Book Review: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Lost Man
Jane Harper

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nathan and Bub Bright were shocked when their middle brother, Cameron died in the outback’s unrelenting heat. It didn’t make sense that he’d had gone out on foot to the legendary Stockman’s Grave, miles from his truck and the family’s cattle ranch. At forty, Cam was a successful and capable rancher and ran the family’s business. And he knew the dangers of the desert heat. Despite signs that Cam was desperate to find shade, investigators suggest that Cam took his own life.

In the following days, more questions arise as the Bright family grieves and the reader gets a closer look at the family’s dynamics. There is obvious tension between Nathan and Bub. Nathan, forty-two, is divorced and runs a small strip of sub-par land adjacent to the Bright ranch. He’s also a smaller stake-holder in the family’s business. Bub, who is twelve years younger, tends to live up to his reputation as a screw-up and he nurses an unspoken bitterness. Another issue is the transfer of ranch shares from Cam to his wife, Ilse, giving her fifty percent ownership. If Nathan sides with Ilse, Bub will not have a voice.

At the house, Cam’s wife, Ilse and their two young daughters must now begin a new life. And Liz, the family matriarch seems to decline by the minute. Also there are Nathan’s teenage son, a long-time ranch hand and a couple transient backpackers.

Written from Nathan’s point of view, readers learn the long history of the boys’ childhoods and difficulties with their father, now dead, and between the brothers as adults. At the center of Nathan’s problems are events involving his ex-wife’s family and the people of Balamara, as well as a missed potential romance from years ago.

A key part of the story is the isolated setting and its dangers. The Brights and the people from Balamara know how to survive the intense desert heat, dangerous wind storms and seasonal flooding that cuts them off from their not-so-close neighbors. But these conditions generate lonely and helpless feelings, particularly for some of the women. Interestingly, Nathan seems to prefer being on his own, deliberately cutting off connections, but could he be the one who needs them most?

Even after Cameron is laid to rest, Nathan continues to dig for answers, but he may not be ready for what he finds. Will he continue to protect the family’s dark secrets?

I liked this atmospheric mystery, although I would describe it more as a family drama, with interesting character studies. I was surprised by the ending, which made the book even more enjoyable. I’m looking forward to reading Jane Harper’s newest book, The Survivors, published in February 2021.

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Other books by Jane Harper

The Dry
Force of Nature

Celebrating Juneteenth

Hi Everyone – In observance of Juneteenth, I put together this list of reading suggestions for our library patrons and thought I’d share it here too. I’ve read several of these books and have added a bunch to my list. Thanks for reading!

Stay Connected with Chescolibraries

On Saturday, June 19, states across the country will recognize Juneteenth and celebrate the end of slavery in America.

What is the history of this observance, which is separate from the Emancipation Proclamation and not yet a federal holiday?

Juneteenth is a day of observance, celebrating Black freedom and culture. The end of slavery began on January 1, 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but in many states, news traveled slowly and Black Americans were not immediately freed. This was especially true in Texas, the most distant state.

Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger, from the Union army, arrived in Galveston, Texas and demanded that enslaved Blacks be set free. Upon hearing the news, Black Americans celebrated their freedom and new rights, including buying land. Slavery was officially abolished in 1965 when the 13th Amendment was ratified.

To help you learn more…

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Book Club Mom’s Author Update: News from Pamela S. Wight

Author name: Pamela S. Wight

Book to feature: Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary

News to share: Flashes of Life is a fun “flash memoir” that includes light-hearted short stories about the (ordinary) wonderful aspects of life: kids, parents, grandparents, dogs, even plants. Watercolor-washed black and white photos begin each section on subjects such as “Fun Family Drama,” “Relationships,” For the Dogs,” and “Time Off.”

Wonderful 5-star reviews include comments like these from blogger/author Jill Weatherholt:

“Being a long-time follower of author Pamela Wight’s blog, I was so excited to get my hands on her latest release. This wonderful collection of true short stories is one you never want to end. For several weeks after it was delivered, I leisurely devoured each story outdoors on our patio. The wonderful thing about it, I felt like my friend, Pam was sitting with me sharing her stories as we watch the hummingbirds snatch sips of nectar from the Salvia. I loved so many of these stories, but one that really touched my heart was ‘A Renewal. I highly recommend this emotional collection.”

The 140-page softback, designed beautifully, is a perfect gift for a special woman in your life: mom, sister, daughter, friend, and especially, to yourself.

Pamela writes for children and adults as a multi-genre author. Her romantic suspense novels The Right Wrong Man and Twin Desires are available as softback and e-book on Amazon. Her two hard-cover illustrated children’s books – Birds of Paradise and Molly Finds Her Purr – are sold at Borgo Publishing and on Amazon. Flashes of Life is available on Amazon and through Borgo Publishing as softback and e-book.

Website and social media links: Pamela writes a weekly popular blog called Roughwighting. She can be found on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Are you working on a new book? Have you won an award or a writing contest? Did you just update your website? Maybe you just want to tell readers about an experience you’ve had. Book Club Mom’s Author Update is a great way to share news and information about you and your books.

Email Book Club Mom at for more information.

Open to all authors – self-published, indie, big-time and anything in between. Author submissions are limited to one per author in a six-month period.

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Book Review: The Early Stories of Truman Capote

The Early Stories of Truman Capote
Foreword by Hilton Als

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I enjoyed reading this excellent collection of fourteen stories by Truman Capote. Written when he was in his teens and early twenties, these stories show Capote’s impressive ability to create scenes and original characters and evoke compassion at the earliest stage of his writing.

The collection was published in 2015 after a discovery in the archives of the New York Public Library. An equally excellent Foreward by Hilton Als of The New Yorker points out how Capote was already experimenting with different styles and methods. Some of the stories depict the Deep South where Capote was born, and others take place in New York, where he also lived as a boy. In them, he addresses many everyday issues, including family, relationships, small-town dynamics and the more sophisticated urban life in New York. And in his wide range of characters, both young and old, he portrays the more complex elements of poverty, race and fate, as well as selfish and vindictive human behavior. In his Foreward, Al writes about a universal yearning in these stories and I see that clearly.

I haven’t read everything Truman Capote wrote (see my links at the bottom of this post), but I have read the big ones (In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and a couple other short stories. I have always been struck by his descriptive style, which has the unique ability to lift me out of the actual world and right into a lyrical yet raw place. I think this skill is already coming through in these early stories.

There’s a great quote by David Ebershoff of Random House in the book’s Afterward. If you’ve ever watched one of Capote’s talk show appearances (here, here and here) or read about and seen images of his Black and White Ball in 1966 (read about that here), you might have an idea of what Capote was like. But if you put aside his gossipy side, discount his drunken appearances, and you really listen to him when he talks about the writing craft, you’ll see that he was indeed deeply serious about writing. I think this collection gives you a good picture of that intensity before he was sidetracked. Ebershoff writes:

“These early stories offer a counterpoint to that final image: a young writer laboring over his typewriter to maximize his gifts. A Truman Capote not slurring on a television talk show but driven to nail the right word on the page.”

I highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read, but the stories stay with you and give you a good look at an emerging writer who became a legend.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
In Cold Blood
“La Côte Basque”
“House of Flowers”

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On YouTube – I read these books, but I don’t remember much!

Hi Everyone,

Today on YouTube I’m showing you some books I read a long time ago, and barely remember them! Has that happened to you?

I hope you’ll stop by and watch!

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Who’s That Indie Author? Joe Wells

Author Name: Joe Wells

Genre: Murder mystery

Book: The Case of the Grease Monkey’s Uncle

Bio: I worked in the family bakers business and became a professional actor through amateur theatre. Following my father’s death and my mother’s decline into dementia, I became her full-time caregiver, which necessitated my retirement from acting, but sparked my desire to write more as a means of stimulating my creative side.

What got you started as a writer? I have always written since school just for fun, but my wife suggested I should write a children’s book which led to a collection of eight.

What difficult experience has helped you as a writer? Looking after my mother who had dementia as her full-time caregiver meant I could escape in my head by creating a story which I could later use for a story or a book, but they certainly weren’t the easiest years of my life by any means.

Have you ever participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? If so, how many times and what was your experience? I have never participated in the National Novel Writing Month. I will have to look into it.

What advice would you give a new indie author hoping to publish a book? Don’t give up, it’s a long road, but well with it in the long run.

What has been the biggest challenge for you during Covid? As I am retired, I have to say I have had an easy time during Covid except when I contracted it at Christmas, but luckily it was like a very bad dose of flu and left me with no long-term symptoms. During the first lockdown, I wrote my book The Case of the Grease Monkey’s Uncle, which was relatively easy as there were no distractions as all we could do was stay indoors, so I very much enjoyed writing the book. However, I am writing a second book called The Case of the Punch and Judy Man which continues the story of my detective characters, James Arbuthnott and Archie Cluff. But there are many more distractions. I am assisting my wife with her health and beauty clinic, making it somewhat slower progress this time round.

What are you reading right now? I am reading A Fighter Command Station at War by Mark Hillier. It is about RAF Westhampnett, which is research for my next book set in the 1940s.

Would you rather laugh or cry over a book? I think I would prefer to laugh, but I’m quite happy with any book that stirs any of my emotions.

Have you ever climbed a tree to read a book? I have never climbed a tree to read a book. I have, however, climbed a tree to build a treehouse when I was a child. It was not too far from the ground, though, as my mother was very protective of my brother and me, probably because we were adopted which made us a tad more precious to her.

Have you ever dropped a book in the tub, in a pool or in the ocean? I have never had a book in close enough proximity to any of these things to drop one in.

Could you live in a tiny house? We currently live in a large house but I have lived in a small house and I think I am sufficiently adaptable that I could cope wherever I might live.

What are the small things that make you happy? I love my wife and my classic cars although if I was forced to make a choice my wife would just edge it!

Website and social media links:

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email for a bio template and other details.

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Blog views and other obsessions – generating a free QR code

Last week I learned how to generate free QR codes for work and it’s easy and kind of fun to do, so I thought I’d share what I learned here. First of all, do you know what QR means? I had never thought about it much, but it stands for Quick Response.

We’re going to use a QR code for print materials and I’m still figuring out how it would be useful in the digital world for bloggers versus just using a link, although the code definitely works online. This article from Wasp Barcode Technologies talks about using QR codes for print and something like that on Facebook, Snapchat and Spotify. For authors who use print materials, even a business card, it’s a simpler way to direct people to your work. Anyone with a phone can use the camera function that recognizes the codes and takes you directly to your site.

Paid versions let you track stats and customize your code even more. I think the free one I made looks pretty good and although I love tracking stats, I don’t think I would upgrade to be able to access them.

It’s a wild idea, but I’m thinking of having a t-shirt made with my blog’s QR code on the back!

Anyway, here’s the link to the QR code generator I used. It’s called QR Code Monkey.

And here’s the QR code I made for Book Club Mom. See? You can even upload your logo onto the code. Isn’t that fun?

Have you used QR codes for any of your work or for your blog? What types of things have you done? Leave a comment and let me know!

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On YouTube – This book has spills & scribbles!

Hi Everyone,

I’m over on YouTube today, showing you a book that has lots of spills and scribbles in it, but that’s okay with me. Come see why!

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Book Review: My Brief History by Stephen Hawking

My Brief History
Stephen Hawking

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I enjoyed reading this quick memoir by Stephen Hawking, the famous English theoretical physicist and cosmologist who made major contributions in theoretical physics. He was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge and the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Hawking also wrote several popular science books and a series of children’s books with his daughter. One of his most successful books was the New York Times best seller, A Brief History of Time (1988), written for the general public. The 1991 biographical documentary film of the same name is a more in-depth look at Hawking’s life. Although his scientific theories were complex, he understood the universal interest in trying to comprehend our world and its beginnings. “I wanted to explain how far I felt we had come in our understanding of the universe: how we might be near finding a complete theory that would describe the universe and everything in it.”

Hawking was born in 1942, grew up and attended Oxford and Cambridge in England. When he was twenty-one, he was diagnosed with a slow-progressing motor neuron disease. At the time of his diagnosis, Hawking was already a big thinker, but he was also young man and not entirely focused on his studies. Facing an uncertain future, he determined to devote his professional life to research and theories about black holes, time travel and other advanced physics. He married twice and had three children. Hawking died in 2018 at the age of seventy-six after a long career and numerous prestigious awards and recognitions.

Because I’m not much of a science person, I worried that Hawking’s story would be too advanced, but I was pleased to find that, although some of the scientific chapters were more difficult to follow, I could still get a good general idea about his work and theories. The book also includes a lot of interesting pictures, providing a look at the person behind the science.

At 126 pages, this memoir is indeed brief, but I was interested in what he chose to include: the descriptions of his childhood and college days, and both of his marriages. He’s very matter-of-fact about these relationships with his family and was practical about his disability. I was impressed with how he adapted to his progressing disease, which caused many secondary health problems and ultimately left him paralyzed and unable to speak. His desire to contribute to the world despite these extreme challenges helps put our smaller problems in perspective.

I recommend My Brief History to readers who enjoy understanding a little bit about the great minds that have contributed to our world.

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Memorial Day 2021 – honoring our fallen heroes

On this Memorial Day, it’s important to honor the men and women soldiers who lost their lives protecting our freedom. Here are three excellent books depicting war and sacrifice.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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