The Last Man by Jane Harper

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Dear Fellow Reader,

When my library book club had The Dry by Jane Harper on the list, I was not very excited. It didn’t sound that good. But the librarian kept telling me that it was supposed to be good.

And it was.

If you haven’t read it, I suggest you read it. Jane Harper’s second book was Force of Nature, which has the same lead character as The Dry. I didn’t understand how that was going to work but it worked perfectly. (Okay, you have to read The Dry to understand. The lead character is not a detective by trade, he is just called into a mystery involving his old friend.)

The Dry is also being made into a movie starring Eric Bana.

the Lost manAnd now we have The Lost Man. All of Jane Harper’s books take place in Australia, which gives her a physically unforgiving setting. In The Lost Man, there are three brothers working the land. Two brothers live on the family homestead and the other lives on an adjacent parcel, but the homes are three hours away from each other.

As the book opens, a pilot is flying over an area that is mostly sand except for one month out of the year when it is flooded. There is a grave out in the middle of this deserted area. The pilot sees what he doesn’t expect. There is a body in the sand by the grave.

The body is the missing Cameron Bright, one of three Bright brothers. The other two brothers drive out to where the body has been found and find it hard to believe that their brother is dead out by the grave. Where is his car? The car is full of supplies, how could he have left the car to die out by the grave? What happened to Cameron?

The story is told from the standpoint of Nathan, the brother who does not live at the family home but at his own neighboring farm. Nathan has his 16-year-old son with him when they go out to respond to the pilot’s findings. His son is visiting for the Christmas holidays. After the third brother, Bub, arrives and looks over the situation with Nathan, they all go back to the family home.

Through the story, we find out more about Nathan and his checkered history and then we learn more about all the members of the family and their interactions. Nathan is unsettled by his brother’s death and feels there is something wrong.

Once again, Jane Harper crafts the flawed hero. She uses the backdrop of the barren lands of Australia to bring out the nature of the character flaws. The physical location is part of the story. She shows us that the isolation of the family farms can hide people’s true natures.

Yes, I think you should read this book. I think you should read all three books. Jane Harper will give you great descriptions, character development, and will keep you wondering what will happen next.

Thanks for reading!

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Oh, Those Cozies – Three Cozy Mysteries

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Dear Fellow Reader,

I read on vacation. There really isn’t any other way to say it. We recently were on vacation and in the 12 days that we were away, I read 10 books. This is a little below my average – I generally like to keep it at a book a day but I read a nonfiction book that was HEAVY and I listened to an audiobook. (For some reason, I am pushing myself to try audiobooks. So far, I am not sold. I understand that some people find them great and can listen all the time but I just have not found that spot for me. But I am trying to give them a fair shake.)

You would be right if you assumed that I was not reading War and Peace in a day. I generally have a selection of fiction that I need to read on my iPad. Some of the books come as ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) from publishers because they want a review. Some of the books come from Amazon. Did you know that if you have Amazon Prime and a Kindle (not the app but the actual Kindle) that each month they send you an email with several new titles of which you can pick one book to read free? To be honest, it can be worth buying a basic Kindle to get the books. I am on my second or third year of getting a free book a month. I also get the daily email from Book Bub with the eBook deals of the day. While I am trying not to buy books, sometimes I can’t resist the deal. Yes, my Kindle library overflows. On vacation, I try and cut that back.

I also like to have an easy-to-read cozy mystery for the plane ride. I like to get through a flight as fast as possible and reading helps that.

Before I left on my trip, I selected several (what I thought were) about to be published  ARC cozy mysteries to read. Today, I will tell you a bit about three of them.

9781984800299Southern Harm by Caroline Fardig was the first book I read. I was able to get this book as an ARC copy, but it was already published. I picked it because I had read other books by Caroline Fardig before and enjoyed them. (She wrote the Java Jive series) I also have a soft spot for books that take place in the South. There usually is an entirely different set of rules for those Southern ladies. Generally, they are portrayed as very polite and a bit nutty. This book did have its share of characters. The main plot revolves around the body that Tucker and Quinn find when they are digging a new firepit for Tucker’s Aunt Lela. The body turns out to be Esther Sinclair, who was Aunt Lela’s neighbor.  She was thought to have run off years before to escape her rather religious parents. Aunt Lela is a bit outspoken and has a penchant for drinking. While Tucker’s “proper” relatives don’t want anything to do with Lela, Tucker has a soft spot for her. Quinn doesn’t want Tucker (her new love interest) upset about his Aunt nor does she think that Aunt Lela killed the girl. (Even though Lela had set the girl’s car on fire years before…) So Quin and her sister Delilah set out to discover who killed Esther Sinclair.

This book was the second in the Southern B&B Mystery series. I did not read the first in the series and while it was referred to in the book, it did not put me at a disadvantage. The book was okay. It was certainly not a “WOW, you need to read this book!” but it was fine to take my mind off the plane ride.

19561924Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver. In this cozy mystery, Amory Ames, is a wealthy young woman with what appears to be a philandering husband, Milo. Milo is frequently traveling, and stories circulate about his exploits. Amory is tired of it. She desperately loves her husband but is tired of him traveling and not paying attention to her. As the book opens, Milo has just returned home but Amory is not feeling very welcoming. Then a surprise guest comes to the door. It is Gil, the man Amory was engaged to when she met the dashing Milo. She feels bad about how she treated Gil. Gil has come to see her to ask if she would go to the Brightwell Hotel with him to join a group of friends. Part of the group is his sister, Emmeline and the man she is crazy about, Rupert Howe. Gil thinks that Amory can convince Emmeline that she should dump Rupert because of her experience with Milo. While there are some warning bells that this is not a good idea, Amory decides to go not as much to be of help and to get away from Milo. She finds that when she gets to the hotel that perhaps this was not a good idea because everyone thinks that she is back with Gil. She does try and talk to Emmeline but she can see that Emmeline is so taken with Rupert that she doesn’t think that she will be able to dissuade her.

And then there is a murder. And Milo arrives at the hotel. Why? And who committed murder?

Overall, it was not a bad story. This book is the first in a series of 5 Amory Ames mysteries. I would read the rest. Here is the part that I don’t understand – this book was given to me as an ARC (advanced reader copy) but it came out in 2014. Not exactly an advanced reader copy when the book has been out for 5-6 years and there are 4 books in the series that came out after this one. So, I am a bit befuddled by this and slightly irritated that I didn’t notice this. BUT overall, I think that if you are looking for an English mystery, this would be a good choice.

519PpcgZvGLMurder She Encountered by Peg Cochran is the third cozy that I read via an ARC. In this story, our main protagonist, Elizabeth Adams,  is a Manhattan socialite who works for the Daily Trumpet as a photographer. The 1939 World’s Fair is the location for the murder of a woman who had been working at the Fair demonstrating the newest thing, nylon stockings. Elizabeth Adams and her partner, Ralph Kaminski are hot after the story and think that the police have made a mistake with the quick arrest that they made to close the case. It is a slightly tricky situation since Elizabeth has been dating the handsome police detective, Sal Marino.

Not only is Elizabeth out on a limb working in general but also working for a newspaper. Her family is not exactly supportive of her work. She also knows that they would not be in favor of her dating the handsome policeman. Add to that her wanting to get the story and find out “who done it” and there is a plot with several twists and turns.

I felt that the book had good descriptions and interesting characters. This book is also part of a series – it is the third book in the series. You would never know that there are other books in the series. This book absolutely stands alone.

I would recommend this book as a cozy mystery. It is a fairly quick read and it has a good plot.

There you go – three books reviewed in one post. All three are available now. As I said before, I was given these books by the publisher to give an unbiased review.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

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Dear Fellow Reader,

Happy New Year! Are you as amazed as I am that it could be a new year already? What happened?

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I do. No, I am not that great at keeping them. (I bet you knew that because I keep saying that I am going to post more here and then I don’t.)  I have decided this year that instead of looking at it as resolutions that I am going to try and build some new habits. I made a laundry list of things that I would like to change or improve upon and from that I am going to try and make new habits that will help me incorporate the changes.

One of the things I learned several years ago from a neighbor was the value of having a quarterly planning session. The idea was to try and plan out what I want to accomplish in the next quarter. I have found this to be helpful, but I think I also enjoy just getting ready for the planning session. Now, I have always had these sessions with myself at home but my neighbor really felt that you needed to get out of your space and so you could concentrate. I used to go to another room in the house that I could “junk up” for a couple of days while I worked on my plans. This time, I just stayed in my office but went over to the “reading corner” and set up a TV tray to hold all the stuff I dragged over there. Somehow, I got caught up in doing things that had nothing to do with planning – or did they? I sat down and decided that I needed to clean out my bookcase. There were books that I was never going to read or books that needed to find a new home. In doing this, I found Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before. It is a book about building habits! How perfect, right? Did I know that I had that book? Okay, kind of a tossup on that but the book was right there when I needed it!

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Gretchen Rubin has a very conversational style of writing that is easy to read. She includes personal observations along with research and statistics to back up her information. The book starts out talking about how important self-knowledge is in the process. Ms Rubin’s theory is that if you know what kind of person you are, you can form habits that will go along with your personality and it will make it easier for you. This makes sense, right? The four types of personalities described by her are as follows:

The Upholder – meets outer expectations, meets inner expectations

The Questioner – resists outer expectations, meets inner expectations

The Obliger – meets outer expectations, resists inner expectations

The Rebel – resists outer expectations, resists inner expectations

Once you know where you fit, then you can adapt your habit formation so that your new habits will appeal to your personality type. I will say that I had a bit of a problem defining myself. I felt I was a blend of types but that is probably because I wasn’t crazy about the sound of being an Obliger.

I felt that it was one of those rare moments that a book was in front of me that was exactly what I needed to read. I have a feeling that one read won’t be enough – I have the book totally marked up – that there is plenty of information there to warrant additional visits. If you are looking to kick start your new year or improve some of your habits, this book could be of help. A quick read with lots to think about.

Thanks for reading!

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The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess

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Dear Fellow Reader,

I am trying to whittle down my TBR (to be read) pile. I had set a goal that I would finish the books that have accumulated by the end of the year. I am getting concerned that I will not quite make that goal. I keep reading other books. I do belong to three book groups (2 monthly and 1 meets every other month) so there is that reading plus I occasionally asked to review books.

And then there is the other problem. I read about books. And then I want to read them. When I do that, it means that there is a book from the TBR pile that is not being read. Oh well. I don’t think I am going to stop reading about books very soon so I will just have to find some balance.

The Last book partyI read about The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess on the website of my local bookseller. I read the description and was interested to read the book. Eve Rosen is 25, lives and works in New York City for a publishing company. She took that job thinking that it would help to fire up her writing, but it hasn’t. Through her work, she corresponds regularly with Henry Grey, a famed writer for the New Yorker magazine. While visiting her parent’s summer home, she is invited to Henry Grey’s home. Here she meets the people she feels she belongs with – the creative elite of Truro. She not only meets Henry Grey and his wife, the poetess, Tillie Sanderson but his son, the beautiful Franny. Franny pays attention to her and she feels she has a connection into the family.

When she returns to New York and work, her boss, Malcolm, introduces her to the author he feels will be The Next Big Thing. Malcolm has been raving about the book. She is surprised when she meets Jeremy Grand that he is close to her age and he tells her that he knows that she knows Franny. She is not particularly impressed with Jeremy and then he tells her that Franny is in Maine with his girlfriend. She decides after hearing about how terrific his book is that she needs to read it. Much to her surprise, she loves the book. Then her boss tells her that he is promoting one of her co-workers but not promoting her. She decides that it is time to move on. But where to go?

When she met Henry Grey, he had offered her the position of his assistant. She decides to accept the position and moves to her parent’s home so she can work at Henry Grey’s home.

The book begins in June of 1987 and covers the months of June through September of 1987 and then September of 1988. Eva finds in those four months of 1987 that she has a lot to learn about life and finding her vocation.

I liked the book. I read it quickly and was absorbed into Eva’s life and thoughts.

And just a note – If you want to read about books, I suggest that you join the email list for Boswell Books. They have several emails each week. On Sunday, they list their best sellers for the week. On other days, there may be an email about upcoming author visits (with a description of the author’s work) or book reviews. www.boswellbooks.com

Thanks for reading!

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Next Year Havana by Chanel Cleeton

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Dear Fellow Reader,

You know how some subjects just grab your attention more than others? I will admit I am a bit of a sucker for books of quotes. Yes, I know that sounds a bit sappy but I can live with that. I find quotes interesting – sometimes for who said them more than the quote itself.

I also have a fascination with Cuba. I bet you didn’t expect that. Well, I have a friend who escaped from Cuba back in the early ’60s. I find her family story interesting and amazing. She and her family went back to visit last summer and I loved hearing about her trip. She and her husband and adult children made a pilgrimage to the places that held special interest to her family. Her parents are gone now but she knew their stories and wanted to see where her family history happened.

NextYearinHavanna_FCO_RW[2]+copyFor that reason, I picked up the book Next Year Havana by Chanel Cleeton. The story is told from two perspectives. Elisa grew up in Havana as the daughter of “the sugar king”. Her family is in the upper reaches of society in Cuba. She and her sisters attend balls and have clothes from all the best stores. In the other part of the story, we follow Marisol who goes to visit Cuba in 2017 to scatter her grandmother’s ashes. Marisol has grown up in Miami but feels she is as Cuban as she is American. While she is told to be careful in Cuba she had no idea of the type of life she will find there. While being drawn to the natural beauty, she underestimated the political climate.

In other books where perspectives switch, there can be those moments where you aren’t sure at the beginning of a chapter which character is in the chapter. I did not have that problem with this book. The two characters and times are very different.

I found the story very interesting and it moved along well. I liked the historical perspective of 1958 Havana and what was happening. It was also interesting to see that when the book was written that there was hope that there would be a further opening of Cuba to Americans. It has not gone that way. But it could change, right?

And it was nice to read a historical fiction book that was not set in World War II or the time surrounding it. It seems that has taken over and I was ready for a change.

Thanks for reading!

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