsible before she lands in jail. The bakery plays a secondary role in this adventure with the seaside location paramount. While the main characters feel better developed than in the first installment, the mystery itself needs better plotting. Jake and Ellie come across as bumbling fools who fail to heed their own intuition, rather than clever amateur detectives. I almost quit reading this installment when a snake scene went on far too long. Potential exists for the series, but it still needs a dose of reality achieve it.

Coconut Layer Cake Murder




Fluke, Joanne. Coconut Layer Cake Murder. New York: Kensington Books, 2020.

Hannah accompanies her mother to California to visit a relative. Doc prescribed the vacation for her when he diagnosed her with stress. It isn't long until she receives a message the police need her help in an investigation in which Lonnie's presence makes him a suspect. Mike can't investigate because Lonnie is his partner. Only a newly minted detective and the chief himself can investigate, so even the chief wants Hannah to meddle this time. The victim's personality made her unpopular so several persons held motives. A remains of a coconut layer cake plays into the investigation, thus giving the installment its title. The book contains lots of recipes. The premise of this one does not really hold up that well as the police would have called in the state to conduct the investigation. However, it was fun. The love triangle between Hannah, Norman, and Mike continues. I received an electronic advance copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Much Ado About Nutmeg




Fox, Sarah. Much Ado About Nutmeg. LaVergne, Tennessee: Lyrical Underground, 2020.

When a man goes overboard on a yacht and a vicious sports writer's body emerges from the same waters, Marley McKinney, the owner of Flip Side, a pancake house in Wildwood Cove, begins pursuing the case. In spite of reminders from the sheriff about dangers of her involvement, she questions people she encounters who are in town for the Golden Oldies Games. Marley prepares for her wedding with Brett as she runs her business and pokes her nose into the investigation. Although I did not read the previous five installments, I really enjoyed the setting and the central characters for this series. I want to go back and read the earlier installments. It's a perfect read for when you need something on the cozy side. I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.