Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Casualty of War

A Casualty of War
A Bess Crawford Mystery
Charles Todd
ISBN: 978-0-06-267878-2
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
2017
$ 26.99
378 pages

There are certain authors that you just can’t wait to read their next books.   Charles Todd is one of those that many people who enjoy authentic historical fiction feel anxious in waiting for the next book.  Personally, I feel that Todd truly seizes your mind immersing you in the World War I battlefield with the nurse, Bess Crawford.    There is no male or female preference, just dumping you onto the war torn areas so much that you can smell it.
World War I, was coming to an end and for nurse Bess Crawford returning home is now within her future.   While waiting for the transport, she chats with others and happens to meet a memorable soul, Captain Alan Travis,  He is a wealthy Englishman from a prestigious family who have made money in Barbados.
Surprisingly, while is still working near the Frontlines, Bess finds again that one her patients as Captain Travis.   While he is injured this time, he claims that his cousin, James Travis attempted to kill him.  She agrees to investigate only to find nothing about this Lieutenant Travis.  She does wonder if his possible concussion confused him and whether the Lieutenant even exists.
A while later, Bess meets Captain Travis for the third time.   He again claims that his cousin attempted to kill him.  He is badly wounded this time.   Whether Bess believes it or not, someone did shoot at him.
Unfortunately, as nurses know, there are numerous patients with extreme demands that constantly require her attention.
Bess is given leave to an English hospital specializing in brain injuries.   This time Captain Travis is suicidal causing him to be strapped to his bed.
Bess and her trusted friend, Sergeant Major Simon Brandon arrange to investigate the Captain’s claims.  The two travel to Suffolk to investigate the relationship between the twins only to discover a larger threat than they ever anticipated.
Charles Todd is actually a mother/son collaborative team living on the East Coast of the U.S.   They are known for their Inspector Rutledge as well as their Bess Crawford books.   Also, they have co-written two stand alone novels.
The characters are believable, likable or not, and authentic is the descriptions of their lives.  The experiences on the French battlefield hospitals is outstanding.  Usually, the plots are first rate.   This is the first Charles Todd novel that was predictable, which is not enjoyable in a historical mystery.  That said, these World War I books are outstanding in terms of setting and events.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Otter of Death

The Otter of Death
A Gunn Zoo Mystery
Author: Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press
Scottsdale, Arizona
ISBN; 978-1-4642-0992-5
Trade Paperback
2018
$ 15.95
265 pages

Theodora “Teddy” Bentley loves her work as a Zookeeper.  It always provides variety even with boring tasks.   While completing the annual “otter count” at Gunn Landing Harbor in California, Teddy discovers her favorite otter, Maureen is holding a smartphone.  You think of the possible fun in getting a phone away from an otter.
When Teddy actual examines the phone, she finds that the camera had been in use recently capturing a crime in action, a murder.
The phone belongs to Dr. Stuart Booth, part of the otter census crew and a marine biology instructor.  Stuart in not known for his good behavior, but has a tendency to sexually harass his female students who idolize him, at least for a while.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Teddy’s fiancé is Sheriff Joe Rejas.   He is handsome, hunky and doesn’t like Teddy nosing into his business.
So what is Teddy to do when her friend, Lila, an accuser of Booth’s conduct, is arrested for his murder?
Being Teddy, she follows her own ambitions and delves into the investigation if only to prove her friend innocent.
Teddy also reveals another side of her life, partying with the upper crust of the ultra-rich.   These events she does not usually attend by her choice, her mother tends to be involved a little too much.
The Otter of Death is Webb’s fifth novel in his Gunn Zoo series.  Yes, for those not acquainted with the series look for a puffin, an anteater, koala, and llama.  Each one involves many of the fictional zoo animals who tend to have many human characteristics.
Betty Webb was a journalist and has interviewed U.S. Presidents and Nobel Prize winners.  
Webb has also written another well-known mystery series featuring Lena Jones.   These books delve into the life of polygamy with Desert Noir, Desert Wives, Desert Shadows, Desert Run, Desert Lost, Desert Cut, Desert Wind, Desert Rage, and Desert Vengeance.  All of these are well-written mysteries included with the actual events of many of these unfortunate women.
I thoroughly enjoy all her books since there is always a piece of each one of us in her characters. Her settings, plots, and characters are realistic and visual to her readers.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Thread the Halls

Thread the Halls
Lea Wait
Kensington Publishing Corp.
New York, New York
ISBN:  978-1-4967-0630-0
Paperback
2017
$ 7.99
310 pages

Angie Curtis is looking forward to her first, of what she hopes is many, quiet Christmas holidays with Patrick West.   Patrick is also looking forward to his first holiday spent with Angie.  Both are anxious to see how their relationship grows during this holiday season.
Unfortunately, his mother has other ideas.
Skye West is both a movie star and Patrick’s mother.   She is planning on taking a break from her current movie, along with some co-stars, writers, and the director at her Victorian mansion in this small Maine town.   Of course, a well-known and loved celebrity who rarely visits her home mansion, can come home for Christmas bringing along a few friends, or acquaintances, and it won’t affect the town people at all.  Why would it?
Skye wants everything perfect.   The mansion needs to be decorated for Christmas like a picture perfect Currier and Ives postcard, complete with a horse-drawn sleigh, needlepoint pillows, high-class meals available at all hours, and of course, carolers.    Not to mention that to attend these events would require the proper outfits for Angie.
Patrick is at a slight disadvantage in decorating since his hands were injured in a fire.  He is still recuperating and wonders if he will ever return to his life as a painter.   For now, he seems content managing the local art gallery.
Relaxing quickly turns into a hectic race to get ready and to keep the secret from the media.
Lea Wait writes delightful cozy mysteries and phenomenal historical fiction for young adults regarding her home state, Maine.   Her needlepoint and antique print mysteries are fun to read.  Her historical fiction is outstanding, placing the reader immediately inside and feeling part of the story.
Her stories in this her needlepoint and antique print books carry the main characters from the first book forward.   Even though the books are part of a series, these can easily be read as standalone mysteries.  Obviously, there is more enjoyment if you follow the characters from the first book.
Lea Wait beautifully sets her readers with the taste, recipe included, smells, climate immersing you into her state of Maine.
The plot is clever and keeps the reader guessing as you turn each page.
Lea Wait’s books are great mysteries to warm up during these chilly winter nights.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Vox

Vox
Christina Dalcher
Berkeley
Penguin Random House
New York, New York
Hardback
ISBN:978-0-440-000780-5
2018
$ 26.00
326 pages

The status of women in the United States has changed tremendously in the last one-hundred years with numerous examples of their proper relationship with men varying as much as each individual female.  
The current President of the United States and his trusted Christian advisor changing women’s rights.   All women are to be cared for my the head male of their family.   For those married, that means their husbands.  For unmarried women, the means their closest male relative.  
In order to preserve the households of doting women, each female wears a bracelet limiting her speech to one-hundred words a day.  Any word beyond that will cause the bracelet to shock the wearer with increasing strength as each word is said.  Could you live with only speaking one-hundred words a day?
Young girls are taught in their own school.   Naturally, they don’t need the level of education of their male counterparts.   Girls learn additional home economics needed in their duties of being future wives and mothers.
Jean is a wife and mother of four children, three teenaged sons and one younger daughter.   Every day the wife is expected to cook and clean.  Women are not allowed to read books or to use a computer.  Those are only for men.
For Jean, this situation is extremely difficult.   She had earned a PhD and was near a major breakthrough with stroke patients who had difficulty with language.   Working with a team who was discovering a treatment possibility that seemed to have positive and consistent results was a realistic expectation for her team. She was forced to become. The perfect ideal 1950s housewife using only 100 words a day preparing meals for her family, being a good wife, a good mother to three nearly grown sons who could command her, and to her young daughter while only using one-hundred words a day.
Then the President’s brother has an accident.  How will helping him change her life?  What is the real purpose of allowing her to return to her work?  What happens afterwards?
Vox is a disturbing tale similar to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian story, A Handmaid’s Tale.  It makes the reader uncomfortable and reflective about whether or not the story could actually happen.  The mixed reviews seem to reflect each person’s biases of the probability.  
Vox is the debut novel for Christina Dalsher.  She has earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University specializing in phonetic sound changes with Italian and British dialects.  She resides in Norfolk, Virginia.   For her awards, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Bath Flash Award.
Vox is a thoughtfully disturbing tale that every man and woman should read.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Caroline

Caroline
Little House, Revisited
Sarah Miller
Harper Collins Publisher
New York, New. York
ISBN: 978-0-06-268534-6
Hard Cover
2017
$ 25.99
372 pages

Many of us have either read, heard, or watched Little House on the Prairie.   These stories are told from Laura’s perspective.  Did her mother, Caroline see things the same way?  For author, Sarah Miller, her hours of research recreates the Little House experience, but from Caroline, not Laura.
Imagine moving in a horse-drawn covered wagon, likely carrying the equivalent of your entire household in a large car or van, along with two young girls, ages four and five, and being pregnant.   Also, you probably can only move about fifteen miles a day.   Any takers?
Their adventure begins in the Big Woods of Wisconsin during February of 1870 with her husband, Charles eager to sell his land and move his family to the Kansas Indian Territory.   The reason for leaving in February is the hope that most of winter is over and opportunity for owning a large amount of land, even if far from their family and friends.   The hope is that the sooner they arrive in Kansas territory, the sooner they can build a house, establish themselves in this unknown land and possibly even plant before the following winter.
Unfortunately, the family had no idea about the trials ahead on this journey.   It seems that Caroline’s motivation is her love of Charles and her protection of her two daughters, Mary and Laura.
For Charles, his dreams are his motivation for his young family pursuing the prospect of completely owning his own land.
Will the family be able to live successfully here?  Have they really planned for every possible challenge?
Included on both the inside covers at the beginning and end of the book is a map of the journey from Wisconsin to the unsettled Indian territory in the southeastern part of Kansas.
The author, Sarah Miller resides in Michigan.   She is also has also written two historical fiction novels, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller and The Lost Crown as well as the nonfiction book, The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century.
This novel inspires readers with Caroline’s devotion to her husband, her daughters, and her unborn child. The events from the sorrow of leaving her family, to constantly believing in her husband and his loyalty as well as the devotion is daunting compared to today’s society. With loneliness and somehow still being hopeful in almost every situation almost seemed unrealistic in today’s society.
Caroline excels in being a true picture of the people and the times of those first settlers.