Old dogs, new tricks

After having given up on blogger I’ve found myself reinvigorated about blogging so I’m moving to a new platform and hopefully a continued zeal  towards blogging. Here’s hoping I master a new platform! I am a reader of all things genre – mystery/thriller, speculative fiction, horror and occasionally romance,  with the occasional foray into literary and women’s fiction. A lot of these titles will be young adult since that’s an area I need to keep up with in my day job.

 

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Another erratic reading week in review

What I finished reading

goodgirl

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

I love the way the story is told. We have third person narration but also segments from Pip’s project journal, newspaper clippings etc. It’s a fun way to add detail to the story.

Fairly early on Pip teams up with Ravi, Sal’s brother to help with her investigation but Pip is the primary investigator. As her investigations continue more suspects as well as more hidden undercurrents to the town crop up. The focus is always on the mystery and, for a refreshing change, there is little teenage angst. Pip has a healthy family relationship and drama free friendships. While some of the tropes in the story were predictable, eg. Pip gets threatening notes some of the twists were truly unexpected. Pip and Ravi are the most strongly drawn characters as the book is strongly plot as opposed to character driven. Overall Ms. Jackson does an excellent job unveiling the suspects and keeping the mystery going. Enjoy this fast paced book under the sun with lemonade and your own sleuthing notebook at hand. A very enjoyable read.

 

traitor

This is my first ever Netgalley book and I apologize for being tardy with my review. The setting is Poland 1944 in and around the city Lwow/Lviv. The story is told in third party narration and is split between two young men -Tolya and Solovey as they negotiate their way through a city that is being fought over by Polish resistance fighters, The UPA, and the NVKD. If those initials were foreign to you they were to me as well. Ms. McCrina does an admirable job of trying to convey a very complicated history between the Ukraine, Poland and Russia.

Those individuals who like plenty of action will not be disappointed. Both our characters are frequently in danger and have to navigate their way through some tight situations. There are plenty of close escapes, who can be trusted moments but also quiet moments to punctuate the chaos.

The true pull of the story for me though was the richly drawn characters of both Tolya and Solovey. It is heartbreaking at times to read about Tolya’s despair at fitting in neither with Poland or Ukraine due to circumstances of birth he has no control over. Equally heartbreaking is the relationship between Solovey and his brother Myklov. Other supporting characters are also interesting and add depth. This is a book that I thought about even while I was not reading it. I’d love to learn more about that area and fortunately, the author gives us some additional sources to peruse.

I do have one quibble with the book and, without being spoilery, and that is the ending – Ms. McCrina, how could you?

This is a book that I think may appeal to a select group of teens really interested in World War II materials but this is one that may have cross over appeal for those adults interested in a different aspect of World War II.

This book comes out on August 25th so keep your eyes peeled.

What I’m reading now…

I’ve just started Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver and that one may take me a while so there may be another gap in postings.

 

 

 

 

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In which one pitiful review is offered up

 

I only managed to read 2 1/2 books during May and I was not enthused with two of them. The third I am almost finished with and it’s a fun read. Sadly, and with apologies too Grady Hendrix, I started the Southern Book Clubs Guide  to Slaying Vampires but have had to put it aside. I  loved the early part of the book . There are so much wry wink wink references into it I knew that I was going to like this book. Unfortunately, I have been having some rather graphic nightmares so for the time being I have put this book to the side but am anxious to get back to it once things become slightly more normal.

I had been doing quite well with my reading during the first part of the COVID-19 lockdown. Unfortunately,  at the tail end of April COVID-19 stress finally got to me. In essence I quit reading. However, there is one book I read at the end of April that  has still stuck with me and I’m going to give a quick review of it below.

I rarely read literary fiction so I’m not quite sure why I picked this title up, but I am so glad I did. It may well be the best book I have ever read. Valentine is a book about women living in the roughneck reality that was Odessa in the 1970s. The book opens with a particularly harrowing scene of a young girl (Gloria/Glory) sitting in the dust. She had been brutally raped, and she knows she has to leave before her rapist wakes up and kills her. The reader watches, nails bitten down to the quick, as she makes her way to a solitary farmhouse where a pregnant woman Mary Rose lets her inside.

Each chapter then follows women affected by Glory’s rape There is Mary Rose whose marriage becomes increasingly fraught as a result of her actions. There is Corrine who say Gloria get into her rapists’ truck and Debra Ann who lives in and is sometimes looked after by Corrine. Other women also drift in and out to tell a story.

Each individual is a tough scrappy survivor and each story highlights the reality of being, in essence, a second-class citizen, or in the case of Glory, someone who isn’t even accorded that much respect. All of them have flaws but their stories are so engaging I couldn’t put the book down. I felt particularly for Deborah Ann and Corrine but even a month after reading this I still hear all their voices.

Oddessa is in and of itself very much a character in the book. Most of the time ugly and disreputable but at times also beautiful especially when seen through Mary Roses eyes. While Ms. Wetmore has written short fiction pieces in the past this novel is so gorgeous it is difficult to believe it is her first.

Highly recommended but with a caveat – this book deals with some hard issues and sensitive readers may find it too difficult to read.

In other parts of my life I’ve been making a lot of masks and returned to a pastime I haven’t engaged in for years. I’ve begun cross stitching again. Let me tell you this is not the cross stitch of my childhood. The patterns are much more sophisticated and the materials needed are much more expensive. Once I go back to work I hope to keep this up. This is one of the positive aspects of COVID-19, the ability to do things we normally don’t get to do during the busy work week.

 I hope you all are still reading. If so let me know what got you through COVID-19.

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Reading week in review

I didn’t post last week as I hadn’t quite finished either book I had been reading. I had put them aside to do a little therapeutic junk journal making, a very relaxing, zen like activity.

What I finished reading….

descent

“The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, a young family from the plains taking a last summer vacation before their daughter begins college. For eighteen-year-old Caitlin, the mountains loom as the ultimate test of her runner’s heart, while her parents hope that so much beauty, so much grandeur, will somehow repair a damaged marriage. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic, as suddenly this family find themselves living the kind of nightmare they’ve only read about in headlines or seen on TV.”

Before I start discussing this novel I’d like to make one thing clear at the beginning. While it is described as a page turning thriller it isn’t. It is much more of a character driven story about what happens when people’s lives fall apart. Each individual is fully drawn their character, both good and bad, laid out fully on the page. Plot details and emotions are not laid out in an easily digestible form, rather there remains an ambiguity to these individuals much like real life. Of all the characters I felt the most involved in Sean, referred to as the boy for much of the narrative. As Sean drifts throughout the midwest we see again and again his desire to be a heroic figure, the type of figure that might have saved his sister and when he fails it is heartbreaking. I will say that I felt the male characters were stronger but I still felt such sympathy for both Angela and Caitlin.

The sense of place is spot on, especially for those individuals who have seen the wilder side of Colorado, and the writing is beautiful. Highly recommended for those people looking for a profound character study versus a plot driven thriller.

londonunderground

Veering from literary to “fun”.

“Beneath the streets of London lie many secrets. Subterranean rivers carve channels through darkened caverns. Hidden laboratories and government offices from WWII offer a maze of corridors and abandoned medical experiments. Lost in the depths of this underground are the contents of a looted Spanish galleon from the days of Henry VIII and a Nazi V-2 rocket that contains the most horrible secret of all. Carmen Kingsley, in charge of London projects for the British Museum, and Scotland Yard Inspector Sherwood Peets race to unravel the mysteries behind these contents before the great city succumbs to a frightening disease not seen since the age of the Henrys – the English Sweat. It all comes to a climax beneath London with the discovery of a horrifying species of genetically altered “super rats” that threaten to invade London and the British Isles.”

What can I say, I love me a good mutant rat story. This is also the second book I’ve read recently which discusses the underground rivers underneath London, the other being a series by Ben Aaronvitch, and I’m sort of fascinated by this whole concept of a vast world lying underneath on of the larger cities in the world. So let’s get to it. The story goes back and forth between World War II and what we presume is present day London. In present day Inspector Peets discovers a body underground and in a parallel story we learn that Carmen is monitoring a dig elsewhere in the city. Suddenly SIS sweeps in and takes all Inspector Peet’s notes  and Carmen is told she is no longer in charge of the dig. Hmmm, could the two be related? You betcha. In the meanwhile the WWII story follows an ex pat Norwegian who just happens to be a pilot and is put in charge by Churchill of retreiving some confidential research going on in remote Norway.  Could the research be biologically based? You’ll have to read and see.

So this is pure escapist fiction and for most of the book I enjoyed the heck out of the various shenanigans everyone got up to. Could the plot have been a little more original? Sure. Could the author have done a much better job at ending the story, most decidely. I think he wrote himself into a corner and let the WWII story end very abruptly with a coda at the end. As for the rats, well they are still dragging people off and eating them at the end of the book. I still had a good time though.

What I’m reading now….

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill – I suspect that 95% of all readers would gravitate to this book based solely on the fact that our main character works in a bookstore. The fact that she is also an expert trivia player and there is going to be romance involved won me over as well. I am about a third of the way through and am very much enjoying it.

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore. I’m not sure how far I’ll get into this one due to the heavy subject matter but it came up as an electronic loan so we’ll see how it goes. I had intended to read The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires but am putitng off due to this new library book.

My current viewing crush…

I hope you all are watching the new season of What We Do in the Shadows – Guillermo has never been better! Killing Eve has also started its new season but I’m so far behind on that one it may be awhile before I get to enjoy one of th emost complicated relationships on TV.  What have you been binge watching to get through the days?

 

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The reading week in review

This past week I found two great books that made me forget all about Covid-19.Let’s take a gander shall we?

What I finished reading….

malamander

In a small British seaside town Herbie Lemon works in a hotel as the sole person in the hotel’s  lost and found department.  His department holds many interesting things over a span of many decades which he is responsible for returning to the rightful owner if he can.  One day a girl, Violet, stumbles in to his cubby while being chased by a large creepy man with a boathook for a hand. Once Violet eludes Boathook man she begs Herbie in his official capacity of lost and founder to find her parents who disappeared years ago. The mystery of her parents seems to be connected with the legendary sea monster which supposedly haunts Eerie on the Sea.

This story has it all, a plethora of possible suspects, an atmospheric and vivid setting as well as a little bit of the supernatural in the form of a talking cat and a bookstore that dispenses exactly the book you require. There is also a little dash of reality thrown in grounding the story and making it even more relatable. As Herbie says to Violet “there isn’t always a happy ending in real life. Maybe we just have to learn to accept that.”  Fortunately Violet doesn’t listen.

I truly enjoyed this story even as an adult. Herbie and Violet were well written, and the adventure kept me entertained. I’ll be interested to sink my teeth into the second Herbie/Violet adventure.

 

blinddates

Sophie thinks she is finally going to get some alone time with her boyfriend Griffin when her parents decide to go visit Sophie’s very pregnant sister. Unfortunately Sophie overhears a conversation between her boyfriend and one of his friends in which he mentions how he’d like a little time away from Sophie. Sophie then flees to her grandmother’s house where her very large extended family is gathering for the holidays. Her grandmother decides that the best way for Sophie to get over her broken heart is to send her on 10 blind dates set up by various family members. Along the ways Sophie reconnects with her cousins and the boy next door while also rediscovering the fun, vibrant girl she used to be.

This book is just fun, fluffy escapism and I really enjoyed some of the dates poor Sophie got sent on. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one how the book ends. The parallel plot of Sophie reconnecting and reengaging in her friendships with her cousins, as well as Wes the boy next door was also very sweet. Would most of the story be true in real life ?  Nope, so just enjoy it for what it is – a fun, fluffy romance.

 

What I’m reading this week…

I’ve started both Descent by Tim Johnston – a sort of literary mystery set in my home state of Colorado and London Underground by Chris Angus – I’m promised giant rats in this one so it better deliver!

In other news

I have not really been able to concentrate on television but did finally settle down to a movie on Netflix called Agatha and the Truth of Murder. It is a fictionalized account as to what Agatha Christie was doing during her 11 day disapperance – highly recommended. I also managed to do some quilt work but am a little too scattered to do much on that front now.

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Top Ten Tuesday – signs that you are a book nerd

marvinreads

I love this week’s top ten tuesday prompt “you might be a book lover if…” I like to think of myself as not just a book lover but a grade A book nerd. The reasons listed below are why I think I qualify. Do any of these fit you?

  1. I have books in every room of the house as well as books in the trunk of my car, cause you never know.
  2. I have multiple “books of interest” lists both on-line and around the house. I not infrequently come across lists of scribbled down quickly in a pants pocket.
  3. People who know me just casually come up to me for book recommendations.
  4. I can spout out not only book titles and authors but their call numbers (I work in an academic library)
  5. Friends and I know when every library book sale in our areas and there are a lot of libraries!
  6. I spend way too much time on booktube.
  7. I take both a kindle and print books on vacation and have people take me to their local indies.
  8. I participate in more than one book challenge per year and can become a little competitive over how many books I’ve completed in any given challenge
  9. I’ve been known to sidle up to complete strangers just to see what they are reading.
  10. I have my library card memorized.
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Reading week in review

So evidently during pandemics I read serial killer books, go figure. I thought it would be straight up horror.

What I finshed reading…

highway

Danielle and her sister are traveling cross country to Nebraska when Danielle decides she needs to see the boy (Justin) who seems to have cooled a bit on her and diverts she and he rsister to Montana where her car breaks down. When Justin stops hearing from Danielle he requests the help of  his divorced father, Cody Hoyt, who had recently dismissed from the Sherriff’s department.  Cody asks for some assistance from his partner Cassie, the very same partner who helped bring Cody down. They both begin investigating what may have happened to the girls. Cody takes a more direct approach by going to the  the county he believes the girls disappeared in and speaking with highway patrolman most familiar with the area. When Cody disappears, Cassie beings to follow in his footsteps. The story is told from multiple viewpoints and is a mashup of psychological thriller and police procedural.

I’d like to mention a bit about the narration to start. The male narrator is fine but I think the story would have been better served if both a male and female narrator had been employed. I found the narrators teenage female voices to not be the best. Having said that I really began to enjoy the latter half of the book when the reader was unsure whether Cassie would find the two girls in time. Sadly the first part of the book dragged for me and I started/stopped the audio book over several months. I guess I just don’t care for angsty character development in my serial killer novels. The bad guys were pretty much standard serial killer types ; I didn’t know much about Cody not having read the first in the series but wasn’t impressed much with him as a character. I did like Cassie and her efforts to be a good cop. Despite my father, a man with similar tastes to my own,  having recommended this to me this turned out to be a fairly standard thriller.

 

 

sunshine

Whoa boy, this could  quite possibly be unpopular opinion time here so please be kind. I have not read anything else by this author so my readerly little heart has no preconceptions/prejudices for or against Ms. Singh.

Anahera Rawiri has recently returned to her small childhood town after the death and betrayal of her husband. She begins to reacquaint herself with the townsfolk including a young, talented woman named Miriama. Miriama disappears while on a run and Anahera plus the rest of the town folk institute search after search for her. The local detective, Will, begins to investigate whether Miriama had more than an accident since 3 hikers had disappeared 15 years ago. During the course of the investigation Will and Anahera develop a romantic relationship. As with many small town mysteries the pool of suspects is known to both Will and Anahera. So this is another book that seems to be a mashup between a straightforward mystery and romantic suspense.

I absolutely loved the setting and it was a treat to visit the wild coast of New Zealand. I also enjoyed some of the supporting characters and the mystery was fine but not spectacular. I knew very early on who the serial killer was which may be an indicator that I read way too many serial killer books. The addition of the romance came about halfway through and became a little romantic suspenseish when it looks like Anahera might be targeted. An enjoyable enough read.

What I’m currently reading….

I’ve decided on lighter fare this week so I’ve started 10 Blind Dates, a cute YA romance as well as Malamander a middle gradeish fantasy  by Thomas Taylor.

 

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The Medication Book tag

While I have been reading I haven’t felt like writing but I found this book tag on  booktube via Suesbooknook. It originated on  R. Jenson Youtube channel. While it is personal to them and the types of medication they’ve tried, I thought it was creative and ithas actually spurred me into doing a quick post. I’d urge you to check out the video(s) on Youtube as well.

. So without further ado, the questions

Lexapro: Name a book with a depressing ending or a book that made you cry. The most recent book that made me depressed would be Normal People by Sally Rooney. Lovely writing but I had to read something very silly after this.

normal people

Zololoft: Name a book you fell out of love with. Ironically the book I fell out of love with was a romance – The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts. I loved the first in the trilogy but this one used phrases repeatedly and the romance disappointed me. I don’t believe I even finished the book.

perfecthope

Viibryd : Name the most expensive book you own. It used to be the first two illustrated Harry Potters but with your average hardback closing in on 30 bucks I don’t have anything that stands out in term sof expense.

Wellbutrin Name a book that kept you on the edge of your seat. The Ritual by Adam Neville – a good portion of that book made me very anxious in a good way.

ritual

Remeron Name a chunky book on your TBR that you’re worried won’t be worth it. The Institute by Stephen King. I’ve heard it is supposed to be a return to some of his older fiction. I haven’t read him for years and he needs an editor to reduce some of the bloat  but we’ll see.

institute

Klonopin Name a banned book that you love. East of Eden by John Steinbeck – oh Kern County California, grow up. People swear and ladies of the night exist.

easteden

Abilify Name a book that put you to sleep. I’m currently going through Middlemarch and since I don’t know some of the politics/social norms I find it a bit slow going.

middlemarch

Ambien Name a book that kept you up late. The Library Book by Susan Orlean. I became absolutely obsessed with this.

395073librarybook8

 

 

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The reading week in review

 

What I finished reading

unsheltered

There are two threads running through Unsheltered. . Two families in the same house approximately a hundred or so years apart.  Even in the past time line the house the family inhabits is crumbling around them. In the present the house is an absolute disaster. In both timelines and neither family has the funds to fix it..

In the present day story the house is inhabited by Willa, her husband, her father-in-law and their daughter Tig. Eventually Willa’s son and baby also move in with them.

In the past we meet Thatcher Greenwood, newly wed who lives with his mother-in-law and his sister-in-law. His mother-in-law and his wife aspire to monetary things such as a horse and new clothing. These are things he cannot provide on his teacher’ salary. . Thatcher may end up having much less money as he wants to teach teaches Darwin to his students, a definite no non for that time period.

The common factor tying the two stories together is  Mary Treat – a real entomologist who corresponded with the era’s great natural thinkers including Darwin.  She is Thatcher’s next door neighbor and they become friends. Willa is researching Mary Trent in the hope that hey are living in her former home and she can get restoration funds for her house, citing that an important historical figure lived there.

I had such an odd relationship with this book. While I was reading it I enjoyed the story and was interested in the characters. Unsheltered did one of those things I love with a book which is to interest me in a subject that I then feel interested in learning more about.  I very much would love to find out more about Mary treat. However, when I put it down I felt no compulsion to pick the book up and continue it.

One of the problems I found was that Ms. Kingsolver would get me interested in a character and then that character would fade into the background. Such was the case with Thatcher’s young sister-in-law. When we meet her she seems to be trying to buck the trend of fashionable young lady. However, as soon as she is put in a corset she fades form the page. Not much is said about her thoughts and feelings at having to conform to the standards of the day. I also felt that Zeke, the son got short shrift. We see him as a character mainly through Tig’s eyes.

However  I did love the theme of being unsheltered to be thought provoking , whether you have no home or no wherewithal to find what you need. Tig takes the most radical approach in that she works with what she has and is not concerned with the things her mother thinks she needs in order to have shelter.

 

What I’m currently reading…

I am re reading, actually listening to Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. I loved it the first time I read it and it has held up, lots of cynical witticisms and engaging characters. I recommend it for folks who like urban fantasy. I’m also reading at work – The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey. This is only the second book I’ve ever read which uses hoarding as a major theme. Despite the heavy theme there is still a cute romance going on between two of our main characters as well as the most fantastic Friendship ever.

In non books related news

I believe I may be able to finish a honking huge king sized quilt that I started work on last February. I hope so as I am definitely experiencing quilt fatigue. If I can get  apic when it is done I’ll post it.

 

 

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Ten most recent editions to my bookshelf

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve managed to think about much less write about books. I’m easing back in here with this week’s top ten Tuesday.

While I haven’t been reading as much as I would have liked I have certainly been acquiring new titles.

Without further ado here are my ten most recent acquisitions.

catfishing_

c’mon the title alone would be worth the purchase but I’ve also heard good things so….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

queennothing_

an audible buy. I had to know how this story ended. I loved the Wicked King the most but this did have that satisfying ending. I hope more tales will be told in this world – perhaps Oak will get to tell his story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

highway

The Highway – another audible buy. My father talked about this title  quite a bit and I needed a good thriller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

soulkeeper

I watched a lot of booktube over break and this one popped up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wellmet_

Well Met by JenDeluca. Books like whoa om booktube kept talking about this one and I needed something cute for this grey winter.

 

 

 

 

 

dialogues

 

This is one of the first books I ever put on my want to read shelf in Goodreads and I’m still interested in it. It will be one of my nonfiction reads for this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ruffage

Ruffage a practical guide to vegetables.  I’m not great a thinking up new recipes and I saw this one, leafed through it and liked what I saw.

I’ve tried a couple of the recipes and this one is a keeper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sorcerythornsAnother pick from booktube. The reviewer doesn’t like YA but was okay with this one and the premise sounded interesting so viola.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

terratwo

Again the premise seemed intriguing but there are many mixed reviews on this one so we will see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

winterspell

– I was on the lookout in book depository for  hardcover Terry Pratchetts and found this one. Lovely, lovely cover. I couldn’t resist.

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The Reading Week in Review

What I finished reading….

oldbones

It was a very light week in terms of actually finishing anything. Old Bones being the sole exception. Old Bones is the first in a new series by Preston and Childs featuring an archeologist Nora Kelly. Nora has appeared in earlier works in the Pendergast series. Nora now works for the Santa Fe Archeological Institute. She is approached by a historian, Clive Benton, with a proposal to find the Lost Camp of the Donner Party. Benton has found the diary of Tamsen Donner giving details as to where the camp might be found. Nora and Clive persuade Nora’s boss to let them undertake the expedition, using the promise of gold stolen from one of the Donner party and thought to be in possession of the thieves who ended up at the Lost Camp.

In the meanwhile Corrie Swanson, another character from a couple of the Pendergast novels is now a rookie FBI agent investigating the death of a man at a gravesite. The grave had been robbed and, as it turns out, belongs to a relative of one of the individuals in the Donner party who was also at the Lost Camp. The mystery deepens when Corrie finds out another relative has disappeared and is assumed to be dead.

While Corrie is investigating things on her end Nora and company. do find the Lost Camp but very little gold and then one of the individuals in their party disappears only to turn up dead. Corrie has also arrived at the dig site following the Donner party connection. Corrie and Nora clash but ultimately learn to work together.

As with most of the Child/Preston books I found this to be a page turner adn I very much enjoyed the two women’s characters. I love anything fictional to do with the Donner party and the dig itself was fascinating. There was also the expected supernatural element though it felt a little more forced in this book and I think the book would have been fine without it. I also think that the inevitable appearance of Pendergast was unnecessary. I will certain read the next book in the series. For those interested in a different supernatural take on the Donner party try Alma Katsu’s The Hunger.

What I’m currently reading…

I’m one CD away from finishing John Scalzi’s Lock In and am still working my way through Lovely War by Julie Berry and am really enjoying both so far.

I also just started  A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier.

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